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#2124609 - 07/29/13 04:01 AM How many repeats per day?
lotal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/09
Posts: 42
Loc: Russia
I came to a paradox, which I cannot resolve myself. Can anybody help?

There is a common advice to learn a piece by small chunks, with special care to difficult spots. In most difficult passages the practiced selection of notes may be diminished to just a few. Furthermore, it is often said that the chunk should be of such size that one would master it in 5-15 minutes. They say you must finish with it by 5-7 deliberate repeats without errors and forget about the passage till the next day, hoping for the post practice improvement to do its work through the night.

On the other hand, music practice is often compared with rehabilitation of patients, who suffered a stroke. In both cases one trains one’s brain and grow additional links between neurons. For example, an excellent book about that is “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” by Norman Doige. To make the damaged brain grow extra internal connections the patient should repeat hand movements zillions times a day, 500 at least, but the more the better, through all the day.

You see, I can not the two approaches make met. Should I deliberately repeat complex hand movements 5 or 500 times per day? OK, I may notice some difference: there is a memory issue and there is an issue about feasibility of a movement. Evidently, when one has no problems with the movement itself, but tries to memorize it, then 5 error-free repeats would be all right. When one practices a thrill, probably, he would do those 500 repeats in 10 minutes. However, most real passages are of grayscale, partially difficult in movement and needed to be memorized. What about them? What is the adequate procedure? I may after all repeat a “grayscale” passage 5 times without errors in 10 minutes, but hardly my movements will be light and easy. Why not to work on the movement for some more time or in other practice sessions of the day? Hardly would I reach the number of 500 for repeats for this grayscale passage.

Any solutions? If you suggest further diminishing down to a couple of most problem notes within the passage to play them separate 500 times, I gave a thought to that already, but I do not feel fully content with that solution. It seems to me than not all movements may be atomized down to separate notes without some loss of its total sense, like the thrill is not exactly practiced by just two keystokes. I also have read Chang’s book and am familiar with the method of parallel sets, which make it possible to go from two keystrokes to ten or twenty when practicing a thrill. But still… the two approaches above do not seem to meet well.
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#2124749 - 07/29/13 11:25 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
peterws Offline
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Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3543
Loc: Northern England.
wELL, YA GOT DIFFICULT BITS AND STUFF THAT LINKS UP TO DIFFICULT BITS. sO WHEN YOU`VE MASTERED THE DIFFICULT BITS, YOU THEN HAVE TO MASTER THE LINK UP BITS AND ASSOCIATED FINGER CHANGES FRON WHAT WOULD COME natural.(Damn this keypad) But yes. We`re all different. Sounds like I`ve brain problems, cos it`s zillion times for me. Memory`s not clever (never has been) nor`s my reading. . . .but I do get there after a couple of days . . . .which is when the swearing stops.

Bite sixe chunks for difficult bits. But don`t wear out your fingers. Hard bits can be tiring to play!

Coffee helps . . . .and I dare say, a ciggie or two . . .
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#2124898 - 07/29/13 04:24 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
JosephAC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/23/12
Posts: 168
Loc: Melbourne Australia
Do you mean trill and not thrill, right ?

I am also keen on the answer. I spend as much time on understanding effective piano practice methods and the working of the brain as much practicing. It might be an exaggeration but effective piano learning and music terminology preoccupies me a lot of time. After all, we want to optimise our practice time.

I have not read this book but the zillion time a day can not apply during the embryo stage of the learning process. It might apply at the mastery stage.

The rules are different depending where you are on the learning/development cycle.

When we are concerned with the learning, we need to ensure we are taking the right foot steps. Did you ever watch how a baby learnt to stand and walk? Few repetitions a day in the right direction. Remember that at this age, the baby's brain is at its fastest expansion and absorption rate.

On the other hand, the same baby at the teenage age, he might be able to run an ultra marathon. At this fully developed stage and with the rigght conditioning, zillion times a day make sense and it is done mindlessly and without effort.

Can you expect the child to run an ultra marathon ?

In summary, I always find that paradoxes can be easily resolved when looking at the big picture. A balanced view between global and local views can provide the direction of the solution to most dilemmas.







Edited by JosephAC (07/29/13 04:34 PM)

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#2124909 - 07/29/13 04:54 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
dynamobt Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 669
Loc: NH
Memorization does not come into play for me during the learning stage. I rely on reading the music each and every time I repeat. I repeat a lot. Five perfect repeats might be the point of stopping for the day. It takes a lot more than five repeats per day to get to that point.

I can't say how many times I go over a particular passage. Enough times to have it "stick" during that practice session. What's "enough"? Whatever it takes. As I say, I repeat a lot.

I honestly don't know any other way to instill the music into my hands and brain. I do a lot of listening to recordings early on in my learning. I like to know right from the beginning what I'm working towards. I do this because reading and interpreting music is not my strong point. I do much better with a particular sound in my ears that I try and work towards in my own playing. My teacher helps me put my own individual stamp on the music as we work together on it. So,I'm not worried I'm just imitating other performers.

I guess each person's tolerance for how many repeats they can take in a day will vary. If you aren't really gifted, which I'm not, I think you have to accept that you have to work longer to reach the same level as someone more talented. I don't learn new music particularly fast. It is what it is. I enjoy the process of figuring out my solution to the musical puzzles in front of me. If I counted how many times I repeat sections I'd get discouraged. So, I don't count or put a time deadline on myself. I work till I can play it.


Edited by dynamobt (07/29/13 05:30 PM)
Edit Reason: can't spell
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#2124916 - 07/29/13 05:05 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: dynamobt]
JimF Offline
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Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1710
Loc: south florida
The real issue is efficiency of learning.

Is it efficient to keep working one phrase beyond a certain amount in one session?.... or is it more efficient to limit the time for that phrase, and use the remaining time for a different section(s) or phrase(s), or a different piece altogether, and then come back to the original phrase the next day after realizing the consolidation benefits of a night's sleep.

I think the evidence is clear, but it is easy enough to devise your own test of what you think works better.
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#2124924 - 07/29/13 05:22 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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I think perhaps you are going about this in too scientific/logical a fashion. Yes, there is that aspect to it, but practice should always be a creative process. And by process, I mean that as you improve as a pianist, you learn how to be better at practicing efficiently, creatively, and effectively. Practice for me may look different than practice for you, and while there can be similarities, since it is a creative thing, one should find out what works best for them.

Also, when I practice a piece of music, it may look different from how I practice another piece, depending on the challenges and what inspires me on how to tackle them.

So to find a formula (which is what it appears you are looking for) may be going about things a bit too methodically. What music are you playing right now? How are you practicing right now, and what do you like about your practice methods, what do you think needs improvement, etc.?
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#2124935 - 07/29/13 05:38 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2338
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
It seems that what we can remember in 5-7 repetitions is the capacity of our working memory. Therefore, learn only as much at each sitting as you can memorise in 5-7 repetitions. Learning more will overload the working memory and reduce the amount of improvement we can make in one day.

Now remembering a sequence of notes and playing them accurately, musically and up to tempo isn't the same thing. So practise that fragment for 5 - 15 minutes. Practising longer than 20 minutes has been shown to reduce the amount of improvement was can make each day as fatigue begins to set in and mistakes are made. Therefore practise the fragment you've memorised (in 5-7 repetitions) for no more than 20 minutes and preferably less.

What you do in that 10-20 minutes, and how much you can concentrate on it, will make or break your progress. If it is simple repetition it is unlikely to make significant improvement. If it is the right practice tool for that section you can make a big noise in the world.

Now it also seems that we need several hundred repetitions before we can play a passage accurately at the automatic level. But we are restricted to how much we can learn at each sitting and how much we can improve it in a 20 minute sitting. Sleep must intervene before it can be improved any further. Extra sittings throughout the day have a negligible effect on our ability so we must resign ourselves to the prospect of practising for several days before a passage has been fully mastered.

Or we can further medical and psychological science.

It is a good idea to spend some time on musicianship (reading, sight reading, aural training), some on technical improvement (scales, chords, arpeggios, octaves, thirds, trills, etudes), and 10-20 minutes per piece (or section of a piece). If you devote 20 mins to musicianship and technique and you can manage two hours a day of practise (good for you!) you can divide yor remining hour and 40 minutes between ten pieces (ten minutes each) or ten separate sections of one piece or any combination in between.

Our ability to concentrate has the greatest limitation on out daily improvement. We make very little progress on material that doesn't have our full attention. Professional can devote up to four hours a day. Beginners make little significant progress on more than an half an hour a day. Spending more time than our ability to concentrate offers insignificant benefits.

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Yes, there is that aspect to it, but practice should always be a creative process. And by process, I mean that as you improve as a pianist, you learn how to be better at practicing efficiently, creatively, and effectively.
Exactly!
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#2124968 - 07/29/13 06:55 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
Allan W. Offline
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Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 371
Loc: Michigan
I'm working on Rach 2 first movement and I'm having a lot of issues learning it quickly.

The opening arpeggios are hard to play while looking at the sheet music. So I've been memorizing it, which comes naturally with lots of repetitions anyway. However, even an hour of repeating a few 2-4 measure chunks of arpeggios, I still can't play it up to speed or even 75% (they go pretty fast) when putting it together. Any suggestions on what I'm doing wrong?

I've been working on it for 1-2 weeks and still don't really have the first two pages down (although I've jumped around and learned some other parts too). Is it going to just take more time for it to soak in?
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#2124974 - 07/29/13 07:18 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Allan W.]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7573
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Allan W.
I'm working on Rach 2 first movement and I'm having a lot of issues learning it quickly.

The opening arpeggios are hard to play while looking at the sheet music. So I've been memorizing it, which comes naturally with lots of repetitions anyway. However, even an hour of repeating a few 2-4 measure chunks of arpeggios, I still can't play it up to speed or even 75% (they go pretty fast) when putting it together. Any suggestions on what I'm doing wrong?

I've been working on it for 1-2 weeks and still don't really have the first two pages down (although I've jumped around and learned some other parts too). Is it going to just take more time for it to soak in?

From reading this, I have doubts about whether you are prepared to tackle this piece - I learned the first two pages with relative ease (in less than an hour). However, my suggestion is to play the arpeggios very slowly, and hit each note twice. This reinforces the patterns for your muscle memory, and also helps avoid missing notes once you've gotten it up to speed.
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#2124984 - 07/29/13 07:44 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Polyphonist]
Allan W. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 371
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist

From reading this, I have doubts about whether you are prepared to tackle this piece - I learned the first two pages with relative ease (in less than an hour). However, my suggestion is to play the arpeggios very slowly, and hit each note twice. This reinforces the patterns for your muscle memory, and also helps avoid missing notes once you've gotten it up to speed.


I guess it takes a while for my muscle memory to build up, because I can't get my fingers to play the notes if I try to go fast, even if it's memorized. I appreciate the tip about the practice technique though. My teacher hasn't really given me any advice on how to practice.

I was afraid of something like this. I do really want to learn it though. I noticed that when I learned something simpler like Liszt Consolation No. 3 it really didn't take too much effort and I managed to learn it pretty quickly. Anyway I haven't been playing for very long so it is a bit of a reach for me. At any rate, there's a lot of passages to choose from if I ever get bored of repeating a certain section, so I won't get discouraged of learning it.
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#2124985 - 07/29/13 07:45 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Allan W.]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2338
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Allan W.
I'm working on Rach 2 first movement and I'm having a lot of issues learning it quickly.
So don't learn it quickly!

Originally Posted By: Allan W.
...even an hour of repeating a few 2-4 measure chunks of arpeggios, I still can't play it up to speed or even 75%...Any suggestions on what I'm doing wrong?
Trying to play it up to speed! An hour is too long. You'll be regressing after that much time. Reduce the size of the section until it's short enough that you make solid advancement inside 20 minutes.

How fast are the arpeggios compared to your normal speed for arpeggios?

If you've learned it well enough you should be holding yourself back on the speed. If it's hard to play at speed you've not learned it well enough slowly.
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#2124987 - 07/29/13 07:50 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: zrtf90]
Allan W. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 371
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: zrtf90

How fast are the arpeggios compared to your normal speed for arpeggios?

If you've learned it well enough you should be holding yourself back on the speed. If it's hard to play at speed you've not learned it well enough slowly.



Honestly I haven't worked on arpeggios on their own since I've started piano again. edit: Well, for the ones specifically in the pieces I've learned, I can play them pretty fast. So it's not a technique issue. Just an issue of remembering what notes are in the arpeggio.

I do practice the measures slowly and very evenly. Once in a while I'll try it out full speed and I do have a few measures with good muscle memory so I can play some of it... I think I'll just need more time for the rest to sink in.

My practice sessions haven't been very focused so I probably haven't been making effective use of the hour.

Anyway, sorry to OP for hijacking!


Edited by Allan W. (07/29/13 07:54 PM)
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#2125059 - 07/29/13 11:24 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: JimF]
lotal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/09
Posts: 42
Loc: Russia
Thank you all for comments and your input. JimF put it right:

Originally Posted By: JimF
The real issue is efficiency of learning.

Is it efficient to keep working one phrase beyond a certain amount in one session?.... or is it more efficient to limit the time for that phrase, and use the remaining time for a different section(s) or phrase(s), or a different piece altogether, and then come back to the original phrase the next day after realizing the consolidation benefits of a night's sleep.

I think the evidence is clear, but it is easy enough to devise your own test of what you think works better.


However, I do not agree that "the evidence is clear". Well, I opened the topic with some provocative intention. I do follow myself the general course of advice (or try to), as many mention here, when dealing with a difficult passage about 10 minutes, getting to repeat it 7 times error free.

What lead me to the question was the explanation in the book by Norman Doige why many stroke suffered patients never fully recover. Because they exercise maybe those 15 minutes on a movement. While those patients who try the simplest movement (like rolling a ball) through almost all the day succeed in the end and recover. Leaving musican issies aside and investigating only the technical issue, should I give more of my time to a few clumbersume movements of mine, which I spend months and years to accomplish but never fully got with them? Maybe I am like that unrecovering stroke patient who tries to make the movement with only 15 minutes devotions. Of course, I do not consider all the practice details to be under the question. Most of the procedures are understandable and I keep to them as all of you. Perhaps, I mean only very small purely technical issue. For instance, my left hand in the downward scale motion does not feel comfortable and accurate. Would not it be heplful if I, for some devoted period of time, do that motion much more in the day than 15 minutes?
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#2125082 - 07/30/13 12:52 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11756
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: lotal


What lead me to the question was the explanation in the book by Norman Doige why many stroke suffered patients never fully recover. Because they exercise maybe those 15 minutes on a movement. While those patients who try the simplest movement (like rolling a ball) through almost all the day succeed in the end and recover. Leaving musican issies aside and investigating only the technical issue, should I give more of my time to a few clumbersume movements of mine, which I spend months and years to accomplish but never fully got with them? Maybe I am like that unrecovering stroke patient who tries to make the movement with only 15 minutes devotions. Of course, I do not consider all the practice details to be under the question. Most of the procedures are understandable and I keep to them as all of you. Perhaps, I mean only very small purely technical issue. For instance, my left hand in the downward scale motion does not feel comfortable and accurate. Would not it be heplful if I, for some devoted period of time, do that motion much more in the day than 15 minutes?
It's not a simple question with a simple answer. Sometimes more than 15 minutes on one particular exercise or problem is all you can do in one day, then you need to sleep on it and try again the next day with perhaps a new idea. This is why we all need teachers to help us (and I'm including myself in this) because we need a different mind to look at the problem we're having and help us come up with new approaches that will help.

But I'm not saying that more than 15 minutes is a waste, either. The individual determines how long they can concentrate, as a previous poster said. That is one of the limiting factors here. Working beyond that point is a waste of time, so it's good to find that sweet spot.
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#2125102 - 07/30/13 01:08 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Morodiene]
lotal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/09
Posts: 42
Loc: Russia
Originally Posted By: Morodiene

But I'm not saying that more than 15 minutes is a waste, either. The individual determines how long they can concentrate... That is one of the limiting factors here. Working beyond that point is a waste of time, so it's good to find that sweet spot.


That is true. I would add that another limiting factor is how fluids in your hand allow continuing an exercise, not to bring to a physical harm.


Edited by lotal (07/30/13 05:57 AM)
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#2125145 - 07/30/13 05:26 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
Shey Online   content
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Alan, have you had a look at the Bernhardt thread? It's about methods of practising, ways of efficient practise, to get to our goals quickly. Might be of help to you.
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#2125191 - 07/30/13 08:53 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
JimF Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/09
Posts: 1710
Loc: south florida
Lotal

The comparisons to recovering lost function in brain damage cases seems overdone to me.

Re your left hand descending scale discomfort; rather than repeat a gazillion times and make permanent whatever causes the discomfort, you may want to go the other way. I have had quite a bit of success speeding up and improving scale work by slowing scales down until it is ridiculously slow, but forcing total comfort before striking another note. Twenty minutes a day of dead, dead, dead slow scales over a few weeks time produced more improvement than ten times as many repetitions did over previous sessions. That's actual tested result. (Please note I'm not a teacher and YMMV)

Also, worth remembering that learning to play piano is way more than pushing the right keys at the right time.


Edited by JimF (07/30/13 08:58 AM)
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#2125312 - 07/30/13 01:02 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: JimF]
lotal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/09
Posts: 42
Loc: Russia
JimF

However, I do believe that stroke rehabilitation and learning complex piano movements have much in common. Although learning music involves much, much more than only that.

Thanks for your advise on slowing down. I agree with it and follow it myself, but it does not seem fully relate with the issue I started with about number of repetitions and devoted time. As a matter of fact I never spent more than 20 minutes on practicing a movement yet, but I have been considering theoretical possibilities about benevolence of enlarged practice time during the day for just few specific movements, which are not physically comfortable for my hand. The book leads to the conclusion that 20 minutes are not the maximal efficient limit, that the more brain work the better.

Of course, piano playing is a way more than pushing the right keys at the right time, who doubts this. But it makes no excuse not to push the right keys in the right time.
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#2125395 - 07/30/13 04:10 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: lotal
I do not agree that "the evidence is clear".


You don't agree that the evidence is clear because you're viewing and trying to logically process the information through your prism of experience. You don't have to agree with or believe anything that anyone tells you. In fact, oftentimes with something like this, you shouldn't. What you should do, however, is try and better yet, test, the advice that's been given and compare it to any other method with which you're familiar. The fact is, the results aren't likely to be exactly the same and you'll come to realize that one method is clearly better than the other.

Originally Posted By: Bernhard
1. The human brain learns by “chunks”, and then by joining these chunks into larger chunks. Anything that can be learned by repetition will be learned after seven repetitions. If after seven repetitions you have not learned the “chunk”, it means that the chunk was too large for the brain to handle. You must break it down into smaller chunks.

Let us say that you want to learn a poem with 200 verses. If you read the full 200 verses seven times, chances are that after seven times you will not have learned it. Most people who are not aware of what I am about to say, will just keep repeating the whole poem in the hope that by increasing the number of repeats they will eventually master it. Let us say that it takes 30 minutes to repeat aloud 200 verses. Repeating the poem seven times will take 3.5 hours, and at the end of it you will not have learned it. So you repeat another seven times. You still will not have learned it. So you do another seven times with the same dismal and pathetic result. Now you have been reading this poem for 10.5 hours. Do that for a whole month. I bet that at the end of the month, practicing 10.5 hours a day (21 repetitions) you still will not have learnt the poem. This is partly because you cannot fit enough repetitions in a day (the poem is simply too large), but also because if you have not learned after seven repetitions increasing the number of repetitions will not make any difference.

So what should you do? You must decrease the size of the chunk of information that you are trying to learn. How much should you decrease it? Well, start by cutting the poem in half: 100 verses. Now this takes only 15 minutes to read through. After seven repeats, did you learn it? If you did, this is the chunk size you can cope with. If not, the chunk size is still too large. So cut it in half again: 50 verses, which you can now read in 7.5 minutes. Now let us say that by cutting it in half and trying to learn the chunk in seven repetitions you finally got to 1 verse. That can be read in 9 seconds. This is the exploratory stage of your practice: when you find out what is the larges chunk you can learn by repeating it seven times. With experience you will get this size fairly immediately. But in the beginning expect to spend sometime learning about yourself and your learning capacity.

So you figured out that one verse is (for you) learnable after seven repeats. After seven repetitions you just know it. So it is going to take you (9x7) = 63 seconds to master one line of the poem. To master the 200 verses will take you exactly 3. 5 hours, the same amount of time it took you to read through the whole poem 7 times without making any progress whatsoever. The conclusion is obvious: Breaking your learning tasks into chunks that can be learned after seven repeats will save an amazing amount of time, as compared to the alternative of reading the whole thing seven times.


2. The second principle is: You learn nothing until it is processed by the unconscious. Dreaming is one of the symptoms of this, so you need at least one night sleep in between learning sessions before you actually learn what you have been practicing. Usually you need several nights sleep depending on the complexity of your task. This is the 20-minute principle.

Going back to the 200-line poem. It took you 63 seconds to repeat and learn the first line. That’s it! You do not need to do any more work on this line today. You can do, if you want, but it will not make any difference whatsoever.

If you do your seven repeats (63 seconds), stop and go to bed, next day when you wake up you will find that you pretty much forgot the line. So you must start again, and repeat the line seven times (63 seconds again). But you will discover that although you felt as ignorant as in the first day, this time it took you only 5 repeats to get to the stage you were in yesterday after 7 repeats. So you re-learnt the line in 45 seconds, instead of the 63 seconds. Never mind that, do your seven repeats again (even though you have mastered it by the fifth). On the third day, you wake up and to your dismay you realize you cannot remember a thing. However, this time by the second repeat it is all back in your mind. This time it took you only 18 seconds to get to the stage that in the first day took you 63 seconds and in the second day 45 seconds. Again, even though you mastered the line by the second repeat, you do the full seven repetitions. On the fourth day, chances are that you will not need to do any repeat. You simply know the line. I have never met anyone who needed more than seven days to get to this stage. Usually by the third/fourth day they have learned their chunk of information (provided that the size of the chunk could be learned after seven repeats).

The important information here is this. If you repeat your verse 700 times (instead of 7), It will make no difference whatsoever to the speed with which you will learn it. It will still take four days. You do not need to believe me. Just try it. Get two passages of a piece. Size them so that they can be learnt after seven repeats. Do only seven repeats on the first one, and 700 repeats on the second. See which one is thoroughly learnt first. My prediction is that they will both take exactly the same amount of time to be learnt

In the case of a passage of music, you will probably do more things then just repeat it. After repeating seven times, I would work on hands separate and hands together. Depending on the passage I might use rhythmic variations, or play it in chords, or other practice variations. So it may take 15 – 20 minutes to go through all these routines, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. Then that is it for the day! Only go through that passage again next day. If you want to devote 5 hours a day to piano practice, use the remaining time to practice other passages, or even passages from other pieces.

So use the 7-repeat principle to define the section you are going to practice. Then practice it only for the time necessary to master it (usually less then 15 – 20 minutes, but rarely a bit more). Then leave it until the next day. Repeat the same process again until you finally know it (should take 3 – 4 days)


7 repeats or 700. It makes no difference. The point is to use 7 repeats to define, or better yet, validate, a section size to practice, and then use a proceeding 15-20 minutes to attempt to master it (I say validate because I strongly believe that dividing a piece into sections should be done away from the piano, not unlike fingering).

But hey, like I said, don't believe me. Instead, test what I say, otherwise all the reading and writing you're doing is a waste of time.

Click to reveal..
Originally Posted By: Bernhard

There are several threads dealing with practice methods/tricks in the forum. Have a look in a few of them:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1078506136

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1074857245

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1073455478

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1073940433

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1076338892;start=50

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1076256873

Your problem will be to sort out the true gems from the rubbish. I cannot do that for you because:

1. Who am I to say that my suggestions are true gems and the suggestions of people who disagree with me are rubbish?

2. What works in terms of efficient practice cannot be decided by verbal argument (I was going to say intellectual argument but…)

3. What works for a certain person may not work for you and vice versa.

So here is what you do:

Make a list of practice techniques that may seem to contradict each other. Choose two pieces of music of similar difficulty and similar technical demands. Practise one using method 1 and the other piece using method 2. After a couple of days/weeks practice it should be totally obvious which practice technique is the good one.

This is a very good way to go about it because:

1. It is scientific, and therefore bypasses mere opinions.

2. It increases your repertory (it forces you to learn two pieces instead of one).

3. It teaches you about the pieces (you will have to analyse them to figure out if they are the same degree of difficulty).

4. It teaches you about several practice techniques.

5. It makes your practice focused and mindful instead of mechanical and thoughtless.

6. It personalises your practice: soon you will know what works for you and what does not work for you



Quote:
but if i don't try to play fast, how do i know whether i can play the pieces?
Do you mean that, i can increase speed when i can play the current tempo comfortably?


Look here for more discussion on the topic of slow practice, and then use the method above to decide what is rubbish and what is not:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1081041954

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1019674462

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1080242821



Quote:
I have read the website of Chang, the practice methods.
are they useful?


If you go through the forum, here are two opinions you will find:

Yes, they are very useful.
No, they are rubbish.

It does not matter what people say (and even if it did, who are you going to believe?). Chang has argued his own case. It is up to you to try out his ideas and decide for yourself.

Finally. Irrespective of how you practice, the way to improve faster is:

1. To equate practice with improvement. If you have not improved, you have not practised. If you spend five hours at the piano and after five hours you have not improved, then you have not practised, you have just done piano related activity.

2. To know exactly what you want to improve, that is you must practise with an aim. (If you don’t know what you want to improve, how will you know that you improved?).

3. To organise your long term goals (e.g. learn a Beethoven sonatas) into tiny short term goals that add up to your long term goal. Then apply [1] and [2] to each short term goal.

4. To be totally systematic, so that you accomplish [3]. Most people are totally chaotic in their practice. Think of building a house or baking a cake. You must do it in steps (small steps), The steps must be done in a certain order, and you must do them systematically until you get a completed house or a nice cake out of the oven.


I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.




Here are four links you ought to read, which should thoroughly clarify the "7 repeats tool" in the context of practicing piano:


Edited by Bobpickle (07/30/13 06:36 PM)

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#2125456 - 07/30/13 06:07 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
tangleweeds Offline

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Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
I would emphasize that if something piano-related hurts your hand (or even just makes it uncomfortable and/or very tense) the very last thing you should do is repeat it hundreds of times -- unless, of course, you have some perverse desire to permanently injure yourself in such as way as to prevent all future piano playing.
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#2125459 - 07/30/13 06:11 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Morodiene]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
.


Edited by Bobpickle (07/31/13 12:44 AM)

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#2125534 - 07/30/13 08:51 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
earlofmar Online   content
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Registered: 03/21/13
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Loc: Australia
There seems to be an inherent resistance within us not to follow the Bernhard method. I was glad to have found it for it has changed the way I practice. For those of us lucky enough to have 2 - 4 (or more) free hours a day in which to spend with our piano, it feels easier to bash away again and again at the same piece or problem area. So it does take a bit of self restraint and trial and error to find and implement a practice regime to suit the individual.
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#2125538 - 07/30/13 09:02 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11656
Loc: Canada
I dunno. When I read a suggestion by a teacher, I usually ask "What do you mean? Could you explain this further?" I agree with Morodiene but I am probably also understanding it differently. I am also not in love with terms like "scientific" to bolster something, especially for things like music.

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#2125591 - 07/30/13 10:40 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Bobpickle]
lotal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/09
Posts: 42
Loc: Russia
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: lotal
I do not agree that "the evidence is clear".


You don't agree that the evidence is clear because you're viewing and trying to logically process the information through your prism of experience. You don't have to agree with or believe anything that anyone tells you. In fact, oftentimes with something like this, you shouldn't. What you should do, however, is try and better yet, test, the advice that's been given and compare it to any other method with which you're familiar. The fact is, the results aren't likely to be exactly the same and you'll come to realize that one method is clearly better than the other.

Originally Posted By: Bernhard
1. The human brain learns by “chunks”, and then by joining these chunks into larger chunks. Anything that can be learned by repetition will be learned after seven repetitions. If after seven repetitions you have not learned the “chunk”, it means that the chunk was too large for the brain to handle. You must break it down into smaller chunks.

Let us say that you want to learn a poem with 200 verses. If you read the full 200 verses seven times, chances are that after seven times you will not have learned it. Most people who are not aware of what I am about to say, will just keep repeating the whole poem in the hope that by increasing the number of repeats they will eventually master it. Let us say that it takes 30 minutes to repeat aloud 200 verses. Repeating the poem seven times will take 3.5 hours, and at the end of it you will not have learned it. So you repeat another seven times. You still will not have learned it. So you do another seven times with the same dismal and pathetic result. Now you have been reading this poem for 10.5 hours. Do that for a whole month. I bet that at the end of the month, practicing 10.5 hours a day (21 repetitions) you still will not have learnt the poem. This is partly because you cannot fit enough repetitions in a day (the poem is simply too large), but also because if you have not learned after seven repetitions increasing the number of repetitions will not make any difference.

So what should you do? You must decrease the size of the chunk of information that you are trying to learn. How much should you decrease it? Well, start by cutting the poem in half: 100 verses. Now this takes only 15 minutes to read through. After seven repeats, did you learn it? If you did, this is the chunk size you can cope with. If not, the chunk size is still too large. So cut it in half again: 50 verses, which you can now read in 7.5 minutes. Now let us say that by cutting it in half and trying to learn the chunk in seven repetitions you finally got to 1 verse. That can be read in 9 seconds. This is the exploratory stage of your practice: when you find out what is the larges chunk you can learn by repeating it seven times. With experience you will get this size fairly immediately. But in the beginning expect to spend sometime learning about yourself and your learning capacity.

So you figured out that one verse is (for you) learnable after seven repeats. After seven repetitions you just know it. So it is going to take you (9x7) = 63 seconds to master one line of the poem. To master the 200 verses will take you exactly 3. 5 hours, the same amount of time it took you to read through the whole poem 7 times without making any progress whatsoever. The conclusion is obvious: Breaking your learning tasks into chunks that can be learned after seven repeats will save an amazing amount of time, as compared to the alternative of reading the whole thing seven times.


2. The second principle is: You learn nothing until it is processed by the unconscious. Dreaming is one of the symptoms of this, so you need at least one night sleep in between learning sessions before you actually learn what you have been practicing. Usually you need several nights sleep depending on the complexity of your task. This is the 20-minute principle.

Going back to the 200-line poem. It took you 63 seconds to repeat and learn the first line. That’s it! You do not need to do any more work on this line today. You can do, if you want, but it will not make any difference whatsoever.

If you do your seven repeats (63 seconds), stop and go to bed, next day when you wake up you will find that you pretty much forgot the line. So you must start again, and repeat the line seven times (63 seconds again). But you will discover that although you felt as ignorant as in the first day, this time it took you only 5 repeats to get to the stage you were in yesterday after 7 repeats. So you re-learnt the line in 45 seconds, instead of the 63 seconds. Never mind that, do your seven repeats again (even though you have mastered it by the fifth). On the third day, you wake up and to your dismay you realize you cannot remember a thing. However, this time by the second repeat it is all back in your mind. This time it took you only 18 seconds to get to the stage that in the first day took you 63 seconds and in the second day 45 seconds. Again, even though you mastered the line by the second repeat, you do the full seven repetitions. On the fourth day, chances are that you will not need to do any repeat. You simply know the line. I have never met anyone who needed more than seven days to get to this stage. Usually by the third/fourth day they have learned their chunk of information (provided that the size of the chunk could be learned after seven repeats).

The important information here is this. If you repeat your verse 700 times (instead of 7), It will make no difference whatsoever to the speed with which you will learn it. It will still take four days. You do not need to believe me. Just try it. Get two passages of a piece. Size them so that they can be learnt after seven repeats. Do only seven repeats on the first one, and 700 repeats on the second. See which one is thoroughly learnt first. My prediction is that they will both take exactly the same amount of time to be learnt

In the case of a passage of music, you will probably do more things then just repeat it. After repeating seven times, I would work on hands separate and hands together. Depending on the passage I might use rhythmic variations, or play it in chords, or other practice variations. So it may take 15 – 20 minutes to go through all these routines, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. Then that is it for the day! Only go through that passage again next day. If you want to devote 5 hours a day to piano practice, use the remaining time to practice other passages, or even passages from other pieces.

So use the 7-repeat principle to define the section you are going to practice. Then practice it only for the time necessary to master it (usually less then 15 – 20 minutes, but rarely a bit more). Then leave it until the next day. Repeat the same process again until you finally know it (should take 3 – 4 days)


7 repeats or 700. It makes no difference. The point is to use 7 repeats to define, or better yet, validate, a section size to practice, and then use a proceeding 15-20 minutes to attempt to master it (I say validate because I strongly believe that dividing a piece into sections should be done away from the piano, not unlike fingering).

But hey, like I said, don't believe me. Instead, test what I say, otherwise all the reading and writing you're doing is a waste of time.

Click to reveal..
Originally Posted By: Bernhard

There are several threads dealing with practice methods/tricks in the forum. Have a look in a few of them:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1078506136

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1074857245

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1073455478

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1073940433

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1076338892;start=50

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1076256873

Your problem will be to sort out the true gems from the rubbish. I cannot do that for you because:

1. Who am I to say that my suggestions are true gems and the suggestions of people who disagree with me are rubbish?

2. What works in terms of efficient practice cannot be decided by verbal argument (I was going to say intellectual argument but…)

3. What works for a certain person may not work for you and vice versa.

So here is what you do:

Make a list of practice techniques that may seem to contradict each other. Choose two pieces of music of similar difficulty and similar technical demands. Practise one using method 1 and the other piece using method 2. After a couple of days/weeks practice it should be totally obvious which practice technique is the good one.

This is a very good way to go about it because:

1. It is scientific, and therefore bypasses mere opinions.

2. It increases your repertory (it forces you to learn two pieces instead of one).

3. It teaches you about the pieces (you will have to analyse them to figure out if they are the same degree of difficulty).

4. It teaches you about several practice techniques.

5. It makes your practice focused and mindful instead of mechanical and thoughtless.

6. It personalises your practice: soon you will know what works for you and what does not work for you



Quote:
but if i don't try to play fast, how do i know whether i can play the pieces?
Do you mean that, i can increase speed when i can play the current tempo comfortably?


Look here for more discussion on the topic of slow practice, and then use the method above to decide what is rubbish and what is not:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1081041954

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1019674462

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1080242821



Quote:
I have read the website of Chang, the practice methods.
are they useful?


If you go through the forum, here are two opinions you will find:

Yes, they are very useful.
No, they are rubbish.

It does not matter what people say (and even if it did, who are you going to believe?). Chang has argued his own case. It is up to you to try out his ideas and decide for yourself.

Finally. Irrespective of how you practice, the way to improve faster is:

1. To equate practice with improvement. If you have not improved, you have not practised. If you spend five hours at the piano and after five hours you have not improved, then you have not practised, you have just done piano related activity.

2. To know exactly what you want to improve, that is you must practise with an aim. (If you don’t know what you want to improve, how will you know that you improved?).

3. To organise your long term goals (e.g. learn a Beethoven sonatas) into tiny short term goals that add up to your long term goal. Then apply [1] and [2] to each short term goal.

4. To be totally systematic, so that you accomplish [3]. Most people are totally chaotic in their practice. Think of building a house or baking a cake. You must do it in steps (small steps), The steps must be done in a certain order, and you must do them systematically until you get a completed house or a nice cake out of the oven.


I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.




Here are four links you ought to read, which should thoroughly clarify the "7 repeats tool" in the context of practicing piano:


Bobpickle

My remark about evidence did not refer to validity and efficiency of any of Bernhard’s methods. It was about the “evidence” that all is clear and nothing in the methodology may be improved. I am avid supporter and follower of Bernhard’s and Chang’s views for several years. I have read almost all of Bernhard topics when he was active at the pianostreet and even translated his most basic posts for my own blog http://soltem.livejournal.com It is the comparison of Bernhard’s method of 7 error-free times + 15 minute sessions with some conclusions of the book mentioned that I put for discussion here. Perhaps, I am not so much fluent in my English to make it so evident. I do not doubt efficiency of Bernhard’s method! I doubt if it is a closed case.
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#2125626 - 07/30/13 11:56 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Bobpickle]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11756
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I think perhaps you are going about this in too scientific/logical a fashion. Yes, there is that aspect to it, but practice should always be a creative process. And by process, I mean that as you improve as a pianist, you learn how to be better at practicing efficiently, creatively, and effectively.


This is true, but without first having a scientifically-grounded core routine to follow through which to provide a place and a context for instructions like "practice slow" and "practice in small sections," then telling someone to do such things is akin to telling them to bake a cake with "flour and eggs." While such ingredients are obviously invaluable, without providing a context, such advice is clearly useless. Now you argue that one must be creative in order to figure out these things, but the simple fact is that there's no reason to have to try and re-invent the wheel when there are already perfectly rational general guidelines which exist that one can try and follow. I'd argue that it's much more rational, efficient, and effective to start with such proven guidelines (that so few teachers seem to provide) and adapt those over time rather than to tell someone that they just need to figure it out on their own from scratch over time (advice that so many teachers unfortunately do provide).
I'm confused as to why you think I am suggesting reinventing the wheel from the post I made which did not offer any concrete suggestions on how to practice since we aren't talking about a concrete problem with a concrete piece of music and a real person. Please stop projecting what you think I would say to a student who is having a problem playing a particular passage in a piece (your welcome for the alliteration).
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#2125656 - 07/31/13 12:43 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Morodiene]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Please stop projecting


Yes, I clearly stupidly took personal offense at the comment and overreacted. I'm sorry.

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#2126170 - 07/31/13 11:50 PM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: Bobpickle]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11756
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Please stop projecting


Yes, I clearly stupidly took personal offense at the comment and overreacted. I'm sorry.
Don't sweat it, Bob. I read your other post and I understand where you are coming from. Being a sensitive person is not a bad thing. Being enthusiastic is also not a bad thing. It is great to have ideas that are revolutionary to you and make such a big impact. Please continue to share, and understand we all have those ideas that we want to share as well. smile
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#2132160 - 08/13/13 07:52 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
CebuKid Offline
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Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1176
I started a similar thread awhile back which I called, "Chunk and Repeat." (I should trademark that...lol)

Here's my take on it. Everyone learns differently, and there's much debate on "real" memorization vs. muscle memorization, etc. The way I've always learned as an adult re-beginner is....I'll learn chunks of the piece, using the score, and repeat these chunks several times..still using the score. Eventually after enough repeats (which could take days), "muscle memory" takes over for me and now that chunk is memorized. This method doesn't stick, by the way. Those who can "read and play" (not sight-read, but read while playing) consistently are much better off. All the experts here are correct on that. smile

Case-in-point...My memorized rep. is down to one and bits and pieces of others..to get my rep. back, I'll have to chunk and repeat all over again, though it'll probably be easier... I'll get back into it soon enough. smile



Edited by CebuKid (08/13/13 08:40 AM)
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#2132558 - 08/14/13 12:03 AM Re: How many repeats per day? [Re: lotal]
Michael_99 Offline
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Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
lotal, I have read your post, here:

I came to a paradox, which I cannot resolve myself. Can anybody help?

There is a common advice to learn a piece by small chunks, with special care to difficult spots. In most difficult passages the practiced selection of notes may be diminished to just a few. Furthermore, it is often said that the chunk should be of such size that one would master it in 5-15 minutes. They say you must finish with it by 5-7 deliberate repeats without errors and forget about the passage till the next day, hoping for the post practice improvement to do its work through the night.

On the other hand, music practice is often compared with rehabilitation of patients, who suffered a stroke. In both cases one trains one’s brain and grow additional links between neurons. For example, an excellent book about that is “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science” by Norman Doige. To make the damaged brain grow extra internal connections the patient should repeat hand movements zillions times a day, 500 at least, but the more the better, through all the day.

You see, I can not the two approaches make met. Should I deliberately repeat complex hand movements 5 or 500 times per day? OK, I may notice some difference: there is a memory issue and there is an issue about feasibility of a movement. Evidently, when one has no problems with the movement itself, but tries to memorize it, then 5 error-free repeats would be all right. When one practices a thrill, probably, he would do those 500 repeats in 10 minutes. However, most real passages are of grayscale, partially difficult in movement and needed to be memorized. What about them? What is the adequate procedure? I may after all repeat a “grayscale” passage 5 times without errors in 10 minutes, but hardly my movements will be light and easy. Why not to work on the movement for some more time or in other practice sessions of the day? Hardly would I reach the number of 500 for repeats for this grayscale passage.

Any solutions? If you suggest further diminishing down to a couple of most problem notes within the passage to play them separate 500 times, I gave a thought to that already, but I do not feel fully content with that solution. It seems to me than not all movements may be atomized down to separate notes without some loss of its total sense, like the thrill is not exactly practiced by just two keystokes. I also have read Chang’s book and am familiar with the method of parallel sets, which make it possible to go from two keystrokes to ten or twenty when practicing a thrill. But still… the two approaches above do not seem to meet well.

_________________________

Interesting post.

lotal you say: There is a common advice to learn a piece by small chunks, with special care to difficult spots. In most difficult passages the practiced selection of notes may be diminished to just a few. Furthermore, it is often said that the chunk should be of such size that one would master it in 5-15 minutes. They say you must finish with it by 5-7 deliberate repeats without errors and forget about the passage till the next day, hoping for the post practice improvement to do its work through the night.

humblebeginnerpianoplayer says: When I begin a piece, I first read through the measures to be sure I can play or know the names of the notes on the staff, below the staff and above the staff. Then I read through the measures again to make sure I know the values of the notes in every measure as you count the values as you work through the measures. Then I start at the beginning of the piece crawling through the measures slowly playing without mistakes. If I make a mistake then I stop and try to figure out why I made a mistake. Was it not reading the note properly or was it a timing error.

Recently, I had a difficulty - a big difficulty - and I couldn't figure out why I would freeze because I knew all the names of the notes and I knew the values of the note to be played. But what happened was that after studying the problem - it was that my brain had to play a few simple chords of 2 notes and then change to another two note chord - so it should have been a simple job for my brain to do, but I guess that is something my brain hadn't encountered before, so I helped my brain out - because I didn't want to waste time waiting for my brain to get it right.

So I took a moment to write out the notes - note by note for the two measures that my brain had trouble with - because the rest of the piece I could play without mistakes easily - as I was saying writing out the notes - note by note - but I added the next note. So it helped my brain because it only had to play one note at a time as opposed to two notes at a time - a chord - and then the change of the 2 note chord, so effectively I was playing all the notes in order and with the proper note values but only ever one note at a time as opposed to 2 notes - a chord - doing that a few times slowly and without mistakes - my brain liked that - and then I went back to the measures that were trouble and played those measures as one would and it worked because my brain now had a memory of the sequence of the notes being played and it was an easy step now for the brain to handle the chords because the brain had the experience it had just had.

So now I have learned how to quickly recognize the problem and break it down for my brain.

And like all things piano, when your brain gets a new experience under its fingers, it is there for life.



Edited by Michael_99 (08/14/13 12:14 AM)

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