One of our most important piano practice techniques is slow practice. In fact, it is our foundation. It is a useful tool for the beginner and the most seasoned virtuoso alike. To illustrate, in his book Speaking of Pianists, Abram Chasins describes a time he arrived for a lesson with Rachmaninov and overhead him practicing. Rachmaninov was practicing so slowly he had difficulty recognizing the piece. I will describe how to use this technique and summarize its advantages.
How to Employ Slow Practice
Play a section of music at a reduced tempo so you are able to play the passages with a high degree of accuracy. Reduce the tempo by 50% or more of the performance level. You are practicing slowly enough if you are able to negotiate the passages with the correct notes and time values, employing consistent fingering and well-planned articulation. Be able to mentally track the notes and have the feeling that you are doing everything the right way. You will find this difficult and will want to speed up. Patience and discipline are required.
Benefits of Slow Practice
The advantages of this approach are dramatic. It creates a vivid tactile, aural and mental impression, which facilitates memory formation, improves accuracy and alleviates clarity problems. Slow practice is useful for testing our memory; it will unveil hidden weaknesses. It is also very efficient when restoring a piece that is out of practice. Slow practice is always helpful. Return to it frequently as you progress through the stages of learning a work – use slow practice from the first sitting to the day of your recital or festival.
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