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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2889695
09/12/19 10:16 PM
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There is a lot of research on slow practice out there. See for example, this PhD dissertation (Section 5.3.5, p. 101 and elsewhere).


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2889752
09/13/19 02:04 AM
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I've heard a variation on this well known story. Someone (I can't remember who) was staying in a hotel, and from another room he could hear a note every second or so. After a while he recognised it as Prokofiev's Third Concerto, and when he made enquiries he discovered that the composer was staying in the same hotel and preparing for a concert that night.

I'm a huge fan of ultra-slow practise. Feeling every note and how it's connected to other notes, while moving with absolute certainty and with no unnecessary tension, feels like recalibrating the machinery. Afterwards, playing feels truly effortless.

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2889780
09/13/19 05:20 AM
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That would be the same time he decided to give up performing on the piano as he realized that a professional pianist could learn his work much quicker leaving Prokofiev more time to compose. It's in his autobiog.

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: JJHLH] #2889785
09/13/19 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by JJHLH

".......If we follow these suggestions and give the necessary time (no more or less) to each note, we will find ourselves playing totally uneven metric values because the amount of time it takes to master each note or passage varies with its difficulty! This unevenness is quite different from mechanical practicing, in which the poor victim repeats everything with mechanical regularity. It is not that I advocate unevenness in performance, but if the needed time given to each note while learning a work results from the continuous watchfulness of the mind, it is a most welcome sign of intelligent practicing.”



I strongly suggest that beginners/near-beginners DO NOT follow this advice. "Intelligent practicing" is not intelligent practicing if it plays havoc with your sense of rhythm.

Rhythmic problems (and refusal to count beats properly - if at all) are legion in this group and the very last thing you want to do is to speed up when the going is easy and slow right down when notes start coming in thick and fast when doing this kind of practicing. I can't begin to enumerate the number of times I've heard near-beginners - kids as well as adults - who appear to have no sense of rhythm, which is entirely down to sloppy practicing.

If you are going to practice slowly, count the beats ALOUD and keep everything strictly metrical, so that your brain assimilates the timing of the notes as well as the notes themselves. Do not separate the two, unless you remove a short segment to practice like a finger exercise, then you can throw in rhythmic irregularities like dotted notes to facilitate whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.

As I said earlier, there must always be a reason to do anything, when it comes to dedicated practicing. Picking out bits of random so-called 'advice' from a concert pianist who has only ever taught highly accomplished pianists (who have already gone far, far beyond the stage of having to count beats or play along to a metronome etc to ensure rhythmic accuracy) is a really bad idea.

Incidentally, I have listened to many well-known concert pianists talking about their practicing methods on BBC Radio 3, where they are frequently interviewed prior to concerts or during the somewhat informal 'In Tune' drive-time program where they play a few short pieces and chat to the presenter. (I could probably write a book about it.....). For every sage advice (like: "I play a Bach P & F every day to keep my fingers lubricated"), there is sage counter-advice ("I never play Bach - I don't play the harpsichord or clavichord or organ, and I don't believe Bach should be played on any piano").

Then you smile, go away and find your own way to do dedicated practicing that works for you........


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2889805
09/13/19 07:07 AM
09/13/19 07:07 AM
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Quote
Chasins was so fascinated by the slow speed that he looked at his watch to clock what he was hearing. He reported that “twenty seconds per bar was his pace for almost an hour”. Chasins described himself as “rivetted to the spot, quite unable to ring the bell”.

Every time I read this it makes me laugh. I imagine him standing for a whole hour at the door listening to Rachmaninov's note-by-note practice and measuring bars duration. laugh This is insane. And then why didn't he asked Rachmaninov about his practice methods? This story seems to me strange and hardly believable.


In general I second the opinion that the main purpose of slow practice is to get rid of tension. Slow practice allows to relax after every note/chord and to play every next note from the most comfortable hand position. It teaches hands how to play comfortably.

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 09/13/19 07:08 AM.
Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2889812
09/13/19 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
In general I second the opinion that the main purpose of slow practice is to get rid of tension. Slow practice allows to relax after every note/chord and to play every next note from the most comfortable hand position. It teaches hands how to play comfortably.
But how does this help when one plays at performance speed?

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: johnstaf] #2889817
09/13/19 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
I'm a huge fan of ultra-slow practise. Feeling every note and how it's connected to other notes, while moving with absolute certainty and with no unnecessary tension, feels like recalibrating the machinery. Afterwards, playing feels truly effortless.
I'm glad that you specified "ultra-slow" since most of the other thread posters didn't specify how slow, and I think that makes any comments unclear.

There's a big difference between ultra-slow and something like 80-90% desired speed because one hasn't mastered the notes or solved technical problems. I think some posters may be using slow practice to mean anything other than final performance speed.

But I do not understand what you mean by "Feeling every note and how it's connected to other notes" or "feels like recalibrating the machinery". Can you expand on this? Are you saying that slow practice somehow solves most technical problems? That you can jump from ultra slow to performance speed?

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2889856
09/13/19 09:24 AM
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My teacher meant slow enough so that I can play all of the measures in time. I think it comes down to the tempo at which I can play the hardest measures. I agree with not destroying the rhythm when playing slowly. For that to happen, one must be speeding up in the easy parts and slowing down in the hard parts, not a good habit to get into when practicing any instrument.


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: LarryK] #2889874
09/13/19 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK
My teacher meant slow enough so that I can play all of the measures in time. I think it comes down to the tempo at which I can play the hardest measures.
I think this makes some sense. OTOH if there are only a few passages where technical difficulties require a slow speed I think those should just be isolated and practiced separately while the rest of the piece is practiced closer to performance speed. Perhaps your teacher was referring to the speed you should choose when playing it in a lesson?

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: pianoloverus] #2889967
09/13/19 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by LarryK
My teacher meant slow enough so that I can play all of the measures in time. I think it comes down to the tempo at which I can play the hardest measures.
I think this makes some sense. OTOH if there are only a few passages where technical difficulties require a slow speed I think those should just be isolated and practiced separately while the rest of the piece is practiced closer to performance speed. Perhaps your teacher was referring to the speed you should choose when playing it in a lesson?


Yes, she was certainly referring to the speed I was trying to play it at the lesson. I usually play too fast. Isolation is a valid technique.

Last edited by LarryK; 09/13/19 01:02 PM.

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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Sam S] #2890015
09/13/19 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Sam S
Well, slow practice alone is not enough to play like a gazelle. Slow practice can lay a foundation, and resolve technical difficulties, but you also have to practice at other tempos.

Sam

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Sometimes the fingerings that work at slow speed don't work at high speed. The only way to discover that is to practice fast.


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2890059
09/13/19 05:50 PM
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I've got the playing slowly down at least...


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Chrispy] #2890065
09/13/19 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Chrispy
I've got the playing slowly down at least...


I don’t even have that down. :-(


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Fidel] #2890071
09/13/19 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Fidel
Originally Posted by Sam S
Well, slow practice alone is not enough to play like a gazelle. Slow practice can lay a foundation, and resolve technical difficulties, but you also have to practice at other tempos.

Sam

+1000

Sometimes the fingerings that work at slow speed don't work at high speed. The only way to discover that is to practice fast.

Not really, perhaps as a beginner yes. But usually you can make good fingering choices in the beginning knowing that the tempo will be faster later on.

I think slow practice is very important to not play faster than you can think in the beginning stages so you don't learn mistakes or build in tension. I also think it's helpful to return to slow practice in the whole process of preparing a piece for performance level to double-check you have everything clean and even, as sometimes going fast can result in things getting a bit mushy.

Like any practice technique, it should address the particular issue you're having for it to be effective.


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Morodiene] #2890086
09/13/19 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I think slow practice is very important to not play faster than you can think in the beginning stages so you don't learn mistakes or build in tension. I also think it's helpful to return to slow practice in the whole process of preparing a piece for performance level to double-check you have everything clean and even, as sometimes going fast can result in things getting a bit mushy.
But it seems to me that just because playing is clean and even at a slow speed, it wouldn't mean that it would be that way at performance speed. Isn't it more important to learn how to play cleanly at performance speed? I don't think making a mistake when one plays at a less than slow speed means one has "learned it". One could argue that playing a mistake when practicing at performance or faster than "slow" speed just means one has to go back and try to figure out what caused the mistake and is an important part of learning a piece.

I don't know what you mean by "build in tension". In my view tension is mostly a result of some technical problem which needs some work. Just because one can play without tension at a slow speed doesn't mean one can do so at a faster speed.

Despite what I've written above please don't assume I'm against slow practice. I'm mostly playing devil's advocate because I find some the arguments for slow practice in this and other threads unconvincing or unclear.

I hope other posters will discuss their opinions on slow practice in this thread and also specify how slow their slow practice is and when they do this while learning a piece. If one just means the type of practice virtually everyone does when starting to learn a piece(when one is still learning the notes and has not yet solved all the technical problems of playing at full speed), I don't think this should be thought of anything special or debatable.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/13/19 08:11 PM.
Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: pianoloverus] #2890108
09/13/19 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[quote=johnstaf]

But I do not understand what you mean by "Feeling every note and how it's connected to other notes" or "feels like recalibrating the machinery". Can you expand on this? Are you saying that slow practice somehow solves most technical problems? That you can jump from ultra slow to performance speed?



I mean playing so slowly that you can concentrate on the tiniest detail, such as the most efficient movements. Everything can be carried out with absolute certainty. That includes where each note is in a larger structure, voicing, and what what's coming next. The idea is to concentrate on the perfect execution, with huge attention to detail. The most important thing is that the piece feels ridiculously easy.

By "recalibrating the machinery", I mean that the hands feel like they can work with greater precision than before.

In my experience, this can be a very good way to solve technical problems, and yes it's possible to jump to performance speed. However, I prefer using this technique for a piece that I can already play, so that I can play it better, and with a clearer mental focus.

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: pianoloverus] #2890125
09/14/19 12:36 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
In general I second the opinion that the main purpose of slow practice is to get rid of tension. Slow practice allows to relax after every note/chord and to play every next note from the most comfortable hand position. It teaches hands how to play comfortably.
But how does this help when one plays at performance speed?

The brain remembers the most comfortable hand positions, motions and the relaxed feeling from such a very slow practice and at the time of getting back to performance speed it automatically tries to apply this knowledge.

The goal is to play at fast speed using more hand positions and motions of a comfortable slow playing instead of using 'shortcut' motions that bring tension and usually sound worse, too. More positioning work of the arm, less work of fingers trying to reach keys from suboptimal 'shortcut' positions.

Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2890138
09/14/19 01:50 AM
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I Like. To. Write. Really. Slowly. So. I. Will.


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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: terentius] #2890158
09/14/19 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by terentius
I Like. To. Write. Really. Slowly. So. I. Will.


Beabletowritefast.



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Re: The Rach method: Practise like a snail, play like a gazelle [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2890254
09/14/19 11:19 AM
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When i talk about slow, I mean slow compared to my limit. If my tempo to get the notes right but a bit rough I would describe that as my max speed then if I say slow practise I mean compared to that, and that will be around 50% of that speed I am guessing. But for much of my time my max speed is still below the correct tempo for the piece of music.

So when I say slow I mean really slow.


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