Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours

Posted by: JoelW

Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 02:07 PM

Do you ever just practice a tricky passage for hours or days? I'm working on getting that middle section arpeggios in scherzo 2 as perfect as possible and I've just been hacking away steadily for hours and hours.
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 02:11 PM

That's what Cooke recommends to do with "fractures" in "Playing the Piano for Pleasure"...
Posted by: Franz Beebert

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 02:12 PM

It all depends on how you are approaching it. If you are just repeating the same part over and over without thinking about what makes it difficult for you, then it's waste of time.
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 02:15 PM

Oh, and of course make sure you do it right or you will learn mistakes which after so many repetitions will be more difficult to eradicate.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 02:44 PM

Franz,

It isn't really that it's difficult. I can play it well when I'm warmed up, but I don't seem to be 100% consistent with it yet. Some days I can't believe how well I'm playing, other days it's hard to get the arpeggios to sound perfectly seamless. How can I practice this so that EVERY DAY I play it, I will be able to play it seamlessly? Tempo-wise I play it closer to Argerich rather than Horowitz. It's more like somewhere between Yundi Li and Argerich. If I take it at a Horowitz tempo, it get's much easier.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 03:04 PM

First you say you're "hacking away on tricky passages for hours" and then "it isn't really difficult" and then "I can play it well when I'm warmed up". I don't think anyone will be able to offer good advice when your explanation is so vague.

You haven't explained yet what your problem is, i.e. what do you mean by playing it seamlessly. You have to understand what your problem is before you work on it in a meaningful way and then do more than just repeat the passage hoping you'll finally succeed.

There are no guarantees that any approach will allow you to do whatever you are trying to every day. It sounds like you're looking for some magic bullet that works for everyone.

I'm not even sure everyone will know what you mean by the "middle section with arpeggios" as there are many sections with arpeggios in this piece. I'm guessing you mean the section in E major?
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 03:16 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
First you say you're "hacking away on tricky passages for hours" and then "it isn't really difficult" and then "I can play it well when I'm warmed up". I don't think anyone will be able to offer good advice when your explanation is so vague.

You haven't explained yet what your problem is, i.e. what do you mean by playing it seamlessly. You have to understand what your problem is before you work on it in a meaningful way and then do more than just repeat the passage hoping you'll finally succeed.

There are no guarantees that any approach will allow you to do whatever you are trying to every day. It sounds like you're looking for some magic bullet that works for everyone.

I'm not even sure everyone will know what you mean by the "middle section with arpeggios" as there are many sections with arpeggios in this piece. I'm guessing you mean the section in E major?


Yes the E major section. In the right hand, when I travel down at a high tempo, It's not always seamless. (arpeggio trouble). And it happens to just be this arpeggio, because I can play the right hand arpeggios in op 10 no 8 seamlessly very fast on any given day, but the E major arpeggios in scherzo 2 are trickier (going down). Like I said, it's not that I CAN'T do them seamlessly, it's that I'm not able to do them seamlessly 100% of the time. By seamless I mean not being able to hear the transition between the broken chords in the arpeggio.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 03:37 PM

Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Do you ever just practice a tricky passage for hours or days? [...]and I've just been hacking away steadily for hours and hours.


"Hacking away" at it for hours and hours will not accomplish much unless there is some thoughtful practical method behind the "hacking."

First, have you analysed the problem that is causing the inconsistencies?
Then, having done that, are you practicing (in no particular order) techniques that will help resolve the problem :
- in different rhythmic groups with pauses?
- varying the accents : falling on different notes of each group?
- at different tempi?
- very slowly, deliberately, with metronome, "placing" each note?
- with different articulations?
- with varying dynamics?
- in "bursts," at tempo, in two- three- four- five- (etc.) note groups?

Regards,
Posted by: LadyChen

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 03:41 PM

BruceD's post reminded me of this cartoon:
http://euge.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Rhythmic-Practice-Extended.png

Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 03:45 PM

Overall I haven't put much practice into it, but I will be in the future. I just felt like practicing it today.

But Bruce, I use all of those methods except "bursts" and "different rhythmic groups".

Also, wouldn't you call "different articulation" and "accenting different notes" the same thing? smile
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 03:49 PM

Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
[..]
Also, wouldn't you call "different articulation" and "accenting different notes" the same thing? smile


No, not at all. Different articulation should imply varying degrees of touch, from legato, through portato, to light and heavy staccato, and even a mixture within the same exercise.

Regards,
Posted by: Kuanpiano

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 06:54 PM

I've put months into fixing stuff...like Scriabin's etude op.42 no.5, or the first half of Rachmaninoff's 2nd concerto, third movement.

Sometimes you have to drop the piece, get better playing other, easier pieces, and then come back later to get things right.
Posted by: gooddog

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 07:21 PM

I agree with Bruce that you need to analyze what you are doing.

The ornamental arpeggios in Chopin's Ballade #3 were bugging me. I tried methodically working on slowly increasing the tempo, changing the accents, changing the rhythm, working in note groups, stopping in different places, but I just couldn't get them fast enough. Finally, I carefully observed my hand position and experimented with different body and wrist angles. Leaning back and not following my hands with my body plus completely relaxing and dropping my wrist seems to have fixed the problem. I was amazed and it didn't take hours.
Posted by: Scordatura

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 08:27 PM

To play this kind of passage work magically at tempo you need to cultivate maximum possible suppleness (remember Chopin saying that suppleness was the single most important physical criterion in piano-technique), and to cultivate suppleness, you need to cultivate maximum possible control over the striking of each individual key. To do that, you'll need to work initially at a pace that allows you time to consciously predetermine exactly how loud you intend each sound to occur, perhaps 60-80 eighth-notes per minute, perhaps even slower - whatever you actually need to ensure you've done that. Apply a weightless, pure finger-touch, aiming for a perfect legato (ie., no gaps between successive sounds and no overlaps).Ensure all currently unemployed fingers are fully relaxed, tips resting on the key-surfaces. Work at pianissimo level throughout. Imagine each sound before striking it and aim to produce a sound that is exactly as loud as the previous one. All of this should be done without any pedal. Practice no more than 4 measures at a time, and for no more than 20 minutes at a time; take a break of at least 10 minutes before resuming. Resist increasing the practising tempo - the express objective here is to reliably achieve mental and physical control. Every so often allow yourself two to three attempts at speed to assess your progress. But you'll need to practise as described for 3-4 days for the results to become ingrained; once they have, then you can practise faster.

Hope this will help (it works wonders for me and those I teach!)
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 11:35 PM

Tough diagnosis, MJ. I'm going to rely on instinct and a little experience here to take a stab at it. You've mentioned that you can play it some days, but not others. That indicates to me that you either have a technical difficulty not quite ingrained in your muscle memory yet, or some kind of stress/tension is creeping in. In some cases, it could be a combination of both.

Since you mention that the biggest trouble you have is between the arpeggios (you mention trying to make them "seamless", and that it works on some days but not on others--if I read it right, of course wink ), I'm going to start by suggesting two quick and easy things to check in your hand/arm. First, check your wrist height. If it drops too much, or at the wrong time, you won't be able to connect the notes. Second, if your wrist height is good, make sure your thumb is hitting the last note of the group, and then your full hand/arm weight is coming back with you to hit the top note of the next group. Often, when trying to play something fast, a common subconscious mistake is to lock the arm moving "down" the piano, and forget to let it go back and really hit the top note of the next group, so you hover over the keys instead of landing on the notes, and this really helps to create a "sometimes I hit it" problem.

If you want, think of it like football. The wide receiver has two jobs. First, he has to catch the ball. Then, he has to run with it. If he tries to run before he catches the ball, he will drop the ball. He has to be patient and catch the ball first, no matter how fast he wants to run. Same thing here. If you try to move your arm too fast to the left, your finger has to stretch back to hit the note by itself. This locks your wrist, creating quite a bit of tension, and kills any shot you have at consistency in the passage.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/20/12 11:46 PM

Very good advice, Derulux. Thanks! When you mentioned the low wrist my eyes widened. Also, what you said about making sure my thumb executes it's given note.. I find it helps if I really plant the thumb down, as in being really conscious about LANDING THAT THUMB. Cause when I don't, that's when I notice the seams.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/21/12 01:09 PM

Great, I'm glad it worked out. Sometimes, I get lucky. smile Keep at it for a while, and let us know if the passage improves. If you're good-to-go, then great! If not, double-check that these two things are worked out, and we can continue trying to find other diagnoses. But I hope it's fixed for you.
Posted by: jeffreyjones

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/21/12 05:04 PM

I approach any difficult passage the same way:

- Slow down the tempo to half or less
- Examine the movements required to stay relaxed
- Re-evaluate fingering to minimize stretching
- Listen carefully for imperfections
- Try to turn up the speed and maintain relaxation
Posted by: carey

Re: Practicing Tricky Passages for Hours - 09/21/12 05:10 PM

Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
I approach any difficult passage the same way:

- Slow down the tempo to half or less
- Examine the movements required to stay relaxed
- Re-evaluate fingering to minimize stretching
- Listen carefully for imperfections
- Try to turn up the speed and maintain relaxation


thumb thumb thumb