It’s not how much, it’s how.

A recent study has investigated the differences in practice strategies between professional and amateur pianists. The results demonstrated that it was the problem-solving strategies rather than the amount of practice time which differentiated between the professional and amateur pianists.


Some of the differences observed were:

  • Playing was hands together early on
  • Errors were preempted by stopping in anticipation of mistakes
  • Errors were addressed immediately when they appeared
  • The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected
  • Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and stabilised
  • The most effective way participants corrected errors was by judicious changes to tempo to facilitate the correction of the error.

Professional pianists as well as novices, make mistakes in learning repertoire. The differences are in the approach to solving these errors and bring lasting solutions. 

The implications for teachers is the need to incorporate problem solving techniques into lessons. Goals for novice students need to include in addition to practice a certain amount of time per day, how to solve mistakes they will make as part of their learning, based on strategies their teacher has demonstrated during lessons.

Duke, R. A., Simmons, A. L., & Cash, C. D. (2009). It’s Not How Much; It’s How: Characteristics of Practice Behavior and Retention of Performance Skills. Journal of Research in Music Education, 56(4), 310-321. 

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