Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about what to do with a piece you have learned. There are so many things you can do with it! The first thing is the most obvious thing in the world: Play it! You’d be surprised how many people learn pieces but never play them and they forget them. There are so many benefits to playing the pieces you have learned. One, it’s fun! What’s all the work for anyway if not to be able to play music? Secondly, it keeps the pieces fresh. If you play your pieces every day it gets to the point where you can just whip them off without any problems. So if you ever have a performance opportunity, you’re so used to playing it that it’s almost automatic.
Playing your pieces keeps you physically and mentally in shape on the piano.
A lot of people spend hours a day on exercises to keep their fingers in shape and their muscles moving. You know what? There are many pieces of music that can accomplish the same thing. Now this isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for exercises. There certainly is. Scales, arpeggios, octaves and other exercises are a vital part of piano practice. But in regards to just keeping your fingers limber and the muscles in good shape, playing through your music can accomplish that. You also have the ancillary benefits of developing fluidity and reliability in performance. But like anything else, if you play them over and over and over again, there could be minute changes along the way.
It’s important to periodically reference the score of pieces you have memorized.
In the olden days of analog tape recording, if you ever made a tape of a tape of a tape, the sound gets pretty awful. Each successive generation has a little bit of loss of quality, unlike digital recording today. Another example of this is the old game of telephone that we all played in school, where you whisper a message to the person next to you who then whispers it to the person next to them going all the way around the room. At the end, you have a completely different message! Well, you can end up with a completely different piece of music if you just play it over and over and over again without ever referring back to the original score!
How do you approach reviewing your pieces with the score?
The best way is to take your score out and find a tempo at which you can read it. Now that tempo is going to be far slower than the speed you’re probably playing it. If it’s a piece you have played hundreds of times, you have a tempo that’s much faster than the tempo at which you can actually read all the details of the score. Slow way down, find the appropriate speed on the metronome, and take your foot off the pedal so you can clearly hear everything you’re doing. Then exaggerate everything as you play, delineating all the notes, phrasing, fingering and expression. For example, let’s say you learned the Moonlight Sonata and you want to refresh it. You’ve been playing it and playing and playing it and you want to make sure you’re playing it accurately. And you want to solidify the performance. You want to know exactly where all the rests are, whether chords have two notes or three notes, where the crescendos start and end. There are so many little details. It’s not just the notes and the rhythm and the fingering, it’s every single detail you want to cement and re-cement.
I guarantee this will help you with any piece, no matter how well you play it and how well you’ve learned it.
If you slow it down and play with the score, with no pedal, and with a metronome, you will find little things you had forgotten. You’ll cement your performance and make it much stronger. So the lesson for today, what do you do with pieces you’ve played before that you’ve learned? Keep playing them so you don’t forget them, number one. Number two, review with a score, playing slowly with no pedal, with a metronome to make sure you keep an honest performance. There are other practice techniques you can also employ in strategic parts that need the work, but these are the basics for what to do with pieces you already know. I hope this is helpful for you! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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