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Practice For Mastery, Part 2

In our previous blog entry, we discussed the first steps to mastering a piece of music fully, including listening closely to the music and taking note of all tricky passages, being sure to practice each of them slowly until they are reflexive.

Once we've gotten the technique of the piece and can play all the notes well, we're done, right? There is a temptation to think that a piece is mastered once this much work has been completed, but there is quite a bit more juice to be squeezed from a piece of music!

Sheet Music

Next, we'll want to devote our attention to our phrasing and tone. Composers put slurs in music with clear intention to direct instrumentalists to emphasize some notes or ideas over others. It's crucial in interpreting these passages that we practice these phrases very deliberately, not just noting which notes are slurred but also where the breaks between phrases - where the music breathes - are located. These nuances take the piece from being a collection of notes to something far more musical.

For pianists, it's important to notice not just what's going on in the right hand versus the left hand - melody and bass - but also what the middle voices are doing. Often, we'll have counter-melodies covered with the first and second fingers during chorale sections, for example, that will get overlooked as just a part of this chord or that chord. Emphasizing these melodic lines can lend a good bit of interest and sophistication to your interpretation of a masterwork. These sections can be denoted by unique phrasing that is easily missed.

Regarding tone, guitarists will consider how and where to use vibrato, or possibly what their amplifier and pedal settings ought to be. Pianists will want to consider their approach or attack on melodies, harmonies, and bass lines, as well as whether or not to use the sustain pedal, una corda pedal, etc. and in which sections to use these tools.

So now we're done, right? Nope! Our next entry will cover playing with artistry and expressiveness, as well as memorization techniques.

Want to play pieces with a greater sense of mastery? I'm accepting new piano students for Suzuki piano and traditional classical lessons! Contact us today to set up your first FREE piano lesson - no experience needed!

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