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#601587 - 12/19/07 04:49 PM How can you master a song?
lamaja16 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 4
Hello everyone!

I have been playing the piano for about 10 years (I am 17 now). Even though this is a long time I still can't fully play a peice without making some weird mistake. I listen to people who can play peices seeemingly without mistakes or flubs, but I can't seem to fully complete a peice. I have been taking lessons off and on, but it hasn't really helped me. Any suggestions or tips will be most appreciated.

Thanks!

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#601588 - 12/19/07 04:59 PM Re: How can you master a song?
Jet Travis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/03/07
Posts: 22
Loc: Pepperland
Well, I'm a true beginner who has no business giving anyone advice, but I'll pass along some words of wisdom my teacher gave me: "When you make a mistake, just keep playing. That's what the pros do."

She also suggests:

Taking a new piece at a very slow pace til it feels right.

Spending about two-thirds of practice time working on a piece's tough spots.

Relaxing and having fun. I'm old enough to know that mistakes will always be part of life and part of music.

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#601589 - 12/19/07 05:04 PM Re: How can you master a song?
kyliec Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 77
What I have found helps:
Lots of SLOW practice,
Record yourself and identify where the flubs tend to happen. Analyse the problem eg is it fingering, rhythm, etc. Take out this small section and practice it repeatedly (slowly and hands separately initially)
Give yourself challenges to play a section (or a line or a bar) without errors so many times in a row (eg 5 times in a row. Go back to 0 if you make a mistake.

The book, The Practice Revolution, has more tips in this area and is quite good.
Also a good teacher is invaluable - I have found I missing key points or going down the wrong track without the guidance of a good teacher.
Cheers, KYlie

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#601590 - 12/19/07 05:28 PM Re: How can you master a song?
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21266
Loc: Oakland
Also, try to develop a tolerance for mistakes. Although you should not make them, they will happen from time to time. I suspect that there are more performances where the performer played through mistakes than there are mistake-free performances.

If they happen, do not dwell on them, and especially do not tell anyone else that you made a mistake. If they know, they know, and if they do not, they do not need to have their enjoyment ruined by pointing it out. Just do it better the next time.
_________________________
Semipro Tech

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#601591 - 12/19/07 05:47 PM Re: How can you master a song?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Please humor me with an analogy first. \:\)

If you were to memorize a song (lyrics) in a foreign language, you could do it at least 1 of 2 ways: just memorize the speech patterns without having any idea what they mean; or, learn the language so that you actually know what you're saying.

The first way works; the problem is that it is very difficult, it's prone to errors, and you won't necessarily know if you're making a mistake (because you won't know why it's a mistake). My brother learned a song in a foreign language this way, when he was very young; he always makes the same mistake on the same word whenever he sings it, but he has no idea! Even when I pointed it out to him several times, he just got frustrated and refused to correct it (or couldn't correct it at that point, or didn't even know what I was talking about).

The second way is of course even more difficult in the short term, but much easier in the long term (hard to learn the language, but once you learn it, it's fairly easy to remember the songs). You won't make silly mistakes because you'll know how silly they are in the first place -- they wouldn't make any sense to sing them. When you understand English, you would never sing "Mary had a bittle lamb" -- what does "bittle" mean? Obviously, it should be "little", but it wouldn't be so obvious if you don't know English.


So, that's basically how I try to think about music. Music is a language -- the notes aren't just random. They have some order to them. Learn how that order works... some people call it "theory", but you can call it whatever you want. If you know how that order works, if you know how music works, then you simply won't make silly mistakes like playing an F-natural in E Major (F-natural doesn't exist in E Major, so why would you play it?) or playing a dotted quarter note as a half note, creating 4.5 beats in a 4/4 bar (which doesn't make any sense), etc. If you really know that you're playing a regular V chord in E Major, then there's no way you'd play a C# (unless it's added chromaticism, which would make sense in the specific context). If you know where things repeat, then all you have to do is look for and memorize what's different in each repetition.

Most people I know who play the piano don't seem to learn much about the music itself -- they just play the notes. And it's not enough just to do a chord analysis, or figure out the form, and then forget it all when you're playing -- which so often has happened to me -- what good does it do if you don't remember what you've analyzed (or figured out, or noticed, or studied, or translated, or whatever you want to call it)?
_________________________
Sam

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#601592 - 12/19/07 05:58 PM Re: How can you master a song?
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
I completely agree with you pianojerome, though surely you of all people should know that F-natural can indeed exist in E major if one is doing some mode mixture, such as this progression:

I6, bII6, V 6/4, V 5/3, I

where F natural will obviously be in the bII6 chord.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

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#601593 - 12/19/07 06:04 PM Re: How can you master a song?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Yes, you're right -- but then, if that's the case, one would understand that and F-natural would make a lot of sense.

Without understanding that mixed context, however, one could very naturally, ignorantly, not know whether to play F-natural or F#.
_________________________
Sam

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#601594 - 12/19/07 09:31 PM Re: How can you master a song?
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Here's one thing you might try.

Record yourself. Then listen carefully with a critical ear. It should appear obvious exactly where in the piece the mistakes are occuring, also known as 'fractures.'

Then focus intensely on practicing the fracture points, transforming the weakest point of the piece into the strongest.

Then, go back and play the entire song again.

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#601595 - 12/19/07 10:02 PM Re: How can you master a song?
lamaja16 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 4
Thanks Everyone I really like the ideas, especially the recording idea.

Great analogy pianojerome! You are right, I often forget what I have just analyzed and therefore play just notes instead of understanding the deeper significance of the piece.

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#601596 - 12/19/07 10:03 PM Re: How can you master a song?
lamaja16 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 4
Thanks Everyone I really like the ideas, especially the recording idea.

Great analogy pianojerome! You are right, I often forget what I have just analyzed and therefore play just notes instead of understanding the deeper significance of the piece.

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#601597 - 12/19/07 10:58 PM Re: How can you master a song?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17829
Loc: Victoria, BC
Another clue to your difficulties may[/b] lie in the statement : "I have been taking lessons off and on, but it hasn't really helped me."

A good teacher is invaluable to continued progress, but one doesn't work with a good teacher "off and on." One works with a good teacher when things go well and when things don't go well, and the good teacher helps encourage your strong points so you can make the most of them and helps correct your weaker points so that they can eventually be overcome.
Many times the perspective of another person who also has teaching experience can pinpoint the problem in a matter of minutes and offer quick, reliable solutions that we, working on our own might take ages to figure out.

Find a good teacher, and work consistently with him or her.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#601598 - 12/20/07 04:18 PM Re: How can you master a song?
Jared88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/16/07
Posts: 56
Loc: Cincinnati
PianoJerome...that was a perfect[/b] analogy.

If I were you lamajay16[/b] I would start to look in to Music Theory, and more specifically Piano Theory...This will take some time and effort but I assure you this knowledge is priceless...

Or a more realistic and "instantly gratifying" solution would be to make a little practice game:

Sit down and start playing your piece from the beginning. Once you make your first mistake stop playing, then start back from the beginning again. Keep repeating this and see how far you can go with out a mistake.

Hope that helps


-Jared
_________________________
88 keys + 10 fingers + 2 hands + the score > 1 set of eyes








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#601599 - 12/20/07 04:59 PM Re: How can you master a song?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
it eventually depends on the individual, with a teacher or not. there're something you just have to work out yourself, and at some point, even a teacher will not be able to help you. my teacher sometimes looked helpless watching me having some problem playing a passage over and over, and he'd just say at last, 'well, you just have to get it yourself...'

so, my theory is that you need first to know what are the correct ways to pracitce a piece, and what techniques/movements are involved, then practice to master the notes and techniques. it would take time to correct some technique problems, but if you know what's correct, then you'd try to achieve that. a teacher can show you the way and identify the technical problems, but you're the one who has to do the work. once technical problems go away, you'd find playing a piece accurately is much easier.

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#601600 - 12/20/07 05:18 PM Re: How can you master a song?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
lamaja16,

To get an idea of what you are concerned about, would you call it "remedial" work necessary, or, "reviewing with awareness".

What do you think your "problems" are - you know what you are experiencing best when you see music, play the music, and hear the music.

If listening "critically" to yourself, don't get critical with yourself, have awareness, and note the categories that you might work on, rhythm, note reading, coordination, interpretation, technique, theory. What are the missing ingredients, do you know? Come up with lesson plans for yourself to see if you can make changes for the better.

Say good things to yourself - affirming things - don't scold or whimper or show irritation - that is 2 steps backwards. This requires a quiet mind and present moment thinking. I have posted a lot on "quiet mind", "present moment" and "attitude", so you may want to search on my name with those words on all forums.

Good luck to you - don't quit before the miracle has happened, OK? And try phrasing about your glass being more than half full, and not half empty at all. What you say to yourself is what you get!

Betty

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#601601 - 12/20/07 11:30 PM Re: How can you master a song?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17829
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by JaredR88:
Or a more realistic and "instantly gratifying" solution would be to make a little practice game:

Sit down and start playing your piece from the beginning. Once you make your first mistake stop playing, then start back from the beginning again. Keep repeating this and see how far you can go with out a mistake.
-Jared [/b]
Actually, I think that is a very unproductive way to practice. If the first half page, one page, two or multiple pages don't present any difficulties and no mistakes occur, why should the poor soul have to go all the way back to the beginning and spend time practicing what he already knows when the first mistake occurs on page five?

The way to fix a problem is to concentrate on fixing the problem, not backing up and taking a long run at it from the beginning. If a mistake occurs at a given point, it is important to analyze what caused the mistake, and not "play it again, Sam" to see if it works[/b] a second, third, tenth, or fifteenth time.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#601602 - 12/20/07 11:38 PM Re: How can you master a song?
lamaja16 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/19/07
Posts: 4
WOW!
This is some good information. I am going to apply these techniques in my next practice.

When first beginning a piece what would you consider to be the initial steps to learning or mastering that piece?

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#601603 - 12/21/07 10:58 AM Re: How can you master a song?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17829
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by lamaja16:
[...]
When first beginning a piece what would you consider to be the initial steps to learning or mastering that piece? [/b]
After determining the basics : key signature, time signature, tempo, and style of the piece, one should start playing through a piece as best one can to determine which areas are going to be the areas that need the greatest amount of work.

I think it's a good idea to start working on the difficult sections first to bring them up to the level of all the other sections of the piece that one can play well. If not, then there will always be those sections, when you sit down to play for someone, that : "...well, I can't play this bit yet, very well, but I can play the rest!" Moreover, one should not pick pieces that one cannot perfect within a reasonable amount of time, otherwise one tends to have too much repertoire that one can't really perform satisfactorily. How many people want to listen to you perform something that is only half-done?

Divide any given piece you're working on into sections and work on perfecting that piece in sections. Don't always begin your practice sessions at the beginning of a piece. We know people who do this consistently and their playing often shows it. The openings of pieces are pretty well note-perfect and well-conceived, but the final sections often seem week and unconvincing, and that's simply because the player hasn't spent as much time on the other sections as s/he has on the beginning section.

A practice session should rarely be a complete play-through of a work; that's not practice. Play-throughs do have their place, however, when one is bringing a piece up to performance level. One has to play through it from beginning to end to assure that one has the concept of the whole, the "architecture" of the piece in control, but that should be reserved, primarily, for the time when all the technical and most of the interpretive difficulties have been mastered.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#601604 - 12/21/07 12:29 PM Re: How can you master a song?
C H O P I N Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/07
Posts: 310
Loc: England
 Quote:
Originally posted by BruceD:
 Quote:
Originally posted by JaredR88:
Or a more realistic and "instantly gratifying" solution would be to make a little practice game:

Sit down and start playing your piece from the beginning. Once you make your first mistake stop playing, then start back from the beginning again. Keep repeating this and see how far you can go with out a mistake.
-Jared [/b]
Actually, I think that is a very unproductive way to practice. If the first half page, one page, two or multiple pages don't present any difficulties and no mistakes occur, why should the poor soul have to go all the way back to the beginning and spend time practicing what he already knows when the first mistake occurs on page five?

The way to fix a problem is to concentrate on fixing the problem, not backing up and taking a long run at it from the beginning. If a mistake occurs at a given point, it is important to analyze what caused the mistake, and not "play it again, Sam" to see if it works[/b] a second, third, tenth, or fifteenth time.

Regards, [/b]
I agree 100%. The problem with starting over and over from the beggining again, is that it will be ONLY the beggining that gets the MOST practise - and its obviously the mistakes that are the ones which need the practise, not the stuff you ALREADY know... This means seperate attention.

My teacher is constantly asking me how I practise, she will say something like "do you take it from the beggining everytime when you make a mistake" I know a) I couldn't fool her if I tried and b) i'd be cheating my self if I didn't tell the truth, because I used to practise like this, until she told me it was wrong. It's a bad habit, you get so wound up in what you've acheieved in the piece you're learning that you can wind up forgetting about what still needs to be done, therefore you end up playing it through from the beggining because it makes you proud of what you've done!

It's a disciplinary issue - it's much better giving "special" attention to your mistakes, rather than constantly playing through them until you get it right - it never stays in your brain properly, it's just muscle memory, and in an exam or performance you don't want to be just left with that, you want to actualy KNOW the notes you're playing and you want to know WHAT'S coming next.


C H O P I N
_________________________
"I Think Therefore I Am." - Rene Descartes

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#601605 - 12/23/07 01:49 PM Re: How can you master a song?
cjsm Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 134
Loc: Washington, MO
Two things I do:

1. Analyze the fingering (as another poster said).
I often find when I'm having trouble with a passage, the fingering given with the sheet music is poor (quite common), and I have to come up with my own better fingering which solves the problem. Conversely, sometimes the problem is the reverse. I'm using some fingering I just subconsciously played, and its messing me up, and the given fingering in the book will solve the problem.

2. Make a technique exercise of the problem passage(s), and practice it over and over like an exercise. Do this for 15 minutes or more a day for several days if necessary. Works for me. This is in fact the way I normally practice pieces. Even seemingly simple pieces will have some (sometimes seemingly simple) passage which keeps messing me up. I usually vary it. Sometimes the hardest bar, then that bar and bar in front, then four bars. Then maybe half the hardest bar. Depends on the passage.

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