Practice to performance level

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Larry McDonald
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Re: Practice to performance level

Post by Larry McDonald » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:10 pm

Contreras wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:10 am
Ramon Amira wrote:
Tue Aug 29, 2017 4:08 pm
Practice it backwards.

Ramon
Ramon - I can see how this would challenge me on all kinds of levels, but I'm not sure how it would help me to play the piece perfectly (or even better) forwards.

Or are you extracting the Michael?
Hi,
I think there may be some confusion here. I don't advocate learning the piece back-wards. What I do recommend is learning segments (forwards in rhythm) and then assembling them from the end of a cadence. This is called back-chaining. I use a maximum segment size as a measure plus one beat of the following measure. I usually start at the end of a the piece, but often just at the end of a phrase.

Following is an article in a collection of essays that I have written but are unpublished -other than here on Delcamp...

Phrase Length Segmentation*

Has this inner dialogue ever happened to you on stage?

“Ok. Here comes the hard part of the phrase. Relax and let it happen”. [You inhale and clench. Ooops].
“I practiced it a lot and it’s still a bit dodgy, but I can get it 9 out of 10 tries. [But it’s that 1 out of 10 that gets to you; do you
hear that little drip of panic?].
“Maybe I could slow down just a little, I’m always out of control here”. [You only practiced to the recommended tempo].
“My girlfriend is smiling. The poor girl has heard this spot too many times”. [You give her a distracted, crooked smile back to
acknowledge her patience with you].
“Damn, is that my old guitar teacher over there? He knows about this spot, too”. [The jitters just kicked in. More panic
dripping from the faucet]
"Stop Here!... wait... What??!" [Panic pours in. You hesitate because this is how you practiced. You just got a subconscious cue
to stop and repeat this little bit of the hard part.]
"Go back somewhere!...where?...No..wait… I should continue…Aaaw CRAP!”. [You stumble badly].
“What the hell just happened? That sounded like ass.” [You tried relaxing (your teacher’s words). Impossible].
“I can’t seem to pick-up where I left off”. [You never practiced re-entry points].
“Oh well, I’ll just restart at the next section. My girlfriend is giving me her pouty-pity smile. And I want to smack that smirk off
my old teacher’s face!”


Phrase level segmentation is the complete back-chaining of a single musical phrase. It is the smallest bit of repertoire one should work up to tempo (or beyond) with a metronome. This is one of the most beneficial types of practice for intermediate and advanced students. It should be done very slowly at first, carefully controlling the levels of effort/tension. Stay attentive and don’t let any distractions interfere, especially inner dialogue. The key is to begin the process at the cadence, where the music is rehearsed to come to an end. The goals in order are to:

1. Abstract segments for additional technical work.
2. Create re-entry points in case of errors.
3. Directly delineate tempo practice.
4. Eliminate invalid cues to stop in the middle of the phrase.

Let’s consider each of these goals.

Abstract segments for further technical work. Examine the phrase and determine if there are mechanical or technical deficiencies that need to be addressed. Diagnose and repair any faulty mechanics first. Once done, abstract the difficult material and create exercises that will rebuild the constellation of mechanics necessary to achieve the technique. The reductive paradigms of Eduardo Fernandez are especially useful for this process. The teacher truly earns their fee at this juncture by delivering accurate diagnostics, devising creative exercises, and solving the issue within the constraints of the lesson time.

Create re-entry points in case of errors. This is a product of the Back-chaining process. By starting at several points within the phrase and continuing to the cadence, the student is creating recovery cues at several nearby locations of any error point.

Directly delineate tempo practice. Considerable performance practice time is given to bringing the entire piece “up to tempo”. Unfortunately, much time is wasted practicing parts that are already complete. By isolating each phrase and bring it up to tempo, the student can maximize their performance practice time efficiency. This is important for many adults for whom time has great value. I encourage my students to be able to play each phrase at 12 clicks over tempo. This creates a sense of what I call “mechanical headroom”. Once the student achieves 12 clicks or more above tempo, immediately have them play the phrase again at the desired tempo, and watch their “inner master’s smile of success” on their face as they realize that they have controlled time enough to be able to think between the notes. While this may seem to encourage students to ‘rush”, my experience shows that this is very rarely the case. The student will want to find that “feeling” of control every time.

Eliminate invalid cues to stop in the middle of the phrase. Assuming that the student has the entire phrase back-chained and all the technical issues are resolved, the student should not practice segments that are smaller than the complete phrase. By always playing through to the cadence, the student will not be stopping/crashing in the middle of a phrase and creating a string of conflicting, invalid, and un-erasable sub-conscious cues to “stop here”. Technically speaking, these invalid cues to stop in the middle of the phrase are a type of invalid covert motor routine, and can be he highly destructive in some students, especially those who have latent issues from childhood (mistakes are punishable, remember?) or from teachers that didn't use positive reinforcement, only negative reinforcement, which creates feelings of inadequacy when a simple mistake happens. This may cause some unwanted hesitations in performance when performance anxiety scrapes away a layer of poise. Performance practice can 'over-write' some of this but it's like a thin coat of paint over rotten drywall. And when that performance anxiety “paint scraper” comes out…

Finally, phrase level segmentation creates a string of kinesthetic, visual inner imaging, and aural imaging cues that groups the constellations of mechanics into one single, managing motor routine. These cues are redundant, creating a performance-stable phrase/segment. If performance anxiety should "scrape" away one of your "cues", you have others that can carry the weight, like airplanes with redundant, multiple engines. (All of this is documented in the behaviorist and physiologist literature, a convergence
of two disparate fields, which makes a strong case for its consideration, in my opinion). It also practices using larger muscle groups as these actions are assembled into single directives, much like Object Oriented Programming (OOPs) does for computer code (more muscle groups means fewer muscle fiber bundles in each muscle needs to fire, creating grace and minimizing "angular" motion). By now, you have discovered that some chunks of music can almost play themselves and you can transcend the mechanical and technical aspects of performance and graduate into observer/conductor status.

Phrase level segmentation is not designed to practice fundamentals; it doesn't practice posture, mechanics or pre-presentation ballistic motion in a concise manner, and is inappropriate for beginners and some early-intermediate students, around level 2-3 and under.

Go back and reread the performance inner dialogue at the beginning of this entry. Can you identify all of the mistakes that this player has made in his practice routine?

-Lare
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar Instructor
Royal Conservatory Advanced Theory Instructor

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Larry McDonald
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Re: Practice to performance level

Post by Larry McDonald » Sun Oct 29, 2017 4:11 pm

Here is a little essay on back-chaining.
http://www.larrymcdonaldguitar.com/info ... ts-53.html

-Lare
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar Instructor
Royal Conservatory Advanced Theory Instructor

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Contreras
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Re: Practice to performance level

Post by Contreras » Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:01 pm

AHA moment :idea: ... thank you for the comprehensive explanation Lare

Simon
Put down the bagpipes ...
... and no one gets hurt.

Todd Tipton
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Re: Practice to performance level

Post by Todd Tipton » Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:53 pm

I give my students the same advice I do for myself. For starters, everything I do is kept in a practice log (That may be the only organized thing in my life! ...lol). Once a piece is learned well, it then falls into the category of "old repertoire." This is the only music I have to play for others. When working on old repertoire, I often simply pretend to perform the piece. This can not only be done up-to-tempo, but anywhere during the process. This allows me to begin handling early on how to deal with mistakes.

To make the process a bit more dramatic, other strategies can be implemented. Perhaps I play in a different room. Or I may play in a different chair, or have the chair face another direction. When do I know a piece? When do I decide when it becomes old repertoire? It kind of doesn't matter. It goes there when I think it is ready. If I make small mistakes, I practice dealing with them: ignoring them or recovering from them without letting my imaginary audience know anything is less than what I want.

I am still often surprised at the results of doing these little things to suddenly make my "performance" matter. Sometimes, I make major mistakes and come to realize that I don't know the piece as well as I thought I did. At this point, I must be honest with myself and return the piece to the category of "new repertoire." In all honesty, it isn't uncommon for a piece to bounce back and forth between old and new repertoire. What matters is that the process highlights the weaknesses and that I am effective and efficient with my limited time.

Once I am able to play with more security and confidence, I can implement more dramatic strategies to my practice routine. I can "perform" for a cell phone, a video camera. I can even, dare I say, perform for a close and trusted friend.

The point is, strange and unexpected things happen when you perform. And by perform, I mean play and how well you perform matters to you. This is why "but I could play it at home just fine" is so common in the lesson. In a perfectly controlled environment, we often CAN perform well. Practicing performing for others is a major part in better learning how to get the results you know are possible with consistency.
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA (available via Skype)
http://www.toddtipton.com

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Charles Mokotoff
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Re: Practice to performance level

Post by Charles Mokotoff » Wed Nov 01, 2017 7:31 pm

Todd Tipton wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:53 pm
I give my students the same advice I do for myself. For starters, everything I do is kept in a practice log
Would you consider sharing a couple entries of your log? I am curious to see how it compares to the chaotic notes I keep.
Thanks!

Todd Tipton
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Re: Practice to performance level

Post by Todd Tipton » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:57 pm

I can do a bit more than that. :-)

My practice log was created using a simple table in a doc file. From time to time, I make personal changes to it. I also require my students to use one. There are columns for each day of the week. In the far column on the left, It is divided into three sections:

New Repertoire
Old Repertoire
Exercises

In the New Repertoire, there are exactly two rows. This keeps me always working on two things, but prevents me from working on more. Experience shows me this works best for me.

In the Old Repertoire, there are many columns taking up about half of the page. These are the pieces that I pretend to perform in the practice room. By default, when a piece makes it to the Old Repertoire category, it is to be worked on exactly 3 times per week. I can certainly work on the piece as many times as I like, but I find setting that standard to be a great way to feel a sense of accomplishment in meeting all of my goals for the week. At the beginning of every week just before the first session (and with a new practice log), I quickly make a decision as to how many times per week I must work on each piece. For example, if I feel lots of work is still needed, I maintain the 3 times. Or if I feel great about the performance level of the piece, I bump it down to 2 times a week. At any given time, pieces in the old repertoire fall somewhere between 1 and 3 times per week that it must be worked on. The ultimate goal is to get every piece down to only 1 time per week. This almost never happens, and I am always free to work on anything as often as I like. However, these keeps my work efficient spending time where it is most needed.

In the Exercises section, I have subdivided columns. I don't do everything everyday, but I try to do something for each hand. The subsections are:

an untitled section (small row)
Scales
Right Hand
Left Hand (small row)
Sagreras
Difficult Passages

The first untitled section is where I can briefly make note of things I often do at the start of a practice session. For example, meditation, individual finger exercises, rasgueados, a complex unique exercise I've created, or a five minute warm-up. I don't do all of these things everyday. For example, I might do a five minute warmup and dive right into repertoire. While I usually do individual finger exercises, I don't always to meditation or rasguados.

The rows for the other 5 subsections are somewhat larger allowing me more room to write brief details. For example in my own short hand, I can be very specific with what I am doing with scales: im, ma, pi, rest, free, etc. I can also briefly write in my own shorthand what I'm doing specifically. Speed bursts? Hand coordination exercises? Speed exercises? Which ones?

The same kind of care is taken with the right hand. I almost always work out of Christopher Berg's Giuliani Revisited. I have developed many different routines that give me a thorough coverage of the book as well as well balanced workouts. I'm able to quickly log which routine I do, or which specific exercises, or groups of exercises I do. In my own shorthand, I'm also briefly able to log speed bursts, or rhythmic variations (as seen in the latest work of Stanley Yates).

In my own short hand, I am able to log in various left hand exercises such as horizontal slurs, vertical slurs, finger independence, coordination, chromatic octaves, etc. I find this row needs very little space, and I rarely do more than one specific task a day from it.

In all of the above sections, I don't do everything everyday. As said earlier, it keeps me working more efficiently by not neglecting things, and putting the most work where it is needed.

To be very honest, the Sagreras section is often blank. I love Sagreras. I believe it is a small but very useful part of a student's development. I confess that I haven't completed the six books myself, and probably never will...lol

The Difficult Passages section can apply to almost anything. There are those sections that I sometimes feel have to be played frequently and various tempi even to pull off. They can take up a very large amount of practice time sometimes. For that reason, I believed they were worthy of more practice credit. :-)

Sometimes I don't make my goals. Sometimes I just have ahorrible practice weeks. I find that this is when the practice log is most useful. With my students, I am not concerned with seeing lots of little check marks in all the right places. Rather, I see guitar study as a soap opera with lots of little sub plots. As a player, it is very easy to keep track of those sub plots. As a teacher, it is easy to make students responsible for those sub plots. For example, I might teach a new concept with the right hand. We may revisit it 3 or 4 weeks later and I plan to build on the idea from where we left off last time.

There are a few things I absolutely must have when I am working:

a pencil
my coffee stained and tattered copy of Christopher Berg's Giuliani Revisited
actual coffee...duh!
and a practice log.

Without those things, it is going to be a bad day...lol ;-)
Dr. Todd Tipton, classical guitarist
Cincinnati, OH, USA (available via Skype)
http://www.toddtipton.com

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