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#589948 - 02/14/08 09:34 PM Passages that never seem to get better
soupinmyhair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/06
Posts: 100
Ever encounter passages of music that you work on and fixate on until it gets to be the way you want it and it doesn't, therefore causing you to work on only that passage and nothing else?

How do you treat this kind of situation?

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#589949 - 02/14/08 10:14 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
Break the passage in half, and if that isn't enough break the half in half.

The best thing to follow a program is to do small steps. When small steps are overwhelming you turn them into baby steps. The same principle applies to piano.

For example there is a running program that's called to-Coach-to-5K where you are supposed to follow small steps. The first step for example is to alternate 90 seconds of jogging and 20 seconds of walking. The second step is 2 minutes of jogging and 20 seconds of walking. But if even the small step is too overwhelming you switch to a baby step which is to walk 3 minutes everyday. The second baby step is to add 30 seconds of running to the 3 minutes of walking. And so on ...

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#589950 - 02/14/08 10:14 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Fraggle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 384
Loc: Nottingham, U.K.
Leave it alone for a week
_________________________
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#589951 - 02/15/08 12:46 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Tenuto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/07
Posts: 550
Loc: U.S.A.
Good advice, Danny Niklas. I've been trying to do that, breaking the small sections into smaller sections. I should try to do that all the time. Thanks.

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#589952 - 02/15/08 01:42 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
If you're using an inappropriate technique/fingering you'll never get it. You may need to seek professional advice.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#589953 - 02/15/08 01:58 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
It's a good idea to be specific about the piece of music and the passage ... then others can offer pertinent advice.

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#589954 - 02/15/08 02:10 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
John Pels Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/07
Posts: 1260
Loc: Tomball, Texas
Small sections and "slow, careful practice" Some sections are just tougher than others. Among other reasons, that is one of the motivators for serious music making. If everyone could do it, where's the challenge in that? My teacher was inclined to say "It was no easier for Chopin!" There were times he would call special studio sessions just to show us how he figured out an easier way to play something that he had been fighting with for 30 years, and he (Abbey Simon) was not a particularly humble guy. I recall being told that only at best 1% of the world's population can produce a one hour program of classical music. Spend a lot of time finding the best fingering and practice the heck out of it with attention to detail of the most minute rhythmic anomalies, especially within the beat. In other words, if you are playing 8 sixteenth-notes in a row, are they even? Inaccurate rhythm can make a mess out of anything. Record what you are working on. Have friends listen attentively with the score. If you play anything 5 times, you can become convinced that it is right, even if it is not. It's that junk in...junk out scenario.

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#589955 - 02/15/08 04:34 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
I have sometimes found that pieces that pose this kind of difficulty can benefit from being left alone for a while. It has sometimes astounded me that when I come back to a piece after a few weeks of not playing it, former technical difficulties diminish markedly.

I doubt this is a physical thing. More a mental one: when we have difficulty we expect difficulty. When the mind has forgotten that difficulty it is more open for correct playing.
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#589956 - 02/15/08 07:15 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Like many things, this isn't a one-answer question. fraggle and Adrian are correct, I think, in noting that mental blocks can become the problem. I have certainly experienced this, though sometimes more time passes than a week. ;\)

On the other hand, there are also circumstances that require professional help. Most of us do not have a perfect understanding of piano technique, nor do we enjoy a pedagogue's sharp awareness of what the demands of every passage of difficult music might be, I have watched my son's technique blossom in the hands of a talented teacher/performer. I suspect someone with even a decade or more of training can get hung up on certain problems that could be eased with a few months of dedicated work with a real professional.
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#589957 - 02/15/08 10:46 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
When I encounter a passage like that the solution is almost always in finding the right ways to practice the section - flipping the triplets, blocking, rhythmns, etc.

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#589958 - 02/15/08 11:35 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
frida1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/02/04
Posts: 199
Loc: Pacific Northwest
My "professional" teachers have given me lots of good advice for these passages. Generally, playing it in a different way (as Phlebas suggests) really helps. If it's a finger passage in a specific rhythm, practice using different rhythms. If there are 1 or 2 specific notes in a fast passage that always go wrong, I often find fingering is at fault. Sometimes it's simply that I haven't internalized which finger to use, and don't even know it until I carefully analyze every note slowly.

Also, try taking it apart. For instance, play only the downbeat in the left hand, while doing only the melody note in the right hand. Try playing only the middle voice, or the top or bottom voice of big chords. If you have octave chords with 4 or 5 fingers used, play only the octave, then fill in the rest later.

It's hard to be specific without knowing what type of passage it is.

Hope this helps.

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#589959 - 02/15/08 10:51 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
RachFan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/03
Posts: 1336
Loc: Maine, U.S.
Treating the passage with different practice methods as suggested above can be very helpful.

Examples: change straight rhythm into dotted rhythm. Play RH forte and LH piano, then the reverse. Watch the hands, see where they go off track, then closely examine fingering. If there is a suggested fingering you've ignored, try it. If after a reasonable trial, it is not optimal either, then carefully devise your own. In arpeggiated or broken chord passages, turn them into solid chords so that your fingers can feel the intervals within the molds of the chords. If the hands are clashing, examine the choreography of the hands and perhaps try raising the wrist of one and lowering the wrist of the other so that they can work better co-habitate in close quarters. If a rhythm is ragged, turn on the metronome and get it in time. Also play through the piece once or twice at tempo with the metronome to see if there are rough spots that cannot be played up to speed needing attention. If there is a cadenza, try practicing it in smaller segments as "confidence builders" that can then be spliced together into a whole. And, when you isolate a problem for intensive practicing with repetitions, retain a "prefix" and a "suffix", meaning include the last beat or two of the prior measure and the first beat or two of the subsequent measure. That way by working on the spot with some of its context included as well, when you put it all back into the piece, the "fix" will be seamless. Again, these are examples. The big thing is to LISTEN, diagnose, come up with a specific strategy, and to implement it thoughtfully and carefully working intelligently and diligently for results.

I hope this is helpful.

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#589960 - 02/17/08 03:40 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2333
Loc: NYC
I started a thread about just such a passage that was giving me trouble, a few months ago. Seems I tried every trick I knew for isolating/rhythmically altering the patterns. I was really getting wrought up about it. It wasn't that I couldn't play it; I just couldn't make it go fast enough.

What finally helped? They were several pages of scalar/arpeggiated patterns in contrary (mirror) motion in both hands. Finally I realized my problem was with the weaker fingers always playing together. Practicing the patterns with emphasis on strengthening the outer fingers was what did it for me.
_________________________
Joe

www.josephkubera.com

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#589961 - 02/17/08 07:20 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
hopinmad Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 1001
Loc: Eryri/Manchester
Do you have a certian passage in mind soupinmyhair?
_________________________
Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

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#589962 - 02/18/08 10:41 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
soupinmyhair Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/16/06
Posts: 100
one passage that I can think of is the part in the 1st movement of the Beethoven Sonata #6 in F major towards the end of the exposition where the left hand has arpeggiated 32nd notes. Anyone know what I'm talking about? It also occurs at the end of the recapitulation...because that's what the recap does in sonata form.

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#589963 - 02/18/08 12:03 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2738
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I had an interesting experience this weekend. I've played the D major prelude for a long time and there're two sections that have resisted being played (by me) up to tempo. Yesterday I had warmed up completely and was playing on a different instrument at a store (RX-6). I hit the first of these two sections and it seemed to just happen. I found myself thinking wow I'm really playing this section well,... than came the trainwreck because I lost my concentration. That probably doesn't help you, but it gave me hope to be able to play these sections as I'd like.

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#589964 - 03/07/08 04:39 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
ChopinChamp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/28/08
Posts: 113
Did you ever try changing the beats a little? My teacher tells me to practice something in different beats... Or just practice it slow until you can hit every note without minor mistakes. And just look over the measures. Is there a part during playing that feels more awkward than the rest? Check your fingering.
_________________________
Currently Working:
Brahms: Intermezzo Op.119 no.3 in C

Currently Polishing:
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#589965 - 03/07/08 11:36 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
JBiegel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 850
Simple:
Start with the first note, then add a note to that, then another, and yet another until you have the entire passage. Sometimes, if it is a passage in the upper part of the piano, practice it lower on the keyboard, where the strings are longer and it is more difficult. If there are leaps, double the jump an octave or more, so when you return to the way it is written, it may seem easier. You can also play the passage with the hand crossed over or under the other hand which reverses the material. For instance, if the LH has the difficult passage, play it up a few octaves higher and play the RH part below that in the bass register. If the RH has the difficult passage, play it a few octaves lower and put the LH part up a few octaves crossed over or under the RH.
_________________________
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#589966 - 03/08/08 12:58 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Guendola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/08
Posts: 39
I had a "silly" block when playing one of Schuberts Impromptus, kept messing up randomly on the easiest sections. Then my teacher told me not to play the whole piece at once but section by section (after each other of course), size of each section "not bigger than your brain", even slow down at the end of each section where necessary. In the end, there was no slowing down audible (except for the intended rubato of course) but everything was fine within a few days again!

Another help: Play around with the difficult section. Leave out notes if it helps, play it backwards, turn it into a silly caricature of itself, change the fingering, cross hands, transpose it to other keys, etc. It doesn't really matter what you do to it as long as you spend some time with the section and analyse it well in all possible and impossible aspects. It is only important that you are imaginative and create your own exercises. Eventually it will click in your head and you are done.

And sometimes, the problem is not in the section where the mistake happens but a bit earlier. So look for sections where you start to feel uneasy and see what is wrong there - if you find any. It can be stupid reasons such as not getting the wrist up in time because of an awkward movement before.

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#589967 - 03/08/08 03:59 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7843
Oftentimes a difficulty will be in what is demanded of one hand or the other, but not both. This may sound weird, but many times in a passage like that, it has helped me to shift my attention to the hand that doesn't have the problem, and somehow the hand that has the problematic material seems to fix itself. It's like once my attention is diverted, the hand can free itself to do whatever is needed, without my conscious intervention.

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#589968 - 03/08/08 05:34 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 943
Loc: California
 Quote:
the part in the 1st movement of the Beethoven Sonata #6 in F major towards the end of the exposition where the left hand has arpeggiated 32nd notes.
I'm working on this sonata too, and here are some ideas that have helped me. Take one of the repeating patterns, for instance G2 C3 D3 G3.
People often tend to play this type of pattern unevenly, so that there is a gap between G3 and the G2 beginning the next cycle. If that's the problem, try practicing the pattern beginning on the second note C3, so it goes C3 D3 G3 G2, C3 D3 G3 G2, etc. And make the first 3 notes a 32nd triplet, and the last G2 a 16th. Repeat this many times, at a slow tempo. Get the sense of G3 flowing right into G2 with no gap. Gradually straighten out the rhythm until it is back to even 32nds, and check whether they are truly even.

I find that a firmly arched hand, with the fingers not too curved, with 2,3, and 4 playing near the ends of the black keys, works pretty well.

The wrist can describe a clockwise "circle" when practicing slow, but this motion will tend to flatten out and almost disappear when playing at tempo.

Can some teachers or expert pianists comment on these tips, or add some of your own?

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#589969 - 03/08/08 07:35 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Mattardo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
If I'm looking at the right passage of Beethoven (where the right hand plays the octaves slightly spaced apart) then I can tell you what works for me. Playing with the right hand is the key to getting proper timing and ariculation - the right hand melody will eventually force the left hand into obedience if you concentrate on the right hand. I find that when one focuses on the left hand too much, you lose the forest by looking at the trees and then confusion comes in. Make sense?
I also feel that this helps with many sections in Beethoven where tripled arpeggios clash with a non-triple melody. Make sure you are technically able to pull of the left hand and understand it's rhythmic relationship to the melody, then focus your mind on the melody. Even playing the left hand sloppily, at first, will begin to meld the two together. Soon, the left hand will become succint by a type of second-awareness. If this sounds ...er, far out, then just give it a shot. I'm not an expert at words... \:\) The important thing for me is that the melody (in this section) dictates that the left hand must conform.

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#589970 - 03/08/08 10:01 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
JBiegel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 850
 Quote:
Originally posted by JBiegel:
Simple:
Start with the first note, then add a note to that, then another, and yet another until you have the entire passage. Sometimes, if it is a passage in the upper part of the piano, practice it lower on the keyboard, where the strings are longer and it is more difficult. If there are leaps, double the jump an octave or more, so when you return to the way it is written, it may seem easier. You can also play the passage with the hand crossed over or under the other hand which reverses the material. For instance, if the LH has the difficult passage, play it up a few octaves higher and play the RH part below that in the bass register. If the RH has the difficult passage, play it a few octaves lower and put the LH part up a few octaves crossed over or under the RH. [/b]
Let me know if this works for you.
_________________________
www.jeffreybiegel.com

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#589971 - 03/08/08 12:19 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Sometimes it's that the section is just a little bit more difficult and that old panic sets in before we get there. It's as though we've preplanned the failure at that point in the music. I find that my adreneline will kick in before I get to a more difficult spot and setup up the failure. I call this the "Oh my God syndrome."

Another thing I discovered too is the "difficult" section is not difficult and the reason why it gets messed up is I've sped up the tempo by the time I've reached that part in the music. When this starts to happen I break out the metronome and do some serious slow practice with the metronome and that seems to cure the problem.

JeffB. Those are excellent tips for tackling leaps and other brain-twisting difficulties. I've kept these in my "toolbox" for years. The only problem with the exaggeration method is that you don't want to do this just before a recital because it will confuse the snot out of you.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#589972 - 03/10/08 06:34 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
cjsm Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 134
Loc: Washington, MO
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
If you're using an inappropriate technique/fingering you'll never get it. You may need to seek professional advice. [/b]
That's good advice, and often a cause of problems.

Sometimes when I can't get a passage quite right, I'll examine the fingering given in the sheet music, and it will be terrible, and the reason I can't quite get a passage to flow the way I want. Poor fingering is very common in sheet music, in my opinion.

I'd guestimate, that 25% of given fingerings are insightful, 50% are pedestrian, and 25% are mediocre or downright terrible. I'm always changing fingerings either to fit my style of playing, or because its bad, and I can come up with something that's much better. On the other hand, the same piece of music may have some insightful fingerings, that may have taken me days or weeks to figure out, or perhaps I'd have never figured it out, playing some fingering that was adequate, but not as good as it could be.

Have you ever checked the fingering for the same piece of music in two different editions? Its sometimes vastly different, and rarely identical.

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#589973 - 03/10/08 10:09 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Guendola Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/08
Posts: 39
I actually have a section in the F-major 2-part invention by bach (#8), third measure I keep messing up the fingering in the left hand. I might have to change the fingering but I so hate having to do that! The piece is so easy to me but this measure is a horror since I started playing it.

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#589974 - 03/10/08 11:20 PM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
Mattardo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 1306
For the Bach, are you using or have you tried Thumb on the initial F, then Thumb on the second D, then Index finger on the second B? I find that is an easy fingering for that passage... You can also just play the initial F with the right hand, since it overlaps, and play the E with the thumb.

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#589975 - 03/11/08 03:55 AM Re: Passages that never seem to get better
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7843
The fingering thing reminded me that if a score gives more than one fingering, it can mess me up. Even after I've decided which fingering to use, it's like my unconscious is constantly saying, "Well, maybe you ought to try that other way." I'm hoping for the day when we get the score in a computer format, and can chose which of various fingering we like, and print it out with just those fingerings. I know, it can be done manually from scratch, but I mean something more automatic, that comes with an electronic version of the score (and this is another idea that would be cool for a piano wiki website - the offering of scores with different fingerings).

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