STAGE TWO: LEARNING THE NOTES, COUNTING AND FINGERING
READING THE MUSIC
Having processed the key(s) of the piece along with the key signature(s), it is time to start reading the notes. Begin hands separately. Be acutely aware of clef changes and accidentals! It is best to take one portion of the piece to learn at one time (not the entire piece). Repetition is the key to success!
Follow fingering carefully. If you need to change fingering, that is fine. Always look at the context of the fingering: what you have played and where you are going. What are the most comfortable fingers to use given the size and shape of your hands? You do not want to have several fingering options; this will only make learning the piece more difficult! Once you have selected a good fingering, write it in the music.
COUNTING OUT LOUD!
Yes, this is very important! It is also difficult to do in the beginning. Clap the rhythm of each hand while counting the beats. It is easier to clap than to play while counting. When you are comfortable clapping the rhythm, then play the notes while counting out loud. Initially, play under tempo until you are secure with the notes, fingering and counting! Proceed hands separately until you know the piece well in each hand. Then, painstakingly put the two hands together. Give extra attention to those tricky measures!
Play with a metronome to keep an even tempo and to determine if you are hesitating. By practicing a phrase over the bar line to the first beat of the next phrase, you can often avoid hesitations. If you find yourself hesitating in a particular measure or phrase, evaluate why you are hesitating, (e.g. is there a leap in both hands, is there a complicated fingering issue?) Isolate the problem and practice carefully until you can master that section. Sometimes, memorization of a tricky passage can fix the problem.
The next post will address pedaling, dynamics and articulation.