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Piano practice - self scrutiny

Piano Diploma Practice

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#1 Ems



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Posted 07 January 2014 - 09:34

I wasn't sure which forum to post this in.... it's really about my preparations for the LRSM diploma in piano, and in particular working on new pieces without the guidance of a teacher.  After some (for me) quite focused practice on a particular piece - Chopin's Ballade no. 4 in F minor - I've made some observations about my practice habits and aspects I need to work on:


1.  I need to be more disciplined about deciding on fingering and sticking to it!

2.  Ditto with pedalling

3.  Even the 'easy' bits need to be practised!  It's tempting to skim over them but I've realised that this way they never get 100% secure

4.  Practising everything slooooowly is invaluable but easy to forget about

5.  I need to be very conscious and clear with myself about the details and what I am trying to convey.  Some things I do quite intuitively (e.g. a little crescendo here or some half pedalling there) and am happy with the results but if I don't write it down on the sheet music I forget it the next time!


Anyway maybe these things are all obvious but it's been helpful for me to go through this little self-analysis so I thought I'd share  :) It's clearly all about self discipline!!  It's way too tempting to just keep playing through a piece I enjoy without really working on improving it.  Does anybody else have any thoughts on the subject?


I have to also add that I love this piece to the point of obsession and wish I didn't have to go to work so I could stay at home and practise it all day!   :rolleyes:

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#2 agricola



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Posted 07 January 2014 - 11:42

I think your number 3 is particularly important as it is often the bits you never even thought of being a problem which can prove treacherous in performance.  When preparing for diploma one thing I did was to record my pieces and compare them with several other commercial recordings a few bars at a time.  This helped me to pick up unsatisfactory details.

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#3 dacapo



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Posted 12 January 2014 - 13:25

...if I don't write it down on the sheet music I forget it the next time!

I definitely recommend writing on the copy anything I want to be reminded of if I come back to the piece later, including fingerings and speeds. Most of my piano playing is accompanying or chamber music, not necessarily for public performance, sometimes just to play occasionally with friends, so I may easily come back to a piece after several years away from it.

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#4 lubylu



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Posted 12 January 2014 - 14:49

I don't have a huge amount to add but agree absolutely with all your points, particularly the one about not assuming the easy bits will go well. That's caught me out a few times in performance.

I totally agree about the self discipline thing and I also find it hard not to just play through the piece and enjoy it without doing anything constructive with it. In particular if I'm working on a hard bit and it goes right eventually I tend then to breath a sigh of relief and carry on playing the next bit. What I should do is go back and make sure I can play that bit consistently correctly which usually I can't because that's the next stage. I'm a bit mean in that I make my children do this but don't force myself to do it. Very naughty!

Also agree that slow practice is invaluable, even when you know the piece quite well. I have a tendency to want to play things up to speed too quickly and never really put down the foundations I need to through slow practice.

I also do things when I'm playing and think "ooo, that sounded really good" but don't stop to work out what it was that made it sound good so I can reproduce it next time.

I think it's all about being mindful when practising which is hard work but no doubt more productive if we can achieve it.
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