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Mindful Piano Practice
#2649024 06/01/17 12:04 AM
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I just came across this article:

Mindful Piano Practice

It has some great advice about learning a piece using analysis away from the keyboard. The section titled, Visualization, really caught my eye. I love this idea, but in trying it, I can't even get past the first few measures of a piece I know pretty well. Anyone here good at this skill?

(Be sure to scroll to the very bottom of the article, there's a nice pdf to print of 10 tips for practicing w/out the piano.)

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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649037 06/01/17 01:00 AM
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Do you have statistics, to which percentage of pianists this method does not fit, and the division by age of possibility to master it?

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
Nahum #2649059 06/01/17 03:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Do you have statistics, to which percentage of pianists this method does not fit, and the division by age of possibility to master it?


OH, for Pete's sake! This was posted as a possible approach found by a piano student; why would he need to post statistics about usefulness by any statistical criteria???

If it is of benefit to any of us in particular, do it. ff it doesn't help anyone in particular, do something else. I, for one, find it useful but do not follow it consistently; I just can't determine fingering well away from the piano as I need to feel the hand span and hear the impact that fingering changes make. To someone else, that might not be an issue.

Last edited by dogperson; 06/01/17 07:38 AM. Reason: typo
Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649074 06/01/17 05:07 AM
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I've been using and refining a method like this for some years.

This article by Bernhard on How to Practise is one of the influential sources on my journey. This one also, on practising long pieces, was very useful. There are a few posts by Bernhard in the thread that make good reading and amplify his system as a whole.

Graham Fitch recently wrote a six part blog about a similar system beginning here.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649091 06/01/17 07:24 AM
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Thanks for the link.

Basically the author, in this article outlines the advantages of playing from the mind and a method to develop this I skill. This is what I am working on in my own practice but it is a new artistic skill that may take a very long time to develop. I focus on very simple pieces to develop this skill and of course one can use scales to cultivate the ability to play from imagination.

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649104 06/01/17 08:34 AM
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Cool, zrtf90, I now have 3 new tabs to look at this morning, on top of all the other ones on Melanie Spanswick's blog. There's just so much to absorb about piano! Oh my, I just had a thought....and that's pretty darn amazing for so early in the morning. I could apply this imaging to getting better at playing scales. Gonna give it a try, right after I have my tea. wink

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
Nahum #2649114 06/01/17 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Do you have statistics, to which percentage of pianists this method does not fit, and the division by age of possibility to master it?


I have to ask: is this a genuine question or are you just being argumentative? It comes off as an unfriendly challenge.

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649123 06/01/17 09:14 AM
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I just scrolled down to the Visualization section, and she talks about how practicing away from the piano can help with interpretive ideas:

Quote
Once free of having to actually play a piece, it’s possible to decide how to interpret, colour, and enrich with efficiency and ease. The act of thinking through any piano work will definitely change original perceptions of interpretation and it will also encourage far greater confidence.


This I totally agree with. I think this needs to be a part of the process from the very beginning stages of learning a piece. Being able to "hear" in your mind what sound you are ultimately going for is really important. Most well-written pieces I will "get" right away and know what I want, but often there's a section or two that eludes me. I may find it particularly uninteresting (hey, even great composers had to put in fluff sometimes) or an enigma musically. These I chew on for long periods of time until I arrive at a conclusion as to how I want to play it.

Until I arrive at these conclusions, however, those areas may remain uninteresting and just purely technical when practicing at the piano. Once I know what to do, then I feel I'm mostly done with a piece.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649139 06/01/17 09:50 AM
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Thanks for posting this. In my travels, I observe that it is mostly a few advanced pianists, typically 10 years or more experience with teacher lessons, that can do the full visualization, full mental practice. That doesn't mean that beginners can't try it. There are baby steps along the way. A beginner may want the score and/or a recording to help with their mental practice.

As for me, I can hear certain pieces in my mind, but not do the full mental practice. When I am composing (amateur), I know I have something when that music begins to haunt me away from the piano.

The earlier section about writing out the score if a person wants to perform and/or memorize a piece is another powerful tool. The more parts of the mind a person can engage, the deeper the connection with a particular piece of music. As I sometimes say, live it, breathe it, sleep it, before you perform a piece. A piece that gets that deep, almost becomes part of a person, especially if a person is composing.

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
Sand Tiger #2649146 06/01/17 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
As I sometimes say, live it, breathe it, sleep it, before you perform a piece. A piece that gets that deep, almost becomes part of a person, especially if a person is composing.


Yes, this is that I am seeking. The music flowing through my body, into the piano, and then back again.

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
Nahum #2649157 06/01/17 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Do you have statistics, to which percentage of pianists this method does not fit, and the division by age of possibility to master it?



Do you?


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
Sand Tiger #2649162 06/01/17 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
Thanks for posting this. In my travels, I observe that it is mostly a few advanced pianists, typically 10 years or more experience with teacher lessons, that can do the full visualization, full mental practice. That doesn't mean that beginners can't try it. There are baby steps along the way. A beginner may want the score and/or a recording to help with their mental practice. ...................................

I agree that this method will work better for those with longer and more formal training--maybe even before the advanced level and maybe before ten years has elapsed--but definitely for those with some time at the piano under their belt.

For the beginning pianist without instruction in how a fugue is constructed, or sonata form, or the ability to identify themes, musical analysis is going to be frustrating. Most beginners will not even be playing fugues or sonata form pieces with themes. Fingering is another thing that comes with experience and exposure to a wide variety of music.

Zrtf90 references several links to Bernhard's writings. Bernhard had a lot of good advice, imo, and it's all well worth reading. More Bernhard practice tips. The biggest problem I see with Bernhard's advice is that it requires a prodigious amount of discipline to sustain. I'm guessing most of us fall short in that respect. I certainly do. But even if a small amount of it rubs off, you're ahead of the game.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649175 06/01/17 11:11 AM
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The author's suggestions may seem overwhelming because she outlines many approaches in a single article. I don't believe she is recommending that someone use all approaches, which wouldn't make sense to me.

Valentina Lisitsa outlined her approach in a video:

"You are witnessing the first read-through and by the end of an hour the piece is pretty much in my fingers and memory.

The ONLY prep steps I took ( very important for all of you who wonders how to approach a new piece) - the night before I listened ( on YouTube , of course) to something like 15-20 different interpretations of this piece. I zeroed in on the one that I wanted to by "my teacher" for the moment - "Philip Fowke at the Proms" ( yes there are others , different and perhaps better in some parts - like incomparable Liberace ) but this video served all my purposes best - after all I WAS GOING to play it at PROMS! Why not study with the performance live from Proms?

With that - when I opened the sheet music for the first time ( and you see , it wouldn't stay open - the new score!) I knew the tunes, I knew the tempos - more or less, I watched carefully how the pianist who already knows the piece approaches it. So, I was all prepared :-) Except I never touched a single note of it before and never saw actual music."

She is preparing a new piece by firmly implanting the music in her mind. My guess is that she evolved this approach over many years of experimentation and practice, but as a beginner I am simplifying the approach by practicing on very simple, easy to hear (in my mind) pieces.

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
Stubbie #2649179 06/01/17 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
Thanks for posting this. In my travels, I observe that it is mostly a few advanced pianists, typically 10 years or more experience with teacher lessons, that can do the full visualization, full mental practice. That doesn't mean that beginners can't try it. There are baby steps along the way. A beginner may want the score and/or a recording to help with their mental practice. ...................................

I agree that this method will work better for those with longer and more formal training--maybe even before the advanced level and maybe before ten years has elapsed--but definitely for those with some time at the piano under their belt.

For the beginning pianist without instruction in how a fugue is constructed, or sonata form, or the ability to identify themes, musical analysis is going to be frustrating. Most beginners will not even be playing fugues or sonata form pieces with themes. Fingering is another thing that comes with experience and exposure to a wide variety of music.

Zrtf90 references several links to Bernhard's writings. Bernhard had a lot of good advice, imo, and it's all well worth reading. More Bernhard practice tips. The biggest problem I see with Bernhard's advice is that it requires a prodigious amount of discipline to sustain. I'm guessing most of us fall short in that respect. I certainly do. But even if a small amount of it rubs off, you're ahead of the game.


I find that some aspects of analyzing the score could be done by any pianist, even beginning-- with the analysis getting more in depth as learning progresses. My suggestions, even for beginning pianists:
- What key is it in? Therefore, what are the sharps and flat in the piece?
- What are the dynamics?
- If any sections of the piece repeat, are they identical to the first time? If not, how are they different?
- Do I understand everything- are there any new skills I need to play this? (i.e., unfamiliar rhythms)
- Are there any sections that will probably be a problem for me?


There are probably more questions that any pianist could ask away from the keyboard.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
dogperson #2649201 06/01/17 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
Thanks for posting this. In my travels, I observe that it is mostly a few advanced pianists, typically 10 years or more experience with teacher lessons, that can do the full visualization, full mental practice. That doesn't mean that beginners can't try it. There are baby steps along the way. A beginner may want the score and/or a recording to help with their mental practice. ...................................

I agree that this method will work better for those with longer and more formal training--maybe even before the advanced level and maybe before ten years has elapsed--but definitely for those with some time at the piano under their belt.

For the beginning pianist without instruction in how a fugue is constructed, or sonata form, or the ability to identify themes, musical analysis is going to be frustrating. Most beginners will not even be playing fugues or sonata form pieces with themes. Fingering is another thing that comes with experience and exposure to a wide variety of music.

Zrtf90 references several links to Bernhard's writings. Bernhard had a lot of good advice, imo, and it's all well worth reading. More Bernhard practice tips. The biggest problem I see with Bernhard's advice is that it requires a prodigious amount of discipline to sustain. I'm guessing most of us fall short in that respect. I certainly do. But even if a small amount of it rubs off, you're ahead of the game.


I find that some aspects of analyzing the score could be done by any pianist, even beginning-- with the analysis getting more in depth as learning progresses. My suggestions, even for beginning pianists:
- What key is it in? Therefore, what are the sharps and flat in the piece?
- What are the dynamics?
- If any sections of the piece repeat, are they identical to the first time? If not, how are they different?
- Do I understand everything- are there any new skills I need to play this? (i.e., unfamiliar rhythms)
- Are there any sections that will probably be a problem for me?


There are probably more questions that any pianist could ask away from the keyboard.

Yes, she mentions those in the first paragraph of the Musical Analysis section as the first level of analysis, which, as you say, everyone can and should do, but when she gets to the paragraph about dissecting the score, that gets more complicated.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649208 06/01/17 12:35 PM
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I'm rereading Bernhard's posts on practicing from the links in this thread. I first came upon them a few years ago and was trying them out and then allowed myself to get discouraged by remarks that I was interpreting what he wrote too rigidly, when he didn't mean it rigidly.

Well, since then I've learned more about when to be rigid and when to be flexible, that suit my own needs for rigidity or flexibility, rather than anyone else's needs, and I find on rereading Bernhard's materials that they make the most sense to me at a detailed and gut level than anything else I've ever read about practicing.

So I'm going to add my own understanding of Bernhard's methods back into my practicing.

ETA: in the short time I was using (my understanding of) Bernhard's practice methods,I was making immensely more progress in much less time than at any time before or since. I shouldn't have let myself get discouraged. It was that sense of incredibly expanded progress that draws me back.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
PianoStudent88 #2649214 06/01/17 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
I'm rereading Bernhard's posts on practicing from the links here. I first came upon them a few years ago and was trying them out and then allowed myself to get discouraged by remarks that I was interpreting what he wrote too rigidly, when he didn't mean it rigidly.

Well, since then I've learned more about when to be rigid and when to be flexible, that suit my own needs for rigidity or flexibility, rather than anyone else's needs, and I find on rereading Bernhard's materials that they make the most sense to me at a detailed and gut level than anything else I've ever read about practicing.

So I'm going to add my own understanding of Bernhard's methods back into my practicing.


Often articles or books take a shotgun approach to learning, throwing every possible approach in a single "method" and what you get, if one truly attempts to use the whole method is something that is not only impractical but internally conflicting and contentious.

My guess is that every artist had developed their own unique approach that works that may include some (but probably not all) elements of the article. Valentina Lisitsa describes a very straightforward approach that either beginners or advanced pianists can begin to learn. She listens the dickens out of a preferred rendition of a piece on YouTube, gets all of the intonations and rhythms in her body (mind to fingers) and she is set to learn the piece from some score.

I don't think it is necessary to overkill the subject by learning every possible approach. As you suggest, one might consider maintaining flexibility in approach and execution.

Re: Mindful Piano Practice
DutchTea #2649220 06/01/17 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Richrf
Lisitsa ... listens the dickens out of a preferred rendition of a piece on YouTube, gets all of the intonations and rhythms in her body (mind to fingers) and she is set to learn the piece from some score.

From what I've tried of this previously, that is soul-deadening for me. If I'm going to discover it as a helpful method, I'm going have to proceed far more slowly, adapting or adopting bits of this in incremental stages as scaffolding for learning how to do it.

It's interesting you bring up the idea of learning many different approaches, because in writing my post I was thinking about bringing in ideas about learning from multiple sources or one source. I think there's a balance. Sometimes it's useful to learn about a lot of different approaches. Sometimes it's useful to find one source or method that speaks to you deeply, and focus on that. To a certain extent, I am wondering if perhaps one can only recognize the deep single source for one's concentration for a while after seeing and trying many sources.

I'm thinking about this because this spring, after years of studying Argentine tango with many different teachers, and always feeling somewhat inadequate, I have discovered a teacher who has shown me a complete new way of understanding and dancing this dance. It's still the same dance, but my mental and physical orientation is now completely different. And I no longer feel inadequate, and I think that almost overnight I have suddenly increased both my and my partners' enjoyment of the dance into a completely different realm.

I'm now discarding huge gobs of what I thought I had learned previously, as not helpful to me. Or at least, not helpful to me in this stage of my life.

But I don't know if I could have recognized or absorbed what I'm learning from this teacher, without having experienced all the other approaches.

So right now I feel that way about piano practice approaches: I've read and tried various approaches, many of which are saying similar things, with various tweaks, but the only one that has really clicked for me is Bernhard's way of describing it. So that's the teacher I'm going to follow in this season of my life.


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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
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Originally Posted by dogperson

I find that some aspects of analyzing the score could be done by any pianist, even beginning-- with the analysis getting more in depth as learning progresses. My suggestions, even for beginning pianists:
- What key is it in? Therefore, what are the sharps and flat in the piece?



Although the key signature will certainly identify any sharps or flats, and that is very important, it is equally important from an analyzing perspective to realize the sharps and flats determine what is the tone center of the piece.

Because many beginners start from and thus are comfortable with "C" and "C chords" and "C position", I find that they seem to therefore operate from a "C" perspective, regardless of the key signature. Its like a piece with one sharp is still somehow C except that now F is being sharped.

When they realize that a piece with one sharp is not centered around "C" with the addition of a sharp, but is rather centered around "G" (considering the major here), and the tone center of the piece is now G and G chords and their relations (sub-dominant, dominant, relative minor, etc).

That is an important distinction that starts the analysis from the proper concept.

I know this might sound like nit-picking, but I find that beginners often do not understand the implications of the sharps and flats, that it goes beyond what keys to sharp or flat.

Especially since I have seen a few beginner pieces that have a sharp in the key signature, but lack even one "F" in the piece to which to apply that sharp.

Last edited by rocket88; 06/01/17 01:23 PM.

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Re: Mindful Piano Practice
PianoStudent88 #2649229 06/01/17 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88


So right now I feel that way about piano practice approaches: I've read and tried various approaches, many of which are saying similar things, with various tweaks, but the only one that has really clicked for me is Bernhard's way of describing it. So that's the teacher I'm going to follow in this season of my life.


Yes, a pianist seeks and experiments with different approaches looking for one that feels right-everyone is different.

As of now, Lisitsa's approach makes most sense to me. It is simple in it's approach, easy to comprehend and implement (of course only on very simple pieces for me), focuses on imagination and creativity, and is in complete concordance with my other arts that I study. I always seek symmetry in my approaches since development in any one will support development in all.

I'm always flexible and as I develop better understanding I may tweak or total change my approach. I remember my first tango teacher made things so complicated (dance teachers relish complexity since it creates a steady flow of lessons) and then I had classes with another teacher who made it all so simple. Of course, I changed my approach under these circumstances. 😃



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