When practicing pieces of music on either the guitar or piano, I have almost always noticed the following pattern: to start with, each practicing session is better than the previous. However, there comes a time, possibly when I am limited from further improvement by lack of techique, that my playing starts regressing. My performance of the piece I have been studying becomes sloppier as if I have partly lost what I had previously conquered.

Have you come accross that pattern on yourselves, your peers, your students? Or is it just my practicing routine? Are there any suggestions on how I could prevent this regression and maintain an improvement, such that each time I play a piece, I at least play it as well as during my previous practicing session?

Background info: I am an amateur musician, without any formal (i.e., in a music conservatory) music training.

4 Answers 4


This is a very common phenomenon, probably every experienced musician has gone through this at some time. Assuming you're practising the right things and correctly, don't worry, keep practising, and you'll get past this sooner or later.
One possible explanation for this is that your sensitivity to inaccuracies in your playing has developed faster than your technique. You are improving, you just don't think you are.


...there comes a time that my playing starts regressing.

This is common, and sort of like overtraining in athletics. Eventually a piece becomes stale; when preparing for a scheduled performance, the goal is to perform just a few days before that happens.

Another common pattern: when it goes stale, step away from it for a few weeks or months, while you play other things. When you return, you'll be more mature, more experienced, maybe more technically proficient, and you'll see it in a fresh light.

  • I accepted the first reply as the "answer", although both replies appear equally valid to me, because it was first to appear. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 17:46
  • No problem. I've encountered the same dilemma before. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 18:02

I know this all too well, both in myself and my students. For me, the only thing to do is to put the piece away for a few weeks, even months, then when I get back to it there's usually a huge jump in improvement.

It's also useful engage with the piece in other ways. Do a harmonic analysis or research its background (it's practical to create and keep a short text to put into the programme notes later). Compose generalized technical exercises out of the material of the piece, and if it's a concerto compose my own cadenzas or practice improvising them - even if I don't intend using them in concert.


Make sure you're playing it RIGHT. No fumbles. At all! If you're just 'taking a run at it' and tolerating inaccuracies it won't improve. If you can't play it slowly, to a click, you can't play it!

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