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Thread: Practice Time & Practice Routine

  1. #1
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    Practice Time & Practice Routine

    Hi all there!
    I would like to know from you what is your practice routine and how many hours do you devote to study organ. Also, suggestions on practice will be welcomed. I believe that quality is better than quantity, thus I'm trying to improve the quality of my practice. Lately I've discovered myself playing kind of like a machine, with my mind flying around....
    thanks in advance.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi nachoba,

    I always begin my practice session with some well known pieces, usually something from memory ... just something to nimble up the fingers on as a little warmup. Then I will delve into the pieces that I am learning, spending no more than 30 minutes on each one, shorter if everything goes completely wrong and frustration starts to settle in. I refuse to beat a piece to death if the practice session is not making good progress.

    My usual practice session lasts 3-4 hours at the church organ console each week - I also practice notes and fingering on the piano at home ... total practice time each week is around 8 hours. I know this sounds quite minimal by today's standards, but I've also been an organist for 47 years. When I was studying organ in my teen years, I practiced at least 3 hours every day.

    I always end my practice routine with another familiar piece - I then leave the practice time feeling like I have accomplished something positive. I agree fully that quality is better than quantity during my practice sessions. The "robotic" playing will probably cease when you become more familiar with the piece being learned - perhaps once the piece is instilled in your heart and soul.

    I wish you all the best in your musical endeavors.
    Kh ~~.
    Administrator


    Amateur musicians practice until they get it right ...
    Pro
    fessional musicians practice until they can't get it wrong ...


  3. #3
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Hi nachoba,

    I quite agree with you about wanting to maximise effectiveness of practice time (and the trouble of mind wandering).

    Most days I get to practice 75 minutes, but this is quite hard to fit in on top of commuting into London for my day job, and spending time with with young family. Hence practice is normally after 9pm each day.

    I'm hoping to take my ARCO exam next year, and so my current practice time is split up as follows:-

    5 mins - Scales (pedals alone, pedals in contrary motion with hands etc.)
    5 mins - four part score reading
    5 mins - transposition
    45 mins - pieces currently being learnt
    15 mins - keeping existing repertoire "ticking over"


    Starting to regularly practice pedal scales has made a huge difference to my overall playing.

    As for mind wandering, for me this can happen if I am playing through long passages of a piece that I am already familiar with. You can reduce this problem by breaking such pieces into very short passages and work on, say, 4 bars at a time. This keeps your mind focused and you can then put the whole thing together at the end.

    I expect if you asked me in a year's time, I will have an altogether different set of thoughts!

    Martin G

  4. #4
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    I always begin my process when learning a new piece by writing a throurough fingering at the piano at home. This helps speeed the actual practice up quite at bit.

    However, I don't have a time schedule for my practice, I often simply go for whatever is on my mind - I'm trying to get repertoire playing, hymn playing, transposition and a bit of improvisation done every time, and I would think a normal day would be 2 or 3 hours of practice at the organ, 1 hour at the piano, and some time during the day writing fingerings and such.

    At the time, though, I'm dedicating much time to finger independence and trills, as well as pedaling technique.

  5. #5
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    Interesting point there Nachoba.

    While I do think that quality and being organised to get the most out of practice sessions matters, at some stage everyone has to put in a few years 3-5 hours a day in order to become really good. It doesn't matter what the instrument - string, woodwind, brass, keyboard, organ - whatever, that's what it takes.

    Usually this happens around the college years.

    Having done this years ago on studies 1 and 2, I'm about half way through doing all this again years later on the Organ which was a 3rd study instrument years ago and one I played as a substitue when pushed to help out until being semi-pushed into accepting a post. I'm doing this practice now, because, while everyone is more than happy with the work I do, It's not yet at the standards I expect of myself on my two main instruments which I've played professionally for many years. And that is just a function of putting in many many quality hours at the console IMO (which I'm doing now).

    For me though - opportunity plays a part. I dodn't have the free access before in order to put in those hours, or I likely would have done so already...

    I'm organised like this.

    1) Technical practice, scales and so forth doing the round of the lot starting on Db rising semi-tones.
    2) Dexterity. the likes of Czerny I've adapted for manuals/pedals and Double Bass/cello studies I've adapted for pedals.

    That's the first hour.

    3) Rep. - Keeping it up to scratch. (an hour or so)
    4) New Rep being learned (another hour or so)
    5) Organ skills. (score reading and the like, sightreading, transposition, improvisation) (30-45 mins)
    6) More rep./ specifics for the next week.

    Total session 4 1/2 - 5 hours.
    Last edited by NEB; May-29-2007 at 10:26.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the input folks.
    Interesting to read about other organist's practice procedures.
    regards

  7. #7
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Please do NOT be stressed if you think that practising for only one hour a day is all you can do. So long as that one hour you do is completely productive.

    Here's my suggestion for proper, practise:

    1) scales and arpeggios (I know thye're a bore) learn new ones slowly so they are note perfect ... it is far more difficult to unlearn errors than not to make them in the first place. Also, don't think you need to play every friggin scale in the cycle each session ... just play the ones that cause you the most trouble

    2) play your technical study

    3) play your Piece for the Week (month, whatever)

    If you are commencing to learn a new piece, don't start from the beginning start from the middle or the end and work in sections. Play the manuals first until you are confident you can play them without error. learn your pedalling at the same time but don't combine until you've mastered both. Now, combine your pedal and manual work together ... again, slowly so you don't pracitse errors ... use a metronom and gradually notch up the speed until you get to the point just faster than you need to play the work. then you can settle into the pice, knowing you can play it and concentrate on phrasing and registration.

    4) finish off by playing something (not necessarily easy) that you love to play and causes you great joy.

    My modus operandi ... and my two cents' worth.

  8. #8
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    It's interesting to hear the differing views on whether to learn the manuals first on a new piece, and then add in the pedals later.

    I don't have a rule of thumb for this but treat each new piece on a case by case basis. For example,

    Case 1 - predominantly block harmonies e.g. hymns, Reger chorale preludes

    I would learn both manuals and pedals together at the same time.

    Case 2 - contrapuntal e.g. fugues, trio sonatas

    I would learn the pedal part separately

    Case 3 - fast passages on the manuals with simple pedal accompaniment

    I would learn the manuals first and when they were comfortable add the pedal.


    You probably get the idea....


    Seems to work for me (so far).

    Martin G

  9. #9
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    Hi mrg! It sounds reasonable what you're writing. When learning fugues, I will play every combination (lh/rh, lh/feet, rh/feet) of a section slowly before attemting to bring it all together, and even when you begin to have it all coordinated, going back to playing just two parts at a time is very valurable.

  10. #10
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    I have a similar approach to learning new things. Except, I tend to do a play through first (at sight) which sometimes can be very slow indeed, but if possible I do try to get as near the tempo as possible. This serves two purposes to me. It helps with sight reading practice of more difficult things, and gives me an idea of which sections need the most work.

    Then I start breaking the piece down into the various areas and learn the individual parts, work out fingerings and so forth, practicing as far as hands sepparately/ together / one hand + pedals etc. I like to learn an easier passage first as I find this encouraging, but I take and easier passage and a much harder one, devoting most time to the harder obviously.

    What I'm really seeking to do is to get the harder passage to a similar standard to the easier one, so it also provides a good comparison ready for putting the piece back together into at first much bigger chunks and finally the whole.

    A lot of that practice is done very slowly indeed, and only increasing tempo when I can master each individual section at each tempo.

    This works for me and keeps me interested enough in the new piece especially if it's a long one...

  11. #11
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    Interesting thoughts, now when you start a new piece do you put fingerings to all parts? or just the difficult and troubled parts? My logic would be to finger the passages and parts that really need to be fingered.
    However, I'm asking this because all practice "conventions" stress "use always the same fingering" but how do you make sure that you use the "same fingering" if you do not properly write down ALL the fingerings.
    Moreover, if I only finger the "difficult parts", there's a chance I could eventually reach those difficult parts with incorrect fingers so making my fingering unusable or unpractical.
    Sorry if this question is a little messy...with my limited english I've tried to put it as clear as possible.
    regards

  12. #12
    Seaman, Mezzoforte Dawerd's Avatar
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    Speaking of fingering...
    I often approach this problem, that I finger the harder parts of a new piece in a (obviously) slow tempo, in which I am able to previously play it. Then after increasing the tempo to the appropriate one I get to find my fingering quite uncomfortable, but it is often too late to change them (the fingering is just too deeply "coded" in my brain).

    Of course I always try to verify my fingering at the very beginning by playing the phrase one hand in a fast tempo. The problem is that the fingerings seems fine for me until I learn the hole piece well enough that I need to do no more than just increase the tempo. That’s when I find the fingering not as appropriate as it could/should be.

    My last experience of this problem was whith Bach’s chorale: Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam. [BWV 684] (the left hand). I fingered nearly all the notes and after weeks of practicing it I found that my often mistakes where because of uncomfortable fingers.

    There’s also another issue (for which this chorale is a good example): when there is meledy/voise that is build of exact phrases being transposed. Do you consider it better to finger the phrase and then just repeat the fingering in every transposition or rather to always adjust the fingering most appropriately to each key the phrase has been transposed to.
    The first method may be sometimes no so comfortable for the fingers in all keys but one may find it easer to learn, as his hand gets to “remember” the specific movement quicker and might after all find this better.

    To be honest, after I studied reasons of my mistakes in this piece, my conclusion was that the fingering seemed to my uncomfortable because of using the “second method” of fingering. Playing in a fast tempo my hand just wanted to play in the same way, with the same fingers (even though it sometimes was a bit of gymnastics).

    (I do hope you understand what I’m writing about here )


    Well I assume that this issue might be very individual so do you have reflections on this problem?

    Regards.

  13. #13
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    Kinda raises the question of fingering conventions, and I'm certainly no expert on those at all.

    I'm sure there are many here who know considerably more about all this than I. But I would certainly comment that I often finger things on the organ very differently to that I would use on the piano due to the very different properties and demands of the instrument.

    At this point I'm hoping someone much more knowledgable will jump in and run with the thought?

  14. #14
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dawerd View Post
    ...
    There’s also another issue (for which this chorale is a good example): when there is meledy/voise that is build of exact phrases being transposed. Do you consider it better to finger the phrase and then just repeat the fingering in every transposition or rather to always adjust the fingering most appropriately to each key the phrase has been transposed to.
    The first method may be sometimes no so comfortable for the fingers in all keys but one may find it easer to learn, as his hand gets to “remember” the specific movement quicker and might after all find this better.
    In addition to what lies most comfortably under the fingers, another consideration is the phrasing that results from your choice of fingering. By choosing the "finger shift" approach you can automatically introduce breaks at appropriate points in the middle of legato runs, without having to "remember" to break in the middle of a traditional legato scale fingering

    For example, you could play left had CDEF BCDE semi-quavers entirely legato with 4321 5432. However it might be appropriate to play these as 2 groups of 4 notes. By fingering it 4321 4321, the sideways movement of the hand encourages a momentary break between the two groups of semi-quavers and thus achieves your desired phrasing. Of course you could use the original fingering and "remember" to make the break, but I find that the finger shift is more reliable and provides more consistent breaks in the phrasing throughout a baroque piece.

  15. #15
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    Didn't Bach tend to use 5432 much of the time and omit the use of thumbs? I read somewhere that he used to 'show off' by playing whole pieces entirely without thumbs. Maybe that is where (much of?) the phrasing of his works comes from?

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