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#2123234 - 07/26/13 10:26 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: zrtf90]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: zrtf90

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
***Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

+++WOW - like I said - how long have you been playing music?
This is not difficult, Michael. There was a gang of us doing just that on this forum and PianoStudent88 was one of the leading participants.


You both have a point. It is good to analyze the score but how far you go with it depends on what you know. Michael_99, would you be able to tell elementary things, like that a section in the beginning repeats again at the end? If so, that helps in working on the music.

I was involved in the threads where music was being analyzed. If someone is to find the cadences, he first has to be able to recognize V7 and I chords. Before doing that he first has to be able to recognize chords. He also has to understand key signatures, know that a scale has 7 notes, i.e. rudiments of music.

The advice about analysis was good for PS88 and students with similar backgrounds, but will not be appropriate for someone who is beginning in music. So Michael_99, it might not suit you, but there are OTHER things that you can do which go with your present capabilities.

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#2123235 - 07/26/13 10:27 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: zrtf90]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
You're looking at the fingering and listening to recordings?

This is not the Bernhard method.

What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head.

I was giving aural learning before looking at the score such serious consideration based on this post.

I will reconsider.
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2123257 - 07/26/13 11:06 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2370
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
I'm sorry I can't give a link. This is what I have in one of my Word documents full of snippets from around the web that I've found useful or interesting.

This was cut and pasted from Pianostreet:

Originally Posted By: Bernhard

1. If available, I listen to a CD of the piece. One should only start at the piano after one can play the whole piece in the mind. So I start by memorising the”sound” of it. Do not rush this stage (I spent almost two months listening to Grieg’s Holberg suite before I even looked at the score). As I listen to it day after day I try to imagine what the score will look like.

2. I study the score. This means figuring out all the harmonic progressions, marking all the repetitions, the motifs, the textures, the climaxes, the phrasing, etc. Again do not rush this stage. It usually amazes me how different the score looks from what I first imagined in phase 1. You don’t need to memorise the score, but it should be very familiar. As you do that, keep listening to the CD and accompanying it on the score.

3. I sight read through the whole piece. My aim is to spot the difficult (for me) sections. At this stage my only consideration is technical difficulty.

4. I plan the learning sequence. The difficult sections I spotted will be practised first since they hold the key to the technical mastery of the whole piece. This is the exact equivalent of a film director planning the sequence he will shoot the movie.

5. I work on each separate section according to the sequence plan. (Allchopin is right: this is the stage when you should memorise your piece.)

6. I join everything together – if necessary in larger sections before tackling the whole piece - and practise the whole piece at half speed. Depending on the piece, outlining can be very helpful at this stage.

7. I work on interpretation (since by now technique should have been mastered), and start plying the piece as it should be performed.

8. If the piece has well defined parts (e.g. a Sonata, or a Suite) I will treat each part as separate piece – good psychologically.

That’s the gist of it. Each item can be more fully detailed. And specific pieces may need specific procedures.

I believe this to be the most efficient and fast way to learn any piece (not only long ones). If anyone knows a better way I would be interested.

Best wishes,
Bernhard



And this was a post or so later:

Originally Posted By: Bernhard

1. You should not take things too literally or out of context. The reason I mentioned I spent two months listening to a piece was to show how important I believe that particular stage to be. In other words I firmly believe in delaying going to the piano as much as possible. If you do that your time at the piano will be much shorter and much less practice time will be wasted in false starts and bad habits.

2. I was not in a pressure situation, so there was no reason to hasten the listening process.

3. And no, you should not listen to the piece and practise it at the same time. You should only start practising after the music (as sound) is completely memorised. Only then should you start memorising the physical aspects of playing the music.

4. Listening has a different purpose than practice. Listening is for the large, architectural aspects of the music. Practice is for the small technical details.

5. I stand by my assertion that this will be more efficient than diving into the piano straight away. But as I also said, rules are there to be broken. Break it and observe what happens. But to be really scientific, you need a control. So select two pieces of similar character and similar difficulty. Do one according to the sequence I suggested, and do the other any way you like. Report back in a couple of month’s time and tell us what happened.

6. Finally as a matter of principle I would advise anyone to never ever be in a hurry to learn a piece for an upcoming recital. This is a sure recipe for disaster. You should only show publicly pieces you have thoroughly worked out to the minimum details. Pieces you are completely comfortable with. Most pieces of any quality actually may take a lifetime to achieve complete comfort with. Someone in this forum claimed to have learned Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 in 4 days. I doubt very much I would care to listen to the result. Meanwhile Ashkenazy spent three years working on Chopin’s etude op. 10 no. 1 before doing it in public. Need I say more? So organise your musical studies so that you are never in a position to have to learn a piece in a hurry. Refuse to enter a recital under such conditions. And then again, break this rule and watch the results.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



I have the guts of this hand-written in my desk diary. I don't use all of it - just what appeals to me. But this is my source for Bernhard's method.
_________________________
Richard

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#2123273 - 07/26/13 11:31 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Terrific, thank you Richard for sharing your notes in Bernhard's words. These are very helpful.
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2123275 - 07/26/13 11:32 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: zrtf90]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: zrtf90

I have the guts of this hand-written in my desk diary. I don't use all of it - just what appeals to me. But this is my source for Bernhard's method.


Not only does this give excellent perspective, but your own attitude toward it seems to be a good model. Thank you for sharing this, Richard. smile

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#2124337 - 07/28/13 05:24 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
I have a naive question in relation to the first point. How to memorise the 'sound' of a piece ?

At the moment, as I am writing, I have a vague, if any, memory of the piece that I am busy learning, titled Miles. I just have a recollection of the beat. It is more a sensation recollection. Todate, I never paid attention to this sound memorisation.

On the other hand, I have a vivid recollection of the introduction of Symphony no. 5 by Beethhoven because of its dramatic nature and most likely listening repetition.

How is your 'sound' memory ? How did you develop it ?

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#2124380 - 07/28/13 06:53 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Mine started out pretty bad, too, but it did get better. I'm not sure what I did that helped, but I did a number of things to improve my inner ear and its relationship to written music.

I would buy sheet music with recordings a couple of levels ahead of where I was playing, and listen to them while following the music, analyze them theory-wise and pay attention to how the sounds reflected my analysis, then re-create the sound of them in my mind while looking at the score.

I also read the scores of my pieces away from the piano, and re-created in my head how it was supposed to sound. A second step along that road was, when I had insomnia (relatively common for me) I would practice visualizing the sheet music for my current pieces, and imagined hearing the music as I visualized playing it on a mental piano.

I also did some rhythmic and melodic dictation exercises (software generated).
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#2124412 - 07/28/13 07:56 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: JosephAC]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 759
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
How is your 'sound' memory ? How did you develop it ?


By literally drowning myself in music.

About two years ago, I restarted formal piano study, after a lapse of decades.

About one year ago, I found a ragtime society in nearby city that has bimonthly "open mics" where all are welcome to listen or play.

I've been going to those pretty steadily over the past year.

Since I haven't wanted to just trot out the same old stuff, it means I'm usually working on at least two new pieces at any given time, while keeping older ones in rotation as well. I'm usually working from the page.

I knew my brain was changing around the time of my first open mic. I hadn't performed publicly for years and was pretty stressed out. I was about then that I'd find ragtime melodies running through my head for hours in the wee hours of the morning.

At this point:

* It's just melodies
* It can be the entire piece, but sometimes 8 measures or so get stuck on repeat. Those can be long nights.
* If you name a ragtime piece to me, I won't necessarily be able to summon the melody on command (particularly if I have to pull up a B, C, or D section)
* If I hear a melody, I may or may not be able to identify the piece (particularly if I have to identify it from a B, C, or D section)
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2124468 - 07/28/13 10:07 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Thanks Tangleweeds. I like your recount of following the score with the sound. I never tried it before. Will it better to follow a basic aural method book or just any piece like you?
I am not sure how to re-create sound of the notes in my head. Do you re-create sounds of individual notes or or phrases or whole section? Is it a recreation or a recollection ?
For example, I have some sound recollection of Fuer Elise through my playing and listening to my son playing it. But when I look at the score of Elise, my sound memory is of general nature. Except for the special recollection of the introduction section, I can not imagine that I can associate the notes with the sound.

Will it be possible to develop the skill to follow the music and notation the way we could follow the written text with audible sound ?

What software/iPad applicaion do you use devloping ypur rhythim and melodic dictation ?

Thanks Whizbang. So it happened naturally for you through performing "open mics" performances. I am not sure how to map 'drowning in the music' to specific course of action.


Edited by JosephAC (07/28/13 10:09 PM)

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#2124531 - 07/29/13 12:04 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: JosephAC]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 759
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Thanks Whizbang. So it happened naturally for you through performing "open mics" performances. I am not sure how to map 'drowning in the music' to specific course of action.


Easy. This is going to depend on the pace that you think you can pick up pieces, but...

...hold a recital in your home every three months. Invite family and friends.

You're on the hook. You can play whatever you want. This includes existing repertoire. But if all you play is existing repertoire, people are probably going to get a bit tired of it.

So, put yourself on the hook for at least one new piece each recital. Or two.

It's good to keep a few things pushing forward, because at least I find sometimes that I start a piece and then don't end up completing it for some reason.

It's a great motivator.

And, no, they don't always come off well, but then I can keep working and try 'em out next time.

And when you have a deadline and you're working hard to polish a piece, memorized or not, you might find that your brain starts problem-solving on the piece, late at night, and it starts to sing to you.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2124533 - 07/29/13 12:07 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: JosephAC]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Thanks Tangleweeds. I like your recount of following the score with the sound. I never tried it before. Will it better to follow a basic aural method book or just any piece like you?

I didn't have an aural method book, so I just used future volumes of my Keith Snell repertoire books. At first, following the score while listening can seem pretty hard, a lot of re-finding your place when there's a distinctive melodic run up or down, or a long note that lets you catch up with where you need to be. But it gets much easier with practice.

Quote:
I am not sure how to re-create sound of the notes in my head. Do you re-create sounds of individual notes or or phrases or whole section? Is it a recreation or a recollection ?

I think that the score serves as a reminder to spur recollection. As I was working on my own, I would listen to the CDs for the Keith Snell Repertiore series or Helen Marlais' Festival Collection (another repertoire collection I like) while doing other stuff, to get an idea of what pieces catch my attention, which I might want to learn to play eventually. Then other times I would listen to them with more attention while following along with the score. Eventually I found that I could open the sheet music, look a the notation of a piece, and recognize/recreate what that piece was supposed to sound like.

Quote:
Will it be possible to develop the skill to follow the music and notation the way we could follow the written text with audible sound ?

Yes, that's totally doable. Think about how a kid learns to read by being read to, the same favorite books over and over, until they can repeat the book verbatim. One kind of learns to do the same thing with sheet music, listening to it while following on the staff, and it becomes increasingly familiar. It's an excellent way of getting practice time in when you're away from the piano.

Quote:
What software/iPad applicaion do you use devloping ypur rhythim and melodic dictation

I use Practica Musica from Ars Nova software. It can quiz you on all sorts of music theory and ear training. If you have a DP or other MIDI keyboard device, for many of the exercises you can play your answers on the keyboard.... otherwise there's an clickable on-screen piano, and some exercises can accept answers by microphone. There are other exercises with multiple choice buttons, or a staff to put notes on. It's a very versatile piece of software, but not inexpensive. I enjoy playing music theory quiz/games on the computer, so it was worth the money for me. I joke that it lets me use my DP as a video game controller.


Edited by tangleweeds (07/29/13 12:11 AM)
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Oops... extremely distracted by mandolins at the moment... brb

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#2124659 - 07/29/13 07:07 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
I've become curious. Ok, when I first joined PW, there was an older teacher and one thing she wrote, she was describing a beginner who has been practising the same piece for four weeks. And by the fourth week, the student would start to know how some passages should sound before playing it. I found that very strange. Like even if you can't audiate, if you have played something twice (a small passage) won't you be hearing in your head how it should sound the third time round before you play it?

I'm trying to think this through for myself too. I don't play brass, but I know that they have to picture the sound and try to produce it by the way they buzz their lips together with the slide or valve. On strings you have a position, like piano, but you have to fine tune so again you're listening. I used to hear a melody in my head like a singer when looking at sheet music that lent itself to that, and then felt for the keys that would give me the sound on piano. But that didn't work well for non-diatonic music, or more complicated music. So I had to relearn what "reading" meant.

In the relearning, I learned to see D and play the white key between the two black keys. When you do this you can play even complicated music. And doing this, I don't prehear the music. So it almost seems that to play complex music, you need to have the ability to not hear (ahead of time) what you play, in order to get at those notes. I now can do that, and it's necessary to be able to do that.

But then coming from there, after a few times with this complicated music, I will still hear "there's a wrong note here". That's a memory thing.

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#2124661 - 07/29/13 07:10 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
Thinking about this further, there are also patterns. Like if music commonly goes along major and minor scales and you are used to these, if you're playing a passage that has a scale in G major and you play F instead of F#, you'll hear "that's wrong" if that kind of hearing is developed. Or if there are common rhythms, you get used to them. These kinds of things would have to play into it too.

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#2124668 - 07/29/13 07:33 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
Shey Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/06
Posts: 326
Loc: Greater Manchester, England
Tangleweeds, I have just read your "neglected piano blog" I was moved to tears to hear the struggles you have had to get to where you are today.
I am still a beginner to piano although a returner, I recently rediscovered this forum again. I have never read any blog before, and just caught the link by accident, but so felt felt your hurt for the things you didn't say.
I find you an inspiration and believe music can be always be incredibly healing.
I just read up to your getting your new Casio piano.
Hope all going well with the B method. I'm looking at it and trying to do some sort of summary.
_________________________
Alfreds All In One Level 1 graduate and various other tutor sources
Alfreds Masterworks Classics Level 1-2
Fundamental Keys
Adult returner

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#2124864 - 07/29/13 02:35 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
Thanks, Shey, for your kind words on my blog. My return to piano has pretty much been a process of revisiting a childhood battlefield to salvage the remains of my musical spirit. I try to maintain good boundaries and not over-disclose on the personal stuff, but it's definitely been a rocky journey.

I really need to update the poor blog, but once again I'm facing the challenge of needing to sum up a large chunk of the past before I can make the present stuff make any sense at all. I keep starting, looking at what I've written, and deleting. :P (insert image of me shaking my head like a wet and jowly dog)


Edited by tangleweeds (07/29/13 02:36 PM)
Edit Reason: cant spel
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Oops... extremely distracted by mandolins at the moment... brb

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#2124955 - 07/29/13 06:29 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
Shey Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/06
Posts: 326
Loc: Greater Manchester, England
Please update your blog, tangleweeds, or just update us here on your piano progress.

I understand you may not want to give out too much personal stuff, but we all have a past and sometimes sharing your stuff helps not just yourself but others too who have experienced difficult emotional history.

Your rocky journey is a testament to you and the things you have gone through and how you have come through it.

Yes I know some people don't want to hear about others issues, but real life can be harsh, and people like you show such strength, and it is good to let it known that you can come through and it really helps other people.

Let us know what you are playing, and what piano you have just now. Your story is massive, and important, I wish you the best and anything you share with us here on this forum will be taken with gratitude and empathy.

As a beginner returner to piano, I have come to realise that the piano can be such an important aspect to a persons lifestyle, not sure why, but it seems that way to me.

Keep sharing, and update us.

Shey
_________________________
Alfreds All In One Level 1 graduate and various other tutor sources
Alfreds Masterworks Classics Level 1-2
Fundamental Keys
Adult returner

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#2125582 - 07/30/13 10:26 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Journal 5: Tues. July 30. It's been almost a week since Journal 4, I was that flattened by the discussion about aural learning. I haven't even been just listening to it every night, which might seem easy to do, but I was really discouraged.

Tonight I returned to the score. The heck with learning to hum the melody before looking at the score. I hummed the melody silently with the score (inaccurately for exact pitches perhaps, or even probably, or in fact most certainly, but aiming to absorb the large outlines of the behaviour of the notes). I looked at the notes, I looked for patterns in the notes.

I noticed that it is a lot of the "Alberti bass" pattern of sixteenth notes, and some sixteenth note triads and seventh arpeggios up and down, and some sixteenth note straight runs, and some eighth note runs and eighth note jumps in the LH. Interesting how much mileage Bach gets out of just a few motifs.

I noticed what I thought might be true from listening to it, that there's nothing that "tugs" at my ears, and sure enough, there are no accidentals in the piece.

I hummed it through in my mind (again, possibly or even probably inaccurately as far as exact pitches go, but enough for me to get the idea of what I was trying to think about), thinking about following various lines into the RH or the LH making them prominent at various parts. There aren't very many obvious answers to me (yet?) about which line should be prominent at a given point; it's more like exploring different flavours and enjoying them all.

I noticed which chords were being used in the arpeggios. I didn't identify chords for all of the Alberti bass (which mostly isn't in the bass, but I don't know another name for this shape), but noticed some notable appearances of F major.

I looked at the outline of lines: where the highest and lowest notes were on short or extended passages, where the downbeats were and what line they traced, where the upbeats (the high note of the non-bass Alberti bass) were and what line they traced.

I thought about where I would put section or phrase markings. This doesn't exactly line up with breaking it up into small enough sections to learn; sometimes it goes for several measures without any obvious break. I expect I will be learning this measure by measure, or even by half-measure or single beat. The first phrase is two measures long, but I think it's too complicated for me to learn all in one section. And I want to approach this by making it feel easy to 7x-memorize my little sections for each day's practice, not by having to think hard about what comes next -- hence short sections for practice.

I feel like I have learned something useful about the piece now, which repeated listenings was not giving me and just made me feel hopeless. I will continue the work I have started with the score. As a sideline, I will start listening to it regularly now, and sometimes listening for particular features that I remember from the score (or follow along with the score), but unless I'm listening for something I know from the score, I'm not going to be beating myself up trying to hear anything at all in it; I'm just going to let it wash over me without aiming to retain anything at all, but just enjoy it as it goes by.
_________________________
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#2125750 - 07/31/13 09:04 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2370
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I hummed the melody silently with the score...
Do you mean every note ([F] C A C F C A C etc) or just the melody (e.g. C C D D, E E F)?

This is a prelude ( = chord progression, not melody). The best we can do for a melody here is the top note of each triad - for the first two phrases. For the second phrase you can, alternatively, use just the notes that change between beats (C A C, D Bb D, G Bb G, A). This is the easiest way for me to hum through the next long phrase culminating in the seventh in M9 and the quietest part of the piece (A A G E, F D E C, D Bb C A, Bb G A F, D DFAC).

Three strikes on G maj, 2nd inv, followed by E min 7, then drawn out chords, F maj, E min, D min, C maj. Ignore the passing notes in the triads up to the climax on the dominant seventh, C7, then finish on the final five chords.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Interesting how much mileage Bach gets out of just a few motifs.
His music is very dense. He can be studied in half bars but not half measures laugh

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
The first phrase is two measures long, but I think it's too complicated for me to learn all in one section.
I'm having exactly this issue with Grieg. My HS sections are long (up to 24 measures), easy to remember and well up to speed in each hand. The same passage HT is in twelve 2-measure fragments at below half speed.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
As a sideline, I will start listening to it regularly now...but unless I'm listening for something...I'm just going to let it wash over me without aiming to retain anything at all, but just enjoy it as it goes by.
This is how I go about it. Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.
_________________________
Richard

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#2125788 - 07/31/13 10:47 AM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
For a piece structured the way this one is laid out, it had not occurred to me that the melody is not just the RH notes.

I will *examine the score* and *play through* this new idea of melody to know how it sounds.

This is very different from what your original advice to listen to the piece enough so you can hum it conveyed to me. The perils of the written word, perhaps, without the immediate feedback loop of you hearing me try it, hearing what I'm not understanding, humming what you mean to illustrate, me getting a better idea, going through a few more feedback loops, etc.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88

As a sideline, I will start listening to it regularly now...but unless I'm listening for something...I'm just going to let it wash over me without aiming to retain anything at all, but just enjoy it as it goes by.

This is how I go about it. Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.

That sounds like pure torture, to me. I want to be able to pick up music and learn it, not serve an extended listening apprenticeship in a skill that is not easy for me, before I start to learn how to play a piece of music.

It is partly by learning and playing music that I start to be able to really hear it.
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#2125833 - 07/31/13 12:03 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2370
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
This is very different from what your original advice to listen to the piece enough so you can hum it conveyed to me.
Well a Chopin Nocturne has a distinct melody but a Bach Prelude doesn't. It's difficult to define a melody in this instance but when we hear a triad in that Alberti figure we just hear that triad on that beat. If we were to sing that beat we would either use the root note, F, or the top note, C.

If the next Alberti figure uses the same notes but changes just one of them, we tend to sing just the changed note. In this way melody is contained and comes over as one note per beat. The pattern of the arpeggio figure does not really constitue the melody. In the same way we don't sing different notes when a guitar is strummed upwards or downwards. It's either the root note, the highest pitch or the changed note.


Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.

That sounds like pure torture, to me. I want to be able to pick up music and learn it, not serve an extended listening apprenticeship
It's not really like that. When I was nine I was singing Beatles songs on the school bus just from hearing them on the radio in the mornings. I was never trying to memorise them.

It's only when the music has grown on me and I'm humming it incessantly at work that I consider putting a piece of music on my to-do list. It's not listening on order to learn. It's listening for pleasure until it happens to have been memorised, knowing what's coming next at every juncture and anticipating it.

When you sing in your choir are you reliant on the score?
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#2125844 - 07/31/13 12:23 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
keystring Offline
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Posts: 11675
Loc: Canada
PianoStudent88, I read what you described, the things that you did which worked.
Quote:
[I feel like I have learned something useful about the piece now, which repeated listenings was not giving me and just made me feel hopeless. I will continue the work I have started with the score.

Pretty obviously, you found what works for you.

Fwiw, before I did music formally I worked with music in various ways, and that music stayed in memory. It was not "finger memory" except for one piece. I'm talking about sonatinas that I learned to play at age 16 working them out via a patchwork of solfege and whatnot, having no piano for 35 years, and then when I had a piano, playing large sections of those same sonatinas in my early fifties.

I can tell you how I remembered those passages. It was similar to what you did. I worked with the score, I sang from what I played and heard it from the notes and fused to the notes. I also caught patterns. I did NOT play a recording over and over. I cannot imagine getting at music that way. To me this is too passive. It may work for some people, and even work very well. But that doesn't mean it works for everyone. And if it doesn't, why abandon what works for what doesn't work for you?

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#2125881 - 07/31/13 01:31 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: zrtf90]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
This is very different from what your original advice to listen to the piece enough so you can hum it conveyed to me.
Well a Chopin Nocturne has a distinct melody but a Bach Prelude doesn't. It's difficult to define a melody in this instance but when we hear a triad in that Alberti figure we just hear that triad on that beat. If we were to sing that beat we would either use the root note, F, or the top note, C.

If the next Alberti figure uses the same notes but changes just one of them, we tend to sing just the changed note. In this way melody is contained and comes over as one note per beat. The pattern of the arpeggio figure does not really constitue the melody. In the same way we don't sing different notes when a guitar is strummed upwards or downwards. It's either the root note, the highest pitch or the changed note.

I don't know who you mean by "we", but that doesn't describe me. Also, I hear piano music differently from how I hear strummed guitar chords.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.

That sounds like pure torture, to me. I want to be able to pick up music and learn it, not serve an extended listening apprenticeship
It's not really like that. When I was nine I was singing Beatles songs on the school bus just from hearing them on the radio in the mornings. I was never trying to memorise them.

It's only when the music has grown on me and I'm humming it incessantly at work that I consider putting a piece of music on my to-do list. It's not listening on order to learn. It's listening for pleasure until it happens to have been memorised, knowing what's coming next at every juncture and anticipating it.

I don't want to wait that long to start learning to play pieces. Also, some of the pieces I want to learn don't have recordings available, or only have very poor student recordings available. Also, I don't want to focus my listening so much on piano pieces I might like to learn to play. I like listening to a broad spectrum of music.

Sure, I've memorized music from listening to it on the radio or on records, just from hearing it a lot and not even trying. But it's a serendipitous kind of thing, and I don't see it as a pleasant activity to try to hook listening and learning pieces up in that kind of way.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
When you sing in your choir are you reliant on the score?

Yes and no. Yes, to remind me of the words and the notes. No, because I can't learn the melody pitches accurately from just seeing the score. I don't know how to describe needing the score to remind me of the fine points of the tune even though I can't sightsing without hearing the tune first. But that is what it's like for me.

That isn't to say I need the score for everything I sing, even if I started off with the score. For example, I've memorized quite a few hymns just from singing them over the years at church. But in choir we generally don't have a piece long enough for me to get to that point without making an extra memorizing-without-the-score effort.

In choir, we learn pieces a phrase at a time accompanied by the piano during choir, or sometimes do what my choir director calls sightreading but really isn't -- at least it's not sightsinging -- because the piano is always playing with us. (Other choirs may do this differently.) I also take the music home and work on it slowly at the piano, and work on singing it playing just my part, playing two parts together, and so on. We are also provided CDs. Sometimes these are of just the full performance (which I enjoy listening to, but doesn't help me learn it because I can't distinguish the alto part). Sometimes these include parts, for example I would be given a CD with an instrumental rendition of the parts with the Alto I part louder than the others. These don't particularly help me either because they don't have words (so I don't have any markers to let me know where in the piece any particular sound happens), and because they're too much to listen to and remember anything about other than having listened to a long piece. I suppose I could sit down with a CD player and toggle back and forth over a short section, but, yuck, what a technological pest -- I'd rather work that way at the piano with the score than by messing with a CD player and not being able to see the notes. I have an advantage over many people in my choirs because I do play the piano, so I can work on the score that way.

I can't remember if I posted about it, and if so if it was here or in the other thread, but for our December concert we are singing gospel music and our director wants us to have it memorized as much as possible (not required to be memorized, but the more we can sing without relying on the score, the better it will be stylitically). One piece we are required to have memorized, which we will use as an entrance processional. We have a CD of the whole piece, which I've listened to several times to get the stylistic sense of how the music goes. But I can't use it to learn my part because, as I mentioned above for this type of standard performance CD, I can't distinguish the alto part. If I were a soprano, whole different story -- there's lots of repetition in the chorus part, and it's catchy and sticks in my mind easily and I can sing along with it. But only the soprano line.

So I'm working on memorizing it the way I'm trying to work on my piano music: small bits, repeated daily, building up sections.

Be sure you're not confusing your aural abilities with my aural abilities.

There is a piano piece that I memorized for my RCM level 1 exam, which I can sing the whole thing. There is a 6 measure passage near the end that I find difficult to remember -- it's three repeated figures, all very similar but slightly different. I can sing this accurately, and I can hear when I play it wrong, and I can hear when I find the right note. But none of that *helps* me to know the right note to play the right note instead of the wrong note, because I can't pick out the melody by ear without lots of trial and error. Hearing a third, I can't tell if it's a major or minor third. Hearing a small step, I can't hear if it's a half step or a whole step. Given a medium step, I can't hear if it's a whole step or a minor third -- or maybe it's a major third. In fact, there are probably cases where I can't tell that a halfstep is a very small step and isn't perhaps a third of some sort, and vice versa. I've tried with this bit of melody to aurally figure out the notes (or the relative intervals), going over it and singing it, slowing it down and trying to fill in the jumps to figure out how big they are, and I can't do it. Another problem I have is that I can't reliably hear if a figure ends on the same note it started at, or a different one. And in general, I can usually aurally distinguish up from down, but if a figure is going quickly and switching direction a lot, I may miss it, and again that's not fast enough for trying to play something.

So my aural and humming ability with this passage has almost nothing to do with learning how to play it accurately, for me. I've recently embarked on a project of getting it memorized much more securely, and what I'm doing is writing it out as written, writing it out so the figures all start on the same note so I can compare the ways in which their intervals are the same or different, writing it out in simplified format so I can see which notes are being used independent of the filigree in which they're arranged, looking for patterns in the descending 4 note lines thus revealed. This is all to help me form a pattern to remember which notes I should play in which figure.
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#2125920 - 07/31/13 02:43 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2370
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I don't know who you mean by "we"...

Consider it the royal 'we', that is, 'I'.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I don't want to wait that long to start learning to play pieces.
I appreciate our differences. I'm just saying it isn't torture. Memorising the sound comes easily and naturally for me.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Be sure you're not confusing your aural abilities with my aural abilities.
Again, I was genuinely asking how much you relied on the score. If I needed to read music to duplicate it or without being able to hear it in my head or had to make an effort to memorise it I don't think I could have reached the point you've reached. I very much doubt I'd be playing an instrument let alone wiping the floor on the theory.
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#2125946 - 07/31/13 03:24 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Did my answer about how I use the score, and how we learn pieces in the choirs I'm in, answer your question?

Don't get me wrong, there's lots of music I sing purely from memory, that I didn't particularly learn from the score (Beatles songs, Billy Joel's The Stranger album, ...), or that the score is a long-forgotten piece of how I learned it (Send in the Clowns, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar...). But using the score (and playing it on the piano, in the case of singing), not an initial aural knowledge, is the primary way I learn music I'm going to learn on the piano or the flute, or for choir. Or in singing lessons for that matter, when I was taking singing lessons.

I've just printed out Skinkken's Prelude in E Minor that s/he has posted in the Composer's Lounge. There's a file posted of the sound being played electronically, but I can't get it to load. So I can't listen to this before trying it out. I can see the score and get a sense of it: quick staccato eighth notes, rising line, long note, melodi arc, back to more quick notes, and so on. So I have a general sense of how this goes, but not in any pitch-accurate way. But I can tell how it goes enough to know that it is of interest to me. And because I can read music, when I play it I'll be able to tell if what I'm playing is right or wrong per the score. And as I learn to play it and get more familiar with how all the sounds all fit together, I may come up with more interpretive ideas (although Skinkken has notated this with more dynamics and articulation marks than I'm used to seeing in my pristine urtext Bach life smile ). I could work with the score and try to think about interpretive ideas before starting to learn it, but I need to hear the ideas in practice, and also hear the music to hear ideas in it that I can't necessarily tell so concretely from looking at the score alone.

And actually, I want to just play through this and hear how it sounds, to find out if I want to learn it in great detail or not. So I'm not starting out with it super-carefully, although I guess in the interests of helping myself in case I later decide to learn it carefully, I'll start slowly by working out fingering, rather than what I have usually done in the past which is start with a rough read-through, be it ever so sloppy.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
wiping the floor on the theory.

smile

Thing is, I'm very strong at paper-and-pencil rules-based learning, in any field. Hooking it up to what it means as an aural phenomenon is much much harder for me. I can write out any mode you choose, and look at a score and determine what mode it's in. But I can't always tell by listening if a piece is in a major or minor key (much less any other mode). And if I hear them in isolation (that is just the one interval, not both of them next to each other) I can't distinguish a minor from a major third.

We did a warmup in choir the other night:
"sing a perfect fourth,
CCCC F

sing a perfect fifth,
CCCC G

sing a major sixth,
CCCC A

now let's try it once again"
ABCBAGF

(I think the final notes are a stepwise progression up and then down, so it ends on F, but it could have some skips in there instead. Who knows, it might even be coming down a triad at some point and ending on C, but I don't think so. We start it over again a half-step higher, so you'd think I'd be able to notice if I go from "-gain" on a note (like F) DOWN to "sing" on a much lower note (C#), or if I go from "-gain" on a note (like C) and then UP to "sing" on a slightly higher note (C#), but it all goes by so quickly I can't tell. I'm trying this out very slowly for myself right now, and I'm pretty sure it goes DOWN from one repetition to the next, but when we're doing it at speed in chorus I couldn't tell you that for sure.)

Anyway, I'm sure of the notes for the first three lines because I can tell if a note is the same as the note immediately before it, and because the point of the fourth/fifth/sixth is that we go up by that interval.

My point is, right after this we did another warmup, in solfege:

do sol do sol do
C G C G C

And after playing the warmup, but before we started singing it, our conductor asked us what interval it is. So I said "a perfect fifth" because I've sung this warmup before, and I know do to sol is a perfect fifth. But the interval actually doesn't sound like anything that says "perfect fifth" in any intrinsic way to my mind or my body or my musical sense or anything. I didn't have any way to compare it to the perfect fifths (and fourths and sixths) that we'd just been singing in the previous warmup. This is all true even though apparently I recognize the sound of this warmup well enough to tell that it's the do-sol warmup just from hearing it played, without the words. So what is it I recognize? I don't know. And why can't I put a name to it, just from the sound? I don't know. There's a certain rhythm to it though, and I suspect that I'm partly cuing on the up and down in that rhythm: half note, half note, quarter, quarter, half. I suspect that if the conductor played fourths or sixths instead of fifths in that rhythm I might still think it's the do-sol warmup, perhaps I might think that something sounded a bit odd but I wouldn't be able to put my finger on it.

I've been trying to learn to recognize melodic major thirds and perfect fifths for the next RCM exam, and I do this by matching up the played interval on my practice CD to "DO MI sol do" a major triad arpeggio for major thirds or "Twinkle twinkle" a perfect fifth. But I am quite capable of getting myself mixed up and confusing one sound for the other, for example singing four ascending leaping notes that start with the sounded perfect fifth and convincing myself that that sounds like a major triad arpeggio, or singing the words "Twinkle twinkle" to the sounded major third and convincing myself that's what the song really sounds like.
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#2125972 - 07/31/13 04:24 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2370
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
My question has been answered. You do have some degree of melody memory but you can't work out harmonies within the SATB sound field without isolating the notes on paper.

That's quite reasonable and understandable.

Not being able to distinguish major thirds from minor ones is harder (for me to understand). Isn't it just memorising sound qualities? Perhaps not.

I don't really know how I do it.
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#2125985 - 07/31/13 04:43 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I just tried listening to the BWV 927 some more, to see if I can hear this alternate sense of melody that Richard describes.

Result: I don't hear it. I can't pick out the highest notes (except for three places in the middle of the piece where they also come on down beats and are the peak of an up-and-down pattern). I can hear the downbeats, but they're so sliced up with all the other notes in between that I can't tell anything about which way they're moving. The filigree is so fast that I can't even tell if the downbeats are the lowest or highest notes of their beat: they usually sound like the highest note to me, but from the score I can see they're the lowest note. And after doing this for a while I start to feel seasick.

Also I can't hear any chord changes. I can't say they're all the same chords either. I just don't know what a chord change sounds like. I hear notes moving around, but not in any way I can capture or name. It's just a lot of notes moving around. Don't get me wrong, I like the sound of it, but I just don't hear this and process it in anyway that corresponds to anything at all about learning to play it except for hearing the smoothness of the sixteenth notes and the punch of the eighth notes.

Taking this apart slowly at the piano and listening to the various parts, that's something I can do. But I just supremely completely and absolutely don't hear the same things that it seems to me that Richard hears, when I listen to a recording. Once I have been through the whole process of taking it apart and learning it from the score at the piano, I might start to hear more things in it. Or I might not.
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#2125994 - 07/31/13 04:56 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: zrtf90]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Not being able to distinguish major thirds from minor ones is harder (for me to understand). Isn't it just memorising sound qualities? Perhaps not.

I don't really know how I do it.

Whatever is memorized to recognize an interval, and then to put a name to it, I don't have it in any secure way, and I'm also missing several component skills that would help me compare the sound of an interval in my head to the sound I hear [ETA: at least when done as an isolated exercise. But I can still recognize melodies, and hear if a note is wrong]. Whatever it is that apparently makes these intervals scream their separate identities to some people, I don't have it. But it would be wrong to think that that analytical and aural lack means I can't learn melodies accurately, because I can.

I don't know how to explain it. I experience it, so I know it's a real phenomenon. I've never found any teaching material that seemed to make any sense of it, though. Somehow the small analytical aural skills that seem to be put forward as the simple building blocks, always seem insurmountably hard to me.

I'd love to take a Kodaly course in solfege singing, and see if that made any difference.


Edited by PianoStudent88 (07/31/13 05:12 PM)
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#2126033 - 07/31/13 06:16 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
What you describe sounds a lot like how my musical ear started out. I had to practice a lot with my ear training app to get myself to recognize intervals at all, and I'm still not great at it. Analyzing pieces' theory then listening as I read the score also helped me learn how some of this music theory actually sounds. But If I listen without having analyzed the score first, all my brain has to say about it is "Pretty music, sounds nice!"

Coincidentally, I picked up my ear training again last night (I'd totally let it slip during the many months of migraines), and I found that in some ways I'd lost a lot of ground (e.g. naming intervals), but in others my ear has definitely improved (picking out tunes by ear has become pretty easy, when I used to be hopeless at it).
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#2126113 - 07/31/13 08:59 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I gave up on ear training apps a year or so ago. They just came to feel like random guessing. Plus the tinny sound from my iPhone was really hard to connect up with music.

Sounding out familiar tunes by ear would be more interesting. When I do it I feel like I'm discovering interesting things. Whereas when I try to do interval identification I just feel like I'm failing, over and over.
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#2126121 - 07/31/13 09:33 PM Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread [Re: PianoStudent88]
PianoStudent88 Offline
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Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Journal 6: Wed July 31. Spent about a while on this tonight, but I didn't think to time it. Lots of analysis, then finally started learning notes at the keyboard.

Analysis: played the upper notes of the figures. Played the lower notes of the figures. Discovered that the upper notes give a simple stepwise melody for half of the prelude, and then a slightly more complex melody involving jumps in the second half of the piece. The lower, downbeat notes, surprisingly, don't tell such a clear story, although like any good alto or tenor part, they hang together and tell a much more subdued story than the soprano notes. The middle notes also tell a story, albeit subdued as well.

Named all the chords and identified the passing tones and suspensions.

Played it through several times slowly and carefully, repeating and concentrating on certain parts, checking out the fingering. Most of the fingering that seemed so odd to me before from my Alfred's edition feels more sensible now, especially given that the ultimate goal is to play this at speed. Found a published alternate fingering for LH m. 4, since the Alfred fingering still seemed awkward there. I'll try them both out when I start learning that section, and see if I can come up with anything else. It's not particularly relevant that the alternate is published, except since I haven't come up with any sensible alternates on my own yet, I'm dependent on published sources.

Played it through slowly a few times hands together, which may be quite out of method but satisfied my curiosity and didn't feel damaging in terms of laying down bad habits.

Now that I have the harmonic analysis, the dynamics proposed in the Alfre edition make more sense. I can see where the implicit harmonic cadences are (even if the music doesn't really pause there). I tend to like to crescendo in measures of harmonic tension or relative strangeness, and decresendo in measures of harmonic resolution. I'm ambivalent about adding too much dynamics to this piece. Along the way once I have the notes learned I do want to noodle around with it in various ways, e.g. an overly dramatic Romantic interpretation with great pauses at the harmonic cadences, or extremely staccato a la Glenn Gould, or filigreed with various slurred and staccato articulations, and so on. Just to explore. I've found that loosening up my playing like that can lead to new insights.

I have a few basic dynamic ideas and default articulations to use as I start learning the notes.

And finally! Deciding on my first section. Taking an average of difficulty in the two hands, I'm starting at a point that has moderate challenges for each hand, though maybe not the hardest measure for either hand: the four beats constituting the second half of m. 8 and the first half of m. 9, plus the following note or two for continuity.

Did my 7x repetition (more or less: I lost track partway through and distracted from straight repetition by things I wanted to try with the notes).

So then for my 20 minutes practice (or however long: I didn't think to time it) I played it in blocked chords, and then rotating my hand, and repeating one beat for awhile, and then another, and then gluing together the beats. Did a lot of observing how my hand was moving. Did this for each hand HA in turn, and then alternating hands. I feel like I'm learning not just the notes but also the gestures.

Because this is counterpoint, I'll learn each hand completely for the whole piece HS before I start HT.

I can't play these four beats all up to speed, which I take to be one of the goals of the method for the end of each 20 minute segment, but I feel like this is a physical skill I just don't quite understand yet, how to play this Alberti bass pattern fast. It's like learning to play a trill. I might try playing it in repeated note sets in various ways and find ways to do the "slowing down from infinite speed" idea. Checking it out at the keyboard just now, I think what I was missing is practicing each pair of notes in the four note figure infinitely fast -- I was trying to play all four notes fast, but I think that's not the way to find the movements and the relaxation.
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