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#1405280 - 03/28/10 01:41 AM mental practice
lontano 1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/08/10
Posts: 17
Loc: Seattle, WA
My teacher tried to explain mental practice to me. I find it to be very hard. Any advice? thanks

Kam

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#1405288 - 03/28/10 01:53 AM Re: mental practice [Re: lontano 1]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Now you're talkin'. Hey, and welcome to PW!
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#1405459 - 03/28/10 11:57 AM Re: mental practice [Re: lontano 1]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Best would be to ask your teacher. smile

I find it very helpful. I think we all would probably benefit from doing it more than we do; the only times I do it are when I happen not to have a piano available, because if I do, I'd rather just play. smile
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#1405500 - 03/28/10 12:50 PM Re: mental practice [Re: Mark_C]
keyboardklutz Offline
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When it comes to memorizing mental practice rules! You want to avoid anything that encourages muscle memory.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1405714 - 03/28/10 06:04 PM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
PianonaiP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/22/09
Posts: 119
Loc: Central PA
I'm kind of curious to what all this involves. Going over the score with music? Or is it with no music? Maybe just thinking about practice? Enlighten me ha ha.

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#1405721 - 03/28/10 06:14 PM Re: mental practice [Re: PianonaiP]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I go over the score with music, listen to recordings, sing, conduct, make notes in the score regarding fingering, hand position changes, some theoretical analysis, etc...
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"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1405739 - 03/28/10 06:33 PM Re: mental practice [Re: Kreisler]
Palindrome Offline
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Loc: Chicago, IL USA
I read through the score, listening to the music in my head as I do. Sometimes I get ideas, particularly with regard to phrasing. My piano teacher (who was a very accomplished musician) couldn't do this.
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#1405794 - 03/28/10 07:56 PM Re: mental practice [Re: Palindrome]
Ferdinand Offline
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Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 941
Loc: California
I do mental practice mostly after learning the piece well enough to play it without the score. I visualize the keyboard and play the piece slowly in imagination, making sure I know every note. I try to hear the music mentally while doing this, but sometimes all I can manage is the melody. As keyboardklutz suggested in another thread, visualizing the correct fingering is important for secure memorization. I've been trying recently to do this but am finding it very difficult.

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#1405960 - 03/29/10 02:04 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Ferdinand]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Years ago I realized I might as well start memorizing anything I'm seriously interested in rather than read through the score, as that's the eventual outcome anyway. I now realize, and Matthay amongst many others concur, that you don't know a piece unless you can perform it in your head note-for-note finger-for-finger - so I'm starting there. Only when I can play a section in my head will I take it to the piano because that's how it ultimately must be anyhow. It's the only way to defeat performance anxiety (by avoiding muscle memory at all costs).
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#1405963 - 03/29/10 02:14 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Ferdinand Offline
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Registered: 04/23/07
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You set the fingering away from the piano?

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#1405964 - 03/29/10 02:15 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Ferdinand]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Ah.....no. That's a very important point. And I do learn hands separately.
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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1405995 - 03/29/10 03:36 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
zxcjason Offline
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Registered: 02/06/10
Posts: 166
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Also, do it in a quiet place, and a quiet time so you can focus. To me personally, it's like a form of meditation.

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#1406001 - 03/29/10 03:45 AM Re: mental practice [Re: zxcjason]
keyboardklutz Offline
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There's a dog that barks a lot round here. I put white noise on when doing this. Of course one can assume once it can be done in a crowded noisy room you're ready for the concert platform!
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1406202 - 03/29/10 11:57 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
keyboardklutz Offline
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It really does work. I've just learned a Mazurka this way. A few memory probs were creeping in so I spent half an hour in the armchair this morning. This afternoon I know it 100% - pleasant surprise.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1406494 - 03/29/10 05:32 PM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Years ago I realized I might as well start memorizing anything I'm seriously interested in rather than read through the score, as that's the eventual outcome anyway. I now realize, and Matthay amongst many others concur, that you don't know a piece unless you can perform it in your head note-for-note finger-for-finger - so I'm starting there. Only when I can play a section in my head will I take it to the piano because that's how it ultimately must be anyhow. It's the only way to defeat performance anxiety (by avoiding muscle memory at all costs).


I can't help but notice that you seem to have a score in front of you in virtually every one of your youtube films. Am I perhaps missing something, or do I spy a rather major discrepancy?

As for avoiding muscle memory at all costs, that is simply absurd. Muscle memory must be complemented not replaced. This a huge distinction that needs to be made. Can you play a piece you have memorised, with you hand crossed over (ie. left hand plays the right and vice versa) with no more difficulty than as normal? If not, you are definably "guilty" of muscle memory, whether you realise it or not. For virtually all mere mortals, mental practise is hugely geared towards development of muscle memory- never moreso than than when it is based around fingerings, rather than merely decontextualised visualisation of pitches.

A good way of adding to (not replacing!) muscle memory is to play pieces from start to finish with one finger, by the way.
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#1406791 - 03/30/10 12:57 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Where did I say replace muscle memory? That's absurd, you'd fall down without it. As usual, an entire post built on putting words in my mouth. But hey, glad you're studying my videos - you might learn something!

On interesting point though, even learning a piece from the sheet it's better practicing away from the keyboard once you've done the fingering. Mulling over music without the encumbrance of machinery is very beneficial - technical work apart obviously (though even there there's a space).
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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1406814 - 03/30/10 01:53 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Indeed, I'm now intimately acquainted with a host of the dangers of the flopping approach and how much it can hold back those who devote their all to it. Pardon me for thinking that the sentence:

"You want to avoid anything that encourages muscle memory."

might be equated with seeking to replace muscle memory. The only absurdity I'm currently seeing is to claim that there is a notable distinction of definitions. Feel free to replace the word "replace" with "avoid" throughout my post, if that makes it any less absurd to you (after all I should absolutely hate to be seen as having forced the word "replace" into your mouth, where you actually wished to say "avoid"). And then perhaps you might actually go on to respond to the points contained within in specific terms? You claim to memorise everything, where your vidoes clearly show otherwise. So is this just a display of public bravado or do you ever actually practise what you claim to always do? And how can you claim the importance of "avoiding" muscle memory (which you would of course fall down without, according to an updated assertion), when your (claimed) learning approach is geared most clearly toward developing association of the PHYSICAL image of fingering, rather than merely pitch? Is an iota of argumental consistency too much to ask for?
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http://pianoscience.blogspot.com/

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#1406817 - 03/30/10 01:57 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Muscle memory is the water we swim in, surely striving to stick our heads above the waves (at all cost) is worthwhile?
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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1406819 - 03/30/10 02:04 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Indeed. That's the precisely the point I made, so I'm not quite suire why you're pointing it out to me. Still, perhaps olympic swimmers would be well advised "to avoid" the water they swim in at all costs (but God forbid that they might "replace" it). That's supposed to be any clearer? Try thinking about it before whacking out yet another post and you might avoid offering such deeply misguided suggestions in future. The world is more complex than only having one thing or another, you know. To insist on avoiding muscle memory before detailing a practise method that is specifically towards developing it really doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
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#1406821 - 03/30/10 02:08 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Back ten minutes and up to the same nasty flaming!
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#1406822 - 03/30/10 02:10 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
I'd call it raising evident holes in your argument. Feel free to return to the topic and fill in those holes. I'm not going to be drawn in by your attempt to change the topic, thankyou.
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http://pianoscience.blogspot.com/

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#1406824 - 03/30/10 02:15 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Frozenicicles Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/09
Posts: 1324
Loc: Canada
A piece that's securely memorized requires visual memory of the score, auditory memory of the sound, cognitive memory of the harmonic changes, and muscle memory of the touch and fingering. But sometimes the latter can seemingly make the others unnecessary during practice... until you're on stage, your mind is blank and you don't even know what the first note is. Simply practicing the piece with consistent fingering will ensure that the muscle memory develops. But careful work, sometimes away from the piano, needs to be done to make sure that you actually know the piece if you want a good chance of performing it well.

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#1406825 - 03/30/10 02:18 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Frozenicicles]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Agreed. It's only one part. The point I was raising is that muscle memory must not be "avoided", in any sense of the word. That would be a deeply flawed mindset to carry. Muscle memory is the absolute foundation of learning- otherwise none of us would ever have cause to do any practise at a keyboard. The fact that other aspects should also be trained does not mean that it should ever be advisable to avoid it. You need to ADD to it, not seek to prevent it. Mental practise that visualizes fingering trains muscle memory just the same as it trains mental understanding.
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#1406827 - 03/30/10 02:33 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Frozenicicles Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/09
Posts: 1324
Loc: Canada
Yeah, muscle memory is important. Being able to play large skips without looking, for example. I suspect that highly advanced pianists may be able to build muscle memory even away from the piano based on their past experience with the keyboard. Not sure, because I've never tried this myself. I did cram one violin piece entirely away from the instrument, but the violin is very different from the piano...and it wasn't a very hard piece.

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#1406831 - 03/30/10 02:39 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Frozenicicles]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Yeah, I think that's precisely the mistake kbk has made. To visualize the physical means is to train muscle memory, whether you try it at a keyboard or not. Only pure pitch based visualization, with absolutely no visualization of physical means, can reasonably be viewed as standing as an alternative to training muscle memory. If you really want to build a complete alternative, it would make good sense to do mental practise with no thought of physical means at all (especially not fingering), before seeking to improvise the means from scratch at a keyboard. A real genius can do this- hence those who really can flip their hands over and play a piece just the same. I heard that Fiorentino could do this with any Bach fugue. However, what most of us can do is to associate muscle memory with more conscious processes. For anything less than a genius, it's about developing the right associations and has nothing to do with avoiding muscle memory. If couldn't happily reverse your hands, muscle memory is the single thing that most allows you to reach your highest standards. That's not an enemy. However, if you did want to escape it outright, thinking about fingering is not the way to go (in fact, doing would make it a polar opposite to avoiding development of muscle memory, as that is precisely what will be trained). You'd need to think only about pitch, if you really want to break away.
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#1406921 - 03/30/10 07:58 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Varcon Offline
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Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
My teacher told me of Gabrilowitsch pacing up and down with the score and that much of his practice was down mentally. Another teacher told me that I should be able to write out the score while another wrote one time 'Exhaust the printed page.' So, studying the score and examining it for every detail is most important. However, another teacher told me one time that muscle memory would often get one through mental lapses during performance so it is a combination of mental, visual, auditory, physical in appropriate combination that would work favorably for the performer. There are stories of Dohnanyi (and others) being given a score and studying it on a train or before a concert (minus a keyboard)and then performing it during the program.

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#1407006 - 03/30/10 10:59 AM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
And I do learn hands separately.


Initially or?

I find it extremely helpful, after learning something, to memorize the LH alone. I've noticed that most memory slips with people happen because of the left hand, and it's often what we're so uncertain of. If the LH is memorized.. hell you won't even be nervous!

Try playing an entire program just with the LH..



Edited by AngelinaPogorelich (03/30/10 11:00 AM)
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#1407048 - 03/30/10 11:58 AM Re: mental practice [Re: Pogorelich.]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
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When a piece is memorized it's worthwhile going over just the one hand to make sure you haven't passed any of it on to muscle memory.
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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1407059 - 03/30/10 12:09 PM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Any of it? Surely that's impossible? Muscle memory is not all bad..
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#1407060 - 03/30/10 12:10 PM Re: mental practice [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
???

If you haven't passed any of it on to muscle memory then you will not be able to play it with any more confidence than the first time you atempt it. If you want a backup plan, practising it from memory with one finger (or visualizing the notes without thought of physical means) is a sure way to check that you know it by memory without recourse to muscle memory. However, if you think that means you are not using any muscle memory, you have a definably inaccurate picture of what goes on.

Having seen you struggle on your films with a score in front of you, I'm afraid I'm finding it hard to believe that you are one of the rare geniuses who has no need for muscle memory in order to play a relatively advanced piece with true confidence for the first time. In fact, my professional assessment would be that this is one of the things that you need to cultivate substantially more in order to progress (perhaps to the point where you could put the scores away, instead of merely claiming to do so with every piece you learn). I can easily see how you would struggle to play a piece by memory based on muscle memory alone, as your manner of movement is very inconsistent and disjointed.
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