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#2064038 - 04/13/13 01:44 PM My practice has been transformed!
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
I'm so excited and must share! Yesterday I posted about a problem I have ignoring dynamics, probably because I have been approaching pieces wrong from the beginning. And several weeks ago I posted about ways to memorize because I knew that skill was sorely lacking.

So last night Bobpickle posted this on my question re: dynamics ...

Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
This Robert Estrin video really helped me starting out in learning how to practice (and memorize too, but that's not as important in the beginning stages) and actually pay attention to all the details even in the very beginning of learning new material.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeDEI0dGW_w


Ok. So this completely transformed my thinking and approach. This morning I wrote down what he says in the video, came down to my piano and did just as he described with a new lesson piece I started yesterday. I was struggling with the piece yesterday, even though its a fairly well-known melody. I'm in Faber 3A book and although it didn't appear tricky at first glance, it has some tricky parts and I just couldn't seem to get through them.

Not only have I now memorized the piece using this new method (new to me anyway), but I am able to play it without mistakes and at the prescribed tempo. I am simply thrilled. I know this will change the game for me. I'm excited about what the future holds in my piano studies as I felt like I was getting into a rut. I had gotten to a point where I honestly thought I just wasn't going to be as good at this as I had hoped.

I have memorized my first piece and have a newfound love and energy for learning the piano. I just love these forums ... I learn so much! smile
_________________________
~ Heather smile

Knabe WMV247
“When you play, never mind who listens to you.” ― Robert Schumann
“The piano ain't got no wrong notes.” ― Thelonious Monk

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#2064127 - 04/13/13 04:41 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Heather,

I read your post of yesterday and today 's posting and I am excited that it worked for you. I started Faber 1 last week and just completed units 1 and 2.

Would you mind:
- elaborating what dynamics you left out besides the tempo indications (p, mf, accent...). I am not sure I fully understand dynamics.
- what steps exaclty did you follow.

When I watched the DVD, I resisted the recommmedation step to play each hand separately. In a seminar that I attended few months ago, music teacher Duncan Lorien condemned the common practice to play each hand separately. He strongly advocate both hands playing 100% accurately. My current approach is :
- Read the notes and every music symbols on the score,
- Play the the measures silently - no sound. (both hands )
- Play the measures with sound (both hands)

Thanks in advance.







Edited by JosephAC (04/13/13 04:43 PM)

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#2064130 - 04/13/13 04:57 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
I watched the DVD again.

What is phrasing ? If it, breaking the piece into section, how do you decide what is phrase length ?

What is expression ? Dynamics (?) is part of it. What else ?

Thanks in advance.

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#2064138 - 04/13/13 05:16 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
TheodorN Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1119
Loc: Helsingborg, Sweden
Not sure exactly myself what a phrase in music is, but it seems to me it's a section within the piece, that has some context of it's own. Looks like phrases are often seperated by rests or longer notes. A new phrase can introduce a shift in pitch (not key) but not necessarily.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrase_%28music%29
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#2064158 - 04/13/13 06:26 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4372
Loc: Jersey Shore
A phrase is an idea, shown as those long curved lines over groups of noted and measures.

Defined as:

In music and music theory, phrase and phrasing are concepts and practices related to grouping consecutive melodic notes, both in their composition and performance. A musical work is typically made up of a melody that consists of numerous consecutive phrases. The notation used is similar to a tie and a slur.


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#2064178 - 04/13/13 07:16 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: Mark...]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Thanks for the definition. It makes sense for the intermediate and advanced pieces

At my beginning level, my pieces are around 20 measures and they do not have curved lines and slurs.

How can I break my beginning pieces into phrases?

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#2064200 - 04/13/13 07:45 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
For JosephAC: Imagine you were singing the piece. The phrases would be divided by the places where you might take a breath between one group of notes and the next.


Edited by tangleweeds (04/13/13 07:45 PM)
Edit Reason: typo
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#2064235 - 04/13/13 09:28 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
KurtZ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 774
Loc: The Heart of Screenland
I see the question what is a phrase? A phrase is the equivalent, with some latitude for context, of a sentence in writing. It's a complete musical statement and has a clear beginning and end. Usually there will be a moment of rest and a sense of partial or total resolution, that is, a sense of moving from musical tension to musical calm.

In a beginner piece, in the classical style, of 12-16 measures, there is usually 4 measure of statement that doesn't quite resolve(it has a music theory name, I want to say period but I might be forgetting). Then there will be a restatement that fully resolves. Next there will be a contrasting section, frequently suggesting a move to another chord or key and then that statement will either repeat with a variation to a full resolution OR the statement from the first part will be re-introduced to a full resolution. Within this framework, we have played four phrases.

A musical phrase is really no different from the phrase in sung music. Once you know to listen for partial and full resolutions with the pause for breath--analogous to a period or comma in writing, you will recognize musical phrases as easily as you recognize a sentence, a complete thought, in oral speech whether or not there is a written phrase mark. Where there is a phrase mark, at the beginner's level, it is almost aways correct to have a dying away effect over the last few notes to serve the listener in the same way that the dropping of breath and pause for a new breath tell the listener of spoken word that a new though/statement is beginning. My teacher has me match my breath to the arc of a phrase. In until the apex and out as it descends.

Kurt
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#2064246 - 04/13/13 10:23 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 657
The term you might be looking for is "cadence," Kurtz.
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#2064250 - 04/13/13 10:29 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
Or you don't have to divide it into phrases. The particular piece that I learned isn't divided into the same phrases as I divided it to learn it. You can divide it by measure, a couple of measures. Whatever works for you. I must say that i would caution against following someone's advice who condemns learning a piece by playing hands separately at first. It is a very logical way to learn. I still did that before I learned this piece and it has always helped me a lot. Try it and see if it helps. If it doesn't help you, then don't do it.

Dynamics is simply how loud or soft a song is played - mf, f, p, pp, crescendo, decrescendo.
_________________________
~ Heather smile

Knabe WMV247
“When you play, never mind who listens to you.” ― Robert Schumann
“The piano ain't got no wrong notes.” ― Thelonious Monk

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#2064755 - 04/15/13 01:11 AM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1369
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Congratulations, heather; I'm glad I could help. I had remembered you saying something about getting frustrated while practicing - visibly enough so that your husband and young daughter even took notice grin - and thought I'd try to assist. I personally don't feel that banging your head against a wall for any period of time is productive; what it is good for is getting you frustrated and ultimately attributing your new-found anger towards yourself and the piano. While some suggest continuing to bang your head against the wall may lead to a breakthrough eventually, I'd personally think it more wise to simply take a step back, re-evaluate things a bit, and seek out another route to your destination rather than waste the time and effort trying to bang out a new hole in the wall to pass through.

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#2064800 - 04/15/13 05:54 AM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
Teodor Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/16/09
Posts: 939
Loc: Bulgaria
Thanks for sharing! I saw this youtube video a few months ago. Then I sat down and memorized a piece 5 pages long in 2-3 days. This is a piece I struggled with a lot before. Not only I can play it at a reasonable tempo without stopping but I am now free to look at my hands and see what's going on down there. smile

Sadly I rarely do such good practice so it takes me longer to learn and master pieces. Because I have spent 3 years or a bit more now practicing without some sort of system, it's hard to break the habit of just trying to play the piece over and over.


Edited by Teodor (04/15/13 05:55 AM)
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#2065057 - 04/15/13 04:00 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Thanks Heather for this post. It emphasised the importance of a practice method, clarified what is dynamics and shed some light into phraseology.

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#2065105 - 04/15/13 05:47 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: JosephAC]
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Thanks Heather for this post. It emphasised the importance of a practice method, clarified what is dynamics and shed some light into phraseology.


That is why I love the forums. I learn so much! Happy playing smile
_________________________
~ Heather smile

Knabe WMV247
“When you play, never mind who listens to you.” ― Robert Schumann
“The piano ain't got no wrong notes.” ― Thelonious Monk

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#2065390 - 04/16/13 08:00 AM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: JosephAC]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2333
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
In a seminar that I attended few months ago, music teacher Duncan Lorien condemned the common practice to play each hand separately. He strongly advocate both hands playing 100% accurately. My current approach is :


Let's think this through a second. If you can play both hands together 100% accurately, why would you play them hands separately? Of course you wouldn't. (Though you should still memorize them separately because otherwise you are missing out on very important memory cues.)

But what if you can't? Simply struggle on with hands together till you can? Or try hands separately, fix some issues and then bring the hands together? Of course you would do the latter.

As I am learning new pieces I use whichever is appropriate at the time and switch back and forth. I doubt I am the most efficient practicer (OK, I know I am not because I just love playing pieces too much to spend all my time on the tricky parts!!) but I'm not going to throw out a perfectly good practice technique because it's not the end either.
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#2065694 - 04/16/13 07:27 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: Andy Platt]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1035
Loc: Reseda, California
What has worked for me -- and note that I'm playing from lead sheets, not grand staff -- is to learn the right hand all the way through at tempo, but only learn the chords I'll need on the left. I'll practice the left hand chords in order, but slowly, and at no particular tempo, no counting time, just being sure that I can get my fingers in the right places.

Then I try putting it all together. What I learned on the right is sort of the "master clock", and the timing on the left just conforms to it. The putting together includes some of the learning on the left. But there's no temporal conflict to un-learn.
_________________________
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Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
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#2065823 - 04/17/13 02:21 AM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
casinitaly Offline

Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 4663
Loc: Italy
Heather - glad to see this new technique is working so well for you!

As for the hands together, hands seperate concept - I agree with Andy. There are times when you don't need to do LH and RH seperately - but for some pieces you've GOT to get one of them sorted out and going on "automatic" before you can try to add the other.

In either case, I have learned (though it took a while to sink in) that going really slowly and learning note-by-note accuracy first, makes a huge difference in how quickly I can make progress.
It isn't important to play at the right tempo - or even with the right note values - but getting the right note and instilling that in your memory is imperative!
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#2066071 - 04/17/13 03:51 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
My understanding of my teacher's advise is to play both hands ( and I have multiple teachers at any time) with the objective to identify the resistance that is stopping you from keep playing and then develop little exercises to overcome this resistance and develop fluency. These little side exercises could be either single hand or both hand drills, depends on the nature of the resistance , but mostly single hand. The learning process then becomes an iterative process complimented with focused side exercises, and not a constant struggle of trial and error.

Let me know what you think.


Edited by JosephAC (04/17/13 04:00 PM)

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#2066102 - 04/17/13 04:48 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: JosephAC]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
And I must clarify myself further. With the BH only school of thought, you would need to practice your fingering with no sound (e.g volume down for digitall piano). This way, you never imprint incorrect sound. Remember what is repeated is hardwired. If you practice fingering with sound, you are hardwiring the wrong music and spending more time rewiring.
Moreover, you should know be able to read the notes exactly before playing without sound. By reading the notes, I mean every note. For example ' this is a D. It is the first D above middle C. It is played with finger 3 of the RH and it is held for a count of '2&'. You go through every note in the score before you even attempt to play with no sound , focusing on fingering. Remember we behave the way we measure ourself. By focusing on the correct fingering, you are measuring your practice success with how good your fingering is and hence behave to get it right.


I am just a beginner and I am figuring out my way in the complex world of music learning. And I learnt to look for simplicity. I focus only on the bottlenecks that are restricting me from playing that I aspire for and these bottlenecks keep shifting as I progress.



Edited by JosephAC (04/17/13 04:49 PM)

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#2066177 - 04/17/13 06:51 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2227
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
With the BH only school of thought, you would need to practice your fingering with no sound...This way, you never imprint incorrect sound. Remember what is repeated is hardwired. If you practice fingering with sound, you are hardwiring the wrong music and spending more time rewiring.
I'm unable to follow your logic here. Why would we need to practise without sound?

"If you practice fingering with sound, you are hardwiring the wrong music". What if you're playing the right notes? And conversely if you play without sound are you 'not hardwiring the right notes'?

Play hands together where you can and hands separately where you can't. I used to be of the opinion that it was better to learn a piece HS first and put the hands together when all the difficulties are solved. I now think that's twaddle. I prefer to get each hand playable for just a passage (when it's beyond my HT ability) before joining them together. I continue HS work for velocity and memory but I no longer consider it important to master HS first.

I also think it's important to get the dynamics in early, too, so playing without sound is out in that respect. When we sing a phrase, like the line of a song, we typically use more energy for the higher notes and we typically reduce the energy as we relax and come down at the end of the line. As a first approach you could do worse then raise the volume of the melody as the pitch goes up and reduce it as the pitch comes down all within the range of a piano or forte; just subtle changes but give each line/phrase its own climax.

Check out Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, while they're topical, and see how often the climax of the piece (and each line) is the highest note.
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#2066201 - 04/17/13 07:38 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: zrtf90]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1035
Loc: Reseda, California
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
I'm unable to follow your logic here. Why would we need to practise without sound?

I agree. Without sound, how would you know you were doing it right? Isn't sound the whole point of music in the first place?

I have some nerve damage in my neck, so I have no feeling in the #1, 2, and 3 fingers of my right hand. Sound is the feedback that closes the loop for me. Those three fingers play just as mediocrely as the rest, no better, no worse.

I suppose that playing can be divided into two parts:

1. Getting the right fingers to the right keys at the right times. This is pretty much the same for all keyboard instruments, because the keys are the same width and shape.

2. The actual pressing of the keys. This muscle movement to music conversion varies wildly from piano to piano. Without sound for feedback and correction, what hope is there of getting it right?
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Knabe Grand # 10927
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#2066258 - 04/17/13 10:44 PM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: heathermphotog]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
The logic is as follows:

You might agree that piano playing is a muti-layered iterative process.

Some of the initial elementary steps are:

1. Reading the music (identifying the notes on the score and the corresponding keys on the piano, including intervallic reading) - This step is not the point of this dicussion.


2. Mechanical playing (depressing the keys in the correct sequence and finger sequence familiarisation at this early learning stage). This is mechanical fingering step. You do not need sound to practice this process. Do you? Why ? At this early statge, sound is another distruction.

For me, the third and next step is to play with the sound on and this is the most beautful step. I can hear the music for the first time and it sounds beautiful and far better than If I attempted step 2 with the sound on and trying to figure out my fingering.

I understand that instant gartification is a human instinct. In my experience, the reward for delaying the sound generation for after 'fingering it' is greater as you will be rewarded with a beautiful creation of music, far superior than otherwise.

Remember that I am a beginner. My experience is limited to 18 momths.

In case of JohnSprung with, the situation is diffrent and you might be able to explore some initial visual feedabck (the Aural later).

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#2066347 - 04/18/13 02:51 AM Re: My practice has been transformed! [Re: JosephAC]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1035
Loc: Reseda, California
I'd think that without sound, you can't know what the dynamics are. So you'd be repeating and practicing wrong dynamics, which would have to be un-learned when you add sound. Then you'd have to re-learn it the right way.

For the purely mechanical part of it, if you're making a mistake and practicing a wrong note, you won't know it without sound. With sound, I can tell you from much experience, those errors are very easy to detect. ;-)
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Knabe Grand # 10927
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