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Reading and speed
#3011417 08/08/20 04:03 AM
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Recently, I switched from a method book to real classical repertoire and found myself facing a new challenge - playing and reading a lot more demanding material at the same time.
The method book pieces were easy enough and I was usually able (after reading through it a few times) to play it at tempo while reading it (not sight reading though), keeping my eyes on the music, only ocasionally glancing at my hands.
I never memorized because a) I am a poor memorizer b) it is inefficient at this point c) I didnt want to perform the pieces

The music I am studying at the moment is not very hard - for example now I am working on the Clementi sonatina op. 36 no 1 (a classic...) and Schubert waltz in B minor. I can play passages at tempo and I can also play the whole thing slowly while reading it. However, I am unable to read and play at full speed - when I finish a line and go to the next one, I usually make a big pause or lose my place in the music completely. I started memorizing the sonatina and even though it´s full of patterns and probably very easy to memorize, it still gives me troubles because even though I memorize a piece and can play it slowly (say 50% of full tempo), while attempting to play at full speed from my memory, I usually have memory lapses at places because of the speed and need to thing ahead etc.


What should I do at this point? I would like to keep both the sonatina and the waltz for a little longer since these are my first "real" pieces and I want to polish them more then the method book pieces. Should I memorize the pieces completely or just continue reading and playing through them every day and hope that I will memorize by sheer repetition? Thank you.

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Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011421 08/08/20 04:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I can play passages at tempo and I can also play the whole thing slowly while reading it. However, I am unable to read and play at full speed - when I finish a line and go to the next one, I usually make a big pause or lose my place in the music completely.
This happens to me, exactly the same, even though I almost exclusively play from a method book. I can also have memory lapses because of the speed and the need to think ahead, exactly! I have tried to memorise short easy pieces, but it takes too much time, and I forget the piece just the same.

My experience is that if I just continue to keep on practising (while reading), eventually I can play the whole piece at the same speed as I can play the sections. It takes a long time though. Also, it is very clear to me that I should not only practise sections, but also play through the piece many, many times, just so my mind learns how to keep up.


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Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011425 08/08/20 05:41 AM
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I vote for memorizing it. Start building your repertoire! wink

Unfortunately it's impossible to memorize anything reliably just by reading it every day. A mental effort of memorization is still required.

Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011429 08/08/20 06:18 AM
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Transferring from a method book to classical is a big step, so there are going to be problems/concerns but that is just the way it is.

Whether you memorise or play from the score, there is going to be pros and cons. However there will be differences in how people memorise, which makes this less easy to answer. For example when I learned Clementi No 1, I played it completely from memory but while watching my hands. I did this with all my pieces at the time, and I ended up I could only play if I was watching my hands (a very hard habit to break). There were other problems as well, such as random memory errors, missed notes in the initial memorisation, and the inability to maintain the piece with even a small lapse in my practice schedule.

It is harder to do, but nowadays I only play from the score and memorise at the same time. I don't deliberately try to memorise, but it happens in any case over a period of time. I believe this is the best way to learn pieces for many reasons. I always know where I am in the score, I am constantly scutinising the score and trying to add things I may have missed in earlier read throughs, just to name two. I also feel I learn the score at a deeper level and the piece is more secure and subject to deterioration when I have breaks.

Last edited by earlofmar; 08/08/20 06:19 AM.

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Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011480 08/08/20 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I started memorizing the sonatina and even though it´s full of patterns and probably very easy to memorize, it still gives me troubles because even though I memorize a piece and can play it slowly (say 50% of full tempo), while attempting to play at full speed from my memory, I usually have memory lapses at places because of the speed and need to think ahead etc.

I vote for continuing to play slowly from memory until you speed up. It shouldn't take long. The memory lapses should go away. I think those are problems of concentration. Occasionally it's a good idea to check the score again.

Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011484 08/08/20 10:44 AM
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Don't spend a lot of time memorizing a work that you don't want to have in your permanent - or temporarily permanent! - repertoire. The time spent memorizing inconsequential works, while it is a good and, at times, an essential exercise, is time that could be spent on learning and working on a work of greater significance.

You will not get proficient at playing fluidly from a score unless you practice doing so. Play from the score at a tempo that allows you to play without hesitation (as you are doing now), without breaks as you try to find your place in the score, and only gradually increase the tempo. If you try to go from your slow practice tempo to performance tempo you may, as you have already experienced, have difficulties maintaining the flow.

This skill is not acquired overnight; it takes time.

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Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011496 08/08/20 11:03 AM
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I believe this is just part of the process and I can relate 100% with you on this.

For example, my teacher had me move from method book to beginner classical pieces, Bach Minuets, Musettes, Czerny Etudes, etc. I was thinking these look easy. I was in for a rude awaking as they are much more complex than they appear.

I would say be patient and polish the pieces and the pausing and lapses will surely go away in time. With pieces we also take a different approach where we really drill it and polish them for weeks instead of just grasping a concept and quickly moving on like with a method book piece.

Be sure to give yourself a lot of credit because even beginner classical pieces are still challenging. I agree with @BruceD about memorizing material because it's so much more work but if you love the piece go for it I just wouldn't make it a requirement where you must memorize any pieces you want to learn and play. A lot of it will naturally be memorized but the score sure helps a ton.

Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011564 08/08/20 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I never memorized because a) I am a poor memorizer b) it is inefficient at this point c) I didnt want to perform the pieces
Start a piece by reading through it on a daily basis or listening to professional recordings of it. (Diane Hidy is very good for treating Clementi's sonatinas as music worthy of study - some just rattle through because it's easy and they make it sound trite.)

Then start slow practise. Play through the whole piece or a whole section once or twice each day then work on one phrase predominantly. Take it slowly, work out the best phrasing, articulation and fingering for it. Memorise it just while you're working on it - the point is not to memorise it but to avoid working on more than you can hold in working memory. Try to play it as beautifully as you can, but slow enough to make it free of errors.

While it's in memory you can work on complete release of excess tension, experimenting with alternative fingerings, working hands separately, getting each hand up to tempo individually without losing the phrasing, etc. These things are so much easier when the music is in memory and you're only working on a small section at a time. You don't have to keep the music in memory overnight, though it will be easier if you do this every day, and you don't have to work without the score in front of you.

Playing up to tempo while you're still following the score is hard work. Reading through the piece after having worked on each phrase individually will allow you to bring out more of the music while you play without feeling as if you have to follow the music so closely. It creates more musical freedom.

When you've finished the piece you can go through it again but work on making each phrase really easy to play.

If you drop the piece and take it up again at a later date the fact that you have memorised it in individual phrases once before will make the whole process of bringing it back really easy. You will have solved all the technical difficulties second time around and that will speed up the process even more. Go through it slowly again, just as you did when you first learnt it but this second time everything will click much faster and the whole process of going from the initial slow slow read through to smooth performance happens very quickly, maybe a couple of weeks when you're new to the process.

You won't be such a poor memoriser in a year from now and memorising won't be inefficient. Playing without the score is still unnecessary.

Becoming a fast reader and playing at speed while reading requires reading new and unfamiliar music slowly, reading the whole text, every day and also playing through easy music with a metronome, rhythm box or another musician often, keeping good time at the cost of getting the right notes or all the notes. Without the external time-keeper that you have to keep up with it's very difficult to motivate the brain to work faster.

Playing at tempo while following a score is always slower and more efficient than memorising from the outset (with or without the score) unless you're a really accomplished reader. Few of us are that accomplished, certainly with less than ten years experience.

For many pieces playing at tempo is faster than we can read anyway so some memorisation is required. Memorising deliberately, in individual phrases, before motor memory has kicked in is very efficient.


Richard
Re: Reading and speed
Tom97 #3011565 08/08/20 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
.... when I finish a line and go to the next one, I usually make a big pause or lose my place in the music completely....
Most pianists play from a combination of memory and reading, unless they're playing in a recital or some other such event where playing from memory is a requirement. The important thing, imo, is to be able to read from the score and find your way around the keyboard without having to look at your hands (large leaps often are the exception). Having this kind of feel for the topography of the keyboard is what will let you play faster and with more assurance, as well as speeding up learning a piece in the first place. And, as earlofmar wrote above, you will usually end up memorizing the piece in the end (at least shorter pieces) anyway and it will be more securely memorized. Getting this "feel" for the keyboard doesn't come overnight. It comes with practice and over time.

One practical thing you can do is make a mark with a colored pencil or piece of Post-It at the points in the piece where you need to look at your hands and then find your place again in the score. Don't go crazy with this--you'll just lose your way in the colored marks smile --but a few "signposts" in the score can be very helpful.


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