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#2315478 - 08/14/14 12:47 PM How do you go about starting a new piece?
Sean P Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/15/13
Posts: 17
Loc: Ireland!
Out of curiosity on how other people here go about starting, and learning a new piece. smile
I myself just read through the sheet music a million times with a fairly "bland" recording (I use that term for what of a better one smile ), then sit down and take it in small chunks and try interpret it myself. If it's a long or hard piece, I take the most challenging sections first.

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#2315489 - 08/14/14 01:17 PM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18618
Loc: Victoria, BC
If it's a piece I've not heard before (most unlikely, because I usually play only what I like, and what I like is based on past listening experiences) or whether it's one I know well from being familiar with it, I start by simply reading through it.

Immediately I find the most difficult sections and start working on those at a very slow tempo, as slow as it has to be for me to play all the notes in tempo. Sometimes complex sections require hands separate practice but, for the most part, I always practice hands together.

I tend not to listen to recordings while I'm learning a work (some discussion about this in a previous thread), because I like to "discover" the work for myself, seeing, through very close reading, all that I can glean from the printed page. I also read through the score away from the piano; it's often easier to pick up details when one does not have to concentrate on producing sounds while reading.

From that point, when I get the notes under my fingers, but before the piece reaches performance level, I divide it into logical sections and practice sections separately. I make sure that I don't always practice the sections in the same order which is a good argument for not starting each practice session of the piece at the beginning. Doing that, one tends to have the first section well-learned while, often, but not always, the later sections are under much less control. I've so often heard students say something to the effect that they know the first x-number of pages, but they can't play the end - yet! Some fairly advanced students often have the beginning of a piece more secure than the ending because they start their practice sessions from the beginning!

From there, it's a matter of time, patience, attention to detail and perseverance until the work is up to performance level. At that point, I may listen to a few recordings by well-known artists I trust to hear if any interpretive ideas that I may have missed or not thought of appeal to me. Memorization is not necessarily a part of the learning plan, although if memory comes easily as I work on it, I may make an effort to memorize.

The final stage is preparing the work for some kind of semi-public performance in music groups that I belong to.

I just started a new work this morning, and it will pretty well follow the above "plan."

- - - - -
Estonia 190

#2315571 - 08/14/14 05:33 PM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3820
something like this

1. find sheet music, maybe multiple versions (some versions have bad layout, useless fingerings, errors etc).

2. listen to recordings

3. analyze, determine phrasing, voicing, melody, accents,

4. play parts hands separate and determine fingerings, using (3) as guide, and checking that fingering works at target speed (if I can reach that hands separate)

5. try to slowly play hands together. Try to bring up to speed hands together. I use many tricks here, like working backwards, changing rythms etc.

Step 5 is not working fine with me, it takes way too much time. There may be something wrong with my approach, I think step 5 should go smoother.

I'm doing this approach on segments, not on the entire piece at once. I'm not working start to end, I may start on the hard page 4, then start on page 1 for instance. Also, I sometimes can't make a good analysis and then I start playing the section anyway, makig the analysis based on what sounds good or when I get an idea about it later. Also when playing I may realize that the analysis does not work, I hear it different, or I think another analysis works better. I may then have to change things; but I try to keep fingerings unchanged unless it really does not work.

#2315753 - 08/15/14 02:02 AM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
trigalg693 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/08
Posts: 708
1. Listen to a lot of different recordings, usually while looking at sheet music unless I "know" the piece pretty well. Preliminary analysis of the music happens here, and I know mostly what I'm going to do musically by this point.

2. Play through a lot of times until the notes are in memory. I use both hands whenever I can, and I play through the entire thing if I can. I also go as fast as I can: I strongly prefer having everything memorized as quickly as possible. If the memorization is very slow though, I'll be working on any difficult passages instead of playing through.

3. Work through technical kinks, polish things up.

Edited by trigalg693 (08/15/14 02:05 AM)

#2315756 - 08/15/14 02:18 AM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6025
Loc: Down Under
For an ensemble piece:
[1] Read it. Play it (at tempo if that's possible, under if it's not).
[2] Identify the tough bits which are going to need special attention.
[3] I probably only listen to a recording if I'm wondering "how insanely fast are people likely to play this?"
[4] Decide whether to take the gig or not. smile
[5] Make sure I have a decent legible score.

For a solo piece:
[1], [2] and [5].

Then it's a matter of time, and patient work. Little and often seems to work best for me.
Du holde Kunst...

#2315810 - 08/15/14 06:03 AM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
mc9320 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/04/11
Posts: 70
Loc: London, UK
If I'm learning a piece I always listen to it first. Then I play from the sheet music, just the melody in the right hand. If it's a long piece I'll only do this for one section. Then I add the left and right hand together playing it slowly.

If I'm sight reading (which is a struggle for me as I play better by ear), I scan the music for the difficult passages and practice those first.
Martyn Croston - Jazz Pianist
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#2316108 - 08/16/14 12:36 AM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
RubberFingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/11
Posts: 31
Often I learn a piece from back to front. Start with the last two measures. Once they are solid, add the previous two measures. This gets me out of the habit of playing from beginning to end without really practicing the material. And often pieces have a repetitive nature that's pretty easy to learn, until the composer throws a curve ball at you. So learn the curve ball first.

I like the fact that the further into a piece I go, the better I know it.

#2316157 - 08/16/14 06:45 AM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8195
I just sit down and start to read through it as best I can. From that beginning, I just follow my intuition about what to do next - it could be almost anything, depending on the piece and what I want from it.

Most of the time, I am not under any pressure to get a piece into presentable condition within any time frame (unless it's for an e-cital here), and so I can enjoy the luxury of simply working on a piece for the sake of working on it.

#2316233 - 08/16/14 12:17 PM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
Fiona0424 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/29/14
Posts: 217
1. Read.
2. Practice.
3. Play.
4. The End.

"If music be food of love, play on!"
P.S. I am in love with Beethoven, infatuated with Liszt, and crazy about Chopin!
And when he behaves, Rachmaninoff is my darling! ;p

#2317074 - 08/18/14 07:46 PM Re: How do you go about starting a new piece? [Re: Sean P]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6222
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Reading all the answers provided here... I have to say that I usually do exactly what currawong does apart from [4] because I don't like to perform in public.

Music is my best friend.


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