Author Topic: Practice techniques  (Read 10745 times)

ArcoHarmony

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Practice techniques
« on: August 08, 2009, 01:29:42 PM »
I mentioned to Desmond that there are some good practice techniques out there to help with learning new pieces, particularly the fast virtuosic passages.
Here are a few I use with my violin students and in my own practice:

1. Unit practice: play groups of notes very fast but with a beat or two of pause between each group.  For example, if you are playing a passage full of 16th notes, play groups of 4 16th notes.  In this case, each group would make up one beat.

2.  Rhythmic variation:  when the rhythm of the piece is fairly monotonous (example all 8ths, or all 16ths) but the notes are difficult, alter the rhythm to "long short long short" or "short long short long" instead of playing all the notes with equal rhythm.  Once you have gotten comfortable with these rhythmic variations, you can make up some other rhythms.  Then play the passage as written with the correct rhythm and you'll find it is a lot easier to play the correct notes cleanly.

3. Slow, staccato practice:  This is great for coordination.  Play each note staccato with space in between each note.  During the space, set your fingers.  That way you are training yourself to blow AFTER the fingers are already set.  If you try to set your fingers and blow at the same time, the notes will sound sloppy.  You can also do intonation practice this way.  Hear each pitch in your mind before you play it.  Listen that what you are playing matches the pitch in your head.

4.  Use "practice spots": This is a technique that all musicians and music educators like to utilize because it is so efficient.  Take the part that is giving you trouble and figure out exactly where the difficulty lies.   A practice spot could be as short as two notes or as long as 3 measures.  The idea is to not practice the parts that are already easy.  After doing a practice spot around 15-30 times (or more) you'll find that you can't possibly make a mistake on the spot.  It's just too easy.  Once the practice spot is easy, include a few more notes till gradually you are playing an entire line or an entire section of the music.

5.  Add on practice:  Start by practicing a few notes.  After many repetitions, add-on a note or two and do several repetitions.  Keep adding on notes and doing repetitions until you have an entire phrase or an entire line really solid.  (Meaning it would be impossible to make a mistake.)
"It's about the music."
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zombiefewd1

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2009, 08:20:29 PM »
Great techniques!I cant clearly tell that you are a great teacher! -Desmond

Dennis

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2009, 09:19:18 PM »
I think we should expand this topic. We should have Heather record a video and talk about each practicing technique.

I would also like to talk about "how to practice effectly with a metronome?" in this section.

zombiefewd1

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2009, 10:04:09 PM »
That would be cool.It would definitely help alot of people. -Desmond

Jack

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2009, 12:07:31 PM »
It's nice to be important but it is more important to be nice.

ocarinadiva

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2009, 01:57:07 PM »
Quote
I would also like to talk about "how to practice effectly with a metronome?" in this section.

I agree with Desmond.  I think this information would very helpful.  I have a metronome, but I'd be interested in learning some exercises to get the most out of it.

ArcoHarmony

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2009, 02:31:43 PM »
There's a violin teacher here in St. Louis called Ed Sprunger who talks about teaching even the youngest children how to stay with a metronome and practice with it.  (Just staying with it can be really frustrating at times!  It's easy to get off the beat.)  He had some really helpful suggestions.  I lent his book to a student, but I'll get it back and take a look at the comments on learning to practice with the metronome.
"It's about the music."
                          -Dad

8bitlink

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Re: Practice Techniques
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2012, 03:58:40 PM »
In my mind, aside from being able to play, nothing is more important than good practice. Practice makes habit, bad practice = bad habit, and vice versa.

Here is a link to the free metronome that Heather found.
Go ahead and play your music. You never know, you just might make someones day.
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IlSekko

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2012, 10:28:40 PM »
Hello there! I'm reading these pages for the first time and i'd just like to share some thoughts about timing..
i consider the metronome as a musician's best friends, and it can turn itself into a great teacher if you know how to deal with it. The point is that it is VERY difficult to steadily follow a regular beat by our own, because we are naturally inclined to 'adjust' the tempo accordingly to our way and level of playing. This happens while practicing any instrument and has to do with a lot of things such as our level of confidence, technical ability (which alone has nothing or little to do with timing), heartbeat, mood etc..

The worse of it is that we hardly get to even notice that, because usually the priority when practicing is to keep the melody going, connecting the phrases as we know them. Try to get 10 people singing the first measures of "Hey Jude" and notice how the rests between phrases are considered by each one..ok, don't actually do that, but you got the idea.

This is when a metronome comes in hand, because it can tell EXACTLY when and for how long a note (or rest) is to be played, unlike the most of us, and will underline the slightest rushing or slowing, so that you can be aware of all of your 'timing licenses'. It kind of stimulates your critical sense..being honestly critical about your playing makes you find more and more things to work on, which suggests that you will keep on improving.

As it is now, i will understand any flame, ban, kick or whatever the punishment might be for being soooo annoyingly long..anyway, if you kept reading until this, you won't mind some very basic practical advices, such as:

- Always distinguish between practicing and playing. Be patient and give both the time it takes.

- set the metronome to the chosen tempo (mid-tempos are usually more comfortable in the beginning) and start playing an extremely short note right on each beat. This is not so easy as it could appear, mind whether you fall before or after the beat. After a while try with sustained notes, or full quarters, which makes it a bit trickier to focus on the beat. Finally, try to alternate staccato and sustained.

- start playing two equal notes per beat (eights), again practicing both staccato and legato. Once you are comfortable with that, try to eliminate the note on the beat, playing only between beats. See how jumpy it makes you feel. You should practice this until you can mentally 'play' this division on any given beat, before actually playing it. 

- set a mid-low tempo (out of maths, a tempo you are more than comfortable working with) and start playing two notes per beat. After a while, double the tempo and try to play two notes per beat on the new tempo. Lower the initial tempo it feels like rushing. Once you get it, keep switching between the initial and the double tempo, always playing two notes on each beat, and finally try to play four notes on the initial tempo. Keep playing four notes per beat on the initial, slow tempo and gently try to mentally double the metronome beat, so that you will have the perception of two couples of notes instead of four..surprisingly enough, two couple of notes doesn't sound exactly as four notes.
It could appear strange but if you get this, you should be able to easily play only the first or the second couple of notes of each beat, which is already beyond the basics..assumed that you didn't smashed your brand new metronome against the wall.
 

 

8bitlink

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2012, 11:17:51 AM »
Actually, as long as you don't offend anyone or cuss, I don't see any reason to change your post, ban, or do any other thing. The forum is more of a place to encourage people, not tear them down for actually being involved, which is what that would amount to.

I think the fact that it is long is a little daunting, but people can get over that. And you bring up some good points.
There are a few of us that have eerily accurate timing, but even then, a metronome still helps us actually set tempo. It also helps to learn the song by playing along with it if you can find a good recording or youtube video.
Go ahead and play your music. You never know, you just might make someones day.
And now for something completely off base, Kirby Dance!
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IlSekko

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2012, 02:46:20 PM »
that's the point..even the sharpest player (meaning accurate, wrong spelling?) cannot compete with an electronic beat, for the simple reason he's playing music instead of counting milliseconds. He will surely stay in time, following the beat with the right groove and still he won't play EVERY beat EXACTLY where it's supposed to go. This is called 'human feel' and it makes the difference between a groovy, 'human' rhythm and a stale, robotic midi sample..so, instead of just maniacally chase any 'Blip' that comes to our ears, we'd rather get to know where the right beat is, so to be able to play around it without losing time.

About the play-along, it's nonetheless a great substitute to the metronome, assumed you play along something recorded on time..the downside is that it tend of 'forgive' some mistakes, because the attention will be focused on the overall music and it will be harder to notice a wrong attack or a little rushing..
Thus said, play-along is A LOT less stressing than metronome practice, and still helps

 

carboncopymusic

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2012, 05:22:20 PM »
That was a great post.  This is worth repeating :

- Always distinguish between practicing and playing. Be patient and give both the time it takes.

8bitlink

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2012, 03:53:19 PM »
This is what I usually do.

Step 1: Learn song notes. I practice all of the notes in the song, and in no real order, just to get the switches down between all of the notes. Then I learn to play the song slowly. This is where I tend to use Arcoharmony's techniques.

Step 2: Metronome practice: I listen to the song several times to get a good idea of the timing, and then go and hit the metronome. I start a little slower than the recording, and work my way up to either the exact BPM, or a little over if i'm doing a slow song (just so I feel confident in the note changes).

Step 3: Play along: Here I fine tune my human timing (i.e. where the notes just "feel" right) and begin to add flourish to the song (again, where it just "feels" right. I try to avoid over working the song, at that point it detracts from the main melody. I want to emphasize it, not swallow it).

Step 4: Solo with metronome: Here is spend time focusing on the attack and voicings of the notes, because that is a little difficult to do on a play along. I also lock in my timing here.

Step 5: Solo: At this point, I can play the song in it's entirety without the aid of a metronome. So I do so several times just to make a point.

This is not how I learn every song, just the tough ones. Never the less, I still think it is a good way to practice, especially when you are first starting out.
Go ahead and play your music. You never know, you just might make someones day.
And now for something completely off base, Kirby Dance!
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ocarinapoet

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2012, 02:17:25 AM »
Thank you to all the members on this forum you are all so very helpful I want you all to know that the time and patience you guys put into the helpful advice does not go unappreciated!

Ledger Note

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Re: Practice techniques
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2015, 09:20:32 AM »
My tip would be making sure you're running a combo of repetition PLUS frequent breaks to move your mind elsewhere.  Repetition and then a break and a return to repetition will help you create those neural pathways in your brain to memorize melodies and also getting your hands and fingers working on autopilot, where you have that unconscious mastery and don't have to sit there and constantly think about what you're doing.  It just happens.