Alan Duncan

Collaborative piano. Coach. Music theory & Audition recording

Making the most of your coaching session

Posted at — Dec 16, 2022

The following are some ideas for making sure that our rehearsal/coaching session is effective.

  1. Plan to provide me with a high quality digital scan of the piano score of the piece(s) you plan to perform. For most works, if I can have that in hand a week before our rehearsal, this usually gives me enough time to prepare. (Yes, I still have to practice!) For longer, and more complex works, the lead time may be much longer. Frequently I already have the score on my iPad, but best to check.
  2. Listen early and often to reference recordings of your piece. Listen early and often to reference recordings of your piece. I can’t emphasize this enough. Having a guide in your “mind’s ear” is invaluable and you’ll develop an intuitive sense about where your entrances are, etc.
  3. Spend some time looking at the score and take note of how your part fits with the piano. Even if it’s just a rough idea, paying attention to how the parts fit together is very helpful.
  4. Practice frequently with the metronome at every stage of preparing your piece; daily is best. This helps you internalize the pulse of the piece and also keeps you disciplined in the tendency to rush or drag the tempo unintentionally.
  5. While practicing, actually count out the rests. It’s tempting to just skip over the rests, but then when you try to put it together with the piano, the habit of skipping ahead is ingrained and hard to break.
  6. Know your tempi and write them down. Some of the most successful players know their tempo markings and keep track of them during their preparation process. Many keep tempo charts to track their progress. This is also very helpful in communicating your intended tempo and in “keeping you honest.”
  7. Plan to only rehearse the parts you know well on your own. We don’t have to rehearse everything at each session. If there’s a part that you don’t have under the fingers yet, don’t worry; we can get to that in another session.
  8. Relax and try not to be intimidated. These rehearsals, just like when you practice at home, are like experiments in the laboratory. What’s working? What needs more work? And most importantly, what can we learn? Have fun!