The “Ideal” Practice Routine (Bach’s Teachings and Invention #4)

Is there an ideal, universal practice routine? No, because each person must design her/is own practice routine at each practice session. In other words, this book is all about designing your own practice routines. Some differences between a well designed routine and the intuitive routine of section II.1 are discussed in the last paragraph of this section. A good piano teacher will discuss the appropriate practice routines for the lesson pieces during the lesson. Those who already know how to create practice routines might still find this section interesting, as we will discuss many useful points (such as Bach’s teachings and specifics on how to practice his Invention #4) in addition to practice routines.

Many students who learn the numerous useful ideas of this book for the first time feel lost and wonder if there are magical practice routines, like the magical practice methods described here. They would like some guidance on typical practice routines that use these methods. Therefore, I describe a few sample practice routines below. Practice routines depend on the skill level, what the person wants to accomplish, the composition being practiced, what the person was practicing the day before, etc. A practice session for preparing for performances is different from that for learning a new piece, which is different from that for polishing a piece that you have been practicing for some time.

A universal routine, such as “Practice Hanon for 30 minutes, then scales/arpeggios for 20 minutes, then Cramer-Bulow (or Czerny, etc.), followed by lesson pieces” does not make any practical sense; it is the epitome of the intuitive method and reveals a general ignorance of how to practice. The question “What is a good practice routine?” is answered by “How do you design practice routines?” Instead of asking “What must I do?” you should ask “What do I want to accomplish?” You design a practice routine by (i) defining your objective and (ii) assembling the resources to accomplish it. In order to do this, you must first become familiar with all the practice methods. Since there is so much material in this book, you should not wait until you understand the last page before applying the methods. This book is written like a practice routine: you can pick a composition you want to play, and start practicing it by reading from the beginning of Chapter One and applying each principle in the order in which it is presented.