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#164: Supercharged Sections: Put More Power in Your Practice

I love riddles. Here’s an oldie but goodie for you. What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So what’s the best way to learn a piece? One bite at a time, obviously. It’s just that what constitutes a bite isn’t very obvious. How big is a bite? Is it a measure, a phrase or a page? Is it hands separately or hands together?  And how come the bites that worked for that piece don’t work for this piece? 

Dividing your pieces into sections is the way you create your “bites,” but there are lots of ways to section a piece, and no two pieces will have exactly the same sections. 

Sometimes finding the sections is easy. We can look at the piece and see an introduction, a first verse, a second verse and an ending. Those are the kind of sections that help us understand the piece.

Then there are the sections that help us practice the piece. These are typically fewer measures and a little more bite-sized, if you will.

Lastly, there are the spot practice sections, those measures in the piece that are sticking points for us and take extra work.

Of course, it isn’t just about labeling the sections. Understanding how to section your pieces at those three levels, why each of those is important, and how to practice each kind of section will make the difference. Correct section practice will save you practice time, help you structure your practice and help you prepare for performance. Many of the most common mistakes we worry about in performance, like losing your place in the music, recovering from a missed fingering or pedal, and going on autopilot, are easily resolved when you’ve prepared your piece in sections properly.

That’s why I know that sections can supercharge your practice, and that’s what we’re talking about today. So grab paper and pencil and get ready to take some notes. Even if you’re an experienced section practicer, you’re going to get a slightly different perspective on your sections today.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]


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