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Taking a break from a piece?
#2880556 08/17/19 10:20 AM
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Hi everyone, I'd love to hear your input about a piece I'm practicing at the moment.

Most teachers around here follow the school calendar when it comes to scheduled "breaks" in the lessons. Right now it's my "summer break" (not as happy about it as when I was in school....) and I've been mainly practicing a piece I've been assigned, an Allemande.
It's what I've been mainly focused on for the last three weeks and I can play it from memory by now. Still looking at the score anyways. I've started to incorporate practicing dynamics on phrases, practicing sections I still sometimes fumble etc. And to be honest, I like it, but I'm also a bit sick of it.
I've been thinking about taking a break from it for a few days and do anything else, maybe a bit of sight reading on easier sections of pieces I don't know or something.

How do you handle this? Should I take a break? Or play it over just once a day and practice something else for the rest of the day? I don't want to unlearn what I have so far, because when everything comes together I can kind of glimpse what it could sound like someday, and that's pretty cool.

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Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880565 08/17/19 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Parcival
. Right now it's my "summer break" and I've been mainly practicing a piece I've been assigned, an Allemande.
It's what I've been mainly focused on for the last three weeks and I can play it from memory by now. Still looking at the score anyways. I've started to incorporate practicing dynamics on phrases, practicing sections I still sometimes fumble etc. And to be honest, I like it, but I'm also a bit sick of it.
I've been thinking about taking a break from it for a few days and do anything else, maybe a bit of sight reading on easier sections of pieces I don't know or something.

How do you handle this? Should I take a break?.

What would you teacher think if you kept practicing just this piece and do practically nothing else for the whole summer break?

The answer is obvious - for the sake of your sanity, your piano playing and your overall musicality, you need to do a lot, lot else. Download lots of stuff from IMSLP and sight-read through them, learn something appealing (other pieces) for yourself and by yourself, try improvising for fun, try playing tunes (pop, movies, musicals, whatever) you've heard by ear, play scales & arpeggios, even try sight-singing simple stuff........without neglecting that Allemande. You don't need to practice it every day. If you get the opportunity, find someone to make music with (duets, accompany them in songs etc).

All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl........


"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."
Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880570 08/17/19 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Parcival
. Right now it's my "summer break" and I've been mainly practicing a piece I've been assigned, an Allemande.
It's what I've been mainly focused on for the last three weeks and I can play it from memory by now. Still looking at the score anyways. I've started to incorporate practicing dynamics on phrases, practicing sections I still sometimes fumble etc. And to be honest, I like it, but I'm also a bit sick of it.
I've been thinking about taking a break from it for a few days and do anything else, maybe a bit of sight reading on easier sections of pieces I don't know or something.

How do you handle this? Should I take a break?.

What would you teacher think if you kept practicing just this piece and do practically nothing else for the whole summer break?

The answer is obvious - for the sake of your sanity, your piano playing and your overall musicality, you need to do a lot, lot else. Download lots of stuff from IMSLP and sight-read through them, learn something appealing (other pieces) for yourself and by yourself, try improvising for fun, try playing tunes (pop, movies, musicals, whatever) you've heard by ear, play scales & arpeggios, even try sight-singing simple stuff........without neglecting that Allemande. You don't need to practice it every day. If you get the opportunity, find someone to make music with (duets, accompany them in songs etc).

All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl........


The "else" is kinda the problem. I haven't been playing that long and at the end of the last lesson my teacher basically said "dang, we should do scales now...". So I don't want to just start that without seeing the correct technique. Though she chose the piece for me pretty well, it has almost everything we've covered so far.
I'll start something else and revisit my homework in a few days.

Thanks for the advice!

Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880574 08/17/19 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Parcival
How do you handle this? Should I take a break? Or play it over just once a day...
Playing it over once a day is not my strategy. Every play through needs to be supplemented by slow sectional work to maintain the quality. I think it was Graham Fitch that likened a play through to spending money whereas slow practise in phrases or sections was investment.

If you have the piece in memory a few days break would be an excellent idea. If you've been practising it well the fumbles should reduce and the phrasing improve during the break. If the memory stays there for the duration that's a good thing. If it fades, it's usually an even better thing.

Relearning a piece improves it more than continual practise, providing you've been developing as a pianist and musician in the interim.

I don't know how many pieces you work on at one time but if it's only one I'd move to a piece that's easy enough for you to finish it by the time the break's over.


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Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880583 08/17/19 11:48 AM
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I'm with everyone else...set it aside for now.

I've actually been experimenting with a couple of things in my own practice and have recommended it for my students.

The first thing is to go through a rotation of your pieces (you should be working on 3 or 4 pieces at the same time), where each day you give one of them a rest. Taking 1 day off from a piece every 3 or 4 days really helps with preventing the "getting sick" stage as you work through the technical issues. The key, however, is that you are actually doing good practicing and not just playing through start to finish 3 times or whatever. You need to work on the difficult spots using various practice techniques like playing in rhythms, accents, blocking chords, etc. Just plain repetition is boring for any piece.

Secondly, after about 4 weeks of practice or so, I stop playing the piece for about 3 weeks. I just let it drop. Then I relearn it - and you will need to treat it like you are relearning, but it won't take as long to relearn as it took to learn it the first time. However, when you relearn you will find some of the issues you had have worked themselves out, and overall the piece feels much more natural to play. You work it again for another 2-3 weeks, then take another break for at least 2 weeks, then relearn a third time for a few more weeks. Usually by the end of this third time it should be even easier to play.

So with the above in consideration, let the Allemande go for 2 weeks. Don't even play through it or think about it, except to have it on your calendar to start back up again in 2 weeks. In the meantime, choose some other pieces to work on. Find ones that are easier than the Allemande that would only take you a couple of weeks to perfect, and possibly something at that level as well so you have about 3 pieces to work on. Go through the rotation that I described above, and then you can drop one or two of those pieces when it's time to pick up the Allemande again.

I'd offer suggestions on pieces, but I'd need to know about what you've played, and which Allemande this is (there are many), and how long you've been studying piano for. BTW, I don't think it's bad to learn scales on your own, knowing that your teacher will want to work with you technically to correct things. At the very least you'll have the fingering and notes worked out.


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Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880630 08/17/19 02:42 PM
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I'm on a three week break too since my teacher is traveling. She assigned me a lot to work on though, and I'm trying to perfect them. I've hit a wall though because I still don't like how they sound, and I have no idea why or what to do to fix them.

More to your question though, I just watched a Josh Wright video on this topic! He says putting things aside for a while once you've got a good grasp of the piece is very beneficial.

Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880767 08/18/19 12:20 AM
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even if it doesn't work out, setting the piece aside for a time is a good experiment to see what happens.

What Morodiene wrote is gold BTW, so much good advice in there I can relate too.


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Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880839 08/18/19 08:01 AM
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Thanks for all the advice!

Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2880891 08/18/19 11:03 AM
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Second Morodienne. Whilst I accidentally stumbled on the letting go practice. I was shocked that letting a piece go actually yielded better results. Now I embrace that all is well if I have not touch the piece for a day or two.


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Re: Taking a break from a piece?
Parcival #2881074 08/18/19 05:54 PM
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I am going to try and follow Morodienne’s suggestions. I have got six pieces in process at the moment. I am putting two pieces on a two week break. That leaves 4. If one piece is always rotated out each day that leave 3 pieces to focus on. That feels manageable,

Let’s see what happens.


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