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Random errors #2743325
06/10/18 01:02 AM
06/10/18 01:02 AM
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Vancouver BC
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The Monkeys Offline OP
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When my boys learn their pieces, the teacher helps them to tackles each part, practices each section, until they reach a level satisfactory to their current level, of course, there are infinite details they can improve on, but they reach a point that we are doing the best they can do with their current skills.

When they put them together, they start making some seemingly random mistakes. They usually make a mistake at an unexpected place, they play the piece again, the mistake does not repeat but they will make a mistake at another location.

Sometimes we will to do an audio or video recording, it would take 5 to 10 takes to get a good one, i.e. no obvious mistakes. And after some good runs, when they play it again, a mistake or two will appear at a totally different place. Often, at this point, they just move to a new piece at that point, but for occasions like recitals, they want to make the piece reliable, they don't know which part to fix, so they have to play the entire piece over and over and over, I guess until all the muscle memory built up, and it takes a long time to reach that "reliability", if they ever reach that point.

I understand that they have not practiced their piece enough. Their pieces are usually 5-7 minute long now, the approach still somehow works. But when the pieces get longer and longer, I just don't see how this approach will scale.

How do you help your students to deal with these "random" errors?

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Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2743326
06/10/18 01:16 AM
06/10/18 01:16 AM
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Orange County, CA
AZNpiano Offline
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This happens all the time.

I've learned to focus on other aspects of music-making. Being "error-free" does not mean the performance is beautiful or musical.

For example.......

I can probably sight read Level 6 music perfectly without any preparation.

I can play Level 7-8 music perfectly after some practice.

I can play Level 9-10 music decently after some practice, but it might take months (of focused, dedicated hard work!) to get ONE perfect performance out of it.

At some point, you have to make the decision--is it that important to get one perfect performance out of one piece, or should you take that time to learn ten other pieces decently?


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2743424
06/10/18 01:00 PM
06/10/18 01:00 PM
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FLORIDA
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pavane1 Offline
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Playing without mistakes is very hard for piano students. It takes time and experience to play fluently and without error. It comes down to knowing how to practice correctly and also how to keep going and "hide" mistakes when necessary.

Here is a post that has some tips for helping with accuracy in playing.

Feel free to share it with your teacher.

https://www.palomapiano.com/blog-post/10-tips-for-accurate-playing/

Best Wishes

Doreen


Doreen Hall
www.palomapiano.com
Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2743427
06/10/18 01:19 PM
06/10/18 01:19 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 15,969
Canada
keystring Offline
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I am excerpting this part:
Originally Posted by The Monkeys
When my boys learn their pieces, the teacher helps them to tackles each part, practices each section, until they reach a level satisfactory to their current level, ....

It describes what their teacher does with them in a lesson. That's for 1/7 days. The remaining 6/7 days are spent in practising, and often there is much less guidance (if any) on how to practise a piece - how to tackle it at home each day, and over the 6 days. Quite a few adult students will say in retrospect, "I learned many things, but I never learned effective practice (until now)." This may be quite pertinent to your question.

Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2743564
06/11/18 02:31 AM
06/11/18 02:31 AM
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Vancouver BC
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The Monkeys Offline OP
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Thank you AZNpiano for (humbly) sharing your personal experience, and thank you, Doreen, for the sharing your wisdom, and KeyString for the reminder.

Doreen, I like your quote:
“To play a wrong note is insignificant to play without passion is inexcusable.”
And I think AZN was saying essentially the same thing, in his own way.

I will remind them to focus on musicality and play with passion instead of worry about the mistakes, perhaps when they get themselves into the music, the rest will follow.

Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2743576
06/11/18 04:43 AM
06/11/18 04:43 AM
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barbaram Offline

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Good points from everyone, thank you

Doreen, your linked article is full of good sense. I really recognise myself in this comment:
Quote
I find that my students have accuracy problems whenever pieces are half memorized.


And this too is good advice that I follow some of the time but not consistently:
Quote
Hesitate, don’t make a mistake

I think a case can be made for not following this 100% of the time, but for learning and practicing I do think it's invaluable.

Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2743630
06/11/18 12:41 PM
06/11/18 12:41 PM
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TimR Offline
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I don't know about the hesitation thing. I wouldn't want to practice the wrong note, but that hesitation habit seems to be impossible to break. It disappears from consciousness and players don't even realize they're doing it. At later levels it manifests as slowing down for the harder parts, again without noticing.

I don't know the answer - maybe if you have to hesitate, you're playing too fast?

The other 9 looked useful.


gotta go practice
Re: Random errors [Re: TimR] #2743664
06/11/18 03:38 PM
06/11/18 03:38 PM
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Vancouver BC
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The Monkeys Offline OP
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Originally Posted by TimR
I don't know about the hesitation thing. I wouldn't want to practice the wrong note, but that hesitation habit seems to be impossible to break.


At the initial stage, while they are still learning the notes, just make them play slow, the entire section slow.
With the younger one, I play the "slow-motion game" with him, ask him to play 5 to 10 time slower, with a metronome on certain measures he made repeated errors or multiple errors, and he will make slow motion facial expressions to protest. The chance is, if he couldn't play it fast, he couldn't play it slow either, but when playing slow motion, it would take much less tries for him to learn to play it correctly. Then he can speed up.

At the later stage, they will focus on the flow more than the notes, and they will make "inconsistent errors", not many, just a few, but at different places every time, the number of errors will reduce quickly, but it seems to take forever to eliminate, which led to my initial question.



Last edited by The Monkeys; 06/11/18 03:41 PM.
Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2746186
06/21/18 08:44 PM
06/21/18 08:44 PM
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Reseda, California
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JohnSprung Offline
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Wouldn't random errors be the result of insufficient physical skill -- like a baseball player dropping the ball? While consistent errors would result from incorrect notes being memorized?


-- J.S.

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Re: Random errors [Re: JohnSprung] #2746215
06/21/18 11:37 PM
06/21/18 11:37 PM
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Florida
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Wouldn't random errors be the result of insufficient physical skill -- like a baseball player dropping the ball? While consistent errors would result from incorrect notes being memorized?



Hi John
Your premise is not true for me. My random errors are in those meadures that are not technically difficulty. Like a measure I play correctly 499 times, and then with an error once. Therefore when I make a mistake (non-repetitive) , I am surprised ..., I attribute it to temporary lack of focus and complacency.

Systemic errors are not just limited to wrong notes, but to any error that is repetitive, so it could be rhythm, pedal, dynamics, etc., as well. Generally comes from making the error a habit during practice.

Last edited by dogperson; 06/21/18 11:39 PM.
Re: Random errors [Re: dogperson] #2746236
06/22/18 03:09 AM
06/22/18 03:09 AM
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Finland
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outo Offline
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Wouldn't random errors be the result of insufficient physical skill -- like a baseball player dropping the ball? While consistent errors would result from incorrect notes being memorized?



Hi John
Your premise is not true for me. My random errors are in those meadures that are not technically difficulty. Like a measure I play correctly 499 times, and then with an error once. Therefore when I make a mistake (non-repetitive) , I am surprised ..., I attribute it to temporary lack of focus and complacency.


The same with me. With a piece learned my mistakes are almost always random memory/focus related and can occur anywhere. I don't tend to make consistent physical errors after the initial learning period. If I kept making consistent physical errors I would not continue playing the piece through, it's either back to the drawing board or drop the piece as too difficult. But of course there are other kinds of physical errors related to sound, bad voicing or wrong dynamic on a note. Those may be random but often just a sign of more (thinking) work needed on how to make it sound better.

Unfortunately random memory errors occur, no matter how long and how many different methods I practice...sometimes it's the muscle memory that fails and confuses me enough to not recover (usually I just suddenly play the wrong finger on the right note after using the same finger for 200 times) but mostly the brain suddenly shuts down some way and I just do not know what to do or where to go next. I can imagine it's different for those who have more solid memory and focus.

Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2746259
06/22/18 05:49 AM
06/22/18 05:49 AM
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Moscow, Russia
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
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What The Monkeys has described is both a focus and memory problem.

I use the following method to overcome random mistakes. I play a (memorized) piece slow enough and in the middle of every measure I take a short mental glance at the next measure. So while playing a measure I imagine what I should do next and prepare myself for it. It's somewhat similar to reading music, but instead of looking at the next bar with your eyes you take a look into your memory.

Howerer it's not very easy to do and I'm not sure if little kids can do it.

The keyword is: slow

Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2746279
06/22/18 07:36 AM
06/22/18 07:36 AM
Joined: May 2015
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Florida
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Iraslov
Is there a musician alive that plays every note 100% perfectly during a performance? I cannot think of one. Yes, effective practices will reduce errors but there will still be random ones... for everyone. The key is the word random. What is important is how we forgive ourselves and keep moving. Take a score to a concert and follow along; you will find an error you would not have Otherwise noted.

I suggest that you read the book “the perfect wrong note”


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Random errors [Re: dogperson] #2746282
06/22/18 07:54 AM
06/22/18 07:54 AM
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Moscow, Russia
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
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dogperson,

Yes, I agree, no one can be absolutely free from random mistakes. I just told how I try to minimize them.

It would be great if you could summarize the ideas of that mentioned book here.

Re: Random errors [Re: outo] #2746305
06/22/18 10:51 AM
06/22/18 10:51 AM
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Virginia, USA
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TimR Offline
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Originally Posted by outo
Unfortunately random memory errors occur, no matter how long and how many different methods I practice...sometimes it's the muscle memory that fails and confuses me enough to not recover (usually I just suddenly play the wrong finger on the right note after using the same finger for 200 times) but mostly the brain suddenly shuts down some way and I just do not know what to do or where to go next. I can imagine it's different for those who have more solid memory and focus.



Classic Default Mode Network (DMN)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_mode_network


gotta go practice
Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2746848
06/25/18 01:42 AM
06/25/18 01:42 AM
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In addition to the good advice here:

Consistency and accuracy in performance will continue to improve alongside your kids' more general musicianship skills. Things like theory, ear training, knowing all major/minor scales, chords, and arpeggios, and even knowing a bit about the composer and style will actually contribute to the fluency of their playing.

Here is an example to make my point, (even though I assume your children are beyond this stage):

The key of G major always has F#. If the student is well grounded in theory, they know this. If they are well grounded in the scales and arpeggios of G major, their bodies are prepared for this. If they are used to hearing, singing, and recognizing major scales (as well as minor scales and modes)...they can hear what the note should be ahead of time.
Consequently, there is less chance of "random" errors because the process of playing isn't so much "random", as it is being aware of the natural laws of music taking shape. The more you "know", the less is left to chance.

I suspect the types of mistakes you describe in this post result from not really knowing the music down to its nuts and bolts - but more of a surfacey, muscle-memory reliance which tends to evade us often.

Here are a few other things you might try:

- Practice not just slow, but VERY Slow. (As in 30-40 BMP). This type of work shows up weakneses in memory and preparation because it completely breaks down the muscle memory, so students cannot rely on it; they must KNOW every note. If somebody can get through their entire piece at this speed...there is virtually no chance of any kind of "error" or "stutter".

- Listen. I know a lot of teachers disagree with this, but listen to as many different recordings of the pieces as much as possilbe by as many different pianists. In the car, at the bus stop, etc.

- Record the piece hands seperately. Then play one hand as a duet to the recording of the other hand.

- Play the "Three times game", or "Five times game"...where they must repeat a section three or five times in a row perfectly before they move on. This forces focus during each repetition, and keeps the mind on the music. (A wandering mind during practice is the worst enemy in performance!)

Lastly, just know it's a very and time-consuming process to fix. Keep the faith, but as others have mentioned, don't obssess over it and just enjoy the music.

Re: Random errors [Re: Opus_Maximus] #2746857
06/25/18 02:29 AM
06/25/18 02:29 AM
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The Monkeys Offline OP
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Thank you Opus_Maximus, very very helpful post. Yes, I think the deeper understanding of the music or the lack of it, is the root cause, and yes, I do think it will take time, a lot of time to develop that.

Re: Random errors [Re: The Monkeys] #2746863
06/25/18 03:53 AM
06/25/18 03:53 AM
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I'm not a teacher just a lowly adult student but here is my perspective anyway. I have always struggled with the "random errors" problem ever since I started and it has been a subject of much frustration and reflection during this time. My conclusion is that these types of mistakes are always due to a lack of mental preparation (focus, concentration, whatever you might call it) and it is possible to manage them to a certain extent.

There are several things that contribute. First, the difficulty level of the music. I noticed that the difficult pieces at the edge of my abilities, whatever they may be at the present time, are never fully secure and flawless but that easier music that I can slowly sight read can be brought to a flawless level of playing. However, it does not happen of itself and requires concious practice as explained below.

Second, as noted by others, the more you rely on finger memory alone the less secure the music when you play. You have to learn the music in many different ways before it becomes truly reliable. Some ideas to try, which have worked for me:

- Can you play the whole piece hands separate? Often the muscle memory gets confused when you try this, especially in polyphonic music like Bach.
- Can you play legato passages staccato and vice versa? Again, this is to confuse the muscle memory.
- Can you play with eyes closed?
- Can you play one measure, sing the next measure, then continue playing the next measure after that, and so forth without missing a beat? Alternately, you can sing the next measure then play it.
- For polyphonic music, can you play one hand/voice only, then switch to another voice without missing a beat?
- Can you play one voice while signing the other?
- The metronome is controversial but I found that it's relentless ticking helps me keep the forward momentum and to keep going without stopping for any mistakes. It also trains me to choose a tempo that I can keep up. All in all, I would say this is the most important tool to get to play a piece all the way through flawlessly, but you have to be very careful to go slow.
- Knowing theory also helps greatly. For example, you can figure out the chord progression and only play an outline with just the main beat chords.

Finally, as others have already pointed out, you get better at it with more experience.


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Grieg op. 57 no. 6
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