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Learning a New Piece

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#1 LoopyLoz


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Posted 26 September 2017 - 13:47

Hi everyone,

I was just wondering about how everybody tackles learning a new piece of music?

I’m asking this as I would like some inspiration on how practice pieces more effectively, and to gain some new ideas on how I could improve on my practice.

At the moment with the piece I’m learning I’m currently walking my fingers through the notes, and I have already managed to get the first two bars in nearly the correct rhythm.

Best wishes

Lauren xx
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#2 sbhoa



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Posted 26 September 2017 - 15:19

Have a look at the music and see if you can spot any bars that appear again later.... I tell my students that they are the BOGOF bars.

If the rhythm is tricky it can help to learn that first.

When you learn something in smaller chunks don't forget to practice the joins when you put them together.

Try to go at a speed where you get everything right, there's no such thing as too slow. 

Playing a tricky section using different rhythms can help to get your fingers around it.

When working on small sections try to aim for at least three times right in a row. If it's one of those days where things aren't working well get out something to play just for fun and try again later or tomorrow.

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#3 Misterioso



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Posted 26 September 2017 - 17:22

It can help to set a specific aim for each practice session - eg to sort out the timing in a few tricky bars, to improve the dynamics / articulation / whatever you think needs working on. Then, if you have time, practise until you've got it as you want it, or as nearly there as you can manage. Try not to be tempted into just "playing through". There is a time and a place for this, but it's not really practice.


However, as sbhoa mentions, if things are not going right and you end up getting irritated and tense, it's best to walk away and leave it, or you can end up practising the tension into the piece.

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#4 Acciaccatura



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Posted 26 September 2017 - 19:46

I sometimes copy a page and stick it in my pocket and look through it first on the bus or somewhere. I prefer to know what it's supposed to sound like and all the places to look out for the fingerings before I try to play it (at least enough bars to work on at a time), and it's easier to do when the instrument is totally inaccessible. 

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#5 bassoonista


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Posted 26 September 2017 - 20:51

Attempt, swear, attempt, throw tantrum, attempt. Repeat ad infinitum until you get it right!!! Then go to your lesson, and get it wrong!! That's what tends to happen in my worldrofl.gif

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#6 Leese


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Posted 26 September 2017 - 20:57

Look for scale and arpeggio patterns - bits that your fingers should already "know" (if you're practicing your scales and arpeggios, that is!). If you spot any, it can help to mark them up above with pencil, so you know that say, that bit in bar 33 is an Eb major arpeggio and you know it's coming up. 

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#7 elemimele


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Posted 26 September 2017 - 21:16

If it's got a tricky rhythm, work out what the rhythm is before you start. Do it slowly. Break it into lumps. Do it even slower if it's still hard.

Yes, if you can, try to get a bit right three times before moving on, but if you can't get it right three times, and it's just getting wronger and wronger, stop, forget it, and come back to it later; it is possible to get stuck in a rut where something will never go right, and then you're just practising a mistake.

For something that's really a bit too difficult, pieces where you can't really understand what's going on, try skipping right to the end and play just the last few bars (then you'll know where it's going). Then play the few bars before these - and work your way backwards. This also has the advantage that when you come to play the whole piece for a teacher, you are always playing into material that you know better and better (which is good for the confidence).

Make sure you consciously identify the tricky bits, the places where mistakes always happen, and concentrate on them. A good strategy can be to play relatively rapidly up to the bit where you trip up, and then stop and work on that solidly for a bit. There will come a point where it's not getting better (either the problem is ironed out, or more likely, you're getting tired and it had got better but is now getting worse again). Time to stop that section, and move on. Next time you come back to it, that section will have got miraculously better.

Don't be hoodwinked by believing a mistake is a one-off. Assume all mistakes are an indication that there's a problem in that section that requires attention; it is better to spend an extra minute checking up on why you tripped over at random (rare!), than to miss a genuine regular trip-up point (common!), and neglect to sort it out.

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