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#2030212 - 02/10/13 01:38 AM How long is too long to spend on a piece?
xphotography Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/20/10
Posts: 18
I'm relatively new to the piano (on and off for 3/4 years). I really enjoy the Chopin etudes and thought I would try to study the Op 10 No 1. It has taken me ~4 days to get the first page down (at ~50-65% tempo; sometimes I can do 80-90% if I'm lucky). I'm not really sure how long I should be spending on one piece (as an indicator of whether or not it's too hard/easy), so if someone can clarify I'd greatly appreciate it.

Note: I'm not looking for anyone to tell me what to do or what not to do. I honestly just want an answer to my question and would appreciate it if posts like "you need a teacher" or "this is too hard for you" were left out.

Thank you!

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#2030214 - 02/10/13 01:45 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19786
Loc: New York
Depends entirely on your aims.

If you're doing it just for fun, keep doing it as long as it's fun.

If it's to prepare for performances, it depends on how often you perform. If you're going to be playing a lot of performances, usually you can't afford to spend huge time on such a short piece (although some high-level people have said they wouldn't perform such a piece until they've worked on it for at least a year, but they're talking about something different than you are).

If it's to advance in your playing as well as possible, I think the answer is actually similar to the above: it's probably very inefficient to spend that kind of time on such a piece.

My main answer to what you're doing would be something entirely different, and sorry, but it's basically one of the things you said not to say.

I don't think it makes much sense for someone at your stage to be working on this piece beyond a certain point (like, beyond what you're already done with it). I don't think it's a good investment of time and effort in terms of advancing your playing or for any other goal besides just enjoying it for its own sake. I'm a pretty advanced player, and I don't feel ready to work seriously on it. I mean, I have 'worked it out' and can play through it, but I consider it too difficult for me to try to work seriously on.

I'm guessing you are doing it mainly just because you love it and enjoy working on it. So, keep at it as long as you have the time for it and still really really feel like doing it.
But no longer. smile

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#2030217 - 02/10/13 01:52 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
xphotography Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/20/10
Posts: 18
Thank you for the response. Now my question is: if the Chopin etudes are technical studies (in which one would seek to develop his technical abilities with a piece from the set), what harm can come from spending a substantial time (5/6 months) working it to perfection? In total, do you not develop in such a way that, say, another etude would come much easier?

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#2030218 - 02/10/13 01:54 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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A lot of people would say yes.
But I think it's a very inefficient way of achieving that. I think a better way would be to work meanwhile on simpler pieces, or exercises -- or, if you insist grin to move on to a different etude, if there are others that you're also very interested to play. But I don't think it's a great idea from a 'learning' standpoint to be putting a lot of time at this stage into such extremely hard pieces.

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#2030226 - 02/10/13 02:31 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
BDB Offline
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When you get bored with it.
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#2030234 - 02/10/13 02:59 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Michael_99 Offline
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Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
I understand that some people take a year or a half year to learn a piece. I am only a beginner, but I play all my pieces I have learned over and over thoughout the year and learn other new stuff. If you don't play the pieces, you lose them so it is all about what you want to do. I guess piano playing is all about never stopping but only playing stuff over and over all the time.

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#2030241 - 02/10/13 03:15 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Ganddalf Online   content
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Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 638
Loc: Norway
Chopin Etudes are great pieces of art and not just technical exercises. I assume that even professional pianists spend a high number of hours studying these pieces before public performance. I'm an old amateur, and I still work on pieces I started out with 40 years ago. Of course I haven' t been studying these pieces continuously, but sometimes put them aside and then returned to them several years later. I also have realised that to master difficult pieces like Chopin Etudes it is necessary to have a lot of experience with less technically demanding music.

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#2030251 - 02/10/13 04:05 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
debrucey Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
I think if it's taking you 5/6 months to get a 3 minute long piece to a high standard, that piece is probably too difficult for you.

However, I don't think 4 days on the first page of that piece is too shabby. What I would suggest is forget about speed for now. Aim to learn the whole piece and be able to play it well at 50% speed. I think you will gain more from this exercise than by struggling to bring just the first page to full speed. Speed is always easier to achieve when you know the notes very well. And frankly, the piece still sounds nice at half speed anyway.


Edited by debrucey (02/10/13 04:10 AM)

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#2030253 - 02/10/13 04:09 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
stores Offline
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Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Yes, I read (and quite well), but...
if you have no teacher, then get one. It would seem at this point that 10/1 is well beyond your capabilities. With an etude such as this one you are quite prone to literally injuring yourself, if you don't know what you're doing.
_________________________

"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

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#2030261 - 02/10/13 04:35 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
BDB Offline
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Loc: Oakland
I was thinking about this particular etude the other day after someone here asked about a Zez Confrey piece. I looked that piece up in my big book of his music, and then looked at the piece just in front of it, Dizzy Fingers. It struck me that Dizzy Fingers is an arpeggio study just like Op. 10 #1, but it also alternates other skills, so it may even be more useful for studying technique. I find it much more interesting than the Chopin. I know that there are many people here who will turn up their noses at the idea of comparing a piece called Dizzy Fingers with anything by Chopin, or anything by anybody named "Zez," but if you really want to advance your piano playing, you might be better off learning it first. You might even find you do not need to learn that particular Chopin, and go on to some of his better music. Or some of Zez Confrey's other music, as well. The Three Oddities, the pieces that were asked about, are worth looking into, as well.
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#2030262 - 02/10/13 04:42 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
debrucey Offline
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Registered: 01/18/06
Posts: 2606
Loc: Manchester, UK
The arpeggio technique in Dizzy Fingers is different to Op.10 No.1, which is more about extending the hand and rotating the wrist.

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#2030304 - 02/10/13 08:01 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7863
How long is too long? In your case, I'd say around 20-30 years, or so.

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#2030315 - 02/10/13 08:23 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Morodiene Offline
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It's too long when you get bored with it and frustrated that it doesn't sound better. Then it's time to set it aside and move on to something different - and perhaps a bit more realistic. I've often tried my hand at pieces beyond my capabilities at the time, and as long as you're not injuring yourself, it's fine to do this, IMO. You do hit a brick wall at some point though, realize just how much you don't know, and then set it aside for a later time when you are better able to do it justice.

I'm assuming you asked this question to test yourself. You see that this is much harder than pieces you've played before and you foresee this will take a considerable more amount of time, and you are worrying: maybe it's too hard for me. So you ask a bunch of other pianists of varying levels to see where you fit along the line of slow vs. fast progress. Most pianists, however, learn at different paces, so there's no clear way to answer this question in a general sense. And in the end, who cares? You are playing this for your own edification presumably, and so carry on for however long you wish to pursue it.
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#2030351 - 02/10/13 09:26 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
bennevis Online   content
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Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5159
I don't think there is anything wrong with spending a long time on a particular piece that's too difficult for your present ability - as long as you don't injure yourself, and you also learn other (easier) pieces along the way to help your musicianship and technique to progress.

But I'd have reservations about this particular Etude, because of its requirements on your finger and wrist strength and flexibility. If you haven't already reached a certain level of experience and technical ability in those, you really could develop tenosynovitis practising it incessantly to the exclusion of developing strength and flexibility with easier pieces.

In my early teens, there were many, many pieces I really, really wanted to learn to play - which I never told my teacher about, because they were far above the level I was then playing. Among them were Chopin's Op.53 Polonaise and Op.10/12. I didn't have the requisite octave and chord technique for the former, nor the LH finger agility and strength for the latter - it was quite a few years before I could do them justice. But I kept learning and improving along the way, while realizing my limitations, so I never set myself a time frame in which to learn them, nor did I spend hours everyday just working on them. I just went back to them regularly to see how much better I could play the easier sections of those pieces as my technique improved. And I never injured myself.
_________________________
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#2030414 - 02/10/13 11:37 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Thrill Science Offline
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Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 514
Loc: California
The first time around for the chopin Etudes, I probably spent several years on them (while learning other pieces).

Start by memorizing them, note by note, so you can concentrate on what your hands are doing.

For 10/1, play it as if it were a chorale, learning the chords for each measure. This will help your memory.
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#2030471 - 02/10/13 12:42 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19369
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: xphotography
Thank you for the response. Now my question is: if the Chopin etudes are technical studies (in which one would seek to develop his technical abilities with a piece from the set), what harm can come from spending a substantial time (5/6 months) working it to perfection? In total, do you not develop in such a way that, say, another etude would come much easier?
I think the "harm" can come from what could have been done with that time(measured in months or in hours)vs. spending that time learning more pieces at a more appropriate pedagogical level. Every piece you work on will help with technique so why spend so much time on a piece that deals with one very specific aspect of technique? Speaking for myself, I would always choose to learn more pieces at a level closer to my ability because I find that so much more interesting and rewarding.

How many Chopin works of lesser technical requirements and perhaps greater musical interest and variety could you learn in the time it would take to get that etude up to a reasonably fast speed? I'd also be aware that if your goal is to play this etude at full speed that is beyond the capabilities of 99% of pianists no matter how long they practice it. My guess is that if you listen to some of Chopin's Preludes, Waltzes, or Mazurkas you many find pieces you love as much as the Etude that you could learn more quickly.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/10/13 12:46 PM)

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#2030473 - 02/10/13 12:48 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Hakki Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2612
Originally Posted By: xphotography
I'm relatively new to the piano (on and off for 3/4 years).

Note: I'm not looking for anyone to tell me what to do or what not to do. I honestly just want an answer to my question and would appreciate it if posts like "you need a teacher" or "this is too hard for you" were left out.

Thank you!


First of all, if you are new, learn to appreciate the experience of others who are not new. And do not dictate their answers.


Etudes like the Chopin 10/1 and 10/2 require special techniques. Without knowing and properly applying them, you won't get anywhere, even if you continue to study these etudes for a lifetime.

Therefore, here is the answer you don't want to hear, but believe me it is the "only correct" answer and you are already aware of it :


"You need a teacher"
"This is too hard for you"
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Put in one of IMO, I think, to me, for me... or similar to all sentences I post

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#2030497 - 02/10/13 01:19 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: pianoloverus]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19786
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
....if your goal is to play this etude at full speed that is beyond the capabilities of 99% of pianists no matter how long they practice it....

Yes.

Xphotog: What is the reason you want to keep working on it? To get it up to "full speed"?

Forget it. smile
At least for now, and for a very long time.

And, as per what plover said, that's no slam on you.

If it's mainly just because you love playing the piece, what's wrong with just 'settling for' the speed you've already reached -- maybe even pull back a notch, because it seems you're probably pushing it and sacrificing a lot for the sake of looking for pure speed -- and just work on playing it better and more beautifully? Besides allowing you to spend more time on other pieces, that will be better music, plus it won't involve keeping on hitting your head against the wall, which it probably otherwise would be -- and, believe it or not, you'll learn more.

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#2030573 - 02/10/13 02:55 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
Ridicolosamente Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/08/08
Posts: 1467
Loc: Miami, Florida, USA
Originally Posted By: xphotography
I'm relatively new to the piano (on and off for 3/4 years). I really enjoy the Chopin etudes and thought I would try to study the Op 10 No 1. It has taken me ~4 days to get the first page down (at ~50-65% tempo; sometimes I can do 80-90% if I'm lucky). I'm not really sure how long I should be spending on one piece (as an indicator of whether or not it's too hard/easy), so if someone can clarify I'd greatly appreciate it.

Note: I'm not looking for anyone to tell me what to do or what not to do. I honestly just want an answer to my question and would appreciate it if posts like "you need a teacher" or "this is too hard for you" were left out.

Thank you!
Mr./Ms. xphotography,

If you want to play the entire piece at 50% tempo in 2-months, I'd say keep doing what you're doing. If you want to play the piece like Martha Argerich at the 1965 Chopin Competition, I'd say 4-days on page 1 is probably not a very good start... Keep in mind it will get exponentially harder as you continue: to go from 50 to 75% tempo, then 75% to 85%, to 90%, and that last 10 and 5% will probably take as much time or longer than it took to get from 0 to 90%. Assuming you haven't injured yourself by that point...

Excitement about piano is wonderful, but if you are genuinely asking "how long is too long", I hope you can take a step back and appreciate how infinitely open-ended the question is with the information you provided. And to dictate what answers are not acceptable reinforces to me that you obviously know the answer but don't want to hear it said out loud...

e.g.
"relatively new to the piano (on and off for 3 to 4 years)" - I can't know anything about your ability from this...

"It has taken me ~4 days to get the first page down" - is that 96-hours? 2-hours per day? 20-minutes per day?

"at ~50-65% tempo" - how are you measuring tempo? What is your accuracy? Sight read? Memorized?

"sometimes I can do 80-90% if I'm lucky" - I don't know what this means.


Sorry to pick apart, but perhaps if you described more specifically 1) what you've done with the etude, 2) what other pieces you've successfully worked on, and 3) what you intend to accomplish by spending time on a ridiculously difficult piece, advice and suggestions could be more targeted and helpful. The only responsible answers to your question based on what you provided are "it depends" and "as long as you want" ...

Good luck, and please know that people here are very eager to help others at all levels move forward. Think about it, it's in our best interest too - the better of a pianist you become, the more good music there is out there for everyone.

-Daniel
_________________________
Currently working on:
-Dane Rudhyar's Stars from Pentagrams No 3

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#2030640 - 02/10/13 04:35 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: Ridicolosamente]
cefinow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/27/10
Posts: 364
Loc: Western NC (US)
Originally Posted By: Ridicolosamente
Keep in mind it will get exponentially harder as you continue: to go from 50 to 75% tempo, then 75% to 85%, to 90%, and that last 10 and 5% will probably take as much time or longer than it took to get from 0 to 90%. Assuming you haven't injured yourself by that point...
-Daniel


Xphot, this what I'm finding out with my first etude (10/12). Every new section seemed like a cinch to accelerate for the first few weeks, then, wham, a speed plateau. I complained. Hey, I almost posted the same question you did, but about 10/12. But teacher (whose idea this etude was) said, Don't worry about speed, just play it so it sounds fast. However, I begged to differ, and in the effort to break through the plateau, got tendinitis. I gave it a rest, arm got better. She said again, don't worry about speed, focus on making it sound dramatic, and the shape of the piece-- and that time I listened. With slow practice, forearm is better; accuracy is better; and I do manage to make it sound fast, if not like a cheetah racing, at least like an elephant charging. Anyway, I'm due to play it at a student recital at the end of next month-- so from November to March, that's my personal answer to how long I'm going to spend on it, intensely, right now.

"How long is too long?" There's no time limit, if you love it. There are other pieces you could work on before, to make the 10/1 easier. There's so much more to learning a piece than counting tempo, or percentages, or number of days, or time spent. You have to give it time and patience enough to change your way of playing. (Sorry, but a teacher is sometimes the only catalyst for this to happen.) I'd love to learn 10/1 myself, but mostly because there are some wonderful sounding progressions in there... wouldn't be chasing any certain tempo, though.

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#2030711 - 02/10/13 06:20 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: cefinow]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19369
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: cefinow

"How long is too long?" There's no time limit, if you love it.
Yes, there may be no time limit but for most people time itself is limited.

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#2030795 - 02/10/13 08:51 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: pianoloverus]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
How long is a piece of string? Totally depends on the piece and the pianist.

(This from the gal who's been working on 10/12 for the past eight years or so. Not continuously, of course. I'll drop it for awhile and bring something new back to it in a couple of months. I've grown into it. Not that my playing would impress anyone but my nearest and dearest but I've done much more with it than I ever thought I would and have derived a great deal of satisfaction from the quest.)
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2030944 - 02/11/13 05:51 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
xphotography Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/20/10
Posts: 18
Thank you all for the warm and insightful responses. I honestly wasn't expecting such positive energy. I enjoy the Op 10 No 1 a great deal, and I have decided that I'll work on it as long as my hands feel OK and I'm not too consumed in any particular measure/section. My strongest motivation is that I'll be able to play the piece sooner and hold it with me when my technique develops. Even the first page is quite exhilarating when I can connect with the keys correctly.

I was hoping I could get some suggestions on what to logically play alongside the piece in an attempt to strengthen my technique in a more progressive manner (as opposed to such an apparently large leap with the 10/1). I was thinking maybe the etude 10/3 or waltzes 64/1 or 64/2, but I'm not entirely sure.


Edited by xphotography (02/11/13 05:55 AM)

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#2030957 - 02/11/13 06:57 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: cefinow]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: cefinow
and I do manage to make it sound fast, if not like a cheetah racing, at least like an elephant charging.


I love it. (That's me. An elephant charging, trunk rampant.) grin
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2030964 - 02/11/13 07:27 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: -Frycek]
Ridicolosamente Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/08/08
Posts: 1467
Loc: Miami, Florida, USA
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: cefinow
and I do manage to make it sound fast, if not like a cheetah racing, at least like an elephant charging.


I love it. (That's me. An elephant charging, trunk rampant.) grin
Keep at it. Before you know it, you'll sound like a rhino charging.

-Daniel
_________________________
Currently working on:
-Dane Rudhyar's Stars from Pentagrams No 3

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#2030976 - 02/11/13 07:57 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: Ridicolosamente]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: Ridicolosamente
Originally Posted By: -Frycek
Originally Posted By: cefinow
and I do manage to make it sound fast, if not like a cheetah racing, at least like an elephant charging.


I love it. (That's me. An elephant charging, trunk rampant.) grin
Keep at it. Before you know it, you'll sound like a rhino charging.

-Daniel


I'm aiming for velociraptor.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2030979 - 02/11/13 08:06 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19369
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: xphotography
I was hoping I could get some suggestions on what to logically play alongside the piece in an attempt to strengthen my technique in a more progressive manner (as opposed to such an apparently large leap with the 10/1). I was thinking maybe the etude 10/3 or waltzes 64/1 or 64/2, but I'm not entirely sure.
There are hundreds or thousands of pieces you could choose to help with your technique because any piece near your level(same, slightly above, slightly below)will help your technique. NONE would be logically related to Op. 10 No.1 because that piece works on a very specific and very advanced technique.

If you simply choose pieces from various musical periods at appropriate levels you will get pieces that will help your technique and musicianship. I suggested various musical levels because certain musical periods tend to have somewhat different technical requirements. For example, music from the Classical period has an emphasis on scale and arpeggio technique.

I would suggest choosing pieces from different periods based on which pieces you love and not worry about some grand plan of technical improvement. My suggestion would be scales and arpeggios=10%, Chopin Op. 10 No.1=15%, variety of other pieces(not just one or two)= 75%. Your biggest technical improvement will come from not spending too much time on Op. 10 No.1.


Edited by pianoloverus (02/11/13 08:09 AM)

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#2031006 - 02/11/13 09:19 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: pianoloverus]
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2739
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: xphotography
I was hoping I could get some suggestions on what to logically play alongside the piece in an attempt to strengthen my technique in a more progressive manner (as opposed to such an apparently large leap with the 10/1). I was thinking maybe the etude 10/3 or waltzes 64/1 or 64/2, but I'm not entirely sure.
There are hundreds or thousands of pieces you could choose to help with your technique because any piece near your level(same, slightly above, slightly below)will help your technique. NONE would be logically related to Op. 10 No.1 because that piece works on a very specific and very advanced technique.

If you simply choose pieces from various musical periods at appropriate levels you will get pieces that will help your technique and musicianship. I suggested various musical levels because certain musical periods tend to have somewhat different technical requirements. For example, music from the Classical period has an emphasis on scale and arpeggio technique.

I would suggest choosing pieces from different periods based on which pieces you love and not worry about some grand plan of technical improvement. My suggestion would be scales and arpeggios=10%, Chopin Op. 10 No.1=15%, variety of other pieces(not just one or two)= 75%. Your biggest technical improvement will come from not spending too much time on Op. 10 No.1.

In reading through this thread I was going to say that you should find other pieces that work other techniques. The danger of spending a lot of time on any one etude is that the technical requirements are very specific and playing piano well requires a broad technical ability. Then I get to PL's post above and he has succinctly stated everything I wanted to say.

So +1

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#2031034 - 02/11/13 09:50 AM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: xphotography]
jdhampton924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1009
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
It has totally driven me insane that a fellow student for the past 3 and a half semester's has only played two pieces. Plays them at every studio class, I would almost argue favoritism. Despite these works being large(Schumann's Carnival and Bartok's sonata) I have gotten tired of hearing them.

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#2031099 - 02/11/13 12:01 PM Re: How long is too long to spend on a piece? [Re: Steve Chandler]
Mark_C Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19786
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Steve Chandler
....I was going to say....Then I get to PL's post above and he has succinctly stated everything I wanted to say.

So +1

Make that 2. smile

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