How long to master a piece?

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Emil Krasich
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Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by Emil Krasich » Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:33 pm

aranya wrote:Wait, can you really do that? I get really bored with a piece if I play it every day for weeks. I need breaks to keep liking a piece. Playing it every day would be THE guarantee for never finishing it because I would be totally fed up with it.
Some pieces require you to constantly be in shape with them. Longer periods of not playing them result in larger areas of atrophy within the piece. So not is there only getting to a stage but upkeep that is required to maintain that level of performance practice.

AussieGuitarist

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by AussieGuitarist » Wed Aug 26, 2009 9:36 pm

I've been a playing a couple pieces for almost a year and a half, and they're still not 'mastered'.

I don't like the word mastered when applied musically, it feels like a definitive term, like it can improve no more. I have the same issue with the whole concept of 'mastering' an instrument in 10 000 hours.

I'm not sure if I really have an answer to your question. I think it depends on what you consider mastery, how close to perfection you settle for.

dunholy

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by dunholy » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:51 am

AussieGuitarist wrote:I've been a playing a couple pieces for almost a year and a half, and they're still not 'mastered'.

I don't like the word mastered when applied musically, it feels like a definitive term, like it can improve no more. I have the same issue with the whole concept of 'mastering' an instrument in 10 000 hours.

I'm not sure if I really have an answer to your question. I think it depends on what you consider mastery, how close to perfection you settle for.
I see your point. A very famous guitarrist (considered one of the best) once said: "¿Best guitarrist in the world? If I ever let that thought get inside me, it would destroy me". So yeah, no matter how cool it is when everybody in the room praises your playing: deep inside you know that if you want to keep evolving as an artist you must remain humble and keep practicing.

To answer the OP question: for sure, one can master a piece technically, and that´s the first step, you can play all the notes flawless and with great articulation. But that still won´t make anybody smile or cry (just like a midi, it can´t convey any emotions), so that´s when expression comes in: and that´s probably a never ending quest, because your inner self also change as times goes by.

I´d like to think that you only master a piece when you play it and every notes counts (every note or phrase speaks to you, moves you inside) and recieves a special treatment, and every passage is under your control.

fazley

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by fazley » Thu Aug 27, 2009 1:18 am

A teacher/friend/musician once said to me that one should play so that every note means something. I think he meant one should play with feeling. Sometimes I can memorise the notes of a piece more quickly, if I like a piece of music.( BMV 996 - one whole day) (Lagrima - one weekend)
But to play with feeling and let the guitar sing, that is a challenge. So some pieces can take a lifetime. I prefer to learn easier pieces as they can be memorised more quickly and then concentrate on playing them with feeling. Playing them from memory frees you up to concentrate on playing pieces more musically. I sing the pieces in my head, as they help me with the phrasing and dynamics. This has helped me play better.Some people play notes, others play music.

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lagartija
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Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by lagartija » Thu Aug 27, 2009 1:28 am

aranya wrote:
RolandPalm wrote: If you practice a difficult piece EVERY DAY (including Sundays) you'll notice that it will sound better after a few months of practice. However, this is a NON-STOP approach. Sometimes we loose our ability to play a particular piece when we stop playing it for a few days. So the secret is to practice every single day!
Wait, can you really do that? I get really bored with a piece if I play it every day for weeks. I need breaks to keep liking a piece. Playing it every day would be THE guarantee for never finishing it because I would be totally fed up with it.
That is exactly what I do; play the same piece(s) every day. Some I am further along with than others, but if I take a day off, eeeuuuuuwwwww! Who knew it could crumble so fast?! :shock: Maybe this will change as I get more experience. I think I have a very high tolerance for repetition. I am always working on some part that needs smoothing out or correction, so I am never bored. And when I finally think I have a piece, then I try counting the beats as I play. That is usually humbling enough to remind me that I still have a long way to go....
I don't think I have mastered anything yet.
When the sun shines, bask.
__/^^^^^o>
Classical Guitar forever!

kaiy518

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by kaiy518 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:08 am

For me, "mastery" means that the music that I present to the audience is taken very well. This not only means that I can play each note on a piece of sheet music flawlessly, but also being able to convey the emotion that the composer intended when writing the piece of music. For me, this process of being able to hit each note in tempo, adding my own flavor through rubato, dynamics etc., is a long long process. I don't think I will ever feel that I have mastered a piece because I feel that there are always things that I can do as a guitarist to make a piece sound better for the audience. But I'm merely an amateur, so that point of view may change as I progress in my study of this wonderful instrument.

choctawchas

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by choctawchas » Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:29 am

jounis wrote:
RolandPalm wrote:As Douglas said: "Mastery of a piece means when you can play it perfectly from beginning to end. Effortlessly and musically."
Hands up who think they've played something perfectly! :-)

-Jouni
This is why we fly with wax wings as close to the sun as possible :lol:

It is impossible to ever play a piece perfectly.The pursuit of perfection is the joy of endless refinement and interpretation.
If I truly master a piece then i've either exhausted my own resources or have reached my the limits of what that piece is capable of delivering.

I'm learning to accept and celebrate my imperfection because it leads to greater searching.The difficulty is finding a balance between consistency,
technical perfection without error-and a musically rich and flexible approach.This is a tightrope walk for all serious musicians whatever the genre.

Perfection in the technical sense is more than the correct notes in the right order,it also includes demonstrating an understanding of the rhythms
and accents that drive a piece.By musically rich and flexible I mean the ability to play a piece in which the individual voices within phrases and sections take on meaning and convey a 'story'.

The goal for me is to reach the point where both of these elements merge.When that happens the music takes on a deeper dimension and depth.
The feeling is, almost, effortless.When I can move myself in playing the piece I know that I'm finally getting somewhere............................


douglas

AussieGuitarist

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by AussieGuitarist » Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:44 am

Actually now that I think about it. I know everyone's going to classify mastery differently, but I think I'd be comfortable saying perhaps mastery isn't perfect all the through. I think mastery would be the ability to consistently perform technically and musically convincing performances of your piece - the key word is consistency.

guitarguy1685

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by guitarguy1685 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:44 am

It takes about 37hrs and 15min in my experience

AussieGuitarist

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by AussieGuitarist » Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:46 am

guitarguy1685 wrote:It takes about 37hrs and 15min in my experience
:lol:

Just to clarify my point above. The main point I'm making is to reproduce a convincing performance every time. Even on a bad day you should be able to create a convincing performance.

aranya

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by aranya » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:46 am

I hear everybody talking about how difficult it is to interpret a piece correctly and to get the right accents in the right places. But I often get the feeling it works the other way around. Usually I've got a very clear picture in my head of how I want the piece to sound, long before I can play it well technically (we're talking weeks here, not months or years). So I'll know exactly where I want the soft and the loud parts and the commas and the accents and the rubatos and everything else*, but the problem is that if I would record it, there would be errors everywhere and I wouldn't want to listen to it because of all the mistakes.

If I could get rid of those errors I'm sure people would be moved by my performance, the problem is it takes so incredibly long to get rid of all the errors! And I suspect that by the time I master the piece technically, defining mastery as being able to play the correct, clear notes in the right order, with no errors, I will probably be so fed up with it that nobody will be moved by my performance anymore, because I'm not moved by the piece anymore after hearing it 100.000 times.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?


* I'm now referring to pieces that really suit me, the ones I feel I could have written myself. When I know a piece doesn't suit me or I don't even like it, I won't try to pursue mastering it in the first place. I can see how that would take ages, if you don't understand the piece you will never be able to perform it well, even if it is a piece of cake technically.

graeme1

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by graeme1 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:06 am

It's an endless search of course, but if mastery would mean that you are confident of playing the piece through with only "human performance" errors (which will always occur) I think that if the piece is well within your ability a year is a good yardstick once you have it memorised.

I've played a few pieces in public that I thought I had down, only to discover as I was playing them that I really didn't have anything to say with the music. I think they need to be left to age or mature a little and to become a part of you before you are able to make them a part of the audience.

fazley

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by fazley » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:45 am

Sometimes you can get sick of a piece if you play it often. It helps to let some pieces breathe and revisit them later. By playing every day, you become like an athlete or soccer player who is always match fit and ready to play.

choctawchas

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by choctawchas » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:25 am

aranya wrote:I hear everybody talking about how difficult it is to interpret a piece correctly and to get the right accents in the right places. But I often get the feeling it works the other way around. Usually I've got a very clear picture in my head of how I want the piece to sound, long before I can play it well technically (we're talking weeks here, not months or years). So I'll know exactly where I want the soft and the loud parts and the commas and the accents and the rubatos and everything else*, but the problem is that if I would record it, there would be errors everywhere and I wouldn't want to listen to it because of all the mistakes.

If I could get rid of those errors I'm sure people would be moved by my performance, the problem is it takes so incredibly long to get rid of all the errors! And I suspect that by the time I master the piece technically, defining mastery as being able to play the correct, clear notes in the right order, with no errors, I will probably be so fed up with it that nobody will be moved by my performance anymore, because I'm not moved by the piece anymore after hearing it 100.000 times.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?


* I'm now referring to pieces that really suit me, the ones I feel I could have written myself. When I know a piece doesn't suit me or I don't even like it, I won't try to pursue mastering it in the first place. I can see how that would take ages, if you don't understand the piece you will never be able to perform it well, even if it is a piece of cake technically.


When I want to play a piece without note error I use a stop and go method.This is generally once I've reached the stage
where I'm satisfied with RH and LH fingerings,and understand the basic rhythmic structure and future performance speed.
The first stage is to hear,visualise and then very quietly play with both hands the piece bar by bar.Without any beat,pulse or rhythmic foundation.
This means I only have the goal of seeing and hearing the piece in terms of movement patterns.By playing the piece with the least pressure
I release the need to 'feel' the piece.The only goal at this point is to make sure that i can clearly understand where I am,what I'm doing now,
what I'm going to do next,where I'm going to next and knowing what I'm going to do when I get there.

I begin by hearing and seeing the first bar(measure) then play it only when I'm absolutely certain what I'm doing/going to do.
Whenever I feel uncertain or confused about a bar I stop and wait until I'm know for certain what to do next.I take the piece through
from begining to end bar by bar or if I'm feeling confident, phrase by phrase.The goal is to play all of those notes accurately with mental clarity
and certainty.To hear and see the music before playing it.

Once I can do this with a piece or in the case of longer pieces a section,I can introduce another element say finger pressure.
I then play through bar by bar at full volume and finger pressure but without any beat or pulse.After I'm able to play note perfect
in this manner I introduce a beat or pulse but play without pressure.Finally the end of this game is to bring all the elements together
at a very slow tempo.Absolutely certain and clear of what I'm doing and what I'm going to do next.If at any time I feel confused or uncertain
about anything I stop and wait until I am.Any element of confusion or uncertainty will be a point that will blow up when attempting
to record or perform a piece.The idea is to eliminate the complexity of the seperate elements and then re -introduce them one by one.


cheers,douglas

ivanho

Re: How long to master a piece?

Post by ivanho » Thu Aug 27, 2009 5:32 pm

Well, in my case, too d@mn long!

I'm also an amateur who's played more off than on, and only in the past year have picked up the guitar again with the serious intent of building a repertoire of music that people would actually enjoy listening to. It's going neither quickly nor particularly well.

Even with the few songs I thought I played pretty competently, the mp3s, once recorded, told a different story. After a solid 1-2 days of remedial work with each, I got to the point where I felt comfortable enough posting two of them, but mastery - no way.

I get discouraged (often) by the feeling of striving for a goal that will always remain out of reach. But on the good days, I take encouragement and go on. Some of my current strategies for dealing with this situation:

I realize that as I grow and become more aware as a player, the mark I aimed for yesterday is higher today. This is the case even where, to your comment, I already had a fairly clear idea in my head of what a piece should sound like. Partly, I notice the differences and the technical shortcomings more. But also, especially as I listen to others' performances, I become aware of subtleties in the music itself that I hadn't noticed before, and my conception of what it should sound like changes.

While I will continue to try pieces that are beyond my current technical abilities, I also believe that to progress you sometimes have to go backwards. Take a piece that should be fairly simple technically, and make it sing. I'm currently going through the D03 and D04 books, and for some of them (Se io m'accorgo being my current bete-noire), it's been a humbling experience. Which can be discouraging, but when I think that I can start at my first sight-reading from a point where earlier on in my development it would have taken hours of practice to get to, then I can take heart that things are going in the right direction.

I try to set realistic expectations as to what I can "master" at this stage in my development. Sure, I can play my way through most of the parts of Sor's Mozart Variations, but the piece is too big for me to pull off as a whole at this point. I don't have the stamina or focus required. So for now I concentrate on pieces that are no more than a couple of pages or a couple of minutes in length.

And sometimes, I just have to walk away from the guitar for a day or two and let the mind reset.

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