Memorize-Improve-Finalize is not a strictly sequential process as the title suggests, these are more to be seen as repeating phases of a continuous learning process. It’s often suggested to learn a new piece starting with the most difficult passages, well… I don’t really stick very often to this approach to be honest. On the other side it can be, that I select a specific passage and spend weeks on learning and improving it, before I step over to the next section. So basically the phases of memorizing, improving and finalizing are applied to all sections individually and at the required intensity, depending on the individual skills, the difficulty of the section and the own preferences.

Piano Practice supports this process by giving the opportunity to assign a status tag to a piece depending on the phase you are into, when learning it. This doesn’t have to apply at the level of the complete piece but can also be related to a specific section of the piece. By the way, you can select the current section by defining the page number on the related referenced sheet and by additional annotations within the PDF sheet itself.

Before jumping into a short description of why using the status tag within a piece in Piano Practice, let’s briefly look at the meanings of the individual status tags as intended by the author:

  • Orientation: it is normally the very first phase of learning a new piece. You may get an impression of different interpretations of the piece and depending on your sight reading skills also try to play along or at least to follow the bars when someone is playing. I personally make an extended use of this phase to get into the mood, recognize challenging parts and may be to get to the final decision, if I really feel able to master this piece.
  • Memorizing: an always recurring phase where the focus when practicing a piece is on memorizing harmonies, structure and fingerings. In fact this phase often alternates with the later described improving phase and can become part of it but let’s differ it that way: while Improving focuses on the muscles, Memorizing focuses on the brain. Oh, yes… that’s the moment where I decided someday to open up this section for discussions.
  • Improving: it’s the longest, most tedious and probably most demanding phase. In fact it could be a combination of the previous phases along with technical exercises to manage difficult passages. At the end it is the phase where you may practice the “perfect touch” for the piece, when focus is no longer related to manage the difficult parts but more on the atmosphere and your own touch.
  • Finalizing: I see this as a recurring phase when preparing for a performance, wether you do it just virtually, wether you are one of the lucky people being able to perform in public, you should take the time to adapt the piece to the repertoire you will play and to your audience. I prefer sometimes doing this part in presence of others in the room, like my family or friends. I like to ask them about their impressions, how they were feeling, was it too present (if the playing was intended as a musical background) or too weak (if it was intended as a performance). This external feedback is absolutely important to give the final touch to the piece on to make a master piece out of it.
  • Reviewing: once you’ve learned, you start to forget… unfortunately, new music replaces the old one if you don’t repeat it from time to time. The review phase is the final one for all pieces I want to keep in mind and not forget. There comes the time where you may want to play pieces you learned months or years ago in front of an audience. Keeping them in review and playing them from time to time is important also to see, if you are still able to play them. The review phase is also the chance to see, if individual passages are really “in the brain” or just “in the hand”. It’s easy to forget pieces you just have in your hand as the so called “hand memory” is very short compared to the real “data storage” in your head.
  • Archiving: you know the effect, when you can’t hear you playing a specific piece any longer? Yes, that is the time to archive it, don’t delete it! You may want to play this piece again once in a while. “Für Elise” has always his place within my archive and from time to time it gets back to review for a few weeks, you never know…

The status of the piece is important, when you make use of the workout functionality of the app. You can define your own workout in the Piano Practice Pro version, and define individual parts where you select a number of pieces in a certain status to be practiced. Piano Practice automatically selects the pieces by last playing date and creates an individual workout for you. If you make use of the “Key from session part” type, Piano Practice is also able to create an exercise sheet with all scales and arpeggios according to the selected pieces. So you can add a warm-up session right before practicing the pieces.

A typical structure for a practice session consists into five parts:

  1. a warm-up part containing some scales and arpeggios,
  2. an exercise part containing some exercises, etudes, etc.
  3. a longer memorizing part to learn new pieces (I recommend to keep just one or two pieces at once in this phase),
  4. a longer improving part and finally
  5. a review part with one or two pieces to play (setting up the proper workout automatically rolls pieces by date for you, so you don’t have to take care of when you played a piece the last time).
A selection of workouts you can create based on a weekly structure with additional specific workout for reviews and pieces you didn’t play for a long time.

You may create some additional workouts with your own preferences, for example you could add an additional review workout with just the scales and the pieces to review, when you have more time at the weekend. I suggest to setup your repertoire first and then to start over with the built-in workout setups. See how it works and gain some experience, the start playing around with your own setups.

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