Practice method for difficult passages

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
Forum rules
IV Laws governing the quotation/citation of music


For discussion of studies, scales, arpeggios and theory.
Daniel Nistico
Posts: 17
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2016 8:41 pm
Location: Asheville, NC

Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Daniel Nistico » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:11 am

Hello,

I recently played a solo recital in Asheville, North Carolina. The program included Bach's Chaconne, so I was obviously practicing it quite a lot beforehand!! I was inspired by Segovia, who said that he would practice a single passage for many weeks, "burnishing it until it sparkles".

I wanted to share one method that I frequently use for practicing difficult passages. It's essentially: slow (1/2 tempo) - gradually faster - ideal tempo - gradually slower - slow (1/2 tempo). Video and link are below.

Many people do practice from slow to fast, but I think the "secret" is going back from fast to slow! I reckon this leaves you able to better ingrain the musical and technical habits you're striving for.

I would love to know what people think and am also curious about what practice methods others use for difficult passages?

Thanks!
Daniel


Youtube

User avatar
Adrian Allan
Posts: 960
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:56 am

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Adrian Allan » Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:32 am

Daniel Nistico wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:11 am
Hello,

I recently played a solo recital in Asheville, North Carolina. The program included Bach's Chaconne, so I was obviously practicing it quite a lot beforehand!! I was inspired by Segovia, who said that he would practice a single passage for many weeks, "burnishing it until it sparkles".

I wanted to share one method that I frequently use for practicing difficult passages. It's essentially: slow (1/2 tempo) - gradually faster - ideal tempo - gradually slower - slow (1/2 tempo). Video and link are below.

Many people do practice from slow to fast, but I think the "secret" is going back from fast to slow! I reckon this leaves you able to better ingrain the musical and technical habits you're striving for.

I would love to know what people think and am also curious about what practice methods others use for difficult passages?

Thanks!
Daniel


Youtube
Thank you. I am also learning this piece, and of course, the exact same passages.

I find that playing the music slowly is essential. On really difficult passages I even practise the RH alternation on open strings.

One piece of excellent advice I was given by my current teacher is to record everything with a video - if you can't play it almost perfectly all the way through in one take, then it's not ready yet. I have since learnt that David Russell has a room in his house in Spain where he videos everything in preparation for a new tour. The aim is to be so confident that when the difficult passages come up, you will approach them with confidence. If the above Chaconne passage is approaching and I'm feeling apprehensive, then I'm not ready to play the piece in public yet.
D'Ammassa Spruce/Spruce Double Top

CactusWren
Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:50 pm

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by CactusWren » Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:24 am

Daniel Nistico wrote:
Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:11 am
Hello,

I recently played a solo recital in Asheville, North Carolina. The program included Bach's Chaconne, so I was obviously practicing it quite a lot beforehand!! I was inspired by Segovia, who said that he would practice a single passage for many weeks, "burnishing it until it sparkles".

I wanted to share one method that I frequently use for practicing difficult passages. It's essentially: slow (1/2 tempo) - gradually faster - ideal tempo - gradually slower - slow (1/2 tempo). Video and link are below.

Many people do practice from slow to fast, but I think the "secret" is going back from fast to slow! I reckon this leaves you able to better ingrain the musical and technical habits you're striving for.

I would love to know what people think and am also curious about what practice methods others use for difficult passages?

Thanks!
Daniel


Youtube
Congratulations on the accomplishment of reaching your level! Learning the Chaconne and performing it in public is one of my "bucket list" goals.

I agree, starting fast and then slowing down the motion is a great practice methodology, because it avoids locking in the speed barriers that often occur when you start slow and then speed up. That "frozen" feeling when your body just doesn't want to move faster.

A simple thing I've found works is to reverse the "polarity" of the passage. For example, scale runs often have a dotted eighth-sixteenth kind of pattern (gallop), but practicing them reverse (sixteenth-dotted eighths) helps even them out. Another application of this principle is when you find a systematic error in your playing. For example, I am learning Torre Bermeja, which has many fast triplet passages. I found as I was learning some of the more challenging ones that I would tend to stay too long on the final note of each triplet because of hesitancy in making a position shift to get to the next beat. So I reversed it by allowing myself as long as I wanted on the first two notes, but making the final note as fast as possible. In only a couple of repetitions, I gained more control over the passage.

Luis_Br
Posts: 2201
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Luis_Br » Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:06 am

I always end practice playing slow. This ensures memorization of the good practice.
I would also practice the difficult stuff more, like looping only in the position changes sometimes more before practicing the whole thing again.

Rognvald
Posts: 145
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:21 am

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Rognvald » Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:24 am

" I have since learnt that David Russell has a room in his house in Spain where he videos everything in preparation for a new tour. The aim is to be so confident that when the difficult passages come up, you will approach them with confidence." Adrian Allen

Hi, Adrian,
I am certainly a fan of David Russell's music but the concept of videoing/recording your playing takes away the magic of performance(good or bad) and morphs it into an academic exercise. Yes, of course, any study of Music is at first academic but when it transcends the paper into a visceral, living expression of the Artist, there is something lost when it becomes codified and definitive with no spontaneous surprises or inspirations. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I can't imagine Casals, Segovia, Kempff, Horowitz, and Rostropovich being proponents of this system. The greatest magic in Art is a combination of sweat and inspiration . . . and did we forget our ears? Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Will
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:47 pm
Location: Falls Church, VA

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Will » Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:31 am

I'd like to inquire if enough analysis of the difficulty has determined the cause to be is technical or musical?
If it's technical then we can be reminded that Segovia also said would extract the passage and make a technical rxercise of it. I think I' m correct in that, Can anyone second that?

All the best,
Will

CactusWren
Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:50 pm

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by CactusWren » Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:42 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:24 am
" I have since learnt that David Russell has a room in his house in Spain where he videos everything in preparation for a new tour. The aim is to be so confident that when the difficult passages come up, you will approach them with confidence." Adrian Allen

Hi, Adrian,
I am certainly a fan of David Russell's music but the concept of videoing/recording your playing takes away the magic of performance(good or bad) and morphs it into an academic exercise. Yes, of course, any study of Music is at first academic but when it transcends the paper into a visceral, living expression of the Artist, there is something lost when it becomes codified and definitive with no spontaneous surprises or inspirations. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I can't imagine Casals, Segovia, Kempff, Horowitz, and Rostropovich being proponents of this system. The greatest magic in Art is a combination of sweat and inspiration . . . and did we forget our ears? Playing again . . . Rognvald
Don't Russell's results suggest otherwise? He has explicitly said, and written, that he practices in such a way as to afford him to take precisely the kinds of spontaneous flights you spoke of. Videotaping is simply a way of applying pressure and ensuring one can handle it.

Rognvald
Posts: 145
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:21 am

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Rognvald » Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:47 pm

CactusWren wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:42 pm
Rognvald wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:24 am
" I have since learnt that David Russell has a room in his house in Spain where he videos everything in preparation for a new tour. The aim is to be so confident that when the difficult passages come up, you will approach them with confidence." Adrian Allen

Hi, Adrian,
I am certainly a fan of David Russell's music but the concept of videoing/recording your playing takes away the magic of performance(good or bad) and morphs it into an academic exercise. Yes, of course, any study of Music is at first academic but when it transcends the paper into a visceral, living expression of the Artist, there is something lost when it becomes codified and definitive with no spontaneous surprises or inspirations. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I can't imagine Casals, Segovia, Kempff, Horowitz, and Rostropovich being proponents of this system. The greatest magic in Art is a combination of sweat and inspiration . . . and did we forget our ears? Playing again . . . Rognvald
Don't Russell's results suggest otherwise? He has explicitly said, and written, that he practices in such a way as to afford him to take precisely the kinds of spontaneous flights you spoke of. Videotaping is simply a way of applying pressure and ensuring one can handle it.
Hi, CW,
I don't think it is possible to practice to be spontaneous. Spontaneity implies "of the moment." Anything else is "practiced." And, if you are videotaping to ensure "one can handle it" then it can never be spontaneous. CG players need to listen to more Jazz to see what real possibilities can exist "in the moment." No amount of practice can get you there. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

Kurt Penner
Posts: 93
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 4:27 am

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Kurt Penner » Sun Oct 15, 2017 11:28 pm

one method that works for me is to write the music into a notation program like MuseScore and then play along with the program at various tempos. My rhythm reading is less than perfect and for complex rhythms this helps me stay on the beat more precisely.

I may not write the entire piece into the program, but instead select out the difficult sections.

Today this method helped me out for the fast scale passages in Rodrigo's Zapateado; I find it difficult to hear the pulse of the tempo and I just hear a flurry of fast notes.

KP

CactusWren
Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:50 pm

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by CactusWren » Mon Oct 16, 2017 4:37 am

Rognvald wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:47 pm
CactusWren wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 4:42 pm
Rognvald wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:24 am
" I have since learnt that David Russell has a room in his house in Spain where he videos everything in preparation for a new tour. The aim is to be so confident that when the difficult passages come up, you will approach them with confidence." Adrian Allen

Hi, Adrian,
I am certainly a fan of David Russell's music but the concept of videoing/recording your playing takes away the magic of performance(good or bad) and morphs it into an academic exercise. Yes, of course, any study of Music is at first academic but when it transcends the paper into a visceral, living expression of the Artist, there is something lost when it becomes codified and definitive with no spontaneous surprises or inspirations. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I can't imagine Casals, Segovia, Kempff, Horowitz, and Rostropovich being proponents of this system. The greatest magic in Art is a combination of sweat and inspiration . . . and did we forget our ears? Playing again . . . Rognvald
Don't Russell's results suggest otherwise? He has explicitly said, and written, that he practices in such a way as to afford him to take precisely the kinds of spontaneous flights you spoke of. Videotaping is simply a way of applying pressure and ensuring one can handle it.
Hi, CW,
I don't think it is possible to practice to be spontaneous. Spontaneity implies "of the moment." Anything else is "practiced." And, if you are videotaping to ensure "one can handle it" then it can never be spontaneous. CG players need to listen to more Jazz to see what real possibilities can exist "in the moment." No amount of practice can get you there. Playing again . . . Rognvald
If I practice a passage at different dynamics, with rubato in different places, with using different tone colors--in short, so that I can play any passage any way that I feel like playing it, I am certainly increasing my ability to be spontaneous. Why would one assume that jazz players don't do such work? It takes more than marijuana. Compare someone who is practicing the same passage with the same interpretation every single time. That would hinder someone's ability to be spontaneous. Also, someone who is unaccustomed to pressure, whether it comes from playing in public or while being recorded, is going to be afraid and not able to play expressively.

Rognvald
Posts: 145
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:21 am

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Rognvald » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:24 pm

"If I practice a passage at different dynamics, with rubato in different places, with using different tone colors--in short, so that I can play any passage any way that I feel like playing it, I am certainly increasing my ability to be spontaneous. Why would one assume that jazz players don't do such work? It takes more than marijuana. Compare someone who is practicing the same passage with the same interpretation every single time. That would hinder someone's ability to be spontaneous. Also, someone who is unaccustomed to pressure, whether it comes from playing in public or while being recorded, is going to be afraid and not able to play expressively.' CactusWren

Hi, CW,
Spontaneity does not come from practice. It comes from inspiration. Only if you have performed music for the public for a living will you ever really understand this fact. It's not rehashing your practice methods using "different tone colors" but rather an instantaneous, unexplained nuance that seems, as an afterthought, that it was completely out of your control when it happened. In regards to Jazz players, I can speak personally having been a tenor sax/flute player for over 20 years and performing regularly with a variety of musical groups: they DON'T practice as you have suggested and any serious musician will tell you that their best playing NEVER INVOLVES THE USE OF DRUGS . . .contrary to popular myths. One of the greatest contrasts between Jazz players and Classical players is not just the repertoire but the approach to the music. While technique is essential to any good musician, a Jazz player is more concerned about his sound and his ability to improvise creatively around a melody where it is NOT PRACTICED and to avoid musical cliches or rehearsed "improvisations." In my generation of Jazzers, playing "classical" meant playing without creativity, imagination or inspiration. Of course, this was the stereotype much as classical players considered Jazzers undisciplined. My approach to the CG is different from most as I still value the traits sought by Jazz players: big sound, creative interpretation of the literature, expressive and personal nuances, and spontaneous inspiration. . . traits which I believe all the great CG's possess. In regards to your last statement, you cannot be free to express yourself unless you are emotionally comfortable and unafraid. I always compare a performing musician to a baseball hitter . . .when you go the the plate you must have the confidence to know you can hit a home run and it's going to be this time at the plate. Without this confidence, it will never happen. Perform, perform, perform whenever possible and NEVER PLAY FOR FREE. Playing again . . . Rognvald
"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music." Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

User avatar
Montgomery
Posts: 523
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2007 8:29 am
Location: England

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Montgomery » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:59 pm

I found this video fascinating. Thank you for sharing it. I have learned a new approach that I am going to try out right now. Thank you.

sal
Posts: 28
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:59 pm

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by sal » Mon Oct 16, 2017 4:49 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:47 pm


If I practice a passage at different dynamics, with rubato in different places, with using different tone colors--in short, so that I can play any passage any way that I feel like playing it, I am certainly increasing my ability to be spontaneous. Why would one assume that jazz players don't do such work? It takes more than marijuana.
Thats hysterical.

"Yeah, and Rama of the jungle was everyone's Bawana
But only jazz musicians were smokin' marijuana"
-Pencil Thin Mustache, Jimmy Buffet

Kirkland Gavin
Posts: 181
Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:09 am
Location: Curlew, Washington

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by Kirkland Gavin » Mon Oct 16, 2017 5:38 pm

thanks for the thoughts on practice. I dont use a metronome very much maybe i should but I try to count it with my foot or the flow of the music.
I do think practicing passages over an over helps but I find that after. If take a couple of days off from it then come back to it and it feels much easier or fluid,
thanks for the video and lesson thanks

CactusWren
Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:50 pm

Re: Practice method for difficult passages

Post by CactusWren » Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:54 pm

Rognvald wrote:
Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:24 pm
"If I practice a passage at different dynamics, with rubato in different places, with using different tone colors--in short, so that I can play any passage any way that I feel like playing it, I am certainly increasing my ability to be spontaneous. Why would one assume that jazz players don't do such work? It takes more than marijuana. Compare someone who is practicing the same passage with the same interpretation every single time. That would hinder someone's ability to be spontaneous. Also, someone who is unaccustomed to pressure, whether it comes from playing in public or while being recorded, is going to be afraid and not able to play expressively.' CactusWren

Hi, CW,
Spontaneity does not come from practice. It comes from inspiration. Only if you have performed music for the public for a living will you ever really understand this fact. It's not rehashing your practice methods using "different tone colors" but rather an instantaneous, unexplained nuance that seems, as an afterthought, that it was completely out of your control when it happened. In regards to Jazz players, I can speak personally having been a tenor sax/flute player for over 20 years and performing regularly with a variety of musical groups: they DON'T practice as you have suggested and any serious musician will tell you that their best playing NEVER INVOLVES THE USE OF DRUGS . . .contrary to popular myths. One of the greatest contrasts between Jazz players and Classical players is not just the repertoire but the approach to the music. While technique is essential to any good musician, a Jazz player is more concerned about his sound and his ability to improvise creatively around a melody where it is NOT PRACTICED and to avoid musical cliches or rehearsed "improvisations." In my generation of Jazzers, playing "classical" meant playing without creativity, imagination or inspiration. Of course, this was the stereotype much as classical players considered Jazzers undisciplined. My approach to the CG is different from most as I still value the traits sought by Jazz players: big sound, creative interpretation of the literature, expressive and personal nuances, and spontaneous inspiration. . . traits which I believe all the great CG's possess. In regards to your last statement, you cannot be free to express yourself unless you are emotionally comfortable and unafraid. I always compare a performing musician to a baseball hitter . . .when you go the the plate you must have the confidence to know you can hit a home run and it's going to be this time at the plate. Without this confidence, it will never happen. Perform, perform, perform whenever possible and NEVER PLAY FOR FREE. Playing again . . . Rognvald
I do play music for a living, and have for 15 years! First you struck out with your comment about DR, then you come up with this. Jazz musicians don't use drugs. They don't practice licks. How ridiculous.

You have your opinions and experiences, but they're obviously limited. I'm done here.

Return to “Classical Guitar technique”