Fast vs slow practice; minimum equipment to add to home : LUSENET : To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us : One Thread

Two questions: I understand that the motor sequences in slow play often don't scale up in fast play, and thus slow practice may not be the best. However, taking as an example the Chopin Prelude you outline your book, if one is seeing this for the first time, there certainly are a few meaures where the left hand passage is quite gnarled, and I don't see how one can learn the passage playing it fast from scratch. Am I missing something?

At home, we have a good Steinway in the living room, and the stereo stuff in the family room, not right next door. Stereo is standard Onkyo: receiver, CD player, tape deck (no mic input, but line input). What is the minimum extra equipment to add to the above for recording practice? Also, my computer has sound card, midi sequencer, and attached keyboard controller. I know something about MIDI, but no experience with digital recording and WAV files. Does the equipment you describe work in this kind of setup? Thx.

-- Enoch Gordis (, November 26, 2000


If the following misses the mark, let me know!

When one learns a piece by outlining, of course there may still be technical difficulties that require separate work. What these are depends on the player, as different things are difficult for different people. If you say what specific difficulties you find in that prelude, I'll have a go at verbalizing some approaches that may help. (I think the 3rd Prelude left hand has two predominant difficulties: one is making quick and accurate lateral shifts. The other is playing the passagework smoothly.)

Regarding your equipment setup: To work efficiently, you must be able to record and play back without moving from normal practice position. I have the recorder sitting on a table to my left when I'm at the piano. Some people have a portable recorder on the piano bench. (Not the mike, of course.) In all honesty, I don't see how you can do it with equipment in another room. It would involve remote-controlling the equipment, and running mike and speaker lines back and forth; and would be a mess. Your alternatives are either to bring your existing equipment into the room where you make music, or to get some modest additional equipment for that room. Note that this doesn't have to be fancy. You need: a recorder, a mike, an amp and a pair of speakers. See Part IV of the book for some recommendations.

Note! My new microphone, "The Musician's Ear," will avoid the need for a mike preamp, boom, stand and shock mount. I hope to have it available within a few months. See my posting on "Hassle-Free Microphone." I'm doing this thing because after a decade, I got tired of waiting for someone else to do it.

Finally, in another communication you mentioned having difficulties reading Abby Whiteside. It may help if you read quickly. Imagine her bubbling with enthusiasm, the words tumbling out. Her sentences are dialog, not essays.

-- James Boyk (, November 27, 2000.

My previous response gives the wrong impression that in working on the separate "technical difficulties," one does slow practicing. This is not the case. To work on the LH lateral shifts, incorporate them into the current outline. Incorporate passagework also--a section at a time; perhaps five or six notes--into outline. Also work separately on passagework, but still at tempo. Whiteside has marvelous description somewhere of what I think she refers to as "ripping" scale sequences of notes, which means playing a sequence in one smooth motion of arm and hand. This prelude uses overlapping sequences of such motions.

-- James Boyk (, November 27, 2000.

Thanks for your answers to my posts. About the Prelude #3. I have the Paderewski Warsaw edition. He gives some old but in his view inferior fingerings in the notes in the back. In the music himself,(his fingerings) for instance, in measure 7 the eight and ninth 16th are both played with the thumb; and in measure 8, the fingering differs from measure 1 even though all the notes except the last have simply been transposed from G maj to D maj. Now I don't see how without some slow practice these quirks can be learned if this passage is brand new.

As I understand it, you would just toss in a few of the 16th's at a time into increasingly dense outlines and never practice this passagework slowly?

On scaling: arpeggios certainly don't scale up from slow to fast; the motion is really different. But in this prelude, I think the motion in slow practice would not be very different from that in fast practice. Is there a compromise? If one follows the school which believes that the metronome should guide the practice to ever increasing speeds, is there some intermediate set of speeds which bridges the two kinds of motion-- slow and fast?

-- Enoch Gordis (, November 27, 2000.

I cannot answer these good questions without writing another book. Luckily, Abby Whiteside has already written that book, or rather, those books; and you own them. Do try what she suggests patiently and in detail. This prelude may be for you what another Chopin work was for me: a testbed, a laboratory for studying her approach. I spent months learning the Etude, Op. 10/7 strictly as she suggests, and ended up playing the piece well. (I also had a week of daily lessons with Robert Helps, a former pupil of hers, in the middle of this period. Flew to Boston to study with him.)

It's easy to get the basic idea of outlining; but experience shows that it's also easy to think that one 'gets' it while missing the real point. It is *not* "another method of practicing"; it is a method that lets you *perform* a piece from the first instant of contact. That is the crux of the matter. But there's a lot to know and practice in the idea of outlining itself.

Remember outlining is not the topic of my book; I included it because I couldn't avoid doing so: It addresses issues that I felt couldn't be ignored. But it was not my intention to write a complete account of outlining but only to give enough to show how it fits in with the topic of using tape in practice and teaching.

-- James Boyk (, November 27, 2000.

A further thought: Bear in mind that the techniques in the book will work for you no matter what approach you take. I urge you to start using them, in order, starting from Session 1, with whatever technical/musical approach you are already using. You will find an enormous improvement in your playing and efficiency of work!

(I write this because I've seen a number of people get "hung up" on outlining or some other approach to learning or playing, with the result that they missed the main benefit of the book.)

-- James Boyk (, November 28, 2000.

Thanks for continuing your response. The prelude will be a fun test case. EG

-- Enoch Gordis (, November 28, 2000.

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