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Bart Meijer

Ševcík V: practice everything

January 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM

When practicing a piece or an etude, one is inclined to find the difficult spots and to give them extra attention. This has the psychological disadvantage that you remember the trouble you had with those passages and perhaps become afraid of them.
Not so with Ševcík. At the beginning of his repertoire studies he writes:
"Each section of the concerto should be played only when one has finished its relative study. But it lies entirely with the pupil to treat each section according to its grade of difficulty resulting from it."
There are lots of exercises for difficult passages, fewer for less difficult ones. Once you have finished them, you have never seen a difficult spot in the piece itself, and there is nothing to be afraid of.

So far the theory. In my own experience, another disaster can happpen: thinking while playing, on stage: "O dear, this must be very difficult. I could not possibly play this" and falling off the tightrope. To prevent that from happening, experience in performing is needed: play for anyone who cares to listen.

From Terry Hsu
Posted on January 20, 2013 at 3:31 PM
It seems that Sevcik's statement is a broad and idealistic one, and that yours is a practical one. Though interrelated, after evaluating the musical aspects, the goal of practicing a piece is to eliminate technique. One's goal should be to look at every part of a piece of music and not to see technical difficulty, only music.

Sevcik doesn't address specific technical problems in any particular piece of music, it addresses them in a more comprehensive way, such as a particular bowing for all music.

While I agree that one should practice all parts of a piece, it seems unavoidable to focus on the problem spots. Perhaps the main problem about focusing on the difficult parts of a piece lies not in doing so, it lies in the manner in which we approach it.

I have a tendency to practice a difficult part too quickly at first, recognize the problems, then start exploring it. Perhaps I need to take a more strategic approach to problem spots, and preemptively practice them much more slowly beforehand. In this way, one can avoid reinforcing bad habits developed by practicing them too quickly beforehand. If one can practice them in such a way that they are essentially unrecognizable when brought to a performance speed, then a passage doesn't acquire the psychological disadvantage of being reinforced as difficult.

So, in short, I think that both are important. Performing is great to get one's nerves out. And, as you say, one tends to get nervous about the most challenging parts of a piece. One needs to practice those sections intelligently so as not to reinforce bad habits and create fear of those sections. Sevcik's studies exist to eliminate technical difficulty in a comprehensive sense. Sevcik can help you grow your technique in a broad sense. But to play a piece, you need to practice that piece. If you succeed at eliminating technical difficulty in a piece, then you're looking at pure music.

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