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 Post subject: Approaching a new piece
PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2009 6:27 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:13 am
Posts: 57
Hi,

When approaching a new piece, do you repeatedly practice with small sections (perhaps 5 to 10 measures) at a time, or do you play through the entire piece over and over again, even though the first few times it may sound :x. I know that many factors play a role in this (sight-reading ability, length and structure of the piece, etc.), but I was wondering what your overall strategy is.

Thank you,
Samuel Chetty


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 1:24 am 
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Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:57 pm
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I'd definitely not practice a piece completely over and over in order to master it, although I won't say that you couldn't get anywhere that way with a very short piece. Personally, no matter the length of a piece, I like to analyze it some - determine its form, style, and other things like that - and then dissect the work into phrases and work on each phrase separately. Each phrase I learn hands-separate, then join the hands together once they have been mastered individually. Then I make sure that the phrases join together smoothly. After that I buckle down to the intricacies of interpretation, which for me takes a little while. This is a brief synopsis of the approach that I was taught to take with pieces I want to study - it might not be the best for every person, but I have the impression that most folks will tackle a piece in a more-or-less similar way. The goal is, not matter how you look at the piece, is to think about what you're doing and have a purpose for what you're doing.

I wish you all the best in your piano pursuits! :D

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Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:32 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:13 am
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Thank you Sarah for your advice. I'll definately try working on individual phrases hands separately. Your advice will be very useful, because I have a recital at the end of May, and I have to learn four pieces from the Schumann Kinderszenen by then!

Also, I will probably post several recordings in the audition room soon. I don't have a recorder, but my teacher does have recording equipment. So, I can record my playing at his house.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 9:54 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2009 4:04 pm
Posts: 67
Location: East Yorkshire, England
Before you worry about interpretatuve aspects too much you need to get to know the piece and play the notes to a reasonable proficiency.

At a purely technical level, i.e. to get a good grip of reliably playing the notes, I recommend the following :

1. Read the music and try and ascertain which sections are the most technically difficult.

2. Then try sight-reading the whole piece of music at a speed at which you can reliably play most of the sections (don't worry how slow this is) - this will help identify the difficult sections in 1 and possibly others that you didn't think were difficult, and give you a practical overview of the piece.

3. Start to practice the difficult sections slowly with both hands - there is no advantage of learning wth hands separately - until you can reliably play them slowly. You need to get a head start on these sections so that they come to fruition at the same time as the rest of the piece. There is nothing worse than mastering the easier sections first and finding that the harder sections take more practice - it's frustrating.

4. Then start to play the other sections, on a section by section basis at a comfortable speed to ensure no errors on a regular basis and in a short time you will soon become proficient. During this process, you can gradually start to think about interpretation as you get a better feel for the music.

5. Having achieved a degree of proficiency in the notes, you can then start to apply your full attention to the piece.

I recommend the following books :

"The Pianist's Problems" by William S. Newman and the "Art of Piano Playing - A Scientific Approach" by George Kochevistky. These give a good insight into learning pieces, interpretation and overcoming technical difficulties.

Regards
Mark


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:41 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:57 pm
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I agree a lot with your useful comments, Mark, save one. hands-separate practice is a nuisance when you're wanting to dig into a piece (particularly one that you enjoy), but is worth it in the clarity of music and memorization that results. I've learned pieces both ways - some with hands-separate practice and some without - and the pieces that I learned best were undoubtedly the ones that received the hands-separate treatment. The pieces on which I practiced hands-separate I can now play in my head, play one hand only in my head or on the piano, and play under pressure (a big accomplishment for me :wink: ) - in short, I've got a much better grasp on them interpretively and technically than the other pieces.

I hope you don't think I'm being contentious, but since the thread poster is going to be playing in a recital very soon, it's especially important that he get's his music down well and does so in quick fashion. In my opinion, the shortest and best road is one that invariably involves hands-separate practice.

_________________
Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 2:43 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:57 pm
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In-Flight Piano wrote:
Thank you Sarah for your advice. I'll definately try working on individual phrases hands separately. Your advice will be very useful, because I have a recital at the end of May, and I have to learn four pieces from the Schumann Kinderszenen by then!

Also, I will probably post several recordings in the audition room soon. I don't have a recorder, but my teacher does have recording equipment. So, I can record my playing at his house.


I'm glad I was able to help. I wish you all the best in your recital! I look forward to hearing your recordings too. :D

_________________
Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God.

Felix Mendelssohn


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2009 1:51 pm 
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Joined: Wed Feb 27, 2008 9:29 am
Posts: 56
Location: UK
The advice regarding learning the pieces hands separate is very interesting. I usually find it a nuisance too, but find that I'm prone to errors unless the hands have also been memorised separately. I often know how to play the music hands together (probably just like a robot) but don't have a clue about what the hands are doing separately, or which notes they are playing or which fingers are being used. This can often result in errors in performance if I become distracted or nervous - so, yes, it's definitely worth memorising them separately as much as possible from the start, although I sometimes find that certain passages don't lend themselves to hands separate practice very easily because they don't make much sense if played separately.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 4:31 am 
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Joined: Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:33 am
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I have nothing to add to what's been said already...other than that I do indeed break up new stuff into manageable pieces. 8)

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Horowitzian


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:14 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:44 pm
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Location: Orange, CA
What I've found works best for me is learning small sections/phrases hands separate without a metronome, then hand separate with a metronome to smooth out trouble spots, then hands together with a metronome about 10-15 beats slower than what I was going hands separate. Then it's hands together all the way up to tempo (with a metronome). Of course, I'll turn the metronome off every now and then to work on expression. Just thought I'd throw my method out there because I wasn't sure if using a metronome went without saying or if people get along just fine without it.

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"His name ought not to be Bach (brook), but Ocean, because of his infinite and inexhaustible wealth of tonal combinations and harmonies."
- Beethoven


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