I’m hearing the words from the Sound of Music in my head: “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
The beginning is a good place to start, but the end is a better place to start! 🙂
A common issue I encounter with advancing piano students is that they always start at the beginning of their piece and give the ending far less attention. This is a problem because a lot of endings are the most exciting and important part of the music! So, when a student plays a piece for me, often, the beginning is really strong, they sail along smoothly and then near the end things fall apart. Either the student hesitates because they don’t know the music as confidently as the beginning or they crash into wrong notes on the final chords.
Lately, when I’m working with intermediate and advanced students, I have them play the last 2 measures for me before they play anything else. We nail the ending several times, then I ask them to play the whole piece.
This is how I would like them to practice at home as well. It so tempting to play the beginning of a piece over and over. Usually it is the most familiar part, it is satisfying to get a good strong start and if something goes wrong, you can always start at the beginning again! However, it is much more effective and efficient to isolate the ending and approach it confidently when playing the whole piece.
Parents, if you notice your student circling around to the beginning of their piece over and over, ask to hear the ending and remind them to start there.
Teachers, share your tips for helping students remember to nail their endings!
This is an excellent tip. I’m an adult learner (didn’t start until a couple years ago when I retired). I’ve been guilty of playing the beginning over and over. About a year ago, my music teacher told me to not go back to the beginning when I stumbled as I moved into the piece, but to only go back to the previous bar and then move on. That certainly made a difference.
Recently I heard a professional pianist interviewed on the radio and he said he tends to “learn” a piece by learning the end first, and for the very reason you mentioned — it’s usually the most dramatic and important part.
Good for you for learning piano in your retirement! And also good for you for following good practice advice. So many pianists practice inefficiently but our progress is much more profound and rewarding when we’re smart about it. Good work!