Piano Technique: Mental or Physical?

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Photo by Jamille Queiroz on Unsplash

Practice and Exercise are two very distinct behaviors with two very different goals:

  • To Exercise is to physically exert oneself with the goal of improving performance in terms of strength, endurance, flexibility, stamina, blood flow, breathing, etc. Exercise changes your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, heart, and lungs. Repeated physical exertions (such as stretching, swimming, lifting weights, and logging miles on a treadmill) will accomplish this goal.
  • To Practice is to attempt to coordinate the movements of your body in time and space in order to execute a difficult and precise task until the motion becomes automatic. Practice changes the neuro-chemical circuitry in your brain. Practice requires mental exertion. And, in order to be successful, such efforts require mindful experimentation, not mindless repetition.

Different activities (sports, games, recreations, performing arts) require different mixtures of physical and mental development, but it would be a huge mistake to believe that you need to do exercises in order to play the piano.

This is so important that it needs to be repeated: It is a huge mistake to believe that you need to do exercises in order to play the piano.

Why? Because…

  • The goal of piano practice is not to bulk up your physical equipment.
  • The goal of piano practice is always to change your brain!

In fact, you control everything with your brain. And this includes moving your muscles! That’s right. Your BRAIN moves your muscles. Your muscles do not move themselves. In fact, the ability to move your body — to do things like walk, talk, write, eat, and drink — is the only reason for anyone to need a brain at all.

So the big less here is this: The piano is not a gymnasium and your piano practice should never consist of doing mindless physical exercises. Got it? Good!

learn more… Commentary on Hanon, Cortot, Czerny, etc.

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