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Topic: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)  (Read 1819 times)

Offline UncleBEn210

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What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
on: May 04, 2005, 04:07:19 PM
Hey,

I've decided to post this even though it is yet !Another! topic based on the stupidity of someone trying to adopt new piece-learning methods, so it may irritate allot of people , but Iím really tired of practising for hours and hours , only to regress and get fustrated.
So I was wondering if anyone could take a look and tell me whatís wrong with this routine.

1.   Memorize piece
2.   Breakdown into tiny sections
3.   Practice all the sections HS for around 10 minutes each
      at around 150% speed.
4.   Continue to do this until all the sections are mastered
5.   Put HT

Is there something I'm doing completly wrong or forgetting?

Any comments would prove Invaluable!

Thanks you,

UncleBen

Offline Toivot

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #1 on: May 04, 2005, 04:23:01 PM
Hi,
I think it's better to practice the piece from the beginning with both hands together; only when there are difficult passages you can practice separately.

Try to pay attention  to all dynamics etc. from the beginning.

Memorize the piece bit by bit - you can use the bars to section the piece.
For me, personally, it is better to practice a piece at normal speed - sometimes using a metronome

Hope this helps
Bye


The piano has you.

Offline UncleBEn210

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #2 on: May 04, 2005, 04:34:57 PM
Hi,
I think it's better to practice the piece from the beginning with both hands together; only when there are difficult passages you can practice separately.

Try to pay attention to all dynamics etc. from the beginning.

Memorize the piece bit by bit - you can use the bars to section the piece.
For me, personally, it is better to practice a piece at normal speed - sometimes using a metronome


Thanks for your perspective,
Although the prospect of Starting hands together at normal speed while trying to get all the movements correct/notes right seems quite overwhelming for me  :)


Offline xvimbi

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #3 on: May 04, 2005, 04:47:23 PM
I've decided to post this even though it is yet !Another! topic based on the stupidity of someone trying to adopt new piece-learning methods, so it may irritate allot of people , but Iím really tired of practising for hours and hours , only to regress and get fustrated.

What concenrns me, those are the topics I am personally most interested in. I learn a lot by looking at how other people acquire information and knowledge. So, keep on posting :)

Quote
1.   Memorize piece
2.   Breakdown into tiny sections
3.   Practice all the sections HS for around 10 minutes each
      at around 150% speed.
4.   Continue to do this until all the sections are mastered
5.   Put HT

There is no single method that works for every piece, so essentially, everyone of your points needs qualifiers.

1. I would do away with this one. Either, memorization automatically happens throughout 2-5, or move that part to before 5. Replace 1 with "read through the piece to get an overall feel for it and to find out where the tough spots are." See below for more ideas about what to do at this point.

2. The term "tiny" needs explaining. I think I know what you are trying to say, but here is how I see it: The sections must have the right "size", so that they can be practiced constructively within one practice unit (say, 10 min, or 20 min. This time also varies from person to person). This means that there are sections that will span many measures (say, a chromatic run) to sections that consist only of 2 notes. Do not just divide the piece into two-measure sections. Some of those, you can do HT right away, others not. Remember, it is not necessary to go to an elaborate scheme when a simple one works just fine. All those ideas presented by CC, Bernhard, various authors and PF members are generally designed to tackle tricky sections, so-called problems. If there is no problem with a section, there is no need to do anything about it.

3. Here is where I have the biggest problem. As I said before, there is no static scheme that works in all situations. First, let's get it out of the way that you should definitely start with those sections that are most difficult. Some sections may not need any practice at all, so skip them. Don't stick unconditionally to the "10 min" rule. Practice as long as there is a beneficial result. If you can keep your concentration for 30 minutes and your muscles don't tens up, by all means, go for 30 min. If it's only 5 minutes, then so be it.
Next, the speed issue. The 150% speed idea is a good one, but one has to go about it in an intelligent way. First of all, the motions need to be worked out really well, otherwise you are going to injure yourself or get into bad habits. There is a big conundrum here: people who are able to figure out the correct motions right away, without the help of a teacher, are advanced and probably don't need such an elaborate learning scheme in the first place. They probably already know how they learn best. Everybody else needs expert guidance.
Finally, the 150%: Well, I believe there is great value in slow-motion practice. This is what I do. Like you, I tackle a segment at very high speed to work out the proper motions (with expert guidance); I play around for a while to get the hang of it and to figure out how to relax my muscles. Then, I go back to slow-motion practice. I use that to refine my motions, ingrain them, work on musical aspects. I automatically get faster throughout that process. There is nothing wrong with periodically going back to full speed to see if everything still works, but I think it is dangerous to exclusively stick to the 150% rule.

4. Is fine. By this time, you should have memorized the piece. if not, finish that aspect.

5. Is fine.

I would add a few more aspects, such as "Listening to good recordings", "reading about the background of the piece/composer". I would put those aspects actually before everything else discussed above.

And I would also add my latest fad: "mental practice". Yippee!

Have fun and remeber: be flexible!

Offline UncleBEn210

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #4 on: May 04, 2005, 04:53:07 PM
xvimbi you are the king of all things piano related!

Thanks a billion!  ;D

UncleBen

Offline xvimbi

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #5 on: May 04, 2005, 05:00:52 PM
xvimbi you are the king of all things piano related!

No, no, no, far from it. I am only regurgitating what I have learned on PF and from people around me, and what works for me. Don't just take what I (or anybody else) said for granted! Reflect on it, and see if you find something useful. If it helps you to reinforce that what you are doing is fine, then so be it. Argue, debate, present counter-ideas (but only if you have cogent arguments.)

I hope that's what you meant. :D

Offline UncleBEn210

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #6 on: May 04, 2005, 05:16:51 PM
No, no, no, far from it. I am only regurgitating what I have learned on PF and from people around me, and what works for me. Don't just take what I (or anybody else) said for granted! Reflect on it, and see if you find something useful. If it helps you to reinforce that what you are doing is fine, then so be it. Argue, debate, present counter-ideas (but only if you have cogent arguments.)

I hope that's what you meant.

Understood.
And regurgitated or not, great advice! ;)

Offline sznitzeln

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #7 on: May 04, 2005, 11:23:25 PM
Xvimbi is right... you need different methods for different pieces... and also different pianists use different methods....
You should also be flexible...
If you can practice in a fun way it will be better than forcing yourself to follow a set of rules... follow your intuition and a couple of principles...

Some principles: Decide what you are going to learn at the moment and feel if you are learning or not... then modify the section you are working at... i.e. play slower, faster, HS , HT , whatever... or modify the number of bars to be practiced.
Or invent your own exercise...
You can either make an exercise that focuses on a specific problem you have encountered, but doesnt have any other problems in it... so the exercise is easier than the piece...
OR.. you can make a exercise that is even more difficult than your piece...
Say you have a glitch playing fingers 4,5 ... then you can practice 4-5 trill...
The main principle is to constantly analyse your methods and what resluts they give...
dont follow a strict list of rules like the one you presented...

Also concider your concentration level and need to rest... it is absolutely essential to be concentrated and yet as relaxed as possible... it must feel like you are working hard but still it should be a nice and somehow relaxing feeling... this way your concentration span will increase dramaticly and also your results... the learning process is not linear, but accelerating :)
Enjoy!

One last tip:
Most of us evaluate our progress by how much we learn... I think it is better and more logical to evaluate your practice by how much time and energy you put in... because then dont have to be dissapointed that you only learned so and so many bars, and the only thing you can controll is your effort you put in...
And the results always come when you put in a great effort. Dont stress...

"Infinite kneading of the stone will make it soft" (probably terrible translation)

Offline janice

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #8 on: May 05, 2005, 03:57:13 AM

So I was wondering if anyone could take a look and tell me whatís wrong with this routine.

1.   Memorize piece
2.   Breakdown into tiny sections
3.   Practice all the sections HS for around 10 minutes each
      at around 150% speed.
4.   Continue to do this until all the sections are mastered
5.   Put HT

Yeah, memorize it last.
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Offline abell88

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #9 on: May 05, 2005, 11:47:07 AM
You're probably doing this, but it isn't in your list, so this is just a reminder to overlap your sections.

Offline UncleBEn210

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #10 on: May 05, 2005, 04:03:12 PM

Some principles: Decide what you are going to learn at the moment and feel if you are learning or not... then modify the section you are working at... i.e. play slower, faster, HS , HT , whatever... or modify the number of bars to be practiced.
Or invent your own exercise...
You can either make an exercise that focuses on a specific problem you have encountered, but doesnt have any other problems in it... so the exercise is easier than the piece...
OR.. you can make a exercise that is even more difficult than your piece...
Say you have a glitch playing fingers 4,5 ... then you can practice 4-5 trill...
The main principle is to constantly analyse your methods and what resluts they give...
dont follow a strict list of rules like the one you presented...


That's really good advice.
I've been trying to find a perfect routine for learning pieces but now I've learnt I need to adopt a new one (or just slighty alternate) my routine for each piece.


 Also concider your concentration level and need to rest... it is absolutely essential to be concentrated and yet as relaxed as possible... it must feel like you are working hard but still it should be a nice and somehow relaxing feeling... this way your concentration span will increase dramaticly and also your results... the learning process is not linear, but accelerating :)



Thanks again, I've been having just as much trouble with balancing concentration with relaxation while practising.
I'll try and change my whole attitude to learning to make it more tolerable.

Thanks!  ;)

Offline Steve T

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #11 on: May 05, 2005, 08:43:54 PM
You've had some great advice here (exept the one about starting HT, that's clearly not the best thing for you at this time, but then you've recognised that yourself).
I messed around with different practice / learning procedures without a guiding 'system' UNTIL i read Chang's book. Since then my practice has structure, I learn faster, memorize quicker and play better. For me it's the best thing I've read. It's not intended as a strict principle thing, just take from it what works for you.
I can't tell you the difference it made for me to have a method of tackling a new piece, and having the reasoning behind it. I have a really nice teacher, but his approach was to just sight read, sight read, sight read. We spent hours of lesson time improving my sight reading, without being able to look at my hands. It was frustrating and sllloooowwww going. Then I found Chang's book. My sight reading is still improving AND my technique has rocketed.
Hope this perspective helps on top of the excellent advice already offered. Isn't this forum a great place. So many nice people willing to help.

Offline UncleBEn210

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #12 on: May 05, 2005, 09:35:30 PM
Hope this perspective helps on top of the excellent advice already offered.

Thanks,
Every perspective is helpful, the more the Merrier!
Isn't this forum a great place. So many nice people willing to help.
So true, this forum is a spectacular! . :D

Offline asyncopated

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #13 on: May 06, 2005, 09:30:07 AM
Hi UncleBen!

Here are some comment.  I don't think there is a best routine.  It really depends on your level, and how difficult the piece is, how fast you want to learn it, how polished should it be. Are you prepearing it for performance?

Here are a few things that I think you should consider.  Firstly question all the steps you take.  Are they necessary?  Eg. HS practice is only necessary if you are not used to the movement.  If you can already do the movement well, do HT.

Here are some other tips.  Somewhere in there there should be "Analyse the music"  This is to try and find out what the composer is doing.  Is there conterpoint.  Are there other important structures?  What is the main melody?  Is it a fugue, or a cannon?   This will help you present your music. 

When you break stuff into tiny bits, look for the difficult parts to play first and practice that.  In that case, having learnt the piece, you would have spent the most time with the difficult bits. 

As soon as possible, when you understand the structure of the piece, start putting in the finer points.  Voicing, dynamics, legato fingering, pedal control, in the context of interpreting the piece.   All these are movements have to be learnt and practiced. 

Break the piece not only lenght wise but also depth wise.  You already have broken the piece in time, into small sections.  You will also usually need to break voices up.  For example, in a fugue (4 voices) make sure you play every voice separately, with the correct fingering and also, two or three voices together leaving the last one out.

That's all I have for now.

Hope this helps.

al.

 

Offline UncleBEn210

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Re: What am I doing wrong (learning a new piece)
Reply #14 on: May 06, 2005, 03:19:23 PM
Thanks asyncopated,
 I'm definitely going to adopt some of those points into my new routine.
Quote
Are you prepearing it for performance?

No, thank god. Just an exam.  :)
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