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Practice Time Management


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#1 Big Mike

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 21:58

Hi Guys,

              I am a 58 yr old Adult student who 3years ago returned to piano studies after a break of 25 years.I have just passed Grade 5 practical for the second time and am now working towards Grade 6,probably this Autumn. The workload has increased greatly with the jump to Grade 6,and I find I need 1 and a half hours (if possible) to practice,which is a big commitment when I work full time and have children and Grandchildren and an active Cocker Spaniel demanding my time!

            So my question is,how do I make the most of my practice time? At the moment I try and practice my 3 pieces for an hour in the early morning,then spend half an hour in the evening working on the scales,arpeggios and contrary motion etc. Regarding the hour spent on pieces,am I best to spend 3x20mins per piece every day?,or 2x30 mins on 2 pieces then the same the next day,but leave one of the pieces out then practice that piece the next day etc?. I also want to learn a "light relief" piece,if only to take a break from the intensity of the Grade pieces.

Bear in mind that the hour and a half is not strictly followed some days due to other commitments.

             Any advice would be welcome.

                                                                                 Mike.


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#2 Tezes123

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 09:30

Ooo great question Mike how do people structure their practice time ? Sound like You've done brilliantly so far, I'm presuming you have lessons ?

I too returned to piano studies similar age to you approx 18 months ago after 30 odd years. I hadn't reached your standard and had never studied theory or taken any exams so I went back to basics. I have weekly lessons with a great teacher and as you can see from my signature I've pushed through the first few grades to get me back on track. I sat the G5 theory on Tues this week and have the G4 piano exam at the end of this month, I like the structure of working towards a goal so exams fit the bill for me.

I start my practice going through the scales list then my three pieces and sightreading, prob takes me about an hour then I practice the pieces that I've chosen from the next grade and finish with up playing whatever I want, I like film themes and romantic classical pieces. I do this everyday I don't miss out any of the graded pieces but I don't play them straight through over and over or play them at the given speed. I play sections from them or start from different parts within them. However I do play each one through at least once during a practice session and gradually increase the tempo. I work on the theory separately not sure how long I spend on that I don't time myself but I've just started on the G6 workbook.

It will be interesting to hear what others do, good luck with your studies, enjoy :piano:
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#3 cestrian

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 09:32

Well, IMHO it depends what your objectives are. If you are aiming for the next grade then just doing syllabus stuff is fine. If you want to be a better player, that might still work, but maybe not as apparent. In my experience I seem to progress better when I treat the pieces as studies rather than 'pieces', and also mix with studies. Even with scales, I don't just play the full scale and then repeat ad nauseam. I will play a small number of notes in the scale to work on something else, e.g. a difficult shift, or getting my fourth finger down effectively, etc. I get more out of it that way.

 

It's frustrating practising things you can't do but it's more effective than practising things you can do. I used to just rattle through all my favourite pieces and call that practice, which of course it isn't really.

 

I'm rambling, sorry, but there isn't a right answer. We're all different and have different objectives. World according to me (and thanks G** it isn't) is that lessons aren't supposed to be fun, practice isn't supposed to be fun. You're supposed to be stretching yourself and making sure that your technique is solid before stretching it again. When practising you're supposed to sound terrible because you're trying to do something you couldn't do before you started. The 'object' is to be a better player, and that's where the fun is realised. So I'm told anyway...!

 

In short, I would imagine most can halve the amount of time they 'practise' and double the efficiency of their efforts.


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#4 Big Mike

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 11:19

Thanks everyone. Your right everyone is different and it depends on your lifestyle. Goong to try and do 20mins on 3 pieced one day and se the next day mossing on piece out and adding another.
Anothet problem i have at my age os not being able to retain and remember information. Ie the difference between Harmonic & Melodic minor scales etc. Also i struggled in my Grade 5 with the contary motion scales. Could not co-ordinate my fingers for a long time. But i have found that the only solution is (lots) of practice.
I have a wonderful teacher who is patient and supportive,so thats a great help and reassurance.
Thanks
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#5 mel2

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 14:23

Best, I think, to be task-oriented rather than clock watching. Obviously you will stop when you have to, but after warming up your fingers with a couple of scales (done firmly and carefully with strong fingers) work on your pieces in sections, starting with the most difficult bits. Break the difficult bits down into half-bar chunks and decide how many times you will repeat it. I usually find that even if I repeat a thing 25 times, I will still not get it exactly right, but when I try it again a couple of days later, it will be very much better.
Don't just play your pieces through hoping they will get better - they need fine-tuning.
If you have several things on the go, do them in rotation ; ditto your scales -that way everything will reeive attention. Just before you have to stop, treat yourself to a bit of recreational play. Just make music and remind yourself why you are doing this.
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#6 Big Mike

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 16:47

Good advice Mel C. I think I am a little obsessed with time,only because I have a full time job Mon to Fri and have to be disciplined. Weekends I have more time and can relax more and enjoy playing other music, Its easy to put pressure on yourself when you are paying good,well earned money for lessons.

I do have a  goal to start teaching soon when I feel ready and confident.

 

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#7 R-W

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 10:01

Personally I'm in awe of all the adult learners on this site! Any adult, with all the different and unique commitments, responsibilities (and ageing brain cells :unsure: ) adulthood brings, who still manages to make progress, however small or big, is a superstar in my book!

 

I'm the same as you Mike, (and probably most others here!) full time job, long hours, long commute etc

 

Having a practice plan I find is really important, and accepting that I can't cover every thing, every day. I downloaded a kindle sample of a book called 'Musician's way', there was a really helpful section of structured purposeful practice.


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#8 percyP

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 16:04

Interesting thread - I've been trying to be more organised (and effective!) with my practice time recently so it's useful to see how others use their time.

 

I definitely need more of a structure and overall plan. My practice at the moment is very ad hoc and I don't seem to be getting anywhere (not at all surprisingly).  Will be reading the rest of the replies with interest.


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#9 ejw21

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 16:12

I agree with mel2 - task oriented! I have variable amounts of time for practice (never enough!) so on a roughly weekly basis I write down what I want to practice within each piece I am currently learning. Could be a few bars or more. Then depending on how much time I have available when I sit down to practice I choose a task/tasks. This way, even 10 minutes can be productive! I have been to a few masterclass events about practising and certainly it's possible to get very detailed with structure and weekly/daily/long term plans. Also if you need to track progress, it's possible to add columns with achieved yes/no. 

 

Another thing I find really useful is setting a timer for each task (deciding in advance how much time you want to allocate). When the timer beeps move on to the next task. This is particularly useful for morning practice before work - otherwise I would miss the train!! 


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#10 Thepianist

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Posted 07 March 2017 - 06:48

Best, I think, to be task-oriented rather than clock watching. Obviously you will stop when you have to, but after warming up your fingers with a couple of scales (done firmly and carefully with strong fingers) work on your pieces in sections, starting with the most difficult bits. Break the difficult bits down into half-bar chunks and decide how many times you will repeat it. I usually find that even if I repeat a thing 25 times, I will still not get it exactly right, but when I try it again a couple of days later, it will be very much better.
Don't just play your pieces through hoping they will get better - they need fine-tuning.
If you have several things on the go, do them in rotation ; ditto your scales -that way everything will reeive attention. Just before you have to stop, treat yourself to a bit of recreational play. Just make music and remind yourself why you are doing this.

 

Great advice this :) , if there is a bit your struggling on Big Mike play it as slow as you can either RH or LH, repeat and then together. As for time management i agree with what everyone else has said. Make sure you have a goal you want to achieve in that lesson , it all just takes time you will get there keep trying :)


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#11 _DaVid_

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 20:31

...I don't miss out any of the graded pieces but I don't play them straight through over and over or play them at the given speed. I play sections from them or start from different parts within them.


Feeling comfortable with my grade 3 pieces I decided to get the grade 4 piano pieces and quickly found that my hands seperately, start to finish, rinse and repeat a million times wasn't going to work this time. I arrived at the same tactics in targeting smallish sections of up to 8 bars, although normally 4. Also I vary where I start from. I've started at the end in two pieces and it's coming along nicely. It's interesting to see how it all comes together and I'm nowhere near able to play the pieces straight through but I can put my hands together quicker by focusing on small sections.
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#12 Tezes123

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 22:46

Ooo which ones have you chosen, I've got the Allegretto, The Waltz and Uzbuna :)
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#13 _DaVid_

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 00:25

Ooo which ones have you chosen, I've got the Allegretto, The Waltz and Uzbuna :)


Interesting!

I've gone for three minor pieces, not sure what my teacher's going to say...

Krebs, Gurlitts' klage and Black eyes.

Always the minor ones with me. Mind, I have the small matter of grade 3 to pass yet.
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