If you are a piano student taking regular lessons do you expect your teacher to do all the work, or do you take some initiative to solve problems yourself and to make your playing sound as good as you can? You will really accelerate your progress if you can get into the habit of listening to yourself critically, and what better way of doing it than recording yourself from time to time!

You can of course record into a phone or tablet, or go with something fancier. If you have a digital piano, why not use the record and playback feature? I sometimes use my Casio grand hybrid for this purpose. What I like about it is it is so easy to use, and I get an honest and accurate playback of what I actually did, with no background noise, interference or distortion. What I hear back is what I delivered.

It is helpful when you listen back to your recording to write down some reflections in bullet point form, remembering to include those things you were happy about as well as those things you notice need some improvement (it is all too easy to be self critical in a negative way). Unless you write it all down, you are likely to be overwhelmed and feel swamped. I prefer a simple practice checklist. 

Recently I made a short series of videos for Casio and Pianist Magazine demonstrating some of the features of the grand hybrid piano. In the following video, I took an elementary piece (Petzold’s G major Minuet) in which I made a few deliberate mistakes (for the purposes of the demonstration). When I listened back, I reflected on what I had done by noting down on my checklist those things that did not work. That way, when I play the piece again I have something tangible to concentrate on – rather than merely hoping it will come out better the second time around. Afterwards, I repeated the process with an intermediate piece – Mozart’s Minuet in D.

Polishing and Refining

At a more advanced level, imagine you’re preparing Schumann’s Des Abends for performance, and you want it to sound as beautiful as possible. You’ve noticed it feels a bit lumpy and uneven but you can’t remember exactly where once you’ve got to the end.

The clearer you are about the character of the music and the mood or atmosphere you want to create before you start playing, the better the outcome. It is worth preparing a checklist for a specific piece, outlining your intentions. That way, when you listen back, you have tailor-made criteria to match your performance against. Remember – your feedback will form the basis for what and how you practise next. Here is an actual checklist that will serve as a guide.

For more information on how to use a feedback loop to focus and enhance your practice, follow this link

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