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#2191535 - 12/02/13 05:24 PM Can someone explain a few common terms on here??
blackspaven Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/27/13
Posts: 98
Okay, so been trawling various pages on different forums here and two things have caught my eye to which I'm not sure I can fully understand so can someone elaborate on these:

Tension: keep reading that incorrect playing can cause this, and although I understand the definition of the word, I'm not sure exactly what context in means when people refer to it with playing piano or playing piano badly.

Efficient practice: I have a piano teacher and I started with posture/body positions and all that entails, C major scale (obviously), and a few Beatles songs for sight reading. in the last 6-8 months since then I've moved on to circle of fifths, various classical pieces (Bach, Purcell, etc) and a lot of other scales, both major & minor, but this phrase has made me wonder if I'm practicing efficiently as I have no idea what that is or what inefficient practicing entail.

I'm loving playing and even have access to an upright at the school I volunteer at so can practice there as well...

...but can you lovely chaps please elaborate for me so I can progress without missing something that might be obvious to you guys or 'hurt' my playing in the short or long term?

Thanks.

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#2191544 - 12/02/13 05:53 PM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: blackspaven]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5317
Loc: Philadelphia
These will be quasi-facetious answers, but will cut to the quick:

Tension - (1) that thing everyone describes, but even when you know what it is, you often cannot feel, see, or sense it in your own playing. (2) that thing you hear when you miss a note, but don't know what caused it. (3) that thing causing fatigue, discomfort, and/or pain.

Efficient Practice - (1) what you should be doing when you're piddling around with other things. (2) that semi-paradoxical thing that says you can only do it after you (a) know what you're doing, and (b) know how to do it. (3) what you often end up doing when you stop correcting mistakes that you're not making.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2191590 - 12/02/13 07:52 PM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: blackspaven]
earlofmar Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1584
Loc: Australia
blackspaven my teacher had never heard of tension and like you I was curious as to the many posts here where it is used commonly. My interpretation is that unless the arm, fingers and hand are totally relaxed then the subsequent tension will have some detrimental effect whether causing injury or mistakes or worse becomes a habit. Perhaps discussing this with your teacher is what you should do.

You should also discuss with your teacher efficient practice methods, but it is what is says on the box. Mindful practice as I have also heard it called is a planned session or sessions where your pieces, technical exercises, sight reading are all done in a methodical way. I follow a few simple rules

1. Practice every day (if I can)
2. Spend no more than 20mins per day on any section of a piece or exercise
3. Never overpractice a piece or technical difficulty (refer No 2)
4. Never practice tired
5. Any trouble with I might be having - sleep on it.

There has been a lot written on this matter and you can have a look here and here

The latter link comes from a much larger resource you can check out here
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
XXXV-6-XXX

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#2191736 - 12/03/13 04:25 AM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: earlofmar]
blackspaven Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/27/13
Posts: 98
Thanks guys. I think it looks like I'm doing those things anyway, so that's cool. I find I run through scales methodically or if I'm struggling with a piece I only stick with it for 10-20 minutes then come back at a later point.

If tension is literally the feeling when you start bracing up, I'm consciously aware of what that is and try to relax when I notice it.

So, fingers crossed, all bases sort of covered. smile

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#2192382 - 12/04/13 11:51 AM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: blackspaven]
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
A couple of thoughts:

I think of tension as being, first, physical; the fingers/hand/arm need to relax between notes/movements and not be tight, tense, rigid. Relaxation is learned as technical skills increase, of course, and one needs to practice playing with relaxed arms/hands. Tension can also be mental, as when one feels rushed, unfocused, anxious about the playing. I think the answer is to try to deal with any unrelated concerns while away from the piano and, while on the bench, to focus wholly on the music and on the pleasure of playing, of practicing, making even the slightest degree of progress.

As for efficiency, I think most often that's used to describe practice that includes *just enough* of each element to keep the student progressing. It's hard to explain, but perhaps this example will help:

I recently decided to learn Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor (posth) for a Dec. 14 piano party. The piece was at the limit of my abilities and would take an enormous effort but it was potentially doable. For the first two weeks, I made great progress, spending all my practice time on that one piece. The next two weeks, I missed some days of practice due to family/personal obligations, but I continued to work on that one piece. Two days ago, I realized that I was losing ground rather than progressing because I was not practicing efficiently: 1) By not spending practice time on my scales, arpeggios, etc. I was failing to develop and keep the technical skills I needed to play the piece. 2) In focusing only on that one piece, I had begun to rush through my practice, ingraining mistakes as well as advances, so the piece was developing very erratically. 3) Focusing all my efforts on a piece that would require the utmost attention and practice every day was creating mental and emotional stress – and making it harder to practice.

So, I stopped work on the Chopin and decided to play a much shorter, easier piece on Dec. 14. My lesson yesterday, at which my teacher discussed all of this, was an absolute delight – and I am in very good shape to prepare the simpler piece in time. I learned a great deal about the waltz itself and about myself while working on the Chopin, and will continue to work on the piece. So I don’t regret for one minute the time I’ve spent on it so far – but it was very important for me to recognize when I had reached a point of diminishing returns so that I could adjust my plans and my practice. For the next week and a half, I’ll be all about Charlie Chaplin’s lovely song “Smile” and my regular scales, Hanon, etc. smile

I hope this is helpful.
_________________________
Deborah
Charles Walter 1500
Happiness is a shiny red piano.

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#2192407 - 12/04/13 12:41 PM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: blackspaven]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 971
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
I don't claim to have mastered efficient practice, but for me it means being aware of just what I'm trying to accomplish. If I play through a piece, is it to check for rough spots that need work? to shape the overall musicality? to practice performing? If working on a problem area, I try to analyze what isn't working and concentrate on that. Usually I start with focused areas rather than playing through.

I don't think in terms of allotting specific amounts of time or numbers of repetitions. Instead, I work on something till I feel I've absorbed what I can for that session or one particular aspect. As others have said, it's important to stop and do something different before you lose focus.

I use scales largely to check for that dreaded tension.
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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#2192431 - 12/04/13 01:21 PM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: jdw]
piano_deb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/05
Posts: 787
Loc: Memphis, TN
Originally Posted By: jdw
I don't claim to have mastered efficient practice, but for me it means being aware of just what I'm trying to accomplish. If I play through a piece, is it to check for rough spots that need work? to shape the overall musicality? to practice performing? If working on a problem area, I try to analyze what isn't working and concentrate on that. Usually I start with focused areas rather than playing through.


That's a useful/helpful explanation, jdw. smile
_________________________
Deborah
Charles Walter 1500
Happiness is a shiny red piano.

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#2192480 - 12/04/13 03:45 PM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: blackspaven]
Marco M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/12
Posts: 451
Loc: Europe
Well, good practicing is NOT playing through a piece over and over again until it sounds good. But it is to find the difficult phrases in a piece and practice them very concentrated. If the phrase is difficult, in simplified words, because it contains a jump from one note to the next one spanning a full octave, then for instance practice for some few minutes only this two notes, practice first to master the jump of the octave. Or if a difficulty is in the rythm, practice only the rythm, for instance by clapping it with your hands, or playing it with your fingers on your legs, or what ever lets you perfectly concentrate only on that difficulty without becoming distracted by something else in the piece. Only later on, as you advance, you put the phrases together. This is efficient practising, although not sounding so much fun but being kind of systematic, harder work. But the result will gift you with joy! It is efficient, because it brings you faster to the goal, to master the full piece.
_________________________
learning Piano on my Roland HP-505
before playing Drums in adults bluesband on handpicked set; before crashing E-Guitar in kids garage band; raised on home entertainment Organ and Keyboard models Eminent Solina P240, Farfisa Maharani 259R, Technics KN800, and on Mouth Organ, Recorder and Accordion

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#2192705 - 12/04/13 11:29 PM Re: Can someone explain a few common terms on here?? [Re: piano_deb]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 971
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Originally Posted By: piano_deb


That's a useful/helpful explanation, jdw. smile


Nice of you to say so smile!
_________________________
1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Grieg, Papillon
Mozart, K 330
Brahms, Op. 118 no. 2

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