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How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
#2825629 03/11/19 09:20 PM
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In the sense of feeling you’ve learned all you can from it at present, it’s technically as secure as it can be, etc?

One definite plan is to record each piece as I feel I’ve mastered it then keep an archive of the recordings. But there will always be the opportunity to correct an error here, improve a phrase there, feel more secure in the memory. When to stop? I am introducing new pieces pretty regularly so at some point I have to start dropping them off the other end or I will run out of hours in the day (already close!).

In the past this was easier. When said exam, competition or audition was over with I would gladly put aside the music and move on. Now I quite deliberately don’t have those goals, but if my perfectionist nature is not going to get me bogged down I have to find another way! Any ideas welcome!

Last edited by ShyPianist; 03/11/19 09:20 PM.

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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825634 03/11/19 09:32 PM
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I'll let you know....


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
gooddog #2825637 03/11/19 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by gooddog
I'll let you know....


Hehe, it’s not just me then?!


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825648 03/11/19 10:05 PM
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One word: Never!

Even the simplest of pieces can always be bettered in some way. I wonder if even the great pianists feel that they have totally mastered the repertoire they know, love and perform regularly to the point that they feel it could never be done better.

That is both the frustration and the joy of the journey that so many of us have embarked upon. Perfection is beyond our reach, but that goal is what we strive for.

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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
BruceD #2825728 03/12/19 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
One word: Never!

Even the simplest of pieces can always be bettered in some way. I wonder if even the great pianists feel that they have totally mastered the repertoire they know, love and perform regularly to the point that they feel it could never be done better.

That is both the frustration and the joy of the journey that so many of us have embarked upon. Perfection is beyond our reach, but that goal is what we strive for.

Regards,


I feel the same Bruce. Let me put this another way then. How do you decide when you are ready to set a piece aside in favour of new challenges? I presume you do in the end, because no one - not even professionals - can manage an ever growing list of repertoire without having to put some into cold storage (so to speak!). So people must have their own ways of deciding this and I was interested to know what they are.


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825734 03/12/19 04:34 AM
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I think there comes a point where further work is less effective than resting the piece. That's as close as I ever get anyway. Returning to the piece after a while shouldn't take any extra effort. If it does, it wasn't learnt as well as I thought.

Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
johnstaf #2825735 03/12/19 04:48 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
I think there comes a point where further work is less effective than resting the piece. That's as close as I ever get anyway. Returning to the piece after a while shouldn't take any extra effort. If it does, it wasn't learnt as well as I thought.


That’s a great way of looking at it johnstaf, I will adopt that principle! And you’re quite right, it should be possible to pick up and polish a thoroughly learned piece pretty easily. Heavens when I was testing pianos I suddenly found myself playing a piece I learned 30 years ago, and nearly remembering it all!


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825739 03/12/19 05:33 AM
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The philosophical question "is even possible to ever really 'master' a piece?" may be interesting, but it probably isn't very helpful with answering your real life question, of how to determine when one has finished with a piece and should move on to another one.

If you are learning with a teacher, that is easy. A piece is finished when the teacher says so. smile

So what mechanism can replace such a teacher feedback?

For myself, I've found a solution that works well for me: I view a piece as finished if I was able to make a recording that I am willing to share publicly on my amateur YouTube channel (even if it will never be listened to by more than only a few dozen people). If I can't get a recording that I'm willing to share, then I know that I still have to work on the piece.
So essentially, I'm leaving the decision about if the piece is finished or not to my inner pride, if you so will. It is hard to lie to yourself in that regard: While my conscious mind may try to ignore and gloss over any shortcomings that are still left in the piece, if I cannot bring myself to make the recording public because it is just too embarrassing with those shortcomings, then I know that I'm deceiving myself if I think that the piece is done.

So either I continue working on it until I can get a recording that I am willing to publish without feeling that I am embarrassing myself, or, and that happens too, if I see that I'm not really making any progress anymore (and still are not willing to publish a recording), then I shelve the piece and come back to it again at a later time - or in rare cases I just admit to myself that I simply don't like the piece and will likely never put enough effort into it to finish it, so I just drop it altogether.

Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825770 03/12/19 07:23 AM
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Over the years I've played many different pieces, some are perennials and others lie dusty and forlorn until one day I remember and search them out again. My memory is very poor - out of sight is out of mind, I'm afraid. I doubt if I can claim to have 'mastered' any of them - they are played for pleasure and so that I can 'explore' music. Mastering is never a goal, just being able to spend a few hours enjoying playing music is the aim. It's usually that other pieces have come along and grabbed my attention rather than that I think the abandoned ones have been 'mastered,' although I won't set anything aside until it is comfortable to play unless it is evidently beyond my capabilities. Then, of course, old ones come back now and again like old friends and can often be seen in a new light.
Oh, and like @JoBert above, if I just don't like a piece I ditch it.


regards
Pete
Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825854 03/12/19 11:33 AM
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For me, mastering playing a piece to the degree where I can play : (1) every note correctly at the proper tempo with correct dynamics, (2) expressively as close as possible to the interpretations usually heard on professional recordings and (3) without mistakes (sloppy notes, bumps or pauses (with a high degree of fluency) is purely dependent on time and not so much daily practice. For ex- some pieces I learned in middle school/HS feel very natural to play because I just had so many more years to approach the music from different angles and therefore my fingers feel more fluent when I play. However pieces I only learned last year (looking at you Chopin Nocturne 72/1) are still a work in progress because although I may have 90% of the technical work completed (notes/rhythm), the tempo and dynamics are constantly an aspect I have to actively think about when I play it.

For most of my pieces, I don't consider them "completely learned" until I can play it formally in a public setting (either a recital or meet up event) and play it 99% with correct notes/tempo/dynamics . Then I work on the 2nd "stage" which is making it as musically pleasing as possible (ie stretching rubato or being more expressive with certain phrases depending on the particular piece). Once I get the 2nd stage completed, then to me its as close to being "mastered" as it can get.


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825970 03/12/19 04:25 PM
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DaVinci said 'Art is never completed, only abandoned'.


If you don't talk to your children about equal temperment, who will?
Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
jon-nyc #2825986 03/12/19 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by jon-nyc
DaVinci said 'Art is never completed, only abandoned'.


Really interesting folks, thanks. I think I’m heading for your philosophy JoBert, although I don’t think I’m brave enough yet to put something forward for public scrutiny no matter whether I think I’ve done myself credit or not! I’d forgotten that Da Vinci quote Jon-nyc, thanks, I might steal that one.


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2825995 03/12/19 05:24 PM
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Ah, if quotes from artists are of interest, my favourite artist Gustave Moreau said something to the effect (and I can't quote, the book is somewhere around but it's quite thick) of 'the more a piece is finished the less the remaining possibilities.' He didn't have time to finish all his paintings but fittingly the unfinished ones offer a lot of scope for the imagination. I don't think I have laid pieces aside that I like 'forever' and when they do come back there is always more to be found.


regards
Pete
Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
gooddog #2826007 03/12/19 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by gooddog
I'll let you know....


That's exactly what I was going to say!


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2826076 03/12/19 09:12 PM
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I consider a piece mastered when I can play it completely 'horizontally' at the desired tempo.

It also appears to be the point in time when I start enjoying the music more than worrying about technical things.

Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2826238 03/13/19 10:11 AM
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To "master" a piece at the basic level means learning the notes and other subtleties written into the score. The first time you learned a piece to your satisfaction is version 1. There is always room for embellishments or other approaches to playing later.

Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
thepianoplayer416 #2826242 03/13/19 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
To "master" a piece at the basic level means learning the notes and other subtleties written into the score. The first time you learned a piece to your satisfaction is version 1. There is always room for embellishments or other approaches to playing later.


I think I'd go further than that myself. I would include securely memorising it to the point that I no longer need to think about the notes at all. I've only recently returned to playing at this level (ie where I worry about these things) so I couldn't quite remember how it feels (!), but I believe I'm getting there with a piece now so I think I will recognise it in future. It's very clearly different for everyone. :-)


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2826246 03/13/19 10:34 AM
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To master a piece in theory - One should be able to play the piece with right notes, proper tempo and dynamics... all of the above consistently each time she/he plays under all circumstances. Playing the piece 1-2 times (out of 10) this way does not really mean mastering the piece. It can simply mean "having a good day" or "having a good run".

In reality (for me) - I will consider myself close to mastering a piece after having a few successful performances of this piece. With other people witnessing my playing somehow gives me a good assurance that I actually got it.

Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
ShyPianist #2826251 03/13/19 10:42 AM
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I'd say that I've mastered a piece to my satisfaction (which isn't necessarily to anyone else's satisfaction wink ) when I've performed it in public ten times in a row without any mistakes and exactly the way I wanted to perform it each time (which might be different at other times, depending on the acoustic, the piano etc).

In other words, I've never mastered any piece, ever........ cry


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Re: How do you decide when you have “mastered” a piece?
bennevis #2826252 03/13/19 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
I'd say that I've mastered a piece to my satisfaction (which isn't necessarily to anyone else's satisfaction wink ) when I've performed it in public ten times in a row without any mistakes and exactly the way I wanted to perform it each time (which might be different at other times, depending on the acoustic, the piano etc).

In other words, I've never mastered any piece, ever........ cry


Well yes there you have it. Perfectionism, the ultimate enemy of time management and, well, everything! For performance read, in my case, recording, as I just don't want to go there any more, but otherwise I would agree that would be my ideal too and similarly unlikely! I think I will settle for some good run-throughs on different days, feeling I've interpreted the piece how I want it, and a good recording. :-)


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