Organized practice - working for me.

Posted by: teachum

Organized practice - working for me. - 07/09/04 08:37 PM

I recently (less than a month) started taking lessons again and started playing a lot about two months ago. I have been very hit and miss for a long time. I was recently loaned a copy of Charles Cooke - Playing Piano for Pleasure. It is a great book - wish it wasn't so rare and expensive. But what I'm finding is that SLOW, SLOW practice really, really works. I may have known it years ago, but I tend to be impatient and want to play everything up to tempo RIGHT NOW! He also is a big advocate of dividing your strictest hour (or whatever time slot you have) into three parts - technique, sightreading and repetoire work. I am amazed at how fast I feel I am getting things back after not playing for years. Just thought I would share. I'm really excited.
Posted by: jdsher

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/10/04 06:57 AM

Congratulations on your return to piano. I've been trying to divide my practice into those sections as well and it's tough to get past the repetoire to the sight reading for me. Sight reading is a slow and painful process for me so I skip that part sometimes. I guess I always want to quit on a "high note" so to speak.
Jon
Posted by: Bob Muir

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/10/04 09:15 AM

I don't feel like I'm far enough along to start sight reading. I've only been playing for about 9 months and an hour seems like a woefully short period to fit in just technic and music. I'm lucky if I can get an hour or even half hour in each day.

teachum (do you have a first name?) and Jon, do you guys have a set time that you practice each day? ie 7:00pm? I think I need to start doing that somehow.
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/10/04 09:46 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Muir:
I don't feel like I'm far enough along to start sight reading. I've only been playing for about 9 months and an hour seems like a woefully short period to fit in just technic and music. I'm lucky if I can get an hour or even half hour in each day.

teachum (do you have a first name?) and Jon, do you guys have a set time that you practice each day? ie 7:00pm? I think I need to start doing that somehow. [/b]
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/10/04 09:53 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Muir:
I don't feel like I'm far enough along to start sight reading. I've only been playing for about 9 months and an hour seems like a woefully short period to fit in just technic and music. I'm lucky if I can get an hour or even half hour in each day.

teachum (do you have a first name?) and Jon, do you guys have a set time that you practice each day? ie 7:00pm? I think I need to start doing that somehow. [/b]
Woops - Grabbed the quote - but forgot to add to it. I'm Kathy, actually. As to being far enough along - you should be able to read really simple things. In the Cooke book he recommends just TEN minutes each day. No more, no less. I usually do it at the beginning, along with any short (also only TEN minutes) of technical exercises. It is hard, but everything is when we don't know how to do it. I teach school and I know from experience that the only way children become fluent readers is to read easy, at their level or below level, text that they don't have to struggle with. Take that into music and you should "sight read" very, very simple things when you are new. Cooke also, says, "don't worry about wrong notes - just let them fall under the piano until they are knee high" He recommends being more concerned about keeping the rhythm going. I have been trying to do two hours/day - one in the morning and one in the evening and then any other time I can grab for fun. But when I sit down for that "HOUR" I make sure I am doing short stints or the reading, technique and then spend the rest on repetoire. I am currently working on three pieces, so I divide up the time between those three. When school starts again, I will probably try to set a time in the evening. I don't think I can get up early enough to fit it in the morning. If I get my new piano before school starts I am taking my spinet to my room, then I can squeeze in some practice (maybe) during my lunch break.
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/10/04 09:56 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by jdsher:
I guess I always want to quit on a "high note" so to speak.
Jon [/b]
Jon - I try to quit on a "high note" as well. It might be playing my favorite piece (Chopin Nocturne Op. 72 #1) or playing perfectly a part of a piece that has been giving me trouble.
Posted by: jdsher

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 09:47 AM

Bob: I practice from ~8:00-8:45PM as many days as I can/week. The problem I run into is the piano is on the same level of the house as the television. So when my wife wants to watch TV she will ask me to use the practice pedal which makes me not want to play at all.
Kathy: What level pianist are you? Is the Chopin you are playing something a first year player can attempt?
Jon
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 10:06 AM

Jon - What level am I? That's a good question! I'm somewhere in the intermediate level. I've never done any Book I, Book II, etc. My first teacher was a wonderful woman, Juliard Graduate who believed in teaching technique from pieces so I have often played pieces that were probably higher than I "technically" was as opposed to technique-ly was. That can have pros and cons. If you are going to do that, you really need an excellent teacher to guide you through it. The Chopin Nocturne Op. 72#1 is gorgeous. I think I started playing it in my second year. I have been working on it for many years (with a LONG hiatus). The left hand is mostly a rolling, broken-10th chord and is very steady. A lot of the piece is not too difficult, except for the third page where there are 5 or 6 runs which can be very tricky. The key there is fingering. I have recently had to "unlearn" a lot of years of wrong fingering that I picked up on my own and now that I am doing it correctly it has made all the difference. I'm probably giving you too much info. To give you an idea of where I was when I started playing it - my first recital piece was "Fur Elise" (the full original one), then Gershwin PRelude II, the Debussy "Golliwog's Cakewalk" somewhere between Gershwin and Debussy I began the Chopin. My sister has done it and she is much more advanced than I am. She actually worked at it in a Sonata Seminar she goes to in Vermont. It even gave her a run for her money. But - having said all that, it is well-worth the trouble. Look at the music, listen to a recording (I've only heard Barenboim's) and see if you like it.
Posted by: MusicMagellan

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 10:13 AM

It's been a long time since I read Cooke's excellent book. From my recollection (which can certainly be wrong), he offered his practice schedule as a representative suggestion rather than a hard and fast rule. It's also really a suggested proportioning of time to be scaled to the total practice time, although the scaling loses meaning as the total time gets much shorter than an hour or so.

One important point about sight reading (which Cooke may or may not have mentioned). Do not practice sight reading on a piece you eventually want to master. Otherwise, you'll be programming in inevitable mistakes and awkward fingering that will be difficult to unprogram later.

Also, learn to look slightly ahead of the notes you are playing and to read the left hand part first. (There are occasional exceptions to the latter advice but trust yourself to spot them after you've gained some experience.)

Above all, as with virtually all other piano playing technique, be patient. It will come along ... slowly to be sure, but it will... eventually. ;\) (Now if I could just take my own advice about being patient.)
Posted by: jdsher

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 11:06 AM

Kathy: I found the Chopin on http://www.sheetmusicarchive.net/ and printed it out. It definitely looks challenging. I noticed that it's Andante with a fairly slow speed, so that's good. I'll try a little tonight and see how it goes.
Thanks again for the info.
Jon
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 12:08 PM

Have fun. Barenboim plays it much faster than I like. Just keep those triplets smooth and don't be afraid to go very slowly. I imagine Chopin alone and melancholy in a house in Poland, dying of tb making this beautiful music. Or maybe he is trying to recover from George Sands. Wicked witch that she was!
Posted by: Bob Muir

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 12:24 PM

The problem with my learning to sight read at my level is that there isn't a whole lot a stuff out there at a lower level!
Posted by: MusicMagellan

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 12:37 PM

 Quote:
The problem with my learning to sight read at my level is that there isn't a whole lot a stuff out there at a lower level!
Since you're practicing sight reading, the quality of the material should be secondary. This then introduces all of popular sheet music including simplified editions.

If that's too advanced, there's always the right hand melody in fake books. I'm not kidding about that. Find whatever you need to to get started and then watch as you pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The key point is to just get started, at whatever level you can.

And don't be afraid to stretch yourself. As mentioned by someone else here, this is one case where mistakes don't hurt, assuming you correct them as you go.
Posted by: HermanM

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 12:46 PM

Teachum,
 Quote:
She actually worked at it in a Sonata Seminar she goes to in Vermont.
Is that the same one as this:?
http://www.sonatina.com/sonatas.htm
I'm toying with the idea of going sometime, although I feel I'm still too much a novice to attend (but that didn't stop Noah Adams!).

HM
Posted by: Bob Muir

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 03:13 PM

"the quality of the material should be secondary"

It's not the quality of the material I'm concerned about, it's the ability to play the pieces at all (without hours of practice on a single piece that is). Now playing the melody only from a fake book is something that I could attempt. That's a good idea!
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 05:48 PM

Herman - Yes - that is the same Sonata. She's been like 4 years. I guess there is a wait list of like 3 or 4 years at this point.
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/12/04 05:51 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by HermanM:
Teachum,
 Quote:
She actually worked at it in a Sonata Seminar she goes to in Vermont.
Is that the same one as this:?
http://www.sonatina.com/sonatas.htm
I'm toying with the idea of going sometime, although I feel I'm still too much a novice to attend (but that didn't stop Noah Adams!).

HM [/b]
The first year she went another woman brought her 75 year old mother who didn't even know where Middle C was. At the end they played a duet of The Water is Wide. It is my understanding that they take you from whatever level you are and just go from there.
Posted by: CMain

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/13/04 07:29 PM

Is that the same one as this:?
http://www.sonatina.com/sonatas.htm
I'm toying with the idea of going sometime, although I feel I'm still too much a novice to attend (but that didn't stop Noah Adams!).

HM
Posted by: LudwigVanBee

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 03:35 AM

teachum:
"I imagine Chopin alone and melancholy in a house in Poland, dying of tb making this beautiful music. Or maybe he is trying to recover from George Sands. Wicked witch that she was!"

You'll need to imagine him in the south of France where he composed much of his music in George Sand's summer home. After arriving in Paris a young man he never returned to Poland. George Sand may have prolonged his life. She did a lot of nursing when they were together. After they broke up Chopin went downhill pretty fast. See biography 'Chopin in Paris', by Ted Sulz.
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 05:47 PM

Thanks for the history lesson Ludwig - I just imagine poor Chopin as melancholy. I love all his music. I think I did know he didn't go back to Poland. Magellan - Cooke definitely makes the point to not practice sight-reading with anything you eventually want to master. And yes, he does give the time parameters as "suggestions" although he is pretty clear about not doing more than 10 minutes sight-reading.
Posted by: apple*

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 05:55 PM

I bought that Charles Cooke book years ago.. decades ago for that matter. I still read it occasionally.
Posted by: teachum

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 07:13 PM

Have you looked at the price of it lately? My sister loaned me hers and I was going to buy a copy but it's $53 on Amazon and used copies start at $42 and go to $100! So I guess I'll just read it awhile and keep my eyes open for a reasonably priced copy. I like his philosophy of piano - very zen piano book (whatever that means :})
Posted by: Bob Muir

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 07:33 PM

Somebody needs to write "Zen and the Art of Piano Playing". Nah, probably violates copyright or something. How 'bout "The Zen Pianist"? It should be conversational and motivational like the motorcycle book was.
Posted by: Goldberg

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 07:48 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by teachum:
Have fun. Barenboim plays it much faster than I like. Just keep those triplets smooth and don't be afraid to go very slowly. I imagine Chopin alone and melancholy in a house in Poland, dying of tb making this beautiful music. Or maybe he is trying to recover from George Sands. Wicked witch that she was! [/b]
Sorry to intrude on this thread, I hardly belong here (I'm not an adult and I'm not REALLY a beginner even though I play like one!) after all, but I just thought I'd comment on this really quick (I've got a long history with this nocturnes; it's helped in 3 various auditions). It's always good to come up with stories or descriptions of pieces, of course, and what I always imagined was a teenage boy (possibly Chopin I suppose) stumbling down a darkened street after hours, alone, crying out for the love of his life who just left him at a town dance (after a fight). He holds a flower and mournfully holds his hands in the air at times with sobs (I imagine the right hand interest to be a sort of grasp at the heavens for an answer if you see what I mean). Then the boy perhaps reaches his house, falls uneasily into bed, and then slowly enters a serene sleep.
Posted by: Adagiolady

Re: Organized practice - working for me. - 07/14/04 08:31 PM

Ludwig,
If we're going to be a stickler for details, then we should probably get the author of "Chopin in Paris" correct. It is actually Tad Szulc, not Ted Sulz.

Happy Reading!