I tried to just bang it out and keep playing over and over to get the muscle memory but it feels like its not coming along and its just hurting my hand to spam it out. I've only been playing for 5 min but still. Is it just a matter of time? Should I perhaps play it multiple times per day instead of one 20-30 min session spent on learning?
1I think I'm not understanding what is specific about the part being repetitive. Is there anything? Like the repetitions differing in some small way that throws you off? If there isn't (none of the answers so far discuss the repetitiveness as a specific feature), I'd suggest you remove the word "repetitive" from the title.– Stephan KolassaNov 10, 2015 at 15:32
2Never play through pain. You might be doing something wrong but it's also very possible that you haven't yet developed the requisite strength for this. More detail would definitely be helpful.– user28Nov 10, 2015 at 16:08
@MatthewRead I feel like maybe only playing a line on a sheet like 2 times in a row starts to strain my hand. The line in question requires me to stretch my hand for an octave throughout the entire line. I've decided to just ditch the bottom note in the octave and the line sounds worse, but its playable now and doesnt hurt my hand anymore and I think the majority of the sound the left hand was supposed to produce is still there.– dmscsNov 10, 2015 at 22:05
Repetition of a large stretch is absolutely one of the most tiring exercises, so I can definitely understand the difficulty and pain. One tip I have is to focus on using your fingers to do the work and not your wrist.– user28Nov 10, 2015 at 22:08
Can I also suggest you practice it different ways. You're not going to perform all the repetitions the same, so there's no need to bore yourself witless by practicing it the same way every time until you master it. Often raising the bar to the level of interpretation causes to you master the mechanics more easily, by not thinking directly about it.– user207421Nov 11, 2015 at 0:54
Practice it by playing it as slowly as needed to attain as close to 100% accuracy as possible (no perceivable mistakes). Use a metronome. Once you master it at a given slower tempo, speed it up until it becomes a challenge again and practice at the faster tempo until you master it at that tempo.
Repeat this process until you can actually achieve 100% accuracy at a slightly faster than normal tempo, then you will have it down.
If you practice at a tempo where you are consistently making mistakes, you will not be developing the correct muscle memory. Instead you will be ingraining your tendency to make mistakes.
Be patient. Some passages or pieces are more difficult and take time to master.
4+1 for 'ingraining your tendency to make mistakes'. Repetition is part of learning, and repeating the same mistake helps you to learn it wrong. Not good...– TimNov 10, 2015 at 8:10
I think you should edit the bit about "as close to 100% accuracy" to say "to attain 100% accuracy". You should set yourself up to never make mistakes. When to move on? Some people choose numbers of correct playthroughs. Personally, I repeat it until I realize that my mind is wandering and I'm thinking of other things - when it goes on auto-pilot, that's pretty clear that you've internalized it. Nov 10, 2015 at 13:19
1@jjmusicnotes I think you're saying the same thing, it's just that there will always be human limitations. Unfortunately none of us have to-the-nanosecond precision :P– user28Nov 10, 2015 at 16:10
@jjmusicnotes .. what he said ..... I do mean until you can play it without perceivable mistakes and play it without even thinking about it. I was afraid if I said 100% accuracy someone (as Matthew Read suggests) would challenge the statement on the basis of only a robot can achieve 100% accuracy. Songwriters such as myself like to use a live drummer on our demos or recordings in the studio because a quantized drum machine or sample is too perfect. We call it "humanizing" because humans are incapable of achieving absolute perfection and we tend not to like the robotic perfection as much. Nov 10, 2015 at 17:23
1@jjmusicnotes - But thanks for the suggestion and I took your advice and edited my answer for clarity because I do understand your point and agree. I just added "(no perceivable mistakes)" to define "as close to 100% accuracy ..." Nov 10, 2015 at 17:28
Think more about what can happen over the course of days rather than one day. Work on something else musical or (perhaps better) go do something completely different like go for a jog or a walk.
Something happens when you work hard on something, then go away from it (or sleep) and come back to it. (Maybe work on it a bit before you go to bed, then again in the morning.) Whatever you do don't force it. You can only learn at your own pace.
If you're otherwise having difficulty with the figure, try breaking it into smaller pieces and getting the portions right before putting them together. You may be trying to get to performance level before you're ready. You don't want that "forcing it and my hand hurts" quality to be in the playing, whatever the style is.
You're going to need mnemonics. You need to have a mental picture of some sort that you can hang the notes on. It could be a story, it could be some symbols representing formal structure -- etc.
I read somewhere that one needs to put something into short-term memory repeatedly so that the item can be recalled comfortably, at the person's speed.
The point of the slow practice is to eliminate tension while you build fluency.
The above answer was designed for something that is hard to memorize due to its repetitiveness. But the OP clarified that the problem was more technical (painful stretch), so it turns out I was answering the wrong question. Nov 12, 2015 at 3:21
This is a very useful answer for what brought me here, though. Thanks. I generally don’t have problems memorizing Mozart or Bach or Joplin because of the variety. But now I’ve decided to learn some “new age” pieces. Easy music, but what makes it hard to memorize is the sheer repetition! The same four measures with tiny variations 30 times! No wonder they call it “relaxing” music… Aug 30, 2022 at 12:46
1@fool4jesus - To be honest, that kind of music drives me nuts. Make me play Ravel's Bolero again and I think I'll throw up. / I was thinking more of a piece where you play the same thing twice, but it goes one direction the first time, and a different direction the second time. I hope my suggestion works for your new material. (But will it matter if you repeat the thing a bit more or less than written, I wonder?) Sep 5, 2022 at 2:43
1I think that's a really good point, and I had kind of reached the same conclusion. Does it really matter, for something like this, if I play it exactly the way it's written? It's not Mozart; every note doesn't really matter that much. I suspect the written music I have is really just how the artist played it that one time, and every performance of his is probably different. But I do think it's helpful to follow his overall structure - when it jumps octaves, etc. - and I think your picture idea is going to help there. Sep 16, 2022 at 12:03
IMO the best way to learn a repetitive part is to play it every day, starting from low bpm. When you feel comfortable then increment the bpm. But, after all, it's only a matter of time, and patience.
I'll address the issue of pain from a repetitive piece since the other answers didn't, although I agree with them about slowing down to gain accuracy. You have muscles in your fingers and arms that need strengthening just like for any physical activity. Pain is your body's way of telling you to back off a bit.
It helps to go back to basics. Make sure you have a bench at the proper height, that you aren't bending your wrists, and you're holding your fingers loosely cupped, not tightly flexed or cramped. Pay extra close attention to getting the fingering right. If it's not written for you, write it down yourself with a pencil in key places.
When you feel pain, stop. Stretch your fingers gently. Wait until the pain subsides, plus a little longer, then try again. As you build up your muscles, and build up your speed, and focus on proper positioning and fingering, you'll see your endurance increase. People in good shape can play all day, with short breaks, but it took them a while to get to that point.