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“How much time do you recommend one should practice every day?”

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Greetings melodreamers!

I am Aysedeniz Gokcin, a concert pianist and composer with a passion for intertwining the worlds of classical, romantic and rock music. Today, I want to delve into a topic close to my heart and often misunderstood - the practice routine. Specifically, I want to discuss the quality of practice rather than the quantity and how it impacts one's musical development.

As a professional musician, many people often wonder about my practice routine. They expect hours upon hours of dedicated, undisturbed sessions at the piano, a romantic notion that's been perpetuated by popular culture. While there's no denying that time at the instrument is essential, what many might find surprising is that I don't actually spend as much time practicing as you might think.

So, how do I continue to hone my craft, develop new skills, and prepare for performances? The answer lies not in the number of hours spent at the piano, but in the effectiveness and efficiency of each practice session.

Practice is not just about repetitive actions or muscle memory; it is about mindful, deliberate engagement with the music. It is the deep, analytical understanding of the pieces we are working on. It is about focusing on the intricate details - the phrasing, dynamics, articulation, emotion - that contribute to a meaningful musical performance.

Let me share some key aspects of my practice philosophy:

  1. Setting Clear Goals: I always start with a goal for each session, whether it's to perfect a tricky passage, to memorize a section of music, or to work on conveying the emotional content of a piece. Having a clear objective for each practice session helps me stay focused and make the most of my time.

  2. Slow Practice: I often practice at a much slower tempo than the final performance speed. This allows me to deeply understand the structure and complexity of the music and to ensure that every note, every rest, every dynamic marking is purposeful and accurately executed.

  3. Mental Practice: Some of the most significant improvements I've made have come from "mental practice", i.e., visualizing the music and the movements without actually playing the piano. This method engages the mind in a unique way, strengthening the mental image of the piece and its expressive narrative.

  4. Listening and Analysis: I spend a significant amount of time listening to various recordings and analyzing the score away from the piano. Understanding the music from a theoretical standpoint and listening to different interpretations provide valuable insights that I can incorporate into my own performance.

Everybody has their own way of practicing technique - you can play etudes targeted towards a specific aim (i.e. octaves, left hand agility, staccato) or simply pick the difficult passages of the piece you are working on and build your own exercises from those notes. Check out my rhythmic exercises in my Instagram highlights called: Practice Tips for a few examples. For etudes you can check out:

• Beginner / intermediate: Hanon, Czerny

• Intermediate: Moszkowski, some of the Chopin Etudes.

• Advanced: Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Brahms, Ligeti.

To aspiring musicians, I would say that focused, mindful practice is much more valuable than aimless hours at your instrument. Remember that practice is not a test of endurance, but an artistic, intellectual process. Develop a practice routine that works best for you, emphasizes quality over quantity, and allows you to engage deeply with the music.

Thank you for joining me in this exploration of the world of practice. Here's to making each note count!

Warm Regards,

Aysedeniz Gokcin

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