While you're not yet an adult, you should visit the Adult Beginner's forums as there are like-minded beginners (though again, older) that often discuss similar problems. I'll discuss my thoughts in further detail below, but what is more often the case than not being able to focus/concentrate is that people don't have or set realistic goals for practicing
and this is an absolute must
if you actually wish to see efficient progress (meaning not working on one piece for several months) in learning repertoire
Also, you need to know why it's not only a waste of time to pursue pieces significantly above your ability which you simply cannot learn without being taught by rote by a teacher (which in the case of very advanced material could easily be near-impossible, anyways), but dangerous to yourself physically and mentally. You've already begun experiencing the mental aspect - not wanting to practice; not making any progress during practice; feeling unmotivated; thinking the answer lies in the inability to focus. Read below for a brief definition of piano technique
and how practicing things beyond your ability can be physically harmful (it's an old post of mine in response to a user wanting their teacher to teach them a really hard piece similar to yours by copying
The purpose of piano lessons are so that the teachers teach students not how to learn individual pieces
, as it outwardly looks, but so that students are made capable of tackling the virtually infinite number of challenges any possible piece they could encounter may present. "Teaching" in the style that you describe/desire is not teaching at all, but simply learning by rote (and with a piece that is technically out of your range) and there simply just isn't enough benefit (versus a great deal of difficulty) to teaching by rote for teachers to it in respect to learning repertoire at the piano.
For clarity, my definition of technique in regards to learning repertoire is as follows:
1. You possess the technique to overcome the various challenges (except for perhaps a select few, which is likely why a teacher may have chosen the piece to learn in the first place) presented by a specific piece without the need for rote learning (except for perhaps explanation or demonstration of a technical demand). This is the level of relative difficulty at which teachers provide individual students with material to learn to get the most benefit.
2. Your brain (and thus fingers, being controlled by the brain) must acquire familiarity with, and the ability to ultimately play, the overwhelming
technical demands throughout the piece. Either the sheer number of such demands is so great and/or each individual demand so unfamiliar or momentous that trying to even start learning the piece will quickly prove very difficult - and this is assuming you can first understand the notation of what's on the page. Especially without mastering a foundational routine for learning approachable
new repertoire, a piece of music in this category could take as long as a year, if not longer, to come close to mastering as opposed to a few days, weeks, or months once nearer to the above category. Practicing something technically unfamiliar such as this can also be harmful in large spurts and/or if not careful.http://musiciansway.com/blog/2009/12/the-benefits-of-accessible-music/
I'm not suggesting you're trying as a beginner to learn an arrangement as difficult as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptV6K7nqu0
but that being said, if accomplishing something even remotely similar were all that easy, then far more people would learn - and more importantly not quit playing - this instrument.
There are far more to the "dots" than what there appears to be. I myself still only understand a small sliver of what there is to know, but hopefully I could at least share some of that with you.
Back to the topic of mistaking not having realistic goals to work off every time you practice for not being able to focus. As a beginner, you probably don't have a functional routine for practicing new material (I don't mean this as offensive; it takes some people several months or years to establish one and many people - even ones that have teachers - quit because they never
get one) and unfortunately, your teacher obviously doesn't have one to offer you. Either select an easy piece yourself or better yet, have your teacher pick one out for you and try out the following routine:1)
Work out fingerings for your piece and then write them on the music so that you don't forget them and resultantly practice wrong ones.2)
Figure out how big of sections to divide your piece into for practicing. To do this, pick a section of the piece that makes musical sense whose size you think you can work with. Play it through one hand at a time 7 times each (the attempts most likely won't and don't have to be
perfect, but the important thing is to keep count). If after seven times you have not learned it
(meaning memorized or can play it without having to read hard, and/or
made significant progress with playing it near or at performance tempo) it is because you are trying to learn a chunk too large for your present abilities.
So instead of doing what everyone who does not know this piece of information does, namely keep repeating endlessly the passage hundreds of times, do the clever thing and make the passage smaller.
Try again seven times. If you still have not got it, make it smaller again. Certain passages will require that you par it down to only two notes. But I assure you that anyone can learn two notes after repeating them seven times.
In the beginning this method will seem unnecessarily long and laborious. However as you apply it consistently over the course of a couple of weeks (or even a couple of days), you will develop experience and you will be able to look at a passage and immediately tell what size and how long it will take you to master it.
After all this, you now know the size of your first section. Now how does this method work, you wonder? Anything that can be learned by repetition will be learned after seven repetitions. If after seven repetitions you have not learned the “chunk”, it means that the chunk was too large for the brain to handle.
Here's some further clarification on whether the chunk you've selected to work on after 7 repeats is okay or not:
Now, it's not clear to me what he means by "master"
let's say I repeat three bars 7 times and after this seven repeats I can play those bars without errors and by heart; can be this considered mastered or do I need also it to be "full speed"
Using this approach I've noticed that I can learn by heart without errors 10 bars circa after just seven repeats
Yet even if I can "master" 10 bars after seven repeats, 10 bars is probably a chunk to large to practice?
1. Can you play the passage at the final speed (or near enough)?
2. Can you play it without hesitations and stuttering?
3. Are you playing the right notes at the right time with the correct fingers?
4. Does it feel easy and comfortable to play?
5. Can you play it by heart, or at least with the music in front of you without having to laboriously read it?
If you answered yes to 4 out of 5 of these questions it is mastered enough for you to consider this a good size and start working on it.
Do these questions apply to hands separate or hands together? Hands separate. Hands together is part of the work you will be doing once you decide the size. Unless of course you can do hands together straight away, then don’t bother with hands separate.
If you can master ten bars after seven repeats this is the size of chunk. It is neither too large nor too small. I have mastered 200 bar pieces (the whole piece) after seven repeats and went on to perfect the piece in the next ten minutes. It was an easy piece (for me). I have also struggled with half a bar for over a week before it “clicked”.
Continue to do this for the rest of the piece, as well, to compartmentalize it into similar sections. Mark all the sections (and overlap the end of each with the start of the next by one note) so you know which is which (numbers with bracket symbols work well). If you want to just test the validity of the method with a single section (though who would rather just learn a single section over a whole piece!), then you're welcome to just proceed on.3)
Now once you know the size of the section with which to work, you can start
practice. See below (and you can ignore some of the first paragraph as - remember - you already know
the size of your section(s) to practice).4)
Here are a few resources I like with advice on putting hands together in pieces. Do note, a prerequisite to trying this should be being able to play through the piece (in sections or as a whole) hands separate comfortably and effortlessly at about 1.5x performance tempo (this is because hands together is 37 times harder than hands separate and so you'll never be able to play as fast together as separate). Only then should you try and divide the piece into small - and overlapping
- sections in which to practice hands together. How small? I can't tell you; they could be 4 measures long, 2 measures long, or maybe a quarter of a measure long. The trick to knowing that the length is okay is being able to master (or close to) individual sections within
a 20 minute time span. If after 20 minutes, the section isn't mastered, you bit off too much so cut it in half and try again. Really
tricky parts may have to be reduced down to as small as two notes, but the point here is anybody can master a section consisting of two notes within 20 minutes. If you do this with the hardest sections of a piece first, you'll find that you'll have acquired in learning the hard sections, most all of the technique required for the easier ones. Read more here: http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=5177.msg49229#msg49229
Do this for a passage/section, set of passages/sections, or a whole piece and then leave it/them alone for a whole day for the brain to absorb. Rinse and repeat the same exact process
(the "learning" process) for 2-7 days until you can go to the piano and, without effort, play the passage flawlessly on the first attempt; this is when it's mastered. As far as combining sections goes, every 2-3 sessions, use a session to practice combining small sections.
Below are the 3 levels of mastery in learning repertoire:
Learned: you can play a passage/piece perfectly at the end of the practice session, but the next day it is all gone, or it is full of mistakes. (if it is full of mistakes, you may be practising too much, beyond the point of diminishing returns), You need to keep practising from scratch without skipping any step and without cutting any corners. But it will not take as long as the first time around.
Mastered: You now can just go to the piano the next day and play the section perfectly. Now you have two choices: just play through this section a couple of times 2 – 3 times a week. (You may not even need to do this, if you are joining this section to another one – since this joining practice will take care of it). Or you can neglect it and relearn it from scratch in a couple of months (this is really for complete pieces, rather than for sections).
Omniscience: You can play your piece even if you have not touched it for the past 30 years. You can get to omniscience by repeating your piece every day for ten years (say), or after forgetting and relearning it from scratch 3 or 4 times. I like the second approach the best because:
1. It is always exciting to learn a piece (even if it is one you already learned once).
2. It is doubly exciting to learn a piece in a fraction of the time (it will be a fraction of the time if you have learned it once).
3. It gives the piece a rest and gives you time to improve your technique and understanding of the piece. So when you come back to it, you will relearn it in a vast improved way. The alternative will most likely result in “burn-out” you will end up hating the piece.
4. It is far more efficient and time saving – even though it may not seem so at the time to one’s perception.
So basically you want to "master" a section, several sections, or maybe even a whole piece
(if it qualifies as an appropriate-sized "section") and, in the process, absorb into your subconscious memory this "mastery." Because it is likely going to be forgotten or lost the next day (this is completely normal and to be expected), you'll need to do re-master the same thing again (but you'll find that each time you re-master
, the amount of time it takes is less and less). Within 7 days of this consistent routine, your subconscious will have fully absorbed the information you've been feeding it daily and you'll be able to just go to the piano whenever and play whatever you've been mastering flawlessly on the first attempt. As for combining all the sections: again, after every 2-3 practice sessions of working on mastering one thing or another, use a session to practice combining various sections into groups of 2 at first, then maybe 3, etc. Also, in working to "master" each of these increasingly large sections, you'll no longer need to spend time re-mastering the old little sections that comprise them, individually. Follow the same rule of "only work on as large a section as can be mastered within 20 minutes" in combining sections, though.
Now concerning the above, why should passages/phrases/sections only be practiced for 20 minutes at a time? Any "chunk" of information that is capable of being mastered will be within a focused session of 20 minutes or less.
If it takes longer, the chunk of information trying to be learned (in this case, a section of piano music) is too large. Shrink it down and try again.5)After all this is said and done
, what remains to be practiced is fine-tuning of dynamics and phrasing for performance.
The above method will work on all [new] pieces, but if you try it with Chopin's revolutionary etude, or something similarly virtuosic and difficult (at your current level), you'll effectively be trying to learn a whole piece about two or so notes at a time and this is hardly anybody's idea of a fun or productive use of time. There's a lot to appreciate about learning level-appropriate material - one such reason being you can learn it in a few days to a week or two as opposed to having to struggle unsuccessfully for several months, and in the process losing all motivation to even go near the instrument.The original transcript (well, a compiled transcript) of the method's explanation by the original user/creator, Bernhard, can be found here