Welcome to Living Pianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about learning a piece of music from the end to the beginning. This is quite a concept! I once had a long discussion with a pianist who swore by this technique. There is some merit to it. If you watch my videos, you know my practice method is to start from the beginning of a piece. You read it through a couple of times, then get to work learning one small section at a time. Take a little phrase, learn the right-hand, then the left-hand, memorize each of them. Then memorize hands together. Then go on to the next chunk. Connect each section as you go until you get to the end of the piece. Well, what about starting at the end and working backwards?
Why would someone learn a piece backwards?
If you start at the end of a piece and work backwards, when you’re done practicing, the end is already solidified for you. You just get to the beginning and you’re done! It sounds great, doesn’t it? Sometimes you will see a student recital and they’re doing just fine, but when they get to the end, they don’t close strong. The end of their piece is weak and you feel badly for them. Maybe they just didn’t have enough time to get the end of the piece secure. So why not just start a piece from the end? That way, you avoid that whole problem. I have never used this technique, even though this gentleman begged me to do so. He even gave me a score. He said, “Learn this working from the end to the beginning like I learn pieces, and I’ll learn one your way, from the beginning to the end.” And I didn’t take him up on it. You may wonder why not?
Like reading a book, learning a piece of music is a story that unfolds.
There’s a logic to the sequential nature of a musical composition. Dramatic material, motifs, all develop as they go. To go from the end to the beginning is like being in a maze. You don’t know where you are. When you finally get to the beginning you have to rethink everything because it’s not meant to be thought of that way. I just have an aversion to the whole idea. When I’m learning a piece of music, it’s an exciting adventure! I start off at the beginning. I’m always raring to go at the beginning because I’ve often heard the piece before. If I’ve read through it, I’m already a bit familiar with the beginning. As I get further along, I’ll notice similarities to the beginning. It’s fun exploring a piece and seeing the changes along the way. It’s interesting to see how the themes are slightly different in various places.
Learning a piece beginning to end gives you a deep understanding of the structure of the music that learning it backwards would not reveal.
My take on this is that it’s better to learn a piece in order. Afterall, there is a reason the composer wrote it that way! I’m sure some of you have a differing viewpoints. I’d love to hear from you! I’ve articulated some of the benefits of learning from the end to the beginning. Maybe you have others that I haven’t even thought of that would encourage me to try it at least once with a piece of music. For those of you who have tried learning a piece from the end to the beginning and from the beginning to the end, and found one to be better than the other, let us know in the comments here at LivingPianos.com, and on YouTube. I look forward to hearing from you! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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