The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are 10 tips from NPR on how to improve your practicing. | September 7, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear is willing to bet that 90 percent of having successful and satisfying music lessons boils down to knowing how to practice.

practice room and piano

That takes a long time and a lot of experience. And you know how hard it is when so many actual lessons turn into guided practice sessions, no matter whether it is a question of the voice, the piano, strings like the violin an cello,  brass and woodwinds,

violin practice

But NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” recently offered 10 tips, culled from various sources, for improving how you practice. I find them useful and suspect so will you.

Here is a link:

Use the COMMENT space on this blog to let all of us know how these practice tips work for you and if you have any special tips for practicing of your own.

cello practice

Thank you, NPR. And you can also find some useful practice videos for various instrument at YouTube (at bottom).

So spread the word and share these tips by passing them along to others with this blog post.

Now, let’s all go make music!


  1. My useful tip from my piano student days is, if you can play by ear, resist the temptation to transpose the piece to an easier key and simplify it so you can play it (or a dumbed-down version of it) right away, as I did too many times. I was all about immediate gratification.
    It costs you in the long run.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — September 7, 2013 @ 9:50 pm

  2. Hi Susan,
    Thank you, as always, for reading and replying.
    I love your distinction between playing the score and playing the music.
    As regards to using or consulting different editions, you make an excellent suggestion.
    I know from personal experience.
    I well recall the differences among, say, the Schirmer, Henle and Peters editions of Chopin’s Nocturnes and J.S. Bach’s Partitas.
    It is amazing the see the major differences that different editors can make. I much prefer the Henle edition of Schubert’s Impromptus and Moments Musicaux edited by the famous pianist Walter Gieseking. What useful fingering he gives, though at times you have to do your own to revise it to fit your own hand and your own nerve impulses or coordination.
    I was also surprised to see the differences between the Paderewski edition an the so-called definite Henle edition in the fingering, actual notes and page turns in Chopin’s Mazurkas.
    Same for the differences between the older Kalmus and newer Henle editions of J.S. Bach’s French Suites. (I actually preferred the Kalmus, with better fingering by Hans Bischoff.)
    So you are right, it is absolutely best to consult several editions.
    If you can’t afford to buy them, please remember that the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has them all — and you don’t have to be a UW student to get a card and see them or borrow them. The can arrange it for the general public.
    Does anyone else out there have specific comparison to make between different editions of the same work or works? Let us know. It is a terrific topic.
    Thanks agan,
    The Ear and his fingers

    Comment by welltemperedear — September 7, 2013 @ 9:36 am

  3. Another useful tip: Practice from several editions (though make your marks in only one). Are there differences? Why — did the composer leave differing mss.? Had she or he not made a final decision, or has someone unearthed a working copy and published it? Or are the differences editorial? Why would an editor have thought that? What were the conventional performance practices when the editing was done? How do you think it should be played, and why?

    Most of all, using different editions shifts one from learning the score to learning the music — and there is a difference! I’ve seen more than one student who had made excellent progress on a piece but was completely thrown by a page turn in a different spot.

    Comment by Susan Fiore — September 7, 2013 @ 9:03 am

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