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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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    Yeah definitely breaking down the song into small chunks is more efficient. You could even break it down further and practice sets of notes.

    Here's a resource that I've read in the past. Gives some good food for thought in terms of making piano practice more efficient. Be warned - there's a lot of info in there! I got easily engrossed. =)

    http://www.pianofundamentals.com/book/en/chapter_1

    What other big problems do people have practising the piano?
     
  2. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Monica,
    I just now saw this post of yours. You describe a common phenomenon (I think). When I was younger, I used to describe my techincal advances as filling a room with dust in the the air, and the only part that "stuck" was only the thin layer that had settled overnight for the next day! This would repeat until it was finally up to the ceiling, causing seemingly NO PROGRESS for an extended time until it finally broke through, and then the progress was fast again. <This is just my mental picture.> However the same certainly happens to me with specific works. I recently found that having been distracted from one work by working hard another for a period of several weeks resulted in real break-through's on the first. So time away to let things cool, settle and mature a bit is an effective technique for me. You might try staying away for a month or so, but I would also recommend hands separate practicing before doing that.

    Good luck!
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Thanks for the advice, Eddy. I do agree that taking a break from the piece helps. But for me, I can't take too long of a break because the opposite happens and I start forgetting everything I had learned. Recently (and as usual), I get sidetracked by reading through other pieces (and then discovering that I love them and so I get them into recording shape), and then of course that takes away time from working on THE piece I'm having trouble with. But when I do get back to THE piece, it's pretty much in my fingers right where I left it (maybe two or three days had passed). So then I get serious again and work and work on the piece, but still there is that plateau. Maybe there is a teeny tiny amount of progress made (like your dust layers). Or maybe the piece is just too hard for me... I dunno...I was hoping to play the piece in the Chicago (you-know-what), but now I'm not sure if it's going to fly. We'll see....

    One other thing: practicing hands-separate is something I do not like to do at all. It really does nothing for me, because it's all in getting BOTH hands coordinated to play together. I do better with hands-together and playing slow and loud.
     
  4. yjieim

    yjieim New Member

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    There's a school of thought that recommends practising both hands separate till they are pretty good on their own before combining them. The thought behind it is that if you can't even play one hand well up to speed, how can you hope of playing both hands at the same time well! So you make sure that that foundation is there in each hand before you combine them together. I have tried both and found that practising hands separately have helped me overcome "speedwalls" where I had a plataeu and couldn't play faster.
     
  5. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I was taught always to separate hands. In Bach even separate voices.
     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I could see why practicing hands-separate in Bach would be okay, but normally every piece I start, I just jump in with both hands because I'm too impatient to practice one hand at a time. I still don't think practicing any of the kinds of pieces I play would benefit much from hands-separate practicing; in fact, I can't remember the last time I did. This may sound terrible to most pianists and I don't advocate my way of practicing. I know it's my lack of patience that screws things up.
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I've never practiced hands apart in Bach or elsewhere, and never felt a need to. Also, neither of my two former teachers (both renowned concert pianists) have ever mentioned it as a requirement or even possibility. So it can't be such a rule set in stone, I think.
    Practising voices apart seems quite silly to me. Can't see what one would learn from that, except where the voices are, but you should know that anyway.
     
  8. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Come to think of it, my last two teachers did not advise me to practice hands-separate, either.
     
  9. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Mine did. The drill was:

    Technique: first reading with both hands
    Aim: feel of the structure and harmonies

    Technique: right and left separate, until both can be played without hitches.
    Aim: To know what each hand must do and to concentrate on fingerings

    Technique: Separate voices, using the same fingerings as if the other voices were present, even if the voice is spread over two hands
    Aim: To know the melody and to memorise fingerings and principally, to get a feel for the polyphony and not to view the voices as harmony. The music is a combination of melodies and not a sequence of courses.

    I would add reinforcing each voice in turn. That is, play voice A as if all other voices were subordinate, then the same for B and so on. One must feel the voices and not the "harmonies" created by them.
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow. Well if it worked for you :)
     
  11. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    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.

    Joe
     
  12. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    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.
     
  13. jaggens

    jaggens New Member

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    Hi,

    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?

    GL
    Jaak
     
  14. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    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.
     
  15. YoungPianoVirtuoso

    YoungPianoVirtuoso New Member

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

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi,

    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.

    David
     
  17. Phillip Johns

    Phillip Johns New Member

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    My problem?


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

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