After a student has been able to perform their piece from start to finish, I use three different techniques to help polish and get it ready for performance. They do this in lessons and should be using them at home as they practice. These are the best ways to shake up practice instead of being only start to finish every time. They boost confidence in the student’s ability which is the key to a good performance and they promote clean technique.
This is based off the 90’s version of the video game. You set one goal before you start, it could be correct notes(most common), dynamics, pedaling, staccato, etc. Then you start and if you miss one, you return to the start. You are allowed to slow down time as much as you wish, it just has to be correct. If the piece is long, you can decide to have different landmarks to return to instead of the beginning. For instance, if your song is 4 pages and you get to the 3rd page with no error, then you don’t need to return to the beginning, instead find a logical location on page 2.
This method helps to promote good muscle memory and is interesting to watch the increased concentration, just like you see in video gaming. It can be both exhausting and satisfying mentally.
When learning a new piece, we obviously start at the beginning. So, the beginning naturally gets more practice than the end. With this method we start with the last measure, then last 2 measures, then 3, etc. It is always played left to right, but the goal is to get all the way to the beginning, thus giving the end more time. It also helps to increase the confidence level for the ending, i.e. the last thing for the audience to hear.
Using a random number generator app, enter the total number of measures minus 1. So if the song is 20 measures, enter 19. Then for each number that comes up play that measure and the one following. Do this until you have played every measure.
This technique is great for a couple of reasons. Most pauses happen in transitions, so this reinforces the transition from measure to measure. It also gives the student the knowledge that they can jump into the song at any one measure, so while performing, if they get lost they know they can jump back in with confidence.