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Topic Options
#1009775 - 08/17/07 07:17 PM How to get more "picky" with my practice
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
I want to practice and get more out of the time I'm spending. I don't think just more time will help as much as becoming more attentive to how and what I'm doing. I have started a practice log so I can jot down how much time and which sections of the pieces I'm working on.

I know this question has been discussed here quite often. I'm looking for ideas that will help me focus and make quicker progress toward my goals. I am now getting ready for 2 piano parties in November and choosing pieces to begin spending most of my practice time refining.

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#1009776 - 08/17/07 07:28 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
apple* Offline

Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas

play thru a piece slowly, very slowly, after learning hands separately. watch your hands move from note to note if you can.. allow your wrists and arms to be fluid.

mark in pencil 2 measures in front of and in back of the difficult passages or measures.

(some writer called these 'fractiles' i think).

practice those fractiles 5 times each before playing the piece again..

pick up your speed, rinse and repeat so to say.
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, ├Ľun (apple in Estonian)

#1009777 - 08/17/07 07:44 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1166
Loc: Singapore
how to get more picky with your practise? listen to yourself very carefully when you practice, be attentive. When you make a mistake go back and correct it till it's right. That's what my teacher asks me to do at home.
Mastering:Chopin Etudes op.10 nos.8&12 and op.25 no.1, Chopin Scherzo no.4 in E major op.54, Mozart Sonata in B flat major K.333& Khachaturian Toccata

#1009778 - 08/17/07 07:46 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 19060
Loc: Victoria, BC
Another practice tip :

Divide your piece(s) into logical sections (i.e., ending at candences) of preferably less than a page each. Alphabetize/Number the sections starting from the last section: A (or 1) to the first section: G (or 7) - or however many there may be, obviously! When practicing, occasionally work on the difficulties in section A and work back towards the beginning of the piece. That way, you'll never run into the common fault of "Well, I can play the first part pretty well, because I've practiced it a lot, but the last sections still need work because I don't get to them as often."

- - - - -
Estonia 190

#1009779 - 08/17/07 08:38 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
my teacher told me the other day that i should do 'smart practice' rather than just 'practice'. one thing he mentioned is 'listen to yourself', and the other is 'slow practice', and another is 'various rhythmic practice' (i.e. trying to play a passage with different rhythm variations).

so, i'm trying to do as my teacher says, but i have to be very disciplined to actually practice that way, which i usually don't though...

#1009780 - 08/17/07 09:03 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Practice with intention. Have a plan (one thing) that you want to be watchful in this practice on this (one)song. Don't think ahead to all that you want to accomplish on all the music. Think about the song at hand.

Chose an area to examine. Listen and think about what you are hearing. Is there a problem? What is the problem? (One thing, please.) What can you do about it to fix it? Work on fixing it right now - just the "window" of where the problem began and ended. Continue in this song, or be satisfied that one thing was accomplished here. Note it in your notebook for next time you practice this.

Same idea in next song or several songs. You don't want to be entertaining several problems at once - you will overload and confuse your brain - it will store faulty info. One pertinent thought simply said will produce results. Such as: "PRACTICE AREA: Measure 3-4 RH legato, LH staccato. Train hands slowly. Do hands alone first. Listen to results. Continue daily until improved. Don't overdo by too much practicing, it just might take more time until I hear results. Be patient."

Don't play the whole song through if you really need to work on the first 10 measures first. Look for weak or insecure spots. Identify the problems. Problems can be:
Inaccurate notes
Note Value Counting
Hands Together Coordination problems.
Keeping a steady beat.
Dynamics - crescendos/dimuendos
Touch - Staccato, Accents, Legato

What's the problem you are encountering most often? If you look for where these problems are located in the music you are playing, you have the possibility of correcting the problem.

If you just play through and have no intention of making improvements, you are not really practicing. Practicing has some element of examining your output with it.

If you can keep a mistake from happening you are way ahead of the game. That is why slow thinking and slow practicing is encouraged until you become very proficient - which will never happen if you don't do the serious examination and have a plan and a method to your practice and all playing at the piano.

It's our intentions that get results, moreso than our hindsight.

#1009781 - 08/17/07 09:16 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
Thanks for these excellent ideas.

Discipline is the key isn't it. I'm going to jot down each of these ideas on my practice log.
1.Very Slow practice-- watch your hands move--wrists and arms fluid
2. Fractiles--practice 2 meas. before and after difficult sections--5 times each
3.Divide each piece into sections. Alphabetize starting with the last section labeled A--with the first section having a higher letter.
4. Listen to yourself, slow practice, and various rhythmic practices.

#1009782 - 08/17/07 09:21 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
Piano Again Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 1173
Loc: Washington metro
I'm reading the book "The Perfect Wrong Note." It verbalizes so many things that I have felt over the years. I highly recommend it as an aid to thinking about how to practice.
Recovering cellist, amateur pianist.

Check out my blog !

#1009783 - 08/17/07 09:22 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Betty, Thank you for your recent post. I always look forward to your posts. I need help with practice too. Back to classical piano after 40 years away.It is hard going back and very slow. Times have changed and new methods... I appreciate your input so much. Thank you again. You and Monica are so caring and helpful. You are both shining stars with your excellent professional guiding lights answering our questions. We are so blessed to have you both. Thank you and feeling very grateful... Sandy B
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

#1009784 - 08/17/07 09:23 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
Thanks, Betty

This is so valuable to read your description of focusing on one piece and one specific problem within that piece. I know I have been looking at the entire piece and all the elements I want to improve in it, instead of narrowing my focus.

#1009785 - 08/17/07 10:08 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
A key tool to improving your playing.

Record yourself.

Then really listen.
Again and again.

Then listen again, with the score and focus on the dynamics, noting what you should be doing compared with what you are doing.

And listen to your rythmn and timing. Chances are it will need work.

Then dissasemble the piece (or section thereof) and and improve your technique with deliberate changes.

Do this on one or two pieces that you think you play well, and suddenly, becoming your audience, you will focus on the MUSIC and you will improve your playing rapidly.
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280

#1009786 - 08/17/07 11:07 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
dfpolitowski Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/09/06
Posts: 166
Loc: New Jersey
Use a cooking timer. Like I do.

When I start a piece, I set the time accordingly, If I know the piece somewhat I usually set he timer for 35 minutes. When the timer goes off I usually begin something else. Now the timers only good for an hour
So with this method I practice three times daily. The timer's greatest help is to keep me seated working at the piano. As a rule I keep working on that piece until the timer goes off. Often times I practice over this time but never before the buzzer.

#1009787 - 08/18/07 07:40 AM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
Playmisty4me Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/07
Posts: 46
Loc: Ozarks
My teacher just this week talked to me about learning the music in your head by "practicing" without the piano. Reading the music and even doing the fingering, or even just going over the music silently (like when riding in a car). She said she started doing this in college when she could only get a practice room for an hour at a time. This puts the music in your brain as well as in your muscle memory. Intriging idea that I am going to try - hoping it will improve memorization (which is very difficult for me).

She also agrees with other posts about breaking pieces into sections, using different rythmns (especially in Barouque pieces), playing only the part of a piece that is giving you trouble for a few days, etc. I, too, am trying to learn how to practice more effectively!
Steinway B

#1009788 - 08/18/07 09:14 AM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
ZeroZero Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/07
Posts: 263
Loc: UK
I was watching a Daniel Barenboin (spelling?) master class, he said "touch and articulation is everything" and then played a little phrase with esquisite sensitivity. I try to make sure that every note I play is put there with purpose and musicality - this builds, practising without bothering about this (intellectually jetisoning thinking about it) builds poor performance

Anyways that's my contribution here


#1009789 - 08/18/07 01:43 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
AJB gives some good points, rhythm and timing especially, and unfortunately on my weakness list.

#1009790 - 08/19/07 11:17 PM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
Progress getting "picky".
I've had to have real patience with this new method of practice. After a very slow start and many minutes focused on just a few measures without seeming to have any improvement, I now feel some growth happening. Getting through the first few hours without any sign of anything happening was difficult. I now can go on past that and make some ---slow progress.

I lettered sections of all 4 of my pieces from G through A. With A being the last few measures of every piece. Then using Betty's ideas: "That is why slow thinking and slow practicing is encouraged until you become very proficient - which will never happen if you don't do the serious examination and have a plan and a method to your practice and all playing at the piano. "

And her thoughts on focusing: "just the "window" of where the problem began and ended"---has proved very important for me.

So thanks again everyone for comments in this thread.

#1009791 - 08/20/07 04:44 AM Re: How to get more "picky" with my practice
sleepingcats Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/30/04
Posts: 982
Loc: Oregon
I recently posted a thread about a great book which I refer to several times a week for some ideas and motivation. It has really helped me think of practicing in an entertaining way via it's format, illustrations and humor. It may possibly help you too.

"Cats make purrfect friends"


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