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#962496 - 07/27/06 03:44 PM Question for Teachers
thepianist2008 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/19/06
Posts: 191
Loc: NY
I was wondering what you do with a new piece. What do you do from the time first sit down with it to the time when you know all the notes and start to make music with it. Do you learn the difficult techincal parts first? Do you memorize the piece first? What do teachers do?
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#962497 - 07/29/06 02:52 AM Re: Question for Teachers
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1584
Loc: Pacific Northwest
I read the whole piece through.
I then go back and read it again very slowly with no mistakes (if I can help it.) If I make a mistake I play it even more slowly so that it is accurate. If it is a really tricky part, I take that part and repeat it correctly over and over again 1000 times! Just kidding, but maybe. I get pretty obsessed with getting it right and up to tempo and sometimes this is what it takes. I usually work on one section like the "A" section before tackling the "B" section. Although, I will read the whole piece through every day.
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

#962498 - 07/29/06 04:09 AM Re: Question for Teachers
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
I work in much the same way as pianobuff. I will probably listen to a few recordings to start with and then just get stuck in. This often begins with a read through of as much as I can. Then I will work on sections, starting slowly and gradually building up to the required tempo. Repetition is the key. I will play a phrase or a passage over and over until I know it is right. This is what I have difficulty getting students to understand. They are often impatient and get frustrated after only a few repetitions. The difference for me is that I know I will eventually get it whereas they feel like they never will. The memory develops over time. When the piece is working reasonably well I will try from memory to see how far I can get. When I get stuck I will try to remember before eventually going back to the score. Bib by bit I can remember more of it until I can play it all from memory. Even when I can play a piece it will need constant refining before I feel it is ready to be performed. There is a big difference between being able to get through something and having it at performance standard.
Pianist and piano teacher.

#962499 - 07/29/06 09:09 AM Re: Question for Teachers
Huy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/06
Posts: 22
Loc: Sydney, Australia
1. slow practice
2. focus on tone, expression markings
3. slow practice
4. slow practice

ummmm u get the idea... \:\)
Piano Teacher
Sydney, Australia

website: www.lepianoacademy.com.au

#962500 - 09/02/06 10:34 PM Re: Question for Teachers
Kathleen Bryan Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/23/06
Posts: 15
Loc: Toronto
It can be rather difficult to find the perfect formula that everyone should adhere to when learning a new piece.

I've generally told my students over the years to practice hands separately slowly. If you have a trouble spot, work on that alone, then once you're comfortable, put it all together.

Practice the piece hands together, again SLOWLY (I cannot stress this enough), throwing in expressions, phrasings, etc.

Bringing up the piece to its proper speed should be the very last thing to worry about.

I highly recommend you avoid using recordings as a guide while in the early stages of getting to know the piece.
Piano Teacher, ARCT (in progress)
15+ years teaching experience

Teaches all ages, from Classical to Fun!

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#962501 - 09/03/06 09:09 PM Re: Question for Teachers
starsea49 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 77
Bringing up the piece to its proper speed should be the very last thing to worry about.

I highly recommend you avoid using recordings as a guide while in the early stages of getting to know the piece.

I happen to agree with you.

#962502 - 09/03/06 10:26 PM Re: Question for Teachers
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
I highly recommend you avoid using recordings as a guide while in the early stages of getting to know the piece.
this is probably not everyone's view on learning a piece. my teacher wouldn't agree and even ask me sometimes if i heard the recording of the piece i'm learning. the point is to get an idea of how a piece sounds like.

#962503 - 09/03/06 11:00 PM Re: Question for Teachers
starsea49 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 77
Signa - not listening only in the very EARLY stages.

We ought to first come up with our very own interpretation, then compare and contrast to different recordings for changes and adaption.

This exercise is merely designed to encourage originality (not listening) within accepted parameters. (comparing by listening to recommended recordings.)

#962504 - 09/04/06 06:00 AM Re: Question for Teachers
paul kenyon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/06
Posts: 32
Loc: San Diego, California
While not precisely a method, this is what I try to do in principle:
1. study notes, fingering and rhythms thoroughly, most often phrase by phrase. I try to mark fingerings clearly enough that I can discern my fingering easily if/when I return to the piece years later. I also practice conducting the phrases and counting carefully as I play (yes, out loud) to make my rhythmic understanding of the music clear.
2. address any mechanical/technical challenges, attacking the most difficult passages in isolation, hands alone as necesary. Playing slowly enough to think/hear passages clearly.
3. continually refine my sense of the ideal sound for each phrase through score study away from the piano, or "pre-hearing" each phrase prior to playing it.
4. as my sense of the ideal sound comes clearer, I also work to clarify the choreographic elements of the playing so that the movements of my hands/arms/body integrate with my musical ideas

As for listening to recordings, I have mixed feelings. I was taught that if one listens to recordings during the learning process, you really need to listen to many performances (5 or 6 minimum) and not just one. While this is not always practical, it can be instructive. In my own teaching, I ask my students to wait to listen until they have formed some idea of how they hear the music. Too often, hearing the CD makes them rush through the learning process, they are tempted to play too fast too early and the music is less thoroughly absorbed.

#962505 - 09/04/06 09:33 AM Re: Question for Teachers
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10780
Loc: Williamsburg, VA

Your steps 1 and 2 pretty much define what I do. I will play (stumble) through a piece to get a sense of its architecture, but I really can't begin to learn it until I spend a few hours fingering it phrase by phrase. If I don't make that initial investment of time, I find that my learning is slow and halting.

Once in a while I have learned a piece by sightreading it to death slowly, but this process is highly inefficient. The fingerings that often evolve turn out to be inferior, but once I've memorized them turning back the clock proves very difficult. The process of carefully working out fingering options also speeds the learning process immensely.

It's so difficult to get kids -- I'm thinking of my son here -- to attack the difficult spots in isolation. He'll do it, but often not to the point of full 100% mastery. Like most kids he wants to put it all together as quickly as possible. One day I hope he'll realize that that makes full command of a piece harder to attain.


David F


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