Well, i'm trying to recite what my piano teacher told me. Btw i am terrible at the piano ;)
As far as practicing pieces, thouroughly planning out the piece gives you a good idea of what to do, rather than 'heres the entire piece that I have to learn' you can break it down, compartmentalize various things, and really structure how you approach the piece. Planning the piece = knowing EXACTLY what you want from the piece/yourself, how loud, how expressive, how you contrast the sections, etc = gives you a more attainable goal than just 'learning it'.
1) Identify cadences and musical phrases in the piece. (Infact, an overall harmonic analysis, structure analysis (what form is the piece, etc), and cultural, historical, and contextual background information of the composer and composition. Is it a fugue? Label each voice enterance as tonal or pefect answer, where does the exposition end, label seqeunces, countersubject, bridges, the recapitulation, etc). What was this fugue created for? who composed it, etc. Is it baroque? Baroque style frequently has ornamentation, so consider that too
2) As part of an overview of the piece after you've listened to it, identify sections that you will practice. If it's persay short phrases typical of the classical period (4+4+8 or 2+2+4) then either learn one phrase at a time (4), or learn the whole period up to the end (4+4+8).
If it's some piece with much longer phrases, then you may not want to learn a huge chunk at once and separate it in approrpriate moments. Complexity of phrases is another factor that may change how you chunk your phrases.
3) At first, practice slow enough that you can play the piece at a comfortable rate. She assigned me compositions, and based on my playing told me to practice it at tempo=92 bpm, and then said 'Ok, next week I would like you to reach at least 98bpm. (slightly faster). So only increase the tempo gradually when you can play the notes consistently accurate.
4) Plan fingering and voice leading (which of your fingers needs to be playing the loudest, a lot of times the melody is in the uppermost voice so in that case the melody should be heard strongest, but there may be times where the melody occurs in the lower voices, which means maybe your middle finger or thumb (rh) needs to be loudest.
5) theres a lot more, but first planning out your piece like this gives you the general idea 'What am i supposed to do with this?'
What's the climax? Well it sound like it should be here, and based on the harmonic anaylsis it has a strong perfect authentic cadence unlike the rest of the piece, etc.
At what dynamic level should I play this piece? If you plan out the dynamics, then you know! (Not just observing the dynamic markings because you don't just remain at one dynamic unless told otherwise ((that doesn't mean free reign, but you can cresc decresc a little with some freedom). If you plan it out then you know what you want.
Most of everything above there is what you should consult with a teacher but also figure out on your own.
Technique - You absolutely need a teacher to push you in the right direction. (which you then work on with the teacher and by yourself).
Edit: Also practice entering at different moments throughout the piece. You want to be so comfortable with all the sections that if per chance you do mess up, you've practiced coming in at other sensible entry points in the piece.
For instance, in a vocal competition I watched a girl forget the words on O Holy night, and she froze and panicked and after 20 seconds started over. VERY awkward. It's less awkward if you at least continued on even if you skipped a measure.
· 1 month ago