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#2236291 02/23/14 11:15 AM
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Is slow practice really necessary to master a piece or is it more effective to practice it with rhythms?


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rov,

Slowly, AND in rhythm, at the same time. Good luck.


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Although there have been many threads on very slow practice, there seems to be quite a bit of disagreement about why(or possibly even if) this practice is beneficial.

The only statement that I've found convincing so far is that very slow practice is a good way to check on(or learn)memorization.

So what are some other reasons why you think very slow practice is(or is not) beneficial? I'm not talking about slow practice when one is just learning the notes, but slow or very slow practice after one has the notes up to speed well in hand. Or if you think very slow practice is beneficial at other stages of learning a piece, please feel free to comment on those and why.


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Once a piece has been mastered - especially if memorized - I see no reason to go back to slow practice, unless problems crop up (in which case, it probably wasn't properly mastered in the first place).

You can easily start making more mistakes, because you've got your brain-fingers interaction 'fixed' at the tempo you wanted, and you're now throwing a spanner in the works for no good reason. Especially if the piece has many fast leaps, like one of my favorite party pieces, Chopin's Waltz in G flat, Op.70/1 (which I memorized many years ago): I hardly ever miss the RH jumps when I play it at my normal pace, but when I slow it down to half-speed, my pinky starts landing elsewhere......


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Bennevis actually makes a good case for what he's arguing against. T\In my experience there are benefits to both slow and fast practice.
Originally Posted by bennevis
Once a piece has been mastered - especially if memorized - I see no reason to go back to slow practice, unless problems crop up (in which case, it probably wasn't properly mastered in the first place).

You can easily start making more mistakes, because you've got your brain-fingers interaction 'fixed' at the tempo you wanted, and you're now throwing a spanner in the works for no good reason. Especially if the piece has many fast leaps, like one of my favorite party pieces, Chopin's Waltz in G flat, Op.70/1 (which I memorized many years ago): I hardly ever miss the RH jumps when I play it at my normal pace, but when I slow it down to half-speed, my pinky starts landing elsewhere......

Which is why you should slow practice because you're challenging your memory. When you can play a piece properly at any tempo then you can consider it mastered. I find sometimes mistakes crop into pieces I thought I knew well. Slow practice helps my hand remember the various positions necessary to play a piece. It doesn't usually take much slow practice to bring that memory back, but the slow practice seems to make the process work faster (for me).


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Slow practice must be used to learn a piece. Then it can be used later to reinforce a piece.

Without knowing exactly why, I think many of us have experienced a very positive effect of practicing something slowly before performing it, even when we know it well. Somehow it reinforces what we know or reveals, like Steve Chandler said, some deficit we didn't notice playing it over and over again at tempo. I think it's because it forces you to rely less on muscle and aural memory and more on topographical, analytic, score memory. You have to remember where you are going and how you got there on the piano.

A similar benefit can be experienced by playing on a digital piano with the sound turned off. Without that music to lead you, how much will you forget?

Also, once you've figured out some speedy motions that aren't quite solid at tempo, you should practice those same motions in slow motion.


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Originally Posted by Steve Chandler

Which is why you should slow practice because you're challenging your memory. When you can play a piece properly at any tempo then you can consider it mastered. I find sometimes mistakes crop into pieces I thought I knew well. Slow practice helps my hand remember the various positions necessary to play a piece. It doesn't usually take much slow practice to bring that memory back, but the slow practice seems to make the process work faster (for me).

You've misunderstood my point, and/or don't know the piece I'm referring to. I've already said that the piece is memorized. Not half-memorized. And that the leap is fast - even at half speed. You don't have time to think about it.

It's nothing to do with memory - it's to do with coordination. The whole package is involved when you play a rapid sequence of notes that leaves you no time to think about your next note. You have to drill the passage into your fingers, and keep practising until you get it consistently right. Then it stays right unless you start messing around with what you've learnt.

If you're learning a Bach fugue, you usually have time to think about the notes, and where the next notes are. Muscle memory is less important here.



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Slow practice is most important in the note-learning stage.
If by "master" the OP means "get all the notes right most of the time" then slow practice is the way to accomplish that. Slowing down enables us to be more accurate. Slow accurate playing becomes fast accurate playing relatively soon. Fast sloppy playing takes forever to become fast accurate playing.

Practice in rhythms (that's practice in varying rhythms, not just practice in the rhythm as written) is most important when increasing speed and/or working on evenness. There's no need to practice in rhythms while still learning the notes.


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Right tool for the right job.

No practice technique does everything.


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Actually I was practicing after that last post and realized how often I use slow practice with material that's already learned -- specifically, when I'm trying to change something, like a fingering or articulation or emotional/expressive element, it has to happen slowly several times before there's any chance it can happen fast.

And +1 to what Kreisler said.


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If you can play it fast, but can't play it slow, you really can't play it fast.

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Also...all slow practice really does is free up your brain to observe and think about what you're doing. Mindless slow practice accomplishes nothing and wastes time.


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Originally Posted by bennevis


If you're learning a Bach fugue... Muscle memory is less important here.



Wrong. It is probably MORE important, because fingering with Bach is EVERYTHING. One misstep and you're off the rails and it can come crashing down in a hurry... unless, of course, you've practised slowly and know where you're at and where you're going, which helps to put things right again.



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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Right tool for the right job.

No practice technique does everything.


+1



"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

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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Also...all slow practice really does is free up your brain to observe and think about what you're doing. Mindless slow practice accomplishes nothing and wastes time.


+1



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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by bennevis


If you're learning a Bach fugue... Muscle memory is less important here.



Wrong. It is probably MORE important, because fingering with Bach is EVERYTHING. One misstep and you're off the rails and it can come crashing down in a hurry... unless, of course, you've practised slowly and know where you're at and where you're going, which helps to put things right again.

That's what I said - you can't rely on muscle memory in Bach, because one wrong move and you're dead.


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Originally Posted by Kreisler
Also...all slow practice really does is free up your brain to observe and think about what you're doing. Mindless slow practice accomplishes nothing and wastes time.

There's a time and place for everything, and I've never understood why some people believe that slow practice is always necessary and mandatory for everything - even after a piece has been properly learnt, memorized and polished.

If something isn't right, you do what you have to do to fix it, including mindful slow practice. I frequently do that with a tricky passage that I'm not happy with, working on it in isolation until I'm satisfied, then putting it back into its place in the work. But if there are no problems in a piece, once I've got it to where I'm happy with it, I don't start messing around with slow practice for the sake of it, which only serves to derail my previous conception of how I want to play it.

There has to be a good reason for anything you do at the piano, when you're learning something. Whether it's pulling out a section and practising it hands separately, or practising a piece at half speed (or quarter speed), or taking out a 'voice' in a fugue and playing it in isolation to get it phrased the way you want it.

But don't do something just because you think it's good for you, or because someone has told you that it's what you should always do. Or even because that's what you've always done.......


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I find slow practice very beneficial. All you have to do is try it to know whether or not it helps you, so why ask? All you get here is an argument. I also find it useful to keep my lateral arm movements fast when I'm doing it so that my fingers are ready and waiting for the moment to press down. Slow is also relative, as my proficiency improves, slow can be as fast as 75% performance speed.


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