Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread

Posted by: PianoStudent88

Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/20/13 11:05 PM

I'm about to start working on a piece trying to follow the methods that Bernhard (and other teachers) teach. I'm starting this thread to talk about what I'm doing as I go through the process, to invite anyone else trying to do the same or wanting to do the same to join in, and to solicit comments and questions from those who know about this method or are curious about this method.

My goal on the piece I have in mind is to try to apply Bernhard's method strictly. Over on the Practice methods in detail thread we're having a broader discussion about practice methods in general, and comparing and contrasting.

Bernhard has described how he teaches over many posts over on pianostreet. For those who like reading, here is a thread to get you started. Follow the links for hours of fun.

For those who don't want to do that much reading, there are some pages with a much shorter version of what Bernhard talks about, but I can't get the links to work right now. I'll try posting those links later.

Bernhard says about what he teaches that all of it is taught by other people; he didn't invent anything new -- even when he thinks he invented something new, shortly thereafter he will find someone who was already doing it years, decades, or centuries before. He also says he's not an evangelist for what he teaches; he lays out the information for people to try, and if they find it gives them better results than what they were doing previously, good, and if it doesn't, then don't use it.

So here I am, trying it out.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/20/13 11:27 PM

Down to specifics: the piece I've chosen is one of Bach's little preludes: BWV 927 in F Major

Actually, I was going to do one that I have mostly learned, and try to apply Bernhard's method to finish learning it (I know he says it's not "his" method, but I don't know a more accurate but still brief phrase to use to describe it), but now as I type this I am thinking I will do a brand new one.

I'm getting my ideas for what order to learn Bach's pieces from Martha Beth Lewis's page on learning Fugues. She lays out a path that starts with the Little Preludes, proceeds through the 2-part and then 3-part Inventions, and culminates with the Well-Tempered Clavier.

I'm at the very beginning, working on Little Preludes. An even prior step could be working on pieces from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook, but I've already done that. The Prelude that I have partly learned is the first one on Martha Beth's list, BWV 999 in C minor (except the final 2/3 of the piece is in G minor). The next Prelude is BWV 939 in C major, except I've learned that one already. I'd like to someday improve my playing of it in line with insightful comments that wouter79 made when I submitted it to my first ABF recital, but not now. So that means my Bernhard project piece will be the third on Martha Beth's list, BWV 927 in F major.

Bernhard has three major steps. The first step is preparation. This includes (but may not be limited to): listening to the piece, both with and without the score; analysing the piece; making an initial practice plan; deciding on fingering; writing out simplified scores; deciding on interpretation, etc. (Not necessarily in that order.) I'm about to go out of town for two days and won't have a piano with me, so these are a perfect two days to work on my preparation.

I'll take my Henle edition of Little Preludes, a couple of printouts from IMSLP for messing up with lots of pencilled-in analysis, a book of score paper, pencils and erasers, and my iPhone for listening to YouTube versions.
Posted by: rnaple

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/20/13 11:29 PM

I know this method addresses people who want to play a repertoire. Would still like to know what the differences would be for someone like me who wants to understand, create, pick up the technical aspects of piano. Not that I don't want to or play songs. I enjoy them. I'm just into the big picture.

Just to throw out my idea. The change is not in the learning of the pieces.
The change would be in choice of what to learn.
Posted by: earlofmar

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/20/13 11:36 PM

PianoStudent88 this should be fun, looking forward to further installments. I have been reading only some of the Bernhard links but not that well read on them. If you are going to try something new and share your progress I thought it would be good to know a little more about you. I did some snooping sleuthing on the recital page and gleaned the following:

So you were a child protige for ten years and threw it all away for love (sorry I might be reading between the lines there) but your back and recommenced piano about two years ago and have a teacher. So questions:

What piece are you going to learn?
What specific methods are you going to use and how do they? differ from your current methods?
What does your teacher do different to the Bernhard method?
What do you feel is the overall goal?
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/20/13 11:48 PM

rnaple, I remember that comment/question from you from on the other thread, and I've been meaning to try to respond, so thank you for bringing this up again.

I think it's an illusion that this method is only for people who want to play a repertoire. I think there are ideas in it for people who want to, as you say, "understand, create, pick up the technical aspects of piano."

When you say "the change is not in the learning of the pieces" -- for me, I do want to change how I learn pieces. I feel like I'm in a rut where I can't quite master the pieces I want to play, and I'm not talking about wanting to play massively complex pieces either. I'm not so interested in having a very small specific set of dream pieces that I want to play. I'm more interested in learning technique, and being able to pick up a wide variety of pieces and play them. But for the moment, for whatever reason, I'm expanding my pianistic knowledge by picking pieces I want to play, and learning the technique I need as it comes up.

When you say "the change would be in choice of what to learn" -- one of the things Bernhard does in working with his students to choose pieces is to structure the sequence of pieces in order of increasing difficulty, and to choose the easier pieces so as to build the skills needed for the harder pieces. I haven't found many of his posts that talk about details of how to do this, although I have found a few that give examples of preparatory pieces for specific harder pieces. (And as usual, I don't know where those posts are right now... grrrr, am I going to have to create a fully cross-indexed reference guide to Bernhard's posts as I read so that I can link to things at times like now when I want to illustrate what I'm saying from the horse's mouth? Apparently smile .)

Bernhard teaches technique through teaching pieces; for a variety of reasons. Actually, he has the students choose the pieces they want to learn. There's a whole set of philosophical and practical reasons for why he does it that way, and a lot of nuances to how it works out in practice. This can make it seem as if the method is solely for people who are focused on a repertory, but I think there are some fundamental truths in the method that could be applicable to anyone.

There is a very different -- or at least different-seeming -- approach which starts from looking at techniques to learn, and finding material (whether pieces or etudes or exercises) to work on to learn those techniques. keystring has written about this kind of approach on the other thread.

I'm still exploring these ideas and approaches. On the other thread, I'm in questioning mode, turning over the rocks and kicking the tires. On this thread, I'm figuring that the only way to really understand this method is to try it out, so I'm trying it out.

You mentioned "create" -- do you mean composition and/or improvisation, as opposed to learning others' already-composed pieces? I have some ruminations on this topic (nothing so concrete as to be called either a question or a comment) but I'll put them on the other thread.

I appreciate your question -- I like being pushed to really examine things, to question assumptions, to look for deeper connections or fundamental differences.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/20/13 11:52 PM

earlofmar, supersnoopsleuth smile , great questions. Unfortunately, it's almost midnight, I still have an hour of work to do before I go to bed (which I've been procrastinating on by writing about my new obsession, Bernhard's method, here on PianoWorld), and I'm about to drive 10 hours tomorrow. So it may be a while before I can reply. Stay tuned...
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 12:21 AM

PianoStudent88, I am looking forward for the development of this thread.

Firstly, drive safely. Secondly, if you could please JOURNAL your daily practice of the method.

I appreciate your 'obsession' with Bernhard method. Few days ago, you were expressing your frustration with the endless repetitions and now you are fired up. This is awesome.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 02:34 AM

PianoStudent88, I have read your post, here:

I'm about to start working on a piece trying to follow the methods that Bernhard (and other teachers) teach. I'm starting this thread to talk about what I'm doing as I go through the process, to invite anyone else trying to do the same or wanting to do the same to join in, and to solicit comments and questions from those who know about this method or are curious about this method.

My goal on the piece I have in mind is to try to apply Bernhard's method strictly. Over on the Practice methods in detail thread we're having a broader discussion about practice methods in general, and comparing and contrasting.

Bernhard has described how he teaches over many posts over on pianostreet. For those who like reading, here is a thread to get you started. Follow the links for hours of fun.

For those who don't want to do that much reading, there are some pages with a much shorter version of what Bernhard talks about, but I can't get the links to work right now. I'll try posting those links later.

Bernhard says about what he teaches that all of it is taught by other people; he didn't invent anything new -- even when he thinks he invented something new, shortly thereafter he will find someone who was already doing it years, decades, or centuries before. He also says he's not an evangelist for what he teaches; he lays out the information for people to try, and if they find it gives them better results than what they were doing previously, good, and if it doesn't, then don't use it.

So here I am, trying it out.

_________________________________________________

Mr. PianoStudent88,

The stuff I read in the pianostreet thread didn't make sense to me about pushing for speed with scales and lots of other stuff.

When you open a music book, you look at the piece of how ever many pages of 1, 40, 400, 4000 pages. You can start where ever you wish, but I would start at the front and work my way to the end.

The first thing I would do, and I suppose anybody would do, is to look at the music to see if there is anything you don't understand - symbols, etc., ledger notes that I don't instantly know or can't play, counting in measures that might be too difficult to play such as dotted 64th notes, etc. time signature could be difficult.

At some point you will begin to play the piece and you will play it very, very, very, slowly without mistakes because you want your brain to remember what you have played correctly.

There was some mention of scales played fast. Doesn't make sense to me. There is never ever a reason to play any music fast unless it is played without errors. And you don't play scales mindlessly, but reading the scale notes and playing as you read them from the music.

Once you have the piece under your fingers, smoothly, and without errors, then you can get a feel for the piece/music and you can adjust everything to your liking.

There was even mention of leaving out notes. I am sure that maybe some of the most famous and gifted pianists leave out a note for some reason, but as a piano student, it is all about playing the notes in the piece - not leaving notes out.

cheers,
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 02:39 AM


Originally Posted By: earlofmar
...sleuthing on the recital page and gleaned the following:

So you were a child protige for ten years and threw it all away for love (sorry I might be reading between the lines there) but your back and recommenced piano about two years ago and have a teacher.

Hardly a prodigy. But very happy with what I could do on piano. Threw it all away not for another love but for lack of a piano.

When I restarted, I had a teacher for 15 months but stopped lessons last September (proximate cause: finances).

Quote:
So questions:

What piece are you going to learn?

One of Bach's little preludes: BWV 927 in F Major. This is part of a long-range plan to eventually play the Well-Tempered Clavier.

Quote:
What specific methods are you going to use and how do they differ from your current methods?

On this thread for this piece I'm going to try to follow Bernhard's method strictly. Similarities to my current methods include breaking the learning of a piece down into small pieces. Differences include how much preparation to do before putting hands to keyboard; specific guideline for how to choose the small sections and what order to build up in; use of short-term memory as opposed to purely reading from the score (I don't think Bernhard's method applies only to purely memory playing without the score, but that will be a future investigation); what to do with each small section; very specific instructions for day-to-day practice until it's fully mastered; and tracking, timing, and journaling what I practice. For starters.

As I go along step-by-step I'll talk about which of Bernhard's steps and techniques I'm using.

Quote:
What does your teacher do different to the Bernhard method?

My teacher never taught me anything about how to practice, except for one specific method for overcoming a certain rhythm problem.

Quote:
What do you feel is the overall goal?

I want to be able to play the piano well, focussing on classical music. (I'm interested in other things too, but not enough yet to put much time into them.).

Without a teacher, I don't have a specific plan of skills to learn or progressive pieces to learn them in, so I'm guided these days by choosing pieces at about my level or a little above, and trusting that through a variety of pieces I will be exposed to a variety of pianistic challenges that I will be able to learn how to do.

Specifically, I feel like I'm stagnating in learning pieces, never quite getting as solid in them as I would like. Also, Bernhard says these methods are highly efficient, and I have a lot of music I'd like to learn how to play, solidly, so what's not to like about something that might enable me to learn faster?

I speak about pieces, but if I were going to get a new teacher I would tell him or her that I really don't care about pieces, that I want to learn techniques and musicality that I can then apply in all my piano playing. And that I'd be willing to start at square one "how to touch a piano key" or "how to sit at the piano" if need be.

But I can't devise that plan easily for myself, because I don't know what I need to know about technique and musicality.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 07:04 AM

Quote:
What does your teacher do different to the Bernhard method?

My teacher never taught me anything about how to practice, except for one specific method for overcoming a certain rhythm problem.

Quote:
What do you feel is the overall goal?

I want to be able to play the piano well, focussing on classical music. (I'm interested in other things too, but not enough yet to put much time into them.).

Without a teacher, I don't have a specific plan of skills to learn or progressive pieces to learn them in, so I'm guided these days by choosing pieces at about my level or a little above, and trusting that through a variety of pieces I will be exposed to a variety of pianistic challenges that I will be able to learn how to do.

Specifically, I feel like I'm stagnating in learning pieces, never quite getting as solid in them as I would like. Also, Bernhard says these methods are highly efficient, and I have a lot of music I'd like to learn how to play, solidly, so what's not to like about something that might enable me to learn faster?

I speak about pieces, but if I were going to get a new teacher I would tell him or her that I really don't care about pieces, that I want to learn techniques and musicality that I can then apply in all my piano playing. And that I'd be willing to start at square one "how to touch a piano key" or "how to sit at the piano" if need be.

But I can't devise that plan easily for myself, because I don't know what I need to know about technique and musicality.

_______________________________________________
The only thing anyone needs to know about practicing any music at any level during your lifetime, is to open up a music book, look over the music, do you know the names of the notes in the piece in the treble clef and the bass clef. Can you read through the measures and count the values of the notes and the values add up in each measure to 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, 6/8, and lots of others.

Then you sit down at the piano, and without looking at your hands, you read and play the music and SAY THE NAMES OF THE NOTES AS YOU PLAY THEM. You only play the music without mistakes - no exception - and when you can play the piece by reading the music, and play the music slowly and smoothly without mistakes that is all there is to playing the piano.

There is only one music book series that teaches technique called John Thompson Modern Course for the Piano written in the 1900s. It is only about 5 dollars a book of 75 pages. I can't afford a teacher, but the John Thompson books are the only books on the PLANET that teaches technique. If you don't believe me, go to your local music store and see for yourself.

There is no FAST method to learning to play anything in life and certainly not learning to play the piano.

The only thing that I can do away from the piano, is reading the music, writing out scales, play the piece on the cardboard piano keyboards that sit at the back of the piano so beginners can look at the names of the keys - on one side but on the other side it is a complete piano keyboard of perfect size and 88 keys so you can effectively walk though the piano piece as if you were playing - all for a $1.95 at your locall music store.

One of the reasons that some musicians carry a little more weight - not of the keys - it is because a piano player's life is sitting on the piano bench playing anywhere from between 6 minutes a day to 6 hours a day for a lifetime.

But if anyone is good at anything, they have to do the same thing, be it golf, running, acting,


YOU SEE, when you say > Also, Bernhard says these methods are highly efficient, and I have a lot of music I'd like to learn how to play, solidly, so what's not to like about something that might enable me to learn faster?

I guess that is like saying you can drive a car at 100 miles an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic in rush hour!

I love playing the piano. I have been playing for a little over a year. I have learning difficulties, memory problems, but I can read and playing the music slowly without errors, but it takes me many months to play the pieces smoothly and without mistakes. You are playing way more complicated pieces than I could play, so you know more about piano than I do. There is no magic as far as I can tell, it is just sitting down at the piano playing slowly without errors day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Of all the famous piano players - has anyone ever said or written things about learning to play a piano in a short period of time. I think it is understood that most piano players have been playing for 20, 30, 40 years. That is not fast.

My sax player when I was 40 said to me as we were walking down the street, you see that guy playing the sax, he has probably been playing at least 10 years. If a street musician can play a few nice tunes for change after 10 years then that says a lot.

So just go up to the street musicians and ask them how long they have been playing. They will tell you, either with a teacher or self-taught, it would be at least 10 years or more - and that is only to get spare change, not having a musician's job that pays the rent and feeds the wife and kids.

cheers,
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 07:09 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
And that I'd be willing to start at square one "how to touch a piano key" or "how to sit at the piano" if need be.

Excellent starting point!

There is a series of TV ads in the UK using puppet meerkats to sell car insurance. These meerkats have a strong Russian accent despite meerkats coming from the Kalahari in Africa.



Because of these ads I find it very difficult to take this girl, Ilinca Vartic, seriously - she just sounds like a comical meerkat - but she is well worth listening to.



Posted by: Miguel Rey

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 02:09 PM

Michael_99

Bernhard never says play fast with mistakes only to play as up to tempo as possible but after you've mastered the section you are working on . If its only just a few notes then so be it. It's not disputed that playing a passage slow will be different (physically) from playing it fast. He also says once the piece is mastered to go back and also practice slow HT. I think anyone skeptical should just try it, I did last night with a piece I had on my long term play list. In two session I go through 2 lines HS at a descent tempo & by memory. Hence I have no moved that piece to my short term play list.

Bernhard and even Chang both write about methods I've heard bit's & pieces from other teachers over the years they are just the only ones i've seen who put it down on paper (for free). While most critics seem to bash their credentials, some of what they say is repeated by this talented player and teacher who has credentials and has studied with credentialed instructors.

So did he get it wrong?
[video:youtube]http://youtu.be/IVgvHWTLOIA[/video]

[video:youtube]http://youtu.be/Th5ljgUP9lg[/video]

[video:youtube]http://youtu.be/QBYbF5dXoE0[/video]
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 02:44 PM

There are so many ways to paint a picture, no single correct way. Some methods are more efficient than others. But I know this, in general, efficiency increases with the passage of time. Learning methods, practice methods, can be more efficient and specific the more we investigate new ways to approach the task. I, for one, am always looking to improve whether it be at the piano, in sports, or at work. I appreciate that this topic has been introduced and look forward to following along.
Posted by: floydthebarber71

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 03:32 PM

Reading that Piano Street forum hurts my eyes.
Posted by: tangleweeds

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 04:42 PM

Originally Posted By: floydthebarber71
Reading that Piano Street forum hurts my eyes.

Mine too. Perhaps this means we are too old for the venue?

Hmm, but maybe if I stole my piano glasses and used them on the computer, I might be able to get further with it...
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 06:02 PM

Miguel Rey, I have read your post, here:

Bernhard never says play fast with mistakes only to play as up to tempo as possible but after you've mastered the section you are working on . If its only just a few notes then so be it. It's not disputed that playing a passage slow will be different (physically) from playing it fast. He also says once the piece is mastered to go back and also practice slow HT. I think anyone skeptical should just try it, I did last night with a piece I had on my long term play list. In two session I go through 2 lines HS at a descent tempo & by memory. Hence I have no moved that piece to my short term play list.

Bernhard and even Chang both write about methods I've heard bit's & pieces from other teachers over the years they are just the only ones i've seen who put it down on paper (for free). While most critics seem to bash their credentials, some of what they say is repeated by this talented player and teacher who has credentials and has studied with credentialed instructors.

_________________________________________________

**Bernhard never says play fast with mistakes only to play as up to tempo as possible but after you've mastered the section you are working on .

I think I went to pianostreet and grabbed a few thoughts, but that is no excuse for me to misquote someone.

PLaying fast without errors - is only ever done slowly over many days, weeks, months, and years.
But the key to doing something fast to play the measures,notes, pieces, is that it has to be done at at a speed that you can do it without errors, and play in very relaxed fashion. That simple. You should know that to play anything a Presto/200 beats a minute, you actually have to be able to play it at 20 beats higher so that your brain and your body function in a relaxed fashion.

And playing any notes, measures, and pieces is done slowly and usually at Presto/200 it would take the average piano player 2 years to play at Presto/200. that long to get the speed up playing everything you learn to play. Understand that playing Mary had a little lamp you could play easily at 200 in a shorter time as opposed to play Chopin's ballade 4, would take you probably 10 or 20 years to do it. so there are many factors but the main thing is that as long as you play anything without errors, you can play at any speed, but if you make an error - you have to slow down, because you only want the brain to remember how to do it correctly and not otherwise.


** If its only just a few notes then so be it. It's not disputed that playing a passage slow will be different (physically) from playing it fast.

Well, I politely and respectfully, disagree. if you are playing anything at Largo/40beats, you can look at your hands, you cane enjoy playing the piece at the speed Largo40.

If your are playing anything at Presto200, is likely at 200 - you can't even see the fingers clearly because the fingers are a blur. I think it means at 200beats a minute you are pressing the piano key or keys 1 to 4 times a second, so you can do that playing one piano key constantly 4 times a second and you will see how fast it is - and I respectfully say that, you can do it withour errors and be relaxed, but is very, very, fast no matter how complex the music you are playing.

**He also says once the piece is mastered to go back and also practice slow HT. I think anyone skeptical should just try it, I did last night with a piece I had on my long term play list. In two session I go through 2 lines HS at a descent tempo & by memory. Hence I have no moved that piece to my short term play list.

Well, I am only a beginner so as I play more complex music things will change. But my routine is to read through the piece to make sure there are NO show stoppers - being notes I can't read, measures that I may not be able to play because of the not values that may cause me to stop or make an error, etc.

It is then that I sit down and play the piece HT slowly without errors once. If I can play it slowly without errors, - 3 times without errors - I am done with the piece and move on the the next new piece. But understand that because I can play the piece without errors, slowly, it means I will play the piece/pieces for many months, bringing the piece slowly without errors up to speed, relaxed and then I make it musical and make sure the dynamics are right.

**Bernhard and even Chang both write about methods I've heard bit's & pieces from other teachers over the years they are just the only ones i've seen who put it down on paper (for free). While most critics seem to bash their credentials, some of what they say is repeated by this talented player and teacher who has credentials and has studied with credentialed instructors.

I don't disagree with what Bernhard and Chang say about piano playing, I politely might disagree with what some posters have said is their interpretation of an easier or better way to learn to play the piano at any rate or speed, because piano playing is all about sitting on the piano bench for 5 or 10 years to be able to play basic music. As long as NOBODY on the planet says there is a easier better way to learn to play the piano, I rest my case, else I might have something politely to say.

cheers,
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 06:33 PM

floydthebarber71, I have read your post, here:
Reading that Piano Street forum hurts my eyes.

________________________________________

When you read anything on the net that is in small/smaller print - copy and paste the text into a text file and make the print whatever size you want to read it and simply paste back to where ever you want to put it. You don't have to change the font size, it will automatically make it to the size of the font used wherever you put the paste.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 07:02 PM

Originally Posted By: rnaple
I know this method addresses people who want to play a repertoire. Would still like to know what the differences would be for someone like me who wants to understand, create, pick up the technical aspects of piano. Not that I don't want to or play songs. I enjoy them. I'm just into the big picture.

Just to throw out my idea. The change is not in the learning of the pieces.
The change would be in choice of what to learn.


What a lot of students and parents can relate to are things like repertoire, recitals, exams (of graded pieces) etc. so many teachers gear lessons toward that orientation. So many teachers teach toward that motivation, and then use that to add technique, theory etc. That is what Bernhard is doing. Now, we don't know if he only goes in that direction in real life, because he is also teaching the PianoStreet forum. He has to take some angle so we can assume he is addressing an audience that is largely interested in repertoire.

Everything that Bernhard writes is geared toward that primary aim. It's organized around that aim.

If the aim is different, then you can organize differently. To illustrate by contrast, what I do with my teacher's guidance is geared toward skills/knowledge as the primary goal. Therefore we might choose a piece that will teach me a particular skill, and not push it to completion, because the skill is the aim. We may choose to fully develop some pieces but not others. We may choose to not memorize at all.

It is important to understand the goals behind a system, and your own goals, so that you have the necessary perspective. Some things are universal. Chunking music and not working from start to finish day after day is universal.

My primary need is to get at healthy technique, undo and replace a host of poor habits which tie me up, and do whatever is necessary to get there. I want fluidity to grab what I need when I need it (this includes my teacher's fluidity). Having to keep at a piece because it isn't polished can stop me from getting at what I need to do.

So IF your main goal is to get a repertoire of memorized pieces - whether it's 20 or some other number - then you will look at what is here one way, and it might give you almost everything that you need. If your main goal is something else, it may not be as good a fit, but there may still be useful elements. So then you adapt.
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 07:52 PM

There is always an easier and better way. That "way" may have not been discovered, and that "way" may be different for each individual, but there is always room for improvement. Thinking in absolutes can be dangerous. Absolute thinking precludes discovery and advancement. It fosters stagnant growth.

If anyone looks at the history of piano teaching, one will quickly see that methods have changed, quite dramatically, over time. In fact, piano students are getting to repertoire faster than ever. YT is littered with examples. Declaring that learning the piano is done only one way is quite short sighted.
Posted by: Miguel Rey

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 08:34 PM

Originally Posted By: scorpio
There is always an easier and better way. That "way" may have not been discovered, and that "way" may be different for each individual, but there is always room for improvement. Thinking in absolutes can be dangerous. Absolute thinking precludes discovery and advancement. It fosters stagnant growth.

If anyone looks at the history of piano teaching, one will quickly see that methods have changed, quite dramatically, over time. In fact, piano students are getting to repertoire faster than ever. YT is littered with examples. Declaring that learning the piano is done only one way is quite short sighted.


If you look any history about teaching of anything one will quickly see that the methods have changed. Mathematics, science, golf, tennis etc... Plus one must take into consideration the old world methods were most likely meant for children who have a completely different way of learning than adults. If you're lucky you can find a teacher that can utilize the old way foundation mixed in with new ways to trick the old brain into doing what is should.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 08:46 PM

Originally Posted By: scorpio

If anyone looks at the history of piano teaching....


Piano lessons are mostly given privately, one-on-one. We don't actually have much of a view of how teaching is done, or was done. There are some anecdotal stories of famous people who were teachers, told by their students or assistants, but generally this is at an advanced level. The closest we have come to it actually is happening right now with the advent of the Internet, where students can share their stories, teachers can talk to one another and so on.

So you have a certain set of repertoire and maybe etudes and scales and maybe theory that were taught and/or are they taught. How are they taught? What does the teacher do in the lesson? What type of practising is the student given to do at home? What kind of guidance for the practising?

These are the very things that we are exploring right now. In fact, the teachers in the teacher forum are asking the same kinds of questions.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 09:56 PM

keystring, I have read your post, here:

If anyone looks at the history of piano teaching....


Piano lessons are mostly given privately, one-on-one. We don't actually have much of a view of how teaching is done, or was done. There are some anecdotal stories of famous people who were teachers, told by their students or assistants, but generally this is at an advanced level. The closest we have come to it actually is happening right now with the advent of the Internet, where students can share their stories, teachers can talk to one another and so on.

So you have a certain set of repertoire and maybe etudes and scales and maybe theory that were taught and/or are they taught. How are they taught? What does the teacher do in the lesson? What type of practising is the student given to do at home? What kind of guidance for the practising?

These are the very things that we are exploring right now. In fact, the teachers in the teacher forum are asking the same kinds of questions.

________________________________________________

Well, I pop in almost daily into the teachers forum but I have not seen too much discussion of technique, lessons given to students, the guidance for practicing. In the various forums, lots of people speak of not liking the music they have to play, they don't like their teacher and they are always looking for a better teacher. Of course, in the digital forum, NOTHING is spoken about what music they play or at what level they play - only that their major focus is to find the best and cheapest digital on the planet. And teachers complain about no-shows, parent issues, student bad attitude, don't practice, on and on.

To me, the most important thing is not the teacher, not the piano - digital or acoustic - BUT the goal of learning they best that you can be piano player. So if I read anything about repertoire, or technique - I make a note and tack it to the wall. The reason I say that the teacher is not important - is in the context of a lawyer. You can have the best lawyer on the planet, but if you tell lies, no lawyer can help you. If you have the worst lawyer on the planet, the judge and the jury can see through the lawyer,s inability and the client will win. So in the same way that if a person has a great teacher, the best, but complains about their instructions they are given, the music to have to play, they will go nowhere, but if a less adequate teacher has the best student on the planet, the student will make the best of teacher, but still go on to be the best because they know how to make the best of a bad situation
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/21/13 11:04 PM

Journal 1: Sun. 7/21/13. Started to work out fingering. I penciled into my Henle edition and tried out the fingering of my edition of 18 Preludes, edited by Willard Palmer and published by Alfred. (I tried them out by playing HS, slowly so as not to make errors.) The Palmer fingering works well in most places, solves some problems in a few places that would have eluded me, and seems remarkably wierd in a few measures. I went back and forth, trying it slowly in Palmer's fingering and in the fingering that makes more sense to me, but am still undecided.

This edition also has articulation suggestions (slurred throughout, for the most part) and dynamics suggestions. I'm not sure about these; I'll listen to some recordings and see if I get any ideas. I really would like to read some of the treatises (both historical and current) about Baroque style.

Journal 2: Sun. 7/21/13. Searched on "BWV 927" on YouTube and listened to several recordings. Of notable interest are Angela Hewitt, Glenn Gould (listed as Marcelo Gandolfi for some reason), UIPianoPed, ecolepiano. Also listened to several student renditions which ranged from adequate to painful. There are subtle issues to work out, like which voice to bring out when, what articulation to use, and just how fast to go (although judging by the exemplars, the only answer to that is: fast). But the biggest glaring feature that distinguishes the performances I like from the others, is an open and flowing quality to the playing. For example, in the figures of three eighth notes at the beginning, these can either be bashed out (bad) or touched lightly (good). Even if they are brought out above the sixteenth notes, as when they appear in the right hand (in some performances), the good performers still give them a light quality. I'm not even sure if these are the right words. The huge challenge for me will be to capture this overall quality of the piece, that I can't even describe. I can hear it though, so maybe I will be able to use my hearing to guide my playing in the right direction.

I don't hear any added ornaments, except perhaps a RH mordent at the end. This is good; I think there will be enough challenging here for me without also trying to get good at fast ornaments. Something to think about for the future though: developing my ability to ornament. I think I'd like to work at that purely as exercises to start with; whenever they come up in a piece I'm too impatient to learn the piece to want to take the time I need to get the ornaments right (maybe Bernhard's method rigorously applied would help me with that problem in learning an ornamented piece, though).

Another big challenge for me will be bringing this up to tempo. I've never played these kinds of sixteenth note runs this fast.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 12:44 AM

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
The only thing anyone needs to know about practicing any music at any level during your lifetime, is to open up a music book, look over the music, do you know the names of the notes in the piece in the treble clef and the bass clef. Can you read through the measures and count the values of the notes and the values add up in each measure to 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, 6/8, and lots of others.


I disagree. When the intuitive method suggests practicing your whole piece by repetition endlessly (by the time you get it right, if you ever do, you'll want to quit after the first successful attempt) until you can eventually play it, then, in actuality, you need far more than just a music book to know how to play. But then do we really need anything? What role does needing play in relation to learning to play piano, anyways?

Let's assume you're practicing a little bit more efficiently than above and practicing your music not as one giant whole, but as sections. You still may have little to no idea how long these sections should best be, how and for how long you should practice these sections, how to deal with the coordination difficulties in putting hands together and how they may relate to the above, etc. This is the category the majority of players fall under (as a result of the methods of the majority of teachers).

Bernhard is doing nothing more than providing a set of general rules or suggestions with which to enhance your practicing by defining some of these arbitrary variables. He himself says that you shouldn't believe him, but that you should try them - and to be more specific, test them scientifically by learning one new piece of x difficulty with whatever current method/approach you use and then learning a second new piece of a similar difficulty of x and then comparing the results. Chances are, one approach's results will stick out more than the other (in some cases, significantly so). When, like me, after almost two years of playing (as well as what you thought constituted practicing), you realize that you don't know how to define any of these variables (for me personally or otherwise), then this is damn frightening - especially if one of your goals is to go on later and teach others ("the blind teaching the blind").

Now if you were to change what you said to instead say, "The only thing anyone needs to know about practicing any music at any level during your lifetime to have fun," then I couldn't agree more (though this would depend on your definition of fun). Just so there's no ambiguity, my personal definition of fun in this context is not only progressing towards my goals, but clearly understanding how I did so and may continue to do so beyond any reasonable doubt (as well as eventually passing on the knowledge to others).
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 12:52 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Journal 1: Sun. 7/21/13. Started to work out fingering. I penciled into my Henle edition and tried out the fingering of my edition of 18 Preludes, edited by Willard Palmer and published by Alfred. (I tried them out by playing HS, slowly so as not to make errors.) The Palmer fingering works well in most places, solves some problems in a few places that would have eluded me, and seems remarkably wierd in a few measures. I went back and forth, trying it slowly in Palmer's fingering and in the fingering that makes more sense to me, but am still undecided.

This edition also has articulation suggestions (slurred throughout, for the most part) and dynamics suggestions. I'm not sure about these; I'll listen to some recordings and see if I get any ideas. I really would like to read some of the treatises (both historical and current) about Baroque style.

Journal 2: Sun. 7/21/13. Searched on "BWV 927" on YouTube and listened to several recordings. Of notable interest are Angela Hewitt, Glenn Gould (listed as Marcelo Gandolfi for some reason), UIPianoPed, ecolepiano. Also listened to several student renditions which ranged from adequate to painful. There are subtle issues to work out, like which voice to bring out when, what articulation to use, and just how fast to go (although judging by the exemplars, the only answer to that is: fast). But the biggest glaring feature that distinguishes the performances I like from the others, is an open and flowing quality to the playing. For example, in the figures of three eighth notes at the beginning, these can either be bashed out (bad) or touched lightly (good). Even if they are brought out above the sixteenth notes, as when they appear in the right hand (in some performances), the good performers still give them a light quality. I'm not even sure if these are the right words. The huge challenge for me will be to capture this overall quality of the piece, that I can't even describe. I can hear it though, so maybe I will be able to use my hearing to guide my playing in the right direction.

I don't hear any added ornaments, except perhaps a RH mordent at the end. This is good; I think there will be enough challenging here for me without also trying to get good at fast ornaments. Something to think about for the future though: developing my ability to ornament. I think I'd like to work at that purely as exercises to start with; whenever they come up in a piece I'm too impatient to learn the piece to want to take the time I need to get the ornaments right (maybe Bernhard's method rigorously applied would help me with that problem in learning an ornamented piece, though).

Another big challenge for me will be bringing this up to tempo. I've never played these kinds of sixteenth note runs this fast.


Thanks for these journal entries.I am just wondering whether the Henle edition does not come with fingering. Were the fingerings of the 2 editions different? I understood that you do not have access to piano for 2 days. How did you try the fingering HS?
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 01:14 AM

Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
how to deal with the coordination difficulties in putting hands together and how they may relate to the above, etc.


Bobpickle,

At the moment, I am learning Canon in D Pachelbel and I am struggling putting hands together for a specific section of 4 measures. I have already spent 3 days, 30 min a day on this section and still not struggling to play through these 4 measures. Can you advise step by step how I should be learning it using Bernhard method.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 01:26 AM

JosephAC, apparently all Henle Bach editions come in two versions: fingered and unfingered. I didn't know this when I got my Henle Little Preludes And Fugues, and by the luck of the draw it's unfingered. I'm wondering if I should bite the bullet and get the fingered version instead. (I have probably approaching $100 worth of Henle Bach books that I might want to replace; how depressing.)

I tried out the fingering on my piano at home this morning before I left on my road trip.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 01:44 AM

Correction to Journal 1: the marks I took to be slurs are in fact phrase marks. The introduction to the Palmer edition says "it is clear that Bach expected the notes to be played cleanly and well articulated at all times." So, not an endless legato.
Posted by: woodog

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 07:41 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
.... I'm wondering if I should bite the bullet and get the fingered version instead. (I have probably approaching $100 worth of Henle Bach books that I might want to replace; how depressing.)



I wouldn't. It'll take time to work out fingering that's best for your hand, but you'll be better for it.

I used to think the fingering in the score was sacred, but now only see them as suggestions, and with fingered Bach editions, sometimes the fingering forces an articulation that YOUR musical mind might disagree with.

Have fun! I'm following your progress!

Forrest
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 09:49 AM

You're looking at the fingering and listening to recordings?

This is not the Bernhard method.

What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head. Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

The third step is to play through the score looking for technical difficulties. After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning. I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

Speaking of fingering, the unfingered Bach editions are not to be sniffed at. If fingering is important to you then you might want to check out the IMSLP editions for ideas on fingering or buy cheaper versions fingered by different editors. I have several editions of the inventions all edited by different folks and a prized copy that was unfingered and my own fingering written in only after I finished each piece.

I typically begin Bach with a variety of editions all on the rack together. As I'm usually only working a couple of bars a day it's no hardship to compare all the editions once I've tried my own intuitive fingering and come up short of complete success. I don't think I've ever used all the fingering of one edition.

There's a lot to be said for intelligently tackling your own fingering especially when comparing editions that are fingered differently and you try to find out why.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 10:35 AM

Richard, thank you for the redirect about Bernhard's method.

Do I learn the piece as sound by listening to recordings, looking at the score, both at different times, and/or both at the same time?

Journal 3: Monday, July 22, wee hours of the morning before going to sleep. (This is from before I read Richard's post, but curiously apropos.). Went over the score many times listening to it silently in my head, thinking about patterns in the music, where phrases might end, what it might sound like to bring out one voice or the other. Realized there's a ton of subtlety about this piece that I don't know how long it would take me to figure out. I mean "figure out" as in deciding on an interpretation, not as the later step of figuring out how to deliver that interpretation. This might mean it's a long time before I start working on it at the keyboard, if to follow Bernhard's method I'm to work this all out in advance. On the other hand, I don't necessarily want to have only one fixed rendition. I want to develop the freedom to play it in different ways at different times. On the other other hand, don't confuse freedom to vary the rendition with the lack of ability to deliver a given rendition at will. (That is, if the piece comes out differently at different times, it should be because I'm controlling the differences, and not because it's random and I can't deliver any single chosen interpretation at will.)

Richard, how well do I need to know the piece for this initial step? Be able to sing (or internally audiate it) at will without the score? Or something less than that?
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 10:50 AM

As far as I can recall you should be able to audiate the whole thing from memory before even looking at the score. At this audio only stage it would be good if you could break down the structure into exposition, different subjects, and the parts of different forms, eg. ABACAB etc. without necessarily having to determine key changes or other complexities.

I recall Bernhard being surprised when he first saw the score compared to how he had visualised it.

In some ways it's a shame we didn't do this in the analysis thread. Ah, me! We live and learn. If and When we get back there we might add the kind of practical analysis needed here, before attempting to learn a piece, as part of the theoretical analysis we do.

Once you get to the score you continue to listen to recordings and continue to refrain from playing while getting into the harmonic analysis.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 11:07 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
You're looking at the fingering and listening to recordings?

This is not the Bernhard method.

What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head....

Every good teacher I have ever worked with or talked to has always made room for two things:
- the student's particular learning style and strengths and weaknesses
- intelligent, independent thinking in conjunction with their teaching.

In a relationship with a live teacher, that teacher will adjust how much he imposes things, giving guidance that will have the student figure things out on her own but along that guidance, and also free reign in some areas. The teacher will also adjust all of these as the student grows, because students don't stay the same.

As soon as you have a written system, all of that disappears. It is important not to apply such a thing rigidly. I've read PianoStudent88's posts for several years, and from everything I know, what she is doing seems spot on, regardless of what might be written in that system. Surely there is room for thinking and experimenting, and doing whatever works?
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 11:15 AM

Yes, agreed, but this is an experimental thing. She might well learn something important doing it this way like lose the reliance she places on the score and increase the confidence in her own hearing.

I think this is an important step and while she's trying out the system it seems like a good idea to add it in. When else will she try it?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 11:21 AM

What I read seems like an excellent stepping stone or bridge between the world of reading and the world of hearing music. It just seemed right. You go from your strong side to your weak side, and you knit a bond between the two. There is also a balance to be struck as you make that journey.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 11:31 AM

I wanted to check about something. Bobpickle, this comes from a post of yours in the other thread on practicing but it's still on this subject. You were writing here about things students might do while practising in between (traditional) lessons:

Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
... or wander back to the intuitive method in their practice,

My attention was caught by the word "intuitive" which is part of something negative here. Does Bernhard say anything about students' instincts, intuition and similar?
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 01:04 PM

For this piece, I agree with Richard in that I'm experimenting with doing this method as much as we can tell from how Bernhard describes it (even if Bernhard with different students might vary some things in ways that he hasn't written about).

I haven't read very much about Bernhard's preparatory Stage 1. Richard or Bob, do you have any links?
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 05:09 PM

I don't think there's much to read. Most of the detail is on what happens once practise at the piano begins.

I made notes when I read it, a good while ago now, and that's all I have.

1. Listen to recordings and imagine what the score will look like. Do not rush this stage. Only look at the score when the whole piece can be played in the mind.

2. Study the score. Harmonic progressions, repetitions, motifs, textures, climaxes, phrasing. Again, do not rush this stage. You don't need to memorise the score but it should be familiar. Continue listening to recordings.

3. Sight read through the whole piece. The only consideration at this stage is technical difficulty.

4. Plan the learning sequence, difficult sections first. This is the equivalent of a film director planning the shooting sequence for a movie.

5. Work on each separate section, difficult ones first, and begin memorising.

6. Join the piece, in larger sections if necessary, and play the whole piece at half speed.

7. Work on interpretation.

8. Treat defined parts as separate (e.g. Sonata or suite)

This is the basis of the advice I've given to others in the Mendelssohn and Grieg recitals, in the recital or the analysis threads or in PM's as well as to my own undertakings.

Stage 1 was a new idea to me when I read it. It wasn't realistic before YouTube. Now I find it speeds up the learning process at the cost of reducing the variety of music in the car.

Stage 3 was a joke when I was taking lessons, the rest is stuff I got from my teacher or had before lessons began.

Hope it helps.
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 10:43 PM

Hi Richard,

Here's an extract from my collection of Bernhard method:

1. The first stage is exploratory.
• Sight-read through the piece to identify the difficult sections
• Analyze the piece.
• Listen to CDs of the piece
• Break it all down in manageable sections to practice.
Figure out for each section the best fingering.
• Plan how you are going to tackle the piece; how many passages, how long the passages are going to be, how you are going to join the passages.

Most of this stage is done away from the piano. The end result of this stage is to have a thorough knowledge of the piece (theoretically) and to have a plan typed up to master the piece in as little time as possible.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/22/13 10:47 PM

[cross-posted: this was in reply to Richard.]

Step 1: schedule Step 2 for July 2014, when I will have finished absorbing BWV 927 aurally.

Do you suggest continuing with BWV 927, or for this test drive of Bernhard's method would you suggest switching to a piece whose score I haven't seen?
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 02:52 AM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Hi Richard,

Here's an extract from my collection of Bernhard method:

1. The first stage is exploratory.
• Sight-read through the piece to identify the difficult sections
• Analyze the piece.
• Listen to CDs of the piece
• Break it all down in manageable sections to practice.
Figure out for each section the best fingering.
• Plan how you are going to tackle the piece; how many passages, how long the passages are going to be, how you are going to join the passages.

Most of this stage is done away from the piano. The end result of this stage is to have a thorough knowledge of the piece (theoretically) and to have a plan typed up to master the piece in as little time as possible.



This was my understanding as well. While fingering may need to be validated or altered later on, it's most beneficial/efficient for me personally to finger the score away from the piano in this first stage.

Explore this thread for various Bernhard posts on fingering in relation to mental practice and also in the "exploratory phase" of learning a piece.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 02:55 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
[cross-posted: this was in reply to Richard.]Do you suggest continuing with BWV 927, or for this test drive of Bernhard's method would you suggest switching to a piece whose score I haven't seen?


My 2 cents: the exploratory phase of learning music is simply to lay the groundwork for memorization as well as to just come to better understand the music in general. Don't get too caught up in worrying about every detail. Just know why the general principles are there and then adjust them as you see fit.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 03:06 AM

Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
... or wander back to the intuitive method in their practice,

My attention was caught by the word "intuitive" which is part of something negative here. Does Bernhard say anything about students' instincts, intuition and similar?


He talks about them in the context of feedback - how the best benefit of good teachers and regular lessons is the feedback system that they provide. He goes on to say that if, as a beginner, you have no feedback (imagine a deserted island alone with just a piano) then no amount of time will be sufficient in learning even simple things. This is clearly evident in that no beginners come to teachers with the knowledge of general principles for how to practice. http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2599.msg22431.html#msg22431
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 06:21 AM

It's supposed to be "Re: Bobpickle"

I found the sentence: "However theory of probabilities is set against the self-taught student. It does not help that a lot of the correct procedures in piano playing are counter intuitive." It's in the word "counter-intuitive".

I am thinking now that when you used the word "intuition" negatively, that this came from your own understanding of his writings, and that intuition is not being seen as bad. It may be how you are understanding the word "counter-intuitive".

This is a very important thing. Counter-intuitive means that you are given something to do that you would not have thought of yourself and it doesn't make sense to you, but when you do it, then this thing will bring you to where you need to be, but indirectly. Not only do students not come up with it, but when told to do such things, they refuse to do it because "it doesn't make sense".

INTUITION, on the other hand, also plays a role. A student will instinctively sense something and reach toward it, or she will have an urge to do things that will get her there. It's the connection that we have with ourselves.

It is a constant balancing act for a teacher. On the one hand, the student must do these counter-intuitive things that he knows will work. Otoh, she must also draw on herself because blind robotic obedience causes something to be missing. The teacher must be careful not to crush that part.

Now the teacher himself, Bernhard, would be observing the student. Say for example that he came upon PS88 doing what she did, he might see that it is exactly right for her (or not) because he has the whole picture. But we, knowing his rules, would say "No, no, that's not what the rules say." because we are applying them rigidly. (I'm using that instant only as an example.)

For those following this system, I think a place needs to be kept open for your own intuition too. If a teacher juggles these two sides, then if you are self-teaching then you have to juggle them too.

I am glad that he did not say anything against instinct, because there are teachers who have rigid systems which they impose on students like marionettes. This doesn't seem to be the case here.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 07:00 AM

What a busy little thread!

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Do you suggest continuing with BWV 927...
Yes, definitely. It would be a good idea to transition more gently to this way of hearing first but it's good to be aware of the idea behind the process.

Are you doing a similar piece in tandem to test the speed of this method? It's not important, just curiousity. The logging will cover much of the comparisons, assuming you normally log your work or have logs for comparison.

Again, maximum efficiency isn't always the driver. Enjoying the process must play a part and if the process itself is the fastest but not enjoyable I'd throw it out the window. Being a pianist means enjoying the daily practice as we do our food and playing through pieces is reserved for celebratory meals, special occasions or just the Sunday Roast.
_______________

Thanks, Joseph, for the exploratory breakdown. I've seen a thread giving an example where he spent two months memorising a piece by listening and another poster took it to mean that they had to spend doing two months doing just that and also how he was often surprised when he finally saw the score. So there was a definite space between the listening process and going to the score.
________________

And thanks, Bob, for the fingering details. Perhaps I ought to try this myself. I have spent a lot of time and effort since joining this forum to improve my sight reading. It's working and is now the first thing I do each day.

But up till now I have made my first approach to the piano a bar by bar exploration cementing the analysis, filling in the harmonic details, fingering and finding the mechanical difficulties. Very frequently many of my difficulties were those of reading but these are now dissipating.
________________

Ah, yes, the feedback system. How pleasant it was to hear words of encouragement from my teacher before the 'but...' and ideas for improvement.

Now I'm settling for Mr Recorder telling me "Horrible! Go and do it again!" smile
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 06:46 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring
This is a very important thing. Counter-intuitive means that you are given something to do that you would not have thought of yourself and it doesn't make sense to you, but when you do it, then this thing will bring you to where you need to be, but indirectly. Not only do students not come up with it, but when told to do such things, they refuse to do it because "it doesn't make sense".


I agree with this definition 100%. It very much applies to what Bernhard has to say in the context of teaching it to players and/or beginners (I had a quote in mind, but couldn't find it; oh, and this is another reason he has daily lessons - to crush the fallacious logic behind the intuitive approach). Obviously in the context of "learning something" in the conscious mind (remember learning doesn't equal mastery), you'd think that 700 repetitions would be better than 7 and make something more "learned". However, this untrue, and the fact is the thing will be "learned" the same regardless of how many repetitions of something you do past 7. Now this is best understood with the example of learning and memorizing a poem (http://kantsmusictuition.blogspot.com/2007/09/secret-on-how-to-practice.html) because there are obviously a great many more things that follow the 7 repetitions in the context of learning to play a musical passage (http://brenthugh.com/piano/piano-practice.html#techniques)


Originally Posted By: keystring
For those following this system, I think a place needs to be kept open for your own intuition too. If a teacher juggles these two sides, then if you are self-teaching then you have to juggle them too.

I am glad that he did not say anything against instinct, because there are teachers who have rigid systems which they impose on students like marionettes. This doesn't seem to be the case here.


Of course, but the point is that the "instinct" which we all start off with is generally inefficient if not wholly incorrect. This is why I'm trying to now include the disclaimer with everything to "adapt the method in a way that works for you personally." However before doing this, you must fully understand every part of the method and why Bernhard's figures are what they are before veering off the beaten path, so to speak.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/23/13 07:08 PM

There was someone on pianostreet who tried out the method and found it gave him fantastic results. But along the way, once he had been through most of his sections, he observed that some were less well-learned, and those were the ones where he had taken shortcuts.

Knowing what is a good adaptation and what is a time-wasting supposed shortcut is perhaps a challenge. But this is why I want to try this out as much as possible the way Bernhard describes it.
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/24/13 01:43 AM

In the preceding thread, someone posted that Bernhard might be living either in UK or Australia. How can I find out whether he lives in Australia? Is his account still active at pinao street? I would not mind taking a couple of lessons on practice technique for my beginner's level.
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/24/13 02:53 AM

Today, I had another read of my summary of the 7x20 method and I have 2 questions:
a)If I learn a chosen section after 7 repetitions, will I spend the remaining time of the daily 20 min period repeating this section (mindfully? automatically? but without hesitation or stuttering).

b)Is it Ok to work on a different section of the same piece ? or should I be working on a another section from another piece? Or could be all the individual sections be from the same piece?

Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/24/13 05:53 AM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
If I learn a chosen section after 7 repetitions, will I spend the remaining time of the daily 20 min period repeating this section
The first seven repetitions are to learn the notes for this days session, each hand separately. The remaining time is to practise this section hands separately or together for up to twenty minutes.

If you get the passage as you want it after two or three minutes you are done for the day, on that passage. If you still don't have it after twenty minutes the chances of improvement by spending more time on it are remote and tend to introduce errors from fatigue.

If the passage is easy to remember but difficult to play you may use all the twenty minutes on it if you can maintain focus but cut it short if it starts to feel like drudgery. Just a few careful repetitions is all you need to make progress and we can only make so much progress in one day.

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Is it Ok to work on a different section of the same piece?
Yes, but there are many ways to play this out. The key idea is that you don't keep going over the first section after having worked on it. You can choose another section from the same piece but it's better to choose a non-adjacent section and preferably a contrasting section.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/24/13 07:19 PM

Journal 4: Wed. 7/14/13. It's been a few days since my last journal, which is already going against the principle of "practice every day", but my iPhone connectivity at home has been spotty, making it hard to get on YouTube and listen to this prelude. Loaded it up at work (where I'm on reliable wireless) and listened to the Angela Hewitt version several times this evening.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing as I listen. I can hear certain details as she plays, but only the things that I remember from the score, or that I had looked at the score more closely after hearing them earlier in the week. The rapid rush of sixteenth notes, I can't really aurally detect the details of the exact pattern they're making. I can't hear the LH clearly in some places. But most fundamentally, I don't understand what I'm supposed to be doing if I'm supposed to be learning this to the point of humming it just by listening to it.

To illustrate that, let me talk about some other music I'm learning right now: chorus music for a concert next December. It's gospel music and spirituals, and our director wants us to be able to sing it by memory as much as possible. So I'm working not only to learn the notes, but also to memorize the words, and to be able to sing it without the reminder of the score. I have a recording of the pieces we'll be singing, and I've listened to it several times. But for actually learning my part, I can't use the CD. For one thing, I sing alto, and I can't aurally pick the alto part out of the four part harmony. So I'm using the score, working small section by small section, pyramiding my efforts, and letting sleep solidify each bit of learning rather than try to drill a section beyond the point of productivity on a given day.

So if that's what I do to learn music to be able to sing it, why wouldn't I do the same thing to learn the details of how this prelude sounds? From Angela Hewitt's recording I have gained a musical gestalt for the piece. But for the details, am I expected to learn how they sound by listening? My normal way to find out how the music sounds in detail would be to play it, perhaps HS or by single voices, slowly. Or at least to listen to it while looking at the score, which helps me to hear more things in the music than if I don't have the visual cues for details.

I understand that I will improve at learning aurally by practice, but right now I'm not good enough to pick up the details of this prelude quickly or easily. So I am balking at this part of Bernhard's ideas, to learn thoroughly how a piece sounds before looking at the score. However, this is the do-it-rigidly attempt at this method, so while I'm balking I'm not giving up this step yet. For one thing, I expect I need to listen to this over several days to use the sleep consolidation of learning (assuming aural learning works the way the 7x20 and post-performance-improvement principles say kinesthetic learning happens).

There are some songs (by which I mean real songs--things you sing--not piano pieces) that I in fact was never able to understand or sing well until I had looked at the score, no matter how many times I had heard them and sung them (shakily). Although I don't sightsing well for pitches, seeing the score explained some strange parts of the songs that I couldn't make sense of aurally.
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/24/13 10:18 PM

Thanks PianoStudent88 for your posting. Very good question on what to do when listening. I am a beginner. I do not know neither. However, I have been listening to the Great Course on How to Listen and Understand Great Music. Prof Greenburg has a good framework of 4-5 questions for listening for understanding. While I did not script his questions, I came across these questions, which conver far more than Greenburg's listening comprehension questions:

What are the instruments used to make the music?
How does this music make me feel?
What is the mood of the piece?
Do I like or dislike this music?
Does this music sound similar to anything I have heard before?
Was this music recorded in a live setting or in the studio?
What is the musical texture?
Does the music have a steady beat or pulse?
What is the meter?
Is there singing?
Does the singing feature syllables, words, or both?
Is this piece an instrumental?
How many voices are involved?
What is the gender of singer(s)
In what language are the lyrics written?
What is the tonality/key?
What is the relationship of consonance to dissonance?
What is the dynamic range of the piece?
What is the size of the ensemble?
Are there any transitions between sections?
Is the music sacred or secular?
Does this music sound like it was composed or improvised?
In what genre does this music best fit?
From what time period does this music come?
From what country does this music come?
Which of my 5 senses does the music trigger?
Does this music trigger any memories?

I am not at a level to answer most of these questions. I usually listen to develop a frame of reference on how the music should sound like.
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 03:57 AM

Sorry, Bopickle, I cut and pasted your posting to a txt file and then I couldn't find out where where in was until now where it was in the forum:


Originally Posted By: Michael_99
The only thing anyone needs to know about practicing any music at any level during your lifetime, is to open up a music book, look over the music, do you know the names of the notes in the piece in the treble clef and the bass clef. Can you read through the measures and count the values of the notes and the values add up in each measure to 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, 6/8, and lots of others.


I disagree. When the intuitive method suggests practicing your whole piece by repetition endlessly (by the time you get it right, if you ever do, you'll want to quit after the first successful attempt) until you can eventually play it, then, in actuality, you need far more than just a music book to know how to play. But then do we really need anything? What role does needing play in relation to learning to play piano, anyways?

Let's assume you're practicing a little bit more efficiently than above and practicing your music not as one giant whole, but as sections. You still may have little to no idea how long these sections should best be, how and for how long you should practice these sections, how to deal with the coordination difficulties in putting hands together and how they may relate to the above, etc. This is the category the majority of players fall under (as a result of the methods of the majority of teachers).

Bernhard is doing nothing more than providing a set of general rules or suggestions with which to enhance your practicing by defining some of these arbitrary variables. He himself says that you shouldn't believe him, but that you should try them - and to be more specific, test them scientifically by learning one new piece of x difficulty with whatever current method/approach you use and then learning a second new piece of a similar difficulty of x and then comparing the results. Chances are, one approach's results will stick out more than the other (in some cases, significantly so). When, like me, after almost two years of playing (as well as what you thought constituted practicing), you realize that you don't know how to define any of these variables (for me personally or otherwise), then this is damn frightening - especially if one of your goals is to go on later and teach others ("the blind teaching the blind").

Now if you were to change what you said to instead say, "The only thing anyone needs to know about practicing any music at any level during your lifetime to have fun," then I couldn't agree more (though this would depend on your definition of fun). Just so there's no ambiguity, my personal definition of fun in this context is not only progressing towards my goals, but clearly understanding how I did so and may continue to do so beyond any reasonable doubt (as well as eventually passing on the knowledge to others).

__________________________________________________

Thanks, Bob, for your feedback.

*** I disagree. When the intuitive method suggests practicing your whole piece by repetition endlessly (by the time you get it right, if you ever do, you'll want to quit after the first successful attempt) until you can eventually play it, then, in actuality, you need far more than just a music book to know how to play. But then do we really need anything? What role does needing play in relation to learning to play piano, anyways?


-Playing the piano is an ever learning journey. When I started over a year ago, I played slowly without errors and then increased my tempo by playing the pieces over and over until it was awesome(!!!). About 3 months ago I read a post here that said that playing something you can play well is a waste of time. I immediately agreed that it applied to me and I stopped immediately. In stead of learning a piece in a week, I was learning a new piece almost everyday. The reason, is that if I could play a new piece slowly without errors, that was it, it was a done deal. My piano life changed for ever. Shortly after that I thought why do I play a piece without looking at it first, because if I look at the music and sawe a ledger note or a measure that is confusing, it is a show stopper if for any reason you have to stop or slow down to be able to play the piece.

From that point in time I always read through new music to make sure there are NO show stoppers present.

With a little bit of luck I play new pieces once without errors and that is the end of it.

It is interesting that beginner books don't say read through the music before you begin to play it to make sure there are no show stoppers. Yes, they tell you to say the names of the notes as you play them, and count through the measures - but that doesn't help you if you are stuck and being stuck means you have to repeat.

***Let's assume you're practicing a little bit more efficiently than above and practicing your music not as one giant whole, but as sections. You still may have little to no idea how long these sections should best be, how and for how long you should practice these sections, how to deal with the coordination difficulties in putting hands together and how they may relate to the above, etc. This is the category the majority of players fall under (as a result of the methods of the majority of teachers).

---There are things that I know and, of course, things that I don't know. My pieces, as I say are only 1 or 2 pieces at this point. But I have music "to look at" such as Chopin's ballade 4, Op. 52 of 17 pagers. To me it doesn't matter where I break the music for this reason - I will only play music I can play by reading the music - no memory stuff because I am dyslexic. I would break the music probably by page. As to how long you should play them, the rule is if I can play it slowly without errors - that is good enough for me. But having said that, the fact it is a long/huge piece, I would still do it by the page, but I would at the end of each week, for example, play everything I had learned up to that point if you will, as a review.

With respective to putting hands together, I read in one of the piano magazines that one famous pianist said you should play hands apart and then hands together and I posted that here and everybody came down on top of me, saying you should only play hands separate if you can't play anything - and I agree, absolutely, so I have yet to play the music hands separate for a few reasons, I want my brain to remember how I played it, so there is no reason to confuse my brain by learning someting that I don't absolutely have to do - so I play music at snale's pace without errors rather than using hands separate.


***Bernhard is doing nothing more than providing a set of general rules or suggestions with which to enhance your practicing by defining some of these arbitrary variables. He himself says that you shouldn't believe him, but that you should try them - and to be more specific, test them scientifically by learning one new piece of x difficulty with whatever current method/approach you use and then learning a second new piece of a similar difficulty of x and then comparing the results. Chances are, one approach's results will stick out more than the other (in some cases, significantly so). When, like me, after almost two years of playing (as well as what you thought constituted practicing), you realize that you don't know how to define any of these variables (for me personally or otherwise), then this is damn frightening - especially if one of your goals is to go on later and teach others ("the blind teaching the blind").

Now if you were to change what you said to instead say, "The only thing anyone needs to know about practicing any music at any level during your lifetime to have fun," then I couldn't agree more (though this would depend on your definition of fun). Just so there's no ambiguity, my personal definition of fun in this context is not only progressing towards my goals, but clearly understanding how I did so and may continue to do so beyond any reasonable doubt (as well as eventually passing on the knowledge to others).

---If you define love as fun, then you are right. I love playing the piano. I love playing anything - any music. I can play every piece I have ever learned, tiny beginner stuff of 4 to 8 measures, to a total of 100 pices and I love playing all the time a long with new pieces I am learning. But apart from that I enjoying learning and playing anything and always trying to make it sound beautiful to my ears and heart.

But probably what drives me most is how much can my dyslexic brain learn or is there a limit of my ability to play the piano. It is very fascinating to learn how technique enables you to move around the 88 keys on the piano "effortlessly". Those are not negative statements, or self deprecating statements, but just interest. I love a challenge, and if anything was a challenge - piano playing is the ultimate for me. So rewarding.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 05:45 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
It's been a few days since my last journal, which is already going against the principle of "practice every day"


Then adjust your principle. It's not that you need to practice everything every day. It's far more valuable to practice something small every day and after a few days, master it than to practice a lot every day, but at the end of a few days or a week, have nothing to show for it (just as it so happens, this also makes keeping a journal far easier).
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 09:30 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
It's been a few days since my last journal, which is already going against the principle of "practice every day"
I believe it was Godowsky that said we don't play piano with our hands.

Practising piano involves a lot more than sitting at the keyboard improving the mechanical aspects. I've improved many pieces by taking a vacation and playing fragments on a virtual keyboard or running the sound through my head on my virtual hi-fi while strolling along a deserted beach.

We don't train for piano playing by lifting weights or spending time at the gym. With all due respect to the MOYD thread, it's our brains that need the daily practise, not our fingers.
______________________


Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing as I listen.
We can only hum one note at a time so start with that. Hum along.

Listen to the melody line and get to know it well enough that you can whistle it or hum it in your head (where your compass is unrestricted). Mentally fill it by listening to whatever is filling the sound stage between the gaps in the melody. Then learn that backing sound without the melody. Start by working on just the bass. Then fill in with the inner voices.

If you can hum, whistle or imagine the melody all the way through the piece from memory you're ready to start looking at the score. The other listening skills come with time and practice.

Advanced readers don't vocalise the words in their heads when they read. Try do the same with music.

You might add a da-da-da-dah along to Beethoven's fifth when audiating it. Try not to do this but hear, listen to or create just the timbres of the orchestra without your tongue, throat or Adam's apple responding physically.

But concentrate mostly on humming along until you can hum along from memory.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 11:44 AM

What if I'm really bad at remembering tunes if I can only hear them, but if I can look at the score at the same time as I listen to them I can remember the tune much better [ETA: even without the score]?

I have read Bernhard writing about getting better at various kinds of mental practice with practice, in a way that implies that one starts out less good and improves over iterations with different pieces, so how good do I have to be at pure aural learning with this first piece I'm learning to practice?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 12:17 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
What if I'm really bad at remembering tunes if I can only hear them, but if I can look at the score at the same time as I listen to them I can remember the tune much better [ETA: even without the score]?

If it works then it is probably right.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 01:27 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
...how good do I have to be at pure aural learning with this first piece I'm learning to practice?
If you intend to embrace this method fully then good enough to learn the tune by hearing it without sight of the score.

If you want ideas for getting there start with children's nursery rhymes and Christmas carols. Then move onto popular vocal music (popular across genres not 'pop' music per se), show tunes, folk music etc. Vocal music has readily identified melodies and words make them easier to remember, especially if they're well crafted and are sung in the same metre as when they are spoken. Good scansion. Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are better at this than Michael Jackson, for example.

When you get to instrumental music start with Chopin's Prelude in A not Bach's Prelude to his solo 'cello suite in G.

And as keystring notes, use whatever works for you. This isn't a test. Don't burden yourself.
Posted by: tangleweeds

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 01:34 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
What if I'm really bad at remembering tunes if I can only hear them, but if I can look at the score at the same time as I listen to them I can remember the tune much better [ETA: even without the score]?

If it's any comfort to you, I'm exactly the same way.

One positive side to this kind of bonding with/dependence on the score is that (after a number of years of practice) I've found myself developing an increasing ability to audiate* scores I've never seen/heard before. At this point mostly pretty simple ones, but hey, you've gotta start somwhere...

* for newbies unfamiliar with the term, audiate means to be able to read an unfamiliar score and hear in your mind what it would sound like
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 01:53 PM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
...how good do I have to be at pure aural learning with this first piece I'm learning to practice?
If you intend to embrace this method fully then good enough to learn the tune by hearing it without sight of the score.

If you want ideas for getting there start with children's nursery rhymes and Christmas carols. Then move onto popular vocal music (popular across genres not 'pop' music per se), show tunes, folk music etc. Vocal music has readily identified melodies and words make them easier to remember, especially if they're well crafted and are sung in the same metre as when they are spoken. Good scansion. Cole Porter and Irving Berlin are better at this than Michael Jackson, for example.

With the first piece? That doesn't seem like Bernhard's method from what I have read. He describes starting students with a piece they want to learn, not with nursery rhymes and Christmas carols in case they don't have sufficient aural skills yet.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 02:03 PM

I'll just say this once. PianoStudent88 you are in track with what you are doing, and it seems you have a good understanding of the principles of this without getting hung up on the details.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 02:15 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
If you intend to embrace this method fully then good enough to learn the tune by hearing it without sight of the score.

If you want ideas for getting there start with children's nursery rhymes...

With the first piece? That doesn't seem like Bernhard's method from what I have read. He describes starting students with a piece they want to learn, not with nursery rhymes and Christmas carols in case they don't have sufficient aural skills yet.
No, I think you misunderstood.

Start with where you're at now, using the score for guidance.

If you want to develop memorising music without using the score then start with nursery rhymes. Just for the memorising. Not for pieces to learn.

Hmm?
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 02:34 PM

Ok, I did misunderstand. I had asked about for this piece and you answered as a long term improvement program, beyond this piece.

I don't understand the role of nursery rhymes and Christmas carols in learning how to learn to hum a tune just from listening. I already know how to hum lots of nursery rhymes and Christmas carols. Starting with "simple music that I don't know already" would make sense to me. You haven't slipped into giving advice for how to learn to play by ear, have you? For that, nursery rhymes and Christmas carols -- tunes I know already -- would make sense as a starting point. For me, being able to learn a tune aurally so I can hum it is a long long way from being able to pick out that tune on the piano.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 02:35 PM

Rereading, I may have misunderstood again. What do you mean by "memorising music without using the score"?
Posted by: Michael_99

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 02:58 PM

zrtf90, I have read your post, here:

You're looking at the fingering and listening to recordings?

This is not the Bernhard method.

What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head. Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

The third step is to play through the score looking for technical difficulties. After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning. I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

Speaking of fingering, the unfingered Bach editions are not to be sniffed at. If fingering is important to you then you might want to check out the IMSLP editions for ideas on fingering or buy cheaper versions fingered by different editors. I have several editions of the inventions all edited by different folks and a prized copy that was unfingered and my own fingering written in only after I finished each piece.

I typically begin Bach with a variety of editions all on the rack together. As I'm usually only working a couple of bars a day it's no hardship to compare all the editions once I've tried my own intuitive fingering and come up short of complete success. I don't think I've ever used all the fingering of one edition.

There's a lot to be said for intelligently tackling your own fingering especially when comparing editions that are fingered differently and you try to find out why.

_________________________________________________

***What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head.

I don't know how long you have been playing the piano or how "gifted" you are.

+++Looking at a score of music, as a beginner piano player in no way puts the whole piece as sound in the head. Even playing a piece daily for as much as 2 years is the whole piece as sound in the head.


***Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

+++WOW - like I said - how long have you been playing music?



***The third step is to play through the score
looking for technical difficulties. After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning. I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

+++The first thing I do when I start a piece of music is reading through the score/piece to be sure I can recognize the notes in the piece - 5 ledger notes above and below I can read and recognize, but 10 ledger lines below and above may cause me to pause or is a show stopper.

***After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning.

+++I don't get this at all. If I can't play 1 measure easily and correctly - there is no better reason to assign the section length for learning immediately! Else why would it matter how and why define a section to learned and be played?

*****I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Well, like I said, how long have you been playing. I am a beginner and the finger is in place. I have 3 John Thompson method books to work through, so maybe 1, 2, 3, years, before I am learning famous, difficult Opus numbers of famous composers.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

Speaking of fingering, the unfingered Bach editions are not to be sniffed at. If fingering is important to you then you might want to check out the IMSLP editions for ideas on fingering or buy cheaper versions fingered by different editors. I have several editions of the inventions all edited by different folks and a prized copy that was unfingered and my own fingering written in only after I finished each piece.

I typically begin Bach with a variety of editions all on the rack together. As I'm usually only working a couple of bars a day it's no hardship to compare all the editions once I've tried my own intuitive fingering and come up short of complete success. I don't think I've ever used all the fingering of one edition.

There's a lot to be said for intelligently tackling your own fingering especially when comparing editions that are fingered differently and you try to find out why.
Posted by: scorpio

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 03:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
zrtf90, I have read your post, here:

You're looking at the fingering and listening to recordings?

This is not the Bernhard method.

What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head. Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

The third step is to play through the score looking for technical difficulties. After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning. I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

Speaking of fingering, the unfingered Bach editions are not to be sniffed at. If fingering is important to you then you might want to check out the IMSLP editions for ideas on fingering or buy cheaper versions fingered by different editors. I have several editions of the inventions all edited by different folks and a prized copy that was unfingered and my own fingering written in only after I finished each piece.

I typically begin Bach with a variety of editions all on the rack together. As I'm usually only working a couple of bars a day it's no hardship to compare all the editions once I've tried my own intuitive fingering and come up short of complete success. I don't think I've ever used all the fingering of one edition.

There's a lot to be said for intelligently tackling your own fingering especially when comparing editions that are fingered differently and you try to find out why.

_________________________________________________

***What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head.

I don't know how long you have been playing the piano or how "gifted" you are.

+++Looking at a score of music, as a beginner piano player in no way puts the whole piece as sound in the head. Even playing a piece daily for as much as 2 years is the whole piece as sound in the head.


***Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

+++WOW - like I said - how long have you been playing music?



***The third step is to play through the score
looking for technical difficulties. After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning. I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

+++The first thing I do when I start a piece of music is reading through the score/piece to be sure I can recognize the notes in the piece - 5 ledger notes above and below I can read and recognize, but 10 ledger lines below and above may cause me to pause or is a show stopper.

***After this comes assigning the section lengths for learning.

+++I don't get this at all. If I can't play 1 measure easily and correctly - there is no better reason to assign the section length for learning immediately! Else why would it matter how and why define a section to learned and be played?

*****I'm not exactly sure where the fingering is done but I would suspect that it's after this stage and the first thing done when beginning each section.

Well, like I said, how long have you been playing. I am a beginner and the finger is in place. I have 3 John Thompson method books to work through, so maybe 1, 2, 3, years, before I am learning famous, difficult Opus numbers of famous composers.

Do you have a better idea, Bob, of when the fingering is assigned?

Speaking of fingering, the unfingered Bach editions are not to be sniffed at. If fingering is important to you then you might want to check out the IMSLP editions for ideas on fingering or buy cheaper versions fingered by different editors. I have several editions of the inventions all edited by different folks and a prized copy that was unfingered and my own fingering written in only after I finished each piece.

I typically begin Bach with a variety of editions all on the rack together. As I'm usually only working a couple of bars a day it's no hardship to compare all the editions once I've tried my own intuitive fingering and come up short of complete success. I don't think I've ever used all the fingering of one edition.

There's a lot to be said for intelligently tackling your own fingering especially when comparing editions that are fingered differently and you try to find out why.


What, exactly, is your point?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 03:53 PM

In regards to nursery rhymes and music that has words:

This is one kind of association. If you are good at memorizing words, or if you associate melody with words, then you can use that to quickly remember the melody of that kind of music. I don't know whether it develops hearing, or if it is just good for memorizing that kind of music.

I was in a choir where one day we were given music that had a long passage of just "ooh". My reaction was "Finally something where you don't have to try to look at both the music and the words - easier." This choir had sung the song for years but still had trouble with it at the "ooh". That's when I realized that they focused primarily on the words, and attached the melody to them, while I started with the melody. They did not think like instrumentalists.

If your strong point is reading, then doesn't it make sense to attach the melody to the written notes, instead of attaching it to words? And if you can do that, wouldn't memorization for performance without the score arise from practising that way, without ever needing to start with memorized music?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 04:00 PM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90

If you want to develop memorising music without using the score

I see no reason for memorizing music without using the score, and I DO see potential harm in this. If you aren't hearing everything correctly, you may well play notes that have not been written in, but that you think you are hearing.

I also suspect that some clarifications are needed because the impressions may not be what you are actually trying to say. For example: listening to the music and imagining the notes before ever looking at the score. I do have some abilities both in audiating, and playing what I hear or writing it down, but I know for certain that the music would have to be very simple for me to do that. For example, I cannot recognize thick chords accurately. Even if I hear the quality of that chord, I may not hear the distribution of the notes in it accurately. How could someone who is at the beginning of learning to hear possibly imagine all the notes in both hands in a complex piece of music? And since scores exist, why not use them?

You cannot be meaning literally what you seem to be saying.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 05:59 PM

I agree with your reservations keystring. This is why I asked what Richard means by "memorizing music without using the score." I thought we were talking about the ability to become able to hum the melody of a piece, just from listening to it repeatedly. But now I'm not sure what Richard is talking about.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 06:03 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
What if I'm really bad at remembering tunes if I can only hear them...
Start memorising "simple music that you don't know already". smile I initially thought of nursery rhymes, carols, folk music...

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
...if I can look at the score at the same time as I listen to them I can remember the tune much better
So a) use the score or b) try to memorise tunes without looking at the score - the way you (presumably) learnt the nursery rhymes. But I'd start with "simple music that you don't know already". smile

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
What do you mean by "memorising music without using the score"?
Listening to recordings or performances until you can audiate them from memory - the way you do nursery rhymes and carols - and know where you are in the score, well enough that on hearing "dit-diddley ah-da" you can add "boom, boom".
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 06:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
***What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head.

I don't know how long you have been playing the piano or how "gifted" you are.
Very gifted! I'm fluent in my mother tongue and I'm incredibly good looking. Nearly everyone I visit has a photograph of me in their bathroom! laugh

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
+++Looking at a score of music, as a beginner piano player in no way puts the whole piece as sound in the head. Even playing a piece daily for as much as 2 years is the whole piece as sound in the head.
You've misunderstood the quote Michael. The first step is to memorise the sound from listening to recordings - not from looking at the score.

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
***Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

+++WOW - like I said - how long have you been playing music?
This is not difficult, Michael. There was a gang of us doing just that on this forum and PianoStudent88 was one of the leading participants.


Originally Posted By: Michael_99
+++The first thing I do when I start a piece of music is reading through the score/piece to be sure I can recognize the notes in the piece - 5 ledger notes above and below I can read and recognize, but 10 ledger lines below and above may cause me to pause or is a show stopper.
Ledger lines are a reading difficulty. I'm going through as an experienced sight reader looking for big leaps, weak finger trills, difficult stretches, polyrhythmic passages or fast arpeggios, etc.

I'm looking for things that are difficult to play even when I can read the notes or have memorised them.


Originally Posted By: Michael_99
+++I don't get this at all. If I can't play 1 measure easily and correctly - there is no better reason to assign the section length for learning immediately! Else why would it matter how and why define a section to learned and be played?
The test is not what you can or cannot play but how much you can hold in working memory. If you can't memorise 1 measure, playing hands separately, it may be better to work on a half measure...or just one beat...or just two notes.

As your experience grows so does your ability to memorise passages. I have memorised a full page of an easy Scarlatti sonata in one day. I struggle with a half measure of a Bach fugue.

The object is to find out how much music you can hold in working memory so that improvements at the end of the section will still be there for the next repeat. If you're having to read the music to remember the notes, remembering the new fingering, for example, may prove too much.

Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 06:05 PM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
If you intend to embrace this method fully then good enough to learn the tune by hearing it without sight of the score.

If you want ideas for getting there start with children's nursery rhymes and Christmas carols. Then move onto popular vocal music (popular across genres not 'pop' music per se), show tunes, folk music etc. Vocal music has readily identified melodies and words make them easier to remember...


Originally Posted By: keystring
I see no reason for memorizing music without using the score, and I DO see potential harm in this.
1. Should we stop singing lullabies to infants without giving them the score?

2. Going back to my reply to Michael, the essential thing is to know the notes well enough to hold in working memory and learn new fingering to try it out without having to write the fingerings in the score first but remember which ones we've tried and which ones we've not. If we're using a softer staccato for a particular note than it's adjacent buddies it helps to remember which one without having to add a mark in the score.

If you're trying a new phrasing to make the line more meaningful, more seductive, more pleading, more majestic, more piquant it helps to be able to hear it that way in your head first without having to follow the notes from the score.

Originally Posted By: keystring
For example: listening to the music and imagining the notes before ever looking at the score.
I don't think I've ever seen the score but I can sing "One, two, three, four, five, Once I caught a fish alive" and I'm fairly sure I've got the notes right! Singing that in my head is what I'm talking about.

Originally Posted By: keystring
For example, I cannot recognize thick chords accurately. Even if I hear the quality of that chord, I may not hear the distribution of the notes in it accurately.
Ask any budding guitarist how 'Smoke on the Water' goes and he'll sing the "chords" using single notes and a throaty timbre. That's what I'm talking about.

Originally Posted By: keystring
You cannot be meaning literally what you seem to be saying.
Then I don't mean it literally. I'm not writing statutes here and not passing it through the legal department. Luckily this is a public forum and anything that doesn't make sense can be questioned and clarified.

Instead of memorising music perhaps I should say memorising melodies and throwing in the occasional 'um-ching-ching, twiddle-de-dee' in the gaps.

Of course, as you get better you may well be able to add in the bass and drums or even whole orchestras but that's possibly beyond basic requirements here. The essential thing is to "know the tune", not every harmonic nuance but the basic melody from start to finish.

Originally Posted By: keystring
I also suspect that some clarifications are needed because the impressions may not be what you are actually trying to say.
I may be fluent in my mother tongue but that doesn't mean I'm lucid. frown

I'm not making huge technical demands on people here, honest!

Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 06:07 PM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
how to deal with the coordination difficulties in putting hands together and how they may relate to the above, etc.


Bobpickle,

At the moment, I am learning Canon in D Pachelbel and I am struggling putting hands together for a specific section of 4 measures. I have already spent 3 days, 30 min a day on this section and still not struggling to play through these 4 measures. Can you advise step by step how I should be learning it using Bernhard method.


Hi Joseph. I've been meaning to get around to responding to this, but haven't yet. How are things going - do you still need help?
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 07:04 PM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
We can only hum one note at a time so start with that. Hum along.
...
If you can hum, whistle or imagine the melody all the way through the piece from memory you're ready to start looking at the score. The other listening skills come with time and practice.

This was an earlier post I made. I couldn't find it for my last responses. (I'm clearly not a fluent reader of my mother tongue, either.)
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/25/13 09:55 PM

Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
how to deal with the coordination difficulties in putting hands together and how they may relate to the above, etc.


Bobpickle,

At the moment, I am learning Canon in D Pachelbel and I am struggling putting hands together for a specific section of 4 measures. I have already spent 3 days, 30 min a day on this section and still not struggling to play through these 4 measures. Can you advise step by step how I should be learning it using Bernhard method.


Hi Joseph. I've been meaning to get around to responding to this, but haven't yet. How are things going - do you still need help?


Since my posting, I have managed to progress further. Now I can play HT reasonably well. Actually, I spend daily 20 min playing HT slowly, and within 2 days I got the gist of it.I kept toggling between HS and HT. I am OK for now. Thanks. It was a question of time... slowly but daily... Thanks for asking.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 01:07 AM

This statement of a major aural component to Bernhard's method as preparation before looking at the score is making me absolutely miserable. Richard, you are modifying Bernhard's method by not learning your sections up to final tempo initially; I wonder if your sense of how much should be aurally learned before looking at the score is also a modification?

It would be very helpful to have some of Bernhard's posts where he talks about this and then I could gauge firsthand what he's getting at and how he approaches it with his students.

I'm thinking for the sake of my sanity I'm going to modify this to "get familiar with both the sound and the score in as many ways as you know how to do, before breaking it down and starting to practice sections at the keyboard." I'll look at the list JosephAC quoted to give me some ideas, and also see if I come up with any other ideas.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 05:04 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
This statement of a major aural component to Bernhard's method as preparation before looking at the score is making me absolutely miserable. Richard, you are modifying Bernhard's method by not learning your sections up to final tempo initially; I wonder if your sense of how much should be aurally learned before looking at the score is also a modification?

It would be very helpful to have some of Bernhard's posts where he talks about this and then I could gauge firsthand what he's getting at and how he approaches it with his students.

I'm thinking for the sake of my sanity I'm going to modify this to "get familiar with both the sound and the score in as many ways as you know how to do, before breaking it down and starting to practice sections at the keyboard." I'll look at the list JosephAC quoted to give me some ideas, and also see if I come up with any other ideas.



What makes you thinking the ability to auralize is in any way, shape, or form a major component to Bernhard's method? This is simply a part of Richard's take on Bernhard's approach (maybe Bernhard isn't even involved - there's been so much writing, I can hardly follow). Why does this have to be your take?

If you can't auralize music to the extent that Richard can (I imagine few of us can), then this in no way, shape, or form excludes you from being able to benefit from Bernhard's approach to learning repertoire. All Richard has been describing is his approach to learning repertoire/sections/passages and its relation to what he's read of Bernhard's writing (again, maybe). Just as exactly what you do probably won't work for him, exactly what he does probably won't work for you. The only two necessities of Bernhard's approach (I hesitate to call them necessities, but they're the two core points everything is built around) is to practice a section of music no longer than 20 minutes (an average figure - maybe it's 10, maybe 30, just set a time limit for which you can focus) and to make significant progress in that period of time. Everything else amounts to great supplementary tools depending on your specific purpose in learning the piece, but nothing else is required (obviously even following the two aforementioned principles aren't required of anybody to follow, but we're trying to make the most of our practice, are we not). The only prerequisites to using Bernhard's routine and tips for learning repertoire are being able to read music and work out functional fingerings (which doesn't even need to be done away from the piano, but it makes you have to think in a good way). That's all.

All not being able to auralize music means is that you have something to practice for the benefit of your musicianship (though it's debatable whether it compares in value to something like sightreading). Go re-read Richard Kant's Bernhard Summary - it says nothing about mental practice or auralization, let alone needing to do them. The only part of his (Bernhard's) routine where auralization is particularly helpful is when starting practicing passages hands together. The sooner you can hear in your head exactly what hands together sounds like, the sooner the fingers will be able to play it. Obviously a simple tape recorder or digital piano recorder function (i.e. recording one hand and playing along with the other) can take the place of auralization at performance or whatever tempo.
Posted by: Bobpickle

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 05:07 AM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Thanks for asking.


No problem. Sorry for the slow response.

I may try and summarize a few of the more important Bernhard principles to use when practicing new repertoire, as well as why they're important and the specific figures are what they are and if and when I do, I'll ask for you and others to proof-read it and look for holes for me.
Posted by: Sam S

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 05:46 AM

OK, I have read over some of the material about the practice methods (not all of it - too much to read!), and I have to say that it seems to me that little of it is controversial or even new. The summary that I read sounds very mainstream - breaking the music into chunks, the importance of repetition, limiting yourself in time (the same as the "pomo d'oro' method).

The only thing I see that is controversial is listening to the music before you learn it. What I have always been taught is that this causes you to 'copy' what other pianists are doing in the interpretation of the music. Much better to listen once, or even not at all, and develop your own skills to hear and interpret the music. Admittedly, this is easier the more experience that you have. It can be very difficult for an absolute beginner, but very rewarding for those with more experience. The goal is to develop your own sensibility to interpret music, and too much listening teaches imitation instead of independence.

Just my thoughts...

Sam
Posted by: Peter Leyssens

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 07:26 AM

Originally Posted By: Sam S
The only thing I see that is controversial is listening to the music before you learn it. What I have always been taught is that this causes you to 'copy' what other pianists are doing in the interpretation of the music. (...) The goal is to develop your own sensibility to interpret music, and too much listening teaches imitation instead of independence.


I can imagine why people would advise not to listen to pieces too much. But a strange side-effect is that this approach assumes that interpreters need to work in a vacuum, i.e. when they are not exposed to the interpretations of others, they are completely free to invent their own interpretation, but they lose this freedom when they get "tainted" by the world. There are a couple of philosophical problems with that assumption.

First, about the performer trying to figure out from the score what the interpretation should be. Even this bit is not context free, as the score is obviously a way to indicate how the piece should be played. And, as it was written for piano (presumably), the composer had certain fingerings in mind that can be figured out with time and experience.

Second, about the performer being influenced by a context until it is beyond his capacity to invent a new way of interpreting the piece. As I've already noticed in discussions here, many are using several versions of the score, using fingerings from one or another version as it suits them. Also, it's always possible to adapt your interpretation to your feeling as you go along. Glenn Gould did this for piano and Ton Koopman on organ. Even if you've heard one interpretation a lot, it doesn't mean that it feels right for you to play it that way. Listening to music and playing it are two very different things because playing involves your physical movement, which can be very different of how another interpreter moves.

The way of thinking about being "free" when "untainted" by other influences and "bound" when "touched by others" seems very romantic to me (a bit like Candide) and not very relevant any more right now. We can learn from trying to imitate, but we can also deviate when needed or wanted.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 07:32 AM

This is getting ridiculous!

I don't use Bernhard's method. Up to tempo HS before joining hands is too much for some of the passages I have to contend with. There are passages I've been playing for years that I still can't play up to tempo, HS or HT, eg. M10 & 12 of Beethoven's Moonlight, 3rd movement. I can't move my 4th finger fast enough in the descent. I'm content to take the hand up to a tempo where playing is automatic and without conscious effort. No more than that.

I made notes from a Bernhard post that summarised his approach. He spent two months memorising a piece of music before he looked at the score. This is his first step but it doesn't have to be two months (as someone had misunderstood). He was simply stressing the importance of the step. Then he went to the score and remarked that he is 'usually' surprised by it's appearance being different from what he'd imagined. Again he emphasises delaying going to the piano. Maybe he doesn't do that with his students.

What do we mean by memorising it and audiating it?

I mean "knowing what comes next" and hearing the melody with a bit of accompaniment in the gaps. I don't mean reproducing all the inner notes, bass, passing traffic, subtle nuances, the timbre of the bassoons...I just mean to be able to da-de-da the music in your head. I very much doubt that Bernhard means any more by it either.

When I play a piece that's recently been memorised the greatest difficulty I have to contend with is forgetting what comes after the current phrase. If I don't have the score in front of me, open at the right page, I have a few moments to recall it or I'm stuffed. If I learn a piece of music well enough to whistle it or hum it (and keep it in my head when it goes beyond my compass) while I do the washing up I don't have that pressure when I've recently learned a piece.

The issue and depth of memorising is, perhaps, overstated. If you know what phrase comes next that's usually enough and finger memory can take over from there. I prefer not to rely on finger memory but use cognitive recall which is hard work but bulletproof in performance, allows mental practise away from the piano and lasts a lifetime. Most non-memorisers "follow" the score rather than "read" it as they also have developed finger memory from their long hours of practise. It's a normal human function. That's why we use repetition.

If ever I was called on to turn a page in practise I'd lose it. I've never turned a page while playing or practising without stopping the music. I memorise the rest of the phrase over the page or memorise the whole thing up to the page turn. I use this method but do not advocate it.

Whatever method Bernhard advocates there's no point getting miserable over it whether it's what he writes or what someone else relates. No method is worth jack if it makes you miserable.

Woodog is right. It must be fun. And fun means it drives you and motivates you, not just amuses or entertains you.
Posted by: Peter Leyssens

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 07:37 AM

Originally Posted By: Bobpickle
Go re-read Richard Kant's Bernhard Summary - it says nothing about mental practice or auralization, let alone needing to do them.


Very interesting article. It reminds me of when I was memorising Japanese vocabulary and kanji, I was also using a system where I would repeat daily what I forgot, less frequently what I could remember. The granularity was a bit finer than just practice-now vs repeat-monthly, but the idea is the same. And I can fully testify that this approach works.

If I was a developer for tablet computers, I'd build an application that works as a daily work book for musicians on this base. After doing the initial phase of determining which passages to work on when, it could remind me what I'm working on, what I need to rehearse and what I need to re-do after a month's time. If anybody else is interested, you can steal this idea without referring to me smile
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 07:40 AM

Originally Posted By: Peter Leyssens
We can learn from trying to imitate, but we can also deviate when needed or wanted.
Hear, hear! (pun intended.)

We could not duplicate a Horowitz or Rubinstein interpretation if we tried. We are inspired by what we hear and we choose what appeals to us. These choices combine to form our 'style'. And if we didn't have the score (i.e. a system of writing music down) how would we learn other than by listening?
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 07:43 AM

Originally Posted By: Peter Leyssens
If anybody else is interested, you can steal this idea without referring to me smile
Tony Buzan beat you to it a few decades ago but not specific to music!

smile
Posted by: woodog

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 07:56 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
This statement of a major aural component to Bernhard's method as preparation before looking at the score is making me absolutely miserable. Richard, you are modifying Bernhard's method by not learning your sections up to final tempo initially; I wonder if your sense of how much should be aurally learned before looking at the score is also a modification?

..... Slippage



PS88,

As BobPickle pointed out above - and it bears repetition -

Quote:
The only two necessities of Bernhard's necessities

Practice music no longer than 20
and
make significant progress in that period of time.


I cannot play up to speed quickly and avoid tension, so I play h.s. WAY over speed at first only to see if the fingering I've chosen isn't going to be problematic, then I apply the principle (I think I first read this phrase in one of Richards posts!) of increasing speed by relinquishing restraint.

But back to Bobs point, progress is satisfying. Small sections means my brain can continue to think about the music after I'm done with the section, when I'm away from the instrument. And....

I truly believe this point that Chang mentions in his writings, ...

If you can imagine yourself playing at speed, then you can (or will eventually) be able to play it at that speed.

It used to be that I focused in the fingers, but these days I'm putting focus on the brain work - and not so much the fingers as the shoulders.

Lastly, keep enjoyment in the process. :-)

Forrest
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 08:08 AM

Richard, thank you for responding yesterday. I'm glad that I asked because with Internet posts, it happens all too easily that we think we understand or are understood, while everyone is going off on the picture they form of what the person is trying to say. That is what happened here.

I'll summarize what I see, and you can tell me if I'm off the mark. As I understand, you were talking about ways to get at the ability to hear music in general. Your various suggestions were for that purpose.

Meanwhile we were discussing Bernhard's approach to learning a piece of music. One stage, as I understand it, is listening to the performance to get it in your ear. (Did I get that right?). So when you were talking about being able to hear the whole thing in your head, and being able to see the notes, I thought you were talking about the preparation of the piece. At PS88's level of playing, these are not simple pieces. So you can see what I thought you were asking her to do. But in fact, you were talking about a type of ear training in general.

While in the context of a stage in preparing the music you are playing, "hearing the whole thing in your head", for me included all of the notes for both hands, recognition of chords in their entirety, their inversions, etc. Recognizing the notes would require "perfect pitch" unless you are thinking melody in Solfege. I can duplicate a melody, but it may be in a different key. I'll hear "Do Do So So La La So..." of "Twinkle, or "1 1 5 5 6 6 5..." in degrees, but I might play that as C C G G A A G; or G G D D E E D etc.

So while reading your advice in the context of Bernhard's preparation of a piece, what I pictured was far removed from what you had in mind. I don't know how far that was true for others.
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
I'm not writing statutes here and not passing it through the legal department. Luckily this is a public forum and anything that doesn't make sense can be questioned and clarified.

That clarification thing has been done now. smile

But you have touched upon something important. What is written here in some ways matters more than what passes through the legal department, because it is taken more seriously and more at face value. A student will spend countless hours - maybe days or even months - trying to do what she understands a teacher has told her to do. If that is misunderstood, imagine the havoc it will create.

From time to time I see teachers or advanced musicians write in a kind of "shorthand". A single sentence reflects a concept that they themselves developed over years, and they are thinking of all those things as they write that single sentence. You get five such sentences, and each should be a paragraph or more.

So in this sense, yes, each word might sometimes be looked over like a legal text, because each word is being translated into hours and days of practise. If it's misunderstood, then a mess has been created.

Two things arise from this:
- care by someone who is teaching to check as much as possible that what he or she says is understood
- the awareness of students that it might not be understood as meant. There is a line to be tread where on the one hand you try to follow what someone you find trustworthy has told you, rather than putting in your own interpretation. Otoh, questioning your understanding of it, whether it applies to you, and listening to your own senses. The hardest thing that I have found as a student, was in how far to go on either side of that line. As teacher: not to overteach, underteach, or be misunderstood.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 08:53 AM

I caught a video yesterday on essential Life Skills. Skills 2 & 3 were understanding other people's ideas in perspective and making sure others understand our ideas correctly.

So I take all your points on board.

And yes, it's good that we've reached some clarity now. smile

ETA: and yes, your summary of my intent is correct. Ear training in general and the whole thing meant the span of its melody horizontally not the details of harmonic depth.

Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 10:06 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90

I don't use Bernhard's method....


This is important. This thread is specifically about Bernhard's method, I imagine mostly for those who are trying to follow it. So when things that appear to be instructions or advice come, it is assumed that his method is the object. Whenever anyone writing here is talking about something that isn't his method, I think that should be clarified from the onset. Otherwise what you write risks being read in that context.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 10:14 AM

A final point is that TEACHING is not to be taken on lightly. Whenever anyone writes in the forum and is taken to be a teacher or an expert, what they write will be used by students. There is a reason why teacher training exists where teaching methodology is taught, followed by internship (in my time it was four). And even that is no guarantee, because there are lousy teachers out there who have had all the training in the world.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 10:17 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Nearly everyone I visit has a photograph of me in their bathroom! laugh

You've seen my bathroom? shocked shocked wink grin
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 10:26 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90

Originally Posted By: Michael_99
***Next is analysing the score, harmonic progression, phrasing, dynamics, texture, motifs, etc.

+++WOW - like I said - how long have you been playing music?
This is not difficult, Michael. There was a gang of us doing just that on this forum and PianoStudent88 was one of the leading participants.


You both have a point. It is good to analyze the score but how far you go with it depends on what you know. Michael_99, would you be able to tell elementary things, like that a section in the beginning repeats again at the end? If so, that helps in working on the music.

I was involved in the threads where music was being analyzed. If someone is to find the cadences, he first has to be able to recognize V7 and I chords. Before doing that he first has to be able to recognize chords. He also has to understand key signatures, know that a scale has 7 notes, i.e. rudiments of music.

The advice about analysis was good for PS88 and students with similar backgrounds, but will not be appropriate for someone who is beginning in music. So Michael_99, it might not suit you, but there are OTHER things that you can do which go with your present capabilities.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 10:27 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
You're looking at the fingering and listening to recordings?

This is not the Bernhard method.

What happens before sitting at the piano or looking at the score is learning the whole piece as sound in the head.

I was giving aural learning before looking at the score such serious consideration based on this post.

I will reconsider.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 11:06 AM

I'm sorry I can't give a link. This is what I have in one of my Word documents full of snippets from around the web that I've found useful or interesting.

This was cut and pasted from Pianostreet:

Originally Posted By: Bernhard

1. If available, I listen to a CD of the piece. One should only start at the piano after one can play the whole piece in the mind. So I start by memorising the”sound” of it. Do not rush this stage (I spent almost two months listening to Grieg’s Holberg suite before I even looked at the score). As I listen to it day after day I try to imagine what the score will look like.

2. I study the score. This means figuring out all the harmonic progressions, marking all the repetitions, the motifs, the textures, the climaxes, the phrasing, etc. Again do not rush this stage. It usually amazes me how different the score looks from what I first imagined in phase 1. You don’t need to memorise the score, but it should be very familiar. As you do that, keep listening to the CD and accompanying it on the score.

3. I sight read through the whole piece. My aim is to spot the difficult (for me) sections. At this stage my only consideration is technical difficulty.

4. I plan the learning sequence. The difficult sections I spotted will be practised first since they hold the key to the technical mastery of the whole piece. This is the exact equivalent of a film director planning the sequence he will shoot the movie.

5. I work on each separate section according to the sequence plan. (Allchopin is right: this is the stage when you should memorise your piece.)

6. I join everything together – if necessary in larger sections before tackling the whole piece - and practise the whole piece at half speed. Depending on the piece, outlining can be very helpful at this stage.

7. I work on interpretation (since by now technique should have been mastered), and start plying the piece as it should be performed.

8. If the piece has well defined parts (e.g. a Sonata, or a Suite) I will treat each part as separate piece – good psychologically.

That’s the gist of it. Each item can be more fully detailed. And specific pieces may need specific procedures.

I believe this to be the most efficient and fast way to learn any piece (not only long ones). If anyone knows a better way I would be interested.

Best wishes,
Bernhard



And this was a post or so later:

Originally Posted By: Bernhard

1. You should not take things too literally or out of context. The reason I mentioned I spent two months listening to a piece was to show how important I believe that particular stage to be. In other words I firmly believe in delaying going to the piano as much as possible. If you do that your time at the piano will be much shorter and much less practice time will be wasted in false starts and bad habits.

2. I was not in a pressure situation, so there was no reason to hasten the listening process.

3. And no, you should not listen to the piece and practise it at the same time. You should only start practising after the music (as sound) is completely memorised. Only then should you start memorising the physical aspects of playing the music.

4. Listening has a different purpose than practice. Listening is for the large, architectural aspects of the music. Practice is for the small technical details.

5. I stand by my assertion that this will be more efficient than diving into the piano straight away. But as I also said, rules are there to be broken. Break it and observe what happens. But to be really scientific, you need a control. So select two pieces of similar character and similar difficulty. Do one according to the sequence I suggested, and do the other any way you like. Report back in a couple of month’s time and tell us what happened.

6. Finally as a matter of principle I would advise anyone to never ever be in a hurry to learn a piece for an upcoming recital. This is a sure recipe for disaster. You should only show publicly pieces you have thoroughly worked out to the minimum details. Pieces you are completely comfortable with. Most pieces of any quality actually may take a lifetime to achieve complete comfort with. Someone in this forum claimed to have learned Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 in 4 days. I doubt very much I would care to listen to the result. Meanwhile Ashkenazy spent three years working on Chopin’s etude op. 10 no. 1 before doing it in public. Need I say more? So organise your musical studies so that you are never in a position to have to learn a piece in a hurry. Refuse to enter a recital under such conditions. And then again, break this rule and watch the results.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



I have the guts of this hand-written in my desk diary. I don't use all of it - just what appeals to me. But this is my source for Bernhard's method.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 11:31 AM

Terrific, thank you Richard for sharing your notes in Bernhard's words. These are very helpful.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/26/13 11:32 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90

I have the guts of this hand-written in my desk diary. I don't use all of it - just what appeals to me. But this is my source for Bernhard's method.


Not only does this give excellent perspective, but your own attitude toward it seems to be a good model. Thank you for sharing this, Richard. smile
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/28/13 05:24 PM

I have a naive question in relation to the first point. How to memorise the 'sound' of a piece ?

At the moment, as I am writing, I have a vague, if any, memory of the piece that I am busy learning, titled Miles. I just have a recollection of the beat. It is more a sensation recollection. Todate, I never paid attention to this sound memorisation.

On the other hand, I have a vivid recollection of the introduction of Symphony no. 5 by Beethhoven because of its dramatic nature and most likely listening repetition.

How is your 'sound' memory ? How did you develop it ?
Posted by: tangleweeds

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/28/13 06:53 PM

Mine started out pretty bad, too, but it did get better. I'm not sure what I did that helped, but I did a number of things to improve my inner ear and its relationship to written music.

I would buy sheet music with recordings a couple of levels ahead of where I was playing, and listen to them while following the music, analyze them theory-wise and pay attention to how the sounds reflected my analysis, then re-create the sound of them in my mind while looking at the score.

I also read the scores of my pieces away from the piano, and re-created in my head how it was supposed to sound. A second step along that road was, when I had insomnia (relatively common for me) I would practice visualizing the sheet music for my current pieces, and imagined hearing the music as I visualized playing it on a mental piano.

I also did some rhythmic and melodic dictation exercises (software generated).
Posted by: Whizbang

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/28/13 07:56 PM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
How is your 'sound' memory ? How did you develop it ?


By literally drowning myself in music.

About two years ago, I restarted formal piano study, after a lapse of decades.

About one year ago, I found a ragtime society in nearby city that has bimonthly "open mics" where all are welcome to listen or play.

I've been going to those pretty steadily over the past year.

Since I haven't wanted to just trot out the same old stuff, it means I'm usually working on at least two new pieces at any given time, while keeping older ones in rotation as well. I'm usually working from the page.

I knew my brain was changing around the time of my first open mic. I hadn't performed publicly for years and was pretty stressed out. I was about then that I'd find ragtime melodies running through my head for hours in the wee hours of the morning.

At this point:

* It's just melodies
* It can be the entire piece, but sometimes 8 measures or so get stuck on repeat. Those can be long nights.
* If you name a ragtime piece to me, I won't necessarily be able to summon the melody on command (particularly if I have to pull up a B, C, or D section)
* If I hear a melody, I may or may not be able to identify the piece (particularly if I have to identify it from a B, C, or D section)
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/28/13 10:07 PM

Thanks Tangleweeds. I like your recount of following the score with the sound. I never tried it before. Will it better to follow a basic aural method book or just any piece like you?
I am not sure how to re-create sound of the notes in my head. Do you re-create sounds of individual notes or or phrases or whole section? Is it a recreation or a recollection ?
For example, I have some sound recollection of Fuer Elise through my playing and listening to my son playing it. But when I look at the score of Elise, my sound memory is of general nature. Except for the special recollection of the introduction section, I can not imagine that I can associate the notes with the sound.

Will it be possible to develop the skill to follow the music and notation the way we could follow the written text with audible sound ?

What software/iPad applicaion do you use devloping ypur rhythim and melodic dictation ?

Thanks Whizbang. So it happened naturally for you through performing "open mics" performances. I am not sure how to map 'drowning in the music' to specific course of action.
Posted by: Whizbang

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 12:04 AM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Thanks Whizbang. So it happened naturally for you through performing "open mics" performances. I am not sure how to map 'drowning in the music' to specific course of action.


Easy. This is going to depend on the pace that you think you can pick up pieces, but...

...hold a recital in your home every three months. Invite family and friends.

You're on the hook. You can play whatever you want. This includes existing repertoire. But if all you play is existing repertoire, people are probably going to get a bit tired of it.

So, put yourself on the hook for at least one new piece each recital. Or two.

It's good to keep a few things pushing forward, because at least I find sometimes that I start a piece and then don't end up completing it for some reason.

It's a great motivator.

And, no, they don't always come off well, but then I can keep working and try 'em out next time.

And when you have a deadline and you're working hard to polish a piece, memorized or not, you might find that your brain starts problem-solving on the piece, late at night, and it starts to sing to you.
Posted by: tangleweeds

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 12:07 AM

Originally Posted By: JosephAC
Thanks Tangleweeds. I like your recount of following the score with the sound. I never tried it before. Will it better to follow a basic aural method book or just any piece like you?

I didn't have an aural method book, so I just used future volumes of my Keith Snell repertoire books. At first, following the score while listening can seem pretty hard, a lot of re-finding your place when there's a distinctive melodic run up or down, or a long note that lets you catch up with where you need to be. But it gets much easier with practice.

Quote:
I am not sure how to re-create sound of the notes in my head. Do you re-create sounds of individual notes or or phrases or whole section? Is it a recreation or a recollection ?

I think that the score serves as a reminder to spur recollection. As I was working on my own, I would listen to the CDs for the Keith Snell Repertiore series or Helen Marlais' Festival Collection (another repertoire collection I like) while doing other stuff, to get an idea of what pieces catch my attention, which I might want to learn to play eventually. Then other times I would listen to them with more attention while following along with the score. Eventually I found that I could open the sheet music, look a the notation of a piece, and recognize/recreate what that piece was supposed to sound like.

Quote:
Will it be possible to develop the skill to follow the music and notation the way we could follow the written text with audible sound ?

Yes, that's totally doable. Think about how a kid learns to read by being read to, the same favorite books over and over, until they can repeat the book verbatim. One kind of learns to do the same thing with sheet music, listening to it while following on the staff, and it becomes increasingly familiar. It's an excellent way of getting practice time in when you're away from the piano.

Quote:
What software/iPad applicaion do you use devloping ypur rhythim and melodic dictation

I use Practica Musica from Ars Nova software. It can quiz you on all sorts of music theory and ear training. If you have a DP or other MIDI keyboard device, for many of the exercises you can play your answers on the keyboard.... otherwise there's an clickable on-screen piano, and some exercises can accept answers by microphone. There are other exercises with multiple choice buttons, or a staff to put notes on. It's a very versatile piece of software, but not inexpensive. I enjoy playing music theory quiz/games on the computer, so it was worth the money for me. I joke that it lets me use my DP as a video game controller.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 07:07 AM

I've become curious. Ok, when I first joined PW, there was an older teacher and one thing she wrote, she was describing a beginner who has been practising the same piece for four weeks. And by the fourth week, the student would start to know how some passages should sound before playing it. I found that very strange. Like even if you can't audiate, if you have played something twice (a small passage) won't you be hearing in your head how it should sound the third time round before you play it?

I'm trying to think this through for myself too. I don't play brass, but I know that they have to picture the sound and try to produce it by the way they buzz their lips together with the slide or valve. On strings you have a position, like piano, but you have to fine tune so again you're listening. I used to hear a melody in my head like a singer when looking at sheet music that lent itself to that, and then felt for the keys that would give me the sound on piano. But that didn't work well for non-diatonic music, or more complicated music. So I had to relearn what "reading" meant.

In the relearning, I learned to see D and play the white key between the two black keys. When you do this you can play even complicated music. And doing this, I don't prehear the music. So it almost seems that to play complex music, you need to have the ability to not hear (ahead of time) what you play, in order to get at those notes. I now can do that, and it's necessary to be able to do that.

But then coming from there, after a few times with this complicated music, I will still hear "there's a wrong note here". That's a memory thing.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 07:10 AM

Thinking about this further, there are also patterns. Like if music commonly goes along major and minor scales and you are used to these, if you're playing a passage that has a scale in G major and you play F instead of F#, you'll hear "that's wrong" if that kind of hearing is developed. Or if there are common rhythms, you get used to them. These kinds of things would have to play into it too.
Posted by: Shey

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 07:33 AM

Tangleweeds, I have just read your "neglected piano blog" I was moved to tears to hear the struggles you have had to get to where you are today.
I am still a beginner to piano although a returner, I recently rediscovered this forum again. I have never read any blog before, and just caught the link by accident, but so felt felt your hurt for the things you didn't say.
I find you an inspiration and believe music can be always be incredibly healing.
I just read up to your getting your new Casio piano.
Hope all going well with the B method. I'm looking at it and trying to do some sort of summary.
Posted by: tangleweeds

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 02:35 PM

Thanks, Shey, for your kind words on my blog. My return to piano has pretty much been a process of revisiting a childhood battlefield to salvage the remains of my musical spirit. I try to maintain good boundaries and not over-disclose on the personal stuff, but it's definitely been a rocky journey.

I really need to update the poor blog, but once again I'm facing the challenge of needing to sum up a large chunk of the past before I can make the present stuff make any sense at all. I keep starting, looking at what I've written, and deleting. :P (insert image of me shaking my head like a wet and jowly dog)
Posted by: Shey

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/29/13 06:29 PM

Please update your blog, tangleweeds, or just update us here on your piano progress.

I understand you may not want to give out too much personal stuff, but we all have a past and sometimes sharing your stuff helps not just yourself but others too who have experienced difficult emotional history.

Your rocky journey is a testament to you and the things you have gone through and how you have come through it.

Yes I know some people don't want to hear about others issues, but real life can be harsh, and people like you show such strength, and it is good to let it known that you can come through and it really helps other people.

Let us know what you are playing, and what piano you have just now. Your story is massive, and important, I wish you the best and anything you share with us here on this forum will be taken with gratitude and empathy.

As a beginner returner to piano, I have come to realise that the piano can be such an important aspect to a persons lifestyle, not sure why, but it seems that way to me.

Keep sharing, and update us.

Shey
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/30/13 10:26 PM

Journal 5: Tues. July 30. It's been almost a week since Journal 4, I was that flattened by the discussion about aural learning. I haven't even been just listening to it every night, which might seem easy to do, but I was really discouraged.

Tonight I returned to the score. The heck with learning to hum the melody before looking at the score. I hummed the melody silently with the score (inaccurately for exact pitches perhaps, or even probably, or in fact most certainly, but aiming to absorb the large outlines of the behaviour of the notes). I looked at the notes, I looked for patterns in the notes.

I noticed that it is a lot of the "Alberti bass" pattern of sixteenth notes, and some sixteenth note triads and seventh arpeggios up and down, and some sixteenth note straight runs, and some eighth note runs and eighth note jumps in the LH. Interesting how much mileage Bach gets out of just a few motifs.

I noticed what I thought might be true from listening to it, that there's nothing that "tugs" at my ears, and sure enough, there are no accidentals in the piece.

I hummed it through in my mind (again, possibly or even probably inaccurately as far as exact pitches go, but enough for me to get the idea of what I was trying to think about), thinking about following various lines into the RH or the LH making them prominent at various parts. There aren't very many obvious answers to me (yet?) about which line should be prominent at a given point; it's more like exploring different flavours and enjoying them all.

I noticed which chords were being used in the arpeggios. I didn't identify chords for all of the Alberti bass (which mostly isn't in the bass, but I don't know another name for this shape), but noticed some notable appearances of F major.

I looked at the outline of lines: where the highest and lowest notes were on short or extended passages, where the downbeats were and what line they traced, where the upbeats (the high note of the non-bass Alberti bass) were and what line they traced.

I thought about where I would put section or phrase markings. This doesn't exactly line up with breaking it up into small enough sections to learn; sometimes it goes for several measures without any obvious break. I expect I will be learning this measure by measure, or even by half-measure or single beat. The first phrase is two measures long, but I think it's too complicated for me to learn all in one section. And I want to approach this by making it feel easy to 7x-memorize my little sections for each day's practice, not by having to think hard about what comes next -- hence short sections for practice.

I feel like I have learned something useful about the piece now, which repeated listenings was not giving me and just made me feel hopeless. I will continue the work I have started with the score. As a sideline, I will start listening to it regularly now, and sometimes listening for particular features that I remember from the score (or follow along with the score), but unless I'm listening for something I know from the score, I'm not going to be beating myself up trying to hear anything at all in it; I'm just going to let it wash over me without aiming to retain anything at all, but just enjoy it as it goes by.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 09:04 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I hummed the melody silently with the score...
Do you mean every note ([F] C A C F C A C etc) or just the melody (e.g. C C D D, E E F)?

This is a prelude ( = chord progression, not melody). The best we can do for a melody here is the top note of each triad - for the first two phrases. For the second phrase you can, alternatively, use just the notes that change between beats (C A C, D Bb D, G Bb G, A). This is the easiest way for me to hum through the next long phrase culminating in the seventh in M9 and the quietest part of the piece (A A G E, F D E C, D Bb C A, Bb G A F, D DFAC).

Three strikes on G maj, 2nd inv, followed by E min 7, then drawn out chords, F maj, E min, D min, C maj. Ignore the passing notes in the triads up to the climax on the dominant seventh, C7, then finish on the final five chords.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Interesting how much mileage Bach gets out of just a few motifs.
His music is very dense. He can be studied in half bars but not half measures laugh

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
The first phrase is two measures long, but I think it's too complicated for me to learn all in one section.
I'm having exactly this issue with Grieg. My HS sections are long (up to 24 measures), easy to remember and well up to speed in each hand. The same passage HT is in twelve 2-measure fragments at below half speed.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
As a sideline, I will start listening to it regularly now...but unless I'm listening for something...I'm just going to let it wash over me without aiming to retain anything at all, but just enjoy it as it goes by.
This is how I go about it. Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 10:47 AM

For a piece structured the way this one is laid out, it had not occurred to me that the melody is not just the RH notes.

I will *examine the score* and *play through* this new idea of melody to know how it sounds.

This is very different from what your original advice to listen to the piece enough so you can hum it conveyed to me. The perils of the written word, perhaps, without the immediate feedback loop of you hearing me try it, hearing what I'm not understanding, humming what you mean to illustrate, me getting a better idea, going through a few more feedback loops, etc.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88

As a sideline, I will start listening to it regularly now...but unless I'm listening for something...I'm just going to let it wash over me without aiming to retain anything at all, but just enjoy it as it goes by.

This is how I go about it. Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.

That sounds like pure torture, to me. I want to be able to pick up music and learn it, not serve an extended listening apprenticeship in a skill that is not easy for me, before I start to learn how to play a piece of music.

It is partly by learning and playing music that I start to be able to really hear it.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 12:03 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
This is very different from what your original advice to listen to the piece enough so you can hum it conveyed to me.
Well a Chopin Nocturne has a distinct melody but a Bach Prelude doesn't. It's difficult to define a melody in this instance but when we hear a triad in that Alberti figure we just hear that triad on that beat. If we were to sing that beat we would either use the root note, F, or the top note, C.

If the next Alberti figure uses the same notes but changes just one of them, we tend to sing just the changed note. In this way melody is contained and comes over as one note per beat. The pattern of the arpeggio figure does not really constitue the melody. In the same way we don't sing different notes when a guitar is strummed upwards or downwards. It's either the root note, the highest pitch or the changed note.


Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.

That sounds like pure torture, to me. I want to be able to pick up music and learn it, not serve an extended listening apprenticeship
It's not really like that. When I was nine I was singing Beatles songs on the school bus just from hearing them on the radio in the mornings. I was never trying to memorise them.

It's only when the music has grown on me and I'm humming it incessantly at work that I consider putting a piece of music on my to-do list. It's not listening on order to learn. It's listening for pleasure until it happens to have been memorised, knowing what's coming next at every juncture and anticipating it.

When you sing in your choir are you reliant on the score?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 12:23 PM

PianoStudent88, I read what you described, the things that you did which worked.
Quote:
[I feel like I have learned something useful about the piece now, which repeated listenings was not giving me and just made me feel hopeless. I will continue the work I have started with the score.

Pretty obviously, you found what works for you.

Fwiw, before I did music formally I worked with music in various ways, and that music stayed in memory. It was not "finger memory" except for one piece. I'm talking about sonatinas that I learned to play at age 16 working them out via a patchwork of solfege and whatnot, having no piano for 35 years, and then when I had a piano, playing large sections of those same sonatinas in my early fifties.

I can tell you how I remembered those passages. It was similar to what you did. I worked with the score, I sang from what I played and heard it from the notes and fused to the notes. I also caught patterns. I did NOT play a recording over and over. I cannot imagine getting at music that way. To me this is too passive. It may work for some people, and even work very well. But that doesn't mean it works for everyone. And if it doesn't, why abandon what works for what doesn't work for you?
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 01:31 PM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
This is very different from what your original advice to listen to the piece enough so you can hum it conveyed to me.
Well a Chopin Nocturne has a distinct melody but a Bach Prelude doesn't. It's difficult to define a melody in this instance but when we hear a triad in that Alberti figure we just hear that triad on that beat. If we were to sing that beat we would either use the root note, F, or the top note, C.

If the next Alberti figure uses the same notes but changes just one of them, we tend to sing just the changed note. In this way melody is contained and comes over as one note per beat. The pattern of the arpeggio figure does not really constitue the melody. In the same way we don't sing different notes when a guitar is strummed upwards or downwards. It's either the root note, the highest pitch or the changed note.

I don't know who you mean by "we", but that doesn't describe me. Also, I hear piano music differently from how I hear strummed guitar chords.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Only when I've got it in my head does it go on my to do list.

That sounds like pure torture, to me. I want to be able to pick up music and learn it, not serve an extended listening apprenticeship
It's not really like that. When I was nine I was singing Beatles songs on the school bus just from hearing them on the radio in the mornings. I was never trying to memorise them.

It's only when the music has grown on me and I'm humming it incessantly at work that I consider putting a piece of music on my to-do list. It's not listening on order to learn. It's listening for pleasure until it happens to have been memorised, knowing what's coming next at every juncture and anticipating it.

I don't want to wait that long to start learning to play pieces. Also, some of the pieces I want to learn don't have recordings available, or only have very poor student recordings available. Also, I don't want to focus my listening so much on piano pieces I might like to learn to play. I like listening to a broad spectrum of music.

Sure, I've memorized music from listening to it on the radio or on records, just from hearing it a lot and not even trying. But it's a serendipitous kind of thing, and I don't see it as a pleasant activity to try to hook listening and learning pieces up in that kind of way.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
When you sing in your choir are you reliant on the score?

Yes and no. Yes, to remind me of the words and the notes. No, because I can't learn the melody pitches accurately from just seeing the score. I don't know how to describe needing the score to remind me of the fine points of the tune even though I can't sightsing without hearing the tune first. But that is what it's like for me.

That isn't to say I need the score for everything I sing, even if I started off with the score. For example, I've memorized quite a few hymns just from singing them over the years at church. But in choir we generally don't have a piece long enough for me to get to that point without making an extra memorizing-without-the-score effort.

In choir, we learn pieces a phrase at a time accompanied by the piano during choir, or sometimes do what my choir director calls sightreading but really isn't -- at least it's not sightsinging -- because the piano is always playing with us. (Other choirs may do this differently.) I also take the music home and work on it slowly at the piano, and work on singing it playing just my part, playing two parts together, and so on. We are also provided CDs. Sometimes these are of just the full performance (which I enjoy listening to, but doesn't help me learn it because I can't distinguish the alto part). Sometimes these include parts, for example I would be given a CD with an instrumental rendition of the parts with the Alto I part louder than the others. These don't particularly help me either because they don't have words (so I don't have any markers to let me know where in the piece any particular sound happens), and because they're too much to listen to and remember anything about other than having listened to a long piece. I suppose I could sit down with a CD player and toggle back and forth over a short section, but, yuck, what a technological pest -- I'd rather work that way at the piano with the score than by messing with a CD player and not being able to see the notes. I have an advantage over many people in my choirs because I do play the piano, so I can work on the score that way.

I can't remember if I posted about it, and if so if it was here or in the other thread, but for our December concert we are singing gospel music and our director wants us to have it memorized as much as possible (not required to be memorized, but the more we can sing without relying on the score, the better it will be stylitically). One piece we are required to have memorized, which we will use as an entrance processional. We have a CD of the whole piece, which I've listened to several times to get the stylistic sense of how the music goes. But I can't use it to learn my part because, as I mentioned above for this type of standard performance CD, I can't distinguish the alto part. If I were a soprano, whole different story -- there's lots of repetition in the chorus part, and it's catchy and sticks in my mind easily and I can sing along with it. But only the soprano line.

So I'm working on memorizing it the way I'm trying to work on my piano music: small bits, repeated daily, building up sections.

Be sure you're not confusing your aural abilities with my aural abilities.

There is a piano piece that I memorized for my RCM level 1 exam, which I can sing the whole thing. There is a 6 measure passage near the end that I find difficult to remember -- it's three repeated figures, all very similar but slightly different. I can sing this accurately, and I can hear when I play it wrong, and I can hear when I find the right note. But none of that *helps* me to know the right note to play the right note instead of the wrong note, because I can't pick out the melody by ear without lots of trial and error. Hearing a third, I can't tell if it's a major or minor third. Hearing a small step, I can't hear if it's a half step or a whole step. Given a medium step, I can't hear if it's a whole step or a minor third -- or maybe it's a major third. In fact, there are probably cases where I can't tell that a halfstep is a very small step and isn't perhaps a third of some sort, and vice versa. I've tried with this bit of melody to aurally figure out the notes (or the relative intervals), going over it and singing it, slowing it down and trying to fill in the jumps to figure out how big they are, and I can't do it. Another problem I have is that I can't reliably hear if a figure ends on the same note it started at, or a different one. And in general, I can usually aurally distinguish up from down, but if a figure is going quickly and switching direction a lot, I may miss it, and again that's not fast enough for trying to play something.

So my aural and humming ability with this passage has almost nothing to do with learning how to play it accurately, for me. I've recently embarked on a project of getting it memorized much more securely, and what I'm doing is writing it out as written, writing it out so the figures all start on the same note so I can compare the ways in which their intervals are the same or different, writing it out in simplified format so I can see which notes are being used independent of the filigree in which they're arranged, looking for patterns in the descending 4 note lines thus revealed. This is all to help me form a pattern to remember which notes I should play in which figure.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 02:43 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I don't know who you mean by "we"...

Consider it the royal 'we', that is, 'I'.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I don't want to wait that long to start learning to play pieces.
I appreciate our differences. I'm just saying it isn't torture. Memorising the sound comes easily and naturally for me.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Be sure you're not confusing your aural abilities with my aural abilities.
Again, I was genuinely asking how much you relied on the score. If I needed to read music to duplicate it or without being able to hear it in my head or had to make an effort to memorise it I don't think I could have reached the point you've reached. I very much doubt I'd be playing an instrument let alone wiping the floor on the theory.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 03:24 PM

Did my answer about how I use the score, and how we learn pieces in the choirs I'm in, answer your question?

Don't get me wrong, there's lots of music I sing purely from memory, that I didn't particularly learn from the score (Beatles songs, Billy Joel's The Stranger album, ...), or that the score is a long-forgotten piece of how I learned it (Send in the Clowns, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar...). But using the score (and playing it on the piano, in the case of singing), not an initial aural knowledge, is the primary way I learn music I'm going to learn on the piano or the flute, or for choir. Or in singing lessons for that matter, when I was taking singing lessons.

I've just printed out Skinkken's Prelude in E Minor that s/he has posted in the Composer's Lounge. There's a file posted of the sound being played electronically, but I can't get it to load. So I can't listen to this before trying it out. I can see the score and get a sense of it: quick staccato eighth notes, rising line, long note, melodi arc, back to more quick notes, and so on. So I have a general sense of how this goes, but not in any pitch-accurate way. But I can tell how it goes enough to know that it is of interest to me. And because I can read music, when I play it I'll be able to tell if what I'm playing is right or wrong per the score. And as I learn to play it and get more familiar with how all the sounds all fit together, I may come up with more interpretive ideas (although Skinkken has notated this with more dynamics and articulation marks than I'm used to seeing in my pristine urtext Bach life smile ). I could work with the score and try to think about interpretive ideas before starting to learn it, but I need to hear the ideas in practice, and also hear the music to hear ideas in it that I can't necessarily tell so concretely from looking at the score alone.

And actually, I want to just play through this and hear how it sounds, to find out if I want to learn it in great detail or not. So I'm not starting out with it super-carefully, although I guess in the interests of helping myself in case I later decide to learn it carefully, I'll start slowly by working out fingering, rather than what I have usually done in the past which is start with a rough read-through, be it ever so sloppy.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
wiping the floor on the theory.

smile

Thing is, I'm very strong at paper-and-pencil rules-based learning, in any field. Hooking it up to what it means as an aural phenomenon is much much harder for me. I can write out any mode you choose, and look at a score and determine what mode it's in. But I can't always tell by listening if a piece is in a major or minor key (much less any other mode). And if I hear them in isolation (that is just the one interval, not both of them next to each other) I can't distinguish a minor from a major third.

We did a warmup in choir the other night:
"sing a perfect fourth,
CCCC F

sing a perfect fifth,
CCCC G

sing a major sixth,
CCCC A

now let's try it once again"
ABCBAGF

(I think the final notes are a stepwise progression up and then down, so it ends on F, but it could have some skips in there instead. Who knows, it might even be coming down a triad at some point and ending on C, but I don't think so. We start it over again a half-step higher, so you'd think I'd be able to notice if I go from "-gain" on a note (like F) DOWN to "sing" on a much lower note (C#), or if I go from "-gain" on a note (like C) and then UP to "sing" on a slightly higher note (C#), but it all goes by so quickly I can't tell. I'm trying this out very slowly for myself right now, and I'm pretty sure it goes DOWN from one repetition to the next, but when we're doing it at speed in chorus I couldn't tell you that for sure.)

Anyway, I'm sure of the notes for the first three lines because I can tell if a note is the same as the note immediately before it, and because the point of the fourth/fifth/sixth is that we go up by that interval.

My point is, right after this we did another warmup, in solfege:

do sol do sol do
C G C G C

And after playing the warmup, but before we started singing it, our conductor asked us what interval it is. So I said "a perfect fifth" because I've sung this warmup before, and I know do to sol is a perfect fifth. But the interval actually doesn't sound like anything that says "perfect fifth" in any intrinsic way to my mind or my body or my musical sense or anything. I didn't have any way to compare it to the perfect fifths (and fourths and sixths) that we'd just been singing in the previous warmup. This is all true even though apparently I recognize the sound of this warmup well enough to tell that it's the do-sol warmup just from hearing it played, without the words. So what is it I recognize? I don't know. And why can't I put a name to it, just from the sound? I don't know. There's a certain rhythm to it though, and I suspect that I'm partly cuing on the up and down in that rhythm: half note, half note, quarter, quarter, half. I suspect that if the conductor played fourths or sixths instead of fifths in that rhythm I might still think it's the do-sol warmup, perhaps I might think that something sounded a bit odd but I wouldn't be able to put my finger on it.

I've been trying to learn to recognize melodic major thirds and perfect fifths for the next RCM exam, and I do this by matching up the played interval on my practice CD to "DO MI sol do" a major triad arpeggio for major thirds or "Twinkle twinkle" a perfect fifth. But I am quite capable of getting myself mixed up and confusing one sound for the other, for example singing four ascending leaping notes that start with the sounded perfect fifth and convincing myself that that sounds like a major triad arpeggio, or singing the words "Twinkle twinkle" to the sounded major third and convincing myself that's what the song really sounds like.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 04:24 PM

My question has been answered. You do have some degree of melody memory but you can't work out harmonies within the SATB sound field without isolating the notes on paper.

That's quite reasonable and understandable.

Not being able to distinguish major thirds from minor ones is harder (for me to understand). Isn't it just memorising sound qualities? Perhaps not.

I don't really know how I do it.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 04:43 PM

I just tried listening to the BWV 927 some more, to see if I can hear this alternate sense of melody that Richard describes.

Result: I don't hear it. I can't pick out the highest notes (except for three places in the middle of the piece where they also come on down beats and are the peak of an up-and-down pattern). I can hear the downbeats, but they're so sliced up with all the other notes in between that I can't tell anything about which way they're moving. The filigree is so fast that I can't even tell if the downbeats are the lowest or highest notes of their beat: they usually sound like the highest note to me, but from the score I can see they're the lowest note. And after doing this for a while I start to feel seasick.

Also I can't hear any chord changes. I can't say they're all the same chords either. I just don't know what a chord change sounds like. I hear notes moving around, but not in any way I can capture or name. It's just a lot of notes moving around. Don't get me wrong, I like the sound of it, but I just don't hear this and process it in anyway that corresponds to anything at all about learning to play it except for hearing the smoothness of the sixteenth notes and the punch of the eighth notes.

Taking this apart slowly at the piano and listening to the various parts, that's something I can do. But I just supremely completely and absolutely don't hear the same things that it seems to me that Richard hears, when I listen to a recording. Once I have been through the whole process of taking it apart and learning it from the score at the piano, I might start to hear more things in it. Or I might not.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 04:56 PM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Not being able to distinguish major thirds from minor ones is harder (for me to understand). Isn't it just memorising sound qualities? Perhaps not.

I don't really know how I do it.

Whatever is memorized to recognize an interval, and then to put a name to it, I don't have it in any secure way, and I'm also missing several component skills that would help me compare the sound of an interval in my head to the sound I hear [ETA: at least when done as an isolated exercise. But I can still recognize melodies, and hear if a note is wrong]. Whatever it is that apparently makes these intervals scream their separate identities to some people, I don't have it. But it would be wrong to think that that analytical and aural lack means I can't learn melodies accurately, because I can.

I don't know how to explain it. I experience it, so I know it's a real phenomenon. I've never found any teaching material that seemed to make any sense of it, though. Somehow the small analytical aural skills that seem to be put forward as the simple building blocks, always seem insurmountably hard to me.

I'd love to take a Kodaly course in solfege singing, and see if that made any difference.
Posted by: tangleweeds

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 06:16 PM

What you describe sounds a lot like how my musical ear started out. I had to practice a lot with my ear training app to get myself to recognize intervals at all, and I'm still not great at it. Analyzing pieces' theory then listening as I read the score also helped me learn how some of this music theory actually sounds. But If I listen without having analyzed the score first, all my brain has to say about it is "Pretty music, sounds nice!"

Coincidentally, I picked up my ear training again last night (I'd totally let it slip during the many months of migraines), and I found that in some ways I'd lost a lot of ground (e.g. naming intervals), but in others my ear has definitely improved (picking out tunes by ear has become pretty easy, when I used to be hopeless at it).
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 08:59 PM

I gave up on ear training apps a year or so ago. They just came to feel like random guessing. Plus the tinny sound from my iPhone was really hard to connect up with music.

Sounding out familiar tunes by ear would be more interesting. When I do it I feel like I'm discovering interesting things. Whereas when I try to do interval identification I just feel like I'm failing, over and over.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 07/31/13 09:33 PM

Journal 6: Wed July 31. Spent about a while on this tonight, but I didn't think to time it. Lots of analysis, then finally started learning notes at the keyboard.

Analysis: played the upper notes of the figures. Played the lower notes of the figures. Discovered that the upper notes give a simple stepwise melody for half of the prelude, and then a slightly more complex melody involving jumps in the second half of the piece. The lower, downbeat notes, surprisingly, don't tell such a clear story, although like any good alto or tenor part, they hang together and tell a much more subdued story than the soprano notes. The middle notes also tell a story, albeit subdued as well.

Named all the chords and identified the passing tones and suspensions.

Played it through several times slowly and carefully, repeating and concentrating on certain parts, checking out the fingering. Most of the fingering that seemed so odd to me before from my Alfred's edition feels more sensible now, especially given that the ultimate goal is to play this at speed. Found a published alternate fingering for LH m. 4, since the Alfred fingering still seemed awkward there. I'll try them both out when I start learning that section, and see if I can come up with anything else. It's not particularly relevant that the alternate is published, except since I haven't come up with any sensible alternates on my own yet, I'm dependent on published sources.

Played it through slowly a few times hands together, which may be quite out of method but satisfied my curiosity and didn't feel damaging in terms of laying down bad habits.

Now that I have the harmonic analysis, the dynamics proposed in the Alfre edition make more sense. I can see where the implicit harmonic cadences are (even if the music doesn't really pause there). I tend to like to crescendo in measures of harmonic tension or relative strangeness, and decresendo in measures of harmonic resolution. I'm ambivalent about adding too much dynamics to this piece. Along the way once I have the notes learned I do want to noodle around with it in various ways, e.g. an overly dramatic Romantic interpretation with great pauses at the harmonic cadences, or extremely staccato a la Glenn Gould, or filigreed with various slurred and staccato articulations, and so on. Just to explore. I've found that loosening up my playing like that can lead to new insights.

I have a few basic dynamic ideas and default articulations to use as I start learning the notes.

And finally! Deciding on my first section. Taking an average of difficulty in the two hands, I'm starting at a point that has moderate challenges for each hand, though maybe not the hardest measure for either hand: the four beats constituting the second half of m. 8 and the first half of m. 9, plus the following note or two for continuity.

Did my 7x repetition (more or less: I lost track partway through and distracted from straight repetition by things I wanted to try with the notes).

So then for my 20 minutes practice (or however long: I didn't think to time it) I played it in blocked chords, and then rotating my hand, and repeating one beat for awhile, and then another, and then gluing together the beats. Did a lot of observing how my hand was moving. Did this for each hand HA in turn, and then alternating hands. I feel like I'm learning not just the notes but also the gestures.

Because this is counterpoint, I'll learn each hand completely for the whole piece HS before I start HT.

I can't play these four beats all up to speed, which I take to be one of the goals of the method for the end of each 20 minute segment, but I feel like this is a physical skill I just don't quite understand yet, how to play this Alberti bass pattern fast. It's like learning to play a trill. I might try playing it in repeated note sets in various ways and find ways to do the "slowing down from infinite speed" idea. Checking it out at the keyboard just now, I think what I was missing is practicing each pair of notes in the four note figure infinitely fast -- I was trying to play all four notes fast, but I think that's not the way to find the movements and the relaxation.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 08:12 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Discovered that the upper notes give a simple stepwise melody
Hmm, that's interesting smile

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Played it through several times slowly and carefully...checking out the fingering...Played it through slowly a few times hands together...
No criticism here, simply comparison. I do the first run-through HT, slowly and carefully, yes, often one bar at a time, and use several repeats of each fragment, but I sort out distribution between the hands as well as preliminary fingering, where the different types of difficulties are, and where the sections, parts, phrases, bars, beats and units are that I'll be dividing the piece into.

I spend a bit of time here, sometimes ticking and cross ticking the bars on a squared grid in one corner of the page so I don't just play through. It may take a couple of days to do this.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I can't play these four beats all up to speed, which I take to be one of the goals of the method for the end of each 20 minute segment, but I feel like this is a physical skill I just don't quite understand yet, how to play this Alberti bass pattern fast. It's like learning to play a trill.
No, more like tremelo, I think. For me, trill is fingers but tremelo is wrist.

I play very fast Alberti figures in the Moonlight, 3rd movement. The thumb and pinky play more by wrist rotation than by moving the fingers much at all. The thumb and middle finger both 'play' the notes but the pinky barely moves at all. In fact, going to the piano instead of playing it on the desk the hand is rotating between 3 and 5 and the thumb is doing most of the work but again the pinky is barely moving, the rotation is whacking it down on the downbeats.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 10:03 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Discovered that the upper notes give a simple stepwise melody
Hmm, that's interesting smile

I know you observed this first, but it didn't really sink in until I looked at it myself and traced it through the whole piece. Of course, I completely got the idea to look at it this way from you.

On the fast Alberti bass figure: I discovered something relevant while applying these practice principles to my Grieg Lyric Pieces and working on RH mm. 19-20 of 47.7 Elegy (piece #29 in the linked score; 3rd staff, 2nd and 3rd measures). This is a figure of 7 sixteenth notes with 2 grace notes, followed by a half note. I was using a technique I picked up from reading Bernhard's postings, which I think is what is called repeated note groups, except sometimes I see "repeated note groups" used and it seems to be referring to something else. Of course, as usual I can't find the Bernhard posting to link to it, but the idea is that you play the notes in all possible groups, starting in groups of 1, then pairs, then 3 notes, then 4 notes, etc.

So you start by playing each note. Then you play each pair, fast: C#D, DE, ED, DE, ED, DC#, C#D, DB, BC#. You repeat each pair as needed to get it fast. Then you play each group of three notes, repeating where needed to find the facility to play it fast: C#DE, DED, EDE, DED, EDC#, DC#D, C#DB, DBC#. Then you do this with each group of four notes: C#DED, DEDE, etc. Then with each group of 5 notes, 6 notes, etc. until you are playing the whole figure.

I amazed myself at the lightness and speed I achieved for the whole figure at the end of this process, which I didn't have at the beginning.

Tonight I will use this method on the Alberti bass figure in the Bach Prelude. It will be time very very very well spent since this figure happens so often in the piece so playing it efficient fast and relaxed will be one of the keys to playing this piece at the speed I'd like to eventually have for it.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 10:35 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Tonight I will use this method on the Alberti bass figure in the Bach Prelude. It will be time very very very well spent since this figure happens so often in the piece so playing it efficient fast and relaxed will be one of the keys to playing this piece at the speed I'd like to eventually have for it.


I've used that method successfully. It is especially good for getting HT coordination down. For Alberti bass, the chord attack method helps too. I'd probably spend more time on chord attack than the notes with Alberti.

There is one possible risk with the repeated notes group. When you're doing only two notes, you can get by without forearm rotation. For the larger groups you need it, and you should have some for even two notes, though it will be small.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 10:58 AM

Hi Tim, thanks for the suggestions. I don't see how chord attack helps me with Alberti bass, because my problem is getting the middle notes. I can use chord attack for runs in one direction, where the slightly slowed down version from infinite speed constitutes just rolling your wrist and hand across the notes (I guess technically this comes from the forearm...). I also have played through with blocked chords for the Alberti bass, to be sure I'm getting my hand to the right place. But I don't see how to get from the blocked chord to playing just slightly slowed down the 4-note Alberti bass figure.

In the repeated note groups, I'm being careful to have rotation all the time, including in the two note pairs. I really like the feeling. Actually, it's so evanescent I'm not even sure I can say I consciously feel something, but whatever evanescent thing I'm doing focusing on rotation, I like it.

For the Alberti bass, I came to the possible insight last night that as I'm rotating 5-3 for the middle two notes (RH) that I need to slightly lift 1 so it doesn't play the lowest note at the same time. And then slightly lower 1 again in time for the 5-1 rotation as I go into the next figure. Perhaps this is related to what Bobpickle described about what he feels his thumb doing.
Posted by: JosephAC

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 02:29 PM

This morning I was reading this quote and I thought it was relevant to this thread:

"Practicing well is virtually an art in itself, the art of achieving an economy of time and means " David Soyer.
Posted by: landorrano

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 06:23 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
when I try to do interval identification I just feel like I'm failing, over and over.


Hi. If I may say a word about intervals, in my opinion it is normal to have a hard time identifying intervals, this is a skill of quite experienced musicians.

I don't know who you are thinking of who says that intervals are building blocks of music. For my part, I don't think that this is so. I consider that intervals have existence inside of tonality, they are a relation between degrees of a tonality. I'm not sure what distinguishes "Kodaly solfège" that you mentioned, but regular solfège that is widely taught in many European countries is basically a study of tonality. Recognizing intervals outside of a tonal framework, or being able to sing intervals outside of a tonal framework is a very advanced exercise that one undertakes only after years of systematic study of solfège.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 06:51 PM

I can't recognize intervals inside a tonal framework either, not in any conscious way.

I didn't mean a different kind of solfege in referencing Kodaly solfege. I meant the system of teaching sight singing developed by Zoltan Kodaly.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 06:55 PM

Originally Posted By: landorrano
I'm not sure what distinguishes "Kodaly solfège" that you mentioned, but regular solfège that is widely taught in many European countries is basically a study of tonality.

There is "Movable Do" solfège which goes by degrees, and what we find in the Mary Poppins Do a Deer (it actually teaches some of the concepts). Kodaly created a teaching system around this pre-existing movable Do solfège.

Some countries have given pitches the names of C,D,E,F,G etc., and other countries have given the same pitches the names of Do, Re, Mi, Fa.. etc. It's historical and cultural. This is generally known as "fixed Do" solfège to distinguish.

Originally Posted By: Landorrano

I consider that intervals have existence inside of tonality, they are a relation between degrees of a tonality. Recognizing intervals outside of a tonal framework, or being able to sing intervals outside of a tonal framework is a very advanced exercise that one undertakes only after years of systematic study of solfège.


By intervals within a tonal framework, I think you mean where you have music that is in a major or minor key, and you hear that the music is going from note 1 to note 4 (in movable do - Do Fa --- in C major, C F), or from note 3 to note 8 (movable do - Mi Do -- in C major, E C) - is that correct? So you are not hearing the interval (its quality) as such, but in recognizing the distance you sort of do. (?) It sounds like the world I was in for a very long time.

Do you hear simultaneous intervals? If you do, do you translate them back into the kind that you can sing, one note at a time?
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 06:59 PM

What does "chord attack" mean? (Previous posts)
Posted by: landorrano

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 07:31 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I can't recognize intervals inside a tonal framework either, not in any conscious way.

I didn't mean a different kind of solfege in referencing Kodaly solfege. I meant the system of teaching sight singing developed by Zoltan Kodaly.


As I said, it seems normal to me, I don't think that there are many, if any, beginning level music students who can. Even an octave can be devilishly hard to put your finger on. Still I'm curious about your reference to Kodaly, because solfège existed long before Kodaly's time. I mean, is there something particular that you know about Kodaly's use of solfège which interests you? Or is it simply the general idea of approaching reading through singing?

Posted by: Whizbang

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 08:16 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring
Mary Poppins Do a Deer


"Mary Poppins" is certainly full of great music, but "Do, a Deer" is actually from "The Sound of Music".
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 09:30 PM

Originally Posted By: Whizbang
Originally Posted By: keystring
Mary Poppins Do a Deer


"Mary Poppins" is certainly full of great music, but "Do, a Deer" is actually from "The Sound of Music".

You caught me in my greatest weakness - names. crazy Julie Andrews, yes. Mary Poppins, no. Sound of Music, yes.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 11:46 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring
What does "chord attack" mean? (Previous posts)


There's another name for it but I couldn't remember it.

Chord attack means to play a pattern of notes simultaneously, at infinite speed, then figure out how to slow it down to the speed actually needed.

It could be a 5 finger run, like C-D-E-F-G, or any other pattern that you can play with one drop of the hand. You can't go faster than to hit all the notes at once!
Posted by: TimR

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 11:51 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring

There is "Movable Do" solfège which goes by degrees, and what we find in the Mary Poppins Do a Deer (it actually teaches some of the concepts). Kodaly created a teaching system around this pre-existing movable Do solfège.



I had always believed the Do a Deer song demonstrated movable do (which makes more sense to me than fixed do, but I'm aware there are reasons to disagree).

After all, in the movie it's in Bb. In fixed do it would have to be in C.

But wait. I researched it a bit, because after all we're talking Austria, which tends to be a fixed do country. And it turns out the song was written in C, and transposed to Bb during filming because Julie had a cold.

So it really could be either.
Posted by: Whizbang

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/01/13 11:57 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
There's another name for it but I couldn't remember it.


Also called "blocking".
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/02/13 12:07 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: keystring

There is "Movable Do" solfège which goes by degrees, and what we find in the Mary Poppins Do a Deer (it actually teaches some of the concepts). Kodaly created a teaching system around this pre-existing movable Do solfège.



I had always believed the Do a Deer song demonstrated movable do (which makes more sense to me than fixed do, but I'm aware there are reasons to disagree).

After all, in the movie it's in Bb. In fixed do it would have to be in C.

But wait. I researched it a bit, because after all we're talking Austria, which tends to be a fixed do country. And it turns out the song was written in C, and transposed to Bb during filming because Julie had a cold.

So it really could be either.

Bad wording on my part. I meant two things that are the same - not movable do (on the one hand) and Do a Deer (on the other hand). Yes, it does illustrate movable Do. That's what I intended to say.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/02/13 09:15 AM

Originally Posted By: landorrano
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I can't recognize intervals inside a tonal framework either, not in any conscious way.

I didn't mean a different kind of solfege in referencing Kodaly solfege. I meant the system of teaching sight singing developed by Zoltan Kodaly.


As I said, it seems normal to me, I don't think that there are many, if any, beginning level music students who can. Even an octave can be devilishly hard to put your finger on. Still I'm curious about your reference to Kodaly, because solfège existed long before Kodaly's time. I mean, is there something particular that you know about Kodaly's use of solfège which interests you? Or is it simply the general idea of approaching reading through singing?

Forget I said solfege. Kodaly has a particular approach to teaching sightsinging that apparently is very successful. There may be other methods as well; Kodaly's happens to be the one that I have heard about; his method may be very similar to how everybody else does it too.

I think of it as a method, not so much about reading for instruments where you can press a key or keys and the pitch comes out, but as a method for teaching sightsinging, that is allowing you to know with your mind and voice what (relative) pitch should come out.

Those two may be very intertwined for you because of how you learned music. For me they are very separate.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/02/13 09:50 AM

Journal 7: Thu. Aug. 1. After being very very sporadic in my practicing the past couple of weeks, I am now trying to get a nice continuous run for a week -- reestablish a daily habit. Bernhard advises daily practice because you forget too much with even the gap of every other day practice. With daily practice each day's practice can solidly build on the day before. I want to experience that kind of building, rather than perpetually struggling with the same issues without end.

I asked in the other practice thread with how to balance this daily idea with the observed phenomenon that sometimes if you take a break from something, when you come back to it you can do it noticeably better than before. No clear answers, but here on the Bernhard thread I'm experimenting with doing it Bernhard's way (caveats about there is no Bernhard's way, Bernhard teaches differently depending on the particular needs of the particular student, Bernhard may have evolved and changed how he teaches since he was posting on pianostreet, you have to evaluate methods for how well they work for you, Bernhard did not mean the small slice of his methods about which he wrote to be followed inflexibly, etc. etc. etc. But I'm still going for daily practice in this phase.)

Bach Prelude BWV 927. Returned to my practice section: the four beats constituting the second half of m. 8 and the first half of m. 9, plus the following note or two for continuity. Was pleased to discover that I remembered the notes, except for the following notes which I had only added partway through yesterday's practice. Did the repeated note groups for each hand, HS. Am starting to get a feel for what the RH Alberti figure might feel like at speed, but can't sustain it yet. Got LH hook and run to a delightfully fluid place -- I can now play the LH faster than I can yet play the RH.

I really like repeated note groups: I can feel my facility improving as I progress through the groups to more and more notes.

Am applying these ideas to my Grieg Lyric Pieces as well (although not so much on the first one, as you'll see).

Grieg 57.3 Illusion. The first Lyric Piece I took on, 57.3 Illusion, not so much Bernhard ideas. I can play this all the way through. There are a few places that were solid but seem to need cleaning up again; I probably need to find the patience to review them solidly with repeated note groups. But mostly I'm on playthroughs, experimenting with different types of expression in the piece. This piece, in 3/4, is largely a repeated pattern of a dotted eighth and three sixteenth notes. In today's practice it occurred to me to lighten up the three sixteenth notes (partly helped by also slightly emphasizing the dotted eighth notes). I like the effect -- to me it makes the piece seem more musical, instead of a nondescript repeated banged-out rhythm.

For my next practice, I think I'll break this up and practice each phrase separately, exploring expression for it in depth before moving onto the next phrase.

One of the things that is important to me is to be able to vary the interpretation of pieces I play, so that I can explore the boundaries of how to play it, and come back with more ideas to apply to what I might choose as the core interpretation. Or just play it a different way every time. I hold this in balance with wanting to be able to have at least one core interpretation that I can play: I want variation in how I play to be deliberate, not a result of being unable to control what I'm playing.

Grieg 65.3 Melancholy. The second Lyric Piece I took on, 65.3 Melancholy, is in a state where I can play it through slowly and more or less hesitantly, but I don't really have control of it, nor can I make the tempo contrasts that I would like it to have for the stringendo and allegro agitato sections. So I'm backing up and learning it in sections à la Bernhard. This piece is a reach for me in difficulty, which is concretely evidenced in that there are a lot of difficult sections that need particular work. If I try to think of a schedule for these sections, I get depressed about how I can possibly get it ready for Sept. 10. So I'm not thinking about a schedule. I think that the difficult sections fall into a smaller number of types, so hopefully if I master one from each type I will find that I can learn the later examples of those types more quickly.

Grieg 47.7 Elegy. The third Lyric piece I took on, 47.7 Elegy, I'm applying Bernhard's methods essentially from the outset. This one is much more manageable than 65.3 Melancholy. The challenges are quick reading for some highly accidental LH parts, a RH sixteenth note figure with grace notes, and three LH arpeggios. I've learned mm. 17-20 HS, and started putting them together last night. Very wierd -- I'm having a hard time putting them together. I don't usually spend so much time HS before putting a passage HT: I'm wondering if spending a lot of time HS is causing my HT challenge. Or this might just be a red herring. Bernhard has some posts somewhere about putting hands together; I'll read them and look for some ideas.
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/02/13 10:29 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: keystring
What does "chord attack" mean? (Previous posts)


There's another name for it but I couldn't remember it.

Chord attack means to play a pattern of notes simultaneously, at infinite speed, then figure out how to slow it down to the speed actually needed.

It could be a 5 finger run, like C-D-E-F-G, or any other pattern that you can play with one drop of the hand. You can't go faster than to hit all the notes at once!


Thanks. Now I know what everyone has been talking about. smile
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/02/13 10:43 AM

Originally Posted By: landorrano

As I said, it seems normal to me, I don't think that there are many, if any, beginning level music students who can. Even an octave can be devilishly hard to put your finger on.

Can we actually know what music students can do in general? To know this, one would have had to teach many students over a long period of time, and tried numerous methods. If you (generic you) are a student, and in a program with classmates, then you will know your own experiences, and you can observe patterns among your classmates. But you won't know what is happening in other classes using other approaches, or what private teachers are doing with students here and there? If you are a teacher then what you observe will be based on how you taught, what you taught, which material you used etc. Can we really know what students can do? Or only along our own points of references?

Quote:

Still I'm curious about your reference to Kodaly, because solfège existed long before Kodaly's time.

I seem to remember that you are studying along an organized system of music study in your country. Kodály created (a different) organized system in 1935 in Europe. For notes (pitches-relative pitch) he started with the movable Do solfège system but did things to it in the way it would be taught. His system involved much more than just solfège. It has been adopted in a few countries and I hear that it enjoys some success.

This article seems to be a good starter for gaining some familiarity. I think that there are some videos of sample lessons and performances around.

article on Kodály method
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/03/13 09:40 PM

Journal 8, Fri. Aug. 1.

Bach Prelude BWV 927. Start the next four beats: second half of m. 9 and first half of m. 10. Remembering these notes feels easy today.

Grieg Lyric Piece 57.3 Illusion. Working phrases individually from the end of the first section before the same material returns. Worked on phrase mm. 27-30, concentrating to get all the fingering to feel reliable. Then moved to phrase mm. 16-21, in particular blocking the RH notes in mm. 20-21. These have been falling apart lately, so I'm working on getting my hand to reliably know and be intimately familiar with where to go for each beat.

A small breakthrough on the last beat of m. 17: I'll take the top two notes GD with RH, and the B with LH. I'd been trying to roll this tall chord with my RH, but haven't been able to get it fast or smooth enough. It sounds much better now with the LH helping.

Grieg Lyric Piece 65.3 Melancholy. Mm. 18-21, as three separate units. Working on m. 18, my LH starts to hurt from all the octaves. This alarms me. I need to be careful with my octave technique, and careful not to overdo things (but with better technique, overdoing wouldn't be such a risk, I think).

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy. LH F#7 arpeggio mm. 33-34. Getting it to feel natural. Then put HT mm. 17-20. I couldn't get HT at all on the previous practice, but in this practice they come together smoothly.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/03/13 10:13 PM

Journal 9, Sat. Aug. 2.

Bach Prelude BWV 927. Yesterday's four beats (second half of m. 9 and first half of m. 10) already feel so good that I start putting them together with the previously learned four beats. Uh-oh. Things start to fall apart, especially (but not only) across the middle as I join the two halves of m. 9. Leads you to wonder what "learned" really is. Slow things down and concentrate on the moves for going from beat 2 to beat 3 in m. 9. Discover that shape of the first four beats is subtly different from the next four beats, as far as the following note goes: in the first set, the Dm7 arpeggio is followed by the same note: D. In the second set, the Em7b5 arpeggio is followed by the next note up: F, not E. practice this enough until it feels like I got it. (Must remind myself of what I said on another thread: tomorrow it might be all gone again, and per Bernhard this is entirely to be expected and entirely OK.)

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy. Felt too impatient to put much time into LH F#7 arpeggio mm. 33-34.

Returned to HT mm. 17-20. Today it's not coming together easily (as I write this now, I'm reminding myself that this is to be expected: yesterday's end point is seldom today's beginning point). Practice this by playing very slowly, adding one note at a time. Then after several repeats of the first two notes, do the first three notes. Repeat, then onto four notes. Work out the first two measures, then the second two measures, then put them together.

Grieg Lyric Piece 65.3 Melancholy. Being cautious about the octaves. Work on L thumb only for the octave passage in m. 18, then fingers 5-4 only for the bottom notes of the octave. Then octaves. The biggest challenge is accurately jumping E to G. Work on looping EGF until I can do it without looking. Curiously, I can easily do the later jump DC -- I think because middle C is more easily in view.

In m. 19, the RH starts 1, 23, 5 on A, DF, B. I've been using 23, 5 on the continued RH DF, B (and taking the As with LH). This is in order to play the same pattern of notes with the same fingers. Decide to try out the editorial suggested fingering 12, 4 for the higher DF, B repetitions. Veeeeerrrry interesting: this used to be very confusing to me, but now it feels much better than 23, 5, and makes the whole sixteenth note run less labored.

Grieg Lyric Piece 57.3 Illusion. My right wrist is suddenly hurting from something I've been practicing, although I'm not sure what. This is doubly alarming after yesterday's LH pain. I need to be careful about what I'm doing: alternating and resting hands (Bernhard's suggestion), and also this suggests that I need to pay attention to my technique, motions, and relaxation

Half-heartedly play a few phrases, then call it a night for piano practice.

Chorus. Start practicing my choral pieces instead. I've borrowed a little bit of a Bernhard page for these, and am working in smaller sections, and repeating them 7 times. Once alone, once with each of the other three parts, once with both alto parts (I sing Alto I), and then two more times in whichever combination strikes my fancy, fills out 7x nicely. I'm finding that this is getting my notes more solidly into my head. Bernhard's method for piano isn't just 7x repeats, but I don't quite have an idea for what would fill up the 20 minute choral practice after the 7x repeat establishes the section. Anyway, I feel like just the 7x and the small sections is helping me make much better progress at learning my choral parts.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/03/13 10:17 PM

Today's practice was a little sloppy methodologically. I wasn't starting with 7x repeats, and I didn't have a careful focus of re-achieving the same point of success at which I ended yesterday's practice. Sure, the method is not meant to be rigid, but I want to seriously try out these exact ideas, and not leap too quickly to over-adapting this into my previous sort of adequate but less than stellar methods.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/04/13 12:05 PM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Today's practice was a little sloppy...
This is not an uncommon problem when following a systematic method that needs a lot of discipline. There's no harm having a day of rest!

What may become a problem is continuing with the same piece(s) on that rest day when your care or concentration is not at peak.

I've chosen to combat this by changing my practise session at the weekends to cover memorised repertoire, reviewing on going pieces not covered in the last week and general technical work on etudes or musicianship. I also change my pieces from week to week, too. It's not that I get bored with them so much as that I get frustrated with the lack of progress.

Do you find that with some pieces you reach a plateau and have to wait a while before your progress on them becomes noticeable? I found this and started dropping pieces when it happened. Most of the time I had improved when I returned to them but had learnt something else in the meantime and doubling my long term progress. I now make this part of my regimen.

You might experiment to find out how long you go on a piece before you start to plateau.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/04/13 05:13 PM

Richard, thanks for the ideas about rest days, and about plateauing. I'll think about rest days. I'll also see if I can discern any evidence about plateauing. I don't know quite how I'd tell, but one of Bernhard's ideas is that you should see progress on a section within a week. So I'll keep that in mind.

Yesterday's practice wasn't sloppy in terms of how I played. It was sloppy in terms of applying Bernhard's methods.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/04/13 06:28 PM

Journal 10, Sun., Aug. 3.

Today's was a more focused practice than yesterday's. I'm not spending 20 minutes on each of the following sections; just as much time as it takes to get it where I want it. (Bernhard talks about this: it's fine to be done faster, and occasionally even to go over.)

Bach Prelude BWV 927

More practice on the same measures. Repeated note groups mm. 9-10a, HS, bringing up speed and getting the pattern solid in my mind and hand. Explored the changes in hand position: which finger(s) move position and when. Then extended to mm. 8b-10a, doing repeated beat groups: like repeated note groups, but using each beat as the unit. First play every beat. Then every pair of beats. Then every set of three beats. And so on up to the whole passage. (You can also do this as repeated figure groups, if your figures aren't equal to a beat.)

From some of the difficulties I had gluing my two sections together (8b-9a glued to 9b-10a), I've learned that when I learn a section I need to include not just the note following, but the whole blocked hand position following.

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy

I haven't always been practicing my three Lyric Pieces in the same order, but today I practiced then in numerical order and I might keep that up to make these journals easier to compare from one to the next.

Mm. 33-34, LH arpeggio, repeated note groups. Paid particular attention to the two shifts of hand position, and getting my finger squarely over the C# (first note in the new position both times) before playing it, instead of just sort of sliding onto it at random angles.

Mm. 17-20, HT is holding at slow speeds. Did several repeats. Not quite sure what to do with my 20 minutes. Tomorrow, maybe repeated note groups HT, or rhythms? I still need to read Bernhard's suggestions about HT.

Started mm. 21-24 HS. It repeats mm. 17-20, but a whole step higher. Repeated note groups on the sixteenth note figure RH mm. 23-24, just to have done it, but this figure felt quite easy to do: the learning from its sibling in the previous phrase has paid off and transferred to this figure.

Did some desultory work on the LH-only phrase in mm. 35-38. I'm not necessarily planning to play this piece from memory, but this passage, simple as it appears, has some surprise fingering in it for me, and I'd like to be able to play it without writing every single finger into the score. I'm trying to make the sequence of notes make sense to me. Noticed there's a pattern repeated in descending half steps: E# C# E#, E C E, D# B (starts next figure, so no following D#).

Grieg Lyric Piece 57.3 Illusion

Tested HT phrase mm. 27-30. Got it in one. Hooray!

Went to phrase mm. 19-21, RH. (It really starts in m. 18, or maybe even a LH pickup from m. 17, but what I really wanted to pay attention to was the second half of the phrase.). Need to work on the three descending figures mm. 20-21a: getting my hand correctly and immediately into exactly the right position.

MAJOR DISCOVERY: discovered that this is where my right wrist pain is coming from. Cut practice short on this section. Tomorrow I'll carefully examine the fine points of position and motion in these figures, body shoulder upper arm lower arm wrist hand finger, and also find where there's any tension and if I can release it.

Resting my RH, moved to the voicing challenges of the LH melody in mm. 6-9. Practiced in a whole variety of ways drawing from the suggestions in my thread on voicing a while ago. Then discovered, quite by accident, that I could play the soft notes (alone) much softer if I played them with a flexible wrist! AHA! Went through my practicing in a variety of ways all over again, this time with a flexible wrist. I still can't get the whole sequence of chords reliably with both the loud and the soft notes at the same time, but one of the building blocks of voicing, I think, is can you play the notes alone at their appropriate dynamic.

I think in all my practicing I need to be checking: am I playing this with flexible wrists?

Grieg Lyric Piece 65.3 Melancholy

Reviewed mm. 18-20 HS, then started HT. Because of the way m. 19 fits together, I've been practicing it HT already, and m. 20 is LH only anyway, so just m. 18 HT was new. It came together very smoothly: hooray, I think this means that the HS work has paid off. Score one for Bernhard.

In light of my MAJOR DISCOVERY above about sources of RH wrist pain, I examined the RH positions in mm. 16-18 for proper alignment. These are rising figures of a ninth with a note in the middle: awkward. The biggest puzzle is moving/reaching a sixth D to B on fingers 2 to 5. But I also discovered that given the angle of my forearm for most of these notes, my hand should be angled to the keyboard. I'll continue exploring these positions, alignment, and movement tomorrow.

Started work on the 2 against 3 rhythm HT in m. 16. The work with Richard's suggestion to use the phrase strawberry jam, and how to learn this rhythm by building up from simpler parts, has really helped. Did some 123456-per-beat counting to get the transition from duplets on beat 1 to 2 against 3 on beat 2. For the first time, I could feel the rhythm behind the counting, and it felt smooth and like a rhythm I'll eventually be able to remember without counting. That feels good. I'm going to think of ways to practice this longer rhythm -- duplets to 2 against 3 -- building it up from simpler parts. I can manage switching between duplets and triplets, so I think that will be my starting point.

Just played the upper notes of the LH, instead of octaves, for this. I want to get the 2 against 3 rhythm figured out first and then add the octaves.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/06/13 08:34 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Yesterday's practice wasn't sloppy in terms of how I played. It was sloppy in terms of applying Bernhard's methods.
That's exactly where we falter when we try to follow a systematic method. It's the application of the system that requires such rigour and trust.

A day off from your system is no harm at all, I take every weekend off.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Bach Prelude BWV 927

More practice on the same measures. Repeated note groups mm. 9-10a, HS, bringing up speed and getting the pattern solid in my mind and hand. Explored the changes in hand position: which finger(s) move position and when. Then extended to mm. 8b-10a, doing repeated beat groups: like repeated note groups, but using each beat as the unit. First play every beat. Then every pair of beats. Then every set of three beats. And so on up to the whole passage. (You can also do this as repeated figure groups, if your figures aren't equal to a beat.)

From some of the difficulties I had gluing my two sections together (8b-9a glued to 9b-10a), I've learned that when I learn a section I need to include not just the note following, but the whole blocked hand position following.
I know you're trying to follow Bernhard's method "to the letter" but I'm having concerns here that you might want to think about.

This little opusculum has a very limited number of finger patterns and you've chosen a passage that, when finished, will leave just the last bar to sort out. The rest should be easy enough, co-ordination issues aside.

If you're trying to build speed HS before you go on to the next passage I think you're going to spend too much time here with very little benefit. If you don't have the tempo already then set this passage aside as a technical exercise and return to the piece when you have it.

My advice would be to use this as a co-ordination exercise and leave the tempo until you "have" the tempo for these figures. To build the tempo go on to other material. Suggestions I can think of are Burgmüller's Op. 25/16, the final Allegro from Haydn's Sonata XVI/8, the first movement of his XVI/1 in C or Kuhlau's Sonatina Op. 20/1. You can even use this piece to build the tempo once you've finished it but I wouldn't try to get each passage up to tempo before you move on to the next one.

I'm being presumptuous but I don't think Bernhard would have condoned this either.
Posted by: woodog

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/06/13 01:36 PM

PS88,

Are you using this thread as your feedback loop (the planning, execution and evaluation) part?

Or do you keep a handwritten 'need to do' 'what I did' and 'comments'.

also, is this thread okay to hop on with how/what/when I'm working?

Forrest
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/06/13 02:23 PM

woodog, definitely jump on with details! This isn't meant to be just my details! The more the merrier!

I'm in hope that the detailed journals illustrate what the process of applying methods learned from Bernhard is like. Plus I get helpful comments, which helps me laugh but hopefully also helps other people thinking about or trying this method, or adapting it, or even mostly ignoring it but looking for tips for their own methods.

I don't have my own paper journal for this yet. I'd like to start something that is brief the way you showed your journal, so I can easily look back and see when I started a section.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 09:47 AM

Journal 11, Wed., Aug. 7.

I skipped practice on Monday night: choir, and then watching the Yankees game and all the Alex Rodriguez coverage.

Skipped practice again Tuesday night: another Yankees game, and browsing the web for even more Alex Rodriguez coverage.

Plus I was feeling terribly discouraged about my piano playing.

Wednesday night, I still felt discouraged, plus I had a discouraging day at work. Went over my measures in a minimal and distinterested fashion, and called it quits. As part of that minimal practice though, I started exploring hand/arm position. More on that in Thursday night's practice...
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 09:58 AM

So here's what got me discouraged. I've been reading, as usual, all over the boards, and I've been alarmed, saddened, frightened, and discouraged by the posts about injuries and the advice to study with a teacher with particular expertise in piano movement. Well, I haven't got a teacher at all. So I hang around the boards, and pick up crumbs, but how do I know if I'm really doing the right thing.

I think about the warning about the Taubman videos, for example, that you can watch them for understanding but you can't apply them to yourself on your own: you need an experienced teacher watching from outside. I came across another way of describing this, which is that the videos show the correct movement, but they don't show how to move you from your own idiosyncratically incorrect movmement to the correct movement.

I think about Richard who got shown in his first piano lesson different ways of touching and playing piano keys. I got none of that. (Though I am profoundly grateful to my teacher for the prime thing I did get, which I didn't have before, which is an awareness of flexible wrists, which for me is not just the wrists moving fluidly but everything connected to them. So I milk that one technical insight as much as I can.)

I think about something said on the Teacher's Forum about transposing into different keys being a good exercise, but trying to learn Tschaikovsky's First Piano Concerto by ear can ruin a young student for ever being able to play it well when they get to the score and the full piece. And I wonder: how do I know which apparently innocent things I'm doing are good, and which are laying down terrible pathways from which I'll never be able to escape?

Further on those same lines, I think about what's been coming up a lot recently (although I've also seen it before), which is that movements repeated a lot become ingrained, and if they're the wrong movements even after you find out about the right movements you may never be able to fully learn the right movements: the damage (to technique, even if not physically) can't be undone.

Then I think about physical damage, and how that can't always be undone.

Then I read about Bach on the Pianist's Corner and how he's very challenging to play, and I wonder by what rights I have the chutzpah to think I can be learning his music at this stage of my piano playing. And on my own, no less, with no guide to playing it the way it deserves to be played.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 10:10 AM

Another reason I was discouraged was based on a misreading of Richard's post in which he talked about tempo and other pieces. I've reread his post and now I realize what he's really saying. Now I'm feeling better about it. I need to reflect on what he has said and look at the pieces he suggested.

I originally wrote a longer post here detailing how I felt during my time of misreading, but I've edited that all out because it was based on a misinterpretation and therefore wasn't a fair reflection of what Richard said.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 11:14 AM

Journal 12, Thu., Aug. 8.

For focus, I think I really need to get a notebook in which I write the measures I'm working on for my 7x, an incredibly brief concise description of my goal for my 20 minutes, and possibly an evaluation of how it went. Just like woodog's journal in fact! I'm thinking this seriously now because in trying to think how last night's practice went, it's all a jumble. Plus I can tell in my practicing I could use some more conscious focus, which would be helped by writing my goal before I do it, and also by being able to quickly glance over previous days' goals and results.

Hooray, field trip to the notebook store smile .

Bach Prelude BWV 927

I've extended RH through m. 12 and LH through m. 13. I find I don't really know what memorization is. I'll think I have something down, and then when I join it with another section, I get it wrong. It can be either the old or the new part of the joined section that I get wrong. Or both or either. Maybe I'm playing too fast. I don't know how to reconcile that with Bernhard's stated idea that you learn each section up to tempo before moving on to the next. It seems like it's going to take a lot longer to get the sections I'm working on (in the Grieg's as well as the Bach) up to tempo from memory.

I can play the Bach faster and more accurately from the score than from memory. The memory work was very good though because it led to the accurate playing from the score. I don't know how to resolve all this. I'm not fanatically committed to memory playing without the score, although I find I really like having some memorized pieces. It comes in handy when I find myself randomly around the piano. But it seems to be a MUCH longer process to go from "memorized if I really think hard about it" to "memorized to the point where it allows me freedom of playing and interpretation that I wouldn't have if I were playing from the score."

Maybe it's just that the world really is divided into memory players and score players, based on our different strengths, and I'm really a score player, even though I'm enjoying my forays into the world of memory, which is all still very new territory for me. To clarify, I mean "memory without the score". I'll grant that some kind of memory, or I prefer to call it learning, is involved in becoming able to play a piece well with the score. But for me at least that kind of learning doesn't usually help me very much once the score is taken away.

Another aspect of my newness with memory, and being unsure of it, is that I'm unwilling to just drop my previous sections and only focus on my new sections. I'm afraid that I'll forget the old sections, or that I'll learn the new section too rigidly as starting at its starting point and won't be able to learn to join it to the old section unless I periodically practice them both together as I'm learning the new section. I don't know if I'm right in these concerns, or if there's a way around them, but these are some of the concerns I have when practicing.

Oh yes, and along with all those concerns, I'm reworking the RH fingering in mm. 11 and 12: using fingers 1 and 3 on the figures of three sixteenth notes, instead of 2 and 3. This involves more moving of my hand to get to the following descending arpeggio, but 2-3 was feeling stressful on my wrist. I don't know if what it really means is I need to clear up whatever underlying wrong thing I'm doing that makes 2-3 feel stressful, and I'm worried by the story of a pianist changing fingering to accomodate an injured finger, and ending up causing even worse damage. Sigh.

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy

Worked on LH mm. 33-34, the arpeggio. Identified that my problems start with getting the first C# -- black key -- accurately. Reduced it to just the first two notes: F# octave 51 to C# 3. Experimented with playing F octave to C -- can reach the white key quite accurately. So I can see that I need to improve my black key accuracy. It's surprisingly difficult to fly my hand from F# to C# and come down centered on the black key. Did this in v---e---r---y s---l---o---w m---o---t---i---o---n.

Continued work on mm. 21-24. Learned the first hand position of m. 25 to add on to it, for continuity. Reviewed it HS, then put it HT. At first found HT was much more successful using the score. Then made myself slow down and play it without the score. That forces different mental pathways of how I know which notes to play when. It's very good practice, and improves my playing, even if I eventually I will play this piece using the score. Put it together periodically with mm. 17-20 -- see above about my concerns about gluing sections together. Perhaps I'll discipline myself to see what happens if I try keep sections more rigidly separate into a First Master, Then Glue sequence.

Another point on memory: something that I think I know HS, when I put HT my memory fails me, and one of the 37x harder factors of HT I guess is that I have to rediscover all the notes of the passage under the influence of HT: my HS helps but HT chips away at my memory and I have to rebuild my memory for each hand HT.

Grieg Lyric Piece 57.3 Illusion

I'm working on eliminating tension, and finding ergonomic finger, hand and arm positions. Did lots of letting my hand hang at my side in a neutral position, then lift it to the keyboard and move it, in that neutral position, from note to note, using my arm to place the correct finger over the correct note instead of stretching my fingers or angling my wrist. Don't know quite what will come of this, but I felt like it was good to explore "what would playing each note feel like in a completely neutral position?" I wonder if this is in anyway related to the "walking arm" concept of the Taubman technique. (Alert: I have absolutely no idea what the walking arm technique is, apart from knowing the name of it. For that matter, I don't know what "playing with arm weight" means either. I might be doing it or I might not.)

After that, I'm rearranginge the fingering on the descending RH figures in mm. 20-21 and mm. 24-25. I was playing them 135 on the chord, then 432 on the descending sixteenth notes. For example, 135 on FBE, 432 on DBG. I've changed that to 125 on the chord, 421 on the sixteenth notes.

In doing this I got thinking about pedal. My first realization was that the pedal is holding the chord, so I can free up 1 from the chord to use it in the sixteenth notes. My second realization was to think about which notes are being mushed together -- so now I'm changing pedal after the dotted eighth note, to separate it from the harmony of the following sixteenth notes. But I have to hold the bottom two notes of the chord into the first sixteenth note to keep that part of the harmony going. Anyway, this is interesting to practice because I haven't had to carefully practice pedal recently on any of my pieces; I've been able to pedal what I wanted without much conscious deliberate slow thought and practice.

I changed this because the original fingering was stressing my wrist, although I still have worries about whether there are underlying problems with my position, motions, and relaxation that I should clear up in the original fingering. Or was the original fingering just plain awkward and it's good to change it to something that feels better?

I want to get the Thomas Marks book that people have been talking about in the Pianist's Corner (title: something like What Every Pianist Needs To Know About The Body. I think.). In particular I want to find out if it talks about particular ways and directions of angling the fingers for chords, which seems to be what I've particularly been noticing issues with. In addition to that single interest, I'm now interested in broadly what I can learn from it for all aspects of my playing.

Grieg Lyric Piece 65.3 Melancholy

mm. 18-20 HT. More concerned with a steady tempo and accuracy, than speed. I've made progress on these -- I'm sure about where I'm going, I'm able to coordinate both hands, and I'm able to make the LH octave jump E to G accurately.

I've been reading the debates about octaves with 51 or 41 in the Pianist's Corner, and after some more experimentation I think 51 feels better. Plus I seem to have to do just as much in and out for 41 as I do for 51, so there's no savings by using the longer ring finger. This is after originally doing 51 because switching between 51 for the white notes and 41 for the black notes felt confusing, and then finding that I could do 41 on the black notes and it didn't feel confusing and in fact I liked the variety, and now seeing what switching back to all 51 is like. I know the idea is to fix one fingering at the beginning and stick with it, but I can't particularly help the pace of discoveries happening at the same time as I'm learning the piece. I don't feel confused by these shifts though. If I felt confused I'd stick with whatever was un-confusing and save the new fingering for the next piece.

RH mm. 16-18. Gaaah, the right hand figures hurt my wrist. These are ascending in eighth notes: ADB, AEB, and AFB. Don't have any more mental resources for looking for ergonomic ways to play these. Will return to these tomorrow. I think the Marks book might give me information that would help figure out how to approach them.

I think that I tend to tense up in subtle ways during overall intense practice on limited sections. This of course is helping to cause the wrist pains I've been feeling in various places over the past few practices. I tried just playing some music I know already, and thinking about relaxation as I went into it, and that was just fine. So I need to learn how to stay relaxed while doing my Bernhard-style practice.

Other practice

I had got my Alfred's All-In-One Level 1 book out to answer some questions on another thread, so I ended practice by playing through all the minor key pieces, all the folk songs, and all the blues/jazz pieces. The jazz pieces are among my favourites in this book. They tend to be pretty universally disliked on the Alfred's AIO threads, but I don't know why. Is it because people don't like the sound? Is it because they're an unfamiliar genre so people don't know how to make them swing to bring them to life? Is it because they have lots of accidentals so they're harder to play? I don't usually think of myself as liking jazz, but I really like these pieces. I'm thinking of making an Alfred AIO 1 Jazz Medley for my Quarterly Recital piece -- we will see if people like it, or if they still hate these pieces smile .
Posted by: woodog

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 11:53 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Journal 12, Thu., Aug. 8.

For focus, I think I really need to get a notebook in which I write the measures I'm working on for my 7x, an incredibly brief concise description of my goal for my 20 minutes, and possibly an evaluation of how it went. Just like woodog's journal in fact! I'm thinking this seriously now because in trying to think how last night's practice went, it's all a jumble. Plus I can tell in my practicing I could use some more conscious focus, which would be helped by writing my goal before I do it, and also by being able to quickly glance over previous days' goals and results.

Hooray, field trip to the notebook store smile ...


PS88

Just visit the website in my signature and buy Graham Fitch's series of ebooks. I have no connection with him other than a very satisfied customer. They are a GREAT value, and if nothing else, just buy volume 1, and there are pdf files that you can use to print off the journal worksheets.

I do know that I COULD keep the journal 'online' or 'on the computer', but I've found that my practice time away from the 'E-World' and phone world, and everything else world is golden for me. Pencil and paper is my friend.

also, be kind to yourself. Seriously, remember that everyone has those 'jumble' days. Mine was on Tuesday after a great day of work on Monday, I went way too long trying to get to that perfect, slow, accurate and relaxed last repetition, and finally quit when I realized it wasn't going to happen. The realization that it wasn't going to happen should have happened much earlier instead of the 10 or so repeats with mistakes.

So how did I celebrate this disgusting turn of events? I said to myself (and the cat) 'eh, I'll start fresh tomorrow, it'll be okay... after all, this is for me and no-one else'

Find joy in the process.

peace!

Forrest
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 12:23 PM

Thanks, Forrest.

I did buy Graham Fitch's ebook Vol. 1 (I couldn't find later volumes?). But my computer is having a problem playing it: I can't turn the page past the introduction. I'll have to try to do some troubleshooting to see if I can get it to work.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 12:52 PM

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Worked on LH mm. 33-34, the arpeggio. Identified that my problems start with getting the first C# -- black key -- accurately. Reduced it to just the first two notes: F# octave 51 to C# 3. Experimented with playing F octave to C -- can reach the white key quite accurately. So I can see that I need to improve my black key accuracy. It's surprisingly difficult to fly my hand from F# to C# and come down centered on the black key. Did this in v---e---r---y s---l---o---w m---o---t---i---o---n.
How can I put this without being misinterpreted? smile

Slow motion is good. Fast motion is also good.

This is a slightly longer stretch than for a normal arpeggio but play it first without the low bass octave. Just the thumb on the F# and turn the hand as you would passing your 3 over 1 in a regular arpeggio. Only when you're comfortable and familiar with hitting the C# and the E add the little finger back on the bass octave.

1. Get from 1 on F# to 3 on C# slowly.
Turn you 3 over as you would a normal slow arpeggio. Release the thumb from F# at the last possible moment because it gives you a sense of keyboard accuracy - you're still in touch with the keyboard using your thumb as an anchor.

2. Hold the F# and make the move to C# rapidly (after mental preparation).

3. When you're getting good at hitting C# continue on to the E.
Also do this rapidly (though not rushing). Hold the F# in the thumb and prepare the C# and E. Only when you're ready move to the two notes.

4. When you're getting the C# and the E accurately and regularly you can start to add the bass F# at the start. This will be a staccato note held by pedal in the final stage.

5. Continue on to the A#. Do it slowly first and then do it quickly after mental preparation.

6. You can now slowly change from holding your thumb on the F# and turning to playing the octave as a staccato pair and moving the whole hand instead of turning 3 over (if you wish).
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/09/13 01:03 PM

Thank you Richard, I think I have understood this time without misinterpretation smile .

I had been practicing it moving my whole hand. I will practice it with the turn-over instead, and only after I have that return to exploring whole-hand movement.

There's so much I don't know. How to practice arpeggios is one of them. frown
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/11/13 09:57 PM

Journal 13, Fri., Aug. 9

Bach Prelude BWV 927

Extended RH to m. 13A. Learned the end of the phrase RH: m.14.

Kept on reviewing RH mm. 8b-13a, LH mm. 8b-13. It's getting easier to remember all of this.

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy

Tried the idea of turning my LH over on the F# to C# at the start of the mm. 33-34 arpeggio. Can't do it: it puts my left hand and/or arm in very strange positions. I wonder if Richard has a larger hand than mine, or longer fingers, that such a move could work for him. Go back to practicing for accuracy with moving my whole hand F# to C#.

Mm. 17-24 HS, re solidifying before putting HT together again. Not much to say; it's coming along but isn't fully there yet.

Grieg Lyric Piece 57.3 Illusion

Mm. 20-25, HT. working on coordinating the new pedaling and the new fingering.

Grieg Lyric Piece 65.3 Melancholy

Mm. 16-20 HT. Feels much better than it used to.

Exploring m. 17 and m. 11 with the 2 against 3 figure, and with shifting from duplet on beat 1 to 2 against 3 on beat 2.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/11/13 10:26 PM

Journal 14, Sat., Aug. 10

I experimented with moving my piano bench much further back. It gives me a different and expansive feeling of command and reach at the keyboard.

Sitting farther from the piano, my head was tilted back too much from trying to see the piano music through the bottom of my bifocals. So I got out my piano glasses (repurposed from being computer glasses) for the first time in over a year. Aaack! My prescription has changed, so everything is hard to see -- at any distance; this isn't just a side effect of sitting at a different focal distance than what I originally had them set for. But they're just barely workable for music that I'm familiar with. Will go Monday to get new lenses with my most recent prescription and the new focal length.

After a period of laxness, I'm following 7x repeat of my sections. But then I'm at a loss for what to do I'm the 20 minutes of practice. I don't have a clear idea of desired improvement beyond just getting the notes. Will reflect in this for tomorrow's practice.

Bach Prelude BWV 927

Aha! Worked out the rest of m. 13 RH, using what I had observed about mm. 13-14 previously. Practiced mm. 12b-14 RH. Learned mm. 14-15 LH.

Grieg Lyric Piece 47.7 Elegy

Started mm. 25-34 RH, mm. 25-28 LH. Work on previous mm. 17-24 HS and HT.

Played through mm. 1-16. I had these down before I started my Bernhard practice, so this is just review, verification, and enjoyment.

Grieg Lyric Piece 57.3 Illusion

Played through several times, experimenting a bit with expression, testing for accuracy at various tempos. Located the next spot that needs dedicated practice: mm. 17-18. I want the LH G octave at the end of m. 17 to lead directly into m. 18, rather than representing an ending and pause of the previous phrase. To do that I think I need to memorize the notes for both hands in m. 18, so I can move directly to them. Right now I'm reading them too slowly.

Grieg Lyric Piece 65.3 Melancholy

Experimented with playing through HT mm. 1-25.

Worked on the various 2 against 3.

The fingering and coordination on mm. 16-20 is much improved from before I started Bernhard practice, except need more work on the 2 against 3 to feel confident that the timing will come out right every time.

Will choose some new individual sections to start on tomorrow; the playing through was largely for fun; I still need lots of HS and then HT sectional practice.

Others

Practicing just in little sections so much, I'm thirsting for some outright playing. Picked up my Philip Glass book and my Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook and played various pieces. Made a decision about what I want to play for the ABF Quarterly Recital, played it through several times and dedicated some 7x practice to the troublesome section.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/12/13 06:46 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
1. Get from 1 on F# to 3 on C# slowly.
Turn your 3 over as you would a normal slow arpeggio. Release the thumb from F# at the last possible moment because it gives you a sense of keyboard accuracy - you're still in touch with the keyboard using your thumb as an anchor.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Thank you Richard, I think I have understood this time without misinterpretation.
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Tried the idea of turning my LH over on the F# to C# at the start of the mm. 33-34 arpeggio. Can't do it
smile
How do you play scales and arpeggios? The last possible moment in this instance is not when your middle finger is on C# but over A# as in a normal arpeggio. In a normal arpeggio the third finger should make A# before the thumb has to leave it's base on F#. Without looking at where it is you should be able to feel (sense) where it is while your thumb is on it's F# base. This leaves a really small leap for the middle finger but it needs slow practise to do it with the centre of the finger pad on the centre of the key.

Even if you can only make G# you've reduced the size of the leap to C# thus making it easier than moving your whole hand from 5-1 (octave) on F# to 3 on C#.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
But then I'm at a loss for what to do in the 20 minutes of practice.

Some suggestions from the Dr. Brent Hugh page:
1. Section by Section Practice.
2. Hands Separate.
3. Whole-Part-Whole.
4. Stops.
5. Finger groups.
6. Staccato.
7. Soft.
8. Loud.
9. Metronome slow to fast.
10. Metronome Up/Down in Steps
11. Metronome with sudden leaps in tempo
12. Metronome.
13. Count out loud.
14. Subdivide.
15. Practice for perfection.
16. Pencil Practice.
17. Record yourself.
18. Practice without pedal.
19. Visualize.
20. Use Variety
21. Plan on Working

Some from my own "book":
1. Fingers in centre of each key (accuracy)
2. 'Zero time' (holding the last note/chord and making the sudden, rapid change as close to instantly as possible after considerable mental preparation - great for chords/leaps).
3. Heavy metric accent (strong-weak-medium-weak, etc)
4. No metric accent
5. Exaggerated dynamics
6. No dynamics
7. Reverse dynamics (higher notes getting quieter, etc)
8. Releasing previous note before playing, while playing or after playing the next one.
9. Playing with other hand in lap (or above the keys)
10. Bernhard's 'dropping notes'

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
...dedicated some 7x practice to the troublesome section...
While this is a practice technique in and of itself (building repetitions), its use here (in the Bernhard method) is simply to check that it's a small enough section for 10-20 minutes of concentrated practise.
_____________________

I've just come across a very excellent post from Morodiene covering 'Four Sacred Steps'.
Originally Posted By: Morodiene (from elsewhere)
1) Play VERY SLOWLY, paying attention to all details, with the sheet music
2) Play up to tempo, paying attention to all details, with the sheet music
3) Play VERY SLOWLY, paying attention to all details, without the sheet music
4) Play up to tempo, paying attention to all details, without the sheet music

This looks ideal, to me, for sectional practise of repertoire (memorised) pieces.

It takes a while to discover how slow you have to play to pay attention to all the details. Part of the initiative in my "book" above is to isolate the details into accuracy, timing, dynamics, articulation and phrasing so only having to focus on one at a time.

Giving attention to these details doesn't mean slowing down from 72 bpm to about 60 or 30 bpm. It's about increasing the number of seconds between each note to consciously run through the checklist. There's a huge gulf between consciously playing each note and playing automatically with finger memory and nerve impulses.

Paying attention to all details requires bucket loads of memory or bucket loads of time.
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/12/13 11:17 AM

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
1. Get from 1 on F# to 3 on C# slowly.
Turn your 3 over as you would a normal slow arpeggio. Release the thumb from F# at the last possible moment because it gives you a sense of keyboard accuracy - you're still in touch with the keyboard using your thumb as an anchor.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Thank you Richard, I think I have understood this time without misinterpretation.
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Tried the idea of turning my LH over on the F# to C# at the start of the mm. 33-34 arpeggio. Can't do it
smile
How do you play scales and arpeggios? The last possible moment in this instance is not when your middle finger is on C# but over A# as in a normal arpeggio.

Oh! Heads off to the Misinterpreter's Corner to face the wall and hang head in shame wink .

Thanks for the clarification -- I'll try it.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
But then I'm at a loss for what to do in the 20 minutes of practice.

Some suggestions from the Dr. Brent Hugh page:
[...]

Thanks for all the suggestions. I guess what I mean is after the 7x I feel like "that's good enough." I will do some thinking about "what could be better" after the 7x, and also just plain trying various of the 20 minutes suggestions, to see if they make things better in ways I didn't even imagine in advance.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
...dedicated some 7x practice to the troublesome section...
While this is a practice technique in and of itself (building repetitions), its use here (in the Bernhard method) is simply to check that it's a small enough section for 10-20 minutes of concentrated practise.

I know that, but I see such good improvements just from repeating a section 7x, and as I said above I was at a loss for what more to do when 7x already makes it seem so much better, that I was stopping there. Now I'll try applying others of the 20 minute techniques to it, and see what more improvement they bring.


Originally Posted By: zrtf90
I've just come across a very excellent post from Morodiene covering 'Four Sacred Steps'.
Originally Posted By: Morodiene (from elsewhere)
1) Play VERY SLOWLY, paying attention to all details, with the sheet music
2) Play up to tempo, paying attention to all details, with the sheet music
3) Play VERY SLOWLY, paying attention to all details, without the sheet music
4) Play up to tempo, paying attention to all details, without the sheet music

This looks ideal, to me, for sectional practise of repertoire (memorised) pieces.

Interesting -- it means I will have to think about what I think ALL the details are in a section. I will add this to my bag of tricks.

Thank you for all this advice, and for taking the time to write it all up.
Posted by: zrtf90

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/12/13 11:59 AM

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Thanks for the clarification -- I'll try it.
The important thing is landing accurately on the C# so practise the last part, starting with your thumb under the ring finger and holding F#, 3 somewhere over A# (or G#?) and just make that last action where the whole hand moves to land 3 on C# then move back to the starting position and try it a few more times.

When you're comfortable go from there on to the E with 2 and later on to the C# with 1.

Then from your thumb on F# but before your hand has crossed 3 over it (probably over the A# an octave below). That's a long sweep for 3 but you should know where it is all the way up to the next A# and you've practised the last inch to C# already.

Finally go on from playing the low F# octave.

Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I will have to think about what I think ALL the details are in a section
Here's a starter.

Is the previous note to be released before playing this next note, as soon as I play this note or should both be sounding after I play it?
Do I play this next note on the beat, slightly earlier or slightly late?
Should it be louder than the last note or quieter?
How much louder or quieter?
What finger should I use and is it ready?
Will playing the note after this next one require special consideration?
Will the finger need to play this note or is it all arm?
Will it press, squeeze, stroke, persuade, hit or just fall on the key?
Should the arm be perpendicular to the fall for this note? Where's the weight?
Is the wrist leading/guiding the hand here or backing off?
Will arm weight be enough or should I add some force into it?
Is my finger over the next note or does it have to move?
If it has to move to a black key should I lay it across the key for accuracy and if it's a white key need I aim exactly for the centre of the key?
If it's between two black keys do I need to prevent against an adjacent key sounding?
If there's a leap coming up do I need to look yet?
If I do hit a wrong note (after all this preparation) will I be able to move to the right note easily, ignore it and know what the next note is or raise the finger rapidly on contact to lessen the impact?

If you're playing hands together there's a longer list.

Isn't it great to memorise instead? smile
Posted by: keystring

Re: Practicing what Bernhard teaches: a workshop thread - 08/25/13 11:41 AM

Some of the ways I work coincide with things that Bernhard teaches in the PS collection. Of course other teachers and musicians will have been doing/teaching these things. They just haven't been out there. One of the things Bernhard talks about is altering the music in order to approach it. I think his example involves simplifying the music to get at its essential element, practising it that way, and then adding the notes again later on. In other words you can manipulate the music to get at it, analyze it, and practice it different ways. I've been taught to do this too.

I ran into something like that with the Grieg. I came to understand that the rolled chords (example below) start before the next beat even if they are written in the next beat. This affected the timing of when the notes came in, and also the timing of the pedaling. The version on the right is a scribble to show what the timing actually is. The little arrows are my shorthand for "pedal up-down". Written out this way, I can clearly see that the D,E,A all are part of the motion and pedal going with the C.



Then came the question of how to practice this and get that into muscle memory, especially since I've been working on it before realizing this. So last night I tried:
- first play just those notes that belong together with the C in the RH so that they start associating with each other.
- add the note and pedal just before that
- get that whole passage together while "keeping" what was practised
- * Do this every single place where Grieg writes that figure

The recording is a kind of synopsis of that idea which I tried out last night, on two of the figures. Some magic happened, because the melodic line had never been this clear, and it never landed strongly on the beat before. It had been sort of washed out because my concept had been vague.
https://app.box.com/shared/static/2vfeppvwb3ycjwsfhd4k.mp3