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#2120193 - 07/19/13 02:50 PM Practice methods in detail
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3171
Loc: Maine
This is to move the discussion about practice methods, and in particular the practice method described by Bernhard at pianostreet, into its own thread. We're going to talk in excruciating detail about practice methods so you may pick up ideas here that are useful. Or it may all seem excessive, in which case give the thread a pass.

This started as a discussion on the Do you work towards your strengths or weaknesses? thread, so if you want the full context of the start of this discussion, read that thread at some point.

At some point I'll post a summary of where I think we got to, and some further questions that interest me. But I expect that this thread will wander all over the place, so feel free to dive in with whatever you want to talk about.

This is not solely a thread trying to apply Bernhard's methods: at this point, for me, I'm interested in exploring and comparing and contrasting lots of different ideas. But I'm also interested in finding out more about Bernhard's method, so this might (or might not) be a Bernhard-heavy thread at times. I'd love it if all types of practice methods would be talked about here, just because I like to learn from all points of view.
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#2120230 - 07/19/13 04:13 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Is Bernhard still active at pianostreet ? If affirmative, it would be good to pm him and invite him to this discussion.

I am looking forward for the summary as the previous thread got heavy and convoluted.





Edited by JosephAC (07/19/13 04:13 PM)

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#2120236 - 07/19/13 04:41 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2062
Loc: Rocky Mountains
You do realize that Bobpickle had a heart attack when you posted this thread. All that work. All that writing. All that explaining. Poor Bob... I hope he recovers. smile
_________________________
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Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2120266 - 07/19/13 05:43 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
I was just telling Keystring because everything I've learned from Bernhard's posts amounted to about 500-1000 (?) pages of writing (not 1000 posts mind you, as many of his posts were significantly thorough in context and length), it's pretty much impossible - and most certainly doesn't do Bernhard justice - to try and explain everything in about 30-50 posts, though it was a good experience learning this.

Those who wish to learn and understand more now at least have the resources for doing so (or they can always ask me for links... at their own risk grin ). Let's take a break and instead enjoy my new favorite Chopin interpreter, Peter Schmalfuss:

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#2120282 - 07/19/13 06:47 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11658
Loc: Canada
BobPickle, what do you think of dedicating a thread specifically to Bernhard's ideas, because of the size of his work, especially for those who want to try these ideas or are doing so? Maybe all the things you put into the other thread could be brought over into it - maybe even stickied. Good or bad idea?

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#2120287 - 07/19/13 06:51 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
Marco M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 451
Loc: Europe
As far as I know, Bernhard is since years no more active on pianostreet, but is alive (at least still was alive about half a year ago when I wrote him a PM, which he still received an answered on). smile
He is such a great guy. I asked him if he would give classes via Skype and he answered he personally wouldn't have no problem to give me classes like this. But instead of just going to earn my money, he advised me concerned about my achievable long term progress, as I am beginner, that I first better take classes "live", together with a teacher at the piano, because only the closely present teacher would be able to really see in sufficient detail how I am doing and thus what to correct on my playing. So honorable!
I now have a teacher, and I advanced magnificantly due to this help. Due to the help of my teacher, and due to the help of Bernhards advice.

Now let me add something to the actual topic of this post "Practice methods in detail" by recommending you to also have a look on the thread "the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog". Some need practice method advices also in there.

Wouldn't it be better to here just collect some more links, instead of repeating to write down again everything already written? Looking forward to reading about your recommendations, and thanks PianoStudent88 for initiating such thread!
_________________________
learning Piano on my Roland HP-505
before playing Drums in adults bluesband on handpicked set; before crashing E-Guitar in kids garage band; raised on home entertainment Organ and Keyboard models Eminent Solina P240, Farfisa Maharani 259R, Technics KN800, and on Mouth Organ, Recorder and Accordion

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#2120350 - 07/19/13 08:50 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
A day or two ago I was reminded of an important practice methodology regarding repetition. At the moment I'm frustrated because I don't remember where it came from; I was walking past my shelf of piano books, opened one up, and this is what sprang out at me.

The point was that mindless repetition is useless, and even harmful to musicality. Famous pianist X had told author Y (toldja my memory is swiss cheese today) that when repeating a segment of music, it is important to first pause before touching the piano, to hear in one's mind sound one wishes to create, and only then to play, while listening with full attention to what one is actually creating. Then pause again to consider how this actual sound compares to the sound one had meant to make, and reflect on how one might come closer to the desired musical effect. And not to touch the piano again until one has re-created a mental image of the sound one is hoping to create.

I will confess to often failing to conform to this advice... but it sounds very wise indeed, doesnt it?
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#2120354 - 07/19/13 08:55 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
PianoStudent88, I have read your post, here:

This is to move the discussion about practice methods, and in particular the practice method described by Bernhard at pianostreet, into its own thread. We're going to talk in excruciating detail about practice methods so you may pick up ideas here that are useful. Or it may all seem excessive, in which case give the thread a pass.

This started as a discussion on the Do you work towards your strengths or weaknesses? thread, so if you want the full context of the start of this discussion, read that thread at some point.

At some point I'll post a summary of where I think we got to, and some further questions that interest me. But I expect that this thread will wander all over the place, so feel free to dive in with whatever you want to talk about.

This is not solely a thread trying to apply Bernhard's methods: at this point, for me, I'm interested in exploring and comparing and contrasting lots of different ideas. But I'm also interested in finding out more about Bernhard's method, so this might (or might not) be a Bernhard-heavy thread at times. I'd love it if all types of practice methods would be talked about here, just because I like to learn from all points of view.

_________________________________________________

I think when anyone wants to learn to play the piano, they either hire a teacher or they teach themselves.

If they hire a teacher, they may or may not listen to the teacher. If they teach themselves, they may or may not following the instructions in the piano method book/books.

If they follow the instructions of a method book, the piano student is asked to do the following:

Practice each piece in three ways:
1 say the letter names as you play.
2 Count allowed as you play through the measures.
3 Always look at your music, not at your hands.

You gain smoothness and ease by reviewing your old pieces and studies. Be sure to always devote at least 10 minutes a day to review work.

So that is all there to learning to play the piano.
I have follow those instructions for the 1 and a half years using the John Thompson books and have had no issues for far and I am in book 2.

I expect I will follow that procedure the next 10 or more years. Does anyone that reads this post, think otherwise?

I mean, obviously you have to play any music slowly without errors - no exception - and you continue to play the music/piece until you can play the piece smoothly and without errors and musically. Sometimes it takes a day and other piece it can take days, weeks, months, and many, many, months. One must never quit, but keep going. No reason to quit if the going gets difficult, because anything worthwhile is never easy but a struggle.

But, as I say, if there is something missing please comment.

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#2120382 - 07/20/13 12:18 AM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: Michael_99]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
No, keystring - unless asked further questions, I'll probably refrain from trying to elaborate endlessly on all I've read.

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
I mean, obviously you have to play any music slowly without errors - no exception - and you continue to play the music/piece until you can play the piece smoothly and without errors and musically. Sometimes it takes a day and other piece it can take days, weeks, months, and many, many, months. One must never quit, but keep going. No reason to quit if the going gets difficult, because anything worthwhile is never easy but a struggle.

But, as I say, if there is something missing please comment.


The idea which Bernhard tries to promote is that any teacher or book can provide for you music to try and learn to play (why pay a teacher for this when a simple repertoire book would suffice). However to successfully (and efficiently) learn to play it requires a functional routine (ex. you need to be able to determine what musical section sizes to practice, how to practice them, how long to practice them for, when you can stop practicing them, when to connect the various sections, how and when musicality plays a role, etc.). In Bernhard's myriad posts, he describes the thorough routine which he teaches to his students, which boasts very desirable results (for those for whom learning to play pieces is their ultimate goal). Few piano teachers teach such a routine for actually learning repertoire (or oftentimes any routine), especially in such extensive detail.

And tangleweeds, that's very useful advice indeed. Mental practice/play is a very powerful practice tool (or device that can be used when there's no access to a piano). An alternative for those not able to auralize music on the written page to a quality level can always record one hand and practice playing along with it the opposite (and then reverse the process) so as you imprint into the mind the same aural image. The idea behind it is that whatever conceived sound the mind and/or ears have, the body and fingers will work to reproduce verbatim.

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#2120391 - 07/20/13 01:03 AM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: Bobpickle]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Bobpickle Offline, I have read your post, here:

No, keystring - unless asked further questions, I'll probably refrain from trying to elaborate endlessly on all I've read.

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
I mean, obviously you have to play any music slowly without errors - no exception - and you continue to play the music/piece until you can play the piece smoothly and without errors and musically. Sometimes it takes a day and other piece it can take days, weeks, months, and many, many, months. One must never quit, but keep going. No reason to quit if the going gets difficult, because anything worthwhile is never easy but a struggle.

But, as I say, if there is something missing please comment.


The idea which Bernhard tries to promote is that any teacher or book can provide for you music to try and learn to play (why pay a teacher for this when a simple repertoire book would suffice). However to successfully (and efficiently) learn to play it requires a functional routine (ex. you need to be able to determine what musical section sizes to practice, how to practice them, how long to practice them for, when you can stop practicing them, when to connect the various sections, how and when musicality plays a role, etc.). In Bernhard's myriad posts, he describes the thorough routine which he teaches to his students, which boasts very desirable results (for those for whom learning to play pieces is their ultimate goal). Few piano teachers teach such a routine for actually learning repertoire (or oftentimes any routine), especially in such extensive detail.

And tangleweeds, that's very useful advice indeed. Mental practice/play is a very powerful practice tool (or device that can be used when there's no access to a piano). An alternative for those not able to auralize music on the written page to a quality level can always record one hand and practice playing along with it the opposite (and then reverse the process) so as you imprint into the mind the same aural image. The idea behind it is that whatever conceived sound the mind and/or ears have, the body and fingers will work to reproduce verbatim.

___________________________________________________
Thanks very much, Bob, I appreciate your information.


---However to successfully (and efficiently) learn to play it requires a functional routine (ex. you need to be able to determine what musical section sizes to practice, how to practice them, how long to practice them for, when you can stop practicing them, when to connect the various sections, how and when musicality plays a role, etc.).

Although I am not at that level of play, When I have to break down the music, I break it down smaller and smaller until I can play the portion of measure or measures until I can play it smoothly and slowly without errors then I move on to the next section but i review those little sections until the whole piece is playable at a slow speed without errors and then I play/practice the whole piece bringing it up to tempo and playing it musically . and of course, smoothly and without errors.

---In Bernhard's myriad posts, he describes the thorough routine which he teaches to his students, which boasts very desirable results (for those for whom learning to play pieces is their ultimate goal). Few piano teachers teach such a routine for actually learning repertoire (or oftentimes any routine), especially in such extensive detail.


Yes, Bob, learning to play pieces is my ultimate goal.



---And tangleweeds, that's very useful advice indeed. Mental practice/play is a very powerful practice tool (or device that can be used when there's no access to a piano). An alternative for those not able to auralize music on the written page to a quality level can always record one hand and practice playing along with it the opposite (and then reverse the process) so as you imprint into the mind the same aural image. The idea behind it is that whatever conceived sound the mind and/or ears have, the body and fingers will work to reproduce verbatim.


Edited by Michael_99 (07/20/13 01:04 AM)

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#2120488 - 07/20/13 10:38 AM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
woodog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 384
Loc: Bowling Green, KY
Bear with me, I'm trying to share the four measures I've learned with some of the practice methods I've been learning.

This is a piece above my level, but which in love, the fugue in C# major from Bach's WTC I (#3)

I've been working on measures 47 - 52 (between the stars)

Here's a pic of the music and below that a couple of pics of my practice diary



I'll return to edit with the links to the practice diary pics

Practice diary pics
1st page (at 7/8 I returned to the piece after an absence of about a week, and decided to try the method on a section I had not gone over previously - the additional marks in the other measures are from my morning reading, studying times where I'm figuring out fingerings away from the instrument. I have not started on those measures yet at the piano, but i do listen to youtube videos while pondering them. They may or may not be changed when I find out if they are viable at speed. I did have to change a fingering at m. 48 where a 2-1 substitution, r.h. E would not work at speed ... You may be able to see where i erased the 1 and left the 2 finger on the e)

You'll also notice breaks.... Because I have a day job, laundry, cooking, exercise etc. plus I'm also working on other things (five jazz standards and, most notably the Debussy and Mozart pieces below) the idea of efficiency is REALLY important to me. I have about six 15 or 20 min chunks of time I can devote to the piano since real life - including a decent, 7-8 hours sleep per night - also a part of the method!!!! - does seem to get in the way sometime. Okay, a lot.... But, ya know....

Total practice time for this section - now memorized but not yet at speed - is right at 2 hours.






2nd page



Now I'm going record and then post a video on YouTube to illustrate my progress or lack of it.

I'll return later once I get all of that figured out and out the link here.


Here's the link in all its imperfect glory.

Forrest
P.s. all typos entirely the fault of iPad. grin



Edited by woodog (07/20/13 12:18 PM)
Edit Reason: Added links to boring practice stuff
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--------------------
current studies:
Debussy: Suite Bergamasque
Beethoven Op. 78
Bach WTC 1, C# Major (#3)

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#2120510 - 07/20/13 11:33 AM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11658
Loc: Canada
Bobpickle, I read your explanation in the other thread of how you came to this. There you tell us that your teacher had given you a piece to "learn", and you described how you got stuck regardless of how long you worked on it. Eventually the system that you have been bringing forth helped you with this. I'm thinking now that to get an idea of an approach, it may be good to know what preceded it. I'll be going at that for my own after this post.

So I'd find it helpful to know a couple of things. When your teacher gave you this piece, how were you approaching learning it at that time? Had you gotten any skill(s) from your teacher at that point? What kinds of things did you have (from him, or period) at that point? For example, if you had a fair bit of technique, then it's a different situation than if you're missing technique or have something flawed from self-teaching that you have to go after. You could be someone who basically knows how to play, but your problem was that of working on a large piece of music and organizing that. If you were experienced by a couple of years of lessons, you might have a mix of things you knew, things you could do very well, things that are so-so, and areas where there are big holes. "How to organize yourself for working on a larger piece" would be a hole that you had, which had to be fixed. You'd also have your areas of strength to apply to this.

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#2120542 - 07/20/13 12:51 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11658
Loc: Canada
Here's a history of how practising evolved for me. (When I write "learn", I'll be meaning this memorizing of music to the point of some fluidity, that's being talked about.)


Early: I was self-taught for a long time, and I did not have a piano from the ages of about 18 to 50+. Some of what I read in Bernhard now gave a flashback to classical guitar pieces which were in a method book (by?) Segovia. The later pieces were harder with counterpoint and such, and I'd work on a small chunk repeating it and marked that with tally marks, then move forward and work on the next part. It was like B's 1, 12, 123, 1234. If a section was hard, I circled it and worked on that extra. I couldn't really read: I could see ups and downs of notes so I sang them solfege-style and "learned" memorized them. I knew how they would sound. Again, like B. I didn't know about chunking, so I tended to just move forward. When you do that, your beginning is stronger than the end, or you never finish. I also didn't know about analysis. I did, however, sense patterns, especially melodically, ABA form etc. It was only the complex more advanced guitar music that never got completed. I have a repertoire of guitar music, and recorder and vocal music from back then, and even the piano that I played up to age 18 is still there in larger sections. I have snatches of sonatas, which flow out and I say "I wonder what that's from?" It's part muscle memory, part hearing it in my head, and part seeing the structure unfold like a storyboard that says "beginning, middle, end" sort of.

Middle: Fast forward 30 years. I had my first ever lessons on violin. The way life went, I had not grown in music. Now I was in RCM, with a graded repertoire as well as scales and studies that went with them. I took my pieces home and "learned" them. Even I didn't know that I didn't read in any normal way. I did the solfege thing, hearing/singing what was on the page, and I "learned" sections the size that I could handle, and then practised those larger sections, putting them together from A to Z. The score was more like a reminder. I heard in my head how it should sound as music, and tried to produce the musical part from the very start. I could sing the piece while walking, from any part, or play it on the recorder in whatever key was handy. You can see that I had some of the things naturally which B aims for. I was missing other parts, and that directs what I'm after in music.

I moved very fast through the grades in these violin studies. Suddenly I had serious problems in the technique area, and even after I got over the worst of it, I was stuck. In fact, basic skills disappeared at one point. When that got better, I still was stagnating. Even if I had more advanced pieces, I couldn't do much with them. This is when I started looking at how people practice, learn, teach, and I experimented with it. Mostly my aim was still to play the piece well, and get the technique that I needed to do that. (in that order). Some of the things in that trying-things period:

problems: changes: experiments in practising
1. I was struggling with a piece for a recital, and no matter how much I practised, I wasn't getting anywhere. I'd have problems in the same areas, which made those parts jerky, out of tune etc. I'd have a particular overall technical problem which affected my playing of that passage. One week I said "hang this", dropped the piece, got out etudes and technical exercises and worked on those. Then went back to the piece after an hour, and it flowed as if I had been practising the piece. So I went after the technique and only visited that piece. It improved more in a week than it had in a month.

My conclusion from that: If you have an overall problem, then if you go after that problem, then your piece will improve (because the stumbling block has been removed). What you do depends on the problem you have.

2. There was another piece that was quite long, and Bach-like, i.e. with patterns that repeated in different keys, abstract and not like a melody: a quartet and I was playing a lower voice. I always got stuck on something like the 7th measure and in lessons we never moved past it. I was desperate, and I did "radical" things.

- I printed out the score several times, and circled different things I was going after on each copy. a) The first was my difficult passage where I had all 4 fingers down and had to lift them one by one, and they were "glued down", "stuck". That sequence happened all over the piece, in different keys. So I circled every instance of that in red marker; say m. 8, m. 17, m. 26.. and thought "What if I practise only these passages, completely out of order? Then what if I play what comes right before, plus that passage, plus what comes right after, like I'm bridging it?" As soon as solved the technical problem of my "glued down" fingers, I could apply it to all those passages. I became particularly strong in what had been my weakest point in the piece. b) I saw other areas of needing work - a way of bowing - an arpeggiated sequence. I circled "all that have the same difficulty" in another colour.

I felt I had done something radical, and was this even "allowed"? These little chunks played in random order were no longer "music". It worked. I didn't dare tell anyone, because it seemed so outrageous. (Ofc, Bernhard suggests this too. In fact, lots of musicians do this.)

3. I had a piece stuck at a level and "not good enough" for the recital despite months spent on it. Over a 2-week holiday I decided to practise a totally different way, and I went at it in smaller broken up sessions over half a day. This piece was "learned", but I kept the score at hand and was really looking at the notes for the first time, looking at different aspects of them. I took small chunks of music. I'd practise working only on "in-tune right notes", looking for good ways of moving. Then I took the same passage and worked on basic movement of the bow, being relaxed, getting a good sound. At that point the "notes" hand was in the back of my mind, and the "bow" hand was in the front. I'd shift to how three notes slurred together and got gradually louder. How did the LH have to move for that? And the RH? Both sets of motions? Concentrate on being in tune. Concentrate on tone quality. Concentrate on both.... I hope this brings across some kind of picture.

The results were awesome. Not only did the piece improve more in those two weeks than in all those months, but my overall playing made a big jump. My teacher didn't ask for the piece because we had finished it, and I didn't volunteer things in those days. But 11 months later I did play it for him, and much of what I had done was still there. He said "I've never heard you play like this before."
--------------------------------------------
So at that point I had moved to some radically new ways of practising. I was no longer working on the piece in order from A to Z, even in chunks. I was snatching a problem section from the middle somewhere and pairing it with others that were not connected musically, but by pattern. I was working on one technical or musical aspect, then another, and also in random order. This was different from anything I had ever done. It seemed "unmusical" yet it gave great music. I didn't know that anybody else did this. I did know about doing one level of difficulty at a time.

I also sorted through ideas from outside at that time. I had to find my stance to one in particular. This was an idea that we had to learn things in strict order, concentrate on one hand at a time or one part of the body at a time, be consciously aware of every single thing you do and be able to verbalize it. The opposite idea was also being presented: that the body has to work together, everything has to integrate and as soon as possible, and some things come in through a more subconscious process which you should not try to control. This conflicted me, and I felt I had to choose "which was right". Conclusion: both are right on different occasions. Also conclusion: to avoid any system which is a rigid system, but to see what might be useful and sitting underneath that system.

What stands out in this history is that "how to practice" up to that point was something that I had to find myself. When I took up piano again I eventually found a teacher, and at that point I sought "ways of practising", knew my goals which hover largely around skills, and the teacher I work with has these goals and also makes the practising part an important element of his teaching.

music theory - analysis etc. This came at the very end of that period of lessons when I expressed interest. For most of those years I did not state any goals. For the short time that was left, understanding things such as how meter works with strong and weak beats, added new things to my playing. (That's as far as I got.)

PRESENT TENSE (piano): I'll have to write about that separately. But this is where I came from. Each of us comes from a particular place, and that will affect what kinds of needs we have, and even what role certain ideas will play for us.



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#2120563 - 07/20/13 01:55 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: tangleweeds]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Originally Posted By: tangleweeds
A day or two ago I was reminded of an important practice methodology regarding repetition. At the moment I'm frustrated because I don't remember where it came from; I was walking past my shelf of piano books, opened one up, and this is what sprang out at me.

The point was that mindless repetition is useless, and even harmful to musicality. Famous pianist X had told author Y (toldja my memory is swiss cheese today) that when repeating a segment of music, it is important to first pause before touching the piano, to hear in one's mind sound one wishes to create, and only then to play, while listening with full attention to what one is actually creating. Then pause again to consider how this actual sound compares to the sound one had meant to make, and reflect on how one might come closer to the desired musical effect. And not to touch the piano again until one has re-created a mental image of the sound one is hoping to create.

I will confess to often failing to conform to this advice... but it sounds very wise indeed, doesnt it?



Coincidently, this week, this best practice was very much on my mind during my daily practice. I learnt about it from different sources, notably Graham Fitch, Alexander Technique and Viktor Frankl;

Graham Fitch's ebooks that I read twice. He calls it the feedback box.

It is a principle that resonates with my knowledge and experience with Alexander Technique's principles. The three main principles of the Alexander Technique are simple, but not easy. Awareness, inhibition of automatic reaction, and direction of conscious intention can be applied to any activity.

Viktor E. Frankl says "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

I was also reminded of this few week ago when Mr Super-Hunky wrote 'music and instant gratification do not mix'.




Edited by JosephAC (07/20/13 01:59 PM)

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#2120571 - 07/20/13 02:18 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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keystring, thank you for an immensely valuable post. I will look forward to reading your post to come with the piano part.

JosephAC mentioned that the other thread had become heavy and convoluted. This thread may also become heavy and convoluted, because we're all still exploring these ideas. Of course we all want to be as clear as possible, but sometimes it takes a lot of back and forth to achieve clarity, sometimes we're exploring something complex or non-obvious, sometimes we want to go into deep detail, sometimes the ideas don't have easy bite-size versions, and sometimes it takes a lot of experience trying to explain something and finding out what questions arise before the easy bite size version can be found.

JosephAC, I like that you're drawing together ideas from different areas.


Edited by PianoStudent88 (07/20/13 02:24 PM)
Edit Reason: add a thought, due to crosspost
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#2120572 - 07/20/13 02:19 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: rnaple]
JosephAC Offline
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Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Originally Posted By: rnaple
You do realize that Bobpickle had a heart attack when you posted this thread. All that work. All that writing. All that explaining. Poor Bob... I hope he recovers. smile



Hey, I enjoy Bobpickle's postings thoroughly. I have already suggested to him about writing an ebook for easy reference. It might not be his intellectual property ( using Bobpickle's counter argument), it is his interpretation. After all, all knowledge is subject to interpretation and further development.

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#2120575 - 07/20/13 02:37 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: keystring]
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More history, this time on the ideas side, partly preceding piano studies.

The way I perceived playing music originally is that you hear how it should sound in your head, and then you make it sound that way (somehow). If you talk while sad, your voice gets quieter and lower pitched, you talk slower with less volume change. But you don't think about any of this - it happens. As an amateur singer I'd get louder when it was "passionate" and not think of how it was happening. If I did know of "crescendo" written in the music, my mind told me to get louder and somehow it happened. I guess the opposite of this is where you press a key because the music says D and you don't hear anything in your mind. Neither of these is close to being a complete picture.

We have the body which does the actions on the instrument, (the instrument itself and its nature), the mind that perceives that crescendo, we have the ear which both pre-hears and also listens to what we have produced, and we also have "feeling". These are the four elements that are involved in playing music. They talk to each other. I.e. you may "think crescendo", direct your hands to play crescendo by using a larger motion, and hear crescendo. You may direct your hands to have larger motions, end up with the sound of crescendo that you hear. You may imagine and feel crescendo in your senses and mind, and your body may respond automatically by producing that crescendo.

In regards to this, you can be practising by letting things happen automatically, "muscle memory", unaware, which is something a lot of people seem to be trying to change. You can be consciously linking these 4 elements and make them work together in mindful practice. The thing that blew me away is that there isn't just one order! In other words, it is easy to grasp that if your mind knows "This is D." or "Crescendo over here.", then it can direct your body to play that D and produce that crescendo. If you've been into automatism (muscle memory), and you add consciousness, this makes a huge difference. (A large part of the discussion). But ALSO - these four elements can act in any order. It can happen that an action will give you knowledge that you gradually become aware of, and you can know it subconsciously first. If this is true, then you have a lot more variables to play with in designing your practice.

I've probably lost most people on this last point. There were certain experiences that brought me there, and since then, it is also being used in what I'm taught.

Another aspect of music is that the musical effect you want to have may be created through various physical things that work together. Some may be counter-intuitive, and some feel "unmusical". You have the technical things like what's described in Taubman (to give a reference point that people can relate to). You can have a series of actions like in my example in the other thread, where you hold on to some notes while playing others, making some louder than others through touch, use the sustain pedal but also have the soft pedal kicking in and out -- all of this together with a final musical effect that you want. You CANNOT work on all of these at once at the same time, especially if you're still learning basic technique. These things are also different from my original playing, where I heard the sound I wanted in my head and "somehow" produced it (or imagined I produced it).

So at the point of starting piano a second time, these were the things I was aware of. That affects the goals I practice toward, how I practice, and how I work with a teacher if I have a teacher.

When we describe our practicing, if these contexts are not there or even shared, can that work?

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#2120586 - 07/20/13 03:43 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Online   content
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PRESENT TENSE - PIANO
(The history I wrote before may help give perspective. At least, you will know whether you're coming from a different place.)

When I played piano self-taught decades ago, I had no technique. Example: my first trial piece was the first part of the Em Prelude. My chords had uneven timing because I cramped up so I couldn't move. So I "didn't know how to play chords" (physically). Generally I don't use my body well. I have to relearn and unlearn basic technique, find what's healthy and what's not. If this is bad, then it affects everything else. A little bit of basic things can also make music sound a lot more sophisticated.

I also needed to learn how to read piano music properly, (relearning). Once I started lessons this also became real reading skills so that I can work on music without needing to memorize.

So my primary goals in lessons is in acquiring skills, especially in physical playing. My history tells why this I see this as a gateway to playing pieces well. During part of those old studies, working away from the pieces helped me play the pieces better.
----------------------
I have two categories of practising. Most of what I do is for the purpose of getting skills. I described a lot of what I do in the other thread. I may work on pieces that will help me practise a certain skill, and use it rather than polishing it, and then work on others. I may do an exercise for something I need, and then work it into the piece. This part of practising is hard to describe, and it's rather fluid.

Another practising is directly for the purpose of developing a piece. These are pieces that I want to polish and complete, and I use the skills to do that. I do a lot less of these, and I'm also more motivated for the first. I posted Sweet Dreams and the Chopin Cm Prelude here. They are the first pieces that I did this way, because I've not been working on piano for that long. I'm in the Grieg thing, and that piece is also going right up to being polished. Here I'm working as I'm taught. If you've read my history, then you'll see that a lot of it goes with what I'd also been discovering. I think I'm more open to things because of those experiences.

So for pieces: The first is to divide the piece into smaller sections of maybe 5 - 10 measures, depending. Those measures are then subdivided, so that if I'm working on m. 18 - 24, I may do m. 24, then m. 23 - 24, then m. 22 - 24. This is called "pyramiding". The idea is that you are working toward what you have already done, and the last becomes the strongest. Often as people play they get weaker and weaker. Besides divisions and subdivisions, the idea is to work on the hardest section first (as a general rule) which often means the end.

Work is done in layers or stages. So the first time I chunk & pyramid, I may be working only on the right notes with handy fingering. There is not rule about HS or HT. You do what is appropriate for what you're dealing with and what works. Memorizing isn't needed because the reading ability is there, and you may only be playing 2 or 3 beats that you bring together. ( Here the principle applies that the elements of body-mind-senses might work in any order (but you don't want to go into automatism).) When this part is solid, you work on the next thing: note-value-timing type things, (if you didn't get at that first), dynamics or whatever - on element at a time. So you keep sweeping through the piece in these smaller sections, adding another element, and all of them are solid. At the end you have something musical.

This is a general outline, and it is not rigid. If there is a complicated bit of music you might know that you have to get at it in stages, so you might isolate it in the very beginning and start working on it in those stages. By the time the music is starting to come together, it's there for you. Also, even though I work in small sections, usually I'll do a run-through of the whole to keep having the picture.

I guess you can say that the music is being shaped in stages. A musician who is already trained in technique may not need to work this way, or more likely, he may go through these stages, but maybe in one sitting. How I'm working has to do with:
- the needs and weaknesses and strengths that I have personally
- the things I discovered in what happened before, that I wrote in "history"
- how I'm being taught, which has worked for me, and also goes with the first two (for me)

What works for me may not work for someone else, because we're all wherever we are. It is also almost impossible to give a good picture of what we do. It makes me want to scrap what I wrote without posting it. I can see the same thing happening for any ideas posted by teachers or musicians. Take it with a big grain of salt. smile

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#2120588 - 07/20/13 03:48 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
JosephAC Offline
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Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Keystring, your practice history is very insightful and valuable. What might sound like 'random' approach' is not random after all. It is based on a common sense. Let me explain. While there is a merit in the linear and progressive approach (1, 12, 123,...), it could be sub-optimum for the reasons that you cited (the start stronger than the coda, unfinished piece - give up before the end,...).

An alternative approach is to expend my practice energy on the 'constraint' in performing the piece.

I start by identifying the constraint and the answer could be found by answering the question ' what is the thing that is stopping me from playing this piece fluently and musically? ' it could be a specific section, speed, rhythm... It could be anything. The constraint is my weakest point of the piece. The constraint is 'the one thing' that if I improve will improve my overall performance of the piece.

Having identified the constraint, I work on it meticulously, using the appropriate tool. I might even apply the 1, 12, 123... approach for this specific constraint.

Once I elevated this constrained (read I mastered this section, ...), I play the piece again and I identify the next constraint. This 'new' constraint could be anything again... Another specific measure, another specific note, another specific section....

Naturally, the constraint is of random nature. It would move around, as soon as you tackled the previous one.

Obviously, when learning a new piece, all sections are the constraints. You might as well pick up any one. This is what you did when you worked on random sections.

The main difference between this approach and the linear approach is the difference between being effective and being efficient. It is the difference between top-down approach versus bottom-up approach. There is definitely a place for both approaches but the right way is to be efficient and linear on the constraint only and not across the whole piece.

This approach is based on the theory of constraint (TOC).

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#2120591 - 07/20/13 03:55 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: woodog]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: woodog
Bear with me, I'm trying to share the four measures I've learned with some of the practice methods I've been learning.

This is a piece above my level, but which in love, the fugue in C# major from Bach's WTC I (#3)

I've been working on measures 47 - 52 (between the stars)

Here's a pic of the music and below that a couple of pics of my practice diary

The divisions look logical. I noted that you did an overlap into measures, which is something I've been told is important since it prevents the tendency to pause between measures. Ofc it goes with the phrasing and just makes sense.
Quote:

I have about six 15 or 20 min chunks of time I can devote to the piano since real life - including a decent, 7-8 hours sleep per night - also a part of the method!!!!

Absolutely. There is also a rule of thumb that if you are really practising in full concentration and engaging all your senses, 15 - 20 minutes is about all you can handle, and will be much more effective than several hours. If you do have more time to do in one stretch, then changing focus or pieces seems to help stretch this.

Is it too early to ask whether you're finding a difference?

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#2120605 - 07/20/13 04:21 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: JosephAC]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Keystring, your practice history is very insightful and valuable. What might sound like 'random' approach' is not random after all.

I agree that it is not random at all. It is based on a different kind of order which is not related to the order of the music that the audience will hear. The first example was based on passages that all had the same type of fingering and finger motion which was causing me difficulty, so that I could practise the better motion in all of them. The idea that we can organize our practising around some other goal than the order of the music gives us a lot of choices.

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#2120612 - 07/20/13 04:39 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: woodog]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: woodog

Thank you for sharing this. smile It helps us see what you are doing, and also how it's working for you (We can surmise that it's going better than how you practised before, simply by the delight you project.) I liked your insertion of the relaxation element, since the physical is a major part of what I have to work on in my own practising.

Would you be willing to tweak this by adding one more element - the backward and pyramiding idea? It's a stone's throw from the Bernhard system you're trying out. Instead of going 47 - 51, you'd be going 51 - 47. I've done forward chunks like you're doing now, and backward ones. I think that you can gain an even greater advantage through backward.

Say you did m. 50 first, and then 49. As you get to the end of 49, you're approaching 50, which you know better, so you're moving into the familiar. I have even gone: beat 4, beat 3 - 4, beat 2 - 3 - 4, beat 1 - 2 - 3 - 4; maybe less than 2 minutes, but it makes a difference.

I can hear in your clip the same kinds of signs that I had when I worked forward, even if they're small. There's a little hesitation or slow-down as you get to the end of the section you have practised because you are moving into the unfamiliar. If you hesitate or flub anywhere, it's never the first notes, always the last. That's an effect of forward practising. The opposite happens with backward-pyramid. It's still what you're doing now in the sense of subdivided chunks, but in reverse order.

A question: You have calculated 12 weeks based on multiplying the rate of measures/day. When do you put in the musical elements for that: voicing, phrasing, exchange of which voice dominates, or whatever you want to put in? Or does that come after the 12 weeks?

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#2120617 - 07/20/13 04:56 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: keystring]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
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Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: keystring
So I'd find it helpful to know a couple of things. When your teacher gave you this piece, how were you approaching learning it at that time?


Both pieces were easily enough within my means technically (I learned both pieces hands separate with relative ease), but I had no idea how coordination played a role in learning to play hands together and especially no idea as to how to acquire it.


Originally Posted By: keystring
Had you gotten any skill(s) from your teacher at that point?


That directly related to learning either piece of repertoire? Not particularly.


Originally Posted By: keystring
What kinds of things did you have (from him, or period) at that point?


A lot of information regarding how to improvise at the piano and how to practice improvisation. My learning has been a bit scattered because I equally like improvisation (especially jazz) and classical music.


Originally Posted By: keystring
For example, if you had a fair bit of technique, then it's a different situation than if you're missing technique or have something flawed from self-teaching that you have to go after.


Correct. I don't consider my problems in trying to learn either of the two pieces (for the sake of argument, one level 6 and one level 3 piece, ABRSM) to be technical. They were rooted in coordination (some people consider coordination to be a technical issue, but for clarification and for all learning-intensive purposes, it's best to separate the two)


Originally Posted By: keystring
You could be someone who basically knows how to play, but your problem was that of working on a large piece of music and organizing that.


Funny enough, the second (level 3 abrsm) piece was an easy little entry in Schumann's Album For The Young that could easily be sightread by most.

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#2120620 - 07/20/13 05:05 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Online   content
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Bobpickle, thank you for your answers. It gives me a better perspective on the things you're pursuing and how you write about them. It sounds like, as it is for many of us (me originally too), you were never given a way to approach working on a piece. When you do start getting approaches, the difference is so huge that it's almost like a new activity. At least that's how it was for me.

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#2120623 - 07/20/13 05:11 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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keystring, I am glad you posted. There is always the risk of misunderstanding, but we can continue discussing to reduce that risk, emphasize exploration and fluidity, and so on. The alternative it seems to me is to say nothing, or to restrict our conversation only to simple subjects that have no nuance or complexity. I prefer having the big complex conversations about subtle things.
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#2120636 - 07/20/13 05:51 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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I'll try saying something about my music, piano and practice background.

THE PAST

My first participation in music was learning and singing songs on the playground, before I started school: Frère Jacques, Do a Deer, Twinkle Twinkle, the Alphabet Song, and so on.

When I was 8, we moved from an apartment to a house and got my mother's childhood piano out of storage. Along with it came my mother's method books, so out of curiosity I started teaching myself piano by working through them.

We moved again, and at the new school there was the opportunity to learn instruments, so I chose flute. Learning fingering and the notes and rhythms on the page were easy for me. The biggest challenge for me (although mastered with practice) was breath control for the upper registers. Come to think of it, now that I don't play the flute a lot, that is the area I would need to work on to bring back up to par; the fingering is seared in my brain and I don't forget it.

Along the way I taught myself to play my sister's recorder using her fingering chart. She had had actual recorder lessons at school, but we moved before I got old enough to start recorder there. This fingering is not seared in my brain; I can remember the notes that have the same fingering as the flute, but have to fiddle around to try to find the other notes -- mostly accidentals and the second octave.

In the new house, we acquired a Reader's Digest song book with a wide collection of traditional and Tin Pan Alley songs, spanning several genres. We also eventually had other songbooks -- Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar -- and sheet music for current hits. I played all of these on the piano. My approach was the intuitive method: play it over and over, getting better over time. I was perfectly happy, I read music easily, I found out by playing them what the songs should sound like.

Perhaps incidentally, because I was always singing the songs while I played, I'm able to sing and play at the same time. It wasn't until I read about it here on ABF that I learned that this can be hard for some people.

On flute, I didn't like practicing very much, but my approach was generally the same, except that on complex pieces I would isolate difficult sections for individual practice. This also worked fine for me. Except for a brief period of lessons in school in 5th and 6th grades, after that I was on my own with the flute. I'm grateful especially to my 5th grade flute teacher who in the course of 5 months of weekly 20 minute lessons, gave me sufficient fundamentals for me to build on on my own and to carry me up to All-State band as an alternate in my senior year. Until senior year, when an incredibly talented junior came on the scene, I was always first chair, so whatever I learned and however I was practicing was sufficient for me.

Over the years, my family spent a lot of time driving on vacations and day trips. My sister and I would take our songbook and sing through the songs in it, playing them first on recorder to find out how the tune sounded. We found them easy enough to play through correctly on the first or second time, so practice wasn't an issue. We both read music well, so that wasn't an issue either.

Along the way, I joined my church choir and eventually joined the high school chorus. I never learned anything about sight singing in these choirs though: it wasn't taught and we did no exercises that would have improved our abilities. Everything was taught by hearing it on the piano first. I could read the rhythms fine, but knowing how the tune should go was a mystery unless I heard it first. After I had heard and practiced it though, the score was useful to me in reminding me how it went. In fact I was in my 30s or 40s before I found out that some people could sing an unfamiliar tune straight from the score without hearing it first. This seemed like an incredible ability to me, and I have been on a slow (very slow) trajectory for the past decade or more trying to improve my ability to sightsing.
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#2120655 - 07/20/13 06:38 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Loc: Maine
A bit more on THE PAST

Starting in high school, once a year in marching band for the Memorial Day parade, I would have to memorize my music. This was a horrible horrible difficult task for me. I didn't know any music theory to guide me in looking for patterns, I had no training to help me connect the sound of a tune to which notes I should play, I never practiced memorizing at any other time of year. I also had no idea that there was anything like those things I listed that could make memorization easier.

When I was in junior high, I had a friend who took piano lessons who would sometimes impromptu play some of her pieces for me. Of course, she didn't have her music with her, so she played from memory. This amazed me, but when I asked her how she did it, she said that memorization just happened for her without conscious effort.

Since I read music well, I didn't have any reason to do anything, whether by chance or design, that would have improved my ability to memorize.
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#2120693 - 07/20/13 08:26 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: keystring]
woodog Offline
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Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 384
Loc: Bowling Green, KY
Originally Posted By: keystring


Thank you for sharing this. smile It helps us see what you are doing, and also how it's working for you (We can surmise that it's going better than how you practised before, simply by the delight you project.) I liked your insertion of the relaxation element, since the physical is a major part of what I have to work on in my own practising.



This lets me play, since previously tension would stop me with pain. Often a practice session is just one beat, stop - check in with the body - command tension to go away, and resume. Keeping my shoulders relaxed a requires vigilance.

Originally Posted By: keystring

Would you be willing to tweak this by adding one more element - the backward and pyramiding idea? It's a stone's throw from the Bernhard system you're trying out. Instead of going 47 - 51, you'd be going 51 - 47. I've done forward chunks like you're doing now, and backward ones. I think that you can gain an even greater advantage through backward.


Absolutely, I just picked these chunks randomly, they seemed busy and involved, and the idea was to learn the end snippets and connect via the middle. Next week (or tonight) I'll start on the ending section, which won't be as difficult. Then connect from 47 to the end.
And, I'm aware of the idea since I decided to start at the end. wink

Originally Posted By: keystring


A question: You have calculated 12 weeks based on multiplying the rate of measures/day. When do you put in the musical elements for that: voicing, phrasing, exchange of which voice dominates, or whatever you want to put in? Or does that come after the 12 weeks?


I'm beginning with a new teacher at the university in August, and the goal is to have something ready to start working with - so I chose, perhaps foolishly, these pieces. Even though it is not as pronounced as it will be, some elements of the voicing are there. I was a big fan of the Swingle Singers (remember them?) and I hear Bach vocally in my head. ... So I try to have ghosts of 'what will be' there from the very beginning.

And to answer the question of 'is it making a difference' ? YES! There's a high satisfaction level in 'getting' something measurable and tangible each practice session, and the ability to play mentally is improving. As I have said, I played very little in the 20 years prior to getting this instrument, and an internet search of 'how to play without pain' started me back. Reading Chang's writings made me think maybe I too could play 'fast' and relaxed.

All I knew for sure was that what I was doing previously wasn't working!!

I'm also convinced - mostly through personal history - that I don't know what I'm doing yet, after all, it's just a little over a week and I'm not good at this method, but I'll figure it out!! If you'll notice in a few of the practice diary entries there were a couple of sessions where I felt it would have been better not to have even started. (Not that anybody ever has days like that *cough* ) eek

Meanwhile, if something better comes along, I'll go after that!

Peace!

Forrest
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current studies:
Debussy: Suite Bergamasque
Beethoven Op. 78
Bach WTC 1, C# Major (#3)

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#2120700 - 07/20/13 08:38 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3171
Loc: Maine
woodog, seeing how you laid out your practice diary is helpful to me.
_________________________
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#2120710 - 07/20/13 09:04 PM Re: Practice methods in detail [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3171
Loc: Maine
Regarding learning Fugues (or any counterpoint): one of the principles Bernhard uses when learning or teaching counterpoint is to wait to start HT until the piece is completely learned HS. And in learning each HS part, he first learns each voice individually (but being sure to use the fingering that will be used when all voices are being played). After the individual voices are learned, then he starts putting together the voices, practicing the voices in all possible pairs, then in triples, then all four voices together (assuming a four voice piece). Middle voices that pass between the hands add an extra ripple: learn them both as a complete voice passing between the hands, and also practice them playing just the HS part that falls in each hand when putting together each hand HS.

If I find the post again where I read about this on pianostreet, I'll post a link.

This delay of HT until after HS is completely learned is specific to counterpoint; normally Bernhard would put HT after each little bit of HS is learned.
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