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Topic: Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice  (Read 1273 times)

Offline irrational

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Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice
on: July 11, 2016, 12:45:45 PM
I couldn't find an exact question when searching, although I am sure this has been asked many times.

How do you deal with it when you are having a very frustrating practice session.
I used to basically stop if I am mentally and physically having an off day rather than learn bad habits.
Today I am having frustrations when I am getting scales and arpeggios up to speed where, even after some repetition, my fingers refuse to correct mistakes. But since I am nearing an exam, I'd rather practice meaningfully with limitations than just stop for the day.

I try to concentrate on the specific mistakes, but it seems to lead to more frustration or even anger.

The idea being to get in a meaningful practice without the frustration, I was thinking of 4 approaches.
1: Switch to a completely different thing like pieces rather than scales
2: Severely slow down the specific scale/arpeggio.
3: Change the practice method away from a fluid scale to specific exercises for hand spread and rhythm for instance.
4: Play a piece that is not for the exam, but perhaps incorporates similar techniques to the exam pieces.

So any ideas?

Offline pjjslp

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Re: Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice
Reply #1 on: July 11, 2016, 12:54:43 PM
Personally, I would probably go with both 1 and 2. First, I would play through the particular scale and/or arpeggio that I'm having trouble with S.L.O.W.L.Y so that my last playing of it for the session was absolutely perfect. I find that otherwise, I still have what I think of as a "negative thought hangover" the next time I sit down. If my last playing of anything -- a piece, scale, exercise, whatever -- was fraught with errors, I have a total mental hangup about it afterwards. Make it perfect, then stop.

Then, yes, I would move on to something completely different, like play a piece that's a bit easier, that I know I can get right. Or, one that I'm "finished" with for the moment, so that it doesn't matter if I don't get it quite right. I do like to finish my practice feeling good about my playing, but some days that's difficult to accomplish when my brain-to-finger connection just feels "off."

I'll be interested to read what others do!

Offline iansinclair

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Re: Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice
Reply #2 on: July 11, 2016, 01:24:48 PM
And the same -- 1 and 2.  And as part of 1, pick pieces -- not exercises -- which are themselves pleasant and positive for you.

Then, if and when you calm down (it's tension which drives the problem, at least for me) go back to the problem.  If it's OK, fine.  If not, relax, play something you which works for you -- and go out and do something completely different (like look at Pianostreet? ;D) for awhile.
Ian

Offline bernadette60614

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Re: Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice
Reply #3 on: July 11, 2016, 05:06:18 PM
I would first think about the times when I most successful in mastering something I found very difficult.  And, for me, that is when I am well rested and have a plan for my practice session.

I would go with playing very slowly and beginning the practice session with the scales, then go onto working on a new piece, polish a piece that is fairly far along, and THEN go back to the scale.  I've found that if there is a block of practice time after scales, and then I end with scales, my final practice at scales shows improvement.

Offline quantum

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Re: Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice
Reply #4 on: July 12, 2016, 12:44:32 AM
I would try to identify specifics of the problem.  For example, if you can slow down the scale and play it correct but have problems playing up to speed, you need to find the problem at the faster tempo.  The thing is when we speed things up to performance tempo, we can also fill our minds with other distractions that can prevent us from noticing problems, sometimes fundamental basics, which we would otherwise easily identify and correct.

When we are anxious about something, say an upcoming exam, we could also tense up the playing mechanism and try to compensate by getting another part of our body to do the work.  All this meaning our playing mechanism is not functioning the way we have learned and trained it to do.  In this case, switching to different music or walking away from the instrument would be of benefit.  It is important not to let the practice routine become routine: practicing the same pieces, the same way, for the same amount of time every day.  Switching up the routine before our body settles into a comfortable pattern helps.  It could be something as simple as starting to practice the piece at a different point every day. 

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline bronnestam

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Re: Shifting focus when having a frustrating practice
Reply #5 on: July 13, 2016, 05:32:11 PM
We all have those days ... weeks ... when things are not just going our way. At least I have. There are days when my fingers just slip, I make mistakes where I never use to make mistakes otherwise, the whole piece feels clumsy like a turkey trying to fly. Then I shift to something easier ... even easier ... and to my desperation I find that I cannot play ANYTHING.

Here I must a) calm down for a moment, and remember what I just wrote above. One of these days, and this too shall pass  and b) praise myself for ... well, I need to find SOMETHING, could be just anything, that I can praise myself for. I went to the piano and practiced for a while, that is good! I can play this chord and that chord nicely, that is also good! Actually I worked with a certain problem in a certain bar and I DID improve a bit, so that was good.

Don't underestimate the power of this simple little method. I have found that this is the real key to success. Focus on your successful moments, no matter how modest they seem at the moment, and ignore your present failures.
note that "ignore your failures" does not mean you should not work with things you need to improve. But you must work in the mood of a winner, or you will just make it worse. Self-reproaches  are most dangerous!

So ... take a deep breath, focus on what you did good, even if you have to go down to note-by-note-level, and when you feel better about yourself you start working with a detail so small that you can avoid making improvements. And be sure you will do better tomorrow.

 r them - something I already knew they would want. I played, and I was amazed how good it went.
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