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Posted By: AvidLearner

New Member - 06/29/04 06:08 PM

This is my first posting. I started taking piano lessons 12 months ago at age 50. I can now decently read notes and play easy pieces. I still can not play a perfect piece and I have difficulty memorizing.

Do you any tips to help improve my playing so I can enjoy it more and avoid feeling frustrated.
Posted By: signa

Re: New Member - 06/30/04 12:23 AM

if you could be more specific about what your situation is, such as the pieces you are currently learning, troubles you are experiencing and etc., someone here might be able to help you. by the way, you haven't played that long (for just 1 year), encountering any playing difficulties would be pretty normal.
Posted By: AvidLearner

Re: New Member - 06/30/04 05:00 PM

I have problems with arpegios, playing legato smoothly, correct timing of the pedal and fast tempos. I learned Fur Elise , currently working on Waltz Op 69 No. 1 by Chopin and a foreign song Saan Ka Man Naroroon which you may not be familiar with.
Posted By: Cindysphinx

Re: New Member - 06/30/04 11:46 PM

I guess the only tip I can offer is to practice very slowly to help with memory. Also, it helps to learn a piece "backward," meaning learn the last line. Then learn the last two lines. Then the last three. I have found that this helps with confidence and memory when performing a piece -- as I play through it, I get more and more confident because the end is the most rock-solid part because I've been playing it longest.
Posted By: apple*

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 12:00 AM

THat's an interesting tip Cindy...!
Posted By: signa

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 12:50 AM

i remember reading it from somewhere that in order to play fast, you have to start playing a phrase or a motif with a motion as fast as you can at the beginning of learning so that speed will not be an issue afterwards. if you cannot do that, cut the phrase in half and try the shorter one again with fast motion, of course you need to figure out the best fingering to do so for each phrase at the same time. the reason of doing it, as i figured, is to aquire the correct motion (hands/fingers/arms/etc) which will enable you to play it fast later. after you can play a short phrase fast with correct motion then practice it with slow motion in order to memorize and work out details and accuracy of the phrase. keep practing each phrase a few times like this until you get a whole piece done. after that, you would be able to play the piece fast, since the speed is not an issue to begin with.

it does make a lot of sense to me, and i have been trying this too in learning some new pieces.

also, remember, with just one year playing, you may not be able to control your hands or fingers very well even to play some easy pieces or simple scales. it will take time for your muscle to get used to a lot of keyboard motions, including legato and etc.. so, if you keep practicing everyday, you will see improvement later.
Posted By: Rich D.

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 12:16 PM

I would have to say from my experience of playing, and also startng as an adult that slow practicing is critical to learning a piece well. If you can't play it well slowly, you'll never play it well fast. The other point I would make is that, at least for me, one must practice regularly, every day to make the best progress. There is no cramming of learning that worked for me.
Posted By: signa

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 12:44 PM

fast playing movement may not be the same as the slow playing movement, which is the reason behind of learning to play a phrase or a short passage fast at the beginning . did you ever notice that sometimes you just have no way to play certain passage smooth enough at a fast tempo (while having no problem at slow tempo), then later you make an adjustment on your fingering and suddenly find out the new fingering/movement indeed improved your speed and smoothness. that's what i was talking about. of course, slowing practice is important for memorization and accuracy and etc., but to figure out the best and efficient hand motion is to try the passage fast enough (HS) at the beginning so that it will not block your speed later.
Posted By: Cindysphinx

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 01:46 PM

I dunno, Signa. My teacher (and my experience) says that much time can be spent rushing through a section again and again rather than learning it slowly and correctly from the get-go. My teacher says that (for recital preparation) playing slow is like putting money in the bank. Playing fast is like making a withdrawal!

I would think that trying to play fast while still learning would just reinforce mistakes via muscle memory. Also, I have found that if I play slowly during practice, I can fire the piece off at a wicked tempo without ever practicing it fast.

When I'm learning a new piece (like I am right now!), I do the following:

1. Start slowly (either from the beginning or from the end, as I described above), hands together. (The hands together part, I hope, might help with sight reading).

2. Once it is starting to come together, gradually increase the tempo. Take each troublespot and use an excruciatingly slow metronome speed, dialing it up as you get better until the trouble spot is no longer a trouble spot.

3. Add dynamics and phrasing.

4. Add pedal.

By this point, I'll have no need to work on memory, except maybe to play it a few times hands separate, just to double-check my mastery.

This process, as you might imagine, is quite painful! wink
Posted By: signa

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 06:46 PM

sorry, but you might be missing my point. i didn't suggest that we don't practice slowly, which i do. my point is that in order to aquire a playing motion which will suit your hands/fingers at a fast tempo, you have to play a passage as fast as you can at the beginning to get such motion, which by the way should be done hand separate(HS) so that best fingering can be obtained for that hand with such a motion. once you figure out such a motion (with the best possible fingering), you stick to it and practice it in slow motion (exactly as you did with obtained fast motion) to work out whatever details (notes, accuracy, touch or phrasing, momerizing, pedal and etc.). it is all because some motions are suited for fast passages and some are for slow passage. in another word, if you are using a motion only working for slow passages to play a fast passage, how can you play it fast?

so in summery, at first you figure out the best way to play a passage with the intended tempo (not at any slower way), and then practice the passage as slow as you need to (but in the same way as you figured first), HS/HT and even later increase your speed as you need to, as Cindysphix pointed out. this is what i was saying basically. there is not much contradiction here except the first step of playing a passage.

I do think though the first step of learning a piece is more important than the rest, i.e. finding out the best way/fingering for each bar/passage you are learning.
Posted By: Cindysphinx

Re: New Member - 07/01/04 07:18 PM

at first you figure out the best way to play a passage with the intended tempo (not at any slower way), and then practice the passage as slow as you need to (but in the same way as you figured first),
How can you figure out the best way to play a passage fast when you can't yet get your fingers on the keys? I guess I don't fully understand how this is to be done. After I figure out the passage going very slowly and after I can increase my tempo, only then can I decide, "OK, I'll approach the trill *this* way" or "I'd better try a different fingering because this one isn't working now that I've I speeded up."

How does this work, exactly?
Posted By: signa

Re: New Member - 07/02/04 12:29 AM

again, i want to say that i didn't invent the method like this (since i am such a beginner myself), but apply it to my own learning process. i have to say it works for me in a convincing way.

How can you figure out the best way to play a passage fast when you can't yet get your fingers on the keys?
it is quite possible to do so unless the passage you are trying to conquer is too long. when you cut it in 1/2 or 1/4 and try it again, it would be possible. you know, everyone could play 2-3 notes really fast with HS, right? that is exactly what this method means.

to back up what i have said, i am quoting in the following from a book i have - "the Pianist's Problems" by William S. Newman. here i quote what he said regarding both slow and fast practicing indiscriminately, so that you could understand the reasons in both cases:

(P.129, regarding Practice Methods)
"Too much emphasis can hardly be placed on the need for slow practice as a means of concentrating consciously on the notes. It is by getting time to think them through that one both makes and restores the individual reflexes. Slow practice also permits free, exaggerated muscular action by whichever mechanisms are doing the palying, this action being another means of restoring the individual reflexes, althoguh a means that must not be allowed to induce tightness. After the piece is securely learned, an average need is likely to be one time of slow to every two times of fast playing."
"Of course, fast practice must not be ruled out. It is not only the way that the pianist will have to play his piece, but it is also a main way to
eliminate waste motion. Such motion is the bane of high speed, as I can well remember in my prancing struggles to attain speeds that my teacher seemed to play effortlessly, as though he were just coasting. Some difficullties show up only at full speed."
when he said fast playing is also "a main way to eliminate wasted motion", it is exactly my point regarding the method i mentioned previously.
Posted By: teachum

Re: New Member - 07/15/04 12:50 PM

For what it's worth - I agree with Cindy and most of what I read (both here and in famous artists interviws) says slow practice is invaluable. I am a fast person and it is always a challenge for me to slow myself down. When I do it really pays dividends on the pieces I am working on. The muscle memory comes with repeated slow practices. Sometimes you do have to change the fingering when you start working at a faster speed, but that's why correct fingering in the beginning is so important.
Posted By: 21991 teen music master

Re: New Member - 07/15/04 02:23 PM

I am obssesed with music. I intend to take up piano sometime in the near future but for now i am a trumpet player. In my expirence most people in here are right.Start slow!! It dosn't matter what instrument you play everyones practice habits are basically the same. When learning something new you have to nail the basics first. once you have the notes, fingering and rhythm down you can increase the speed easily
Posted By: pianojuggler

Re: New Member - 07/15/04 03:08 PM

Hmmmm.... a Teen Music Master. Hmmmmm.... Should we establish a minimum age to join the Adult Beginners' Forum? Like something over 40???

Just kidding. Everyone is welcome here.

Welcome TMM!
Posted By: teachum

Re: New Member - 07/18/04 07:51 PM

Piano Juggler - just notice your Posted From - I am assuming that is a play on words. Cute!
Posted By: pianojuggler

Re: New Member - 07/20/04 11:04 AM

Originally posted by teachum:
Piano Juggler - just notice your Posted From - I am assuming that is a play on words. Cute!
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