Reverse Practicing

From a young age we are conditioned to start at the beginning and go to the end.  We learn our alphabet “a” through “z”.  We read books from the first chapter to the last.  We eat breakfast, then lunch, then dinner. 

When practicing our music, we most often start at the top of the page and work our way to the bottom stopping many times to work on specific passages.  By the time we get to the last few bars, forty-five minutes later, our brains are tired and we lack focus.

“Reverse practicing” is a great way to ensure that the second half of your piece is as strong as the first half.  Here’s how:

  • begin by practicing and refining the closing phrase of your piece  – we’ll call it “z”
  • then, practice and refine the penultimate phrase  – y
  • practice both phrases together –  y and z
  • practice and refine the preceding phrase  –  x
  • practice the three phrases together – x, y, & z
  • continue working backward, phrase by phrase, using this method until you reach the opening bars

The advantage of spending some time practicing this way is that, when performing, you will find yourself moving confidently toward ever more familiar ground.  You are reaping the benefit of having spent considerable time practicing the second half of your piece with a clear, fresh mind!