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Final practice tips needed! #2778063
11/04/18 01:02 PM
11/04/18 01:02 PM
Joined: Jun 2018
Posts: 37
Sweden
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Animisha Offline OP
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I am practicing a piece with 41 measures, which is my longest piece so far. I did everything like I should, started practicing very slowly and very gradually raised the tempo, practiced difficult parts over and over and over again, and now I can play the piece in the final tempo (65), but here comes the problem: I keep making mistakes, but rarely the same ones. I play through the whole piece and make a mistake in measure 3, in measure 9 and in measure 34. I correct each mistake before I move on. Next time I play through this piece, I make a mistake in measure 11, in measure 16, and in 28. And this goes on and on. I make mistakes in easy parts, and I make mistakes in more difficult parts. So far, I haven't even once played the whole piece without any mistake.
Is there any other way to practice this piece than just playing it through from beginning to end and correcting each mistake, and hope that in the end, I will be able to play the whole piece correctly? I have tried to lower the metronome again, but I don't make less mistakes when I put it on 50, or 55.
Any advice is very welcome!

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Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778069
11/04/18 01:11 PM
11/04/18 01:11 PM
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New York City
pianoloverus Online content
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Try and figure out why you made a particular mistake even if they are different. Are you playing from memory or with the score?m

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778072
11/04/18 01:17 PM
11/04/18 01:17 PM
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Animisha Offline OP
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I play with the score. And some mistakes are incomprehensible. A note that I have played correctly at least a hundred times, and suddenly I make a mistake. It might be just my concentration waning for a couple of seconds...

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778073
11/04/18 01:18 PM
11/04/18 01:18 PM
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Tyrone Slothrop Online content
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This doesn't give much insight into the most effective and efficient way to address this issue, but as a beginner, I often have this happen on long repertoire pieces. I just have been finding, that the more I practice a piece, and correct the mistakes, the few mistakes that I make. On long pieces, many of my mistakes are in easy parts, and they too go away with continued practice.

I'm sure other ABF members will have more efficient ways to iron out errors though and I look forward to seeing those as my way is certainly time consuming.


across the stone, deathless piano performances
Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2778076
11/04/18 01:26 PM
11/04/18 01:26 PM
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Animisha Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
I just have been finding, that the more I practice a piece, and correct the mistakes, the few mistakes that I make. On long pieces, many of my mistakes are in easy parts, and they too go away with continued practice.

Good. At least, there is hope! smile

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778078
11/04/18 01:28 PM
11/04/18 01:28 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 21,661
Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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How do you correct your mistakes? Do you analyze them and understand how or why you made them? If there is a mistake in the notes of a chord, do you correct just the chord? If there is a mistake in a melody note, do you correct just that note?

When you have isolated (and corrected) a mistake, do you play that correction in context? That is, do you play through the entire phrase that has that correction, and not just the note or chord? Then, as slowly as you need to, play that phrase five times without making a mistake. If you make a mistake, start again at the first of five times. It's tedious, but it's one way of assuring that you are finally going to get it right when playing through.

Finally, occasionally - but perhaps not too often if you are still inclined to make mistakes - play through the piece without stopping, regardless of mistakes. While we need to correct mistakes when learning a piece, we also need to be able to play through a piece, on occasion, without correcting our mistakes, so that we have a sense of the continuity of the piece.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778082
11/04/18 01:36 PM
11/04/18 01:36 PM
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John305 Offline
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Concentration can definitely be a part of it. During the process of learning the music you also need to practice being extremely focused. I know we all think we can focus but playing a piece we think we know shows us how easy it is to lose our focus. The other thing I would suggest is to not play it through from start to finish every time if you’re still making mistakes. Break it up into phrases or lines or whatever seems to be reasonable. Play these and see if you can focus well enough to play the phrase/line several times without mistakes. When you can do that increase the chunk you’re playing to two phrases or lines and see how that goes. Keep building this way until you can play/focus for the entire piece.

One last thought, I find that once I learn a piece to the point it sounds like your at, let’s say it took a month, it may take a few more weeks to a month to polish it to the point that I can play it consistently without mistakes. The polishing phase can seem tedious but is necessary if you want to get to a point that you can play it mistake free.

Last edited by John305; 11/04/18 01:41 PM.

It’s never too late to be what you might have been. -George Eliot
Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778210
11/04/18 06:15 PM
11/04/18 06:15 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
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Ireland (ex England)
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by Animisha
I keep making mistakes, but rarely the same ones...
This suggests a) inexperience, b) lack of concentration and c) Bach. wink

Originally Posted by Animisha
I haven't even once played the whole piece without any mistake...
What's the longest passage you usually play without mistakes? Do you vary the tempo from slow, to moderate, to performance and back to slow?

Originally Posted by Animisha
I have tried to lower the metronome again...
Are you actually playing along with the metronome? Do you regularly play sections slowly of one, two and four phrases at a time? How often do you play the whole thing through as the first thing you do in a practise session (i.e. without warming up to it)?

Do you block practise or interleave individual phrases/sections with other material (so you always have to concentrate)?

Do you record your playing as a form of stress testing?


Richard
Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778274
11/05/18 12:44 AM
11/05/18 12:44 AM
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Posts: 348
Toronto, Canada
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thepianoplayer416 Offline
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Playing with a metronome is effective for me. After learning a piece well, I have a tendency to speed up and at a certain point I wouldn't be able to play. I tend to feel the music is slower than it actually is after a while so having a steady beat is important.

A lot of piano teachers online suggested working on a section you find difficult. After you master that section you'd start from the section before, run over the section you had trouble and continue to the section after and stop. Pushing your fingers to play from the beginning to the end each time to fix 1 mistake is not good. After a while your hands get so tired they won't be able to play.

1 effective way to practice I got from Graham Fitch of Pianist Magazine is working through your piece slowly not more than a few measures at a time. Even if you feel you know your piece, the bottom-line is to train your hand & finger muscles to play properly. You need to feel the notes you're playing. You'd play anywhere from 3-5 measures at a time at 50% of your normal speed or even slower to get a feel of your fingers. A lot of starting and stopping in the process to get your fingers to push forward but after playing several measures, your fingers need to loosen up to release stress. At a slow tempo you're not going to put much stress on your fingers. The main thing is to get a feel of your hand playing in various positions and hit all the right notes. Playing very slow isn't as easy as it sounds.

You can also try to start randomly at a specific spot and play until the end of a section (never from the beginning to the end until you're ready). For the waltz I'm working on I'd pick a random starting point such as measure 15 and get to the end of the section at measure 30 and stop. I should be able to start from the beginning of any measure and play for a few measures ahead.

After practicing slow for a while, you can take out a metronome and start speeding up gradually like no more than 5bps at a time until you hit the ideal tempo. You should be able to play with very few mistakes at a slow tempo before moving on. If you start making too many mistakes you know the tempo is a bit fast for the moment. The last thing I'd do is take a break even when I am making mistakes all over. I don't want my muscles to lock in the wrong notes so I keep repeating them. All I need is 1 good run and my hand muscles lock in the right notes.

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778301
11/05/18 04:46 AM
11/05/18 04:46 AM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 567
Australia
cathryn999 Online content
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Hi Animisha,
There's some great advice here (and zrtf90 made me laugh - "sounds like Bach" - yep!). I think the problem is, from what you've described, playing through from start to finish, and trying to play at tempo too soon.

I'm a big believer in if you want to play without mistakes, don't make mistakes when learning. That sounds trite, but it's surprisingly effective. It means you need to play slow enough when learning (and practising) to play each note, each phrase, each expression, correctly each time. So... if you're still finding you make the odd mistake at 55, what if you slow it down to 40? Or even slower?

The other really important thing, which others have mentioned, is to practice in sections. Possibly the worst thing you could do at this stage is to play through from start to finish. As you know, practicing is the training of the muscles and the brain, with the aim being to move from highly-focused, deliberate selective attention to automaticity. We have a limited working memory capacity, and the brain consolidates learning much better in small chunks. Our brains simply don't have the capacity to consolidate 41 bars in one go.

So... what the others said. Small sections, perhaps 8 bars at most and preferably less, super slow. Then ramp up the metronome by just a few bpm (I've even done this increasing by 3 or 4 bpm at a time), then a few bpm more. If you can play it perfectly at 40, 44 shouldn't be too hard, right? If you can play it perfectly at 44, 48 comes easily. And so on. Don't practice more than 20 minutes. Have lots of breaks, do something different in between (preferably non-cerebral), and give your brain time to consolidate (best done through a period of REM sleep).

Once you've learnt a piece perfectly, it's surprisingly quick to bring it up to speed. It the "learning perfectly" part that takes the most time.

I hope that helps. I'm curious what piece you're learning - are you comfortable to share?
cheers,
Cathryn


The difference between dreams and reality is action.
Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: cathryn999] #2778635
11/06/18 04:38 AM
11/06/18 04:38 AM
Joined: Jun 2018
Posts: 37
Sweden
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Animisha Offline OP
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Sweden
Thank you all for your advice! 3hearts It works like a dream! thumb

Yesterday morning I divided the piece into 7 overlapping chunks and played each at least ten times - some chunks maybe 20 times, I stopped counting after ten. Yesterday evening I played the whole piece, and I managed to play until measure 31 without any mistake - but by then the thought that I had played without errors was so exciting that it caused an error. This morning, I repeated the chunk-playing and I have now, for the first time in my life, played this piece without any real errors, even though there was an ugly hesitation somewhere, and another small part a bit sloppy playing.

Originally Posted by BruceD
How do you correct your mistakes? Do you analyze them and understand how or why you made them? If there is a mistake in the notes of a chord, do you correct just the chord? If there is a mistake in a melody note, do you correct just that note?

It depends. If a mistake is a recurring one, I usually go back, but if a mistake is a first, I just quickly correct it and don’t think about it any more, unless it comes again.

Originally Posted by John305
Concentration can definitely be a part of it.

I thought about it, and I think it is also necessary to know the piece so well that tiny concentration slips happen, and I then to catch myself and come back again.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
What's the longest passage you usually play without mistakes? Do you vary the tempo from slow, to moderate, to performance and back to slow?

Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
1 effective way to practice I got from Graham Fitch of Pianist Magazine is working through your piece slowly not more than a few measures at a time.

This 41 measure piece is the longest I have ever played without mistakes, and only just once, this morning. Once I am able to play the piece without mistakes most of the times, I usually play it both in final tempo, and in slower tempo – but not for learning the correct notes but for polishing technique. However, the piece I practice now is rather slow, mm 65 for a quarter note, and I feel that gives me enough time to pay attention to technique.

Originally Posted by cathryn999
Possibly the worst thing you could do at this stage is to play through from start to finish. As you know, practicing is the training of the muscles and the brain, with the aim being to move from highly-focused, deliberate selective attention to automaticity. We have a limited working memory capacity, and the brain consolidates learning much better in small chunks. Our brains simply don't have the capacity to consolidate 41 bars in one go.

I understand. It’s a really convincing argument.

Originally Posted by cathryn999
I'm curious what piece you're learning - are you comfortable to share?

Actually, it’s a bit of a secret right now… cool

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: zrtf90] #2778636
11/06/18 04:44 AM
11/06/18 04:44 AM
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Posts: 37
Sweden
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Animisha Offline OP
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I forgot this one.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Do you record your playing as a form of stress testing?

Yes, but not as a stress test, but so I can focus fully on listening to my own playing, and hearing what needs to be improved.

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778708
11/06/18 11:02 AM
11/06/18 11:02 AM
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Central PA
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spartan928 Offline
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Here are a couple basic practice techniques i've picked up along the way. I'm still quite new. However, this does help me from time to time. When you break the piece into sections as you described, play the piece with very light touch staccato. Forget about dynamics and build tempo just focusing on pinpoint touches of the notes. Don't allow yourself to play wrong notes or break flow as much as possible, otherwise if you keep stopping or fudging notes, slow down.

Depending on the piece, once you have a section or phrase fluid at tempo, exceed the intended tempo if it's appropriate to kind of "burn in" the muscle memory. If you're having trouble with 2 hand independence, try playing R hand melody and only hitting key notes on L, or not pushing keys at all on L. Just work in the L hand notes fully, slowly. Lastly, when working out sections and phrases, add one note at a time to connect to other phrases.

For me, using very light touch slow repetition really works early on. For some reason, my brain focuses on the hand movement when i am working on a phrase very lightly and slowly. i find I have been able to ramp things up more quickly and accurately that way.
.

Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: Animisha] #2778740
11/06/18 12:53 PM
11/06/18 12:53 PM
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by spartan928
Forget about dynamics and build tempo just focusing on pinpoint touches...
With all due respect, I'm less new than you, but exaggerating dynamics at a limited tempo makes more sense, at least until the player has a very wide dynamic range at very low levels - very rare. Only when we have the dynamic contour and correct articulation sorted can we be sure of the appropriateness of the fingering and can then release the stricture on the tempo and allow the dynamics to relax without losing the accents, which are harder to apply afterwards.

Originally Posted by spartan928
...once you have a section or phrase fluid at tempo, exceed the intended tempo if it's appropriate to kind of "burn in" the muscle memory...
And again, muscle memory is programmed in regardless of tempo. Once the myelin has coated the synapses the tempo can pick up on its own with a surety only available from slow, mindful repetitions. The point of playing above tempo, once the surety of touch has been acquired, is to build confidence from knowing it can be taken quicker, for when the adrenaline rush of performance kicks in and the performer hasn't developed the habit of a slow, mental count-in.


Richard
Re: Final practice tips needed! [Re: spartan928] #2778822
11/06/18 06:13 PM
11/06/18 06:13 PM
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johnstaf Offline
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Originally Posted by spartan928
Forget about dynamics and build tempo just focusing on pinpoint touches of the notes. Don't allow yourself to play wrong notes or break flow as much as possible, otherwise if you keep stopping or fudging notes, slow down.

.


Yes, this is very good advice. Leaving out dynamics and varieties of touch allows you to concentrate fully on the notes. You can also vary the touch and try various dynamics as well of course. The more ways you play a piece the better. This gives you a greater command of the material than burning a single idealised performance into your memory.

Last edited by johnstaf; 11/06/18 06:15 PM.

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