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How to learn a new piece quickly and efficiently

by | Oct 28, 2017 | Ory's Tips |

 

Ory’s Flute Tips

How to learn a new piece quickly and efficiently

 

I received a question from Eirik about ways for efficient and time saving practicing so I’ve decided to dedicated this post for the topic.

Time is a precious thing. Whether you are a professional who has to prepare quickly new repertoire for your next concert, a student who builds up his/her repertoire or an amateur who would like to advance quicker, the ability to prepare a new piece as quick as possible could save you a lot of time and teach you how to practice more efficiently.

I have gathered in this post some concepts that help me when preparing a new piece:

  • Invest the time and concentration on the passages that do need practicing

  • Use the patterns that you already know and can be easily recognized

  • Write down in your part some fingerings and chords/scales names

  • Make your daily scales and arpeggio

  • Don’t over-practice one certain passage – go on and come back to it later

  • Get used to learn quickly: prepare a new piece every 1-2 weeks

 

🔎 Invest the time and concentration on the passages that do need practicing

The first thing I do when I have to prepare quickly a new piece is to recognize the parts that actually need practicing. Scan quickly the piece and look for passages that seem to you rather complicated (for example: technically hard or complicated rhythms). Identify exactly what’s complicated about that passage and practice that first (could be just few notes that are hard to play for example). After that, play the whole passage and integrate the work you have just done into the whole passage.

 

💡 Use the patterns that you already know and can be easily recognized

As you have probably played for at least some or even many years, you created in your brain many pattern and connections you can easily access in your memory – For example, a G major scale, or a C minor arpeggio or a chromatic scale…all of these scales and arpeggios are already in your brain. If you are able to quickly scan your part and recognize the chords or scales in it, then you would not need to invest so much time in actually reading each note of the passage. If you need for example to play a G major scale, then all you need is the note you have to start with and end with, and of course the written rhythm – so you can save yourself some time and your concentration.

 

✏ Write down in your part some fingerings and chords/scales names

If the passage is rather quick with many tricky finger changes, write down which fingers to use – especially useful for example is whether to use the Bb with the left thumb or maybe rather with the right index finger. Write it down exactly above the note in which you change the fingering, so it is well timed.
In addition, write down the name of certain chords or the scales, so you can immediately know what’s coming and don’t have to read each note while playing.

Having a quick access in your brain to all these pattern leads me to the next advice:

📅 Make your daily scales and arpeggios

Most of our repertoire is based on tonal harmony (major/minor scales, major/minor/diminished/augmented/major or minor 7th chords etc). Practice those daily and you have covered already most of our repertoire. Now all you have to do is to play in its right context and you have the new piece almost ready.

 

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⏳ Don’t over-practice one certain passage – go on and come back to it later

It’s important to allow yourself, even if the passage is not yet perfect, to move on to the next passage and to get back to that passage later on in your practicing session. Your learning process will be more efficient and because you’ll get back to the specific passage later on and practice it again, it will be ‘saved’ better in your memory.

 

⏰ Plan your practicing

Are there few days/a week or 2 till you have to perform the piece or only few hours? If you do have some days to practice it then don’t try to play the difficult passages in tempo already on the first day. Choose slow tempi and practice them slowly. Speed up the tempo after a day or two. It will be then easier to speed up as you have given yourself already some time for it to ‘sink in’.

 

🔜 Get used to learn quickly: prepare a new piece every 1-2 weeks

Practicing is not only about the specific pieces you are working on, but it’s also about how quick you’re used to learn new pieces. If you are not used to it, you have to get used to learning quickly. Therefore, create a time-frame for yourself and challenge yourself to learn this new piece/etude in only 1 or 2 weeks. I guarantee you that it is very much manageable with most of our repertoire. Just think how much repertoire you’ll be able to learn this way in a semester or in a year…

 

Do you have some more tips that work out for you? Leave your comment with them!

Try it out and let me know how it feels.

Enjoy experimenting,
Ory

Ory Schneor is a principal flutist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra and member of the Geneva Camerata. He is teaching masterclasses around the world and he is the founder and instructor at FLUTEinWIEN

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