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#2011729 - 01/09/13 02:21 PM From Sheet Music to Chord Sheet: Best Way to Learn/Practice?
newbert Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/02/13
Posts: 506
Loc: Upstate New York, USA
After having learned the basics of piano many years ago, as a child, by learning how to readand play from sheet music (and then not playing piano for many years after), I'm now taking the "Play Piano Today" online course from the beginning. This course doesn't use sheet music, as it's geared toward learning to play improvisationally thru learning chords and playing them in "Rhythmic Patterns". Instead of sheet music with notes, the songs are presented in Chord Sheet format instead, with a new rhythmic pattern to learn with each song. Although this is the way I want to re-learn to play, I find that I'm having some difficulty adjusting to this new paradigm.

I've read many of the threads here on methods of practice, and agree that one needs to avoid "practicing their mistakes". Therefore, when learning a new piece, I play the right hand very slowly for 4 bars - over and over until I get it right. When I'm reasonably comfortable with that, I do the same with the left hand - over and over. Then I switch between the two. Only then do I play both hands - even slower until I get it right at a reasonable tempo.

My question is: How perfect do I want/need to be for those 4 bars until moving onto the next 4 bars? Should those bars be perfected at the proper tempo before moving on to the next 4 bars (which will again be played at a very slow tempo at first)? Should it be to the point that I can almost play each 4-bar section by heart? (That is, without looking at the notes/chordsheet?)

I'm finding that, if I don't reach the point of memorizing the 4 bars, I have trouble returning to them after having mastered a different 4 bar section farther on. (I hope that makes sense...) I think that it's because I'm still not comfortable reading a Chord Sheet.

For those who are learning to play improvisationally in "Rhythmic Patterns" after having started with sheet music, how tough has your transition been? Is memorizing 4 bars at a time the way to go about this? What's your methos of practice?

Any suggestions with helping me with this transition would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
_________________________
Bert


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#2011848 - 01/09/13 06:18 PM Re: From Sheet Music to Chord Sheet: Best Way to Learn/Practice? [Re: newbert]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2800
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: newbert
Therefore, when learning a new piece, I play the right hand very slowly for 4 bars - over and over until I get it right. When I'm reasonably comfortable with that, I do the same with the left hand - over and over.
Oh dear! This is not the most efficient method.

The big problem there is "until I get it right". This is wrong.

Play and hold each note/chord until you're fingers are ready to play the the next one. Only then do you play it and release the first one. It's not a question of doing it slowly, it's a question of doing it right. As you repeat the process it takes you less time to 'get ready' between notes. It is not the notes that are difficult (unless it's a big stretch etc. - See this thread: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2011558/Practice%20Question.html#Post2011558) it is the change between notes. Play at a speed that allows you to get it right every time and repetition will make you faster. It has been found that 7-10 focussed repetitions are enough for sleep to improve facility so instead of doing it over and over until you get it right, just do it slow enough to get it right 7-10 times and then let sleep do the drudge work.

Originally Posted By: newbert
My question is: How perfect do I want/need to be for those 4 bars until moving onto the next 4 bars? Should those bars be perfected at the proper tempo before moving on to the next 4 bars
You should work in phrases rather than an arbitrary number of bars but you may need to break the phrases into smaller units while you work on them. Continue working on each phrase until you can play it without stumble or hesitation then move onto the next phrase but keep reviewing previous phrases two or three times each at the start of each practice session.

I would reach a fluent tempo. Somewhere around half speed for a fast piece and three quarters for a slow piece would be quite fast for a first target so slower than that but fast enough that the rhythm is recognisable.

When you're reviewing all the phrases go back and start joining them in pairs, and so on. I usually divide a typical two page piece onto between two and four sections depending on the complexity. Only when they're memorised and close to tempo will I join them up.
_________________________
Richard

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#2011877 - 01/09/13 07:42 PM Re: From Sheet Music to Chord Sheet: Best Way to Learn/Practice? [Re: zrtf90]
newbert Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/02/13
Posts: 506
Loc: Upstate New York, USA
Richard,

Thank You for the detailed reply! I agree that it's not the notes that are difficult, but the transition between notes. I like your idea of 7-10 focused repetitions as I find that after awhile frustration starts to build with increased repetitions in one session. I also like the idea of letting "sleep do the drudge work". (I'm very good at sleeping....) 8-)

I should have clarified that the 4 bars that I referred to happened to be the length of individual phrases in the song that I was getting frustrated with. I didn't mean to imply that I chose 4 bars arbitrarily.

Thank you for the link to the other thread, as well.

One more question however: In your last sentence you said that "Only when they're memorised..." (referring to phrases). Do you mean to say that you memorize all of your pieces to the point that you can play them in their entirety without sheet music or chord sheets?

Thanks again!

Bert
_________________________
Bert


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#2011887 - 01/09/13 08:04 PM Re: From Sheet Music to Chord Sheet: Best Way to Learn/Practice? [Re: newbert]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2800
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Yes, I only learn a small section each day, usually only as much as I can memorise in a couple of minutes, until all the sections are up to "practise" tempo. As they're memorised, I can also practise them away from the piano.

But it isn't necessary to memorise them. You may be quite happy to play the sections up to a certain tempo before you join them. But I couldn't possibly play anything (substantial) up to tempo while looking at the score.

The problem is that many people leave the polishing till the end. If the polishing isn't done before joining the section I might be tempted to polish a harder section elsewhere and that means I'd be practising an unpolished section and making the unpolished performance a habit.
_________________________
Richard

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