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How to reduce playing mistakes?

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How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 1961TC4ME » Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:30 pm

Hi all,

I'd be very happy to accept some advice here on ways to reduce playing mistakes. I can learn a new piece, play it over and over, to the point I can play some totally from memory and no longer need to even look at the music. Unless it is a very simple piece, I do go through it first and write the fingering down above the notes so I get used to doing it the same way every time. An excellent organist / teacher once told me early on his major downfall in the beginning was the fact he was lazy and did not work out the fingering, hence he made lots of mistakes, but in time he said the fingering will come naturally, so I've tried to keep that advice in mind, but there has to be more to it.

My issue is one day I can go through a piece and make very few mistakes, but still make them, the next day, or even the next try on the same day make mistakes in the places I just breezed through earlier, but no matter what I find it very difficult not to make any mistakes at all no matter how many times I play the piece. I see people play a piece from top to bottom and I'm always somewhat envious of the fact they make NO mistakes. What does it take to get there? Sometimes I just think maybe I haven't been playing long enough and it will all work out with time, but it never seems to.

Are there things I should be doing, or maybe things I shouldn't be doing that I'm unaware of? Certain practices, exercises, etc.?

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.

Marc
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby profeluisegarcia » Wed Aug 23, 2017 7:34 pm

Hello Marc, no advices... just consolation, since I have felt myself the same way.
Many pieces we love surpass our time to study, training and natural abilities :(
I play some of them in a slower tempo enjoying more the harmonies development rather than the fast melodies
Luis
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby jerrynazard » Wed Aug 23, 2017 11:59 pm

What's worked for me is first making a distinction between "playing" and "practicing". Fingerings are worked out and marked. If it's a fast piece, I make sure that the fingerings will work at tempo. I mark any passages that require more time to master, and spend the time required. Most of my practice time is with a metronome, and I slowly work up to performance speed. Everything about practice is centered on establishing muscle memory. No matter how difficult the piece, if you approach it logically and carefully, you stand a good chance of learning it. Once you have gotten the piece under your fingers/feet, then you can concentrate on playing the music.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby sonar11 » Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:44 am

While it's good to learn a piece until you can play it more or less perfectly, my overall playing improved dramatically once I set down to learn a new (even a small and simple) piece once a week. So every week or so, at minimum, pick up a new piece and learn it (while continuing to study your older and more difficult pieces). If you're a "church guy", pick up your hymns and play through 3 or 4 every week. Hymns are usually very simple, and there are lots of them available.

Basically the point is to improve your sight-reading skills. Always pick up new music, even stuff you've never heard before, and work on it. When your sight-reading improves, your entire playing also improves, since the spots you have not memorized yet are able to be played better. Make sense? :) The larger your repetoire, the easier new stuff becomes to learn. So don't just focus on a few pieces until you can play them "out of your head". There is not one piece I can play out of my head without music, but I can play many pieces pretty much perfectly if they are simple enough. A long toccata and fugue by Bach will always require a fair amount of study of course, unless your a pro.

In the summer I rarely touch the organ (too hot, I'm an outside guy and prefer to be outside in the summer instead of in my home). But in the winter, especially fall, I sort of go into "study mode" and just pick up a bunch of new music and play through it.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby johnstump_organist » Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:58 pm

You can see my response here. It may help, or not.

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=9034

John
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 1961TC4ME » Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:10 pm

Thank you, jerrynazard, Luis (for the sympathy! :lol:) and sonar11 for the tips.

I have thought of getting a metronome to help with my timing. I too have tried to take the approach of concentrating on working out just the parts that I have trouble with. My teacher once told me, once I have a part worked out to move on to the next as he said there's no sense in going over and over the parts I can already play, and that my time is much better spent on the parts I'm having trouble with. I'd try start before the part I was having trouble with and work my way up to it, he'd stop me in my tracks and tell me to stop playing that part, "you already know that part, quit playing it, you're wasting your time" and he'd have me go directly to the part I was having trouble with and get me to work it out, play it 3 times in a row without mistakes, then move on. Funny how it works but you can forget these kinds of details and I am once again reminded of this after hearing the input. Yes, one habit I've tried to get in to is pick up a new piece, try and learn something new vs. playing the same ones over and over so to build up my repertoire, I guess just never thought of it the way sonar11 explains but it certainly makes sense. Again, this is another area I will admit I've had a habit of falling away from, but now that I think about it I have noticed when I do start new pieces my playing improves and so does my sight reading.

I too am an outdoor person during the warmer months, an old car nut with a project going on all the time, but I still try and get in at least an hour or so each morning before I leave for work. Weekends in the summer? Forget it! :lol: And nope, not good enough to play at church either. The winter is a totally different deal and I can usually be found both mornings and evenings banging away at the keyboards and yes, I have noticed my playing definitely improves more during the winter months. More time spent, more practice and mastering of the hard parts, more new pieces, slow down and learn before you play first, all seems to be good areas to start.

Anything else that anyone knows would help, good practices and so on, keep it coming, I'm all ears.

Marc
Last edited by 1961TC4ME on Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 1961TC4ME » Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:35 pm

johnstump_organist wrote:You can see my response here. It may help, or not.

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=9034

John


Very good! Thank you, John. Once again some very good things that jogged my memory, I now recall my then teacher in the past saying much of the same as you did in your advice. As I noted in my earlier reply above, you sometimes gotta hear this stuff over and over and get it in your head, and then do not deviate. My previous teacher also drilled into my head the 'play the part you're having trouble with 3 times in a row' without mistakes and would then tell me once I've accomplished that I've learned it and to move on. In a way it's really not rocket science, when it comes to organ playing there's simply a method to the madness that needs to be followed! :mrgreen:

Marc
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 8ftStop » Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:01 am

When you think you know a piece well, one technique to learn it even better is to start at unusual spots in the music. Pick places that are awkward to start, such as the middle of a measure or middle of a phrase. You can choose them intentionally or in a more random manner by pointing somewhere on the page with your eyes closed.

Also, many people have already suggested to isolate difficult parts and repeat them many times. My teacher forces me to start exactly on where the mistake occurs, whereas I used to go earlier in the piece to a more natural starting place to get a "running start" to approach the problematic area.

Scott
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby sjkartchner » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:49 pm

1961TC4ME wrote:I have thought of getting a metronome to help with my timing.


if you don't already own a metronome, that should be your very next purchase in my opinion. Slow and delliberate practice with a metronome does wonders to build speed and accuracy. I observed a world-class organist using a metronome while doing last-minute run-throughs of portions of his program materials at the AGO West Regional convention in Salt Lake City this past June.

Also, be sure to get one with a sufficiently loud tone or you may have trouble hearing it over the organ.
Stan Kartchner, Tucson, AZ USA
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby robsig » Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:54 pm

Lots of good advice here. I'd like to add my two cents.

I would repeat a passage correctly many more than 3 times to cement it. More like 10 to 15 times. If I get it wrong, I start over slowly until I get it right again. Once it's right, then I repeat it many times before going on. After practicing something else I come back to what I just learned a little later to again practice it.

Avoid at all costs practicing something wrong! Slow down until you get it right and reinforce that! Otherwise you're practicing your mistake!

Practice at different speeds, especially faster than the actual piece. Then normal playing will seem easy.

Be sure that your posture and hand position is always the same. We all slouch after a while, thereby changing all the distances enough to create mistakes. It's good to do stretching and warmup exercises so the muscles are at the same place each time.

Take breaks even if you don't feel like it, and when you start making more mistakes knock off for a few minutes. During the breaks release muscle tension.

Practice focusing on each of the parts individually while playing all the parts. Shift your attention and perspective.

Try practicing mentally away from the instrument, visualizing the gestures. It does wonders!

Good luck!
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby magnaton » Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:57 am

Hi Marc:

For improving your playing, here is a free guide with some excellent tips, a few of which already discussed here. The website also has other info and tutorials available as well.
http://www.organduo.lt/organ-practice-is-a-privilege.html

I agree with the metronome recommendation. For me having already learned compositions that have a fast tempo, its sometimes hard to revert back and play it a constant slower pace to improve voicing and clarity. A metronome forces me to remain in that 'clean up' mode for the entire score! Besides having a real and electronic metronome, I've downloaded the TE Tuner (Total Energy Tuner) app for my iPhone. It has a nice metronome with an option to have an accent on a particular beat if you wish (i.e. in 3/4 time, the 1 beat has a different timbre from beats 2 & 3). You can also set the actual beat to be something other than a quarter note.

Danny B.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby johnstump_organist » Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:52 am

I have mixed feelings about metronomes. I really feel from personal experience that you must develop a good sense of maintaining a tempo and steady beat internally, even it means remedial music therapy and doing the sort of things we used to do with elementary school music classes in the developing a sense of rhythm and meter. Before metronomes were invented, (early 1800's) musicians relied entirely on their own abilities to keep a tempo. Practicing with a metronome can lead to some very unmusical playing in my opinion. If you are really struggling to maintain a tempo in a particular passage, it might help to use it briefly for that one passage, but I think you'd be better off identifying the problems you are having and relying on your counting and feeling of the rhythm to keep the tempo correct.
Metronomes were originally intended as a way for composers to communicate an idea of the tempo they had in mind for a work, not as a tempo maintaining tool.
I know I'm in a minority with this opinion, but there are other people of like mind (I'd like to think they are the better minds :) - just kidding)
John
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby 1961TC4ME » Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:32 am

johnstump_organist wrote:I have mixed feelings about metronomes. I really feel from personal experience that you must develop a good sense of maintaining a tempo and steady beat internally, even it means remedial music therapy and doing the sort of things we used to do with elementary school music classes in the developing a sense of rhythm and meter. Before metronomes were invented, (early 1800's) musicians relied entirely on their own abilities to keep a tempo. Practicing with a metronome can lead to some very unmusical playing in my opinion. If you are really struggling to maintain a tempo in a particular passage, it might help to use it briefly for that one passage, but I think you'd be better off identifying the problems you are having and relying on your counting and feeling of the rhythm to keep the tempo correct.
Metronomes were originally intended as a way for composers to communicate an idea of the tempo they had in mind for a work, not as a tempo maintaining tool.
I know I'm in a minority with this opinion, but there are other people of like mind (I'd like to think they are the better minds :) - just kidding)
John


Well, I guess I'd say I largely agree. Although I have considered getting a metronome, I've resisted as I say to myself, why? I know I've always had good internal timing as I can hear in my head as I play what I should be doing vs. what's actually coming out of my fingers, and I immediately notice when I'm off tempo from where I know I should be. My issue has been, because I have not worked the part out properly and instead have been trying to just plow ahead, I slow down or make the mistake which throws off the tempo. Then I'd been making the same dumb mistake over and over prior to all the good advice here.

Danny, thanks for the link, I'll take a look.

I had been meaning to give an update and just want to say thank you to all who have contributed here! I have taken the input from all and have implemented it into my playing / practice in recent days and have already noticed quite an improvement in both my playing and how I now approach things. I've been working on (and playing) Marcello psalm 19 (thanks Luis for sharing!) for months and actually played through the entire piece for the first time literally mistake free from top to bottom, never done that before! I've noticed the advice here also gives me more confidence and when I feel good about what I'm doing my playing is drastically better.

Marc
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby sjkartchner » Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:55 am

A metronome is not merely for maintaining a constant rhythm but for imposing discipline on the practice regimen. As much as we like to think we already have a good internal metronome, the challenge is holding fast to that internal beat (especially at much slower than performance speeds) while maintaining focus on the other things we're wanting to practice such as fingerings/pedalings, phrasing, transitions, etc. I suppose it is safe to say that I am firmly planted in the metronome camp.
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Re: How to reduce playing mistakes?

Postby johnstump_organist » Wed Aug 30, 2017 12:18 pm

If you do want to get one and have a smartphone, there are excellent free metronome apps. They are very flexible, will play back the downbeat with a louder click than the others and let you tap on them to find out what a particular tempo is. I find that useful for making a note about what tempo I've been playing at and for setting a realistic tempo mark in my own compositions and arrangements.
John
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