by STEVEN BOWEN
I’ve written before about the differences between playing your instrument and practicing your instrument. I find that, when I’m playing, all I need is my piano. But when I’m practicing, I almost always have the same four items handy:
1. A pencil. Never a pen! I need a pencil to mark fingering, articulation, dynamics, phrasing…all sorts of things! But what if I need to change fingering once I can play a passage faster? What if I decide that those staccato dots don’t jibe with the overall picture I’m trying to create? What if I’m returning to a piece years later, and I’ve got a whole new set of insights about the composer’s intentions? This is why pens are strictly verboten at my piano.
2. Sheet music. I guess this one is obvious. Even when I’m specifically exercising my memory muscle, I want the sheet music nearby to check myself.
3. My metronome. I love my metronome. I bought it for twenty bucks more than a decade ago, and it has served me faithfully through hundreds of hours of practice. The benefits and uses of a metronome are many — too many for this post — but for now I’ll just say that this little beeping device is crucial for when I need to repeat a passage with accurate timing and develop some muscle memory.
4. A timer. When I have a lot to practice, I have to make sure I’m using my time wisely. I often set my phone to beep every ten minutes. Each time it beeps, I decide whether to move on or to continue working on the current piece. Setting a timer can also ensure that I’m not practicing too little. When I don’t feel like practicing, twenty minutes can feel like an hour. Using a timer keeps me honest.
Are you a musician? What do you always have on hand when practicing? Let us know in the comments!