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4 Popular Myths Debunked When Working on the Finer Details of a Piece

I think I can say, for the most of us, that we often ask ourselves the following after we are done learning the notes and having a decent understanding of the fundamental musicianship of a new piece: what's next? How do we make it sound better?

With all of this quarantine time, I figured I would make a helpful post for those that are working on their new repertoire over the summer and are wondering what is that next step. Here are four common falsehoods:

1. I do not need to do as much slow practice now that I have all the notes learned and memorized.

I will argue that at this stage, you need to do even more slow and separate hands/parts practice than before to further examine the finer details. A common misconception is that slow practice is only necessary during the initial note-learning stage. That is absolutely untrue! Finessing musical details takes hours and hours of exploring, analyzing, and dissecting.

Here are some creative practice methods to further develop deeper understanding of a work.

2. Now that my music is memorized, I don't need to practice as much with the score.

This is a little bit related to the first point and may perhaps be obvious to some. Unless you are performing the work to test out memory, you should always be practicing, studying, and reading diligently from the score. I cannot stress how many times I have seen this.

3. I've already listened to other performances of the piece before, now I don't need to do it anymore

I have actually written about this very topic in a previous post, so please check it out. In any case, I believe that one should not listen to recordings during the initial note learning stage, but rather, after one has sorted out all of the fundamental musical issues of the piece beforehand. Following that, listening to a wide range of recordings can help clarify and inspire new ideas for interpretation. Definitely do not overlook this important activity.

4. I have studied this piece for a long time and have performed it many times before. I just need to maintain that high level by performing it constantly until my next event.

If you are bringing back a piece that you have studied before, check out my suggestions here. The biggest challenge of performing old works is finding something new to say each time. To me, the best way to achieve this comes, again, from how you practice. Approach old pieces as if they are new: challenge your previous ideas and interpretations and ask yourself if you could play it differently. Analyze and reexamine the piece again, but don't keep performing it over and over again to try to maintain the previous level.

I hope that you find these quick tips to be helpful!

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