When You Have A "Hard" Piece....How Do You Practic

Alternate Fingerings, Scales, Tone, Studies, etc.

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When You Have A "Hard" Piece....How Do You Practic

Post by AmazingGrace33 » Mon Dec 28, 2009 12:24 pm

I was invited to be in my school's advanced band. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but now I have my doubts. I have pieces that are complicated for me to do and, although it sounds like a question I should know, I would like an answer.

How do you practice music that is extremely frustrating? :? I have been going slowly to go over accidentals, rhythms, and slurs. My teacher gave me a recording to listen to, but whenever I listen to it, I loose whatever I have learned out of frustration. Is there a technique I should know about when practicing? :?:

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Post by Fox » Mon Dec 28, 2009 12:38 pm

I don't know about any special techniques. What I do is first take some time to look over the music. Once I look it over I play it through a couple times very slowly (without a metronome). After a few times I set the metronome to around 40 or slower and play a couple measures until I get it and then add a couple more measures. Once I am playing the whole song I start to increase the tempo.

As for really hard parts, I usually slow down and play each note as a long tone, make sure I transition to the next note properly, and play it over and over again while slowly increasing my speed.

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Post by fluteguy18 » Mon Dec 28, 2009 1:30 pm

I ALWAYS use a metronome. From the first note that I play when reading it the first time, to the last. I listen to a recording first and follow along in the music. Then I start working on it after a few times listening.

I break it down measure by measure, and if need be, I break it down beat by beat. I used to do 2-3 measures at a time but I found that in the long run it takes longer. Break it down as small as possible and play it with a metronome slowly. I personally make myself only increase the metronome clicks by 2 beats if it is challenging, 5 beats if it is easy. So 30 would become 32/35 (depending on the music). I also ALWAYS use subdivisions at first. After a while I will stop using subdivisions and will start grouping in larger portions (like 2 beats on the met. for a 4/4 bar, or 1 beat per every 3/4 bar etc).

Practice techniques aside from the metronome: moveable fermata. (Basically hold out the 1st note in a group of 4 16th notes as you play the run, then hold out the 2nd note in a group of 4, 3rd, etc). I change the rhythms, the style, the dynamics. If it's really hard (or I want it to be really smooth and even) I play against the metronome sort of... (on the upbeats) or if the time signature says it has 4 16ths to a beat I regroup them into 3 16ths to a beat (changing my metronome marking) which would put a beat on the 1st 16th of the bar, and the 4th 16th note of the bar (and so on).

I will also take small chunks (like half a beat or so) and play them slowly until I can play them 30+ times correctly without messing up. If I mess up, I start over.

And if all else fails I play it backwards. I play the music from right to left. And if it's still bad.... well... I pack up and call it a day. If I don't I will end up breaking something. :evil: :roll: :lol:

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Post by SaxyShanny » Tue Dec 29, 2009 9:09 am

It helps me to have someone who can play it well sit down and play it slowly for me while I read the music along side of them. That way, my eyes can read what they're playing and I can 'sing' it in my head. Once I can hear it or sing it in my head, I can play the tough parts. Hope this helps! :)

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Post by stewyflute13 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:05 am

I agree with everything Fluteguy said. Just to share something I've been going through, I've been trying very difficult music lately, and played the Dutilleux Sonatine for Marianne Gedigian. It was a mess. There are so many notes in that piece that I was always feeling like my fingers were going to fly off of my flute. So I've been reminded recently of how important a metronome is.
Also, for my college chair placement auditions this quarter, we are playing the Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis solo. It is another very hard solo technically (and not just technically). So I was working my butt off and my teacher Eric Hoover suggested I tongue the whole thing instead of slurring it as written. Sometimes what gets me are really fast notes, esp. in the high register, that are all slurred. But I've found that practicing it tongued instead of slurred can help solidify your technique and keep you from losing control of your fingers.
One method that Mr. Hoover also taught me, that Fluteguy also talked about, was to put 10 pennies on one side of your stand. When you play the whole thing perfectly once, move a penny to the other side. Do that until all 10 pennies are on the other side. If you mess up on the 9th try, go back to the first penny/ try and do it all over again. If you are having trouble, slow the metronome down. Move the metronome up 1 notch at a time, literally. It doesn't help to skip from 80- 120 and play it once and say it's perfect.
Also, it is good to learn that music is not all about lots of notes. It is good to balance out difficult technique practice with practice of completely simple, and yet utterly sublime melodies where you learn that in one note can be more music and life than a million notes with no feeling or care to how that feeling is expressed. Tone Development through Interpretation by Marcel Moyse and 24 Little Melodious Studies by Moyse will be invaluable for the purpose of balancing your technique practicing with beautiful melodic lines.

Also, I just heard Geoffrey Gilbert say that it is wise to practice difficult music but to perform simpler music. It also gives teachers more opportunity to work with style, interpretation, and all kinds of more important aspects of a piece than just "go practice that scale again and come back ready next week"
But don't get a mental block about difficult music. You should go for it and don't get discouraged or give up!

Anything else I would just say read Fluteguy's post.


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Post by lula » Wed Dec 30, 2009 8:39 am

I usually try to have someone that can play it play it for me. Then I try to play it with them. If I mess up I have them write down what I should work on and where it is at. I try to find the melody when they play it so I can try and get it right. (usually the only time I get a melody correct is when I hear it played by someone else :( )

I have a clinic tryout piece that I've been ignoring but I'm going to have to work on it because my tryouts are next month. :shock: I am really not prepared because I've played other things besides it.

On the bright side I nailed my chromatic. (minor accomplishment I know)

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