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Ted Hunter
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Ted Hunter   My Press Releases

I was doing it all wrong

Published on 3/13/2013
For additional information  Click Here

When I was in high school my piano teacher started giving me new advanced pieces to work on. Looking back on those days from where I am today, I can tell you that there was so much that I didn’t know about music and playing the piano. In fact, I didn’t know that I didn’t know. As new repertoire was introduced to me, my teacher would play through the new pieces to let me hear them. I turned the pages for her, and I diligently watched every move she made on the keyboard. When she played, everything seemed so effortless. Wow!

Then one day when we were planning the music for my senior recital, she told me with all the confidence in the world that I would be performing the first movement of a piano concerto on my senior recital. Say what? This was the Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg. And I had six months to learn it. Yes, there was a little anxiety! How was I going to fit in the practice time to do this? I had homework to do, Boy Scout meetings and camping trips, marching band rehearsals after school, and Sunday service gigs to prepare for.

Well, they say that “practice makes perfect.” At least that’s what I thought, too. However, my teacher had another idea she introduced to me which was “perfect practice makes perfect!” You see, there were some things that I was still doing all wrong. And one of them was a practice habit I had developed. I would play from the beginning of the piece, play until I made a mistake, then stop to work on the mistake, and finally go on until I made another mistake. Sometimes I would work obsessively on a passage I was having trouble with — until it sounded better; though not necessarily perfect. My passionate activity got in the way of my progress because I was practicing the mistakes over and over the same way. In fact, after about six weeks I developed tendinitis in my left wrist from playing octaves incorrectly, which of course slowed my progress.

Let me share with you a secret that I learned from my teacher about developing good practice habits. She said, “What I want you to do is to take a pencil and lightly circle the passages you need to work on. When your playing meets my satisfaction you can erase the circle. What I want you to do first, however, is to find the SLOWEST tempo that you can play the passage perfectly. Then you can gradually speed up the tempo (only if it’s done perfectly) until you reach the desired speed. But above all else, when you sit down to practice I want you to first focus on any passage that is circled in pencil. And finally, instead of starting at the beginning of the music, arbitrarily pick a measure within the piece to begin playing. Do this several times before you actually start from the beginning.”

Ok, that was a mouth full! But I was teachable and coachable. So I wrote down the steps and began to implement them immediately. And you know, to my surprise I accomplished more in two months than it normally might have taken me six months to achieve.

Here’s what happened. I learned the notes and rhythms to the first half of the concerto in four months. And then I had another two months to work with my teacher on polishing my musical expression and other mechanics of masterful execution at the keyboard!

So, a hard lesson learned over time. You know, they say that success builds confidence. And confidence creates more action. And the action steps of “perfect practice” gave me my desired results in far less time. I had permanently and unconsciously developed new professional success habits that became automatic when learning any piece of music!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story of success!

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