Checklist for a Musical Practice

We all know that there is practice, then there is good practice. But what is the difference between just practice and practice that improves your musical delivery?

Here’s Ms. Harwood’s checklist to make practice meaningful.

  1. Read the description before the song – imagine what it sounds like.
  2. Watch the dynamics! The difference between loud and soft, fast and slow makes the song sound more musical.
  • por piano, meaning “soft”.
  • for forte, meaning “loud”.

More subtle degrees of loudness or softness are indicated by:

  • mp, standing for mezzo-piano, meaning “half soft”.
  • mf, standing for mezzo-forte, meaning “half loud”.[8]

Use of up to three consecutive fs or ps is also common:

  • pp, standing for pianissimoand meaning “very soft”.
  • ff, standing for fortissimoand meaning “very loud”.


  1. Put the stress on the first note of the meter. Putting the accent on the first note helps the listener catch and follow the meter.
    • In a 4/4 meter song, the stress is on the first beat of every measure.
    • In a 3/4 meter, the stress is on the first beat of every measure.
    • Jazz music is a different story. The stress is placed on the wrong note on purpose.

  1. Longer is stronger, Shorter is lighter
    • Hit longer notes stronger
    • Hit shorter notes lighter and quicker.


  1. Apply Physical Techniques – The physical techniques help you play at the right speed and create the right emotion for the music
    • Use wrist rolls for notes that comes in quick succession of each other.
    • Pay attention to the fingering. It helps prepare your fingers for the upcoming notes.
    • Use finger doughnuts to support your playing finger.
    • Keep your wrist up. Don’t let snaky have a snack!
    • Lift your forearm from your elbow to get maximum speed and control.

  1. Keep a steady beat and subdivision of the beat going in your head. This insures accurate playing of the sixteenth notes.


  • If the notes are uneven you can change a series of sixteenth notes into a different rhythmic pattern accenting the weaker fingers.  For example: a series of 16, sixteenth notes which might have an accent every 4 beat would be played as 2 sixteenth notes then an eighth note or in triplets. After playing the musical runs in patterns, play as written and the unevenness usually goes away.


  1. Watch the slurs.
    • The notes under the slur marking are played legato, smooth and connected.
    • Play them like a singer who only breathes at the end of the phrase. Do however breath at the end of the phrase to give the listener a chance to breathe.
    • Two note and three note slurs are played with a down-up motion. I think of a half circle rolling down then back up for the release. Lift the wrist on the last note in the slur to take your fingers off the keys. When you do this your fingers stay relaxed and remain over the keys.

  1. Sing along when you play. When people listen to you play they are singing along as you play. The more expressive your playing the more enjoyment for you and the listener.


Happy Practicing!

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