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Mistakes, mistakes everywhere

Discussion in 'Technique' started by Kalos Piano, Apr 7, 2016.

  1. Kalos Piano

    Kalos Piano New Member

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    Hi everybody,

    new member of Pianosociety here.

    I've been reading quite a lot on the online piano forums lately and it seems to be a very popular opinion that "you play as you practice", so if you practice with a lot of errors, of course you're going to do the same mistakes during actual performances.

    Now, what is rather interesting (and despairing) to me is the fact that, basically, I seem to be unable to play a piece, even simple ones, without making some kind of mistake: be it an A instead of G, be it just a slight delay or acceleration in the tempo, be it just an short uneven passage in a piece, 95% of the time I simply cannot produce a perfect performance. Sometimes I'm at the last bar of a piece and I haven't done any errors, I'm fairly sure that everything will go smoothly and BAM! target missed on the very last note. Heck, I'm sure I wouldn't even be able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 10 times in a row if I tried.

    And I'm not talking about always the same errors repeated again and again at every piano session. Those can be of course overcome by concentrating on them, repeating the problematic bit many times in a slow and controlled fashion.

    I'm talking here about parts that I had always played perfectly, that suddenly, one day, fall apart by surprise, and possibly the day after come back ok once again.
    But that single day, my fingers just slip on that "mastered" bar of some piece, and so I start from that bar again, sure that everything will go alright as it always has, and instead I just can't seem to make it and I'm like "what the f is happening?? I've always played this without any problem at all!"
    It might take me hours of repetition to finally be able to play that part at speed.

    Also, when practicing a complete piece, slow practice is often advocated, but it happens quite often that more instead of less errors happen when going much slower than usual, possibly due to the higher difficulty of keeping concentration on very slow tempos and on the lesser reliance on muscle memory.

    Does this kind of stuff happen to you? How do you handle it? Do you just ignore the occasional slip and go on playing the rest of the piece like nothing happened or do you stubbornly start repeating the measure that is giving you trouble (or even the whole piece) until it's correct? How is it possible to avoid such unexpected slips if, by definition, they are unexpected? Is it simply a matter of needing to wait and practice for several more years before achieving a truly perfect performance? Or do you think that some people simply need to accept the fact that their playing will always have the occasional flaw and only on rare occasions will be able to perform without any mistakes?

    Thanks for sharing your experience, and sorry about the long first post!
     
  2. Sean T. Preston

    Sean T. Preston pianoman16

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    Kalos,
    This happens to most everybody. You've already mastered this section/movement (or what have you) of a piece. Then you come back the next day and have difficulty playing what you just learned. It is frustrating! Just remember everybody has there off days. . . Practice does not make perfect. Perfection is and ideaology of sorts, and by definition is un—achievable. In addition, proper technique plays a huge role in the repitoire someone is capable of playing. Hope this helps:)
     
  3. Kalos Piano

    Kalos Piano New Member

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    Thanks Sean, I guess we're always subject to committing mistakes at times: I'd probably need to try to practice more the art of just not getting distracted by errors and keeping playing instead of stopping and having to restart again from a few notes earlier.
     
  4. Sean T. Preston

    Sean T. Preston pianoman16

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    That's correct:)
    Generally, those minor mistakes will fix themselves as you continue to play through. However, if you keep coming across the same mistake time and time again as you play through your piece, it may be a good idea to go back (take some time) and fix it. Hope this finds you well.
     
  5. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Sean,

    My first introduction to a new piece is not at the piano. Rather, I first examine the score at my desk away from the piano. I look at the structure of the work. If I'm unfamiliar with a musical term I look it up and notate it on the score. I look at suggested fingerings. If I try it later and dislike it, I devise one that works better for my hand. If the composer wrote the fingering, I'll look at it carefully to see if it's the best way for me. The same goes for Rafael Joseffy, a true genius when it came to fingerings. Either they fit one's hand... or they do not. I also check out ledger lines. I usually use printed scores where the notation is smaller. It's very easy to misread ledger lines. I like to highlight things like dynamic changes, phrasings, voicing, tempo changes, etc. When I go to the piano, I already know a lot about the score from studying it at the desk. I try to avoid listening to recordings of the piece, as I want to discover my own way to express myself in the piece -- in conjunction with the composer -- in order to put it across to the listener.

    Here's what I do when I encounter a persistent error: 1) I bracket the spot on the score in pencil where it occurs. 2) I try to identify the element causing the problem. 3) If it's obvious that I didn't plan a workable fingering, then I replace the problematic fingering with one that is better and reliable. 4) Next I practice the spot (with some leading notes and exit notes for context) slowly and carefully using the revised fingering for 10 iterations or so. 5) I play this spot slowly with hands alone first, and when I've conquered the problem, I also try slow practice in that tough spot with both hands. 6) If the problem is not fingering per se, but instead an issue with the reading or maybe choreography of the hands (they are clashing for example), I study it further and experiment until I find a choreography that is truly superior. 7) I avoid immediately jumping into tempo. It's better to set the metronome at a really slow tempo. If the the problem-solving is serving me well, then I increase speed only by two or three notches at a time on the metronome. If everything is OK, then another three upward notches, etc. until I reach my target speed. Often this gradual approach will lead to more accurate reading and execution.

    Here is another good practice: Recall that you bracketed the error with a pencil on the score. It's a good idea to play the error spot several times before playing the entire piece. If those repetitions are successful, only then try to play with complete accuracy. Remember that a unwanted return of an error often leads to one that is especially difficult to eradicate. Be cautions not to invite that! All repetitions must be accurate, effective and unshakeable.

    Everyone practices differently, so this method I've outlined here is only one way.

    Finally, if you practice a piece that positively turns out to be beyond your capabilities, file it away with no remorse and select a piece that you can better manage. Then if you want to play it again, you might find that the subconscious worked on it while it was filed away. If so, then give it a second chance if it really seems more doable.

    David
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016

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