Are you an “active” learner at the piano?

How do you practice piano? For pianists, this is really the central question. And I think there is no one “correct” answer. But if you’re looking to improve at a rapid pace, you can learn from a recent study involving music students at The University of Texas in Austin. Researchers identified eight specific ways in which the top pianists practiced.

Number 3 on the list was:
“Practice was thoughtful, as evidenced by silent pauses while looking at the music, singing/humming, making notes on the page, or expressing verbal “ah-ha”s.”

I especially like the fact that the researchers included “silent pauses” in the list. Why silent pauses? It’s because something in the music made the successful students stop and ponder. Maybe they were mentally working out a tricky rhythm, or figuring out a passage’s underlying chord structure. Whatever it was, they were becoming actively interested in the music. They weren’t content to just mechanically learn the notes; they were involving their brains in the process. The students who sang, hummed, made notes, and expressed verbal “ah-ha’s” were doing this too. And they all learned the music faster and better than the students who didn’t do this.

What are the ways you can become more active when practicing piano? Of course there are times when it’s fun to simply “lose oneself” in the music and not think of anything. But while you’re in the early stages of learning a piece or new technique, this type of critical thinking can take you a long way. Good luck with whatever piece you’re currently working on!

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