How many new pieces at once

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Mark Farber
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How many new pieces at once

Post by Mark Farber » Sat Nov 01, 2014 12:11 pm

I am a relative beginner, currently working my way through the repertoire pieces in Parkening vol. 1. I find that when I start working on a new piece, I get bored of playing the same thing over and over. I therefore usually have 3-4 new pieces on the go. One which I am just starting (trying to figure out which finger goes where), one which I can play very slowly with mistakes, one which I can play at or close to tempo with a few rough patches, and one that I am "finishing off". I find that moving back and forth between these every day spices things up, and helps to keep me from getting overly frustrated when something is just not working.

I should also mention that I am currently self taught so I don't have a teacher to guide my progression.

Just wondering if this is an effective way to learn, or is it better to stick to only 1 or maybe 2 pieces at a time? What are your thoughts?

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Evocacion
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Evocacion » Sat Nov 01, 2014 12:21 pm

As a fellow autodidact, I do much the same.

I have 4 stages; Learning, Memorising, Practising, and Repertoire.

Learning is as you describe, figuring out the best fingering, and playing very slowly (I use a metronome at the first three stages) until I can play the piece from the music.

Memorising is then learning the piece so that I can play it through, still slowly, without the music.

Practising is slowly increasing the speed until I can play it at the proper speed.

Repertoire is the collection of pieces that I can (in theory!) play, with or without the metronome.

I currently have two pieces I'm learning, two memorising, and four practising.

I've no idea what happens if you have a mentor, but I'm sure someone will enlighten us soon...

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Mark Farber
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Mark Farber » Sat Nov 01, 2014 12:28 pm

Interesting that you include memorizing in the process. I know the importance of memorizing a piece, yet I have never formally included it as part of the learning process. It sort of just happens. That said, I am finding that as pieces become progressively more difficult, I need to spend more time looking at my fingers than at the music, so this is probably a logical inclusion for me to consider in my "learning method".

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Evocacion
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Evocacion » Sat Nov 01, 2014 1:07 pm

Yes, sometimes it does 'just happen'; but sometimes it's a struggle. For example, I knew Carcassi's 'Pastorale' after playing it two or three times, but Murcia's 'Menuet' is still not there, although I've been playing it for several months.

Aseret
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Aseret » Sun Nov 02, 2014 8:37 am

I currently have 2 pieces I'm learning, 3 memorising, and 10-15 practising

Should I do not practice, I forget...

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Alicia
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Alicia » Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:10 am

Memorising = none. (Why would I do that when I can sightread easily?). Practicing = 20+. Repertoire = 50+.
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Batty

Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Batty » Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:39 am

Either I sight read it c. 100 times and then I know it, or I slowly memorise it and then get familiar with how to play it properly...don't really know what method works best for me - if probably depends on the song. Some just seem to make sense, others don't come easily.

At the moment I'm focussing on 1 new song each week.

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Mark Farber
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Mark Farber » Sun Nov 02, 2014 11:55 am

When you say you are "practicing 20 pieces", do you actually practice them each day? Play them through once and move on? Or do you pick a few each day and work on them?

I am asking because I sometimes wonder - if I start working on a new piece before the previous one is "completed", and then every day I play the older one 1-2 times, am I really practicing it and getting better at it, or am I just playing it as is? (I am sure I am not explaining myself properly.) What is the difference between practicing and playing?

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Mick the Ramirez Man
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Mick the Ramirez Man » Sun Nov 02, 2014 1:02 pm

I have a repertoire of about 15 songs that I try to practice everyday. Sometimes I have time for the whole list, sometimes not. I'm usually working on a couple of new things. Some make the list, but most don't. I also have pieces that I play well but aren't of my repertoire; so I don't list them.

As far as memorization, I automatically do that because I learned the guitar at 13 in the Rock genre. If I would've taken sheet music on the stage I would've been laughed at. So, I read the music when I'm learning a piece, but automatically commit it to memory as I practice. I think that's the best of both worlds. :)
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bear
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by bear » Sun Nov 02, 2014 5:20 pm

I play for about an hour or two every day. The duration is dictated by the pain in my left hand. I only play each piece once and the number of pieces varies according to the total length of the pieces and the length of time that I play. I currently have two playlists that I alternate, one day playing one and the next day the other. On good days, if I've gone through my list, I have pieces enough to form a third or forth list that I might play. The music I play is a mix of classical, jazz, opera, blues, swing and anything else I like. I don't intentionally memorize anything, I have no need too.
The number of new pieces I take on at one time is according to interest. It's not unusual for me to get a collection of pieces and pick out up to a half dozen. It's also not unusual for me to drop most of them and only keep the one or two that I like.
I think the number of new pieces a beginner takes on will vary from one player to another. I would suggest that the limits of one's frustration not be tested.
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yylik
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by yylik » Tue Nov 04, 2014 5:11 am

I consider myself a beginner. I usually learn 2 pieces at one time. This is usually helpful if one of the piece is difficult or not interesting. Having another piece to play will add flavor to the practice.

guitar127

Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by guitar127 » Tue Nov 04, 2014 5:52 am

mfarber wrote:When you say you are "practicing 20 pieces", do you actually practice them each day? Play them through once and move on? Or do you pick a few each day and work on them?

I am asking because I sometimes wonder - if I start working on a new piece before the previous one is "completed", and then every day I play the older one 1-2 times, am I really practicing it and getting better at it, or am I just playing it as is? (I am sure I am not explaining myself properly.) What is the difference between practicing and playing?
Practicing is where you work on a particular aspect of a piece or technique with a view to improving it. For example, you might be doing breakdown practice by doing lots of slow repetitions of a particularly difficult section of a piece in order to play it more smoothly. Or you might be practicing tremolo technique by doing technical exercises on open strings etc. Practising requires a high level of focus and concentration and should feel like hard work if you're doing it right,ie its mentally and physically tiring.

Playing, on the other hand, is where you play through the piece usually from beginning to end in the way you would play the piece in a performance. Of course you can practice for performance but I think this is different from merely playing.

For me at least what distinguishes playing from practicing is that when playing I'm not focusing on things like technique and it doesn't feel like hard work. I am simply playing through the piece, mainly for enjoyment. Of course I'm still concentrating when playing but it's in a different way - it's more telaxed than when practicing and not as intense.

A common mistake is to confuse playing with practicing and to only run through pieces from beginning to end and think that that constitutes practicing. I think it's important to spend time doing both but to be aware of the difference and to make sure you are spending plenty of time practicing, in addition to the time you spend playing.

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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by casy » Tue Nov 04, 2014 6:20 pm

Interesting question! This issue effects each and every one of us. I to am a beginner and will probably always be one. Anyway, everyone faces the same choices as to what and how we practice. The variables would probably include your level of proficiency, the difficulty of the piece, your ability to learn, the time constraints and your determination and concentration. Although we may have different learning styles and techniques are efforts can be subdivided into recognized categories. As Evocacion writes Learning, Memorizing, Practicing, and Repertoire. But how much time to devote to each is at the heart of your question.

To add my thoughts. Your pattern of learning sounds reasonable. I have almost the same format and that is why I found the need to respond. What I haven't read about here is the need to begin each session with a warm-up exercise. Some insist on hand massages or finger dexterity training. But I like to incorporate a warm-up through an actual guitar exercise. For us beginners, at least, it's hard to beat the Segovia Scales and the Giuliani 120 Right Hand Studies. Then probably the best category to begin would be learning a new piece. That's because the mind is fresh and concentration is highest. I was a math teacher and our school scheduled math classes early in the morning. Research seems to indicate that the more technical learning is best undertaken early in the day. This as opposed to say social studies which is better as an afternoon subject. Music to me is a more technical subject requiring greater focus on details.

One of the most important factors at least to us as beginners is our motivation to learn. We carry a lot of apprehension when we sit down to practice due to our uncertain future and making a lot of mistakes. Also we make the most important decisions on the basics: theory, technique, fingerings and general confusion as to what works best. So after that initial warm-up and then learning new material, find something to play that makes you feel good. After that mix and match whatever suits you.

Save the memorization for the bus ride or other times when the guitar is out of reach. Take the score and a sheet of paper and a pencil with you and see if you can recreate a few measures from memory. Then compare your results to the actual score and make the corrections. I'm trying to recreate an image of a score in my mind but with only limited success.

Probably the most important factor facing us is the amount of time we have available. I honestly think a couple of hours a day isn't
going to get it done. But quality of time spent is far more important than the amount of time wasted by distraction and poor execution.
So at least we know were on the right track.

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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Kenbobpdx » Tue Nov 04, 2014 7:06 pm

I go through various phases and have for so long that I don't worry about where I am at any particular point. One phase is an intensive learning stage where I consume a lot of different pieces. I will sightread them and some stick and some don't. Some get shelved and crop up much later. When in this phase I may actively work on 5-6 new pieces or previously shelved pieces and read through another 5 or so that seem interesting.

A different phase is what I call my consolidation phase. I don't really learn new pieces per se but really consolidate those that have been added recently with the ones that I have played for a long time. I may or may not actually have them memorized but often they are. This is a stage that I may go back to pieces that I have played for a long time and read through them again. Sometimes to make sure I am playing them as written and other times to really discern new things about a piece. The consolidation phase is not formal in any way. I just find that I am not very interested in learning new pieces but revisiting pieces.

I don't have a memorization phase per se. Some go in easier than others. Some pieces that I have futzed with for years may suddenly go into memory when they have just not been part of it before. I find memorization of music to be a fascinating phenomenon. For me it either happens or it doesn't. Or it may be much later with some pieces.

Then there is the plateau. This is similar to the consolidation phase in that not much new is going in but I find myself mostly playing through existing repertoire. I also refer to this time as wandering through the desert. I used to get incredibly frustrated by this but over the years I have come to understand it as a very important part of connecting with the music and making it a part of me. It is when I play for the emotion of playing as opposed to playing to "learn" a piece. To keep things interesting I may group existing pieces into programs and play them through as if I was playing a concert even though I don't play in public.
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Luis_Br
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Re: How many new pieces at once

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Nov 05, 2014 11:01 am

Normally I work at 4-6 pieces at the same time. I work at least 3 pieces at the same time: 1 - new piece, 2 - working in "problematic" parts, 3 - intepretation finishing. It depends on the size of the piece too. Long music I may break down into more "pieces".
I think another important thing is to schedule the pieces along the week.
Newest pieces I practice everyday.
After I master most passages, I start practicing only problematic parts everyday, but play other parts only every two or three days just to keep working on memory.
Once it is technically mastered, I keep practicing a bit more the parts that require better interpretation refining, and then I practice the piece only once a week for a while.
After I consider interpretation is nice, I wait one month without playing it, and then I suddenly play it again,to check if it is really mastered. If I play it well after one month break, I consider it mastered for a concert, otherwise I go back to the "problematic" parts, or put it aside to work back some months or a year later (maybe not at my technical level for the moment).

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