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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2846878 05/09/19 06:20 PM
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Hi Richard,

Just a quick clarification. The lesson in question was a general one, not personal to me, so I assume those above-octave-length jumps come somewhat later in my piano journey. I'm certainly not reaching for anything over an octave in what I'm currently practicing.

Your comments on the necessity of a certain level of satisfaction and enjoyment being necessary in a practice piece for it to be truly useful are something I'm going to make a copy of and return to ponder for awhile.

Thanks for the input.


but think how good I could be in five years...
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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2846971 05/10/19 07:18 AM
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Ah, so it was _an_ online lesson rather than _your_ online lesson. I misunderstood that.

Yes, lessons aimed specifically at sight-reading tend to overdo the not looking at the hands (or keys) thing. As has been remarked frequently on these forums, good sight-readers did not practise sight-reading particularly, they just read a lot and when reading an enjoyable piece we tend to want to keep going. That's what improves sight-reading. Not deliberately sight-reading as a discipline, but trying stuff out and going on when it suits.

If you consciously take a new piece or an extract from it every day, just enough that you can make progress on it in five or ten minutes, it will improve not just your reading but also other skills pertinent to learning unfamiliar music such as looking at the full text, humming the melody in your head as you read it, making musical sense of it, memorising snippets, looking for patterns, etc.

In time you will do all these things quicker from the daily regularity until you can do it on the fly. And bingo! You're sight-reading.

If you just "sight-read" every day you're just responding to notes on the page, notes that might not mean anything, with patterns that you miss, and are effectively just white noise. If you examine a phrase or two, analyse them, consider them, make them musical, hear them in your head, etc, you do so much more. Good sight-reading is doing the 'so much more' quicker from daily practise not just speeding up our response to notes on the page, but making music out of them, at a glance, and then playing the music.
__________________________

My other comment was making music, consciously, out of everything we do.

The ultimate objective is to make music out of whatever we play and that means having a musical idea in our heads and realising it on the instrument. We don't practise scales, for example, so that we know the keys to press. We should know those already, we should know what fingers to use, where the fourth goes. Ideally we can work out afresh each time where the fourth goes. What we're practising is making our bodies respond to the music in our heads.

It's not just about playing every finger evenly - any note played the same as the one before it is boring; it destroys pulse - it's about making musical sense out of a sequence of notes, travelling to the dominant, usually, and then returning to tonic, from the way we use our bodies. If this musical idea is present whenever we practise, be it pieces, exercises, drills, or whatever, then our mechanism gets better at realising the musical ideas we have in our heads. This is the goal.

If you're making music you're involved in what you're doing and it cannot be boring if you're paying attention. If you're just running up and down scales, for example, you're doing nothing productive and it's drudgery. We won't do drudgery every day.


Richard
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2847191 05/10/19 06:39 PM
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I like your stream of conscienceness Richard - it is s pretty intense and wonderful perspective for a beginner just approaching my 1st year. Thanks so much for sharing!


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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851462 05/23/19 11:03 AM
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A 2 by 4 by any other name…

Back in the early 90s, when the Hubs and I were newly married, we would sometimes have communication issues. By our personal standards these issues were not serious, yet our friends always thought we were perpetually on the edge of divorce. This may have had something to do with my regular utterances of, “Do I need to get a two by four and beat you upside the head with it to get you to listen?”

While the Hubs knew quite well this was simply shorthand for, “I know you don’t regularly take what I say seriously, but this I’m willing to beat into your head with a large stick,” our friends felt this was a horrific insult at best and at worst a peek into a very violent relationship. It was neither, just effective communication. (We’ll forgo discussions of why he didn’t listen all the time to my every word when first spoken. We’re going on 29 years so we’re not messin’ with it!)

Anyway, that mythical 2X4 was a very powerful way of getting my point across. Over the decades I’ve either gotten better at saying outright what I mean in a way he can hear or he’s better at getting out of his head and reading cues in the real world, so we don’t use the phrase quite so much. Usually now it’s more along the lines of, “This deserves a 2 by 4,” as a way to say something is worth knowing and knowing well.

Which brings me to my discovery of the week. While a good sturdy 2X4 is useful in a marriage a 2X7 is AWESOME at the piano.

Somewhere on here or in a book or podcast or video I came across a reference to a practice method of picking the length of a practice snippet based on what you can learn in seven repeats. Like really learn. Like play it up to 75% in just 7 repeats. Can’t get it in seven? Go shorter. For me, sad to say, the usual length that works out to is about 2 measures, hence 2X7.

I’ve had a tendency to pick my “sections” based on phrases, musical flow, lines…all of which are usually substantially more than 2 measures long. I hadn’t thought it was a problem as I can sustain concentration over the course of a practice session for sections that long. They flow in my mind and I like them. I usually cannot play them excellently in 7 repeats. I can play them correctly, but glacially slow, or I can improve tempo up a notch or two, but all the way to polish ready in 7 repeats? Nope.

As a way to try out this new fangled idea of how to re-invent the wheel, I decided to take a day and work through all my pieces and exercises 2 measures at a time, 7 repeats each, as slowly as necessary, but with an eye on getting up there in tempo too, by repeats 5-7.

And you know what? My wheel is a lot less squeaky now.

Talk about POWERFUL! It’s like I took a two by four to the head of my sticky spots. And I have to admit honestly in a couple of instances I had to go down to two melody beats within a measure, repeat times 7, then the next two, repeat times 7, now put it together, times seven. But it worked. Spots I’d been stuck just trying slowly over and over and over, that weren’t getting anywhere, were now no longer a singular section, but six sections and after working them over times 7 each I could put that original section back together and it was lovely.

I have still have my larger sections based on the flow of the music. Sections of two or three lines depending on the phrase structure or overall structure of the piece, but now I’m looking within those structures to what happens each two measures. (Or 2 beats if it’s diabolical). And it’s marvelous to finally be communicating effectively between the sticky spot on the page and my fingers.

Call it metaphor, mythical or magical, but my 2X7 is coming with me to practice in the future. Sticky spots better duck and cover!

Happy Practice Everyone.

P.S. Apologies if it was someone on PW who voiced this method. I don’t mean to deny credit where credit is due, but the week has been too harried to dig back through everything I’ve covered looking for the source, but kudos to you!


This week I’m working on:
Sight reading (15 minutes/day) Faber, Allan Small Easy Classics and Bach Scholar’s Sight Reading and Harmony

Technique (10 minutes each/day)
Scales: A and Am
Exercise: Czerny Vol. 445 #16
Etude: The Swinging Leprechaun from RCM Level 1 Etudes

Repertoire/Lesson Work (90 minutes/day)

Piano Playin’ Chocolate Eater Blues (Faber) (Shoot me now on that title)
Tech prep for the next unit (Faber)
Cranky Cat RCM Level 1 Repertoire

Up next week: The Lonely Ballerina by Michele McLaughlin (Happy Dance!)


but think how good I could be in five years...
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851486 05/23/19 11:48 AM
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Have you ever thought about going for some therapy?

LOL just kidding, enjoyed your 2x4 story.


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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851490 05/23/19 12:06 PM
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The number of repetitions or number of measures practiced are nowhere near as important as what you're trying to do while practicing the passage. i.e. your understanding of the musical and technical requirements for the passage.

Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851515 05/23/19 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
A 2 by 4 by any other name…

Back in the early 90s, when the Hubs and I were newly married, we would sometimes have communication issues. By our personal standards these issues were not serious, yet our friends always thought we were perpetually on the edge of divorce. This may have had something to do with my regular utterances of, “Do I need to get a two by four and beat you upside the head with it to get you to listen?”

While the Hubs knew quite well this was simply shorthand for, “I know you don’t regularly take what I say seriously, but this I’m willing to beat into your head with a large stick,” our friends felt this was a horrific insult at best and at worst a peek into a very violent relationship. It was neither, just effective communication. (We’ll forgo discussions of why he didn’t listen all the time to my every word when first spoken. We’re going on 29 years so we’re not messin’ with it!)

Anyway, that mythical 2X4 was a very powerful way of getting my point across. Over the decades I’ve either gotten better at saying outright what I mean in a way he can hear or he’s better at getting out of his head and reading cues in the real world, so we don’t use the phrase quite so much. Usually now it’s more along the lines of, “This deserves a 2 by 4,” as a way to say something is worth knowing and knowing well.

Which brings me to my discovery of the week. While a good sturdy 2X4 is useful in a marriage a 2X7 is AWESOME at the piano.

Somewhere on here or in a book or podcast or video I came across a reference to a practice method of picking the length of a practice snippet based on what you can learn in seven repeats. Like really learn. Like play it up to 75% in just 7 repeats. Can’t get it in seven? Go shorter. For me, sad to say, the usual length that works out to is about 2 measures, hence 2X7.

I’ve had a tendency to pick my “sections” based on phrases, musical flow, lines…all of which are usually substantially more than 2 measures long. I hadn’t thought it was a problem as I can sustain concentration over the course of a practice session for sections that long. They flow in my mind and I like them. I usually cannot play them excellently in 7 repeats. I can play them correctly, but glacially slow, or I can improve tempo up a notch or two, but all the way to polish ready in 7 repeats? Nope.

As a way to try out this new fangled idea of how to re-invent the wheel, I decided to take a day and work through all my pieces and exercises 2 measures at a time, 7 repeats each, as slowly as necessary, but with an eye on getting up there in tempo too, by repeats 5-7.

And you know what? My wheel is a lot less squeaky now.

Talk about POWERFUL! It’s like I took a two by four to the head of my sticky spots. And I have to admit honestly in a couple of instances I had to go down to two melody beats within a measure, repeat times 7, then the next two, repeat times 7, now put it together, times seven. But it worked. Spots I’d been stuck just trying slowly over and over and over, that weren’t getting anywhere, were now no longer a singular section, but six sections and after working them over times 7 each I could put that original section back together and it was lovely.

I have still have my larger sections based on the flow of the music. Sections of two or three lines depending on the phrase structure or overall structure of the piece, but now I’m looking within those structures to what happens each two measures. (Or 2 beats if it’s diabolical). And it’s marvelous to finally be communicating effectively between the sticky spot on the page and my fingers.

Call it metaphor, mythical or magical, but my 2X7 is coming with me to practice in the future. Sticky spots better duck and cover!

Happy Practice Everyone.

P.S. Apologies if it was someone on PW who voiced this method. I don’t mean to deny credit where credit is due, but the week has been too harried to dig back through everything I’ve covered looking for the source, but kudos to you!


This week I’m working on:
Sight reading (15 minutes/day) Faber, Allan Small Easy Classics and Bach Scholar’s Sight Reading and Harmony

Technique (10 minutes each/day)
Scales: A and Am
Exercise: Czerny Vol. 445 #16
Etude: The Swinging Leprechaun from RCM Level 1 Etudes

Repertoire/Lesson Work (90 minutes/day)

Piano Playin’ Chocolate Eater Blues (Faber) (Shoot me now on that title)
Tech prep for the next unit (Faber)
Cranky Cat RCM Level 1 Repertoire

Up next week: The Lonely Ballerina by Michele McLaughlin (Happy Dance!)


LOL! Having just celebrated 30 years, I can relate to your story. I am sure most couples have their own version of 2×4's.



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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851521 05/23/19 02:16 PM
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At least Holly said a 2 by 4 and not a Lead Pipe. Now that would hurt!


All these years playing and I still consider myself a novice.
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851537 05/23/19 03:22 PM
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cmb13 - grin

The rest of you, we toss a baseball on occasion, but he's too smart to ever let me own a bat!


but think how good I could be in five years...
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851546 05/23/19 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
cmb13 - grin

The rest of you, we toss a baseball on occasion, but he's too smart to ever let me own a bat!


Even a Nerf Bat? smile


All these years playing and I still consider myself a novice.
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851576 05/23/19 06:29 PM
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EPW, he'd probably go for that, but then I'd get found out as all talk no action as I could never actually do him violence, so best to just leave in place that illusion of power!


but think how good I could be in five years...
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851585 05/23/19 06:59 PM
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LOL
Keep up the practicing and the Blog. smile


All these years playing and I still consider myself a novice.
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851599 05/23/19 08:56 PM
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Holly, I found the x7 approach from Bernhard on PianoStreet. I tried it and was having great success, like yours. Then it was pointed out to me that this wasn’t what Bernhard meant. So I stopped. I should have ignored them and kept on. Based on your testimonial, I think I’m going to go back to doing it. My thought is to consider what the nay-sayers have to say, but don’t take it as gospel. If a method (2x7 or any other method) is working really well for you: keep using that method.


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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851652 05/24/19 03:24 AM
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By curiosity, I looked at the Bernhard practice routine and here is what he says (note that I agree with this but that's his theory), which is based on a duration and number of repetition:

"I cannot tell you the size of section that you will be able to master in 20 minutes: it depends on the section and ultimately on your own ability. You have to discover that by yourself. Here is the method: repeat the section 7 times. Have you learned it? (learned is different from mastered by the way) Then move on. No? cut it in half. Try again. learned it ? No? cut it in half again. And so on and so forth. Eventually you will be able to get a chunk that you can learn in 7 times (sometimes, this can be as little as two notes). Now you can practise this chunk until you master it (but for no more than 20 minutes – if you are dealing with just two notes, this will probably require only a couple of minutes; if you are dealing with a one minute section of a sonata, this will take you 20 minutes). If you are practising a whole sonata that lasts for 18 minutes for your performance, then of course the directions above do not apply. The directions above are from learning a piece form scratch, not for polishing a piece you already mastered."

and also (which I do agree with):

"Also, there is a law of diminishing returns. As you practise a section you start by making lots of mistakes and learning form your mistakes. This is the exploratory phase. After a while you figure out all the co-ordinates and you pay it perfectly. A lot of beginners stop practising at this point. This is actually the point where real practice starts: when you finally got it right. Up to now most of your practice will have consisted of wrong repetitions. Now you must ingrain the correct section by repeating it at least as many times as you did it wrong in the exploratory phase. However, after a while of repeating perfect renditions of your passage, due to fatigue (both mental and physical) you will start making mistakes again. It is very important that you stop practising before getting to this stage. You must stop when your repeats are perfect. But being human, your reaction when you start making mistakes again is to keep repeating to try to re-achieve your former perfection. You will not be able to. In fact all you will achieve is several hours of wrong repetitions. Next day, of course the whole section is a mess even though you may have practised it for five hours. So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain."

Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851658 05/24/19 04:15 AM
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Interesting! But who is this Bernhard?


Playing the piano is learning to create, playfully and deeply seriously, our own music in the world.
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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: Sidokar] #2851660 05/24/19 04:28 AM
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So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain.

I don't know if this is true though. Maybe. Maybe not.

Quote
Now you must ingrain the correct section by repeating it at least as many times as you did it wrong in the exploratory phase. However, after a while of repeating perfect renditions of your passage, due to fatigue (both mental and physical) you will start making mistakes again.

This is certainly my experience. However, if I repeat the section one more time, in order to finish with a correct last repeat, the risk is that I once again will make the same mistake in this repeat.
But, I will start to experiment like this: when I have played a couple of times without mistakes, I will play the section one more time and make a full stop before playing the notes in which I had made the mistake, and very carefully and slowly play them correctly. And then I do something else.


Playing the piano is learning to create, playfully and deeply seriously, our own music in the world.
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Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: Animisha] #2851661 05/24/19 04:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
Interesting! But who is this Bernhard?

Who is Bernhard?

If you scroll down this page, you'll find a list of his posts related to the 7 X 20 rule. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though.

Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851685 05/24/19 07:10 AM
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I think the only thing that makes any sense in the recent discussion is the idea of focusing on a smaller phrase if one has difficulty playing a longer phrase to one's satisfaction. All the rest I personally think is formulaic nonsense, and I don't think any reasonably advanced players adopt such a formulaic approach. IMO such an approach is a rather unthinking and one size fits all approach.

Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851700 05/24/19 07:59 AM
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I think the only thing that makes any sense in the recent discussion is the idea of focusing on a smaller phrase if one has difficulty playing a longer phrase to one's satisfaction.

Yes, this was my primary take away from those posts in PS as well. I don’t keep track of the no. of repetitions, or the duration. As long as the practicing is well thought out and mindful, and does not border on overkill, it should be good enough.


Think Twice, Play Once
Re: Holly's Practice Diary [Re: HollyBytheLake] #2851725 05/24/19 08:45 AM
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Tech-key and pianoloverus, this x7 idea may not work for you, but there are some people for whom it works amazingly well. For the people it works for, I think it’s fine for us to use it. Maybe over time we will find times we want to be flexible with it, but right now it provides a structure for us that produces great results.

ETA: IIRC from someone who is a member of both PW and PS and who communicated with Bernhard at the time I was first using this method, Bernhard says this is to be applied flexibly. I still think that even if Holly and I are applying it more strictly than Bernhard envisioned, that as long as we’re getting good results it’s fine to use it the way we’re using it.

Last edited by PianoStudent88; 05/24/19 08:49 AM.

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