Some common advice for pianists is that you should never practice a difficult passage by simply repeating things over and over again because it’s mechanical. While I agree that you shouldn’t practice mechanically, not all repetition is bad, and often it’s necessary.
A Practice Experiment
As an experiment, I took a challenging passage from Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso and decided I was going to practice it 100 times. I didn’t do it the same way every time. Sometimes I practiced slowly, sometimes without the pedal. I focused on different things I wanted to improve. But my only requirement for myself was that I had to do it 100 times. I didn’t do the 100 reps all in one sitting. I did two or three repetitions, and then if I got bored I worked on something else.
You can see the improvements I made in this video. The biggest improvement I noticed was that it got easier to play, and I felt more secure. I think I can play better when I feel secure, and I’m not hanging on for dear life.
Getting bored is normal when you’re doing something repetitive, so the key is not to do it the same way every time. Mindless repetition is boring, and when you’re bored, you’re probably wasting your time. Get creative. Try something a little different with each repetition. Can you play it with different articulation? How about the left hand alone from memory? How about naked in a rainstorm? Add some extra challenges and see how it holds up. Above all, don’t allow yourself to get bored if possible.
- Repeat a difficult passage at least 100 times.
- Do at most 3 repetitions and then practice something else. Don’t do 100 times in a row!
- Use whatever practice techniques you want (slow, fast, memorized, looking at the score, focusing on different aspects of the music).
- Don’t get bored!
Try this and let me know how it goes!