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#578574 - 12/09/07 09:59 PM Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
soupinmyhair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/06
Posts: 100
Next semester, I'm going to be dealing with a much larger quantity of music than any of my previous semesters, and I'm wondering how I should go about practicing them to learn them quickly. These pieces include the 1st mvt of the Schumann Concerto, the 2nd and 3rd movement of a Beethoven sonata, a Chopin etude, and Ravel's Ondine.

I've gotten a rough start on the etude and have learned the notes for the most part of the concerto, but I feel overwhelmed by the quantity of pages of music I need to learn and to practice everyday, particularly because I'm only really used to working on 3 medium sized pieces a semester (e.g. one movement of a classical sonata, a prelude and fugue, and medium sized contemporary piece).

Any suggestions on what I should do?

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#578575 - 12/09/07 10:38 PM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
pianist.ame Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/18/07
Posts: 1166
Loc: Singapore
no doubt you should allocate more time fo piano practise as long as you can.

break those pieces into parts and if I were you, I would go through all of those pieces, highlight the difficult parts and practise those everyday 1st.

that's what I do, and I have 10 pieces now, including the whole schumann concerto.
_________________________
Currently working on:J.S Bach Prelude&Fugue in C major from bk 1,Chopin Etude op.10 no.12,Impromptus nos.1&4 and Mendelssohn Song without words op.67

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#578576 - 12/10/07 11:43 AM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This is not so much a technique
problem, as you already have experience
working up pieces of similar difficulty,
but rather, one of energy management.
One has only so much energy--produced
by the food taken in in the 3 meals of
the day and the min. 8 hrs. spent
in sleep during the night (this is
basic, and if you're not getting these,
then you're damaging your physiology)--
that he can expend during a day without
starting to burn himself out. Thus,
you need to determine what this amt.
of energy is and not exceed it during
a day's activity.

Since this workload is new and more than
you've ever done before, that means that
you will exceed your maximum energy level and
burn yourself out if you try to accomplish
it while doing the same level of activity
that your are presently doing (that's
why you feel "overwhelmed"--you're starting
to burn out). Thus, there needs to
be an adjustment in energy management:
you'll need to reduce your energy
expenditure on other things in order
to have enough to tackle this repertoire
without burning yourself out. If you
take burnout lightly, as many young
people who've never experienced it
tend to do, then you should think twice
about it. Imagine not being able to do
anything, that's burnout, and it's
something to be avoided at all costs.
Reducing your energy expenditure in
other areas might mean less tv, less web
surfing, less extracurricular activities,
less worrying, etc.

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#578577 - 12/10/07 01:03 PM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
This is not so much a technique
problem, as you already have experience
working up pieces of similar difficulty,
but rather, one of energy management.
One has only so much energy--produced
by the food taken in in the 3 meals of
the day and the min. 8 hrs. spent
in sleep during the night (this is
basic, and if you're not getting these,
then you're damaging your physiology)--
that he can expend during a day without
starting to burn himself out. Thus,
you need to determine what this amt.
of energy is and not exceed it during
a day's activity.

Since this workload is new and more than
you've ever done before, that means that
you will exceed your maximum energy level and
burn yourself out if you try to accomplish
it while doing the same level of activity
that your are presently doing (that's
why you feel "overwhelmed"--you're starting
to burn out). Thus, there needs to
be an adjustment in energy management:
you'll need to reduce your energy
expenditure on other things in order
to have enough to tackle this repertoire
without burning yourself out. If you
take burnout lightly, as many young
people who've never experienced it
tend to do, then you should think twice
about it. Imagine not being able to do
anything, that's burnout, and it's
something to be avoided at all costs.
Reducing your energy expenditure in
other areas might mean less tv, less web
surfing, less extracurricular activities,
less worrying, etc. [/b]
So... he should eat more?

:p
_________________________
Houston, Texas

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#578578 - 12/13/07 06:31 AM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Arabesque Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 548
Loc: Japan
The core issue seems to be those "pages". So I would guess that you are worried about getting round everything in one day. I have an answer for this: "don't..!" You need to make a study plan and you don't have to practice all[/b] of the music every day. Work out your practice schedule in phases using a tier system. Analyse your music effectively and work on the sections of each in turn. Grade your sections according to difficulty.

I've learned and memorised whole high intermediate sonatas, etudes, and rhapsodies whilst doing a busy job. Do you mean you had a whole semester for only three medium sized pieces?
_________________________
It don't mean a ting if it don't have dat swing

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#578579 - 12/13/07 08:57 AM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Alexander Hanysz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 141
Loc: Adelaide, South Australia
Learn to work away from the piano. Allocate an hour a day to sit in a comfy chair at home, or maybe in a favourite cafe, and look at the scores of your pieces. See if you can work out fingerings and solutions to technical problems. Analyse the form and harmony. Close the book for a moment and visualise the passage you were just looking at--choose an aspect to focus on, maybe the sound, or the physical feel of playing it, or the look of the printed page. See if you can memorise a section this way. You might be surprised at how much more effective your practice sessions are if you've done some analysis and visualisation first.

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#578580 - 12/13/07 09:03 AM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11704
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Soupinmyhair:
I've encountered a similar problem, although it is one of my choosing. I decided to step up my own development and practice, so I've taken on a bit more than previously. I would do 2-3 pieces, but I had no set goal except once or twice a year performing. Now I have much less time to get much more done, and so I've increased my practice time considerably. I would say that you should list everything that occupies your time during the week, and approximately how much time it takes to do those tasks. Then put the ones that you cannot give up (sleeping, eating, working/school, etc.), and then take a good hard look at the things that are non-essential. Remember, you need downtime too, or you will burnout like Gyro said. Eliminate the non-essentials and learn to say "no" to things that come up that are not a part of your essentials list.

The next step is to determine how to practice. Be sure that you pay attention to how long you can practice for with only short breaks before you've reached your max. Once you get to your max time, then stop for the day. You may be able to gradually increase it, but that all depends on how much time you're spending in practice now. I would say more than 4 hours per day is too much, and no less than 2 hours per day. Of course, this depends on how efficiently you practice, and if you practice away from the keyboard as well, studying the score, thinking about it, etc.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#578581 - 12/13/07 12:01 PM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Alexander Hanysz has written a very good posting about about analysis and visualization. To me this is a major part of getting started with a piece of music. Have you used these techniques before?

I also like affirmation of intentions as a way to keep myself organized and cheerfully working on my specific goals. It's about not allowing yourself to degenerate into a "worrying mode" or the "undermining, self-sabotage" that can gain impetus when you are working on challenging literature with deadlines and a performance outcome. We get out of balance sometimes which adds to the problems.

Some thoughts that keep me on track are: "I welcome this challenge". "I want to do my personal best on this project". "I need to manage my time and efforts well." "I am grateful for this opportunity to grow, learn, and accomplish."

I think the work involved requires you being on track with your decisions and emotions. If you smile while saying these things, I think your brain will respond to the challenge with more willingness and ability than you could ever imagine. If you go the way of a doubter, you will be unfinished, unfulfilled, and upset with yourself. It will seem overwhelming. It's not the music, it's you. And, it's fixable.

Someone said so me that I am a "wholistic piano teacher" this week - (Thanks for that!) And, when I thought about it, since it took me by surprize, I said, "Well, yes, I guess I am because I keep advising that the piano player take good care of self during the music making journey." And, much of what I say is "empowerment" and "quiet mind" and "removing obstacles from within yourself by changing the way you say things to yourself." Like creating a peaceful place within in which to do your work. Like taking good care of your physical and mental health. By pacing yourself and not overloading.

So, my thoughts are not really with the development of the music, I think you can do that - and most certainly can do that when you are setting the stage for the circumstances under which you will do the work.

Wisdom comes from experience - and believing there is a good outcome - and saying gratitude for the experience in your life, for the highest good of all. You can expect "flow" when your intentions are clear. Remove fear and doubt, and focus on love and acceptance.

This works and believe me, I've come through some very difficult things that brought me to this mindset. It works in my whole life, not just in the music making part of me.

I hope this posting isn't too personal or contrary to others beliefs. And, I hope others might find something here that will begin the work on the human as the vessel in making music.

I think we all have bigger capacities than we give ourselves credit for. We can access those capabilities when we remove ourselves as an obstacle and work with dedication to become the conveyor.

With good intentions,

Betty

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#578582 - 12/17/07 05:36 PM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
soupinmyhair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/06
Posts: 100
Thank you all for the help. I will try these ideas out.

This is a new experience for me working with so much music at a time, and I am excited about it, but I am also afraid of burning out as some of you have mentioned.

How long of a time do you think is too long to not go over a certain piece or passage of music if I were to try to use some tier system of practicing where I alternate pieces everyday?

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#578583 - 12/17/07 07:09 PM Re: Systematic way to learn big pieces quickly and effectively
Alexander Hanysz Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 141
Loc: Adelaide, South Australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by soupinmyhair:
How long of a time do you think is too long to not go over a certain piece or passage of music if I were to try to use some tier system of practicing where I alternate pieces everyday? [/b]
It depends. There will be some things that you need to go over every day, maybe even more than once, and other things that you can afford to leave alone for two or three days. You need to learn to prioritise--sorry I can't give you an easy recipe for this!

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