Marc-André Hamelin is a sought-after piano soloist, appearing in concert halls around the world in recital and concerto performances. But that doesn’t mean that he gets to stop practicing. If you’re someone who remembers minutes or hours of playing tedious scales at the piano while keeping a close eye on the clock, he says it needn’t be that way. Instead he sees practice as ‘self-teaching’ – and a way to learn how to best get inside the workings of a piece.

Marc-André Hamelin‘s schedule doesn’t always allow him as much time to practice as he might like, and he says that he doesn’t really have a regimen: “I  just go to the piano simply because I’m naturally attracted to it, not because I ever feel I have a task to accomplish. Well, I do in a way, but only in the sense that it’s just continuing a journey with a certain piece, or with a number of pieces at the same time.” And the progress that he then makes is two-fold… He builds muscle memory in his fingers while connecting with the composer’s intent. “It’s instilling a growing awareness of what the piece contains and what is needed in order to bring it to life. Either emotionally, or purely physically.”

Hamelin says more important than spending a given amount of time practicing, is making incremental progress: “I just feel my way, I do a little bit each day, and each day my ability to communicate the message of the piece will get more and more fluent… This is really heresy for most piano teachers, but I don’t believe that you should calculate, or you should figure out, or you should go into the practice room saying ‘I’m going to practice so many hours.’ To me, that’s kind of useless. Because what you really should set out to do is better your understanding of the piece, and development of your own equipment, whether artistic or physical.”