Everyone is different and we all have limitations when it comes to concentration. Some can concentrate for longer periods than others, and you should be able to find out your own limit, and realise when your concentration is dipping. That is the time to stop, have a break, go for a walk etc. The best practice is highly concentrated, where you are constantly thinking about everything you are doing, and there is no daydreaming whatsoever. Personally I find 45-60 minutes to be an ideal length of time for each session and I will do 4 – 5 sessions a day depending on my workload of pieces.
2. Stick to the same amount of practice every day.
If you feel the day’s practice is going well, don’t do any longer than you would normally or go on any later in the day – you will only tire yourself. Save your energies so you will have plenty left to begin the next day. It is sometimes useful to set yourself a time limit in which to achieve your goal, as you will not always have the luxury of endless practise time.
3. Keep them simple.
Many students develop their own routine of exercises, which may include written exercises by Czerny, Hanon etc and a few scales and arpeggios. The only exercises I have ever done were given to me by my teacher Alexander Kelly when I was a teenager, and I still do them now. Created by Oscar Berenger, they follow a simple premise - a shifting harmonic progression (C- D- E- F- G, C-D-Eb-F-G, C-Db-Eb-F-Gb, etc) that slowly and simply moves you up through all the keys. If an exercise is simple to remember, you then spend more time concentrating on what your hands and fingers are doing. You should not be worrying about what the next note is.
4. Start slowly and analyse everything
I have come to realise that the slower, more pragmatic the approach to learning a piece results in learning it better and ultimately faster. Treat yourself as an idiot and do not take anything for granted.
I often work out where unexpected notes are first, and circle them in pencil on the score.
I will write in the names of very high or low notes, rather than count the ledger lines each time.
To familiarise yourself with broken chords and arpeggios, write in the names of the harmonies.
If you recognise any scales, write them in.
Analyse the harmonic structure of the music. Find patterns, matching bars and phrases – this will also help you to memorise the piece later on.
Once you start to learn the piece, practise under tempo until you are familiar with all the notes. Do not be tempted to play through the piece a tempo straight away. You could end up practising playing the piece incorrectly, and bear in mind it is very difficult and time consuming to unlearn mistakes.
5. Adhere to what is written.
Firstly, try to use the written fingering, as someone has taken the trouble to work it out for you, but this is a one-size-fits-all approach and might not suit everyone, so don’t be afraid to change it if it really doesn’t work for your hand size. Look at all the information on the page: if the phrasing, dynamics etc are the composer's, then this should be adhered to – it is punctuation and gives the music meaning.