The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music education: Practicing is the key to performing. NPR’s “Delayed Cadence” blog and British pianist Stephen Hough offer you inside looks and tips.

July 22, 2012
5 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

For those of us who go to concerts, the performance seems the important thing, the ultimate thing.

But that performance is really just the end-product of a long process that centers on practicing, practicing and more practicing.

Two of my favorite websites offer some glimpses into and tips about practicing.

British pianist Stephen Hough long ago started a series of tips about how to practice the piano. It is filled with a lot of insightful “master classes” from a master pianist. They include where to sit on the bench and well as tips about fingering and warning about playing overly expressively, no matter what the score’s instruction is.

Here is a link to the page,, on which you can use the search engine and typo in “Hough Practice Tips” to look at all 19 “lessons”:

Here is a specific example from the 19 practicing tips that Hough — a wonderful pianist and, as I saw in a master class he gave at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an outstanding teacher — has offered so far:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100060396/left-or-right-practice-tip-no-18/

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100054525/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-difficult-piece-practice-tip-no-16/

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/stephenhough/100008061/be-boring-practice-tip-no-5/

And NPR’s “Delayed Cadence” blog recently started a series of videos called “In Practice” that takes you inside the studios of important young artists.

The subjects include pianist Jeremy Denk (below) rehearing etudes of Ligeti (Denk also gave a great master class, below bottom, for young student at the Wisconsin Union Theater); the four-man singing group New York Polyphony; and pianist Jonathan Biss rehearsing an early Beethoven sonata for the first CD in his complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas:

The NPR glimpses don’t really offer specific advice or tips, except to the degree they reinforce the importance of practicing for even the most talented and seasoned performers.

Check them out at:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/155236091/in-practice-jeremy-denk

http://www.npr.org/event/music/155236812/in-practice-new-york-polyphony?autoplay=true

http://www.npr.org/event/music/155236772/in-practice-jonathan-biss?autoplay=true

The Ear bets there are many other websites with good tips about practicing all kinds of instruments and singing.

Maybe readers and listeners will post them with links in the COMMENTS section.

We amateurs could sure use all the help we can get from professionals!


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