How to begin your practice session
It’s essential to plan practice sessions carefully to ensure progress. But what’s the best way to start? First, it’s important to take a few moments to check-in with your body before you think about touching the keys. There are 3 main elements to consider: Are you sitting well? Do you have any tense muscles? How are you breathing?
Let’s consider these 3 things in more detail.
Are you sitting well?
It’s important that we sit at the correct height and distance from the piano, and this depends on your physical dimensions. You need enough space in front of you to move the hands/arms easily, and to reach the pedals. The weight should be evenly distributed between the sit bones (the lower part of the pelvis also known as the ischial tuberosity) and the feet must be properly grounded. We’ve all heard the expression “sit up straight,” but this isn’t a useful image; instead think about sitting up ‘tall.’ Next, notice the shoulders- are they hunched or too far forward? Finally, notice the head and neck. Is your head too far forward (a common problem in the age of mobile devices)?
Do you have any tense muscles?
Regardless of the length of the practice session, it’s essential to relieve any tense muscles before you begin. The neck and shoulders are typical trouble spots, and we must also loosen up the arms, wrists and hands. It’s a good idea to take an exercise class or body awareness discipline (Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates etc.).
How are you breathing?
Breathing is something we do unconsciously most of the time. When did you last focus solely on taking deep breaths? Taking the time to do this for a few moments will help you to calm down and concentrate. Pianists don’t need to breathe in order to produce a sound from the instrument, but we do have to learn to breathe with the music. Bringing your awareness to your breath will enhance your wellbeing, improve focus and concentration and enable you to breathe naturally with the phrases in your pieces.
Taking time to check-in with how your feeling and how well your body is aligned will help you get your practice session off to the best possible start.