For us pianists, it’s sometimes easy to look at a passage and think, “How the heck do I accomplish that?” Whether it’s an insane jump, a tricky passage that requires precise fingering, or even having to read three staves at once (looking at you, Liszt), it can be hard for us to begin paving a path when the final goal seems beyond our reach. But throwing ourselves at attempt after attempt can be both mentally and physically taxing; so what if we tried to find a goal in-between?

I’ve talked about cutting up passagework, securing muscle memory, and focusing on each finger’s job; but sometimes it’s good for us to find the bare bones of a passage and build up from there until the impossible becomes possible. This can come from something as complex as identifying chordal motion, to something as simple as adding a note or two (temporarily) to secure the rhythm. And this works for all ages, too! Whether you’re struggling to count a full dotted half-note or nail a run in Chopin, simplifying the “impossible” can save us a lot of frustration in the long run.

How did you come to learn a passage that was “impossible” at the start? What are some practice techniques you might be able to use to save yourself a spare headache or two next time?

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