Practice in Perspective

Take a little time to pause before playing on…
Written by Andrew Eales.

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful.
And then it’s amazing again.
And in between the amazing and the awful,
it’s ordinary and mundane and routine.
Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful,
and relax and exhale during the ordinary.
That’s just living: heartbreaking, soul-healing,
amazing, awful, ordinary life.”

L.R. Knost

Hands up if your first thought, reading this quote, is that Knost’s observations about life equally apply to piano practice? That was certainly my first thought when, having posted this quote three years ago on social media it reappeared as a “memory” this week.

And one of my friends similarly wasted no time before commenting, “this is an excellent description of my average practise session”.

So let’s revisit the quote, substituting practice for life:

Practice is amazing. And then it’s awful.
And then it’s amazing again.
And in between the amazing and the awful,
it’s ordinary and mundane and routine.
Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful,
and relax and exhale during the ordinary.
That’s just practising: heartbreaking, soul-healing,
amazing, awful, ordinary practice.”


Ordinary Practice

Is it a surprise that some days everything goes well at the piano, while other days nothing seems to work at all? Sometimes we clearly see where we are going, other times we can barely make out the shapes through the mist.

With this in mind, we perhaps need to question our perspective on practice each time we sit down at the piano, understanding that there will be unpredictable ups and downs, beyond our control, to which we need not attach special blame or emotion.

When I launched Pianodao back in 2015, I wrote:

I continue to observe that many of the problems and issues that I and my students grapple with have very little to do with our pianism and musical understanding, and far more to do with our physical limitations, tension, mental state and internal beliefs… The work of a piano teacher can sometimes have as much to do with helping our students to address these issues as it does with conventional pedagogical content.

I have offered plenty of tips on how to practise elsewhere, but believe we must understand that, regardless of technique or strategy, our practice experience is likely to vary considerably from one day to the next.

It’s crucial that we don’t jump from self-evaluation to self-condemnation. Recognising this basic point helps us to approach practice with a more healthy perspective, alleviating the stresses and frustrations that can blight our daily satisfaction at the piano.


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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is the author of HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC, published worldwide by Hal Leonard. He is a widely respected piano educator and published composer based on Milton Keynes UK.

4 thoughts on “Practice in Perspective”

  1. Thanks a bunch…love your site! As an adult learner, juggling life, career, piano practice, etc, it is becoming clearer that internal beliefs and stress (lack of breathing) are truly taking their toll on my practice. It has been a rather lengthy period of frustration and seemingly zero progress. The suggestions and tools I am discovering here are a big first step to changing my approach to my limited time at the keyboard. I look forward to rekindling some rather tense relationships with Brahms and Beethoven.

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