Precision Matters

For more complex music repertoires, students are often puzzled with the complexity of accuracy. No matter how many technical drills and how much repetition a student practices the student still has trouble in achieving the desired precision.

Here are some thoughts to ponder upon that a student may contemplate:

1. Mental Responsiveness and ability to focus

Some levels of music are quite complex and require a high level of responsiveness to react quickly to the changes in tempo, time signature, expression and key signature. Motor and muscular reflexes cannot be established on its own in the absence of the command from cognitive function if the brain is not cognitively alert. If in any given day we feel tired, our mental acuity does not function as acutely as it would be on the day that we are less tired.

The articulation responses of the fingers that lack clarity, articulation where huge leaps and jumps occur are directly related to the control of the motor reflexes, which is governed by the mental acuity and ability to stay focused.

Creating the desired tone quality can only be achieved through altering touch through the fingers. The ear facilitates the feedback by way of listening, which sends the information to our brain. Our brain enables our cognitive ability to respond to accommodate the changes needed to achieve a desirable tone through the appropriate touch and pedalling accuracy.

2. Muscular Motor Reflexes

Piano playing requires a combination of physical dexterity and finesse to execute a smooth transition of a musical and technical passages. Having the knowledge on how to acquire the required technique may not be sufficient when velocity is on a high demand.

Motor and muscular reflexes must command the agility to supply the technical and musical demand.  The motor and muscular finesse is related to one’s physiology. There is no question that with training, one may achieve the desired dexterity. It is nonetheless achievable to a certain degree.

3. Ledger Line Notation

Notations written on the ledger lines can often cause confusion to some students owing to the ability to read the extra lines off the stave. This may be cause to the student’s gaze to stray to view the extra lines printed off the stave.

4. Harmony

Some notations sound like they are in conflict with the harmony bass note because it is a dissonance, awaiting to be resolved into a stable chord. This often creates an sore ear to the player and they usually pause momentarily to question if the accurate notations were read and/or depressed. The frequent stopping creates interruptions to the fluency of the music. Fluency is an abstract concept. Two of the most reliable factors are ‘speed rate’ and ‘utterance length’. Speed rate is defined as how many notes you are producing over time.  For example how many notes you are playing per minute. Utterance length is on an average, how much disfluencies such as pauses and hesitation take place. This however, can be rectified if one studies and understands the basic harmony for which notes are prepared and understands which are the unaccented passing notes and which ones are the leaning notes.

In the nutshell, it is not just through repetitive practice that takes to achieve a desired level of accuracy, as aforementioned it requires many other skills to consolidate the accuracy to a highest level. Everyone’s highest level of accuracy will vary accordingly.

5. Pauses Between Notes

When learning is still raw, students are still not acquainted with the notations and orientation of the keyboard in relations with where the notes are on the key. This is especially true when the duration in between notes are being paused for a certain length while the brain is deciphering each notations, rhythms or other information.

During these moments of pauses, each note on the right hand with its accompanying bass note is not linked successively from previous chords or harmony into the next one, resulting in each sound played as a separate entity. There is no connectivity between notes or harmony and thus does not provide the discerning ear an indication that the chord of harmony played is sounding the way it should be.

When and if a chord or harmony is played on its own it could sound correct and acceptable in its own right given that the chord and harmony may be established as a dissonant or consonant independent to an inexperience ear.

This presents an obstacle as the student is incapable of correcting his or her own errors with immediacy. Continuous learning with no correction will develop and settle bad habits. The rehabilitation will need to take place which will extend the duration it takes to learn the piece in a correct manner.

6. Connect notations with finger

Another challenge for novice students is that they do not always know the keyboard orientation in correspondence to the notation read on the music score. Players identify the notation on the score but may not necessarily know the location of the key in relation to the previous note that was depressed or where to place the finger for the forthcoming note on the key.

There are times where the student plays the notes for both right and left hands. What was heard sounded not agreeable but the student is unable to identify what went wrong, which hand or note required correction.

In conclusion, there are multiple layers of skill sets that are required to achieve precision. Each presents its own challenge. Some are attainable through years of experience while others are achieve it through kinaesthetic. Repetition through trial and errors may only marginally increase your skill sets but with proper practice management and teacher’s guidance will help to promote keen awareness for what to look out for when learning precision.

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