Triangle of practice: performing a song well requires getting an A grade
in 3 areas: Length of piece (L), accuracy of notes (A), and appropriate
speed (S). In practicing work the song with each combination of 2 of the
3 letters L, A, and S (Length, Accuracy, and Speed). You should practice
only about as much of a piece as you can play in a minute. Don’t
move on to the next minute until you can do the previous minute(s) OK
(a grade C+ to B-). Perfect scores in all 3 areas (LAS) is a perfect performance.
- the song is done. Below is probably a good priority of practice –
BUT on many, many songs, perfect speed is just OK speed (grade B) and
accuracy is OK (grade B), and the length is just what you’ve practiced so far.
Practicing by Letter Combinations - (Length, Accuracy, and Speed)
(AS) Correct speed, perfect accuracy – but shorter portion or length.
This jacks the speed up one measure or section at a time (the train analogy),
to enable you to bring the entire song up to speed bit by bit. This is
probably the most fundamental method of learning a song.
(LA) Full length perfect accuracy – but S L O W it down. Reinforces
the grasp of the entire piece. Necessary for musicianship and artistry.
(LS) Full length, correct speed – but lower accuracy. This focuses
on the macro-rhythm, and is frequently your normal performance. Always
remember a listener is more disturbed by pauses and slowing down than
wrong notes. NOTE: An additional refinement of practicing this combination
is to push the speed beyond what you can expect to do at an A for a portion
of your practice time (say 5%) to push the developing edge of your speed.
That is, practice your pieces for 2 or 3 minutes so fast that you only
get a C grade. Remember the accuracy vs. speed thing. This is forcing
your fingers into the next level.