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Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? #2810325 02/03/19 06:17 PM
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Morodiene Offline OP
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I've heard some people like to take a break from a piece in the process of learning it to allow it time to settle in their minds, then pick it back up after that break. I've had unplanned breaks when learning pieces, but depending on when those breaks occurred and for how long, I've had varying results: sometimes I return fresh, and even having worked out some issues while unable to practice for a week, and other times, it's set me back.

What is your learning process of bringing a piece to performance standard? Do you take such a break? If so, at what point in the learning process, and for how long, and what do you do during this break? Also, when you return, how do you overcome the loss of a week or so of not playing it?


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2810348 02/03/19 08:17 PM
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I always try to leave whatever I've practised in a state where it's easier next time. I find a break doesn't really make any difference if I've practised well.

Yesterday I was practising a piece I hadn't looked at in two months. The previous work I had done on it wasn't lost. I don't recommend this, but it was a work I had to interrupt to learn something else.

Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2810355 02/03/19 08:44 PM
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My breaks are usually the result of a family visit or vacation. I find getting away from the piano for a while clears out my ears. I think I get caught up in the details during daily practice and the break gives me a wider perspective. For the last few months, I've been struggling with a wrist injury which has severely limited my practicing. I had one lesson in 3 months and my teacher said it was the best he's heard me play so I guess there is some value in breaks.


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2810428 02/04/19 04:00 AM
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I would suggest that it is not necessarily the breaks that determine whether or not you return better or worse than before, but the quality of your sleep. That is when the brain sorts out what is needed and consolidates the information. If you are not sleeping well you won't learn well.


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2810492 02/04/19 09:49 AM
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Hi, Morodiene! I would say that I DO have planned breaks in my practice regimen, but not in a direct sense. Rather, I have assigned myself several "projects" at once, and most typically when I work on a new piece, which is inherently stressful and frustrating, I deliberately do something else the following day or two that is more familiar. This has the effect of allowing the brain to process the difficulties encountered, and allows the sense of a "fresh start" -- and more often than not, it's well above ground zero.

Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: johnstaf] #2810965 02/05/19 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
I always try to leave whatever I've practised in a state where it's easier next time. I find a break doesn't really make any difference if I've practised well.

Yesterday I was practising a piece I hadn't looked at in two months. The previous work I had done on it wasn't lost. I don't recommend this, but it was a work I had to interrupt to learn something else.


Originally Posted by gooddog
My breaks are usually the result of a family visit or vacation. I find getting away from the piano for a while clears out my ears. I think I get caught up in the details during daily practice and the break gives me a wider perspective. For the last few months, I've been struggling with a wrist injury which has severely limited my practicing. I had one lesson in 3 months and my teacher said it was the best he's heard me play so I guess there is some value in breaks.


This is what I mean: it seems not to be consistent, but apparently there are people who swear by planning breaks - I'm just not sure how to do it to not be detrimental but productive.

Here's a theory: I think it may have to do with muscle memory and tension. We can build up physical tension that we just become accustomed to over time in a piece. When we have a break from it after having learned it well enough to not lose remembering how the piece goes, we know that muscle memory is what leaves us first. So perhaps we can work out tensions that way. We remember the piece, but not the tension. I do something similar to this with vocal students that need to get rid of tension.

Another theory: We have mental tension in a piece, or we haven't figured out how we want to play a certain passage musically yet, and so those passages aren't up to the same level as other areas where it's clear what to do. Having the time "off" but practicing it in your head the different ways you could play it can be helpful to make the piece more coherent. Of course, this also would be after quite a bit of time with the piece.

So I'm thinking perhaps the keys are:

- Only take a break after you've learned the piece really well
- Don't completely forget the piece, still think about it and do mental practice

Colin: yes, sleep is very important, but in general my sleep patterns aren't any different when these breaks happened.

Tim: Interesting, that's a different thing for me. I think if I have a break too soon, it's very frustrating because I forget so much of it.

Any other thoughts?


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2810992 02/05/19 11:50 AM
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I stressed the importance of sleep because it is something that is often overlooked. And it is not just the length of sleep that is important but the quality. However, nothing will be learnt if your practice is poor or of insufficient length. All of this will vary from individual to individual.

In general I don't think that taking a break only after having learnt a piece will be particularly useful though it should mean that it should take you less time to pick it up again than would otherwise be the case.

I think you need to be patient and find what works best for you. There are no easy answers suitable for everyone.


Roland LX7

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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2811043 02/05/19 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene


Here's a theory: I think it may have to do with muscle memory and tension. We can build up physical tension that we just become accustomed to over time in a piece. When we have a break from it after having learned it well enough to not lose remembering how the piece goes, we know that muscle memory is what leaves us first. So perhaps we can work out tensions that way. We remember the piece, but not the tension. I do something similar to this with vocal students that need to get rid of tension.

Another theory: We have mental tension in a piece, or we haven't figured out how we want to play a certain passage musically yet, and so those passages aren't up to the same level as other areas where it's clear what to do. Having the time "off" but practicing it in your head the different ways you could play it can be helpful to make the piece more coherent. Of course, this also would be after quite a bit of time with the piece.

Excellent insights!


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2812063 02/07/19 05:35 PM
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Your 'breakes' are what we all know: one year we are supposed to play this and that concertos/ recitals, next year we are to perform totally different pieces, the year after we can resume older work while performing again new repertoire, and so on and on, it's a cycle that never ends, luckily.


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2812139 02/07/19 09:26 PM
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Here's one take on the subject by Josh Wright


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: John305] #2812192 02/08/19 03:00 AM
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Originally Posted by John305
Here's one take on the subject by Josh Wright


A very good take indeed, and also towards the end on how to practice.


Roland LX7

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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Colin Miles] #2812236 02/08/19 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Originally Posted by John305
Here's one take on the subject by Josh Wright


A very good take indeed, and also towards the end on how to practice.


An excellent take by Josh Wright.



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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2812565 02/09/19 01:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene

Here's a theory: I think it may have to do with muscle memory and tension. We can build up physical tension that we just become accustomed to over time in a piece. When we have a break from it after having learned it well enough to not lose remembering how the piece goes, we know that muscle memory is what leaves us first. So perhaps we can work out tensions that way. We remember the piece, but not the tension. I do something similar to this with vocal students that need to get rid of tension.

Another theory: We have mental tension in a piece, or we haven't figured out how we want to play a certain passage musically yet, and so those passages aren't up to the same level as other areas where it's clear what to do. Having the time "off" but practicing it in your head the different ways you could play it can be helpful to make the piece more coherent. Of course, this also would be after quite a bit of time with the piece.

So I'm thinking perhaps the keys are:

- Only take a break after you've learned the piece really well
- Don't completely forget the piece, still think about it and do mental practice


Any other thoughts?


I like your conclusions, and maybe how much to practice before and how long of a break to take is related to long-term/short-term memory as well. If I have to cram a piece, I'll be able to play it for the event, but it will take more work later to bring it back. If I get a longer period of time to learn it, it will stick for much longer.

Just yesterday I brought back a concerto accompaniment I worked hard on last year. Last year I found it technically challenging in some areas, and even in performance I messed up on a few spots that never set properly. Yesterday I went through those spots, and found they weren't correct, at first, but they were easily fixable. I wouldn't say that my technique is better than it was last year, and I also didn't ponder the issue in the interim. I think the frustration from not getting it had disappeared and I was able to attack the problems with a clearer mind.


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: John305] #2814469 02/13/19 08:51 AM
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Morodiene Offline OP
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Originally Posted by John305
Here's one take on the subject by Josh Wright

Finally had a chance to watch the video. I really appreciate his perspective and explanation of how it helps. And it seems to correlate to what I was thinking and my experiences with breaks - that it needs to be fluid, meaning you've learned it enough to be able to play through it at a reasonable tempo. And after a break, you will have to relearn and rememorize (depending on how well you knew it and how long of a break you took).

Thanks for sharing this!


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2814716 02/13/19 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by John305
Here's one take on the subject by Josh Wright

Finally had a chance to watch the video. I really appreciate his perspective and explanation of how it helps. And it seems to correlate to what I was thinking and my experiences with breaks - that it needs to be fluid, meaning you've learned it enough to be able to play through it at a reasonable tempo. And after a break, you will have to relearn and rememorize (depending on how well you knew it and how long of a break you took).

Thanks for sharing this!


I was just about to reiterate this sentiment. My current schedule of learning repertoire is built around this concept.

Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: MikeN] #2814821 02/13/19 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeN
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by John305
Here's one take on the subject by Josh Wright

Finally had a chance to watch the video. I really appreciate his perspective and explanation of how it helps. And it seems to correlate to what I was thinking and my experiences with breaks - that it needs to be fluid, meaning you've learned it enough to be able to play through it at a reasonable tempo. And after a break, you will have to relearn and rememorize (depending on how well you knew it and how long of a break you took).

Thanks for sharing this!


I was just about to reiterate this sentiment. My current schedule of learning repertoire is built around this concept.

What is your schedule? I'm very curious how people incorporate this into how they learn a piece.


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Re: Planned breaks when learning new repertoire? [Re: Morodiene] #2820103 02/25/19 09:52 PM
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Breaks are imperative. Especially before a big performance.


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