What to do when you face a difficult passage?
Hi, I'm a beginner and I find quite often that I can play a whole piece at the correct tempo after some weeks or months of practice, but there's always one part or passage that is way harder than the rest, at least for me, and to be able to control it I have to play it at almost 50% of the correct tempo, which is very slow.
In other words, my problem is not a matter of "you need to practice those sections isolated". I mean, I would need months and months to play that passage at the right speed, while I've just needed a few days to control all the other passages. Normally it's passages that include slurs of fast notes in different strings plus "one" recovering note, legato, etc...
Pieces like this are not so rare. It happens at every level and has little to do with your stage as a learner. A few tips:
Paul it simply means you still lack some of the basic technique. Keep developing your technique! Keep up the good stuff!
You’ve got the “what” of your problem, now you just need the “why” and the “how.” He other day I was practicing something and the tempo was off. It was my string crossings- they were too late. The why was hat my elbow was too slow, and the “how to fix it” was to raise my elbow earlier. Eventually, you’ll have to figure out all that by yourself, but for now, your teacher should be able to help you.
Just do what David Krakovich does.
"I would need months and months to play that passage at the right speed, while I've just needed a few days to control all the other passages...."
I think Albrecht has given you very good advice. Going along the same line as what Julie wrote, "isolating" the passage isn't enough. You need to know
Wow, thank you for all the replies. I've been told by my teacher that I should practice left and right hand separated. My problem is almost never the left hand, but the right hand (bow). I guess I will have to put them aside, I feel these parts are beyond my skills.
Unfortunately for me, separating the L and R hand in practice only solves half the problem, since often in fast passages I have trouble coordinating my R and L hands (and yes, sometimes I have trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time).
You are doing the right thing playing it slow. If it is impossible for you to bring it up to speed, then it is too difficult for you at the moment, and you should play something a little easier.
And remember you don't have to perform every piece you practice. So there's a hard spot that's giving you fits. Continue to work on it, don't let it get the best of you, put it aside for a while and work on your bowing with studies, and come back to it. And don't mind Scott Cole. Normally his advice is very measured and solid and he's a great contributor to these pages, but I think he had a cranky moment there. We all do from time to time.
When faced with a difficult passage, often in orchestral music which comprises about 90% of my playing, following my teacher's advice from years ago I analyse it carefully to see where the fundamental problem lies. More often than not it is not the entire passage but only one or two short sections, perhaps only two or three notes, that are causing the problem for the whole.
OK. I have another question. I'm sure I can't put aside pieces forever, avoiding any difficult passage.
Medical school or law school may well be comparatively "easy" compared with learning to play the violin to a professional level, but when one graduates from medical or law school it is then that the comparison stops. A graduate medic is in the business of saving lives and mending broken or sick bodies; a moment of carelessness or inattention can result in the patient's death or a life-long disability. A lawyer's mistake may deprive someone of their freedom when they're innocent, or in the civil sphere cost a client millions. A mistake made in a music performance ... ?
You should play things that you can bring up to speed within two or three weeks, I guess (this is a process I had to go through on the piano in the Seventies, so my memory and grasp of time-scales is very hazy - as a kid I had weekly lessons; as an adult I have monthly lessons).
Paul,on the other question, this falls predominantly in your teacher's field of decisions and choices and how she or he builds you up to meet increasingly difficult music. If youre having doubts about the appropriateness of tge music you're playing in terms of difficulty, you're having doubts about the teacher's decisions.
Paul, the short answer to your subsidiary question for me is, do I have a public performance coming up in the next few weeks? If so, then I buckle down and work on the problem. I find that the pressure of a deadline is effective.
Trevor, Paul is a beginner.
Yes, I'm a beginner, I don't have a performance schedule or anything similar.
You have to figure out which hand is causing the issue, and work with the most glaring problems first. If it's problems with string crossings or bow division, you can leave the left hand out of it while practicing the string crossings in rhythm on open strings, first slowly, then speeding up. Then you can reintroduce the left hand.
Many years ago a fine piano teacher gave me this very helpful advice on a Mozart passage of very fast notes in a run; she told me, You can't learn to play it fast by practicing it slowly; PRACTICE IT PLAYING AS FAST AS YOU CAN: START WITH ONE NOTE, THEN TWO NOTES, THEN THREE NOTES...etc. While I totally agree that slow practice is the norm, I find this advice is valuable for getting the feeling of putting the fingers down in rapid succession, which is NOT the same as playing slowly. Try it?!!
Building off the last post . . . I asked this question on another forum and learned about "fast practice."
While this goes contrary to what some teachers say I think it makes sense.
Here is another angle: You have problems with one passage. Assume for the sake of argument that you achieve to play that passage at speed. What happens now? You play the piece, listen to yourself and find here a note out of tune, there a staccato that does not sound right, at another place a piano that you ignored. You solve one problem and another one pops up immediately.