Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to find the weak points in your playing. You want your practice to be productive. You don’t want to use a shotgun approach, working on all the parts of your music equally. Some parts will already be in good shape while other parts might need work. But sometimes it’s hard to know which parts need work.
How do you isolate the parts of your music that are likely to fall apart?
Obviously, if something completely falls apart, it needs work. But suppose you play through a piece and everything is pretty good. You’ve done various types of practicing. You’ve gone through meticulously with the score. You’ve worked with a metronome. You’ve practiced without the pedal. You’ve played under tempo. Yet when you perform, sometimes things fall apart and it seems to be in random places. I have a tip for you: Play the music faster than your normal tempo! You’ll find that you can play perhaps 90% of the piece at a faster tempo. The parts you can’t play at that faster tempo are the weak sections. You can isolate those sections and work on them in innumerable ways. A great way is to find a tempo at which you can play them cleanly, accurately and comfortably, and play the sections with the metronome at progressively faster speeds.
It’s good to have a reserve of tempo in your playing.
When you’re playing a piece of music, knowing that you can play it a little bit faster and still hold it together is incredibly valuable for a couple of reasons. First of all, in the heat of the moment in a musical performance, a lot of times when you’re nervous, you don’t realize that your whole physiology speeds up. Your heart’s beating a little faster. You’re breathing a little faster. That’s from the extra energy you get in performance. And you may just take your music a little faster than you even realize. If there are parts that you’ve never played at that faster tempo, you could run into trouble. So play your music a little bit over tempo and see what happens.
Romantic period music has a certain amount of tempo freedom.
In some styles of music, you may use a certain amount of rubato, the give and take of the tempo, where you rush forward in certain places, then hold back to make up the time. This adds an element of excitement to your music. That’s totally appropriate for some styles of music. But maybe during a performance you decide to use rubato in a place you’ve never thought of using it before. If you’ve never played the piece faster, you can’t pull it off very well if you haven’t practiced that one little part of a phrase faster before. So play your music a little bit over tempo to prepare yourself to allow for some spontaneity in your performance.
Sometimes you can play a piece dramatically faster and get a whole different feel for the music!
Let’s say you’ve been playing a piece and you’ve always felt the quarter note as the beat. For example, in the first movement of the Mozart K 545, C major Sonata, you’re thinking in four. But if you play it faster you might feel the half note as the pulse and give a whole different rhythmic feel. So there are a lot of benefits to playing your music faster as an experiment. First of all, you’ll find the weak points in your playing. You can zero in on the parts you can’t play at that faster tempo. You also have more freedom in a romantic period piece where you can give a little nuance of tempo. And lastly, you might feel the pulse of music differently, a slower pulse at a faster tempo which can open up a different rhythm and feel, even if you don’t end up playing faster. There are many benefits to taking a faster tempo.
Experiment with your pieces!
See what happens when you play your music faster. You may find that some pieces work at a faster tempo. There are innumerable benefits to this. So try it out! Let me know how it works for you. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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