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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853605
05/29/19 02:32 PM
05/29/19 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Ido
After observing several teachers do this, I would advise you to hum the rhythm before you start playing. This is the pulse of the music, and you can get the feeling for the piece by doing just that.

My teacher suggests this as well! He also suggests singing the melody, while playing the accompaniment. The second one, I find very difficult to do, if there is any kind of syncopation.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853608
05/29/19 02:45 PM
05/29/19 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
[snip - description of practising]

So when learning a new piece, I do a lot of repetitions with the wrong rhythm, wrong technique and wrong dynamics, before I am able to play the whole piece more or less correctly - and then usually, way too slow.
I think this is unavoidable for beginners. Or am I mistaken?

You are doing a number of things that I have learned to, even if there are differences - at least from what I can tell via your description. You are mistaken about the idea of "right" and "wrong" - you have not "learned a wrong thing". You have acquired a stage and an underpinning to the music. In fact, aiming for the "right end result" from the beginning (timing, tempo, dynamics, articulation, voicing) is wrong. Even if you end up with something that seems to sort of sound right, the degree of tension, and the fuzziness of awareness, that you have also inserted, make this "right" thing, wrong.

A full musician already has the technique, note awareness, and other skills and knowledge. He only has to learn to play a new piece well. Even so, musicians will use layers and strategies (I have learned). We should do so as well, but on top of it, we are also learning skills we don't have as we go along. We are also limited to what we can achieve at this time by where those skills are at. Those are the elements we're working with.

Say you got the right notes, but not yet the right rhythm (at any speed), but you do have the relative note values so that you RH half note + quarter note has that quarter note coming on beat 3 when the LH note of beat 3 is played ..... and you anticipate the movement for that leap and can execute that leap in security. Then you have set yourself up so that, as you next work on correct timing with the beat, all this is "in your body", "in your mind" and in your "body mind" so that you can execute that part smoothly afterward. You are adding one correct thing to another set of well acquired correct things .

As you work on a piece you must also ask yourself, "What is it that I am able to reach at this time?" For example, you may be able to do dynamics, but not dynamics that are different in both hands (voicing). So reach for what you can reach at this time. Then put the piece away, pull it out 6 months or a year later, and add a new level through your newer skills. If you worked thoroughly in stages, that will still be there for you. In fact, in a way professional pianists do that, dusting off a piece 15 years later with new insights, bringing it to a new level.

Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853633
05/29/19 04:17 PM
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I think it is absolutely normal to play an incorrect rhythm when you start. I think the fault is if you just practice the same mistakes over and over until you've learnt it wrong. To solve it you need to notice it and practice in a different way.

To counter rhythm faults, I always learn a piece at slow enough beat. This sorts the basic difficulties out. If I had a difficult rhythm or difficult part I make mistakes I would play much much slower if its the first time. I would often just drag out time until I could play the rhythm. e.g. Make a semiquaver, 8 minums, whatever it takes. If it is impossible the piece is too difficult.

I dont think as a beginner I would do this method, it just something I've picked up over time. Good luck!

Last edited by Moo :); 05/29/19 04:25 PM.
Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Moo :)] #2853646
05/29/19 04:50 PM
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If you do it deliberately as part of a strategy and a stage, then it is not incorrect. You even have teachers having students play a particular rhythm of hand movement, different than in the piece, then switch to the right rhythm - that is not incorrect.

Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: keystring] #2853657
05/29/19 06:08 PM
05/29/19 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
If you do it deliberately as part of a strategy and a stage, then it is not incorrect. You even have teachers having students play a particular rhythm of hand movement, different than in the piece, then switch to the right rhythm - that is not incorrect.
But I think this is usually done at a later stage, both in the level one is at and how long they've been working on the piece.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853665
05/29/19 06:53 PM
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OK, my (mainly) 'self-taught' view, which can be shot down in flames etc.
Having read (and reread) carefully what you have written your approach seems quite reasonable to me. However, I don't think the process is in danger of building wrong technique, rhythm, dynamics etc - to my mind it's merely an initial and often necessary exploration of the music. Keep the rhythm, dynamics in mind whilst doing it, and as far as possible follow the correct fingering (if it's there) because that will be important for the next step. Then, as you mention, move on to actually playing it.
Speeding things up is another matter. Speed is something that comes with practice, confidence and the correct technique (among other things no doubt) - getting the fingering right helps here as well as practising playing similar but simpler things (perhaps exercises?) fast before moving on to applying it to your main pieces. Remember, of course, that part of speeding things up is getting the hands quickly into the correct postion to play the next set of notes, so anticipating where the hands go next is very important.
The process you are currently using will no doubt speed up with practice and possibly change.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853686
05/29/19 08:39 PM
05/29/19 08:39 PM
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There's a Mortensen video where he says that the reason people have trouble with rhythm is that they wait too long before adding it onto what they've learned. I agree, the sooner it starts sounding like music, the better.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Stubbie] #2853694
05/29/19 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by keystring
If you do it deliberately as part of a strategy and a stage, then it is not incorrect. You even have teachers having students play a particular rhythm of hand movement, different than in the piece, then switch to the right rhythm - that is not incorrect.
But I think this is usually done at a later stage, both in the level one is at and how long they've been working on the piece.

Actually, part of this was pedagogy for early learners - adapted thereto, of course. It's hard to try to outline in a forum, however and I don't dare try.

Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: JohnSprung] #2853701
05/29/19 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

There's a Mortensen video where he says that the reason people have trouble with rhythm is that they wait too long before adding it onto what they've learned. I agree, the sooner it starts sounding like music, the better.



I think that rhythm / counting / metronome usage should be the first thing that people learn.

Trying to add it in after all else fails and they are playing with erratic tempo is exactly the wrong way to do things.

Music is essentially sound combined with rhythm. People spend all their time with the sound creation part, while the rhythm part is often added on much later, after erratic tempo habits are solidified, after the golden era of the beginning of studies has omitted rhythm, and while playing something that is by itself challenging without the added mental load of counting/hearing the metronome.

That is why some students cannot hear the metronome...their brain is on the edge of overload, and there is no history or training to hear, clap, count the beat.

Adding any form of tempo control at this stage is like trying to juggle 3 balls, and then here is another ball to juggle. Fail.

Lately I have been starting all my adult students with counting OUT LOUD and clapping prior to them even touching the keyboard, at the first lesson. I put the metronome (or, for some, the drum machine) on a medium beat, and have them count and clap their hands along with me to the beat. Just about all can do it.

Next I have them clap and count as I play Mary had a little Lamb. Most have to problem.

I continue this during all early lessons, building on these concepts, and the results are stunning. Many students will automatically start counting out loud w/o me asking them to while playing something. For them, it is a natural thing to do, not an onerous burden.

I doubt that more than a few teachers start with rhythm, and most certainly few if any self-taught people will start this way. Everybody wants to play, and this is not all that fun.

I know this is kind of rambling, but John is right...rhythm is most often tacked on later in the learning process. I believe it should be first.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: rocket88] #2853711
05/29/19 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by rocket88
Originally Posted by JohnSprung

There's a Mortensen video where he says that the reason people have trouble with rhythm is that they wait too long before adding it onto what they've learned. I agree, the sooner it starts sounding like music, the better.



I think that rhythm / counting / metronome usage should be the first thing that people learn.

Trying to add it in after all else fails and they are playing with erratic tempo is exactly the wrong way to do things.

Music is essentially sound combined with rhythm. People spend all their time with the sound creation part, while the rhythm part is often added on much later, after erratic tempo habits are solidified, after the golden era of the beginning of studies has omitted rhythm, and while playing something that is by itself challenging without the added mental load of counting/hearing the metronome.

That is why some students cannot hear the metronome...their brain is on the edge of overload, and there is no history or training to hear, clap, count the beat.

Adding any form of tempo control at this stage is like trying to juggle 3 balls, and then here is another ball to juggle. Fail.

Lately I have been starting all my adult students with counting OUT LOUD and clapping prior to them even touching the keyboard, at the first lesson. I put the metronome (or, for some, the drum machine) on a medium beat, and have them count and clap their hands along with me to the beat. Just about all can do it.

Next I have them clap and count as I play Mary had a little Lamb. Most have to problem.

I continue this during all early lessons, building on these concepts, and the results are stunning. Many students will automatically start counting out loud w/o me asking them to while playing something. For them, it is a natural thing to do, not an onerous burden.

I doubt that more than a few teachers start with rhythm, and most certainly few if any self-taught people will start this way. Everybody wants to play, and this is not all that fun.

I know this is kind of rambling, but John is right...rhythm is most often tacked on later in the learning process. I believe it should be first.


Wow, I think you're spot on. You've said what I'm trying to say in the "Metronome usage" thread.

Last edited by LarryK; 05/29/19 10:16 PM.

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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853755
05/30/19 02:03 AM
05/30/19 02:03 AM
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It's not a good approach. Mistakes that you repeat over and over will haunt you for a long time if you do it like this.

Forget about dynamics initially, that is fine but consider working through the piece hands separately, slowly, each hand on it's own with the correct rhythm.

Don't move straight into playing both hands. Incorporate the dynamics and articulation even before you put the hands together. It will be easier when you only have one hand to think about.

Then put it all together, slowly. Use a metronome or count the beat, however you find most comfortable...

Over time certain rhythmical patterns will become ingrained into your mind. You will not need to spend time figuring out that part much any longer. But in order to get to that stage you need to listen to yourself while playing and you need to demand of yourself precision in those rhythmical patterns. You can't possibly achieve that but diving straight in, both hands.


A simple approach I still use to this day:

1. Find a reference recording online and listen to the piece with the sheet music.
2. Separate it into sections of a few bars that make sense musically. If you listen to the piece a few times you can tell the different sections.
3. Now if those sections are more than 2-3 bars then split them for your practice.
4. Learn your left hand but only repeat the little sections you divided the piece in. Don't go skipping back and forth, just take it one section or even one bar at a time. After a few repeats try to add the accents/articulation/dynamics.
5. If you are having trouble connecting two sections/bars then isolate as tiny of a part of this as possible and practice only the transition between the two.
6. Once you get one section correct then connect it with the previous one you learned, do some repetitions of both. That way you string the pieces together. It's important to hear how the little parts belong into the whole.
7. Do the same for your right hand.
8. Put both hands together and work on it part by part until you have the whole thing in a slow tempo with the correct rhythm and at least some of the major articulations...


What helps me if to have a notebook ready where I will write something like the number of the bars in the section I'm practicing, and I will draw 10 circles/squares and I will aim to play the section 10 times with 1 hand absolutely spot on. If you make a mistake go back and repeat. The goal is to play it consistently 10 times (can be any number you want but I find 10 works great). Make a mistake? You start from attempt 0. But the thing is you are working in small parts, not the whole piece so now you have time to get each small part correct. 10 attempts with 1 hand on a 2-3 bar section takes almost no time at all.

Don't just go repeating the piece start to finish, this does you no good and you are wasting your time.

Try this and by the time you are about to put it hands together you will probably know the piece by heart. Memorizing the whole piece after doing the above will be much much easier than if you started with both hands and didn't do the work.

Some more tips I can think of:

  • In pieces where you have to play a lot of notes in a bar, group them into chords if possible and play the chords so that your fingers will learn the exact positions of those notes. This will help later when you are bringing the piece up to tempo.
  • If you need to achieve a certain tempo but you hit a roadblock, take a metronome and practice the piece, starting at a comfortable tempo, increase the tempo by 2-3 beats per repetition. You don't have to play the whole piece from start to finish every time, especially if it's lengthy. Identify those areas of it that give you most trouble and master them this way. A comfortable tempo for you is one that allows you to play without stumbling. If you cannot play it in any tempo without stumbling then you need more work hands separately.
  • When memorizing, never only memorize the notes, take a look around, memorize it with the dynamics and articulation. Trust me, this gets easier with practice. There is in fact not too much information you need to remember in most sheet music I've seen and music often follows a logic. Find that logic for yourself. You don't need to know much music theory to make some sense of the music. You don't need to do the dynamics and articulation exactly right but keep them in mind. You will incorporate them as you go if you know where they are and what they are.
  • Don't feel the need to practice 1-2-3 hours straight. It's just as good to do five 20 minute sessions spaced out through out the day, sometimes it's even better.
  • Maybe learn some scales, they might seem boring but it will help you develop your spacial and aural awareness, so your fingers will be able to find their way around the keyboard much easier with time.


I have more but I don't think you need to read novels right now, plus some things that are not shown in person can be understood the wrong way and I don't want to give you any bad advise.

This will accelerate learning, even though it seems like more work, it's actually much less.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853787
05/30/19 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
As a beginner, I cannot see how I could avoid learning wrong. When learning a new piece, I cannot see how it would be possible ................I think this is unavoidable for beginners. Or am I mistaken?


where you are now, and how you approach learning will change as your experience and skill set develope is the simple reply. How you get to the optimum method of learning a new piece is by questioning everything that isn't working for you and doing something about it.

the reply by rockett88 really resonates with me because I was not taught to count, or given any rhythm lessons until I changed to a more experienced teacher. He is of course correct that rhythm should not be tacked on later but considered from the beginning.


BTW my teacher is a great believer in the language we use to defeat ourselves. I am not allowed to say '' I cannot'' in a lesson and something like ''I think this is unavoidable'' in this context would not go unremarked, lol.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853790
05/30/19 07:03 AM
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I also am not allowed to use ‘can’t’ or other negative words in a lesson.
The acceptable substitution is ‘can’t YET’. 😊

I am also (trying) to implement this positive wording outside of lessons and I think it helps... it does feel like I have given myself a good, swift kick.

Last edited by dogperson; 05/30/19 07:05 AM.

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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853798
05/30/19 07:43 AM
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Same in my lessons, lol. I’m discouraged from saying a piece is difficult. The preferred word is “challenging” grin


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: earlofmar] #2853809
05/30/19 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by earlofmar

the reply by rockett88 really resonates with me because I was not taught to count, or given any rhythm lessons until I changed to a more experienced teacher. He is of course correct that rhythm should not be tacked on later but considered from the beginning.

It beats me why many adult beginner primers (and teachers) - and YT videos claiming to teach beginners everything they need to know about learning piano - skip, or gloss over the essential aspect of music: the beat. There are some cultures around the world whose indigenous music has no melody, only rhythm. And that's their music.

I wrote in another forum about what I consider to be the best beginner primer (and I don't mean just for children) - apart from the fact that it emphasises the basics of notation in slow gradual steps, it also emphasis beat counting on every page (and how many beats to count). That's the way I, and all the kids that I knew, were taught, and none of us had any problems with keeping time.

For instance, what would this famous song be, without the strong 4-in-a-bar beat?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tJYN-eG1zk

Everyone can sing that in time (I hope) with that vigorous beat in place.........but remove the rhythmic clapping and footstamping, and I bet that some people will lose track when the singing stops during those three beats, and come in early with the next line.

In other words, rhythm (and note values) - and keeping time - has to be practised, just like note-reading.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853824
05/30/19 10:14 AM
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Until I read this thread I never heard or conceived of learning just the notes and adding in the rhythm later. A student should be playing pieces of appropriate difficulty so that the notes and rhythms can be learned simultaneously. This does not mean one doesn't have to sometimes/occasionally have to stop and figure out the notes or rhythm of a particularly difficult passage. But I think either the pieces are too difficult or the instruction was inadequate if a student cannot play with the correct rhythm from the beginning for the most part.

Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Teodor] #2853829
05/30/19 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Teodor
It's not a good approach. Mistakes that you repeat over and over will haunt you for a long time if you do it like this.

Forget about dynamics initially, that is fine but consider working through the piece hands separately, slowly, each hand on it's own with the correct rhythm.
I think very few pianists, once they reach a certain level, learn an entire piece hands separately. Virtually all pianists of any level practice a particularly difficult passage hands separately, or at least the difficult hand part separately.

Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: pianoloverus] #2853876
05/30/19 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Teodor
It's not a good approach. Mistakes that you repeat over and over will haunt you for a long time if you do it like this.

Forget about dynamics initially, that is fine but consider working through the piece hands separately, slowly, each hand on it's own with the correct rhythm.
I think very few pianists, once they reach a certain level, learn an entire piece hands separately. Virtually all pianists of any level practice a particularly difficult passage hands separately, or at least the difficult hand part separately.


Yes but you don't ask questions like this if you are at that point. Hence the need to practice hands separately until the fundamentals are engrained. Then one can do HS only for difficult passages and again it all depends what you are playing. For some Bach pieces where you want to bring out certain voices it's still a very good approach to learn hands separately.


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Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Teodor] #2853899
05/30/19 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Teodor
It's not a good approach. Mistakes that you repeat over and over will haunt you for a long time if you do it like this. .....

IF you are practising mistakes.

It's a matter of how you do things. I'll elaborate separately.

Re: The inevitability of learning wrong(?) [Re: Animisha] #2853902
05/30/19 01:35 PM
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Supposing you're learning a new piece of music and for whatever reason the notes are difficult for you in a passage. You work with those notes, in that passage - it could be several measures, a single measure, or half a measure. You don't care about rhythm or anything else. You just get a good handle on those notes. When you have a good handle on those notes, then you can put your full attention on the next aspect.

You might have a tricky thing going on where maybe the LH plays something in between the RH notes, that you need to work out more finely. To begin with, you might simply want to get this "in between" thing. Maybe both of these things are happening in the same passage, so you work on the one thing .... you've got a handle on the notes .... then you work on the next thing. And after that, with a good handle on both, you can refine into rhythm.

Conversely, if you try to do all of that at once, you can find yourself in a muddle of tension, and a semi-muddle. There is a principle, "You can only focus properly on one new thing at a time."

I have seen this taught at one level, for students close to beginners. I have also applied it at my level. Anyone who has heard me play a practised piece will not say that I have poor timing or lack rhythm and flow. However, had you heard me play some years ago, the music was always running away on me. The conclusion that these approaches will lead to something bad are not correct. But it depends on how it's implemented.

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