Robert Estrin - piano expert

How Practicing Slower Will Get You There Faster

A basic tip for all musicians

In this video, Robert talks about practicing more slowly to get to where you want to be faster. If you wonder why, don't miss this video!

Released on December 23, 2020

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to I'm Robert Estrin, and the show today is how practicing slower will get you there faster. It seems counter-intuitive and I see so many students falling into a trap. Let me ask you if this sounds familiar, if you've ever gone through this experience, or if you're a teacher, if you've seen students do this, which I'm sure you have because it is such a common occurrence in students, and you want to help them avoid this trap. Well, they're going along, and they miss something, and they go, "Oh," and they go back a little bit, and then they miss it again, and they get more and more frustrated. And the more frustrated they get, they go, "No, wait. I can get this. I know I can get this." And they just want to have the satisfaction of getting it right once, but they keep reinforcing the mistake because every time they play it again, they miss it. And maybe the 10th time or something, they may get it and they go, "Ah," and they feel so good that they've finally gotten it.

And of course, then they go ahead, and they go to the next place and do exactly the same thing. Well, this is akin to someone who gets stuck in quicksand and they go, "Oh my gosh, I got to get out," and they're moving furiously, and what's happening? Of course, they're sinking. And if they keep doing that long enough, they will get so deep in in the hole they cannot get out of. And the same exact thing can happen in your practice if you're not careful, because the more times you repeat the mistake, the harder it is to ever play it right again. And even if you manage to get it once right after missing it again and again, you've practiced the mistake far more than you practiced the correction. So next time, the same thing is likely to happen again. So how do you get out of this trap? Well, before I get into that, I want to tell you a little story, and this is very, very funny, and it's very telling as well.

There are two men, and they are in there in the woods, and they are chopping wood, and they need the firewood. It's very important they get this done before the day ends. And one of them is just chopping furiously, and he sees his friend there taking breaks, sitting there with his ax. And inside, he's kind of peeved, but he just figures gosh, we got to get this done because it's going to get very, very cold, and they need the wood, so he's working as hard as he can. And there again, he keeps seeing his friend over there taking breaks with his ax, and he's going what the heck? And all day long, and he wants to say something, but he's just too busy chopping the wood. And so the end of the day comes and he's exhausted, and he looks over, and much to his shock, he looks over at his friend and his pile of wood is much bigger than his.

And he's shocked. He couldn't even imagine what could possibly have happened. So he says to his friend, "I don't get it. All day long, I'm busting my ass over here trying to get this wood chopped, and somehow you end up with more wood than I did." And there he is sitting there again with his ax, and he goes, "Yeah, I like to sharpen my ax." So this is a funny little anecdote, isn't it? And it's absolutely true that in your piano practice, it's not so important to keep charging forward as fast as you can, but to reflect upon what you're doing. Take that time. Slow yourself down. When you miss something, the temptation is you just want to get it right, but if you do that, you're missing a tremendous opportunity to find the correction, to find what you need to do differently the very next time, and to slow way down so you can get it right the very next time.

Once you miss something, it's critical that you get it right the very next time, and the time after that, and reinforce it, and get it perfectly at least three times, and better yet, solidify it and make that the time that you make the correction that will hold for good. By reinforcing with different practice techniques, I've talked about using metronome speeds, progressive metronome speeds, or other techniques to solidify this, take the opportunity. So remember, slow down in your practice and you'll end up with much more to show. Just like the men in the woods, the man who sat there sharpening his ax had much more productivity taking his time, like you want to take time in your practice and not just keep going back to try to get it, because that's not what it's about. It's a matter of cementing the correction right from the get-go to play it accurately the very next time. And how do you do that? Study the score and slow down so you'll get it perfectly the very next time, and repeat it until you can get it consecutively again and again.

So you make that correction and you'll find your practice will take on a productivity that you can't even imagine if you haven't done this technique before, because I sometimes call that technique of sinking into the quicksand as anti-practicing. Repeating your mistake again and again, and thinking just because you got it right once and you missed it a bunch of times in a row that you have accomplished something. No, you've actually done destructive work, with all the best intentions. And you know the feeling, you just want to get it right, and you know you can play it right because you played it right before. Why shouldn't it come out right now? Well, that's not an important question to ask yourself. Well, it is, in so far as look at the correction, get it done, and you will be so much more productive in your practice. Again, I'm Robert Estrin, this is, your online piano resource with lots of videos to come. Thanks for joining me and for subscribing. Ring the bell and share this in your social media if you like it. We'll see you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Jeanne saunders * VSM MEMBER * on December 26, 2020 @9:58 am PST
Thanks Robert ,
I think we all know it but dont do it & we need YOU to keep reminding us. well done thanks Robert
Robert - host, on December 27, 2020 @11:22 am PST
We all need to learn to slow down - it's a good life lesson! ("Stop to smell the roses".)
Larry on December 23, 2020 @9:31 am PST
Your musical tips provide enormous value and are inspirational to us novice pianists.
All the best in the New Year.
Robert Estrin on December 23, 2020 @10:15 am PST
So happy to share the joy of music this
holiday season!
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