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#1894393 - 05/09/12 07:43 PM The Ephiphany of Technique I just had  
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Skorpius Offline
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The faster the piece, the slower you practice it.

It just hit me why this is so true. A lot of times, people struggle with speeding up technically demanding pieces and they slow practice, but it doesn't make it better for them.

I'm a person who always wants a logical answer, and today I realized what it was that made the above statement true-

We all may practice slowly, but sometimes we don't practice slowly enough. We need to allow our brain to analyze and interpret subtle muscle movements that make up a piece, and when we don't practice slowly enough, the quicker movements become harder to translate to the hand and we feel tension trying to "force" the movements.

Just a thought!

Last edited by Skorpius; 05/09/12 07:50 PM.

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#1894395 - 05/09/12 07:47 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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+1 and thank you. I've been struggling with one of those broad, dramatic up-the-piano and down-the-piano gestures that Liszt liked to write. I've played it slowly until I know it perfectly. I can speed it up quite a bit but I still can't get it all the way up to tempo. (I must have played it 500 times). Maybe I just need to go even slower. I'll give it a try and get back to you.


Best regards,

Deborah
#1894396 - 05/09/12 07:50 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all


Working On-

Deux Arabesques, Debussy


On Queue-

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Toccata, Ravel




#1894399 - 05/09/12 07:51 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Originally Posted by Skorpius
slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all
Hmmm. Good point.


Best regards,

Deborah
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#1894426 - 05/09/12 08:45 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Originally Posted by Skorpius
slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all


+1


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#1894459 - 05/09/12 09:30 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Originally Posted by Skorpius
slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all
Hmmm.

More and more, this appears to be the central tenet of world-class piano playing. Personally, I have issues using my musculature to create the contrast of back-shoulder-upper-and-lower-arm looseness and a firmness in the bridge of the hand. The big muscle looseness seems to allow a limitless font of sound of various qualities, but without a reasonable firmness in the fingers (and the wrist, but to a lesser extent IMO), I don't think it's possible to make efficient use of that energy without a feeling of relatively taut fingers and a grasping hand. The challenge for me (and many others, I'm sure) is to grasp and exert the force the upper body without restricting any of the muscles involved, big or small.

I think that tense or badly used/maintained (via stretching) back and shoulder muscles are a huge factor in practice and performance fatigue (and probably a general restriction in range of motion), while arm and hand muscles might have a more direct effect on sound and cantabile.

Technique babble over laugh

#1894512 - 05/09/12 11:46 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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My piano teacher made me play a haydn sonata at an excruciatingly slow tempo last semester while he was trying to clean up my technique [not much better than mozart or haydn for that...]
His advice is to practice at 50% speed until it's down and then speed up. It's helped my technique an exorbitant amount [well, that and fixing some of my arm movements, helping me put more arm weight into my playing rather than all wrist/fingers] - But, now I can play things now that were unconceivable 9 months ago, and my previous rep is SO much cleaner.

Slow is the way to go.

Last edited by TrueMusic; 05/09/12 11:47 PM.

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#1894522 - 05/10/12 12:20 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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When I play a fast piece slower, I find things in the music to bring out that would otherwise just get glossed over. I discover that some music is not meant to be played as fast as it is usually played. If it is played too fast, articulation tends to get obscured, with a tendency for everything to get blurred. Voices get lost in what becomes mere filigree passagework. The only point of playing a piece never is merely playing it fast. There has to be more to it, otherwise I am not interested, in playing it nor in hearing it.


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#1894577 - 05/10/12 03:21 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by Skorpius
The faster the piece, the slower you practice it.

It just hit me why this is so true. A lot of times, people struggle with speeding up technically demanding pieces and they slow practice, but it doesn't make it better for them.

I'm a person who always wants a logical answer, and today I realized what it was that made the above statement true-

We all may practice slowly, but sometimes we don't practice slowly enough. We need to allow our brain to analyze and interpret subtle muscle movements that make up a piece, and when we don't practice slowly enough, the quicker movements become harder to translate to the hand and we feel tension trying to "force" the movements.

Just a thought!


You're on the right track. Slow practise is EVERYTHING! Don't let ANYONE tell you any differently.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1894581 - 05/10/12 03:33 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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I tried to tell myself that slow practice wasn't REALLY all that important, but it's gotten to the point now where my ear is better than my fingers (which wasn't the case before), so I can hear everything that's going wrong, and it sounds terrible. Slow practice is the only way I've been able to see improvement, so slow practice it is.


Playing since age 21 (September 2010) and loving it more every day.
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#1894591 - 05/10/12 04:11 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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In addition to the 'no effort' concept, if you can't play something slowly, why would anyone think they could play it fast?

Always start slowly.





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#1894634 - 05/10/12 07:08 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Good for you, Skorpius.

(Now, if only my students will come to this realization
without my relentless exhortations.)


Piano instruction and performance
#1894669 - 05/10/12 08:48 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Most of us know we should practice slowly, but I think Skorpius' point was:
Originally Posted by Skorpius
sometimes we don't practice slowly enough. We need to allow our brain to analyze and interpret subtle muscle movements that make up a piece, and when we don't practice slowly enough, the quicker movements become harder to translate to the hand and we feel tension trying to "force" the movements.
That is what I am taking away from this. I hope it cures my speed problem.


Best regards,

Deborah
#1894674 - 05/10/12 08:59 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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It is always exciting to feel as if you have found the answer, or at least an answer to a technical problem. On the occassions when I get back to practicing seriously, I call them "ephipahnies du jour".

Slow practice is a very interesting idea. It feels really good to play something slowly and feel like you are very safe and hittinig all the notes and expressing all the details, but if not done correctly, slow practice often leads to getting better and better at playing something slowly, and as it is brought up to speed, one realizes that many of the fingerings and movements that worked easily at a slow speed no longer work at a fast speed, and much time is wasted. Also, much of the detailed expression found at a slow speed can be at the expense of the bigger picture that occurs at the actual tempo.

As with anything, if it works for you, and practicing slowly is a good step for you that leads to playing a difficult fast piece at tempo with authority, it is great, but if you find yourself practicing slowly and not getting anything to a true level of virtuosity in a reasonable amount of time, the slow practice may have become an end in and of itself.

Slow practice is a good tool if done correctly, but practicng slowly and sounding good at a slow speed does not automatically equate with eventually being able to play that difficult piece at speed and to play it well, and in fact, it may be the very thing that prevented it.


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#1894686 - 05/10/12 09:27 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Keith D Kerman]  
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
.Slow practice is a very interesting idea. It feels really good to play something slowly and feel like you are very safe and hittinig all the notes and expressing all the details, but if not done correctly...
How should slow practice be done to be done correctly?

What do you feel are the advantages/purposes of slow practice?

#1894690 - 05/10/12 09:32 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: stores]  
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Originally Posted by stores
You're on the right track. Slow practice is EVERYTHING! Don't let ANYONE tell you any differently.
Can you please expand on:

1. the purpose/benefit of slow practice
2. what should be the goals or correct ways of practicing slowly
3. how slow do you mean by slow practice(in relation to the final desired speed)?

I think one problem with the slow practice idea is that everyone seems to have different ideas about its purposes, benefits, and goals. There have been other threads here about slow practice with not that much agreement in general.

#1894704 - 05/10/12 10:04 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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What I'm finding to be the benefit of slow practice is to rid my playing what I call hesitations. These hesitations do not necessarily affect my playing in time, but they do affect relaxation. It's a lot like walking down a street and you come across a person walking in the opposite direction. You both try to go one way, and then the other way, and then find the right way to get past each other. In piano playing, this means that my fingers aren't sure when to play, so they hesitate (=holding and moving with force). With slow practice I can get these movements coordinated. At this point I am not concerned with dynamics or phrasing, only on the movements.

How slow? As slow as necessary to get the correct movements. With faster tempi or longer segments, I find I miss things like the hesitations. But I know it is useful because when I speed up after working slowly, it sounds better, feels different, and is much easier to play.

The pitfalls? As mentioned, sometimes fingering that works at a slow tempo doesn't work at a fast tempo. So I try short sections of the passage at tempo, or as close to it as I can, to check if the fingerings work.


Professional pianist and piano teacher.
#1894747 - 05/10/12 11:07 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Slow practice is a great paradox. To play fast, one must practice slowly. It seems counterintuitive, which is why some people consider it a "secret," I guess. What is an appropriate slow tempo for one person may not be the appropriate speed for me. This depends on skill level, obviously. The bottom line is that the faster one can think the notes in all the richness of their details, the faster one can play them, and slow practice is simply a means for acquiring that familiarity with the music, the ability to think the notes in the full richness of their details at the appropriate tempo for the piece.

The tempo I practice slowly at (or ought to) is simply the fastest tempo at which I can comfortably play with expressiveness and accuracy. The movements of hands, arms body in slow speed are precisely the movements I intend to use when playing fast. When I become familiar enough with the music that I can think the notes at a faster pace, then it is time to speed up the tempo to that new comfort level.

I do not practice by notching up the speed on a metronome. That seems an enormous waste of time, and instead of providing me with what I need to play a piece at a rapid tempo (completely familiarity with the notes such that I can think that notes at a faster rate), it actually numbs the mind and leads to a kind of automatic, thoughtless kind of keyboard movement, and, frankly, drains the life out of the music. Years ago I practiced like that, and the result was usually that by the time I could play a piece well, I was totally sick of it and would find myself just feeling bored with the music, rather than inspired. But I do think it is very important to practice at a fast tempo as soon as one has mastery of the details of the music also. If it takes an excessive amount of time to be able to do that, then the piece, I think, is beyond my technical ability at the moment, and should probably be put off for a later date.

Slow practice also tends to help eliminate "automatic" mindless playing of the notes, and this is extremely valuable. It can help eliminate memory failures that result from automatic playing of the notes without actually thinking them in detail.

Naturally, it takes great self-discipline to practice slowly. I aspire to that level of self-discipline, and I am sometimes painfully aware of how much time I waste at the keyboard by not practicing with such discipline.

It is not repetition that is the "mother of control," as some have said, but rather slow, thoughtful practice.

Very interesting and important topic, Skorpius; thanks for posting your insight, which I think is profoundly valuable.

#1894752 - 05/10/12 11:18 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Slow practice when all you try to do is play slowly only gives a few things. If time is a physical space, then slow practice is like expanding that space so you can pack more things into it. So you have time to know where you are going, how you will get there, what you want to hear and feel, and check if that is happening. If you only practice slowly then you might get so bored that you tune out and then it doesn't give you anything. If you have packed things into your slow practice, then some of those things still sit in the background when you speed up. At least that is my experience.

#1894821 - 05/10/12 01:33 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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Wow! What a wealth of good reminders in this thread. I've already identified why I'm having problems with 2 pieces I'm currently working on. It's because I'm not giving myself enough time to slow it way down in my practice sessions.

It's also clear to me that I'm trying to pack too many things into my practice sessions. I clearly need to practice being more patient with the process of learning.

Thanks for starting this thread. It's right on time for me!



Carl

#1894833 - 05/10/12 02:09 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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This was a helpful and timely reminder for me, too. Thank you.

Regards,


BruceD
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#1894847 - 05/10/12 02:32 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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How slow is slow? When you say slow ENOUGH, for example, are you talking about something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLxAgKaUOw

#1894907 - 05/10/12 04:08 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.

#1894912 - 05/10/12 04:16 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]  
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While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it.

Would you at least agree that if you can't play something slowly you can't play it at a fast tempo?




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#1894929 - 05/10/12 04:44 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.


I don't know about others, however, in my case I am working on a couple of pieces and am at differing stages of development with them. The thread helped me remember that perhaps I need to slow down in various parts to get better results in the long run. Sure, this is pretty basic. However, sometimes we forget and are too close to it to see why we're not making as much progress as we could.

This thread also reminded me to check in with my piano teacher about techniques.


Carl

#1894958 - 05/10/12 05:44 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]  
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In the Beethoven I'm playing, I just moved on to the next section and the left hand was giving me trouble...and after 3-4 times of playing at half tempo or below, I got the left hand there SUPER clean. Slow is so nice. :].


Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20
#1894970 - 05/10/12 05:57 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by stores
You're on the right track. Slow practice is EVERYTHING! Don't let ANYONE tell you any differently.
Can you please expand on:

1. the purpose/benefit of slow practice
2. what should be the goals or correct ways of practicing slowly
3. how slow do you mean by slow practice(in relation to the final desired speed)?

I think one problem with the slow practice idea is that everyone seems to have different ideas about its purposes, benefits, and goals. There have been other threads here about slow practice with not that much agreement in general.


I'll be happy to talk a bit about this, but it will have to wait until later this evening.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1894985 - 05/10/12 06:17 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Dave Horne]  
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Originally Posted by Dave Horne
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it.

Would you at least agree that if you can't play something slowly you can't play it at a fast tempo?
In general, I think most people start learning difficult pieces at a tempo slower than the final one. I think some of the posts on this thread are about the idea of practicing very slowly once one has reasonably learned the notes and can play a piece close to tempo, but I'd guess not everyone on this thread was referring to this.

Your statement is often true but such a generalization(what's slow, fast,?) that it's not always true. For example, the endlessly discussed Chopin Fantasie Impromptu is, I think, more difficult to play at a very slow speed because the 4 against 3 is much harder at this pace. Does an advanced player have to be able to play a Bach Minuet slowly in order to be able to play it fast?

My comments on this thread are not meant to imply I think slow practice is a bad idea, but an attempt to clarify the ideas about slow practice. As I said earlier, I find many of the comments about the benefits on this thread to say different things and sometimes also find them unconvincing or obscure.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/10/12 06:20 PM.
#1894994 - 05/10/12 06:46 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it.

Would you at least agree that if you can't play something slowly you can't play it at a fast tempo?
In general, I think most people start learning difficult pieces at a tempo slower than the final one. I think some of the posts on this thread are about the idea of practicing very slowly once one has reasonably learned the notes and can play a piece close to tempo, but I'd guess not everyone on this thread was referring to this.

Your statement is often true but such a generalization(what's slow, fast,?) that it's not always true. For example, the endlessly discussed Chopin Fantasie Impromptu is, I think, more difficult to play at a very slow speed because the 4 against 3 is much harder at this pace. Does an advanced player have to be able to play a Bach Minuet slowly in order to be able to play it fast?

My comments on this thread are not meant to imply I think slow practice is a bad idea, but an attempt to clarify the ideas about slow practice. As I said earlier, I find many of the comments about the benefits on this thread to say different things and sometimes also find them unconvincing or obscure.



Fantasy Impromptu is a great example of a piece that is almost more difficult to play slow. I've never studied the piece, but I can play the 3 against 4 at tempo pretty well but it's QUITE hard to do slow. At speed, you don't think about it. You just do it. Slowly, you have to think SO hard about where each not falls on the beat.


Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20
#1894998 - 05/10/12 06:50 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]  
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wr  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 8,933
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.


Here is a clear one, and it's the only one I actually need: it works. I do the slow practice, and it results in an improved ability to play the music. Simple as that.

I don't find any particular need to explain why it works to myself. Explanations of that sort, especially when something is working, are something I tend to distrust, and I do have an explanation for that distrust. It is because I find that conceptualizations of a process can get in the way and drag me down by shifting my focus to "thinking about" rather than "doing". And it is because sometimes, and in some circumstances, having a concept about what one is doing can cause a certain rigidity point of view that I find not to be helpful, many times. Since I don't need any of that to get slow practice to work, I avoid them.

OTOH, speculations about why it may work, here in this thread, don't necessarily get internalized, so they aren't really a problem. It's only a problem if I decide "this is what is happening", rather than "hmm, that might be a reason it works".

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