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Plateau #2783867
11/23/18 07:16 PM
11/23/18 07:16 PM
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ee375 Offline OP
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In most every new piece I learn I get to a point where it sounds fairly good but there are more errors than I want. On simpler pieces (below my grade level) I get to that point much faster. But still the errors remain. There is always a plateau. Of course there are slightly more errors on the most difficult sections. But even sections that I have played error-free numerous times sometimes fail. I have tried slowing down significantly but even then some errors persist. I generally do not have this issue with memorized pieces (but I play mostly from scores).

Is this a focus problem? Need more very slow repititions? How do I get past this?

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Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783868
11/23/18 07:20 PM
11/23/18 07:20 PM
Joined: Apr 2018
Posts: 1,813
Tyrone Slothrop Online content
Tyrone Slothrop  Online Content


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Originally Posted by ee375
How do I get past this?

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently


across the stone, deathless piano performances
Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783871
11/23/18 07:29 PM
11/23/18 07:29 PM
Joined: Nov 2013
Posts: 4,411
Southwestern Ontario
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Thanks Tyrone. That is an excellent very short and concise article. Every musician should read this. It could save billions of wasted hours of practice.



edit:It will not, however, stop me from being a terrible speller, necessitating frequent use of the edit function.

Last edited by prout; 11/23/18 07:31 PM.
Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783882
11/23/18 08:01 PM
11/23/18 08:01 PM
Joined: Jan 2018
Posts: 1,356
In the Ozarks of Missouri
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Great article, as usual Tyrone!


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Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783884
11/23/18 08:06 PM
11/23/18 08:06 PM
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Canada
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I think a good place to start is seeing what you are doing right now in preparing a piece day by day and within each day. That's often the first step in trouble shooting.

Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783886
11/23/18 08:12 PM
11/23/18 08:12 PM
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ee375 Offline OP
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Thanks, Tyrone. I have seen that article before and have tried to implement the suggestions. Especially slowing down; stopping immediately after an error, resolving the cause of the error and correcting it.

Most frustrating are errors in sections that have been played flawlessly many times before. It seems like I have far too many random errors. I notice that occasionally I do not see the notes on the score that I am about to play and am playing them from muscle memory. If I force more concentration so that every note/chord is seen the error rate goes down. Not sure how to get beyond that. Surely I am not alone with this issue.

Also notice that the first play of the day is worse than subsequent plays. Maybe this is related to the previous paragraph?

Last edited by ee375; 11/23/18 08:17 PM.
Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783888
11/23/18 08:20 PM
11/23/18 08:20 PM
Joined: Sep 2017
Posts: 447
Toronto, Canada
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The top 2 items on every teacher's list is "slow" practice to start until you get all the notes right and play with a "metronome".

A lot of times listening to a recording of someone else's performance is the best way to learn. Even if we think we have a good ear, we are going to read the wrong notes on the page or get the rhythm slightly off.


Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783895
11/23/18 08:52 PM
11/23/18 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ee375

Most frustrating are errors in sections that have been played flawlessly many times before. It seems like I have far too many random errors. I notice that occasionally I do not see the notes on the score that I am about to play and am playing them from muscle memory. If I force more concentration so that every note/chord is seen the error rate goes down.

From many of your previous posts, it seems to me you're playing pieces above your comfortable level (musically as well as technically).

Nothing wrong with that, but playing pieces above your current technical level won't be comfortable or consistently error-free, unless (or even if) you spend an inordinate amount of time polishing them.

Incidentally, you can hear the same thing in professional concert pianists. Those with huge technical reserves (we can take for granted their musical acumen) consistently play with great freedom yet without any wrong notes even in the most demanding showpieces, while those less well-endowed (as it were) who choose to play the virtuosic stuff show signs of strain by fluffing notes even with more moderate tempi.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783907
11/23/18 09:48 PM
11/23/18 09:48 PM
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If you can’t play it slowly then perhaps the pieces are technically too hard for you.

Slow practice if you make errors you have to study why.

slow down even more / hands separately / study the problem and focused practice.

Errors are where you learn and tackling these is how you progress so it’s all normal,

Obviously if your piece is far too hard then you need to pick easier music if mistakes really bother you.

Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783908
11/23/18 09:50 PM
11/23/18 09:50 PM
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I generally practice all my pieces slowly if they are difficult but this is after many many years of lessons where I didnt , lol

Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783916
11/23/18 11:06 PM
11/23/18 11:06 PM
Joined: Nov 2015
Posts: 586
Australia
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Hi ee375
I'm thinking about the issues you're describing, and apart from the obvious things already mentioned like slow deliberate practice, metronome etc... I'm wondering how far ahead you read? Particularly thinking about the random errors in sections that were previously flawless, try reading ahead (just a half a bar or so) of where you're playing. This is a great way to improve and exercise working memory, and it might help by "priming" what comes next ahead of time rather than at the point of playing.

Give it a go and let me know how you go.
cheers
Cathryn


The difference between dreams and reality is action.
Re: Plateau [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2783920
11/23/18 11:27 PM
11/23/18 11:27 PM
Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 251
Zilthy Offline
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The top 2 items on every teacher's list is "slow" practice to start until you get all the notes right and play with a "metronome".


I am going to expand on this a bit. Playing slow and with a metronome is a top tool. But that is such a small part of the process. I did that for years, but I was stuck at a wall I could not progress past. When I finally got a teacher who showed me how to do that correctly, I burst through that wall very quickly.

What needs to be added is:

1) Play slow with a metronome. With great attention and mindfulness. Play each note as you intend to play it. Be aware of your body on every single note. Are you hitting/holding/pressing too hard? Too soft? Do you have extra tension anywhere? In your fingers? In your writs? In your arms? Shoulders? Neck?

2) Do not play slow with a metronome until you can get it right. Play so slow with a metronome that you cannot play it incorrectly. And this is absolutely playing it correctly. Not just the right notes. Not just the right timing. It includes the full attention described in (1) above. Doing all that drops the speed considerably on the metronome.

This is all about muscle memory, and training it correctly. It takes hundreds and hundreds of repetition for the muscles to learn that memory. It has to be done the same way every time. Doing it differently sets it back. Even if it's only one time out of 10. Or 20. Or 30. It's a lot faster to just never get it wrong, and do it right from the start.

And to get that right, it means REALLY slowing it down. That needs to happen to be able to give the complete focus of (1) and (2) together.

So, I will present an example here. Let's take someone, who has never played an instrument before, and wants to learn to play piano. And we start with the melody line from "Mary Had a Little Lamb." And we'll take it moderately around 120bpm.

Perhaps after a few tries, they will fumble through it. But, let's slow that tempo down to 60, cut it in half. Now they can play it, but it's still plunking notes. And even if they get that and get it back up to speed, there are problems that will limit, hinder and perhaps even injure later on. Tense wrists, hunched shoulders, etc.

So instead we move to one quarter note every 4 clicks at 60 bpm. Now, that is *really* moving slow. But that gives enough time to really focus and pay attention. Where do I have extra tension? How did I play the note? What do I need to do for the next note?

This gives enough time to actually think and train the muscle memory correctly. From there, start stepping up the tempo.

Practicing this way might sound painfully long, but as you become more proficient with it, it does speed up. Over time you learn where your trouble spots are. Over time your muscles learn different phrases and adapt quicker. Over time, you learn when you are comfortable at a tempo, when you can bump it up more, and when you need to back it down.

Just some of my thoughts on slowing down.

Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783921
11/23/18 11:33 PM
11/23/18 11:33 PM
Joined: May 2015
Posts: 3,795
Florida
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Good reminder about slowing down, Zilthy.... my ‘slow’ is not slow enough unless I force myself to kick it down a notch (or two)

Re: Plateau [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2783925
11/24/18 12:45 AM
11/24/18 12:45 AM
Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 521
California
AnotherSchmoe Offline
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by ee375
How do I get past this?

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently


Excellent article, thank you for sharing.

Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2783939
11/24/18 03:16 AM
11/24/18 03:16 AM
Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 3,322
Australia
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Australia
when I start making errors while reading it is usually an indication of a) I am playing the piece too fast and b) I don't know the piece half as well as I think I do. Both are problems of self delusion, and I have no magic solution just a few management pointers.

I like to follow a path of proving to myself that I can play mistake free, so I will play left and right hand parts separate, beginning to end. Any weakness's will show up here, but if I can get a mistake free run through then it feels like I just won a medal. If I can't then I plug away day after day until I do. Usually I have to slow right down and the pressure can get so intense I have to stop worrying about tempo, even rhythm, just making sure before I strike the note it is the right one. This gives me the security of knowing I can play mistake free at tempo "x" but I am also learning every section of the piece inside out. Only when I can play mistake-free run throughs consistently will I start to put hands together, and then repeat the process until I can get mistake free run-throughs with hands together. The temptation then is to start speeding up, but I have had to pull myself back more than once (when the mistakes start happening again) and had to go back to hands separate for a while.

This has not been an easy process for me, compounded by the fact I find my previous, and current grade, big leaps forward from previous ones. That also means ditching any arbitrary deadlines like recitals or exam dates, the piece will simply be ready when it is ready.

I don't believe I am a very strong reader (even for pieces I have played hundreds of times) so what I find works is a mix of reading, long term memory and muscle memory. I am beginning to form the opinion that knowing what the ideal balance is for those three is crucial.

It is also important to recognise we are beginners, every piece and every year forward there are new things to be mastered (on top of last years as yet not mastered stuff). So while it is best to aim for what we might call mastery, it is important to keep everything in perspective.


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

Kawai K8 & Kawai Novus NV10


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Re: Plateau [Re: Zilthy] #2783993
11/24/18 08:08 AM
11/24/18 08:08 AM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 4,058
rocket88 Offline
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Originally Posted by Zilthy
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The top 2 items on every teacher's list is "slow" practice to start until you get all the notes right and play with a "metronome".


I am going to expand on this a bit. Playing slow and with a metronome is a top tool. But that is such a small part of the process. I did that for years, but I was stuck at a wall I could not progress past. When I finally got a teacher who showed me how to do that correctly, I burst through that wall very quickly.

What needs to be added is:

1) Play slow with a metronome. With great attention and mindfulness. Play each note as you intend to play it. Be aware of your body on every single note. Are you hitting/holding/pressing too hard? Too soft? Do you have extra tension anywhere? In your fingers? In your writs? In your arms? Shoulders? Neck?

2) Do not play slow with a metronome until you can get it right. Play so slow with a metronome that you cannot play it incorrectly. And this is absolutely playing it correctly. Not just the right notes. Not just the right timing. It includes the full attention described in (1) above. Doing all that drops the speed considerably on the metronome.

This is all about muscle memory, and training it correctly. It takes hundreds and hundreds of repetition for the muscles to learn that memory. It has to be done the same way every time. Doing it differently sets it back. Even if it's only one time out of 10. Or 20. Or 30. It's a lot faster to just never get it wrong, and do it right from the start.

And to get that right, it means REALLY slowing it down. That needs to happen to be able to give the complete focus of (1) and (2) together.

So, I will present an example here. Let's take someone, who has never played an instrument before, and wants to learn to play piano. And we start with the melody line from "Mary Had a Little Lamb." And we'll take it moderately around 120bpm.

Perhaps after a few tries, they will fumble through it. But, let's slow that tempo down to 60, cut it in half. Now they can play it, but it's still plunking notes. And even if they get that and get it back up to speed, there are problems that will limit, hinder and perhaps even injure later on. Tense wrists, hunched shoulders, etc.

So instead we move to one quarter note every 4 clicks at 60 bpm. Now, that is *really* moving slow. But that gives enough time to really focus and pay attention. Where do I have extra tension? How did I play the note? What do I need to do for the next note?

This gives enough time to actually think and train the muscle memory correctly. From there, start stepping up the tempo.

Practicing this way might sound painfully long, but as you become more proficient with it, it does speed up. Over time you learn where your trouble spots are. Over time your muscles learn different phrases and adapt quicker. Over time, you learn when you are comfortable at a tempo, when you can bump it up more, and when you need to back it down.

Just some of my thoughts on slowing down.


This is one of the most important posts I have read here. This should be made a sticky.


Piano teacher.
Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2784008
11/24/18 09:24 AM
11/24/18 09:24 AM
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 2,386
Owen Sound, Ontario
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7. Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct; or speeded things up to test themselves, but not too much).

This was a key element of the top learners, though you couldn't really utilize with a metronome click turned on. A metronome would conflict with this method, would it not?





Last edited by Greener; 11/24/18 09:27 AM.
Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2784050
11/24/18 11:13 AM
11/24/18 11:13 AM
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Posts: 2,004
Midwest USA
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Zilthy, do you use that approach (very slow and with the metronome and with no errors in notes, rhythm, or dynamics) from the very start, i.e., the first time you sit down with a new score (one at your current level or slightly above) and begin the learning process?

My own experience is that I have to have at least some familiarity with the notes before I can bring in the metronome (all the while still at a very slow tempo).


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Re: Plateau [Re: ee375] #2784081
11/24/18 12:14 PM
11/24/18 12:14 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 21,906
Victoria, BC
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Abram Chasins has written this well-known account of his arriving for a visit with Rachmaninoff:

Rachmaninov was a dedicated and driven perfectionist. He worked incessantly, with infinite patience. Once I had an appointment to spend an afternoon with him in Hollywood. Arriving at the designated hour of twelve, I heard an occasional piano sound as I approached the cottage. I stood outside the door, unable to believe my ears. Rachmaninov was practising Chopin’s etude in thirds, but at such a snail’s pace that it took me a while to recognise it because so much time elapsed between one finger stroke and the next. Fascinated, I clocked this remarkable exhibition: twenty seconds per bar was his pace for almost an hour while I waited riveted to the spot, quite unable to ring the bell. Perhaps this way of developing and maintaining an unerring mechanism accounted for his bitter sarcasm toward colleagues who practised their programmes ‘once over lightly’ between concerts. (Chasins, Abram. 1967. Speaking of Pianists. New York: Knopf, 44.)

If we could only do it, we would undoubtedly profit from such practicing.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: Plateau [Re: Stubbie] #2784084
11/24/18 12:22 PM
11/24/18 12:22 PM
Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 251
Zilthy Offline
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Zilthy, do you use that approach (very slow and with the metronome and with no errors in notes, rhythm, or dynamics) from the very start, i.e., the first time you sit down with a new score (one at your current level or slightly above) and begin the learning process?

My own experience is that I have to have at least some familiarity with the notes before I can bring in the metronome (all the while still at a very slow tempo).


Well, first of all, I rarely practice piano much. I play a lot of other instruments, and this approach is one I learned on another instrument, and I now apply it to everything I play. And though I do play something on piano or keyboard every day, a lot is not formal practice, but more improvising and writing.

But, when I do want to learn a piece, I apply this method. And no, I do not necessarily use a metronome for that type of practice right away. That depends on the difficulty of the new piece. Some pieces there are sections that are easy enough that I might not even need to do this, where others I will sit down from the get go with that method. This goes for any of the instruments that I play.

If it is something particularly new and challenging, I will start with the metronome on those parts right away. And, I will do it extremely slowly. I normally won't set it lower than 60bpm, but I might go 2 or even 4 clicks for a 16th note for example.

But sure, sometimes I will do it that way too. Get the initial familiarity with the notes first, slow enough that I play them all correctly. No tempo practice there. laugh. Typically I will only do that separate hand practice. When I do both hands though, I start with that slow metronome right away. Still being new to piano, there is too much to pay attention to, and balance of right and left, etc and I find for myself that it's more efficient to just start out with the slow click from the start.

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. laugh

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