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Minimalist Philip Glass sought to maximize his piano-playing potential

The journey he began in 1994 covered the following 19 years, and, during that time, he composed each of the chronologically numbered etudes he intended to use to make himself better at the keyboard. Pianist Maki Namekawa has now become the second artist to record these remarkably disparate works. Read more >>

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Author Topic: How long to practice after... (Bernhard, yours...)  (Read 12707 times)
mosis
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« on: October 03, 2004, 07:53:02 AM »

... a section is mastered?

I accidentally got carried away and played four bars for an hour today.

Bernhard, your method dictates that one should be able to master something in about 20 minutes. If you have mastered by twenty minutes, do you stop? You're not really practising that much then, are you? What about when you play something perfectly the next day for the first time, are you never supposed to practice that again?

I'm having problems with continuing pieces, but the previous sections don't seem to be quite fully mastered, or even if they are, I start to screw up and have to go back to practising them. This makes progression very slow, as instead of having more practice time to work on things, I actually have less because I'm working on new stuff and the stuff I supposedely "learned". How do I know when something is good to go, and how much am I supposed to practice the section AFTER it's already mastered and I'm moving on to the next section of the piece?

Anyone's advice on practice would be appreciated.
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Rach3
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2004, 10:39:34 AM »

Which four measures?
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bernhard
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2004, 02:10:34 PM »

Quote
... a section is mastered?

I accidentally got carried away and played four bars for an hour today.

Bernhard, your method dictates that one should be able to master something in about 20 minutes. If you have mastered by twenty minutes, do you stop? You're not really practising that much then, are you? What about when you play something perfectly the next day for the first time, are you never supposed to practice that again?

I'm having problems with continuing pieces, but the previous sections don't seem to be quite fully mastered, or even if they are, I start to screw up and have to go back to practising them. This makes progression very slow, as instead of having more practice time to work on things, I actually have less because I'm working on new stuff and the stuff I supposedely "learned". How do I know when something is good to go, and how much am I supposed to practice the section AFTER it's already mastered and I'm moving on to the next section of the piece?

Anyone's advice on practice would be appreciated.



1.      It is not my method. It is just a method I use currently (I am always on the look out for ways to learn quicker and with less effort – a direct result of my laziness and advanced age).

2.      20 minutes is just an average figure. Learn it in less time if you can. The idea here is to set a limit that should show you when effort is being wasted. For instance: if you practise a passage for 20 minutes and you have not mastered it, you have chosen a too large chunk; practising it for a further 5 hours is not going to do any good. So, don’t. Instead break it down into smaller chunks that you can master in 20 minutes. This will be quicker and more efficient in the long run. By the same token, if you have mastered a section in 20minutes, there is no reason to keep at it for 5 hours (although most pianist can display this sort of compulsive behaviour). I cannot tell you the size of section that you will be able to master in 20 minutes: it depends on the section and ultimately on your own ability. You have to discover that by yourself. Here is the method: repeat the section 7 times. Have you learned it? (learned is different from mastered by the way) Then move on. No? cut it in half. Try again. learned it ? No? cut it in half again. And so on and so forth. Eventually you will be able to get a chunk that you can learn in 7 times (sometimes, this can be as little as two notes). Now you can practise this chunk until you master it (but for no more than 20 minutes – if you are dealing with just two notes, this will probably require only a couple of minutes; if you are dealing with a one minute section of a sonata, this will take you 20 minutes). If you are practising a whole sonata that lasts for 18 minutes for your performance, then of course the directions above do not apply. The directions above are from learning a piece form scratch, not for polishing a piece you already mastered.

3.      Come the next day, you may be shocked to realise that you have completely forgotten the section you worked on for 20 minutes and thought you had mastered the day before. So you see, there is the difference between mastered and learned. You learned the passage – and possibly to a high degree of facility – but you have not really mastered it – as shown by the fact that the next day you don’t know even how to begin. If this is the case, you must treat the passage as a completely new passage and follow all the steps you did the previous day. Don’t cut corners and don’t skip steps. To your surprise, you will learn it again much faster. If it took you 20 minutes the first time around, now it may take you only 5 minutes. Next day, try again. Either you cannot remember it, and in which case you should repeat it all again – and it will take now perhaps 1 minute to remember it all, or you simply know the passage. If you got to the point where you can simply go to the piano and play the passage perfectly straight away, you have mastered it. You don’t need to practise it I anymore. So these are two very different stages: Learned and mastered. You must keep “practising” (which is a very specific process) a section even if you feel you have already learned it. And you must keep “practising” until you master it. After you master it, all you have to do is keep “playing it”.

4.      There is a third stage which is really what you are after. After you master a passage, neglect it completely for one month. Then go to the piano and try it again. Most likely you will have forgotten it. If so, relearn it from scratch as if it was a new section. Don’t skip any steps, and don’t cut any corners. Even so you will relearn it again in a fraction of the time you did the first time round. If you do this neglect-relearn process three or four times, you will get to a new stage all together, that is beyond mastery: you will never forget your piece, even if you don’t play it for 30 years. You will always be able to play it. This is the piano equivalent of riding a bicycle: Once you learn it you never forget it. The problem is, since piano playing is more complex than riding a bicycle – which by the way has the same stages of learning/mastering/never forgetting  - most people neglect their pieces far too soon, either at the learning or at the mastering stage, so they never experience the “never forget” stage.

Now we have enough material to answer your questions.

Quote

I accidentally got carried away and played four bars for an hour today.


Yes. You must avoid this. Use a timer. Also, there is a law of diminishing returns. As you practise a section you start by making lots of mistakes and learning form your mistakes. This is the exploratory phase. After a while you figure out all the co-ordinates and you pay it perfectly. A lot of beginners stop practising at this point. This is actually the point where real practice starts: when you finally got it right. Up to now most of your practice will have consisted of wrong repetitions. Now you must ingrain the correct section by repeating it at least as many times as you did it wrong in the exploratory phase. However, after a while of repeating perfect renditions of your passage, due to fatigue (both mental and physical) you will start making mistakes again. It is very important that you stop practising before getting to this stage. You must stop when your repeats are perfect. But being human, your reaction when you start making mistakes again is to keep repeating to try to re-achieve your former perfection. You will not be able to. In fact all you will achieve is several hours of wrong repetitions. Next day, of course the whole section is a mess even though you may have practised it for five hours. So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain.

Quote

one should be able to master something in about 20 minutes. If you have mastered by twenty minutes, do you stop? You're not really practising that much then, are you?


Yes, you stop.

Even if you mastered in ten minutes you still stop. Why do you want to waste time on something you have already mastered? If you are not practising that much that is wonderful! You see, it is not the time spent       practising that matters, is the results you achieve. Once you achieved the results you set out to achieve, why keep going? Some people seem very proud to announce to the world: “I practise ten hours a day!” If by that they mean that they spend ten hours a day on a section, they should be ashamed of their inefficiency and slow learning. They should also look for professional help to deal with compulsive behaviour.

However, you can still practise ten hours a day by practising several different sections from either the same piece or from several different pieces . This is the only way to get a sizeable repertory in a lifetime. Otherwise before you get to the first half of Fur Elise you die.

This demands a lot of thought, organisation, the self-discipline to stick to a pre-planned schedule. Plan your work, and then work your plan.

Quote
       
What about when you play something perfectly the next day for the first time, are you never supposed to practice that again?


If you can play something perfectly the next day, you achieved the second stage: mastery. If so, yes, you never need to practise it again. You have now two choices: To keep the mastery, just play it (not practise, play) regularly (once or twice a week). However if you want to never forget it ever, even if you don’t play it for 30 years, then neglect it completely and relearn it from scratch (as many times as necessary to not need to do it again). However, such approach is really for complete pieces rather than sections. In the case of small sections, once you master them, you still keep practising them when you join then in longer sections. So while you are learning a piece, you will naturally be playing/practising all the sections you have worked on. It is when you have the piece complete that your question will be most relevant.

Quote


I'm having problems with continuing pieces, but the previous sections don't seem to be quite fully mastered, or even if they are, I start to screw up and have to go back to practising them. This makes progression very slow, as instead of having more practice time to work on things, I actually have less because I'm working on new stuff and the stuff I supposedely "learned". How do I know when something is good to go, and how much am I supposed to practice the section AFTER it's already mastered and I'm moving on to the next section of the piece?


Learned: you can play a passage/piece perfectly at the end of the practice session, but the next day it is all gone, or it is full of mistakes. (if it is full of mistakes, you may be practising too much, beyond the point of diminishing returns), You need to keep practising from scratch without skipping any step and without cutting any corners. But it will not take as long as the first time around.

Mastered: You now can just go to the piano the next day and play the section perfectly. Now you have two choices: just play through this section a couple of times 2 – 3 times a week. (You may not even need to do this, if you are joining this section to another one – since this joining practice will take care of it). Or you can neglect it and relearn it from scratch in a couple of months (this is really for complete pieces, rather than for sections).

Omniscience: You can play your piece even if you have not touched it for the past 30 years. You can get to omniscience by repeating your piece every day for ten years (say), or after forgetting and relearning it from scratch 3 or 4 times. I like the second approach the best because:

1.      It is always exciting to learn a piece (even if it is one you already learned once).

2.      It is doubly exciting to learn a piece in a fraction of the time (it will be a fraction of the time if you have learned it once).

3.      It gives the piece a rest and gives you time to improve your technique and understanding of the piece. So when you come back to it, you will relearn it in a vast improved way. The alternative will most likely result in “burn-out” you will end up hating the piece.

4.      It is far more efficient and time saving – even though it may not seem so  at the time to one’s perception.

Finally, have a look here:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1081198385

If you look at reply  # 14, you will see the plan I use for that particular piece. Notice how every  two or three practice sessions there is a practice session devoted to “joining sections”, so you never leave individual sections for long: they just get practised as part of a larger section.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

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one_wing3d_ang3l
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2004, 04:11:03 PM »

Sir bernard ur reply was great and is going to help me alot thx. i was blind Cry until i read ur post  Cheesy

quote"You can play your piece even if you have not touched it for the past 30 years"
can u learn 30 pieces and follow ur advice and not forget it for the past 30 years if we do exactly what u told us. the problem is i can only memorise 4 pieces in my reparatory but say i followed ur genius advice would i b able to have 30 pieces in my repartore without forgetting it for 30 years?
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goalevan
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2004, 12:02:43 AM »

From my experience you will still "forget" any piece that you learn, but the more times you master it, the faster you will acquire memory of the piece and master it again after forgetting. And if you repeat this process enough, you may be able to sit down 30 years after last playing a piece and not miss a note.
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bernhard
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2004, 01:23:39 AM »

Quote
say i followed ur genius advice would i b able to have 30 pieces in my repartore without forgetting it for 30 years?


I have no idea.  Huh

There is only one way to find out: Try it! Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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Spatula
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« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2004, 02:13:17 AM »

Quote
Sir bernard



HAHAHA slaps down my hand!

Well that's the same as about "Bernhard-Sempai, or Bernhard-san..."

bows down graciously...
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steven
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2004, 02:06:26 PM »


About the 20 minutes methode...Bernhard
Take for instance you start learning Chopin Etude Opus 10 N° 2. You do 7 times, lets us say measue 1 to 6. Then you decides to go on for 20 minutes. Well I did. But what is the speed that I have to be at at this point ? I'm in the, what Bernhard says "the learing step". Sould it be as fast as performing speed ? Or just an easy speed. This is never mentioned before.

HELP
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mound
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2004, 07:32:55 PM »

I actually had this same question.. I started writing up a response here, but it turned into something all together different (but you might want to read it anyway). I'm going to post it in a new thread after I post this called "Pauls Plan to Try It Himself. For Bernhard"

 Cheesy
-Paul
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bernhard
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2004, 11:21:55 PM »


About the 20 minutes methode...Bernhard
Take for instance you start learning Chopin Etude Opus 10 N° 2. You do 7 times, lets us say measue 1 to 6. Then you decides to go on for 20 minutes. Well I did. But what is the speed that I have to be at at this point ? I'm in the, what Bernhard says "the learing step". Sould it be as fast as performing speed ? Or just an easy speed. This is never mentioned before.

HELP


To answer your question:

Aim at the final speed – or if you can manage – aim at an even faster speed. What you truly want is to get to a position where the final speed is an easy speed, and the only way to do that is to aim at a faster speed than the final one.

However, if I was starting this particular etude, I would not plunge straight in on, say, measures 1 – 6. (This is the advantage of asking specific questions: you get more useful answers).

This is what I would do (and of course you have no obligation to do it. Wink)

Stage 1: Outline.

1.   Start by rewriting this etude (I use a notation software for this purpose which can also playback to me what I wrote – this is a huge learning resource) in the following way: Delete completely the top voice (the chromatic scales) so that all that is left in your score
is the left hand (Bass note – chord – bass note - chord) and the thirds and fourths in the right hand. I trust that just by looking at the score you will see immediately what I am getting at. In case this is obscure, the RH in the first bar would consist (in this outlined version) only of four chords: CE – EA – AD and DF.

2.   Now make a separate score with the chromatic figurations only.

3.   Finger, in your scores every single note with the final fingering, that is the fingering you would use when playing the etude as originally written. This is the most important instruction so far. You must from the very start use the final fingering no matter how awkward it may feel. This creates a problem. In order to figure out the final fingering you will have to play the etude as originally written. If you have a teacher (or an edition whose fingering you can trust), then there is no problem, just follow their fingering. If you are an advanced student (and if you are tackling this etude you should be), then you can pretty much figure out the fingering just by sight reading through the etude in sections. If you are a beginner however who has no idea of what I am talking about, then you are in trouble.

Anyway, as you rewrite the score and finger every single note – this is basically desk work, not piano work – put a CD of this etude played by as many pianists as you can find (over 100 pianists recorded it) and keep listening to it.

This work of rewriting the score will prove invaluable as a way to get to know this piece back to front, since not only you are rewriting it as you are “deconstructing” it. It will give you an insight on how Chopin created it (even if this is not the actual way that Chopin did it). It will pay handsomely every minute invested in it. So do not be in a hurry. As you are doing it, identify all the chords and chord progressions, mark the cadences and identify the several scales/keys used.

4.   Now that you have 2 scores – one with the outline, and one with the chromatic scales, each correctly fingered, it is time to go to the piano. Start by learning the outline. This outline is very easy  - around grade 1 – grade 2. You should have no problems mastering and memorising it in a couple of days – one week. The fingering may seem awkward, but stick to it, since you will be using the other fingers to play the chromatic scales later when you put it all back together again. One of the greatest advantages of learning the outline first is that you can start working on musicality straightaway. What you have in the outline is the essence of this piece. In a sense the chromatic scale is just a “filler”. So, learn the outline (and use all the tricks all have talked about: small sections, separate hands, repeated note groups and so on), and keep practising it throughout the whole process of learning this etude. The foundations of your musical playing will be laid here, at this stage.

5.   Dedicate one of your practice sessions in the day to learn and work on the outline. Dedicate another session of the same day to work on the chromatic scales. Here of course is the main technical difficulty in this etude: playing chromatic figurations with fingers 3 – 4- 5. Later on you will have the second difficulty: playing chromatic figurations with fingers 3 – 4 – 5 while finger 1 – 2 are playing the right hand chords. And finally the third difficulty: to do all that at breakneck speed.

6.   To sum it up: Do not start work on this etude until you can play the whole outline perfectly (and musically) and until you can (right hand only) play the complete chromatic figuration from beginning to end. A very important warning: do not work on the chromatic figurations for more than 2 – 3 minutes. You can get a nasty injury. Do 2 – 3 minutes and then spend some 5 minutes doing something else (e.g. working on the outline). Then another 2 – 3 minutes on the chromatics, and 5 minutes on something else. Why not learn the revolutionary at the same time? It follows the same principle: outline and work on the LH figurations. So you could alternate the right hand of the op. 10 / 2 with the LH of the op. 10/12. And when learning the RH chromatics, use all the tricks in the book: small sections, repeated note-groups, rhythm variations, etc.

Now you can move on to the 2nd stage.

1.   I would work on this by establishing my basic unit as five semiquavers. Each bar would have five such units (the fifth semiquaver of a unit is the first semiquaver of the next – this provides overlap between units). Then I would work in groups of 7 units by repeating then in the fashion below until completely mastered:

1 Unit groups: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 - 8
2 unit groups: 12 – 23 – 34 – 45 – 56 – 67 – 78
3 unit groups: 123 – 234 – 345 – 456 –567 - 678
4 unit groups: 1234 – 2345 – 3456 – 4567 - 5678
5 unit groups: 12345 – 23456 – 34567 - 45678
6 unit groups: 123456 – 234567 – 345678
7 unit groups: 1234567 - 2345678
the full section: 12345678 (that covers two bars plus the first beat of the 3rd bar)

The reason for choosing 8 units is simply one of time/fatigue. Anything larger than 10 units and it will take you the full day to complete the cycle. When you do this sort of work you cannot stop in the middle: all your work will be wasted if you do. So make sure that once you start repeated note-groups you finish it. The routine above will take up to 45 minutes to complete. But depending of your level you may finish it in much less time. Some units may be far more difficult than others so you will need to spend more time on them before moving on.

Once you can do the full section, do rhythm variations (particularly useful in this kind of passage).

You can go for it hands together straight away since you have already done your hands separate work when you worked at the outline and at the chromatics isolatedly. Also do not worry about musicality for such small sections. You have already worked on it when you did the outline, and it will percolate to this practice without you even being aware of it. For the moment concentrate solely on technical issues (getting the right notes at the right times, getting the correct fingering thoroughly ingrained so you can do it without thinking about it, getting the correct movements so that appropriate notes get accented automatically, getting the notes at full speed, etc.) If you do this consciensciously and with full awareness, you will be surprised how much musicality you will get without aiming at it at all. Later on when you have larger passages to work on, then you can start working on musicality.

Divide the etude in two bar practice sessions and repeat the above for every two bar section. Do it like this:

Session 1 – Bars 1 – 2 (add 1st beat of bar 3)
Session 2 – Bars 3 – 4 (add 1st beat of bar 5)
Session 3 – Bars 1- 4 (add 1st beat of bar 5
Session 4 – Bars 5 – 6 (add first beat of bar 7)
Session 5 – Bar 1 – 6 (add first beat of bar 7)
Etc.

As you can see, every other session is dedicated to joining small sections, so you are always working in the previous sessions. It is in these larger practice sessions that you can really start working on musicality.

Now, the scheme above is just a suggestion. I don’t know you, so I cannot really tailor it perfectly. If you think you can deal with more bars per session, by all means do. If you cannot deal with two bars per session, do just one, or even half a bar. It may take longer, but you will get there.

Finally, have a look at Cortot’s “Edition de Travail” for the Etudes, he has some excellent preliminary exercises you can use concurrently with the learning of this piece.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2004, 08:43:13 AM »

Bernhard,

I just finished your advice. If anyone is interested, I splits up the score like bernhard said (it took me 2 hours....) I could put the score on the forum.

steven
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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2004, 11:19:13 PM »

Bernhard,

I just finished your advice. If anyone is interested, I splits up the score like bernhard said (it took me 2 hours....) I could put the score on the forum.

steven

Well done!

You may not realise it yet, but these two hours are also practice. A very important part of practice that is often missing from most student’s practice schemes.

The act of rewriting the score, of having to concentrate on doing an outline, all this will pay your investment many times over. As you persist in doing this sort of thing you will start to realise (and feel the effects) that your learning of a piece accelerates exponentially to a point where most of the total time spent learning a piece will actually be spent at a desk, and only a very small fraction at the piano. And this total time will be a small fraction of the time you would have to spend learning a piece straight at the piano.

Let us know how you are getting along.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2004, 11:48:21 AM »

Quote
... a section is mastered?

I accidentally got carried away and played four bars for an hour today.

Bernhard, your method dictates that one should be able to master something in about 20 minutes. If you have mastered by twenty minutes, do you stop? You're not really practising that much then, are you? What about when you play something perfectly the next day for the first time, are you never supposed to practice that again?

I'm having problems with continuing pieces, but the previous sections don't seem to be quite fully mastered, or even if they are, I start to screw up and have to go back to practising them. This makes progression very slow, as instead of having more practice time to work on things, I actually have less because I'm working on new stuff and the stuff I supposedely "learned". How do I know when something is good to go, and how much am I supposed to practice the section AFTER it's already mastered and I'm moving on to the next section of the piece?

Anyone's advice on practice would be appreciated.


1.      It is not my method. It is just a method I use currently (I am always on the look out for ways to learn quicker and with less effort – a direct result of my laziness and advanced age).

2.      20 minutes is just an average figure. Learn it in less time if you can. The idea here is to set a limit that should show you when effort is being wasted. For instance: if you practise a passage for 20 minutes and you have not mastered it, you have chosen a too large chunk; practising it for a further 5 hours is not going to do any good. So, don’t. Instead break it down into smaller chunks that you can master in 20 minutes. This will be quicker and more efficient in the long run. By the same token, if you have mastered a section in 20minutes, there is no reason to keep at it for 5 hours (although most pianist can display this sort of compulsive behaviour). I cannot tell you the size of section that you will be able to master in 20 minutes: it depends on the section and ultimately on your own ability. You have to discover that by yourself. Here is the method: repeat the section 7 times. Have you learned it? (learned is different from mastered by the way) Then move on. No? cut it in half. Try again. learned it ? No? cut it in half again. And so on and so forth. Eventually you will be able to get a chunk that you can learn in 7 times (sometimes, this can be as little as two notes). Now you can practise this chunk until you master it (but for no more than 20 minutes – if you are dealing with just two notes, this will probably require only a couple of minutes; if you are dealing with a one minute section of a sonata, this will take you 20 minutes). If you are practising a whole sonata that lasts for 18 minutes for your performance, then of course the directions above do not apply. The directions above are from learning a piece form scratch, not for polishing a piece you already mastered.

3.      Come the next day, you may be shocked to realise that you have completely forgotten the section you worked on for 20 minutes and thought you had mastered the day before. So you see, there is the difference between mastered and learned. You learned the passage – and possibly to a high degree of facility – but you have not really mastered it – as shown by the fact that the next day you don’t know even how to begin. If this is the case, you must treat the passage as a completely new passage and follow all the steps you did the previous day. Don’t cut corners and don’t skip steps. To your surprise, you will learn it again much faster. If it took you 20 minutes the first time around, now it may take you only 5 minutes. Next day, try again. Either you cannot remember it, and in which case you should repeat it all again – and it will take now perhaps 1 minute to remember it all, or you simply know the passage. If you got to the point where you can simply go to the piano and play the passage perfectly straight away, you have mastered it. You don’t need to practise it I anymore. So these are two very different stages: Learned and mastered. You must keep “practising” (which is a very specific process) a section even if you feel you have already learned it. And you must keep “practising” until you master it. After you master it, all you have to do is keep “playing it”.

4.      There is a third stage which is really what you are after. After you master a passage, neglect it completely for one month. Then go to the piano and try it again. Most likely you will have forgotten it. If so, relearn it from scratch as if it was a new section. Don’t skip any steps, and don’t cut any corners. Even so you will relearn it again in a fraction of the time you did the first time round. If you do this neglect-relearn process three or four times, you will get to a new stage all together, that is beyond mastery: you will never forget your piece, even if you don’t play it for 30 years. You will always be able to play it. This is the piano equivalent of riding a bicycle: Once you learn it you never forget it. The problem is, since piano playing is more complex than riding a bicycle – which by the way has the same stages of learning/mastering/never forgetting  - most people neglect their pieces far too soon, either at the learning or at the mastering stage, so they never experience the “never forget” stage.

Now we have enough material to answer your questions.

Quote
I accidentally got carried away and played four bars for an hour today.

Yes. You must avoid this. Use a timer. Also, there is a law of diminishing returns. As you practise a section you start by making lots of mistakes and learning form your mistakes. This is the exploratory phase. After a while you figure out all the co-ordinates and you pay it perfectly. A lot of beginners stop practising at this point. This is actually the point where real practice starts: when you finally got it right. Up to now most of your practice will have consisted of wrong repetitions. Now you must ingrain the correct section by repeating it at least as many times as you did it wrong in the exploratory phase. However, after a while of repeating perfect renditions of your passage, due to fatigue (both mental and physical) you will start making mistakes again. It is very important that you stop practising before getting to this stage. You must stop when your repeats are perfect. But being human, your reaction when you start making mistakes again is to keep repeating to try to re-achieve your former perfection. You will not be able to. In fact all you will achieve is several hours of wrong repetitions. Next day, of course the whole section is a mess even though you may have practised it for five hours. So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain.

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one should be able to master something in about 20 minutes. If you have mastered by twenty minutes, do you stop? You're not really practising that much then, are you?

Yes, you stop.

Even if you mastered in ten minutes you still stop. Why do you want to waste time on something you have already mastered? If you are not practising that much that is wonderful! You see, it is not the time spent       practising that matters, is the results you achieve. Once you achieved the results you set out to achieve, why keep going? Some people seem very proud to announce to the world: “I practise ten hours a day!” If by that they mean that they spend ten hours a day on a section, they should be ashamed of their inefficiency and slow learning. They should also look for professional help to deal with compulsive behaviour.

However, you can still practise ten hours a day by practising several different sections from either the same piece or from several different pieces . This is the only way to get a sizeable repertory in a lifetime. Otherwise before you get to the first half of Fur Elise you die.

This demands a lot of thought, organisation, the self-discipline to stick to a pre-planned schedule. Plan your work, and then work your plan.

Quote
       
 What about when you play something perfectly the next day for the first time, are you never supposed to practice that again?

If you can play something perfectly the next day, you achieved the second stage: mastery. If so, yes, you never need to practise it again. You have now two choices: To keep the mastery, just play it (not practise, play) regularly (once or twice a week). However if you want to never forget it ever, even if you don’t play it for 30 years, then neglect it completely and relearn it from scratch (as many times as necessary to not need to do it again). However, such approach is really for complete pieces rather than sections. In the case of small sections, once you master them, you still keep practising them when you join then in longer sections. So while you are learning a piece, you will naturally be playing/practising all the sections you have worked on. It is when you have the piece complete that your question will be most relevant.

Quote

I'm having problems with continuing pieces, but the previous sections don't seem to be quite fully mastered, or even if they are, I start to screw up and have to go back to practising them. This makes progression very slow, as instead of having more practice time to work on things, I actually have less because I'm working on new stuff and the stuff I supposedely "learned". How do I know when something is good to go, and how much am I supposed to practice the section AFTER it's already mastered and I'm moving on to the next section of the piece?

Learned: you can play a passage/piece perfectly at the end of the practice session, but the next day it is all gone, or it is full of mistakes. (if it is full of mistakes, you may be practising too much, beyond the point of diminishing returns), You need to keep practising from scratch without skipping any step and without cutting any corners. But it will not take as long as the first time around.

Mastered: You now can just go to the piano the next day and play the section perfectly. Now you have two choices: just play through this section a couple of times 2 – 3 times a week. (You may not even need to do this, if you are joining this section to another one – since this joining practice will take care of it). Or you can neglect it and relearn it from scratch in a couple of months (this is really for complete pieces, rather than for sections).

Omniscience: You can play your piece even if you have not touched it for the past 30 years. You can get to omniscience by repeating your piece every day for ten years (say), or after forgetting and relearning it from scratch 3 or 4 times. I like the second approach the best because:

1.      It is always exciting to learn a piece (even if it is one you already learned once).

2.      It is doubly exciting to learn a piece in a fraction of the time (it will be a fraction of the time if you have learned it once).

3.      It gives the piece a rest and gives you time to improve your technique and understanding of the piece. So when you come back to it, you will relearn it in a vast improved way. The alternative will most likely result in “burn-out” you will end up hating the piece.

4.      It is far more efficient and time saving – even though it may not seem so  at the time to one’s perception.

Finally, have a look here:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1081198385

If you look at reply  # 14, you will see the plan I use for that particular piece. Notice how every  two or three practice sessions there is a practice session devoted to “joining sections”, so you never leave individual sections for long: they just get practised as part of a larger section.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.


Please Bernard,

Can you tell where HT fits here in this quote ?
I mean when do you come HT...
You do HS first the hole piece ? then HT, Are first HS in a section and then this section HT ?
CC's telling the whole piece HS?
Iwas wondering if you .... ?

thx
Steven
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2004, 11:52:03 AM »

Please Bernard,

Can you tell where HT fits here in this quote ?
I mean when do you come HT...
You do HS first the hole piece ? then HT, Are first HS in a section and then this section HT ?
CC's telling the whole piece HS?
Iwas wondering if you .... ?

thx
Steven

I think Bernhard is still working on a reply or replys to recent posts of mine that will get to this. keep an eye out.  Look at his responses in my Pauls Plan to Try It Himself thread.

-paul
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