the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog

Posted by: Marco M

the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 08:46 AM

Member JAZZWEE recommends in his blog, citing his teacher, that a good practice objective could be to just play something perfectly FIVE TIMES, instead of practicing something for hours allowing errors. JAZZWEE asks, that if you make a mistake, the count goes back to zero, and if you keep making a mistake, then slow your playing down.

Your FIVE TIMES rule is an excellent recommendation. Thanks for this, JAZZWEE!!!
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 08:49 AM

I think it's wise advice. I know I have the regrettable tendency to practice something until I nail it once and then switch to something else in the glow of victory. Of course, the next time I attempt it I rarely nail it again. mad
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 08:51 AM

It works like magic!
Posted by: malkin

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:10 AM

If my section is rocky, I'll sometimes stop at three, but then the next day it is up to five.
Posted by: SwissMS

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:13 AM

I was taught a variation of this (7 times error free) by my teacher back in Oregon. If you cannot get it error free, then you need to go slower or take a smaller section. I keep 7 little notecards on my piano music shelf, and flip through them as I play. The little break to change the card seems to give a mental reset. I can attest that it does work!
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:16 AM

The other part of it is to stop after the session of 5 (or 8), just a small number, and then sleep on it, i.e. come back the next day.

This is because the brain does its sorting/learning during sleep.
Posted by: Andy Platt

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:49 AM

I haven't read this book but ...

Quote:
The elder Mozart would place ten dried peas in his son’s left coat pocket, and for each successful attempt at a difficult passage, Mozart would move a single pea to his right pocket. When he failed on any piece, even if it was the tenth repetition, all the peas had to be placed back in his left pocket — Wolfgang had to begin anew. What usually happens when using this method is that the student slows down his tempo in order to play the passage perfectly.


From the book "Slow practice will get you there faster" by Ernest Dras.

Everytime I actually put this into practice, two things happen: (a) It works, (b) My family yells at me. Sigh.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:58 AM

Slow and correct practice always works. Just another trick to get you there.

I believe Czerny wrote in his exercises to repeat each section 20 times perfectly before upping the tempo.
Posted by: jotur

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 10:55 AM

Smaller sections, FTW. It's rarely a whole long passage that's giving me trouble - it's a measure or two, or even a movement from one chord to another. So I have to stop, problem solve as jazzwee points out, to figure out how my hand or body needs to move, or if intuitively I'm thinking C chord when it's F, or whatever, and then do that piece until it works several times in a row. And usually slowly, paying attention to what the problem was.

Cathy
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 11:11 AM

Thanks Marco M for the honorable mention.

This technique should be combined with a couple of other concepts:

1. Chunking (meaning apply this rule not to a whole piece but identified problems in specific chunks). It need not be part of a piece, just some problem to solve.

2. The idea of practicing only for some limited number of repetitions (5 times in my case) is to free up your time for other more productive endeavors such as dealing with MULTIPLE issues in one practice session.

The idea of '5 times only' means that you'll have to fill up an hour or two with a LOT of other stuff. In contrast, the idea of practicing the same thing for 1-2 hours is not productive since as Rocket88 says, we learn in our sleep. The concept is to file an inventory of little skills in your subconscious every time you sleep. And at some point, this inventory of skills gets big enough that it shows up in your playing (usually in a few months).

I suppose the '5 times' is arbitrary. My teacher taught me 5 and I stuck to that. Five is hard enough. But whatever it is, it's some small number because it has to be achievable. Playing something perfectly 100 times for example, in one sitting, may not be doable in one sitting, especially when you slow it down.

I ought to say though that if you can play it perfectly 20 times, then perhaps it isn't difficult enough. Because here's the issue: YOU CANNOT STOP UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR GOAL. If you do stop, you have just stored the ERROR in your subconscious. Remember that every mistake sets you back to ZERO. So it may take 50 tries (or multiple attempts to decrease the tempo), to do it right 5 times.

With this as the logic, you can see why the 5 times sounds reasonable. But I will not argue with anyone who chooses 6.

Playing piano is hard enough. I've just accumulated little tidbits over the years to keep the learning as short as possible since I will likely not be around in 30 years. smile
Posted by: Marco M

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 11:19 AM

I also liked to read in the same blog, that if you repeatedly have to stop somewhere because you can´t pass that pattern without making the delay, than you only practice the pausing, but not the correct playing of that part.
So simple, so true.
Everywhere I read that I should practice slow and correctly, but by this few extra words this recommendation to me gained the necessary significance.

smile Next month I can start to work with a teacher, it at last became possible and is organized. Hopefully mine will be as helpful as jazzwee´s was! Have had to save hard for it, and also have had to search long for finding one who appears to have a real interest in teaching an already square headed adult beginner the same serious and hard as a fresh conservatory student. I will miss the forum, now that I have to do homeworks more seriously and will not have so much time anymore to hang out here wink.

EDIT: JAZZWEE, while I was writing you already contributed to this thread as well. Congratulations to your ability to summarize things in so clear words and for all your efforts to share your fruitful experiences!
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 11:35 AM

Marco, I spent a LOT of money on teachers. Close to $200 per hour! So I'm glad to share what I've learned for free. It helps me too since verbalizing (writing it) embeds it more deeply in my brain.

I have to say though that a teacher is needed for "Problem Identification" since often you will not hear or realize a mistake/issue. But still the burden of "Problem Resolution" lies only on us students.

I don't have a teacher now but I try to emulate the same process. Focus on identifying problem areas. Make a list. And then. Practice as above to eliminate.

This means, BTW, that problem identification could be as much time away from the piano as on it. In my case, I listen to my recordings and see if I can understand the flaws. Unfortunately, sometimes we can't hear it and that's the other skill and often requires careful listening and comparison with the masters.

So: are you making a list of problems? I'm sure I'll make another blog post related to this. It takes a lot of discipline to maintain the kind of practice strategy I do. But if you're up for it, then you should develop just as fast.
Posted by: justpin

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 11:43 AM

I disagree with this.

There needs to be a limit to how many tries. Say 5 times perfectly or to a v good standard. Out of ten tries.

Often if you make a mistake you can't work out playing it over and over leads to frustration anger and abandonment.

Sometimes just taking a day out helps me get it right.
Posted by: Andy Platt

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 11:49 AM

Originally Posted By: justpin
I disagree with this.

There needs to be a limit to how many tries. Say 5 times perfectly or to a v good standard. Out of ten tries.

Often if you make a mistake you can't work out playing it over and over leads to frustration anger and abandonment.

Sometimes just taking a day out helps me get it right.


The other school of thought for this is that you just slow it down until you can do it right, even if that becomes painfully slow. There is a good reason for not leaving the last thing you do with a phrase be a mistake so if you get it right really really slowly, then stop and come back the next day, theoretically you will be in a better place.
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 11:59 AM

I had to look up FTW.....:)

I haven't tried this technique, but I am finally truly coming to grips with the concept of playing small bits slowly and getting it absolutely right before moving on, and I see what a difference it is making to how quickly I can get into the particulars of any given piece I'm working on.

I am going to give the FTT "5 time target" (lol)a try!
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 12:21 PM

Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
Originally Posted By: justpin
I disagree with this.

There needs to be a limit to how many tries. Say 5 times perfectly or to a v good standard. Out of ten tries.

Often if you make a mistake you can't work out playing it over and over leads to frustration anger and abandonment.

Sometimes just taking a day out helps me get it right.


The other school of thought for this is that you just slow it down until you can do it right, even if that becomes painfully slow. There is a good reason for not leaving the last thing you do with a phrase be a mistake so if you get it right really really slowly, then stop and come back the next day, theoretically you will be in a better place.


Exactly. One can do ANYTHING as long as
(a) It slowed down enough
(b) The chunk is made smaller

In other words, one has to plan it out so one ends the day with an achievement. You never want to end with a failure as that will set you back.

If a person is reaching frustration, one needs to think about what one is trying to accomplish. If it is "play the whole piece perfectly", that's too broad. Many parts of the piece one may already do well so why waste time on that? Just isolate the problem area.

Remember the difference between "practicing", not "performing". Decide which it is you're trying to do.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 12:26 PM

Originally Posted By: justpin
I d Say 5 times perfectly or to a v good standard.


If you are practicing a phrase, for example, it should be absolutely perfect.

That is because you are literally programming your brain to do a set of motions.

Unfortunately, that data that you "program in" is recorded by your brain, so whatever it is becomes what you learn. That is why "Practice makes Perfect" is so wrong. It is "Practice makes Permanent".

I
Originally Posted By: Jazzwee
n other words, one has to plan it out so one ends the day with an achievement. You never want to end with a failure as that will set you back.


Also, I think that the brain tends to learn the last thing you did, so the last of the set of 5 should be clear, clean, precise.

Thus, go as slow as necessary to put in an absolutely perfect example. Do it a small number of times, then then sleep on it. Repeat.

After you have the phrase so it is clean and precise, then slowly increase the tempo to playing speed. Then increase it, as Jazzwee said, beyond so you have a cushion of higher tempo, and thus playing tempo is not at your edge of ability, but below it.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 12:32 PM

Another thing about this:

Work at getting everything perfect, not just the notes and fingering, because everything you do as you practice that section is part of practicing that section.

This would include:

1. Sitting in a relaxed pose.

2. Calm and relaxed as you play.

3. Dynamics corrrect.

4. Hand/arm position correct.

And so on.
Posted by: Stubbie

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 03:04 PM

There is some (okay, a lot) of interesting reading on this topic by poster 'Bernhard' over on Pianostreet, from a few years back:

Question about Bernhard method
Quote:
I can give you the general principles, and you can try to apply these general principles to your particular problem. The drawback is that you will have no feedback. You may misunderstand what I say, or I may say it in a misleading way. You may think you are doing what I suggested when in fact you are doing something quite different. You may have no clue about premises I take for granted, and I may have no clue about where your real problem lies, and my suggestions (that is all they are) may be completely off the mark. So you need some landmarks to make sure you are following the map correctly....Your most important landmark: Expect progress or evidence of progress.

Progress should also be quick. Think of frying an egg. You follow the instructions: break the egg, put oil in frying pan, put eggs in frying pan. If after 5 minutes or so nothing is happening, something is wrong.... If after 2 hours the egg is still runny, you have gone the wrong alley. If you ask me, I would venture that you forgot to turn the fire on. You see, turning the fire on is taken for granted, so no such instruction is given. If you have never seen a fried egg before, you will not be able to ascertain if it is cooked or not. You may end up eating it raw and thinking it is a great delicacy (the origins of sashimi, perhaps?).

So what kind of progress are we talking about here?

The basic rule is seven repeats. Repeat what you are trying to learn seven times. If after that period you have not learned it, or have not experienced dramatic progress, you are trying to learn a chunk too large for your present abilities. Cut it in half. Try seven times again. If necessary cut it in half again. Depending on the piece you may end up with just 2 notes. However anyone can always manage two notes after repeating them seven times.

In the beginning this method will seem unnecessarily long and laborious. However as you apply it consistently over the course of a couple of weeks (or even a couple of days), you will develop experience and you will be able to look at a passage and immediately tell what size and how long it will take you to master it.

So seven repeats is what directs your decision in regards to the size of the passage you are trying to tackle...

Having decided on the passage size, you are now ready to practise it. This you will do for 20 minutes. There is a lot of slack here. Maybe 2 minutes will be enough. Maybe you will need 10 or 15 minutes. However pianists are compulsive individuals. They will go on for ten hours. So 20 minutes is actually a maximum: do not practise any passage for more than 20 minutes. It is counter productive....

Perhaps the most important is that it will have the contrary effect to improvement. As you repeat something over and over again, fatigue (both mental and physical) sets in. As a result you start to make mistakes. Soon you are practising your mistakes. And as you become obsessed in getting back your previous degree of mastery – which you attained around the 10 minutes stage – you keep frantically repeating and repeating and getting more and more tired and making more and more mistakes. Since your brain usually stores the best your very last repeat, it will be these repeats full of mistakes that will be waiting for you next day first thing in the morning. So you always want to stop your practice at your best rendition of the passage.

Again in the beginning, this may be difficult to judge – which is why a teacher can be very helpful at the beginning: if he knows his stuff he will make you stop and even suggest the passage size for you.

...it is very difficult to keep your focus and concentration on a passage for more than 20 minutes, and your practice will be mechanical. This is worse than not practising.

There are of course exceptions. I am mostly talking here about working on small passages....


That following the Repeats practice routine takes discipline is stating the obvious. eek It does, however, seem to work, as several posters here have attested to.

More food for thought from 'Bernhard':
Practice tips--list
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 03:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Stubbie
There is some (okay, a lot) of interesting reading on this topic by poster 'Bernhard' over on Pianostreet, from a few years back:


Quote:
Having decided on the passage size, you are now ready to practise it. This you will do for 20 minutes. There is a lot of slack here. Maybe 2 minutes will be enough. Maybe you will need 10 or 15 minutes.


Quote:
...it is very difficult to keep your focus and concentration on a passage for more than 20 minutes,


This is exactly what I have found does not work.

It is another version of over-practicing, which many people do with poor results.

Practicing a passage for anything more that 3 or 4 or 5 or so times is completely the opposite to what we are talking about.
Posted by: justpin

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 04:12 PM

I again disagree.

I could spend a long time working on one piece to get it absolutely perfect, except there are diminishing returns and an opportunity cost of being able to do something else in that time.

Why do I want to get it uber perfect anyway? I am not a concert pianist, it isn't my bread and butter. I don't play for others and as said I would rather broaden my skills in other places rather than have a super overspecialisation.

A learner here was focusing on a super high level piece and was getting through it slowly.

I too looked at a super difficult piece. I could have gone grinding to get it right. But I spent a year learning other things. I go back to the piece and it is easy.

Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 04:19 PM

Justpin, I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with. The technique described is a way to "learn fast". It has nothing to do with overspecialization or level of the piece.

You decide what you want to learn. What's being discussed is a way to do that with the least amount of effort.
Posted by: justpin

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 04:56 PM

Its the you must be perfect comment that irks me. Different people have different standards.

You can find Joe Hishashi videos where he makes a tiny mistake, Lang lang now and again. Does this mean he's not practiced enough? No it just means he's human.
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 05:08 PM

Justpin, no one is saying that we all have to be 100% perfect all the time - of course not! Everyone makes mistakes!

What we're looking at here is an intense-focus technique that helps you get a certain number of notes down pat during study time, efficiently and effectively.

If I can play a tricky bar 5 times in a row without making a mistake, at a slow speed, chances are pretty strong that I know what I'm supposed to be doing. Then if I can go in cyucles of speeding up and still get it right five times in a row, then I can feel pretty confident that I've done a good job of practicing and that in performance mode I'm probably not going to make a mistake. I might, but I will have reduced the odds significantly.

It is a lot easier to focus briefly on small sections than to try to focus for a long time on a long difficult passage or piece. I'm finally understanding this and that's why I'm keen to try out the ideas expressed in this thread.

And in the end... no need to be irked - no one is insisting that this is the only way to go -it is just something that has worked for some and is being shared in a spirit of helpfulness!

If it isn't your cuppa tea...don't drink it! smile
Posted by: Derulux

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 06:05 PM

Originally Posted By: jazzwee
I ought to say though that if you can play it perfectly 20 times, then perhaps it isn't difficult enough. Because here's the issue: YOU CANNOT STOP UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR GOAL. If you do stop, you have just stored the ERROR in your subconscious. Remember that every mistake sets you back to ZERO. So it may take 50 tries (or multiple attempts to decrease the tempo), to do it right 5 times.

Of course, there is the opposite belief that if you can't play it right every time, the music might be too hard for you. wink

There is a quote I once heard. I don't remember it verbatim, so I will be paraphrasing, but it goes like this: "What is the difference between a good amateur and a true professional virtuoso? The amateur practices until he plays it right. The professional practices until he can't play it wrong."
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 06:54 PM

Originally Posted By: Derulux

There is a quote I once heard. I don't remember it verbatim, so I will be paraphrasing, but it goes like this: "What is the difference between a good amateur and a true professional virtuoso? The amateur practices until he plays it right. The professional practices until he can't play it wrong."



I posted that quote myself somewhere smile Of course in theory, any phrase can be played and is within reach in slow motion. However, it would probably not be worth listening to. LOL.

You are definitely correct though. The whole idea is to have on-file a large collection of skills (from the problem focused approach here) and then more complex music can be played without the need for this meticulous exercise.

What the detractors are missing is that once you have acquired a skill at playing "x phrase at 100bpm" then you will never have to repeat this exercise again. Maybe next time it will be "x phrase at 120bpm".

I'm not sure who wouldn't want this. The current unorganized strategy is to play "x piece 500 times" and it still comes out bad. Given that time is always a premium, you would think this is would be a no-brainer since it's a time saver.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 07:24 PM

Originally Posted By: casinitaly
Justpin, no one is saying that we all have to be 100% perfect all the time - of course not! Everyone makes mistakes!


Exactly.

Keep in mind two things.

First, when you practice, its like programming a computer. In the computer world, there is an acronym: GIGO: which stands for Garbage in, Garbage out.

By practicing something so that it is perfect, then, later, when you are playing with the burden of in front of other people, or recording, or just the passage of time, you will have a perfect example from which to play, and yes, you will likely make mistakes.

But if your example is one with built-in mistakes or errors, you are starting from a unperfect example, and it usually goes downhill from there.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:18 PM

Originally Posted By: jazzwee
Originally Posted By: Derulux

There is a quote I once heard. I don't remember it verbatim, so I will be paraphrasing, but it goes like this: "What is the difference between a good amateur and a true professional virtuoso? The amateur practices until he plays it right. The professional practices until he can't play it wrong."



I posted that quote myself somewhere smile Of course in theory, any phrase can be played and is within reach in slow motion. However, it would probably not be worth listening to. LOL.

You are definitely correct though. The whole idea is to have on-file a large collection of skills (from the problem focused approach here) and then more complex music can be played without the need for this meticulous exercise.

What the detractors are missing is that once you have acquired a skill at playing "x phrase at 100bpm" then you will never have to repeat this exercise again. Maybe next time it will be "x phrase at 120bpm".

I'm not sure who wouldn't want this. The current unorganized strategy is to play "x piece 500 times" and it still comes out bad. Given that time is always a premium, you would think this is would be a no-brainer since it's a time saver.

Ah, there's the rub! You seem to think that most people want to practice correctly. They don't. Most people want to play correctly. The tedium of practicing correctly is so drab and boring that most people cannot stand it. That's why so very few people are at the top of the craft. They're the only ones who can stand it. wink

And this applies to nearly anything-- schoolwork, sports, reading, writing, public speaking, performing magic tricks.. anything where a skill is required that one does not have. People want to do, not to practice. That's why we have so many, "[x]-step programs to get [insert what it is you want here]" and things like "8 minutes to killer abs!" and Jane Fonda tapes, and p90x, and all those other BS marketing schemes. They prey on this exact mindset. People don't want to change what they do. They only want to see results. And they want, above all, to have fun doing it.

Even your "five times practice rule" falls into this category. (Don't get me wrong--it's a great marketing technique, and I applaud you for it.) People don't want to sit at the piano and play something slowly until they learn it the right way. So, this "quick little technique" starts to get them doing the right things, they think, "hey, it's only five times," and they begin to see drastic improvements. Why? Because they're finally starting to do the right things.

Where I take issue is when people preach that you can become a virtuoso by this method, or that you can be Mr. Olympia doing "Six-Minute Abs", etc. I don't think you took your comments in that direction, so your ideas are going to help people without giving them false hopes. That, I admire. smile

(This may have rambled a little.. I am doing three things at once right now.)
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/26/13 09:43 PM

Hi Derelux,

Perhaps a disclosure is in order. Especially for those who haven't known me before.

I don't sell anything, have no plans to sell anything, and I have no agenda. So anything I've posted anywhere on ABF since 2007 is freely given. Neither do I purport to be a know-it-all (and this doesn't reference your post since you've been very nice thumb). I'm just documenting my experience which is current and seemingly successful, for me at least). I certainly know my weaknesses and have a lot further to go.

The reference to the above blog post (posted by Marco M without my participation) is but a tool and it's a long (though fun) journey.

I certainly will not want to judge anyone who doesn't like any kind of discipline in their learning style. That's for each one to determine. I only write to my blog and here in various posts because some people seem to find it useful. And fortunately, I enjoy writing it.

I do get asked the questions I posted in my blog a lot (received in PM's). And I thought it wise to just blog a response so I don't have to keep typing over and over.

And these are certainly just my opinions and everyone is free to disagree and I will not take it personally. Also fortunately, I don't offer false hopes since I'm no Horowitz or Keith Jarrett. I'm just a typical late adult beginner that just wanted to get a little better before I get too old, but instead got a lot better.

And of course, I'm a jazz player so my interests may not coincide with all. I just hope I encourage SOME people to dream a little bit and then reach those dreams. smile
Posted by: Derulux

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 12:44 AM

Originally Posted By: jazzwee
I don't sell anything, have no plans to sell anything, and I have no agenda.

This is, perhaps, what I like the best about your posts. The genuine nature behind what you say, specifically because you're not "selling" anything. smile

And believe me, I know you've been around. We've talked about other topics over the years. (If anything, I'm the one who disappeared for a couple years.. haha)

I'm glad you didn't take offense by my post. I was trying to talk about two things at once: 1) the BS marketing crap I hate, 2) the great and encouraging advice you've provided to others. It was really tough to lump them together into one post, especially in the midst of many distractions.

Edit: PS- I like jazz. I was once a member of three different jazz groups. (Small stuff, barely got paid enough to put gas in the car, but it was fun.) smile
Posted by: Marco M

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 04:40 AM

I brought up the blog of jazzwee, because I find that he adds some few extra words to known statements. But with this few extra words the statements gain much significance, and therefore the extra words are worth to be spread. By the way, I also read the comments which Bernhard shared. And I like them because of the same reason, they often make to a beginner abstract sounding recommendations become filled with value of benefit.

(EDIT: by the way, does somebody knows what happened to 'bernhard'? He didn´t post for years anymore, over at the pianostreet forums, after having been a so active member there!)

When speaking about practicing a passage 5 times perfectly, I never understood it the way that I would be a fool if I could not reach perfection. It to me clearly is an -understandable- recommendation how to avoid practicing mistakes, and to have a measure at hand based on which I can evaluate myself if I am to speedy in the piece, and also in the journey, while at the same time ensuring that I am not wasting valuable time. Of course there is also my teacher around to guide me, but just not all the time...
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 09:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Derulux

I'm glad you didn't take offense by my post. I was trying to talk about two things at once: 1) the BS marketing crap I hate, 2) the great and encouraging advice you've provided to others. It was really tough to lump them together into one post, especially in the midst of many distractions.

Edit: PS- I like jazz. I was once a member of three different jazz groups. (Small stuff, barely got paid enough to put gas in the car, but it was fun.) smile


Not to worry Derelux. I'm not that sensitive smile

Now the good news about my practice strategy is that it propelled me to having a successful little jazz quintet and though I'm the leader, I'm the least skilled of the bunch. All the other band members are pros.

But there's something to be said about someone starting here as an adult beginner and now packing up a crowd at a venue. It's like a fairy tale in Piano land, especially at my age!
Posted by: Derulux

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 10:33 AM

Originally Posted By: jazzwee
Originally Posted By: Derulux

I'm glad you didn't take offense by my post. I was trying to talk about two things at once: 1) the BS marketing crap I hate, 2) the great and encouraging advice you've provided to others. It was really tough to lump them together into one post, especially in the midst of many distractions.

Edit: PS- I like jazz. I was once a member of three different jazz groups. (Small stuff, barely got paid enough to put gas in the car, but it was fun.) smile


Not to worry Derelux. I'm not that sensitive smile

Now the good news about my practice strategy is that it propelled me to having a successful little jazz quintet and though I'm the leader, I'm the least skilled of the bunch. All the other band members are pros.

But there's something to be said about someone starting here as an adult beginner and now packing up a crowd at a venue. It's like a fairy tale in Piano land, especially at my age!

Nice! The last paying jazz gig for me was around 12 years ago. Best part about that group was, we each played at least one other instrument.. so we used to do a "walking solo" routine, where we'd rotate instruments and solo on each of them. It definitely was a lot of fun, and two of those guys have gone on to do some pretty cool things. I just took a different career path.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 03:09 PM

Quote:
Because here's the issue: YOU CANNOT STOP UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR GOAL. If you do stop, you have just stored the ERROR in your subconscious.


Nice but no exceptions I have to stop at 9pm sharp. So what's your advice if you're at the 20th attempt at that time? Of course already dropped tempo many times in the process...
Posted by: jazzwee

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 03:13 PM

No need to overcomplicate this. Isolate one problem area. Cut it into a small chunk. Maybe it's down to 2 notes (extreme example). I'm sure you can do that perfectly now. Then you can go to sleep because you've achieved something.

EDIT -Hopefully you're thinking about this before 8:59 pm smile
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 06:25 PM

Originally Posted By: wouter79
Quote:
Because here's the issue: YOU CANNOT STOP UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR GOAL. If you do stop, you have just stored the ERROR in your subconscious.


Nice but no exceptions I have to stop at 9pm sharp. So what's your advice if you're at the 20th attempt at that time? Of course already dropped tempo many times in the process...


My advice is to not even get near the 20th attempt. That number comes from somebody else, and I refuted it earlier in this thread.

My advice is to slim the phrase down (and tempo down) to whatever minimum it is that you can practice without error, even, as Jazzwee noted, if that is just two notes. And then do that 5 times. No more...walk away and sleep on it.

If you have dropped the tempo down many times, yet still have problems with it, the piece or section might be above your present ability, and/or it might be too long a phrase to practice in a chunk.

Its like chewing and swallowing food...if you choke on it, its too big a mouthful, or not chewed well enough.

Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 06:32 PM

There must be something in the water that makes this concept hard to grasp. laugh

I have had several adult students say they "finally understood" what I mean by this style of practice.

This after a year or two or, in one case, three years of me preaching this, and me giving them handouts on it, and demonstrating it over and over, etc.

And there are other students who never get it. I don't understand why...its a mystery.

The only explanation I have is that it is counter-intuitive to how we accomplish many tasks. Need to stack 50 bricks? You don't stack one and go to sleep and the remaining bricks stack up by themselves! Instead, the more you stack and the faster you stack, the sooner the job gets done, and it stays done.

Apply that to piano practice, and you get over-practicing at too fast a tempo that is likely filled with errors.

This style of piano learning we are discussing here is a different concept completely from completing everyday tasks.

Posted by: malkin

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 08:50 PM

Overpracticing with errors is like trying to stack bricks by throwing them from ten feet away. You'll end up with a pile and tired arms, but never a stack of bricks.
Posted by: ShiroKuro

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 09:18 PM

Several years ago, I found PianoStreet and Bernhard's ideas amd incorporated them into my practice routine (and wrote several posts here as well, lost in the search engine now). One of the things I did was to go out and buy a set of dice (because they are square and won't roll off the piano). I have a little box on my piano with 10 dice. When I focus in on a specific phrase or am trying to get a new fingering into my brain/fingers (or, trying to change already established fingering) I use the dice, that way I don't have to count how many repetitions I've done. I play the section once, if it's correct, I move a die out of the box. Repeat either until I run out of dice (IOW 10x) or maybe 5-7 dice/times (depending on whether it feels really easy or not). If I make mistakes I either put all the dice back and start over, or I'll shorten the section.

This is not the only way I ever practice, but it's one trick that has made it possible for me to conquer pieces that otherwise would seem overwhelmingly hard. "Just these two measures, 7 times" makes even something very challenging seem do-able.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/27/13 09:39 PM

Originally Posted By: malkin
Overpracticing with errors is like trying to stack bricks by throwing them from ten feet away. You'll end up with a pile and tired arms, but never a stack of bricks.



laugh
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 02:25 AM

Originally Posted By: rocket88
There must be something in the water that makes this concept hard to grasp. laugh

I have had several adult students say they "finally understood" what I mean by this style of practice.

This after a year or two or, in one case, three years of me preaching this, and me giving them handouts on it, and demonstrating it over and over, etc.

And there are other students who never get it. I don't understand why...its a mystery.

The only explanation I have is that it is counter-intuitive to how we accomplish many tasks. Need to stack 50 bricks? You don't stack one and go to sleep and the remaining bricks stack up by themselves! Instead, the more you stack and the faster you stack, the sooner the job gets done, and it stays done.

Apply that to piano practice, and you get over-practicing at too fast a tempo that is likely filled with errors.

This style of piano learning we are discussing here is a different concept completely from completing everyday tasks.



I'd be one of those students. smile I am not certain that it is the concept of counter intuitiveness that stops us from following the excellent advice of our teachers.
I think it is that we're just so darned convinced that it couldn't possibly be necessary to go THAT slowly, to repeat such small chunks - we are unbelievers! We are certain that we should be able to play it at a somewhat reasonable tempo because though we're beginners and learners, we're adults, we are capable of doing so many difficult and challenging things, we should be able to do this too.
What we forget (and I don't know if this came up earlier in this thread or another one) is that for the other activities we do we have years and years of experience built up - the bricks and building blocks are in place.
For piano, even if we've played other instruments, it is a new ball game.

I love the bricks and food analogies - and I just wish that I'd really twigged to what my first teacher was trying to tell me - but impatience to make progress muddied the waters. I never realized until about 3 months ago that going slower at the beginning actually translates into learning faster (and more importantly, better!) overall.

My new teacher is much more demanding than the first. I think he has higher expectations for all his students, not just the kids, and he made it clear from the start that he wanted accuracy above tempo until my fingers really knew what they were doing. I am now really feeling the difference.

Another advantage I'm seeing to my efforts with the FTT, is a shift in focus ability. Very intense, for short bursts. I'm hoping that this will pay off and help me with being more focused for longer periods.
Posted by: Marco M

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 04:51 AM

It sounds reasonable that stoping the practice session after having successfully passed some piece or phrase of it will help our brain to preferably memorize this good example of correct playing and let our brain in the background further optimize necesary channelling for a future recall of the successful process.

If I would stop the practicing session with mistakes in my playing, but am seriously aware about it, wouldn´t the brain as well store this experience for being next time better aware about how to NOT run into the same error again? Although it would be a waste of time to keep the brain busy with memorizing how to avoid errors instead of right away let it optimize things for performing something correctly, this still shouldn´t spoil our playing.

Obviously, the worst practicing routine would be to terminate the session in the believe of having performed correctly although it was flawed.

The first thing I will ask my teacher to elaborate with me, is to develope my competence to properly self-evaluate my own playing, then!
Posted by: Derulux

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 07:05 AM

Originally Posted By: casinitaly
Originally Posted By: rocket88
There must be something in the water that makes this concept hard to grasp. laugh


I'd be one of those students. smile I am not certain that it is the concept of counter intuitiveness that stops us from following the excellent advice of our teachers.
I think it is that we're just so darned convinced that it couldn't possibly be necessary to go THAT slowly, to repeat such small chunks - we are unbelievers!

I think it's kind of like being told to "relax" while playing. The student has no basis for comparison, because they have always played with tension. So, to use a number scale, they may go from 100% tension to 98% tension, and think they have finally "relaxed" because they feel that sense of relaxation and an improvement in their playing. They have no idea how far they really have to go, because they've never felt what 0% feels like.
Posted by: Andy Platt

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 07:42 AM

Originally Posted By: Derulux
I think it's kind of like being told to "relax" while playing. The student has no basis for comparison, because they have always played with tension. So, to use a number scale, they may go from 100% tension to 98% tension, and think they have finally "relaxed" because they feel that sense of relaxation and an improvement in their playing. They have no idea how far they really have to go, because they've never felt what 0% feels like.


Definitely. I would state outright to my teacher, but I don't feel tense.

If I now try to play as I used to, I can't. I feel the tension everywhere, it bugs me, I need to get rid of it. But until you know that it's there it's invisible.

I'm probably at 97% now wink
Posted by: casinitaly

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 07:47 AM

Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
Originally Posted By: Derulux
I think it's kind of like being told to "relax" while playing. The student has no basis for comparison, because they have always played with tension. So, to use a number scale, they may go from 100% tension to 98% tension, and think they have finally "relaxed" because they feel that sense of relaxation and an improvement in their playing. They have no idea how far they really have to go, because they've never felt what 0% feels like.


Definitely. I would state outright to my teacher, but I don't feel tense.

If I now try to play as I used to, I can't. I feel the tension everywhere, it bugs me, I need to get rid of it. But until you know that it's there it's invisible.

I'm probably at 97% now wink


That's so true. This is yet another thing that is just starting to "click" for me. And again, it isn't stubbornness or not wanting to try --- it is simply incomprehensible until you start to experience the difference.

I thought I'd improved tension reduction last year, only to discover a whole new level in the last few months...only in the last couple of weeks have I realized that the "notch" I'd taken it down to, is really still just a fraction of where I've got to be.
Posted by: malkin

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 09:22 AM

Cas--I am one of those students too!

I'm ok with slow, and ok with 3, 5, or 7 repeats (stacking bricks), but then I don't STOP. I back up, and try to play the piece through and it falls apart so I try again and...(throwing bricks at the pile).

It shouldn't be too hard to just stop after the slow practice.
Posted by: jafop111

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 01:28 PM

Awesome blog for me specially that i am beginner of the piano and these types of teaching equipment is essential part of my learning piano.Which scale will you recommend to me that which piano is the best learning for me?
Posted by: wouter79

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 03:34 PM

Originally Posted By: jazzwee
No need to overcomplicate this. Isolate one problem area. Cut it into a small chunk. Maybe it's down to 2 notes (extreme example). I'm sure you can do that perfectly now. Then you can go to sleep because you've achieved something.

EDIT -Hopefully you're thinking about this before 8:59 pm smile


LOL . this happens more often to me, because I'm usually practicing till the last minute and of course you're never at the perfect 5 times perfect point at that last minute. Sometimes a part is just going downhill at the end of the day...
Posted by: zillybug

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 04:00 PM

I was definitely one of those students too when I returned to the piano 2 years ago. For the last year I have listened to my teacher and practice slowly and in small chunks. At tis point, I can get small sections or even a page several times without a mistake. I usually aim for 7 times. The problem now is when I try to put it together that I can never seem to play consistently through the entire piece without mistakes and there does not seem to be any pattern where the mistakes are. They are not in the same places. I am working on the Chopin waltz in B minor. My teacher asked if I wanted to play at at the end of the year and my response was I don't know; it's about 7 pages with all the repeats. For the last 2 years, I have always chosen a piece that is only 2 pages long. I'm beginning to think the problem is in my head rather than my fingers. This even happens when I am at home alone although it is definitely worse in front of others. Any ideas for being able to play an entire piece consistently would be appreciated.
Thanks, zillybug
Posted by: JimF

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 02/28/13 04:41 PM

Quote:
Apply that to piano practice, and you get over-practicing at too fast a tempo that is likely filled with errors.


sick raising my hand sheepishly to admit I'm one of these students too. Not all the time, but too often. I have to constantly remind myself and just STOP.....

I think part of it is my rush to get a piece prepared for whatever the next step is.... for the next lesson, for an upcoming recital, for a contemplated recording session, to play for a friend.. whatever....gotta get those bricks stacked asap...LOL grin Sometimes trying to learn how to play this instrument makes me feel like such a headcase.

oohhhmmmmmmm, slow is good
oohhhhhmmmmm, slow is good
ohmmmmmmmmmmm, slow is good
ohhmmmmmmmmmm, slow is good
Posted by: Lost Woods

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 03/12/13 06:59 AM

Tried this and it is much more harder than it seems. Why? Because after let's say the third perfect time somehow I lose my concentration and oriëntation it's like I'm getting lost in the keys and I'll make a small mistake.. Than I need to start over again.. and for example again the fourth time I make a small mistake. I think somewhere in my head it's getting frustrated so it gets worse? This even happens to me on the "easier" pieces.
Also the "fifth" time I'm very aware of the fact it is the last time. This somehow creates a pressure where I don't "go with the flow" but try really hard not to make mistakes? When for example the second and third time are no real problem the fifth time seems much harder.

What does help for me is taking a break for several minutes, let it sink in.. and than try again.

Gotta work on my concentration and dicipline!
Posted by: peterws

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 03/12/13 08:55 AM

I`ve NEVER played anything without mistakes. Not ever. And I aint gonna start now . . . .
Posted by: rocket88

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 03/12/13 09:04 AM

Originally Posted By: Lost Woods
Tried this and it is much more harder than it seems. Why? Because after let's say the third perfect time somehow I lose my concentration and oriëntation it's like I'm getting lost in the keys and I'll make a small mistake.. Than I need to start over again.. and for example again the fourth time I make a small mistake. I think somewhere in my head it's getting frustrated so it gets worse? This even happens to me on the "easier" pieces.
Also the "fifth" time I'm very aware of the fact it is the last time. This somehow creates a pressure where I don't "go with the flow" but try really hard not to make mistakes? When for example the second and third time are no real problem the fifth time seems much harder.


Then stop after the third time. laugh

Seriously. "Five times" is not a magic number; Instead, it is a concept that implies practice something a few times rather than many times. And do it slow enough to give your memory a clean "install" of the program. If you go super-slow, you can eliminate most if not all mistakes.

This is because many students over-practice things, going over and over and over the same thing, often with various mistakes, at speed, which gives the memory a mixed jumble of the good and the bad.
Posted by: jotur

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 03/12/13 11:09 AM

Originally Posted By: Lost Woods
Tried this and it is much more harder than it seems. . .Gotta work on my concentration and dicipline!


For me it's not quite "concentration and discipline" - it's awareness. The "x times in a row, slowed down enough to do it perfectly" is really "x times in a row, slowly enough that I'm intensely aware of what I'm doing and can do it the way I want" - slow enough I can anticipate what comes next and why, so it's the awareness that becomes habit, and is what allows me to become more musical. And the awareness, the "oneness with the music" is what liberates speed, if I need that in a particular piece, or phrasing that makes people want to dance, or whatever the music wants.

Not that I'm perfect at that laugh , but it's an immense help.

Cathy
Posted by: Lost Woods

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 03/13/13 08:41 AM

Thanks for your helpfull replies smile
Maybe more general question;
How does it work when you have let's say this little 16 bar piece.
You memorize the first 8 bars.. and play them "perfectly" although on a very low tempo. After some practicing you manage the 5 times perfect. Now it's time to let it sink in and let the resting (/brain) work for you.

Can you now go on with the other 8 bars? Or another piece?
Or does it interfer with the practice of the first 8 bars?

How does it work when you practice more pieces at the same time?

edit: and o btw.. when you finished practicing it 5 times perfectly, you have to leave it for the rest of the day? Untill next practice?
Posted by: Marco M

Re: the FIVE TIMES practice rule, from jazzwee´s blog - 03/13/13 09:56 AM

You can work on different difficulties in parallel. And you can repeat during the day, of course.
Just don´t go for endless periods of practicing (not 2 hours without a break), but do several smaller blocks (20 minutes) with pauses for relaxation of body and especially of mind in between. Intend to end your 20 minutes block with a successfull playing. Therefore you have to cut your problems down into smaller fractions, so that they can fit into the smaller time period in a way allowing you to finish it successfully.