What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Discuss technical aspects of piano playing and recording.

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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby jlr43 » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:22 pm

Personally, I think there's really no doubt that hands-separate practice, while it may not be a "necessity," is useful in many ways: memorization, technical security, independence of the various parts. While it's true that in the end, the hands must be coordinated together, one of the major obstacles in playing the piano is to be able to think of each hand's part independently (e.g., play evenly, bring out voices, accents, melodic lines) while conveying the piece's overall effect. By working on the separate hand, the mind is turning all its focus to the portion that needs technical attention, not just simply playing over and over again and ingraining a problem in the reflexes. For example, in Chopin Prelude 16, there is the leaping bassline, with that initial accent that makes it so difficult, or although the black key etude is of course more difficult in the right hand, any problem with, or unnecessary amount of focus on, the lefthand leaps can make the right hand more difficult to play. Again, it's isolating the problem area and practicing it over and over again until it feels natural that often achieves the results in technically difficult music.

It goes without saying that this is dependent on the level of the individual pianist's technical attainment and the particular composer or style of the music. It would be rare that I would practice a Haydn or Mozart sonata hands separately (though slow practice certainly always helps). Chopin, on the other hand, with his often contrapuntally complex and technically difficult basslines, is one composer where, I believe, some hands-separate practice is often necessary. According to my teacher, Cortot in fact always made his students memorize the bassline in Chopin separately -- the thought being that it is in most people the bete noire. She exhorted me to do the same but alas didn't come down hard on me enough so I was often very lazy as well. But every time I have since followed this advice, I have benefitted thereby in terms of technical security. Even musically, though, the benefits can be tremendous. Practicing a single melodic line in a nocturne, for example, without the bass, can make one feel the phrasing more securely. It may help when doing so to exaggerate the gesture one wants to achieve, the thought being that in an actual performance it will "come out right" when the nerves set in. Such a modus operandi also works wonderfully when practicing slowly hands together. I emphasize slowly because it's slow practice that really ingrains reflexes in the mind and makes them sure. Few would question that Rachmaninoff is one of the very greatest pianists of all time, and it's interesting to note that no one ever heard him practice at anything other than a snail's pace.

The key point to my mind is that as pianists we're dealing, especially with the better composers, with multilayered textures. Regarding practicing the voices separately in Bach, IMO it absolutely helps, not only to get a sense of the overall structure of the entrances but to make the legato graceful and hear which ones to put in the foreground or background at various junctures, no mean feat.

Just my thoughts on a very interesting subject raised.


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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby andrew » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:33 pm

My biggest problem is that I'm a dangerously good sight-reader. This means that in the long-term, some pieces get learnt rather sloppily because practice has tended to reinforce the results of the sight-reading and any errors which are there at the start aren't always weeded out. The other main problem is lack of concentration - I simply can't work on one piece for more than an hour at a time before I get distracted and have to move to another piece or start improvising randomly.

Regarding the hands together / hands separate issue, I'm not a big fan of hands separate but I will use it (with strict non-usage of pedal) if particularly ornate passagework is causing trouble and I need to clarify what's going on. I will admit my attitude might be different if I was playing a wider range of repertoire rather than just romantic era - there are a lot of occasions in Liszt, for example, where the melodic line in reality runs transferring from one hand to another, and in these cases I find it more helpful to practice melody and ornamentation as separate entities rather than the hands as such. It would also be manifestly ridiculous to practice alternate hand chordal/octave passages hands separate, but I guess that is very much a special case.

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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby jaggens » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:03 am


My biggest problem is not leaving the piano at the moment when I am tired and the practising quality goes down.
My real ability is to concentrate and practise about 45 - 60 min in one session. Then I should do a break.
Often my practising sessions lengthen to 2 or 3 or even more hours in one session.

How about you?


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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby pianolady » Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:25 pm

My practice sessions are usually about an hour long at a time. Then I go for a run or watch tv for a bit and then go back to the piano. Unless I've got something on my mind, then my practice session is mostly wasted time since I can't concentrate.
"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby YoungPianoVirtuoso » Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:19 am

My biggest problem is a toss-up between coordination of the hands, playing both hands together and rhythm.

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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby Rachfan » Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:35 am


One problem is that I play music off the beaten path, so sheet music is often harder to find. As a result I have to squint at pdf files from the IMSLP most of the time. But that is what it is.

Here is an age elated problem: When I make an error, and if I look at the keys, choreography of the hands, and how the fingers are stretching to reach the notes, when I was younger, that observation would imprint itself vividly on my brain so that when I next approached that spot, I was already visualizing what I had to do. Now, being older, those observations are less vivid and more quickly forgotten, which increases the work I must do.

I also find that memorization is a thing of the distant past. It means that I have to turn pages while recording. I guess I shouldn't be too concerned though, as I sometimes notice the current crop of professional pianists with scores opened on the piano during recitals.

Sometimes if a piece is not yielding to me as soon as I had anticipated, and if progress is slowing to the point that I'm plateauing, I begin to have self doubts. I wonder if the piece is beyond me such that I should put it away and move on to other repertoire, or spend more time in the struggle. I know that if a piece is truly too difficult, it should be abandoned with no regrets, and that if one works on it again in a few weeks or months, what seemed difficult is no longer so difficult. But still, I find the decision to surrender difficult, wondering "Maybe if I just stick with it a little longer...." I hate failure, especially because it usually has consumed so much time. And because my practice time is limited, that time consumed was very valuable too.

"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April

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Re: What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Postby Phillip Johns » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:20 pm

yjieim wrote:Hey everyone!

-What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?


My problem?

The old Matthay adage... Getting from one note to the next...!

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