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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
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. :-)

For recordings, I lower my standards wink , as otherwise I'd never do any, and my sister (who begged - nay, demanded - me for them) would be bereft of the many half-mastered recordings I sent her.

And anyway, I can always blame my tools, as I only record on unfamiliar pianos (all acoustic pianos are unfamiliar to me, because I don't own one)........like good workmen whistle.


"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."
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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
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!


I feel I mastered the piece when:
1. I can play the piece easily without too much effort.
2. I can play with very little mistakes.
3. I can say something with the pieces (not only playing the notes).
4. Then I record, if it sounds pretty professional, I will say I have mastered the piece.

Not saying, that I will stop practicing the piece. But if I have achieved the 4 items above, I will be comfortable to say that I know to play the piece well and not be afraid of playing for people.

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A lot of times I feel that I can't achieve the best rendition of a piece unless I take a (sometimes unplanned) break from it and come back to it later. I don't know why, but sometimes there's a new sense of ease and facility that comes when you come back to a piece as opposed to just practicing it every single day past a certain point. If I feel my rate of progress on a certain piece is declining, I opt to practice it more intermittently, maybe every 2-3 days, instead of daily.

With that said, I still find it hard to declare that a piece is "mastered" because I feel there's always a lot more to add on. When I feel happy about the way it sounds and feels, and I worry less about targeting a specific thing in a practice session, or when I perform it and it doesn't cause me a lot of stress, I consider it "finished".

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There is no mastery. There is only getting better ideas.


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There is so much difference between the piece that one knows and the same piece that one performs: yes, there is the printed score, yes, there are your eons of practise, yes, there is your knowledge of music in general and history, style, other's recordings of your piece in particular, yes, there are your well wrought ideas, yes, there is your prowess on the keyboard, yes, there is time for the piece to have matured, yes, there is this occasion that you have to perform it and just everything goes wrong: there is never any sureness that you can do what you planned, performing is just living dangerously.


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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
There is so much difference between the piece that one knows and the same piece that one performs: yes, there is the printed score, yes, there are your eons of practise, yes, there is your knowledge of music in general and history, style, other's recordings of your piece in particular, yes, there are your well wrought ideas, yes, there is your prowess on the keyboard, yes, there is time for the piece to have matured, yes, there is this occasion that you have to perform it and just everything goes wrong: there is never any sureness that you can do what you planned, performing is just living dangerously.


Yes, which is why I’m not sure I’m ever going to do it again! But who knows, I find myself less sure of that statement than I was a few weeks ago... Weird.


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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
There is so much difference between the piece that one knows and the same piece that one performs: yes, there is the printed score, yes, there are your eons of practise, yes, there is your knowledge of music in general and history, style, other's recordings of your piece in particular, yes, there are your well wrought ideas, yes, there is your prowess on the keyboard, yes, there is time for the piece to have matured, yes, there is this occasion that you have to perform it and just everything goes wrong: there is never any sureness that you can do what you planned, performing is just living dangerously.


Yet at the same time there's a certain security that one develops which is just as fascinating and seemingly, in some ways, unexplainable.

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I believe a piece can never really be "mastered" in the sense that it's perfect and cannot get any better. For me, I'll consider a piece mastered when I feel that the piece is as good as it can be for now and won't get any better without spending a disproportionate amount of time on trying to make it just one notch better. I'd rather spend that time learning something new. If this piece is for an exam or a concert, I consider a piece mastered when I can give a performance of it and not embarrass myself.

As previous posters mentioned, it's also good to know some background information on the piece we're trying to master. But I'll have to really love that piece to make that effort.

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I thought I'd return to this thread with a quick update. I have this morning achieved enlightenment! For the first time in many many years I have experienced the feeling of having my fingers play automatically while I concentrate on the music. This is quite deliberately only with a simple piece (Bach's 1st Invention in C major) but I achieved two pretty good recordings, from memory, in a row and I just "felt" the difference. So I guess I do know really, I just had to feel it again. :-)

Last edited by ShyPianist; 03/25/19 05:18 AM.

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Originally Posted by ShyPianist
I thought I'd return to this thread with a quick update. I have this morning achieved enlightenment! For the first time in many many years I have experienced the feeling of having my fingers play automatically while I concentrate on the music. This is quite deliberately only with a simple piece (Bach's 1st Invention in C major) but I achieved two pretty good recordings, from memory, in a row and I just "felt" the difference. So I guess I do know really, I just had to feel it again. :-)


That's exciting! That sort of automation is so necessary to performance for me. I can't really do it otherwise because of nerves. I'm glad you've enjoying it!

Last edited by MikeN; 03/26/19 12:36 AM.
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Usually my teacher tells me to "just keep playing it every now and then", which I generally take as "there's no significant improvement happening for the level you're at, so it is better to practice other pieces".

I think that no matter how well you play, there's a kid on youtube who plays it better so that much for mastery laugh


"My dear hands. Farewell, my poor hands."
-Sergei Rachmaninoff

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Even if I had extensive classical training when I was young, I cannot say I ever 'mastered' any of the pieces I played. I learnt them quite well, but never on a true performance level. What I did learn, and maybe even mastered, was a fairly large amount of technical skills, interpretive skills, understanding of melody, harmony and dynamics....which I use in my work now as an improvising musician. And in that type of music, mastery is something other than in the classical tradition, I suppose.

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