Piano World Home Page
Posted By: Sebs Daily time on a piece and polishing feedback - 08/27/21 01:15 AM
I have been seeing a common trend when working on my pieces. They often seem to take couple months to learn and I noticed when I add up the total minutes from my journal it's nothing near the time I thought. For example, I noticed I was 6 weeks into a piece then I added up all my minutes and it was about 12 hours total so about an avg of 10 min a day. Still a little more to go on it too. I was also learning new techniques and patterns with it. Would it would be better to put more daily time and every day practice on the piece that is the main focus? I know I need to figure out what works best for me and fits in my day but I get the sense I should dedicate more daily time to the piece.

How do you really polish a piece? I have a piece I can play through pretty well but still have some random slip ups and I want to take it to a very polished/confident level but I feel stuck such as I can't get it any better. Any suggestions? Im almost thinking polishing might be take longer than learning the piece did?

I discussed with my teacher he says my progress is great for what we're learning and given that I'm still pretty new to pop. And for polishing a piece he simply said it'll just take time and to keep working on it.
Hi Sebs
It really does just take time to Polish a piece…, and often, putting it down and coming back to it later. Sometimes music is like soup, chili or gumbo: you need to put it in the refrigerator and let the spices merge before it’s the best.

You mention random mistakes. If you truly mean ‘random’ as in they occur in different places each time you play the music, don’t worry about it. If you are talking about the intermittent errors that occur in the same place each time: slow way down and force yourself just to play the measure or phrase multiple times. You want to engrain ‘right’ in your brain.

Your teacher is right: be patient with yourself.
There must be a mistake. 12 hours = 720 minutes. Even if you've practiced the piece every day during these 6 weeks it's 17 minutes a day on average.
My golden rule ever since I started piano was to never spend more than 15-20 minutes on any given piece in the same day. I used to even put a timer on to force me to focus. Now I don't do that anymore but I still believe that the best progress is made by practicing a larger number of different things a little every day than practicing a single thing for a very long time.

A long time ago I made the following experiment. I took two easy pieces of about the same level. The first one I practiced maybe 10 minutes then put it to rest. The second one I practiced for an hour. I repeated the same process for 7 consecutive days. After that time I could play both pieces at about the same level. Seriously, the more heavily practiced piece wasn't any better than the first one in terms of polish. This proved to me that there is no point in practicing anything for a very long time each day if you can achieve the same effect with short focused practice. It's way better to practice 4 pieces 15 minutes each than spending the whole hour on a single piece. If you don't believe me try it yourself.
Originally Posted by Sebs
How do you really polish a piece? I have a piece I can play through pretty well but still have some random slip ups and I want to take it to a very polished/confident level but I feel stuck such as I can't get it any better. Any suggestions? Im almost thinking polishing might be take longer than learning the piece did?

Yes, polishing can take quite some time. Something that works very well for me is to let a piece rest for a week or so, or ten days, and then relearn it. It is almost a bit magical to find how much more smoother I play the piece.
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
A long time ago I made the following experiment. I took two easy pieces of about the same level. The first one I practiced maybe 10 minutes then put it to rest. The second one I practiced for an hour. I repeated the same process for 7 consecutive days. After that time I could play both pieces at about the same level. Seriously, the more heavily practiced piece wasn't any better than the first one in terms of polish. This proved to me that there is no point in practicing anything for a very long time each day if you can achieve the same effect with short focused practice. It's way better to practice 4 pieces 15 minutes each than spending the whole hour on a single piece. If you don't believe me try it yourself.

Nice idea! I'll try a variation of your experiment. Ten minutes vs twenty minutes. Now you chose easy pieces. It would be interesting to do the same type experiment with more difficult pieces, maybe fifteen minutes vs half an hour. The problem is, how to find two pieces that are equally difficult for me?
ID those slip ups, quarantine them. Isolate bars to practice. The confidence will happen once you practice the heck out of those quarantined bars. Yeah, days of ‘minimal Confidence working through those Q bars and then one day..it just clicks in. Recommend leaving a piece for a day. Crazy how much better you play it after giving your brain to rest and digest.
Originally Posted by Pianoperformance
ID those slip ups, quarantine them. Isolate bars to practice. The confidence will happen once you practice the heck out of those quarantined bars. Yeah, days of ‘minimal Confidence working through those Q bars and then one day..it just clicks in. Recommend leaving a piece for a day. Crazy how much better you play it after giving your brain to rest and digest.

I'd also advise practising the bars that precede and follow the isolated sections so that you know how you're getting in and out of those passages.
As far as I can tell, polishing a piece takes forever. Since we will probably always have little things we can improve upon, this is literally true, but also the polishing phase seems to take much longer than the learning phase. I notice a definite point of diminishing returns where I have to practice more for smaller improvements.

I have a friend who plays much more difficult pieces than I do. She started a very challenging piece in December and could play it quite well by March or April (we have a meeting each week where we play for each other, so I’ve heard her development of this piece all along). She is still, in August, polishing the piece, and does not yet feel comfortable enough to perform it. Watching her go through this process has been an eye-opener for me.

I think if you want to have a piece polished, especially if it is a somewhat difficult piece for you, it is necessary to have patience with the process. It may take much longer than you imagine.
Originally Posted by Saan
As far as I can tell, polishing a piece takes forever. Since we will probably always have little things we can improve upon, this is literally true, but also the polishing phase seems to take much longer than the learning phase. I notice a definite point of diminishing returns where I have to practice more for smaller improvements.

I have a friend who plays much more difficult pieces than I do. She started a very challenging piece in December and could play it quite well by March or April (we have a meeting each week where we play for each other, so I’ve heard her development of this piece all along). She is still, in August, polishing the piece, and does not yet feel comfortable enough to perform it. Watching her go through this process has been an eye-opener for me.

I think if you want to have a piece polished, especially if it is a somewhat difficult piece for you, it is necessary to have patience with the process. It may take much longer than you imagine.
This.

This is also the reason you should probably not bother polishing all your pieces to a very high standard. Only keep playing those that you really like and want to keep performing for a long time. For all the rest, treat them as "throw away" learning material and move on when your teacher is satisfied.
Originally Posted by Animisha
Nice idea! I'll try a variation of your experiment. Ten minutes vs twenty minutes. Now you chose easy pieces. It would be interesting to do the same type experiment with more difficult pieces, maybe fifteen minutes vs half an hour. The problem is, how to find two pieces that are equally difficult for me?
I used (relatively) easy pieces so I could make some progress over a week and see the results. You can experiment to find out what works best for you. For me 20 minutes seems to be a sweet spot for optimum results. I have been doing these short bursts of focused work then switch to something else for almost 7 years now and I can say it has been very effective.
Fatar760: 100% agree. It’s often the switch from one phrase/texture into another that often causes latency and wrong note being played.
This is a lot of good information, thanks everyone! I'm relieved that it seems polishing is expected to be a lot of extra work and takes a lot of additional time after learning it. As a beginner, I was simply thinking you learn it then play few mores days to polish. Really happy to know that's not the case and the polishing is slow process and like others said part of time is letting it rest too.

Also has anyone else had it where you can have a few bars with exact same rhythm in LH and RH and just slightly different notes and for some reason one set just clicks and is so much easier but the other set gives you a hard time?

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
There must be a mistake. 12 hours = 720 minutes. Even if you've practiced the piece every day during these 6 weeks it's 17 minutes a day on average.

My mistake, I meant I was 500 min at 6 weeks in. I was looking at some other entries and mixed up my numbers.
Originally Posted by Sebs
Also has anyone else had it where you can have a few bars with exact same rhythm in LH and RH and just slightly different notes and for some reason one set just clicks and is so much easier but the other set gives you a hard time?
Yes. Check your fingering.
Originally Posted by Sebs
Also has anyone else had it where you can have a few bars with exact same rhythm in LH and RH and just slightly different notes and for some reason one set just clicks and is so much easier but the other set gives you a hard time?

Oh for sure. I'm actually looking at a piece now that looks so simple on the page but these little variations can completely alter what your mind expects.
There has been a lot of research into the optimum time for a task, no matter what it is. Studying, or writing, or practicing an instrument. About 25 minutes on a task is a good compromise, then take a short break and switch tasks. Look up "pomodoro technique" to read about one method.

How does that apply to piano practice? I am not very strict about it. But I almost never go over 25 minutes on one piece or task before I stop, break, and try something else.

How do you polish a piece? I'll let you know if I ever get one polished...

Sam
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by Sebs
Also has anyone else had it where you can have a few bars with exact same rhythm in LH and RH and just slightly different notes and for some reason one set just clicks and is so much easier but the other set gives you a hard time?
Yes. Check your fingering.

Got it! Funny thing is both those two spots are same exact fingering RH is playin octaves and LH is doing an open arpeggio. One part the RH goes up and has a sharp that helps so much for some reason and the part that I mess up sometimes it when RH is going down. I'll take the tips here and isolate it and work on it. I was just finding it interesting though some things are so bizarre.


Originally Posted by Sam S
There has been a lot of research into the optimum time for a task, no matter what it is. Studying, or writing, or practicing an instrument. About 25 minutes on a task is a good compromise, then take a short break and switch tasks. Look up "pomodoro technique" to read about one method.

How does that apply to piano practice? I am not very strict about it. But I almost never go over 25 minutes on one piece or task before I stop, break, and try something else.

How do you polish a piece? I'll let you know if I ever get one polished...

Sam

That's how I feel maybe I can let you know when I get one polished. I actually want to memorize it too as it's a basic song and fun to play and it sure would be nice to finally have at least one pieces I can sit down at a random play and play I think Im getting close though... I think... I hope...

It sounds like many agree with that time of 25 ish min max on a piece. Although do you ever come back for another session on same part or save it for next day to let it soak in and next session practice different section or piece?

It's cool to see that a lot of members here seem to have a lot of things in rotation I thought I was doing myself a disservice having a few things going at once.
I rarely come back for another session on the same piece or problem in the same session or day. I am 67, and that matters I think. I save it for the next day. I almost always do a 2-a-day. An hour in the morning, an hour in the evening. But I still don't work on the same piece or problem in the second session. I let it rest until the next day. I always have several pieces going at different levels of completion at the same time so there is never a shortage of things to work on. Getting in a rush is counter-productive for me, although it happens, when there is something coming up that I want to participate in and I am not ready.

Sam
Originally Posted by Sebs
This is a lot of good information, thanks everyone! I'm relieved that it seems polishing is expected to be a lot of extra work and takes a lot of additional time after learning it. As a beginner, I was simply thinking you learn it then play few mores days to polish. Really happy to know that's not the case and the polishing is slow process and like others said part of time is letting it rest too.

Also has anyone else had it where you can have a few bars with exact same rhythm in LH and RH and just slightly different notes and for some reason one set just clicks and is so much easier but the other set gives you a hard time?

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
There must be a mistake. 12 hours = 720 minutes. Even if you've practiced the piece every day during these 6 weeks it's 17 minutes a day on average.

My mistake, I meant I was 500 min at 6 weeks in. I was looking at some other entries and mixed up my numbers.
I agree with Qazsedcft that 15-20 minutes a day is a sweet spot for a piece that is not long. 500 minutes in 6 weeks is about 12 minutes every day on average, slightly less than optimum. It's important to feel progress every day. If you don't, it means you haven't done enough. When you do, it may be suboptimal to continue working after that point.
My teacher has long contended (and I've been too stubborn to agree in general) that concentrated practice on short sections (often no more than two measures of a piece) is a more effective learning strategy than trying to struggle through the whole piece from beginning to end.

I'm now working on Bach's Invention No. 2 in C minor (BWV 773), and I'm trying it her way. Almost all of my practice time involves intense focus on two- or three-measure sections that lend themselves to isolated attention.

Lately, I've been starting with the relevant section towards the end of what I have really studied in the Invention (I haven't yet studied to the end of the piece), and I work on that section until I can tell myself that I've honestly made some progress. Then I work on the preceding short section with the same approach; then the section before that; and so on. When it makes sense, I add a new section at the end -- rinse and repeat.

Every three or four days, especially when my practice time is more focused on other pieces that I'm studying, I play the Bach through to the latest section that I've studied. It's a bit of a reality check, more than it is really "practicing" -- but the results encourage me about the productivity of the section isolation approach.

The point, regarding your question, is that my teacher seems to be right: At least for me, real progress happens when I focus, in technical detail, on short sections of a piece.

Because the hardest sections for me are usually the newest, on any practice day I can make progress on the piece with ten or fifteen minutes' work on even just one section. If it's a "Bach day" for me, I might devote a good chunk of my day's practice session to working through many sections.
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
A long time ago I made the following experiment. I took two easy pieces of about the same level. The first one I practiced maybe 10 minutes then put it to rest. The second one I practiced for an hour. I repeated the same process for 7 consecutive days. After that time I could play both pieces at about the same level. Seriously, the more heavily practiced piece wasn't any better than the first one in terms of polish. This proved to me that there is no point in practicing anything for a very long time each day if you can achieve the same effect with short focused practice. It's way better to practice 4 pieces 15 minutes each than spending the whole hour on a single piece. If you don't believe me try it yourself.
Nice idea! I'll try a variation of your experiment. Ten minutes vs twenty minutes. Now you chose easy pieces. It would be interesting to do the same type experiment with more difficult pieces, maybe fifteen minutes vs half an hour. The problem is, how to find two pieces that are equally difficult for me?
How much time one should or is reasonable spend daily on a piece depends on the difficulty and length of the piece or section one is practicing. It's perfectly reasonable to spend an entire practice session of one or two hours on a piece as long as one is not playing the same two measures over and over. If a piece is extremely easy for one's level and/or very short, then practicing it for lengthy periods doesn't make sense because one quickly reaches the point where a section is mostly finished. if the piece is long and/or difficult there's nothing wrong with devoting a lengthy period to it on a daily basis.
Always start with slow practice. Spot a mistake and correct it. When you repeat the same mistake many times, it gets set in your muscle memory and becomes harder to correct.

Learning the notes is 1 thing. Still need to spend time getting to an ideal tempo, dynamics, phrasing, foot pedal and other nuances. You practice a piece for a while while adding other pieces in between. Don't want to get stuck learning just 1 piece for many months. Some pieces I'd practice for a while and not play them for weeks before going back to them
Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Always start with slow practice. Spot a mistake and correct it. When you repeat the same mistake many times, it gets set in your muscle memory and becomes harder to correct.

Learning the notes is 1 thing. Still need to spend time getting to an ideal tempo, dynamics, phrasing, foot pedal and other nuances. You practice a piece for a while while adding other pieces in between. Don't want to get stuck learning just 1 piece for many months. Some pieces I'd practice for a while and not play them for weeks before going back to them

I agree and had no idea. I’m just now realizing that learning the notes and being able to play through it is a great accomplishment but I had no idea that it’s a very small part of total process from start to polished. I’m actually doing what you mention where I’m keeping them in my rotation while adding new material. I also leave it for days then come back to it. I’m now noticing some phrases I’m getting so comfortable with I can start to add dynamics and actually play it more musically along with confidence. Im excited to get the entire piece to that level it will be my first time ever truly polishing a piece. What I’m learning is some days you just don’t feel like working on it and that’s ok no need to force it and then there are days where time flies and you just want to keep focusing on it.
I never manage to learn the notes easily; usually my thoughts wander . . . .it is so hard to concentrate sometimes. Up to 85% there, I'm ok. The other 15% becomes purgatory . . But for my latest Recital effort is a pleasant change from that; a song I always wanted to do from when I first heard it about 15 years ago, the polishing (I use the word lightly) is the best bit when I let myself go . . .
My missus just wishes I would . . . .
Originally Posted by peterws
I never manage to learn the notes easily; usually my thoughts wander . . . .it is so hard to concentrate sometimes. Up to 85% there, I'm ok. The other 15% becomes purgatory . . But for my latest Recital effort is a pleasant change from that; a song I always wanted to do from when I first heard it about 15 years ago, the polishing (I use the word lightly) is the best bit when I let myself go . . .
My missus just wishes I would . . . .

I can relate. It's always so hard to focus, every once in a while I get in a good flow and focused and I love it but those sessions are rare. What song are you referring to?
© Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums