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Interleaved practice

Posted By: elenmirie

Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 12:28 PM

My teacher has organised a performance workshop for what she kindly refers to as her "younger grade" students, which is coming up in a couple of weeks. I'm concerned because I know my playing has a tendency to deteriorate when under a little bit of pressure, such as in lessons. I can play something the best I can several times during warmup, but as soon as my teacher is in the (virtual) room it slips back a notch or two so that I feel I'm not playing my best. Usually I can do it a second time better in my lesson, but that doesn't cut it for performance.

So as a result, I've been delving into performance psychology in hopes of finding some strategies for dealing with this. I came across an idea which was new to me - interleaved practice.

The theory is that what you get when you sit down and play something for the first time is more or less what you're going to get in performance, and that the fact that you can play it over and over in a practice session and have it sound better in that session doesn't really help much. Apparently that repetition is putting things into short term memory more than into long term memory (or something like that.)

So the idea is to use a practice technique that will make it necessary for your brain to put what you're learning into long term memory.

So the exercise suggested is to take three different pieces to work on over a period of 45 minutes. But instead of what most people would normally do, which is spend 15 minutes on each piece, do three sets of 5 minutes on each piece.

The idea is that by interrupting yourself and forcing your brain to retrieve the piece again for the second and third sets, it has to handle it differently and you'll be more likely to retain the progress that you make.

A couple of additional points: you can do smaller chunks of time, 3 or 4 minutes. The important thing about the exercise is the three sets of three short practices, there's nothing magic about 5 minutes. It will feel more difficult than normal practice and may be hard on the ego. Don't try to replace all your practice with this, just take a chunk of it and try it once per day. And it may take a few days of doing this before you see results.

I have tried it once so far (yesterday) and here are my observations:

I used three pieces - a Bach minuet that I'm working on memorising (this is my piece for the performance workshop), Clementi Sonatina in G (Op 36 No 2), first page of the first movement that I'm just learning, and Tchaikovsky's Morning Prayer that I'm working on polishing.

It felt very frenetic - like I was under the gun all the time, and like I was racing the clock to get something done in the five minutes I had. So generally, more intense than normal practice. The 45 minutes were over in a flash.

It was easy to get disorganised - even if I had made a mental note of what I wanted to do next on one of the pieces, by the time I came around to it again, the mental note had faded. I got better at that by the end of the session, I think.

I'm going to do it again daily, and see how my in-lesson playing fares in my next lesson on Monday.

The point of this post is, I'm interested in whether anyone has tried this practice technique, and what your experience has been. And if you haven't tried it, maybe you would like to give it a go and discuss on here.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 01:05 PM

I would put this idea pretty low on a list of how to improve a performance of a piece. Much more important, I think, are things like:

1. What went wrong on the last play through of the piece or passage and how can I try to correct it?
2. What techniques have I used to memorize a piece?
3. Am I following all the notations in the piece about fingering, phrasing, dynamics, etc.?
4. How is my concentration during practice?
Posted By: John305

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 02:29 PM

Other people seem to think Interleaved practice is beneficial.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 03:10 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
My teacher has organised a performance workshop for what she kindly refers to as her "younger grade" students, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Haha... Is that a new term for studio recital that is supposed to make it seem less intimidating? smile Because it's not working for me, my pulse immediately increased when I read those words smile
Posted By: malkin

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 03:45 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by elenmirie
My teacher has organised a performance workshop for what she kindly refers to as her "younger grade" students, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Haha... Is that a new term for studio recital that is supposed to make it seem less intimidating? smile Because it's not working for me, my pulse immediately increased when I read those words smile


Every year, I consider hosting a Recital Redemption so people could play their pieces in a less formal setting.

For background, the venue is a hard rectangle with folding chairs and a sort of stage, there are huge vases of plastic flowers that have seen a few decades of better days, next door is a music store (well stocked with LDS choir music, NTTAWWT), and the studios are upstairs. The whole place would be an anachronism, except that it is here.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 03:49 PM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by elenmirie
My teacher has organised a performance workshop for what she kindly refers to as her "younger grade" students, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Haha... Is that a new term for studio recital that is supposed to make it seem less intimidating? smile Because it's not working for me, my pulse immediately increased when I read those words smile

It got my pulse up too eek! I've started doing two things recently which are helping somewhat.

1) I play my previously learnt pieces, when my husband is on phone (or his mike is on while playing PUBG). I've gotten quite used to this by now, because it's nearly all the time.

2) A lady visits us some mornings to help us with some of our household chores. I push myself to play a little during her visits. This I find very very difficult! Thankfully, she's very kind and doesn't comment on it at all smile
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 05:19 PM

There have been some earlier posts on interleaved practice that included citations for studies showing it to be beneficial (at least in training for a sport). I'm too lazy busy to look it up right now.

At any rate, I think the key is to make interleaved practice something manageable without too much fussing or watching the clock or shuffling of books. With so many methods or practice routines, the problem is sustainability. If you can't keep up the routine, it will fail for you at some point in the near future.


A modified (and perhaps more sustainable) version of interleaved practice a lot of people probably use is to practice a chunk for a few repetitions or length of time and then move on to another and then back to the first at some point. Mix it up and don't do endless repetitions of just one thing.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 06:48 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
It felt very frenetic - like I was under the gun all the time, and like I was racing the clock to get something done in the five minutes I had. So generally, more intense than normal practice. The 45 minutes were over in a flash.

Hi Elenimirie! I never play just five minutes, but I have experimented with ten minutes (instead of unlimited time). When playing like that, I also have a tendency to race the clock, and rush through the slow practise in order to have time left for the quicker practise. But just like you said - there is nothing magic about five minutes or ten minutes either. So I allow myself to play up to fifteen minutes, just to keep myself calm. I have done this for less than a week, but so far, I have never played fifteen minutes. But the idea is relaxing.

Good luck on the performance workshop!
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 06:54 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
[...] I'm concerned because I know my playing has a tendency to deteriorate when under a little bit of pressure, such as in lessons. I can play something the best I can several times during warmup, but as soon as my teacher is in the (virtual) room it slips back a notch or two so that I feel I'm not playing my best. Usually I can do it a second time better in my lesson, but that doesn't cut it for performance.
[...]


Have you tried recording your performances when you are practicing alone? Playing for the recorder often raises the similar apprehensions that live performances do, but it gives you more chance to practice under those very circumstances.

Regards,
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 08:11 PM

Originally Posted by John305
Other people seem to think Interleaved practice is beneficial.


Thanks for posting. Very useful!
Posted By: Progman

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 09:07 PM

I am well acquainted with those performance feelings. I have had some success improving my playing for my Teacher and did invite 6 neighbors over for a 9 song Christmas 'recital'. It feels to me like it is a matter of focus and concentration. Interleaved practice sounds interesting as I am currently experimenting with practice techniques. Wouldn't be surprised if it works for some people. Interested to hear your findings.
Posted By: leemeadowcroft

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/09/19 09:17 PM

Originally Posted by John305
Other people seem to think Interleaved practice is beneficial.


Great link thanks.
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 10:38 AM

Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by elenmirie
My teacher has organised a performance workshop for what she kindly refers to as her "younger grade" students, which is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Haha... Is that a new term for studio recital that is supposed to make it seem less intimidating? smile Because it's not working for me, my pulse immediately increased when I read those words smile


Yes, I think it is. smile Every time she talks about it, she emphasises that it's a workshop. We'll see how it goes. Apparently she's got one that's been going for a while with her more advanced students, and everyone loves it.
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 11:01 AM

So, I've been doing this kind of practice for 3 days now, and I'm starting to like it. Today I did it in my morning session, which I normally use for learning new material (because I'm at my best in the mornings). Up till now I didn't think it would work for learning new things - more for polishing things that I can already play. I'm just starting to put hands together for part of the Clementi G major sonatina (movement 1) so I threw that into the mix. I thought it would be too fragmented for anything to stick, but it worked surprisingly well.

In that article that John305 kindly provided the link to, the author says that practicing this way lets you pick up where you left off - this kind of learning sticks. This I am finding to be the case, at least so far.

As for the Bach for the studio recital performance workshop, it's coming along pretty well. This morning I focused on getting the tone of the opening phrase the way I want it the first time. The thing that bothers me is I am still getting the occasional memory slip. This interleaved practice lark isn't going to help that, i don't think, so I need to find a way of solidifying the memory. The muscle memory is there (but we all know how flakey that can be) and I'm using the structure of the piece for a more intellectual memorisation. But that's still not providing consistency. Hm, what do?
Posted By: Lillith

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 01:11 PM

I like this, thank you smile

Richard (rtzf90) on the Clementi thread suggested learning/practising it by taking on a measure/couple of measures at a time, dotted about the work, instead of the usual Start at the beginning, make a mistake, start over, which gets tedious and doesn't prove to be that effective.

So I'm also using this approach with the other pieces I'm working on, and apart from making the sessions more interesting (you never know what will pop up next ) a couple of minutes at a time, then move on, does seem to make mastering it easier. Of course it's early days.

But the theory does seem to make sense too.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 03:50 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
So as a result, I've been delving into performance psychology in hopes of finding some strategies for dealing with this. I came across an idea which was new to me - interleaved practice.
This is really for memorisation and efficient learning rather than for performance. Practise for performance is about preparing the music for a flawless realisation and yourself for working around mistakes.

There are a number of things that will improve recital performance. For me, first and foremeost, is that the music is memorised in deliberate memory as well as finger memory. I need to be able to play slowly and clearly enough that muscle memory ins't engaged. I practise the four ways: with the score, at the piano and away from it, without the score, at the paiono and away from it. It's personal but for me, if I don't need the score then it's a distraction and if I do need it then I've no business performing the piece.

There will be mistakes in performance and in order to get the confidence to work through them you need the ability to work around them. Practise every phrase, period and section as a unit. Get an idealised version of each then practise playing through each piece, as a whole, at the beginning of your practise sessions. When playing without a warm-up you are more likely to make mistakes. Use these to improvise your way to the end of each cadence. The more you do this the easier it gets. If you don't do playing by ear or improvising, maybe it's time to start.

Play with others - I know it's not easy with piano - but playing with others forces keeping up and forcing your way through mistakes. It's not an impossible skill and once you have it performance anxiety changes completely from fear to anticipation. You still get the adrenaline but you don't get the dread.

It's calming to know that most audiences forget the mistakes and remember only how well you play when you're playing well. No-one that isn't in the business of finding errors will pick out more than a quite small percentage. Audiences listen for recognisable patterns. They ignore what doesn't fit musically - it's too much to digest. They might register a wrong note but they don't pay attention to it if you don't.

Originally Posted by elenmirie
The point of this post is, I'm interested in whether anyone has tried this practice technique, and what your experience has been.

Originally Posted by elenmirie
I have tried it once so far...
This is a bit like trying a marathon for twenty minutes. smile

I've been using interleaved practise for some years now. It took a couple of years to adopt as I kept wanting to go back to my familiar ways - it's a tough discipline - but once the results started coming there was motivation enough to stick with it.

I had to make a few changes to accommodate it. I no longer have large scores on the rack but practise from printouts from scanning and editing. I couldn't work with only three pieces, either, but include new material, consolidation of recent pieces, pieces moving from phrases to sections and pieces being relearned as well as memorised repertoire. I go through the rack several times each session, starting each day where I left off the previous session.

I use a Fitch/Westney style cycle: read it, memorise it, imagine it, play it, review it (five or six repeats to one play through, if you like). I don't work to the clock, either. Once through, on new pieces, then it's moved to the back of the rack. More familiar pieces get less preparation and more plays through but I get repertoire in deliberate memory before I allow the repetitions to come up. When I move from phrases to sections the repetitions might go up to three or four and once the sections are memorised I might get in five or six at various speeds and styles, though I tend to bypass those pieces on my subsequent passes through the rack.
__________________

Hi, Lilith! smile <waves>
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 04:17 PM

thanks for that post, zrtf90. Lots of good ideas in there.

"Trying a marathon for 20 minutes" - hah, I think I'm still on the couch to 5K program. laugh

How many pieces do you usually have on your rack? How long are your practice sessions typically?

Thus far I have found that I get fatigued after about 45-50 minutes of working in this style, which is ok if it's more efficient learning.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 04:23 PM

I think this thread and some others on the adult beginner's forum miss the forest for the trees and overthink practicing. IMO such a detailed oriented approach to practicing is of very minor importance to knowing what one should be doing during practicing from both a technical and musical aspect. If one has excellent instruction appropriate to one's level then one will know what one should be doing, learn how to diagnose some problems before the next lesson, and one will progress no matter what practicing system, if any, one uses. But without that knowledge any practicing system will be only peripherally beneficial to the final result.
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 06:08 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think this thread and some others on the adult beginner's forum miss the forest for the trees and overthink practicing. IMO such a detailed oriented approach to practicing is of very minor importance to knowing what one should be doing during practicing from both a technical and musical aspect. If one has excellent instruction appropriate to one's level then one will know what one should be doing, learn how to diagnose some problems before the next lesson, and one will progress no matter what practicing system, if any, one uses. But without that knowledge any practicing system will be only peripherally beneficial to the final result.


You say "overthinking", I say "intellectual curiosity".

I have long believed, based on some considerable evidence, that the psychological aspects of music are the difference that makes the difference between a musician that is technically good and one that is compelling (technically good plus). Now, in piano I am a beginner, so maybe those who are ahead of me will heap scorn and say that there's absolutely no point in worrying about these things, when you're still working on beginner repertoire.

I happen to believe that this is not the case. It's never too early to start building the mental aspects as well as the technical aspects of making music on any given instrument. Of course, I have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be. But if I can experiment with ideas that are out there, from respectable, evidence-based sources, that will make that work more efficient, possibly more enjoyable, and more rewarding, why should I not try them?

The idea of applying sport psychology to musical learning and performance is hardly new; it was floating around out there 25 years ago when I was in music school. Books like "The Inner Game of Music", "A Soprano on Her Head", and "The Performer Prepares" were around then, and helped me a lot. All of them had to do with the psychological aspects of music making. Now, there has been another 25 years for the thinking to develop, and I found some new, research-based and evidence-based ideas that I had not come across before.

So I'm trying them on for size, and talking about it on here in the hopes that more experienced people will tell me about what they've done with them, and maybe others will get inspired to try them too. So far, that seems to be happening. There will always be nay-sayers; that's a given.
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think this thread and some others on the adult beginner's forum miss the forest for the trees and overthink practicing. IMO such a detailed oriented approach to practicing is of very minor importance to knowing what one should be doing during practicing from both a technical and musical aspect. If one has excellent instruction appropriate to one's level then one will know what one should be doing, learn how to diagnose some problems before the next lesson, and one will progress no matter what practicing system, if any, one uses. But without that knowledge any practicing system will be only peripherally beneficial to the final result.


You say "overthinking", I say "intellectual curiosity".

I have long believed, based on some considerable evidence, that the psychological aspects of music are the difference that makes the difference between a musician that is technically good and one that is compelling (technically good plus). Now, in piano I am a beginner, so maybe those who are ahead of me will heap scorn and say that there's absolutely no point in worrying about these things, when you're still working on beginner repertoire.

I happen to believe that this is not the case. It's never too early to start building the mental aspects as well as the technical aspects of making music on any given instrument. Of course, I have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be. But if I can experiment with ideas that are out there, from respectable, evidence-based sources, that will make that work more efficient, possibly more enjoyable, and more rewarding, why should I not try them?

The idea of applying sport psychology to musical learning and performance is hardly new; it was floating around out there 25 years ago when I was in music school. Books like "The Inner Game of Music", "A Soprano on Her Head", and "The Performer Prepares" were around then, and helped me a lot. All of them had to do with the psychological aspects of music making. Now, there has been another 25 years for the thinking to develop, and I found some new, research-based and evidence-based ideas that I had not come across before.

So I'm trying them on for size, and talking about it on here in the hopes that more experienced people will tell me about what they've done with them, and maybe others will get inspired to try them too. So far, that seems to be happening. There will always be nay-sayers; that's a given.


I like your thinking and logic!
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 08:04 PM

I would find this method counter productive and I would actiuslly find this kind of practice stressful. My own experience is that if you want to perform well you need to relax. To make yourself ‘very franktic’ in your words by forcing small fragments to time may make it worse. It would at least for me.

To help relax when playing Video recording is helpful and listening to it is the most helpful. It was suggested to me by my teacher but This is what helped me the most. Playing for others is also good. You get less stressed the more you do it. Playing and making mistakes is also good. Entering online recital here is a good option.

I tend to make many fewer mistames when relaxed. If you get very stressed when make mistakes then maybe download mindfulness. But in my opinion a practice method that makes you very stressed in practice is not that likely to be helpful.
Posted By: John305

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 08:36 PM

Moo, I think you mis-understand the concept, it’s not meant to stress you out while you practice. When you practice something over and over again you fall into a type of cruise control where you are not mentally fully engaged. You can do the repetitions, maybe even without mistakes and this seems like you are making progress but you are making much less progress than you think because your mind is not fully engaged.

As an example, if you wanted to learn the capital of all the 50 states and you started with Illinois and repeated that the capital is Springfield 50 times, this would be super easy because the the information is right at the forefront of your memory. But, your brain isn’t working very hard, it doesn’t need to, how hard is it to say Springfield is the capital of Illinois over and over again, and that’s the problem. With this type of repetition your mind doesn’t need to work very hard, it actually can work on autopilot and this prevents deep long term learning. It would be much more beneficial to repeat a few times and then move on to other states and then come back to Illinois. Doing this forces your brain to actually work to retrieve the information since it’s no longer at the forefront, and this work is what develops longer term, deeper learning. This is the idea behind interleaving.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 08:56 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
I have long believed, based on some considerable evidence, that the psychological aspects of music are the difference that makes the difference between a musician that is technically good and one that is compelling (technically good plus).
I think that musical understanding is the other part that that determine how great a pianist is. I see psychology as helping with things like the pressure of performing.
Posted By: baudelairepianist

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 09:38 PM

How do you deal with virtuoso piece with significant technical demand?
Chopin etude 10.12 or Liszt mazeppa
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 10:57 PM

Originally Posted by John305
[...] When you practice something over and over again you fall into a type of cruise control where you are not mentally fully engaged. You can do the repetitions, maybe even without mistakes and this seems like you are making progress but you are making much less progress than you think because your mind is not fully engaged.
[...]


I am not sure who the "you" is in this statement, but I don't think that all should be tarred with the same brush. Many of us are very conscious of the dangers of mindlessly repeating passages, so we don't; we find different ways of practicing a passage that keep our minds on the task at hand. Many of us are also very mindful of being focused and engaged, and we stop for a breather or a change of pace when that focus begins to falter.

Regards,
Posted By: John305

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 11:10 PM

It would be quite tiresome to have to fill a post with caveats and disclaimers. Bruce I didn’t intend to “tar” anyone with a brush. Maybe this type of practice isn’t for everyone and I don’t claim to have come up with it, I’m simply trying to add to the conversation about interleaved practice. Maybe you won’t give my opinion any credibility but what about Noa Kageyama Ph.D. or the other professionals who have done research into this topic? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by your post, you are the self proclaimed curmudgeon after all.
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 11:40 PM

Originally Posted by John305
Moo, I think you mis-understand the concept, it’s not meant to stress you out while you practice. When you practice something over and over again you fall into a type of cruise control where you are not mentally fully engaged. You can do the repetitions, maybe even without mistakes and this seems like you are making progress but you are making much less progress than you think because your mind is not fully engaged.

As an example, if you wanted to learn the capital of all the 50 states and you started with Illinois and repeated that the capital is Springfield 50 times, this would be super easy because the the information is right at the forefront of your memory. But, your brain isn’t working very hard, it doesn’t need to, how hard is it to say Springfield is the capital of Illinois over and over again, and that’s the problem. With this type of repetition your mind doesn’t need to work very hard, it actually can work on autopilot and this prevents deep long term learning. It would be much more beneficial to repeat a few times and then move on to other states and then come back to Illinois. Doing this forces your brain to actually work to retrieve the information since it’s no longer at the forefront, and this work is what develops longer term, deeper learning. This is the idea behind interleaving.


Ok but I thought the OP was having problems with anxiety about a performance and it sounded like a stressful method to practice. If you are talking that this technique is a more useful way to practice I'm not too sure myself. I don't think the analogy (memorising capitals) is similar to music which is more complex. I expect it would be a more useful technique if you are trying to memorise music . I'm not sure how someone would memorise music and have never tried to memorise music but I expect you need such tricks to be able to do this ! I agree mindless practice is not useful but I think there are many other methods to practice that is not mindless that we all use. I'm not sure why you'd resort to this interlacing technique over the standard ones. It seems a crude method to me.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/10/19 11:56 PM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
How many pieces do you usually have on your rack? How long are your practice sessions typically?
I have three or four new pieces, one is my piece of the week, which is much more reading than memorising with just a couple of spots taken slowly and carefully for the next day. My three main learning pieces are taken in phrases. I generally work on one phrase per piece and change it every two to five days depending on how easily it's memorised.

There will be three pieces that have been through the memorising process, phrase by phrase, and are being tackled in two to four phrase units.

I cycle through the last twelve pieces I've completed this process with and consolidate them three pieces a week over a four week period. I may only do one or two each day but I'll cover the three over the week.

I have one to three pieces that I've learned in the past and am revisiting and three current repertoire pieces that I'm investigating in small units.

There might be twelve to twenty pieces on the rack but only about a dozen are done each day, three to four cycles most days and I'm done in just over an hour that includes short breaks. (I might spend a few extra minutes playing favourite pieces.)
The first cycle takes between twenty and thirty minutes, then a short break, the second and third cycles take around ten minutes each, with breaks between. If there's a fourth cycle it'll be quick, new pieces only, maybe five minutes.

I do five days a week learning, and two days a week playing known material and reading collections like Grieg's Lyric pieces, Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words and such like. I take a week off every quarter to clear the head or plan my next season.
Posted By: John305

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/11/19 12:03 AM

Here is a link to a few articles that speak about interleaved practice these articles are by people much more educated than I am with regard to this subject. It may not be a technique that everyone will like to use but discounting the subject out of hand without learning about it (like reading the articles I mentioned) seems counterproductive to having a meaningful conversation about this topic.
Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/11/19 06:42 AM

I always thought that the interleaved practice theory is supposed to work on the small chunk or phrase level, so, according to this theory, instead of playing phrase 1 for 12 times, phrase 2 for 12 times and phrase 3 for 12 times, a student should play every phrase just 3 times, but repeat the set of phrases 4 times in a row. And IIRC the theory was proven to be efficient on small sets of motions.

It's the first time I hear that this theory should work on the piece level. I have doubts about that and I don't think it was proven to work that way.
Posted By: elenmirie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/13/19 09:18 PM

Originally Posted by Moo :)

Ok but I thought the OP was having problems with anxiety about a performance and it sounded like a stressful method to practice. If you are talking that this technique is a more useful way to practice I'm not too sure myself. I don't think the analogy (memorising capitals) is similar to music which is more complex. I expect it would be a more useful technique if you are trying to memorise music . I'm not sure how someone would memorise music and have never tried to memorise music but I expect you need such tricks to be able to do this ! I agree mindless practice is not useful but I think there are many other methods to practice that is not mindless that we all use. I'm not sure why you'd resort to this interlacing technique over the standard ones. It seems a crude method to me.


The OP (me) was concerned about the fleetingness of learning by current practice methods, and the fact that if the OP's performance in a lesson deteriorates, then what will happen when more pressure gets put upon it, as it would in an actual performance. The OP (me) has chosen to follow some psychological research that indicates a more solid learning method. Right or wrong!

The OP (me) is also a bit tired of endless debate on whether or not this is worth doing. It's working for me. Throw rocks as much as you like, I'm on it.

Yes, I know: "It serves me right, I shouldn't have joined!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_28mmoBNEgY

I hope that gives someone a smile!
Posted By: Moo :)

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/13/19 11:02 PM

smile
Posted By: NobleHouse

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/14/19 01:27 AM

Originally Posted by elenmirie
Originally Posted by Moo :)

Ok but I thought the OP was having problems with anxiety about a performance and it sounded like a stressful method to practice. If you are talking that this technique is a more useful way to practice I'm not too sure myself. I don't think the analogy (memorising capitals) is similar to music which is more complex. I expect it would be a more useful technique if you are trying to memorise music . I'm not sure how someone would memorise music and have never tried to memorise music but I expect you need such tricks to be able to do this ! I agree mindless practice is not useful but I think there are many other methods to practice that is not mindless that we all use. I'm not sure why you'd resort to this interlacing technique over the standard ones. It seems a crude method to me.


The OP (me) was concerned about the fleetingness of learning by current practice methods, and the fact that if the OP's performance in a lesson deteriorates, then what will happen when more pressure gets put upon it, as it would in an actual performance. The OP (me) has chosen to follow some psychological research that indicates a more solid learning method. Right or wrong!

The OP (me) is also a bit tired of endless debate on whether or not this is worth doing. It's working for me. Throw rocks as much as you like, I'm on it.

Yes, I know: "It serves me right, I shouldn't have joined!"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_28mmoBNEgY

I hope that gives someone a smile!



thumb
Posted By: Progman

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/14/19 01:33 AM

smile
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/16/19 11:50 AM

For a bit more than a week, I have played ten minutes per section/piece per day, or per two days, and I didn't like it at all. For one thing, it got way too repetitive for my hands, and the thought that during these ten minutes I should achieve my two-day-progress stressed me.
Now I have changed to three minutes per section, and they can be repeated several times, and I like it a lot! I try to play very differently, for example first three minutes quick staccato, then three minutes legato, then left hand only, then right hand only. I feel much less stress, because it doesn't matter if there is no progress during the three minutes. Hopefully, there will be some progress during the next three minutes.
Also, instead of turning up the metronome during a three-minute session, I like to do it before a new session. So if I play a section with 80 bpm and it goes well, I do two or three other things, and the next time I practise that same section again, I start with 85 or 90 bpm.
I am quite surprised that I actually like practising in this way so much!
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/16/19 02:23 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
I am quite surprised that I actually like practising in this way so much!
Me too! smile

I think the three minutes might be too constrictive, not now, it seems, as you're enjoying it, but practise doesn't always go so smoothly for us. The idea is to just use a short time, say two to five minutes - without actually timing it - just enough to make some progress on a short snippet. It's best to work on a complete musical phrase, or a period (two phrases; one antecedent, one consequent) or, as the piece grows in familiarity, on a four bar section. If one phrase is comprised of several technical issues, the whole thing can be worked on in your practise session but as individual fragments.

Sometimes just making an effort is enough - not, perhaps, to show progress that day but enough for the mental connection to develop overnight.

When we speak we put individual emphasis on one syllable in most words, on one word or phrase in each sentence and one phrase or sentence in each paragraph, or its spoken equivalent. In music we have the same thing. Each figure in a phrase has its main accent, each phrase a climax and each section, typically four bars, its own climax and the piece as a whole that all the other climaxes build towards and then fall away from. When working on a phrase I build it to a note or group of notes that give it meaning as a whole.

When I'm putting phrases together I'm looking for the point of them and when I'm building a piece I want it to go somewhere before it comes home. In most pieces the main climax is in the dominant, often the highest accented note in the phrase, the third phrase in a section, and so on. Sometimes it happens differently so I always spend time looking, putting each unit into its musical context. When I'm doing this I'm less aware of battling against technical problems and more attentive to gearing the technical work towards a musical solution. It's less, 'o, this isn't working and I can't do it' and more 'how can I change what I'm doing to achieve my purpose'. It's creative problem solving instead of mechanical drudgery. It's absorbing rather than frustrating. And I'm much more likely to continue to work on it away from the piano.

At the start of a new piece, the first session that day, I'm barely playing a note but mentally understanding what the phrase is doing, in context, which helps me better understand what it should be saying and how. By the end of the week the first cycle in the session will be mostly a quick recap of where I've been with it, two or three plays though and a brief review of how it went. In the last cycle the phrase will get a couple of plays through, usually at different speeds, widening the dynamic range, exaggerating the accents and so on, all of which will make the phrase feel natural, but still with its proper intent, when played in situ. None of this takes very long, the more I do on the first day, the quicker it goes during the week. I don't time the work I do, I just know it's not long on each repeat. I'm relaxed, I'm not expecting much, I don't have pressure. I have things to work toward rather than targets to reach.

If you're enjoying what you do with the three minutes thing, there's nothing more to be said. But when you experiment again, as you did with the ten minute thing, try to work towards something rather than trying to achieve something and work till you think you've done enough for each individual slot, not always for that day, but for that cycle. If the work is hard, demanding or tricky you'll spend less time on it as the level of concentration creates more fatigue in a shorter time. When the passages are coming together for you the time passes quicker, you spend longer there as there's less fatigue, your volume of work rises and progress happens more measurably. You're more likely to finish the session wanting to go back the next day with renewed vigour rather than wanting to get away from the piano for a day or two.

It's not the time you spend at the instrument each day, but the quality of the effort between each night of sleep that matters most.

I'm glad you're enjoying it; that's what we're here for, and it's good that you're trying other things. Keep it up.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/16/19 06:32 PM

I'm coming late to this thread, and I've only read the first article referenced, but here are my thoughts thus far.

They're not comparing apples to apples. Interleaved vs mindless repetition of course interleaved will produce better results. But that article is based on a study of baseball players, and I'm fairly certain the kind of practice needed for that is different than for piano, where one must alter the music to assist in the learning process (changing rhythms, adding accents, blocking, etc.) - IOW, mindful practice that directly addresses the issues the player is having. So if you are practicing by just repeating, then yes, interleaved is better.

But let's assume that the study of baseball players is truly analogous to pianists. The reason why interleaved worked better was because of the repetition basically putting your mind to sleep, and so in interleaved, you keep it engaged because it changes quickly enough. So why are you practicing in such a way that your mind is not engaged?

Also, the author jumps to a conclusion saying that one should practice in rhythms *and* interleaved. Why do we know that this is more helpful than just being mindful and task-oriented and using rhythms and other tools alone?

Ideally, one would have 4 groups in a study:

Group 1 - The control group, who practices only by repeating passages for a set number of repetitions or time at the piano (i.e., 15 minutes of repeating A, 15 min of repeating B, 15 min of repeating C)

Group 2 - The Interleaved Only group, who practices the same kind of repetitions at Group 1, but randomizes the tasks (i.e., 5 min repeating A, 5 min repeating B, 5 min repeating C, 5 min A, 5 min B, 5 min C, etc., for the same total amount of time as Group 1)

Group 3 - The Focused Practice Group, who practice piece A for 15 minutes but utilize practice techniques such as rhythms or accents, whatever is required to address the problem with the passages, do the same for piece B 15 min and piece C 15 min.

Group 4 - The Interleaved & Focused Group, who combines the interleaved concept with focused practice techniques (i.e., doing one rhythmic variation for A for 5 min, then move on to something else for b, and c, and come back to A to do another rhythmic variation)

The reason I'm hesitant to jump on the bandwagon with this is simply the opening of the article speaks about a phenomenon of practicing and getting it to sound good one day and then the next day feeling as if you're starting all over again. I do not have this experience if I am practicing mindfully.

So while it may be a solution, I think that if you still need to do the mindful practice techniques, then does the interleaving part really help? I believe this is what pianoloverus is referring to, and I agree with him thus far. I'll take some time to read the other articles and see if there's more to it than that.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/16/19 06:52 PM

I see an analogy in this thread about practicing to some/most of the courses students can take to prepare for the SAT. Most of the companies giving those courses try to appeal to students by saying they will teach them tricks to outsmart the test. But as a former teacher i think by far the best "trick" is to understand the material. Yes, some of the test taking tricks taught by those courses can be somewhat helpful, but they pale in comparison to understanding the material. But the ads for the courses appeal to many students and parents because they think learning these tricks will solve their problems with the test.

I don't think most of what's recommended in this thread, which to the best of my knowledge is not how almost all serious and advanced pianists practice, can make much difference in the final outcome. Musical and technical understanding gained from an excellent teacher and each pianist's personal discoveries along with the practice is what will make the biggest difference.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/17/19 01:43 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
For a bit more than a week, I have played ten minutes per section/piece per day, or per two days, and I didn't like it at all. For one thing, it got way too repetitive for my hands, and the thought that during these ten minutes I should achieve my two-day-progress stressed me.
Now I have changed to three minutes per section, and they can be repeated several times, and I like it a lot! I try to play very differently, for example first three minutes quick staccato, then three minutes legato, then left hand only, then right hand only. I feel much less stress, because it doesn't matter if there is no progress during the three minutes. Hopefully, there will be some progress during the next three minutes.
Also, instead of turning up the metronome during a three-minute session, I like to do it before a new session. So if I play a section with 80 bpm and it goes well, I do two or three other things, and the next time I practise that same section again, I start with 85 or 90 bpm.
I am quite surprised that I actually like practising in this way so much!

A question: were you doing the kind of practice like staccato/legato, hands separate, etc. prior to trying the interleaved? Or did you start incorporating those both in at the same time? Because it sounds to me more like you are using your time more wisely with good practice techniques other than blind repetition, and that may be where the bulk of the progress is coming from.

Honestly, I'm very curious about these things. I want to know what tools are worthwhile sharing with my students and what are not, so I'm not trying to poo-poo anyone's experience. But if by asking questions and investigating the results we can all learn what works most effectively, then everybody wins.

I read through some of the other articles, and I still am not convinced it's not just a matter of mindful practice vs. mindless repetition. What do you think?
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/17/19 02:23 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
I'm glad you're enjoying it; that's what we're here for, and it's good that you're trying other things. Keep it up.

Thank you Richard! Easy to keep it keep it up when it's so enjoyable.

Originally Posted by zrtf90
When I'm putting phrases together I'm looking for the point of them and when I'm building a piece I want it to go somewhere before it comes home. In most pieces the main climax is in the dominant, often the highest accented note in the phrase, the third phrase in a section, and so on. Sometimes it happens differently so I always spend time looking, putting each unit into its musical context.

I found this really interesting! I will start looking for this.

Animisha
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/17/19 02:24 PM

Originally Posted by Morodiene


I read through some of the other articles, and I still am not convinced it's not just a matter of mindful practice vs. mindless repetition. What do you think?

Very much a matter of mindful practice rather than mindless repetition. As for the intervals I think this will vary according to what you are playing. And it is also important to vary pieces so that you don't get stale.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/17/19 03:01 PM

Originally Posted by Morodiene
A question: were you doing the kind of practice like staccato/legato, hands separate, etc. prior to trying the interleaved?

Yes, for ten minutes per section. So ten minutes staccato, ten minutes legato, ten minutes left hand etc.
It was the staccato practice that got me in trouble. Four 4/4 measures with twelve triads that had to be played with flexible wrists, up to 180 bpm. (I am still not quite there yet.) I turned up the speed on my metronome gradually, but after maybe five minutes, my wrists were getting tired and I could hear the sound wasn't as exact and crisp anymore. I tried to hang down my arms and relax my wrists for short moments but that wasn't enough.
Now instead, apart from the first three minutes in which I always start at a too low speed, I either don't turn up the speed on the metronome during the three minutes, or just once. But the next time when I play this staccato section, if it went well the last time, I turn it up immediately, and thus start playing it quicker than when I left it last time - with wrists that are not tired.
Actually, for this staccato section, I sometimes play even less than three minutes - for instance when I feel I am playing well at a certain speed, but I don't want to turn up the speed because I don't want to ruin the good feeling in case I fail at the higher speed.

Originally Posted by Morodiene

Honestly, I'm very curious about these things. I want to know what tools are worthwhile sharing with my students and what are not, so I'm not trying to poo-poo anyone's experience. But if by asking questions and investigating the results we can all learn what works most effectively, then everybody wins.

Morodiene, I am happy with your question, and I have never felt that you are trying to poo-poo anyone's experience, quite the contrary.

Originally Posted by Morodiene

I read through some of the other articles, and I still am not convinced it's not just a matter of mindful practice vs. mindless repetition. What do you think?

As you understand from my answer above, I think it is physical as well. But that might also be a beginners' issue. I think (hope) that after enough practice, my wrists won't get tired by those staccatos.
But I also always try to practise mindfully, and I find it easier when I play a three-minutes-schedule. I am surprised by this, because I have good concentration skills, and I thought I would get irritated when I have to change every three minutes, but on the contrary, I really enjoy the constant change.
Posted By: Morodiene

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/17/19 03:37 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Morodiene
A question: were you doing the kind of practice like staccato/legato, hands separate, etc. prior to trying the interleaved?

Yes, for ten minutes per section. So ten minutes staccato, ten minutes legato, ten minutes left hand etc.
It was the staccato practice that got me in trouble. Four 4/4 measures with twelve triads that had to be played with flexible wrists, up to 180 bpm. (I am still not quite there yet.) I turned up the speed on my metronome gradually, but after maybe five minutes, my wrists were getting tired and I could hear the sound wasn't as exact and crisp anymore. I tried to hang down my arms and relax my wrists for short moments but that wasn't enough.
Now instead, apart from the first three minutes in which I always start at a too low speed, I either don't turn up the speed on the metronome during the three minutes, or just once. But the next time when I play this staccato section, if it went well the last time, I turn it up immediately, and thus start playing it quicker than when I left it last time - with wrists that are not tired.
Actually, for this staccato section, I sometimes play even less than three minutes - for instance when I feel I am playing well at a certain speed, but I don't want to turn up the speed because I don't want to ruin the good feeling in case I fail at the higher speed.

Originally Posted by Morodiene

Honestly, I'm very curious about these things. I want to know what tools are worthwhile sharing with my students and what are not, so I'm not trying to poo-poo anyone's experience. But if by asking questions and investigating the results we can all learn what works most effectively, then everybody wins.

Morodiene, I am happy with your question, and I have never felt that you are trying to poo-poo anyone's experience, quite the contrary.

Originally Posted by Morodiene

I read through some of the other articles, and I still am not convinced it's not just a matter of mindful practice vs. mindless repetition. What do you think?

As you understand from my answer above, I think it is physical as well. But that might also be a beginners' issue. I think (hope) that after enough practice, my wrists won't get tired by those staccatos.
But I also always try to practise mindfully, and I find it easier when I play a three-minutes-schedule. I am surprised by this, because I have good concentration skills, and I thought I would get irritated when I have to change every three minutes, but on the contrary, I really enjoy the constant change.

So i sounds to me like your method of practicing was not effective in addressing the problem. By doing shorter stints you aren't experiencing the issue in staccato because I suspect there is a technical problem with your staccato.

I think the hardest part of learning piano is learning how to learn. It is a process of discovery so I don't think you can from the very first lesson or practice session do it optimally, but you add new techniques as you go.

The best thing that has helped me personally is to ask myself, "Why did I play that wrong note & what is the note that I wanted to play instead/why did I hesitate/why am I tense?" These kinds of questions and the very specific answers I find really pinpoint what must be done to fix the problem. The earlier in the learning process of a piece I ask these questions, the better and more accurate the piece turns out in the end.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/17/19 04:09 PM

It's not necessarily appropriate to practice staccato chords for long periods of time. So one of the issues being discussed could very well have nothing to do with any possible benefits of interleaved practice. It seems obvious to me that anyone would find it easier to practice staccato chords for a shorter period of time whether or not they repeated that interval later in the practice session.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 04:07 PM

For me, the staccato triads
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It's not necessarily appropriate to practice staccato chords for long periods of time. So one of the issues being discussed could very well have nothing to do with any possible benefits of interleaved practice. It seems obvious to me that anyone would find it easier to practice staccato chords for a shorter period of time whether or not they repeated that interval later in the practice session.

Generally our body, including our hands, is not too fond of repetitive movements. The ten-minute-staccato practice made this very clear to me. But even when playing other short phrases for ten minutes (which I did for maybe a week, when I was testing a new way of practising) caused a strain in my hands due to the repetetiveness. Yes, there is some tension in my hands, especially when I try to learn something difficult. But it is better now than it was when I started playing, and I have good hopes that this will improve gradually. Anyway, I don't think I am the only beginner with tension in their hands, and so, to prevent hands getting hurt, it might be good for beginners to change every three minutes what they do. smile

Originally Posted by Morodiene
I think the hardest part of learning piano is learning how to learn. It is a process of discovery so I don't think you can from the very first lesson or practice session do it optimally, but you add new techniques as you go.

I agree! And also: how do I learn best? Because what may suit one person may be very ineffective for another.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 04:27 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Generally our body, including our hands, is not too fond of repetitive movements. The ten-minute-staccato practice made this very clear to me. But even when playing other short phrases for ten minutes (which I did for maybe a week, when I was testing a new way of practising) caused a strain in my hands due to the repetetiveness. Yes, there is some tension in my hands, especially when I try to learn something difficult. But it is better now than it was when I started playing, and I have good hopes that this will improve gradually. Anyway, I don't think I am the only beginner with tension in their hands, and so, to prevent hands getting hurt, it might be good for beginners to change every three minutes what they do. smile

Animisha, whenever I remember to switch every three minutes or so, I have little to no pain in my hands. Pains in fingers/wrist occur only when, I compulsively practice something over and over in hopes that it'll get better. Also, I have absolutely stopped even attempting "forte", till I'm not somewhat comfortable with the notes. This single change has helped me a lot. I'm happily reporting that I've not had any hand or finger pain in the last few days. smile
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 06:03 PM

Originally Posted by Tech-key
Animisha, whenever I remember to switch every three minutes or so, I have little to no pain in my hands. Pains in fingers/wrist occur only when, I compulsively practice something over and over in hopes that it'll get better. Also, I have absolutely stopped even attempting "forte", till I'm not somewhat comfortable with the notes. This single change has helped me a lot. I'm happily reporting that I've not had any hand or finger pain in the last few days. smile

Tech-key, that is such good news!

I find that the three minute method also is a good safeguard against pushing on against better judgement. Just one more time, I can do it, I know I can! Sh*t! Just one more time, I can do it, I know I can! Sh*t! Just one more time....
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 07:06 PM

You can still be playing with tension even when switching every three minutes. The key is learning to play with proper technique (using arm weight is often mentioned, but it's more than that). If you (Tech-key, I'm talkin' to you!) are compulsively repeating things to the point of pain, stop! Actually, stop if you are repeating compulsively.* Mindful practice beats out mindless repetitions.

My practice routine is a mix of interleaved and other practice regimens (including playing through on more mature pieces). I don't time the segments, but instead try to discern a quality measure--if the segment isn't improving, or is even degrading, then move on to something else and come back to the earlier segment at another time.



*And you say you have.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 07:35 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
You can still be playing with tension even when switching every three minutes.

I completely agree! Even though you're not talking to me. smile
But learning how to play without tension, I think, is a gradual process. It took me a while to stop pushing off of keys - and it might still happen when I focus on something else.
If I am wrong, anybody, feel free to tell me.
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 08:17 PM

I love this topic of tension because I suffer from this a lot and have looked for lots of material/instruction on releasing tension, especially as tempos go up, etc. I found and saved the following Youtube videos for myself on this topic and hope a few of these might help someone of you who also struggle with tension. In my case, this has fixed my issues, but I too see it as a "process."

The first step is to play with flexible wrists and arm-weight. This doesn't solve tension but definitely helps playing in general. This is my favorite video on this, but it is 100x harder to do than it looks!



Next are the videos I found on releasing tension. I see this as a Swedish smörgåsbord of different techniques to release tension:







Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 08:38 PM

At my lesson last week, my teacher brought up playing without (undue) tension. This will be the focus of our lessons until we can see some improvement. I say we, but ultimately I have to find my way through this. It's not a simple task.

Tyrone, I've watched most of those videos, but not all, so thanks for posting. Here is a blog posting that was both daunting and encouraging.
Piano Yoga: My Journey to Overcome Tension
Posted By: Tyrone Slothrop

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/18/19 09:02 PM

In my post above which I can't edit any more, I left out a "not":
In my case, this has not fixed my issues, but I too see it as a "process."

Originally Posted by Stubbie
At my lesson last week, my teacher brought up playing without (undue) tension. This will be the focus of our lessons until we can see some improvement. I say we, but ultimately I have to find my way through this. It's not a simple task.

Tyrone, I've watched most of those videos, but not all, so thanks for posting. Here is a blog posting that was both daunting and encouraging.
Piano Yoga: My Journey to Overcome Tension

Thanks Stubbie for that link! I'm going to start a new thread on tension in piano instead of cluttering this one, so we can group the "tension resources" together. Maybe you can repost this link to the new thread?
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/19/19 03:56 AM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
You can still be playing with tension even when switching every three minutes. The key is learning to play with proper technique (using arm weight is often mentioned, but it's more than that). If you (Tech-key, I'm talkin' to you!) are compulsively repeating things to the point of pain, stop! Actually, stop if you are repeating compulsively.* Mindful practice beats out mindless repetitions.

Thanks, Stubbie! I'm trying my best to be disciplined about it smile

Tyrone, thanks for creating the new thread. I'll take my questions there.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 10:22 AM

Back to the subject of interleaved practice. smile

In another thread, people talked about practising a section for ten minutes. After these ten minutes, "the cup" that can go into memory was full, and it was not much use to keep on practising (very crudely summarized). Anyway, I had a hard time accepting these ten minutes cups. Now when I practise three minutes per section in an interleaved way, the funny thing is that I have a clear experience of the cup suddenly being full. After a couple of three-minutes sessions with a section, it can just feel that further practice on this section is useless. And if I ignore that feeling, and think, come on, one more time three minutes should be possible, I start making mistakes.
Posted By: Colin Miles

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 10:43 AM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Back to the subject of interleaved practice. smile

In another thread, people talked about practising a section for ten minutes. After these ten minutes, "the cup" that can go into memory was full, and it was not much use to keep on practising (very crudely summarized). Anyway, I had a hard time accepting these ten minutes cups. Now when I practise three minutes per section in an interleaved way, the funny thing is that I have a clear experience of the cup suddenly being full. After a couple of three-minutes sessions with a section, it can just feel that further practice on this section is useless. And if I ignore that feeling, and think, come on, one more time three minutes should be possible, I start making mistakes.


Everyone is different and it will also vary as to time of day. I find I can do far longer sessions in the morning.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 12:37 PM

Originally Posted by Colin Miles
Everyone is different and it will also vary as to time of day. I find I can do far longer sessions in the morning.

Colin, I hope you don't think my sessions are only three minutes.... ?!! laugh
Posted By: TryAnotherName

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 01:31 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Back to the subject of interleaved practice. smile

In another thread, people talked about practising a section for ten minutes. After these ten minutes, "the cup" that can go into memory was full, and it was not much use to keep on practising (very crudely summarized). Anyway, I had a hard time accepting these ten minutes cups. Now when I practise three minutes per section in an interleaved way, the funny thing is that I have a clear experience of the cup suddenly being full. After a couple of three-minutes sessions with a section, it can just feel that further practice on this section is useless. And if I ignore that feeling, and think, come on, one more time three minutes should be possible, I start making mistakes.


I'm not sure what exactly my minute mark is for the cup to get full... but now that you describe the phenomenon, I have definitely felt what you're talking about. So far, I have attributed that feeling to simply "loosing focus" and so after 10 minutes or however long, I'd get up and stretch (anywhere from 30 seconds to a full 10 minute break.) But am I to understand that when you get to that 3-minute-cup-is-full point, you don't need a break, you just switch to another practice element and that is enough to get you back in focus?
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 03:13 PM

I don't think very many serious and advanced pianists limit practice of some passage or section to three minutes or even any amount. They practice the passage either as long as they feel is necessary to make enough progress or stop when they, for whatever reason, get tired of practicing it. I think some pianists can effectively concentrate and work on a passage much longer than others, I think very few, if any, advanced pianists go through short cycling of sections as recommended by some in this thread.

It might be interesting to start a thread on the Pianist's Corner to see if my thoughts about this are correct.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 03:15 PM

Is it really necessary to count minutes though? I find it very tough to keep track of time. What may feel like 3 minutes may as well be 10! Of course, it may be my personal shortcoming smile

After trying and experimenting several things, I feel I practice the most efficient, when I just keep track of the number of repetitions of a section. A section can be a couple measures, a phrase, transition measures.. anything that requires repeated practice. I don’t count the repeats even, but it’s easier to have a general idea of the count. If I'd have to guess, I stop anywhere between 5-10. Being strict about a small number of repetitions at a time, allows me to not wait for the “focus to go” before starting a new section. I identify the “sections” in the beginning, and round-robin through them till I feel like a break/change.

I think it should have similar effects as the “time measurement” approach you are discussing. Isn’t it so? This required some discipline at first. But now it’s kind of becoming second nature, and freeing up time for other things like sight reading, maintenance of old pieces, etc.

Oh, and can you please tell me, if this is in sync with the ideas of “interleaved practice” you all are discussing? I would hate to divert this discussion again laugh
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 03:25 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think very many serious and advanced pianists limit practice of some passage or section to three minutes or even any amount. They practice the passage either as long as they feel is necessary to make enough progress or stop when they, for whatever reason, get tired of practicing it. I think some pianists can effectively concentrate and work on a passage much longer than others, I think very few, if any, advanced pianists go through short cycling of sections as recommended by some in this thread.

Yeah, this doesn’t seem like a popular method among experienced players. Which does make me kind of skeptical about it. But what to do, I am seeing results in shorter practice periods! What would you suggest to someone who is short on time?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It might be interesting to start a thread on the Pianist's Corner to see if my thoughts about this are correct.

Yeah, I’m all for someone starting a thread there! I’ve never visited that corner in my life. I’ll just read there, though smile
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 03:50 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think very many serious and advanced pianists limit practice of some passage or section to three minutes or even any amount.
What you think doesn't matter. The strategy is effective - try it and see - and taught by serious pedagogues.

Make it stick
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 04:17 PM

Originally Posted by Tech-key
Yeah, this doesn’t seem like a popular method among experienced players. Which does make me kind of skeptical about it. But what to do, I am seeing results in shorter practice periods! What would you suggest to someone who is short on time?
I don't think being short on time changes how one practices. If you feel you do better with interleaved practice that method would work whether you could practice 1/2 hour or 2 hours.

I think far more important than using or not using interleaved practice is what you do during practicing. If there is a technical or musical problem what do you do to try to fix it other than just playing the passage again and hoping for the best?
Posted By: Stubbie

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 04:32 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think very many serious and advanced pianists limit practice of some passage or section to three minutes or even any amount.
What you think doesn't matter. The strategy is effective - try it and see - and taught by serious pedagogues.

Make it stick

I don't see anything in the article that dictates 3 minutes (maybe I missed it). Why not three times? The point is to not do mindless repetitions.

The take-home point I got from the article was to not cram, not do endless, mindless repetitions, and to mix things up. Those are sensible things which it seems the majority of serious students here do.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 04:44 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think very many serious and advanced pianists limit practice of some passage or section to three minutes or even any amount.
What you think doesn't matter. The strategy is effective - try it and see - and taught by serious pedagogues.

Make it stick

If it's taught by serious pedagogues why don't, to the best of my knowledge, many pianists use it? What percent of serious pedagogues teach it? The idea is not something that's complex so my thinking is that if it really was so good it would be a standard way of teaching and practicing for a long time by now. There's a big difference between mindless repetitions(that almost no one would suggest) and the type of practicing some posters on this thread recommend.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 04:53 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think being short on time changes how one practices. If you feel you do better with interleaved practice that method would work whether you could practice 1/2 hour or 2 hours.

Oh, ok. Good to know that. Thanks! I may switch back to how I was practising earlier if/when my focus and technique improves.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think far more important than using or not using interleaved practice is what you do during practicing. If there is a technical or musical problem what do you do to try to fix it other than just playing the passage again and hoping for the best?

Thankfully, I’ve already started doing something like what you are hinting at here. I don’t start keeping track of repetitions until I figure out what exactly I’m trying to tattoo in my brain via these repetitions. So in between each section, I do take time to first figure out what I’m trying to achieve. It may not always be the right thing that I choose, and I believe this would have worked much better if I had a good technique.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 04:56 PM

Originally Posted by Stubbie
I don't see anything in the article that dictates 3 minutes (maybe I missed it).
The "three minutes or any amount" in your quote was covered, by me, earlier in the thread (on the 16th).

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
...if it really was so good it would be a standard way of teaching...
Did you not read the article or just miss this?

“The learning from interleaved practice feels slower than learning from massed practice. Teachers and students sense the difference. They can see that their grasp of each element is coming more slowly, and the compensating long-term advantage is not apparent to them. As a result, interleaving is unpopular and seldom used.

Teachers dislike it because it feels sluggish. Students find it confusing: they’re just starting to get a handle on new material and don’t feel on top of it yet when they are forced to switch. But the research shows unequivocally that mastery and long-term retention are much better if you interleave practice than if you mass it.”
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:03 PM

The key thing for me is to frequently switch. Concentration will slip when doing repetitive practice, but when switching between tasks, it's easier to focus on the new task. Also, bringing a piece into working memory more frequently solidifies it and makes it easier to access. You are essentially practising retrieving the piece from memory.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:04 PM

Originally Posted by TryAnotherName
But am I to understand that when you get to that 3-minute-cup-is-full point, you don't need a break, you just switch to another practice element and that is enough to get you back in focus?

I think so, yes. Let's say that I have played sections A, B, C and D interleaved, all four of them several times that day, and I had thought that now it's time to do B again. But when I see B's notes, I feel, no it's been enough for today. So I drop B, and maybe add E to the interleaved practice. So yes, I can still switch to another practice element.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:06 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think very many serious and advanced pianists limit practice of some passage or section to three minutes or even any amount.

I don't mind. It works for me now, and for a few others. Maybe it won't work any more five years from now - then I have to come up with another way of practicing. smile
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:13 PM

Originally Posted by Tech-key
Is it really necessary to count minutes though? I find it very tough to keep track of time. What may feel like 3 minutes may as well be 10! Of course, it may be my personal shortcoming smile

After trying and experimenting several things, I feel I practice the most efficient, when I just keep track of the number of repetitions of a section. A section can be a couple measures, a phrase, transition measures.. anything that requires repeated practice. I don’t count the repeats even, but it’s easier to have a general idea of the count. If I'd have to guess, I stop anywhere between 5-10. Being strict about a small number of repetitions at a time, allows me to not wait for the “focus to go” before starting a new section. I identify the “sections” in the beginning, and round-robin through them till I feel like a break/change.

I think it should have similar effects as the “time measurement” approach you are discussing. Isn’t it so? This required some discipline at first. But now it’s kind of becoming second nature, and freeing up time for other things like sight reading, maintenance of old pieces, etc.

Oh, and can you please tell me, if this is in sync with the ideas of “interleaved practice” you all are discussing? I would hate to divert this discussion again laugh


Hi Tech-key! I have an old mobile phone, that I keep charged. I turn on the stopwatch when I start playing, put it besides the score, and when I see that it has turned to 3, I finish the section. Sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later. But this three-minutes idea is of coure very arbitrary. If counting the repeats works for you, great. Personally, I would lose count. smile And you are not diverting the discussion. smile
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:14 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
...if it really was so good it would be a standard way of teaching...
Did you not read the article or just miss this?

“The learning from interleaved practice feels slower than learning from massed practice. Teachers and students sense the difference. They can see that their grasp of each element is coming more slowly, and the compensating long-term advantage is not apparent to them. As a result, interleaving is unpopular and seldom used.

Teachers dislike it because it feels sluggish. Students find it confusing: they’re just starting to get a handle on new material and don’t feel on top of it yet when they are forced to switch. But the research shows unequivocally that mastery and long-term retention are much better if you interleave practice than if you mass it.”
I don't think the tests are very conclusive. For example in the first test with the rat microsurgery in the article, I think the person designing the test ignored the idea that the surgeons could just get tired doing all four sessions in a row. IOW their poor results later were a result of fatigue during the four sessions.
Posted By: zrtf90

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:41 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
...I don't think the tests are very conclusive...
Again, what you think doesn't matter. Forty years of sports research and follow up studies have shown its effectiveness. Read the book. Try it. Don't keep trying to hide what we know with what you think.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:42 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Hi Tech-key! I have an old mobile phone, that I keep charged. I turn on the stopwatch when I start playing, put it besides the score, and when I see that it has turned to 3, I finish the section. Sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later. But this three-minutes idea is of coure very arbitrary. If counting the repeats works for you, great. Personally, I would lose count. smile And you are not diverting the discussion. smile

Hi Animisha! Stopwatches drive me nuts. Good to know that counting qualifies too. I was wondering whether I had it backwards. Thanks smile
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:51 PM

Originally Posted by Tech-key
Hi Animisha! Stopwatches drive me nuts. Good to know that counting qualifies too. I was wondering whether I had it backwards. Thanks smile

Hi again Tech-key. I think it is all about getting inspired about what others tell, and finding out what works for you. Not about what qualifies. smile I tried the ten minutes per section idea that was mentioned somewhere else, didn't work for me. I try three minutes interleaved and I have never been more happy practising. So what suits your mind best?
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 05:56 PM

Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
...I don't think the tests are very conclusive...
Again, what you think doesn't matter. Forty years of sports research and follow up studies have shown its effectiveness. Read the book. Try it. Don't keep trying to hide what we know with what you think.
I gave a reason why I didn't think one of the test mentioned was conclusive.
Posted By: johnstaf

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 07:05 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
...I don't think the tests are very conclusive...
Again, what you think doesn't matter. Forty years of sports research and follow up studies have shown its effectiveness. Read the book. Try it. Don't keep trying to hide what we know with what you think.
I gave a reason why I didn't think one of the test mentioned was conclusive.


Your point of view is as worthy of respect as anybody else's. If everyone agreed, this would be a very dull place.
Posted By: Tech-key

Re: Interleaved practice - 02/20/19 07:05 PM

Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Tech-key
Hi Animisha! Stopwatches drive me nuts. Good to know that counting qualifies too. I was wondering whether I had it backwards. Thanks smile

Hi again Tech-key. I think it is all about getting inspired about what others tell, and finding out what works for you. Not about what qualifies. smile I tried the ten minutes per section idea that was mentioned somewhere else, didn't work for me. I try three minutes interleaved and I have never been more happy practising. So what suits your mind best?

Thanks, Animisha! Feels good to experiment around, and finally find something that works better (at least for the time being) smile
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