The 80/20 rule of practising


By Robert Estrin


How is the 80/20 rule applied to the piano?


How it applies may surprise you!


So, what is the 80/20 rule? You may have heard this before. The 80/20 rule is, for example, in the piano, how spending 80% of your time on 20% of the score will benefit your practice. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply to the piano exactly. Because I would say it’s more like 90/10!


Really, you’ll learn a piece of music and then spend 90% of your time on 10% of the piece.


There’s just a very small amount that really requires almost all of your time and effort. Of course there is great temptation to always go back to the beginning and play the parts you know, because it’s fun and you want to work on those parts to make them better and better. There’s no end to how well you can play something.


But really laser focusing on the small sections, sometimes spending 98% of your practice time on 2% of the music is necessary. Other days you can have a more fluid type of practice where you’re covering more substantial parts of your piece. Particularly when you’re getting ready for performance, you want to be able to get the sense of playing complete pieces, playing half a program, then playing the whole program is how to prepare for a concert. But certainly in the formative parts of learning music, you want to focus your attention on the parts that need refinement to be productive. I see so many people who spend hours and hours at the piano and don’t seem to accomplish what they are after and this is one way to increase your productivity tremendously. So, in your practice, don’t just keep going through the things you can already play well, even though you can always refine further.


Put your attention where it’s needed early on.


You may feel like you’ll never get through the piece if you spend so much time on a small section. Maybe it’s a four or eight measure phrase, and you’re thinking, my gosh, if I spend an hour or an hour and a half on this, I’m never going to get through the piece! Here’s the epiphany you will have. Spend that time on the front end on some of those hard sections and you will be rewarded because you’ll find that almost all pieces of music have repeats of different themes and technical challenges. And by delving into those sections head-on, you’re going to be able to accomplish so much more as you go further with the learning of the piece.


So yes, the 80/20 rule applies and maybe even it’s even more extreme than that. I’d love to hear from all of you how you feel this applies to your practice and keep the questions coming in. I’m so pleased to have so many subscribers! If you haven’t subscribed yet, you’re welcome to! There’s even more content on my Patreon page.


Now watch me explain!: 



Robert Estrin

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