Piano Player World

Piano Cycling Technique (Looping)

loopingHave you ever had the chorus to a popular song stuck in your head? How do you think it got stuck there so that long after you turned off the radio, your mind still automatically repeated the chorus lyrics over and over?

The answer is not shocking – the chorus is repeated several times throughout a song, and the more something is repeated, the more likely you are to remember it. Practicing piano to perfect difficult-to-learn passages works the same way: the more you repeat a section of a song, the more likely you are to master it.

Deliberately rehearsing specific passages of music over and over again is called the piano cycling technique, or looping. What this means is that, to practice a certain section, you isolate that particular measure or group of measures and play it from the beginning to the end without stopping in between runs.

The terms “cycle” and “looping” are appropriate for this practicing technique because, like a circle, there is no beginning, end, or pause to your playing. As soon as you get to the end of the desired passage, your fingers merely return exactly back to the beginning and play through again.

The piano cycling technique works very well for learning both sections of music and specific performance techniques. All that you need to figure out is what notes you’ll play at the end of the segment that will help link you back to the beginning so that you can fluidly, continuously return to the top of the passage.

Sometimes, this fluid conjunction occurs naturally in the music, such as in the case of the CGEG quadruplet where “C” would be both the next logical note to play as well as the beginning note of the series. Other, more complex sequences will require you decide how to link from the end to the beginning without interruption.

Hanon Piano Exercises - Piano Techniques Lessons

cyclingAlthough this form of practicing is likely to yield quick results with helping fingers gain comfort and familiarity with difficult passages, it is very important to remember that there are right and wrong ways of using this technique. The technique is designed to harness the power of repetition to engrain in your fingers and mind the appropriate motions to make.

To practice appropriately, make sure that you pay strict attention to the accuracy and fluidity of your notes. Begin practicing slow, and after several days of gradually increasing speed, your fingers ought to demonstrate their progress.

However, even though repetition can help us learn, it also can help us zone out. Just because your fingers are moving doesn’t mean you’re actually practicing. Pay strict attention as you practice, and vary your approach so that you are always responding to your mistakes or improvements. Also, repetition, especially when playing too fast, can potentially cause strains.

Sure, you’re not lifting heavy equipment, but your fingers are doing lots and lots of work with these difficult repetitive strings. It is wise to practice with your hands separately so that while one hand is working, the other is taking a break. If practicing with hands together, pace yourself so that your muscles are developing without threatening unnecessary damage.

By appropriately employing the piano cycling technique into your daily practice regimen, you will undoubtedly see progress as you teach yourself to play piano. Even though at the beginning your fingers quiver and stumble over these difficult passages, enough repetition and eventually your fingers will automatically move themselves gracefully across the keys just like your mind might automatically hum those annoying, catchy radio lyrics.




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