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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
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.

Of course, its completely fine to do what works for you. I was only speaking for myself. Everyone practices a bit differently, and tries out new ideas every now and then. Varying the practice routine slightly can also help, when things feel a bit monotonous. At least it does for me smile


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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
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.
Something formulaic can provide structure but does not require much thinking. Virtually no good advanced pianists practice this way but I suppose it makes sense for some beginners.

Even if it "works" for someone that does not mean another approach might not work better. Such fromulaic approaches beg questions like "Why 7 and not 8?"

Last edited by pianoloverus; 05/24/19 02:06 PM.
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Bottom line ….. Anything that keeps you playing is "working".

I have the complete opposite of a formula for practicing …

I work on whatever I feel like for as long as I feel it is useful.

I have no amount of time set aside to practice and I might not practice at all or for hours on any given day.

As a result my progress is slow …. but I am still in the game.

Therefore, my "method" is working.




Last edited by dmd; 05/24/19 02:21 PM.

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Well, at least I got your attention...

I've just gotten a chance to catch up and thanks to everyone's comments and additions. I remember reading the Bernhard thing months ago, but it was a more recent mention somewhere else that got me going on it this time.

Also, regarding flexibility...

When I sit down to practice I've made a plan FOR THAT DAY. If anyone has read my very first post, you'll know I can do some serious plans and they have changed over the months.

Currently a day's practice plan might look something like this...

Ear: Do 1 set intervals, 1 set chords, try for better than 19/20

Theory: 1 page each Snell and Faber

Sight reading: 15 min. Timer; start Faber for upcoming lesson pieces, Bach Scholar, then Small
each only 3 times - remember to try for top note of chord and shape to identify

Technique: (10 minutes each)
Scales (A/Am) RCM for Am 2 octave, triads, broken chords
Brown book for A Maj. 2 octaves, triads, chords
Bach for contrary motion
finish w. each four octaves SLOWLY; no errors

Exercise: Czerny Vol. 445 # 16 (a two line exercise) do 2x7 then try for 3 times each line no errors

Etude: Swinging Leprechaun (4 lines) - 3rd line, do Seven Levels of heck WITH SWINGS!!, then whole piece 50% tempox3 WITH AWESOME SWINGS!


Repertoire/Lessons:
Chocolate Eater Blues - Each of 6 sections 7 Levels of heck, Repeat Section C get the swings to feel natural.

Cranky Cat: Section A 50bpm>80bpm; Section B 50 > 72; Section C 40>60

Unit 6 Tech piece: Work tempo as needed

So next week I might shift everything around depending on what each piece needs and there will be at least 2 new pieces that will have a 19 level check list to get to 50% in a day or two and I might take a day to just write down the name of the piece and whatever it came to mind to do that day cause I just wanted to free-form it that day.

A reminder of the changing nature of this blog/thread: The last few entries have been for the most part ESSAYS on piano practice. Only that. Each one is a microcosm look at ONE DETAIL of a practice regimen that is ever changing. I just want to look back at them someday and know where I was and what was important or noteworthy at a point in time. Remember it's all about:

Happy Practicing Everyone!


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Holly, I enjoy reading your posts.


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I am sorry Holly, off topic! But...

Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Bernhard on pianostreet
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.


I found out this morning. Yesterday I made sure that my last repeats were perfect, all of them. This morning, there was not so much ingrained in my brain. I messed up several times - not worse than usual, but just as I often do, when I start practising.


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PianoStudent 88, thank you so much!

Animisha - I agree a singular correct playing isn't going to ingrain much of anything. Sometimes I try, sometimes I'm so mentally spent I can't be bothered. I do notice, however, ending on a correct playing gives me a better feeling about practice than when I don't. Perhaps more likely to return to the bench enthused?

For all of us:
As with all advice in any field, best to treat it like a buffet, take what you want and ignore the rest.


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Just a note to say I haven't bee run off, just swamped with work. Barely getting 5 hours, if that, a week and certainly no time to think through something to write. Hope everyone's spring is winding up nicely,

happy practicing everyone,
Holly


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Hi Holly! Five hours a week when you are swamped with work is quite an accomplishment. Most adult learners would be fully satisfied with that - and they don't write diaries on forums either. smile
I hope your next week is less flooded!


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I'm Baa..aacck!

Can you tell I'm a child of the 80s?

So after a nine-month hiatus from posting I suddenly want the feedback of a community again. Here goes...

I have still been practicing over the time I have not been posting and am currently at about the halfway point of RCM Level 2/Faber Level 4. New work responsibilities (I'm the business administrator for a small business) prohibited my posting...at least I like to tell myself that...but the reality is I'm Scots-Irish and apt to be stubborn about things and just wanted to go my own way without comment for a while. (Eek, honesty is a rather pouty thing, no?)

Anywho, I currently find myself very comfortable with my practice regimen after a wretched winter of discontent. For those unfamiliar I don't have a teacher, but a definite plan to acquire one when I run out of Faber materials in late summer of 2021. (I have six years high level playing on another instrument so reading music is not a problem.) I am a devotee of Josh Wright's ProPractice lessons and I like the check points of RCM (Royal Canadian something or other) to keep my OCD in precarious check. Allysia at PianoTV should also get a shout out for unbeknowingly providing guidance.

I have dallied with 40 pieces-a-year programs, worshiped at the alter of Kesolo, and spent an inordinate amount of time creating my own syllabus...though in my defense I know myself at age 50 enough to accept that too much outside input, even from an outstanding teacher, is apt to make me just quit and walk away, so there is rhyme to my lack of reason.

Those who knew me when know I get greedy and want to do too many pieces and spread myself too thin. I'm getting over it. I practice around 2 hours/day Mon.-Thr and 1 hour each Sat. and Sun by plan, yet sadly usually log only 7-8 hours/week and more often than I want to admit fail to get a paltry 3.

When I hit 7 hours in a week I put a little money in the pot to someday get a better piano. (if you want to gripe that I'm writing this on a Friday night rather than practicing, I live in an apartment and in the interest of neighborly relations do not play after 6 p.m.)

Current Daily Curriculum:

Technique - 45 minutes
20 Scales (Snell)
15 sight reading (Mostly Bach, but also RCM, Faber, and Snell materials)
10 exercises (Hanon, Schmitt, Czerny)

Difficult piece - 30 minutes
A piece from Josh Wright's late beginner repertoire, currently Bach BWV 114, that gets around 10
weeks to have memorized and performance ready.

Medium Piece - 15 minutes
An RCM modern (8-10 weeks) or Snell (4 weeks) piece

2 Easy Pieces - 30 minutes total
Any two pieces from Faber Level 4 lessons, tech, or etudes materials (2-4 weeks)

Repertoire Maintenance - 15 minutes
I currently have 2 short (5 min practice) and 2 long (10 min practice) pieces and do
one of each on alternating days.

Theory and Ear training - more miss than hit

For those who knew me when, 10-12 individual pieces a week were the norm so this is obviously a significant shift. 4 pieces plus technique basically. Repertoire and theory get short shrift more often than not and I hope my future teacher forgives me then cracks the whip.

So about practice pedagogy...Slow, slow, SLOW, S...L...O...W... and slow.

I kid you not it's changed my life. My metronome starts at 40 BPM, but on a difficult piece it might take me two or three days to work up from counting aloud somewhere below that to actually get up to 40 BPM on a piece that will eventually hit >120. Play, tick up one, play, tick up one, error, drop back three ticks, play 3 times, tick up one, play three times, tick up one, play three times at original error speed then tick up once per playing until another error. Monotonous? Oh, heck no.

At such slow speeds the mind searches for anything to be engaged, ooh, ooh, look, a dynamic direction, YIPPEEEEEEE. I get to tempo then start playing with skipping up by 3s, by 2s at 50%, by ones after 75%...etc.

Until I can sit down and play it at tempo, it ain't done.

My errors are DRAMATICALLY reduced by this method. I know there are teachers who HATE metronome practice and say it produces robotic playing. I know for ME it produces the TIME to pay attention to dynamics and nuance.

Since ERRORS in playing have been the bane of my existence, having a method that forces me to play correctly or slow down is hugely effective.

That's all for now.

Current work:

Technique
Scales: C, Am, F, Dm, G, Em, D, Bm, Bb
Exercise: Schmitt 52-56
Sight reading: Bach Scholar 6/day + other materials

Learning:
Bach - Menuet in G. BWV 114
Scale Monster 2nd page (Faber 4)
Caspian Sea (Faber 4)
Louis Streabbog - A Pleasant Morning (Snell, Romantic period)

Repertoire:
Rainbow Connection (Level 1 Alfred)
Purcell, Minuet in Am
Michelle MacLaughlin - The Lonely Ballerina
F. Schubert - Waltz in Bm

Happy Practicing,

Holly


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Welcome back Holly!


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Yes, welcome back Holly! I have always enjoyed your postings, and I am happy to find out you are still practising, in spite of your wretched winter of discontent. I hope you'll get a sparkling spring of piano pleasure!


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Glad you are back Holly.


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This week's work list:

Technique (45 minutes to an hour)
Scales: C, Am, F, Dm, G, Em, D, Bm, Bb, Gm
Exercise: Schmitt 46-51
Sight reading: Bach Scholar 6/day + other materials
Ear training: RCM online for rhythm, melody, intervals, chords

Learning (75 minutes or so)
Bach - Menuet in G. BWV 114
Scale Monster 2nd page (Faber 4)
Caspian Sea (Faber 4)
Louis Streabbog - A Pleasant Morning (Snell, Romantic period)

Repertoire: (15 minutes alternating 2 pieces at a time)
Rainbow Connection (Level 1 Alfred)
Purcell, Minuet in Am
Michelle MacLaughlin - The Lonely Ballerina
F. Schubert - Waltz in Bm

Of note: Schmitt kicked my Boo-tay this week. I've pulled away from exercises substantially in the last half year, but on Josh Wright's recommendation I'm working through the first 90ish Schmitt exercises in chunks. This week's chunk involves holding down the third finger while the rest of the fingers do their thing on a simple melody. Each exercise is 2-3 measures and I do each one legatto, staccato, LSL and LSSL before moving to the next. I THOUGHT my brain controlled my fingers, but after this week I'm seriously thinking alien possession...it's the only explanation for the absolute refusal of my second finger right and forth left to move if the third finger is not moving.

A Pleasant Morning is just that. Pleasant. Lots of up and down the scale, but the dynamics at least keep me engaged. The final tempo is 120 and I got it to 100 in the first of 4 allotted weeks, which speaks well to being able to really work it for expression before I'm done.

Scale Monster is just that. A monster. It's a technique prep piece from Faber 4. Obviously it's scale run heavy. It also asks that I achieve the milestones of quarter note at 56 bpm, 72 bpm, and 92 bpm. I have worked 3 weeks to get it to 72. Seriously? See alien possession theory above... I'm actually going to abandon it after the weekend. Well, that's not exactly accurate. I'll give it 2-3 run throughs as a warm up and cool down in Scales time to see if EVENTUALLY I can get it to 92...before summer fireworks maybe...but anyway, I'm not waiting on beginning the piece it supposedly preps me for as rhythmically and dynamics-wise I'm fine. I have some stiffness from arthritis in my hands so I'm never going to be a tempo prodigy.

Ear training RCM switched in the last year or so from giving open access to ear training with the purchase of the Four Star Sight Reading book to giving you six months from entering the code then going to a $4.99 US fee per month. Tacky if I do say so. Being a frugal sort I've waited until my spreadsheet indicates six months to go in Level 2 to enter the code and begin. Rhythm is never my problem with many years of marching band in my past.The Melody section asks that I play back by ear a penta-scale 2-3 measure being given the key signature. They play it twice. Luckily I'm able to hear the sample over and over again until I think I've got it before I play it back. Much work in my future to play anything by ear. Intervals asks me to distinguish by ear Major 3rd, Minor 3rd or perfect fifth. Not TOO hard. I'm learning for me anything questionable is major because minor always REALLY sounds minor. Chords is again asking major or minor sometimes from just two notes. Despite the chintzy less-than-a-year access it's a pretty thorough ear training program.

And last, but most certainly not least: Bach Menuet in G BWV114
I usually loathe trills and mordants. The Purcell piece in my repertoire still needs work on those pesky little ornaments. Thankfully my edition of Selections from Anna Magdalena's Notebook (edited by Willard A. Palmer) is marked with sensible dynamics I don't hate and handy little fingering notes on all the ornaments. I'll leave figuring our such for myself for when I'm no longer classified in the "beginner" category of my chosen hobby. I will say that even though Bach didn't actually compose the little thing I've gotten a much better appreciation for Baroque from playing it. It's soothing to have no pedal work and the waxing and waning of dynamics without rubato as I imagine people in 1723 or so dancing at court, flirting, or engaging in royal intrigue makes me quiet happy. Wonder if they thought about alien possession way back when...


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Technique (45 minutes to an hour)
Scales: Focus on Eb maj; also worked C, Am, F, Dm, G, Em, D, Bm, Bb, Gm
Exercise: Schmitt 52-56
Sight reading: Bach Scholar 6/day + other materials
Ear training: RCM online for rhythm, melody, intervals, chords

Learning (75 minutes or so)
Bach - Menuet in G. BWV 114
Chanson (Faber 4)
Ceremony for Peace (Faber 4)

Louis Streabbog - A Pleasant Morning (Snell, Romantic period)

Repertoire: (15 minutes alternating 2 pieces at a time)
Rainbow Connection (Level 1 Alfred)
Purcell, Minuet in Am
Michelle MacLaughlin - The Lonely Ballerina
F. Schubert - Waltz in Bm


This week had its ups and downs. Having gotten most of the family in their separate abodes prepared for lock down, I confess to getting into the wine stores the first couple of nights due to simple loneliness. The Hubs is still working at his clinic helping those in need, so I really shouldn't whine. But with my adult children sequestered away I'm spending a lot of hours by myself. I'm a severe introvert, don't get me wrong, but solitude that is not by choice is a whole other animal.

By Wednesday I had my equilibrium back so practice resumed for real. Of note this week:

Shmitt: Wow. Just wow. They're short, they're simple, they kick my butt. It's fourth finger held down for each exercise this week. My middle fingers, which have had so much unfortunate practice separating themselves from their mates when I'm pissed off, found they have an affinity for their fourth finger mates that was nearly unbreakable sans emotional impetus. Staccato helped. Slowing way, way down, and just calmly asking the finger to lift while focusing hard on keeping the fourth finger down finally got it going, but honestly it was like I was creating new neural pathways from scratch. We'll see how the weekend goes, but I may have to give this set another week.

Chanson Three pages in the Faber lesson book. It's nicely paced with lots of peddle so it's a good counterpoint to the Bach I'm still working on. In the past I've had a lot of trouble with new pieces. Not technical trouble, but mental focus to dive in and learn the phrasing, label some sections, settle down and start working the sections. It can take me a week to ten days to make friends enough with a piece to be able to do real work on it. This week I got both new pieces going solidly within 3 days. It may be a breakthrough.

Ceremony for Piece Also from Faber and quite fun. Lots of drama. I've been listening to a lot of Rachmaninoff lately, the kind of stuff I'll never play because of age and arthritis, but Ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to thunder a bit.

Quick story - Last weekend I was working the last four measures of Bach Menuet in G BWV 114, and they include an ornament that was giving me some trouble. So I was a good little piano student and went down to around 40 BPM where I could have played it even comatose and worked those same four measures three times each for each tick of the metronome up to around 100 BPM. Any error sent me back down 10 BPM to resume. This all took about 30 minutes. Twenty minutes in my Hubs jumped up from the couch, snapped his laptop shut, and rushed out. When I finished I found him and inquired as to his state of being. He informed me that aural water torture was cruel and I should be ashamed. I confess to feeling not one iota of shame because those four measures now flow like liquid silk.

Happy Practicing Everyone


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And then the Pandemic Hit...

It has been awhile and we all know why.

Music was a balm from the last posting, just as things were getting serious here in the US, then I finished Level 2 (RCM) along about August and everything sort of fell apart. The election and the pandemic took over every media outlet 24/7 and I would sit down to play and it wasn't notes on a staff, but hieroglyphs refusing to resolve.

Thankfully the last few weeks have yielding a building urgency to resume that finally became too much to ignore and I got back into it.

I am hoping to resume my 7-10 hours/week level, but it will be after the holidays before I can commit to it.

Over two and a half years I have been gradually simplifying my practice as the length and difficulty of the individual pieces has increased. So my current layout is:

Technique 30 minutes: scales, chords, arpeggios and technique pieces from Faber

Sight Reading 10 minutes

Any two of the following per day:
RCM Piece Level 3 40 minutes
Faber Piece Level 5 40 minutes
Josh Wright Late Beginner Repertoire piece 40 minutes

I break it down with the 30 minutes technique and 1 piece in the morning and in the afternoon the sight reading and another piece.

Currently I'm working on:
Faber: Shenandoah (American Folk song)
RCM: Sonatina in C Major op. 36, no. 1 by Clementi
Repertoire: Musette in D, BWV 126 by Bach

I've been working the Faber piece by phrase, working each up to tempo and combining phrases. I expect it will take around 3 weeks to have it polished.

The Sonatina has three 2-page parts, and is the longest piece I've attempted. I'm currently working on the first part only and want to have it memorized and at least 75% tempo before starting the next section. I'm giving it a rough estimate of 4 months to have it all done.

The Bach Musette has been the piece I've tried to sit down to all fall without success due to lack of concentration. If all goes well it should take about 2 months to have memorized and close to tempo.

I am essentially beginning Level 3 RCM (Late beginner) here at the start of a new year. I'll be doing all of Faber 5 Lesson book (14 pieces), RCM Level 3 (3 pieces), and from Josh Wright's recommended repertoire for this level (6 pieces), along with some Faber 5 additional pieces (6) that have a strong jazz/blues element to them as part of my technique time.

For serious study that is 29 pieces with 9 of them to be memorized and brought to performance level (for someone at my level anyway).

The 40 pieces a year challenge is too much for me, I found. I'm sure if I was willing to make two-thirds of those pieces significantly easier than my current level it would be doable, but I decided the main advantage of the 40 piece thing is the enormous amount of sight reading it entails. I already have a 10 minute a day sight reading practice regime.

The 29 pieces I will be working on are all at my current level. As one of them is a section of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, ABOVE my level is being represented as well.

I hope all of you and your families are well and that the new year brings everyone light and joy and beautiful music.


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Hi Holly, a very late welcome back! Always nice to read your practice diary.


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At the rate Holly is progressing the lake must have white-capped waves


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April 2021

Just a note to myself to keep dates and events in order when my memory goes.

February 2 was my first lesson with a teacher. I found someone in my town who has a Ph.D. in music and teaches at a reasonable rate. Luckily for me we are both comfortable wearing masks and meeting in person.

He was quite gracious allowing me to continue working in RCM 3 when we started. However, I am on my last RCM piece for a while. I will be finishing up the level with

List A - Musette in D - Bach
List B - Sonatina in C - Clementi (all three movements)
List C - Morning Prayer - Tchaikovsky*
Etude 1 - Witches and Wizards - Christine Donkin
Etude 2 - Allegro in A Major - Hassler
Technique - major and minor keys hands together up to 3#s and 3bs to 80bpm in 1/8ths, broken and solid chords, arpeggios, plus D formula pattern and C chromatic

*This is still in process. It's a bugger to memorize!

Musette in D took about 6 weeks and is easy to keep up

The Sonatina took 5 months, but the last movement took only 3 weeks. Progress.

Witches and Wizards is what I played for my teacher to let him see where I was at and was the first piece I memorized as a way to learn to a piece. Special place in my heart.

Allegro in A Major - It's a piece. They can't all be favorites. I'm not bothering to keep it spiffed up.


And of special note (as if going to a teacher were not enough). I finally learned how to use memorization as a practice tool. I had been in the mindset of get a piece nicely finished, then memorize it to perform it. Dreaded it.

I found a tip on the web about two weeks before I started with my teacher to memorize by measure as a way to learn the piece in the first place. REVOLUTIONIZED my playing. That Clementi Sonatina listed above is 6 pages. I can play all of it from memory and can start from any measure. Nothing humble about that brag. I'm proud of it.

I won't be moving on to RCM 4 as I'm going to trust my teacher's recommendations on how to proceed. He knows my 10 year goals and we are in discussions about how I might tame the beast that is my Type A personality with progress goals along the way.

I hope everyone is still playing and able to safely emerge from their lockdowns soon.

Happy Practicing,
Holly


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Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I found a tip on the web about two weeks before I started with my teacher to memorize by measure as a way to learn the piece in the first place. REVOLUTIONIZED my playing. That Clementi Sonatina listed above is 6 pages. I can play all of it from memory and can start from any measure.

Hi Holly, would you mind sharing a link to that online tip you mentioned?

Thanks!
Mary

p.s. without hoping to suggest an alternative to an already very successful 'practice journal pro' like yourself, I'm enjoying using the iOS app "Modacity"-- pricey as heck, but pretty dang useful. Kinda neat & designed by a professional musician to track his own practice.

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