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 Post subject: The fastest way to make your fingers smarter?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 3:06 am 
Hey guys I'm new to this forum but I have been lurking around for time.

What is the fastest way to make my fingers "smarter", and rapidly improve in technique over a short period of time.

Okay just some background information. I am 18 years old this year. I have been taking piano lessons from a teacher for about 1 year and playing rather seriously. I have learnt since I was 4 years old but I really hated practicing when I was young and dropped out when I was at ABRSM grade 2. Some may argue that I cannot be considered an adult beginner because when I started out I could read notes and my fingers are not stiff and they can move pretty fast.

Fast forward to today, in the past one year, I have been gradually increasing my practise time. I started off playing about 2 hours per day, and recently it's up to 6 hours on weekends and 4 hours on weekdays daily. I am a college student studying mainly science and I cannot afford too much practise time. But I think it is considered by everyone, (parents,teachers my peers) that 6 hours is already insane. I have sacrificed majority of my social life. (however, that itself is another issue which should be discussed seperately I guess).

Initially I was scheduled to take ABRSM grade 4, but as I have progressed rather fast, I'm taking grade 6 ABRSM this july. I have all my pieces prepared, and they're not much of challenge. I get away with practicing my examination pieces for about 15 minutes per day.

So. Like recently, I have been picking up Beethoven's sonatas (moonlight, tempest). I find them just nice of a challenge, (though my teacher says I can start seriously studying these sontas after my exam).

But recently I have been also trying out some chopin etudes. I know it sounds absurd, my teacher is encouraging me to try them but not expect too much. However, I get extremely pissed (moody etc) when I cannot play them properly. Ambitious? Yes. I know, my once I set down on a piece, I hate giving up and admitting defeat and I do whatever it takes (like playing one page for like 4 hours nonstop). but still to almost no avail. However, I am growing at the rate where I can see improvements in my fingers daily. (like things I couldn't do yesterday I wake up suddenly being able to do them).

So my practice goes like this, it's more rotational. I start messing around with chopin etudes, (and usually get really frustrated), then I go to my exam pieces for relaxation (I play through each of them twice), then I would go to play beethoven sonatas. then sometimes when it gets boring I just pick up some pieces from books that I have lying around and play around with them.

You see, I probably skipped the whole phrase of playing bach inventions, sonatinas (stuff that make people feel bored and drop out).

Now my question is, how do I make my fingers learn complicated movements in a short time, I want to progress faster, improve faster and hopefully be able to play chopin's etudes. (and somehow, I have a fetish for chopin etudes).


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 Post subject: Re: The fastest way to make your fingers smarter?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:12 am 
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LevelZero wrote:
You see, I probably skipped the whole phrase of playing bach inventions, sonatinas (stuff that make people feel bored and drop out).

Ha, you sure got my attention there. Bach Inventions boring ? They are the best study material there is. Along with the 'Little preludes', the Sinfonias, and the Well-Tempered Clavier. Play Bach, and learn to love him, and everything will be given to you. Sheesh that sounds religious doesn't it !

On a more down-to-earth note I'd say, learn to walk before you go running. It is better to play a Bach Invention or Sinfonia well than to butcher a Chopin etude. I can understand your fetish with Chopin and virtuoso repertoire but first things first. I found that a few years of serious Bach playing did infinitely more for my skills than decades of plodding through Chopin and Liszt warhorses. Been there, done that.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:56 pm 
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warhorses....hihi, good description. Techneut is 100 percently right, bach will give you technique and relaxation, it's really worth practicing. Look Glenn Gould movies (youtube!!), and listen to his recordings, this is the something which can motivate you a lot to play bach. Perhaps it sounds a bit fanatic :D , but try to discover the beauty in bachs music by imagining that it's something holy.....If you practice bach, try to make it relaxed and clear.....it must be hearable through the music how relaxed you're and how exact and clean the pieces are executed. Another thing you can do to improve your technique is playing scales, arpeggios and not to forget czerny or cramer-bülow etudes. But be careful with those etudes, they can hurt you if you practice them wrong and under tension......play them slowly, that's really really important!!!! You must feel and here in every note the whole weight of your arm!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 3:10 pm 
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In addition to all of the great advice above, Chopin did study
the inventions. You could consider studying them as following
in the footsteps of the master.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 4:19 pm 
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Yes, and men like Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann considered the Well-Tempered Clavier their 'daily bread'. Also I find that playing Bach makes one appreciate Chopin's often polyphonic writing, an aspect of Chopin that may well be underestimated by many.

Maybe this will not make your fingers so much faster, in that they can dash off parallel scales, parallel thirds, and blind octaves at lightning speed. It will make them much smarter though, in that they will learn to go their own individual ways were needed, and learn to work seamlessly together in other places. This is one aspect of playing Bach that can hardly be overestimated.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:26 pm 
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I partially agree with everyone here. Although, as some might know, I do not like Bach's (or Mozart's or Haydn's or Handel's) music, it is somewhat important if you wish to understand Chopin's music more. Like Bach, Chopin often wrote in multiple voices, and I find it much easier to distinguish the voices in Bach's music than in Chopin's more complex and, in my opinion, emotional music. Play around with a few of the inventions and sinfonias. You might not like it - I never did - but it will allow you to play Chopin's music better. Remember, Chopin adored Bach.

As for playing well in general, you certainly shouldn't start with the etudes. Perhaps it would be better if you started out with other Chopin pieces to work up your "Chopin technique." I feel like his pieces require an approach completely different than those of any other composer. Try to learn some of his waltzes, nocturnes, and even some mazurkas. While you might not like starting out with easier pieces, good technique and expression cannot come instantaneously. Mastering Chopin pieces that are on smaller scales than the etudes will hopefully give you a feel for Chopin's music. Once you are comfortable with easier pieces, I would recommend trying the Etude in E Major Op. 10, No. 3 - it's very beautiful and easier than the other etudes. Don't worry, though, it still has its share of tricky parts (the "con bravura" section is a killer).

Overall, what I'm trying to say it, don't rush into things. You have to work hard to achieve goals like playing the etudes. And if that means playing (I can't believe I'm saying this) Bach, Czerny, or just regular scales, then so be it. I've always been the type of piano student who constantly needs more and more pieces to play. It's much more important and impressive, though, to master easier pieces than to play a very difficult piece of which you have no control.

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"When one does a thing, it appears good, otherwise one would not write it. Only later comes reflection, and one discards or accepts the thing. Time is the best censor, and patience a most excellent teacher." - Frédéric Chopin


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:31 am 
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techneut wrote:
I find that playing Bach makes one appreciate Chopin's often polyphonic writing, an aspect of Chopin that may well be underestimated by many.

Chopin is often like heavily ornamented Bach, isn't he? :lol:

Dear friend....Chopin was known to berate his students for practicing any more than 3 hours a day. And I'm not talking about a slap on the wrist...it actually made him angry. So lighten up. ;) If you can't accomplish it in 3 hours of practice a day or less, then perhaps you should set your goals a bit lower...

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:11 pm 
Thanks for all the advice.

I understand that bach is staple learning material (even more so than etudes?). however, I have 3 other brothers who are learning the piano (though 1 is too young to be even mentioned), we used to have all different teachers and one of my brothers would often get some bach inventions, (im not a very bach person, though I have heard from some the Well tempered Clavier), and my impression of the bach inventions are boring pieces (alongside sonatinas) which are like staple grade 4-5 material. Almost every friend of mine had to be forced into playing inventios and sonatinas (which didn't sound impressive nor catchy, however that's not the point). And that is what I meant by skipping the phrase of playing inventios (probably the lesser of bach's compositions which I am referring to) and of course, sonatinas.

My teacher is telling me eventually I will have to play something by bach. not that I dislike bach, but I actually never played anything by bach, so I cannot say yet. But as of now, I will be looking forward to playing it when my teacher is going to teach me.

Right now it's like I'm trying to learn the fundamentals yet the complicated all together at once. Each time I practice, I play through all my grade 6 material, scales etc, and all work that is assigned by my teacher. Then on my extra time I practice other material.

I used to have a very lopsided practice schedule. It's like 80% on all the harder advanced stuff (which is above my standard), and then the 20% doing stuff which I should be doing (teacher assigned stuff). But that 20% alone meets my teachers' expectations. (we don't have time to go through other material since my lesson is only weekly and I have an exam).

I think I should readjust, perhaps to something like 60% stuff which I am supposed to do an the remaining 40% on the other harder stuff which I am learning for self pleasure.

About the 3 hours per day thing. I usually practice that amount on weekdays (due to school). But I do about 4 1.5 hour practice sessions on weekends (each of them), as I have not much of a social life.

Perhaps Im just too impatient. To the extent that I need to see improvement in myself weekly to feel satisfied (infact, I usually see minor improvements daily).

Don't get me wrong (i know some people do get the impression). I'm not underestimating piano or the virtuoso repertoire, neither am I an arrogant person who thinks his all great and genius and can leap levels or skip the basics. I'm just a poor soul who happens to get so fascinated by these etude videos on youtube, that decided giving a try would be harmless, then get stuck willing to give up because of a stubborn personality. And a " don't give up easily attitude".


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 2:52 pm 
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LevelZero, if your impression of Bach is derived solely from listening to what piano students make of it then you are truly depriving yourself.
Go right now to amazon.com and purchase at least one of the following:

1) English Suites played by Murray Perahia
2) Goldberg Variations (the 1980 version) played by Glenn Gould
3) Partitas played by Maria Tipo
4) Art of the Fugue played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard
5) French Suites played by Andrei Gavrilov
6) Inventions and Sinfonias played by Glenn Gould
7) Well-Tempered Clavier played by Glenn Gould

Also download some of Chris Breemer's wonderful output.

Now once you get one of these, go off somewhere by yourself where it's quiet, close your eyes
and listen! In my opinion Bach is too complex to enjoy in a noisy environment with a lot of
distractions. Try to follow the interplay of all the voices and if you are successful you will be
completely carried away to another place. If this still doesn't work for you, then you just
don't like Bach and I'll leave you alone. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 6:08 pm 
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LevelZero wrote:
I understand that bach is staple learning material (even more so than etudes?). however, I have 3 other brothers who are learning the piano (though 1 is too young to be even mentioned), we used to have all different teachers and one of my brothers would often get some bach inventions, (im not a very bach person, though I have heard from some the Well tempered Clavier), and my impression of the bach inventions are boring pieces (alongside sonatinas) which are like staple grade 4-5 material. Almost every friend of mine had to be forced into playing inventios and sonatinas (which didn't sound impressive nor catchy, however that's not the point). And that is what I meant by skipping the phrase of playing inventios (probably the lesser of bach's compositions which I am referring to) and of course, sonatinas.

Despite my high-horse Bach advocacy here, I understand exactly what you mean. It took me a long long time to get interested in Bach. When I had lessons as a youth I had to play the Inventions and felt pretty much the same about it. They did nothing for me and all I wanted was Chopin and Liszt (this really is an age thing). Anything hard, fast and loud had a magical and irresitable attraction. Anything simple was sniffed at and dismissed as too easy. I guess I wanted to impress, rather than to make music.

In hindsight, those were frustrating and plodding days. The liberation comes when you start realizing it's about the music and not the many notes, and that a gentle piece can give just as much or more pleasure than a virtuoso warhorse. One also then realizes that to play a 'simple' piece well is often just as difficult as to storm through a virtuoso piece with all guns blazing (and often as not, expression and finesse falling by the wayside).

So, having made that slow but inevitable transition, is is all too easy for me to advice people to convert to Bach.... I much regret not having done it earlier. Luckily, there are many young people these days who are totally committed to Bach so I guess it can be done, even if if your instincts and hormones seem to have other preferences.

I hope that helps a bit.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:23 pm 
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I can certianly understand trying to avoid Bach's music...

I always have found his music to be the most difficult to play, especially the inventions, sinfonias, fugues, etc.

However, I'm slapping myself now for not spending more time on Bach, because it would have given me a much stronger base to build off from. Though I did learn quite a bit jumping right into Rachmaninoff from my second week... I would have been better off with Bach. I've even started to recently look at his inventions, as they've been recommended to me a number of times.

However... I've always loved to listen to Bach. It's so much easier to listen to his works than play them. One of my favorites is a 20+ CD set of Bach's complete organ works, played by Werner Jacob. Whenever I need something to listen to, I can either go in and find an old favorite (various preludes/fantasias/toccatas and fugues that I listen to regularly), or I can just pick out a random Chorale or such and find myself a new love. His music really is great, and it's usefulness cannot be underestimated.

I really wish I had started off with more Bach now...

To be honest, if I remember correctly, the only piece I've ever learned of his is the infamous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But that one doesn't really count... it's far too easy. I doubt he even wrote it (for multiple reasons... not just its level of difficulty).

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:52 pm 
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Quote:
To be honest, if I remember correctly, the only piece I've ever learned of his is the infamous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But that one doesn't really count... it's far too easy. I doubt he even wrote it (for multiple reasons... not just its level of difficulty).


Demon, I've thought the same thing about that Toccata and Fugue, it sure doesn't sound like
most of the other toccatas or fugues. The fugue is amazing but I'm just not sure it's Bach's work.
Do you have any documentation to back up your thesis? I would love to read it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:48 pm 
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bclever wrote:
Quote:
To be honest, if I remember correctly, the only piece I've ever learned of his is the infamous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But that one doesn't really count... it's far too easy. I doubt he even wrote it (for multiple reasons... not just its level of difficulty).


Demon, I've thought the same thing about that Toccata and Fugue, it sure doesn't sound like
most of the other toccatas or fugues. The fugue is amazing but I'm just not sure it's Bach's work.
Do you have any documentation to back up your thesis? I would love to read it.


Yeah... both pieces are very crude... not very Bachian in quality. And I don't really buy into the whole "It's his organ-test piece!!!" theory either.

I do have some documents to back me up... I'll just have to look for them first. I can't quite remember where I found them, as it's been a long time since I've read them through.

I'll post some links once I find them.

_________________
"This is death! This is death as this emanation of the female which leads to unification ... death and love ... this is the abyss." This is not music", said [Sabaneev] to him, "this is something else..." - "This is the Mysterium," he said softly.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:33 am 
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I have never liked that toccata and fugue. A bit of crowd pleasing was not at all above Bach, especially in his younger years, but this one seems not worthy of him, even though it is effective and impressive. There are some scholars who strongly doubt it is authentic Bach.

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 Post subject: Re: The fastest way to make your fingers smarter?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:26 pm 
You must consider the study of pure piano technique, for about 1/4 - 1/5 of the time you stay at piano. Not "Etudes" (Czerny, Thalberg, Moscheles and so on) but "tecnique and music" (Chopin, Liszt, Scriabin and other etudes are in the "music" category, of course).
About music, we pianists have immense choice (and it's useful to know the piano literature not only
in his best known names).
Baroque music is very useful also by a technical point of view (Bach, and the equally useful and
interesting Rameau, Scarlatti and so on), but I repeat the field is immense.
But the point is that if you will improve your technique the shorter way is to study pure technique.
A part the more common scales and arpeggios, you can consider for example these three books,
all excellent IMHO for advanced level: Pischna , Dohnanyi and Brahms excercises.
Without exaggering and paying attention to keep relaxed the arms (only few instants of tension).
Apart the fundamental pure technique practising, you can choose some etudes (Chopin, Liszt,
Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Liapunov, Godowski, others) os some very difficult pieces to be studied
(no problems here if you are not able to play them from the beginning to the end) as technique, forgetting for a period that they are not excercise.
All this work to be free to think only at music when we play music.....and not to think and realize
a Bach or Rameau or Beethoven or Liszt piece as a fatiguing excercise. I repeat, music when we play music, but this is possible ,at every levels, only with hands in order with proper excercises.
Not only for speedy and strong playing, but also and especially for sound control, modulation of
timbres and so on.
All best,
Sandro


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:41 pm 
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Moscheles couldn't play Chopin either. :lol:

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"Z Czernym poznałem się na panie brat—na dwa fortepiana często z nim u niego grywałem. Dobry człowiek, ale nic więcej..." - Fryderyk Chopin


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 7:52 pm 
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Dear Level Zero (strange nickname..)

I liked you description of your studying practises and ik think it deserves better answers than you have received until so far. I have thougth a lot about how to make fingers smarter, faster etc.. it all has to do with cooperation amongst fingers and with the way the rest of the body enables the cooperation between the fingers.

I have written a little booklet about this topics. It is called "a new finger management method".

http://www.vitha.nl/paginas/downloads/f ... gement.pdf

In it i combine my knowledge of piano playing with my knowledge of management practises. I regard fingers as members of a team that can be managed. First i compare common managememt practises with common development of piano technique. Then i propose a method that leads to a more advanced cooperation amongs fingers and i call that the "new finger management".

From what i have read from you, you are in the orientation phase of this method (see the booklet). Now you need to advance to the second phase, a phase of experiment!!

Good luck!! ( i use this method myself and i am at the end of stage 4)

Peter Schuttevaar


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:15 am 
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pepasch wrote:
In it i combine my knowledge of piano playing with my knowledge of management practises. I regard fingers as members of a team that can be managed. First i compare common managememt practises with common development of piano technique. Then i propose a method that leads to a more advanced cooperation amongs fingers and i call that the "new finger management".

Be sure to have weekly progress meetings with them, a project status evaluation meeting each month, and a team building event once a year :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 11:31 am 
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A weekly progress meetings would be something like a piano lesson.

A project status evaluation meeting each month would be like a group lesson where you can exhibit your talents to other pupils.

And a team building event once a year would be something like a public performance and/or an examination.

Greetings from Peter


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