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Topic: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2  (Read 3303 times)

Offline sallenson

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"The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
on: February 22, 2006, 01:15:04 PM
I posted an intro. message earlier on the Student board (which has been looked at but not answered yet.)

Briefly, mid-40s, no formal lessons for years, but music graduate. Never really taught to practice properly and got "stuck" after Grade 8 (ABRSM).

Really keen on Bernhard's "5-Year Plan" approach, starting with the "Wish List" and working from there.

So here goes. Apologies for the length of the post. The things I'd really love to be able to play are:

Scarlatti: K1, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 17, 24, 25, 27, 87, 96, 113, 125, 141, 159, 247, 284, 365, 380, 426, 443, 450, 460, 466, 491, 492, 519, 531,545.

Bach: Inventions and Sinfonias, WTC I, Partitas 1,2,3,4 & 6, English Suites 2,5 &6

Beethoven: Sonatas 2/1, 10/1-3, 27/1, 31/2, 53, 109, 110. Variations C minor, Waldmadchen, Diabelli. Bagatelles Opp. 33 and 119

Schumann: Bunteballter, Faschingsswank, Fantaisiestucke (Op.12), Fantasie, Papillon, Kreisletiana, Blumenstuck

Mendelssohn: Variations Serieuses

Chopin: Ballades 1,3,4 Scherzo 1, Nocturne Op. 72/1, Mazurkas Op. 7/3, 41/1, 50/3, 59/3, 63/2-3, Barcarolle, Tarantella, Etudes (exc.10/3 and 6 - been there)

Liszt: Campanella

Rachmaninoff: Preludes 23/3-5, 32/2,10,12. Etudes Tab. 33/4, 39/4,7,9

Ravel: Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, Alborado

Prokofiev: Sonatas 2 and 6

Big list then!! And possibly hubristic...

If I'm understanding correctly, what I ought to do is to plan this across multiple years and then down to a monthly and daily plan.

Big question (and this is where I'd appreciate input) is WHERE TO START? Obviously I want to move from the possible to the "impossible" and build accumulated technique as I go through.

Assuming 90 minutes a day on Bernhard's 15-minute chunk principle, I guess I'm looking at a subset of about 6 pieces on the plan at once. But which ones? Need a mixture of easy/hard and would like a good historical/genre spread. (Don't want to do this chronologically.)

Then once the monthly plan is firmed up, I then need to split the pieces into sections applying the "7 times" principle, which I imagine will be guesswork at first.

I anyone can help me structure all of this, I'd be tons grateful.

I'm assuming (coming from a practice place which said "Start at the beginning and do it all slowly at first") that I'll need to do a lot of HS initially before HT. But focus on playing small sections at performance speed.

No particular performance aspirations, but want to play things well for my own pleasure.

If anyone can help with this it would be tremendous!

Thanks

Stephen 

Offline pianistimo

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #1 on: February 22, 2006, 02:08:37 PM
sometimes adults think they don't have time or money for lessons - but what i'd suggest is even a month or two of them - or signing up for community college lessons which are cheaper usually by the semester.  even if you can only afford one or two lessons - bring your list - go to the teacher and tell them your budget/time constraints - how much time you ahve to practice on a daily basis- their e-mail to ask questions - and if you can occasionally perform with their students.  often teachers need 'fillers' at recitals that can play decently and refresh performing skills at the same time for you.

the best thing i did for myself (when i turned 40, too) was to take lessons. even if you are a slow learner - the process suddenly speeds up after a semester.  you get back what you lost and then start going forward again.  for me, it was memory, technique, pedalling.   without help on these things, you just promote bad habits - no matter if you have a huge repertoire.  so, all in all - even a few pieces worked witha teacher gives you an idea of how to work the rest.  and if you develop a repoire with the teacher you can e-mail questions and see if they will respond.  i've noticed that for the most part - teachers are aware of the time/energy constraints on adults...and are glad to help.  they can be the most enthusiastic of students. 

what the teacher will most likely do first is determine what your skills currently are, and give you some repertoire that will challenge you (not too easy - otherwise you'll just stay where you are at).  approx. four pieces of different styles of music.  i learned that categorizing music into periods isn't really that precise.  you can have (in one period of music) several styles going on at once.  composers didn't always follow the 'rules' of the time, just as now.  and the period certainly didn't always end when a composer died. 

scarlatti isn't my first choice of piano rep because it requires very very CLEAR playing and a lot of control in tech. and pedalling.  moreso than i realized.  also, you have to start interpreting it.  i'd start by just getting several cd's of scarlatti's music and listening every day to all of them.  but, i'd start with english or italian suites.  they are suited for adult playing and not 'this again.'  the WTC has it's place of course, but, it's fun to branch out.  you can spend some time listenening to the WTC cd's too, and become more familiar with how each sounds.

if i was your teacher, i'd suggest some cd listening while you're at work, some decent exercises (five finger), scales, rhythm work (exercises), bach, beethoven, schumann, and whatever other romantic and twentieth century pieces you were interested in.  also, we'd just pick random music (one level below where you are) to sight read on your own time.  you would give me a run down occasionally of how far you could sightread without STOPPING.  sightreading, to me, is an often neglected area of study.  also, i'd start working a little theory here and there.  and, find some venues to perform the pieces once they are ready.  my teacher and others find keeping notes on lessons valuable.

Offline lufia

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #2 on: February 24, 2006, 02:25:12 AM
"Assuming 90 minutes a day on Bernhard's 15-minute chunk principle, I guess I'm looking at a subset of about 6 pieces on the plan at once. "

drop that theory, its blasphemry. learn at ur own pace. If u reach a section where it requires hard technique, it will probaly take hours to learn of if days. if u listen to bernards theory u be neglecting ur weak technique.
musicality

Offline BoliverAllmon

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #3 on: February 24, 2006, 02:53:32 AM
no you don't. you never neglect your technique. technique comes first really. you break it up into sections so that you can handle that little bit in 15 minutes. if you can't learn a little section in 15 minutes, you are trying to big a section. cut it down and try again the next time.

boliver

Offline sallenson

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #4 on: February 24, 2006, 11:49:40 AM
Thanks for the replies.

My recent experience of local piano teachers has been lragely conditioned by my experience with my own children. My youngest (8yr-old) is on her second teacher in a year. The first may have been okay, but was generally intimidating and never actually explained to Polly how to go about practicing. AT ALL. (Which is why the breaking things into manageable chunks, 15-minutes, HS approach is so appealing. It sets clear objectives and outcomes within a process.) Her new teacher is a much warmer character, writes things down clearly in a notebook and explains stuff. I've not raised the question of having a preliminary lesson with her, perhaps because I suspect she's aiming at the beginner.

I'll certainly have a look at finding a local teacher who might be able to take me on, warts and all. :)

"Assuming 90 minutes a day on Bernhard's 15-minute chunk principle, I guess I'm looking at a subset of about 6 pieces on the plan at once. "

drop that theory, its blasphemry. learn at ur own pace. If u reach a section where it requires hard technique, it will probaly take hours to learn of if days. if u listen to bernards theory u be neglecting ur weak technique.

Not sure that having a plan and working a plan is blasphemy! But coming up with a set of pieces that I want to play and that are possible is tougher. I certainly subscribe to the view that pieces are either easy or impossible. I'm stuggiling with finding a group of pieces from the big list that will be become easy will concentrated practice.

What I don't want to to do is focus solely on pieces that are too easy (and hence don't help me develop technique) or pick things that are going to be much too hard (because I'll get discouraged and "stuck".)

I guess I'm really asking for repertory advice. If, say, I want to work on the Schumann Papillons, but find the prestissimo arpeggios at the beginning of the second piece truly awful (which I do) then should I be spend a lot of short sessions working them up or choose another piece with easier arpeggios (like what?) and come back to the Schumann another time? (No particular Schumann obsession, but it sounds marvellous on the new piano and I'm comfortable with all of Op.68, the Arabesque, Blumenstuck (for the most part) and most of Op.15)

Anybody have any thoughts on what happens when the 15 minute slots don't produce results and when you've cut down the section in half and half again. Find an easier piece or persevere? I'd prefer not to spend a lot of time on music that I don't love! I'm sold on idea that technique is something that develops from working on real music rather than something you develop from "technical" exercises. I've had my fair share of Hanon and the like over the years. :(

Kind of lost here!! Any advice appreciated.

For what it's worth, the things currently sitting on the music desk are:
Scarlatti K25 (which I prefer faster than slower)
Bach Dm P&F (WTC B1 - only working on the prelude at the moment)
Beethoven Op.2/1 (first movement - I'd like the triplet turns to "snap" more)
Chopin Nocturne 72/1 (okay but no Horowitz)
Schumann Op.2

Best

Stephen

Offline lufia

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #5 on: February 24, 2006, 01:14:25 PM
I would say learn technique at ur own pace. u cannot learn 4-5  trills within 15 mins or fast octives, tremlos etc etc.

 if u r having trouble with technique play the section in different rhythms. if u work ur muscles, it works like a charm. just focus on small portions of the technique until u get it right.
musicality

Offline richy321

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #6 on: February 24, 2006, 11:56:37 PM
How writing down a wish list repertory and dividing it into 15 minute chunks constitutes a working plan is beyond me.  This isn't production work.  First, you need the desire, which you obviously have.  Then you need inspiration and  musical and intellectual rewards to sustain the necessary work over a span of years.  It can not be delimited to 5 years in advance. It may take 3 years or 10 or more.  In the best case, it may mean a lifetime of satisfying work/play.

I do agree with your preference to work with musically rewarding material, since it makes the work self-sustaining, and actually may make the difference between giving up and attaining your goals. 

As to how to learn technique, everyone is different.  Some students thrive on sheer repetition, even of Hanon.  Others require more imaginative approaches:  holistic, physiological, visual imagery, geometric analogy, etc.

I myself use the whole gamut, whatever works, but not Hanon, because the musical rewards are simply not there.  I prefer to use the Chopin Etudes and a few selected pieces of Debussy and Liszt.  I am definitely not repertory-driven, rather, the actual acquisition of ability to play fulfilling music keeps me going and leads me to the choice of repertory.   

For me, the writings of Whiteside and Seymour Bernstein have been the most inspiring and transforming.  Many find Abby too outlandish (or poorly written) to be endured, but if you persist and succeed in catching the vision that she has, it could be most rewarding.   

Best wishes.

Rich Y

Offline BoliverAllmon

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #7 on: February 25, 2006, 12:12:31 AM
Actually technique can be learned in a 15 min. time slot. We are not talking arpeggio technique to master chopin's 10/1 in 15 min. we are talking about learning the technique to play one or two arpeggios in 15 min. 

If you cut the section in half and half again and still can't get a section mastered in 15 min. cut it again. Remember if you cannot play it properly once in your first seven tries, the section is too big. This is true practicing so your concentration has to peaked while doing this or otherwise you will not learn something in 15 min.

think about this for technique. Look at Chopin's revolutionary study. Look at just the first two measures. You can practice those two measures approximately 275 times in 15 min. I think anybody can learn two measures after playing it 275 times with the utmost concentration. After breaking my pieces down and really practicing and not just playing the piano I have seen a tremendous shrinkage in my learning time. Take for instance, it took me about 7 weeks to learn Bach's D maj Prelude Book 1, but has only taken me two weeks to learn his a min Prelude Book II. Why? I think it is because I have a gameplan. I honestly feel that the a min prelude is head and shoulders above the D maj, but it is still conquerable with small specific goals.

boliver

Offline fun king ded

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #8 on: February 25, 2006, 12:49:11 AM

What I don't want to to do is focus solely on pieces that are too easy (and hence don't help me develop technique) or pick things that are going to be much too hard (because I'll get discouraged and "stuck".)

I guess I'm really asking for repertory advice. If, say, I want to work on the Schumann Papillons, but find the prestissimo arpeggios at the beginning of the second piece truly awful (which I do) then should I be spend a lot of short sessions working them up or choose another piece with easier arpeggios (like what?) and come back to the Schumann another time? (No particular Schumann obsession, but it sounds marvellous on the new piano and I'm comfortable with all of Op.68, the Arabesque, Blumenstuck (for the most part) and most of Op.15)

Anybody have any thoughts on what happens when the 15 minute slots don't produce results and when you've cut down the section in half and half again. Find an easier piece or persevere? I'd prefer not to spend a lot of time on music that I don't love! I'm sold on idea that technique is something that develops from working on real music rather than something you develop from "technical" exercises. I've had my fair share of Hanon and the like over the years. :(

Kind of lost here!! Any advice appreciated.

For what it's worth, the things currently sitting on the music desk are:
Scarlatti K25 (which I prefer faster than slower)
Bach Dm P&F (WTC B1 - only working on the prelude at the moment)
Beethoven Op.2/1 (first movement - I'd like the triplet turns to "snap" more)
Chopin Nocturne 72/1 (okay but no Horowitz)
Schumann Op.2

Best

Stephen

Stephen,

I just read thru this thread and you raise some pretty *big* questions that probably are better addressed with a teacher.   Being a music graduate, its obvious your thought process and approach is very focused.  What will really, really accelerate your progress is working with a good teacher.   

You'll receive (hopefully) useful tidbits of advice here and there on message boards like these.   But having a live person there with you who can tie all this stuff together in real time will make all the difference in the world.

You might start with local university music departments for finding a teacher.  The professors in the piano department oftentimes teach privately or can provide good recommendations.

Best of luck.

Fun

Offline sallenson

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #9 on: February 25, 2006, 10:51:00 AM
How writing down a wish list repertory and dividing it into 15 minute chunks constitutes a working plan is beyond me.  This isn't production work. 

Rich,

I wan't suggesting it was! :)

But I think of the wish list was a set of interlinking goals or performance objectives. ("I want to be able to play "X".) Some are really hard, others less so.

My question, which I think is legitimate (and one that ought best to be tackled with the help of a good teacher) is how to structure that set of objectives in a linear way that gradually gets me to where I want to be. It's effectively having someone help me to understand the following:

"I you want to play X, then there are other pieces on the list, A, B and C that will help you develop the necessary skills to get you there. So let's build a plan (which is just a set of performance milestones) that get you from A, through B, C and whatever else that will eventually get you to X."

Once out of the structured ABRSM (or equivalent) framework (which effectively does just that) it's difficult to know where to start. That's all.

Once that linear framework is built then I think it is necessary to use a variety of learning techniques (eg the 15-minute/7 reps example) as a way of actually doing the work. I'm not suggesting that simply by virtue of having the Ravel Alborado on my list and simply splitting it into small sections is either a plan or indeed sensible or appropriate.

I'm merely interested in how other people have broken down long-term playing goals or aspirations into manageable chunks over time that keeps the momentum going and doesn't end in either injury or disillusion!

Sorry if it came over as deeply flaky. That wasn't the intention! :)

Best

Offline lufia

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #10 on: February 26, 2006, 03:09:50 AM
sallenson u sound like learning music is a pain with all this organising. just enjoy piano
musicality

Offline BoliverAllmon

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #11 on: February 26, 2006, 05:19:04 AM
sallenson u sound like learning music is a pain with all this organising. just enjoy piano

I don't see it as painful. I enjoy organizing things like this. I find it enjoyable.

Offline sallenson

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #12 on: February 26, 2006, 08:16:36 PM
I'll second that. I love doing it. It's not a pian. I just want to make the best use of the time that I've got and prevent myself just "messing around"!

Some people might not like the approach or find it doesn't work for them. I may be just plain odd. Whatever. We may not even like the same repertoire. But we all want to get better at this. Right?

Best :)

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #13 on: February 27, 2006, 01:40:19 AM
I would say throw the idea of 15 mins per session out the door and sit down until what you set yourself has been completed. This doesn't mean set yourself 10 pages of work, but something more manageable. Small musical victories are a lot more satisfying than observing time that you have compelted on the clock.

I would say to learn all that music you listed you need to approach your practice with great efficiency. What holds you back? What bars in what piece causes you strife? Hihglight them in the score. Also question how to control groups of notes with an expanded or contracted hand (not individual fingers), compare if your hand is expanding of contracting when you move to a new group of notes, ask where the centre of your hand is in each passage every single time. Which note does the hand move around, which note is repeated, what pattern is played, how does this pattern change.

I would also suggest that you sightread ALL of the pieces and cycle through them continuously. Write with pencil some fingering that you might consider as good, also circle section which are tough. Don't try to learn or memorise the piece, just read through it, appreciate it, break it up into its musical groups with big square block letters A, B, C,..... so on, it doesnt have to sound at peformance level. Doing this for a few years will naturally memorise a % of the music. Then you have a little more effort to patch them up but this is much more efficienct in my experience than always learning a piece from the start to end, THEN move to the next piece, it can be very slow, repetitive, unmusical and boring that way.

Write all over the score with lots of color and personal notes and reminders to yourself. Right down exactly what is tough with this passage or that, if an arpeggio is hassling you deterimine EXACTLY which one or more notes are causing the discomfort and question how can you do it differently to make things feel comfortable and relaxed (something strive 100% of the time while playing piano). Identif your problem then working our how to solve it. Most people only know in the back of their head that this bit here is a problem in their peice, but they never take the time to admit it is a problem and write it down. Some people think everything is a problem simply because they have never took the time to identify what exactly is the problem.

When you practice you should not have to repeat a passage too often. IF we repeat without thought then we can repeat for 10000 times and nothing will change, but if we repeat passages with the idea of Control/Balance, consider centre of gravity of our hand, consider which notes of the passage balance our hands, think about efficiency, how to make things comfortable and easy, not rushed and concrete fingering. Do not isolate your fingers, make them work as a whole becasue they are all connected to the hand which always hovers around a group of notes that you need to play, what does that feel like, observe that always and the amount of repetition should remain low. Write these observations on the score. Color in particular single notes in the score which act as a centre to the hand which all the other notes revolve around, bracket off groups of notes which require a single hand postion (movement groups) and feel the movement between each with lots of repetition (since it is usually these movements to a new movement group which causes people strife in their memory and ease of playing).

Definatly look for a teacher who is willing to work with you to guide you through sightreading through all of the works in a small space of time. Most will not do this with you because it is a great deal of work. You should not be afraid to read through your entire collection because you will have to read through the first time in the future anyway so why not now? You will not remember everything you did that is why you MUST write on the score as you sight read. You should then when you are away from the piano take the scores with you and read them, color in, admire.
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Offline sarahlein

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Re: "The 5-Year Plan" - Part 2
Reply #14 on: February 27, 2006, 07:45:58 AM
Quote
"I you want to play X, then there are other pieces on the list, A, B and C that will help you develop the necessary skills to get you there. So let's build a plan (which is just a set of performance milestones) that get you from A, through B, C and whatever else that will eventually get you to X."

What you like to do is to create "family trees" of pieces. What puts them in the same "family tree" in the first place is their technical or stylistic similarities.(in assending order of difficulty of course)
I believe it is a good method and I do try to use it with my students.

However, and here is why, like everybody else said, you need to do this with a good teacher, a "family tree" for a specific piece designed for student A might be quite different from the "family tree" leading to the same goal-piece for student B. Reason being that the weaknesses and needs of student A are different from the needs and weaknesses of student B.
 
That said, you mentioned in your original post that you have completed grade 8 (ABRSM)
But that says nothing about the quality of your playing.

Later on you mention some pieces presently sitting on your music desk, however again that says nothing about how good you play them.

There's no substitude to hearing you play. So here is where a good teacher is needed.To hear were your strong points are and were you could need some more work before you tackle more advanced pieces.

And it could well be that some weaknesses can be worked on while working a certain advanced piece without going through other pieces from it's "family tree"

Hope what I'm trying to say makes sence :-\
 

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