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 Post subject: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 6:27 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:28 am
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Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
To the performers out there, I'm starting to approach that "danger zone" of preparation where I can think that I know something when I really don't. I came up with the following to help me be more objective about my idea of readiness. Picture a table with individual movements/variations/works listed down the first column and the following listed across the top serving as column headings. The boxes of intersection would hold a check to record the progress when accomplished.

*LEARNING
1. Play with Score (B,M)
1b. Play with score and metronome faster than performance tempo (B,M)
2. Play from memory (B,M)
3. Record in one take (B,M)
*PRACTICING Done without score
4. Play (on piano) with eyes closed (B,M)
5. Play silently at Piano (M) (thouching but no sound and with open eyes)
**5a. Play RH with silent LH
**5b. Play LH with silent RH
**5c. Play both hands silently
6. Play visually at piano without hands (M)
7. Play mentally away from piano (M)

*Trains the body (B) and/or the mind (M).

Each subsequent step will reveal weakness in the prior. I hope I can get to level 6.

Edits: Added step 1b. and clarified Practicing section.
Edit (2): Added sub levels of 5

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Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


Last edited by musical-md on Thu Apr 28, 2011 4:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 5:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:59 pm
Posts: 322
Location: toronto
I tend to like to start with 7 and spend most of my time there (esp if its music I really like and want to play for a while)

Sometimes depending on my mood I go directly to step 1. Probably everybody has a different ritual :)

We are probably never really completely prepared :)

musical-md wrote:
To the performers out there, I'm starting to approach that "danger zone" of preparation where I can think that I know something when I really don't. I came up with the following to help me be more objective about my idea of readiness. Picture a table with individual movements/variations/works listed down the first column and the following listed across the top serving as column headings. The boxes of intersection would hold a check to record the progress when accomplished.

*LEARNING
1. Play with Score (B,M)
1b. Play with score and metronome faster than performance tempo (B,M)
2. Play from memory (B,M)
3. Record in one take (B,M)
*PRACTICING
4. Play with eyes closed (B,M)
5. Play silently at Piano (M)
6. Play visually at piano without hands (M)
7. Play mentally away from piano (M)

*Trains the body (B) and/or the mind (M).

Each subsequent step will reveal weakness in the prior. I hope I can get to level 6.

Edit: Added step 1b.


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:01 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:28 am
Posts: 1250
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
Quote:
I tend to like to start with 7 and spend most of my time there (esp if its music I really like and want to play for a while)

S. Winitsky,
I may have not made one thing clear: steps 4-7 are done without score. As such it would be impossible to start at step 7.

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Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:15 pm 
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Joined: Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:11 am
Posts: 243
Location: Adelaide, Australia
There's no reason why you shouldn't do steps 5, 6 and 7 both with and without the score.

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Alexander Hanysz, http://hanysz.net


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:02 pm 
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Posts: 1250
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
hanysz wrote:
There's no reason why you shouldn't do steps 5, 6 and 7 both with and without the score.

Alexander, thanks for the conversation. Certainly I hold nothing against score study and review. But what I have proposed is an order of increasing difficulty that requires mastery of the prior step before the next is possible. Most here (certainly you) can do step 7 (seeing every note and every finger with the mind's eye) with a C major scale 1 octave in the RH and a triad chord in the LH. But many will struggle while sitting with their eyes closed in a quiet chair somewhere in their home to try to mentally play a B minor scale in contrary motion at an adante speed without things already starting to get fuzzy in their mind. How about the same in double-note thirds at a moderate pace? And these are boring predicatable scales! Now try any work from your rep. How about a "simple" Bach fugue? This is truely the highest level of preparation. Sad (but probably not unusual) to say that though I have performed demanding programs in public many times, I have never achieved such a level of preparation. This is why I said in my OP that I would be happy just to get to step 6 (having the crutch of a visual keyboard before my eyes). I shudder to think of how many times and for what degree I simply rode on the memory of my muscles! It's scary.

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Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:01 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 27, 2010 1:11 am
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Location: Adelaide, Australia
musical-md wrote:
...hat I have proposed is an order of increasing difficulty that requires mastery of the prior step before the next is possible.

I see what you're saying, but I can't resist pointing out that most of us will never truly master step 1 ;-)

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Alexander Hanysz, http://hanysz.net


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 1:46 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:59 pm
Posts: 322
Location: toronto
Haha! Yes I didn't realize you meant it like that. It would be hard to start 7 without the score first :)

I would argue step 7 with the score in hand, is in fact easier then step 1, at least for me:) It’s been my preferred method of memorizing music for quite a few years. It also prevents building bad habits at the piano. It’s actually hard for me to imagine step 1 being easier, but I know many people learn music in different ways. I seem to have met some good pianists who do not do this step at all. Of course I am no expert on the subject either :)

b.t.w. I might add, while I start doing step 7 with the score, it doesn’t take long before I don’t need the score either :)

musical-md wrote:
Quote:
I tend to like to start with 7 and spend most of my time there (esp if its music I really like and want to play for a while)

S. Winitsky,
I may have not made one thing clear: steps 4-7 are done without score. As such it would be impossible to start at step 7.


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:23 pm 
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Posts: 1040
I find that, at least in my case, step 7 is indispensable. If I cannot sit on a chair away from both score and piano and cannot play something though in my mind it si neither memorised nor learnt properly. Actually this so-called mental play is a wonderful tool to improve learning and not the other way round. In your mind you can correct any mistakes, increasing practice time.

It is not a good idea to abandon the score completely. Many mistakes creep in unseen and, without the benefit of the score, become ingrained. One finds oneself wondering in surprise why that passage sound different played by another pianist.

Playing with a metronome is not in my mind a sign of mastery: it is a sign of weakness. In the end wehy do you need to count? The metronome does it for you.

Recording in one take or playing double-speed is more a test for nervousness than anything else. Consider that playing too fast when one has not mastered a passage will make one's playing degenerate, not improve. I find slow practice with a heavy hand is much more constructive and interestingly enough, helps to built speed though confidence.

Nervousness will make any memorised piece be forgotten. Peace of mind is fundamental.

I remember the pianist who, when at a concert, noticed a woman sitting in the first row with the scores. He later said he had never felt so nervous before at a concert.

_________________
Richard Willmer
"Please do not shoot the pianist
He is doing his best."
Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:37 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:59 pm
Posts: 322
Location: toronto
I actually agree with this statement. I have met so many good pianists though who do not seem to understand this at all. They do not even see how it is possible. I am always a bit happy when I meet someone who actually learns music in the same manner. I think though, in the end, there is no one road to making music.

richard66 wrote:
I find that, at least in my case, step 7 is indispensable. If I cannot sit on a chair away from both score and piano and cannot play something though in my mind it si neither memorised nor learnt properly. Actually this so-called mental play is a wonderful tool to improve learning and not the other way round. In your mind you can correct any mistakes, increasing practice time.

It is not a good idea to abandon the score completely. Many mistakes creep in unseen and, without the benefit of the score, become ingrained. One finds oneself wondering in surprise why that passage sound different played by another pianist.



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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:24 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:28 am
Posts: 1250
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
Hmm Richard,
Some of your implications are bothersome to me. I can't believe anyone would even raise the ideas of "crutch" and "counting." Such an inadequate level of development should not (hopefully) even be associated with this on-line community. I think that the recordings that I have already submitted betray a little something about my abilities and I just can't understyand how foreign the metronome seems to be to so many here. This to me reveals a certain lack of understanding. In every physical endevor of performance, whether music, dance, athletics, etc. training always attempts to exceed that required. Runners run through the resistance of water or on sand or sprint uphill, dancers practice for endless hours to gain endurance that they will only need a fraction of for performing, and musicians (or at least myself) also practice works or passages in manners that are more difficult than that of an actual performance because it is one way of building reserve. One manner of doing such is to play extended passages (or entire works depending on their simplicity) with metronome (because it removes the psychological comprehension of time and replaces it with an objective rule by which we can measure ourselves). Then, to practice in such a manner at a speed that is greater than that required for performance builds reserve technical mastery. The point is not that when you attempt to do so it begins to disintegrate, the point is to master it at that faster level so that playing at normal speed is done with technical margin. When I am working to systematically develop speed and accuracy, I will proceed as follows: Say I am trying to "pass" at a speed of 96; I advance the metronome two clicks faster (to 104) and practice each hand seperate thusly, working all the problems that arise or are revealed. Then, when I am satisfied, I adjust the metronome to 96 and attempt to play it hands together. If I can do it well, I have passed "96" and can try all of it again one click faster. BTW, in the way that practicing with metronome faster than comfortable helps (IMO evidently) develop the physical execution, so to practicing SLOWER than comfortable develops the mental execution.

Last, I will draw upon the words of others to help me in my time of need. Ruth Slenczynska, who was a child prodigy performing her debut in Berlin at age 6 and who studied with Rachmaninoff, wrote an excellent little book entitled, Music at your Fingertips: Advice for the Artist and Amateur on Playing the Piano. In chapter 3 (Concepts of Proportion, Tempo, Rhythm) on page 27, she writes the following:

"A student's presto , for example, may sound very fast because he will play as fast as he can manage and his efforts to hurry become evident; but when an artist uses the same tempo it might sound slow, since he has perfect control of his hands and sounds controlled, while the student sounds hurried. This is why I recommend use of the metronome from the very beginning, from the very first scale, throughout our musical lives. I still use it daily, even on tour, to maintain the discipline of daily practice and full mastery of the keyboard, even when the keyboards vary. I prefer to increase speed by regular intervals ..." {bold is mine}

click, click, click, ...
Eddy

_________________
Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


Last edited by musical-md on Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:45 pm 
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Location: toronto
I actually agree on the importance of using the metronome. I personally use it to correct and identify rhythmic problems. Obviously while playing difficult passages we have a tendency to slow down and easy passages we have a tendency to speed up. When playing the recording back I wont necessarily notice it because my ears might have become accustomed to the time change. When I listen back to some of my past recordings I wish I used the metronome more.

What some might find surprising, most jazz musicians use the metronome constantly (almost as a way of life) and it does not necessarily interfere with their ability to play expressively. They seem to have a way of moving between extremes of strict tempo, and exaggerated rubato with ease.

Though like I said before, there isn't one road to making music. Some will use the metronome less then others and still have good results. At least in my opinion :)

musical-md wrote:
I think that the recordings that I have already submitted betray a little something about my abilities and I just can't understyand how foreign the metronome seems to be to so many here but.
Eddy


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:21 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:18 pm
Posts: 1040
But do you not think that playing faster than required is good only in problematic sections and not in the whole piece? What I do I practise a hard passage until I can go faster and on all octaves of the piano, but hands separate. More often than not failing to play faster might not be for technical but for emotional reasons, that is, because of nervousness, and there, until the latter is controlled, there is no way to play at the right speed no matter how technically prepared you are.

I did use the word crutch in the same way that I use it for pianists who use the right pedal to achieve a legato that they could achieve with fingers alone butr are not capable or the right pedal to achieve pianissimo. Counting... Did I really say that? I count. Many times I have caught an error like that. Surely you will not disagree with that?

Your quotation confirms the notion of "apparent speed" if I may call it thus. In fact it is not speed here: it is agitation, agitation that passes for speed. With agitation even a dead march will sound furious.

This I have tried: I have recorded pieces I have been playing for years and I have immediately been hit on the face by the fact I slow down here and there and now trying to train myself to hear what I play. I feel the pulse must be inside and not given by an outside source that is not another musical instrument. Of course if playing with a violinist it is the latter who gives you a reference, but you are using the music, not a tick tick tack.

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Richard Willmer
"Please do not shoot the pianist
He is doing his best."
Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:52 pm 
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Posts: 322
Location: toronto
Well I hope I don't sound too agreeable but this is true too!

That being said I don't think, necessarily, using a metronome interferes with our ability to perceive time internally. If only because of my experience with pianists who use the metronome almost to the point of abuse. I know one pianist, if I call him on the phone on any given day, you can pretty much guarantee the metronome will be clicking loudly in the background! I think he has a special extra loud metronome! He is, however, probably the best pianist I know.

Meanwhile other great pianists will say if you use the metronome, you shouldn't use the click sound but only the light sensor, and that you should use it sparingly for the same reasons you describe...

Anyway I have probably said too much on the subject :) All this from a person - me - who can't even keep a steady beat :)

richard66 wrote:
I feel the pulse must be inside and not given by an outside source that is not another musical instrument. Of course if playing with a violinist it is the latter who gives you a reference, but you are using the music, not a tick tick tack.


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:16 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:18 pm
Posts: 1040
Quote:
Some of your implications are bothersome to me. I can't believe anyone would even raise the ideas of "crutch" and "counting." Such an inadequate level of development should not (hopefully) even be associated with this on-line community. I think that the recordings that I have already submitted betray a little something about my abilities and I just can't understyand how foreign the metronome seems to be to so many here.


Eddy, I am not for a moment questioning your ability as a pianist, so set your mind at ease! :) I edited your phrase above to reflect this. :D

_________________
Richard Willmer
"Please do not shoot the pianist
He is doing his best."
Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 4:14 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:28 am
Posts: 1250
Location: Springfield, Missouri, USA
richard66 wrote:
Quote:
Some of your implications are bothersome to me. I can't believe anyone would even raise the ideas of "crutch" and "counting." Such an inadequate level of development should not (hopefully) even be associated with this on-line community. I think that the recordings that I have already submitted betray a little something about my abilities and I just can't understyand how foreign the metronome seems to be to so many here.


Eddy, I am not for a moment questioning your ability as a pianist, so set your mind at ease! :) I edited your phrase above to reflect this. :D

Well ...tick, tick, thank ... click... you ...tick. :lol:
BTW, delightful bio (and dashing photo) and welcome!

_________________
Eddy M. del Rio, MD
"A smattering will not do. They must know all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally 'know them backwards.'" - Josef Lhevinne


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 Post subject: Re: Levels of Preparation
PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 5:45 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:18 pm
Posts: 1040
Thank you!

_________________
Richard Willmer
"Please do not shoot the pianist
He is doing his best."
Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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