Practormance

Bringing together two extremes.

What a strange word 'practormance' is.  If you haven't realised it already, it is a blend of the two most applicable words to a pianist: practice and performance.

These two components are often separated; one practises, then performs, goes back to practise, then performs again.  How to break this very boring circle and enhance your piano playing and enthusiasm in general is what I shall discuss in this article.

(Consider my eBook: Water Pianism)


To do so, I am obliged to divide this article into three sections with each one leading nicely onto the next one.  I shall discuss:  the natural limits and functions of the fingers on the piano, the useless monotony of finger exercises and why every moment is either a practice or performance moment.

All of the above seeds that I am planting within your mind through this article will soon grow and hopefully result in the blossoming of your own natural excellence at the piano.  The hardest part, however, is to water them daily, but that's your job, not mine!

I have a question:  Could you imagine the most common question posed by piano newcomers and those of less experience?  It is quite simply:  How can I play better with both hands together?  Well, I have an article and video on that, so I shall move on to my next question:  Could you imagine the most common advice given in response to the aforementioned question?  It is quite simply:  "Do finger exercises such as these or these and in a few months you'll find it easier".

Such advice, as I shall justify, is complete nonsense but to better understand the reasons, one would do well to first understand what it means to actually play the piano.

Playing the piano is simply a combination of, generally, 10 fingers playing, generally, 88 notes.  Each finger has the possibility of working in combination (chords) or alteration (melodies) with any of the other 9.  This is quite obvious.

All that is required is flexible tendons, strong (and maintained) forearm and upper-arm muscles and some enjoyable repertoire and you're off.  However, this comes with limits.

Fingers, even when connected to strong arm muscles and containing very independently flexible tendons, have an inherent 'maximum reach' which is different for every hand so what is more important than mastering finger exercises which demand fixed, unnatural-for-some fingering is this physical strength and flexibility attainable away from the piano.

When at the piano, rather than becoming a 'Master of Practice Exercises', one would do better to use all those hours to instead acquire desired repertoire and work on whatever techniques are required towards desired repertoire enhancement.

You see, believing that finger exercises are the only, or even best way to achieve dexterity and to improve one's playing is falling victim to a great deception; they are also usually monotonous and boring which does not drive motivation.

By working on repertoire, what is required must become that which is desired.  This means that, if your Chopin Nocturne requires rapidity in chromatic runs, spend time on progressively increasing the speed of your chromatic runs!  It really couldn't be simpler.  Targeted, purposeful, valuable practice relevant to repertoire.  Perfect.

You stay on track, build repertoire, enjoy the process and develop naturally rather than artificially via mindless exercises, the content of which you may never apply to any piece you may eventually add to your slowly-expanding repertoire.

Now, using the word 'practice' is a bit of a no-no for the Water Pianist because they understand the combining of both practice and performance, so how does one actually do this?

A whole chapter is dedicated to this in my Water Pianism book but it can be summarised quite nicely as follows:  When practising, make it into a performance opportunity; when performing, consider it a practice opportunity.

It is dangerous and one reaps few rewards by separating these two components into two extremes; too much practice turns sour and musicless and repertoire is negatively affected whereas too much performing and little practice neglects the finer points of playing.

When practising at the piano (because, of course, practice may take place away from the piano, too), even playing the chromatic scale can be made into a performance!  Identify, for example, with an emotion, a sentiment, an experience, a person, an event, and play the chromatic scale in such a way as to reflect that idea.

One may play with force and speed to represent anger, or gently, varying the tempo to represent sitting in the park on a summer's day with a lover.  This takes out the monotony of the practice component and provides a perfect opportunity for the Inspirational Source to flow a little more freely than it may usually do.

When performing, one may use the opportunity to practice timing, patience or posture, for example.  If the piece is known well enough, less conscious interference is involved so one can focus on sitting better, in not rushing the piece, all things which may be neglected or not given enough importance when practising alone.  Such activities may also help with stage fright, should you have it.

So in conclusion, a Balance is what one must strive to achieve; too much or not enough will never provide satisfactory results.  In practice and performance, each provides an opposite opportunity for performance and practice.  From this mindset, one understands the exercises are not as fruitful as often assumed since they do not always focus on your current needs; only playing enjoyable, desired repertoire can dictate what one needs to practice.

Think about it.


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