Daily Archives: September 3, 2009

Mental Reps

I’m learning Mozart’s Alla Turca on piano. It’s the first new song I’ve learned in a while. During my last year at Hopkins, I moved into a new apartment and didn’t have easy access to a piano anymore. This definitely retarded my abilities as a piano player. Now, I’m back to playing and I’m excited to rediscover the pleasures of learning a new song.

It’s nice to know that I still have the tools to learn a piano piece. Break it down. Practice the parts you can’t play well over and over. Start from the end and work your way backwards. Left hand. Right hand. After a lot of time sight reading familiar songs, it was nice to get into the nitty gritty of a piece. There’s something satisfying about the frustration. It’s like the sore feeling you get after a workout. Then, I sit in front of the piano the next day and I can play something that I couldn’t yesterday. That is an amazing feeling, especially when I get so frustrated the day before and think I’ll never ever get it right. To learn a musical piece requires patience and determination, which are always good virtues to practice.

I also learned that one does not have to sit in front of the piano to get practice. There was a left-hand part that was giving my particular trouble. When I was out getting food, I started playing the part on my thigh. Now this, at first glance, does not appear to be a very productive way to practice. I wouldn’t be able to get the spacing right for the notes. Yet when I practiced it on my thigh and imagined the song in my head, I noticed my hand doing weird things. I had to stop because I was doing it wrong. My hand movements weren’t matching up with the mental performance. The hand wanted to shift when it wasn’t supposed to shift. So after some practice on my thigh, I was able to tame my hand and get it to match the song going on my head. After I got home, I noticed that I could actually play it better on the piano.

Mental practice can do good work, just like physical practice. It improved my piano playing. Perhaps it can improve some area of your life.