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#1280265 - 10/03/09 11:05 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3159
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Your theory about anxiety sounds interesting, but do you have any sources that would demonstrate why removing the anxiety levels by practising slowly might be detrimental? I've never encountered such a concept before and frankly I'm intensely skeptical.


Specifically, no, I don't have references to music. Neither did I pull it out of thin air. Originally it came from classes in learning theory taken during an MS for Clinical Psychology - later I reversed direction and became a mechanical engineer. It also comes from discussions with jazz improviser about how they come up with novel riffs or licks.

Skepticism is good. From past discussions I suspect you sometimes overdo it and miss the possibility.



Quote:
Why should anxiety be desirable during the process of learning the notes? Quite how would that help the procedure of programming a series of movements into the brain? It's anxiety that results in the ugly 'stabbing' movements that students so often employ- when they panic and seize at the next note, rather than find a comfortable way of reaching it.


Hesitation is not just ugly to me, it is painful. This is a form of synthesthesia that makes it difficult for me to listen to or play with a group with rhythm problems. Intonation problems offend me, but they don't hurt physically. So I admit I am somewhat hypersensitive on this point. But hesitating rather than playing a wrong note teaches hesitation, WHICH IS A WRONG NOTE!. There is no more consistent bad habit in the beginner. Even the lay audience understands this. I have played for many church services, and my stumbles on the keys went largely unnoticed provided I kept the beat smoothly. In the advanced player, hesitation doesn't disappear, it morphs into unwanted rubato - and is oft praised as expression when it is not.

I am not recommending ugly stabbing movements, of course. We stop short of blind panic. (well, I've had the occasional one in performance!) The anxiety I'm talking about is not that extreme. It produces a forced choice response, there is no shortage of literature on that if you want to look it up. That increases randomization. Remember that a beginner is in a far different position from you. He has to learn movements that are vague and undescribable. To learn them he must produce them the first time, be rewarded, and increase the likelihood of producing them the next time. Much of good teaching is of subtle nonverbal reinforcement of the precursors to these motions. (and some of course is a skilled teachers direct teaching of correct motion) With no randomization, he produces the same motion repeatedly, never hitting the tiny invisible difference that makes it correct. As the anxiety increases, randomization increases, and the likelihood of both error and correct responses increase. But also, the reward for correct response increases as the anxiety reduces at a set time.

The identical process occurs with jazz improvisation. The anxiety produces randomization, noise in the machine. Then two filters are applied: is it good? is it novel?

There are other ways of producing more raw material, more randomization, than holding one to a strict time standard. Drugs (standard approach for jazz musicians of a certain period), sleep deprivation, actual mental illness, etc. Playing in time is one of the more healthy ones.

Popular press equates negative reinforcement with punishment. That's wrong. Reinforcement is anything that increases the likelihood of a future behavior. Negative reinforcement does so by reducing a stress, positive reinforcement does so by increasing a reward.
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#1280267 - 10/03/09 11:08 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3159
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
It's not just some old wives tale that it's better to practise slow. There's a wealth of evidence for it.


No, it's cr*p.

Slow practise works very very well when the skill is available but the piece needs to be learned.

It is worthless for learning a new skill.

There's a wealth of evidence for the speed walls produced. And if you raise the question, somebody with 20 years of experience will immediately sit down and show you how he can learn a piece with slow incremental practice.

Try the same thing with a beginner. Different story.
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#1280271 - 10/03/09 11:24 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
"Specifically, no, I don't have references to music. Neither did I pull it out of thin air. Originally it came from classes in learning theory taken during an MS for Clinical Psychology - later I reversed direction and became a mechanical engineer. It also comes from discussions with jazz improviser about how they come up with novel riffs or licks."

Totally different issue though. Improvisers must constantly adapt and respond. Pianists must learn how to play the same notes in the correct order, whatever should occur. A burst of adrenaline could help a jazz pianist (and indeed a classical one, in performance, interpretively speaking). But how does this benefit someone who has yet to learn how to play a series of notes in the right order? Sorry, but I'm not seeing it.


"Hesitation is not just ugly to me, it is painful. This is a form of synthesthesia that makes it difficult for me to listen to or play with a group with rhythm problems. Intonation problems offend me, but they don't hurt physically. So I admit I am somewhat hypersensitive on this point. But hesitating rather than playing a wrong note teaches hesitation, WHICH IS A WRONG NOTE!. There is no more consistent bad habit in the beginner. Even the lay audience understands this. I have played for many church services, and my stumbles on the keys went largely unnoticed provided I kept the beat smoothly. In the advanced player, hesitation doesn't disappear, it morphs into unwanted rubato - and is oft praised as expression when it is not."

What is worse? Experiencing the feeling of progressing from one finger to a random one, unprepared one (typically accompanied by an awkward seizing movement, as the student panics- something that happens when having to press on unprepared, whether recommended by a teacher or not)? Or stopping, feeling the correct connection between two correct fingers and then going back to put that connection into a rhythmic context? Stopping should never be applauded. The student ought to go slowly enough not to need to stop, until they know the passage well enough to go faster with equal comfort. However, it leaves far less to fix compared to screwing up- and then having to go back without yet having had ANY experience at the physical connection.

The ability to fake for performance is important but that should never be confused with the art of learning pieces. Sight reading is one skill. Learning to play a piece to a high standard is another. Are you trying to say that nobody should do anything in practise that they wouldn't do in a performance? The two really don't overlap that much. The ability to avoid stopping when you screw up should be part of any pianists range of skills. However, if that's the primary goal in both practise and rehearsal, just don't expect to play Chopin studies to any standard. There's no room for faking in those.

"Remember that a beginner is in a far different position from you. He has to learn movements that are vague and undescribable. To learn them he must produce them the first time, be rewarded, and increase the likelihood of producing them the next time."

Sure. It's for this reason that I advocate lifting the fingers a little before each note, for beginners. It helps to have already sensed the finger. Another way of preventing mistakes before they occur. The last thing you want is a rash movement. The more you sense what is happening, the sooner you get to the stage when you can make instantaneous movements with absolute certainty. Even beginners don't need to learn from errors. If they begin by lifting the fingers a fraction, they soon get to the point of having full sensory awareness without needing to move the finger first. Randomly stabbing at a finger and seeing if it turns out to be the right one is simply not going to compete with learning what it feels like to prepare the finger.

"As the anxiety increases, randomization increases, and the likelihood of both error and correct responses increase. But also, the reward for correct response increases as the anxiety reduces at a set time."

And the penalties for a randomly struck note become all the more undesirable. If the student hasn't had time to think, the odds aren't good for them. Also, I believe it's well established that it takes far more correct executions to 'cancel out' the memory of just a single incorrect one.

"The identical process occurs with jazz improvisation. The anxiety produces randomization, noise in the machine. Then two filters are applied: is it good? is it novel?"

If you're looking to make new material, that's great. If not, why on earth should randomization be desirable? What could be less welcome?


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/03/09 11:35 PM)
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#1280272 - 10/03/09 11:28 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
It's not just some old wives tale that it's better to practise slow. There's a wealth of evidence for it.


No, it's cr*p.

Slow practise works very very well when the skill is available but the piece needs to be learned.

It is worthless for learning a new skill.

There's a wealth of evidence for the speed walls produced. And if you raise the question, somebody with 20 years of experience will immediately sit down and show you how he can learn a piece with slow incremental practice.

Try the same thing with a beginner. Different story.


Contrary to the obvious fact that it's harder to be consistent and accurate when starting fast and the wealth of evidence about how repeated movements can be more easily reproduced, it's 'crap'? Yet, you gladly take the word of some jazz pianist who once told you that anxiety should always be present in practise?

So you don't think that the pianist who has been playing for 20 year might possibly have learned something during those twenty years? That couldn't be the issue?

Tell me, are you suggesting that the beginner should sit down and play this piece fast in the first place? Perhaps that would be better than them starting slow and having to take time before they have learned the control required to go faster? Where exactly are you going with this comparison? You're criticsing slow practise, but you're not offering any credible alternatives. Accuracy doesn't come by magic, if a beginner starts by playing fast. It becomes all the more elusive. Sure, a beginner doesn't become a concert-pianist in a month simply by practising slowly. But are you honestly harboring the delusion that if they started by practising quickly, they might do better? Why? On the opinion of some unnamed jazz pianist you once chatted to?

I'd really like to see you put this radical new theory into practise by teaching a number of youngsters to play the piano at high speeds (on the grounds that slow practise is worthless). I wouldn't urge you to hope for terribly much from the results. Slow practise breeds comfort. Comfort is what permits fast playing.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/03/09 11:44 PM)
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#1280276 - 10/03/09 11:43 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3159
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

If you're looking to make new material, that's great. If not, why on earth should randomization be desirable? What could be less welcome?


What I am trying to explain is that the process of coming up with a novel jazz improvisation and the process of learning technique are precisely the same.

Both are trial and error processes.

So both require error. And error comes from randomization.

I'm not talking about playing a wrong note as error. I'm talking about the complex, almost mathematically undescribably geometric complex motion of getting the finger to the right note at speed. I'm talking about the entire sequence of weight shift, shoulder motion, elbow motion, wrist motion, etc.

Some of this is known by good teachers and they can simply instruct how to do it. Just like all of the notes are on the page - there is no mystery what to play next.

But much of it is a mystery until experienced. And unless done perfectly the first time, it doesn't happen without error. You must do it wrong many times to do it right. Then you must recognize right, and be rewarded sufficiently to do it more often.

Slow does not have to be unconnected to time, that is just an unhappy accident of the way we teach piano. Slow practice with a metronome could conceivably convey some of the benefits of practice at tempo. But slow practice without strict time is worse than useless, and beginners have flexible time.

The process of learning a technique unconnected to time, then relearning it at slow tempo, then relearning it at fast tempo, is simply WRONG.

Guitar players, even beginners, learn at tempo by playing along with records, the radio, CDs, and their peers. This is the reason they pretty much all succeed.
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#1280279 - 10/03/09 11:52 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: TimR]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Both are trial and error processes.

So both require error. And error comes from randomization.

I'm not talking about playing a wrong note as error. I'm talking about the complex, almost mathematically undescribably geometric complex motion of getting the finger to the right note at speed. I'm talking about the entire sequence of weight shift, shoulder motion, elbow motion, wrist motion, etc.


You may not be talking about it, but if you're not practising slowly, it's happening vastly more than with someone who begins at a comfortable pace. Guaranteed. And if you're not even taking the time to ensure that you play the notes correctly (nevermind to balance in between them), how much value do think can be found within the feedback your arms will receive? Any?

In any case, no trial and error process 'requires error'. That's grossly false logic. To arrive at a correct answer merely requires having reached it. Having got it wrong a few times doesn't change the final result (at least not positively). To claim that you have to screw something up before you can do it properly is totally missing the point. And, for that matter, learning the notes for a piece is not supposed to be viewed as a 'trial and error' process. That's simply sloppy, lazy thinking. Rapid learners don't 'have a go'. They take the time to ensure they have read every note properly and then seek to play them properly. They don't have a few guesses. You're really wildly off the mark here. If you're not able to get something right first time (without resorting to 'trial and error'), it shows just how flawed your method is. There is absolutely no place for thoughtless errors, if you're hoping for serious progress.


Some of this is known by good teachers and they can simply instruct how to do it. Just like all of the notes are on the page - there is no mystery what to play next.

Unless, of course, you both insist on going quickly at once and never taking any time between notes. In which case there frequently is a complete mystery as to what to play next and you hence go wrong.

But much of it is a mystery until experienced. And unless done perfectly the first time, it doesn't happen without error. You must do it wrong many times to do it right. Then you must recognize right, and be rewarded sufficiently to do it more often.

This is fundamentally at odds with all science about repetive movements. Out of interest, what level do you play to? Are you playing Chopin Studies or Bach fugues with this approach? If you're playing things wrong many times, I sincerely doubt that you'll ever even approach getting such difficulties right. I'm sorry, but I really can't believe that you're defending this approach. I'd like to hear of ANY pianist who plays advanced classical repetoire to a high level by going wrong repeatedly, rather than by ensuring that things are done comfortably and correctly. Recognize right? Have you never consider having the patience to read the score properly and take the time to do it right the first place? You seriously think this would be more harmful than pissing around playing something completely wrong, time after time? Is it me you're trying to persuade of this ridiculous theory or yourself? How much time do you waste playing things incorrectly exactly? You really don't think it might be quicker to get it right the first time?

The process of learning a technique unconnected to time, then relearning it at slow tempo, then relearning it at fast tempo, is simply WRONG.

Who said anything about being uncconnected to time? Looks like the strawman is being pulled out. Pause once before playing a note and you can go back and fix it. Screw up and you have far more work on your hands. It's better to pause than to go wrong- provided that you go back and reinstate the rhythm straight after.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/04/09 12:18 AM)
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#1280304 - 10/04/09 01:49 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: bluekeys]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: bluekeys
I know nothing about teaching piano and little about psychology, but I know a great deal about making mistakes. In fact, I'm one of the world's foremost experts at making mistakes.

Thus I'll forgo my usual reluctance to post on the teacher's forum to make two points:

1. To say mistakes are caused by the "non conscious" mind, is roughly equal to saying they're caused by green cylindrical creatures from the planet Tralfamadore. There's no way to prove it one way or the other so it's just idle speculation.

2. To suggest that anything regarding avoiding or preventing mistakes is off-topic makes the whole discussion about as pertenent as a game of tic tac toe.

[edited for brevity]
1) There is a vast amount of literature out there on the non-conscious (or un, pre, but not necessarily sub. Prenoetic is a good one). The problem is that it's very much multi-disciplined and dense. What goes on in the mind will always be idle speculation for those who only look at the surface. Some of the posters here have obviously gone deeper into it and I'm valuing their contribution.

2) That cognition is going on away from consciousness is quite a revelation to many, nonsensical to most but quite revealing to a few (the cognitive therapy folks can't abide the idea). We lived under Decartes' shadow for too long. I for one, am observing a different 'set up'. So yes, for the vast majority this topic is 'as pertinent as...' but I would like to keep on topic. We can and do have threads on how to prevent mistakes all the time.

As for posting in the Teachers Forum, you're welcome to (its those that post here just to slag off teachers that are annoying).
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#1280306 - 10/04/09 02:03 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: TimR]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: TimR
I strongly believe the learning approach to be neurologically hardwired, not within our control. We can use one or the other, but not choose. And I think that accounts for much of the frustration when a student fails to make progress using the approach that worked so very very well for his teacher.
That's a good observation and why I think teachers should always be looking 'under the hood', both theirs and their students'. All the time, and I'm sure it's non-conscious, that I'm teaching my mind is saying 'Why did he/she get this?' 'Why didn't he/she get that?' - a constant 100%-of-the-time probing. I think that's what sets us apart from other primates.
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#1280311 - 10/04/09 02:29 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Horowitzian]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2457
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Originally Posted By: landorrano
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
WHAT AN AWESOME THREAD!!!!!!!!


If you take all of times that Horowitzian posts this awesome comment you put him back to the 2000 post club.


grin

What else is one supposed to say after reading such a craptastic thread? The truth hurts, don't it?


Your twitty comments hurt? That's a laugher!

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#1280314 - 10/04/09 02:46 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: landorrano]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
The inner game books have come up as they often tend to with approaches to the non-conscious. My quibble there is that they give equal weight and treatment to both self one and self two and always, correct me if I'm wrong, on a cognitive level. I think the cognitive differences are of kind rather than degree or identity.

For those who are frustrated at the lack of self-help in this topic, look at it this way. If you're trying to get across a river sometimes it's worth climbing a tree. Though climbing is not exactly an activity you'd think of as relevant to crossing a river, who knows what you'll see from there?


Edited by keyboardklutz (10/04/09 04:20 AM)
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#1280345 - 10/04/09 05:22 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: keyboardklutz]
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/06
Posts: 2368
Loc: Denver, CO
Keyboardklutz,

I can't talk about The Inner Game of Tennis, as I've never read it. But The Inner Game of Music does not talk about the unconscious, IMO. The distinction between self one and self two are not intended to be interpreted as the distinction between conscious and unconscious, and this is stated directly in the book. I've always interpreted the point of this book as being that the conscious dialog analyzing and critiquing of yourself as you are playing interferes with the focus required in playing.

The "Game" is that you are playing an "Inner Game" against yourself - the practice of performing vs. the commentary on the performance.

Rich


Edited by DragonPianoPlayer (10/04/09 05:23 AM)
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#1280356 - 10/04/09 05:45 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: DragonPianoPlayer]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I have in my hands here the Inner Game of Tennis, Music and Skiing. As Tennis was the original I'll quote from that. I've forgotten how good it is and he is describing the non-conscious 100%:
Quote:
Who and What is Self 2?

Put aside for a moment the opinions you have about your body - whether you think of it as clumsy, uncoordinated, average, or really fantastic - and think about what it does. As you read these very words your body is performing a remarkable piece of coordination. Eyes are moving effortlessly, taking in images of black and white which are automatically compared with memories of similar markings, translated into symbols, then connected with other symbols to form an impression of meaning. Thousands of these operations are taking place every few seconds. At the same time, again without conscious effort, your heart is pumping and your breath is going in and out.....If you walked to a chair and turned on a light before beginning to read, your body coordinated a great number of muscle movements to accomplish those tasks without help from the conscious mind. Self 1 did not have to tell your body how far to reach before closing your fingers on the light switch, you knew your goal, and your body did what was necessary without thought. The process by which the body learned and performed these actions is no different from the process by which it learns and plays the game of tennis....Reflect on the complicated series of actions performed by Self 2 in the process of returning a serve. In order to anticipate how and where to move the feet and whether to take the racket back on the forehand or backhand side, the brain must calculate within a fraction of a second the moment the ball leaves the server's racket approximately where it is going to land and where the racket will intercept it....
Now I would add that Self 2 not just calculates but decides (makes choices). I'll have to reread him and see what he says.
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#1280387 - 10/04/09 07:15 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Originally Posted By: TimR
I strongly believe the learning approach to be neurologically hardwired, not within our control. We can use one or the other, but not choose. And I think that accounts for much of the frustration when a student fails to make progress using the approach that worked so very very well for his teacher.
That's a good observation and why I think teachers should always be looking 'under the hood', both theirs and their students'. All the time, and I'm sure it's non-conscious, that I'm teaching my mind is saying 'Why did he/she get this?' 'Why didn't he/she get that?' - a constant 100%-of-the-time probing. I think that's what sets us apart from other primates.


There are many approaches that can work, but there also many that simply don't. I'm really not seeing the value in going faster than you are able to be certain of working accurately at, or how this is ever going to be more suited to some people. Do we teach kids to recite the alphabet by saying the letters in a slightly different order each time, in the assumption that they'll eventually go on to say them in the correct order? Would this simply be an alternate approach of great value or a grossly flawed one? Jazz might be a different issue but promoting 'trial and error' as a method for learning the fixed patterns of classical piano just doesn't cut it for me. You learn by doing things accurately and consisently. Not by screwing up in a variety of different ways in the hope of gradually converging on the ability to do it right (when it was perfectly feasible to do so from the very outset- had you simply permitted yourself time to think).

When students don't get things right, the vast majority of the time it's either because they went too fast too soon to think it through adequately, or because they've gone wrong so many time before, that they have a hard time getting to the correct notes without confusing them with a range of previous tendencies. There are other things that can cause problems, but I'm certain that the overwhelming majority fit into this category. I don't see how encouraging students to simply "have a go" as their normal procedure for learning pieces will result in optimal results from anyone (unless their goal as a pianist is solely to be able to loosely blag their way through pieces at sight, without stopping).


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/04/09 07:27 AM)
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#1280390 - 10/04/09 07:24 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Skimmed through it. I think that would be the difference between Gallwey's inner game and the Embodiment people - Gallwey doesn't mention Self 2 making decisions. From what I'm reading of the Embodiment people it's role is extended to making choices. Of course if Gallwey had chosen to consider that role he would have seen that it definitely does. Take flight or fight for instance - you've decided long before you know you're in peril.
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#1280735 - 10/04/09 07:09 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: landorrano]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: landorrano
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Originally Posted By: landorrano
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
WHAT AN AWESOME THREAD!!!!!!!!


If you take all of times that Horowitzian posts this awesome comment you put him back to the 2000 post club.


grin

What else is one supposed to say after reading such a craptastic thread? The truth hurts, don't it?


Your twitty comments hurt? That's a laugher!


I take it, then, that that is your positive contribution to this thread? smile
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#1280772 - 10/04/09 08:21 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: keyboardklutz]
Opus_Maximus Offline
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Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1479
Keyboard klutz, you are absolutely correct.

I find that when I approach a new work, after learning it, and playing it for people, there are usually some "rough passages"...things that DO need to be corrected. So I go back and practice them as thourougly as possible, until I am physically able to play them.

However, come time of performance, sometimes, these passage, no matter how well I have actually learned them, will never EVER come across, simply because there has been permanent mental damage done in that section - such that mind subconcious nearly wills me me to make a mistake in that part. It has NOTHING to do with your actual technique, it is simply the unfortunate nature of the human condition - not leaving well enough alone. This is a universal problem. Andre Watts mentioned once that he had a season of nothing but memory lapses, and the most excruciating aspect of it all was that he could not help himself, at all costs, from EXPECTING these lapses, and he knew exactly where in the music they would be. His secondary self - as you prefer - was WILLING them to happen.

In my experience, the only way to overcome this is to :

a.) Try from the very beginning to learn as carefully as possible, knowing where you tend to fall into traps so you might be able to avoid them, so you will at least minimize the amount of these mental traps.

b.) Simply suffer through it, then wait. Drop the piece for a few months without so much as thinking about it. When you re-approach it, you will find that the tide of time has done good work in washing away the anxiety, and you will begin to "Feel" the piece - both physically and pyschologically - in a newer, more mature way.

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#1280798 - 10/04/09 09:10 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
Keyboard klutz, you are absolutely correct.

I find that when I approach a new work, after learning it, and playing it for people, there are usually some "rough passages"...things that DO need to be corrected. So I go back and practice them as thourougly as possible, until I am physically able to play them.

However, come time of performance, sometimes, these passage, no matter how well I have actually learned them, will never EVER come across, simply because there has been permanent mental damage done in that section - such that mind subconcious nearly wills me me to make a mistake in that part. It has NOTHING to do with your actual technique, it is simply the unfortunate nature of the human condition - not leaving well enough alone. This is a universal problem. Andre Watts mentioned once that he had a season of nothing but memory lapses, and the most excruciating aspect of it all was that he could not help himself, at all costs, from EXPECTING these lapses, and he knew exactly where in the music they would be. His secondary self - as you prefer - was WILLING them to happen.

In my experience, the only way to overcome this is to :

a.) Try from the very beginning to learn as carefully as possible, knowing where you tend to fall into traps so you might be able to avoid them, so you will at least minimize the amount of these mental traps.

b.) Simply suffer through it, then wait. Drop the piece for a few months without so much as thinking about it. When you re-approach it, you will find that the tide of time has done good work in washing away the anxiety, and you will begin to "Feel" the piece - both physically and pyschologically - in a newer, more mature way.


I agree entirely with what you describe there, but KBK made it clear that he's not talking about that. He insisted on some perverse waffle about the subconscious wanting to fix a mistake and hence correcting incorrectly and denied that it's about anxiety. Of course, his theory is just a complete load of unsubstantiated hot air however, and the more likely explanation is the anxiety you describe.

I wouldn't say it has 'nothing' to do with technique though. When the movements are truly assured, anxiety is far less likely to cause problems. You can see how nervous Horowitz was on his 1968 film. However, his sheer technical assurance and ability to adjust (eg. leaving out a few notes when playing right on the edge) carry him through with no problems. A lesser pianist in the same condition might have made a total balls up. The more instability is present (whether that be in the physical memory, or the mental understanding of the foundations- something that is vital for picking up at once after finger slips or missing notes), the more damage anxiety can do. It tends to amplify small problems. Perhaps Watts was so nervous about these passages, because he was also less than happy with how they were going in practise? I find it hard to believe he was playing effortlessly and without problems in each and every rehearsal, but then losing it in virtually ever concert.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/04/09 09:16 PM)
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#1280818 - 10/04/09 09:48 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
TimR Offline
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By a weird coincidence, I was in a drugstore today browsing the magazine rack while I waited.

Discover magazine had a special issue on the brain, and an article caught my eye: why we screw up.

Neurons in the DMA fire 30 seconds before we have a brain fart. (technical term) The way the authors explained it, the brain has decided things are going okay, time to turn the autopilot on and take a little rest. And during that rest, when the more attentive sections of the brain are on coffee break, the autopilot takes us right past our exit.
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#1280832 - 10/04/09 10:36 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: TimR]
eweiss Offline
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Mistakes serve a purpose according to Despair Inc..



I wonder how that might apply to piano playing?
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#1280902 - 10/05/09 01:38 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: eweiss]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Thanks for that Tim. We may be back to the ol' right brain/left brain. This guy is saying processes go on 24/7 without consciousness which can only take in one at a time:
http://discovermagazine.com/brightcove?bcpid=370512060&bclid=533256427&bctid=11141919001
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#1280906 - 10/05/09 01:46 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: keyboardklutz]
keyboardklutz Offline
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I love the cup of water thing - so true: http://discovermagazine.com/brightcove?bcpid=370512060&bclid=533256427&bctid=16760371001
Perhaps no relevance but it's interesting Piaget stuff. I can always tell when an 11 year old is behind others in development. Ask them to draw a car - the ones who are behind have to put 4 wheels on it even though they draw a side view.

I think this is what I'm talking about - decisions being made before you are aware of it. In fact, as he states, others around you can be aware you've made a decision before you are. The 'confidence center' of the brain seems to be the key. If it gives the OK to the correction then it'll stick. If not then you'll still be searching for the error.
http://discovermagazine.com/brightcove?bcpid=370512060&bclid=533256427&bctid=16759497001

Could we be so busy focusing on the correction we fail to inhibit the mistake? This thread is a good case in point - how many posters are so anxious to avoid mistakes that they assume that's the subject of this thread?
http://discovermagazine.com/brightcove?bcpid=370512060&bclid=533256427&bctid=11043607001

It was my amygdala wot done it:
http://discovermagazine.com/brightcove?bcpid=370512060&bclid=533256427&bctid=1283221335
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#1281328 - 10/05/09 04:00 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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If we're talking about a half-decent pianist, there's no question of 'inhibiting a mistake'. When good pianists make mistakes, they go back and focus on what they SHOULD be playing. Nothing else should even come into the picture. I'm stunned that anyone would be thinking "Don't play an f natural" instead of thinking about the F sharp and the physical distance that will lead into it from the previous note. Those who flourish don't just "have another go" (and make the same balls up five times in a row). Fixing errors may involve going ultra slow and repeating on many occasions. However, there is no question of trying to 'remove' a mistake. You just go slow and use your brain to follow the instructions as they are presented, without allowing habit to control anything. This is repeated until the passage is under control. The only point of focus is the movement you had not done but which was required. Only those who do not stop to rethink and simply try again (on the off chance that some mysterious instinct will work perfectly well next time) might even have to contemplate 'inhibiting a mistake'. Good pianists simply focus on the positive of what they are attempting to do. To even raise the notion of thinking too much about the means of correction shows a complete misunderstanding. In fact, it probably shouldn't even be thought of as a 'correction'. You simply need to visualize what you're supposed to be doing (with 100% certainty) and focus on nothing other than doing it. If the mistake is coming back, you're not practising with any understanding but merely relying on habit still- which offers virtually no realistic prospect of improvement. Good practise doesn't come through reliance on habits. Reliable habits come through good practise.

I love the picture. I think that's certainly the only respect in which persistently making mistakes in the hope that it will lead to convergence on a right way might have any inherent value (with regard to learning pieces on the piano, at least). The results of the "trial and error" approach certainly serve as a powerful warning, so all credit to the martyrs who are going ahead with airing such a powerful message.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/05/09 04:23 PM)
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#1281544 - 10/06/09 03:11 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Is that why young children learn so well? Because as we get older we correct mistakes instead of inhibiting them? The child knows nothing of this so operates naturally. As they get older do children not get more emoted by their mistakes?
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#1281607 - 10/06/09 07:43 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Is that why young children learn so well? Because as we get older we correct mistakes instead of inhibiting them? The child knows nothing of this so operates naturally. As they get older do children not get more emoted by their mistakes?


You read my post then?

Getting annoyed by mistakes may well be an issue. Experiencing anxiety about having gone wrong may well make it more difficult to go back and casually focus on simply playing it correctly next time. Focus on the mistake and the stress levels may reduce the odds of playing the passage right the next time. Frustration often leads to simply launching in without the thought that is required to get it right second time round. This is the single biggest enemy to progress.

Why should correcting mistakes instead of inhibiting them be a reason why adults would learn less well? On what logical grounding? And who says that children who progress well 'inhibit' mistakes rather than go back and correct them? There's nothing 'natural' about that. It's well established that young children are more able to form neural connections than older people. That's why they learn faster. However, this makes it all the more important for them to be focussing on how they need to go about playing the passage, instead of on inhibiting something from happening. It's all the easier for them to screw things up for good by going wrong a few times. To think of inhibiting provides no notion of what means they are supposed to achieve any inhibition.

Even if you think of inhibiting a mistake, the only way to do so is to think about the positive of what movement is required to 'inhibit' that mistake- or rather to play the passage correctly. Can you inhibit a mistake by playing a random note- or do you need to think about both the RIGHT note and the RIGHT movement to be able to play it? If you haven't done that, in other words you're relying on habits (that have clearly not formed adequately, judging from the prior mistake) or basic guesswork. That would certainly explain your tendency to see new mistakes emerging around the point of the corrected one. There is simply no feasible approach that leaves out the positive of focussing on what IS required. Again, it's well established in science that the human brain cannot fully process isolated negatives (just like we can't visualize a negative quantity of apples, say, but we can process 4-3 apples- in which we can see three positive apples being removed, without having to visualize any anti-apples). This really doesn't seem to be going anywhere. What basis do you have for this ill-evidenced theory, that so much established science would suggest to be squarely counterproductive? I sincerely hope you don't teach this way, contrary to such widely accepted science about the brain.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (10/06/09 08:18 AM)
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#1281634 - 10/06/09 09:15 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Joe H.]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: Joe H.
So mistakes are permanently engraved onto the brain, never to be erased or changed? That just doesn't seem to click with reality. I've imprinted mistakes into my subconscious before, but have always been able to change those mistakes or habits, never to be seen again. And I'm sure plenty of you, including KeyboardKlutz, have experienced this as well. Wouldn't that imply that the mistakes were erased or changed?

As far as how they occur there is an unending source of causes: misunderstanding the piece, mis-reading a note or rhythm, anxiety, nervousness, stage-fright, distraction, etc. I think you can prevent these by being patient and focused while learning and practicing a piece. Never have expectations before you sit down to play. Just accept your ability at that moment, begin within in it, and then build upon it. You will inevitably make a mistake no matter what, because you are human. When you do, correct it then and there before it gets imprinted onto your sub-conscious/limbic brain.

Web etiquette advice politely withdrawn. Voila! (I spelled it right!!!)

Sorry, I dropped out of this discussion so I'm playing catch-up now!
I don't think something ever gets fixed. When someone quits smoking, even years after they may be tempted to light one up in a particularly stressful situation. The habit never goes away, we just react to it differently.

The same is with mistakes in piano. We never unlearn a learned mistake, we just have to go through extra processes to not act on that wrong information. Set aside a piece where you thought you got it down perfectly and come back to it after a few months. Those mistakes will be right back in there.

Or take the student who learned a rhythm wrong, you point it out to them at the lesson, and they come back the next week with the same incorrect rhythm. They went home and practiced every day, but they couldn't undo that mistake. It takes lots and lots of work to learn how to not act on that first-learned sound, and it always will be there.

Why? Because the mistake always makes more sense to us than the reality of what it should be. When we finally understand what it should be -- completely understand -- then we can begin to change our response to the impulse to play it wrong.
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#1281646 - 10/06/09 09:30 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Originally Posted By: TimR
I strongly believe the learning approach to be neurologically hardwired, not within our control. We can use one or the other, but not choose. And I think that accounts for much of the frustration when a student fails to make progress using the approach that worked so very very well for his teacher.
That's a good observation and why I think teachers should always be looking 'under the hood', both theirs and their students'. All the time, and I'm sure it's non-conscious, that I'm teaching my mind is saying 'Why did he/she get this?' 'Why didn't he/she get that?' - a constant 100%-of-the-time probing. I think that's what sets us apart from other primates.


There are many approaches that can work, but there also many that simply don't. I'm really not seeing the value in going faster than you are able to be certain of working accurately at, or how this is ever going to be more suited to some people. Do we teach kids to recite the alphabet by saying the letters in a slightly different order each time, in the assumption that they'll eventually go on to say them in the correct order? Would this simply be an alternate approach of great value or a grossly flawed one? Jazz might be a different issue but promoting 'trial and error' as a method for learning the fixed patterns of classical piano just doesn't cut it for me. You learn by doing things accurately and consisently. Not by screwing up in a variety of different ways in the hope of gradually converging on the ability to do it right (when it was perfectly feasible to do so from the very outset- had you simply permitted yourself time to think).

When students don't get things right, the vast majority of the time it's either because they went too fast too soon to think it through adequately, or because they've gone wrong so many time before, that they have a hard time getting to the correct notes without confusing them with a range of previous tendencies. There are other things that can cause problems, but I'm certain that the overwhelming majority fit into this category. I don't see how encouraging students to simply "have a go" as their normal procedure for learning pieces will result in optimal results from anyone (unless their goal as a pianist is solely to be able to loosely blag their way through pieces at sight, without stopping).


Slow, deliberate practice does not mean hesitation. If I have a student who need sot hesitate, it means their fingers are going too fast for their brain. Often beginners have one speed - the speed at which we speak, which is 116. However, when learning a new piece this is way too fast. They are speaking a foreign language, and they're not yet familiar with the vocabulary. Therefore, they must learn to speak slower, the speed at which they can process the "words" if you will. This is not hesitation; doing the opposite will cause hesitation.
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#1281683 - 10/06/09 10:36 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Morodiene]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Slow, deliberate practice does not mean hesitation.


Agreed. Going slowly enough to think everything through adequately yet maintain continuity is always the goal. However, I would say that a moment of hesitation is always better than going on to strike a wrong note (in practice time). Land on a a wrong note and you have a lot of work to do, if you don't want it to come back. However, hesitate a little, and you can figure out what the note is for definite before going back and then getting the rhythm immediately afterwards (perhaps at a slower tempo, if required).

Some people have the idea that any hesitation is ALWAYS a cardinal sin and that it's better to go wrong in any instance. I think this is rather short sighted. It's vital to have the skill to fake in this way, but the procedures for practising sight-reading and the procedures for learning pieces should not be treated identically. A good pianist ought to have both sets of skills, through working both ways. Those who always favour wrong notes over hesitations in all circumstances (rather than merely in run-throughs) will inevitably be less accurate in pieces they are seeking to learn, even if they are more continuous in their sight-reading. The only problem with hesitations is when they are not properly fixed, through slower continuous work.

I agree that the memory of wrong notes is hard to remove, but I don't know if I agree with this:

"Set aside a piece where you thought you got it down perfectly and come back to it after a few months. Those mistakes will be right back in there."

If old errors return, it suggests that it hadn't quite been down perfectly before. I've notice recently that pieces I have learned in more recent years have come back very easily, after time off. Any slips tend to be down to having forgotten what I was intending to play (hence the importance of starting from the score and thinking it through as if from scratch), rather than bad habits from before. In the past it took ages to relearn an old piece (basically because I had learned them with such inefficient movements in the first place). I think whichever habits were strongest are the most likely ones to come back. I think the biggest risk with old pieces is to think that because you could play them before, you don't need to put much thought into bringing them back up. It often causes a whole load of new problems, when you go wrong because you were expecting everything to be as familiar as it used to be. However, if you start slowly and patiently, it can be surprisingly easy to return to the exact state in which the piece had been previously (or ideally better).
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#1281734 - 10/06/09 11:57 AM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Morodiene Offline
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Another note on the "hesitation" subject: one cannot compare hesitation in improv with hesitation in practice. These are two distinct activities, like improv acting vs. acting a Shakespearean role. While both involve language, they are very different in their execution. One rarely sees mistakes in improvisation in general since it is all ad hoc, whereas mistakes in performing a written piece can happen for various reasons.

Quote:
"Set aside a piece where you thought you got it down perfectly and come back to it after a few months. Those mistakes will be right back in there."

If old errors return, it suggests that it hadn't quite been down perfectly before. I've notice recently that pieces I have learned in more recent years have come back very easily, after time off. Any slips tend to be down to having forgotten what I was intending to play (hence the importance of starting from the score and thinking it through as if from scratch), rather than bad habits from before. In the past it took ages to relearn an old piece (basically because I had learned them with such inefficient movements in the first place). I think whichever habits were strongest are the most likely ones to come back. I think the biggest risk with old pieces is to think that because you could play them before, you don't need to put much thought into bringing them back up. It often causes a whole load of new problems, when you go wrong because you were expecting everything to be as familiar as it used to be. However, if you start slowly and patiently, it can be surprisingly easy to return to the exact state in which the piece had been previously (or ideally better).


It is a scientific fact that something learned cannot be lost with the exclusion of brain trauma. What is lost, however, is the ability to retrieve, like a bridge that breaks down over time. The place the bridge goes to still exists, but the means of getting there may not. Some bridges are better left broken, and when I've relearned pieces if enough time has happened, the old mistakes do not return. Or, as I put forth in my previous post, if the proper way was sufficiently learned and understood then the bridge to the mistake will not return.


Edited by Morodiene (10/06/09 11:58 AM)
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#1281757 - 10/06/09 12:45 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Morodiene]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Another note on the "hesitation" subject: one cannot compare hesitation in improv with hesitation in practice. These are two distinct activities, like improv acting vs. acting a Shakespearean role. While both involve language, they are very different in their execution. One rarely sees mistakes in improvisation in general since it is all ad hoc, whereas mistakes in performing a written piece can happen for various reasons.


Yeah, I think that's a nice comparison. Following on from that, I don't think any actor would feel that it would be a good idea to maintain the rhythm but make up random words, while learning their lines- rather than simply go back to the text and check it. You have to make a distinction between whether you're practising or performing. When you're practising, it's better to hesitate or to stop, before going back to put everything together into something that is not only whole, but also correct. It's only when you're rehearsing performance itself, that you ought to be willing to make compromises in favour of going ahead rather than stopping. If a student has learned a piece from start to finish, I'd expect them to be in performance mode, when playing it to me. I wouldn't want to hear stops. Conversely, if they haven't yet learned the notes, the last thing I would ever encourage them to do is to make guesses when playing any of it for me, purely for the sake of maintaing the rhythm.

"It is a scientific fact that something learned cannot be lost with the exclusion of brain trauma. What is lost, however, is the ability to retrieve, like a bridge that breaks down over time. The place the bridge goes to still exists, but the means of getting there may not. Some bridges are better left broken, and when I've relearned pieces if enough time has happened, the old mistakes do not return. Or, as I put forth in my previous post, if the proper way was sufficiently learned and understood then the bridge to the mistake will not return."

Again, that's a nice way of putting it. When relearning a piece, if you have the patience to treat every note on the score as though you are reading it and playing it for the first time (paradoxical as it sounds), you soon find it feels as instinctive as when you were working on it before. However, if you start by attempting to play it as you did previously, you create all kinds of new problems and probably never get back to the same old standard. As you say, it's just a matter of rebuilding the bridge to where you were before.
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#1281766 - 10/06/09 12:58 PM Re: I know how mistakes happen! [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Again Morodiene you are getting side tracked. If you really want a side track how the amygdala 'lights up' perceptions to re-enforce their retention is a good one. How do we get students to emote over what we wish to get into their memories and not emote over errors? I know Tony Buzan uses colours.
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