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#2069830 - 04/24/13 09:05 AM Whats the right way to master piano?
dindz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/22/12
Posts: 5
Good day to all,

This is my 1st post in this forum & I'm very happy to say thank you for everyone who inspire people to continue their passion for the love of music.

I am just curious how the great pianist achieve their level of virtuosity? Is there a right program or pattern that I should follow? How can I divide learning sight reading, etudes, chords, scale, arpeggios, ear training, etc? Should I focused more time on sight reading? How many practice hours should I take each day that don't lead to mental fatigue & risk injury?

Many thanks..
help
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#2069837 - 04/24/13 09:21 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
R_B Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/09
Posts: 420
I think the general answer is to get yourself to a teacher.
An initial evaluation lesson will help identify your current level, goals, strengths, weaknesses (I should say "areas offering opportunities for improvement").
From there the teacher will probably suggest what you should work on most, what doesn't need much attention right now, etc.

It seems mental fatigue and loss of interest come from trying to do what you think you are SUPPOSED to be doing - n minutes of Hannon every day, etc.

If Ya ain't havin' fun don't do it.
OK, maybe not THAT unstructured, but find ways of making your practice enjoyable.

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#2069859 - 04/24/13 10:02 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: R_B]
dindz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/22/12
Posts: 5
Thanks for a swift reply..

Follow up question:

Yes you are right! I feel bored on Hannon and my teacher told me that I'm poor in sight reading but good in hearing & chords. Is there a way how to learn fast in sight reading? Does sight reading is the main tool of reaching virtuosity in piano?

Whats the ideal length of time practice each day..?
smile
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#2069889 - 04/24/13 10:41 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
Andy Platt Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2334
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: dindz
Thanks for a swift reply..

Follow up question:

Yes you are right! I feel bored on Hannon and my teacher told me that I'm poor in sight reading but good in hearing & chords. Is there a way how to learn fast in sight reading? Does sight reading is the main tool of reaching virtuosity in piano?

Whats the ideal length of time practice each day..?
smile


The way to learn "fast" in anything in piano is efficient practice. For sight reading, understand it can't be done in isolation. You need a good mixture of skills already before sight reading will become possible. Theory, technical, etc.. Having said that, the absolute key to sight reading is: Do it a lot and use very very very simple material. Very simple. Way below your playing level.

There is no ideal length of practice. Your length of practice time will be guided by many factors: Fatigue, availability, repertoire, level (in general beginners will get less out of more practice than more advanced students.)

But, here's the real thing: Longer does not necessarily mean better. Sometimes it can be worse. Efficient, on the other hand, always equals better.
_________________________
  • Liszt - Liebesträume No. 3, S541
  • Bartók - Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56
    My Hungarian Period wink

Kawai K3

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#2069891 - 04/24/13 10:44 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
justpin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 504
Loc: Holmes Chapel
A life time of diligent efficient practice, which includes not so interesting scales, arpeggios, finger drills and pieces which you don't like very much.

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#2069895 - 04/24/13 10:47 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2230
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
We are all curious about how the great pianists developed their technique!

For your first year or two do not spend too much time on scales, arpeggios and etudes. Concentrate first on pieces, ear training and a little bit of sight reading. Many of us claim to be poor sight readers and many of us are in awe of good sight readers. This implies that we do not need much sight reading skill to progress, just enough will do. Regular reading and a broad technical foundation are needed for sight reading. These things need building up over a number years from our pieces. Surprisingly little of it comes from scales, arpeggios and etudes.

Sight-reading itself needs regular short bursts, like five to ten minutes a day, over a number of years not half an hour a day over a scant few years.

As a beginner, thirty minutes of practise a day is too much if you're concentrating hard enough. Four hours a day is not long enough if you're just playing what you already know. Learn to set yourself goals that aren't measured in numbers of minutes.

Spend ten minutes memorising or mastering half a dozen notes and you've made measurable progress. Spend four hours making more mistakes than hitting the right notes and you've wasted your time.

Five hours a week is a lot of time to find if you watch TV but ten hours is easy to find if you don't.

Whether it's playing the piano or preparing for Judgement Day, the time means nothing - it's what you do with it that counts.
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#2070060 - 04/24/13 04:22 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
Derulux Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5067
Loc: Philadelphia
To master the piano, buy a decent whip. However, if you want to play like a virtuoso, focus instead on mastering yourself. wink
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Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2070085 - 04/24/13 04:55 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
UK Paul UK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Berkshire, England
To master the piano, personnaly i have a very important tip...


Last week i wrote two words on an envelope and pprop it up every practice session. I now look at it regularly through my session.

The two words are: efficient practice.

What that entails for everyone is a personnal thing. People can give as much advice as they like. The key point is what works for you. And realising it. Most people have no idea.


I have very little idea, but the search continues.
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#2070088 - 04/24/13 04:57 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: Derulux]
UK Paul UK Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/11
Posts: 396
Loc: Berkshire, England
Originally Posted By: Derulux
To master the piano, buy a decent whip. However, if you want to play like a virtuoso, focus instead on mastering yourself. wink



Haha
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#2070095 - 04/24/13 05:06 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: zrtf90]
Rostosky Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/30/11
Posts: 3339
Loc: Lost in cyberspace.in the UK.
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
.

Whether it's playing the piano or preparing for Judgement Day,


Richard, how many hours each day should I spend preparing for judgement day?
Is there any good reference books that may help me in this pursuit?
I have not allways been a good boy.
_________________________


Rise like lions after slumber,in unvanquishable number. Shake your chains to earth like dew
which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many,they are few. Shelley

Founder and creator ofRostoskys 13th crystal skull project

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#2070227 - 04/24/13 09:09 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: zrtf90]
JazzyMac Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/13
Posts: 45
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
We are all curious about how the great pianists developed their technique!

For your first year or two do not spend too much time on scales, arpeggios and etudes. Concentrate first on pieces, ear training and a little bit of sight reading. Many of us claim to be poor sight readers and many of us are in awe of good sight readers. This implies that we do not need much sight reading skill to progress, just enough will do. Regular reading and a broad technical foundation are needed for sight reading. These things need building up over a number years from our pieces. Surprisingly little of it comes from scales, arpeggios and etudes.

Sight-reading itself needs regular short bursts, like five to ten minutes a day, over a number of years not half an hour a day over a scant few years.



Hi. I'm new to piano as well. Can you explain the part about not paying attention to scales? My teacher has me doing simple scales as part of practice.
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Hobby 1: Photography. Bucket List 1: Learning Piano

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#2070275 - 04/24/13 10:42 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: zrtf90]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Originally Posted By: zrtf90

For your first year or two do not spend too much time on scales, arpeggios and etudes. Concentrate first on pieces, ear training and a little bit of sight reading.


Richard
Can you provide some ideas on how to go about ear training. I have been learning for 18 months. I heard about aural training. I am not sure how to go about it and whether I could do it without a teacher. Any recommended book for an absolute ear training beginner.

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#2070344 - 04/24/13 11:51 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: JosephAC]
Polyphonist Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 6404
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Originally Posted By: zrtf90

For your first year or two do not spend too much time on scales, arpeggios and etudes. Concentrate first on pieces, ear training and a little bit of sight reading.


Richard
Can you provide some ideas on how to go about ear training. I have been learning for 18 months. I heard about aural training. I am not sure how to go about it and whether I could do it without a teacher. Any recommended book for an absolute ear training beginner.

Repeatedly play a recording of Sorabji's entire Opus Clavicembalisticum until you can write down the entire thing without any errors.
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#2070440 - 04/25/13 05:15 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2230
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Rostosky
Richard, how many hours each day should I spend preparing for judgement day?
Be grateful each morning for the gift of life and reflect each evening on how you've chosen to live it and how you've used the gifts and talents you've been given helping others less fortunate.

Actually, in your case, Rossy, I believe there's a plenary indulgence for arranging the Mendelssohn recital so you could get away with less.

But for the rest of us I repeat, it's not how long you spend on it but what you do in the time.

For reference books, try the letters of St Paul.

smile TIC

_______________________
Originally Posted By: JazzyMac
...Can you explain the part about not paying attention to scales?...

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
...do not spend too much time on scales...
Of all the things the OP listed, "sight reading, etudes, chords, scale, arpeggios, ear training, etc", he didn't mention repertoire.

Most of our technical development comes from our pieces. Scales and other exercises are tools for honing technique, they do not build that technique. The time spent on them should be limited. Done properly they are very demanding of our concentration ability and too much time on them reduces both their overall effectiveness and the energy we can devote to the more important task of developing repertoire.

My opinion is that scales and other technical exercises are more effective under the guidance of a teacher than for self-learners, who are generally better off spending more of their time working on a wider repertoire.
_______________________

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Can you provide some ideas on how to go about ear training.

I would start by picking out simple songs on the piano, like carols or well-known folk tunes. As you get better, work towards the music you listen to most.

Picking out the notes for Silent Night will do far more good than learning specific intervals. Give them names like major thirds and minor sixths when they're familiar as sounds and you can pick them out easily on the piano. When you're comfortable picking out melodies work on chords/harmony.

Aural training is just being able to hear music and reproduce it on an instrument. Naming intervals is for demonstrating that skill academically in an exam or similar situation.
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Richard

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#2070449 - 04/25/13 06:01 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
earlofmar Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1119
Loc: Australia
Originally Posted By: dindz
Good day to all,

This is my 1st post in this forum & I'm very happy to say thank you for everyone who inspire people to continue their passion for the love of music.

I am just curious how the great pianist achieve their level of virtuosity? Is there a right program or pattern that I should follow? How can I divide learning sight reading, etudes, chords, scale, arpeggios, ear training, etc? Should I focused more time on sight reading? How many practice hours should I take each day that don't lead to mental fatigue & risk injury?

Many thanks..
help



WWelcome dindz

I can't answer if there is a "right pattern to follow" as I have only been playing for five months.
I can however give some observations of my journey so far. I think scales, arpeggios are good for the very beginner, these in fact become your first pieces and repertoire of any complexity in the early days, and give a sense of pride and confidence when mastered. They also make learning theory which is essential an easier task.
You don’t need to separate sight reading, etudes, chords, scales, etc etc, although scales and arpeggios are good warm up practice. Sight reading is something I tackled as a completely separate subject only to find I needed the skill I would get from repertoire, chords, scales etc, in order for the sight reading to progress. This is an organic process and must all be done in unision.
Half an hour a day on sight reading is enough of a mental drain, most people would say any more is not beneficial.
Practice time can be increased as you progress, your hands will let you know when they are tired.....heed the warning, that is when injuries happen.
I currently spend about two hours a day of good practice time at the piano and this is more than enough. Some people will get away with less I just have the luxury of time.
Finally, initially I resisted the Albert’s All In One Piano Course as it is a chord based program. That didn’t appeal to me, but with so many people using it I gave it a go and I now think it is more than worthy of recommendation. You quickly realise there is no road to virtuosity; otherwise we would all be on the same course. Rather what makes a virtuoso is time, prowess, dedication to the point of obsession (probably at the expense of everything else in your life and everyone around you). To be a well rounded pianist .......well I’ll let you know when I become one.



Edited by earlofmar (04/25/13 06:03 AM)
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#2070455 - 04/25/13 06:37 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 1806
Loc: Rocky Mountains
The best thing you can do is find a good teacher. No the teacher won't do it for you. You need to take it seriously.
One really good book that I can suggest is: The Art of Practicing by Madeline Bruser. Much understanding in that book.
_________________________
Ron
Ingrid, my beloved VPC : "Play it Sam....For old times sake...Play it for me...I'll sing it with you...Play me again, Sam."

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#2072015 - 04/27/13 09:34 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: Derulux]
John_In_Montreal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/21/11
Posts: 397
Loc: Montreal Canada
Originally Posted By: Derulux
To master the piano, buy a decent whip. However, if you want to play like a virtuoso, focus instead on mastering yourself. wink


Haha, buy a decent whip smile love it!

John
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Instrument: Rebuilt Kurzweil K2500XS and a bunch of great vintage virtual keyboards. New Kurzweil PC3X.

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#2072045 - 04/27/13 10:31 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: John_In_Montreal]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
I am learning a new piece for my exam. I have only just started to try and play it. First right hand and then left and then together. I have only done the first two bars with both hands together. The way I tackle this is I will do these two bars until I am confident in playing them, and then move on to the next two bars and then try all four bars and so on. I have done two hours of it this morning and am on a break for an hour or so and then I will go back to it later today.

Does anyone else agree with this way of learning? It seems to work for me as working on brand new pieces can be exhausting until you can play it properly.

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#2072047 - 04/27/13 10:37 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: adultpianist]
Andy Platt Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2334
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I am learning a new piece for my exam. I have only just started to try and play it. First right hand and then left and then together. I have only done the first two bars with both hands together. The way I tackle this is I will do these two bars until I am confident in playing them, and then move on to the next two bars and then try all four bars and so on. I have done two hours of it this morning and am on a break for an hour or so and then I will go back to it later today.

Does anyone else agree with this way of learning? It seems to work for me as working on brand new pieces can be exhausting until you can play it properly.


There is a school of thought that says if you need to do this for the entire piece, instead of just several spots in the piece, it is beyond you and you should put it aside and come back to it later. Given this is for an exam, you might want to review if you are ready for that grade or not.

Having said that, I have successfully learnt a few pieces that way, at the same time as doing pieces closer to my level. The head of my piano studio, who took me for a couple of Summer lessons on Debussy's Arabesque #1 concluded his comments with "Hmm ..." but had to admit six months later he was "wrong." But it's not ideal and I'm not sure I would tackle a piece that far ahead of my current reading, understanding and technical abilities again. But we'll see ...
_________________________
  • Liszt - Liebesträume No. 3, S541
  • Bartók - Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56
    My Hungarian Period wink

Kawai K3

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#2072058 - 04/27/13 11:09 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: Andy Platt]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I am learning a new piece for my exam. I have only just started to try and play it. First right hand and then left and then together. I have only done the first two bars with both hands together. The way I tackle this is I will do these two bars until I am confident in playing them, and then move on to the next two bars and then try all four bars and so on. I have done two hours of it this morning and am on a break for an hour or so and then I will go back to it later today.

Does anyone else agree with this way of learning? It seems to work for me as working on brand new pieces can be exhausting until you can play it properly.


There is a school of thought that says if you need to do this for the entire piece, instead of just several spots in the piece, it is beyond you and you should put it aside and come back to it later. Given this is for an exam, you might want to review if you are ready for that grade or not.

Having said that, I have successfully learnt a few pieces that way, at the same time as doing pieces closer to my level. The head of my piano studio, who took me for a couple of Summer lessons on Debussy's Arabesque #1 concluded his comments with "Hmm ..." but had to admit six months later he was "wrong." But it's not ideal and I'm not sure I would tackle a piece that far ahead of my current reading, understanding and technical abilities again. But we'll see ...


I am not sure I really understand what you mean here. This is how I learn. Two bars at a time which means each time I play two bars, I play another two bars and then try from the beginning up to the two bars I have just done. This means I am constantly playing from the beginning each time which may seem like a waste of time but it works for me. At the end of the day, the most important factor here is that I learn the piece well enough to sit the exam and whatever way works for me I do. I have not failed an exam yet lol

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#2072062 - 04/27/13 11:18 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
kapelli Online   blank
Full Member

Registered: 11/26/12
Posts: 341
Loc: Poland
Originally Posted By: dindz
Good day to all,

This is my 1st post in this forum & I'm very happy to say thank you for everyone who inspire people to continue their passion for the love of music.

I am just curious how the great pianist achieve their level of virtuosity? Is there a right program or pattern that I should follow? How can I divide learning sight reading, etudes, chords, scale, arpeggios, ear training, etc? Should I focused more time on sight reading? How many practice hours should I take each day that don't lead to mental fatigue & risk injury?

Many thanks..
help



Years of daily hard work on best pianos with best teachers. That's hte only way to become a virtuoso. And addiction to piano and pianomusic.

Musical and technical development day by day. And - a little distance to it.

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#2072695 - 04/28/13 08:56 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2230
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I am learning a new piece for my exam. I have only just started to try and play it. First right hand and then left and then together. I have only done the first two bars with both hands together. The way I tackle this is I will do these two bars until I am confident in playing them, and then move on to the next two bars...
So far so good...

Originally Posted By: adultpianist
...and then try all four bars and so on.
Ooh, warning bells!

Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I have done two hours of it this morning...
Alarm bells!

Originally Posted By: adultpianist
...then I will go back to it later today.
Whoa! Stop! Enough!

Improvement generally comes from working a small section for a short time then allowing the neural connexions to grow overnight. Little progress is made by repeating a section for two hours in one go.

An exam is usually three or four pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural skills. Divide your time evenly between these things over the week. Two hours on one piece is signing up for failure in my book.

Here's one way, take what you like from it and disregard what doesn't suit.

First time through away from the piano, sort out reading difficulties (ledger lines, accidentals, ornaments, poor print or poor layout, triplet signs looking like 3rd finger, key sig. changes, ottava crossovers, etc).

Once through the piece, slowly, at the piano with both hands where you can, HS where you can't, verifying that the fingering is correct for the tempo and for your hand, distribution between the hands, finding any difficulties that may need to be overcome with isolated practise (stretches, leaps, moves of the whole hand, changing fingers on a key, weak finger trills etc.).

Start work fixing any of the above difficulties by playing them HS, slowly and mechanically a few times each. Not at tempo, not too loud, not too quiet. And not just right - but dead on balls accurate! Every time. Five to ten times. Not for two hours, just long enough to get the last five reps in absolutely right. Don't do any more on it until you've slept.

If the difficulty is two to four beats long you should be able to work it sufficiently in two or three minutes. Then leave it and let the brain grow those neural connections overnight. You might be able to tackle a few of these problems each day, gradually whittling away at them until they just don't feel difficult.

When you can go through the piece once each day, slowly, without mechanical difficulties for a few consecutive days you can stop going through it each day but continue maybe once a week while it's an exam piece. Plan a week off from it periodically.

When you've done your walk through and addressed some mechanical issues start your sectional work, beginning with the sections that have no mechanical difficulties. Memorise each hand separately for a short fragment - you're currently working on two bars at a time and that's fine. When each hand is memorised and comfortable after about three to five repetitions (or break it into smaller fragments otherwise) put the hands together slowly and with mechanical accuracy - not necessarily rhythmic accuracy. If each hand can play its notes in the right order add the rhythm. If you can get the rhythm get the tempo just fast enough that you can play it without having to consciously think about every note.

When you've got it, play it two or three times each day for a week. Then forget it. If you memorised or mastered it once you'll do so more quickly and easily next time regardless of whether you memorise or follow the score.

You don't have to remember this stuff overnight. Just long enough for that days five to ten repetitions. It's not to memorise it, per se, but to limit the amount you work on at any one time.

You should reach a stage when you can play the whole piece accurately and comfortably at a modest tempo (and may be doing this once a week or so) and each short section close to tempo HS and just fluently HT. You're still working on short, two-measure sections but you've been through all the sections now and overcome the mechanical and co-ordination difficulties. Some sections you may still be able to play from memory, Some you may not have been through for a week or two.

Time to start building your sections up to half a page each. Note that playing the whole piece through at one go faster than a tip-toe pace may outdo your concentration and introduce wrong notes, undoing much of your hard work.

When you can do each new section, say four bars, and do them accurately, build up to six or eight and then up to about half a page. Continue building as long as your daily repetitions (two or three of each section) continue to maintain accuracy. Stop immediately and fix any errors that crop up. You might continue to work the sections HS to build a little tempo.

If you're having a bad day and keep making unusual mistakes do something else, scales maybe or have an early night, rather than learn a new piece with a tired brain.

Some people get the notes right first then add dynamics and phrasing. I prefer to get the dynamics and phrasing in from day one. Do get them in before you start to bring your half page sections up to speed and I prefer to get the half page sections up to tempo before I start playing the whole piece through.

This is for an exam piece. You owe it to yourself to get it as good as you can for an exam so you can get your deserved distinction on a good day but still pass on a bad day, on an inferior and unfamiliar piano, in front of a grumpy examiner, who had a strong curry for breakfast! smile
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Richard

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#2072711 - 04/28/13 09:32 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
dindz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/22/12
Posts: 5
Thank you guys for your thoughts.. much appreciated!
smile
_________________________
Casio Privia Px-735

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#2072720 - 04/28/13 09:55 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: zrtf90]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I am learning a new piece for my exam. I have only just started to try and play it. First right hand and then left and then together. I have only done the first two bars with both hands together. The way I tackle this is I will do these two bars until I am confident in playing them, and then move on to the next two bars...
So far so good...

Originally Posted By: adultpianist
...and then try all four bars and so on.
Ooh, warning bells!

Originally Posted By: adultpianist
I have done two hours of it this morning...
Alarm bells!

Originally Posted By: adultpianist
...then I will go back to it later today.
Whoa! Stop! Enough!

Improvement generally comes from working a small section for a short time then allowing the neural connexions to grow overnight. Little progress is made by repeating a section for two hours in one go.

An exam is usually three or four pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural skills. Divide your time evenly between these things over the week. [b][b][b]Two hours on one piece is signing up for failure in my bo[/b]ok.[/b]
[/b]
Here's one way, take what you like from it and disregard what doesn't suit.

First time through away from the piano, sort out reading difficulties (ledger lines, accidentals, ornaments, poor print or poor layout, triplet signs looking like 3rd finger, key sig. changes, ottava crossovers, etc).

Once through the piece, slowly, at the piano with both hands where you can, HS where you can't, verifying that the fingering is correct for the tempo and for your hand, distribution between the hands, finding any difficulties that may need to be overcome with isolated practise (stretches, leaps, moves of the whole hand, changing fingers on a key, weak finger trills etc.).

Start work fixing any of the above difficulties by playing them HS, slowly and mechanically a few times each. Not at tempo, not too loud, not too quiet. And not just right - but dead on balls accurate! Every time. Five to ten times. Not for two hours, just long enough to get the last five reps in absolutely right. Don't do any more on it until you've slept.

If the difficulty is two to four beats long you should be able to work it sufficiently in two or three minutes. Then leave it and let the brain grow those neural connections overnight. You might be able to tackle a few of these problems each day, gradually whittling away at them until they just don't feel difficult.

When you can go through the piece once each day, slowly, without mechanical difficulties for a few consecutive days you can stop going through it each day but continue maybe once a week while it's an exam piece. Plan a week off from it periodically.

When you've done your walk through and addressed some mechanical issues start your sectional work, beginning with the sections that have no mechanical difficulties. Memorise each hand separately for a short fragment - you're currently working on two bars at a time and that's fine. When each hand is memorised and comfortable after about three to five repetitions (or break it into smaller fragments otherwise) put the hands together slowly and with mechanical accuracy - not necessarily rhythmic accuracy. If each hand can play its notes in the right order add the rhythm. If you can get the rhythm get the tempo just fast enough that you can play it without having to consciously think about every note.

When you've got it, play it two or three times each day for a week. Then forget it. If you memorised or mastered it once you'll do so more quickly and easily next time regardless of whether you memorise or follow the score.

You don't have to remember this stuff overnight. Just long enough for that days five to ten repetitions. It's not to memorise it, per se, but to limit the amount you work on at any one time.

You should reach a stage when you can play the whole piece accurately and comfortably at a modest tempo (and may be doing this once a week or so) and each short section close to tempo HS and just fluently HT. You're still working on short, two-measure sections but you've been through all the sections now and overcome the mechanical and co-ordination difficulties. Some sections you may still be able to play from memory, Some you may not have been through for a week or two.

Time to start building your sections up to half a page each. Note that playing the whole piece through at one go faster than a tip-toe pace may outdo your concentration and introduce wrong notes, undoing much of your hard work.

When you can do each new section, say four bars, and do them accurately, build up to six or eight and then up to about half a page. Continue building as long as your daily repetitions (two or three of each section) continue to maintain accuracy. Stop immediately and fix any errors that crop up. You might continue to work the sections HS to build a little tempo.

If you're having a bad day and keep making unusual mistakes do something else, scales maybe or have an early night, rather than learn a new piece with a tired brain.

Some people get the notes right first then add dynamics and phrasing. I prefer to get the dynamics and phrasing in from day one. Do get them in before you start to bring your half page sections up to speed and I prefer to get the half page sections up to tempo before I start playing the whole piece through.

This is for an exam piece. You owe it to yourself to get it as good as you can for an exam so you can get your deserved distinction on a good day but still pass on a bad day, on an inferior and unfamiliar piano, in front of a grumpy examiner, who had a strong curry for breakfast! smile



Working on a piece for two hours may be like failure in your book, but not in mine. I have now perfected most of the first page of the exam piece (2 pages in total) and later today I will work on the second page. Tomorrow and Tuesday I will work on the scales and arpeggios and do some sight reading ready for my lesson on Wednesday. I have always worked this way and have passed the first three grades and am pretty sure I will pass this next one.

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#2072758 - 04/28/13 11:06 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: adultpianist]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2230
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
Working on a piece for two hours may be like failure in your book...
No, it's not a failure but it's opening a door to failure. smile

If the difficulty is such that it requires or benefits from new neural pathways, then two hours is not making efficient use of the time. If the material is well within your technical grasp a two hour stint may be the most effective.

With difficult material, six days at ten minutes a day and overnight sleep typically produces greater progress in the hour spent than two hours invested in one go and allows an extra hour to be spent on something else.

I don't want to decry your method for you but I wouldn't espouse it to anyone else.
_________________________
Richard

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#2072770 - 04/28/13 11:38 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
JazzyMac Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/13
Posts: 45
I'm curious about this. I can see both sides of learning a piece, and I equate it to studying for an exam or practicing a speech. Everyone has their own way to handle learning: Flashcards, memorization, music playing in the background, dead silence, etc.

Adultpianist seems to have figured out a system that works; some might appreciate a new way.
_________________________
Hobby 1: Photography. Bucket List 1: Learning Piano

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#2072784 - 04/28/13 12:26 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: JazzyMac]
adultpianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/12
Posts: 539
Originally Posted By: JazzyMac
I'm curious about this. I can see both sides of learning a piece, and I equate it to studying for an exam or practicing a speech. Everyone has their own way to handle learning: Flashcards, memorization, music playing in the background, dead silence, etc.

Adultpianist seems to have figured out a system that works; some might appreciate a new way.


Exactly. And I do not wish to be criticised for doing it my way. At the end of the day, all that matters is that I pass the exam, however I achieve it. If I were failing exams and not progressing, then I would say I was learning in a way that was not helpful, but clearly I progress. When you think I started out knowing nothing to where I am at today is good.

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#2072885 - 04/28/13 03:12 PM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: dindz]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2230
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
And I do not wish to be criticised for doing it my way.
Forgive me! I hadn't intended it to come across as criticism. There is a subtle difference between criticism and suggestion for improvement and the subtlety was clearly beyond me so I apologise for that.
_________________________
Richard

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#2076967 - 05/04/13 02:13 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: adultpianist]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1370
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: adultpianist
Two bars at a time which means each time I play two bars, I play another two bars and then try from the beginning up to the two bars I have just done. This means I am constantly playing from the beginning each time which may seem like a waste of time but it works for me.


You're obviously aware of this bad/inefficient habit. Stop yourself from doing it! We adults are afraid of losing the ability to play passages well we just spent time perfecting, but only when we do leave them alone for a good day or so is that perfection really solidified in our fingers (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th5ljgUP9lg&t=9m22s ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th5ljgUP9lg&t=5m28s ; http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/1.II.15).

As your repertoire you're learning gets more difficult, with this bad habit, you'll encounter this problem: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th5ljgUP9lg&t=4m29s

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#2078001 - 05/06/13 12:14 AM Re: Whats the right way to master piano? [Re: Bobpickle]
bluebilly Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 418
Loc: England
The OP specified - "I am just curious how the great pianists achieve their level of virtuosity?". Great pianists are born with the ability to learn to play piano quickly, it comes easily to them but not to the majority of us, that's why most of us will never be great pianists, we're destined to be merely piano players.

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