My college classical piano teacher, Leonard Seeber, knew how each student needed to practice at any given time. At our first lesson, Mr. Seeber asked me about my musical background and listened to me play a few pieces.
I’ll never forget what he then said.
He told me that I was talented and had the potential to get to a new level of playing during my freshman year. In order to accomplish this, he thought that I’d benefit from learning lots of pieces in a wide variety of styles. But here’s the clincher: he didn’t want me to practice any of them to “perfection.” “Learn each one to about 80 or 90%, and then move on,” he said.
I had never heard of anyone practicing this way before. After all, piano students typically work on their pieces until they can play them flawlessly. And here was my new teacher recommending that I don’t learn my music perfectly.
But I felt that Mr. Seeber knew what he was doing. My musical background, being at that time mostly in rock and jazz, was different than that of his other students. He was working on instinct here, and perhaps also from experience with one or two previous students.
I trusted him and followed his advice.
That year, I learned a bunch of Bach 2-part Inventions, Prokofiev’s “Tales of the Old Grandmother,” some Grieg lyric pieces, and many other short piano works. I ended up playing more pieces than probably any other piano student at my school that year, but only one or two of the pieces to “performance quality.”
And it worked!
A year later I was indeed “at a whole new level,” and was ready for the standard piano repertoire. I learned sonatas by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and felt right at home with the other classical piano students, despite the fact that they all had more early classical training than I had.
Mr. Seeber knew something special: there are many paths to the same goal.
What is your musical goal? How are going to get there?
Here are some free piano improv lessons. Good luck with your music!