Playing without thinking

#1
Yesterday I had a slightly unreal but exciting experience.
I was practicing a piece I'd been working on, reading the music, and I came across a part and my mind went blank. However, I just let my fingers do what they wanted, and it was perfect! (Well, relatively. )

Now I've read about getting to the point when you can play a piece of music subconsciously, but I've never experienced this before. I've been playing for a couple of months.
How do you encourage this subconscious knowledge of a tune?
Do you practice in a certain way?
 

Halfers

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#3
Don't try and force it. Let it come naturally. You're starting to learn your instrument and starting to hear where you need to go and making those connections with your fingers. That's about as far as I can go on advice. I typed that without having to think where all the letters were on the keys, nor have to look at them (much) !! Must be magic :p
 

MandyH

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#4
Repetition
Also, knowing the tune really well, will give you an instinct for where the next note needs to be pitched.

I've long said that I will never learn to play a piece by heart, but I learn a piece well enough that the music acts as an "aide-memoire" - it shows me where I need to start a phrase, and the shape of the phrase. My fingers know where to go because we have practiced each and every note and phrase many, many times, and I know the tune really well.
When I perform, I am not actually reading every single note, just letting my fingers do their thing.

(related to @Halfers comment above: I have a brand new computer keyboard this morning, after 10+ years of owning the last one. I have had to re-type words and delete many mistakes. All my previous keyboards have been the "ergonomic layout" ones and this one is straight. This will take a long time to get used to!)
 

nigeld

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#5
My teacher's method for learning a piece is as follows:

Take a fairly short phrase and play it through VERY VERY slowly until I can play it 5 times in succession without any mistakes at all
Then speed up a little bit and do the same again.
Sounds boring, but it works.

The mistake I tend to make is to try to play it too quickly from the start, despite making mistakes. What he says is that if I can't play it painfully slowly without making mistakes, how can I possibly play it quicker.
 

Halfers

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#6
(related to @Halfers comment above: I have a brand new computer keyboard this morning, after 10+ years of owning the last one. I have had to re-type words and delete many mistakes. All my previous keyboards have been the "ergonomic layout" ones and this one is straight. This will take a long time to get used to!)
I'm the same. If I attempt to type on someone else's keyboard, I lose my technique! Lots of bum letters!
 

David Michael

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#7
The mistake I tend to make is to try to play it too quickly from the start, despite making mistakes.
That makes two of us (at the very least :)). It can be quite an effort to reign yourself in when playing a piece or a phrase over and over. But it’s the best way.
 

Halfers

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#8
This might sound a bit odd, but I've found that I have had to teach myself to hold myself back and learn a small part (a bar or a phrase) of a piece, instead of trying to play through an entire piece all at once and learning whole pieces on the fly! I've only just become comfortable with doing that.

I think it also takes a certain amount of learned awareness to hold back and play pieces slowly (that's my excuse, anyway). It sounds as if it should be intuitive to do this, but I've not found that to be the case. Perhaps it's an 'Adult learner' thing?
 
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#9
I'm a vata, so my brain is everywhere like the wind. My battle is trying NOT to repair relationships, study for an exam, figure out a financial situation, or decide what to cook for dinner while I'm playing a tune... On the saxophone, I generally can get back on track fairly quickly. On vocal, the lyrics get lost and I'll just start humming. Perhaps, we have a label and blue pill for those symptoms...
 

Halfers

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#10
I'm a vata, so my brain is everywhere like the wind. My battle is trying NOT to repair relationships, study for an exam, figure out a financial situation, or decide what to cook for dinner while I'm playing a tune... On the saxophone, I generally can get back on track fairly quickly. On vocal, the lyrics get lost and I'll just start humming. Perhaps, we have a label and blue pill for those symptoms...
Vata?
 

Jazzaferri

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#14
A quote from my first music mentor "Play it 100 times you know it, play it 1,000 times you own it"

A quote from me "The magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed"

In my opinion the best way to focus is to have 100% of your attention on what everyone else in the ensemble is playing
 
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jbtsax

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#18
With my students I used the analogy of learning to tie one's shoelaces. At first you have to think of each step as you are learning to do it. With repetition, it goes to "muscle memory" and you can tie your shoes while carrying on a conversation or thinking of something else. Learning to play scales and songs is exactly the same---you have to do it over and over again and it takes the fingers of both hands.

The key is repetition. Stealing a joke a tuba player friend of mine likes to tell, "Every new saxophone I buy comes already knowing how to play the Misty and Take Five". Of course his is "new tuba" and the song is "In the Hall of the Mountain King" or something.
 

MandyH

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#20
A quote from my first music mentor "Play it 100 times you know it, play it 1,000 times you own it"

Am quote from me "The magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed"

In my opinion the best way to focus is to have 100% of your attention on what everyone else in the ensemble is playing
My teacher always says the music sounds best when you get the music off the page.
She is not suggesting I learn it by heart, but that I learn it well enough that I don't need to religiously read every note pitch and length.
 
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