Practice Solutions Part 3: I can’t get through this difficult passage!

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Practice Solutions

Solution 3
Excerpt: Minuet, from Sixth French Suite by Bach

This is part three in a four-part series of posts designed to help you solve difficulties you may come across in your everyday practice. With a repertoire of techniques at your disposal, you can learn to solve nearly any practice difficulty. If you are not already a subscriber to HarpMastery, you can email me to receive the other posts in this series by email.

This post shows you techniques to try when one passage is a persistent trouble spot. Perhaps the passage is the one part of the piece that you can’t get up to tempo, or perhaps the notes or fingering are awkward. These techniques will help!

Solution #1: Time warp

Why this works: Sometimes one passage just takes longer to prepare than the rest of the piece. By playing through the piece, but keeping that one passage slower, you can build in confidence and focus. The slow-motion time warp will help you begin to incorporate the difficult spot in a careful, evenly regulated way.

What to do: Play through the entire piece, or a section of the piece that includes the difficult part. When you get to the hard part, do not stop, but continue playing but at half tempo. It will be as if you suddenly entered a slow-motion time warp. When the difficult spot is over, resume playing at the regular tempo. You will need to continue to work that passage by itself as well, to work it up to tempo and to learn it thoroughly. You can adjust the tempo of the time warp either slower or faster as you are able, but keep everything within the time warp even and correct.

Solution #2: Drop out one hand

Why this works: This technique allows you to play through the piece, including the difficult passage, but removes some of the difficulty by allowing you to only play one hand. It will help you learn the passage better and gain control over it.

What to do: Play the entire piece at either your practice or performance tempo. When you get to the difficult part, just drop out one hand. Make sure that you do not stop or hesitate, but make a seamless transition with the hand that is playing. Bring back the other hand as soon as possible, again keeping the transition smooth and seamless. Repeat the process, switching hands. You will learn the notes and coordination of the piece gradually and securely. It takes concentration, but it will help you pinpoint the exact difficulty. You will probably find that the trouble spot is smaller than you thought at first.

Solution #3: Play outward from the middle

Why this works: This technique helps you practice the passage itself and the measures around it to create a seamless flow into, through, and out of the difficult spot. Working through the “shoulders” of the passage will insure smooth transitions on each end of the passage.

What to do: Practice the difficult spot by itself. Then begin to play one measure, or half a measure, before the passage, and finish one measure, or half a measure, after the passage ends. Expand your edges a little more, adding another half measure or measure to each end. Repeat the process until the measures you have added on each end are the same length as the trouble spot. See the example above.

Next post in this series: Too Many Chords! If you would like to receive the other posts in this series automatically in your email inbox, email me and ask!  Here are links to the first two posts:
I Can’t Get This Up to Tempo!
I Can’t Play This Hands Together!

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