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Holly's Practice Diary

Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 01:39 AM

I keep a yearly list of goals, a spreadsheet that breaks these goals down to a monthly timeline, a weekly spreadsheet of the week’s work and a daily handwritten notebook set up the night before to check off the next day’s practice goals by piece as I go. What I haven’t had, until now, is a place to “think out loud”, about the music, about what’s working with my practice, or not. That sort of thing. So this will be that “diary” of music practice. I don’t expect to track every single day’s practice, but I do want to track at least one day a week in its entirety. If nothing else, I’ll have a record of how my practice changes. I plan to record the details of that day’s practice, thoughts about the pieces, snarky whining on occasion…

I personally love forums that get into teaching styles, practice suggestions and especially the ones like FOYD and “Nothing is too easy” by Kesolo. Speaking of Kesolo, that’s a journey I envy immensely. I don’t have a teacher though and a track record of quitting what I’m told to do, and his method relies somewhat on his teacher giving a lot of feedback on appropriateness of material. That aside, kudos dude, kudos.

As for where I’m starting. I had 2 very lame years as a child. 6 months in my 20s with a teacher. 6 months in my 30s with a different teacher. In my late 40s plunked my way through Alfred Adult Vol. 1 in 2015 and 2016 with NO serious practice. Did not play at all late 2016 to summer 2018.

Since July 2018 I’ve worked through 25-30 pieces of Beginner level and I’m almost done with Piano Adventures 2. Also working in Mikrokosmos, Czerny, Alfred’s Essential Repertoire and RCM Level 1 materials as well as watching video classes on PianoTV.net. Did all the pieces on that site’s Prep Level list and met RCM Prep A and B standards, but did not test.

I took guitar for a couple of years and flute for 6 very intense years, year round. Just to let you know my sight reading skills, at least in the treble clef, are not those of the average first time music student.

Starting Level 1 material for 2019.

Lifetime I have about 180 hours of practice time with the piano.

Thursdays are the start of my piano work week. Sessions don't always get done in one sit down.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

SESSION 1: (1 hr. 6 minutes total)
Technique: Pp. From Unit 14 Faber 2. Arpeggios. BORING. After four minutes I switched over to Scales Bootcamp and got a rhythm and an articulation checked off for D-maj. (10 minutes)

Faber 2: NEW - Wedding March, Mendelssohn. Listened to it with the score last night. Wondering what the dotted lines between treble and bass notes in mm. 14-15 are all about? Also, it tickles me that it’s from a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. My kids were in a theater company growing up and performed this numerous times, but never with this music. This morning worked HS, sectioned it, and got those sections to 40 bpm HT. (15 minutes)

Alfred’s Essential Repertoire: Beethoven’s Russian Folk Song pg. 70. This was the second session for this piece. Worked sections A (1st 2 lines), B (3rd line) & C (really C&D as I worked the four measures in 2 X 2 mm. units). Each section started HT at 50 and played “3 levels” with each 2-beat increase (3 pennies on a post it pad. Play it right take a penny off. Make an error next time and penny goes back on. Keep on same tempo until all 3 pennies are off the pad) Ended at 60 bpm. Tomorrow I plan to start at 50 again and hope it takes less time, maybe progress past 60 bpm on at least section A. (36 minutes)

Sight Reading: Faber 2B, 1 week’s worth of exercises. (That finished the 2B sight reading book!) RCM Lev. 1 unit 7 days 1&2. (5 minutes) (Yes, that's 7 days of sight reading exercises 5 minutes. Years of flute, years and years of flute...)

SESSION 2: (51 minutes total)
Applied Technique From Unit 14 Faber 2. Lieberstraum. Getting the hang of the arpeggios for each measure, but have a few written in letters under some of the treble measures to remember the clef sharps. (The treble and bass clefs are on two facing pages. Playing them hands together really makes one appreciate the grand staff.) Worked at 50 bpm HT today. Concentrated on last two lines. Good thing I’ve got at least 2 more weeks on this unit to get it up to 100 bpm! (10 minutes)

Mikrokosmos Vol. 1 #23: 1st time through. I’ll take a listen to it at lunch. HS, then HT at 50, progressed to 60 relatively easily. Will start again at 50 tomorrow and try to reach 80. (10 minutes)

Chopin Waltz in A minor (Level 1-2 arrangement by Allysia van Betuw) – Started second week on this piece. Left hand I can easily do at tempo, so I’m working the RH alone to get it to tempo (110 – 130). Section A RH 60>100, Section B 60>100, Section C 40>60, Section D I didn’t use the metronome, I was doing the last two notes of Section C into D to get the little 3 note trill on count 1. Didn’t even touch sections E and F. In my defense I missed 4 days of practice last week so still only being on hands separate isn’t ENTIRELY my enormous lack of talent. (23 minutes)

Faber Review time. For the third session I was back on pg. 66 with this darned Looking Glass River. Previous 2 tries at it have only gotten to 96 bpm when it’s supposed to be 112-120. That’s what I get for sailing past it the first time without getting it to tempo. Fast is NOT my jam, although doing a review piece with an Alberti Bass the same week as arpeggios in my current unit makes me doubt my karma. Anyway, started at 80 bpm and played once or twice at each tick up until 112, the minimum suggested tempo, and called it quits. Not worth the time and effort it would take to work it up to 120. (8 minutes)

SESSION 3 (57 minutes total)
RCM Level 1 Etudes: #2 Etude in C Major, op. 125, no. 3 by Anton Diabelli. I like this little piece. Starting on the second week with it. Sections A&B started each HT 80 and worked up to 100 using “3 Levels” game. Section C I was obviously losing my concentration so started at 60 and skipping 2 or 3 ticks at a time played up to 100. Maybe not so much lack of concentration as patience. Tomorrow I should start with Section C so it gets its due play throughs. (21 minutes)

Faber 2: Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (arranged by N. Faber) – Starting second week with it. Worked Section A 76>108, B 76>116, C 66>96, D 66>100. Next time I’ll probably start A&B at 80 and C&D at 69. Starting each time just that little bit faster as I get sure of what I’m seeing really helps the self-confidence in the piece. But I’ll probably hold the top tempo to 100 for a few sessions to get more comfortable with the F#s that my fingers want to tense up and miss. (13 minutes)
.
Bach Chorale in C maj. (Don’t know if this is in its original form or arranged by Allysia van Betuw. My guess is arranged.) Starting second week with it. Lines 1&2 63>84, Line 3 53>76, Line 4 2 measures at a time 40>60. Little trembly notes sounded MUCH better. Overall sounded significantly smoother. Pleased. (14 minutes)

Minuet in A Minor by Johann Krieger – On its third week and starting to come together. Section A 100>132, Section B 96>132, Section C 96>132. That’s all three sections that can be worked up to max tempo in a rational amount of time. Still starting fairly far off the mark though. Feels smooth enough to pay attention to dynamics and I’ve got 2 more months with it. I like where I am with this as it’s got to be memorized as a “recital” piece for RCM (I don’t sit the exams, but I’ll record it and play it for my mother…more stressful?) (9 minutes)



SESSION 4 (14 minutes)
Faber 2 Theme to Swan Lake – Tchaikovsky, arranged by N. Faber. One thing about the last session of the day is I am invariably DONE with all that is unnecessary. The book suggests this be played moderato, which my reference books list as 100-120. I have struggled for a month to play it at that tempo. I LOVE it at 80. It’s graceful and sweeping, dignified at 80. It’s muddy, frantic and completely uncharming at 100. I can’t imagine the horrors I would inflict upon it at 120. Looking all over for performances online I’ve not found one that is racing to the finish. Everyone seems to be playing it well under 100. I’m going to record it this weekend at 80 and set it aside. In the future it will pop up in my Faber Review time as all things do, probably 2-3 months from now. Hopefully my pedaling skills will have improved enough to do justice to the suggested tempo, but I’ve got to say I just don’t LIKE it that fast. (4 minutes, see? No patience for what it unnecessary)

Driving Range, C. Norton – Please, God, let it end. I’ve been working this thing on and off for nearly 5 weeks. It was cute at first. Now, not so much. Today, thankfully, I got it to the 152 bpm with the dynamics intact, starting at 132, which I’m more than pleased with. A couple of days to solidify it and I’ll record it. (10 minutes)

Czerny #11 – This got skipped today. It happens some days. The concentration just isn’t there for everything in the last session of the day. The thought of working this little exercise at anything resembling a brisk tempo is more effort than I want to expend after 3 hours of practice already today. In an hour or so I’ll feel like going through my meager repertoire, but not something I have to “work” at. (0 minutes)


SESSION 5 Repertoire Maintenance (10-15 minutes, I don’t usually time it) 2 times each with the music, 1 x without. These piece have been memorized for a while.

Intro to Fur Elise – Beethoven; this was memorized before I was doing serious metronome work, or had the standards for my pieces that I do now. I like to play it now at about 80 working on smoothing it out before I advance the speed some more.

Bourree in E minor – L. Mozart; I LOVE this little piece. It’s frisky and I like to pretend I’m four-year old Mozart zipping through it with a cocky little tilt to his head and a smirk on his lips…

Rainbow Connection – Paul Williams – Okay this was the first piece I ever memorized. I chose it because it’s the lullaby I sang to my babies a couple of decades ago, so I knew I would never tire of it. Also, it’s frankly unintimidating compared to the baroque, classical and romantic music I generally prefer.


Today the sessions went 1,2,3,4,5. Tomorrow I’ll do 4,1,2,3,5. The next day 3,4,1,3,5 and so forth. I do that to make sure each grouping of work gets its turn being first of the day or last of the day. The groupings have a mix of technique, new and more polished or easy items and sources. Session 5 is always last. Just for fun at the end of the day you might say. My work schedule doesn’t let me practice on Fridays. On Saturday and Sunday family obligations limit me to doing 2 sessions each day, so I get through the whole shebang over the course of the weekend. Mon-Thu I try for what I did today along with a couple of pages of theory and 5-10 minutes of ear training with the online RCM Level 1 program.

If anyone got to the bottom of this…wow. Thanks.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 01:42 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake

I keep a yearly list of goals, a spreadsheet that breaks these goals down to a monthly timeline, a weekly spreadsheet of the week’s work and a daily handwritten notebook set up the night before to check off the next day’s practice goals by piece as I go. What I haven’t had, until now, is a place to “think out loud”, about the music, about what’s working with my practice, or not. That sort of thing. So this will be that “diary” of music practice. I don’t expect to track every single day’s practice, but I do want to track at least one day a week in its entirety. If nothing else, I’ll have a record of how my practice changes. I plan to record the details of that day’s practice, thoughts about the pieces, snarky whining on occasion…

I personally love forums that get into teaching styles, practice suggestions and especially the ones like FOYD and “Nothing is too easy” by Kesolo. Speaking of Kesolo, that’s a journey I envy immensely. I don’t have a teacher though and a track record of quitting what I’m told to do, and his method relies somewhat on his teacher giving a lot of feedback on appropriateness of material. That aside, kudos dude, kudos.

As for where I’m starting. I had 2 very lame years as a child. 6 months in my 20s with a teacher. 6 months in my 30s with a different teacher. In my late 40s plunked my way through Alfred Adult Vol. 1 in 2015 and 2016 with NO serious practice. Did not play at all late 2016 to summer 2018.

Since July 2018 I’ve worked through 25-30 pieces of Beginner level and I’m almost done with Piano Adventures 2. Also working in Mikrokosmos, Czerny, Alfred’s Essential Repertoire and RCM Level 1 materials as well as watching video classes on PianoTV.net. Did all the pieces on that site’s Prep Level list and met RCM Prep A and B standards, but did not test.

I took guitar for a couple of years and flute for 6 very intense years, year round. Just to let you know my sight reading skills, at least in the treble clef, are not those of the average first time music student.

Starting Level 1 material for 2019.

Lifetime I have about 180 hours of practice time with the piano.

Thursdays are the start of my piano work week. Sessions don't always get done in one sit down.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

SESSION 1: (1 hr. 6 minutes total)
Technique: Pp. From Unit 14 Faber 2. Arpeggios. BORING. After four minutes I switched over to Scales Bootcamp and got a rhythm and an articulation checked off for D-maj. (10 minutes)

Faber 2: NEW - Wedding March, Mendelssohn. Listened to it with the score last night. Wondering what the dotted lines between treble and bass notes in mm. 14-15 are all about? Also, it tickles me that it’s from a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. My kids were in a theater company growing up and performed this numerous times, but never with this music. This morning worked HS, sectioned it, and got those sections to 40 bpm HT. (15 minutes)

Alfred’s Essential Repertoire: Beethoven’s Russian Folk Song pg. 70. This was the second session for this piece. Worked sections A (1st 2 lines), B (3rd line) & C (really C&D as I worked the four measures in 2 X 2 mm. units). Each section started HT at 50 and played “3 levels” with each 2-beat increase (3 pennies on a post it pad. Play it right take a penny off. Make an error next time and penny goes back on. Keep on same tempo until all 3 pennies are off the pad) Ended at 60 bpm. Tomorrow I plan to start at 50 again and hope it takes less time, maybe progress past 60 bpm on at least section A. (36 minutes)

Sight Reading: Faber 2B, 1 week’s worth of exercises. (That finished the 2B sight reading book!) RCM Lev. 1 unit 7 days 1&2. (5 minutes)

SESSION 2: (51 minutes total)
Applied Technique From Unit 14 Faber 2. Lieberstraum. Getting the hang of the arpeggios for each measure, but have a few written in letters under some of the treble measures to remember the clef sharps. (The treble and bass clefs are on two facing pages. Playing them hands together really makes one appreciate the grand staff.) Worked at 50 bpm HT today. Concentrated on last two lines. Good thing I’ve got at least 2 more weeks on this unit to get it up to 100 bpm! (10 minutes)

Mikrokosmos Vol. 1 #23: 1st time through. I’ll take a listen to it at lunch. HS, then HT at 50, progressed to 60 relatively easily. Will start again at 50 tomorrow and try to reach 80. (10 minutes)

Chopin Waltz in A minor (Level 1-2 arrangement by Allysia van Betuw) – Started second week on this piece. Left hand I can easily do at tempo, so I’m working the RH alone to get it to tempo (110 – 130). Section A RH 60>100, Section B 60>100, Section C 40>60, Section D I didn’t use the metronome, I was doing the last two notes of Section C into D to get the little 3 note trill on count 1. Didn’t even touch sections E and F. In my defense I missed 4 days of practice last week so still only being on hands separate isn’t ENTIRELY my enormous lack of talent. (23 minutes)

Faber Review time. For the third session I was back on pg. 66 with this darned Looking Glass River. Previous 2 tries at it have only gotten to 96 bpm when it’s supposed to be 112-120. That’s what I get for sailing past it the first time without getting it to tempo. Fast is NOT my jam, although doing a review piece with an Alberti Bass the same week as arpeggios in my current unit makes me doubt my karma. Anyway, started at 80 bpm and played once or twice at each tick up until 112, the minimum suggested tempo, and called it quits. Not worth the time and effort it would take to work it up to 120. (8 minutes)

SESSION 3 (57 minutes total)
RCM Level 1 Etudes: #2 Etude in C Major, op. 125, no. 3 by Anton Diabelli. I like this little piece. Starting on the second week with it. Sections A&B started each HT 80 and worked up to 100 using “3 Levels” game. Section C I was obviously losing my concentration so started at 60 and skipping 2 or 3 ticks at a time played up to 100. Maybe not so much lack of concentration as patience. Tomorrow I should start with Section C so it gets its due play throughs. (21 minutes)

Faber 2: Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (arranged by N. Faber) – Starting second week with it. Worked Section A 76>108, B 76>116, C 66>96, D 66>100. Next time I’ll probably start A&B at 80 and C&D at 69. Starting each time just that little bit faster as I get sure of what I’m seeing really helps the self-confidence in the piece. But I’ll probably hold the top tempo to 100 for a few sessions to get more comfortable with the F#s that my fingers want to tense up and miss. (13 minutes)
.
Bach Chorale in C maj. (Don’t know if this is in its original form or arranged by Allysia van Betuw. My guess is arranged.) Starting second week with it. Lines 1&2 63>84, Line 3 53>76, Line 4 2 measures at a time 40>60. Little trembly notes sounded MUCH better. Overall sounded significantly smoother. Pleased. (14 minutes)

Minuet in A Minor by Johann Krieger – On its third week and starting to come together. Section A 100>132, Section B 96>132, Section C 96>132. That’s all three sections that can be worked up to max tempo in a rational amount of time. Still starting fairly far off the mark though. Feels smooth enough to pay attention to dynamics and I’ve got 2 more months with it. I like where I am with this as it’s got to be memorized as a “recital” piece for RCM (I don’t sit the exams, but I’ll record it and play it for my mother…more stressful?) (9 minutes)



SESSION 4 (14 minutes)
Faber 2 Theme to Swan Lake – Tchaikovsky, arranged by N. Faber. One thing about the last session of the day is I am invariably DONE with all that is unnecessary. The book suggests this be played moderato, which my reference books list as 100-120. I have struggled for a month to play it at that tempo. I LOVE it at 80. It’s graceful and sweeping, dignified at 80. It’s muddy, frantic and completely uncharming at 100. I can’t imagine the horrors I would inflict upon it at 120. Looking all over for performances online I’ve not found one that is racing to the finish. Everyone seems to be playing it well under 100. I’m going to record it this weekend at 80 and set it aside. In the future it will pop up in my Faber Review time as all things do, probably 2-3 months from now. Hopefully my pedaling skills will have improved enough to do justice to the suggested tempo, but I’ve got to say I just don’t LIKE it that fast. (4 minutes, see? No patience for what it unnecessary)

Driving Range, C. Norton – Please, God, let it end. I’ve been working this thing on and off for nearly 5 weeks. It was cute at first. Now, not so much. Today, thankfully, I got it to the 152 bpm with the dynamics intact, starting at 132, which I’m more than pleased with. A couple of days to solidify it and I’ll record it. (10 minutes)

Czerny #11 – This got skipped today. It happens some days. The concentration just isn’t there for everything in the last session of the day. The thought of working this little exercise at anything resembling a brisk tempo is more effort than I want to expend after 3 hours of practice already today. In an hour or so I’ll feel like going through my meager repertoire, but not something I have to “work” at. (0 minutes)


SESSION 5 Repertoire Maintenance (10-15 minutes, I don’t usually time it) 2 times each with the music, 1 x without. These piece have been memorized for a while.

Intro to Fur Elise – Beethoven; this was memorized before I was doing serious metronome work, or had the standards for my pieces that I do now. I like to play it now at about 80 working on smoothing it out before I advance the speed some more.

Bourree in E minor – L. Mozart; I LOVE this little piece. It’s frisky and I like to pretend I’m four-year old Mozart zipping through it with a cocky little tilt to his head and a smirk on his lips…

Rainbow Connection – Paul Williams – Okay this was the first piece I ever memorized. I chose it because it’s the lullaby I sang to my babies a couple of decades ago, so I knew I would never tire of it. Also, it’s frankly unintimidating compared to the baroque, classical and romantic music I generally prefer.


Today the sessions went 1,2,3,4,5. Tomorrow I’ll do 4,1,2,3,5. The next day 3,4,1,3,5 and so forth. I do that to make sure each grouping of work gets its turn being first of the day or last of the day. The groupings have a mix of technique, new and more polished or easy items and sources. Session 5 is always last. Just for fun at the end of the day you might say. My work schedule doesn’t let me practice on Fridays. On Saturday and Sunday family obligations limit me to doing 2 sessions each day, so I get through the whole shebang over the course of the weekend. Mon-Thu I try for what I did today along with a couple of pages of theory and 5-10 minutes of ear training with the online RCM Level 1 program.

If anyone got to the bottom of this…wow. Thanks.



Can you share your spreadsheet? It sounds very useful!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 01:51 AM

NobleHouse, It's an Excel spreadsheet. If someone could tell me how to attach it. I'd be glad to.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:02 AM

I wonder what you hope to accomplish with all the writing. I don't think it's beneficial. Whatever time it takes could probably be spent more beneficially on practicing. Practicing is not that complicated.

What is the point of posting all the endless detail about your practice session? If you think it's useful I guess you should do it, but why would someone else be interested in all this detail?

Have you considered getting a teacher? Being organized, especially to the extreme you want, is not nearly as important as knowing what to do when you are playing. Without a teacher you will find it very hard to know what you're doing correctly and doing incorrectly.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:10 AM

pianoloverus, My assumption is no one at all would be interested. It's a diary. That it's public keeps me accountable, but otherwise I would assume only a random bored or intoxicated person would give it a whirl on occasion. Perhaps a newbie looking for how the heck do you practice? as I was 7 months ago. I avidly read anyone and everyone's practice habits, following links to pedagogy sites, it was a process to learn HOW to practice and in that process was a place for other people's journals. If it's not your jam, no biggie. As for "all this writing" versus "playing or practicing", I did 3.5 hours at the keys today. I don't have the concentration for more. Chopin's ghost would scold me for more than three hours anyway.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:21 AM

It's much, much better to learn from a teacher how to practice, what to practice, and how to play the piano in terms of correct technique. Other beginner's posts are not so good because beginners have so little experience and knowledge.

Without a teacher it's close to impossible to know if you are practicing correctly and learning the basics of playing correctly. Even if you eventually do learn correct playing it will take you much longer. I think 3.5 hours, if that;s typical, is too long for a relative beginner.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:35 AM

pianoloverus, you're undoubtedly right. Some of us don't have that option for a variety of reasons, or from experience with other instruments know how their best learning process works with or without a teacher. As you might notice in my post I don't suggest I'm an expert, or that I'm even on to something. First paragraph makes it clear it's a diary. Just that.
Posted By: dcupright

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 03:29 AM

I found it interesting, you are one organized person which I think is a great thing. If this helps you move forward please keep posting.
Posted By: malkin

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 03:58 AM

The last time that I suggested that increasing my attention to tracking my practice would result in improved tracking of practice, I was accused of being a bully, so I certainly don't want to do that again.

Good luck in your pianoing and in your journaling.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 04:11 AM

Thanks, dcupright and malkin. Forums are always a mixed bag of responses. I take any feedback presented civilly. I appreciated the support responses just a bit more though! grin
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 05:14 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
If anyone got to the bottom of this…wow. Thanks.

I've been working on keeping a daily practice log too. In fact it is one of my 2019 piano goals.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 09:37 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I wonder what you hope to accomplish with all the writing. I don't think it's beneficial. Whatever time it takes could probably be spent more beneficially on practicing. Practicing is not that complicated.

What is the point of posting all the endless detail about your practice session? If you think it's useful I guess you should do it, but why would someone else be interested in all this detail?

Have you considered getting a teacher? Being organized, especially to the extreme you want, is not nearly as important as knowing what to do when you are playing. Without a teacher you will find it very hard to know what you're doing correctly and doing incorrectly.


Many of us spend time that others feel is a waste of time, including on this forum smile. I personally like lists and organization, but agree that this level of detail is a bit much. But that's me. Holly strives for organization, and it keeps her on track. All the power to her.

Yes, a teacher would be ideal, and I suppose it was worth suggesting, but she's not going to for whatever personal reason (time, financial, prior fiasco, anthropophobia, or whatever), so let's not beat that dead horse again!

Holly, welcome to the forum and good luck with your studies!
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 10:22 AM

Hi Holly,

Wow, you've got a lot of patience to write everything down in such detail! I keep a practice journal too, but my entries look more like:

Tch - drill D new fingering, A-D dynamics. 25 min. Bach - B HT with metronome, 15 min. Am mel, harm, arps, Em harm 15 min Clem - PT all 3, drill H M3, visualisation. 35 min. Total 90 min.

That's about all I can muster, and if it makes sense to anyone but me, I'd be very surprised indeed. laugh That's of course assuming that they could read my handwriting to even get that much out of it.

I do find keeping a journal on whatever level of detail quite helpful, for a variety of reasons. Like Tyrone, I set a goal of doing it this year. Last year I started well but fell off the wagon in August.

So by all means put yours on here if it helps you! I'll probably read it; I love poking my nose into other people's practice routines.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 12:32 PM

Tyrone, enjoy you year of piano!

Cmb13, Thanks, I agree this level is too much. I don't keep my daily practice sheets anywhere near this exact. This is an experiment of one day a week to dive a little deeper. I found that fun. At this point I'll do it again. A single day from a single week. Will it be 49 weeks all this year? Highly doubtful. On another note, you're absolute right about the way I do things keeping me on track. What I didn't think to mention to Pianoloverus it I do things the way I do them because it brings me joy. Also, I've got nothing against teachers. Had them before and will undoubtedly have one again. Just not right now.

elenmirie, Thanks, your journal example is exactly the kind of thing I do for my daily goals list and outcomes. I wanted to experiment with something where it would feel natural to add in thoughts and feelings. Wouldn't have the time for it daily. Hoping to weekly, but wouldn't be surprised if it ends up only monthly.

To all, thanks for the feedback and interest.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 12:49 PM

Holly, I admire your diligence. So much detail! And while I'm nowhere near as systematic in my approach, I think you should do whatever works for you. Besides, it's really interesting to read, so thank you for the glimpse into your practice, errr, practice wink

Of course, one of the reasons why I won't do this is that I'm just back from a way-too-long break and my entries would look something like:

"- Scales, right hand: Ah well. Just as long as I don't try them any faster.
- Scales, left hand: Shoot me now...

- Bach, the Invention I thought was easy when I was 10 years old: Thought I'd got that one down, but surprise! on playing through I found myself completely murdering the section I'd worked on in great detail a week ago and that had gone well ever since. §%())%$§%)"!!

- Mozart Adagio: I'm so, so sorry, Wolfgang Amadeus. I really am.

- Chopin Waltz: In slow-motion, it's beginning to sound... not good, but slightly less awful."

ha

Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:09 PM

Holly,
I enjoyed reading your post, and did get to the bottom. Maybe I am random, bored, newbie, intoxicated.. or all of those things laugh. But I was entertained. May there be many pages of your practice diary here thumb
Posted By: malkin

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:26 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
..."- Scales, right hand: Ah well. Just as long as I don't try them any faster.
- Scales, left hand: Shoot me now...
ha



Hey Sibylle--If it is any comfort, I can say that after [mumbled number] years, my left hand scales have improved to "ah well..." and only the hands together scales remain cringeworthy.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 02:46 PM

One thing that may just be me and not anyone else, is that when I am logging my practice time, I "believe" I'm practicing longer (either that or else I didn't realize how much I practiced before! grin ). If true, this is a psychological side-effect, which is interesting and maybe why practice journal are recommended by some teachers.

I've only been logging for 3 weeks, since the beginning of the year, so it's possible this effect, if it is real, will reduce as I get accustomed to keeping my practice journal.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 03:07 PM

I got as far as the "Arpeggios. BORING." bit then scanned quickly for the next scales or apreggios section. I didn't see it. smile

If you're without a teacher, and I've no issue with that, I'd seriously reconsider scales or arpeggios until you're out of the method books. Until then it's unlikely you know what the intention should be, let alone the technique. And whatever you find boring is neither practice nor helpful.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 03:31 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
And whatever you find boring is neither practice nor helpful.


Oh how I wish that one was true! whistle
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 04:23 PM

Practising piano needs conscious coordination, independence and fine control of our mechanism from our core down to our fingers to bring out the music. That's an intellectual exercise.

If we're not concentrating, it can't be practise so it isn't helping.
If we are concentrating, it can't be boring.

smile
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 05:56 PM

Sibylle - Hilarious and so relatable. Yesterday's work on the little Beethoven Folk song had my ego telling me I'd knock it out in week. Just needed a little speed and a little flourish. Then I found myself with 10 minutes before work this morning and since I woke up with it playing on my internal radio (Dr. Alan Huckleberry's version on YouTube, not my own, mind you) well why not sit down and enjoy playing it for the pleasure of it?

uhm, wait, what...whose fingers are these? REALLY? I spent half an hour on this thing yesterday and you'd think I'd never played it before!!!! ARgh! I'm going to work, stupid piano, stupid Beethoven. Changed the station in my head to some Chopin and departed.

I'll get back to it Sunday probably, being sensible in practice mode at that time, with the metronome set at a sedate 58 and missing no notes and all will be well and in a reasonable 3 or 4 weeks I can record it without embarrassing myself.

In the meantime when I want to play just to play I'll sit down to Rainbow Connection, a piece memorized for more than 4 months, and experiment some more with playing it with swing rhythm on the fly. THAT was fun and reminds me that all things in their time will come.

Maybe not Chopin...or Listz, certainly not Rachmaninoff, but possibly a little Gurlitt? Surely a touch of Kabalevsky from his Children's book that can be improved with some swing rhythm to make my kids laugh at my antics...yeah, in time that'll happen.

Happy playing to you.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 05:59 PM

Thank you so much Tech-key!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 06:02 PM

Probably very good advice zrtf90.

Having done years of scale on flute I'm fairly comfortable with the point of them musically. I'm going to have my mom review my form when I see her in March. She played Chopin all through my childhood and never hesitates to give it to me straight! Arpeggios are for the birds at this point though, just running through the two pages worth in my lesson book for the current unit was more than enough for the time being!
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 08:04 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Sibylle - Hilarious and so relatable. Yesterday's work on the little Beethoven Folk song had my ego telling me I'd knock it out in week. Just needed a little speed and a little flourish. Then I found myself with 10 minutes before work this morning and since I woke up with it playing on my internal radio (Dr. Alan Huckleberry's version on YouTube, not my own, mind you) well why not sit down and enjoy playing it for the pleasure of it?

uhm, wait, what...whose fingers are these? REALLY? I spent half an hour on this thing yesterday and you'd think I'd never played it before!!!! ARgh! I'm going to work, stupid piano, stupid Beethoven. Changed the station in my head to some Chopin and departed.

[...]
Happy playing to you.


Attentive readers may have noted that I mentioned that little morsel of Beethoven, the Russian Folk Song, as the first classical piece I played on piano, in a beginning piano class which is where I started the first time. About six weeks in, we had an exam where we had to play that, all something like 15 of us in the class. NOBODY played it like Alan Huckleberry plays it on YouTube. We didn't have YouTube. We did do the best we could, guided by the class teacher. When I picked up the piano again, that was the first thing I tried, along with Hanon exercises (yeah, I know, so sue me.)

I do recall, when I took that exam in piano class, that I sat down at the piano at the front of the class, and said to the teacher, "I feel like I've never seen a keyboard before." She repeated it out to the class (so they would know they weren't alone; that didn't bother me). I played it okay, but not as good as I'd practiced it. I was an experienced performer by then on other instruments.

All that nice stuff on YouTube is great. A force for good. But also, potentially, a force for evil, if it discourages us from doing our best at the level we are at. Or makes us feel inadequate for being where we are.

I am rambling. But, can we please be a little bit child-like, and not worry about how inadequate we are compared with others (I know their secret, they simply practiced diligently for 20+ years!), and only play what we can as we can, make the music that we are capable of making, and let things unfold as they will?

All the best, fellow pilgrim!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/25/19 09:55 PM

Thanks Elenmirie, very valid points. Especially in my 20s and 30s seeing what is on YouTube would have been discouraging. Especially seeing some 6 year old NAIL a piece I struggle with. As I close in on 50 however I'm both more selective in what I choose to view and more at peace with where my abilities fit it the grand scheme of things. How wonderful it was to use YouTube to familiarize myself with the playing and performance style of Emmanuel Axe before getting the chance to see him live with our local symphony. How awe inspiring to hear Josh Wright do Sleigh bells at Christmas so fast and clear and light to make me swoon. How inexpensive and fast an opportunity to hear many versions of a piece I'm learning to inspire ideas for where I want to go with it. On the other hand, I'll skip those vids of the 7 year old prodigy and most especially I avoid the compilations of "my progress in a year". Those trip my switches, best to leave them to whosoever finds them inspiring. Surely someone does.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/26/19 07:59 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
uhm, wait, what...whose fingers are these? REALLY? I spent half an hour on this thing yesterday and you'd think I'd never played it before!!!! ARgh!

So spot on... -Alternative: "Hello there piano, have we met? Are you sure?"

Quote
I'm going to work, stupid piano, stupid Beethoven. Changed the station in my head to some Chopin and departed.

HOW on earth can you do this? My "head radio" is completely independent of my wishes. It'll play something I love, all day, until I give in and listen to it "outside" as well. Or it'll play something I dislike, just because I heard a snatch of it somewhere. Infuriatingly, it also plays stuff I know but can't identify, which drives me up the walls! grin
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/26/19 11:20 AM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
.........,I know their secret, they simply practiced diligently for 20+ years..........


You totally figured it out!!! It’s not talent, it’s practice, motivation and perserverence!

#10,000hours
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/26/19 02:40 PM

Sibylle, It doesn't always work, but I'm also working on a piece of watered-down Chopin and the melody is so beautiful. I picked up the sheet music and read the first few bars to get myself going and the station changed. My trick for a nasty ear worm is The Beatles. Hard Days Night or Penny Lane can be called up effortlessly!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/26/19 02:42 PM

cmb13, I go off in my head while I'm driving dividing 10K hours by 30 years (if life agrees), by 50 weeks, by hours per week...yikes. Mastery might have to take a back seat to "Not half bad." cool
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/26/19 02:56 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
cmb13, I go off in my head while I'm driving dividing 10K hours by 30 years (if life agrees), by 50 weeks, by hours per week...yikes. Mastery might have to take a back seat to "Not half bad." cool

A friend just this past week, when told I was taking lessons, told me he had amassed about 50,000 hours on the piano. Doing the quick math, I would say even after almost 5 decades, this tells me he picked the wrong career for himself (i.e., business vs. piano)
Posted By: dobro

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 05:33 AM

Welcome Holly, all the best as you move forward. You will find some supportive and helpful people on this forum. Enjoy yourself.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 12:39 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
cmb13, I go off in my head while I'm driving dividing 10K hours by 30 years (if life agrees), by 50 weeks, by hours per week...yikes. Mastery might have to take a back seat to "Not half bad." cool
It turns out to be less than an hour per day(10000/30= 1000/3= 333 hours/year). But I think the 10,000 figure is rather silly and reaching a high level depends on so many other factors besides number of hours. Also, there is no definition of mastering the piano.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 12:52 PM

If you play one hour each day, you will need 27 years, 4 months and give or take 23 days to reach 10,000 hours.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 03:28 PM

Or 9 hrs / day - only 3 yrs 1 mn and change!
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 04:09 PM

Originally Posted by cmb13
Or 9 hrs / day - only 3 yrs 1 mn and change!


I love a positive thinker thumb!!
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 04:26 PM

I am afraid that our kidnapping of this thread has chased Holly away... frown
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 05:08 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
I am afraid that our kidnapping of this thread has chased Holly away... frown

Yes, I was looking forward to the next chapter of her diary!
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 06:14 PM

Originally Posted by NobleHouse
Originally Posted by cmb13
Or 9 hrs / day - only 3 yrs 1 mn and change!


I love a positive thinker thumb!!


Yes, the glass is 1/9th full!
Posted By: keystring

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 10:43 PM

Holly, I'm late to this show. If anything we do works for us, then it works for us - it's that simple. If your logs help you keep on track, practise with more focus than your previous attempts (I think you wrote that) then that is a good thing. For those of us who keep records of any kind, we grow over time, so you might look back a year from now and see that growth. You might shake your head about some of your ideas then, but you have grown into your new better ideas through the process.

One thing I'm wondering is this: Are you interested in getting feedback or thoughts on any of your entries?
Posted By: malkin

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/27/19 11:21 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
I am afraid that our kidnapping of this thread has chased Holly away... frown


If she doesn't want the peanut gallery getting involved she could keep her diary privately.
Posting on a public forum with a Reply button sort of invites this sort of thing, doesn't it?
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 06:36 PM

Not at all Animisha,

I'm sitting here laughing at everyone fiddling around with the math of mastery. It's not like any one of us doesn't know what our first wish to the Geni of the lamp would be. And every one of knows it takes dedication and time to reach an accomplished level of playing. If we had a lazy definition of that goal none of us would be here spending our non-practicing free time unable to step away from the musical world...carry on my loves, my thread is yours. I'll be posting every Thursday as I start practicing a fresh week's goals, but I may put up something later today as my weekend was consumed with thoughts of Keselo's ideas on "control" for advancement.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 06:39 PM

Keystring, absolutely to the question of feedback. I prefer suggestions to out right, "You're wrong, you idiot." However, given a reasoned analysis of WHY someone thinks I'm an idiot I won't block future commentary. Not saying I'll agree or change my ways, but a reasoned opinion is always (well, maybe usually) worth at least considering.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 06:46 PM

And because I'm sitting here with an timer enforcing my practice break I'll just add that I've done the math and would need 13 hours a week through Mid-July to hit 500 hours for a 12 month cycle. (I got serious last July)

Yeah, no. That's not going to happen.

I might just swing 500 for 2019, which would be 10hrs/wk X 50 wks...yeah, no, that's not likely to happen either.

I get anywhere from 3 on an atrocious week to 15 on those weeks where I'm hiding from the rest of my life and abusing my piano to do it. Most weeks are 8-10, which I feel privileged to have the time to put in.

Timer dinged, on to Czerny...
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 07:26 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Not at all Animisha,

Great Holly, I am happy about that.
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 08:00 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
.....our first wish to the Geni of the lamp would be......


Ten more wishes. Next, a couple hundred million dollars to stock all future homes with some beautiful grands, then, a lot more time / day (24 hrs doesn't cut it)......I could keep going.....
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 08:02 PM

Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Animisha
I am afraid that our kidnapping of this thread has chased Holly away... frown


If she doesn't want the peanut gallery getting involved she could keep her diary privately.
Posting on a public forum with a Reply button sort of invites this sort of thing, doesn't it?


I thought that, according to this definition - a few literary diaries excepted -

Today the term is generally employed for personal diaries, normally intended to remain private or to have a limited circulation amongst friends or relatives

... that a diary was a personal and primarily private record. I am not sure why it is being shared here to the extent that it is without that point being clarified by the OP.

The initial post was far too long for me to do anything more than skim it, so I may have missed the primary purpose why this diary is being shared publicly. The details I did catch seemed, however, to pertain only the the OP's experience while the method or process might not necessarily be applicable to others.

Regards,
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 08:34 PM

Originally Posted by BruceD
Today the term is generally employed for personal diaries, normally intended to remain private or to have a limited circulation amongst friends or relatives

The OED gives the definition:

Quote
1. A daily record of events or transactions, a journal; specifically, a daily record of matters affecting the writer personally, or which come under his personal observation.
2. A book prepared for keeping a daily record, or having spaces with printed dates for daily memoranda and jottings; also, applied to calendars containing daily memoranda on matters of importance to people generally, or members of a particular profession, occupation, or pursuit. A diary in this sense may vary in size from a folio volume, large enough to hold a detailed daily record in sense 1, to a small pocket-book with daily spaces only for the briefest notes, or merely with printed memoranda for daily reference.
3. Short for diary fever: see diary a. 1. Obs.


It's possible though that your sense is a North American sense of the word "diary."
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 10:36 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by BruceD
Today the term is generally employed for personal diaries, normally intended to remain private or to have a limited circulation amongst friends or relatives

The OED gives the definition:

Quote
1. A daily record of events or transactions, a journal; specifically, a daily record of matters affecting the writer personally, or which come under his personal observation.
2. A book prepared for keeping a daily record, or having spaces with printed dates for daily memoranda and jottings; also, applied to calendars containing daily memoranda on matters of importance to people generally, or members of a particular profession, occupation, or pursuit. A diary in this sense may vary in size from a folio volume, large enough to hold a detailed daily record in sense 1, to a small pocket-book with daily spaces only for the briefest notes, or merely with printed memoranda for daily reference.
3. Short for diary fever: see diary a. 1. Obs.


It's possible though that your sense is a North American sense of the word "diary."


Well, as your OED quotes states: "...specifically, a daily record of matters affecting the writer personally, or which come under his personal observation."

Regards,
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 11:02 PM

I'm going to skip the whole definition of a diary discussion. I had been using the term Journal for my daily written practice plan and simply wanted a separate term for a record that would include more impressions and feelings about things, as would my understanding of the term diary. I'm a little old for a key lock private diary and have arthritis that makes it MUCH more efficient to type. To keep myself coming back to it I made it public. I welcome comments, or would not have made it public, and fully assume as we're all adults anyone not interested can simply skip it. Moving on.

Earlier I mentioned I might post this evening separate from my "diary entry" I plan for Thursday. The topic at hand is how much of my thinking time on the subject of practice this past weekend was taken up with the writing of Keselo in Nothing Is Too Easy. Towards the present he mentions a practice method of EXTREMELY slow repetitions as a learning method, see his excellent thread for details, and pairing that with his earlier use of the term "control" for how he feels he should be playing before raising the tempo with his pieces.

While I usually try to stick to a practice strategy until a new week allows a me a more formal switch, I started yesterday to experiment and the results have been so dramatically positive the above paragraph will predominate my practice the remainder of the week. What positives?

1. It is nice to be in control. Less stressful.
2. Less stress means practice is more appealing to do in the first place.
3. Moving right into dynamics had not been a priority with the "get it to 75-80% tempo as soon as possible" method I had been employing. (Please don't start with a the "obey your teacher" line, the 75-80 method was recommended by a teacher, there a millions of teachers who have millions of methods) - SO, with this new method, there is far more brain space to take in dynamics from the get go, increasing immediately the musicality of the pieces. Playing more musically makes practice FUN.
4. Going slower each practice session will mean less tempo progress per session and therefore, a likely increase in the amount of time it takes to finish off a piece. Pro or con? The con is my ego takes a little beating at the seemingly slower pace of progression. The Pro is I sound better in the meantime and Isn't being a better player overall the endgame?

This post especially I would love to hear peoples thoughts and experiences regarding tempo in practice. Also what aspects of practice make it most enjoyable for everyone?
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/28/19 11:14 PM

Holly, good on you avoiding the senseless definition of a diary!

The beauty of slow practice is rapid progress. Hopefully results will come more quickly with more effective, thoughtful, meaningful and solid development.

It’s like running at 70% PMHR rather than at 95% - hard to back down but greater improvement in aerobic conditioning. The fact that it seems easier is a negative for some people, yet they’re doing themselves a disservice training in the anaerobic range and would improve more, and more safely, if they backed down!
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 08:29 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
4. Going slower each practice session will mean less tempo progress per session and therefore, a likely increase in the amount of time it takes to finish off a piece. Pro or con? The con is my ego takes a little beating at the seemingly slower pace of progression. The Pro is I sound better in the meantime and Isn't being a better player overall the endgame?


Hi Holly, I was thinking about this. You might be correct about this one - it might take you more time to learn a piece when you practise more slowly. But, the piece is just a device, one of many, to teach you how to play the piano. And if you have practised slowly, once you can play the piece at the final tempo, your technique will be better than if you would have practised the piece faster - and so in the end you have learned more.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 12:20 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
4. Going slower each practice session will mean less tempo progress per session and therefore, a likely increase in the amount of time it takes to finish off a piece.
No, the one doesn't follow the other. In fact the converse is more likely to apply.

Tempo doesn't really increase in increments. Slow practise, slow enough to think before pressing the next key, always musical and always in control, tells the brain what to do. When the brain gets the message it can do that at the speed of neural impulses (if the music is memorised rather than read or followed) and the tempo comes up from programming-in speed to playing back speed. The speed at which you sing the music to yourself, the tempo you find most musical for the piece, is the tempo that playback will naturally tend towards. The rate of increase will be faster, the slower and more careful was the practise and thus the clearer was the target.

When increasing tempo by increments the temptation is to 'chase' the metronome. This instills pressure and tension into performance, increases the likelihood of errors, reduces the care and attention to dynamics and articulation in deference to tempo and gets us used to less musical performance. It also prohibits tempo increases because the increased tension naturally slows down our physical speed and our mental comfort.

A better use of the metronome is to withhold its use until the piece can be played fluently, albeit slowly, and then restrict the tempo to a manageable one where there is greater facility and the musicality can be brought out more clearly. Once or twice with the metronome at 'control' speed and once or twice without. This way the tempo will rise by greater intervals in a shorter time and the metronome can be finally dropped.

I would keep the metronome practise to sections rather than the whole piece as shorter section enable greater concentration and progress. Playing through the whole piece should be done slower than sectional practise until the sections have achieved a good level of comfort and facility.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 01:01 PM

Animisha and zrtf90,

thanks for the feedback. I'm definitely going to be trying this out. Having been far more advanced on another instrument, the lack up musicality in my previous methods with the piano has been frustrating. The other instrument was learned in a group setting without "lessons" and "practice" so while I got quite good, I never learned how to practice on my own. Discovering the way to have piano sound musical here at the beginning of Lev. 1 during practice is like opening a treasure box of enjoyment in the whole process.

zrtf90, I'll be rereading your post a few times to get all that to sink in, but thanks grin
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 01:47 PM

Richard's (zrtf90) advice is always spot on. He has taught me more than you can imagine. It's as I mentioned above - slow practice = rapid progress. I couldn't do the details the justice he can though!
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 02:10 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake


This post especially I would love to hear peoples thoughts and experiences regarding tempo in practice. Also what aspects of practice make it most enjoyable for everyone?


Interesting discussion Holly - I'll pitch in from the perspective of being deep in my first year of practice. My teacher from the beginning has told me hands separate first working up tempo from slow to faster before doing hands together. For me, I can do hands separate in pretty quick order. She also wants dynamics from the beginning. (I do not memorize anything, usually working at least 4 pieces in parallel in different stages). Then it is hands together starting out slow and working up.....so here's where the issue is. Like you, I have an ego (or something) that I want to play up to tempo 'as soon as possible', or as it turns out - before I am ready. When I do not play well, I have learned that the immediate remedy is to slow down. I find that a bit frustrating but here is where I am in my journey.....

I have read many times on this forum about enjoying the process. This has also been reinforced with me while reading the book 'The perfect wrong note' where (paraphrasing) it says that one has to investigate the reason for the wrong note - be patient and detailed - don't get upset about it - be curious and think through what is going on. It used to be when I played something during lesson for my Teacher, and I made a mistake, I would just stop and be hard on myself - this is the wrong attitude. Now when I make a mistake I recover and keep going (She is quite happy about this!) And I don't beat myself up but note where I messed up and investigate why that might happened and based on my thoughts will do something about it.

So I am making a new attitude (this is very recent for me) which involves slowing down - focus on technical aspects and be patient. So I am trying to find more enjoyment playing slow and improving technical aspects - which I think will eventually lead to better speed (this seems to be working). Related to this approach are a couple of technical aspects that I am not good enough at, but I can see that I am improving....

For me the two things I work on heavily while learning pieces is to improve my counting out loud and looking ahead while playing. Also, I have not read much about concentration - but for me that is an issue I think about. Week to week I can feel improvements in these things also which gives me enjoyment!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 09:07 PM

Progman,

Sounds like you have a great supportive teacher. I'm not hard on myself, just greedy. Erik Satie is years away and I want those years to pass faster than my innate talent will allow. Sigh...

One thing that is helping me be real is the organization I put to my practice goals for a year. All together for 2019 including Lesson work in Faber 2 and 3b, pianoTV.net selections, RCM Lev. 1, Mikrokosmos and Czerny I'm looking at 102 pieces and/or fragments of music. January started slowly, but now that I've got my rhythm going I can start 2-4 new pieces a week and move previous new ones to "in-progress" then to "polishing". Many are dropped there, but some go on to "spaced repetition" and/or "repertoire". My Practice slots give each one a minimum of 4 weeks if necessary. Many take only 10 days or so. Too regrettably few only take a week, but anything that's just not ready to go to spaced repetition after 4-5 weeks, was too hard for me to begin with so I'm likely to set it aside and try again in 2-3 months.

I'm quite content not to be working on pieces that take more than a month to get really down pat at this level. Long complicated pieces that take months to perfect can wait until I'm playing music I can repeat endlessly for months on end. Not much at Level 1 could fit that bill anyway. The frustration was in wanting to be in the "give it a week and move on" club. No such luck. Age, lack of skill, whatever, it seems to take at least 10 days for all but rank beginner pieces to sound like someone good is playing them. The vast majority take somewhere from 2-3 weeks, and I'm okay with one at a time going all the way to four weeks.

My new goal, just decided in the last week or so, is to not pass off pieces based on reaching recommended tempos with minimal to no errors, but to pass a piece off when I can record it and WANT to play that recording for my family because it sounds like someone who can PLAY did it.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/29/19 10:17 PM

That's a really good idea to use the recording process as a criteria for completion - I record when I think I am close to make sure it sounds good. Ultimately, my Teacher gives the 'yea or nay' on each one but I can tell from recordings if she will be like it.

I think Rich's comments above on this question are really good. Nice of him to share. I pay attention to experienced people smile Good Luck to you!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/31/19 04:58 PM

Thursday, January 31, 2019 Greetings from the frozen Midwest!

If you don’t like long, detailed peeks at someone else’s practice regimens it might be best to move along…

Finished/set aside
:
Mikrokosmos #23 – Bela Bartok
Driving Range – Christopher Norton
Swan Lake – Tchaikovsky (arr. N. Faber)

After the frustration of my recording app not working, I got over my fit and played them for my adult children and some friends who were around. I figure the pressure of playing them for people gives me a little credibility boost in deciding they are done whereas I usually listen quite critically to the recording before making that decision.

Mikrokosmos #23
I started this week and only really needed 3 days. By the end I could sit down and play it at tempo fiddling with the dynamics at will.

Driving Range, started Jan. 3, is finally, blessedly, done. Its final tempo is 152 and I don’t like fast pieces. Fortunately, in that I could get rid of it post haste, there wasn’t much dynamic finesse written into it to trip me up at that speed. It’s my first piece from Christopher Norton and while I can see a kid who hates classical getting a kick out of it, I thought it was monotonous.

Swan Lake is such a beautiful melody I was able to put aside my general dislike of easy arrangements of harder pieces to enjoy working on it these last four weeks. It got the best response from my audience today, but mostly I took from it that I need to work on my pedaling technique.

In Progress Pieces:

Wedding March – Felix Mendelssohn (arr. N. Faber) Beginning its second week.
Chopin Waltz in A Minor (arr. A van Betuw) starting its 3rd week today
Bach Chorale in C (arr. A van Betuw) starting its 4th week

Wedding March. Last Thu. I started with listening, HS, then HT at 40 and over the week progressed to HT at 68-80 depending on the section. The dynamics are very straight forward as it’s such a familiar piece.

Chopin and Bach. Sigh. Both are arrangements of the originals. Both are still diabolically difficult. Both have ornaments. Recordings I can find are so much more complex, and FASTER, than the arrangements…the list of my reasons to whine goes on. On a positive note, I got the last 8 measures of the Chopin in the RH alone actually 40 beats with a quarter note to the beat and that took me all week…wait, did I say positive note?


Polishing:
Russian Folk Song – Beethoven (starting 3rd week today)
Etude in C Major – Diabelli – (starting 3rd week today)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart (arr. N. Faber) (starting 3rd week today)
Minuet in A Minor – Krieger (starting its 4th week)
Czerny #11 – starting its 2nd real week

Minuet in A Minor I’m especially pleased with. It’s quite comfortable at tempo in all but one section, and the dynamics are not a struggle. The thorn is that it is physically memorized by repetition it is paradoxically harder to keep reading the sheet music. I’m trying. When I get the whole piece to tempo I plan to set it aside for a month then come back to it to outright memorize it. I want it as a repertoire piece.

The Etude in C Maj, is at tempo except for one section with Alberti Bass that just doesn’t want to get up to speed on my time table.

Eine Kleine, Those freaking F#s are giving me fits, but it will get there next week if not this week.

Russian Folk, coming along nicely. I hope to record it at the end of the week.


That leaves Czerny #11 (from Vol. 445, First Instruction in Piano Playing – One Hundred Recreations)
I’m sure it’s meant to teach the treble ledger lines, but I don’t have trouble reading these as a former piccolo player. The bass clef holds the first note of the broken chord three beats while the second two beats bring in the top two notes. Not especially difficult at 50 bpm, but this week will see me seeking to up that in a systematic way while incorporating the appropriate child’s carnival lilt to the sound that just can’t be done as slowly as I’m managing the piece now. We’ll see if I manage it in a week or if it will need 2 or 3 more weeks to come together.


REPERTOIRE
Fur Elise (Intro only) – I started working this over with a metronome to work on not cheating with the evenness. It sounds distinctly better.

Bourree in E Minor – L. Mozart. There will come a time when I can sit down and play this from memory, at tempo with zero errors. That time is not now. However, the feeling of owning it is starting.

Rainbow Connection
– P. Williams. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s so easy compared to everything else I play it’s keeping its place in my heart.



TECHNIQUE:
Scales in 2 octaves: C, F, G, Am, Em, Dm with harmonics on the minors and, C in 1 octave contrary and chromatic. Don’t blame me, blame RCM Technique guide for Lev. 1. I’m just following orders. I also worked D Major at 4 octaves and managed to get it memorized and smooth at a slow tempo.

Lieberstraum, Listz (Faber Applied Technique arrangement) this had the Treble on the left page, the Bass on the right page, meant to be played together and wasn’t that just the most enjoyable part of my day…not. I can do it smoothly at 50, but she wants it at 100. It gets where it gets this week and I’m walking away…slowly, staring daggers at the page…ready for it to pounce…


STARTED TODAY
Fiesta Espana (Faber 2 lesson)
The Yellow Rose of Texas (Level 1 arr. A. van Betuw)
Full of Confidence – Christopher Norton

Fiesta is another fast piece, but no other issues. Should take 2-3 weeks to get up to speed. Yellow Rose, I have the advantage of having lived in Texas so the melody is something I could handle dead drunk, 16th notes and all. I had it HT at about 60 in under 10 minutes. Thankfully I’ll be able to get it done in 2-3 weeks as it’s another pop-ish, modern tune despite being 160+ old, and they leave me cold. Full of Confidence is a jazzy sort of syncopated rhythm four-line piece that’s all about getting the rhythm. Do it slow enough counting out loud to ingrain that rhythm and it will come. Getting it up to speed will be the only issue. No new pieces I really like unfortunately.

11 hours total time for week of Jan. 24 190 lifetime hours

That’s seventeen pieces plus technique work all together. I’d like to get that down to around fifteen for week in and week out. Czerny seems to be taking longer per piece than I had anticipated, but if I drop anything it will be the Christopher Norton Collections pieces I had planned in an effort to make myself a more well-rounded player. All of the Faber lesson pieces could be dropped a week or two faster than I do as well. I’m not as concerned with getting them to some sort of recital condition. I’ll leave that to RCM repertoire pieces like Minuet in A Minor (Krieger) and pieces from Albert’s Essential Repertoire like the Beethoven Russian Folk Song. I have a hard time staying focused on arranged pieces as it is, and once I’ve got the part of it that is the focus of the lesson…well, patience isn’t my strong suit and that’s a fact.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 01/31/19 07:56 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Thursday, January 31, 2019 Greetings from the frozen Midwest!

If you don’t like long, detailed peeks at someone else’s practice regimens it might be best to move along…

Finished/set aside
:
Mikrokosmos #23 – Bela Bartok
Driving Range – Christopher Norton
Swan Lake – Tchaikovsky (arr. N. Faber)

After the frustration of my recording app not working, I got over my fit and played them for my adult children and some friends who were around. I figure the pressure of playing them for people gives me a little credibility boost in deciding they are done whereas I usually listen quite critically to the recording before making that decision.

Mikrokosmos #23
I started this week and only really needed 3 days. By the end I could sit down and play it at tempo fiddling with the dynamics at will.

Driving Range, started Jan. 3, is finally, blessedly, done. Its final tempo is 152 and I don’t like fast pieces. Fortunately, in that I could get rid of it post haste, there wasn’t much dynamic finesse written into it to trip me up at that speed. It’s my first piece from Christopher Norton and while I can see a kid who hates classical getting a kick out of it, I thought it was monotonous.

Swan Lake is such a beautiful melody I was able to put aside my general dislike of easy arrangements of harder pieces to enjoy working on it these last four weeks. It got the best response from my audience today, but mostly I took from it that I need to work on my pedaling technique.

In Progress Pieces:

Wedding March – Felix Mendelssohn (arr. N. Faber) Beginning its second week.
Chopin Waltz in A Minor (arr. A van Betuw) starting its 3rd week today
Bach Chorale in C (arr. A van Betuw) starting its 4th week

Wedding March. Last Thu. I started with listening, HS, then HT at 40 and over the week progressed to HT at 68-80 depending on the section. The dynamics are very straight forward as it’s such a familiar piece.

Chopin and Bach. Sigh. Both are arrangements of the originals. Both are still diabolically difficult. Both have ornaments. Recordings I can find are so much more complex, and FASTER, than the arrangements…the list of my reasons to whine goes on. On a positive note, I got the last 8 measures of the Chopin in the RH alone actually 40 beats with a quarter note to the beat and that took me all week…wait, did I say positive note?


Polishing:
Russian Folk Song – Beethoven (starting 3rd week today)
Etude in C Major – Diabelli – (starting 3rd week today)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart (arr. N. Faber) (starting 3rd week today)
Minuet in A Minor – Krieger (starting its 4th week)
Czerny #11 – starting its 2nd real week

Minuet in A Minor I’m especially pleased with. It’s quite comfortable at tempo in all but one section, and the dynamics are not a struggle. The thorn is that it is physically memorized by repetition it is paradoxically harder to keep reading the sheet music. I’m trying. When I get the whole piece to tempo I plan to set it aside for a month then come back to it to outright memorize it. I want it as a repertoire piece.

The Etude in C Maj, is at tempo except for one section with Alberti Bass that just doesn’t want to get up to speed on my time table.

Eine Kleine, Those freaking F#s are giving me fits, but it will get there next week if not this week.

Russian Folk, coming along nicely. I hope to record it at the end of the week.


That leaves Czerny #11 (from Vol. 445, First Instruction in Piano Playing – One Hundred Recreations)
I’m sure it’s meant to teach the treble ledger lines, but I don’t have trouble reading these as a former piccolo player. The bass clef holds the first note of the broken chord three beats while the second two beats bring in the top two notes. Not especially difficult at 50 bpm, but this week will see me seeking to up that in a systematic way while incorporating the appropriate child’s carnival lilt to the sound that just can’t be done as slowly as I’m managing the piece now. We’ll see if I manage it in a week or if it will need 2 or 3 more weeks to come together.


REPERTOIRE
Fur Elise (Intro only) – I started working this over with a metronome to work on not cheating with the evenness. It sounds distinctly better.

Bourree in E Minor – L. Mozart. There will come a time when I can sit down and play this from memory, at tempo with zero errors. That time is not now. However, the feeling of owning it is starting.

Rainbow Connection
– P. Williams. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s so easy compared to everything else I play it’s keeping its place in my heart.



TECHNIQUE:
Scales in 2 octaves: C, F, G, Am, Em, Dm with harmonics on the minors and, C in 1 octave contrary and chromatic. Don’t blame me, blame RCM Technique guide for Lev. 1. I’m just following orders. I also worked D Major at 4 octaves and managed to get it memorized and smooth at a slow tempo.

Lieberstraum, Listz (Faber Applied Technique arrangement) this had the Treble on the left page, the Bass on the right page, meant to be played together and wasn’t that just the most enjoyable part of my day…not. I can do it smoothly at 50, but she wants it at 100. It gets where it gets this week and I’m walking away…slowly, staring daggers at the page…ready for it to pounce…


STARTED TODAY
Fiesta Espana (Faber 2 lesson)
The Yellow Rose of Texas (Level 1 arr. A. van Betuw)
Full of Confidence – Christopher Norton

Fiesta is another fast piece, but no other issues. Should take 2-3 weeks to get up to speed. Yellow Rose, I have the advantage of having lived in Texas so the melody is something I could handle dead drunk, 16th notes and all. I had it HT at about 60 in under 10 minutes. Thankfully I’ll be able to get it done in 2-3 weeks as it’s another pop-ish, modern tune despite being 160+ old, and they leave me cold. Full of Confidence is a jazzy sort of syncopated rhythm four-line piece that’s all about getting the rhythm. Do it slow enough counting out loud to ingrain that rhythm and it will come. Getting it up to speed will be the only issue. No new pieces I really like unfortunately.

11 hours total time for week of Jan. 24 190 lifetime hours

That’s seventeen pieces plus technique work all together. I’d like to get that down to around fifteen for week in and week out. Czerny seems to be taking longer per piece than I had anticipated, but if I drop anything it will be the Christopher Norton Collections pieces I had planned in an effort to make myself a more well-rounded player. All of the Faber lesson pieces could be dropped a week or two faster than I do as well. I’m not as concerned with getting them to some sort of recital condition. I’ll leave that to RCM repertoire pieces like Minuet in A Minor (Krieger) and pieces from Albert’s Essential Repertoire like the Beethoven Russian Folk Song. I have a hard time staying focused on arranged pieces as it is, and once I’ve got the part of it that is the focus of the lesson…well, patience isn’t my strong suit and that’s a fact.



I love reading your updates! Thanks.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 12:03 AM

Thanks NobleHouse, you and I may be the only ones! laugh
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 01:17 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Thanks NobleHouse, you and I may be the only ones! laugh

I'm reading too. How can you work on so many major pieces simultaneously? Don't you get them confused?
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 01:18 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Thanks NobleHouse, you and I may be the only ones! laugh


I just wish that I could get a copy of your spreadsheet grin
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 01:28 AM

Tyrone, I'm not trying to memorize them all. As I put in my first post I have "sessions" or groups of music. Each of the 1st four groups has Technique, Faber Lesson, pianoTV, and something easy.

Session 1 Scales
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 01:52 AM

Hit the reply to quick by accident, apologies. Anyway, I have essentially four groups of four pieces including time to sight read. So fifteen "pieces". None are over 2 pages. Many are arrangements for my level. Which is something I thought was being kept to a minimum until I started this diary and realized how much of my practice time these "lesson" pieces, and "arrangements" are taking up over working on real compositions. I know these leveled off pieces are designed to teach me and bring me along in an ever forward progress, but they are nowhere near as satisfying to learn or play as a real composition written to be what it is as in the Etude and Minuet in A Minor, both of which I love.

And NobleHouse. Wish I could attach the spreadsheet. In word form I made a list of every piece I wanted to learn this year grouping by categories: Lesson pieces, pianoTV.net pieces, RCM recital pieces, Etudes, Personal choices, Czerny & Mikrokosmos sharing an "execise group"

I have each week running down the left column, then a column for each of the above categories as you go to the right. Each week I put 1, 2 or 3 items from my list into their category slots. I like doing this because I can put skips in for travel. I can space out 18 etudes to every one every 3 weeks, I can put 2 or 3 or 4 lessons down their column, then put several blank spaces in that column to give me a few weeks to catch up if needed & still see I'll get them all done by week 52. It's on excel so I can move things around as life does its mischief to my well laid plans.
Posted By: Blague

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 03:56 AM

I adore your level of detail.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 11:57 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Hit the reply to quick by accident, apologies. Anyway, I have essentially four groups of four pieces including time to sight read. So fifteen "pieces". None are over 2 pages. Many are arrangements for my level. Which is something I thought was being kept to a minimum until I started this diary and realized how much of my practice time these "lesson" pieces, and "arrangements" are taking up over working on real compositions. I know these leveled off pieces are designed to teach me and bring me along in an ever forward progress, but they are nowhere near as satisfying to learn or play as a real composition written to be what it is as in the Etude and Minuet in A Minor, both of which I love.

And NobleHouse. Wish I could attach the spreadsheet. In word form I made a list of every piece I wanted to learn this year grouping by categories: Lesson pieces, pianoTV.net pieces, RCM recital pieces, Etudes, Personal choices, Czerny & Mikrokosmos sharing an "execise group"

I have each week running down the left column, then a column for each of the above categories as you go to the right. Each week I put 1, 2 or 3 items from my list into their category slots. I like doing this because I can put skips in for travel. I can space out 18 etudes to every one every 3 weeks, I can put 2 or 3 or 4 lessons down their column, then put several blank spaces in that column to give me a few weeks to catch up if needed & still see I'll get them all done by week 52. It's on excel so I can move things around as life does its mischief to my well laid plans.


I will PM you.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 12:50 PM

Thank you for the update! I really enjoy reading these.

I have two questions (and they're not meant as criticism, if anything, I'd like to provide a different angle to look at them):

1. As others have noted, you seem to work on a lot of pieces at once. I remember from my early lesson days, even if they were very short pieces, I'd focus on 2 or maximum 3 at a time. You'll have them done in no time and can move on to the next. I'm just wondering if your approach could scatter your energy too much and prevent a deeper engagement with each piece.

2. Why so many arrangements? Again, this is purely my personal approach, but I'd rather play easier pieces in the original and wait until I have the technical level for the harder stuff. But then I'm an old, carmudgeonly purist, so maybe you and all the other "method book" folks should just ignore my mutterings in this respect wink

Anyway, I'm glad you're persisting in sharing these. Keep 'em coming!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 02:45 PM

Sibylle,
I can't answer in detail right now as Friday's are my work away from home day, but I LOVED your comments and look forward to engaging with you on them, as those are two questions I ask myself regularly. Are you a music teacher?
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 03:51 PM

Not a music teacher, just a long-time learner smile But I have been teaching elsewhere (at uni, and doing trainings in companies and stuff), plus I'm a life coach so I know a little bit about focus and learning and the brain!
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 05:16 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
[...]I'm an old, carmudgeonly purist,[...]


I thought that there could be only one of us on this forum!

Cheers!
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 07:29 PM

I was going to ask the same thing about the number of pieces Holly. I am over 200 hours in, 3/4 through my first method book. It's been 4-6 pieces at a time except for Christmas I was up to 9 for my little show for the neighbors. I'm going to ramp up my daily practice time from the current 1-1.5 hrs in preparation for an intensive Piano Camp this summer. 4-6 at a time feels pretty good to me but interested in the experience of more experienced 'curmudgeonly' types smile
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by Progman
I'm going to ramp up my daily practice time from the current 1-1.5 hrs in preparation for an intensive Piano Camp this summer. 4-6 at a time feels pretty good to me but interested in the experience of more experienced 'curmudgeonly' types smile

Never tried 4-6 hrs/day myself, but as an adult, I'd be a little concerned that this doesn't result in an RSI that could sideline one for good from piano playing. There have been a few posts PW from people who got a little carried away with their practice and ended up with an injury. Just saying.
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 08:45 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Progman
I'm going to ramp up my daily practice time from the current 1-1.5 hrs in preparation for an intensive Piano Camp this summer. 4-6 at a time feels pretty good to me but interested in the experience of more experienced 'curmudgeonly' types smile

Never tried 4-6 hrs/day myself, but as an adult, I'd be a little concerned that this doesn't result in an RSI that could sideline one for good from piano playing. There have been a few posts PW from people who got a little carried away with their practice and ended up with an injury. Just saying.


Although it's not totally clear, wasn't Progman referring to 4-6 pieces in his post and not 4-6 hours?

Regards,
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 08:50 PM

Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Progman
I'm going to ramp up my daily practice time from the current 1-1.5 hrs in preparation for an intensive Piano Camp this summer. 4-6 at a time feels pretty good to me but interested in the experience of more experienced 'curmudgeonly' types smile

Never tried 4-6 hrs/day myself, but as an adult, I'd be a little concerned that this doesn't result in an RSI that could sideline one for good from piano playing. There have been a few posts PW from people who got a little carried away with their practice and ended up with an injury. Just saying.


Although it's not totally clear, wasn't Progman referring to 4-6 pieces in his post and not 4-6 hours?

Regards,

Oh my! You're right! blush blush <hides under a bush>
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 09:07 PM

Yes, 4-6 pieces at a time but open to other approaches. Am planning to ramp up to 3 hours practice per day - at Piano Camp I get 4 hrs/day practice time if I want it and 1 hour lesson per day.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 11:05 PM

You guys have really had fun on here today without me!

How many pieces to work on at a time as a not exactly raw beginner with ~200 practice hours under the belt? This is the question...

2-3? 4-6? 15-20? I have heard all of these from supposed experts and more advanced players.

All I KNOW is that my current thinking on the subject comes simply from my experience of losing it after 10-15 minutes on a piece. Ridiculous errors, total melt down of concentration, no point at all in trying for longer. HOWEVER, I switch to a new piece and I'm a competent student again. (That time is average as the reality is anywhere from 6 minutes on something almost finished to 2 or 3 times a week looking at the stopwatch and finding to my utter surprise I've been going more than half an hour on one piece.) But given 10-15 minutes of quality time as the "most of the time" average, if I stop at 4-6 pieces I'm going to come in at about 1-1.5 hours/day of practice time.

I simply want more.

My sweet spot is 2-2.5 Mon-Thu and another 3-4 total spread out over the weekend. At this level I sleep better, my brain is sharper for numbers (I do the bookkeeping for the family business), I feel satisfied and flush with pleasure at what I've gotten done. I'm not burned out, and there is no pain in the hands or wrists that isn't the arthritis I wake up with anyway. Not bad for a hobbiest.

More than 2.5 hours and I'm fortunate that my body mechanics don't give me any pushback, but my life suffers, I start resenting having to cook dinner...AGAIN, really? Haven't you people heard of fasting?.[i]..I miss haircut appointments, nasty words like "obsessive-complusive" start getting tossed around by disgruntled family members...in short negatives start outweighing the positives.

So for me the question becomes: Keep doing what I'm doing, which is 15-18 pieces including everything from a 2 line snippet to two-page lesson pieces, or whittle it down between 3-6 and perhaps doing them in the morning and try a second session later in the day. Or as I read Keselo did, at least in the beginning, work them 3-5 minutes at a time multiple times a day?

I truly want to hear everyone's thoughts on this question. I'm not married to the idea of staying at super high volume (My husband is SO relieved), but I'm not going to be willing to budge on putting in 2-2.5 as it's my happy place.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/01/19 11:22 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle


2. Why so many arrangements? Again, this is purely my personal approach, but I'd rather play easier pieces in the original and wait until I have the technical level for the harder stuff. But then I'm an old, carmudgeonly purist, so maybe you and all the other "method book" folks should just ignore my mutterings in this respect wink

Anyway, I'm glad you're persisting in sharing these. Keep 'em coming!


EXCELLENT question!

Right now I do what I do because I don't have a teacher and I'm a nervous of cutting the umbilical cord of method books giving me a broader exposure to level graded technique, theory, and advancement than I might get picking material for myself. I'm coming up on the last two units of Faber Piano Adventures 2, which puts me in the Level 1 area according to RCM ratings. (I had two years as a child, another year split in 2 six months segments decades apart and this past 7 months I've put in 150 hours on my own with method books supplemented by original works suggested by an online teacher, and watching online lessons to track down my questions) I am MUCH farther along than I ever got under a teacher, BUT I know without a doubt the time will come, and likely before I expect it, that my progress screeches to a halt without one. I put in 6 serious years with the flute/piccolo so I know reading music and musicality far beyond my physical ability to play the piano.

I WANT to be one of those who plays original works, getting to know composers through their body of works, and loving every piece I play. The thinness of the ice under my feet in the world of piano keeps me hugging the shore of method books.

Throw me a life line to the magical world of original works, Sibylle, I really want to know how to get there.

For those peeking into my discussion of this with Sibylle, please keep it to arrangements versus original works, or some other points on learning methods and skip trying to brow beat me into finding a teacher before I decide to. I'm Scots-Irish. Really, don't waste your time.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 12:11 AM

Hi Holly, I just caught up to your thread after reading your latest post. I’d been aware of your thread, but had not yet taken the time to read all of it. Then, in your last post, you mention a method that seemed familiar to me, so I thought I’d jump in and give you my two cents. And then you mentioned my name, and I just had to go back, read it all, and give you a proper reply. So here it is.

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Going slower each practice session will mean less tempo progress per session and therefore, a likely increase in the amount of time it takes to finish off a piece. Pro or con? The con is my ego takes a little beating at the seemingly slower pace of progression. The Pro is I sound better in the meantime and Isn't being a better player overall the endgame?

I was going to reply to this, but Richard beat me to it a couple of days ago. It seems slower, but that’s just how it feels day-to-day. Once you start looking at it over the course of two weeks, you’ll likely see that your slow pieces are 1) more consistent and 2) sound much better. Tempo is some indication of how well you know a piece, but it should never be the indication.

I do want to quickly give my opinion on some of the things he’s said. Bear in mind he’s many times more experienced than I am, and that I don’t disagree with him about anything. I don’t think anything he says isn’t true, I just think other things are also true.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
When the brain gets the message it can do that at the speed of neural impulses (if the music is memorised rather than read or followed) and the tempo comes up from programming-in speed to playing back speed.

While Richard specifies that it works this way when memorizing, I want to state that it works much the same when reading. The difference lies in the message the brain gets (memorized notes vs reading notes), the rest of the process is much the same.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
A better use of the metronome is to withhold its use until the piece can be played fluently, albeit slowly, and then restrict the tempo to a manageable one where there is greater facility and the musicality can be brought out more clearly.

Yes, but it’s worth specifying that the point at which you can play a beginner piece slowly without the metronome should be within minutes. You should definitely be able to play it without the metronome first. It takes away the urgency, assures you’re in control once you do turn on the metronome (no guessing or rushing), and it provides you with a good opportunity to set and write down any fingerings you feel are required.
I think it's useful to keep in mind the material he learns is much more complex than what you and I learn on a daily basis. That's not to undermine anything he says, it's truly excellent advice, but it is important to realize that things work a bit differently when you're a beginner compared to when you're a much more advanced player. The general outlines are much the same, the nuances may crucially differ.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
I would keep the metronome practise to sections rather than the whole piece as shorter section enable greater concentration and progress.

This is very important. It may not feel very relevant with how short many beginner pieces are, but it’s a mindset that you must make your own as soon as possible. I refer to this method as chunking. Something I vividly remember from my early playing days is how long an 8-measure piece could feel. Chunking it into sections of even a measure will help tremendously in learning it. It may feel slower at first, but you’ll be making a lot less mistakes than if you were to just play the entire thing through for 10 minutes. And it's correct repetitions we want, not those filled with struggle. This comes back to the sense of control that you mentioned earlier in your post.
Do note that, when chunking, it’s of great importance that you include the first note(s) of the next sectionl. This makes it much easier to eventually glue all sections together into a single piece. If it’s a particularly tricky section, you could even include the last note(s) of the previous section as well. It’s something I only do when a transition is particularly tricky, but you should be aware that it’s something that could help you tremendously.

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Erik Satie is years away and I want those years to pass faster than my innate talent will allow. Sigh...

Look up Satie’s three albums for children! They’re great, very funny with their subtitles, and each piece has a tremendous amount of room for growth. They look easy on the sheet, but they are so hard to play well. Great pieces to grow into.

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Mikrokosmos #23 I started this week and only really needed 3 days. By the end, I could sit down and play it at tempo fiddling with the dynamics at will.

That’s very impressive! The last 15 or so pieces from that book are far from easy.

Now, onto your latest entry..

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
So for me the question becomes: Keep doing what I'm doing, which is 15-18 pieces including everything from a 2 line snippet to two-page lesson pieces, or whittle it down between 3-6 and perhaps doing them in the morning and try a second session later in the day. Or as I read Keselo did, at least in the beginning, work them 3-5 minutes at a time multiple times a day?

I think the 15-18 pieces a day approach is fine as a beginner. Why? Because your pieces are so short that it only takes 10-15 minutes to go through it and make meaningful progress. Once you start getting better, you’ll likely be practising an equal amount of material. The difference will be that what are now three pieces, will then be condensed into a single piece. You’ll only be learning 6-8 pieces at a time, but the amount of music is the same. It’s more complex, too, as is allowed by your growing abilities behind the piano. Even later on, you may only be learning two or three things at any time. A ten-page movement from a Beethoven Sonata, to name a long-term possibility, is a lot of things to cover, even if it's 'only' one piece.

Covering the same piece multiple times on a single day is something I wouldn’t recommend. When you practice a piece, it’s like filling a cup with water. After 10 minutes it’s full, and you set it aside. If you come back two hours later, the cup will still be full, and you’ll essentially be pouring water onto the floor. When do cups get emptied? At night, when you sleep. (Quick edit: this analogy applies to sections, not necessarily to pieces. 5-10 minutes on a single section seems to be the sweet-spot. A piece can consist of dozens of sections, which would theoretically make it possible to put 3 hours of quality practice in on a piece.)

This cup analogy does open for another interesting discussion, which is practising something only every other day. Let’s say you practice, among other things, Mikrokosmos #24 for 10 minutes (day 1). You then go to sleep, and the next day you’ll be better at playing Mikrokosmos #24. Now, what’s funny, if you didn’t touch or even think about it that following day (day 2), went about your business practising other things, and then had another night’s rest, the next day (day 3) you’d be even better at Mikrokosmos #24. Despite not having practised it the day before. To use the cup analogy, you empty your cups at night, but you don’t fully empty it the first night. Probably not even the second night, either.

This has one downside, which is that it takes longer in terms of actual days to learn something. The upside is that it takes less time actually spent behind the piano to learn something, and efficiency is what allows us to learn more of all the beautiful material that has been written for us by so many wonderful composers. It’s hard to give you an exact number on this, but if I compare the time it took me to learn something before and after applying this method, I’d say it takes me about 20% less time to learn a piece to a point of satisfaction. Something worth thinking about, perhaps.

I’ll not make the mistake of getting so far behind on your thread in the future; I’ll be following it more closely and help wherever I can. You've created a beautiful thread here.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 01:02 AM

Thank you SO much Keselo! I'm a little star-struck. Not to make you uncomfortable or anything, but I read your entire thread last weekend, printed it and read it again over this past week with a highlighter and discovered the excellent document you made over on Reddit of original works by levels, also printed and highlighted. So, thanks to you, that Satie book for children is already ordered!

I'll be re-reading your thoughts here again many times this week as well.

As initial reaction: you and others have made a believer out of me to keep the tempo down, both lower and for a longer time than I was before so now it's a matter of self-discipline. Ah, Grasshopper, the journey down that path is long and arduous...

I wouldn't dream of starting with the metronome until after listening to the piece, working on it hands separate, writing in fingerings, sectioning (what I usually call chunking) the piece, and working on each section hands together while counting aloud until I can play it smoothly, if with glacial slowness, then I'll take a stab at the likely tempo I should set the metronome and go from there. Good to hear I'm on the right track with that. I just needed to get my head on straight with the advancement curve from there. This week has proven a slight incline with frequent dips back to level is much more useful than an exponential curve driven by ego over quality of musicality! Also, thanks to zrtf90, I spend more time without the metronome at all to feel the piece early on instead of waiting for some pre-determined tempo test to give myself permission.

I like your cup analogy. I remember it from your thread. It's part of what's had me up at numerous pieces instead of endlessly going over the same measures to get in my necessary time to sleep well. I also remember your recent posts (or were they last year?) about dividing your material into parts that alternated days of practice. I think I do some variant of that over the weekends when I skip Friday entirely then do 2 of my 4 practice sets each of the weekend days instead of all of it every day. I've noticed it doesn't seem to do any harm. Repertoire pieces seem okay with a week or so of idleness, when things get crazy, though I have to play them slowly if I've been that lazy.

I welcome, gratefully, any and all comments you might have here. I've heard your playing and the very first thing I thought, was "Like that! That's what it would sound like if an advanced player was playing a beginner piece. I want to play like that!" So, obviously, going on to hear how far you've advanced in under 3 years I am extremely receptive to any advice you might feel inclined to give.

Thank you again, so much, for your time.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 02:18 AM

Ah! So I also do the 10-15 minute per piece, but practice less total time some less pieces in work. So that's my direction over the next months to add more pieces to build up more practice time. The cup analogy is a great one.

I have a question on a technical detail. With that 10-15 minute session on a piece my goal is to finish with 3 solid repetitions (whether sections or whole piece). Is that a good strategy?
Posted By: Zaphod

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 02:25 AM

Could I ask - when you say "10 to 15 minutes per piece" - what form does this take and how much of the piece do you work on in this time?
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 03:20 AM

Progman - I'm too much of a beginner to speculate as to the strength of any given strategy. As you'll see in my answer below to Zaphod I'm all over the map trying to figure it out.

Zaphod, I'll sit down to say, Minuet in A by Krieger, a four line piece, from the RCM Level 1 Repertoire book. I personally divided it into 3 sections based on phrasing and dynamics. I set my stopwatch and begin section A, as it's a piece I've already worked with a few weeks and at a tempo I have complete control over, I play it without the metronome to get reaquainted with it. (As some have mentioned, with this many pieces, every single one isn't a fresh melody in my mind).

Then I'll look at my practice notes from the last time with it. Say it says HT 92>132, that means last time I worked on it starting hands together at 92 and worked up to 132, maybe by one tick a play through, maybe faster, I don't record that (though I may have to start). I'll play it through at 92 and see where I am. If there is any stumble at all, I automatically reset my goal for the session at no more than 10 beats above where I'm starting and work with it until I get that 10 beats, maybe three times through, maybe seven, maybe quitting in frustration I had to drop to 80 to get it under control. (hey, bad days happen, obviously if I put down 92>132 I had a great time with last practice so I'm due for a wretched one this time) Then I move on to section B and start over. By the time I get through section C it's been 10 or 15 minutes and I'm done for the day with this piece. (Please assume at all times I'm trying to play in control, with accuracy and with dynamics and musicality, if I feel any stretch with those things, I drop the tempo a few beats and work back up)

Another piece I might play at 3X per tempo working the tempo up, but I'm doing less of that as I rethink my "need for speed", sorry, Top Gun reference.

First two times with a new piece are completely different as I'm "learning" them and usually don't use a metronome at all unless it's fiddling with it right at the end to get a feel for what tempo I've "drifted" to with my ability to play it to begin with. For me that's usually somewhere between 50 and 60, though some exercises I can jump to 80 in one session.

I'm working more on focusing on each and every play through being in control and musical (tip picked up from Keselo's excellent thread and urgings from zrtf90. I may stay right at that start tempo even if it's 40 bpm with an 1/8th note to the beat as it's been for a few days of a Chopin (arranged!) I'm working on. However, the first time took me half an hour to play 4 bars smoothly and even get it UP to that fast and now I can play it once without the metronome then play it at 40, so I'll call that improvement.

I'm all over the map using the metronome after I've got my hands together smoothly rhythm wise. It's a problem.

Back to your question. I work the sections of a piece each in order. Some days I start with the easiest, some days the hardest to just get it done, I very rarely even try to play it through a whole piece unless it's an exercise less than two lines long. I don't really play through a longer piece until I'm at LEAST 75% of final tempo for ALL sections, and then maybe once a week just to enjoy it and get a feel of the piece as a whole again. I don't consider that practice. I'll hold three sections of a piece at tempo and work that fourth section that's kicking my butt until I get it to join the others before I try it as a coherent piece.

So there you go. Work a section until I've gotten as good as I'm going to get it that day, do all the sections of a piece and then look at my total time for the piece even though I'm not playing through the piece. (and yes, some sections, or chunks, are only a measure or two long, while others can be two lines within the same piece).
Posted By: Zaphod

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 03:31 AM

It sounds like you've got a most efficient practise routine. To me that sounds like a heck of a lot to cram in to the time. Well! Carry on. Interesting thread, as it goes. Loving the metronome stuff.

In two minds about the "Too many pieces" thing - if your piece is 3 lines long, then it pays to have a few of them. On the other hand not too many that progress is slow. I think I was probably doing about 3 to 6 of them at a time when I was at that level if I remember right and they're the kinds of pieces I'm thinking of.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 03:45 AM

Addendum (yes, I know I'm long-winded)

I've been talking about 10-15 minutes/piece even though I'm practicing sections. In an above response, Keselo refers to 10-15 minutes per/section or "chunk" of practice material.

If I can get my self-discipline up to a point to try this, I'd likely have to also take his suggestion to divide my material into two sets alternating by day.

A certain chiropractic neurologist I know is beside me STRONGLY agreeing with the every other day approach to most efficient learning. Who knew?
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 09:36 AM

Originally Posted by Progman
I have a question on a technical detail. With that 10-15 minute session on a piece my goal is to finish with 3 solid repetitions (whether sections or whole piece). Is that a good strategy?

Yes, ending on a couple of solid repetitions will make all the difference. You might also have days where you work up to your intended tempo for the day, no issues, and suddenly you can't play it anymore without messing up. That happens, and instead of quitting in frustration (which always seems the preferable option to me), turning off the metronome or setting it really slow and just going for some controlled repetitions is the right thing to do. You'll end your session with controlled and correct repetitions; it all goes back to the idea of ending your practice 'correctly'.

Another strategy for tackling a section when you're new to it, by the way, is going backwards. It's one I have been using very successfully for a month or two now. If a section is 4 measures long, I'll start with the final measure and get a couple of repetitions in. Then I'll add the third measure, and play 3 and 4 together. Repeat until you can play the full section. This takes advantage of always playing into something that you already know. You'll not be playing something familiar, when all of the sudden you're less certain and may fumble. It's a small-scale variation on learning pieces backwards, but it's something that's a definite keeper in my own practice.

The bigger scale version of this, learning a piece backwards, is useful for the same reason. When you start your day's practice, start with the last section of the piece and work your way back. If you're reasonably comfortable with the section, there's no need to also go through the section backwards, though you could do it if it's not all there yet. The upside of this method is that the linkup to the next section is much easier and less prone to mistakes. After all, you've already gotten your practice in on that, so it's fresh and at the tip of your fingers.

Oh, and Holly, you're terrible for my ego. I'm more than happy to help! In fact, the point of my own thread was to provide other beginners with an example of how things could be done using a 'nothing is too easy' ('just learn a ton of stuff') approach. I'm beyond happy that it's useful to someone in that way already.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 12:34 PM

heart Thank you so much all of you who have written in this very interesting thread! heart

I have a question about the 10-15 minutes/section. Is this based on personal experience, or is this based on neuropsychology? Personally, I have good days, bad days, and everything in between, but on good days I sometimes can keep going on and on with the same section for maybe 30 minutes, all the time feeling that my concentration is strong and I am making progress. Would it still be advisable to just change section? I would feel quite some resistance, interrupting a practice that feels so good.

And heel hartelijk bedankt, thank you so much, for the full cup explanation Keselo. For me this is a new idea that I will start testing today. Just a comment. When I am still in the earliest phase of learning a piece - that is, mainly focused on learning to play the correct notes - I find it beneficial to shortly rehearse this during my evening session. (I usually have two practice sessions in the morning, and, if I am not tired, one in the evening. Would you care to weigh in on that?


Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 12:45 PM

Thanks Keselo. I have found on some of my pieces that my ending is the weakest part and then I spend time on those sections after I have the rest good. In general, I spend more time playing the whole piece (HS first up to speed) rather than playing sections. I will now try some new pieces with more of a section focus and see how that goes. I like the thought of playing into something I already know!
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 01:11 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
I have a question about the 10-15 minutes/section. Is this based on personal experience, or is this based on neuropsychology? Personally, I have good days, bad days, and everything in between, but on good days I sometimes can keep going on and on with the same section for maybe 30 minutes, all the time feeling that my concentration is strong and I am making progress. Would it still be advisable to just change section? I would feel quite some resistance, interrupting a practice that feels so good.

I'm actually in favour of 5-10 minutes per section; I think 10 minutes is the absolute most you can do without getting significant diminishing returns.

It's in part based on personal experience, as I've used this method for over a year and a half now, and it helps me progress very well. I first got the idea from a user on Reddit, though, Yeargdribble. He taught me a lot about efficient and effective practice. The reason to not work at a single section for much longer than 10 minutes has not to do with concentration, but with how much you can retain overnight. The amount of progress you can 'store away' in your brain when you sleep is far from limitless. Making progress on a piece is less about a day of good practice, and more about chaining a bunch of solid practice sessions together over the course of a week or three. You might feel good practising one thing for 30 minutes, but it's very likely you could've made (nearly) the same amount of progress in just 10 minutes. This, then, comes back to the discussion of practice efficiency. Do you want to make a good, sustainable bit of progress which you know will stick, or are you willing to spend three times as long for hardly any additional returns.

Or, to use the cup analogy, you'll likely have filled your cup after the first 10 minutes. After that, you'll just be pouring into an already filled cup, and everything spills onto the floor.

As to the neuropsychology behind it, I'm not entirely comfortable going too deep on that. I'll fool no one into thinking I know a lot about it. I have spent a good amount of time researching how to efficiently learn something new over the last few years, and the method described above follows very well onto spaced repetition, a learning method that has plenty of scientific proof as to how and why it works. It's the cramming versus repetition argument. If you want to read more on the power of correct repetition over just plain repetition (quality over quantity, basically), I recommend you read through the replies of Yeargdribble in this thread here on Reddit.

Originally Posted by Animisha
And heel hartelijk bedankt, thank you so much, for the full cup explanation Keselo. For me this is a new idea that I will start testing today. Just a comment. When I am still in the earliest phase of learning a piece - that is, mainly focused on learning to play the correct notes - I find it beneficial to shortly rehearse this during my evening session. (I usually have two practice sessions in the morning, and, if I am not tired, one in the evening. Would you care to weigh in on that?

Haha, no problem at all. I blatantly stole that analogy from, you guessed it, Yeargdribble. It does such a great job easily explaining it, though, that I just have to use it.

By rehearsing, do you mean revisiting something which you've practised earlier today? If so, I don't think it can do any harm if you can play it correctly and consistently. There are some people here who are very much in favour of practising something right before going to bed and playing it first thing in the morning, so it might very well have some merit. I can't try this method myself, because I don't think my neighbours would appreciate me playing at either of those timeslots of the day.

How I see it, once you got your correct repetitions down for the day, you set yourself to improve exactly that while you sleep. You can rehearse if you want, but you don't have to.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 01:14 PM

Originally Posted by Progman
Thanks Keselo. I have found on some of my pieces that my ending is the weakest part and then I spend time on those sections after I have the rest good. In general, I spend more time playing the whole piece (HS first up to speed) rather than playing sections. I will now try some new pieces with more of a section focus and see how that goes. I like the thought of playing into something I already know!

I personally question the merit of getting something up to speed HS first. I see it as a bit time inefficient; I'd rather start at really slow HT practice as soon as possible. Metronome at BPM = 30 kind of slow. It gives you enough time to think about things in the early stages. Also, being able to play something very slowly ensures you know exactly what to do further down the line. You can't rely on muscle memory at that tempo, the only way you play the right thing is if you know what to play.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 02:03 PM

Originally Posted by Keselo

I personally question the merit of getting something up to speed HS first. I see it as a bit time inefficient; I'd rather start at really slow HT practice as soon as possible. Metronome at BPM = 30 kind of slow. It gives you enough time to think about things in the early stages. Also, being able to play something very slowly ensures you know exactly what to do further down the line. You can't rely on muscle memory at that tempo, the only way you play the right thing is if you know what to play.


Ah yes. I appreciate your point - I have read this one before. I will have to give a good effort both ways and see what my body says. Actually, I will be bringing on several new pieces in the next week so I will just pick one and start with HT very slow. Thanks again!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 02:19 PM

My thanks to everyone, whether I've given you a shout out by name or not, who is participating in this thread. You're giving me much to think about and a great deal of enjoyment.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/02/19 04:56 PM

Thank you once more Keselo. I must admit, this is all quite a shock to me. Changing what I am practising every ten minutes... shocked shocked
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 09:34 AM

I know that this is Holly's Practice Diary, and not mine, but I'd just like to write a little note on the ten-minutes-practise.

One of the pieces that I practise I can play correctly and comfortably at 120 bpm, and I have to get it up to 160. I notice that the ten minutes time limit stresses me too much. Instead of moving up the metronome slowly I am afraid I won't have enough time left to play at the higher speeds, so I rush through the lower speeds, and move the metronome up too fast.

That is not good practice.

So just for this kind of practising, getting a piece up to final speed, I need to give myself a little bit more time, up to fifteen minutes.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 10:47 AM

Originally Posted by Animisha
I know that this is Holly's Practice Diary, and not mine, but I'd just like to write a little note on the ten-minutes-practise.

One of the pieces that I practise I can play correctly and comfortably at 120 bpm, and I have to get it up to 160. I notice that the ten minutes time limit stresses me too much. Instead of moving up the metronome slowly I am afraid I won't have enough time left to play at the higher speeds, so I rush through the lower speeds, and move the metronome up too fast.

That is not good practice.

So just for this kind of practising, getting a piece up to final speed, I need to give myself a little bit more time, up to fifteen minutes.

Of course, practice is highly personal. Whatever works best for you, is the way you should do it. The most important thing is that bringing up the tempo should never stress you out.

I do wonder two things, though. How long is the piece, and did you break it up into sections? I ask this because I feel that, when practising a 4 measure section, 10 minutes is quite a bit of time. If it's a longer section, or you're going through the entire piece in one go (let's say it's 16 measures), then I'd also find 10 minutes to not be enough time. That 5-10 minute rule I talked about applies to these sections, not to entire pieces.

I'd also like to leave a bit of related advice, which is that there is an upper limit to the highest tempo you can comfortably reach at any time. This upper limit steadily grows as you improve as a player. Forcing through this limit by cranking up the metronome at the cost of control or musicality doesn't benefit you long-term; one could easily argue it's more likely to lead to bad habits and tension. It's better to let speed come with time, to assure your fast playing is still nicely balanced and in control.

I'm not trying to suggest that this is happening to you right now, by the way, it's just something I wanted to mention here at some point. Pushing my maximum tempo has been a constant source of struggle and frustration for me and it was only after my teacher and people here repeatedly reassured it would come with time, and me experiencing that this was indeed true, that I stopped trying to push my limits like that.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 01:37 PM

Originally Posted by Keselo
I do wonder two things, though. How long is the piece, and did you break it up into sections? I ask this because I feel that, when practising a 4 measure section, 10 minutes is quite a bit of time. If it's a longer section, or you're going through the entire piece in one go (let's say it's 16 measures), then I'd also find 10 minutes to not be enough time. That 5-10 minute rule I talked about applies to these sections, not to entire pieces.

I'd also like to leave a bit of related advice, which is that there is an upper limit to the highest tempo you can comfortably reach at any time. This upper limit steadily grows as you improve as a player. Forcing through this limit by cranking up the metronome at the cost of control or musicality doesn't benefit you long-term; one could easily argue it's more likely to lead to bad habits and tension. It's better to let speed come with time, to assure your fast playing is still nicely balanced and in control.

I'm not trying to suggest that this is happening to you right now, by the way, it's just something I wanted to mention here at some point. Pushing my maximum tempo has been a constant source of struggle and frustration for me and it was only after my teacher and people here repeatedly reassured it would come with time, and me experiencing that this was indeed true, that I stopped trying to push my limits like that.


Thank you Keselo, you are quite right!

It is not a long piece at all, 18 measures of A-A-B-B-A, which I divide into B-B and A-A, ten minutes each. But I am used to starting with the metronome well below my comfort level, 100 instead of 120. I turn up the speed very gradually, go back to a much lower speed again if I notice tension or sloppy playing, then return to the higher speed, giving it another try. I have sometimes practised like this for more than half an hour, and sometimes successfully - at least at that moment.
I realise now that I tried to cram half an hour into ten minutes. You are right, ten minutes is quite a long time - it might turn out to be a mental problem rather than a time problem. I also realise that I have to be willing to let go off preconcieved ideas of what to achieve on a day. If I can only go up from 120 to 130 - so be it. If the time is up, there is no going back to lower speeds and thereafter giving the high speed another chance.

The fifteen-minutes-time-limit is probably just a compromise to soothe my ever-hurrying mind... whistle whistle
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 02:18 PM

Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by zrtf90
When the brain gets the message it can do that at the speed of neural impulses (if the music is memorised rather than read or followed) and the tempo comes up from programming-in speed to playing back speed.

While Richard specifies that it works this way when memorizing, I want to state that it works much the same when reading. The difference lies in the message the brain gets (memorized notes vs reading notes), the rest of the process is much the same.
That's because once the notes have been read (and processed) we know how the piece goes. We are no longer 'reading' the notes but following them from our memory of the 'transaltion into sound'. This is why reading everything and trying to not memorise deliberately is rather a waste of time and doesn't help sight-reading. Learning new music frequently, say, one new piece/page a week, exercises both reading and memorising, two very important skills. So important, I think, that finishing pieces on the 40-piece challenge is unimportant compared to tackling 40 pieces. (As long as some pieces are taken to a high enough level that real technique is developed.)

Originally Posted by Keselo
Covering the same piece multiple times on a single day is something I wouldn’t recommend. When you practice a piece, it’s like filling a cup with water. After 10 minutes it’s full, and you set it aside. If you come back two hours later, the cup will still be full, and you’ll essentially be pouring water onto the floor. When do cups get emptied? At night, when you sleep.
A better analogy might be pouring draught Guinness. An inch or two is left at the top for a few minutes and topped off before serving. Get most of your practise done in your regular session and leave room for a short perusal of the score, playing mentally, before hitting the hay. Players of DP's might be tempted to play on 'phones but that's actually not as good. We tend to make fewer mistakes when playing mentally. Again, short sections that can be held in working memory.

Originally Posted by Keselo
This cup analogy does open for another interesting discussion, which is practising something only every other day. Let’s say you practice, among other things, Mikrokosmos #24 for 10 minutes (day 1). You then go to sleep, and the next day you’ll be better at playing Mikrokosmos #24. Now, what’s funny, if you didn’t touch or even think about it that following day (day 2), went about your business practising other things, and then had another night’s rest, the next day (day 3) you’d be even better at Mikrokosmos #24. Despite not having practised it the day before. To use the cup analogy, you empty your cups at night, but you don’t fully empty it the first night. Probably not even the second night, either.
Yes, the brain absorbs the water like a sponge but leaves what it doesn't have room for. The assimilation happens over a number of nights. I try this with pieces that don't have that 'get-to-the-piano-every-day' pull on me. I've found that memorisation is stronger with these pieces but that playing technique takes longer to grow. Interesting.

Originally Posted by Progman
I have a question on a technical detail. With that 10-15 minute session on a piece my goal is to finish with 3 solid repetitions (whether sections or whole piece). Is that a good strategy?
Does it work?

Whenever you come across a different strategy try it, comparing learning two similar pieces, one your current way, another the new way. Make and compare notes. One way might be clearly better, the other may be more achievable (uses less dicipline). Only you can make the important distinctions. As you grow, you may change and find yourself better able to tackle the new method or adapt it to suit.

10-15 mins is more time than I spend on most of my pieces. I take a phrase, go through it in my head, plan it carefully, play it once, consider what worked and what didn't for the next time, move on to the next piece, cycling through the rack, and repeat the process three or four times each practise session (interleaved practise). So three or four plays through each day spread over just shy of an hour. As the days accumulate the thinking time is less, the repeats increase to two or three and neighbouring phrases get tacked on. New pieces gets a quick once over mentally before bed. Familiar pieces get two or three repetitions back to back with less consideration but I'm working those in sections, have them memorised and the difficulties sorted and just need to build up the muscle memory for ease and comfort when playing.

Originally Posted by Animisha
One of the pieces that I practise I can play correctly and comfortably at 120 bpm, and I have to get it up to 160. I notice that the ten minutes time limit stresses me too much. Instead of moving up the metronome slowly I am afraid I won't have enough time left to play at the higher speeds, so I rush through the lower speeds, and move the metronome up too fast.

One of the things that changed my use of the metronome is watching darts players, knowing what they have to score, missing and immediately knowing how much they've scored and how much they have left. They have no time constraint to work it all out but they must be accurate. They get so quick because they do it a lot.

Speed comes from correct repetition. It's how the human brain and body works. Notching up the metronome builds tension (tension kills speed) and creates a speed barrier.

When I'm working on half a bar of a Bach Fugue I use the metronome at four clicks per semiquaver (four seconds at 60 bpm, less than four beats per minute). Enough time to think everything out. When I'm working on a full bar I'm using one click per semiquaver, that's 15 bpm when the 'nome is at 60. When I'm up to multiple bars I don't need a metronome. When I'm working on tempo it comes out again at 60. If sixty is too fast for the piece I don't use a metronome. Until I'm ready to play at 120 bpm the metronome stays at 60.

I used to bump up the metronome in twelves, 60, 72, 84, 96, 108, 120 for scales but I never found it quicker than staying at 60 and letting speed come of its own accord when playing without the metronome.

I use two metronomes. A Korg set at 60 bpm, 4/4 time, that I use for piano, golf, karate, etc. and the one in my Kawai DP set at 120 for faster pieces, e.g. Mozart's K. 545 or Chopin's D-flat Waltz, the Moonlight, 3rd movement. I don't use the metronome to build speed, I use it to control my speed. Correct repetitions will build speed. Naturally and tension free. Try it.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 02:41 PM

Richard, Et al, this is EXACTLY the kind of discussion I hoped to spur by posting regular practice details. I absolutely want to hear peoples thoughts, experiences, and new ideas on methods of practice.

Regarding 10 minutes. FYI, I tend to set a stop watch, not a timer when I sit down to a piece. I turn the device over so I can't see it and start my work. When I've gone through all the sections in whatever manner has struck my fancy for the day, and/or my concentration is shot for that piece, I turn it over and record the time. It could be 5 minutes or 30, but is usually 8-13.

I've been working on getting each section more focused attention aiming for 10 minutes/section. This is leading to some interesting changes that I'll go into detail with in the weekly update.

The exceptions to the stopwatch use are scales and applied theory from my method book. I give them a 10 minute timer, do what I can in that time, and move on guilt free. There's always tomorrow.
Posted By: TryAnotherName

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 02:55 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by Keselo
Originally Posted by zrtf90
When the brain gets the message it can do that at the speed of neural impulses (if the music is memorised rather than read or followed) and the tempo comes up from programming-in speed to playing back speed.

While Richard specifies that it works this way when memorizing, I want to state that it works much the same when reading. The difference lies in the message the brain gets (memorized notes vs reading notes), the rest of the process is much the same.
That's because once the notes have been read (and processed) we know how the piece goes. We are no longer 'reading' the notes but following them from our memory of the 'transaltion into sound'.


If I get this correctly, our expectation of the sound(s) we're about to produce with the next note(s) we're supposed to play supports or enhances our memory? It pretty much works like this with mostly one-note-at-a-time violin playing (augmented by the notion that you kind of have to hear the upcoming note in youre head in order to hit the right spot.)

Extrapolating further from that experience, as both a beginning violin and piano player, I'm learning to see patterns... like, "ah, that's the eighth note combo 3-4-5-3 1-2-3-1". I bet you're all glad I just reinvented the wheel... but it's new to me :-)
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 03:51 PM

Originally Posted by TryAnotherName
If I get this correctly, our expectation of the sound(s) we're about to produce with the next note(s) we're supposed to play supports or enhances our memory?
I didn't write it with the idea of it supporting or enhancing the memory but of having memorised it and using the memory.

When we see a new and unfamiliar score we process the notes into music in our head. Good sight-readers and sight-singers do this quickly, easily and largely subconsciously and accurately. Beginners might need to play the music on their instrument first. We only need to do this once and then, confirmed by our playing or singing of it, that music is memorised - in one form or another, and whether or not we can consciously recall it. Although we still process it next time it isn't with a vagueness of how it might go but a concrete knowledge of how it goes. It is somewhere in memory. It is no longer sight-reading because the initial process of translating it into sound in our heads has already been done and will no longer have much benefit on our sight-reading. Subsequent readings use a different mental process than sight-reading - it can strengthen sight-reading but it can't substitute for it.

When we hear a song, perhaps the first time in many years, we can instantly recall where we were when we first heard it and recall vividly that time. Smells can also do this. It's very seldom we hear music we've heard before but don't recognise it. Psychologists tell us, and hypnosis confirms, that we remember everything but may not be able to recall it. Recall channels are what we develop when we try to memorise music deliberately but there is always some memory there.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 04:22 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Until I'm ready to play at 120 bpm the metronome stays at 60.

Richard, I have a couple of questions.

* If you can play correctly and comfortably at 80 bpm, why not put the metronome at 80 instead of 60?
* How do you know you are ready to play at 120 bpm?
* For me, in the process of moving the metronome up from 60 to 120, I sometimes need to refine the movements I make with my hands, because there is no time for the bigger gestures. Does this never happen to you?
(Maybe the last question is a beginner issue, because in order to learn the technique well, I like to exaggerate movements.)

Animisha
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 04:34 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
[quote=Keselo] This cup analogy does open for another interesting discussion, which is practising something only every other day. Let’s say you practice, among other things, Mikrokosmos #24 for 10 minutes (day 1). You then go to sleep, and the next day you’ll be better at playing Mikrokosmos #24. Now, what’s funny, if you didn’t touch or even think about it that following day (day 2), went about your business practising other things, and then had another night’s rest, the next day (day 3) you’d be even better at Mikrokosmos #24. Despite not having practised it the day before. To use the cup analogy, you empty your cups at night, but you don’t fully empty it the first night. Probably not even the second night, either.
Yes, the brain absorbs the water like a sponge but leaves what it doesn't have room for. The assimilation happens over a number of nights. I try this with pieces that don't have that 'get-to-the-piano-every-day' pull on me. I've found that memorisation is stronger with these pieces but that playing technique takes longer to grow. Interesting.


This is very interesting indeed! A lot of my practice is focused on technique and my feeling is that skipping days is not beneficial.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 04:46 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
When we hear a song, perhaps the first time in many years, we can instantly recall where we were when we first heard it and recall vividly that time. Smells can also do this. It's very seldom we hear music we've heard before but don't recognise it. Psychologists tell us, and hypnosis confirms, that we remember everything but may not be able to recall it. Recall channels are what we develop when we try to memorise music deliberately but there is always some memory there.

Richard, I respect you greatly, but this simply is not true. Honestly, do you really recall when you heard every single song that you have heard in your life for the first time?
However, we do remember much more than we can recall, that is correct. But we don't remember everything.
Animisha
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 05:19 PM

I agree with most you say, Richard, but there are two things that aren’t clear to me (or I simply don't agree, I'm not sure yet). I also don’t like your Guinness analogy, but that’s entirely on the account of me not liking Guinness. The idea that refreshing something at the end of the day helps you improve even further, well, I can definitely see how that would work.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
That's because once the notes have been read (and processed) we know how the piece goes. We are no longer 'reading' the notes but following them from our memory of the 'translation into sound'.

I’m not entirely sure if I understand what you’re saying here. Do you mean after playing through it once while reading? Or after the first day of having done this?

I’m afraid I don’t understand how I can’t be reading if I’m reliant on the score to play consistently the right thing (perhaps the issue here is just a matter of definition). I’m learning Clementi Op. 36, the first movement. I know how it goes, I could sing it (right now, without the score). Yet, only while reading the score I can play it through start to finish. If you take away the score, I doubt I’d get past the first 3 measures. Even if it’s not strictly reading, but more building a map of visual cues to which you link to the body movements that lead to your piano making the right sound. If I’m reliant on this physical map (the sheet) to properly play, then surely, I’m not relying only on my memory?

Edit: After reading your reply to TryAnotherName, I understand the point you’re trying to make better. And it would lead me back to my initial point; whether you memorize it all in order to recall what you need to play or need the score (read) in order to recall what to play, the signal the brain gets is much the same.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
This is why reading everything and trying to not memorise deliberately is rather a waste of time and doesn't help sight-reading.

Is it a waste of time just because it doesn’t help sight-reading? It allows me to learn material much faster than if I had to memorize everything, which I value highly. I don’t deeply analyse the things I learn like I know you do, but I’m not interested in that, at least not at the moment.

I do doubt your statement that it doesn’t help in sight-reading. At the end of 2017, I couldn’t sight-read anything. Now, I can sight-read most grade 1 material semi-competently. It doesn’t help with the stuttering (I have a tendency to pause when I’m not sure what to do, which I realize is not something you want when sight-reading), but I do also instantly recognize and know what to do many basic patterns. I know this didn’t just come from familiarity with the instrument, otherwise the average player would be a much better sight-reader than they are.

As I see it, sight-reading and reading have overlapping areas which makes it that competence in one carries over, in a limited amount, to the other. Reading doesn’t make you an amazing sight-reader in itself, but it definitely helps.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 06:57 PM

Originally Posted by Keselo


Originally Posted by zrtf90
This is why reading everything and trying to not memorise deliberately is rather a waste of time and doesn't help sight-reading.

Is it a waste of time just because it doesn’t help sight-reading? It allows me to learn material much faster than if I had to memorize everything, which I value highly. I don’t deeply analyse the things I learn like I know you do, but I’m not interested in that, at least not at the moment.

I do doubt your statement that it doesn’t help in sight-reading. At the end of 2017, I couldn’t sight-read anything. Now, I can sight-read most grade 1 material semi-competently. It doesn’t help with the stuttering (I have a tendency to pause when I’m not sure what to do, which I realize is not something you want when sight-reading), but I do also instantly recognize and know what to do many basic patterns. I know this didn’t just come from familiarity with the instrument, otherwise the average player would be a much better sight-reader than they are.

As I see it, sight-reading and reading have overlapping areas which makes it that competence in one carries over, in a limited amount, to the other. Reading doesn’t make you an amazing sight-reader in itself, but it definitely helps.

Regularly - even constantly - playing only from sheet music definitely helps improve reading skills (and with that, sight-reading skills, as the two go together). Even if you can already play parts of it from memory, because of long familiarity, the very fact that you're looking at the score means that you're cementing the association between the notes on the page to the notes you play each and every time, and that imprints it into your mind, so that next time you encounter something similar, your fingers know where the notes are and how to get themselves around them accurately.

When I was a student, almost everyone I knew - teachers and students - all played from music, never from memory. In fact, the only one I saw who played from memory was the budding concert pianist in our midst (in my high school) who was preparing for competitions (and who's now well-known on the concert circuit). It helped, of course, that the ABRSM grade exams that all students did (on whatever instrument they learnt - strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, piano) placed great emphasis on reading skills and none at all on memory, unlike the RCM (where you lose marks if you don't play your pieces from memory). Our choir sang from the music too, and we were required to be able to sight-sing to join it, because we had to learn a lot of repertoire: in fact, when singing hymns, we frequently had to sight-sing them in four-part harmony without rehearsal.

The result was that everyone - every student, as well as all music teachers - had good sight-reading skills, and it didn't occur to anyone that one could play an instrument or sing classical music, but was unable to sight-read it, at least to some degree. An interesting thing too was that no student I knew of was ever given a sight-reading book to practice from (and in those days, there was no internet, therefore no apps, YT etc.....). The ABRSM graded sight-reading books were used purely by teachers to test their students prior to exams. Students simply read/sight-read through a lot of pieces, whether during their lessons or during their practice time.

For instance, I remember that with all my teachers (except the last one, when I was assigned big long works like Kreisleriana), with every piece I was given to learn (- I never chose my own), I had to sight-read it in front of my teacher first. There was no hiding - almost invariably, I'd never seen or heard the piece before. Unlike what happens with one of the teachers in Piano Teachers Forum, who apparently played every piece first for her students before they attempted it, and was surprised to discover that one of her students (after three years as her student) couldn't read music at all.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 09:00 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
If you can play correctly and comfortably at 80 bpm, why not put the metronome at 80 instead of 60?
If I can play correctly and comfortably I'm not going to play with a metronome. I know I'm ready for 120 by singing it at 120 and I know whether I can play that fast. For me, 60 to 120 is a big enough jump that it'll be done in one sitting, not necessarily on the first day.

When I play WITH the metronome I'm playing a fragment. I'm not trying to get it up to tempo as much as get into the fingers. When I learn how to play the passage it's close to tempo and the metronome might only be used to control the tempo so I don't get carried away. I mostly set a beat with my foot and keep that going. If I can't get a fragment close to tempo then I haven't solved the problem. I might use hands separately to test the attainable tempo.

Scales are different because they don't have a fixed tempo. I do crotchets/quarters, then quavers/eighths, then triplets, then semiq/sixteenths. With the 'nome at 60 I'm going slowly and can go in sextuplets. At 120 bpm I'm close to my limit in quavers/eighths - and there's little point practising four octave scales at that speed outside a particluar piece.

I alternate between playing freely, at the tempo I sing it in my head, and slowly at a glacial speed (relatively) to make sure it's memorised and controlled. I'm not going to squirm taking it from 120 to 132. One day it'll just be there, usually without my knowing it.

Originally Posted by Animisha
Richard, I respect you greatly, but this simply is not true. Honestly, do you really recall when you heard every single song that you have heard in your life for the first time?
Ah, no! We CAN remember some songs or smells that instantly take us back to particular time, even a song we've only heard once. No, not every song. But we do remember whether or not we've heard a song before, at least most of the time.

Originally Posted by Keselo
I’m afraid I don’t understand how I can’t be reading if I’m reliant on the score to play consistently the right thing (perhaps the issue here is just a matter of definition).
You are reading but you're not going through the initial processing you'd have done while sight-reading.

The music is there in your memory, whether or not you can recall it. It's not like on playing a second time you think you've never heard it before. The initial translation from notes on paper to sound in your head has been done.

Originally Posted by Keselo
Is it a waste of time just because it doesn’t help sight-reading?
It's waste of time because you're going to remember it anyway. It will help reading up to a point. Once you're just following the score it won't (it would be better, for your reading, to pick up a new score) and if it's a piece you're going to add to repertoire, rather than learn and leave, then it's better to learn it deliberately first. If it gets into muscle memory before you know it in cognisant memory you can't use the struggle to remember that strengthens the recall ability. That means you'll likely forget it once you stop practising it. With deliberate memory you can go long periods without playing it and still not forget it.

Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/05/19 10:48 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90


Originally Posted by Progman
I have a question on a technical detail. With that 10-15 minute session on a piece my goal is to finish with 3 solid repetitions (whether sections or whole piece). Is that a good strategy?
Does it work?

Whenever you come across a different strategy try it, comparing learning two similar pieces, one your current way, another the new way. Make and compare notes. One way might be clearly better, the other may be more achievable (uses less dicipline). Only you can make the important distinctions. As you grow, you may change and find yourself better able to tackle the new method or adapt it to suit.

10-15 mins is more time than I spend on most of my pieces. I take a phrase, go through it in my head, plan it carefully, play it once, consider what worked and what didn't for the next time, move on to the next piece, cycling through the rack, and repeat the process three or four times each practise session (interleaved practise). So three or four plays through each day spread over just shy of an hour. As the days accumulate the thinking time is less, the repeats increase to two or three and neighbouring phrases get tacked on. New pieces gets a quick once over mentally before bed. Familiar pieces get two or three repetitions back to back with less consideration but I'm working those in sections, have them memorised and the difficulties sorted and just need to build up the muscle memory for ease and comfort when playing.




I'm too early on to know if 3 times correct on completion is the best for me....your point is well taken. From this thread, I noticed a couple days ago that I should be trying different approaches while I am still in 'kindergarten' to see what works for me. I started 4 new songs in the last several days and tried 3 different approaches.....it is kind of fun.....
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 12:56 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Regularly - even constantly - playing only from sheet music definitely helps improve reading skills (and with that, sight-reading skills, as the two go together). Even if you can already play parts of it from memory, because of long familiarity, the very fact that you're looking at the score means that you're cementing the association between the notes on the page to the notes you play each and every time, and that imprints it into your mind, so that next time you encounter something similar, your fingers know where the notes are and how to get themselves around them accurately.

Thank you for your reply. This is how I experience things also.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
You are reading but you're not going through the initial processing you'd have done while sight-reading.

The music is there in your memory, whether or not you can recall it. It's not like on playing a second time you think you've never heard it before. The initial translation from notes on paper to sound in your head has been done

Ah okay, yes. It seems like it was just a misunderstanding based on differing matters of definition. I never meant to imply the reading I do most of the time has anything to do with the initial processing of sight-reading.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's waste of time because you're going to remember it anyway. It will help reading up to a point. Once you're just following the score it won't (it would be better, for your reading, to pick up a new score) and if it's a piece you're going to add to repertoire, rather than learn and leave, then it's better to learn it deliberately first. If it gets into muscle memory before you know it in cognisant memory you can't use the struggle to remember that strengthens the recall ability. That means you'll likely forget it once you stop practising it. With deliberate memory you can go long periods without playing it and still not forget it.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree here, then. I don't see something that improves my reading ability as a waste of time, just because I could also have memorized it. I also agree that it'd be better for my reading ability to pick up something new once I'm just following the score, but I like getting pieces to a point of relative completion as well. If I'm following along with the score, I see no reason to switch to memorization; both would lead to the same end-point anyway.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 03:16 PM

Originally Posted by Keselo
I don't see something that improves my reading ability as a waste of time, just because I could also have memorized it.
Again, I'm not being very clear.

Trying to deliberately not memorise a piece is the waste of time - or effort, really. You're going to memorise it anyway in one of your memories.

If you're going to memorise the piece as repertoire, that needs to be done first and the trying not to memorise it is a waste of time.

If you're not going to memorise it as repertoire, following along with the score is fine. It will help your reading until you're associating the page position or shape of the notes with the music. You won't be reading it as much as using it as an aide memoire. Reading is too much effort so the brain will bypass that. It's what we do.

If you're memorising for performance and you want it reliable you need to memorise it deliberately in cognisant or explicit memory and you need to practise recall. Recall gets stronger when we struggle to recall; it builds stronger pathways and more routes to the information.

If you get it in procederal/implict/muscle memory first, a cue based system developed using repetition, you won't need to struggle to recall it, the fingers will just go on autopilot. Problem solved. Until something happens in a recital to break the cue system. Deliberate recall is closer to bulletproof in performance. The way to practise and strengthen deliberate memory is to play slow enough that procedural memory doesn't kick in and finer awareness of where you are in the piece takes over. The same slow practise also makes it easier to play faster - the brain gets a clearer signal of what it's supposed to be doing.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 03:47 PM

Got it, thanks for elaborating!
Posted By: TryAnotherName

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 07:54 PM

Another great reason, well explained, to do slow practice zrtf90 !Thanks... now I "just" need a bit more self-restraint :-)
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 10:44 PM

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 Trying out some new ideas this week, but first in review:

Finished/set aside:
Minuet in A Minor – Krieger
Wedding March – Mendelssohn (arr. N. Faber)
Yellow Rose of Texas – arr. Alyssia Van Betuw
Etude in C Major – Diabelli

The Minuet will come around again next month with the goal to memorize it, but right now I’ve gotten it smooth and to tempo and memorizing it would just be muscle memory.

Yellow Rose of Texas, I thought this would take more than a week, but it didn’t. Knowing the melody intimately was definitely part of that. The other, and major, part of moving on is the selected tempo is 100 -120, which is ludicrous. Not that it can’t be played at that tempo, one more week and I could have gotten it there, but no one in the great state of Texas is two-steppin’ to Yellow Rose at 100, never mind 120. I got it to ninety and could feel the movement in my body was right so I’m done.

Wedding March was just a lesson arrangement on arpeggios, done and done.

Etude in C Major
will come around again on the spaced repetition train, but I’m quite satisfied with it as is.




In Progress Pieces: (Pieces more than a week old that still need significant work)
Chopin Waltz in A Minor (arr. A von Betuw) starting its 4rd week today
Bach Chorale in C (arr. A von Betuw) starting its 5th week
Fiesta Espana (Faber 2 lesson) starting second week
Full of Confidence – Christopher Norton, starting second week


Chopin – Much progress was made! I have it hands together for all sections and around 60 bpm, though I’m not regularly working with a metronome yet. Last week I was ready to set this aside as too hard. Now I think another month of patience and it will get there. At least it’s a beautiful enough arrangement the thought of 4 more weeks doesn’t make me cringe.

Bach – Have this one almost to tempo. Trills really do work best closer to tempo.

Fiesta is a lesson piece (arpeggios again) that went very well and I anticipate getting it smooth with one more week.

Full of Confidence. Yeah. Still not overly impressed with my Christopher Norton Collections Level 1 book. Took one committed practice session to work out the rhythm of this jazzy contemporary piece and now I’m bored with it, but it’s not smooth yet. It will get another week.






Polishing: (just need that last little bit…)
Russian Folk Song – Beethoven (starting 4rd week today)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart (arr. N. Faber) (starting 4rd week today)
Czerny #11 – starting its 3rd real week


Eine Kleine, I would be dropping this lesson piece, but the new practice regime has a space for it, so I’ll give it another week.

Russian Folk. Not quite there yet on tempo and this one I feel like another week of careful metronome work just might get it there.

Czerny #11 (from Vol. 445, First Instruction in Piano Playing – One Hundred Recreations) Got this one from 50 bpm to 80 in a week’s time. Happy dance. Another week might get it up to 100 where it belongs.


REPERTOIRE Nothing interesting here. Just played them each day to keep them.
Fur Elise (Intro only)
Bourree in E Minor – L. Mozart.
Rainbow Connection – P. Williams.



TECHNIQUE:
Scales in 2 octaves: C, C contrary, F, G, Am, Em, Dm with harmonics on the minors and, 1 octave C chromatic.

Starting a new method unit today so I’ll be working 16th notes this week and a version of a Nocturne by Borodin in the applied technique pages.

STARTED TODAY
200 Short Two-Part Canons Op. 14, Kunz
The First Lessons, Op. 117, Gurlitt
Mikrokosmos #24, Bela Bartok
Czerny #12, Vol. 445
Sea Chanty, Faber Unit 16
Reviewing: Lunar Eclipse, Faber 2

Oh, and a completely new practice regimen! Details below.

9 hours total time for week of Jan. 31 (6 day week) 199 lifetime hours

This past week’s comments on the thread got me to thinking about both the volume and depth of pieces I pursue. Regarding volume, I’m pretty satisfied, both in terms of pieces, usually somewhere around 15 counting exercises, and time spent practicing, usually around 11 hours/week. Depth could use some work, but how to do it given I’m already content with the other aspects?

This week I’m experimenting with dividing my material into two sets: Day 1 and Day 2, each of which will get 3 days of the week in alternating fashion. Each set will include technique, sight reading and three “serious” pieces, plus some review time. For this week that shakes out like this:

Day 1
Technique (40 minutes)
Scales: two octave C, C contrary, Am, Am-h, 1-octave C chromatic
Gurlitt, Op. 117
Kunz, Op. 14
Mikrokosmos #24

Sight reading (5-10 minutes)
RCM Level 1 and Faber 3A

Serious Pieces (60 minutes)
Easy piece: Full of Confidence, Christopher Norton Collections Vol. 1
Medium piece: Fiesta Espana, Faber 2 lesson piece
Hard piece: Bach Chorale BMV 514

Review time
(15 minutes)
Czerny #11 and repertoire pieces

Day 2
Technique (40 minutes)
Scales: two octave, Em, Em-h, G, F, Dm, Dm-h
Faber 2, unit 16 technique and applied theory pages
Etude: Morning Greeting, Gurlitt
Czerny #12

Sight reading (5-10 minutes)
internet app that does multiple time signatures and lets me pick keys and difficulty level.

Serious Pieces (60 minutes)
Easy piece: Russian Folk Song, Beethoven
Medium piece: Sea Chanty, Faber 2 lesson piece
Hard Piece: Arr. Of Chopin Waltz in A Minor

Review time (15 minutes)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Lunar Eclipse, both lesson pieces


In theory this will give me the time I enjoy on the piano AND time to get deeper into fewer pieces, just 3 serious ones a day. It also takes into account discussions put forth on the forums to the advantages of not working the same material every day. Only experience will tell me if I can keep pace, number of pieces wise, on fewer days a week. Or if, failing that, it’s worth it to do fewer in a year for trade-off enjoyment of learning them in this way.

I can say that this week taking note of which pieces got skip days by whim, those that did had a marked jump in ability to up the tempo with control. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.

I’ll let you know how it goes.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 11:28 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Wednesday, February 6, 2019 Trying out some new ideas this week, but first in review:

Finished/set aside:
Minuet in A Minor – Krieger
Wedding March – Mendelssohn (arr. N. Faber)
Yellow Rose of Texas – arr. Alyssia Van Betuw
Etude in C Major – Diabelli

The Minuet will come around again next month with the goal to memorize it, but right now I’ve gotten it smooth and to tempo and memorizing it would just be muscle memory.

Yellow Rose of Texas, I thought this would take more than a week, but it didn’t. Knowing the melody intimately was definitely part of that. The other, and major, part of moving on is the selected tempo is 100 -120, which is ludicrous. Not that it can’t be played at that tempo, one more week and I could have gotten it there, but no one in the great state of Texas is two-steppin’ to Yellow Rose at 100, never mind 120. I got it to ninety and could feel the movement in my body was right so I’m done.

Wedding March was just a lesson arrangement on arpeggios, done and done.

Etude in C Major
will come around again on the spaced repetition train, but I’m quite satisfied with it as is.




In Progress Pieces: (Pieces more than a week old that still need significant work)
Chopin Waltz in A Minor (arr. A von Betuw) starting its 4rd week today
Bach Chorale in C (arr. A von Betuw) starting its 5th week
Fiesta Espana (Faber 2 lesson) starting second week
Full of Confidence – Christopher Norton, starting second week


Chopin – Much progress was made! I have it hands together for all sections and around 60 bpm, though I’m not regularly working with a metronome yet. Last week I was ready to set this aside as too hard. Now I think another month of patience and it will get there. At least it’s a beautiful enough arrangement the thought of 4 more weeks doesn’t make me cringe.

Bach – Have this one almost to tempo. Trills really do work best closer to tempo.

Fiesta is a lesson piece (arpeggios again) that went very well and I anticipate getting it smooth with one more week.

Full of Confidence. Yeah. Still not overly impressed with my Christopher Norton Collections Level 1 book. Took one committed practice session to work out the rhythm of this jazzy contemporary piece and now I’m bored with it, but it’s not smooth yet. It will get another week.






Polishing: (just need that last little bit…)
Russian Folk Song – Beethoven (starting 4rd week today)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart (arr. N. Faber) (starting 4rd week today)
Czerny #11 – starting its 3rd real week


Eine Kleine, I would be dropping this lesson piece, but the new practice regime has a space for it, so I’ll give it another week.

Russian Folk. Not quite there yet on tempo and this one I feel like another week of careful metronome work just might get it there.

Czerny #11 (from Vol. 445, First Instruction in Piano Playing – One Hundred Recreations) Got this one from 50 bpm to 80 in a week’s time. Happy dance. Another week might get it up to 100 where it belongs.


REPERTOIRE Nothing interesting here. Just played them each day to keep them.
Fur Elise (Intro only)
Bourree in E Minor – L. Mozart.
Rainbow Connection – P. Williams.



TECHNIQUE:
Scales in 2 octaves: C, C contrary, F, G, Am, Em, Dm with harmonics on the minors and, 1 octave C chromatic.

Starting a new method unit today so I’ll be working 16th notes this week and a version of a Nocturne by Borodin in the applied technique pages.

STARTED TODAY
200 Short Two-Part Canons Op. 14, Kunz
The First Lessons, Op. 117, Gurlitt
Mikrokosmos #24, Bela Bartok
Czerny #12, Vol. 445
Sea Chanty, Faber Unit 16
Reviewing: Lunar Eclipse, Faber 2

Oh, and a completely new practice regimen! Details below.

9 hours total time for week of Jan. 31 (6 day week) 199 lifetime hours

This past week’s comments on the thread got me to thinking about both the volume and depth of pieces I pursue. Regarding volume, I’m pretty satisfied, both in terms of pieces, usually somewhere around 15 counting exercises, and time spent practicing, usually around 11 hours/week. Depth could use some work, but how to do it given I’m already content with the other aspects?

This week I’m experimenting with dividing my material into two sets: Day 1 and Day 2, each of which will get 3 days of the week in alternating fashion. Each set will include technique, sight reading and three “serious” pieces, plus some review time. For this week that shakes out like this:

Day 1
Technique (40 minutes)
Scales: two octave C, C contrary, Am, Am-h, 1-octave C chromatic
Gurlitt, Op. 117
Kunz, Op. 14
Mikrokosmos #24

Sight reading (5-10 minutes)
RCM Level 1 and Faber 3A

Serious Pieces (60 minutes)
Easy piece: Full of Confidence, Christopher Norton Collections Vol. 1
Medium piece: Fiesta Espana, Faber 2 lesson piece
Hard piece: Bach Chorale BMV 514

Review time
(15 minutes)
Czerny #11 and repertoire pieces

Day 2
Technique (40 minutes)
Scales: two octave, Em, Em-h, G, F, Dm, Dm-h
Faber 2, unit 16 technique and applied theory pages
Etude: Morning Greeting, Gurlitt
Czerny #12

Sight reading (5-10 minutes)
internet app that does multiple time signatures and lets me pick keys and difficulty level.

Serious Pieces (60 minutes)
Easy piece: Russian Folk Song, Beethoven
Medium piece: Sea Chanty, Faber 2 lesson piece
Hard Piece: Arr. Of Chopin Waltz in A Minor

Review time (15 minutes)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Lunar Eclipse, both lesson pieces


In theory this will give me the time I enjoy on the piano AND time to get deeper into fewer pieces, just 3 serious ones a day. It also takes into account discussions put forth on the forums to the advantages of not working the same material every day. Only experience will tell me if I can keep pace, number of pieces wise, on fewer days a week. Or if, failing that, it’s worth it to do fewer in a year for trade-off enjoyment of learning them in this way.

I can say that this week taking note of which pieces got skip days by whim, those that did had a marked jump in ability to up the tempo with control. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


I appreciate reading your updates. You really are dedicated.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/06/19 11:52 PM

Thanks NobleHouse, but I have to chuckle at how upstanding that makes me sound.

Everyone in my life is quite glad I have something to focus my intensity on that doesn't upset their personal apple carts. Someone on another thread had advised a newbie not to get too involved or caught up in music. To just put in a reasonable amount of time and be satisfied with piano holding a minor and not too noteworthy part of their life...uhm, no. I'm no musician, but focusing my personality around music and practicing keeps the rest of my life functioning on somewhat normal pathways.

Thanks for playing in my sandbox!
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 12:57 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Thanks NobleHouse, but I have to chuckle at how upstanding that makes me sound.

Everyone in my life is quite glad I have something to focus my intensity on that doesn't upset their personal apple carts. Someone on another thread had advised a newbie not to get too involved or caught up in music. To just put in a reasonable amount of time and be satisfied with piano holding a minor and not too noteworthy part of their life...uhm, no. I'm no musician, but focusing my personality around music and practicing keeps the rest of my life functioning on somewhat normal pathways.

Thanks for playing in my sandbox!


Just sent you a PM.
Posted By: Zaphod

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 03:19 AM

I find for me it takes so many playthroughs from the music to start making real progress that I tend to memorise it naturally, but over a considerable period of time.

You won't sacrifice any reading skills by having a bash at memorising the piece. Just play a small section 5 times from the score, then trying looking at your hands and playing it. Then rinse and repeat. Don't do this a lot, just chuck it in occasionally, or as much as you feel necessary.

I find looking at the hands massively fine tunes accuracy. But I find I have to spend a considerable amount of time playing from the music before I can attempt this.

I personally find this essential for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it makes you evaluate your hands futher by looking at them, and take the technique to a deeper level. Secondly, it gradually sets the piece in memory.

I would encourage you to try and memorise pieces, just take it easy with it, no need to rush.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 03:39 AM

One question, or sort of spin in a circle just don't know..., that I have about memorizing. Sometimes in a piece it's the hardest measure I memorize first. It becomes easier to glance at my hands to play it accurately if it's memorized, or alternately, possibly additionally, a section that simply moves too fast for me to read and play to tempo, if it's memorized I play right through even if I'm reading the rest of it. I've gotten the impression that I'm sort of cheating when I do this, damaging my reading skills or some such. Thoughts?
Posted By: outo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 03:44 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
One question, or sort of spin in a circle just don't know..., that I have about memorizing. Sometimes in a piece it's the hardest measure I memorize first. It becomes easier to glance at my hands to play it accurately if it's memorized, or alternately, possibly additionally, a section that simply moves too fast for me to read and play to tempo, if it's memorized I play right through even if I'm reading the rest of it. I've gotten the impression that I'm sort of cheating when I do this, damaging my reading skills or some such.

You will need this skill when you move to more complex music. All pianists "cheat" this way smile
Posted By: Zaphod

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 05:05 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
One question, or sort of spin in a circle just don't know..., that I have about memorizing. Sometimes in a piece it's the hardest measure I memorize first. It becomes easier to glance at my hands to play it accurately if it's memorized, or alternately, possibly additionally, a section that simply moves too fast for me to read and play to tempo, if it's memorized I play right through even if I'm reading the rest of it. I've gotten the impression that I'm sort of cheating when I do this, damaging my reading skills or some such. Thoughts?


Surely you've read it enough by then though. The reading skills from that piece have already been obtained by that point.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 07:39 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
One question, or sort of spin in a circle just don't know..., that I have about memorizing. Sometimes in a piece it's the hardest measure I memorize first. It becomes easier to glance at my hands to play it accurately if it's memorized, or alternately, possibly additionally, a section that simply moves too fast for me to read and play to tempo, if it's memorized I play right through even if I'm reading the rest of it. I've gotten the impression that I'm sort of cheating when I do this, damaging my reading skills or some such. Thoughts?

To give a third reason why it's okay: there'll be plenty of opportunities to learn something very similar in your future pieces. Having learned how to do it once will help you pick it up more easily in the future, and it will go a long way towards then allowing you to actively read it.

Loved your update, nice to see some works which I'm familiar with (other than Mikrokosmos). I can't say if you're going to enjoy learning Kunz Canons, but I do know you'll benefit a lot from doing so.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 11:56 AM

Thanks for the support everyone!

Keselo, Kunz Canons are definitely on the take your vitamins side of things. Yesterday was my first day working with them. First two pages and already the phrases begin and end differently with each hand. Charming.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 12:06 PM

I have read in several places, but can't find a reference to hand, that the exam syllabus makes a poor curriculum for learning. I agree with this wholeheartedly.

For the method books you're using, Holly, your scale work seems very intensive. Two octaves in six keys including hands together (C contrary) is way over the top for your level. Most exams begin with C Major - one of the hardest keys to play, so are they assuming that all the other keys are learnt, are they expecting you to learn C Major first, or have the they got the scale thing wrong?

In Graham Fitch's Online Academy he has engaged Penelope Roskell to cover the Art of Fingering. She uses B Major to demonstrate ergonomic fingerings and promotes 'natural fingering' for G, D, A and F Majors. Natural fingering began with Chopin, the first to recognise the symmetry of the keyboard to the hand. Standard fingering came from CPE Bach before the development of the modern keyboard action and Beethoven's idea of playing with weight rather than fingers.

It's not a good idea to put hands together too soon. Hands separately is more important in the beginning years for hearing, together in the middle years for coordination, and separately again in the advanced stages.

As you don't have a teacher have you covered five finger exercises as a prelude to scale work and getting a good grasp of weight transfer instead of just playing the next finger?

What does your scale practise involve? What are you thinking when playing scales, what are your goals and intentions - in each scale and in scale playing generally? Are you using standard fingering or natural fingering? Have you experimented with alternative fingerings? Are you using pieces as examples of mood and musical context? Have you read much on scale instruction - step by step approaches to scale playing as opposed to the notes and fingerings?
___________________________

We humans have this wonderful thing called memory. Using it for music is fundamental to music. Music is about repeating patterns. We repeat the exposition in a sonata so that it's better recognised when we go through the development. A-A-B-A is a common music form from nursery rhymes onwards. Why would we continue to write with a dip-pen that needs refilling every few letters instead of using a fountain pen that lets us write in words and phrases, fostering ideas and creativity.

Constantly reading music without memorising it is a bit like pedalling a car, Fred Flintstone style, instead of turning on the engine and using the feet for control.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 02:36 PM

Gee Richard, give me something to think about to start my day why don't you?

Scales. The ones I'm working on are from the RCM Level 1 Technique book and meant to be learned over the course of a year, one would assume. I do them all now because it took me about 15 minutes to get them all with the fingering as shown, and I have it say it's a lot easier than doing scales on the flute! (no idea if it's "natural" or standard" fingering and hands together at least made it interesting from a concentration point of view.

Started hands apart, when that was smooth to my ear I went hands together, when that was smooth to my ear I started playing around with rhythms and articulation patterns, mostly hands separately. I'm sure a technically astute teacher would find my scales atrocious.

I have not done the five finger exercises, but I think I remember something about them from when I was in the Alfred 1 book...

As for thinking about them while playing, steadiness. Even tone, even tempo, relaxed hands. Sometimes WWHWWWH for the major scales, etc.

I find exercises from Czerny, Bartok, Kunz, Gurlitt, Schmidt, (I've even dabbled with Hanon, shh, don't tell!) to be much more engaging, but Ray Charles was asked in his later years if he still "practiced" or actively learned piano. He replied he did all of his scales every day and was ready to go. Find a video of him in his later years playing with his gnarled, arthritic hands. It's not Horowitz, but it's ALIVE and as someone with arthritis already...a standard I'm more than willing to step away from the classical world to strive for.

I fully expect when I get to a teacher to have to relearn them from the get go, but at least I'll recognize key signatures and be familiar with chords for each key in the meantime.

Remember, too, I only give scales 10 minutes a day, which is about 2 run-throughs each of the ones I'm doing along with their triads, broken and solid.

Thank you for your time and input, I value it greatly.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 02:41 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's not a good idea to put hands together too soon.

While this is advice often given, actual research has not borne this out. See point #1 here based on actual research results of advanced piano students (many at undergraduate/graduate level).
Posted By: outo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 02:57 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's not a good idea to put hands together too soon.

While this is advice often given, actual research has not borne this out. See point #1 here based on actual research results of advanced piano students (many at undergraduate/graduate level).


That's for pieces practice which was the object of that study, scales are a different matter. I assume the quote was referring to scales.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 03:03 PM

Originally Posted by outo
That's for pieces practice which was the object of that study, scales are a different matter. I assume the quote was referring to scales.

Aha! Thanks for the clarification!
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 04:11 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by zrtf90
It's not a good idea to put hands together too soon.

While this is advice often given, actual research has not borne this out. See point #1 here based on actual research results of advanced piano students (many at undergraduate/graduate level).


Also, what is good for more experienced pianists might not be the best for beginners. For instance, 2) "Practice was with inflection early on". I have tried this, but in the initial stages of getting to know a piece, I need to only focus on learning the correct notes. My working memory is simply not strong enough to be able to focus on two things simultaneously. As soon as I try to focus on both correct notes and dynamics, I make more mistakes. Also, in the kind of easy pieces I play, I find it is not very hard to introduce dynamics once I know the notes.
Now for more experienced pianists, a lot of playing the piano is automatised - meaning that it doesn't tax the working memory as much, giving the capacity to focus on more than one thing at the time.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 08:54 PM

Sorry for the rude awakening, Holly. smile

Scales aren't finger exercise. They don't work 4 and 5 much - and it would benefit your mechanism to never use 5 in scales and arpeggios. It's predominantly 1, 2 and 3. They are aural exercise - and hence the need for one hand at a time. It might be a good idea also, when joining hands, to keep them two octaves apart for the early stages to make hearing easier.

With the modern piano, we didn't just get the ability to play loud and soft, we also got the obligation of controlling the dynamic quality from note to note.

A note sounded on a piano may have many attributes, such as pitch, volume and timbre, but the judgement of its musical quality can only be made in relation to the notes before it. And there are only two attributes that a pianist can use, pedalling aside, to affect the quality of a note - velocity and timing. Once the string has been struck the sound will begin to fade at a rate that the pianist cannot control.

The most fundamental technique on the piano is moving from one note to the next.

Rising notes need more breath when singing or playing wind instruments. Falling notes need less breath – but finer control. On the piano, rising notes need greater dynamic volume in most cases, and when falling we have to match the sound of each new note to the fading level of the previous one in order to achieve the cantabile that we seek – the ability to make a percussive instrument mimic singing.

The dynamic window within which the notes sound even, decreases as the listener becomes more accustomed to hearing the differences, and it is easier to control it with adjacent fingers. It is harder when the notes are falling and when the fingers are not adjacent. Moving from the third, fourth, or fifth finger to the thumb, RH rising, LH falling, is the hardest.

In scale playing we use the fingering pattern of 123, 1234 (RH rising, LH falling and not always starting on 1) so in every octave the thumb has to play once after the third finger and once after the fourth finger. In all major keys except C there is the option of using the fourth finger on a black key and moving to a white key with the thumb to make the transition easier. In C Major the transition is always from a white key to a white key and is the hardest to control.

Making these transitions, hearing them, improving them, is the most fundamental reason we practise scales.

It is easier to acquire this control using five-finger exercises that do not require pivoting with or around the thumb.

In this video, Graham Fitch show the technique we want to develop (starting around 4 mins). The playing finger should support all the weight from a neutral wrist, which has to move larerally when transferring the weight to another finger.

When we start scale practise it is easiest, ergonomically, to start with B Major in the right hand and Db Major in the left, gradually reducing the number of black keys.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/07/19 09:09 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Also, what is good for more experienced pianists might not be the best for beginners
A very important point I think.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/08/19 12:12 PM

Thanks, Richard, that was fascinating and a lot of new information for me to digest.

Finger exercises are on the agenda now. Promise.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 05:18 PM

What an interesting week. Dividing my pieces into an alternating two-day scheme of technique, sight reading, and pieces in progress provided me with some lacking clarity as to why I practice as I do, and am I doing too much in total volume or type of practice.

When I first divided all my pieces/books/fragments into the three categories of technique, sight reading or pieces to learn, I was quite surprised to see I had roughly 40 minutes of technique on EACH of the days, so 80 minutes of total technique material. That couldn’t be right.

I also found my “pieces” fell neatly into 3 pieces each of the two days + maintenance of my repertoire and spaced repetition work. Neat, orderly, falls into line with recommended practices. (I’ve seen several professionals recommend someone who is practicing 2 hours-ish/day to keep it to only 3 pieces.)

So I started. Day one was great. Pieces that had been getting 8-12 minutes were suddenly all I had for that morning so diving in deep to give them 25-40 minutes as a whole was not a strain. Massive progress made on a few of them. And I’m thinking, “I miss the ones that are for tomorrow, I’m so going to be look forward to my practice…”

Next day. Life. As adults we all know its supremacy. I won’t go into details. I got MOST of the days-worth done, but whereas when I had my master list of everything in its four groupings, I would just do a group and start the next day with the missed groups, this time I was thinking that the pieces/exercises I missed only get 3 days a week to begin with and I just missed a THIRD of their weekly allotment!

I get it. It’s the same volume of work, the only changes are in the logistics within my mind of how I have it broken down into chunks. Because of how my mind works, the 2 alternating days was just enough increase in pressure to decrease my overall enjoyment of the process. Going back to my older process may make me 20% less efficient in the speed in which I learn pieces, possible more. Like everyone else I want to get better and the faster the better. However, in the end I am a hobbiest, and the point of playing piano for me is to enjoy it. 99.99999% of my playing time will be practice time with the remaining infinitesimal time playing polished pieces for others. In my mind that means maximizing enjoyment of practice maximizes the pleasure of playing.

So I’m going back. With new clarity. I’ve always played four within four sessions. So roughly sixteen pieces/exercises a day. What I had been unconsciously doing, but is now formalized after this week’s experiment, is making each of those four sessions shake out as follows:

Technique
Piece 1
Piece 2
Something easier to wind down

Each set of four takes roughly 45 minutes. Some slightly more, some definitely less. Even if I only get to one set a day, I’ve done a well-rounded practice. And that one set becomes the last one I’ll get to the next day. With my life as it is, I frequently have a set be skipped and I only do two sets each day of the weekend. I’m getting in those skip days by hook or crook, just not formally.

So currently work is divided as follows:

Each set roughly 45 minutes (always works out to less than 3 hours total though)

Set 1
Technique: Unit 16 in Faber2 technique pages and scales
Piece 1: Faber 2 lesson piece 2, old (Fiesta Espana)
Piece 2: PianoTV.net piece, new (Bach BWV 514)
Something easy: sight reading

Set 2
Technique: Faber 2 Applied Theory pages for Unit 16
Piece 1: Faber 2 lesson piece 1, new (Sea Chanty)
Piece 2: PianoTV.net piece, in progress (Chopin Waltz in A Minor, arr.)
Something easy: Mikrokosmos Vol. 1 #24

Set 3
Technique: Etudes (Gurlitt op. 117, Morning Greeting)
Piece 1: Faber 2 lesson piece 3, 3rd week on a piece if needed (or a spaced repetition piece)
(Faber repetition: Lunar Eclipse)
Piece 2: PianoTV.net piece, polishing, if 3 pieces currently open (or a spaced repetition piece)
(Faber: Eine Kleine)
Something easy: piece from Norton’s Collections OR Milne’s Very Easy Little Peppers OR
Alfred’s Essential Repertoire (Russian Folk Song – Beethoven)

Set 4
Technique: Czerny Vol. 445
Piece 1: Repetition or piece that needs longer from another category
(Full of Confidence, Christopher Norton Collections Vol. 1)
Piece 2: Memorization and repertoire maintenance time
Something easy: alternating weeks of Gurlitt Op. 117 or Kunz 200 canons

Any given one is a practice regimen as prescribed for my level, but I have more time and inclination so I may get in up to four of sessions a day. Set one or set two will usually start the day as they are harder overall than sets 3 and 4. It’s more than is recommended in total for my level, but this format breaks it into individual sets that are almost exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve made my peace with that.

Of note also this week:
1) Richard’s advice on Scales. I’ll make that a separate post.

2) I decided to do a page in my daily practice journal for each new piece where track details and goals for the piece as a whole because my daily pages have everything all together. The idea is to be able to say, "I want to get this one done in 3 weeks if possible, so let's map out a way to do that and see how it goes."

I’m also going to skip a listing of pieces at their various stages as this post is already a long one.
Posted By: Sibylle

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 05:46 PM

I love how good you are at finding out what works for you and what doesn't, and then implement it. It's really the only way to go (unless you were doing something that results in training yourself to do something badly, bad technique or similar). There are so many different approaches, a bit of trial and error is healthy in my opinion.

Short reply from me today, because I have a little work still to get through before I can "hit" the piano - and it's already going on 6pm! smile
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 07:59 PM

Originally Posted by Sibylle
I love how good you are at finding out what works for you and what doesn't, and then implement it. It's really the only way to go (unless you were doing something that results in training yourself to do something badly, bad technique or similar). There are so many different approaches, a bit of trial and error is healthy in my opinion.

Short reply from me today, because I have a little work still to get through before I can "hit" the piano - and it's already going on 6pm! smile


I agree! It really is interesting to read about your progress.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 09:02 PM

The most efficient practice is possibly never the most effective practice. The quest is not to be as efficient as possible, but to be as effective as possible. You're effective if you keep coming back to the piano day after day, improve your playing, and have a good time while doing so. Efficiency comes second to that.

I like the way you go about this, establish a method that you know works for you at this moment. That should always be the basis. Find a method that you enjoy, and if your practice habits are good, you will get better.

There are many years of piano playing in your future, which means many opportunities to fine-tune this foundation. You'll learn of strategies and ways to improve efficiency and you definitely should try implementing these if you want, but you should also ask yourself if it makes your practice more effective. Is the increase in efficiency worth any possible decrease in personal satisfaction? It might be, it might not be. There are many paths to Rome, and the best one is always the one you enjoy travelling the most.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 09:02 PM

It looks a very complex method of learning to me. What have you based it on ?

I understand if you want not to have a teacher but have you not thought of following a more systematic method approach ?

There seems very large number of pieces to be learning at one time and the standard of the pieces is variable.

Good luck.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 09:03 PM

Well there is no getting around skip days, and nothing to be feared. So you are all about that phase I hear often on PW - 'enjoy the process'! Makes total sense. I'm a fan of that! I am just now trying out skipping for the first time and seems to me I did keep learning over that skipped day.

Thanks to you Holly I started taking brief notes of every segment of my practice and find it quite useful. I am also learning to be more focused on sections rather than playing through the whole song too often. I'm a ways behind you but this is definitely helping me become a better practicer! Thanks!!
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 09:08 PM

I think most people just follow a method approach if they are self-learners. There is someone here who publishes a 52 week course and has quite nice videos from it. I'm not so sure invented your own method is the easiest way to do it. Probably the hardest imo.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 09:32 PM

Moo,

I'm using Faber Adult AIO 2 for "lessons" at the moment and tend to start a new lesson piece each week, while maintaining 3 open lessons. The one that has had 3 weeks gets dropped to make room for the new one. If a particular piece needs more time I pause on repetition pieces to focus on the lesson piece. I go through a unit every 3-4 weeks.

I also use RCM materials for Level 1 as a supplement to the Faber, to reinforce technique and theory and provide me some level graded repertoire pieces.

PianoTV.net provides wonderful (or I find them so, my husband says he couldn't take the cheery goofiness long term) pieces that are leveled to match RCM. Both my Czerny and Mikrokosmos came from her recommendations to supplement RCM beginner and Level 1 materials.

Short version: Faber supplemented by RCM and an online program along with a lot of nifty technique exercises sorted by composer.

In detail:
Lessons: Faber 2 Adult all in One and PianoTV supplemental lessons that follow RCM guidelines

Technique materials: Faber, pianoTV recommended Czerny and Mikrokosmos; Kunz and Gurlitt early exercises, RCM leveled Etudes, and RCM guidelines on scales

Repertoire materials: RCM repertoire level 1, PianoTV level 1 pieces

Sight reading: RCM level 1 and Faber sight reading supplements

It must seem like so much chaos, but I started last summer just doing PianoTV video lessons and playing the songs provided,

then added the RCM materials to do theory, technique and toy with the idea of testing (since dismissed),

on PianoTV's recommendation for those who don't have a teacher, I started systematically working through Faber adult books.

I have a spreadsheet that lays it all out by week for a year. I usually start 2-4 pieces a week and finish off 2-4 a week. I like a spreadsheet because it lets me move pieces around giving me longer on an item if I need it or moving materials up if I blow right through something.

I like having pieces that are challenging, most that are doable if I just work it like a craft and a few that are so easy I can remember I actually AM learning to play!

Of the large amount of material I'm doing, the vast majority takes about 3 weeks to master, which tells me it's level appropriate. A few technique items take only a week. Some repertoire pieces take up to 3 months.

If it goes longer than 3 months I figure it was too hard for me to begin with and put it aside. That will change as I progress I'm sure, but at level 1 a piece started in March for an early June recital is what I remember being about right from childhood so I give my "big" pieces 3 months tops.

Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:06 PM

Ok no worries. I have told others before but when you get more advanced it takes longer to play pieces so if you aren ot meeting the template dont worry. Its seems a bit too busy for me. I only play one piece in lessons and have this as a project for about 4-6 weeks. Several months is ok I think if you are progressing but generally boredom is the main problem here.

Nowadays I rely on teacher suggestions more but if you dont have this I'd be careful of piece selection. Chopin in A minor is a very hard piece in the second section and I'm not sure why you picked this to learn as a beginner. I suppose if I did scales and exercises it may help but I dont tend to find these things helpful unless I have a reason for doing them. I normally only practice an exercise now if I know why I'm doing it.

I'm not a fan of online piano youtube / piano TV type things. I tend to find the advice bizarre and complex. Normally advanced pianist is giving advice but often I dont think it is applicable to a beginner. I think a forum is a better way of getting advice. So there is my advise. Good luck x
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:13 PM

I think all the organization in the world means very little if one doesn't know how well(or not) one is playing from a musical and technical standpoint. And without a teacher a beginner is basically in that situation.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:15 PM

Thanks Progman,

I've gleaned so many useful pointers from posters here on PW, if anything I've written about has helped you out, I am thrilled to bits. As Keselo says above, practice habits will get you there. I've got three new books on practice methodology coming that Amazon is keeping from me an extra day, I'm sure due to the inclement weather of the season. I'm hyperventilating in anticipation.

Knowing the pieces I want to work on isn't a problem. I've got a year's worth of appropriate material in the cue and am constantly having to make judgements of what stays and what goes (Thanks so much Keselo for that Satie recommendation, one of my planned RCM repertoire pieces may bite the dust due to it!), but what is ever fascinating to me is HOW to go about learning each piece.

Stick to one method all the times and it gets stagnant (for me), bounce around too much and accomplish next to nothing, I'm constantly reading, digging, and tinkering with the "how" and THAT gives me a plan with meaning, focus, and freshness each week. Will it be repeated next week? Not this time. Learning how to break down a single measure with 16th notes, two accidentals, and a break in phrasing by going note to note...I could KISS Josh Wright for that one and will never be convinced it isn't the right way to go about that process. (I'm old enough to be his mother so I'm sure he would politely take it on the cheek!)

Even though I will not be pursuing deliberate breaks in my practice regimen the way I did this week the exercise of trying it out was highly useful. At least to me. I'd heard about it, read about it, evaluated the sources of the idea as credible and gave it a whirl. Now I KNOW how it fits into my world and that experience is mine alone, earned, and makes me that much more knowledgeable in my own right than I was last week.

Happy practicing to everyone!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:21 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think all the organization in the world means very little if one doesn't know how well(or not) one is playing from a musical and technical standpoint. And without a teacher a beginner is basically in that situation.


I agree. If it weren't for 6 years of flute, 2 years of guitar, 3 former years of piano with teachers, 2 years of singing choir, and 3 years of bell choir where I could play 6-8 tones in a single piece frequently with 4 in hand at a time, I would consider myself that rank beginner in the music world.

I don't.

I simple see getting myself BACK to a place where I feel the need to have instruction something I can do on my own time. To be sure the technology to record and hear myself keeps me honest and a Chopin-by-memory playing mother sets a standard that is hard to ignore.

But please, don't lose any sleep over it, I will have a teacher again when the time is right and believe in them wholeheartedly.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:24 PM

Thanks Moo,

LOL that I would try Chopin in the original.

It's an arrangement created for my level. grin
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:29 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think all the organization in the world means very little if one doesn't know how well(or not) one is playing from a musical and technical standpoint. And without a teacher a beginner is basically in that situation.


I agree. If it weren't for 6 years of flute, 2 years of guitar, 3 former years of piano with teachers, 2 years of singing choir, and 3 years of bell choir where I could play 6-8 tones in a single piece frequently with 4 in hand at a time, I would consider myself that rank beginner in the music world.

I don't.
Sorry, I guess you mentioned this previously but I forgot about it. You are definitely not a beginner.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:29 PM

Moo

Honestly I find far more junk on the YouTube teaching side of things than anything remotely useful, but Alyssia at PianoTV.net is an RCM level 10 player and professional teacher with a decade of experience teaching adults and children. I find her videos charmingly eccentric, her music selection high quality and her recommendations in line with an established entity, the RCM.

I would be leery of leaning entirely on anyone via internet alone. Josh Wright, concert pianist, included.

It's her tailoring her site to supplement the RCM curriculum that won me over.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:33 PM

Ok Holly. I didnt realise it was a simplified version. Good luck. The teacher / non-teacher is a constant debate. It is never ending. like Brexit. We often have piano wars at times which I find very funny. But surrogate youtube teacher can be damaging and there is a temptation to seek a teacher via youtube if you are trying to find an answer but it can lead you down rabbit holes. I think if you are the analytical time I'd try and not overanalyse things too much from these videos if you are wanting to watch them. It will be very hard to know what is correct without a teacher. And often the youtube piano surrogate teachers are often contradictory. Will be interesting to follow the thread. I hope to see some videos at some point. X
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/13/19 10:34 PM

No worries, pianoloverus, you set a high standard and hold people to it. Nothing to apologize for.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 01:26 AM

And I will say again, I think her Spreadsheet is outstanding! Extremely useful!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 01:35 AM

blush

thanks, NobleHouse

FYI I put a line across the top above the designations for Faber lessons, pTV, Etudes, etc. So at the top of those columns I now have a time estimate, for example, 3 weeks for each lesson piece, 2 weeks for each etude, 12 weeks for a pTV piece. Since you like my spreadsheet and all... blush blush
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 06:13 AM

So you guys got me thinking…

I spend 2 hours a day, most days, practicing. Everyone and their uncle, plus a few stray tips from teachers I really respect, point out my sheer volume of material is too much. But is it too much for two hours a day of practice? My recent foray into separating my pieces into two days showed me some kinks in the system, such as 80 minutes worth of technique material. Really? That’s patently ridiculous.

My husband points out that I signed up for the 40 piece a year challenge and have 102 pieces on my list for the year. Shut up, Steve.

And what else might be lurking in there that I’ve just been too pig-headed to see? How to find out?

My thing is to rework my “how” endlessly to keep each week’s practice plan fresh so this week I’m rethinking what I posted yesterday to regroup my sets to see where the excess baggage might be.

Instead of 4 sets of:
Technique
Piece 1
Piece 2
Something easy

I regrouped my materials by SOURCE and by the time they DESERVE, not necessarily what I give them each day currently.

Faber Lesson work (1 hour)
Technique and applied theory
1st week piece
2nd week piece
3rd week piece
Sight reading

pianoTV pieces (1 hour)
Mikrokosmos
Czerny
New piece
Progressing piece
Polishing piece

RCM Level 1 Materials (1 hour)

Technique (scales and chords)
Sight reading
Ear training and Theory
Etudes
Repertoire


Personal Choices and Repertoire maintenance (30-40 minutes)
Maintaining my 3 memorized repertoire pieces
Kunz 200 Canons
Gurlitt Op. 117
1 Piece from other sources like Little Peppers, Connections, Alfred’s Essential Repertoire

Houston, we have a problem.

I’m obviously trying to squeeze about 3.5-4 hours of material into 2 hours a day. Something’s got to give.

But I LOVE it all...what to do?

Someway, somehow, I need to trim an hour and a half worth of material from my list to effectively practice the remaining material.

This is going to hurt.

Some old posts on the Faber Graduates thread pointed out that some of the supplemental books are labeled a level below the student’s lesson level. So a student studying at level 2, would play some particular supplemental material from a level 1 book. In short, you have to finish level one to play the level one supplement. LIGHT. BULB.

My “supplemental materials” are the pianoTV, the RCM and personal choice sets. So I have to start there.

I’ve struggled with my pianoTV pieces taking an inordinate amount of time for the level they profess to be. They most fit the descriptor of materials to be played AFTER I’ve done a level. I know all about having pieces that make you stretch, but when I say “inordinate amount of time”, that’s just what I mean. A whole HOUR on pieces that are supposed to flesh out my main work? Too much. I looked ahead to level 2, where she has only 5 pieces suggested. Okay, so if those are for when I’m actually doing level 3, then…It’s a simple matter of moving the ones I have listed under level 1 to a place on my spreadsheet where I am getting into level 2. I’ll keep enough to have ONE open pianoTV piece at a time. This cuts 25 minutes from that set.

Next, I looked at RCM and Personal choice sets and flat out balked, so I circled back around to the Faber lessons.

It’s a good thing to push, but is 3 pieces in progress simply too much at one time? I’m going to have to find out. Out comes the spreadsheet and spaces are inserted every two pieces instead of every three to ensure that each piece gets 3 weeks of allotted time, but only 2 are open at a time. Of course, if a piece needs longer than 3 weeks that’s just the way it goes, and that’s why God gave us computers, to have spreadsheets that let us move our piano curriculum at will. Fifteen more minutes cut.

Now the hard part, back to RCM and personal choices.

RCM. Here I’m going to cheat because when I tally practice hours I never put in ear training and theory. I mean I’m curled up on the couch with my computer doing the RCM ear training or scribbling in a theory workbook. That’s not “practice time” right? 25 more minutes cut.

And too be fair something has to give with the “personal choices” group.

I’ve decided after a week working with both, and based on where pianoTV puts them in her curriculum, to make Kunz and Gurlitt consecutive instead of concurrent. I’ll continue with Gurlitt Op. 117 for now and save Kunz 200 Canons for when Gurlitt is done or set aside. (10 minutes cut)

All total that leaves me with 1 hour and 15 minutes less practice time needed to truly cover what I’m working on and reshapes my practice to something like this:

Faber Lesson work (45 minutes)

Technique and applied theory
1st week piece
2nd week piece
Sight reading

pianoTV pieces (35 minutes)

Mikrokosmos
Czerny
1 piece

RCM Level 1 Materials (35 minutes)

Technique (scales and chords)
Sight reading
Etudes
Repertoire
Ear training and Theory (done separately)

Personal Choices and Repertoire maintenance (30 minutes)
Maintaining my 3 memorized repertoire pieces
Gurlitt Op. 117
1 Piece from other sources like Little Peppers, Connections, Alfred’s Essential Repertoire


Now I’m looking at what should be a little less than 2.5 hours of material and a penchant for 2 hours of practice. That, my friends, is close enough. I’m bleeding already so the first person to suggest more to cut better have a spare IV of O-positive!
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 07:37 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Knowing the pieces I want to work on isn't a problem. I've got a year's worth of appropriate material in the cue and am constantly having to make judgements of what stays and what goes (Thanks so much Keselo for that Satie recommendation, one of my planned RCM repertoire pieces may bite the dust due to it!), but what is ever fascinating to me is HOW to go about learning each piece.

Of course! If I may, try starting with 'What Little Princess Tulip Says', the second piece in the book. It's the least demanding, the most effective at a slow tempo, and oh so beautiful and cute. Seriously, my heart melts even thinking about it.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 07:49 AM

Loved your last update, the cutting in what to practise to not be spending the entire day behind the piano, well, that hits close to home. If I may give another suggestion, and I think you've read about this as well, is that constantly maintaining repertoire isn't very beneficial (and very time consuming). I'm not saying you should cut it, I know I didn't when Moo repeatedly told me I should, but I feel it should still be said so that, once you find it becomes frustrating, you have no qualms just cutting it from your practice regime. I do recommend my 'forget-and-relearn' method for anything you want to dive deeper into. You'll probably not be able to play it at any given time, but you will grow more into the piece than you would if you constantly keep it at the tip of your fingers. And, after relearning a piece a couple of times, it takes hardly any time at all to get it back in your fingers.

If this is already the way you do things, then ignore everything I've just said.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 12:06 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
blush

thanks, NobleHouse

FYI I put a line across the top above the designations for Faber lessons, pTV, Etudes, etc. So at the top of those columns I now have a time estimate, for example, 3 weeks for each lesson piece, 2 weeks for each etude, 12 weeks for a pTV piece. Since you like my spreadsheet and all... blush blush


Thanks for the update.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 01:47 PM

Thanks for the input, Keselo,

On your suggestion, I'm tweaking this week's regime to work only 1 of the 3 I have in repertoire. That would put those 3 pieces on an every three week spiff it up schedule.

I suppose I could just drop them and ever be moving forward, but I sort of enjoy the end of the day after a couple of hours of actual work, to simply play something I can play.

Lately I'd settled in at one run-through of 2 of them then focusing the rest of the time on SUPER SLOW play by memory of the third. Total time 10 minutes.

My hubs, the DC-neurologist, says the science supports dropping them entirely for time periods as you say. By the way he REALLY likes your spaced repetition regime!

Thanks again.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 03:30 PM

I can definitely relate to wanting to play something at the end of the day which you feel comfortable playing, I do the same thing. Keep doing that!

Perhaps you could ease into a forget-and-relearn system. Every time you're done learning a piece for the first time that you really liked, you keep it at the top of your fingers as you do and drop the oldest repertoire piece to be relearned later. You should definitely not entirely drop the pieces that you like, but getting to play something that you really like after not having played it for 3 months is just wonderful. And it's one of the best ways of measuring progress; you'll suddenly be able to play it much better than you could before, and that without spending a minute of additional practice on it!

And I'm glad my methods are neurologically approved! It's nice to know that something works for reasons that make sense to people much smarter than I am.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/14/19 07:47 PM

Originally Posted by Keselo
constantly maintaining repertoire isn't very beneficial (and very time consuming). I'm not saying you should cut it, I know I didn't when Moo repeatedly told me I should, but I feel it should still be said so that, once you find it becomes frustrating, you have no qualms just cutting it from your practice regime.


Exactly my experience with the repertoire. I had made a pdf called Animisha's repertoire, with the pieces I tried to maintain. When I found that it didn't work, I renamed it Animisha's favourites. It is really nice to leaf through and find something to play with when I want to play more but I don't want to practise any more today.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/21/19 12:13 AM

This week -

Pieces finished or set aside:
Fiesta Espana – Faber 2 AIO
Sea Chanty – Faber 2 AIO
Czerny #11, Vol. 445
Bach BWV 514, arr. Van Betuw
Morning greeting -Gurlitt Op. 117 #13
Full of Confidence – Christopher Norton

In progress:
Mikrokosmos Vol.1 #25
Gurlitt Op. 117, #6

Polishing:
Minuette in A Minor – Kreiger
Bourree in E Minor – L. Mozart

Starting: (2 lesson pieces, 3 pieces, and 1 exercise)
Pachelbel’s Canon, Arr. N. Faber
Musetta’s Waltz – Puccini, Arr. N. Faber
Far Away – Teresa Richert
Slumber Song – Elissa Milne
Minuet – GP Telemann
Czerny #12, Vol. 445

Time on the bench: 10 hours Lifetime on piano: 219 hours

So, this week a certain snarky internet friend referred to my diary here as “Holly's Ever Evolving Program for Pianistic Enlightenment™”. You crack me up TS, you really do.

But in light of the truth in that commentary I thought it best to point out to the other beginners here that I obviously offer absolutely ZERO encouragement of anyone following my example.

If, however, you find some of my logistical manipulations interesting, please bear in mind what does NOT change each week:

10 hours, butt on the bench, eyes, brain, hands, keys forming a loop that exercises itself with concentration and intent. Every week. THAT part does not change no matter how I rearrange the order and number of pieces worked on each week.

And speaking of changes…

(come on you didn’t really think I’d settle for how I did it last week did you?)

So, this week I came up with the following idea for ordering my pieces:

Times may vary, they’re really just place holders

Faber Lesson Work – 45 minutes

Unit technique and applied theory pages (15 minutes)
Lesson Piece 1 (15 minutes)
Sight reading (5 Minutes)
Lesson Piece 2 (10 minutes)

RCM Materials/personal choices, varied
1 hour (10 minutes each)
RCM Level 1 Technique
RCM Level 1 Etude
RCM Level 1 Repertoire Piece
Exercise - Mikrokosmos Vol. 1
1st Piece, modern composer, my choice
2nd Piece, Space repetition work

Keith Snell Essential Repertoire/Personal choice, “classical”

1 hour (10 minutes each)
KS Level 1 Technique book
KS Level 1 Etudes, various composers
KS Repertoire Piece
Exercise - Czerny Vol. 445
1st piece, “Classical” composer, my choice
2nd piece, Repertoire maintenance (1 piece per week)

I’m not capable of 2.75 hours of concentration so my idea is to do the Faber lesson work every day and alternate days of RCM and Snell. Basically, hit my lesson work every day and use alternating days for my “supplemental” pieces.

I obviously don’t do 10 minutes per piece like a robot. I set a timer for technique for 10 or 15 minutes, yes, but for pieces I start a stopwatch and check it when I’m done and record it whether it’s 6 minutes or 36 minutes.

For those keeping score that takes my daily “pieces” load from 16 down to 9. More than forty percent decrease in daily practice load. While still leaving me roughly 2 hours of material a day plus ear training and theory.

See, I listen to you people, really I do.

Thanks to this diary, I get to keep a record of the ideas I try out and discard and having to write out WHY I make my choices and analyzing how they work out each week makes me really think about the purpose of each piece.

What I figured out this week was that my materials could be neatly divided into
1) Lesson material
2) RCM + modern
3) Snell + classical.

“Modern” is just a convenient catchall for all kinds of pop, jazz, and miscellany pieces that pop up in RCM materials and the internet. Keith Snell neatly divides his materials into baroque, classical, romantic and 20th century, which I’m egregiously lumping into the category “classical”. Forgive me.

It’s really just a refinement of last week’s four categories
Faber
PianoTV and exercises
RCM
Personal Choices/Repertoire

You may notice that the PianoTV presence is greatly reduced. That was a decision made to make sure the percentage of pieces I CAN PLAY stays high with just lessons and the occasion piece being items I have to stretch for. Having a higher percentage of pieces I can easily learn the notes, rhythm, basics of dynamics, and come close to tempo within a week so that I can then focus much more on how musical I can get it simply makes piano more fun.

I can already report lumping all my Faber material into one session has greatly influenced how seriously I take my “lesson” work. These are progressively leveled pieces in units with a technique theme. I’m starting the last two pieces in Faber 2 Adult All in One this week, which means I’ll be done, hopefully, within the month.

RCM materials are also leveled, though not piece by piece. I really enjoy the Etudes and have picked several pieces of Repertoire to polish up to memorized repertoire status. I’ve already finished the RCM theory and sight-reading books for this level and will use an Albert’s theory book on RCM days for theory and just keep sight reading to the Faber books. I’ve lumped Norton and Milne pieces that I committed to learning this year into this category since RCM is more varied than Snell in music selection choices.

Keith Snell, thank you so much, has original “classical” materials divided by time period along with technique, and theory books. So into this category I’ve put the Albert’s Essential Repertoire pieces and “classical” composers I want to try out.

I split my Czerny and Mikrokosmos just based on Bartok having a more modern feel to it going into RCM leaving Czreny to fall into the Snell line up. (Got to say I’m glad I only have 8 more Czerny exercises to get through and I can put that one aside.)

The last things to be divided were Personal Repertoire and Spaced repetition pieces. Flipped a coin.

Finishing up this past week with the 16 pieces after I’d come up with my plan for this week felt disorganized and I could recognize the chaos that it must have seemed like to everyone.

Of note this week in practice:

Mikrokosmos: Do I like the “music”? Is it music? No, and I don’t know, BUT I can feel myself getting just plain BETTER at playing piano every session I do with them.

Faber. I was AMAZED at how fast my lesson pieces shaped up this week as I stopped thinking about them as 1 of 16 and 2 of 16. They were the pieces in the lesson category. What I would be presenting to a teacher at the next lesson. (If I had one.) That attached an importance to the work on them that worked for me.

Gurlitt, both the RCM etude, Morning Greeting, and the exercise in Op. 117 are darling. They feel light and full of movement.

Full of Confidence.
This Christopher Norton piece eventually grew on me. Working out a triplet with 2 accidentals in it was a technical challenge I relished conquering and the piece got my kids into the room asking what I was playing. Guess it’s true that the general public prefers it when piano players put forth music they can relate to without any “training”.

I still preferred the Gurlitt.

Have joyous practice everyone.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/21/19 01:54 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
This week -

Pieces finished or set aside:
Fiesta Espana – Faber 2 AIO
Sea Chanty – Faber 2 AIO
Czerny #11, Vol. 445
Bach BWV 514, arr. Van Betuw
Morning greeting -Gurlitt Op. 117 #13
Full of Confidence – Christopher Norton

In progress:
Mikrokosmos Vol.1 #25
Gurlitt Op. 117, #6

Polishing:
Minuette in A Minor – Kreiger
Bourree in E Minor – L. Mozart

Starting: (2 lesson pieces, 3 pieces, and 1 exercise)
Pachelbel’s Canon, Arr. N. Faber
Musetta’s Waltz – Puccini, Arr. N. Faber
Far Away – Teresa Richert
Slumber Song – Elissa Milne
Minuet – GP Telemann
Czerny #12, Vol. 445

Time on the bench: 10 hours Lifetime on piano: 219 hours

So, this week a certain snarky internet friend referred to my diary here as “Holly's Ever Evolving Program for Pianistic Enlightenment™”. You crack me up TS, you really do.

But in light of the truth in that commentary I thought it best to point out to the other beginners here that I obviously offer absolutely ZERO encouragement of anyone following my example.

If, however, you find some of my logistical manipulations interesting, please bear in mind what does NOT change each week:

10 hours, butt on the bench, eyes, brain, hands, keys forming a loop that exercises itself with concentration and intent. Every week. THAT part does not change no matter how I rearrange the order and number of pieces worked on each week.

And speaking of changes…

(come on you didn’t really think I’d settle for how I did it last week did you?)

So, this week I came up with the following idea for ordering my pieces:

Times may vary, they’re really just place holders

Faber Lesson Work – 45 minutes

Unit technique and applied theory pages (15 minutes)
Lesson Piece 1 (15 minutes)
Sight reading (5 Minutes)
Lesson Piece 2 (10 minutes)

RCM Materials/personal choices, varied
1 hour (10 minutes each)
RCM Level 1 Technique
RCM Level 1 Etude
RCM Level 1 Repertoire Piece
Exercise - Mikrokosmos Vol. 1
1st Piece, modern composer, my choice
2nd Piece, Space repetition work

Keith Snell Essential Repertoire/Personal choice, “classical”

1 hour (10 minutes each)
KS Level 1 Technique book
KS Level 1 Etudes, various composers
KS Repertoire Piece
Exercise - Czerny Vol. 445
1st piece, “Classical” composer, my choice
2nd piece, Repertoire maintenance (1 piece per week)

I’m not capable of 2.75 hours of concentration so my idea is to do the Faber lesson work every day and alternate days of RCM and Snell. Basically, hit my lesson work every day and use alternating days for my “supplemental” pieces.

I obviously don’t do 10 minutes per piece like a robot. I set a timer for technique for 10 or 15 minutes, yes, but for pieces I start a stopwatch and check it when I’m done and record it whether it’s 6 minutes or 36 minutes.

For those keeping score that takes my daily “pieces” load from 16 down to 9. More than forty percent decrease in daily practice load. While still leaving me roughly 2 hours of material a day plus ear training and theory.

See, I listen to you people, really I do.

Thanks to this diary, I get to keep a record of the ideas I try out and discard and having to write out WHY I make my choices and analyzing how they work out each week makes me really think about the purpose of each piece.

What I figured out this week was that my materials could be neatly divided into
1) Lesson material
2) RCM + modern
3) Snell + classical.

“Modern” is just a convenient catchall for all kinds of pop, jazz, and miscellany pieces that pop up in RCM materials and the internet. Keith Snell neatly divides his materials into baroque, classical, romantic and 20th century, which I’m egregiously lumping into the category “classical”. Forgive me.

It’s really just a refinement of last week’s four categories
Faber
PianoTV and exercises
RCM
Personal Choices/Repertoire

You may notice that the PianoTV presence is greatly reduced. That was a decision made to make sure the percentage of pieces I CAN PLAY stays high with just lessons and the occasion piece being items I have to stretch for. Having a higher percentage of pieces I can easily learn the notes, rhythm, basics of dynamics, and come close to tempo within a week so that I can then focus much more on how musical I can get it simply makes piano more fun.

I can already report lumping all my Faber material into one session has greatly influenced how seriously I take my “lesson” work. These are progressively leveled pieces in units with a technique theme. I’m starting the last two pieces in Faber 2 Adult All in One this week, which means I’ll be done, hopefully, within the month.

RCM materials are also leveled, though not piece by piece. I really enjoy the Etudes and have picked several pieces of Repertoire to polish up to memorized repertoire status. I’ve already finished the RCM theory and sight-reading books for this level and will use an Albert’s theory book on RCM days for theory and just keep sight reading to the Faber books. I’ve lumped Norton and Milne pieces that I committed to learning this year into this category since RCM is more varied than Snell in music selection choices.

Keith Snell, thank you so much, has original “classical” materials divided by time period along with technique, and theory books. So into this category I’ve put the Albert’s Essential Repertoire pieces and “classical” composers I want to try out.

I split my Czerny and Mikrokosmos just based on Bartok having a more modern feel to it going into RCM leaving Czreny to fall into the Snell line up. (Got to say I’m glad I only have 8 more Czerny exercises to get through and I can put that one aside.)

The last things to be divided were Personal Repertoire and Spaced repetition pieces. Flipped a coin.

Finishing up this past week with the 16 pieces after I’d come up with my plan for this week felt disorganized and I could recognize the chaos that it must have seemed like to everyone.

Of note this week in practice:

Mikrokosmos: Do I like the “music”? Is it music? No, and I don’t know, BUT I can feel myself getting just plain BETTER at playing piano every session I do with them.

Faber. I was AMAZED at how fast my lesson pieces shaped up this week as I stopped thinking about them as 1 of 16 and 2 of 16. They were the pieces in the lesson category. What I would be presenting to a teacher at the next lesson. (If I had one.) That attached an importance to the work on them that worked for me.

Gurlitt, both the RCM etude, Morning Greeting, and the exercise in Op. 117 are darling. They feel light and full of movement.

Full of Confidence.
This Christopher Norton piece eventually grew on me. Working out a triplet with 2 accidentals in it was a technical challenge I relished conquering and the piece got my kids into the room asking what I was playing. Guess it’s true that the general public prefers it when piano players put forth music they can relate to without any “training”.

I still preferred the Gurlitt.

Have joyous practice everyone.



GREAT update!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 02:53 PM

It's that time of the week:

Finished/Set Aside
Slumber Song - Elissa Milne
Minuet - GP Telemann
Far Away - Teresa Richert

In Progress
Pachebel's Canon, arr. Faber
Musetta's Waltz - Puccini, arr. Faber
Mikrokosmos, Vol. 1, #25
Gurlitt Op. 117

Polishing
Minuette in A - Krieger
Fur Elise - Beethoven (Intro only)

What's new this week:
Czerny #12, Vol. 445

Not starting much new this week because I've got a trip coming up and I planned my pieces for the year with the idea of not having much in progress while I was gone. I was supposed to start the Czerny piece last week and didn't get to it, which brings me to the confession:

I only practiced 3.5 hours this week.

So much for my 10 hours week in and week out brag last week.

I don't really have a convincing reason why. All the excuses I could come up with have been realities in weeks where I got 10 hours or more in the past. Because they all showed up in one week? I'm not buying it.

What I think is probably going on is this thread.

Accountability to other people, however tenuous.

On my own before I ever started this thread I got my 10 hours or 15 or 8 or 3 or 20, most often 9-12, and went merrily on my way ticking off pieces I was satisfied with, reluctantly continuing pieces I'd grown bored with, but honestly needed ANOTHER week after already taking me three more weeks than I'd planned for, and starting new pieces I'd picked for myself according to my diabolical plan...but then I went and let somebody (or many somebodies, if the 3000+ reads of this thread is accurate) see the plan. I put my goals out there for others to see, possibly judge, or check in to see if I actually did what I said I would do...accountability to others. I don't do so well with that.

Probably a fear of failure thing, but that's a conversation for a therapist's office (if I had one), not the thread.

Here, in our privileged little bubble of space for those with time and resources to pursue music and spend time talking about it with other piano nerds, I want to focus on what happened on the bench this week and what happened was major dip in my practice hours. For whatever reason.

How will I fix the situation? Why bother to fix the situation? Who cares?

Last first: I do. You all know why or you wouldn't be reading piano nerd threads in the first place.

Why bother to fix it instead of just quit the thread? I have made MAJOR progress in my practice routine prior to this with what I've learned laying it all out in writing and taking into account what others had to say about it. My most recent iteration of every day lesson work and alternating days of classical and modern focus with Snell and RCM materials is WONDERFUL. I love it and I wouldn't have found it without the process this thread inspires. I don't want to lose that.

How to fix it? I'm assuming this particular soul-baring post will help. For this week I'm taking a buck-up approach and plan to be harsher with myself about my practice skipping. I want to play piano better, that takes practice and no one can put my butt on that bench but me. Scolding myself instead of letting it slide is uncomfortable for me. Tough love, as we call it in America.

I'll let you know how it goes. I will promise if it doesn't work I'll give it a few more tinkering sessions to make it work before quitting the thread, which is on the menu of possibilities because in the end the playing outweighs all other considerations. I'd hate to, but I will if I must.

In the meantime:

The pieces I finished this week were all little 1 pagers, each very easy. I liked the minuet by Telemann, the other two felt like exercises.

Pachebel is my first four-page piece. Oof-da. The PATIENCE required to get through a four page piece in sections is a new level for me. I can't get to all the sections of a piece in one day for the first time. EEK!

Memorizing the Minuette is going well. I like working with it extra slow as I memorize trying to override the muscle memory memorizing that won't stick. I'm hoping to having it comfortably memorized before my trip and see how well I remember it when I get back.

A question for you all: When you have a piece where all the sections can't realistically be gotten through in a day do you,

a) work on sections until they are perfect, then work the next section?
OR
b) work each section equally moving the whole piece forward at the same pace?

Happy practicing everyone.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 04:53 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Scolding myself instead of letting it slide is uncomfortable for me. Tough love, as we call it in America.

Dear Holly. I hope I will find the time to write you more later. But please don't scold yourself. Just be friendly and encourage yourself. Treat yourself in the way a wonderful and patient piano teacher would treat you!
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 05:00 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I don't really have a convincing reason why. All the excuses I could come up with have been realities in weeks where I got 10 hours or more in the past. Because they all showed up in one week? I'm not buying it.

What I think is probably going on is this thread.

Accountability to other people, however tenuous.

On my own before I ever started this thread I got my 10 hours or 15 or 8 or 3 or 20, most often 9-12, and went merrily on my way ticking off pieces I was satisfied with, reluctantly continuing pieces I'd grown bored with, but honestly needed ANOTHER week after already taking me three more weeks than I'd planned for, and starting new pieces I'd picked for myself according to my diabolical plan...but then I went and let somebody (or many somebodies, if the 3000+ reads of this thread is accurate) see the plan. I put my goals out there for others to see, possibly judge, or check in to see if I actually did what I said I would do...accountability to others. I don't do so well with that.

Probably a fear of failure thing, but that's a conversation for a therapist's office (if I had one), not the thread.

I lost the proverbial thread here. Accountability is make you practice less? Can you re-explain this theory/reason?

So let me pose a strictly hypothetical. Let's say you had a teacher. And every week you went to your lesson and reviewed your progress on the assignments he or she would make for you. That's also a weak form of accountability. Are you saying that with your present psychology, you might actually practice less than when you are on your own?

Because for me it is exactly the opposite. I was taking no lessons for the first few months of piano, just teaching myself. I had no accountability so I went fast or slow on a whim. I started taking lessons once a week establishing some accountability but then sometimes I'd get busy in work or life and not practice as much as I should, not make much progress. Now I'm at two lessons a week and have huge accountability, by my way of thinking, and force myself to practice well after midnight even if I am very busy. In fact most of my piano practice since December has been between 1am and 3am. I do this mainly because of the fear of showing up to my lesson with bupkis. Is it the opposite with you? Accountability turns you off? Because if so, why start this thread in the first place as I always assumed that was the purpose of a public diary?

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
A question for you all: When you have a piece where all the sections can't realistically be gotten through in a day do you,

a) work on sections until they are perfect, then work the next section?

no.

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
OR
b) work each section equally moving the whole piece forward at the same pace?

no.

It's a hybrid. I work a smaller section until I have it at 70% of being able to play the notes at roughly they rhythm required (that is, playing it minding the note durations and rests) and then I move on to the next section while repeating the prior chunks. For me also, this process causes me to memorize the piece, even if it is a really awful one I don't like. I recognize this is not true for everyone. For a one page piece, I usually just cut it approximately in half and treat each half as a piece. Smaller chunks might be useful, but I usually don't do those as they seem more trouble than they are worth.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 05:02 PM

Originally Posted by Holly
A question for you all: When you have a piece where all the sections can't realistically be gotten through in a day do you,

a) work on sections until they are perfect, then work the next section?
OR
b) work each section equally moving the whole piece forward at the same pace?

I'll get through as many sections as I can within the timeframe of 30-35 minutes. It's something that's happening increasingly often as the material that I'm learning is getting longer. If it takes two separate sessions to cycle through the entire piece once, then so be it. I know there's some efficiency to be had by letting something rest for longer than 2 days; the downside is that it'll take a bit longer before it's ready. As you get the piece closer to tempo and play it more consistently, you'll find that you'll start being able to fit a bigger percentage of the piece into one practice session.

And to address your concerns about the time you spent behind the piano this past week, it happens. There will be weeks where you're super eager and feel on top of the world, and then there are weeks where practising is a drag. My advice would be to not beat yourself up over it, accept that you're having a bit of an off-day (or a couple of them), and try again tomorrow. There will always be that moment where you sit down and your motivation to put in the hours is back, like it never went anywhere in the first place.

For a bit of personal perspective, I'm aiming for 1.5-2 hours of practice each day. Last year was much the same, though I aimed for 2-2.5 hours each day. In 2018, I missed practice on 37 days. That's 37 days without even touching the keys. A further 68 days were had where I practised for less than an hour. That's more than one hundred days, nearly 30% of the entire year, where I didn't get to practice the way I should've liked to beforehand. And you know what? I still improved. At the end of each month, I was better than at the start. Every time I found myself in a bit of a valley, I'd be able to hike out and be able to see all the beauty that lies in front of me.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 06:08 PM

Tyrone Slothrop
Actually I did not start the diary for public accountability, but my own. I told myself I would post publicly my practice ideas and process at least once a week so that I HAD to think about it and be focused on my method at least weekly. That everyone, most everyone, has come back with constructive criticism has been a bonus. I wouldn't have been surprised if there hadn't been a single response post.

Why would people taking an interest make me practice less...oh, boy, where's the therapist's couch?

Without getting too icky, I can only say I was the proverbial wunderkindt in my small rural community academics wise. All eyes on me and what I would do. I thrived on it...until I burned out like a volcano wiping out Pompeii. As an adult I chaff under anyone's eye watching what I do, or horrors, having expectations I have to live up to.

I've tried lessons with teachers twice as an adult, once in my 20s and once in my 30s. Both times as the weeks went by I practiced less, resented having to go to the lessons more, and eventually could not justify the expense if I wasn't going to touch a piano between lessons. I admit, even to myself, this is twisted.

In 2016 I got an Alfred's all in one for adults and got through it in about 16 months. With ZERO idea how to practice (none of my three lifetime teachers EVER instructed on HOW to practice, and flute was an hour a day, every day, under supervision for years). So here I am as an adult wanting to learn and could only sit down as the mood struck me and try to play what was on the next page. When it didn't suck too badly, I turned the page. 2017 saw me go down with pneumonia and my whole family move into the town where the hubs works, oh, and throw in major surgery that year, too. Didn't touch a piano from March 2017 when I got pneumonia until spring 2018. Then I picked it back up with absolute OBSESSION to find out how to do it well, how to practice, what to practice, how to move forward and not just spin my wheels. I've gotten through the Faber 2 All in One book in about 6 months and done roughly 180 hours of practice in the last 7 months. 110 of that since November. It's been a juggernaut of pleasure and success on my terms since I got going again.

I want a teacher, but I'm exceedingly leery of jinxing myself. My past history says I'll balk in a big way having to meet someone else's standard each week. Too many years of my whole being existing to demonstrate for others my worthiness through accomplishment. I've been a functional adult for a few decades now and I'm loathe to revisit that place.

My theory for this morning's post was this thread was just enough extra-personal accountability to shut me down for a week.

Of course, all of that could just be BS, and the real issue is I'm a stubborn Scots-Irish lunatic.

But whatever, since writing my post earlier I'm back on track with an hour this morning and an hour I'm looking forward to this afternoon.

Thanks also, TS, Keselo and Animisha for your feedback.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 06:13 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
A question for you all: When you have a piece where all the sections can't realistically be gotten through in a day do you,

a) work on sections until they are perfect, then work the next section?
OR
b) work each section equally moving the whole piece forward at the same pace?

Happy practicing everyone.


One day I asked my teacher about having finishing a piece. When I queried it, he says quickly a piece is never finished and you can always work on something. I always remember this and seem to find this comforting. I dont now think there is such a thing as finished or perfect. I think you can always learn something and some of my best pieces are the ones are the ones I spend a lot of time on, really enjoy and find bits to focus and work on.

Similarly I dont think your questions have easy answers. As I said before I dont think perfect is a real thing so I myself have issue with the question in a). I dont think the other questions have easy answers as when you move on is a debate in its self. Sometimes its good to analyse. Sometimes its good to get though many pieces as I understood by some strong defenders of the 40 piece challenge. its very much up for debate.

I have told your analytical organisation friend Keselo that many of us are not so methodical and organised. I have not a clue how long I practice for. I think piano playing is an art as much as a science. Perhaps its more of an art when you have more experience, I'm not sure, but sometimes simple things like listening really helps. You get an intuition sometimes and teaching seems to still be very helpful. Sometimes I connect with a piece. Can be really powerful.

I would try not to worry about time. I think some flexibility is a very good thing for keeping a hobby long term. You have some nice pieces. I think Pacabel cannon is a particularly enjoyable one. x
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 06:22 PM

Thanks, Moo,

I think given the feedback I've gotten I'll work them in order, a few on any given day, circling back around over and over. If that doesn't work I'll try something else. wink

I like listening too. Yesterday I got myself to the bench again by setting my practice guide aside and just going down the list with NO intention for each piece. Just play through and see how they sound. Just to play the piano. Because I love it. I woke up this morning knowing what I was going to post and that getting it opened up would probably do the trick.

And if it hadn't I'd do something else until I figured out what would get me back on the bench. Love is like that.

Thanks again, Holly
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 02/28/19 06:33 PM

No worries Holly. Its quite hard to listen. I record and listen which helps. Listening to other recordings also helps. You can develop this skill with practice.

When you are a new to a piece you are all involved in the technical things you often dont listen. If a piece is way beyond you might never get to this stage.

I think when I do a lot of trial and error. I often play a small section and try thing and listen. II often practice playing notes with different intensities and just listen to the result. Lots of refinement like this. Musicalness of a piece is developed like this.

Unfortunately not the most fun thing. My concentration to do this is limited. So when bored a lot of random picking up piecing and bashing is also a good option.
Posted By: NancyM333

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 03:49 PM

Hi Holly--

I enjoyed reading the last few entries in your practice diary because I am very interested in how people start and maintain habits. One of my favorite social science authors is Gretchen Rubin, who created a framework for describing how people respond to expectations (whether inner expectations they have of themselves or outer expectations that others have of them). Her research suggests that people fall into one of four categories: Upholders, who readily respond to both inner and outer expectations; Obligers, who respond to outer expectations but struggle with inner expectations; Questioners, who respond to inner expectations because they ask a million questions that enable them to take outer expectations and turn them into inner expectations; and Rebels, who resist all expectations, both inner and outer.

My tendency is an Obliger, which means I comply with all work/family expectations from other people, but I struggle keeping promises to myself (exercise, piano practice, etc.). It's important to see that what works for a person with one tendency is not at all helpful for others. I need outer accountability in order to get something done--a recital coming up, a running group, etc. That doesn't work for everyone.

Anyway, I thought I'd share that since you are questioning why your practice time has decreased. I highly recommend you take the Four Tendencies Quiz and read about strategies that work for your tendency. It has been very helpful for me.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 04:31 PM

I am an Upholder with a burn out...

"Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations. They wake up and think: “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?” They want to know what’s expected of them, and to meet those expectations. They avoid making mistakes or letting people down—including themselves."

It's a tough job to be an upholder! eek
Posted By: NancyM333

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 06:02 PM

I am sure it is! People know they can rely on you!
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 06:27 PM

Originally Posted by NancyM333
I highly recommend you take the Four Tendencies Quiz and read about strategies that work for your tendency. It has been very helpful for me.

What happens if you fail the quiz? cry
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 06:31 PM

Nancy and Animisha

I upheld until I rebelled.

I've heard of that theory and had many a discussion with my daughters when they were teens about the subject.

My first instinct with any new endeavor is mastery, subjugation, ownership...obsession, followed inevitably by burn out or flat out rebellion.

As I go into my fifties I've learned to react to that obsessive tendency with wariness. Slow down, be careful, don't burn out. Don't self-sabotage.

It's the very "rightness" of seeking out a great teacher that would do me in, I fear. The eagerness to share my love of piano with my fellow pianist-wannabes here is simply human (I hope), the trick will be to enjoy it without tripping my inner rebel switches in such a way I can't easily flip them back.

On to Pachebel...
Posted By: outo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 06:44 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by NancyM333
I highly recommend you take the Four Tendencies Quiz and read about strategies that work for your tendency. It has been very helpful for me.

What happens if you fail the quiz? cry


Why am I not surprised of my result...
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 06:49 PM

Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by NancyM333
I highly recommend you take the Four Tendencies Quiz and read about strategies that work for your tendency. It has been very helpful for me.

What happens if you fail the quiz? cry

Why am I not surprised of my result...

You too? LOL
Posted By: outo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 06:55 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by NancyM333
I highly recommend you take the Four Tendencies Quiz and read about strategies that work for your tendency. It has been very helpful for me.

What happens if you fail the quiz? cry

Why am I not surprised of my result...

You too? LOL

I'll go practice whatever I want and however I want now wink
Posted By: NancyM333

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/01/19 08:29 PM

True rebels! Unless you don't want to be...
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/02/19 12:48 PM

Hi Holly, hope my comment will not be perceived badly; I read your first entry with the list of your daily activities. It just does not strike me as being consistent and well organized in the sense of a well thought through learning approach. I don't think there is such thing as a perfect learning practice, but there are some basics. For example you train on way too many pieces at a time not spending enough quality time on each of them. Another example is that you put aside some technical elements like arpeggios but they are extremely usefull. What will make you work on them or an equivalent if you do not like doing it ? How do you choose the pieces ? Do you like the melody or how they sound ? That would be secondary criteria anyway at your level. Then personally I think that repeating more or less the same content every day, just rotating the order is actually not the most efficient way. Those are just examples, but they would be a lfew other comments as well.

I understand you like to write down what you do and a long time ago I did the same with some other activities than piano. In my case it was just compulsory behavior and eventually I gave up when I realized what it was; When I did, I not notice that it had any particular impact on my results nor on my motivation. But that's just me, so as long as you believe it is helping you, why not. Seems also that you are going through a lot of up and downs depending on what is the particular result of the day; that is one of the issue of keeping such a detailed log is that it makes you focus on micro details. It is not very important if you can or not play at 80 or 82 or 90 b/m and whether it is higher or lower than the previous day. Piano is anyway a long process which does not rely on one day of good or bad practice, so patience, regular and smart practice is what will make you progress.

My view on the 10,000 hours mark is that it is just a numerical not very meaningful way of looking at it. I think it is more important to think about what kind of (reasonable level) music you'd want to be able to play within a given timeframe like lets say 3 years and what you would need to learn to get there.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/03/19 03:10 PM

Sidekar

Thanks for the input. I couldn't tell if you meant you read the first entry of the diary or the first part of this week's post and comments. Assuming you meant the first that's not the way I practice anymore. The diary has been very helpful in restructuring what I practice and how. I'm currently doing a two sessions a day. The first is all lesson work from Faber: technique pages, pieces, and sight reading. The second session I alternate RCM with more modern materials one day and Keith Snell with more classical materials the next. Both are set up with Etudes, Repertoire Pieces, Technique and Theory.

I'll cop to the diary being compulsive behavior. You bet. My family thanks me for putting that tendency here instead of where it can affect their lives. smile

Over time I'm worrying less and less about tempo and more and more about accurate playing with feeling. This week's post on a bad week helped me ease up on myself, but I doubt I'll stop whining about what goes wrong. I'm a verbal person. I look to define the problem then fix the problem and if what I try doesn't fix it I want to define why and what the next solution might be. Rinse and repeat until things are how I want them. Once again, the family truly appreciates me doing this with piano and not their lives. grin
Posted By: dobro

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/03/19 06:03 PM

As i stated in the Faber thread, ive found documenting practice times and taking notes is more helpful than i first thought it would be. I m always looking for ways to re enforce learning.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/03/19 06:08 PM

Originally Posted by dobro
As i stated in the Faber thread, ive found documenting practice times and taking notes is more helpful than i first thought it would be. I m always looking for ways to re enforce learning.

Diaries do seem to help with personal accountability, don't they? I started a piano practice journal myself on Jan 8th, and since then I see I've practiced not only every day, but also for a minimum of an hour, which I know I didn't do before. Just writing down what I am doing has helped me continue doing it.
Posted By: dobro

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/03/19 06:10 PM

As i stated in the Faber thread, ive found documenting practice times and taking notes is more helpful than i first thought it would be. I m always looking for ways to re enforce learning.
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/04/19 02:54 PM

Hi HollyBytheLake, Yes you are right I missed some parts of the thread as it was long. I am like you, I analyze a lot and make plans too. I try to limit myself though.

The difficulty with the piano is that it is a complex activity which requires the combination of many different skills. So the diagnostic is not always easy for a beginner, thats why it is important, especially if you do not have a teacher, to stick to the fundamentals. Getting right the basic components like scales and arppegios ..... I know many people find them boring and some even find them useless, but I am probably old school so for me they were not boring and proved quite usefull.

Many people consider scales as just technical exercices but in fact they are music too and are part of many great pieces. So the challenge is to make them sound like real music when practising. A great virtuoso said that you should not not practice them but play them. And there are so many ways to vary the scales, arpeggios and other technical components: staccato in one hand and legato on the other, accent one note every 2, 3, 4 or 5 in the scale, contrary motion, different rythm in each hand, .... the list is almost endless and can teach a great deal as to how coordinate your hands, and play in a fluid manner.

Progress in piano is quite slow, so comparing one day with the next can only bring up and downs. Best is to do a check once in a month. For example take what you used to play/practice 2 months ago or more and see how it goes. You will almost surely notice that you have made progress and what was difficult some time ago has become much easier (hopefully). That will fuel your motivation.

Anyway good luck.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/04/19 06:29 PM

Thanks again Sidokar.

I'm not actually anti-scales or arpeggios and put in some time with them every day. (Yes, Richard, I know you disapprove.)

I use the scales, chords, arpeggios and finger exercises of Faber, Snell, and RCM to get a variety of approaches. And it's a middle of the road path for me. I'm doing some keyes laid out by method teachers to be gradually learned and refined over time as opposed to trying to master all 48+ as quickly as possible. The debate on PW and every pianist I meet is somewhere between the two worlds of scales, etc. are "Everything and must be learned as quickly as possible," and the opposite of "Dear lord, leave it until you have a teacher or you'll be horrible."

They're just not my favorite. I put in some work on them anyway.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/04/19 07:48 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I'm not actually anti-scales or arpeggios and put in some time with them every day. (Yes, Richard, I know you disapprove.)

There should be nothing to disapprove about playing scales and arpeggios, except perhaps for starting to learn them too early or with the wrong form/technique. Name one classical piano certification program that doesn't include examinations on the playing of scales - RCM, ABRSM, and Trinity all include scales. Piano performance students are often required to play scales for music school/conservatory exams. One PW forum member told me of having to play scales still for his MMA exams in piano performance. I don't believe scales are going away in mainstream music pedagogy.

Exercises might go away, but I don't see that either. Even the most famous composers composed exercises/studies, or études as they are sometimes called. Today some of these etudes are even in the standard performance repertoire such as those from Chopin and Liszt!

I'm sure there are probably classical piano pedagogical approaches which forbid the playing of any scales, arpeggios, exercises/studies/études, even for intermediate and advanced students, but I wouldn't necessarily pay attention to those approaches myself, although I couldn't argue for or against such. They would seem too fringe for me given the preponderance of professional classical pianists and pedagogues going the other way.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/04/19 08:13 PM

Quote
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I'm not actually anti-scales or arpeggios and put in some time with them every day. (Yes, Richard, I know you disapprove.)

I don't believe scales are going away in mainstream music pedagogy.

Coincidentally, I just see now a new thread in the Piano Teachers forum on the teaching of scales, arpeggios, chords, and cadences... smile
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/05/19 03:30 AM

Thanks for the link TS!
Posted By: dobro

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/05/19 03:31 AM

Im satisfied that when the end time comes there will be people arguing about scales and exercises. The Chang book says Hanon "ruined a generation of pianists" with exercises. I understand that a bunch of exercises arent music but the opinions against them are a bit overblown. I just wonder where this place is that all of these wasted pianists are laying around regretting the day they first touched that "Hanon stuff" that took them down.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/05/19 12:24 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I'm not actually anti-scales or arpeggios and put in some time with them every day. (Yes, Richard, I know you disapprove.)
I don't disapprove of scales, arpeggios or even Hanon. I did them myself for several years (only weeks for Hanon - I was never destined for the concert platform).

I disapprove of the usual methods of learning them and practising them. My teacher, for example, never gave me a scale manual. She gave me a set of principles and set me the task of finding all the major scales and their fingerings. She explained that scales and arpeggios are played with the wrist and arm more than with the fingers and that they're to support music not mechanism.

A world class athlete has to do, as Ian Hunter put it, fifty million sit-ups a day. In order to develop the very fine motor skills of a world class athlete, sportsman or pianist, yes, you need to get sufficient volume of physical training but for these people there are coaches and trainers involved who make sure the technique is being practised effectively and appropriately for the pursuit.

Our daily scale and exercise routine need only be enough to support the time we put into the piano and to ease the process of learning. They are the 'what' but it's much harder finding the 'why' let alone the 'how' - without which they're rather useless.

If someone begins daily scale or Hanon practise without having mastered weight transfer and is solely using finger action, they're more likely to end up with RSI and arthritic hands than someone who has a teacher oversee the mechanism and who has taught and shown the intent, the how.

Someone learning on their own given only the notes and fingerings and no instruction on body mechanics, such as using as little finger action as possible, spending time relaxing the hands and aligning the skeleton from the seat to the finger tip after every note before beginning to build speed, is not likely to go about it in such a way as to benefit from it and is more likely to do damage from it and give up piano sooner.These things need to be built from music long before starting scales and the like.

The requirements of these exercise are such that a more versatile technique needs to have been built first from a wide range of repertoire, a wide range of articulation styles and dynamic requirements.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/06/19 06:26 PM

That's the most coherent discussion of scales I've seen in a long time, Richard.

Thanks.

I'm enjoying the scales and finger exercises in the Snell technique book I started recently. Vaguely like Hanon, but a lot of focus on the mechanics of how the hand and fingers move through the scale.

so far the only thing that has hurt my hands is trying to do Czerny for more than 10 minutes at a time. Backed off the time of each session with those exercises and skip more days with that particular composer and my hands are happy again. The exercises are shaping up faster too, so go figure.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/06/19 06:33 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I'm enjoying the scales and finger exercises in the Snell technique book I started recently. Vaguely like Hanon, but a lot of focus on the mechanics of how the hand and fingers move through the scale.

Are you referring to the Snell "Scale Skills" series? My teacher just started me in workbook level 3 in this series and I've started doing the lessons from that particular wookbook this week. Looks very thorough and progressive. There are some finger exercises at the end of each workbook too.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/06/19 07:08 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
She explained that scales and arpeggios are played with the wrist and arm more than with the fingers...
I think many would disagree especially in regard to scales.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/07/19 02:19 PM

TS, yes that's the Snell Scales skills series. I work a key a week doing all the exercises at the back in that key. Those are the ones I said felt a little like Hanon. I especially like the scale prep exercises thought that work you back and forth through the crossovers.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/08/19 04:50 PM

Finished/Set Aside
Mikrokosmos, Vol. 1, #25


In Progress

Pachebel's Canon, arr. Faber
Musetta's Waltz - Puccini, arr. Faber
Gurlitt Op. 117


Polishing

Minuette in A - Krieger
Rainbow Connection - Paul Williams


What's new this week:

Czerny #13, Vol. 445

Not much new this week. I'm not starting things up with a trip coming up next week.

Of note:

Time in Practice Issue - Thanks everyone for the input. I did somewhat better this week, but don't expect to get back up to my usual 10hrs/week until after my trip. The enthusiasm to practice is coming back, but this week thwarted by life. Someone on here mentioned practicing after midnight to get it done. Kudos, because I not physically robust enough to pull that off and not get sick from shortened sleep. BUt kudos, seriously. Would if I could.

Much of getting my enthusiasm back was hashing it out here in the light, but a second thing I did was drop all but what I WANTED to play for the week. So theory, ear training, technique and repertoire buffing all got set aside and almost all my time went into my Faber lesson pieces, Czerny, Gurlitt and Bartok. Why those:

Pachelbel's Canon, Faber arr. in C Major.

Twenty-nine years ago I walked down the aisle to this in it's original so I'm fond of it obviously. What I noticed as I played it though was the sheer pleasure in playing something I was as familiar with as I am with an Elton John or Ray Charles song. I KNOW the Canon. I KNOW how it is supposed to sound and what my intention is for the sound of every measure. Gave me a lot to think about on how much to listen to new pieces I'm unfamiliar with and how much I might want to weight my elective pieces to ones I'm familiar with instead of always seeking new experiences.

Musetta's Waltz, Puccini - Faber arr.
Again a piece with which I am intimately familiar. Pleasure to play, pleasure to practice. Don't feel like pushing and thinking to hard? Sit down and work on the Waltz and soak up the sheer beauty of it. Lovely.

Czerny

Masochistic streak? Probably.

Gurlitt
These I kept in the rotation for the week because they are relatively easy and delightful. It met my easy enough to pass some of it off in week criterion. It's Op. 117, and I clear 3-4 exercises a week so there is a feeling of progress to counteract several weeks input necessary for the Waltz and Canon.

Mikrokosmos.
That daily multi-vitamin that's really a gummybear vitamin so you don't REALLY resent taking it. I would just feel like I was cheating if I skipped my daily Bartok.

Short this week and I'll miss next week due to travel. Before anyone gets grumpy, do know I will re-engage with my technique, theory, repertoire, etc. in due course. Promise.

Happy practice everyone. grin
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/08/19 05:01 PM

Thank you Holly for your update. Always very interesting to read. Have a good trip!
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/08/19 05:11 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Someone on here mentioned practicing after midnight to get it done. Kudos, because I not physically robust enough to pull that off and not get sick from shortened sleep. BUt kudos, seriously. Would if I could.

Certainly, many people have diurnal rhythms where certain parts of the day are better than others and a certain amount of sleep they must get. Mine just tends to be more of a nocturnal rhythm than diurnal wink
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/08/19 07:31 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Finished/Set Aside
Mikrokosmos, Vol. 1, #25


In Progress

Pachebel's Canon, arr. Faber
Musetta's Waltz - Puccini, arr. Faber
Gurlitt Op. 117


Polishing

Minuette in A - Krieger
Rainbow Connection - Paul Williams


What's new this week:

Czerny #13, Vol. 445

Not much new this week. I'm not starting things up with a trip coming up next week.

Of note:

Time in Practice Issue - Thanks everyone for the input. I did somewhat better this week, but don't expect to get back up to my usual 10hrs/week until after my trip. The enthusiasm to practice is coming back, but this week thwarted by life. Someone on here mentioned practicing after midnight to get it done. Kudos, because I not physically robust enough to pull that off and not get sick from shortened sleep. BUt kudos, seriously. Would if I could.

Much of getting my enthusiasm back was hashing it out here in the light, but a second thing I did was drop all but what I WANTED to play for the week. So theory, ear training, technique and repertoire buffing all got set aside and almost all my time went into my Faber lesson pieces, Czerny, Gurlitt and Bartok. Why those:

Pachelbel's Canon, Faber arr. in C Major.

Twenty-nine years ago I walked down the aisle to this in it's original so I'm fond of it obviously. What I noticed as I played it though was the sheer pleasure in playing something I was as familiar with as I am with an Elton John or Ray Charles song. I KNOW the Canon. I KNOW how it is supposed to sound and what my intention is for the sound of every measure. Gave me a lot to think about on how much to listen to new pieces I'm unfamiliar with and how much I might want to weight my elective pieces to ones I'm familiar with instead of always seeking new experiences.

Musetta's Waltz, Puccini - Faber arr.
Again a piece with which I am intimately familiar. Pleasure to play, pleasure to practice. Don't feel like pushing and thinking to hard? Sit down and work on the Waltz and soak up the sheer beauty of it. Lovely.

Czerny

Masochistic streak? Probably.

Gurlitt
These I kept in the rotation for the week because they are relatively easy and delightful. It met my easy enough to pass some of it off in week criterion. It's Op. 117, and I clear 3-4 exercises a week so there is a feeling of progress to counteract several weeks input necessary for the Waltz and Canon.

Mikrokosmos.
That daily multi-vitamin that's really a gummybear vitamin so you don't REALLY resent taking it. I would just feel like I was cheating if I skipped my daily Bartok.

Short this week and I'll miss next week due to travel. Before anyone gets grumpy, do know I will re-engage with my technique, theory, repertoire, etc. in due course. Promise.

Happy practice everyone. grin


Great update and have fun on your trip!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/21/19 11:51 PM

Back from my trip yesterday and a whole lot of new music started today! I had access to a keyboard for about 15 minutes one day of the 8 day trip. I got to play a little Pachelbel and some Puccini for my mom. Arrangements. She played me some Bach and some Chopin in the original for me. She’s 82 and arthritic, but the woman can jam.

The rest of the trip I DJ’d for my cousins (daughters of a piano teaching mother, sadly deceased) Basically used my laptop to search out pieces they remembered on my music service and listening to them along with the music from The Green Book and some of Dr. Shirley’s albums. A grand, and rejuvenating, time was had by all.

So today begins a new week with new pieces and the official start of my RCM Level 1 student status.

What I’ll be doing this week:

Faber Lesson Time (~45 minutes daily)
Page of Theory (5)
Technique pages related to my lesson pieces (10)
Sight reading related to my lesson pieces (5)
New Piece: Energico, Faber (15)
Review Piece: Driving Range, Christopher Norton (10)

Classical Time
(~60 minutes, try for daily, pleased with 3 times/week)

Snell Page of Theory (5)
Snell Scales and Skills book Key of the week: G Major (10)
Snell Piano Repertoire Etudes:
Cradle Song Op.39, No. 4, Dimitri Kabalevsky (10)
New Piece: Musette, La Couppey (10)
Czerny exercise: #13 (10)
Gurlitt Op. 117 exercises (10)
Repertoire maintenance: Rainbow Connection (5)

Modern Music Time (loose interpretation of “modern”)
(~60 minutes, try for daily, pleased with 3 times/week)

RCM Ear training: this week’s focus is intervals (5)
Etude in C Major, La Couppey (10)
RCM Technique book, Key of the Week: G Major (10)
New Piece: Red Satin Jazz, Martha Mier (10)
Mikrokosmos Exercise: #26 (10)
New piece: Four Wheel Drive, Christopher Norton (10)
Review Piece: Etude in C Major, Diabelli (5)


That’s 6 new pieces, 3 new exercises, and 3 pieces being reviewed. I was greedy today and did three hours worth. The times are an estimate. For example today I spent 3 minutes instead of 10 on the much loathed Driving Range, and 23 minutes instead of 15 on new piece Energico. I’ll usually come in around 2-2.5 hours a day when all is said and done.

So those new pieces: (NONE of these links are ME! I just want all the links in one place for easy listening for me.)

Energico in the Faber Lesson Book 3B:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LmAkyw4b8E

Yeah, so I’m not getting that fast any time soon, but it is lively and I enjoy triplets so there’s that.


Cradle Song by Kabalevsky:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FaTVOk5Lpw



Musette – La Couppey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQLxf7trMGM

Again, I won’t be playing this to tempo any time soon, but I do love it and look forward to taking it to repertoire status.


Czerny #13 from Vol. 445

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSNe61LwBtc&t=40s

It’s the third one in if you’re really dedicated.


Etude in C Major - La Couppey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3fUACsFS1s

I had never heard of La Couppey and here it’s two in a week. For me it’s a new composer to like.

Red Satin Jazz by Martha Mier
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZkGqcnBFQk

This is on my “to memorize”, which at the moment makes me blanch, but at least it’s catchy…


Mikrokosmos #26

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b1rya7ue2U&t=173s

It’s in there if you want to look for two lines of non-melodic multi-vitamin for the beginning piano player.


Four Wheel Drive – Christopher Norton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwOEpBHGdOg&list=RDPwOEpBHGdOg&start_radio=1&t=19

Kudos to the kid playing it, but I highly doubt I’m going to get through another practice session without picking something else from the book. Not my cup of tea.


Gurlitt Op. 117 #14 is not available to a casual search of youtube, but it’s delightful and an easy melody to figure out, so to get it up to tempo will probably only take a week or two.



Happy practicing everyone!
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/22/19 12:27 AM

I am happy that you got to spend some quality time with your Mom!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/28/19 07:41 PM

March 28, 2019

1st week back went well. LOVING my new Faber 3B materials. They do a great job lining up technique and finger exercises with the key of the lesson pieces for the week and the theory and sight reading pages all revolving around the same concepts.

In short:

Finished/Setting aside:

Mikrokosmos Vol. 1, #26
Energico – Faber 3B
Cradle Song – Kabalevsky
Four Wheel Drive – Christopher Norton, dropped after 1 session

Continuing:
Musette – Le Couppey
Etude in C Major – Le Couppey
Red Satin Jazz – Marth Mier
Lost Toy – Christopher Norton
Cherny Vol. 445, #13
Reviewing: Mikro #24, Bourree in E Minor, L. Mozart; Russian Folk Song, Beethoven

Starting This Week:
Rage Over a Lost Penny – Beethoven, arr. Faber
Snowfall – Faber
Whistling Song - Czerny
Mikrokosmos Vol. 1, 27 & 28

Highlights:

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Kesolo, for a post you once did on SUPER slow practice. Not just slow, like when everyone says go half speed, but 25% of end tempo and half of that if needed.

Starting at that 25% tempo and very slowly and systematically working up to 50% makes each new piece seem totally doable. I’m flying through some things that I know would have taken me longer trying to start right from half speed.

The Faber Lesson piece, Energico, was scheduled for 3 weeks and I set it aside after one. Dynamics, tempo, accuracy…all there in one week, but the first two days of practice I was CRAWLING, so slow it was like Dali had my piano slowly oozing down the walls. It worked though. I got it to 50% with virtually no errors in the total time spent on it instead of counting errors per section per playing. Then I did a Seven Levels of heck on it at 50%*. Then I went on up to 75% next session and to full tempo on day five. Amazing. It really would have taken a few weeks if I’d jumped right in on 50% tempo.

One thing I think really helps is at 25% your mind is a measure ahead, checking dynamics, assessing fingering…anything to not go faster and stay engaged. By the time you even hit 50% you KNOW the fingering and dynamics cold. Very handy.

The other part of my “slow mo” strategy was implemented on a much faster tempo piece that is also more technically difficult. No way would one week do it: Le Couppey’s Musette.

For this piece I started as with Energico up to the 50% and Seven Levels place and then to three accurate plays per tick up between 50-75%, where I am working now. When I get to a stage where I’m going above 75% start next session at 50% continuing the 3 times per tick up and expect to only go up one to two ticks on end tempo per session. Beginning the next sessions just start a few ticks up from 50% and the next session a few ticks up from that. So, starting practice tempo also rises slowly.

This whole thing resulted in a bunch more play throughs at slow tempos and a much shallower curve of progression, but bizarrely less total time on piece. The second major improvement is the dramatic improvement in accuracy in my playing. Happy face.

*Seven Levels of heck: I set out 7 nickels on my piano ledge and play the piece through. No errors remove a nickel. Play again. No errors, remove a nickel. Next time through have an error and put a nickel back. So theoretically play it through accurately 6 times through then make and error, then another, then another…you can end up right back at 7 nickels staring at you. The session is over when all seven go into the cup. I have NEVER gone through a seven-levels with only 1 error before. Well pleased.

Czerny is my current bane. I can play the exercise just below tempo one day then the next I can barely get past 50% with any musicality at all. Only 6 more exercises before I can put it aside. I figure there is something in it I am needing to work on or I wouldn’t be struggling with it. Lessons and exercises I am less willing to set aside from frustration than “pieces” I want in repertoire. Don’t like one of those and I’ll drop it, no problem.

This week begins with a new lesson arrangement of Rage over a Lost Penny. It went well for a first looksee, but what doesn’t go well at 25% tempo?

Happy Practice everyone!
P.S. Spell check on this cracks me up. Obviously, I didn't quite mean seven levels of "heck".
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/28/19 10:49 PM

Originally Posted by Holly
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Kesolo, for a post you once did on SUPER slow practice. Not just slow, like when everyone says go half speed, but 25% of end tempo and half of that if needed.

Starting at that 25% tempo and very slowly and systematically working up to 50% makes each new piece seem totally doable. I’m flying through some things that I know would have taken me longer trying to start right from half speed.

You’re very welcome! Great to hear that this method works for you as well as it works for me.

Originally Posted by Holly
I got it to 50% with virtually no errors in the total time spent on it instead of counting errors per section per playing.

I find this particularly good to read, as that is how it should be. You’ve transformed your daily practice from frustration waiting to happen to something mindful with the greatest long-term benefits.

Great to hear how you managed to get it to tempo so quickly! That doesn’t happen very often for me, at least it didn’t when I was where you’re now in terms of playing, but it’s an indication that you’re growing as a player. That what you’re learning is really starting to stick and aids you in learning new material. In my experience, it is these pieces which are ideal to work on a bit of musicality. What I’d recommend, if you’re interested, is to completely let go of what it exactly says on the sheet and wildly experiment. The goal is not to get the best-sounding end-result; the goal is to teach yourself to play in such a way which you intend, if that makes sense. Making a conscious decision to play a certain way is harder than it seems, but it’s something you can get rather good at with enough practice. It also seems to me that it’s more useful to do this 1 hour for 10 different pieces, rather than 10 hours on one piece. Of course, it takes as long as it has to take, but my point is that you’ll teach yourself to approach a wide variety of music in a ‘musical’ way, and that this wide approach will aid your ability to apply it to new pieces in the future.

Originally Posted by Holly
One thing I think really helps is at 25% your mind is a measure ahead, checking dynamics, assessing fingering…anything to not go faster and stay engaged. By the time you even hit 50% you KNOW the fingering and dynamics cold. Very handy.

That’s exactly what I meant when I talked about practising being in control! This 25% is something which you’ll use for years (probably, if my own journey is any indication), but the material that you can mentally keep track of will steadily increase in complexity.

Quote
This whole thing resulted in a bunch more play throughs at slow tempos and a much shallower curve of progression, but bizarrely less total time on piece. The second major improvement is the dramatic improvement in accuracy in my playing. Happy face.

The first improvement is something both Richard and I expected from the start but I do remember you thought it would indeed be slower. It’s counter-intuitive, in a sense, how practising slower can lead to faster progress. And you nail it when you name the second improvement of accuracy. These go hand-in-hand; you start a bit slower, but then the track to the finish line is much smoother.

Originally Posted by Holly
*Seven Levels of heck: I set out 7 nickels on my piano ledge and play the piece through. No errors remove a nickel. Play again. No errors, remove a nickel. Next time through have an error and put a nickel back. So theoretically play it through accurately 6 times through then make and error, then another, then another…you can end up right back at 7 nickels staring at you. The session is over when all seven go into the cup. I have NEVER gone through a seven-levels with only 1 error before. Well pleased.

Haha, I love this! Both the idea and the name (the spellcheck to heck makes it even better, imo). One thing I want to mention and risk being a bit of a kill-joy, though you probably thought of this yourself, anyway. Be wary of those practice sessions where your playing just deteriorates out of nowhere, where you want that final correct repetition but just can’t seem to get it right. It’s a great idea and it definitely has its merits, but be flexible with it whenever you need to.

That being said, if you go about it in such a way that you slow things down once you notice your playing deteriorating, then it seems like a method which can nurture some very good habits. Mainly, the slowing-down-once-you-start-messing-up one.

Originally Posted by Holly
Czerny is my current bane. I can play the exercise just below tempo one day then the next I can barely get past 50% with any musicality at all. Only 6 more exercises before I can put it aside. I figure there is something in it I am needing to work on or I wouldn’t be struggling with it. Lessons and exercises I am less willing to set aside from frustration than “pieces” I want in repertoire. Don’t like one of those and I’ll drop it, no problem.

I’ve had the same thoughts a couple of times about exercises that I didn’t like. It’s true that there’s something to be learned from it. However, your struggle may also be because you don’t like it. Dreading practising it, thus hitting your ability to concentrate, something like that. My advice would always be to just lay it aside if you don’t like it. Sure, there’s something to be learned from it, but that Czerny will teach you nothing that you will not come across in dozens of future pieces.

Lovely update, as always, Holly! Good luck with your practice this coming week!
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/29/19 12:17 AM

What a great discussion! Thanks for sharing Holly and Keselo
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/29/19 03:05 AM

Thanks for the feedback Kesolo, (You too, Progman)

On the 7 Levels, you're absolutely right that those sudden butterfingers spells can take you out of nowhere. The way I learned this (from an internet teacher here in the States, Zach Evans) you get to that spot and you want to finish and be done, well then you better SLOW DOWN until you can play it accurately. And what have you learned from this? You now know what speed you can really play it at under duress, which will invariably be SLOWER than you thought.

As for the Czerny, a funny thing happened today after reading your reply to my post earlier. I sat down to do Czerny. Coming along nicely except for those last two darn measures. Well if 7 levels shows exactly what tempo you can really play something, it's time to put the big girl britches on and see what's what.

Can't say it was fun, but I did the last four measure 7 levels as my practice session on Czerny today. Learning that what I wanted to play at 72 today could most accurately and controlled be played at 42 was a humbling thing, BUT, I got up from that session KNOWING I'd improved it. And when I sit down to it again those four measures are going to get all my attention until they get up to 72 with the rest of the piece. Then we'll see what's what.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/29/19 04:05 PM

I tried 25% speed this morning on a new piece. I found it a very positive experience. One thing I noticed right away is the ability for me to relax my hands after each note. This is very important in my quest get my hands to be as tension free as possible! Like Keselo said - total control.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 03/30/19 12:14 AM

Keep us posted Progman!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 01:28 AM

A week goes by, I change my methods, same old, same old…

At least this time I can blame Josh Wright at least partially. (Not really, but I could make a case for it)

For those of you who don’t know who that is, Dr. Wright is a concert pianist, professor at a college in Utah, and Ph.D. in piano performance. He also has a nifty YouTube channel where he posts generous 10 minute or so snippets of the teaching videos he has available on his website via various courses. I’ve been watching these freebies since last June.

My birthday is coming up this Friday (Happy 50th to me!) and I decided it was time to put my money where my typing is and get a teacher…at least vicariously. I put said money down on Josh’s VIP Propractice Lifetime Access membership and now have access to the full hour lessons he has divvied up into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced repertoire and technique. (He strongly suggests working through the exact same method books I’m already using alongside his lessons, so I’m covered. He does this because he’s not doing piano method so much as performance, what we here on PW usually call “expression”, which happens to take a lot of teaching of skills to do, but does not replace a method book.)

The first video “How to Divide Up Your Practice Session” is one I saw on YouTube and have spent the last year trying to outmaneuver, but now we come to the fact that I’ve put MONEY down for this advice, so I’m damn well going to follow it. I don’t want to infringe on his copyright giving too many details, but he gives a range of times for sight reading, technique and repertoire, divvied by overall practice time. Within those ranges what works for ME and my desire to do about 2 hours a day, according to Josh, is about:

15 minutes of sight reading
30 minutes of technique
75 minutes on no more than 3 repertoire pieces (1 easy, 1 medium and 1 hard)

Those of you who have gotten through this far with me know this is a catastrophic level of upheaval to my world. Did I mention I PAID for this advice?

But, but, but…all the MUSIC, the lovely, lovely, varied, never ending supply of MUSIC that I want to play! What if I MISS something? When the realization hit that something had to CHANGE, and change DRASTICALLY, I was up until 2 a.m. wrestling with my year-by-week spreadsheet and music list two nights in a row. My lists and spreadsheets and methodology outlines finally yielded by afternoon on the third day and all was right on the piano bench once again.

How can my former list of 102 pieces/year done at 10-16 a day be manipulated into anything manageable to the above regimen? How do I keep from going nuts like the last time I tried something so formal and tightly scripted? How do I keep my head up under the onslaught of “I told you so,” sure to come my way as if something similar hasn’t be said repeatedly on this very thread?

Well, from here on out I’m interpreting his advice (and everyone else's) to my needs, so please don’t blame Dr. Wright if you think it’s a pear-shaped mess.

Light bulb #1: 15 minutes is a HUGE amount of sight reading per day. What if the vast bulk of all the lovely excess music I want a chance at gets a stickie on the front cover labeled, “for sight-reading” and set aside until such time as it IS sight reading? Leaving me all the time I would be trying to make this stupendous list of music "repertoire" available to work a tiny amount of far more advanced pieces into actually being "repertoire" and at a much deeper level than I could do for such masses of material? (I’ll have you know, dear readers, that that’s called reinventing the wheel, and I want full credit for it!)

But seriously, it finally got through to me that all the fun music I would love to play, but would have to LEARN if I try it now, can in the future be a fun time briefly in a sight reading session and if it’s really something great moved to play just for fun time, as opposed to EVERY SINGLE PIECE I touch having to be practiced to sound like anything at all.

Light bulb #2: Josh is listing scales in the intermediate exercise realm and I’ve still got roughly three years to get through beginner, advanced beginner, and late beginner skills. (these categories brought to you by the ever-brilliant Kesolo). My plan is to break Josh’s beginner repertoire into 2-3 years. It starts with Notebook for Anna Magdalena so we’re not talking about EARLY beginner here, right? But the POINT is my 30 minutes of technique does not need to be SCALES dominant for quite some time. What if I broke my 30 minutes of technique down into 10 minutes for an Etude, 10 minutes for an exercise, and 10 minutes for scales? That would yield over two hours in 2 weeks for each etude and exercise. More than enough for the pieces I’m doing.

Light Bulb #3: When considering three paltry pieces of music at a time to be working to a high performance level of mastery, it was advised one be easy: less than a month of work needed; one should be a little more work: say 1-3 months; and one labeled simply hard: 3-6 months. The lightbulb comes when dear Josh gives permission to work two items of easy material if they are method book study. Whoop! Something clicked and I realized in addition to all my lesson pieces counting as my "easy pieces", all the Snell and RCM music I’m doing could be condensed into 12 pieces to cover the middle territory over a year’s time, and hard will be handled by what I study with ProPractice at roughly four pieces a year. That will leave a tremendous number of etudes and repertoire book materials untouched. FOR NOW. See Light Bulb #1.

So how does this shake out for a day? Did you really think I wouldn’t have OCD’d that part, too?

Session 1:
15 Sight reading
15 Easy: Faber lesson piece 1

Session 2
10 Scales (I prefer RCM over Snell for Scales so I’m dropping
trying to do both)
30 Difficult: piece I’m working on over 3 months
(until July I’m powering through Faber lessons with this time, as I have hit one of those wonderful twilight zone stages where what used to take two weeks in lesson time is taking about 4 days and I want to make full use of the growth spurt while it lasts)

Session 3
10 Exercise: Mikrokosmos alternating with Czerny
(in July I start Hanon/Schmidtt per Josh’s curriculum)
15 Easy: Faber lesson piece 2

Session 4
10 Etude: Alternate RCM and Snell 1 piece at a time
15 Medium: RCM or Snell repertoire, change pieces every 4 weeks or so

Session 5 OPTIONAL and not part of 2 hours goal as I consider this essentially all play, not practice
10 Fun time: Repertoire maintenance & spaced repetition
20 Theory (I opted to drop RCM as I prefer theory in Snell books)
5 Ear training with RCM materials

All of session 5 can be dropped for weeks on end depending on life or I can choose any one part of session 5 to wind down the evening with.

At one point in time, documented previously, I was doing around 16 pieces, exercises, etudes, etc. any given week. This will drop it to 6.

Total.

6 plus scales, that’s all.

(insert eye roll at all of the I told you sos coming my way)

But getting here my own way in my own time will keep my Scots-Irish butt out of rebellion mode. For the time being.

I’m pretty confident Sessions 1-4 will get the job done to meet my goals.

Said goals, by the way, are Satie’s Gnossiennes #1, a serious piece of Chopin to be named later, and the entire Ray Charles Song Book, so I have a LONG way to go!

Lots of etudes, repertoire books, sheet music by composer, exercise canons and probably the entire Kabalevsky Op. 39, will have to wait until I look through them and think, ‘gee, this is sight reading material…”

For those wondering why not pick Snell or RCM I simply can’t. I will not be a victim of the classical v/s modern debate. I want to play Ray Charles and Gershwin every bit as much as Chopin. Sue me, but don’t get between me and my R&B/jazz!

I don’t doubt I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’ve ordered my copy of Notebook for Anna Magdalena, which before this over-hall would have been started when I got to RCM 3, somewhere in 2021, but will instead be opened on my one-year serious practice anniversary in July 2019, at roughly 350 lifetime practice hours. I’m good with that.

Back to talking specific pieces and their pros, cons, sorrows and joys next week.

Happy Practicing everyone!
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 04:21 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Light bulb #2: Josh is listing scales in the intermediate exercise realm and I’ve still got roughly three years to get through beginner, advanced beginner, and late beginner skills. (these categories brought to you by the ever-brilliant Kesolo).

I think you need to investigate what Josh means by "intermediate" because it may not be the same as what Keselo calls "intermediate." Remember, "intermediate" is just a term carries no precise meaning by itself. With all due respect to Keselo, you can't use Keselo's definitions and apply them to Josh's remarks as this is combining different systems.

Two Data points.

First, recently, I looked at a course based on RCM which lumped RCM Prep A and RCM Prep B into "Introductory" and RCM Levels 1 to 5 as "Intermediate." For reference, this is an RCM Level 1 piece:



However, Keselo put this in the Beginner level.

Secondly, Allysia Van Betuw calls RCM Levels 3-6 as Intermediate:



For reference, Petzold's Minuet in G Major, BWV Anh. 114 which is an RCM Level 3 piece, is "Intermediate" in Allysia's system:



However, BWV Anh. 114, Keselo has classified as Late Beginner.

So this is just to say that while Keselo has done brilliant and thorough research, you can't just take Josh Wright's words and layer them on top of Keselo's framework. Josh's framework and Keselo's framework could both be self-consistent, but not consistent with each other.

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
My plan is to break Josh’s beginner repertoire into 2-3 years. It starts with Notebook for Anna Magdalena so we’re not talking about EARLY beginner here, right? But the POINT is my 30 minutes of technique does not need to be SCALES dominant for quite some time. What if I broke my 30 minutes of technique down into 10 minutes for an Etude, 10 minutes for an exercise, and 10 minutes for scales? That would yield over two hours in 2 weeks for each etude and exercise. More than enough for the pieces I’m doing.

Not going to talk about whether technique is "scale dominant" or not at your level. I'm no teacher. However, I will say that with regard to "classical piano," the three major international piano certification programs all include scales at much lower levels:

RCM specifies that in RCM level Prep B, the student can play one-octave scales with each hand-separately in the keys of C & G Major & A minor (natural), as well as play a hands-together, contrary-motion scale of one-octave in the key of C Major. Then by RCM Level 1, this already expands to hands-separate, two-octave C, G, F major and A, E, D minor (natural and harmonic) @ 69 BPM, hands-together, two-octave contrary-motion scales in C Major and Chromatic.

ABRSM specifies that in ABRSM Grade 1, the student can play hands-separate, two-octave scales in C, G, D, F majors and A, D minors (natural, harmonic, and melodic) @ 60 BPM, and hands-together contrary-motion scales of one-octave in C major @ 60 BPM.

Trinity specifies that in Trinity Grade Initial (which Trinity estimates as a total of 8 hours of teaching and 32 hours of independent practice, or about 8 weeks of piano learning, in total), the student can play hands-separate, one-octave C Major & A minor (natural, harmonic, and melodic) @ 60 BPM. Then by Trinity Grade 1 (which Trinity estimates as an additional total of 12 hours of teaching and 48 hours of independent practice over the Grade 'Initial', or about another 12 weeks of piano learning, after Grade 'Initial'), this already expands to hands-separate, one-octave F, G Major & D, E minor (natural, harmonic, and melodic) @ 70 BPM, hands-together, one-octave contrary-motion scale in C Major, and hands-together, one-octave chromatic scale starting on D.

This is just to say the major piano curriculums all dictate a relatively early start to scale work for "classical piano."

Since you are a paying subscriber to Josh's teaching materials, I suggest you might email him and ask him to clarify that when he says "intermediate exercise" with respect to scales, when he actually envisions people starting this, including the most basic scales, because it does not appear "mainstream" to start scales work very late. I'm definitely not saying though it can't be done - I'm a piano learner myself and not a teacher, but I'm just referring to these various materials I've found above.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 04:36 AM

BTW, regarding Intermediate, Trinity considers that the typical piano student reaches intermediate level from a complete cold start of touching piano for first time, after a total of 104 hours of teacher time and 536 independent practice hours, which is a total of 640 total hours of piano.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 05:26 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake

Light bulb #1: 15 minutes is a HUGE amount of sight reading per day. What if the vast bulk of all the lovely excess music I want a chance at gets a stickie on the front cover labeled, “for sight-reading” and set aside until such time as it IS sight reading? Leaving me all the time I would be trying to make this stupendous list of music "repertoire" available to work a tiny amount of far more advanced pieces into actually being "repertoire" and at a much deeper level than I could do for such masses of material? (I’ll have you know, dear readers, that that’s called reinventing the wheel, and I want full credit for it!)

Just to tell you I've gone through a similar process. I threw my boring, boring sight-reading book out the door, and instead made a nice pile of method books and beginners' books, and started to sight-read from them. Most of these books are graded so I open a book and play the pieces from the beginning until they get too difficult for sight-reading. I make a note of the date and how far I have got and put them on the bottom of the pile. I am already looking forward to the moment in one or two years when I can pick up the first book again and see how far I come this time.

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
RCM specifies that in RCM level Prep B, the student can play one-octave scales with each hand-separately in the keys of C & G Major & A minor (natural), as well as play a hands-together, contrary-motion scale of one-octave in the key of C Major. Then by RCM Level 1, this already expands to hands-separate, two-octave C, G, F major and A, E, D minor (natural and harmonic) @ 69 BPM, hands-together, two-octave contrary-motion scales in C Major and Chromatic.

Here comes a detail question that I have wondered about. At page 24, RCM specifies indeed 69 BPM for a quarter note, but in the column to the right, they write "note values" and show eight notes. Does that mean that if you play a note on each beat, the metronome should be on 138?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 06:32 AM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
RCM specifies that in RCM level Prep B, the student can play one-octave scales with each hand-separately in the keys of C & G Major & A minor (natural), as well as play a hands-together, contrary-motion scale of one-octave in the key of C Major. Then by RCM Level 1, this already expands to hands-separate, two-octave C, G, F major and A, E, D minor (natural and harmonic) @ 69 BPM, hands-together, two-octave contrary-motion scales in C Major and Chromatic.

Here comes a detail question that I have wondered about. At page 24, RCM specifies indeed 69 BPM for a quarter note, but in the column to the right, they write "note values" and show eight notes. Does that mean that if you play a note on each beat, the metronome should be on 138?

Good catch. Yes, that means that RCM wants you to play the scales with eighth notes for each note. Since the the tempo is 69 which is about 0.85 seconds per note. That mean you have to hold each note of the scale for less than half a second. I don't know if technically, from a musical perspective, one can think of this as a tempo of eighth note = 138, since each eighth note is only half a beat and not a whole beat, but certainly from a purely mathematical perspective, that's how it numerically works out to be.
Posted By: Cheshire Chris

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 09:17 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
BTW, regarding Intermediate, Trinity considers that the typical piano student reaches intermediate level from a complete cold start of touching piano for first time, after a total of 104 hours of teacher time and 536 independent practice hours, which is a total of 640 total hours of piano.


That seems like a very high ratio of lesson to practice time: only a little over 5h of practice per hour of teaching. My ratio is way higher: half an hour's lesson a week and 1-1.5h of practice a day, so a ratio of between 14:1 and 21:1. I wonder which they consider to be more important? Teaching time, or practice time? My gut feeling is that provided you have sufficient lesson time to allow your teacher to correct your mistakes, it's the practice time that matters more. What do other people think?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 10:16 AM

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
My gut feeling is that provided you have sufficient lesson time to allow your teacher to correct your mistakes, it's the practice time that matters more. What do other people think?

Not being a teacher, I'm not qualified to address this question, but since you are asking about the Trinity numbers, I thought I would post the screen shot from the Trinity syllabus with the table of hours.

[Linked Image]

The table above translates into the following aggregated number of hours: (i.e., typical total hours from complete cold-start to complete to a given Trinity grade)
Code
	Teacher	Independent	Total	
	Hours	Study Hours	Hours
Initial	   8	     32		   40
Grade 1	  20	     80		  100
Grade 2	  38	    152		  190
Grade 3	  56	    254		  310
Grade 4	  80	    380		  460
Grade 5	 104	    536		  640
Grade 6	 140	    720		  860
Grade 7	 188	    942		1,130
Grade 8	 242	  1,208		1,450


The Grade 5 row above was the one that I was alluding to which Trinity considers "Intermediate" level.

Note that they do point out people are different so the actual numbers will vary. I assume this is only what they consider typical. And of course, these presumably were estimated from a student population which is by far, mostly children, with only a sprinkling of adults.

Although not being a teacher, I can't say this for sure, but I also strongly suspect that as in most endeavors, there's a point of diminishing return. As Warren Buffet (and others such as Fred Brooks) said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. In piano terms, you can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” Practicing 8 hours a day won't get you a (Trinity) Grade 8 in 6 months! wink

I wonder were that point of diminishing returns is, though, according to these Trinity numbers? Is it 1 hour a day? 2 hours a day? I already think 3 hours per day is past the point of diminishing returns as, in theory, if it could scale that way, you'd be able to complete your Grade 8 in 16 months. I suspect this is highly unlikely, so 3 hrs/day is probably already past the "elbow in the graph."
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 10:32 AM

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
BTW, regarding Intermediate, Trinity considers that the typical piano student reaches intermediate level from a complete cold start of touching piano for first time, after a total of 104 hours of teacher time and 536 independent practice hours, which is a total of 640 total hours of piano.


That seems like a very high ratio of lesson to practice time: only a little over 5h of practice per hour of teaching.

For a child, this is perfectly reasonabie: one hour lesson every week, and five days one hour of practice. Seventh day off.
Posted By: Cheshire Chris

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 10:45 AM

Originally Posted by Animisha

For a child, this is perfectly reasonabie: one hour lesson every week, and five days one hour of practice. Seventh day off.


Good point. I was wondering if the fact that I only have half an hour's lesson a week means it's likely to take me twice as long to reach the same standard? I'm guessing that for a motivated adult, the lesson is primarily a matter of correcting mistakes: it's directed practice that results in improvement?
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 10:50 AM

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
That seems like a very high ratio of lesson to practice time: only a little over 5h of practice per hour of teaching. My ratio is way higher: half an hour's lesson a week and 1-1.5h of practice a day, so a ratio of between 14:1 and 21:1.

Since New Year, my ratio has been 7:1 - about 1.5h/day of practice & 1.5h/wk of lessons. I feel I am making decent progress, so I feel good about my mix of practice and lesson time.

The interesting thing though is that last year, I had 1h/wk of lessons. and 1h/day of practice, or again a 7:1 ratio. When I increased to 1.5h/wk of lessons in January, I was not anticipating increasing my daily practice time. However, it just did almost by itself just to keep up with my assignments. I don't know if this suggests that 7:1 really is the optimal ratio for me and that if I were to again increase my weekly lesson time, to say 2h/wk, I would be practicing 2 h/day! confused
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 11:10 AM

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
Originally Posted by Animisha

For a child, this is perfectly reasonabie: one hour lesson every week, and five days one hour of practice. Seventh day off.


Good point. I was wondering if the fact that I only have half an hour's lesson a week means it's likely to take me twice as long to reach the same standard?


I think that there is quite a lot that needs to be taught to children, that doesn't need to be taught to adults, especially in the beginning. Young children will probably need much more help just to read notes, to understand music theory, to develop good practice habits.
On the other hand, children have advantages when it comes to memory, especially when you're no longer a young adult.

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
I'm guessing that for a motivated adult, the lesson is primarily a matter of correcting mistakes: it's directed practice that results in improvement?

That sounds rather meagre to me. My video teacher analyses the piece and demonstrates lots of detailed practice instructions. Like the phrase starts here and ends here, and this note is the culmination of the phrase, and this note you should play with a very smooth legato and softer than the note before, etc etc. All very interesting and helpful.
Posted By: Cheshire Chris

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 12:26 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
I'm guessing that for a motivated adult, the lesson is primarily a matter of correcting mistakes: it's directed practice that results in improvement?

That sounds rather meagre to me. My video teacher analyses the piece and demonstrates lots of detailed practice instructions. Like the phrase starts here and ends here, and this note is the culmination of the phrase, and this note you should play with a very smooth legato and softer than the note before, etc etc. All very interesting and helpful.



My teacher does that, too. Then corrects my mistakes when I play back what I've been practicing, in the next lesson.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 12:51 PM

Thanks to everyone. Too many to name this time! I'm so glad to have this thread to nerd out with my fellow piano enthusiasts. I have to get going this morning, but I did want to put in that I do realize Kesolo's terms may not match up exactly with Josh's, which is why my spreadsheet is on Excel. Everything can be in flux and moved around at will. What was exciting for me was to get going with the easy, medium, hard format with my current materials (those I'm keeping) and Josh's.

But say life is good and the Notebook pieces don't actually take me a full 3 months to complete. Well some spaces get deleted and the next one moves up. And I start considering how much Snell and RCM I have to be doing to move up a "level" in their estimation. Levels are different for every single system so it's all a crap shoot. Having a TIME reference for easy, medium, hard, is exciting for me because I can put material, no matter what the source level, into whichever category it fits and move on.

Looking forward to rereading from my post forward when I have more time.

Carry on!
Posted By: Cheshire Chris

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 01:34 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

The interesting thing though is that last year, I had 1h/wk of lessons. and 1h/day of practice, or again a 7:1 ratio. When I increased to 1.5h/wk of lessons in January, I was not anticipating increasing my daily practice time. However, it just did almost by itself just to keep up with my assignments. I don't know if this suggests that 7:1 really is the optimal ratio for me and that if I were to again increase my weekly lesson time, to say 2h/wk, I would be practicing 2 h/day! confused


Thanks - that’s very interesting. To be honest I’m running out of things to do, only having a half hour piano lesson a week, but longer lessons would be a financial commitment I can’t really take on at the moment. I’ve pretty much mastered the two new pieces I’m working on each week after 3 or 4 days of practice, so I spend the rest of the time playing all my older pieces over and over, which is a bit boring on occasions. I’m sure that’ll change as the practice pieces get more challenging!

I’ve recently bought a set of two books called “The Joy of First Classics”, which look good, so I’m planning to start working on the easiest pieces from those when I’ve done my assigned practice each week.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 01:46 PM

Originally Posted by Cheshire Chris
Thanks - that’s very interesting. To be honest I’m running out of things to do, only having a half hour piano lesson a week, but longer lessons would be a financial commitment I can’t really take on at the moment. I’ve pretty much mastered the two new pieces I’m working on each week after 3 or 4 days of practice, so I spend the rest of the time playing all my older pieces over and over, which is a bit boring on occasions. I’m sure that’ll change as the practice pieces get more challenging!

Yeah, not a good idea to make more of a financial commitment than one can afford. But 14-21:1 seems really exceptional for the early beginner level for reasons you mention. There is just not that much to practice. Perhaps you should also talk to your teacher about starting étude and scales? Also, perhaps you could spend some of that time (which certainly would count as "piano-related" time) on music theory and/or aural training? I suggest you discuss all this with your teacher.

But now I'm filling up Holly's thread with non-Holly stuff. Perhaps you should start a new thread to gather ideas about what to do with your 14-21:1 time? Or if you should even be doing that much practice at this stage. I sort of lean towards not overdoing, myself.
Posted By: Cheshire Chris

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 02:46 PM

My apologies to Holly for hijacking her thread! I’ll start a new one.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 03:53 PM

Chris and TS,
It was a very entertaining read so no worries. smile
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 04:50 PM

I'm quite sick at the moment, so no long-winded post from me this time around...

As Tyrone rightly pointed out, the words 'beginner' and 'intermediate' are nothing but words to help us sort levels in easier terms than 'level 3' or 'grade 5'. I simply decided that every four levels would take up a group (beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc). To me, Intermediate means nothing more than 'you are now decently confident behind the piano and are ready for things to get a bit more complex'. Added to that, what is intermediate to one individual can be entirely different from what's intermediate to another individual (I've seen people call Beethoven Moonlight Sonata Mov3 'early intermediate'). I'd also like to quickly note that my ranking is more on a book-to-book basis than a piece-by-piece basis. I would not rank that specific Kabalevksy Waltz Beginner / Level 2. Probably somewhere between levels 3 and 4, but I digress.

Being able to judge for yourself the difficulty of a piece relative to your own abilities is much more valuable than all the grading system lists and syllabi in the world.

Holly, practice methods are ever-changing, I've mentioned that multiple times here already. What works perfectly for me may have only mixed results for you. Keep looking to see what works best for you, but I would urge you to not throw things out of the window after one or two tough weeks. If the general way in which you practice is this 'practising baseline', then it really pays off to keep this more or less stable. Adding elements to or removing elements from this baseline is paramount. Completely changing your baseline, less so.

I'm not saying this because you're moving away from the practice method I advocate (which I've blatantly stolen from others, anyway), nor am I saying that you're doing it right now. Just something I think you should keep at the back of your mind. There have been multiple people on this site who'd completely change things every 3 months, basically every time they found a new 'wonder method', and they'd always swap again after another three months. The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, and all that. If you're improving, trust the process and stay with it for the long ride. Don't stagnate by never looking for improvements or alterations, but also try not to doubt the process too much.

Again, I'm not pointing any fingers here (or not trying to, at least). Just something I think is worth saying; progress can be a lot slower than we'd like it to be, at times. In the long run, however, we'll always be much better than we were before.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/09/19 08:00 PM

Thanks Kesolo,

Most of the change will be a lessening of sheer volume of pieces by about 20-25%.

Fewer pieces to work through a day to feel like I'm keeping up without losing my beloved etudes,

and a raising of the bar difficulty wise for one piece at a time.

Also I'm more committed now to pursuing a dual path of classical and modern.

And if it all changes in three months I'll be fine with it as long as that is the result of around 120 hours of practice experience telling me it's time for a change.
Posted By: dobro

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/10/19 02:56 AM

You will do well Holly as you seem well prepared and grounded in your practice.

Sorry you are ill keselo, i hope you get better and i always look forward to your input.
Posted By: Keselo

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/10/19 10:23 AM

Holly, it sounds like you've got your baseline and are making changes to see what works for you. Keep it up, I'm looking forward to your next entry!

Thanks dobro, I'm doing a bit better today, though I'm afraid I'll miss a couple more days being unable to play the piano. That's probably the worst thing about being sick...
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/10/19 01:09 PM

For anyone interested my Master Diabolical Plan is as follows.

Year 2 serious practice Jul 2019-Jul 2020
(350 hours practice already under my belt):

Faber 4
RCM 2 and Snell 2
1/2 half Josh Wright Beginner Propractice
Mikrokosmos 2

Year 3 serious practice Jul 2020 - Jul 2021
(800 practice hours already under my belt)

Faber 5 (last of the series)
RCM 3 and Snell 3
2nd half 1/2 Josh Wright beginner
Mikrokosmos 3

At which point I will have studied Moonlight Sonata (1 movement)
and have 1300 practice hours under my belt

so I think I will realistically be able to call myself "intermediate" and proceed with RCM 4,5,6 along with 3-4 years of Josh’s intermediate program.

At which point, possibly in 2025, but maybe 2026,

I’ll be getting into early Chopin (again, hopefully),
have 3-4K practice hours
and ready to proceed to:

“advanced”: RCM 7 & 8 (8 being my original goal for RCM),
as well as an almost endless advanced repertoire with Josh,
and probably the ability to play just about all the Debussy, Satie,
Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Gershwin and Irving Berlin I want. I expect to
spend 3-4 years getting through 7 & 8, but...

By 2030 when this journey is 12 years in:
7K practice hours and no more "levels", etc,
and all the lovely, lovely, endless music to pursue as I wish
for whatever time I have left.

What terms to use can be debated endlessly, but I said somewhere in an earlier post: as long as my butt is on that bench and focused 10 hours a week advancement will be made.

We all have dreams, how we get there is up for endless debate in our off-practice free time. A plan is just that, a plan, not a pyramid set in stone for thousands of years. Life happens, lack of talent happens, sheer boredom or even inspiration can change the timeline or the materials used, but the dream and the pIan are the baseline, or True North as I call it. The compass needle always returns to True North. I have sincerely enjoyed all the comments since the last post and am tough enough to take it for disagreements or concerns or questioning my sanity.

Happy Practice!
Posted By: dobro

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/10/19 02:32 PM

True North. The needle returns there. Well put and something good to think on today.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/10/19 07:18 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
For anyone interested my Master Diabolical Plan is as follows.

Year 2 serious practice Jul 2019-Jul 2020
(350 hours practice already under my belt):

Faber 4
RCM 2 and Snell 2
1/2 half Josh Wright Beginner Propractice
Mikrokosmos 2

Year 3 serious practice Jul 2020 - Jul 2021
(800 practice hours already under my belt)

Faber 5 (last of the series)
RCM 3 and Snell 3
2nd half 1/2 Josh Wright beginner
Mikrokosmos 3

At which point I will have studied Moonlight Sonata (1 movement)
and have 1300 practice hours under my belt

so I think I will realistically be able to call myself "intermediate" and proceed with RCM 4,5,6 along with 3-4 years of Josh’s intermediate program.

At which point, possibly in 2025, but maybe 2026,

I’ll be getting into early Chopin (again, hopefully),
have 3-4K practice hours
and ready to proceed to:

“advanced”: RCM 7 & 8 (8 being my original goal for RCM),
as well as an almost endless advanced repertoire with Josh,
and probably the ability to play just about all the Debussy, Satie,
Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Gershwin and Irving Berlin I want. I expect to
spend 3-4 years getting through 7 & 8, but...

By 2030 when this journey is 12 years in:
7K practice hours and no more "levels", etc,
and all the lovely, lovely, endless music to pursue as I wish
for whatever time I have left.

What terms to use can be debated endlessly, but I said somewhere in an earlier post: as long as my butt is on that bench and focused 10 hours a week advancement will be made.

We all have dreams, how we get there is up for endless debate in our off-practice free time. A plan is just that, a plan, not a pyramid set in stone for thousands of years. Life happens, lack of talent happens, sheer boredom or even inspiration can change the timeline or the materials used, but the dream and the pIan are the baseline, or True North as I call it. The compass needle always returns to True North. I have sincerely enjoyed all the comments since the last post and am tough enough to take it for disagreements or concerns or questioning my sanity.

Happy Practice!


A great plan and equally great dreams. I am rooting for you!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/16/19 12:10 AM

Easing into Spring…
with some help from Bela Bartok


Spring comes slowly here in the upper Midwest giving us snow and budding daffodils in the same week along with wind to knock a person over. All in all, it seemed a good week to stay inside on the piano bench.

The daily routine this week shook out as predicted in the previous posts:

Sight Reading (15 minutes)
I used Alfred’s AIO Level 1, but baulked when I got to The Entertainer towards the end. Just a mental block that I could sight read such a known piece, even the easy version. So, I marked the page and put the book on the bottom of the sight-reading stack. (Great tip, Animisha!) Finished up the week with the RCM Prep A and delighted myself playing these well with three run throughs.

Sight reading is a skill to hone, to be sure, but here and now the pay off in confidence boost is well worth it.

Technique and Exercises (30 minutes total)
D minor this past week, and A minor this week, 10 min/day, doing 1 octave, 2 octave, chords, triads, harmonic and some finger exercises.

Mikrokosmos #32, 10 minutes a day going into its second week. This really helped with the Turk piece in the repertoire practice. Doing hands going in different directions and intervals in the same measure and so forth is much more doable with some Bartok under one’s belt. Steady Mikro practice made the Turk piece a simple two week relaxation piece instead of a lot of frustration like it could have been.

RCM Level 1 Etude: Detectives by Christine Donkin

The etude isn’t challenging since it’s at a slow tempo, but it’s left hand staccato notes with a line of shifting legato thirds in the right. Lots of dynamics to pay attention to. The ten minutes goes quite quickly.

Repertoire and Faber 3B Lessons (75 minutes)


Lesson 1: Dvorak’s Finale to the 9th Symphony from a lead sheet. I would never have believed I would get the second variation of the chords down before moving on, but it went well. Helps to love the piece and I do!

Lesson 2: Baroque Dance – Daniel Speer (1636-1707)
Four short lines with a trill at the end. The trick will be keeping it frisky and light as the tempo comes up instead of rushed and anxious.


Lesson 3: Cat Patrol by Nancy Faber – Thoroughly modern, it fit in with all the staccato from the etude just perfectly, but that dreaded word: vivace.

Lesson 4: Legend of Madrid by Nancy Faber – This piece is quite lovely, but stands testament to being VERY careful selecting YouTube videos of method book pieces. The one I first heard did the piece at roughly 142 miles an hour. I completely doubted myself in simply READING the score’s tempo, so I called my mother and ran it by her. We concluded the YouTube version was about TWICE as fast as what was being suggested in the lesson. The lesson tempo I could get section by section with a couple or 3 weeks practice. That video could have undermined my confidence the tempo was even achievable.

Dance - Daniel Gottlob Turk (1750-1813) From the Snell Essential Repertoire Collection. I really enjoyed working this early classical piece next to a Baroque piece. I personally thought it leaned Baroque, but had less of a tinkling quality that I associate with Baroque.



I’m setting aside the Dvorak piece, since I’m pretty happy with it.
I won’t be starting anything new this week though I am working on the technique exercises for the next Faber Lesson Piece on the agenda: Phantom of the Keys.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/16/19 08:26 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I used Alfred’s AIO Level 1, but baulked when I got to The Entertainer towards the end. Just a mental block that I could sight read such a known piece, even the easy version. So, I marked the page and put the book on the bottom of the sight-reading stack. (Great tip, Animisha!)


I was so happy to read this! I have to keep reminding myself though: if it is a struggle, it is not sight-reading, move on to the next book.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/24/19 04:14 PM

On Patience and Frustration


Patience is not something I was born having in abundance. At 50 I find it much easier than at 12 surely, but when faced with a new piece to learn Patience runs laughing down the hallway calling over her shoulder a gleeful, “You’re screwed.”

Surely.

This week, however, I managed to drag the little wretch back to the bench with me by means of a checklist for new pieces. (an idea gleaned from Philip Johnston’s Practiceopedia)

What could be so hard about opening a score, listening to it, marking it up, trying out hands separate and then together and so forth? Well, without Patience twiddling her thumbs on the bench with me, I tend to want to go from first listen to hands together at half tempo in about 10 minutes.

As all of us here know, this does NOT lead to excellent playing or even mediocre playing. It leads instead to errors of rhythm, notes that spill from one’s fingers in their own mad dance of delusion making no attempt at accuracy and Frustration standing there with his hands on his hips pleased he’s won the round. Poor Patience must be is assisted weeping back to the bench to try to fix the hash up I’ve made of things.

But not this week.

This week that 10-minute dash to disaster was tamed by a check list of 20 levels of my own choosing that take a new piece from opening the score to accurately played at 75% tempo with basic dynamics in place. In other words, “lesson ready”. That magical place somewhere between “new” and “learned”, when you can confidently sit down to it and get on with actually making it something you’re proud of, hopefully before it reaches the “sell by” date of can’t stand the bloody thing a single more run through. (I mentioned before I wasn’t born with an abundance of patience. Wasn’t kidding.)

With my nifty new checklist there are 15 levels (19 if you count 15a, 15b, 15c, and 15d) to get to the 50% tempo spot. It’s awfully silly to think one can get through 15 anything in 10 minutes. To keep myself honest, I went to a stopwatch timing for a new piece, took Patience’s hand in mine, and proceeded to work down the list with determination as our guide.

And wouldn’t you know, that brand new piece was accurate at 50% tempo in about 30 minutes? Making getting it to “lesson ready” by the end of the week a fairly doable goal and leaving its second week on my schedule a wide-open plain of possibility for making it something to be proud of before moving on.

Patience isn’t sure about staying on the bench with me as the park outside our window is calling her name, but I’ll be printing a checklist with columns for each new piece I’m starting for the foreseeable future. Maybe between the two of us we can send Frustration home to pout for a few rounds.

Happy Practicing Everyone

This week:

Sight Reading: 15 minutes
RCM Prep B Repertoire and Faber lesson 1/days


Technique: 30 minutes, split 10 each

C Major scales

Etude: Drifting Clouds by William Gillock (1917-1993) focus on arpeggiated chords divided between the hands

Exercise: Czerny #15 Vol. 445, focus on accent on the second beat



Lessons and Repertoire (1.25 - 1.5 hours divvied as needed):

Faber Lesson Pieces: Starting The Bear and Humoresque
Continuing Phantom of the Keys and Legend of Madrid

Snell Essential Repertoire: The Sheppard’s Flute by Tat’iana Salutrinskaya (1903-1969)*

Very irritating that she’s the only female composer in the book and the only composer not listed under composer biographies at the end of said book. Bad form, M. Snell.
[size:23pt][/size]
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/25/19 12:16 AM

I am coming to the realization that what you express about Patinence and Frustration might be a bigger factor in our success than even having a teacher or not! I actually stopped practicing for 5 days because of my own impatience with 2 outside the method book songs I have been working on for so long (well, it's alot longer than it takes me for the method book pieces). So what you are discovering for yourself is a nirvana of sorts for efficient practice. Kudos to you! I guess it is normal for the first couple years to search for what works best for us. Maybe as you get it refined you can share the details.

I have been integrating the VERY slow practice into my practice sessions and I (and my teacher) really like it. My teacher is very good at explaining to me how to think about various note combinations - and this works well in my mind with the slow practice. Thanks for the update - Namaste!
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 04/25/19 12:46 AM

I agree patience is perhaps the most important thing. I have got better at patience with time. I suppose I’ve done this by no goal. I’m quite content now to work on the same thing over and over. my own experience is that progress gets slower with time. I seem to spend longer on pieces. I have played one piece and the other two are still on going. This is difficult at times. Now I tend to persist until the piece is ready. I have a group I play at now which helps. I only play 2 pieces there so I don’t need to rush to get pieces ready as can always play an older piece. It seems to come together in the end if it’s a reasonable standard piece, I have lessons and practice but it is very slow. I believe strongly that the performance not the piece difficult is the most important thing. Practice patience! Good luck
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/01/19 09:32 PM

Finding inspiration…

Mostly this last year (which finishes up July 15) has been a journey of finding a methodology that keeps me coming back to the piano readily while simultaneously guiding me up the difficulty scale.

A few dips into boredom sped things up. A few brutal self-assessments re-calibrated my standards for progressing. And finally, in these last few weeks letting go of how I started to move forward with new methods that match where I am now has my technical progress skyrocketing.

The goals I started with were about RCM testing and having some external standard to give me credibility in my own eyes. As the year progressed, I began to care less about passing tests and more about the music I wanted to be worthy of playing. I started out ready to play anything and everything to get a sense of just what I might enjoy playing. While I still enjoy hearing new composers, I’ve recently been dealing with some frustration in the music selections of my “teaching” program.

I’m talking about what I referred to in my last post as “expiration dates”, which I define as when a piece reaches the point where I can’t stand sitting down to it anymore. Ideally this point happens somewhere AFTER I’ve met my goals for the piece. Lately, it’s happening somewhere around the point it would be ready to show a teacher to start polishing it. Little early.

I spent this last week mulling how far I have to take each and every piece in my “teaching” program to progress in skill towards becoming the pianist I want to be. Somewhere in all this process there are going to be pieces I’m pleased to play for people and pieces where I simply get the point of it all and want to move on without bothering to polish a piece that frankly isn’t “performance” worthy from inception, but was on my list because it had something to teach my brain or fingers.

Which are which?

Yes, I know teachers excel at making these decisions. Let’s not go there.

I think I’ve put off making ANY selections on the “polish and make repertoire” list because not much has come my way I cared enough about to work with that long. After all, despite my obsessiveness I am only approaching Level 2 RCM currently so there’s not exactly a lot of breathtaking literature to be had down here.

By dividing my work recently into:

Sight Reading
Technique (scales, exercises, & etudes)
Repertoire (easy, medium and hard)

I was able to speed up my lesson work by dividing the “hard” repertoire time into time for 2 extra lesson pieces. This had the unintended effect of making MOST of what I was playing pieces I simply don’t care to polish.

Not working on anything to make performance ready has jarred me out of my rut though. I mean, frankly, I wasn’t polishing anything to begin with. Waiting to do my Propractice “hard” pieces until July when I start Level 2 has had me in a holding pattern of material I selected last year as a total beginner anyway.

While the technical progress all these lesson pieces has provided has been gratifying, it’s a little soulless, truth be told.

But I can’t really add any “hard” pieces until July or it will throw me off schedule, maybe slow down the technical progress…

And around in circles my crazy little brain went as it usually does when I’m heavily involved in reinventing the wheel, until one day when I was sitting around…

Listening

While playing silly phone games and jerked my head up to make sure I caught the title of what was going by on Pandora and could give it a thumbs up.

What caught my attention was a lovely, haunting little piece, “The Lonely Ballerina” by Michele MacLaughlin. And, unlike my usual thoughts of, “someday, maybe,” I thought, “well I won’t know until I see the score.”

So, I ordered the sheet music.

And maybe became, “Oh heck yes.” (If this is PG13 language, blame PW)

Not in a few years, but NOW, I am working on a piece of music, in original form, that I liked enough to stop what I was doing and note the name and composer.

How do I “fit it in?”

I don’t care.

This piece has nothing to do with progress or lessons or anything at all, but “I want to play it and I want to play it beautifully.” That may take a year or six months, though definitely more than a month. And it doesn’t matter. I’ll keep dragging it out when my “work” is done to bring me joy and to be, for now,

Inspiring.

Happy Practicing Everyone.
Posted By: EPW

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/02/19 03:52 AM

Thanks for hooking me onto this piece of music. I looked on musicnote.com and they had the piece of music so I was able to print out the first page to try. Nice little piece but I would say a little tricky with the finger independence needed to have it sing. Take your time and enjoy the journey. By the way Holly I love reading your practice diary smile
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/02/19 06:38 AM

Originally Posted by EPW
By the way Holly I love reading your practice diary smile

I've really appreciate reading about Holly's journey. It's like observing the piano journey of an "Everyman" over time, with its twists and turns. I have to say that I've personally like this category of literature, whether it was James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small, Anaïs Nin's journals, or Perri Knize's Grand Obsession. Sometimes, it's not that one would take that particular path of the diarist that makes it interesting; on the contrary, it's that one would not ever take the diarist's particular path that makes it an interesting window into another life. (I would never desire the life of Anaïs Nin, yet I read on!)

Keep up the journalling, Holly! There are those of us who are very interested in your path.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/02/19 11:24 AM

Thanks for sharing Holly! I echo the other's sentiments about the value of this thread and am likewise adjusting my learning approach. Actually, over the last the 3 months I have gone from 90% Method Book/10% non-Method Book and flipped it around so I am only doing around 20% Method Book now. Part of my non-Method are 2 songs requested by loved ones that I will play for them at the end of Summer. That's a good motivator for me. It is way more difficult than the Method Book approach and I could not do it effectively without a teacher who can pick a good arrangement and help me with fingerings, etc. I think this is a great journey!
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/02/19 11:39 AM

I really enjoy reading this thread. Very useful and educational!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 03:26 AM

EPW - thanks and I hope you enjoy your snippet of the piece. Those 16th note stretches have me a little intimidated, but after a few dips of the toe into the waters I'm thinking somewhere between 12 and 20 weeks. Which is ideal as I'll have it ready next time I see my mom...who dislikes anything after Chopin...and especially "modern" sounding pieces...oh dear...
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 03:30 AM

Tyrone - I adore All Creatures. The closest I've found in the music world is the book Mozart in the Jungle by Blair Tindall, from which the Amazon series is based.

Picture here Wayne and Garth chanting, "I'm not worthy..."

I just enjoy having a regular time and place to reflect on the process and have a record of it. Thrilling to have you guys read it anyway!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 03:33 AM

Progman
This approach will almost certainly drive me into the studio of some poor, unsuspecting teacher sooner rather than later. These last couple of weeks the fire is lit again and the feeling of my fingers doing what I tell them to do is exciting, but I couldn't keep this massive lesson ratio going if I didn't know it would come to an end in July when I switch over to a repertoire heavy focus.

Of course if you've read many of my entries you know I rarely make it a month on a plan before changing things up so to see where it all goes tune in regularly!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 03:36 AM

Thanks, Nobelhouse, as I said in a response above, I write these entries mostly for myself, but the thought that someone might read it gets me to think through what's worth remembering about each week as I go. When i found Kesolo's Nothing is Too Easy thread when I first joined PW, I printed the whole thing and spent the weekend reading it. I wonder what it would be like to someday meet my goal of RCM Level 8 and go back and read what I was thinking and feeling a decade prior...
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 06:02 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I wonder what it would be like to someday meet my goal of RCM Level 8 and go back and read what I was thinking and feeling a decade prior...

But until that time, it is interesting for us to read what you are thinking and feeling now. cool
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 11:22 AM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I wonder what it would be like to someday meet my goal of RCM Level 8 and go back and read what I was thinking and feeling a decade prior...


You can do it ! Why not RCM level 10 ? 10 is a nice number ..... 1 year per grade and you will be there in no time !
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 11:25 AM

Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I wonder what it would be like to someday meet my goal of RCM Level 8 and go back and read what I was thinking and feeling a decade prior...


You can do it ! Why not RCM level 10 ? 10 is a nice number ..... 1 year per grade and you will be there in no time !

Yes! I agree with Sidokar, Holly. Setting a goal of finishing RCM level 8 is a bit like setting a goal to finish 10th grade in high school! wink In the case of secondary school, the question would be, why not 12? Here, for RCM, it is, why not 10?

BTW, I don't know if I mentioned on this thread but I am on the RCM track myself.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 03:26 PM

Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake


You can do it ! Why not RCM level 10 ? 10 is a nice number ..... 1 year per grade and you will be there in no time !


and you, too, TS,

Level 10, gee, why not go for the level of the first web teacher you were impressed by...LOL.

Maybe I will, but I doubt at 50 with arthritis in my hands I'll be doing it at a level a year! I'm adding two months over a year to level 2, 3 months to level 3 and 4 months to level 4 before going to a full 18 months total each for Levels 5 and 6, and assuming 2 years each for Levels 7 and 8. All that math adds up to 12 years-ish total. And I'm one year in. I originally chose Level 8 because that's where "someone on the web" said a good chunk of Chopin was accessible and that's my standard for "dedicated amateur". I won't feel satisfied until I get that far, yet I can't see getting that far and just stopping trying to technically improve. Then there's that darn bus that could hit me next week... shocked
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 03:40 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Maybe I will, but I doubt at 50 with arthritis in my hands I'll be doing it at a level a year!

OK, I'm older than you, though without the arthritis (really knocking on wood here!) and I definitely have a goal that's higher. I'm 14 months into my piano journey and planning an RCM exam of at least a grade 3, if not a 4 by year's end, merely because it seems that's about where I am right now without stretching. So I wouldn't try to put yourself down and feel you "can't." Just keep telling yourself you will achieve what you set out to do, keep practicing, and your level will be whatever it naturally is, without any need to artificially "hold yourself back."

Good luck!

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
I'm adding two months over a year to level 2, 3 months to level 3 and 4 months to level 4 before going to a full 18 months total each for Levels 5 and 6, and assuming 2 years each for Levels 7 and 8. All that math adds up to 12 years-ish total. And I'm one year in. I originally chose Level 8 because that's where "someone on the web" said a good chunk of Chopin was accessible and that's my standard for "dedicated amateur". I won't feel satisfied until I get that far, yet I can't see getting that far and just stopping trying to technically improve. Then there's that darn bus that could hit me next week... shocked

RCM formally defines the Grade 8 standard as "Advanced Intermediate." For example, many Bach 2-part inventions are at RCM Grade 8.

I suspect if you start playing a lot of Chopin, you will be going beyond RCM Grade 8 anyways, whether you want to formally acknowledge that or not wink
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 04:11 PM

Tyrone Slothrop - Here's hoping on the Chopin and good luck with those RCM exams! I have to admit one of the biggest draws to finding a teacher is having someone to tutor me to a standard that could go in and nail it.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 05:31 PM

I am quite different. Why rush it? What is the difference if you reach level 8 in eight, ten or twelve years? The journey is the goal, and all of that. cool
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 05:52 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
I am quite different. Why rush it? What is the difference if you reach level 8 in eight, ten or twelve years? The journey is the goal, and all of that. cool

But I think you doing what I am saying. Holly has planned out her future progress down to the granularity of a month. All I'm saying is, instead of trying to adhere to such a schedule, which might hold one back, or conversely, push one forward faster than one is ready for, just let one's skills develop naturally. Let your level be what it is. So if your level wants to be Grade 1, great. If it wants to be Grade 5, great.

When you've mastered music at one level, then move on to the next, or continue to enjoy music at that level, whatever your desire. Feel no need to keep working on that level just because you planned 14 months and it is only the 8 month point. Similarly, if you are at the 14th month point, don't feel a need to progress to the next Grade just because that was in the plan. Do you feel ready? Then progress. Do you feel ready but you'd like to consolidate your skills a bit more and play some easier music, for fun? Then stay at your current level and continue having fun.

That's my main idea here.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/03/19 08:02 PM

Tyrone, et al,

Loving all the input.

I do happen to have a detailed plan, but there's a secret sauce that makes it quite flexible. That sauce is the Excel computer program that my spreadsheet of works by time by column is on. Finish a piece early? Delete the lines under it thereby moving up the next piece. Need three more weeks than planned? Insert cells and everything is moved down a few weeks.

I like plans. I like extreme flexibility with my plans. If it takes 20 years, I'll still enjoy it. If it takes 5 years, I'll click my heels in celebration, go get my no doubt sprained ankle fixed, then go for that Level 10 with an evil grin on my face.

But I promise not to hang out in Level 2 for 14 months if it doesn't take 14 months. The main point of my plan is to take what I think going into a level will be necessary to complete that level and allocate time for it so that I don't think I'm ready for Level 3 when I've only done half the work necessary, or on the other hand, spin my wheels doing 20 more pieces than are necessary.
Posted By: oneilt130

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/04/19 01:22 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

RCM formally defines the Grade 8 standard as "Advanced Intermediate." For example, many Bach 2-part inventions are at RCM Grade 8.


Yikes! Those are RCM Grade 8 Advanced Intermediate? Bach 2 part inventions was the last thing I was working on when playing as a youth, that along with Chopin Preludes. I am not sure I would have considered myself at that level though back in the day I had absolutely no reference point for how I compared to anyone else. (This was not only the pre Internet era but the pre Compuserve era. BTW if you know what Compuserve was you are dating yourself. smile The good ole days were if you have a 1200 baud modem you rocked!)

Sadly I have fallen way below that level. My goal is to get back there in a few years though without a set schedule. Currently there are days I can practice for an hour or more and some periods were just getting in 15 minutes a day it a struggle.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/04/19 01:30 AM

Originally Posted by oneilt130
Yikes! Those are RCM Grade 8 Advanced Intermediate? Bach 2 part inventions was the last thing I was working on when playing as a youth, that along with Chopin Preludes.

Have a look at the RCM piano syllabus and its list of pieces by grade to get an idea of the level you were at before and are at now. If you play any pop, you can look at the RCM popular selections list too.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/08/19 10:49 PM

Hide and seek…

A recent online lesson from a respectable teacher made a point of pushing looking only at the sheet music and not at the hands. This advice was specifically about sight reading practice, but was recommended for all but jumps of more than an octave.

Oh, the pain…the horror…the regression of tempos.

Yes, my friends, it’s a hideous game to play, but so irresistibly potent. I mean how can anyone turn down learning how to put your fingers where you want them without losing your place in the score? (Aside from the obvious discouragement of IT’S FRICKING HARD!)

Now I can’t say I’m applying this 100% of the time, but I find myself trying it more with each passing day. Going back over places where I consistently take a peek and trying to find that hidden little bugger of a G# or whatnot without taking my eyes off the written notes. Some success. Not a lot.

My ego is pouting in a corner mad at me for playing silly children’s games that leave her bruised and battered. She’s thinking of calling social services. While I sympathize with her, I have to say I feel about this game about like I do Bartok. You don’t have to LIKE Mikrokosmos, but the effort to play it makes you undeniably a more skilled player.

So, for a while at least I’m working on seeking out the hidden notes with needy little fingers and my ego is just going to have to lump it.

Happy Practicing Everyone.



This week’s agenda:

Sight reading – 15 minutes a day
Faber sight reading book
Allan Small’s 42 Famous Classics Arranged for Easy Piano

Technique - 30-40 minutes
Scales: D Maj and Dm – 2 octaves scales, triads, broken chords
Exercises: Mikrokosmos Vol. 1 #33 and Czerny 15
Etude: Skipping Rope – Kabalevsky (Quit after 3 minutes. LOATHED it and life’s too short)

Repertoire and Lessons - 90 minutes
Faber 3B: Tropical Island, Liebestraum, and Barrelhouse Blues
RCM Level 1: Cranky Cat – Teresa Richert
Personal Choice: The Lonely Ballerina – Michele McLaughlin
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 12:44 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
Hide and seek…

A recent online lesson from a respectable teacher made a point of pushing looking only at the sheet music and not at the hands. This advice was specifically about sight reading practice, but was recommended for all but jumps of more than an octave.

Oh, the pain…the horror…the regression of tempos.

Yes, my friends, it’s a hideous game to play, but so irresistibly potent. I mean how can anyone turn down learning how to put your fingers where you want them without losing your place in the score? (Aside from the obvious discouragement of IT’S FRICKING HARD!)

Now I can’t say I’m applying this 100% of the time, but I find myself trying it more with each passing day. Going back over places where I consistently take a peek and trying to find that hidden little bugger of a G# or whatnot without taking my eyes off the written notes. Some success. Not a lot.

My ego is pouting in a corner mad at me for playing silly children’s games that leave her bruised and battered. She’s thinking of calling social services. While I sympathize with her, I have to say I feel about this game about like I do Bartok. You don’t have to LIKE Mikrokosmos, but the effort to play it makes you undeniably a more skilled player.

So, for a while at least I’m working on seeking out the hidden notes with needy little fingers and my ego is just going to have to lump it.

Happy Practicing Everyone.



This week’s agenda:

Sight reading – 15 minutes a day
Faber sight reading book
Allan Small’s 42 Famous Classics Arranged for Easy Piano

Technique - 30-40 minutes
Scales: D Maj and Dm – 2 octaves scales, triads, broken chords
Exercises: Mikrokosmos Vol. 1 #33 and Czerny 15
Etude: Skipping Rope – Kabalevsky (Quit after 3 minutes. LOATHED it and life’s too short)

Repertoire and Lessons - 90 minutes
Faber 3B: Tropical Island, Liebestraum, and Barrelhouse Blues
RCM Level 1: Cranky Cat – Teresa Richert
Personal Choice: The Lonely Ballerina – Michele McLaughlin


Always love your perspective and updates.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 02:08 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by oneilt130
Yikes! Those are RCM Grade 8 Advanced Intermediate? Bach 2 part inventions was the last thing I was working on when playing as a youth, that along with Chopin Preludes.

Have a look at the RCM piano syllabus and its list of pieces by grade to get an idea of the level you were at before and are at now. If you play any pop, you can look at the RCM popular selections list too.


I just had a look at that RCM syllabus and the pieces by grade. The last piece I remember learning properly and feeling comfortable playing from memory was the second movement of moonlight sonata. It doesn't come into any of the 10 grade levels but is instead it is in the diploma of piano performance. I can only think that was just the one piece and I didn't learn it with a lot of other memorised repertoire for examination purposes along with everything else that is required for completing each grade. I think if it is considered post grade 10, then the third movement breaks the scale.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 02:27 PM

Quote
A recent online lesson from a respectable teacher made a point of pushing looking only at the sheet music and not at the hands. This advice was specifically about sight reading practice, but was recommended for all but jumps of more than an octave.
If I have understood this correctly then the 'recommended for all but jumps' would have me consider dropping that teacher.

My thoughts...

It is certainly a useful skill but I would choose elementary music that required little or no jumping while I was developing this skill and make little or no requirements regarding tempo or time taken. The ability to feel our way around the keyboard and the confidence to move assuredly is not difficult to acquire but it does take time and application. Once it is developed the difficulty in the music can be increased quite rapidly.

It is also useful to develop the ability to mentally mark your place in the music while you glance briefly where you're about to leap to then return to your place in the score.

It is also useful to briefly memorise the music around the leap and look at the target keys while making the leap then return to the music.

Any exercises that come across as discouraging or hard need to be tailored to the skill level if they're to be maintained. It is very difficult to apply sufficient attention to a task that isn't rewarding, satisfying or encouraging and it is the attention that is required. Despite the effort put into the daily agenda, here and in other threads in the 'what to do' category, it is not the what that matters. What counts most is the quality of concentration, the quality of intervening sleep and the daily regularity of all we do at the instrument.

It doesn't really matter whether we're doing pieces, exercises, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, harmony, improvising or whatever. If what we do is consciously designed to be musical or to bring out the music it will be contributing to the development of technique.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 02:34 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by oneilt130
Yikes! Those are RCM Grade 8 Advanced Intermediate? Bach 2 part inventions was the last thing I was working on when playing as a youth, that along with Chopin Preludes.

Have a look at the RCM piano syllabus and its list of pieces by grade to get an idea of the level you were at before and are at now. If you play any pop, you can look at the RCM popular selections list too.

I just had a look at that RCM syllabus and the pieces by grade. The last piece I remember learning properly and feeling comfortable playing from memory was the second movement of moonlight sonata. It doesn't come into any of the 10 grade levels but is instead it is in the diploma of piano performance.

Slight correction, the entire Op. 27 No. 2 sonata (all three movements) is in the RCM ARCT repertoire list of the syllabus - that is, for the RCM ARCT exam, one would be expected to play the entire sonata and not only one or two of the movements.

BTW, if interested, then you can find the RCM licentiate syllabus here. If the ARCT Diploma could be considered a grade "11," then this would be "grade 12."

You'll note that while Moonlight Mvt 3 as part of Op. 27 No. 2 is an 11, Appassionata (Op. 57) is a 12. This is perhaps understandable, as Mvt 3 has become quite popular among advanced amateurs



Originally Posted by KevinM
I can only think that was just the one piece and I didn't learn it with a lot of other memorised repertoire for examination purposes along with everything else that is required for completing each grade. I think if it is considered post grade 10, then the third movement breaks the scale.

I suspect that your distinction between learning a piece and being able to play it vs learning it and passing an exam with it, is rather important. I suspect most most advanced amateurs who play Mvt 3 would still struggle to pass the RCM ARCT with it. For example, would the performance above pass an exam?

As you noted memorization, note the pianist above also doesn't have Mvt 3 memorized and she has to turn the page.

Also, although Op. 27 No. 2 movement 2, by itself, is not on the syllabus of any current piano exam systems that I can find, once upon a time, it was on the syllabus of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) syllabus (although it isn't on their current syllabus) at a Grade 6 of 8 (roughly Level 8 of 10 in RCM). You can see that if you search here for Composer "Beethoven" ID "27".
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 04:34 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Slight correction, the entire Op. 27 No. 2 sonata (all three movements) is in the RCM ARCT repertoire list of the syllabus - that is, for the RCM ARCT exam, one would be expected to play the entire sonata and not only one or two of the movements.

Thanks for the clarification. That makes so much more sense and explains my confusion.

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

Originally Posted by KevinM
I can only think that was just the one piece and I didn't learn it with a lot of other memorised repertoire for examination purposes along with everything else that is required for completing each grade. I think if it is considered post grade 10, then the third movement breaks the scale.

Also, although Op. 27 No. 2 movement 2, by itself, is not on the syllabus of any current piano exam systems that I can find, once upon a time, it was on the syllabus of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) syllabus (although it isn't on their current syllabus) at a Grade 6 of 8 (roughly Level 8 of 10 in RCM). You can see that if you search here for Composer "Beethoven" ID "27".


And this is useful as it clarifies and gives me some reference points of the sort of level I was at.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 05:15 PM

Originally Posted by KevinM
And this is useful as it clarifies and gives me some reference points of the sort of level I was at.

BTW Kevin, as you were already at a somewhat high level when you quit before, have you considered literature specifically targeted at piano returners such as yourself, such as this series of two books? There are some reviews on Youtube of that particular series and there's been some positive user reviews of it from other piano returners on Reddit's r/piano subreddit.
Posted By: KevinM

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 09:25 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by KevinM
And this is useful as it clarifies and gives me some reference points of the sort of level I was at.

BTW Kevin, as you were already at a somewhat high level when you quit before, have you considered literature specifically targeted at piano returners such as yourself, such as this series of two books? There are some reviews on Youtube of that particular series and there's been some positive user reviews of it from other piano returners on Reddit's r/piano subreddit.


Thanks Tyrone, they look interesting. From one of the reviews they cover what my teacher guides me with, like what scales and arpeggios I should be practising while learning a piece.

But the choice of pieces might be interesting as I do not want to cover old ground so that removes a lot of pieces commonly used for learning. It sounds like these books might have an interesting selection for adult returning learners.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/09/19 11:20 PM

Hi Richard,

Just a quick clarification. The lesson in question was a general one, not personal to me, so I assume those above-octave-length jumps come somewhat later in my piano journey. I'm certainly not reaching for anything over an octave in what I'm currently practicing.

Your comments on the necessity of a certain level of satisfaction and enjoyment being necessary in a practice piece for it to be truly useful are something I'm going to make a copy of and return to ponder for awhile.

Thanks for the input.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/10/19 12:18 PM

Ah, so it was _an_ online lesson rather than _your_ online lesson. I misunderstood that.

Yes, lessons aimed specifically at sight-reading tend to overdo the not looking at the hands (or keys) thing. As has been remarked frequently on these forums, good sight-readers did not practise sight-reading particularly, they just read a lot and when reading an enjoyable piece we tend to want to keep going. That's what improves sight-reading. Not deliberately sight-reading as a discipline, but trying stuff out and going on when it suits.

If you consciously take a new piece or an extract from it every day, just enough that you can make progress on it in five or ten minutes, it will improve not just your reading but also other skills pertinent to learning unfamiliar music such as looking at the full text, humming the melody in your head as you read it, making musical sense of it, memorising snippets, looking for patterns, etc.

In time you will do all these things quicker from the daily regularity until you can do it on the fly. And bingo! You're sight-reading.

If you just "sight-read" every day you're just responding to notes on the page, notes that might not mean anything, with patterns that you miss, and are effectively just white noise. If you examine a phrase or two, analyse them, consider them, make them musical, hear them in your head, etc, you do so much more. Good sight-reading is doing the 'so much more' quicker from daily practise not just speeding up our response to notes on the page, but making music out of them, at a glance, and then playing the music.
__________________________

My other comment was making music, consciously, out of everything we do.

The ultimate objective is to make music out of whatever we play and that means having a musical idea in our heads and realising it on the instrument. We don't practise scales, for example, so that we know the keys to press. We should know those already, we should know what fingers to use, where the fourth goes. Ideally we can work out afresh each time where the fourth goes. What we're practising is making our bodies respond to the music in our heads.

It's not just about playing every finger evenly - any note played the same as the one before it is boring; it destroys pulse - it's about making musical sense out of a sequence of notes, travelling to the dominant, usually, and then returning to tonic, from the way we use our bodies. If this musical idea is present whenever we practise, be it pieces, exercises, drills, or whatever, then our mechanism gets better at realising the musical ideas we have in our heads. This is the goal.

If you're making music you're involved in what you're doing and it cannot be boring if you're paying attention. If you're just running up and down scales, for example, you're doing nothing productive and it's drudgery. We won't do drudgery every day.
Posted By: Progman

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/10/19 11:39 PM

I like your stream of conscienceness Richard - it is s pretty intense and wonderful perspective for a beginner just approaching my 1st year. Thanks so much for sharing!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 04:03 PM

A 2 by 4 by any other name…

Back in the early 90s, when the Hubs and I were newly married, we would sometimes have communication issues. By our personal standards these issues were not serious, yet our friends always thought we were perpetually on the edge of divorce. This may have had something to do with my regular utterances of, “Do I need to get a two by four and beat you upside the head with it to get you to listen?”

While the Hubs knew quite well this was simply shorthand for, “I know you don’t regularly take what I say seriously, but this I’m willing to beat into your head with a large stick,” our friends felt this was a horrific insult at best and at worst a peek into a very violent relationship. It was neither, just effective communication. (We’ll forgo discussions of why he didn’t listen all the time to my every word when first spoken. We’re going on 29 years so we’re not messin’ with it!)

Anyway, that mythical 2X4 was a very powerful way of getting my point across. Over the decades I’ve either gotten better at saying outright what I mean in a way he can hear or he’s better at getting out of his head and reading cues in the real world, so we don’t use the phrase quite so much. Usually now it’s more along the lines of, “This deserves a 2 by 4,” as a way to say something is worth knowing and knowing well.

Which brings me to my discovery of the week. While a good sturdy 2X4 is useful in a marriage a 2X7 is AWESOME at the piano.

Somewhere on here or in a book or podcast or video I came across a reference to a practice method of picking the length of a practice snippet based on what you can learn in seven repeats. Like really learn. Like play it up to 75% in just 7 repeats. Can’t get it in seven? Go shorter. For me, sad to say, the usual length that works out to is about 2 measures, hence 2X7.

I’ve had a tendency to pick my “sections” based on phrases, musical flow, lines…all of which are usually substantially more than 2 measures long. I hadn’t thought it was a problem as I can sustain concentration over the course of a practice session for sections that long. They flow in my mind and I like them. I usually cannot play them excellently in 7 repeats. I can play them correctly, but glacially slow, or I can improve tempo up a notch or two, but all the way to polish ready in 7 repeats? Nope.

As a way to try out this new fangled idea of how to re-invent the wheel, I decided to take a day and work through all my pieces and exercises 2 measures at a time, 7 repeats each, as slowly as necessary, but with an eye on getting up there in tempo too, by repeats 5-7.

And you know what? My wheel is a lot less squeaky now.

Talk about POWERFUL! It’s like I took a two by four to the head of my sticky spots. And I have to admit honestly in a couple of instances I had to go down to two melody beats within a measure, repeat times 7, then the next two, repeat times 7, now put it together, times seven. But it worked. Spots I’d been stuck just trying slowly over and over and over, that weren’t getting anywhere, were now no longer a singular section, but six sections and after working them over times 7 each I could put that original section back together and it was lovely.

I have still have my larger sections based on the flow of the music. Sections of two or three lines depending on the phrase structure or overall structure of the piece, but now I’m looking within those structures to what happens each two measures. (Or 2 beats if it’s diabolical). And it’s marvelous to finally be communicating effectively between the sticky spot on the page and my fingers.

Call it metaphor, mythical or magical, but my 2X7 is coming with me to practice in the future. Sticky spots better duck and cover!

Happy Practice Everyone.

P.S. Apologies if it was someone on PW who voiced this method. I don’t mean to deny credit where credit is due, but the week has been too harried to dig back through everything I’ve covered looking for the source, but kudos to you!


This week I’m working on:
Sight reading (15 minutes/day) Faber, Allan Small Easy Classics and Bach Scholar’s Sight Reading and Harmony

Technique (10 minutes each/day)
Scales: A and Am
Exercise: Czerny Vol. 445 #16
Etude: The Swinging Leprechaun from RCM Level 1 Etudes

Repertoire/Lesson Work (90 minutes/day)

Piano Playin’ Chocolate Eater Blues (Faber) (Shoot me now on that title)
Tech prep for the next unit (Faber)
Cranky Cat RCM Level 1 Repertoire

Up next week: The Lonely Ballerina by Michele McLaughlin (Happy Dance!)
Posted By: cmb13

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 04:48 PM

Have you ever thought about going for some therapy?

LOL just kidding, enjoyed your 2x4 story.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 05:06 PM

The number of repetitions or number of measures practiced are nowhere near as important as what you're trying to do while practicing the passage. i.e. your understanding of the musical and technical requirements for the passage.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 07:06 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
A 2 by 4 by any other name…

Back in the early 90s, when the Hubs and I were newly married, we would sometimes have communication issues. By our personal standards these issues were not serious, yet our friends always thought we were perpetually on the edge of divorce. This may have had something to do with my regular utterances of, “Do I need to get a two by four and beat you upside the head with it to get you to listen?”

While the Hubs knew quite well this was simply shorthand for, “I know you don’t regularly take what I say seriously, but this I’m willing to beat into your head with a large stick,” our friends felt this was a horrific insult at best and at worst a peek into a very violent relationship. It was neither, just effective communication. (We’ll forgo discussions of why he didn’t listen all the time to my every word when first spoken. We’re going on 29 years so we’re not messin’ with it!)

Anyway, that mythical 2X4 was a very powerful way of getting my point across. Over the decades I’ve either gotten better at saying outright what I mean in a way he can hear or he’s better at getting out of his head and reading cues in the real world, so we don’t use the phrase quite so much. Usually now it’s more along the lines of, “This deserves a 2 by 4,” as a way to say something is worth knowing and knowing well.

Which brings me to my discovery of the week. While a good sturdy 2X4 is useful in a marriage a 2X7 is AWESOME at the piano.

Somewhere on here or in a book or podcast or video I came across a reference to a practice method of picking the length of a practice snippet based on what you can learn in seven repeats. Like really learn. Like play it up to 75% in just 7 repeats. Can’t get it in seven? Go shorter. For me, sad to say, the usual length that works out to is about 2 measures, hence 2X7.

I’ve had a tendency to pick my “sections” based on phrases, musical flow, lines…all of which are usually substantially more than 2 measures long. I hadn’t thought it was a problem as I can sustain concentration over the course of a practice session for sections that long. They flow in my mind and I like them. I usually cannot play them excellently in 7 repeats. I can play them correctly, but glacially slow, or I can improve tempo up a notch or two, but all the way to polish ready in 7 repeats? Nope.

As a way to try out this new fangled idea of how to re-invent the wheel, I decided to take a day and work through all my pieces and exercises 2 measures at a time, 7 repeats each, as slowly as necessary, but with an eye on getting up there in tempo too, by repeats 5-7.

And you know what? My wheel is a lot less squeaky now.

Talk about POWERFUL! It’s like I took a two by four to the head of my sticky spots. And I have to admit honestly in a couple of instances I had to go down to two melody beats within a measure, repeat times 7, then the next two, repeat times 7, now put it together, times seven. But it worked. Spots I’d been stuck just trying slowly over and over and over, that weren’t getting anywhere, were now no longer a singular section, but six sections and after working them over times 7 each I could put that original section back together and it was lovely.

I have still have my larger sections based on the flow of the music. Sections of two or three lines depending on the phrase structure or overall structure of the piece, but now I’m looking within those structures to what happens each two measures. (Or 2 beats if it’s diabolical). And it’s marvelous to finally be communicating effectively between the sticky spot on the page and my fingers.

Call it metaphor, mythical or magical, but my 2X7 is coming with me to practice in the future. Sticky spots better duck and cover!

Happy Practice Everyone.

P.S. Apologies if it was someone on PW who voiced this method. I don’t mean to deny credit where credit is due, but the week has been too harried to dig back through everything I’ve covered looking for the source, but kudos to you!


This week I’m working on:
Sight reading (15 minutes/day) Faber, Allan Small Easy Classics and Bach Scholar’s Sight Reading and Harmony

Technique (10 minutes each/day)
Scales: A and Am
Exercise: Czerny Vol. 445 #16
Etude: The Swinging Leprechaun from RCM Level 1 Etudes

Repertoire/Lesson Work (90 minutes/day)

Piano Playin’ Chocolate Eater Blues (Faber) (Shoot me now on that title)
Tech prep for the next unit (Faber)
Cranky Cat RCM Level 1 Repertoire

Up next week: The Lonely Ballerina by Michele McLaughlin (Happy Dance!)


LOL! Having just celebrated 30 years, I can relate to your story. I am sure most couples have their own version of 2×4's.
Posted By: EPW

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 07:16 PM

At least Holly said a 2 by 4 and not a Lead Pipe. Now that would hurt!
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 08:22 PM

cmb13 - grin

The rest of you, we toss a baseball on occasion, but he's too smart to ever let me own a bat!
Posted By: EPW

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 08:57 PM

Originally Posted by HollyBytheLake
cmb13 - grin

The rest of you, we toss a baseball on occasion, but he's too smart to ever let me own a bat!


Even a Nerf Bat? smile
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 11:29 PM

EPW, he'd probably go for that, but then I'd get found out as all talk no action as I could never actually do him violence, so best to just leave in place that illusion of power!
Posted By: EPW

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/23/19 11:59 PM

LOL
Keep up the practicing and the Blog. smile
Posted By: PianoStudent88

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 01:56 AM

Holly, I found the x7 approach from Bernhard on PianoStreet. I tried it and was having great success, like yours. Then it was pointed out to me that this wasn’t what Bernhard meant. So I stopped. I should have ignored them and kept on. Based on your testimonial, I think I’m going to go back to doing it. My thought is to consider what the nay-sayers have to say, but don’t take it as gospel. If a method (2x7 or any other method) is working really well for you: keep using that method.
Posted By: Sidokar

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 08:24 AM

By curiosity, I looked at the Bernhard practice routine and here is what he says (note that I agree with this but that's his theory), which is based on a duration and number of repetition:

"I cannot tell you the size of section that you will be able to master in 20 minutes: it depends on the section and ultimately on your own ability. You have to discover that by yourself. Here is the method: repeat the section 7 times. Have you learned it? (learned is different from mastered by the way) Then move on. No? cut it in half. Try again. learned it ? No? cut it in half again. And so on and so forth. Eventually you will be able to get a chunk that you can learn in 7 times (sometimes, this can be as little as two notes). Now you can practise this chunk until you master it (but for no more than 20 minutes – if you are dealing with just two notes, this will probably require only a couple of minutes; if you are dealing with a one minute section of a sonata, this will take you 20 minutes). If you are practising a whole sonata that lasts for 18 minutes for your performance, then of course the directions above do not apply. The directions above are from learning a piece form scratch, not for polishing a piece you already mastered."

and also (which I do agree with):

"Also, there is a law of diminishing returns. As you practise a section you start by making lots of mistakes and learning form your mistakes. This is the exploratory phase. After a while you figure out all the co-ordinates and you pay it perfectly. A lot of beginners stop practising at this point. This is actually the point where real practice starts: when you finally got it right. Up to now most of your practice will have consisted of wrong repetitions. Now you must ingrain the correct section by repeating it at least as many times as you did it wrong in the exploratory phase. However, after a while of repeating perfect renditions of your passage, due to fatigue (both mental and physical) you will start making mistakes again. It is very important that you stop practising before getting to this stage. You must stop when your repeats are perfect. But being human, your reaction when you start making mistakes again is to keep repeating to try to re-achieve your former perfection. You will not be able to. In fact all you will achieve is several hours of wrong repetitions. Next day, of course the whole section is a mess even though you may have practised it for five hours. So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain."
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 09:15 AM

Interesting! But who is this Bernhard?
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 09:28 AM

Quote
So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain.

I don't know if this is true though. Maybe. Maybe not.

Quote
Now you must ingrain the correct section by repeating it at least as many times as you did it wrong in the exploratory phase. However, after a while of repeating perfect renditions of your passage, due to fatigue (both mental and physical) you will start making mistakes again.

This is certainly my experience. However, if I repeat the section one more time, in order to finish with a correct last repeat, the risk is that I once again will make the same mistake in this repeat.
But, I will start to experiment like this: when I have played a couple of times without mistakes, I will play the section one more time and make a full stop before playing the notes in which I had made the mistake, and very carefully and slowly play them correctly. And then I do something else.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 09:29 AM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Interesting! But who is this Bernhard?

Who is Bernhard?

If you scroll down this page, you'll find a list of his posts related to the 7 X 20 rule. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 12:10 PM

I think the only thing that makes any sense in the recent discussion is the idea of focusing on a smaller phrase if one has difficulty playing a longer phrase to one's satisfaction. All the rest I personally think is formulaic nonsense, and I don't think any reasonably advanced players adopt such a formulaic approach. IMO such an approach is a rather unthinking and one size fits all approach.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 12:59 PM

Quote
I think the only thing that makes any sense in the recent discussion is the idea of focusing on a smaller phrase if one has difficulty playing a longer phrase to one's satisfaction.

Yes, this was my primary take away from those posts in PS as well. I don’t keep track of the no. of repetitions, or the duration. As long as the practicing is well thought out and mindful, and does not border on overkill, it should be good enough.
Posted By: PianoStudent88

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 01:45 PM

Tech-key and pianoloverus, this x7 idea may not work for you, but there are some people for whom it works amazingly well. For the people it works for, I think it’s fine for us to use it. Maybe over time we will find times we want to be flexible with it, but right now it provides a structure for us that produces great results.

ETA: IIRC from someone who is a member of both PW and PS and who communicated with Bernhard at the time I was first using this method, Bernhard says this is to be applied flexibly. I still think that even if Holly and I are applying it more strictly than Bernhard envisioned, that as long as we’re getting good results it’s fine to use it the way we’re using it.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 02:01 PM

Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Tech-key and pianoloverus, this x7 idea may not work for you, but there are some people for whom it works amazingly well. For the people it works for, I think it’s fine for us to use it. Maybe over time we will find times we want to be flexible with it, but right now it provides a structure for us that produces great results.

ETA: IIRC from someone who is a member of both PW and PS and who communicated with Bernhard at the time I was first using this method, Bernhard says this is to be applied flexibly. I still think that even if Holly and I are applying it more strictly than Bernhard envisioned, that as long as we’re getting good results it’s fine to use it the way we’re using it.

Of course, its completely fine to do what works for you. I was only speaking for myself. Everyone practices a bit differently, and tries out new ideas every now and then. Varying the practice routine slightly can also help, when things feel a bit monotonous. At least it does for me smile
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 06:04 PM

Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Tech-key and pianoloverus, this x7 idea may not work for you, but there are some people for whom it works amazingly well. For the people it works for, I think it’s fine for us to use it. Maybe over time we will find times we want to be flexible with it, but right now it provides a structure for us that produces great results.
Something formulaic can provide structure but does not require much thinking. Virtually no good advanced pianists practice this way but I suppose it makes sense for some beginners.

Even if it "works" for someone that does not mean another approach might not work better. Such fromulaic approaches beg questions like "Why 7 and not 8?"
Posted By: dmd

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 06:16 PM

Bottom line ….. Anything that keeps you playing is "working".

I have the complete opposite of a formula for practicing …

I work on whatever I feel like for as long as I feel it is useful.

I have no amount of time set aside to practice and I might not practice at all or for hours on any given day.

As a result my progress is slow …. but I am still in the game.

Therefore, my "method" is working.



Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/24/19 09:02 PM

Well, at least I got your attention...

I've just gotten a chance to catch up and thanks to everyone's comments and additions. I remember reading the Bernhard thing months ago, but it was a more recent mention somewhere else that got me going on it this time.

Also, regarding flexibility...

When I sit down to practice I've made a plan FOR THAT DAY. If anyone has read my very first post, you'll know I can do some serious plans and they have changed over the months.

Currently a day's practice plan might look something like this...

Ear: Do 1 set intervals, 1 set chords, try for better than 19/20

Theory: 1 page each Snell and Faber

Sight reading: 15 min. Timer; start Faber for upcoming lesson pieces, Bach Scholar, then Small
each only 3 times - remember to try for top note of chord and shape to identify

Technique: (10 minutes each)
Scales (A/Am) RCM for Am 2 octave, triads, broken chords
Brown book for A Maj. 2 octaves, triads, chords
Bach for contrary motion
finish w. each four octaves SLOWLY; no errors

Exercise: Czerny Vol. 445 # 16 (a two line exercise) do 2x7 then try for 3 times each line no errors

Etude: Swinging Leprechaun (4 lines) - 3rd line, do Seven Levels of heck WITH SWINGS!!, then whole piece 50% tempox3 WITH AWESOME SWINGS!


Repertoire/Lessons:
Chocolate Eater Blues - Each of 6 sections 7 Levels of heck, Repeat Section C get the swings to feel natural.

Cranky Cat: Section A 50bpm>80bpm; Section B 50 > 72; Section C 40>60

Unit 6 Tech piece: Work tempo as needed

So next week I might shift everything around depending on what each piece needs and there will be at least 2 new pieces that will have a 19 level check list to get to 50% in a day or two and I might take a day to just write down the name of the piece and whatever it came to mind to do that day cause I just wanted to free-form it that day.

A reminder of the changing nature of this blog/thread: The last few entries have been for the most part ESSAYS on piano practice. Only that. Each one is a microcosm look at ONE DETAIL of a practice regimen that is ever changing. I just want to look back at them someday and know where I was and what was important or noteworthy at a point in time. Remember it's all about:

Happy Practicing Everyone!
Posted By: PianoStudent88

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/25/19 01:00 AM

Holly, I enjoy reading your posts.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/27/19 07:07 AM

I am sorry Holly, off topic! But...

Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Bernhard on pianostreet
So make sure that your last repeat is always perfect: this is what will be ingrained in your brain.

I don't know if this is true though. Maybe. Maybe not.


I found out this morning. Yesterday I made sure that my last repeats were perfect, all of them. This morning, there was not so much ingrained in my brain. I messed up several times - not worse than usual, but just as I often do, when I start practising.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 05/27/19 01:25 PM

PianoStudent 88, thank you so much!

Animisha - I agree a singular correct playing isn't going to ingrain much of anything. Sometimes I try, sometimes I'm so mentally spent I can't be bothered. I do notice, however, ending on a correct playing gives me a better feeling about practice than when I don't. Perhaps more likely to return to the bench enthused?

For all of us:
As with all advice in any field, best to treat it like a buffet, take what you want and ignore the rest.
Posted By: HollyBytheLake

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 06/13/19 11:32 AM

Just a note to say I haven't bee run off, just swamped with work. Barely getting 5 hours, if that, a week and certainly no time to think through something to write. Hope everyone's spring is winding up nicely,

happy practicing everyone,
Holly
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Holly's Practice Diary - 06/16/19 05:38 PM

Hi Holly! Five hours a week when you are swamped with work is quite an accomplishment. Most adult learners would be fully satisfied with that - and they don't write diaries on forums either. smile
I hope your next week is less flooded!
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