Practice smarter, not harder.
You know the popular book about the 10,000- Hour rule? It takes 10,000 hours to become a master.
If you or your child has been taking weekly one-on-one piano lessons for years, many hours have been put into mastering piano technique.
Don’t get me wrong, I still believe putting enough time on practicing is essential. What if you don't have hours upon hours to spend on practice, because your schedule is also filled with other activities or priorities, but you still want to be ready for the next performances, auditions, or competitions? Did all the time you spent practicing give you the best result?
Growing up a piano student myself, I spent lots of time practicing. I was fortunate to have great teachers and supportive parents that guided me into advanced levels from a young age. Back then after-school activities were not as packed as students have nowadays. Students had the time to spend hours upon hours practicing. I look back and realize I eventually got the result I wanted, but was it the most efficient way? In a typical model of learning piano, you have a 30-60 minute one on one lesson with a teacher then you don’t see them for a week or more for the next lesson. During that time away you may do everything correctly, but what if you are practicing a skill the wrong way now you spend the time on building incorrect muscle memory.
Now I look back, I wish during those long practices by myself, someone would have told me what I was doing wrong so I could have corrected myself and learned faster and more efficiently.
Fast forward, I came to the US to get my master and doctorate degrees. My to-learn music list was much longer than I used to. My daily life in my master degree and my doctorate degree were filled with lessons, rehearsals, and recitals that left me very limited time to learn and practice a long list of repertoire. There were days I was literally crying, and I had to walk away from the piano. I was overwhelmed. I practiced as much as I could but I didn’t feel the break-through during my practice.
This type of frustration often leads to over practice and causes injury. I had not just once, but two injuries in my pianist’s life. It was not fun, I remembered, when my first degree recital was a-month away, I had to take a few days break without touching the piano. Imagine that, the anxiety was already high but I had to take a break.
The second time happened when I was a Teaching Assistant during my doctorate program. I had to take a two- week break from practicing and rehearsals when I had 5 recital assignments waiting for me.
Do you know what is the best thing I learnt from my twice injuries?
I have my “a-ha” moment after the break!
I realize those often technique challenge passages are often not the problem, but the transition to that passage could be the problem; or you think your right hand cannot get through those fast passage, it can be your left hand did not phrase enough to help your right hand; sometimes difficult passage seems like technique issue, but the root of the problem is you omit the phrasing that is hiding behind those millions of notes!
It turned out those performances after my inquires were few of the best and most enjoyable performances I have ever done!
I have been through two injuries and learnt this in a hard way, so you don't have to go through what I have. With many years of intensive performance schedules, I have established a way to learn and practice in a tight timeline without sacrificing the FUN!
We do not need hours and hours to identify the problem. What we need is the right GUIDE to find the hidden challenge behind those problems.
What if you are not doing this alone? Instead of spending hours and hours to find the “a-ha” moment alone and may end up going off the track after the once a week lesson, you have more support on your practice during the week. That way you know the time you spent on practice is going in the right direction. You know sometimes it’s not about practice more, but practice right.
There is a better way to do that.
I am introducing my brand new online teaching program Mind Beyond Fingers for intermediate and advanced level piano students. This program offers customized personal plans, uses one-on-one feedback with weekly online group masterclasses to help piano students establish a healthy and efficient way to learn and practice, eventually gaining confidence in your next performance.
What is more, this program is not only about helping you elevate your playing technique, but also provides well-rounded knowledge on music theory, history, and interpretation. No matter if you are just working on intermediate repertoire, or going to an advanced level, you will be able to use your practice time smarter, feel more joy of playing, and be confident in your performance!
If all of the above seems to interest you, I invite you to book a call with me TODAY by https://calendly.com/xuelaiwupianist. I would love to discuss further how I may help your or your child’s piano journey.
Dr. Xuelai Wu is a collaborative pianist, vocal coach, and educator.
Frequently hailed as "sensitive playing" by collaborative partners and audiences, Wu has performed throughout the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, and Mainland China. Recent notable performances include a recital with Rhian Kenny and Jack Howell from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a Gala Concert with Arizona Opera Principal Artists Joshua Stewart and Chrystal Williams. She had the honor of working with internationally acclaimed tenor Augusto Paglialunga on multiple recitals of Schubert's Winterreise. She has played for masterclasses with cellist Lynn Harrell, violinist Sarah Chang, pianists Anne Epperson, Warren Jones, Hartmut Höll, Joseph Kalichestein, Anton Nel, Navah Perlman, and many others.
Wu has served as collaborative pianist for many prestigious music organizations such as Interlochen Arts Camp and Meadowmount School of Music. She was a teaching artist for Arizona Opera outreach program "Operatunity," a program designed for K–5 students to introduce opera to the younger generation in the greater Phoenix area from 2018 to 2019. She also toured internationally with the GRAMMY Award-winning choir—Phoenix Boys Choir under Maestro Georg Stangelberger from 2017 to 2019. She was the official collaborative pianist for the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference (Southwest) in 2017. She utilized her collaborative skills while conducting choir from piano and organ. She was the Director of Music at Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ in Phoenix from 2014 to 2018.
Born in Guangzhou, China, Wu grew up in a musical family and started her piano lessons at the age of 3. She received her bachelor's degree in music from South China Normal University. She earned her collaborative piano master's degree from Beijing Central Conservatory of Music and Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2017, she received her Doctor of Musical Arts from Arizona State University.
D.M.A., Arizona State University
M.M., Cleveland Institute of Music
M.M., Beijing Central Conservatory of Music
B.M., South China Normal University
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art”