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What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

Discussion in 'Technique' started by yjieim, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. yjieim

    yjieim New Member

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    Hey everyone!

    -What’s your biggest problem with practicing piano?

    Just thought I’d put the question out there, so that we could help each other overcome our challenges. If we see another member’s problem that we know how to solve, or have solved in the past, we can reply to their thread and help them out. Hopefully someone will do the same for our problem’s as well!
    So let’s get posting everyone! We can use this thread to help out our fellow members, and also get guidance from other members in turn. Let’s see how many fellow members we can help! =D

    Jie
     
  2. Syntaxerror

    Syntaxerror New Member

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    Here's my two cents:
    1. Always practice relaxed and accurately.
    2. Practice hands separately.
    3. Practice only short sections of a piece at a time.

    In my experience, a vast number of technical difficulties can be overcome by just strictly following these rules. Most of the detailed texts about special technical problems I have found are not really helpful.
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Time ;-)
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ditto.

    But also staying focused while practicing - trying to keep my mind from wandering...
     
  5. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Relaxing
    Concentrating
    Silencing the little voice that says, "careful now or you will muddle it!"
    Time
     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    About losing concentration when you are practicing - you know how the muscle memory gets more secure the more you practice, but what about when your mind starts to wander and you daydream while practicing a certain piece? Do you think the muscle memory got anything out of it during that session, or was it a total waste of time?
     
  7. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    I think for me it depends on the stage a piece is in. When starting to put a piece into my hands (after I am done with most of the fingering and interpretive decisions) the difficulty is to work limited sections at a time. Unfortunately, I don't assimilate works easily, so I have to work 1-4 bars extensively to get it into my head and hands. Later, when the piece is integrated as a whole, it is again a battle to work the detail into phrasing and higher order relationships and such, instead of succumbing to the temptation to just "enjoy" the work = just play it. Of course a problem that I struggle with, that is likely true for all of us, is to listen objectively. It is so hard for a fish to understand that it is in water. :shock: (That is get outside of ourselves.) As a performer, it is difficult to serve as distant auditor too, but we must. The last teacher I studied with, Richard Morris, deptartment chair at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music at Univ of C., had a huge sign (well, 2' x 4' ) on the wall that simply instructed every student entering his studio, "LISTEN!" That's job #1. All I have said thus far I can summarize as: to do the work of practicing.

    When I had more time to practice in an earlier phase of my life, I ALWAYS dedicated time daily for working the technique and mastering of 5-finger exercises, scales, chords, arpeggios, octaves, etc. Now, I have no time for that and am trying to survive in the desert with only the shirt on my back; it is a much less successful proposition this way, but it is all that I can muster.

    C'est la vie.
    Eddy
     
  8. Syntaxerror

    Syntaxerror New Member

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    I'm curious (since you seem to be technically much more advanced than me): Do you mean that your overall technique became worse since you have stopped doing technical exercises regularly?

    Considering myself, my impression is more that you cannot really loose technical abilities that you have once acquired. Of course under the assumption that you practise regularly. So my experience is that you can keep your current technique quite easily, but of course have to work hard to acquire new skills.
     
  9. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    I would answer you that it is in almost everyway like an athlete or dancer that has been away from it. My endurance, finger independence and accuracy (in scales, chords and octaves, as well as trained-relaxation) is not what it used to be. There is a lot of marksmanship and muscle memory that needs more than just a reawakening. Strength is OK now, but even that was decreased when I restarted months ago. However, you are correct in that my essential technique is still mine (the way I hold my hand and move my fingers, the way I play scales, chords, arpeggios, octaves, etc. is still the same [I agree that once acquired after hard work, I don't think that changes]). It would be interesting to me to consider if instead of delving in to repertoire starting 10 months ago, what if instead I had just dedicated this time to regaining technical abilities for 1 year instead, and THEN went to the repertoire. That may have been the smarter thing to do, but I gave in to the temptation. :| I'm sure my situation is not unique for the members of this forum, with so many coming back to their first love after a hiatus, as I too am doing. :D
     
  10. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    You have restarted the right way, Eddy. Had you begun with one year of pure technique you would have thrown the towel long ago. My brother tried that and soon gave up and is now gazing at the stars in Arizona. That is not as bad as it seems, as he is on the staff of the astronomy department of the university of Arizona, but still...

    Can you not listen objectively to your own recordings? Most of the time (not always, as you might recall) when playing I might be excused if I think I play like Horowitz, but when playing back the recording of me playing... :cry: Lets talk about something else... :oops:
     
  11. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    And it's better (worse?) if you let a little time pass before you listen to yourself. That's why I make so many re-recordings.... :oops: :x
     
  12. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    @Richard. I can listen to my recordings objectively, but as Monica states, the better the more that time has passed. However, the difficulty of listening in real-time while practicing is what I was referring to (somewhere?).
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Indeed, this is what I meant too: Thats' why when I play I think I am Horowitz! :D
     
  14. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    :lol: :lol: :lol:
     
  15. weiwei

    weiwei New Member

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    i don't know whether this is a problem:

    When i practise difficult pieces, i tend to restart the piece all over again when i make a mistake. I think it becomes a problem because in the end i know the beginning of the piece really well but stumble for the rest of the piece:\
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, that is a tendency that needs to be checked.
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    My biggest problem right now is that I've hit a plateau regarding a certain piece I'm working on. It seems like it is not improving and I've been working on it for a long time! And because I've invested so much time, I don't want to give up on it. Not really sure what I'm going to do now....
     
  18. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Weiwei, that is a problem because, just as you say, you learn the beginning but you don't really learn the rest.

    Some solutions are:
    1.) When you begin to work on a new piece, mark the biggest problem spots. Pick one to begin your practice session and work that section carefully. Then pick another and do the same.

    2.) Find the sections of the piece and work a section at a time, but start with the end of the piece (I call it "backward practice" -- not that you practice in retrograde, but that you work by section from end to beginning.) Of course some sections may have a sub-section that needs special attention. In that case, work the difficult part(s) of that section first and then put them into context.

    3.) An extreme form of the above is to work from end towards the begininning by measure (play last measure, then play the last two, etc.) or even beat. This is sometimes effective in pieces that have constant motion.

    Note that where you fall apart may not be the actual problem, but a symptom of an earlier problem -- poor fingering choice that works up to this point, poor hand position, mis-reading, etc. Working from end towards the beginning helps to determine fingering and other factors according to how you need to end section in regards to fingering so that you are prepared for the next section.

    4.) Know what sections are repeated (exactly or similarly -- such as the second theme group in a sonata which is first played in some non-tonic key and then recapitualed in tonic). This will help you to be consistent with your fingering when possible and to understand any differences required.

    Hope this helps and welcome to Piano Society,

    Scott
     
  19. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    This is what I do, but about 2-4 bars at a time.
     
  20. jim_24601

    jim_24601 New Member

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    That's what I call "chunks" ... a unit of practice, which usually turns out to be about 2-4 bars, maybe more if it's easy or less if it's hard. It's as much as you can usefully practise in one go, and can get under your fingers at practice speed before you start to reach the point of diminishing returns and have to go on to something else.

    Backwards practice is great. I've taken to learning whole pieces back to front, because the difficult bits tend to go with the climax towards the end, and it's nice to be able to play through to the end from the bit you're working on.

    If I said I had one practising problem it's concentration together with finding the discipline not to gloss over mistakes. I know full well it rarely helps to say "oh, that's just a little slip, I don't need to go back over that bit"--I'm just lazy :evil:
     

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