This IS about drumming, honestly

Daisy

Senior Member
A friend of mine (pensioner, like me) has been learning the piano for 10 years now. She says she's not a "natural" but she wants to keep at it, even though she's finding it increasingly difficult. I'm the only person she knows who has learned any instrument, so we talk about it even though I know nothing about piano. Any "advice" I can give her (when she asks) can only be based on my experiences with the drums.

Her current problem is speed and consistency. I recently listened to her play some exam pieces. She admits they are too fast for her: her timing is all over the place, she hesitates, and stops. She failed the exam for this very reason.

I have told her that I was taught to start SLOW and build up the speed; starting slowly builds up body memory; use a metronome (she has never used one):increase the speed a little at a time etc.etc. However, her teacher has never suggested any of this. She had learned and practiced the exam pieces at the "examination tempo" from the start.

Does our drum training hold good, in this respect, for other instruments? It's not for me to contradict a piano teacher, and I don't want to push the point with my friend if I'm way off the mark.

I'd appreciate any thoughts. Like I said, I don't like to interfere, but she DOES ask for my opinions.
 

konaboy

Pioneer Member
In my book it all absolutely transfers. I started on piano as well. My teacher wanted a metronome used during practice and made me start pieced slow and work up to speed. I would question a teacher that doesn't suggest the use of a metronome
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Yes, she should use a metronome and slowly build up speed. It works for all instruments.
Her piano teacher is not correct for not recommending a metronome.
The metronome starts out as the ruler but it eventually becomes background groove delight. :)
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Good god this reminds so much of a few show choir directors I've met over the years: they call it "applied teaching" whereas you teach the students a song, and then they practice it at show pace - regardless if they're ready for it or not. I argued against this practice because the students don't know how to do it right because they're going too fast to know if anything is wrong.

Any music endeavor must be started slowly and brought up to speed, at a steady pace, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Boggles the mind that so many educators don't understand this basic concept.
 
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Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Good god this reminds so much of a few show choir directors I've met over the years: they call it "applied teaching" whereas you teach the students a song, and then they practice it at show pace - regardless if they're ready for it or not. I argued against this practice because the students don't know how to do it right because they're going to fast to know if anything is wrong.

Any music endeavor must be started slowly and brought up to speed, at a steady pace, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Boggles the mind that so many educators don't understand this basic concept.
It worked in my college wind ensemble, but we had plenty of first chair All-Staters who were good enough (or very close) to win big orchestra jobs. Not so much with most ensembles in most colleges.
 

running

Member
Any music endeavor must be started slowly and brought up to speed, at a steady pace, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Boggles the mind that so many educators don't understand this basic concept.
Slow-until-ya-know gets a good reputation because it is guaranteed to work with enough time and dedication. But I don't think it's the only way to learn, and for some people it probably isn't the most efficient (and will maybe even stunt them).

Complete immersion has been proven to be the fastest way to acquire new language skills, despite an initial discomfort / not knowing what the hell is going on, etc. This is probably the basis for "applied teaching."
 

TML

Junior Member
I have told her that I was taught to start SLOW and build up the speed; starting slowly builds up body memory; use a metronome (she has never used one):increase the speed a little at a time etc.etc.
I'm coming at this from a guitar player's perspective (just joined recently because a health issue looks like it will force me to give up guitar and switch to drums) but I can say that that is exactly how I was taught. Play something as slow as you need to until you can get it perfect, repeatedly. I don't care if you have to play it at 30bpm. If that is what is required then do it. Once you can play it perfectly repeatedly (by repeatedly I mean 4-5 times, not 100 times) then increase the tempo a bit (there is some debate about how much but the standard seems to be that you increase in increments of 5bpm). Repeat the process until you can play it at tempo, or maybe a little faster just for the hell of it. But any time you reach a tempo that you can't handle stop, slow it back down to the last tempo at which you had it perfect, and play it at that tempo until you can do it repeatedly. Once you can do so then you can increase the tempo again.



However, her teacher has never suggested any of this. She had learned and practiced the exam pieces at the "examination tempo" from the start.
That is just setting her up for failure and repeated failures will cause her to lose heart and give up.


Does our drum training hold good, in this respect, for other instruments? It's not for me to contradict a piano teacher, and I don't want to push the point with my friend if I'm way off the mark.
It isn't exclusive to drums, it should apply to every instrument.



I'd appreciate any thoughts. Like I said, I don't like to interfere, but she DOES ask for my opinions.
Tell her to bring this up with her teacher. If the teacher will not change then tell her to get a new teacher. Seriously.

And if the teacher won't use a metronome then definitely find another teacher.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Slow-until-ya-know gets a good reputation because it is guaranteed to work with enough time and dedication. But I don't think it's the only way to learn, and for some people it probably isn't the most efficient (and will maybe even stunt them).

Complete immersion has been proven to be the fastest way to acquire new language skills, despite an initial discomfort / not knowing what the hell is going on, etc. This is probably the basis for "applied teaching."
I suppose, but in the case of being a musician, there's muscle training that has to take effect (and for singers, the vocal cords are a muscle too). And we're faced with how this process works with every baby that learns how to crawl, then to walk, then to run. I don't agree with having to practice to a constant set tempo in the beginning because you'll play along great until you get to that passage that's just difficult, and you'll slow down. But just so long as you're given time to go through that stage with a new piece of music, knowing full well the end result is to play at tempo, or at least where the conductor's tempo is, then it all works out.

Even now, when I'm reading a new piece, I'll fly through the easy parts and take some time to concentrate on the harder ones, and then when it's time to rehearse it for real, do everything I can to not screw with the time, and if that means laying out when I get to the hard part, then that's what I do. But I understand what the end result is supposed to be. I don't think kids brand-new to performing understand what's going on, or even understand what's supposed to physically be happening.
 

TML

Junior Member
Complete immersion has been proven to be the fastest way to acquire new language skills, despite an initial discomfort / not knowing what the hell is going on, etc.
Actually that hasn't been proven. I teach ESL so am trained in teaching language and have studied the various theories. Some do believe that immersion is the best way but there is other academic research that demonstrates that it is not. The debate continues about that, and many other issues in language learning (ie. whether children or adults are more better at learning a second language).
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
As someone who plays drums and started playing piano (again) around 4 years ago, I can give some advice that will help:

1. Don't try to learn the whole piece at once. Break it down into small chunks (one or two bars, or even shorter for tricky sections) and learn each 'chunk' individually before moving onto the next.

2. Learn hands separately and bring them together once you're fluent with hands separate.

3. Learn the hardest 'chunks' first.

4. Learn everything slow, but build it up to performance speed ASAP once you're comfortable with the motions/have developed muscle memory

5. Practice the technical motions that will assist with the most common movements over they keyboard: scales and arpeggios (major, minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor) hands separate and together over four octave; and with contrary motion. Also practice the exercises demonstrated here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0fVUfKILHk


Once you start adding the technical work in, it really can blow out your practice time. So it's important to focus on what is immediately practical. Personally I try to spend as much time learning the MUSIC as I can, but some pieces (such as Chopin's posthumous Nocturne No. 20 in C# Minor, which I've been learning) demand some technical facility and it's important to incorporate it into your practice.

My typical practice regime (when I'm not feeling lazy and actually get around to practicing) looks like this:

(HT = hands together)
Play the following in two keys (following the circle of fifths)
Scales (four octaves): 4x RH, 4x LH, 4x HT, 4x Contrary Motion
Arpeggios: 4x RH, 4x LH, 4x HT
Chromatic scale: 2x RH, 2x LH, 2x HT
Trill practice: Thumb + 1st finger, Thumb + 2nd, then 1st + 2nd, 1st + 3rd, etc. in that fashion for both hands.

Practice 1 - 3 different pieces depending on the difficulty of each, following the method given above (chunking), and depending on my progress in the piece I will have 3 - 5 attempts at playing the piece from start to finish.

As far as playing with a metronome goes, I don't really play with a metronome unless I'm working on something I'm having difficulty with the timing. My internal clock is quite good from playing drums, and I can switch between rigid timing and 'performance free timing' without any trouble.

I hope this helps? I know it's a lot to take on board but the main thing that will help with learning the pieces quickly and accurately is the chunking, so that to me would be the main thing to take on board.
 

running

Member
Actually that hasn't been proven. I teach ESL so am trained in teaching language and have studied the various theories. Some do believe that immersion is the best way but there is other academic research that demonstrates that it is not. The debate continues about that, and many other issues in language learning (ie. whether children or adults are more better at learning a second language).
The debate over best is still open, but you'll notice that I said it was the fastest, which is a key distinction here.

Immersion learning has been proven to be the fastest method to gain initial command over a language, as recently shown in one of the first large scale studies: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/march/teaching-english-language-032514.html

So it works well for beginners, and has some particularly interesting / useful cognitive effects, e.g. the initial adult language learning conducted with immersion leads to more native-like processing vs. explicit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21861686

Whether continued immersion is the best way to achieve fluency (over a multi-year span) is the question. Stanford data / recent meta reviews appear to suggest not (although most of these are testing subjects pre-fluency, so kind of less than ideal in my opinion).

Based on available data it's likely that some combination of initial immersion followed by an ease into explicit/classroom training may get the best of both worlds.

Bringing this back to music, I would be interested in testing some combination of applied instruction playing at full tempo to get people more into the musical mindset + physical drill work (basically rudiments) at comfortable and increasing tempos to work on the more physical elements.

Or even switching those -- drill for months to get your muscles ready and then jump into music at full speed. While this isn't feasible from a traditional instructional standpoint, I think physically cognitively it may make the most sense.
 
My first question would be, why on earth is she being put in for the exams if she is not playing the pieces consistently good in a "none stress" situation. That seems like she's being set up for failure and will have her confidence knocked back time after time.

I learnt piano from around age 8 until 13 when GCSEs (O levels as they were then) took over and forced the piano onto a backburner.

I practiced hours of exercises at varying speeds to a big old fashioned wooden metronome, to get my speed and understanding of note lengths ingrained into me.
I played simple versions of songs, although not always to a metronome, until they were note perfect before moving on to the next piece.
When I went in for my grade exams I always knew that I was fully prepared and would pass. My only concern was whether I'd get a merit or a distinction.

After my first piano teacher retired, i moved to a second teacher, who said he'd never had a pupil who was so mathematically perfect at piano pieces and had great sight reading skills, but put little emotion into the music!!!! Maybe an age thing, or maybe I was just so focused on "getting it right" that I didn't think much about what I was playing back then. His comment stuck with me though and taught me a lot!

The hours of practice spent as a kid at the piano has certainly helped me with my music reading and understanding of timing when learning the drums over the last couple of years.
I always practice difficult things slowly and then build up to speed.

I hope that your friend can find a teacher who'll build on her abilities and skills and not be put off by this.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
A colleague of mine did research about this for his masters, and has now published a book about the psychology of learning piano and other instruments.

He states absolutely that its best to learn a piece really slowly, even 1/4 speed or less, but with the correct combination of notes, both hands at once. Your muscle memory will learn the co-ordination required, then as you gradually speed up the piece will be learnt quickly and correctly. He also says to learn small chunks at a time, repeat them slowly then gradually faster. Really difficult passages might take 100 repetitions. Others maybe 3 or 4.
 

Magenta

Platinum Member
He states absolutely that its best to learn a piece really slowly, even 1/4 speed or less, but with the correct combination of notes, both hands at once. Your muscle memory will learn the co-ordination required, then as you gradually speed up the piece will be learnt quickly and correctly.
That's very interesting. I remember when I was first learning to play the piano, I was taught the parts one hand at a time before putting them together. I found that I had to almost re-learn the parts when I did finally put them together, and I've always preferred to play them together from the get-go, no matter how slowly.

Daisy, I echo what everybody else has said about slowly, correctly and consistently.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I'm no teacher, but if I had a teacher who told me I couldn't slow something difficult down to learn it, I'd tell him/her to f*** off. That's how I learn. That's how I've learned everything, ever. Maybe other approaches work for other people, but I'm paying you to teach me, so it's on you to adapt, motherf***er. Of course, I'm just a drummer; I could be wrong.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
This is deep question and it's not as simple as using a metronome or not.

It's a common issue with young piano players, but also any instrumentalist not used to playing with others. Don't get me started on classical singers.

I problems similar to this and it's usually about a teacher not being used to having to work and have a methodology for it. Maybe because it was never an issue for them and they can't put themselves in the student's situation, but also because some opportunities that used to abound giving us skills from different experiences aren't always so easily available anymore.

I recognized these issues when I learned playing in the school band as a kid, but there were just so many other venues to practice general musician ship.

I have many ways to deal with this with individual students and though I could give a long general rant it would be very long to give any real meaningful insight.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I know when I was in school half the teachers had us play the parts slowly to learn them, and the other half had us speed up to learn it.

It may be limited to the school I went to, but it seemd that the classical faculty all recommended playing a part slowly and then bringing up the speed, while the jazz faculty all recommended playing through the part quicker and then bringing down the speed.

I'm not sure what the logic was, but they both seemed to work for certain material.

I think it's human instinct to slow something down and take it section by section if you don't understand it. Why do you think some sports and game shows have slow motion instant replay?
 

eddypierce

Senior Member
A friend of mine (pensioner, like me) has been learning the piano for 10 years now. She says she's not a "natural" but she wants to keep at it, even though she's finding it increasingly difficult. I'm the only person she knows who has learned any instrument, so we talk about it even though I know nothing about piano. Any "advice" I can give her (when she asks) can only be based on my experiences with the drums.

Her current problem is speed and consistency. I recently listened to her play some exam pieces. She admits they are too fast for her: her timing is all over the place, she hesitates, and stops. She failed the exam for this very reason.

I have told her that I was taught to start SLOW and build up the speed; starting slowly builds up body memory; use a metronome (she has never used one):increase the speed a little at a time etc.etc. However, her teacher has never suggested any of this. She had learned and practiced the exam pieces at the "examination tempo" from the start.

Does our drum training hold good, in this respect, for other instruments? It's not for me to contradict a piano teacher, and I don't want to push the point with my friend if I'm way off the mark.

I'd appreciate any thoughts. Like I said, I don't like to interfere, but she DOES ask for my opinions.
I agree with the conclusions set forth in this article: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/8_things_top_practicers_do_differently?utm_content=bufferdf103&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
 
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