In Part 1, I introduced the Golden Rule of Practicing, which is to stop before making a mistake. Paraphrasing the traditional Golden Rule, we could also put it like this:
Do unto your practicing as you would have your playing do unto you.
Translated into modern English, that’s practice as well as you would like to play.
Remember, applying the Golden Rule is easy, though it does take a certain level of commitment. Simply put, the Golden Rule is: don’t let your fingers play a mistake – either a wrong note or the right note with the wrong finger.
3 Steps for Applying the Golden Rule
Here are three easy steps for applying the Golden Rule:
1. Play slowly enough to play correctly. Start at a tempo (which will at first be slower than the optimal tempo) at which you can play each hand separately without making mistakes. You can use a metronome to keep a steady tempo. Only play as fast as you can play correctly. Once you can play correctly at a given speed, you’ll probably be able to go a bit faster the next time. If you start making mistakes, slow down again!
2. Hesitate, or pause, if you’re not sure about the next note. Take time to find the right note and/or finger and begin again at a place in the music before you stopped. Any hesitations that you make to avoid mistakes are easily eliminated after the correct notes and fingering are learned.
3. Don’t practice when you’re tired, or unable to concentrate. Practicing is concentration in action. You will be wasting time, and possibly even regress, by practicing when you’re not mentally alert!
You will save yourself innumerable hours of practice time, and learn pieces and other musical material such as scales and chords much more quickly if you always heed the “Golden Rule.”
You’ll make your teacher happier too.