Get Real

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
larryguitar
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Re: Get Real

Post by larryguitar » Fri Jul 14, 2017 3:20 pm

Christopher Parkening says on Page 52 of Volume 2 of his method that his father forced him to practice the same passage seven times in a row perfectly at tempo before he considered it mastered. While I'm sure there is something to be gained from being able to do that, I wouldn't follow that advice to the point of physical discomfort or pain.

I don't spend too much time thinking about that kind of advice from Parkening, and spend more time on the music in his books. ;-) The Preludio on that page is beautiful, as are the other renaissance lute pieces in the set, which I'm working on now, including 2. Bianco Fiore, 3. Danza, 5. Courante, 6.Canzone. I think I'll go play them now but I'm not going to torture myself while playing them. He says these pieces are anonymous but I believe the composer is known. Who is it?

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Tom Poore
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Re: Get Real

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:49 pm

Dofpic wrote:I would disagree on the 5 reps doing perfectly until you move on. This in my opinion is one of the things that gave me and others like Christopher Parkening Focal Dystonia.
When it comes to injury, “how” is a more important factor than “how much.” A player who does everything in a biomechanically efficient way is less likely to sustain injury than a player who doesn’t. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s impossible for players with good technique to injure themselves. Rather, I’m saying they’re less likely to do so.

Bear in mind also that there are other benefits to demanding perfection in reps. Since I’ve started doing this, I get more bang for the buck. As I wrote in my essay, mindless repetition is no longer acceptable to me. After each rep, I evaluate what went right or wrong. If something went wrong, I parse the problem, decide on a solution, then do another rep. Since I’m no longer running mindless reps, the number of reps decreases. Quality over quantity.

Further, I understand that in performance I can’t run twenty reps, then look up at the audience and say: “Okay! This one counts!” In performance, it’s one and done. So I treat each rep with more attention. That also cuts the number of reps.

For me, at least, demanding five perfect reps actually decreases my workload. Few wasted reps means less time running reps.
Dofpic wrote:The bottom line or biggest reason for different outcomes amongst us is one word... "TALENT". If I started at the same age as Jason Vieaux with the exact same teachers and followed the exact same path up to the point of him winning the GFA I still would not have won. He is an enormous talent and I am not.
Some years ago I was among some students of Vieaux. One made an offhand remark along the lines of: “Jason learns things fast because he’s so talented.” Another student replied: “You know, Jason hates it when people say that. It implies that he never had to work.”

The person who said this had a point. Talent is a shibboleth that says nothing about how a few people master a skill far beyond what most of us achieve.

Explaining this is a daunting task. But here’s a quick thought experiment. Imagine that, rather than putting in the same time with the same teachers as Vieaux, you instead did this. At the age of six, you begin studying the guitar. Now imagine that present day Vieaux sits next to you and supervises every minute of your practice. He tells you when to practice, how much, and personally guides you through every problem, big or small. And let’s imagine that you enthusiastically accept this, doing the best you can during every minute of practice. Vieaux never has to force you to practice—you do so willingly.

Bear in mind, in this scenario you’re still you, with whatever innate talent you have. But you would be practicing exactly as Vieaux would were he in your shoes. At minimum, I’ll bet a cookie that you’d become an excellent player. (I cheerfully grant there’s no way to prove this.) Would you be every bit as good as Vieaux is now? Who knows? Perhaps you’re right, and maybe you still wouldn’t have beaten him in the 1992 GFA. But if you made the finals, wouldn’t that be in the ballpark?

Tom Poore
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larryguitar
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Re: Get Real

Post by larryguitar » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:05 pm

I certainly agree that mindless repetition is not helpful but the idea of calling something a perfect repetition strikes me as comical. Perfect in what way? Hitting all the notes and getting the rhythm right? We all know there is so much more to playing a piece well than just those things.

dtoh
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Re: Get Real

Post by dtoh » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:15 pm

Maybe one of he things they do differently than the rest of us is to practice more.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Get Real

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:59 pm

larryguitar wrote:I certainly agree that mindless repetition is not helpful but the idea of calling something a perfect repetition strikes me as comical. Perfect in what way? Hitting all the notes and getting the rhythm right? We all know there is so much more to playing a piece well than just those things.
You can certainly include those things. In fact, I do just that when running reps. As I get more confident with a passage, I try playing it different ways: dynamics, color, articulation, rubato, whatever. The idea is to be more flexible, not less, as the passage gets closer to performance level. The purpose of running reps isn’t to lock into only one way of playing. Rather, it’s to become comfortable enough to vary the passage at whim.

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating. Any advice—mine, or anyone else’s—can be applied well or badly. Advice can be followed as a narrow proscription that shuts out anything not explicitly spelled out. Or advice can be taken with creativity and flair, opening vistas that might otherwise be missed.
dtoh wrote:Maybe one of he things they do differently than the rest of us is to practice more.
I’ll be clear. I absolutely believe in talent. That said, it’s also true that the results of talent are often indistinguishable from the results of mindful practice. In fact, talent without mindful practice is a seed dropped on parched and barren soil.

Innate talent is something we either have or don’t. We can’t control it. But we can control how we practice. So why not control what we can and let the question of talent answer itself?

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larryguitar
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Re: Get Real

Post by larryguitar » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:08 pm

You know, I worry that trying to count perfect repetitions will cause tension in my playing and therefore cause me to make more mistakes. I would liken it to a baseball player facing a full count. He knows that he has to hit or go back to the dugout.

In this case, the player has to execute the seventh repetition perfectly or face the cycle all over again. For me, it distracts from the music. Of course, I practice passsages and whole pieces many times but I don't count.

Mistakes happen, no matter how skilled the player. My teacher has drilled into me the importance of relaxing after mistakes. A lot of people tense up and that just causes more mistakes. It helps to play in an ensemble where you have to keep playing no matter how poorly you played the last measure. The next note and the next measure are always a new opportunity for redemption.

I think talent is vastly overrated. If you go back and look at talented players, you will find that they started at a young age, had many excellent teachers, and put in thousands of hours of practice. Whatever talent they had, they would be nothing without quality instruction and practice.

larryguitar
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Re: Get Real

Post by larryguitar » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:26 pm

I posted this in another thread but I think it makes more sense in this thread, which is more about practice.

have this idea to set up multiple practice areas in my apartment. There will be one place for scales and arpeggios, another for new repertoire, one for old repertoire, a dedicated computer setup so I can work on duets with StaffPad, and other areas I come up with.

Then, every day would be a physical journey, sort of like circuit training in a gym. To me, it seems like it would be easier to remember that I didn't physically go to one of the stations than it is to remember that I didn't put certain sheet music on my music stand.

What do people think?

dtoh
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Re: Get Real

Post by dtoh » Sat Jul 15, 2017 11:34 pm

Let me make a few more points about diligent practice.

1. Talent without diligence will never succeed.

2. Diligence is rarer than talent.

3. Talent is relative to the competition. In an ultra competitive undertaking like basketball, you may need to be 5 standard deviations above average in raw talent relative to the general population in order to play in the NBA. In an esoteric field like CG, it may suffice to be simply above average in order to play in Carnegie Hall.

4. In CG, there are two types of talent: physical coordination and musicality, and there is a bias toward recognizing the former, which is perhaps why the only people who go to CG concerts are other CGists.

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Tom Poore
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Re: Get Real

Post by Tom Poore » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:27 am

larryguitar wrote:You know, I worry that trying to count perfect repetitions will cause tension in my playing and therefore cause me to make more mistakes. I would liken it to a baseball player facing a full count. He knows that he has to hit or go back to the dugout. In this case, the player has to execute the seventh repetition perfectly or face the cycle all over again. For me, it distracts from the music. Of course, I practice passsages and whole pieces many times but I don't count.
I see it as simply recognizing the reality of performance. Being on stage raises the emotional stakes. Is it better to recognize this in the practice room? Or should we wait until we’re on stage?
larryguitar wrote:I think talent is vastly overrated. If you go back and look at talented players, you will find that they started at a young age, had many excellent teachers, and put in thousands of hours of practice. Whatever talent they had, they would be nothing without quality instruction and practice.
Agreed.
larryguitar wrote:I have this idea to set up multiple practice areas in my apartment. There will be one place for scales and arpeggios, another for new repertoire, one for old repertoire, a dedicated computer setup so I can work on duets with StaffPad, and other areas I come up with. Then, every day would be a physical journey, sort of like circuit training in a gym. To me, it seems like it would be easier to remember that I didn't physically go to one of the stations than it is to remember that I didn't put certain sheet music on my music stand.
There are fundamentals of practice that every musician must understand. These fundamentals are the same for everyone. But after that come the details of how each individual player implements the fundamentals. And the details can be infinitely varied. It’s of no great import that the details vary. What matters is that the details effectively address the fundamentals.

Regarding your suggestion, I can see advantages. One is that it periodically gets you up and moving about. Physically and mentally, that’s probably better than droning away in one place for hours on end.

Would I do it? Probably not. But I’m not you. Your practice methods should meet your needs, not mine.

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Yisrael van Handel
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Re: Get Real

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:21 am

Tom and Larry, thanks for a great discussion. I see great value in Tom's approach. And I can see that there are times that it should not be used.
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larryguitar
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Re: Get Real

Post by larryguitar » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:41 am

Yisrael van Handel wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:21 am
Tom and Larry, thanks for a great discussion. I see great value in Tom's approach. And I can see that there are times that it should not be used.
You're welcome.

I can definitely see the value in raising the emotional stakes in practice as a way of seeing if you can meet the demands of the stage.

Of course, many of us are probably not practicing for the stage, but for friends, relatives, and guitar festivals. Still, we are on stage, why not give our best?

Sharon Isbin mentioned in a hands-on seminar at the Mannes' Guitar Seminar that you needed to be able to visualize all of the hand positions and fingerings of a piece in order to be secure in your memorization. What do you do to make sure you've memorized a piece?
Last edited by larryguitar on Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Peter Lovett
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Re: Get Real

Post by Peter Lovett » Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:40 am

There are so many great ideas floating around on this thread that it is too difficult to form a coherent response so I will outline my approach and if anyone gets an idea from it then great.

I have for some time recognised that my technical skills were scratchy at best and totally missing in parts and that I needed to go back to rectify the situation otherwise progress was going to be painfully slow. To that end I arranged with one of the players in the guitar society that I play with who is a music graduate and qualified teacher (he teaches music at a couple of schools in Hobart) to take lessons with him. We have gone right back to some fundamental stuff and for that I am grateful as it is already pointing up some holes in my technique. However, the learning has been, to my surprise, two ways.

I always start my practice sessions with a warm-up routine and it is almost second-nature to me. My teacher was so impressed with the routine that he is going to introduce it to his students at the schools. For anyone who is interested in knowing more, the basics of the routine are outlined in the Noad tutor for solo guitar and is based on one Julian Bream used when he first went into the army. Rather than the routine becoming boring I have both refined my playing of it by attempting to play the notes cleanly and to a tempo. I have also taken the routines and started to play with them, emphasising different beats for example, sometimes adding the routines, sometimes subtracting. When I explained this to my teacher he was complimentary and said that it showed I was developing my ear and this has started to come out again in the pieces that he is setting.

I suppose what I am saying in a long-winded way is that my practice sessions are not a search for perfection as I doubt that at my age I will ever be able to achieve that but they are a search for being a musician. I could not embrace the "play it 5 times perfectly then move on" school of thought (didn't Sor or was it Tarrega play something 50 times without a mistake before he moved on) because there is no guarantee that the 6th time will fall apart. Nor am I practicing as though its a performance. Its not, there are times I am going to play something over and over to get a muscle-memory because its new. Thats not a performance, but musically, well yes, that is what I am trying for.
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Rasputin
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Re: Get Real

Post by Rasputin » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:39 pm

Peter Lovett wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:40 am
I suppose what I am saying in a long-winded way is that my practice sessions are not a search for perfection as I doubt that at my age I will ever be able to achieve that but they are a search for being a musician. I could not embrace the "play it 5 times perfectly then move on" school of thought
If we're talking about getting real I think this is an important point.

I know quite a lot of fatties who can debate the merits of various diets in incredible detail. It almost seems like the bigger the belly, the greater the knowledge. Why then are they still so lardy? It's not because they are comfortable in their outsized skins - with maybe one exception they really do want to be thin. It's because they can't see, or don't want to see, that a good diet is one you can stick to. The same goes for practice regimes. I think they have to be set up to provide a balance of enjoyment right now and a sense of working towards something for later. There's a little of the drill sergeant in some of the suggestions above, and he is not welcome in my practice room.

A lot of posts about practising read as though it is something that you do until you get good, at which point you can just play. I don't think that point ever comes, in which case this mentality is just going to lead to frustration and disappointment. I expect to be practising until I put the guitar down for the last time, so it has to be something I relish and look forward to. I'm sure that is true for others as well. I don't mean it has to be easy - I had a really good workout earlier today and it was hard but still felt really good. That is the kind of thing I think we should be looking for in a practice session, but it has to come from a kind and nurturing place, not one of self-discipline bordering on masochism.

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lucy
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Re: Get Real

Post by lucy » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:15 pm

Dofpic wrote:
Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:53 pm
Tom great post as all of yours are. Here are some thoughts to add. I would disagree on the 5 reps doing perfectly until you move on. This in my opinion is one of the things that gave me and others like Christopher Parkening Focal Dystonia. My current teacher who is helping me with overcoming this said it takes the brain 3 weeks to become competent in a new drill or movement and another 3 weeks to perfect it or become second nature. She has me practice a certain exercise 4 times in a row and I can only do one of the 4 correct thats fine. Move on for 30 seconds to another exercise for 4 times then come back to the first one. Have 4 or 5 different exercises to vary the practice. and always do it just 4 times no more. Obviously I am undoing problems so it takes longer. But I am closing in on 6 weeks with her and sure enough after 3 weeks of doing this the original exercise I could do correctly 3 out of 4 times and now i do them perfectly almost every time.

She says that I have to trust the "chemical learning process" that happens in our brain. This means that going thru this regiment that over night and while I am not practicing the brain is absorbing these new movements. However if we continue to do them until we can do it 5 times perfectly may take 20-30 repetitions to do this thus confusing the brain and our muscles and brain latches on to these bad movements. (5 out of 30 ain't good)

In my case she started me practicing 3 times a day for 10 minutes then last time I am now up to 12 minutes 3 times a day. I started with 6 different movements and now I am very confident on these 6 movements. 2 weeks ago she introduced 6 new movements. not so good right now but it is coming in baby steps.

the risk of course is trying to perfect something too fast and over practice it.

The bottom line or biggest reason for different outcomes amongst us is one word... "TALENT". If I started at the same age as Jason Vieaux with the exact same teachers and followed the exact same path up to the point of him winning the GFA I still would not have won. He is an enormous talent and I am not. This happens in every discipline. Some are just more blessed with talent in music, sports, business fashion etc.

Anyway your post is an excellent one that hopefully spurs us all to do better in performance, practice and teaching.
Great post Dofpic. Very interesting! I've always doubted the five times in a row rule, because it doesn't appear to work for me. I have to admit, it appears to make me play worse, so I don't follow that advice. It's as you say, the brain needs TIME to assimilate new movements. I tend to practice hard and then be PATIENT. I'm really glad someone has debunked this method of practice. I've often wondered whether I was wrong about it, but your post makes me feel better! :)

Also agree about the significance of talent. Some people seem to want to deny talent exists. :shock:

EDIT: I wrote the above before I realised there was a second page. So enthused was I to reply!

I should add to Tom, absolutely, single out the difficult bits and look at what's physically going wrong - then make changes. Then reinforce them, until they become second nature. But, the point above remains - that takes TIME. I don't think you can rush progress.
Last edited by lucy on Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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larryguitar
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Re: Get Real

Post by larryguitar » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:19 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:39 pm
Peter Lovett wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 11:40 am
I suppose what I am saying in a long-winded way is that my practice sessions are not a search for perfection as I doubt that at my age I will ever be able to achieve that but they are a search for being a musician. I could not embrace the "play it 5 times perfectly then move on" school of thought
If we're talking about getting real I think this is an important point.

I know quite a lot of fatties who can debate the merits of various diets in incredible detail. It almost seems like the bigger the belly, the greater the knowledge. Why then are they still so lardy? It's not because they are comfortable in their outsized skins - with maybe one exception they really do want to be thin. It's because they can't see, or don't want to see, that a good diet is one you can stick to. The same goes for practice regimes. I think they have to be set up to provide a balance of enjoyment right now and a sense of working towards something for later. There's a little of the drill sergeant in some of the suggestions above, and he is not welcome in my practice room.

A lot of posts about practising read as though it is something that you do until you get good, at which point you can just play. I don't think that point ever comes, in which case this mentality is just going to lead to frustration and disappointment. I expect to be practising until I put the guitar down for the last time, so it has to be something I relish and look forward to. I'm sure that is true for others as well. I don't mean it has to be easy - I had a really good workout earlier today and it was hard but still felt really good. That is the kind of thing I think we should be looking for in a practice session, but it has to come from a kind and nurturing place, not one of self-discipline bordering on masochism.
I agree, I think learning has to take place in a kind and nurturing way. If teachers berated their students when they played poorly, nobody would study the guitar. After all, nobody is born with the ability to play.

We all start in a bad place and improve over time, moving to better places. It is much more useful to encourage yourself when you do something right then it is to fixate on only your mistakes. Of course, mistakes need to be confronted but we should also take heart when we play a nice turn of phrase.

I think one cardinal rule is to not play repertoire that is too difficult for you, especially in front of other people. I've seen this a lot, in master classes, and it is a terrible experience for everyone, teacher, student, and the audience. Everyone loses some of their ability when playing for an audience. It would be much better to play a simpler piece that you can reasonably pull off than to try to play something that is way over your head.

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