Getting nervous - Could i practise too much?

Share your piano experiences with other adult students

Postby 110-1079111554 » Sun Mar 21, 2004 3:45 pm

Less than two weeks away to my exam, no teacher, and I am playing more piano than I have ever done before.
I must admit I am nervous already.
I played my Mozart Sonata 5 times this morning, Bach P&F no3 3 times, the Schumann got done twice and the Chopin once. Tonight I just cannot get enthusiastic about the pieces and I would rather sit at my PC or watch television. Perhaps I need a break anyway. I will be up at 6.00am tomorrow to practice for an hour before I go to work, then I will do another hour at about 10.00pm when I have finished teaching. I am however feeling guilty for not practicing, I feel like I should be sat at the piano but I just can't face it tonight. But I have practiced so hard in this last 2 months and I cannot wait until it is all over. Does anyone else go through these emotions?
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Postby Mins Music » Sun Mar 21, 2004 6:24 pm

nic88fiddle wrote:Tonight I just cannot get enthusiastic about the pieces and I would rather sit at my PC or watch television. Perhaps I need a break anyway.

Yes, have a break nic. You're absolutely right. This close to your exam, over practise can make you anxious and VERY impatient, like all you can think about is, O! I wish the stupid thing was TOMORROW already!
This might sound radical, but how 'bout learning a new piece? Yep. Right now. Tackle one of about ... mmm grade 6 or grade 7 standard - not hard, just something you haven't tried before. It'll be great for sight reading! Also, go out and buy yourself some NEW music - and just for fun, avoid the classics! Splurge on something you wouldn't have even thought would interest you. It could be movie themes, jazz - there's some really interesting, challenging versions out there that will just give your brain a bit of a 'holiday'. You'll still be working it, just in a different and refreshing way. (NB for others preparing exams - I only suggest this to nic, because he is as prepared for his exam as he could be. If you are still working on phrases that are causing you problems, now is NOT the time to take these suggestions) This is a crucial time for you to get EXTREMELY excited, enthusiastic and motivated about playing the piano (as opposed to practising your exam pieces). Whatever is going to do that for you, do it.
And with your exam pieces, don't get stuck in mundane routine. Play them once through, taping yourself. Listen to the recording. Play them only when you have an audience - your wife, some friends. The last thing you want right now is a mechanical performance at your exam because you're sick to death of them!
A break away is great idea. And I mean a break AWAY. Pack a picnic basket, surprise your wife (I think I remember you saying you were married...) and take her to a local park. Even the backyard can be a good escape! Take a bubble bath. It's relaxing, especially if you listen to some music that is NOT your exam pieces.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Mins Music » Sun Mar 21, 2004 6:29 pm

Oh, and choose one night you schedule NOT to play piano. Instead, take your wife out for dinner, coffee, whatever your finances allow. DONT talk about piano. DONT talk about exams. And DONT feel guilty you're not practising. It will do you a world of good.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 65-1074818729 » Sun Mar 21, 2004 7:32 pm

Mins;

Not to get off the subject of "too much practice," but the above messages have me wondering.

Has there ever been any studies done that you are aware of, addressing the best time of day to practice, and/or an optimum amount of time to practice. In other words, if we did not have jobs or other committments, what would be best time to practice and for how long, to realize the most progress.

I realize that everybody is different, but I am curious if any studies have been done.

???
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Sun Mar 21, 2004 10:22 pm

Nic:

I agree that you were absolutely right to take a break; your playing will be refreshed.

When I retired a couple of years ago from a full-time professorship I played a big farewell chamber ensemble concert with some old friends (including my daughter, who's a violist), and then didn't touch one key on the piano for three months. It wasn't that I was sick of it--it was just that there were so many other things I wanted to get started on that had been waiting in the wings for years. But now I'm back practicing and performing and it's just great, because I now have the time to practice and concentrate in ways I couldn't when I was frantically preparing classes or committee meetings or getting ready for the next concert.

This is probably an extreme case, but nobody can be on a high all the time--you have to go with the rhythm of life, which means sometimes you need to forget the piano for a period of time. In the long run you will play better, I promise you.

Best of luck on your exam!

Dr. Bill
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Postby Mins Music » Mon Mar 22, 2004 5:45 am

Aflat: most studies I've read recommend 2 hours of practise. Anymore - of the same type/instensity level, and the brain starts to lose focus, get cloudy, just not as 'sparky'. (This is also the reason why they recommend you do not drive over long distances for more than two hours without a break.)
So two hours have gone and you still want to practise more. First, get up, get yourself a drink - you should always drink plenty of water during practise - water for us is like oil to a machine. Keeps us nice and functioning! By a drink I mean something tasty. You need physical refreshment as well as mental refreshment right about now if you want to keep going with practising. During this time, also stretch, do some 'breathing' exercises - oxygen also kind of helps us keep going :D When we sit down to practise again, make sure you tackle your pieces from a different angle. Going over something the same way again and again really is a waste of time.
As for WHEN the best time to practise, common sense probably tells you not when you're tired, drousey, not feeling well etc. You want to be mentally alert and physically responsive. When this happens for you is conditioned from when we are babies! Our bodies go through ups and downs in one and a half hour cycles. Have you ever woken and felt AWFUL despite having gone to bed at 8:30 the night before? It's because you have woken unnaturally before this cycle has completed.
Like you said, Aflat, everyone is different - their cycles will start at different times of day. It lso depends on circumstances, habits and preferences you've developed over many years. I'm a night person. That's when I come into my element. My husband WAS a night person but he has worked EXTRMEMELY hard to change his internal clock to become a day person. I tried, but wasn't self disciplined enough. Wheww, it was exhausting!
Anyway, the best way to find out the perfect time for you is to keep a detailed journal for AT LEAST two weeks. Record your alertness, responsiveness, tired periods to analyse. This will help you pinpoint the best time to practise.
But like you said, life doesn't always offer us the 'best'.

Check out this article on preparing for exams.

http://www.pianos.co.uk/articles/piano_exams.php3

The above advice may help you to get the best out of your practise. Remember, it's not the time, it's what you DO with that time that counts!
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 65-1074818729 » Mon Mar 22, 2004 3:58 pm

Mins;

The article you referred to at pianos.co.uk is one of the best I have seen on practice and preparation.

Your comments on practice time etc. is pretty well in line with what I suspected. I can only practice 1 1/2 to 2 hrs. at a time. Even then, I have to get up every half hour or so to move around and take a short break.

As a point of interest, I am a morning person. Contrary to you and your husband, I do all of my serious practice right after breakfast. That is when I can concentrate the best.

I have often heard of individuals who pratice 8 to 10 hours per day. They are certainly our of my catagory.

As usual, thanks for your informative input.
:D :cool:
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