Practicing Slowly...

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by zupfgeiger » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:22 pm

I think it's absolutely justified to make a distinction between playing and practicing slowly. If you just play slowly, you play your mistakes slowly. Practicing slowly means recognizing your flaws and finding a way to eliminate them.
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by markworthi » Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:48 pm

Tom Poore wrote:
Thu Nov 30, 2017 3:07 pm
The biggest thing that separates great players from mediocre ones is that great players know what they’re doing. Every problem they encounter is dissected, examined, and solved. One example: in masterclasses I often see this. A concert artist asks a student to describe the harmony in a passage. The student can’t do it. The artist then describes in detail the harmony. The artist knew the harmony—the student didn’t. And that’s one of many reasons why the student falters in a passage and the concert artist doesn’t.

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This is interesting, and something that I am not sure I can do. What do you mean by being able to describe a harmony? Do you mean that students should be aware, at an analytical level, of what's going on in a piece -- for example, the movement from a dominant chord to the tonic?


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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by Nikos_Greek » Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:20 pm

To put it simply, pracrtising slowly and practising could only mean and aim at producing good, Musical soung with your guitar. Sound determines everything, good Sound presupposes good technique, can be achieved only through good technique. You practise with your ear in essense. I have profited a good deal by playing scales slowly as well as at a faster tempo but paying Attention to the Sound only. So practising means producing acceptable, or if you will good Quality Sound and sorting out technical Problems whenever good Sound Fails to be produced.

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by isaac_suit6 » Thu Nov 30, 2017 9:47 pm

The key to practicing is mindfulness. By giving yourself time to be mindful of what you are doing you slow down. Mindfulness in practice sums up what Tom Poore was saying. It's not the speed, but by thinking you end up slowing doing; giving yourself time to understand, learn, and improve.

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by djqsrv » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:27 pm

I just started back after a long break. Well over a year, maybe closer to 2. I have to keep telling myself to slow down over and over.
My brain wants to race forward at the speed I could before but my motor skills are lagging far behind.
I am trying to “slow practice” as described in that article but it takes a tremendous amount of discipline to really do it.
But there is no doubting that when I do get myself to slow way down so I can feel every little movement of my hands it’s usually followed by a noticeable improvement in my playing. Even so I don’t do it as often as I should. I still want to just speed forward. Sometimes the human brain amazes me. :)
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by djqsrv » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:28 pm

Duplicate post.
Sorry abt that. Can’t find a way to delete. Can a moderator please remove this one?
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by hesson11 » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:10 am

If you only play at home and never in public, is it still called "practicing"? Just a random imponderable. :-)

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by Zen » Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:46 am

My concept of practice is this: I am constantly assessing how the notes sound, whether my hands are correctly positioned and moving with minimal effort, whether my body is stressed or relaxed, whether my left hand is pressing harder than necessary, whether I am preparing for the next note, and whether I am playing with emotion. I do not distinguish this from play unless others are present.
The time between the notes relates the color to the scenes.

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by razz » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:43 pm

Following the first quote to the letter would be a real leap of faith. I'm tempted to try it.

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by Yisrael van Handel » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:04 pm

oski79 wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:51 pm
In the most recent Classical Guitar Magazine, there is an interview with Lukasz Kuropaczewski. In it, he talks about practicing slowly:
"The key is proper practice. I only practice slowly at home. I never play a whole piece in tempo. I use a metronome for practice and repeat every single phrase three to five times..."
What a coincidence!! I heard Lukasz Kuropaczewski speaking last weak, and he said exactly that. I immediately tried it out. Wow!! what a difference! I am solving problems that I have had forever. I always started playing slowly. But now, I continue playing slowly until I have solid control. And then I speed up slowly. And I do not play Classical period music fast at all, because it is more expressive when it is slow. It really works. Once you have control over every movement, you can start speeding up the metronome a little bit at a time.
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:54 pm

I hate to go all anatomical and brain theory on you fine people, but you must slow down so you can train your cerebellum. The cerebellum is where muscle memories are stored. The concept of playing bad slowly leads to bunk muscle memory. Practicing well slowly is necessary to transcribe and form high quality muscle memories. Once the muscle memories are correctly formed, then and only then can you go faster. Going fast before that risks undoing or rewriting any well formed muscle memories.

The part that interests me is that going faster requires different "finger physics", for lack of a better term. So the physical movements change somewhat with increased speed, and the muscle memories must be updated, or fine tuned, accordingly in the cerebellum. The phenomenon is manifested in the language of our discipline. People say "I have that piece "under my fingers" - that means it is burned in to the cerebellum. And everybody knows some things are just easier to play faster - due to "finger physics".

Lastly I'll say that the process of writing the muscle memory is conscious with many very slow brain parts involved. The signals from muscle memory are like lightning. So you can't really play stuff using those slower conscious brain pathways. Muscle memories in the cerebellum are therefore a necessity. Properly formed, of course. I have worked with musicians who claim they are conscious of each note as a distinct entity. I'm happy for them. Most of us normal humanoids rely heavily on muscle memory.
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by oski79 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:20 pm

Thanks Andrew. I've heard many times that by playing up to speed and making mistakes, you're only practicing making mistakes. Getting slow and granular makes so much sense, yet requires so much more discipline.
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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by Mike Atkinson » Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:49 pm

For the first of the year, I decided to take my current studies to the next level in the RCM series. Over the past year, I have been moving through the earlier levels, and was feeling pretty confident in my playing, the method exercises, and when working through a new piece from the Repertoire sections.

Well, here on the 3rd of the new year; the new material is killing me. The scales are awkward. The arpeggios feel odd under my fingers. The first studies are in the Segovia Sor book, so I knew them already. The renaissance repertoire pieces are straining my left hand in ways I thought I was past.

Perhaps, my expectations are too high; and I am, again, thinking more highly of myself than justifiable.

But ... I think I will review this thread again, and slow my metronome down, for the next several days (weeks?) to gain control of my hands; to burn in the muscle memory, the proprioception.

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by khayes » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:12 pm

oski79 wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:20 pm
I've heard many times that by playing up to speed and making mistakes, you're only practicing making mistakes.
+1 here. That's why I cringe every time I hear someone say the cliche "Practice makes perfect".

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Re: Practicing Slowly...

Post by Steve Kutzer » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:50 pm

I am trying to improve my billiards playing. I have found a similar approach. I aim at a spot on the target ball. I stroke slowly enough so I can clearly see the collision. I then evaluate - did I hit my mark? Was I left or right? Why?

On guitar, I am trying to learn some acoustic blues in DADGAD tuning. This is new enough to me that I am forced to slow down. But I think the same approach needs to be taken - have an intention, execute, evaluate how close you came to your intention, and adjust.

One thing that I have found helpful in learning a difficult piece is to (a) learn it backwards, from the final measure back to the front, and (b) only work on a measure or two for a half hour. At the end of the half hour practice, I play through to the end a few times, at slow tempo. So by the time I am fully though the piece, I have practice each measure hundreds, maybe thousands of times, and I have played the end more than the beginning.

This also helps in avoiding the temptation to try to play the whole piece through, slow or not, until I'm ready.

On a related aside, I had a teacher once recommend taking a piece that you can play and playing it as LOUD as possible, on every beat. Then play it softly. That sets the parameters for dynamics. Now go back and work on those dynamics, again with intention/execution/evaluation/correction
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