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Chunking or entire piece or page?
#2964315 04/07/20 06:09 AM
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Hi,

So I've had two different teachers, and one told me that I can learn a piece at my level either by chunking sections, or playing the entire piece, or entire pages through, and then chunking if I have a section that I find particularly difficult. The other encouraged chunking even when just learning a piece, even if no particularly difficult section.

Are both methods valid for learning a piece? Chunking on one hand gives lots of repetitions in a short period of time, which seems to help reinforce the correct playing very quickly for that section. However, playing more of the piece (an entire page, or the entire piece if it's only say like 3 pages) at once exposes you to more of it, and I find then the next day after I have slept, I am overall better at more of the piece.

Thanks!

Last edited by From the Alps; 04/07/20 06:13 AM.
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Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2964321 04/07/20 06:50 AM
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Personally I would say it comes down to preference and not any hard and fast rules. I have found when playing sections I might dwell on a few of them too long and neglect say the last page. The reverse is true where I might neglect the first page having put more effort into that initially, only to find later that the first page has become the weakest page.

Bottom line, create a system where you mix the practice up, but practice the whole piece consistently, whether that be one page, one section, or all of it.


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Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2964366 04/07/20 10:44 AM
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I find that learning in sections is most effective for me. I learn each section to an acceptable level, then move onto the next section. Repeat until the last section is learned, then I put it all together. I will come back to a particular section if it is particularly difficult and work on it some more.

I also sometimes play pieces all at once from beginning to end, over and over, because it seems the natural thing to do, but I always have to revert to learning in sections if I really want to be efficient in learning a piece. That’s just how my learning process works.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 04/07/20 10:47 AM.

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Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2964377 04/07/20 11:16 AM
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When it comes to a difficult piece, I tend to play through it a few times to get an idea what the piece sounds like and then work from the last section backwards. Gives a sense of completion. There are pieces I'd be working on not just 1 section but down to individual measures like a Bach fugue just to work out the ideal fingerings.

Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2964484 04/07/20 06:00 PM
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It really depends on the length and complexity of the piece. If have checked the first movement of Appassionata out - there is no way I can cheat myself through that one. I can start with the first line, try it in different ways, then I move on to next little section and after some dabbling here and there I can make the first attempts to play the whole first page in veeery, very slow tempo. Not with the intentions of making it sound very good, just to get a better grip of it, to make some phrases flow and even try to connect them.
Then I add the beginning of next page ... working back and forth, connecting sections with each other, pinpointing the tricky parts and making plans on how to conquer them.

But if the piece is much shorter and easier I would be able to get an idea of the whole thing rather quickly, and then I can go back to work with chunks until I have a decent flow in them.

If you take lessons, it could be a bit detrimental to NOT work in chunks at first. Because you learn a very limping and very imperfect version of the whole piece and then you bring it to the teacher who starts to give remarks on every error you make, which are many. You sit there and whisper "I know, I know" on all the comments and you feel ashamed because you suspect the teacher thinks you did not know better. What is the point in playing all these flaws, THAT YOU CAN FIX YOURSELF with some more practice, to the teacher? Maybe it is better to learn just a little section better and say "that is all I have done so far", and pretend that the rest of the piece is as pristine as a field of new snow where nobody has walked before.

Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2964633 04/08/20 09:13 AM
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I always start by chunking, you immediately feel if it is "easy enough" to play through without lots of repetitions, giving me more time to focus on the harder chunks of the pieces.

However I always keep in mind that I want to repeat the transitions between the chunks (the whole piece or a large part of it) to train the muscle memory.

Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
ghosthand #2964905 04/09/20 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by ghosthand

...
If you take lessons, it could be a bit detrimental to NOT work in chunks at first. Because you learn a very limping and very imperfect version of the whole piece and then you bring it to the teacher who starts to give remarks on every error you make, which are many. You sit there and whisper "I know, I know" on all the comments and you feel ashamed because you suspect the teacher thinks you did not know better. What is the point in playing all these flaws, THAT YOU CAN FIX YOURSELF with some more practice, to the teacher? Maybe it is better to learn just a little section better and say "that is all I have done so far", and pretend that the rest of the piece is as pristine as a field of new snow where nobody has walked before.


Oh, that description of a lesson is so familiar! On the other hand: sometimes the solutions my teacher offers are new and refreshing, and it turns out it wasn't useless to present my piece in its unpolished form. On the other other hand, , because my teacher tends to focus only on a few measures it winds down in practice to polishing small sections.

For my practice strategy: I mostly try to play through in the beginning of my practice session, to see where I'm at. And then playing through it a second time, stopping when I encouter sections that need work.


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Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2964913 04/09/20 07:04 AM
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I always play a piece through firstly several times to get an idea of what it is and how it can be interpreted. Then there are several options. Most often I just start repeating it phrase by phrase, it goes like this:
(phrase numbers)
11111 22222 12 12 12 33333 23 23 23 44444 ...

The process is then repeated every session.

Repeating whole sections is a pre-final phase.

Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2965035 04/09/20 01:09 PM
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Thanks for the tips everyone! Since I posted this topic I've been practicing the entire piece and just drilling individual hard sections by repeating them many times. This seems to work. The big helpful thing really seems to be ensuring that I practice slowly.

Re: Chunking or entire piece or page?
From the Alps #2965170 04/09/20 05:40 PM
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A chunk can be almost any size except the whole piece so any discussion has to include the size of the chunk. Each piece is also different in terms of the difficulty for the given pianist. I think most pianists simply practice the harder passages(chunks) more than the easier parts.

The length of the piece is also relevant. If a beginner is practicing a one page piece that's at an appropriate level for them, I think they certainly should be able to prepare that piece in a week if they are practicing a reasonable amount for their level. If they can only prepare half the piece well in a week, I think the piece is too hard for them at that point in their development. If an intermediate level pianist is learning a sonatina or sonata many/most would not be able to prepare the entire sonata or even one movement in a week. Discussions of this type should mention the level of pianist and length of the piece.


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