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#1763890 - 10/03/11 11:19 AM Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece  
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Brad Hoehne Offline
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Brad Hoehne  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Ohio
Hello,

I'm medium-advanced adult student returning to the piano after a 20 year gap. I've been working for the last few months on the third movement of the Pathetique sonata, which is quite fun to play. I have whole thing memorized, I can play it "up to speed" all the way through, and have worked with a teacher on interpretation.

There's just one problem keeping me from performing it in a recital-type setting. I've never (and I mean never) been able to play it "note perfect" all the way through- at any speed. No matter what I do, no matter what metronome setting I put, a little entropy always creeps in in a brand new spot. (Indeed, if I go too slow, this seems to give me more opportunity to flub up.) The next time through, the spot or two that I flubbed a few notes will be just fine, and I'll seize up in other, brand new, places. It's not for want of practicing those specific places- indeed the "brain cramps" often occur in easiest parts of the piece.

Any thoughts on how to get over this psychological issue?


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
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#1763896 - 10/03/11 11:39 AM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 22,656
pianoloverus Online content
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pianoloverus  Online Content
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New York City
How many mistakes would you say you make on average?

If it's only a couple of wrong notes it's no big deal. While some professional pianists seemingly go through a recital without any obvious errors, in some cases that may be because the mistakes are not so glaring. And I've heard quite a few glaring mistakes even from top pros.

I'm not really sure about this, but I think playing with very few mistakes requires kind of a combination of automatic pilot and concentration(if that's possible).

#1763899 - 10/03/11 11:42 AM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 2,161
DameMyra Offline
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DameMyra  Offline
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South Jersey
My teacher says, and I tend to agree with her, that we hit wrong notes because the brain isn't 100% sure of what the right notes are. When learning a piece if you hit a wrong note, immediately correct it. (Not just once, but play the notes correctly at least six or seven times in a row.) Once you have a fingering established, don't change it. It only confuses the brain. If you need to change a fingering at a later time, practice with the new fingering many times to make sure it sticks. The reason many times we "flub" the easier parts is because they are easy and we don't drill them as much as the more technically challenging parts.Slow partice. Drill, drill. Pratice a little faster than performance tempo, then notice where the mistakes creep in and drill those places over and over. Remember, also that absolutely note perfect performances are very. very rare. Nerves always kick in along with adrenaline. Don't let a few wrong notes, or the "fear" of not performing perfectly, keep you from sharing what you've accomplished with others.


Private Piano Teacher
MTNA/NJMTA/SJMTA
#1763906 - 10/03/11 11:55 AM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Brad Hoehne Offline
Full Member
Brad Hoehne  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Ohio
I usually have two or three spots that I choke on in the 4.5 minute (or so) movement. The next time through, those two or three will be somewhere else.


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
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#1763907 - 10/03/11 11:58 AM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Brad Hoehne Offline
Full Member
Brad Hoehne  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Ohio
I think it's less technical facility (because I do drill everything in the piece, event he easy notes) or not knowing where the fingers should go. Indeed, it's not so much a "finger thing." It's more of a "mind goes blank" or "mind wanders" sort of thing that creeps in. Even if I'm totally focused, I still have tendency to get "lost in the music" and that's where the brain cramps creep in. Does that make sense?


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
#1763922 - 10/03/11 12:28 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 787
Gerard12 Offline
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Gerard12  Offline
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Posts: 787
South Carolina
How do you internalize the music that you play?

Can you hear the piece in your head when you're away from the instrument? Can you hear all the passages, can you sing them - even the really simple sections (you could be taking them for granted)?


Piano instruction and performance
#1763928 - 10/03/11 12:47 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 6,734
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member
Orange Soda King  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 6,734
Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
Wrong notes happen every once in a while. That's okay.

However, you should improve your practicing habits. I'm not jumping to conclusions and saying you are practicing poorly, but re-evaluate how you practice.

Are there certain passages that you mess up on more? Go through each passage with a metronome slowly, speeding them up. Also, make sure your motions aren't awkward/causing excess tension.

I can't say TOO much without hearing a recording of you playing the piece. Do you mind making a video recording that shows your hands/arms and either posting it here or sending it privately to me?

And whenever you practice, never think of practicing "purely technically." Always practice "music-making", even when it's slow (and almost all the time, it SHOULD be slow). Whenever you slow practice, pretend you are PERFORMING that small little bit at that tempo, like THAT is THE tempo. And when it's perfect, speed it up a little bit, and repeat.

Last edited by Orange Soda King; 10/03/11 12:48 PM.
#1764014 - 10/03/11 03:10 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Orange Soda King]  
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Brad Hoehne Offline
Full Member
Brad Hoehne  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Ohio
Thanks for the suggestions. I think think that Mental Practice might help. I can play the piece in my mind, but, I think, perhaps I could learn to hear it better with score in hand away from the keyboard.

I might take you up of your offer to listen to a recording. I'll have to make. I have a little Flip camera that might do the trick.



1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
#1764015 - 10/03/11 03:12 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Brad Hoehne Offline
Full Member
Brad Hoehne  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Ohio
@ Orange, My teacher is inviting a friend to do a master class at the end of the month. I think I may record my performance at that.


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
#1764102 - 10/03/11 05:52 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 6,628
Damon Offline
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Damon  Offline
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When you figure it out, let me know. I can't play anything without screwing it up somewhere.

#1764561 - 10/04/11 12:55 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 635
GeorgeB Offline
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GeorgeB  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 635
One of the things which really helps (at least for me) is to do everything many many times changing the rhythms.

This seems really silly but it works for me. Many people have told me its "unmusical" or "useless". Example, if you have a passage of semiquavers for example. Try stopping: every 1st note of every group, then every 2 notes and also on the last note.

I find it makes it much harder, but then when you play it "normally" everything comes out much better, i find it much easier as well as much more technically secure

#1764583 - 10/04/11 01:28 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,671
RonaldSteinway Offline
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RonaldSteinway  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,671
Originally Posted by Brad Hoehne
I usually have two or three spots that I choke on in the 4.5 minute (or so) movement. The next time through, those two or three will be somewhere else.


Practice slow, and make sure you can play note perfect at 50% of the ultimate tempo. Let's see how clean you can play. If you can do it, increase the tempo. Otherwise, work on the problem spots.

#1764601 - 10/04/11 02:23 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,464
Stanza Offline
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Stanza  Offline
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Posts: 1,464
Chapel Hill, NC
Try to "stay in the moment". Thinking too far ahead or thinking about what has already been played is counterproductive.


Estonia L190 #7004
Casio PX 310
Yamaha NP 30
#1764687 - 10/04/11 05:54 PM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 413
LeaC Offline
Full Member
LeaC  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 413
USA
Great ideas posted here. As said above, someone needs to see and hear you play to really help you.

I will add that at this point, I would use the metronome as a tool for focusing. As mentioned above, practice with the MM at a speed that you CAN play the entire piece without more than a couple errors. When you establish what exactly that tempo is, then you can systematically raise the tempo as you work at keeping the notes under control. You will reach a point where the errors start. That will tell you where the weaknesses lie. It doesn't matter if it is physical or psychological by using this method.

Plus, you may just need to keep "living" with it for a while. Sometimes a piece matures when it's ready to, and not a moment before, no matter how hard we think we have worked.

This movement can be slippery. Is it possible that you are glossing over the arpeggios and not digging in with your fingers? Performing a piece is much different than practicing a piece. Bang it out slowly if you need to. (No one will know!)Then play it musically when you are certain you can play every single note accurately.

Another thought about this movement is the the sudden idea and dynamic changes. Could this be what is throwing you off?

Lastly, you might break this movement down into sections, according to theme modulations and developments, etc. Do you really understand the piece as it progresses harmonically? Are the mistakes happening in similar places from section to section? When you tape yourself, try accomplishing one section at a time until you can prove that you totally have that part down pat. Then try "sewing" the parts together. Having a strong image of the bird's eye view of the piece can help you to move through it.

Just my .02!


Working on: Reworking Bartok's Suite Opus 14, Chopin's Polonaise Op.40, The Military (so much fun!)
#1764918 - 10/05/11 12:55 AM Re: Not flubbing / "Polishing" a piece [Re: LeaC]  
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 163
RayE Offline
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RayE  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 163
Rochester, NY, USA
There are two things I concentrate on when polishing a piece.
1) Playing slowly enough that I make few to no mistakes.
2) Make sure I play using the same fingering every time (to develop finger memory of the piece).

The other thing I do is break the piece up into smaller sections, and playing the sections several times flawlessly before I move on to the next section.


Retired Army reserve Bandsman who now plays for the Joy of Music!!

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