Deliberate Practice: What Coaches Can Learn From Pianists

This morning on Classic FM (Australia) Margaret Throsby had a telephone conversation with Boris Berman about the Melbourne Festival of the Piano. Part of the interview was about a one-hour public seminar to be held on Wednesday 7 July. The seminar’s title is On Practice and will be presented by Boris Berman with special guests Paul Lewis and Ronald Farren-Price.

I cannot find a link to a recording of  the conversation but was struck at the time by Boris’s clarity about the role of deliberate practice. Quoting Rachmaninoff, Boris observed that “if I do not practice for one day … I notice. If I do not practice for two days … my friends notice. If I do not practice for three days … the audience notices.”

He talked in detail about:

  • Linking all practice to the artistic outcome.
  • Transforming practice environments.
  • The role of mental rehearsal away from the practice environment.

Once again I was struck by the lessons that coaches can learn from exploring the world of performing arts. I am keen to read Boris Berman’s Notes from the Pianist’s Bench.

One reviewer notes that the book starts:

where most diligent students hopefully find themselves presently: in the pratice room. But what a practice room this is! While yours (and mine) consists of four naked white walls with a big black piano in it, Professor Berman’s practice room is a laboratory of experimentation and consideration. His enormous experience in performance practice, spanning all styles from harpsichord to Cage, allows him to approach a topic from several angles at the same time. Berman is especially afraid of exaggeration and dogmatic advice and believes our faults to be the extension of our virtues: “My biggest hesitation about writing this book has been a fear that my advice will be misinterpreted or carried ad absurdum. Guided by the teacher, a young musician must learn to use common sense, both in making interpretive decisions and in deciding on appropriate physical actions to realize them.”

Boris Berman is clear about the role practice plays in performance excellence. His workshop with Paul Lewis and Ronald Farren-Price would be a great resource for coaches from a different kind of bench.

Photo Credit

Piano and/or keyboard

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