At this point, I have difficulty learning pieces on par with or more difficult than Beethoven's Waldstein this way. At a certain level, my brain just can't visualize any more musical texture without actually hitting the keys. When I began to practice this skill, (five years ago) my 'free visualization limit' (that's what I call it) was Clementi Sonatinas. So, I've certainly improved and continue to get better at it with practice.
Hey Pete, Does it matter if you do this hands seperate. I find it is pretty easy to learn away from the piano if I start hands seperate for even complex music? With hands seperate even complex music becomes much simpler, making it easier to learn without even touching the keyboard.
Hi Stan, yes it matters! Hands seperate practice (HSP) is very good for isolating parameters that if prematurely combined, make the task of practice unnecessarily difficult. HSP is also needed to avoid favoring one hand over the other (I would go as far to suggest that pianists should take a few minutes each day and practice writing (words) with the wrong hand!).
I like to practice a piece by listening to a great recording, reading the score and trying my best to play one hand's part on a sofa cushion. This usually translates to a solid and relaxed frame of mind and body for the first reading at the piano.
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