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best way to study a piece

Discussion in 'Technique' started by rachmaninoff, Dec 11, 2006.

  1. rachmaninoff

    rachmaninoff New Member Piano Society Artist

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    hello,

    I haven't seen a topic about this so If there is one you can delete it.

    My question:

    What is the best method to learn a piece quickly but good?

    my method is just read the score very good without playing and after you read it you will be able to play it for a great part of the piece

    gr,

    robert
     
  2. joeisapiano

    joeisapiano New Member Piano Society Artist

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    small sections, preferably not more than two a day, slowly.
     
  3. toki

    toki New Member

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    I'd have to agree, just pick a section that's easily repeatable (preferably not too long, but play what you can handle), then work at it slowly until you can play it smoothly. Then gradually increase the tempo up to playing speed. This should be the easiest part, and the more you play, the more you'll be able to sight read and this step will become a snap. I learned the first movement of Beethoven's pathetique sonata in about three days, tops. There are some pieces I can learn in a night, like Chopin mazurkas and some waltzes.

    The first part is getting the notes down. When you no longer have problems playing the right notes, then you can focus on the expression and dynamics afterwards. My piano teacher usually expects me to be able to learn the notes to a new piece in a few days, and then when I sit with her to play it, she'll help me with the technique and so on. I find that this part of the learning experience takes far longer than learning the notes, and requires a lot more practice (at least for me, anyway, having never studied this stuff, it's all relatively new to me).
     
  4. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    it depends what kind of piece you are learning.

    Mozart sonatas or any type of piece which has the mozartish left hand movement
    (e.g. c-a-f-a c-a-f-a c-g-e-g c-g-e-g...etc.) are generally easier and quicker to learn. I managed to practice C.P.E Bach's Sonata in F in two days up to 70% mastered (tempo, few kinks here and there).

    But if you are trying to learn pieces by Rachmaninov and expect the same learning speed, you are putting yourself into a hole if you do.


    The quickest way to learn a piece is by going slowly as odd as it may seem. You don't learn karate by attempting to be Bruce Lee the first day. You must slowly learn the movements. This is when the beauty of the mind comes in and shows how quick it can learn if you go slowly and precisely.
     
  5. robert

    robert New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I assume that you mean learn by heart?
    As joeisapiano said, small section at a time and when it gets difficult, hands separated. Listen to a recording of the piece which you like and also study the score off the piano.

    But it seems to work different for people. Pianists who are good playing from the score might prefer playing everything just right through and this can also be the method if the piece is easy.

    What slows me down is getting the fingering right and always when flubs appear, it is because I am uncertain of it or choose the wrong fingering.
     
  6. rachmaninoff

    rachmaninoff New Member Piano Society Artist

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    yeah I mean learning by heart.

    I think if you should learn in chords its the easiest way
     
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    heres some ideas

    study the score away from the piano

    sight singing (while at the piano)

    play the most difficult section FIRST

    never stay on one section, move around a lot


    -----------

    for runny passages, play on the lid

    also you can play one hand and sing the other (more advanced)

    also hand separate is a must
     
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    There is no real way to learn a piece quickly and good. It's like building a house; if the foundation isn't strong then the house (or piece) will collapse (as you are playing).

    I usually listen to the piece several times to get an idea of what it's like, then i pick out the most difficult sections and learn them off. Usually the part causing you trouble is only a few bars, so you can practise it over and over for 2 or 3 minutes.

    Once I can play through (not perfectly) I start practising and learning one page at a time.
     
  9. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hmmm, I think there are 1000 possibilities that one learns a piece slowly and bad. So I disagree on this statement, because what others have already mentioned here, there are lots of possibilities to speed up the learning process and to save time in this. That's why I find it so interesting to discuss about it.

    In addition to all the great tips here, I personally decide now right from the beginning whether the piece is something I like to play by heart anytime or not. If it is intended to play for others without score, I practise right from the beginning so that I try to memorize short passages, from the first minutes on at the piano. It showed me that it goes faster at the end this way instead playing the complete piece over and over in order to finally play it by heart without active effort for memorizing.
     
  10. Jennifer

    Jennifer New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, I say different strokes for different folks! :)

    For me I take the following procedures while learning a piece

    First I do a little research about the work. When was it written? How is it organized? Were their any stylistic influences? Are there any non music influences? (ex literature?) Things like that.

    Then I go through the score away from the piano and device the piece into sections and to get a sences of the harmonic and thematic organization

    Then I practice section by section, beginning hands separtatley and then together.

    More difficult passages are looked at first a lot of the times.

    I memorize as a go a lot of the time, expecially reading very technical passages. I try to commit those to memory for easier practice.
     
  11. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    If you've got the sightreading skills, try playing each hand's part from beginning to end and as closely to your intended sound as possible. Alternate left with right. Try to understand the piece as a whole as soon as possible. Endless repetitions are not the answer, complete understanding of what you're trying to do, is. Of course, my style may differ wildly from your's and vice versa. The crux is to find what works for you. If you can identify that, you're on the right track.

    Pete
     
  12. s_winitsky

    s_winitsky Member

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    I suspect mindless repetions is the wrong thing to do if it is repetions of the wrong thing. My feeling is that unmusical clumsy repetions tend to build muscle memory of a unmusical clumsy sounds. Once the piano player builds the muscle memory, it might be hard to break.

    I am curious what other people think about this. I find the hardest part of learning a piece perfecting it, elmiminating flubs, creating smooth consistent tone etc. Just learning the notes is the easy part, at least for me. It is just a matter of breaking a piece into simple learnable units and then putting everything together (often hands seperate.)

     
  13. s_winitsky

    s_winitsky Member

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    One thing that helped me a lot in terms of learning new music quickly is memorizing hands separate away from the piano.

    It might sound odd to someone who has never done it. I spent years depending on hands together practice at the piano, reading music slowly, gradually building up speed. This is something I did growing up and I found learning music every week to play for my piano teacher difficult. Memorizing always seemed very hard.

    Memorizing hands separate, a few bars at a time away from the piano is something anyone should be able to do in a short time. An intermediate piece should only take a couple of days to memorize this way. It is also good for busy people who don't have lots of time to spend at the piano. I find I can memorize a good part of a music score on the bus for example. I don't think I could memorize a Bach fugue in any other way. The key for me is memorizing bars hands separate. I find memorizing hands together, if not relying on finger memory, very difficult. Well, it's something that works for me anyway. The advise was taken from the book fundamentals of piano practice and I have been following it for a few months. I don't think I have ever learnt so much music in such a short period of time.

    b.t.w. My piano teacher doesn't seem to believe me on the above. She seems to believe this is something you can only do for simple pieces. Personally I have found some pieces that I can only learn in this way. Bach fugues are an example. I think people might have a hard time to understand the above until they have tried it with complex music.

    Stan
     
  14. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello everybody, long time no see. I've been out with the flu.

    Being away from the piano for the last week or so, I learned Beethoven's sonata #25 (opus 79) this way, without even touching the keyboard. This is one of the easier sonatas to be sure; however, I was surprised to have made such progress while laying in bed.

    Complexity is definitely an issue. This is nothing new to piano playing. Learning completely sans instrument can be categorized as an aural/visual skill. We know that these skills can and should be practiced, therefore improved gradually from the easy to the advanced. I encourage everyone to practice at least a quarter of one's total practice time away from the bench.

    At this point, I have difficulty learning pieces on par with or more difficult than Beethoven's Waldstein this way. At a certain level, my brain just can't visualize any more musical texture without actually hitting the keys. When I began to practice this skill, (five years ago) my 'free visualization limit' (that's what I call it) was Clementi Sonatinas. So, I've certainly improved and continue to get better at it with practice.

    The real value of it is shown during performance. If I properly visualize during the learning process, performances become VERY reliable and consistently more musical.

    My advice to someone who hasn't yet practiced in this way is, start with simple music and always gradually trend toward the more advanced. Practice consistently.

    Pete
     
  15. s_winitsky

    s_winitsky Member

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    Hey Pete, Does it matter if you do this hands seperate. I find it is pretty easy to learn away from the piano if I start hands seperate for even complex music? With hands seperate even complex music becomes much simpler, making it easier to learn without even touching the keyboard.
     
  16. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Stan, yes it matters! Hands seperate practice (HSP) is very good for isolating parameters that if prematurely combined, make the task of practice unnecessarily difficult. HSP is also needed to avoid favoring one hand over the other (I would go as far to suggest that pianists should take a few minutes each day and practice writing (words) with the wrong hand!).

    I like to practice a piece by listening to a great recording, reading the score and trying my best to play one hand's part on a sofa cushion. This usually translates to a solid and relaxed frame of mind and body for the first reading at the piano.

    Pete
     
  17. Anonymous

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    Hands seperate is very easy for me. Putting both hands together especially for pieces like a Bach fugue can be a real workout! I usually repeat the hands together as slow as possible untill it sinks in.
     
  18. ben

    ben New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think the best way is to read the score on the couch. Try to memorize a few bars, and then go to the piano and try to play what you have just learned. Then go back to the couch and review what you just tried to play, or go onto the next few bars. You will be surprised what parts of the music your brain 'leaves out' when you try this method the first time, but in the end you will also be amazed at your capacity to learn long and difficult works very quickly. This method is good because is forces you to memorize a piece without too much influence from finger memory.
    An interesting point about this system: sometimes you will be able to memorize up to 20 bars in a minute and at other times it will take you 20 minutes to memorize one bar. Either way, you are forced to analyze the music and make it more meaningful and understandable to yourself right from the beginning of the learning process.
     
  19. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I agree completely, Ben. (Not to say that all pianists can/should learn this way; everybody is different). The pianist's brains have to be straightened out BEFORE the fingers can reliably follow orders.

    Stop, look and think about it. :wink:
    Pete
     
  20. Nicole

    Nicole New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I don't know how true it is or not, but I've heard stories in the past about traveling concert artists who could learn pieces on the plane and in hotel rooms during their travels by just looking at the score and mentally rehearsing what the fingers would do.
     

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