20 Mar 2012

How to Master those Difficult Musical Passages - part 2

How to learn those hard musical spots and play them perfectly - more techniques

Coaching Tip - How to master hard musical passages - part 2

In the previous blog post I gave coaching tips about using The Treatment to easily and efficiently master those "impossible" passages we all find in music no matter what our level of playing.In this part 2, I want to tell you about two other ways of making difficult passages into something more managable. Beginners soon find out that just playing a piece of music over and over is not necessarily the best way to learn to play it. Yes, it is true you need to play straight through a piece enough to get the larger view of it, but it really is a waste of your precious time to practice what you can already play, is it not? That is why I stress with my students the need to practice the hard places so they can eventually play the whole thing.There are plenty of good things that come from simply playing for the joy of it and playing through pieces. But, when it is time to cut to the chase, these practicing techniques will let you learn your music faster.
I normally reserve The Treatment from Coaching Tip #1 for the really hard-to-master parts. For sections that just need more smoothness, accurate fingerings, or better facility of awkward places, I use two related practice techniques that get results efficiently.First, even before I tell you about the two tips...........make sure you can play scales in the key or keys the passage contains. This is critical. Seriously, mastering scales is the key to playing well.
Practice tip #1 - change the music to bring focus on different parts of the passageIt is simple. Play with varying articulations and varying rhythms. Some variations will make playing the section more difficult, but that is what you want. What happens while you do this is that various note connections become more obvious to you. It gives you the opportunity to dwell on those rough spots and will improve the overall performance of the passage. As always, slow practice is important since it allows you to perfect the note connections. Take a look at the examples below for some ideas.
Practice tip #2 - pause on various notes in the passageThis is really a variation of tip #1, but with a bigger emphasis on certain notes. I learned this technique from a book of scales by Fernand Gillet. (Exercises for Scales, Intervals, and Staccato for flute) In the forward Joe Armstrong relates his experience taking lessons from Gillet. Here is the idea:Without slowing the tempo of the passage, pause on the note just before a problem area. This gives you a moment to consider what must come next. Gillet would say to "think well" of what fingers need to be doing in the next part of the passage. In other words you pause on the last easy note. Do you see how this is a variation of tip #1? There you are doing the same thing, but in a more regimented fashion. Here you are isolating the hard notes by pausing just before playing them. Take a look below for examples (click on the picture to see a larger version)

Thanks, and have fun playing!



Log in to post a comment