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Hi all, I have a performance (exam rather) coming up in exactly 2 months time. Not exactly last minute but I want to be fully prepared as much as possible. I have most of the pieces secured but there are two main things that bothered me and wondering if you guys can share some tips to overcome these

1) Memory Lapse
Someone in the forum suggested slow practice to overcome this. It helps somewhat but from time to time I get memory lapse in unexpected places especially when performing for an audience. I think it has to do with nerves or trying to think ahead/ too much. I have been practicing slow and looking at my fingers when I practice to make sure I secure everything but sometimes I forget thing in unexpected places,


2) Fatigue
I have a fast Czerny piece in the programme and my forearm gets really sore midway. I can manage to finish the piece but the last section will not be as fluid because of the soreness.
It doesn't happen everytime though.. sometimes when I'm alone practicing I can play the piece over and over 20 times and not get any soreness, so I know my technique is somewhat there. I noticed the fatigue only occurs, again, when there is an audience, like in front of my teacher for example. I think it's because maybe I overthink it or being too careful not to miss any note?

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2) The symptom sounds as though it is being caused by tension. What you need to do while practicing s l o w l y, is to concentrate on keeping the body (neck, shoulders, arms, wrist) all relaxed. One of my teachers always recommended slow practice to master works that require playing at speed as long as you can concentrate on relaxing during the slow practice.

When you do play through the piece at tempo, think not of the individual notes but rather of the line and where each phrase is going. Concentrating on direction and architecture of the piece can also help - to some degree - to avoid tension.

Regards,


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1) Are you able to pick up or resume playing from any and every bar? If not, practice that.

When Im learning I can often play a piece through but only resume or start from the beginning or from a clear melodic phrase. My teacher won't let that pass.

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You need to practice playing for audience. Invite a friend and play your programme for them. Try playing programme pieces on a piano in a public place. Record yourself.

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Looks like you're expected to memorize your pieces. Some people are good readers and feel more relaxed when the sheet music is on the stand.

Break your piece into sections and try starting from the beginning of each section at random. When practicing, give a few second pause when you come to the end of a section before going on and feel your muscles relaxed. After you learn a piece well enough, you shorten the breaks between sections until they become unnoticeable.




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I agree that fatigue is due to tension- I have this problem too. Besides the tips already given (stopping in the middle and making sure you are relaxed, practicing very slowly while focusing on your different muscles and making sure they are not tense), it helps to put the piece under pressure a few times. Set goals right now of at least 4 times when you will run your program for other people, even if you don't feel totally ready. Tell them to get a stranger along. Each time you do this, keep careful note of places where you feel uncertain, of moments where you get memory lapses, of how your body reacts to the experience and what new difficulties arise, and then work on those in your practice. My teacher often said: practice is not what you do so that you don't get nervous; practice is what you do to be able to deal with that which happens when you get nervous.

Video-record yourself and analyze it from a physical perspective: do you look tense? Which muscles are tightening up? Is your posture good and relaxed? What is changing when you play?

For memory, the most helpful thing I've found was committed mental practice. Separate your memory of the piece from your fingers and from physical movement: can you sit at a table, away from a piano, close your eyes, and go through the piece from beginning to end, aware of every note with absolutely no vagueness, without moving your fingers? If this is new, do this a few times with the score: I often use a metronome at a very slow tempo and just read along, making sure that: 1. my eyes are able to assimilate all that's on the page and read ahead with total calmness, and 2. that I'm able to mentally hear everything that I'm reading (this is best done as one of the first steps to learning a new piece, before playing it, but if you've already practiced the piece it will take less time). If there is any feeling of rush, if you must skip over some notes or don't have enough time to hear all sounds, go slower- as slow as you need to fully "grab" and really locate every sound in your mind's ear and every key in your mind's eye. Then, take away the score, and do this in your head- first, very slowly. There are three elements here: hearing all the notes, visualizing with clarity their place at the keyboard, and doing the physical movements with precision in your mind- nothing approximated. Do not move your fingers or your hands at all- it defeats the purpose. When you are able to do this up to tempo a few times in your head, living the entire performance without an instrument with absolute clarity, then you will experience a calm and wonderfully reliable confidence in your performance, and there will no longer be any fear of memory slips, because you are actively aware of everything you're doing and your thoughts are quicker than your fingers, essentially commanding them.

If you're playing a sonata, for example, or a larger work, make sure you also know all the directions/ dynamics by practicing saying them to yourself as a separate element without the score, describing them like a story: e.g. Allegro con brio, forte. Then crescendo to the end of the phrase. Forte for four bars. Second theme: piano, etc. You can take this further and describe form, harmony. Again you can first do this with the score a few times, then while you play, then from memory.

(This necessitates that your brain be completely "on" during the performance. There are many who advocate turning it off, essentially suppressing consciousness (because it often leads to doubt) and carefully staying "underwater", letting the fingers do their job, but I personally disagree with this approach. The quality of music-making is astonishingly different when one is unconscious and the fingers just go vs when one is in command, even if the result with the former is pleasant, even beautiful, and even if many successful and famous pianists do it. You don't practice a speech by reading it so many times that your tongue essentially moves by itself, because it would take away the all the intentionality and the power of it. And I think it's unfortunate that we are often taught to think of music as "doing something" instead of "saying something". Film actors, ballet and gymnastic artists, even tennis champions, practice their roles and their movements mentally more than physically).


"Love has to be the starting point- love of music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something similar to love."
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Originally Posted by albydooby
1) Memory Lapse
Someone in the forum suggested slow practice to overcome this. It helps somewhat but from time to time I get memory lapse in unexpected places especially when performing for an audience. I think it has to do with nerves or trying to think ahead/ too much. I have been practicing slow and looking at my fingers when I practice to make sure I secure everything but sometimes I forget thing in unexpected places
I also get memory lapses due to nerves in unexpected places - very occasionally - when I perform.

Luckily, my exam days are long over smirk , and instead of trying to stop them from occurring completely, I just accept that they can occur at any time (my nerves have never deserted me even though I've been performing a monthly recital in the same venue for many years: they can still kick in suddenly even when I think I'm totally calm & collected cry) and make sure I know what I can do to mitigate the 'effects' of memory lapses. Lots of possible 'restarting points' in the pieces that I can jump to or pick up from if I suddenly lose my place mentally - and of course, without missing a beat (I'd learnt early on to do that in my sight-reading, which was part of the piano exams I did: keep playing and keep the beat going regardless of what happens). I can also improvise if need to, in the same key, until my mind kicks back into gear and I can reach one of those restarting points in the piece. Those points are the beginning of new sections, new phrases, key changes etc and I practice starting from all of them.

Like BruceD said, think in long phrases, the trajectory of the line, where you're heading, rather than individual bars or notes.

Where you have technically tricky sections, practice playing them faster - if you can play them faster than you would in the exam and still be rock solid, you've given yourself extra security. More importantly, you feel more secure because you know you have something in reserve.

Play in front of others - whether or not they're listening wink - whenever you can: on public pianos (in train stations, airports, shopping malls, even streets) for example, or get friends & relatives in to listen to you (assuming you don't break any social distancing rules where you live). Have fun with your playing (after all, making music is supposed to be fun.....), and get used to distractions - you can ask your friends to chat or even talk to you, while you're playing grin.


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Try singing the sections you're uncertain of - note for note. Get the uncertain phrases into your ear so that you're able to focus/listen as you play rather than letting the mind wander away from the piece.

Are you breathing? Or are you holding your breath when you get to those tense moments?

You may want to look at meditation, yoga, shakti mat or some other forms of relaxation techniques to bring into your general life, which can manifest through your fingers.

Good luck.

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Wow lots of good advice here. Thank you so much. I will go through the advice one by one and apply them to my practice.

I have never tried practicing away from the piano before but I have seen musician do it on the train and at the beach. It makes sense, I should start doing that too and exploring its merit. Thanks for bringing that up! Sometimes I get a bit undisciplined and even though I spend many hours on the piano if it is not mindful practice then it's just wasted time.

Thanks again everyone.

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Originally Posted by albydooby
Wow lots of good advice here. Thank you so much. I will go through the advice one by one and apply them to my practice.

I have never tried practicing away from the piano before but I have seen musician do it on the train and at the beach. It makes sense, I should start doing that too and exploring its merit. Thanks for bringing that up! Sometimes I get a bit undisciplined and even though I spend many hours on the piano if it is not mindful practice then it's just wasted time.
I think you should discuss some of the advice given with you teacher and then choose just a few of them. You have an oversupply of advice and can't possibly hope to follow all of it.

Are you required to play from memory? If not, I would start by playing with the music(which also requires some practice to do successfully) unless you are one of those pianists who feel you play much better without the score. This would eliminate memory lapses and that problem would no longer exist.

What's on your program? We don't have much idea of your level and I think different kinds of advice apply depending on the level of the performer.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Are you required to play from memory?
I think the OP is doing the ARTC diploma exam, which requires memorization.


"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."
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The OP provided more information on the July 4th post when he requested practice tips

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...me-need-practice-advice.html#Post2998487


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
We don't have much idea of your level and I think different kinds of advice apply depending on the level of the performer.

Hi Pianoloverus, Bennevis is right I am doing the associate diploma. I am doing the AmusA however, which is the Australian equivalent.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
You have an oversupply of advice and can't possibly hope to follow all of it.

Actually I have a lot of time on my hand because of the covid situation, so I'm keen to try a few advice and see which one works for me. Here are my thoughts. Feel free to give me your input.


1) I was watching youtube about the ultimate memorization, is to transcribe the piece note by note by memory, away from the piano. I find that this might work for slow pieces, but with fast pieces I find my muscle memory is faster than recalling which notes goes where. But it is dangerous to rely everything on muscle memory, which brings me to the next point...

2) Singing the piece in my head. This is something that actually helps me tremendously. I sing the piece in my head as I perform/practice which helps secure the notes I am going to play next, but I have to concentrate really hard and try not to sing ahead/think ahead. Otherwise this backfires and cause memory lapse somehow. (from experience)

3) Slow practice. I look at my hands when I practice so I don't fall back to using muscle memory. From time to time my brain gets fried and I started using muscle memory, this is inevitable. So I put up a camera to record myself to simulate performance situation, and note which part that is not secure and go back to slow practice starting from that section.

In summary I would say I use a lot of muscle memory, but also remembering every key notes, what note to start from, and after every jumps (sort of like beacons) etc. Would you say this is the right way to go about it?

Also every night, in bed I would hum the pieces in my head from start to finish before I sleep. laugh

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Originally Posted by albydooby
[...]the ultimate memorization, is to transcribe the piece note by note by memory, away from the piano. I find that this might work for slow pieces, but with fast pieces I find my muscle memory is faster than recalling which notes goes where.

In an ideal world, perhaps, but who would have the time to transcribe, note for note, a movement of a Beethoven Sonata, for example. [...]

Originally Posted by albydooby
In summary I would say I use a lot of muscle memory, but also remembering every key notes, what note to start from, and after every jumps (sort of like beacons) etc. Would you say this is the right way to go about it?
. Are you able to break a work down in small sections and start at any one of them?

Originally Posted by albydooby
Also every night, in bed I would hum the pieces in my head from start to finish before I sleep. laugh

When you do this, can you actually feel, mentally, where your hands are going, LH and RH, for each note, or are you just humming the melody? I actually try to play through, in my mind, a piece that I have memorized with all notes and dynamics in place.

Regards,


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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by albydooby
every night, in bed I would hum the pieces in my head from start to finish before I sleep. laugh

When you do this, can you actually feel, mentally, where your hands are going, LH and RH, for each note, or are you just humming the melody? I actually try to play through, in my mind, a piece that I have memorized with all notes and dynamics in place.
Regards,

Good question. I can't really pinpoint every notes with all the sharps and flats. but I can mentally feel the general direction where the hand would go, but not the fingers. If that makes any sense? And yes with dynamics in place. I need to visually see the keys (the pattern of the black notes and white notes) to see where my fingers would go. That's why when I practice I look at my fingers in the hope that the muscle memory, aided with the visual cues (and the humming inside my head) would minimise any chance of a memory lapse.

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Originally Posted by albydooby
In summary I would say I use a lot of muscle memory, but also remembering every key notes, what note to start from, and after every jumps (sort of like beacons) etc. Would you say this is the right way to go about it?

Also every night, in bed I would hum the pieces in my head from start to finish before I sleep. laugh
Since I haven't memorized anything for almost 60 years I can't claim to be an expert. But I have read some articles. I think you stick with the most common and basic methods before trying the more out of the way ones. The ones I'm familiar with are muscle memory, visual memory(how your fingers look on the keyboard or how the notes look on the page), aural, harmonic analysis, and structural analysis. I think most people automatically use muscle memory and aural memory so I suggest trying to use some of the other three.

Although I have heard about transcribing a piece, if one tries to transcribe a piece by memory, what happens if one cannot do that at some point in the piece?

Of course, I think part of playing by memory is learning how to be relaxed enough that ones is not overwhelmed by fear of a memory slip so that's another area to work on.

I don't know if you are a professional or want to become one or if you are an amateur who is just taking an exam. Although everyone want to pass an exam, if you are in the last category perhaps you are more concerned about the exam than is necessary?

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I am puzzled because I just read your earlier thread about your upcoming exam where you said playing from memory is optional. If that's the case and you are concerned about memory lapses, why not play from the score? Are you planning a professional career where you'll basically be required to play from memory?

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yes memorisation is optional in this exam but I really want to challenge myself and also the fast pieces do need to be memorised in order to play them properly.

Anyway, today I had a few friends over and so I thought it's a good idea to do a mock performance.
The whole thing actually went really well with no major memory slips EXCEPT at the very start when I began to play the first piece, within the first 4 bars suddenly I forgot everything and I scrambled to find the right notes, eventually I just need to restart. After that it was smooth sailing throughout. This is not the first time I had a false start. I remember when I was working on the previous exam, my teacher made her senior students to perform for each other in preparation for the exam and I also made false start. I feel it has to do with NERVES than lack of practice.

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Originally Posted by albydooby
yes memorisation is optional in this exam but I really want to challenge myself and also the fast pieces do need to be memorised in order to play them properly.

Anyway, today I had a few friends over and so I thought it's a good idea to do a mock performance.
The whole thing actually went really well with no major memory slips EXCEPT at the very start when I began to play the first piece, within the first 4 bars suddenly I forgot everything and I scrambled to find the right notes, eventually I just need to restart..
Why would you put extra stress on yourself in an exam (assuming that passing it is important to you)?

If you've already done lots of AMEB grade exams and played the pieces from memory (even though that's not required) without mishap, that's fine. But I don't think it's a good idea to do this for the first time in a diploma exam, if it's not required. Unlike grade exams, stopping and restarting will be judged harshly.

BTW, fast pieces don't need to be memorised in their entirety to play them properly. Just watch any pianist playing chamber music. You only memorise the parts where you need to look at your hands, but of course you have to rehearse playing them from the scores too, so that you know where you are in the score when you look at it again.


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"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."
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