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I'm working on Arioso in F, both yesterday and today I spent about 45 min on it in each session and felt very focused and that I made a lot of progress. However, I feel like these very focused practice sessions are rare for me. I imagine I will have it polished in a couple more days. I'm excited and I know it's only grade 1 but I need to practice more pieces and I feel good learning these and I'm sure they're helping me improve. Few questions and thoughts below.

Any suggestions on how to make more sessions this focused and enjoyable? Such as, is it because I'm excited that I'm following from ABRSM to see if I can clear grade 1 (just informally using their syllabus not officially taking the exam)

Or does it just take time to develop very good practice routines and I need to figure this out?

I noticed I was doing VERY slow practice. I mean playing a phrase at snail speed but still counting accurate rhythms. Mixing up HS and HT etc. Is this ok to do? I was thinking it's poor form to play so slow when learning and that slow practice meant to only be a little below the target tempo not way below.

I usually don't spend 45min on an item. Is it better to divide up items to allow for longer sessions on a given item rather than trying to touch all items each day? I know this can vary based on what you're working on but just speaking generally.

Thanks!

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It takes as long as it takes.
Sometimes that is a long time.


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Sounds fine to me.

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That's kind of the crux to the whole thing. It's important to know and remember how one learns. Otherwise it's tuff. Also, everyone learns a bit differently.

Personally, I'm not a grinder. I tell myself I have all the time in the world. And I have adopted a confidence. Sometimes it ends up being overconfidence. The ego gets smashed as it should, and life goes on.

Good luck, and keep going.


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Originally Posted by Sebs
I was thinking it's poor form to play so slow when learning and that slow practice meant to only be a little below the target tempo not way below.
Play as slowly as you need to, when practicing.

The great Sviatoslav Richter was known to practice difficult bits so interminable slowly that they were totally unrecognizable, which is why in concert, he can go full blast, uninhibited by any difficulties:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47L3lrE3l0o


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Originally Posted by Sebs
I noticed I was doing VERY slow practice. I mean playing a phrase at snail speed but still counting accurate rhythms. Mixing up HS and HT etc. Is this ok to do?

It's very ok!

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The old adage is: if you think you are practicing slowly, practice slower 😊
My only advice: once you get where are measure or two or three consistently sound good HT, skip them and concentrate on the problems. The goal is to get to the point where you are not always starting at the beginning


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Practice slow very slowly; progress very fast. --attributed to Steven Heller

Intensely focused practice is probably not an everyday thing for most of us. There are so many variables that go into a practice session (how well we slept, how tired or fresh we are physically, what is going on around us, what stage of learning the piece is at, to name a few) that no two are the same. I don't think there is a lot one can do about this, except resolve to resolve to get something done, however small, each time we practice.

As to how long to practice one item, a good rule of thumb is to stop when your focus starts to fade, because from there on out you will get diminishing returns. How long one spends productively on an item can depend on what stage one is at with the piece and how long of piece or section constitutes the "item."


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Everyone knows you have to practice slow, even two-year olds!



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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. As always, very appreciated! Happy to know slow practice doesn't mean right below target tempo but go as slow as you want. Not sure why but I thought too slow was counter intuitive and instead I was often repeating very small parts just below tempo. Where as now I'm trying to learn in phrases very slow and steady.

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As far as the physical aspect goes I do a mixture of velocity and control practice on the Virgil Practice Clavier. The trouble with me is that sensation and musical result do not lie on a continuum with respect to speed. I cannot play a movement slowly and gradually increase its speed because discrete changes occur in motor sensation and how I perceive the resulting sound. Since I do next to nothing on the piano itself that could be termed “practice” I ought not to generalise, and I haven’t the faintest idea what other players‘ experience is in the matter.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Play as slowly as you need to, when practicing.

The great Sviatoslav Richter was known to practice difficult bits so interminable slowly that they were totally unrecognizable

That’s really interesting. I’m a big fan of slow practice, but I feel like the lower limit is set by the point at which the music becomes unrecognisable compared with the picture of it in your head. There seems to be a point where the rhythm gets lost and the whole thing gets meaningless.

Do you think that’s what Richter was doing? Or did he have such a clear mental image of the music that he could play it at say 10% tempo and still know exactly what he was doing? (Silly question really given who we are talking about.)


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Originally Posted by dogperson
The old adage is: if you think you are practicing slowly, practice slower 😊
thumb

Originally Posted by Sebs
I usually don't spend 45min on an item. Is it better to divide up items to allow for longer sessions on a given item rather than trying to touch all items each day? I know this can vary based on what you're working on but just speaking generally.
I think 45 minutes on a grade 1 piece is far too long. I'd say 15 minutes a day will be enough.

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Originally Posted by scirocco
Originally Posted by bennevis
The great Sviatoslav Richter was known to practice difficult bits so interminable slowly that they were totally unrecognizable

That’s really interesting. I’m a big fan of slow practice, but I feel like the lower limit is set by the point at which the music becomes unrecognisable compared with the picture of it in your head. There seems to be a point where the rhythm gets lost and the whole thing gets meaningless.

Do you think that’s what Richter was doing? Or did he have such a clear mental image of the music that he could play it at say 10% tempo and still know exactly what he was doing?
He probably took out a section and practiced it as a pure technical exercise in order to perfect it to his satisfaction. In fact, I'd guess that most concert pianists, when faced with technical difficulties in a few measures, do the same - as I do.

Though I wouldn't repeat it ad infinitum at the same pace for hours, as he was reported to have done......

However, his patience and sense of musical time was at a level few other musicians could contemplate, fully capable of playing some music so slowly that it seems like time is going backwards wink , for instance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcei2nCYbNs

But when the music demanded it, he threw caution to the winds and went down with all guns blazing thumb:

https://youtu.be/MZ2J1eFM-Rs?t=1323


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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I think 45 minutes on a grade 1 piece is far too long. I'd say 15 minutes a day will be enough.
I don’t know I might be an exception to this. I take forever to learn and I think if only 15 min a day it’ll take me 7 days versus 5 just an example. But really it seems that even simple items take forever to get internalized and or whatever the term is. Even learning new rhythms with my teacher that are only 4 bars in my workbook take days and days to play well. Hope it’s because I’m building a solid proper foundation with my teacher and it takes time.

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Hi Sebs
Not sure if this is just one 45 min session or not. If it is, try breaking it up into shorter practice sessions. The problem with 45 min consecutively is that is really hard to maintain clear mental focus. (Even when we are really trying to focus). Try one short session before bedtime; seems to drill it in your brain while you sleep.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Hi Sebs
Not sure if this is just one 45 min session or not. If it is, try breaking it up into shorter practice sessions. The problem with 45 min consecutively is that is really hard to maintain clear mental focus. (Even when we are really trying to focus). Try one short session before bedtime; seems to drill it in your brain while you sleep.

I did two sessions, one Sunday and one Monday for that piece that were each 45 min. Today I did 20min on it. Usually I spend about 10-15 on a given item since I have a handful of items. I love practice but sure can feel like I go no where fast. Although I’m sure if Arioso in F takes me 5-7 days to have it polished today then in a year I’ll be able to sight read or learn Grade 1 pieces it in a day. I hope.

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Hi Sebs!

Originally Posted by Sebs
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I think 45 minutes on a grade 1 piece is far too long. I'd say 15 minutes a day will be enough.
I don’t know I might be an exception to this. I take forever to learn and I think if only 15 min a day it’ll take me 7 days versus 5 just an example. But really it seems that even simple items take forever to get internalized and or whatever the term is.
You are not the only one. I also take forever too learn, and also simple items take forever to get internalized.

Originally Posted by Sebs
Hope it’s because I’m building a solid proper foundation with my teacher and it takes time.
A very good way of seeing it!

Originally Posted by Sebs
Usually I spend about 10-15 on a given item since I have a handful of items.
You might consider to spend half that time on a given item, but twice during your practice session. So go back and forth more between items. For a while I tested three minutes for each item, and then change, and to my surprise I liked it. However, slowly, I started to practise items a bit longer again. I try to be aware of signs of fatigue, and then switch item.


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Well, you both know what works best for you better than me. If it works better, I guess longer sessions are ok.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Well, you both know what works best for you better than me. If it works better, I guess longer sessions are ok.
I wasn't saying that it's not good suggestion. I will try it out and maybe I'll find 15min instead of 45min on a grade 1 piece will still take 5 days to learn. I simply just have not learned many pieces in general so I'm still trying to figure out how to best learn. This is why I'm trying my best to do the 40 pieces a year challenge. I was also thinking i need 45 cause it takes me so long but maybe it doesn't and I need to quit thinking Im so slow... I do appreciate everyones advice here and try it out.

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