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correct way to practice a piece


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#1 adultpianist

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 08:17

I have my own way of practicing a piece on the piano but wondered if there was a correct way?

 

I start hands separately for a few bars and then try the bars with both hands.  Then I try the next few bars in the same manner.   I then go back to the beginning of the piece and play the hands together which I have already practiced previously and add the next few bars that I have just practiced with both hands.   I do not move on down the piece without going back to the start and playing from the beginning up to where I have just practiced and then moving to a new section.

 

does anyone have any other approach?    I am interested to find out what works for you


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#2 hummingbird

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 08:56

There's no single correct way.  Philip Johnson's "The Practice Revolution" has loads of methods of practising, some of which will work for some people, or to put it another way, not all of which will work for everybody.


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#3 vron

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 09:45

As said there is no one "right" way to practise . it is what over time you have found works best for you . Have you tried other ways of learning to compare how effective they are for you. Some people would learn the first bars as you have, then the next bars as you have and continue in that manner and then only go back to beginning. Some will learn hands separately all the way through then put it all together.
some will learn bars at end first and then work backwards slowly adding more bars in . So we are all different.

I find I practise differently for different pieces. sometime I need to work hands separately for a while to get the tricky rhythms right and then put together. sometimes I start hands together right from the start and never practice separately unless I am having some difficulty in a part that needs taking out and working on.
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#4 Arundodonuts

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 10:30

I would suggest not going back to the beginning every time. That way you are becoming more familiar with the beginning than the rest of the piece, whereas the tricky bits, wherever they are, should normally demand more attention. I tend to go through a piece in what seems logical sections paying attention to the problem areas, before trying to glue sections and ultimately the whole thing together.


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#5 Banjogirl

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 10:33

My youngest has a very bizarre way of practising the piano. He hacks his way through his pieces, hardly ever practises a bit over and over again and yet gets his piece perfect in the end. It wouldn't work for me but it's right for him. If what you do is working for you then it's a good method.
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#6 Norway

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 10:47

Don't be afraid to start in the middle or hop around (you could knock off some easier sections first, which for me would be encouraging if there were not too many bars left to learn, and there is normally some repeated material). Then play it all through and list the dodgy bars and sections to concentrate on - then  you don't waste time playing the OK bits over and over again. I would play the whole thing now and then though for some musical satisfaction and continuity.


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#7 BadStrad

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 10:52

A couple of tips I have been given:-

Before getting to the piano, spend some time reading the score. So things like:-
Look at the key it is in (X major or minor).
Check for modulations, note cadences (particularly V-I, V-I and I - V) and the phrases leading up to them. Try to work out the structure of the piece.
Look for repeated sections, stuff you'll learn once but play twice.
Are there any tricky rhythms you need to work out? (clap/stamp/tap/count/say rhythm syllables/whatever method you use)
Think about what fingerings you might use for anytricky looking bits. If you can't imagine the fingerings then try those bits out at the piano when you first sit down to it (or take up your instrument).
If you can sight sing, hum your way through the melody.

Then when you've done that, go to your instrument.

At the instrument, check out those tricky fingerings first. Then start with the last bar. Practice that. When you can play it easily, correctly five times practice the previous bar. When you can play it correctly five times play both bars together. In this way you are always working towards the bit you already know (the end). When doing the five repeats, any mistakes means check that bit. You might need to practice a couple of notes then add in the rest of the bar, depends on the problem, but when that is corrected you can carry on. Go back to the repeat of the bar, starting at one again - the idea being to practice the correct version more times than the incorrect version. It sounds obvious, but often when we play something correctly it is easy to think "Got it" and move in, but really it needs more practic to make the correct version be the version that is always played.
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#8 elemimele

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 12:44

... but use your common sense about any rule. For example, if you've just played a bar correctly 4 times but you aren't happy with the 5th, so you start again, and the same thing happens (4 good then mistake) so you try again and make a mistake after only 3 healthy repeats, and then you only get two healthy repeats before the mistake, and then only one, and then you get it wrong twice in a row... STOP!

It's likely you've now reached the point where you're expecting it to go wrong, getting in a panic, something's gone wrong with your thinking, and it's all going to be a mess. You can spend the next half an hour worrying about it, dissecting the whole thing, playing it at a quarter of the correct speed, fiddling around, or you can just go and have a cup of tea. I find the cup of tea more enjoyable and just as effective. Sometimes clearing the head is what's needed.


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#9 Aquarelle

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 13:45

As a teacher I have absolutely no hard and fast rules about methods of practising. It all depends on the piece and the pupil. However I do write explicit instructions  in their practice books - and it isn't the same every week. It all depends on what aspect of technique or interpretation I want them to concentrate on at any given moment.


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#10 BadStrad

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 13:58

Totally agree with Elemimele about using common sense. Sometimes you just need to take a break and relax.

Also I don't think I made it clear that the idea is to find the bit of the bar where it goes wrong and correct that before going back to the "repeats" bit.
So, say the bar is made up of the notes L M_N P Q where M_N are quavers. You keep making a mistake going from N to Q. Is it a rhythm problem? Is it fingering hitting O or P flat rather than P? Play the correct two notes till that feels easy. Then add the note before (M), when that's easy add the note after (Q). Then play the whole bar. Obviously on a piano it's probably a chord rather than one note but you get the idea. And yes, if it's all going to pot, then take a break and come back refreshed.

Oh and just thought of another useful tip: "Play as slow as you can, not as fast as you can't."

Same kind of idea - avoid making mistakes (by playing too fast) when learning a piece so that you don't have to correct them later.
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#11 zwhe

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 13:59

Have a focus - are you concentrating on accuracy, articulation, tone, dynamics etc. If you try and do everything at the same time, you will most likely not improve any of them! If your teacher hasn't told you, ask what the 'learning point' of a piece is.


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#12 corenfa

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 16:38

I always said that if I built a house the way I practised piano, it would have three walls, a staircase to nowhere and half a roof, for a lot of the construction period. Still, I always manage to learn my pieces on time and to the right level, so I've given up trying to overanalyze it too much.
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#13 maggiemay

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Posted 23 October 2019 - 19:14

I always said that if I built a house the way I practised piano, it would have three walls, a staircase to nowhere and half a roof, for a lot of the construction period. Still, I always manage to learn my pieces on time and to the right level, so I've given up trying to overanalyze it too much.

‘Let’s put the roof on first’ said Pooh. ‘Then if it rains we shan’t get wet’ .

:-D


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#14 adultpianist

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Posted 24 October 2019 - 03:37

I was told at my lesson when I queried this topic that you  should practice your piece and keep practicing the beginning and not just concentrate on the middle bit because even if the beginning is easier, you .WILL forget it and need to keep playing it.  Also you should start playing the piece the minute you get the score and not spend a long time reading over the score trying to work out the fingering before you play.  You should start to play and correct any wrong fingerings as you go along


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#15 Banjogirl

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Posted 24 October 2019 - 08:08

In our chorus we often start with the end because then it doesn't get overlooked, especially as it's the bit people go away with an impression of. I don't think there a right and a wrong. You'll find out what suits you and that's what is right. People will give you tips but if they're not right for you then ignore them.
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