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#1639187 - 03/11/11 10:33 PM Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!)
CebuKid Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1174
I've always learned my difficult pieces "in chunks" as many of you do. However, I have "intensified" my learning recently, by learning the chunks (anywhere between 2 to 8 measures - again, depending on difficulty), and then repeating the chunks at least 20 times the same day I learn it. I have set a goal of 50 repeats on that "chunk" (though I never do actually count), but I think it comes out to close to that number.

Anyway, in the past, I would learn a chunk, and then just do it a couple of times, and this would typically span a few days, where I'd be stuck on that chunk for up to a week. My new method seems to accelerate my learning, and I'm liking it. Now, I can move on to the next chunk the next day, while ingraining the existing one and bringing it up to tempo. This, of course, increases my time at the bench, but I've been on a roll this week. smile I also have the gift of memory so after all these reps, I've essentially memorized the chunk too.

Thoughts, anyone?
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#1639213 - 03/11/11 11:04 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
That's exactly how practicing should be done!

Segment your piece, and DRILL it until you can play it at a ton of speeds in a ton of ways! Then the next day, review, choose a new segment, and DRILL.
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II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1639373 - 03/12/11 05:59 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
SilentSound Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/10/11
Posts: 14
Loc: The Netherlands
Is that so? I wonder if the human brain isn't just automating itself when you practice/drill a single thing, exactly the same way over and over again for ~50 times. Sure you can learn to play that chunk flawlessly but perhaps creatively, you aren't evolving that much. And in the end you have to connect the chunks. But what if you have practiced all the chunks separately in different ways, you might hear a significant difference between the chunks instead of a fluent piece of music. I dont know... Need some more input from other people to conclude that that is THE way to practice. However, whatever works for you..
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#1639377 - 03/12/11 06:03 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
rozina Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/25/10
Posts: 122
Loc: Slovenia
When you practice chunks by them selves you still connect them. You add the first note (or a couple of notes) of the next chunk to the chunk you are practising. So when you connect them you already have all the knowledge you need to play them smoothly.
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#1639380 - 03/12/11 06:33 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: SilentSound]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Originally Posted By: SilentSound
Is that so? I wonder if the human brain isn't just automating itself when you practice/drill a single thing, exactly the same way over and over again for ~50 times. Sure you can learn to play that chunk flawlessly but perhaps creatively, you aren't evolving that much. And in the end you have to connect the chunks. But what if you have practiced all the chunks separately in different ways, you might hear a significant difference between the chunks instead of a fluent piece of music. I dont know... Need some more input from other people to conclude that that is THE way to practice. However, whatever works for you..


Yes, it is.

First of all, you assume that practicing it one way means you aren't building to something. That's wrong.

Secondly, you must OVERLAP sections. So yes, they are connected.

Third, you also assume that you will work some sections to a better quality than others. That is false, if you are practicing correctly and have a goal in mind (aka, usually, as playing the song in the end).
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1639392 - 03/12/11 07:03 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: ll]
Cobra1365 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/11/10
Posts: 261
It's what I've been doing and it seems to work. Though I don't got to 50 times per day.

Initially its mechanical, but then as you get a feeling for it you can "play" around a bit.


Edited by Cobra1365 (03/12/11 07:03 AM)
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#1639396 - 03/12/11 07:21 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
JR_YC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 24
Loc: Rochester Hills, MI
Regarding:"Sure you can learn to play that chunk flawlessly but perhaps creatively, you aren't evolving that much."

I think it would make sense to choose a "chunk" that is also a phrase within the larger piece of music, so that the chunk can be developed both technically and creatively.

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#1639397 - 03/12/11 07:24 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: ll]
SilentSound Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/10/11
Posts: 14
Loc: The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: ll


Yes, it is.

First of all, you assume that practicing it one way means you aren't building to something. That's wrong.

Secondly, you must OVERLAP sections. So yes, they are connected.

Third, you also assume that you will work some sections to a better quality than others. That is false, if you are practicing correctly and have a goal in mind (aka, usually, as playing the song in the end).


Yeah well, look, that overlapping point is pretty obvious and I agree with the third point to some extent. You say that it is false with the right goal in mind, however if you have practiced a chunk 50+ times, it might be pretty hard to unlearn or adapt a certain chunk when you notice it doesn't quite fit, since it is practically burned in. I'm certainly not against learning things in parts , the problem is with the immense number of repetitions at once. Why not choose a few musical pieces to work on simultaneously, learn some parts but do less repetitions. It would then take you more days to finish one single piece , but it should not take you more time. Plus that way you get some different musical impulses during practice instead of bashing one piece 50+ times in your head.
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#1639425 - 03/12/11 08:49 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
daviel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/07
Posts: 933
Loc: Waxahachie, Texas
Charles Cooke - my piano coach, "playing the Piano for Pleasure" http://www.amazon.com/Playing-Piano-Plea...7823&sr=1-1,
calls what Cebukid is doing 'setting fractures.' It is a great way to learn hard parts.
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David Loving, Waxahachie, Texas

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#1639505 - 03/12/11 11:22 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: rozina]
CebuKid Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1174
Originally Posted By: rozina
When you practice chunks by them selves you still connect them. You add the first note (or a couple of notes) of the next chunk to the chunk you are practising. So when you connect them you already have all the knowledge you need to play them smoothly.


rozina, exactly! Yes, off course the chunks need to be connected in order to complete a piece. It's like "putting the pieces together" once the chunks are learned.

I am not sure if "SilentSound" thinks that people only practice chunks and never complete pieces. But I do know chunking is pretty common with pianists and other musicians (I've always learned this way). ..but hey, maybe he can learn a difficult piece "fluently and musically" at first sight. More power to you if you can! Is there a place where I can see or hear you're playing, SilentSound? You must be very talented!
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Music washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.
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#1639511 - 03/12/11 11:27 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: JR_YC]
CebuKid Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1174
Originally Posted By: JR_YC
Regarding:"Sure you can learn to play that chunk flawlessly but perhaps creatively, you aren't evolving that much."

I think it would make sense to choose a "chunk" that is also a phrase within the larger piece of music, so that the chunk can be developed both technically and creatively.


JR_YC: thanks for the intelligent suggestion!

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#1639516 - 03/12/11 11:37 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
polyphasicpianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
Use aspects of the quality of your sound as a performance criteria that a chunk has been learned, instead of trying to estimate the number of repetitions.

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#1639558 - 03/12/11 12:41 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
SilentSound Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/10/11
Posts: 14
Loc: The Netherlands
double
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#1639559 - 03/12/11 12:42 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: SilentSound]
SilentSound Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/10/11
Posts: 14
Loc: The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: SilentSound
I am not sure if SilentSound thinks that people only practice chunks and never complete pieces. But I do know chunking is pretty common with pianists and other musicians (I've always learned this way). ..but hey, maybe he can learn a difficult piece "fluently and musically" at first sight. More power to you if you can! Is there a place where I can see or hear you're playing, SilentSound? You must be very talented!


Yeah, you know what, I was just questioning the reasoning behind the ideas, philosophising a little bit but appearantly you can't :

1) Handle it when someone tries to look at it from a different perspective than your own.
2) Read, Because I said I am not against practicing in chunks

In a forum the general idea is that you can actually have different opinions, and not that one should agree with everything. You misunderstood what I was trying to say completely and saw the need to act cynical. I am not going to argue like a little child with you even if you see an oppertunity to start such a juvenile discussion.
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#1639613 - 03/12/11 02:05 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
mcasl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/24/08
Posts: 116
Loc: Spain
I've seen your videos and they sound great, very musical indeed. I guess it's not such a bad method in the end according to the results :-)
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#1639626 - 03/12/11 02:32 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
If I start a song/piece from the beginning and go in order I start playing it all the way through what I know as soon as each chunk is memorized, but continue to practice the newer or harder chunks more often on their own without the rest. When I feel like two chunks aren't fitting together smoothly I'll practice just the transition between the two chunks just like a chunk all on its own. Sometimes I learn my favorite part of a song first and then work on everything around it. Sometimes I get tired of working on something and put it aside just playing the part of it I know often enough to not forget it, sometimes adding a chunk, then leaving it for weeks or months, then adding another chunk. Its sort of haphazard and I would like to do things a little more organized and regularly but that doesn't always work out. I'm at the keyboard everyday and that's what will matter most. (I hope)
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#1639686 - 03/12/11 03:46 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
CebuKid Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1174
Interesting comments so far....for the record, I've always "chunked" and this is the way I (and many others) learn. My goal is always to produce a musical sounding end result, and that's where the polishing and refinement come in - after Ive already put the chunks together. During my 50 or repetitions, I'm trying to ingrain the correct fingering - always being mindful of what comes next when I'm making my fingering decisions - and as much as possible work on the dynamics at the same time. This doesn't always happen because during the beginning of the learning process, I'm mainly trying to "press the correct notes" and also get the fingering right. Believe me, in my earlier pieces, some of my fingering is very inefficient. I'm not going back and fixing them either because it's what I learned and it has produced a piece that I can play.

Bottom line, my goal of "50 reps" is to just motivate me to spend more time learning the piece (and plus I'm very much a numbers guy), and not mindless robot-like repetition like some here thought or inferred. If the end result doesn't sound musical, then I don't perform the piece - period. That's actually why I bowed out of this recent ABF recital. I had a complete piece to submit, but it didn't live up to my standard of musicality after I listened to it a few times. On that particular piece, learning the notes and bringing it up to tempo was tough enough, and the end result didn't sound nice - it's still a work in progress. smile

I liked the earlier suggestions of incorporating the chunks into the complete phrase and playing them all together. That is actually something that I need to do more often, so that way, it cuts down the time to polish the piece.

Thanks everyone!

PS-to SilentSound...for those that know me here, I'm not here to argue with anyone because I ain't no expert, I ain't talented, and never claimed to be, but I'm here to discuss my passion and share with others when I've had a eureka moment or accomplished something. It was YOUR post and response that sounded cynical, so my response to you was a challenge - if you have all the answers and write down cynical, sarcastic comments, then "let's see what you got" - plain and simple. I was trying to solicit intelligent discussion and not cynicism (or sarcasm, which BTW, is also my second language). But hey, "whatever works for you"... wink
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Music washes away from the soul
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#1639863 - 03/12/11 09:02 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
MaryBee Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 1207
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: CebuKid
Bottom line, my goal of "50 reps" is to just motivate me to spend more time learning the piece[...]
CebuKid - My teacher has been really pushing me to use what you call the "chunk" approach, except he suggested to work the spot for a certain amount of time instead of a certain number of reps. Either way I think it's a good idea, and I'm starting to see results in that I'm able to finish pieces more quickly because I'm concentrating my efforts on the parts that are actually difficult for me.

Originally Posted By: SilentSound
I'm certainly not against learning things in parts , the problem is with the immense number of repetitions at once. Why not choose a few musical pieces to work on simultaneously, learn some parts but do less repetitions. It would then take you more days to finish one single piece , but it should not take you more time.
SilentSound - I thought this too, and discussed it with my teacher. His thought was that it should take you less overall time using the "chunk" method (not his term). The way he described it was if you're working on a five-minute piece, and you play it through from beginning to end, every repetition of a section is separated by about 5 minutes of other material. So one drawback is that you are practicing maybe 3 minutes of material that you don't have any problems with. The other drawback is that on the sections that you do have problems with, you have to remember what you did wrong for the next time you play through. And finally, if you do something right on those weaker sections, you want to do it again it right away, so that it is reinforced. How many times you have to repeat it is probably very much dependent on the individual.

Of course, you don't want to spend all your time doing this -- save some time for putting it all together. But it does seem to be an effective approach. Have you tried it, SilentSound? If so, how did it work out?
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#1639896 - 03/12/11 10:40 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
SilentSound -

I think the problem with your post is that it made no sense to us.

Maybe you could clarify what you meant. I reread it, and still all I see you is saying that chunking is not a good method.

If that is your belief, then fine. But some people here are more qualified to say what is and is not a good method, and we will do so. You're right - this is a forum. But just because your belief is not the prime, then don't get defensive.
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Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1640242 - 03/13/11 04:35 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
I practice in chunks too. Actually I didn't really give it a name until I read your term "chunking" lol. It really helps to isolate a difficult chunk of the piece and repeat that part over and over and over and over again. Sometimes it drives the people in my house crazy listening to the endless loop. Am I the only one with this problem?

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#1640245 - 03/13/11 04:44 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 4877
Loc: Italy
I think it is a great way to work on pieces.
I'm actually returning to one piece I played a lot but never memorized and I'm "chunking" it to "burn it into my memory" and work on the dynamics more.


Interestingly enough (well, I think it is interesting) the term (and technique) of chunking is also used in language instruction.

Drills and repetitions of parts of standard phrases are used to help build fluidity and obtain more natural intonation.

I often seen parallels between learning piano and learning a language - I have seen that I often transfer things I've learned through teaching ESL into something that works for my own piano study.

This is something my teacher and I have talked about quite often.
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XVIII-XXXIV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#1640246 - 03/13/11 04:45 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: albynism]
MaryBee Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 1207
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Ha ha! No, you're not the only one. My teacher said that if it's not driving your family crazy, you're not practicing right. laugh
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Current mantra: Play outside the box.
XVI-XXXIV

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#1640247 - 03/13/11 04:47 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: MaryBee]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 4877
Loc: Italy
Originally Posted By: MaryBee
Ha ha! No, you're not the only one. My teacher said that if it's not driving your family crazy, you're not practicing right. laugh


There are times when the silen feature really is worth its weight in gold smile
_________________________
XVIII-XXXIV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#1640358 - 03/13/11 08:48 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
Edtek Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/26/10
Posts: 245
Loc: El Paso
I read about chunking here on PW and have been using it for a couple of months. I heartily agree with CebuKid and find chunking to be a very effective and efficient method of learning new pieces.

I don't use measures per se as a chunk determinate but rather select rhythmic phrases (usually 4 or so measures).

I also don't use number of reps or time to determine the number of chunk reps. Instead I set a tempo goal and then start practicing the phrase with a metronome set at a very slow tempo (I would be embarassed to say how slow :-). When I can play it with no missteps then I set the metronome up a notch. I repeat this process until I can play the phrase at the goal tempo and then go on to the next phrase. This way I spend little time on easy parts and as long as necessary on the harder bits.

Another advantage of this technique is it quickly lets me know if I selected a piece that is way above my current level. I feel taking a half hour or so to learn a phrase is about right. Any longer and I get bored and frustrated.

Ed
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#1640359 - 03/13/11 08:50 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: Edtek]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Originally Posted By: Edtek
I don't use measures per se as a chunk determinate but rather select rhythmic phrases (usually 4 or so measures).


That's what chunking means - if people need to chunk one measure/less all the time, the piece is WAY too hard for them.

Quote:
I also don't use number of reps or time to determine the number of chunk reps. Instead I set a tempo goal and then start practicing the phrase with a metronome set at a very slow tempo (I would be embarassed to say how slow :-). When I can play it with no missteps then I set the metronome up a notch. I repeat this process until I can play the phrase at the goal tempo and then go on to the next phrase. This way I spend little time on easy parts and as long as necessary on the harder bits.


And that's how it should be done! Slow should never be embarrassing. Most pianists would argue that slow is harder than fast usually (well, almost usually) because you can't rely on quick muscle memory to do the work for you.


Edited by ll (03/13/11 09:08 PM)
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1640372 - 03/13/11 09:05 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: Edtek]
CebuKid Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1174
Originally Posted By: Edtek
I read about chunking here on PW and have been using it for a couple of months. I heartily agree with CebuKid and find chunking to be a very effective and efficient method of learning new pieces.

I don't use measures per se as a chunk determinate but rather select rhythmic phrases (usually 4 or so measures).

I also don't use number of reps or time to determine the number of chunk reps. Instead I set a tempo goal and then start practicing the phrase with a metronome set at a very slow tempo (I would be embarassed to say how slow :-). When I can play it with no missteps then I set the metronome up a notch. I repeat this process until I can play the phrase at the goal tempo and then go on to the next phrase. This way I spend little time on easy parts and as long as necessary on the harder bits.

Another advantage of this technique is it quickly lets me know if I selected a piece that is way above my current level. I feel taking a half hour or so to learn a phrase is about right. Any longer and I get bored and frustrated.

Ed


Thanks, Ed. This was very helpful advice - setting a tempo goal and using the metronome. My personal goal as of late has been 4 measures every 1-2 days. This is about the rate that I learn my more difficult material.

I noticed that with easier material that's more within my level, I can learn up to 8-10 measures as a chunk.

In terms of selecting a piece way above my level, all's I do is look at the sheet... if it looks too hard, I'll back off...lol.
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Music washes away from the soul
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#1640380 - 03/13/11 09:24 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
EmptySpace Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/14/10
Posts: 214
Loc: Ohio
Chunking is the only way I've been able to make progress; my problem is finding the discipline to do it! It's more fun (and far less efficient) to try to run larger sections repeatedly. This is actually the biggest challenge I face right now.
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#1640399 - 03/13/11 10:04 PM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
Pedies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/10
Posts: 155
Thanks for info on this technique, CebuKid. I'm definitely going to give it a try. I usually just try to play pieces through from start to finish but the more I read on here, the more I realize that this probably isn't a very effecient or effective way to learn music.

Interestingly, I was just reading a transcript of an interview (I believe from NPR or something along those lines) from a few years ago with a gentleman named Henri Delbeau. He had apparently competed in an amateur piano competition that he won and he was explaining that sometimes he would spend an hour and a half just going over a difficult one and a half minute section of Chopin to get it correct. That sounds like chunking to me and it certainly seems to work for him (I watched some of his YouTube videos and they were pretty impressive).

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#1641390 - 03/15/11 10:58 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: Pedies]
EmptySpace Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/14/10
Posts: 214
Loc: Ohio
Originally Posted By: Pedies
sometimes he would spend an hour and a half just going over a difficult one and a half minute section of Chopin to get it correct. That sounds like chunking to me


Actually, my take on chunking is you look at things in much smaller pieces than that. Like maybe 15-20 seconds. Maybe the chunks get bigger as you get better?
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#1641412 - 03/15/11 11:27 AM Re: Chunk and Repeat (and then repeat again!) [Re: CebuKid]
krzyzowski Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/10
Posts: 108
Because one learns and plays difficult pieces, in sections, that would mean that the ability of the player is not up to par. So it is learn as you go; People don't read words in sections, so if you can't play it through the first couple of times, then it becomes OJT. If that be the case, then it is better to play it from the beguinning every time, because the sight playing is not up to par, not the fact that the piece is difficult. That way you are learning to play the piano while you are learning the piece..Victor Borge cccaisionally played Chopin upside down to fool the audience.

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