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Posted By: antony How do you learn new pieces? - 11/15/10 06:56 PM
When I began a new piece I would play through each hand separately to the end, marking in the fingerings along the way. Then I would practice hands together, from beginning until the end; which would take enough time for me to inadvertently memorize the piece. Then phrasing and interpretation, and finally performance practice(i.e. in front of peers)

As my repertoire is becoming more advanced, I am finding this method inefficient. Firstly, marking in fingerings when you are playing one hand only is one thing, but when the hands are together I found that I needed to add fingerings; not in the sense of how to address a certain passage but obvious ones just to aid in playing with the added coordination of having hands together.

As the pieces are longer, or multi-movement, it doesn't make sense to finger it all the way through until I am ready to seriously work on the section. So now I work hands together from the begin, memorizing sections or phrases at a time, then adding more material as I go.

How do you work on new pieces. Do you add the phrasing and interpretation as you are beginning, even while you are addressing fingering and technical issues.

Also, how do you stay on top of all your repertoire? Meaning, keeping all your pieces performance(as much as possible) ready as you add more pieces? Is it it like a body builder, they work on so many muscle groups that it is too much to do every day, so certain days are devoted to legs or back etc. It seems like a fair analogy, if someone is more casually exercising they can go to the gym and do the same thing each time and just increase little by little. As an emerging pianist does not have enough to work on, they can cover all their pieces in each practice session.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: How do you learn new pieces? - 11/15/10 07:19 PM
I only do fingering in places where the fingering is not obvious, or the suggested fingerings don't work for me.

Learn a piece hands together, and only do hands separate work on areas that need extra attention. I recommend learning a piece like this:

1) Play through hands together until you have a good idea which areas will be most challenging

2) Begin working on those detailed sections each day using hands separate, rhythms, blocking chords, and other means.

3) Do periodic run-throughs to get tabs on how the piece is coming overall, and to see what other areas will need work

4) Repeat 3&4 above until areas are worked out, adding dynamics and articulations as you are able

5) Work on performance practices by going straight through the piece but trying to keep going no matter what. You also may want to work on memorization at this time.

The above seems rather simplified, but essentially that is the process that I find to be most efficient.
Posted By: JGonzalezGUS Re: How do you learn new pieces? - 11/15/10 07:43 PM
I do mostly as Morodiene indicates, with the following differences:

1) Being in my mid-60's and not liking 'modern' repertoire, I've heard just about every piece dozens of times, so I don't do a run-thru at the beginning.

5) I memorize as I go along. For example, a Sonata movement I memorize exposition, then development. Don't begin recap until those 2 are really solid, else themes in different key *may* mess up already memorized components. After memorized, I do 90% of practicing without score - this really improves memory even more; practicing (starting/stopping) without score gives me confidence :-) I can 'pickup' anywhere.

As I learn I try to include phrasing, dynamics, etc, although I may practice a loud section 'P' (don't like continuous bang-ing). After a practice session I usually play the piece (the learned component(s)) about half-speed.

I usually learn a piece in 3 steps: learn it, forget it for a couple of months, relearn it, forget it again for a couple of months and finally at the third go-around, it is really good (or I like to think it is :-).
Posted By: david_a Re: How do you learn new pieces? - 11/15/10 07:56 PM
Originally Posted by antony
which would take enough time for me to inadvertently memorize the piece
This is the inefficient/ineffective part that you need to remove from your process. Memorizing by accident wastes a lot of your practice time. Most of the repetitions and run-throughs required for "accidental memory" to kick in are not helping you technically or musically.

Memorize the piece with your mind first, as much as possible, before you go to the keyboard for the first time. Or perhaps sight-read through it a single time, and then memorize it without the piano. Learning to finger a piece that you already know mentally is much easier, because you already know what comes next etc.

Quote
Also, how do you stay on top of all your repertoire? Meaning, keeping all your pieces performance(as much as possible) ready as you add more pieces? Is it it like a body builder, they work on so many muscle groups that it is too much to do every day, so certain days are devoted to legs or back etc. It seems like a fair analogy, if someone is more casually exercising they can go to the gym and do the same thing each time and just increase little by little. As an emerging pianist does not have enough to work on, they can cover all their pieces in each practice session.
Something such as you have suggested, a system of having pieces A and B under intense work while pieces C, D, and E are "on the back burner", is obviously the way to go. And don't forget that switching between different kinds of work can feel like a bit of a rest. If it's feasible, arrange your work so that you don't have to do days and days of all the same thing.
Posted By: itsfreakingmeout Re: How do you learn new pieces? - 11/15/10 08:31 PM
I do them like you do them now...I learn it piece by piece with my hands together. I'll do a few measures one day and more the next until its memorized.
Posted By: dolce sfogato Re: How do you learn new pieces? - 11/16/10 12:43 AM
of all the questions and answers given, one aspect caught my attention especially: how to keep the pieces in your repertoire fresh. The thing is: when really, and I mean: really! well rehearsed, (and performed), a piece will never fade away, from actual/daily memory perhaps, but never from the core of your heart and brain, if the match between you and the piece is what is should be, it'll stick, forever, and grow and grow and grow whenever you pick it up the next time, that's the only way you/your repertoire matures, it just takes good and thorough practice, routine in performance and a lot of ripening, like good wine waiting for us in a good cellar!
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