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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Animisha
One of my problems with stretch pieces for me is to keep it all together. With pieces at my level, depending on the piece, I start with hands separately, then hands together. Or I split the piece in two or three parts, and even though one part needs a bit more time than the other, I manage to get them polished approximately at the same time, and I can keep everything in mind. But with stretch pieces, it feels like it is too much to keep it all my mind.
Originally Posted by Animisha
About the small chunks: do you chose a chunk, work with it, then let it rest and decay, then work with another chunk, let it rest and decay, etc, and then revive all chunks and make them into a whole? Or do you work with many chunks simultaneously - that is, start your practice with chunk 1, fifteen minutes later chunk 2, etc?

It seems I start getting it now. Animisha, I'm afraid your questions reveal that you may have a habit - you work with chunks too large when you start practicing a piece. The usual size of a chunk at your level should be just 2-3 short measures, 1 measure in difficult places, and almost never more than 4 measures. In other words, a figure, a short phrase, or a half of a long phrase. Working with larger chunks from the beginning will slow down your progress significantly and may indeed overwhelm the mind. It's like trying to run before learning to walk, you may miss the foundation. Ideally every day each small chunk should be played until it feels a little bit more automatic than before, but I'd say for no more than 5 minutes anyway. The main thing during that phase is building muscle memory. If possible, all chunks should be worked out daily. No intentional rest is beneficial at this phase. And then the work on connecting of chunks may begin.
I agree with this!

I'm working on a stretch piece right now, Mozart's K545, and all I did was start from the beginning until I had the first phrase (with the alberti bass) memorized in my mind and in my muscles.

There was maybe a solid 2-3 weeks where I would sit down to work on K545 for a half hour chunk and all I played was the development section---the one that begins in G minor, and ends with returning to the main theme in F major (but I stopped there). I didn't even bother to learn the rest of the music until I felt this was comfortable.

It wasn't until maybe my third month working on the piece that I tackled the final measures i.e. the recapitulation, and then much of my half hour practice chunks would be spent practicing just the recapitulation parts. So I would spend about an hour a day, a half hour dedicated to solidifying/learning new material, and another half hour practicing previously learned material to ensure it's still in my muscle memory.

Now I'm at the point where it's all there and I just have to get it more solid, consistent and up to speed.

there has been a ton of great and diverse advice in this thread already though. it's always interesting to hear how everyone tackles practicing, as it seems to always be different.


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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I'm afraid your questions reveal that you may have a habit - you work with chunks too large when you start practicing a piece. The usual size of a chunk at your level should be just 2-3 short measures, 1 measure in difficult places, and almost never more than 4 measures.

Thank you, very interesting!

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
then the work on connecting of chunks may begin.

Connecting chunks is one of my problems, and the main reason why my chunks are a bit big. They are very often five measures - the phrase has four measures and then I always practise the measure after as well. But one of my mental difficulties when playing a longer piece is to know what will happen in the next phrase. So I practise phrase 1 + the first measure of phrase 2, then phrase 2 + the first measure of phrase 3, and it is all going well. But then, when I try to play phrase 1 and 2 without stopping, I can get stuck after the first measure of phrase 2. This happens quite often!


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I'm afraid your questions reveal that you may have a habit - you work with chunks too large when you start practicing a piece. The usual size of a chunk at your level should be just 2-3 short measures, 1 measure in difficult places, and almost never more than 4 measures.

Thank you, very interesting!

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
then the work on connecting of chunks may begin.

Connecting chunks is one of my problems, and the main reason why my chunks are a bit big. They are very often five measures - the phrase has four measures and then I always practise the measure after as well. But one of my mental difficulties when playing a longer piece is to know what will happen in the next phrase. So I practise phrase 1 + the first measure of phrase 2, then phrase 2 + the first measure of phrase 3, and it is all going well. But then, when I try to play phrase 1 and 2 without stopping, I can get stuck after the first measure of phrase 2. This happens quite often!

Perhaps, are you defaulting to your memory when you start merging chunks rather than defaulting to reading them?


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Connecting chunks is one of my problems, and the main reason why my chunks are a bit big. They are very often five measures - the phrase has four measures and then I always practise the measure after as well. But one of my mental difficulties when playing a longer piece is to know what will happen in the next phrase. So I practise phrase 1 + the first measure of phrase 2, then phrase 2 + the first measure of phrase 3, and it is all going well. But then, when I try to play phrase 1 and 2 without stopping, I can get stuck after the first measure of phrase 2. This happens quite often!

You should change regularly the order and start with phrase 2 (or any other) instead of phrase 1. That way you will get used to play any phrase independently of the order.

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Originally Posted by Animisha
Connecting chunks is one of my problems, and the main reason why my chunks are a bit big. They are very often five measures - the phrase has four measures and then I always practise the measure after as well. But one of my mental difficulties when playing a longer piece is to know what will happen in the next phrase. So I practise phrase 1 + the first measure of phrase 2, then phrase 2 + the first measure of phrase 3, and it is all going well. But then, when I try to play phrase 1 and 2 without stopping, I can get stuck after the first measure of phrase 2. This happens quite often!
That sounds more like a mental preparation issue.

With difficult material what happens is that after playing a phrase several times your mind starts to switch into auto-pilot mode and relies mostly one immediate short-term muscle memory. But if you do something else and come back to the same phrase after 5 minutes it's no longer automatic and you have to practice it slowly again.

One thing you can try is to do what I call "shuffling" or "context switching". Play phrase 1 only once or twice, then switch to phrase 2 and play it once or twice only, then back to phrase 1, etc. It's important that you don't repeat so many times that it becomes automatic. When you can do that easily try switching between any random phrase in the music. This shuffling forces your brain to quickly change context from one part of the music to another and trains your mental preparation.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
One thing you can try is to do what I call "shuffling" or "context switching". Play phrase 1 only once or twice, then switch to phrase 2 and play it once or twice only, then back to phrase 1, etc. It's important that you don't repeat so many times that it becomes automatic. When you can do that easily try switching between any random phrase in the music. This shuffling forces your brain to quickly change context from one part of the music to another and trains your mental preparation.

Qazsedcft, do you think I should switch even before I can play phrase 1 correctly? I always practise a phrase until I can play it correctly (but maybe only very s l o w l y, or without attention to dynamics and phrasing), and then I switch. But would you recommend that I switch when I am still in the mistake-correction mistake-correction phase?[

Originally Posted by Sidokar
You should change regularly the order and start with phrase 2 (or any other) instead of phrase 1. That way you will get used to play any phrase independently of the order.

I do. This was just an example. I try to find the most difficult phrase and I start with that one. Or with the last phrase.

Originally Posted by dogperson
Perhaps, are you defaulting to your memory when you start merging chunks rather than defaulting to reading them?

Well, the music is in front of me, but yes, memory is very much involved. There is no way I can sightread difficult pieces.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Qazsedcft, do you think I should switch even before I can play phrase 1 correctly? I always practise a phrase until I can play it correctly (but maybe only very s l o w l y, or without attention to dynamics and phrasing), and then I switch. But would you recommend that I switch when I am still in the mistake-correction mistake-correction phase?
Well, you should go at the speed of no mistakes. wink

If I understand correctly you are still learning each phrase. In that case just continue learning slowly every day until each phrase by itself is solid. What I suggested above is for the "putting it all together" phase of learning.

BTW, don't try to play the piece through too early. That was one of my major mistakes in the past.

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Originally Posted by Animisha
Connecting chunks is one of my problems, and the main reason why my chunks are a bit big. They are very often five measures - the phrase has four measures and then I always practise the measure after as well. But one of my mental difficulties when playing a longer piece is to know what will happen in the next phrase. So I practise phrase 1 + the first measure of phrase 2, then phrase 2 + the first measure of phrase 3, and it is all going well. But then, when I try to play phrase 1 and 2 without stopping, I can get stuck after the first measure of phrase 2. This happens quite often!
Are you setting your metronome at a really low speed? There has to be a speed where you can accomplish this, even if it means setting the metronome to 20. When I’m putting sections together, I dial it WAYYY back and keep it there as I add more sections. Even if you can play each chunk faster, don’t do when you’re putting them together. I don’t speed up at all until I have the entire piece at one slow and even tempo, even if that tempo is 20, lol.

You said there’s no way you can sight read difficult pieces. Do you mean you’re unable at all to read and play through them very slowly, hands together? If that’s the case, maybe the stretch piece is too far of a stretch.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
then the work on connecting of chunks may begin.

Connecting chunks is one of my problems, and the main reason why my chunks are a bit big. They are very often five measures - the phrase has four measures and then I always practise the measure after as well. But one of my mental difficulties when playing a longer piece is to know what will happen in the next phrase. So I practise phrase 1 + the first measure of phrase 2, then phrase 2 + the first measure of phrase 3, and it is all going well. But then, when I try to play phrase 1 and 2 without stopping, I can get stuck after the first measure of phrase 2. This happens quite often!

This trick - practicing the first measure of a next phrase - never worked well for me either. Normally I don't use it. I think it brings confusion both to muscle memory and musical memory. I connect phrases just by combining 1+2, 2+3, etc. The thing is that a second before ending first phrase, while your hands are still playing it, you need to think of the beginning of next phrase and prepare for it mentally. It may seem difficult in the beginning, but it will soon become habitual.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
The thing is that a second before ending first phrase, while your hands are still playing it, you need to think of the beginning of next phrase and prepare for it mentally. It may seem difficult in the beginning, but it will soon become habitual.
I agree. Whenever I find my brain struggling to grasp something when I’m practicing, I drop my playing speed to match my brain’s thinking speed until it becomes automatic. 👍


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Sidokar
You should change regularly the order and start with phrase 2 (or any other) instead of phrase 1. That way you will get used to play any phrase independently of the order.

I do. This was just an example. I try to find the most difficult phrase and I start with that one. Or with the last phrase.

If you read the score, it is easier as it will tell what to play next. But If you are working mainly from memory, you need to have a layout of the piece, ie you need to know in advance how your different sections start and their content. So like Iaroslav said, when finishing one section, you already know what is coming next.

It seems also that you probably havent memorize the score as well as you may think. A good exercise is to visualize in your head the score without touching the piano. It is very likely that you rely only on the "muscle" (ie kinetic) memory which isnt fully reliable, in particular under stress. Additional ways to represent the piece help to keep track of where you are.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Sidokar
You should change regularly the order and start with phrase 2 (or any other) instead of phrase 1. That way you will get used to play any phrase independently of the order.

I do. This was just an example. I try to find the most difficult phrase and I start with that one. Or with the last phrase.
If you read the score, it is easier as it will tell what to play next.
And that's what this poster needs to work on IMO. Not being able to play while reading from the score or not being able to look back and forth between the score and the keyboard when necessary is a very important obstacle to overcome. And then all the complicated approaches to overlapping the chunks being unnecessary.

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I divide a piece into sections. You focus on just a few sections in each practice session and rotate to different sections. The first few weeks you spend half hour working on a 2 min section. By the time you’re comfortable playing a section at regular tempo, add more sections to a practice session.

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Originally Posted by malkin
Originally Posted by Serge88
Forgive my ignorance but what is a stretch piece ? I tried a search with Google but all I got is "it's an alteration of the duration without altering the pitch.”

It is a piece that is more difficult than one's usual level.

Ok thanks,



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