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Albunea Offline OP
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This is a topic that interests me very much because my preference seems to be in the minority, so much that I thought I was the only one, or that it was just due to my low level and I'd have to end up doing it that other style that is majority (chunking). I was very happy to find out there is still a possible method that won't chunk! In this thread we can see that's the Op's teacher's method and at least one other teacher's in the thread: http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/1703762/two-methods-which-is-correct.html

Someone else here has mostly learnt whole pieces instead of chunking?

I can understand there will always be something good to learn by practicing the other style a bit, or in particular circumstances, but my preference is clearly "whole piece" style.

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Hi
I think you should ask yourself why is the whole piece style your preference? Do you learn better that way? Do you progress faster ? Or like most of us do you like starting from the beginning over and over because it is just more fun to always play the sections that you can play well?

Many will recommend just playing through the entire piece the first time to identify the problems and then work on the problems in small segments. If you go back and look at the post that you linked, The overriding consensus was not just play through from the beginning to the end time after time, but to use this method sporadically.


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In the post you linked, the teacher using the "whole piece" method also works on "chunks."

...stop and work on the problem area until you are certain it is fixed...


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Originally Posted by Albunea
Someone else here has mostly learnt whole pieces instead of chunking?


Porque no los dos?


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Chunks, sections, parts .. almost always when learning something new. There are always spots in a piece that are harder for me, or I have to go slower with to begin. I will run through the entire piece from time to time, but it will have to be at a tempo of the weakest part, although I may have practiced other parts at a higher tempo.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
I think you should ask yourself why is the whole piece style your preference? Do you learn better that way? Do you progress faster ? Or like most of us do you like starting from the beginning over and over because it is just more fun to always play the sections that you can play well?

+1!!! This is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make. If you want to improve you have to work on what's hard not what makes you feel good.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Hi
I think you should ask yourself why is the whole piece style your preference?

It might be because I have a big imagination and even if I don't play it well I can appreciate the music I'm playing if I do it this way.


Do you learn better that way? Do you progress faster ?

I think I do. I progress very slowly with either method.


Or like most of us do you like starting from the beginning over and over because it is just more fun to always play the sections that you can play well?

I play it all, not just the beginning. Have in mind my pieces are not that long. laugh And I am starting to seriously wonder if people like it this way. It seems to me people do prefer to practice in chunks!

Many will recommend just playing through the entire piece the first time to identify the problems and then work on the problems in small segments. If you go back and look at the post that you linked, The overriding consensus was not just play through from the beginning to the end time after time, but to use this method sporadically.

Yes. Everybody always says "practice in fragments", so I was happy to see TWO teachers saying something different. We are told "practice the problem areas" from the very first days, but there are no problem areas in method pieces! The whole piece is a problem to solve, but the difficulty is not in one little fragment but in the whole of it.


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Albunea Offline OP
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malkin, Whizbang, yes, I agree there is room for both. But people are all the time saying to practice in fragments!

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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Chunks, sections, parts .. almost always when learning something new. There are always spots in a piece that are harder for me, or I have to go slower with to begin. I will run through the entire piece from time to time, but it will have to be at a tempo of the weakest part, although I may have practiced other parts at a higher tempo.


Do you remember if you found spots that were harder in your level 1 and 2 pieces? I'd say there are generally no harder spots.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft

+1!!! This is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make. If you want to improve you have to work on what's hard not what makes you feel good.


Well, I'd like to feel good while learning piano!

Nobody has mentioned that the "whole piece" method is much better to learn reading. Just being able to read music is a pleasure in itself and I like the idea that I am doing well in that regard.


Something else I've thought in relation to the topic and was forgetting now: the same as we get muscle memory in our fingers, we also get muscle memory in our whole being. By practicing the piece as a whole, the music gets very inside of us and guides us in our learning.

Ok, comment. laugh It is a bit poetic, isn't it? laugh I think it makes sense. smile

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Originally Posted by Albunea
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Chunks, sections, parts .. almost always when learning something new. There are always spots in a piece that are harder for me, or I have to go slower with to begin. I will run through the entire piece from time to time, but it will have to be at a tempo of the weakest part, although I may have practiced other parts at a higher tempo.


Do you remember if you found spots that were harder in your level 1 and 2 pieces? I'd say there are generally no harder spots.

I’d like to react to this, as I’m playing grade 1 / 2 material every day.

Most of the pieces that I play have these hard spots. I at first tried to remedy these hard spots the way you prefer to, by playing the whole thing through a couple of times. I noticed very little progress on a day to day basis like this. Ever since I started really focusing down on the problematic spots, the pieces get to a good place way faster.

I have several ways of chunking. If the piece is written in staccato, I’ll play the whole piece with just the left or right hand. If it’s one or two measures that trip me up, I’ll repeat those measures plus the ones before and after it. Very sporadically, I’ll repeat a single measure for a few minutes. While this works, I also feel that this is the most mechanical way to do chunking; if you aren’t 100% focused you aren’t really improving. If a piece has a clear A and B section, I’ve also found it very useful to practice these separately, no matter how short these are.

As said before, I spot these problematic spots by playing through the whole thing once. Just find the part where your brain has to pause, where there’s the slightest of hesitation, and go to town on that part.


I've started playing January 2017, Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.

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Originally Posted by Keselo

Very sporadically, I’ll repeat a single measure for a few minutes. While this works, I also feel that this is the most mechanical way to do chunking; if you aren’t 100% focused you aren’t really improving.


Maybe that's my main problem. I've noticed how difficult it is for me to focus while doing that.

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Some years ago I noticed a lot of "contradicting" information that was all true. This morphed eventually into the idea that these things are all different sides to the same thing called music, so one doesn't contradict the other. Then also, I was told some years ago, "There is no 'it'." as in "That's it!" - I was warned against "IT's". If you are told to do anything, and you do that thing religiously, exclusively, and only that way, then it ends up being wrong -- if you switch to doing its opposite, it is equally wrong. The trick is in fluidity, versatility, adaptability. That same fluidity is also disturbing, because it removes the security of surefire rules. You don't want to slip into the wrongness of just going by the seat of your pants like a totally self-taught person (which I came out of, personally), but you can't be straightjacketed into narrow rules.

For what you're writing about - I am not an expert in this - but a fellow learner:

In music we have the whole picture, how everything fits together, and also the little parts. When someone tells a story, you know you start somewhere, an adventure or crisis or puzzle comes up, and then it ends with the crisis solved and it relates to how the story started. If you just took this story as a series of isolated, disconnected sentences for 10 pages, it would be meaningless and uninteresting. We need to gain that kind of sense in music.

I think you want to allow yourself some going back and forth. You might want to play through the whole piece or a large section to get a feel for the whole from time to time. But if you only do that, your weak areas stay weak, and you are also wasting valuable time. I.e. if 20% of the piece needs work, and you are playing the whole thing, you are wasting time on the other 80%. That said, HOW you do the chunking - how you do any of it, in fact, makes a difference.

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Originally Posted by Albunea
Originally Posted by Keselo

Very sporadically, I’ll repeat a single measure for a few minutes. While this works, I also feel that this is the most mechanical way to do chunking; if you aren’t 100% focused you aren’t really improving.


Maybe that's my main problem. I've noticed how difficult it is for me to focus while doing that.

If this is what you are doing (repeating a single measure for a few minutes), that would be a problem in itself. It's not that effective, and a guarantee for the mind escaping elsewhere. wink When you practice, have a precise goal in mind, and focus on it in your chunk. For example, presently I'm practising an advanced piece with broken chords altering each beat in patterns I'm not used to, with fingering that is tricky for me. For two days I practised 2 measures + 2 measures only for having the fingering flow with the notes, and consistently. 5 minutes or less. Then on to 4 measures that already got practised that way (I go backward, so I've practised m. 9-10, and go on to m. 7-8), use what is in my hands from that practising, and start adding dynamics, articulation. I also take what I just practised as a new thing, and flow it into the more advanced measures. In a half hour practice, the point of focus may have shifted several times, keeping it fresh.
Does this help at all, or does it just confuse? wink

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If there truly are no problem areas, and you can play through the piece perfectly at tempo, with desired articulation and expression then there doesn't seem to be a need for practicing sections.

If there are mistakes, then these spots will be improved by practicing the spot and will not improve much by playing through the piece. I believe this is true even if the mistake is a new one, but it is especially true if the mistake is one that shows up consistently or intermittently.


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I'm one of your garden variety practice it all, forever kind of learners.
Whenever I start to practice, I usually start from the beginning, looking for problem sections and those that took some progress.

I can give a few arguments in favor of it, the same ones I use to justify the approach to myself -

- There are 'NO' 'good' sections in a piece. Piano is a very, very deceiving instrument. For a month straight, it'll have you play a relatively easy section in the flow correctly each and every time, to a degree where the section will breeze past your conscience. It'll just work, just like it always did.
And then suddenly it won't. A section you could play for a month without any issues would have you tripping up a 100 times consecutively, forcing you to slow it down and work on it even more finely, until it finally (hopefully) sticks and doesn't come undone in future. While playing from the beginning, you'll unravel many such sections over the course of your long term practice. Letting you know what actually needs practice, when you'd have otherwise thought that it's 'good enough'.

- An even more important point is, repeated practice and at tempo run through. The more of that you'd get done the firmer and more confidently embedded will the piece get in your head. Even for playing for 'joy', you're making yourself more confident and more acquainted with the piece as a whole. You would have to do it eventually if you follow the sectional approach and don't give enough priority to playing it as a whole. Your sections would be okay but their 'joints' and 'connection points' would be weak. So you WILL end up playing through the whole piece after your sectional approach is complete for many, many days until it starts sounding acceptable for an audience to hear.
One way or another, both the approaches are just two routes running in parallel. It's just a matter of doing what first and what second (the sectional approach), or getting one thing accomplished while at the process of doing the other (the whole piece approach).

These are just my findings and to me, they make a lot of practical sense. I don't shy away from working in sections, only when I find a section that needs work that I settle down into it for the rest of the session. Your mileage may vary, as always.

One thing I'd like to point out is that until the piece is in my grasp, I usually do a run through of the whole piece from the beginning to however far I am, a single time. Not for the heck of it, but to recapitulate and bring back the feelings from previous sessions. It barely takes 5 minutes to do that and preps me up by letting me know which exact areas need work today and what improved.

Repeating a piece from the start multiple times usually happens after I'm reasonably fluid with the piece and when I'm meaning to polish it further.

Starting a piece from the very start after every single mistake isn't just a mistake, it's along the lines of stupidity.

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I used to play through the whole piece over and over because that is way more fun. If it worked for me, I would still practice that way. Unfortunately, I have found it about 500% more effective to chunk. So what I do now, is chunk away, and then reward myself with a play through when I get bored of the chunk.

Perhaps as you get into harder and longer pieces your preference will change. In grade 3 sonatinas is where I really had to change my method over to chunking.

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Originally Posted by Albunea
Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Chunks, sections, parts .. almost always when learning something new. There are always spots in a piece that are harder for me, or I have to go slower with to begin. I will run through the entire piece from time to time, but it will have to be at a tempo of the weakest part, although I may have practiced other parts at a higher tempo.


Do you remember if you found spots that were harder in your level 1 and 2 pieces? I'd say there are generally no harder spots.


I would say even for those pieces, yes, in the beginning. There is usually a phrase or some part that can be viewed a single unit. Sometimes I had to divide things up by individual bars!


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I've been using a bit of a hybrid approach that seems to work out well for me. I follow the suggestions made here: http://kantsmusictuition.blogspot.com/2007/09/how-to-practice.html about breaking the practice sessions up.

To quote a bit from that link: "Anything that can be learned by repetition will be learned after seven repetitions. If after seven repetitions you have not learned the “chunk”, it means that the chunk was to large for the brain to handle. You must break it down into smaller chunks."

So, I can work on several "chunks." But, all the chunks can be consecutive chunks of the same piece of work. I do try to play the whole piece through just to get a feel for it, but I work on it in consecutive chunks. So, 15 - 20 minutes of chunk 1, 15 - 20 minutes of chunk 2, 15 - 20 minutes of chunk 3, etc. I then do play from the start down through the last chunk I've worked on to kind of join them together so to speak. As a chunk is learned I drop it off from chunk playing and add another.

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Originally Posted by keystring
...
In music we have the whole picture, how everything fits together, and also the little parts. When someone tells a story, you know you start somewhere, an adventure or crisis or puzzle comes up, and then it ends with the crisis solved and it relates to how the story started. If you just took this story as a series of isolated, disconnected sentences for 10 pages, it would be meaningless and uninteresting. We need to gain that kind of sense in music...


Yes. A convincing performance carries the story well and ties all the phrases together. Even if sloppy and riddled with mistakes it will still be likely to get an enthusiastic positive response from an average audience if it does a reasonable job of telling the story.

We fuss a lot here about the finer details like not making any mistakes in our recordings, but generally just carrying the notion of the phrase, tying it to the next and getting through the piece to the end is the most important. This will be better then all the correct notes, but hesitations, rhythm issues that distort the feel and confuses the meaning of the story.

As for chunking, I've learned about it here and is a good idea I think. It can allow you to work on the more difficult sections early which can surely help when trying to develop a piece in a constrained time frame. I try to do this now where I think it can help. Not for any strategy when I play it, but just to get the most difficult sections out of the way first. Or at least, start making progress with them as the rest of it is developed.

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