If you are anything like me, the word “practise” has a cloud hanging over it. But it doesn’t have to be boring or a chore, once you’re into it you might find you enjoy it. Most importanlty it’s necessary to make progress, and the reality is that making progress makes piano more fun.
I am not strict about home practice – I see it as something to aim for, but often it simply isn’t achieved – however I do want to try to encourage all students to play for a few minutes each day.
The simple reason is that practise is the time in which our brains create connections, this time literally creates maps that are the physical connections in our brain dedicated to the movement and use of our fingers, arms and hands. Practise time is physically changing us, and that is why the next time we sit down to play – provided it’s not too long after the last time – it’s likely to feel that little bit more ‘natural’.
Learning piano, especially as a young child, is akin to learning a language. Many of the same parts of the brain are activated, but of course piano also requires the use of your limbs, ears and eyes.
Neuroscientists recognise that our brains are made up of two hemispheres, the left and the right. Very simplistically, the left hemisphere is used for the movement and activation of the right side of the body, and vice versa. The left brain is also our analytical side – counting and language require left brain function. The right brain is responsible for global, creative and “in the moment” presence.
The reason it’s possible to function with half a brain is that the surviving hemisphere takes up the challenge of performing the missing functions or finding work-around solutions. In short, our brains are plastic – they are not fixed entities, and so really anything can change.
Fortunately, ALL my students have both hemispheres in apparently good working order. For that reason, it will be much easier for them to learn the language of music. Daily or regular practise literally moulds that brain and creates connections that will benefit more than just your playing.
The principle of “use it or lose it” applies very strongly here – if you pracise on Monday, practise on Tuesday will be easier. Practise builds on itself. If you play only once a week at lessons, you will improve, but it will take a very long time. If you play 3 or more times a week, your improvement will be much faster, and I think possibly the whole experiece will be more enjoyable overall.
So – at MPS we will be getting our practice charts out, stickers in hand, and hitting those keys… Daily, if possible.