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#1894393 - 05/09/12 08:43 PM The Ephiphany of Technique I just had
Skorpius Offline
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Registered: 10/17/08
Posts: 751
The faster the piece, the slower you practice it.

It just hit me why this is so true. A lot of times, people struggle with speeding up technically demanding pieces and they slow practice, but it doesn't make it better for them.

I'm a person who always wants a logical answer, and today I realized what it was that made the above statement true-

We all may practice slowly, but sometimes we don't practice slowly enough. We need to allow our brain to analyze and interpret subtle muscle movements that make up a piece, and when we don't practice slowly enough, the quicker movements become harder to translate to the hand and we feel tension trying to "force" the movements.

Just a thought!


Edited by Skorpius (05/09/12 08:50 PM)
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#1894395 - 05/09/12 08:47 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
+1 and thank you. I've been struggling with one of those broad, dramatic up-the-piano and down-the-piano gestures that Liszt liked to write. I've played it slowly until I know it perfectly. I can speed it up quite a bit but I still can't get it all the way up to tempo. (I must have played it 500 times). Maybe I just need to go even slower. I'll give it a try and get back to you.
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#1894396 - 05/09/12 08:50 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Skorpius Offline
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slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all
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#1894399 - 05/09/12 08:51 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: Skorpius
slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all
Hmmm. Good point.
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Deborah

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#1894426 - 05/09/12 09:45 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
DameMyra Offline
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Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1905
Loc: South Jersey
Originally Posted By: Skorpius
slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all


+1
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#1894459 - 05/09/12 10:30 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: Skorpius
slow down, and try to play it with no effort at all
Hmmm.

More and more, this appears to be the central tenet of world-class piano playing. Personally, I have issues using my musculature to create the contrast of back-shoulder-upper-and-lower-arm looseness and a firmness in the bridge of the hand. The big muscle looseness seems to allow a limitless font of sound of various qualities, but without a reasonable firmness in the fingers (and the wrist, but to a lesser extent IMO), I don't think it's possible to make efficient use of that energy without a feeling of relatively taut fingers and a grasping hand. The challenge for me (and many others, I'm sure) is to grasp and exert the force the upper body without restricting any of the muscles involved, big or small.

I think that tense or badly used/maintained (via stretching) back and shoulder muscles are a huge factor in practice and performance fatigue (and probably a general restriction in range of motion), while arm and hand muscles might have a more direct effect on sound and cantabile.

Technique babble over laugh

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#1894512 - 05/10/12 12:46 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
TrueMusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/12
Posts: 254
Loc: San Diego, California
My piano teacher made me play a haydn sonata at an excruciatingly slow tempo last semester while he was trying to clean up my technique [not much better than mozart or haydn for that...]
His advice is to practice at 50% speed until it's down and then speed up. It's helped my technique an exorbitant amount [well, that and fixing some of my arm movements, helping me put more arm weight into my playing rather than all wrist/fingers] - But, now I can play things now that were unconceivable 9 months ago, and my previous rep is SO much cleaner.

Slow is the way to go.


Edited by TrueMusic (05/10/12 12:47 AM)
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#1894522 - 05/10/12 01:20 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
BDB Online   content
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When I play a fast piece slower, I find things in the music to bring out that would otherwise just get glossed over. I discover that some music is not meant to be played as fast as it is usually played. If it is played too fast, articulation tends to get obscured, with a tendency for everything to get blurred. Voices get lost in what becomes mere filigree passagework. The only point of playing a piece never is merely playing it fast. There has to be more to it, otherwise I am not interested, in playing it nor in hearing it.
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#1894577 - 05/10/12 04:21 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6645
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: Skorpius
The faster the piece, the slower you practice it.

It just hit me why this is so true. A lot of times, people struggle with speeding up technically demanding pieces and they slow practice, but it doesn't make it better for them.

I'm a person who always wants a logical answer, and today I realized what it was that made the above statement true-

We all may practice slowly, but sometimes we don't practice slowly enough. We need to allow our brain to analyze and interpret subtle muscle movements that make up a piece, and when we don't practice slowly enough, the quicker movements become harder to translate to the hand and we feel tension trying to "force" the movements.

Just a thought!


You're on the right track. Slow practise is EVERYTHING! Don't let ANYONE tell you any differently.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1894581 - 05/10/12 04:33 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Sam Rose Offline
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Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 664
Loc: Los Angeles
I tried to tell myself that slow practice wasn't REALLY all that important, but it's gotten to the point now where my ear is better than my fingers (which wasn't the case before), so I can hear everything that's going wrong, and it sounds terrible. Slow practice is the only way I've been able to see improvement, so slow practice it is.
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#1894591 - 05/10/12 05:11 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Dave Horne Offline
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Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5261
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In addition to the 'no effort' concept, if you can't play something slowly, why would anyone think they could play it fast?

Always start slowly.

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#1894634 - 05/10/12 08:08 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Gerard12 Offline
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Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 754
Loc: South Carolina
Good for you, Skorpius.

(Now, if only my students will come to this realization
without my relentless exhortations.)
_________________________
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#1894669 - 05/10/12 09:48 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
gooddog Offline
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Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Most of us know we should practice slowly, but I think Skorpius' point was:
Originally Posted By: Skorpius
sometimes we don't practice slowly enough. We need to allow our brain to analyze and interpret subtle muscle movements that make up a piece, and when we don't practice slowly enough, the quicker movements become harder to translate to the hand and we feel tension trying to "force" the movements.
That is what I am taking away from this. I hope it cures my speed problem.
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Deborah

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#1894674 - 05/10/12 09:59 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Keith D Kerman Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/12/03
Posts: 3256
Loc: Gaithersburg, MD (Washington D...
It is always exciting to feel as if you have found the answer, or at least an answer to a technical problem. On the occassions when I get back to practicing seriously, I call them "ephipahnies du jour".

Slow practice is a very interesting idea. It feels really good to play something slowly and feel like you are very safe and hittinig all the notes and expressing all the details, but if not done correctly, slow practice often leads to getting better and better at playing something slowly, and as it is brought up to speed, one realizes that many of the fingerings and movements that worked easily at a slow speed no longer work at a fast speed, and much time is wasted. Also, much of the detailed expression found at a slow speed can be at the expense of the bigger picture that occurs at the actual tempo.

As with anything, if it works for you, and practicing slowly is a good step for you that leads to playing a difficult fast piece at tempo with authority, it is great, but if you find yourself practicing slowly and not getting anything to a true level of virtuosity in a reasonable amount of time, the slow practice may have become an end in and of itself.

Slow practice is a good tool if done correctly, but practicng slowly and sounding good at a slow speed does not automatically equate with eventually being able to play that difficult piece at speed and to play it well, and in fact, it may be the very thing that prevented it.
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#1894686 - 05/10/12 10:27 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Keith D Kerman]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Keith D Kerman
.Slow practice is a very interesting idea. It feels really good to play something slowly and feel like you are very safe and hittinig all the notes and expressing all the details, but if not done correctly...
How should slow practice be done to be done correctly?

What do you feel are the advantages/purposes of slow practice?

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#1894690 - 05/10/12 10:32 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: stores]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: stores
You're on the right track. Slow practice is EVERYTHING! Don't let ANYONE tell you any differently.
Can you please expand on:

1. the purpose/benefit of slow practice
2. what should be the goals or correct ways of practicing slowly
3. how slow do you mean by slow practice(in relation to the final desired speed)?

I think one problem with the slow practice idea is that everyone seems to have different ideas about its purposes, benefits, and goals. There have been other threads here about slow practice with not that much agreement in general.

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#1894704 - 05/10/12 11:04 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1025
What I'm finding to be the benefit of slow practice is to rid my playing what I call hesitations. These hesitations do not necessarily affect my playing in time, but they do affect relaxation. It's a lot like walking down a street and you come across a person walking in the opposite direction. You both try to go one way, and then the other way, and then find the right way to get past each other. In piano playing, this means that my fingers aren't sure when to play, so they hesitate (=holding and moving with force). With slow practice I can get these movements coordinated. At this point I am not concerned with dynamics or phrasing, only on the movements.

How slow? As slow as necessary to get the correct movements. With faster tempi or longer segments, I find I miss things like the hesitations. But I know it is useful because when I speed up after working slowly, it sounds better, feels different, and is much easier to play.

The pitfalls? As mentioned, sometimes fingering that works at a slow tempo doesn't work at a fast tempo. So I try short sections of the passage at tempo, or as close to it as I can, to check if the fingerings work.

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#1894747 - 05/10/12 12:07 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
kb fanatic Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/05/12
Posts: 19
Loc: Louisiana
Slow practice is a great paradox. To play fast, one must practice slowly. It seems counterintuitive, which is why some people consider it a "secret," I guess. What is an appropriate slow tempo for one person may not be the appropriate speed for me. This depends on skill level, obviously. The bottom line is that the faster one can think the notes in all the richness of their details, the faster one can play them, and slow practice is simply a means for acquiring that familiarity with the music, the ability to think the notes in the full richness of their details at the appropriate tempo for the piece.

The tempo I practice slowly at (or ought to) is simply the fastest tempo at which I can comfortably play with expressiveness and accuracy. The movements of hands, arms body in slow speed are precisely the movements I intend to use when playing fast. When I become familiar enough with the music that I can think the notes at a faster pace, then it is time to speed up the tempo to that new comfort level.

I do not practice by notching up the speed on a metronome. That seems an enormous waste of time, and instead of providing me with what I need to play a piece at a rapid tempo (completely familiarity with the notes such that I can think that notes at a faster rate), it actually numbs the mind and leads to a kind of automatic, thoughtless kind of keyboard movement, and, frankly, drains the life out of the music. Years ago I practiced like that, and the result was usually that by the time I could play a piece well, I was totally sick of it and would find myself just feeling bored with the music, rather than inspired. But I do think it is very important to practice at a fast tempo as soon as one has mastery of the details of the music also. If it takes an excessive amount of time to be able to do that, then the piece, I think, is beyond my technical ability at the moment, and should probably be put off for a later date.

Slow practice also tends to help eliminate "automatic" mindless playing of the notes, and this is extremely valuable. It can help eliminate memory failures that result from automatic playing of the notes without actually thinking them in detail.

Naturally, it takes great self-discipline to practice slowly. I aspire to that level of self-discipline, and I am sometimes painfully aware of how much time I waste at the keyboard by not practicing with such discipline.

It is not repetition that is the "mother of control," as some have said, but rather slow, thoughtful practice.

Very interesting and important topic, Skorpius; thanks for posting your insight, which I think is profoundly valuable.

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#1894752 - 05/10/12 12:18 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
keystring Online   content
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Slow practice when all you try to do is play slowly only gives a few things. If time is a physical space, then slow practice is like expanding that space so you can pack more things into it. So you have time to know where you are going, how you will get there, what you want to hear and feel, and check if that is happening. If you only practice slowly then you might get so bored that you tune out and then it doesn't give you anything. If you have packed things into your slow practice, then some of those things still sit in the background when you speed up. At least that is my experience.

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#1894821 - 05/10/12 02:33 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
griffin2417 Offline

Silver Supporter until Dec 29 2012


Registered: 12/12/10
Posts: 2401
Loc: Minneapolis, MN
Wow! What a wealth of good reminders in this thread. I've already identified why I'm having problems with 2 pieces I'm currently working on. It's because I'm not giving myself enough time to slow it way down in my practice sessions.

It's also clear to me that I'm trying to pack too many things into my practice sessions. I clearly need to practice being more patient with the process of learning.

Thanks for starting this thread. It's right on time for me!
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#1894833 - 05/10/12 03:09 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
BruceD Offline
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This was a helpful and timely reminder for me, too. Thank you.

Regards,
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#1894847 - 05/10/12 03:32 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1458
How slow is slow? When you say slow ENOUGH, for example, are you talking about something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPLxAgKaUOw

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#1894907 - 05/10/12 05:08 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.

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#1894912 - 05/10/12 05:16 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
Dave Horne Offline
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Registered: 07/07/04
Posts: 5261
Loc: Vught, The Netherlands
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it.

Would you at least agree that if you can't play something slowly you can't play it at a fast tempo?
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#1894929 - 05/10/12 05:44 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
griffin2417 Offline

Silver Supporter until Dec 29 2012


Registered: 12/12/10
Posts: 2401
Loc: Minneapolis, MN
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.


I don't know about others, however, in my case I am working on a couple of pieces and am at differing stages of development with them. The thread helped me remember that perhaps I need to slow down in various parts to get better results in the long run. Sure, this is pretty basic. However, sometimes we forget and are too close to it to see why we're not making as much progress as we could.

This thread also reminded me to check in with my piano teacher about techniques.
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#1894958 - 05/10/12 06:44 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
TrueMusic Offline
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Registered: 04/30/12
Posts: 254
Loc: San Diego, California
In the Beethoven I'm playing, I just moved on to the next section and the left hand was giving me trouble...and after 3-4 times of playing at half tempo or below, I got the left hand there SUPER clean. Slow is so nice. :].
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Polish:
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New:
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#1894970 - 05/10/12 06:57 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6645
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: stores
You're on the right track. Slow practice is EVERYTHING! Don't let ANYONE tell you any differently.
Can you please expand on:

1. the purpose/benefit of slow practice
2. what should be the goals or correct ways of practicing slowly
3. how slow do you mean by slow practice(in relation to the final desired speed)?

I think one problem with the slow practice idea is that everyone seems to have different ideas about its purposes, benefits, and goals. There have been other threads here about slow practice with not that much agreement in general.


I'll be happy to talk a bit about this, but it will have to wait until later this evening.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#1894985 - 05/10/12 07:17 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Dave Horne]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19099
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it.

Would you at least agree that if you can't play something slowly you can't play it at a fast tempo?
In general, I think most people start learning difficult pieces at a tempo slower than the final one. I think some of the posts on this thread are about the idea of practicing very slowly once one has reasonably learned the notes and can play a piece close to tempo, but I'd guess not everyone on this thread was referring to this.

Your statement is often true but such a generalization(what's slow, fast,?) that it's not always true. For example, the endlessly discussed Chopin Fantasie Impromptu is, I think, more difficult to play at a very slow speed because the 4 against 3 is much harder at this pace. Does an advanced player have to be able to play a Bach Minuet slowly in order to be able to play it fast?

My comments on this thread are not meant to imply I think slow practice is a bad idea, but an attempt to clarify the ideas about slow practice. As I said earlier, I find many of the comments about the benefits on this thread to say different things and sometimes also find them unconvincing or obscure.



Edited by pianoloverus (05/10/12 07:20 PM)

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#1894994 - 05/10/12 07:46 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
TrueMusic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/30/12
Posts: 254
Loc: San Diego, California
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it.

Would you at least agree that if you can't play something slowly you can't play it at a fast tempo?
In general, I think most people start learning difficult pieces at a tempo slower than the final one. I think some of the posts on this thread are about the idea of practicing very slowly once one has reasonably learned the notes and can play a piece close to tempo, but I'd guess not everyone on this thread was referring to this.

Your statement is often true but such a generalization(what's slow, fast,?) that it's not always true. For example, the endlessly discussed Chopin Fantasie Impromptu is, I think, more difficult to play at a very slow speed because the 4 against 3 is much harder at this pace. Does an advanced player have to be able to play a Bach Minuet slowly in order to be able to play it fast?

My comments on this thread are not meant to imply I think slow practice is a bad idea, but an attempt to clarify the ideas about slow practice. As I said earlier, I find many of the comments about the benefits on this thread to say different things and sometimes also find them unconvincing or obscure.



Fantasy Impromptu is a great example of a piece that is almost more difficult to play slow. I've never studied the piece, but I can play the 3 against 4 at tempo pretty well but it's QUITE hard to do slow. At speed, you don't think about it. You just do it. Slowly, you have to think SO hard about where each not falls on the beat.
_________________________
Piano/Composition major.

Proud owner of a beautiful Yamaha C7.

Polish:
Liszt Petrarch Sonnet 104
Bach WTC book 1 no. 6.
Dello Joio Sonata no. 3

New:
Chopin op. 23
Bach WTC book 2 no. 20

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#1894998 - 05/10/12 07:50 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7425
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.


Here is a clear one, and it's the only one I actually need: it works. I do the slow practice, and it results in an improved ability to play the music. Simple as that.

I don't find any particular need to explain why it works to myself. Explanations of that sort, especially when something is working, are something I tend to distrust, and I do have an explanation for that distrust. It is because I find that conceptualizations of a process can get in the way and drag me down by shifting my focus to "thinking about" rather than "doing". And it is because sometimes, and in some circumstances, having a concept about what one is doing can cause a certain rigidity point of view that I find not to be helpful, many times. Since I don't need any of that to get slow practice to work, I avoid them.

OTOH, speculations about why it may work, here in this thread, don't necessarily get internalized, so they aren't really a problem. It's only a problem if I decide "this is what is happening", rather than "hmm, that might be a reason it works".

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#1895021 - 05/10/12 08:32 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
kb fanatic Offline
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As a footnote to the discussion, I think Sandor advised not to practice "the whole piece slowly," but rather just the technically challenging passages. For example, it would be pointless to practice the first section of Chopin's F major Ballade slowly. So, the idea of playing a piece from start to finish at a slow tempo needs that little caveat. Who has time to waste when there is so much magnificent music to study?

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#1895044 - 05/10/12 09:23 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: wr]
griffin2417 Offline

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Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
While many on this thread advocate slow practice, I don't see much consistency in their different reasons for advocating it. (Of course, it's possible that slow practice has more than one benefit.)I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.


Here is a clear one, and it's the only one I actually need: it works. I do the slow practice, and it results in an improved ability to play the music. Simple as that.

I don't find any particular need to explain why it works to myself. Explanations of that sort, especially when something is working, are something I tend to distrust, and I do have an explanation for that distrust. It is because I find that conceptualizations of a process can get in the way and drag me down by shifting my focus to "thinking about" rather than "doing". And it is because sometimes, and in some circumstances, having a concept about what one is doing can cause a certain rigidity point of view that I find not to be helpful, many times. Since I don't need any of that to get slow practice to work, I avoid them.

OTOH, speculations about why it may work, here in this thread, don't necessarily get internalized, so they aren't really a problem. It's only a problem if I decide "this is what is happening", rather than "hmm, that might be a reason it works".


Thank you! I write a good part of the day as part of my job. I don't feel like explaining every detail and thought about my enjoyment with the piano. I don't mind sharing a few quick observations about my experience. I just don't feel like doing much more than that. I just want to play it and try things out to get it the way I want it!
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#1895051 - 05/10/12 09:33 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
daviel Offline
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excellent insight Skorpius. You play with the brain and one must groove the brain to play fast.
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#1895059 - 05/10/12 09:57 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
nocturne152 Offline
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My instruction manual says to practice at 40x performance speed.
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#1895087 - 05/10/12 11:34 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
gooddog Offline
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At today's lesson, I brought up my difficulty bringing up the tempo in that broad flourish section of the Liszt Sonetto 104. (I can actually play it quite well, it just doesn't sound like a flourish, yet. I think it needs more speed.) I had already tried slow practice and could play it perfectly. I had also tried playing it in different rhythms. He suggested playing the notes in groups of three - very fast - like a snap - and then taking a good sized pause in between each group. When I did it, my problem area became immediately apparent because it involved a quick reach, something that would not show up in slow practice. He also suggested being fully expressive during slow practice, something I hadn't been doing. He said the problem could be due to how the hand is weighted and the direction of the phrase - which will only show up if I'm playing with expression. So, it's back to slow practice with expression and snapping through the notes in little groups. I also have to become fully confident playing those notes - without looking.
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#1895112 - 05/11/12 01:29 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: gooddog]
griffin2417 Offline

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I'm planning to spend time talking to my instructor this weekend about some other issues I'm having with Clair de lune and Chopin's Prelude in D Flat Major.

One thing I noticed practicing this evening at a slower tempo was that it was easier for me to also have better posture, and my body was much more relaxed.
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#1895122 - 05/11/12 02:35 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Opus_Maximus Offline
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Until I was 21, I lived and breathed slow practice, as I had heard from teacher after teacher that it was the only way to build speed and gain technical confidence. Come 21, my first year of grad school, I began studying with a woman who was regarded as a "technique expert", and, admittedly had one of the most phenomenal techniques I have seen (She has recorded some of the cleanest, fastest Chopin Etudes ever set to record).

At our very first studio class meeting, she (aggressively) addressed all of us:

"I HATE slow practice. Slow practice is one of the biggest lies and fallacies of modern piano pedagogy. If we have a problem with a passage, we need to go back to words and sentences to fix it, NOT letters! We only slow ourselves down by practicing slowly!!"

Her suggestion, rather, was to begin practicing music up to tempo from the outset, but in VERY SMALL GROUPS. (exactly as Goddog's teacher said). Let's say you were playing a Chopin etude - you would practice the first group of 4 notes up to tempo, then silently land on the first note of the next group. Once you had the group of 4 down, you would increased the group to 8, then 12 and so on. This was, naturally, a huge change in the way I thought about practicing and my philosophy of technical work. Being her student I began to practice that way.

It didn't really work. For me at least. It didn't to any conceivable harm, but certainly didn't work the magic that it had seemed to potentiate. I learned that, incidentally, Brendel and Mischa Dichter also practice this way - they start up to tempo, but in small groups, and very rarely practice slowly. By contrast, Rachmaninoff and Shura Cherkassky famously practiced excruciatingly slowly (at about a similar tempo to the video that I posted earlier in this thread).

As for the present, I've reached the conclusion that it's important to practice at ALL TEMPOS, since every different tempo presents a different problem. The majority of my practicing, however, is at a SLIGHTLY slow tempo, but with all the phrasing, dynamics, and gestures in tact. This way, you are still getting the benefits of slow practice, but within the context of the actual gesture of the passage.

Moral of the story: It's too personal a thing to make any rule about. If you hate slow practicing and can do without it as my old teacher and others do, then so be it. If you want to feel everything at 5 mph, then so be that. It depends on each individual's brain and nervous system, and everybody physiologically executes information from the mind different ways. They key is to listen to YOURSELF, experiment in your own practicing, and reach a decision on your own observation and experiences.


Edited by Opus_Maximus (05/11/12 04:23 AM)

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#1895130 - 05/11/12 03:23 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
Opus_Maximus Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I also find several of the given explanations of the benefits of slow practice to be unclear in the extreme.


Agreed. One of the most difficult things about practice methods is being able to explain WHY something works. I still don't know for sure why slow practice works, but here is the most probable theory I can come up with:

I believe that you taught math at one point. When explaining how to solve a math problem, what do you do? You break it down into steps for students.
1. 2. 3. 4. etc. Even if you can do it much faster or almost instantly in your head, the students still need to learn things step by step - aka - SLOWLY. If they do twenty of the same type of problems, chances are they can nail the 20th much faster than the 1st, because they have since become much more aquatinted with the steps.

Slow practice is the same type of thing. When we practice a passage, what we are essentially doing is TEACHING our body to remember certain small movements. Technique itself is memory - not the memory of notes, but the memory of physical movements and sensations of our body at the piano. In order to ingrain these movements effectively, we need to feed this information to the brain, and the best way to do this is SLOWLY. By doing repetitions slowly, we are injecting information into our brain at a pace comfortable enough for it to say "Ah hah!!, THAT'S it". If these movements are too fast, the brain will not have time to comfortably detect and store them. Once each individual movement is refined, and secured away in that gray, miraculous mass, then we can begin to play faster and "skip steps" so to speak.

Of course, there is the argument that we are not actually using the same movements, muscles, and gestures when we play fast as when we practice slowly, and thus the whole thing is just a huge ironical waste of time. But that's a topic for another day laugh


Edited by Opus_Maximus (05/11/12 03:23 AM)

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#1895135 - 05/11/12 03:50 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
WingNL Offline
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I do believe sometimes the board itself has something to do with it. I'm not a good piano player, but i try (I learn without a teacher, so it goes slow ;-) ).

In example, a piece from Final Fantasy called 'Eternal Harvest'. The trick is to get it very fast but very tight on both hands. Absolutely need to have perfect sync between two hands. For many, it's actually not a that hard piece).

what I found out, is that most digital piano's weren't properly able to get you that feeling to sync. The response of the keys and the sound doesn't seem to match well. My V-piano is reasonable up to the standard, but a real piano will definitely be much easier to practice. Purely because of its directness.

I also think that's why practicing it slow does matter ;-)

Dunno what everyone else experience, but I have the urge to go fast. No apparent reason.
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#1895138 - 05/11/12 03:56 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Opus_Maximus]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus

Her suggestion, rather, was to begin practicing music up to tempo from the outset, but in VERY SMALL GROUPS. (exactly as Goddog's teacher said). Let's say you were playing a Chopin etude - you would practice the first group of 4 notes up to tempo, then silently land on the first note of the next group. Once you had the group of 4 down, you would increased the group to 8, then 12 and so on.


IIRC, Philip Fowke advocates a method something like this (and, judging from an CD of knuckle-busters he recorded, he has got technique to burn). But, the way I remember hearing about his version of it, it was divided beat to beat, and there was no requirement that you land silently on the first note of the next beat - you went ahead and played it. And also, the way I understood it, you did one beat at a time through the whole piece, before you started stitching them together. Obviously, if you simply add more and more to the beginning, you will end up with a gradation of practice over the piece where the beginning has been practiced an enormous amount compared to the ending. I can't imagine how that would be a good thing.

I've tried this out in a very limited way, and it seemed to work kind of sort of work, but not so much that I wanted to continue. But the piece I was using as a test may have been inappropriately difficult for trying out a very new technique. Maybe I'll try it again on something less challenging and see how that goes.

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#1895142 - 05/11/12 04:07 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
hawgdriver Offline
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Is it too early to nominate this for post of the year?
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#1895315 - 05/11/12 11:18 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: gooddog]
AldenH Offline
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Originally Posted By: gooddog
At today's lesson, I brought up my difficulty bringing up the tempo in that broad flourish section of the Liszt Sonetto 104. (I can actually play it quite well, it just doesn't sound like a flourish, yet. I think it needs more speed.) I had already tried slow practice and could play it perfectly. I had also tried playing it in different rhythms. He suggested playing the notes in groups of three - very fast - like a snap - and then taking a good sized pause in between each group. When I did it, my problem area became immediately apparent because it involved a quick reach, something that would not show up in slow practice. He also suggested being fully expressive during slow practice, something I hadn't been doing. He said the problem could be due to how the hand is weighted and the direction of the phrase - which will only show up if I'm playing with expression. So, it's back to slow practice with expression and snapping through the notes in little groups. I also have to become fully confident playing those notes - without looking.


I would gladly nominate this as practice post of the year! These are the really essential things.

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#1895329 - 05/11/12 11:47 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Arghhh Offline
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I hope my explanation I gave in this post was clear. If not, I don't mind clarifying if one has specific questions.

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#1895345 - 05/11/12 12:19 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
bennevis Offline
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Everything has its place: slow, fast, loud, soft and anything in between. There are times when slow practice just doesn't work, and it would be better to learn each hand individually (maybe in phrase groups) and play it at tempo before putting it together with the other hand, e.g. when playing 11 notes in RH against 15 notes in LH. Once you've learnt the notes, you need to speed up to the tempo you'll be playing it at. If you start to flounder, slow down to the pace you were comfortable at at start from there.

Don't forget, training is specific as all athletes will tell you. If you want to run a fast marathon, you need to train to run fast.....

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#1895423 - 05/11/12 04:28 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
GeorgeB Offline
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Not also playing slowly helps a lot but pressing the key slower and more relaxed helps with the quality of the sound as well.

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#1895425 - 05/11/12 04:45 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: GeorgeB]
Damon Offline
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Originally Posted By: GeorgeB
Not also playing slowly helps a lot but pressing the key slower and more relaxed helps with the quality of the sound as well.


I guess if you believe quieter is synonymous with higher quality sound, then yes.
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#1895426 - 05/11/12 04:46 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
GeorgeB Offline
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you can still do relaxed slow movements and play loud firmly and sonorous


Edited by GeorgeB (05/11/12 04:47 PM)

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#1895453 - 05/11/12 05:57 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: GeorgeB]
Damon Offline
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Originally Posted By: GeorgeB
you can still do relaxed slow movements and play loud firmly and sonorous


When I "press a key slower", the volume of my piano decreases. Perhaps you have one of those voodoo pianos.
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#1895455 - 05/11/12 06:06 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
GeorgeB Offline
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I would actually bother discussing if you didn't have such mocking tone

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#1900376 - 05/20/12 06:18 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Scordatura Offline
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Schnabel maintained and advised: "One should never make any music, not even sound one musical note, without a musical intention preceding it."

I don't know of any better prescription for cultivating facility. Being able to clearly deliberate the musical intention of a playing-movement prior to executing it seems to me crucial for controlling it exactly as required, and equally crucial for forming a reliable, vivid memory of the music's detailed content. For me the basic purpose of slow practising is to utilize the expanded time-span to ensure that every playing-movement is in fact effortlessly achieving its intended musical outcome, and if it isn't, for ascertaining whether my musical intention preceding it is sufficiently clear in my mind - 9 times out of 10 I discover it's not, or even non-existent. In that event, the purpose of slow-practising shifts to improving the clarity of my intentions and the rapidity and reliability with which I can bring them to mind. That said, the purpose of slow-practising is to acquire the ability to think fast. But in work of this nature, the mind won't be bullied into doing so. It's essential to work at a pace that permits recognizing that each intention is clearly defined, and initially that pace may need to be (especially in the case of very demanding passages and atonal compositions in general) a quarter or even smaller fraction of the music's required tempo - whatever it takes. Perseverance over a number of sessions is often necessary to achieve rapid, clearly defined recall of musical intentions, but it does come!

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#1900393 - 05/20/12 06:43 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Kuanpiano Online   content
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I also practice the opposite way - playing slow pieces faster in order to develop the longer phrases first before looking at the small details.
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#1900544 - 05/21/12 12:50 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Kuanpiano]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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I think that slow practice has its benefits. Just as you sometimes need to spend money in order to earn money, you often need to practice slowly in order to learn how to play rapidly. When you attempt to play too fast too soon, the muscles have a tendency to sieze up and become tight- which obviously is counterproductive, as you need looseness and flexibility to achieve speed. I think that the problem is that sometimes your body is not comfortable approaching a new passage at breakneck speed. Instead, you need to learn the correct motions at a slow tempo and then gradually build up speed, allowing your body to be more comfortable with the tempo.

However, I think that two caveats need to be added to slow practice. One is to ensure that you practice the correct motions at the slow tempo. Sometimes, people practice motions at slow tempi that have nothing to do with what will have to be done at the fast tempo. They might not even realize that, as when playing very slowly, you often can hit all of the notes even when your physical motions are totally wrong. Of course, everything falls apart when you try to increase the tempo. For example, when practicing octaves, it is important that the wrist bounce that allows for a drop and a rebound is present even during slow practice. You may have to minimize the wrist bounce at a fast tempo, but that motion should be practiced even when playing slowly.

The other caveat is to maintain a sense of motion and musical direction, no matter how slowly you are playing. Sometimes, people play in a heavy and labored fashion when play slowly. That should be avoided, as it only causes tensions and makes it that much harder to increase the tempo. Instead, passagework should be practiced with a sense of forward motion, even during slow practice.

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#1900629 - 05/21/12 08:10 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Orange Soda King Offline
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Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte

The other caveat is to maintain a sense of motion and musical direction, no matter how slowly you are playing. Sometimes, people play in a heavy and labored fashion when play slowly. That should be avoided, as it only causes tensions and makes it that much harder to increase the tempo. Instead, passagework should be practiced with a sense of forward motion, even during slow practice.


Most definitely! Slow practice must be making MUSIC slowly.

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#1900709 - 05/21/12 12:23 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Orange Soda King]
Stanza Offline
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Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte

The other caveat is to maintain a sense of motion and musical direction, no matter how slowly you are playing. Sometimes, people play in a heavy and labored fashion when play slowly. That should be avoided, as it only causes tensions and makes it that much harder to increase the tempo. Instead, passagework should be practiced with a sense of forward motion, even during slow practice.


Most definitely! Slow practice must be making MUSIC slowly.


Agreed...My teacher sometimes has me play slowly but also has me count subdivisions of the beat. So the rhythmic accuracy is maintained, as opposed to playing a note and taking a long semi-random time to play the next. Slow but musical.
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#1900783 - 05/21/12 03:04 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Just as you sometimes need to spend money in order to earn money, you often need to practice slowly in order to learn how to play rapidly.
IMO this is an invalid analogy.

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#1900797 - 05/21/12 03:50 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Opus_Maximus]
DottedNotes Offline
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Many people, especially those who have never tried to learn something technically complex like a sport or playing an instrument to a high degree of skill, do not have good body awareness. Playing the piano requires us to isolate muscles and create very specific patterns of movement.
The brain and the body operate at differing speeds--the brain processes thoughts much faster than the body can execute motion.
Slow practice allows the body to experience--and learn--proper motion/form.
It's frustrating, though, because the mind wants to go so much faster! I have no scientific proof of this, but the anecdotal proof is that I can memorize all the notes/dynamics etc. of a piece long before I can play them up to tempo!
For me personally, slow practice is a must. Since I can't visually check my position on the keyboard, I have to teach myself exactly what it feels like to play passages correctly--the faster the passage, or the more leaps and other keyboard movements involved, the more this is true.
I am better (i.e., more accurate) playing slower-tempo things, but, as a lover of Prokofiev, Bach, and many others, I have a huge list of faster pieces I want to play.
The biggest challenge is having the patience and perseverance to do the kind of practice that works--and keep doing it--until you achieve the results you want.

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#1900834 - 05/21/12 05:30 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Just as you sometimes need to spend money in order to earn money, you often need to practice slowly in order to learn how to play rapidly.
IMO this is an invalid analogy.


Why do you think so? In both cases, you initially do the opposite of what you intend the final outcome to be. In the first instance, you lose money (i.e. spend money) as part of a strategy to eventually gain money. In the second instance, you play slowly as part of a learning process that will eventually result in your being able to play rapidly. Just as people studying business sometimes have difficulty grasping the concept that you must sometimes spend money in order to increase profits, music students sometimes don't comprehend that slow practice can be conducive to fast playing.

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#1901142 - 05/22/12 09:30 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Rui725 Offline
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1. practice attentively and slowly with no mistakes

2. get a good nights sleep

3. repeat steps 1 and 2 for a few more days or weeks depending on difficulty of piece

4. speed up the music learned and stored from from attentive, accurate, slow practice to indicated tempo.

walah!


Personally, getting stressed from practicing and making mistakes usually means I'm trying to practice too fast. Very counter-intuitive as we all strive for that virtuosic tempo right off the bat. We hear it in our heads from listening to recordings etc, but our body does not react to it. The bridge between the music and the mechanical movement is linked and solidified quicker and more efficiently through slow practice. Getting enough quality sleep is also important.

By slow, clear and attentive practicing, our brain makes concise connections between motor, visual and auditory synapses that gets embedded as memory after daily practice and the REM sleep.

The amount of time required to learn a piece to tempo will slowly diminish as one's experience and expertise of the instrument grows, but there's really no getting around slow practicing because of the reinforcing that takes place as the brain makes connections and forms memories.

Polishing a Chopin Etude at the moment. Prof says to have it polished and memorized by next Tuesday. I thought I had it memorized today but realized I'm just sloppily blurring through some sections at tempo by ghosting notes because I'm "unsure" of what the exact passage is. Being able to play through a polished piece at half tempo and no mistakes is the best insurance for me that I have each note memorized, that is, after I can get through the piece at tempo with at least 90% accuracy. The final stages requires myself to return to a slow pace and then sleep on it and it really takes a lot of effort to slow myself down, especially when I "think" i can play a piece with 100% accuracy at full tempo but in reality, I cannot. I think the the real discipline in piano practice is knowing when to slow down again and willingly do so, which is what the OP has made note of.


Edited by Rui725 (05/22/12 09:57 AM)

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#1901163 - 05/22/12 10:09 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Just as you sometimes need to spend money in order to earn money, you often need to practice slowly in order to learn how to play rapidly.
IMO this is an invalid analogy.


Why do you think so? In both cases, you initially do the opposite of what you intend the final outcome to be. In the first instance, you lose money (i.e. spend money) as part of a strategy to eventually gain money. In the second instance, you play slowly as part of a learning process that will eventually result in your being able to play rapidly. Just as people studying business sometimes have difficulty grasping the concept that you must sometimes spend money in order to increase profits, music students sometimes don't comprehend that slow practice can be conducive to fast playing.
It makes more sense to me now.

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#2011041 - 01/08/13 07:49 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: gooddog]
drazh Offline
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hi
may be you should try another fingering

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#2011051 - 01/08/13 08:20 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Skorpius
The faster the piece, the slower you practice it.
A significant percent of pianists agree that slow practice is necessary and useful at some point in the process of learning a piece.

Some think very slow practice is needed even when one has the notes well learned and can play them at full speed. I have started threads about very slow practice of this type and asked the question "Do you think this is important and, if so, why?" Many thought very slow practice was important but the reasons they gave were often very different and almost as numerous as the number of people replying.

As far as the phrase "The faster the piece, the slower you practice it." goes, I'd say it sounds catchy but I don't see why it's particularly true. If it works for the OP then it's a good discovery for him but I see no general significance for most pianists there.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/08/13 08:22 AM)

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#2011057 - 01/08/13 08:25 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: gooddog]
pianoloverus Offline
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: gooddog
+1 and thank you. I've been struggling with one of those broad, dramatic up-the-piano and down-the-piano gestures that Liszt liked to write. I've played it slowly until I know it perfectly. I can speed it up quite a bit but I still can't get it all the way up to tempo. (I must have played it 500 times). Maybe I just need to go even slower. I'll give it a try and get back to you.
That's possible, but the first thing I would think about is trying to figure out what's causing this particular technical difficulty.

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#2011118 - 01/08/13 10:55 AM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: Skorpius]
Ralph Offline
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Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1293
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
I'll add, slow practicing with the correct fingering. The fingering needs to be thought about with regard to the regular tempo of the piece. It requires some analytical time with the score, but saves a lot of time and hardship when the tempo starts to increase, and it seems to increase all by itself as you practice slowly. Pay attention to the fingering.
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#2011205 - 01/08/13 01:55 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
Vid Offline
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Registered: 06/12/01
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Loc: Vancouver, B.C.
I agree with this. Slow practice is important but it isn't everything. For one thing the technique you use in slow practice may not work well at a faster tempo.
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#2011412 - 01/08/13 07:53 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: pianoloverus]
Derulux Online   content
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5067
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Skorpius
The faster the piece, the slower you practice it.
A significant percent of pianists agree that slow practice is necessary and useful at some point in the process of learning a piece.

Some think very slow practice is needed even when one has the notes well learned and can play them at full speed. I have started threads about very slow practice of this type and asked the question "Do you think this is important and, if so, why?" Many thought very slow practice was important but the reasons they gave were often very different and almost as numerous as the number of people replying.

As far as the phrase "The faster the piece, the slower you practice it." goes, I'd say it sounds catchy but I don't see why it's particularly true. If it works for the OP then it's a good discovery for him but I see no general significance for most pianists there.

Yeah, I have to agree here. The phrase seems to suggest that one should go slow simply for the sake of going slow. I think there may be implied meaning, and even correlation among some pianists, behind it, but I don't think it's a universal law. I would suggest a better way of thinking might be: "Practice correctly, at whatever speed it takes to do so."
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#2011988 - 01/09/13 11:56 PM Re: The Ephiphany of Technique I just had [Re: drazh]
Okiikahuna Offline
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Registered: 02/26/11
Posts: 105
Originally Posted By: drazh
hi
may be you should try another fingering


Perhaps it is useful to leave more time between notes, just as Drazh found it useful to wait seven months before suggesting that Gooddog try a different fingering.

K.

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