85/100 Intentional Learning

That sounds a bit serious…

But I mean that kind of practising when you first work out, and then work at, exactly what has to happen to manage to play the right notes.

Let’s take this extract from the A2 piece from the current ABRSM Grade 5 Piano Syllabus: (Allegro from Toccata in F by Carlos de Seixas).  I have spent an AGE working on hands separately with this pupil, a couple of bars at time.  He’s easily over-faced, always assumes that everything is impossible, and also has STILL not got the idea of Quality over Quantity when learning new material.  Well, it is long past time that he should be putting the hands together, and I launched that process earlier this week.

(You may be wondering why I am still trying to get this pupil to do this deep, intentional, learning at GRADE FIVE! Well, that’s another story for another day!)

allegro-toccata-no-8-in-f-carlos-de-seixas Bar 5 is where the really fiddly fingerwork starts, as the left hand begins to have a life of its own rather than easy repeated notes. I carefully went over bar 5, crotchet beat by crotchet beat.

“What do you have have to remember to tell your fingers to do, to get the first beat correct?”   “Move the RH thumb down one note, play E with the LH hand.”           We do that several times correctly.

“Now let’s look at beat two….”      “I need to remember to play my LH fourth finger.” We play beat two several times.

“OK, this is going well. Let’s do the first two beats together. Remember to remember what you have to do…”  Very slowly, and accurately, he inches his way through two beats. RESULT! Celebration! Cheers! (Seriously – I like to celebrate every success!) He does it again, until it has become a no-brainer. We add beat 3, after careful examination and practice. Beats 1-3 are now pretty effortless – and actually we have only spent about five minutes so far.

“Let’s complete the bar… what are the memory points for getting from beat 3 into beat 4?”  There’s quite a lot going on here. I got him to talk me through everything.  “The LH has to play a B flat, which can act as a reminder/trigger for the RH B flat in the second quaver.  AND the RH has to do a finger swap AT THE SAME TIME.”   I did consider bringing the finger swap onto the previous quaver, but decided to stick with dong the change on the beat.  We did beat 3 and 4 a few times, carefully, accurately, avoiding introducing any errors at all.  Naturally there were celebrations!

Then, after a very intense ten minutes, we had achieved the whole of bar 5, hands together, without errors, and without stress.  They have become a “no-brainer”, at least as regards notes, fingering and rhythm

I have set four bars, to be learned like this over the Christmas Holiday.  If he does this bit by bit, with loads of repetition, then two things will have happened.  He will have moved the piece on by four bars, but also will have learned how to practice in a way that will result in Real, Intentional Learning.

To begin with, progress may seem unbearably slow, but it won’t be that slow for ever as he gets better at instructing his fingers what they have to do, and there should be so much less “unpicking” of “Unintentional” Learning…  I live in hope…

holly divider

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