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How to reduce playing mistakes?

Playing or learning the organ, hints, tips and tricks, registrations, techniques, fingerings, ...

Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby Ted Williamson » Wed Aug 30, 2017 1:37 pm

In addition to fine remarks already stated.......

I practice the piece with a metronome. At first, I practice the piece slowly. When I can play the piece perfectly, I bump up the speed a little bit and perfect my playing again. I keep going with this exercise until I am playing the piece about 10% faster than the intended performance speed.

If the piece's speed it free flowing, I don't use a metronome, but I speed up my practice in the same way as mentioned above.

This type of practice gives me the facility to deal with piece when I am playing in public at the intended tempo.

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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby jerrynazard » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:13 pm

Can't live without a metronome. It does impose discipline, and also draws a clear line between "Practice" and "Playing". Particularly with awkward polyrhythms (Durufle "Toccata" for example). For me a metronome is essential. And sharpened #2 pencils..... :D
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby RichardW » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:38 pm

My main problem is that I seldom practice! I usually just try and play something and when you are playing you try and gloss over the mistakes. This means that at some point I have to go back and iron out all the issues. As mentioned above, it is easier to get it right first time. (Must make a note!)

Metronomes: I can see all sides on this. I do not often use one but every now and then they are useful. I can remember trying to perfect Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu, which has three against four for much of the time. I got to the point where I could play that part in a somewhat "lumpy" fashion then I used the metronome to help me slow it down. When I could play it really slowly and evenly, I found it easy to play at the proper speed. YMMV, as we say on the Internet.

Another use for a metronome is for a long piece when you suspect that you are not playing at the same rate all the way through. I know some professional organists who would benefit. They speed up unnecessarily and it really bugs me! Then, of course, when you have it straightened out and it now sounds like an expressionless MIDI file, you have to put all the expression back. It depends what you find easier, I guess.

I have not noticed any random speed variations from any of our ContreBombarders yet. It just shows the quality of organist that Hauptwerk attracts. :)

Regards,
Richard
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 1961TC4ME » Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:31 pm

If anything, in my case I could see where a metronome would probably help me SLOW DOWN! I will admit once I learn a piece or I'm getting close to being able to play through it, I sometimes get a bit overconfident and catch myself playing a bit too fast. I know when I do it, and I'm like "OK, Marc, slow down, you're getting a little ahead of yourself here now, you're not Bach!" (and never will be) :wink:

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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby robsig » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:34 pm

I realize the conversation has moved to the use of a metronome. I just thought of another practice technique which really works for me, which wasn't in my long post of a few days ago.

That is, to practice without sound, and even without imagining the sound, just concentrating on the physical feeling of the keys. It's like singers who practice producing the sound without listening to the results just on the basis of what it feels like in the body. It has the extra reward of learning to enjoy the physicality of playing, and does wonders for solidifying one's technique.

I'd also want to react to the statement of not practicing but mostly playing. When you do that, you're in fact practicing, you're practicing your mistakes… You're free to do that if you're mostly playing for yourself, but in front of audiences (and critics) that's not a viable option.

I came late in life to the self-control of practicing, just in time to have a bit of a career but not like I could have had if I had been wiser sooner…
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby jerrynazard » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:49 pm

Robsig. Excellent post! Thanks!!
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby Ted Williamson » Sat Sep 02, 2017 6:01 am

Hi,
Robsig described practicing with the sound OFF, and I agree completely. I have noticed that hearing the notes actually slows down my brain. Practicing with the sound off keeps me in the moment, keeps my mind from wandering, helps me speed up my playing, and helps me memorize the piece.

Once I'm convinced that my fingering will work at the intended performance tempo, I start practicing with the sound off. This of course includes registration changes as well. For a while, about 25% of my practice time is with the sound off.

When I have the piece memorized at the intended performance tempo, I abandon the sound-off routine and start perfecting my phrasing and expression with the sound ON.

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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby johnstump_organist » Sat Sep 02, 2017 10:59 am

There are two other techniques I have used that I didn't mention before. The first one is for fully trained, well-rounded musicians with good keyboard skills. Amatures and hobbyists, who, by-the-way I think are great for the profession and instrument, I'm not trying to knock them, just probably won't use this first one.
1. Transpose the piece you are practicing up or down a step. This generally forces me to slow down unless it is an adagio or not a very complex passage of music. The logic behind it is that you must use whatever analytical tools you use for transposing to examine the piece you are studying. I was told of this technique for practicing by my first University professor and then he was suprised to hear me using immediately but he didn't think a Freshman university student would have the skill, but since the age of ten I had been playing in Father's church and regularly transposed hymns and at least half of the songs in the old Schirmer collection "52 Sacred songs everyone likes to sing" (or some name like that) because they were in the wrong key for the choir members who wanted to sing them.
2. The other is a purely modern tool, somewhat like the metronome because it was not available to earlier generations, ant that is the audio recorder. And with Hauptwerk as our practice instrument we have several options besides regular external recorders. You will immediately identify mistakes in maintaining tempo, rubatos that aren't working, phrasing/slurring that isn't happening. It is very easy as we play to think we are doing something clearly, but then on playback we hear that it is isn't actually coming through in the performance.
When I was studying with Anthony Newman some of the main things I was learning was the subtle use of rubato, baroque slurring patterns and all the subtleties of baroque ornamentation. I would record him playing the piece (this was in the dinosaur days of tape recorders before anything was digital but at least they were small cassette tapes - not reel to reel) and then record myself playing and I could hear where I'd mastered it or hadn't. I know singers do this a lot because they are so dependent on someone else telling them how they sound outside of their own head. Of course we can hear our instrument as others hear it, except that we are sometimes closer to it than the audience/congregation, but we can get so involved in the intricacies of playing that we don't really hear what is happening in the sound.
Also just practicing everything on some 8' & 4' flutes is very helpful to hear detail and not worry about the mechanics of registering. I think some of my best practice ever was on one of those little Noack mechanical action two and half rank practice organs in totally dead practice studio.
I have the Rotterdam Main organ (my favorite set that I own right now) loaded in one of the configurations with just a 16 stops, about 4 stops each Ped, Gt. Pos and Sw. and when I'm
setting down just to practice notes that is what I load just because it loads faster and I can start playing sooner and I don't spend a bunch of time fussing with registration.
John
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby RichardW » Mon Sep 04, 2017 6:21 pm

robsig wrote:I'd also want to react to the statement of not practicing but mostly playing. When you do that, you're in fact practicing, you're practicing your mistakes… You're free to do that if you're mostly playing for yourself, but in front of audiences (and critics) that's not a viable option.


Thanks robsig, I had worked that out for myself but as it is only ever me that listens then I think I can get away with it. I used to have a little dog that took an interest. She would sit through most of a piece but get very excited near the end. I don't know what she was trying to tell me. ;)

johnstump_organist wrote:1. Transpose the piece you are practicing up or down a step.
2. The other is a purely modern tool, somewhat like the metronome because it was not available to earlier generations, ant that is the audio recorder.

I think I will pass on the first idea. It's a neat trick if you can do it.
As for the second idea that is great. I used to do that if I seriously needed to get a piano piece right. It is like getting a new set of ears - very revealing.

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Richard
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 1961TC4ME » Thu Sep 07, 2017 12:31 pm

Just wanted to say thanks again to all who contributed to this one, some REALLY GOOD advice was given and it has definitely helped me already! I also liked the comment robsig made about just playing vs. actually practicing, and if you are just playing, all you end up doing is practicing your mistakes. So true, and I quickly realized I was guilty of this offense!

One thing I've always appreciated about this forum is you can ask questions and get really good answers and guidance from numerous contributors in very short order!

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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby Jcvtpo » Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:00 pm

I second what everyone has said about a metronome, it forces a discipline that human nature likes to override. I personally get all excited once I know 75% of a piece and start to play it at tempo. Use the metronome to find the speed that allows you to play it PERFECTLY every time, NO EXCEPTIONS. Then move up by 2 or 4 beats per minute. If you make a mistake, go back 4 to 8 beats per minute. It's tedious, but it becomes muscle memory. Most professionals would be able to play a medium-difficulty piece from memory while reading the New York Times, and then tell you about what they read when they've finished.

The other piece of advice I got from one of my past instructors: learn a song backwards. Learn the last complete phrase, then the last two complete phrases. This suppresses the urge to just play something all the way to the end once you've worked out 75% of it.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby RichardW » Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:05 pm

Jcvtpo wrote:The other piece of advice I got from one of my past instructors: learn a song backwards.

I sometimes try that. It means that you can always end up with a "big finish" rather than just fade out part way through.


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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby jcfelice88keys » Sun Nov 12, 2017 4:00 pm

Do you notice that if you physically look at a given key, you are less likely to miss playing it? Yes, this runs contrary to many methods of learning; I am completely aware of that fact.

If, in your playing, you find a particular portion of the piece you consistently make a mistake, try "eyeballing" the offending note, for a split second before you actually play that note. This has helped my playing accuracy.

I find it also helps my students' playing accuracy as well. Let's say, just for example, one must play the note C one octave below Middle C, and you must play that note with your thumb. The best way to "miss" the note is NOT to look at the note you intend to play with your thumb (in this simplified example).

Hope this helps,

Joe
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby johnstump_organist » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:35 pm

That is why most pianists memorize the difficult repertoire. The only way to accurately make all those leaps and jumps around the keyboard is to eyeball your target. I look all the time, hands and feet. Yes, you practice some of those passages trying not to look in order to develop a muscle memory for the distance a hand or foot has to move, but there nothing wrong with combining that with looking.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby andrewhj » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:08 pm

A few more thoughts on this critical topic:
1 Start practising from the end of a piece: that way you are always playing towards more familiar passages
2 Start with pedals alone
3 Practice hands separately
4 Then lh and ped, rh and ped before putting them all together
5 Try to see difficult passages as an enjoyable challenge rather than something to be nervous of
6 Practice a passage in the evening and then return to it in the morning: often our brain will sort out difficulties in our sleep.
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