This afternoon I sat down with a student for a piano lesson, and she said, "This song isn't very good." She sounded discouraged and disappointed in herself. This sweet 14 year-old has been my student for 6 years, and she started high school a month ago. She's rowing crew every day except Sunday, and busy as she's ever been. So she's finding it hard to squeeze in practice time during the week.
So I listened to her song ("The Return" from Faber Book 4), and it was a bit rough, sounded like she hadn't been spending regular time with the music. So I focused her attention on correct fingering in the B section. She practiced the right hand about four times, then the left and then put them together. Then we backed up to the beginning of the B section, practiced hands separately and then together. In the course of about ten minutes, it was much cleaner, more accurate and musical. Then we talked about the process she had walked through so she could do the same thing to the A section. In seven minutes, she had repeated the process independently.
What happens so often is that students repeat an entire song, without taking notice of what exactly makes the song difficult. More often than not, it's not the whole piece, just a small part of it. In this case, there were 4 measures out 16 that needed extra attention. I told her to find 7 minutes daily to work on something small, like one section of a song. Yes, I'd prefer 30 minutes for an intermediate piano student, but I'll take seven over none. It's a time that we need to be realistic about together, and I'm just finding a way to support this special young lady's music in a season of new, exciting beginnings.
"Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong."