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 Post subject: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:11 pm 
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Having now at my disposal for the fisrt time in my life a real, albeit upright, piano - a Petrof from the mid 70s - I have finally been able to put into practice all those technical things that I knew about but which proved impossible on the series of consoles I had before. I find out I can play most of what I propose to study, but I am finding out that it is impossible to get through a complete piece without braking down somewhere. This is not due to any technique fault, as it was before, as they do not occur in the same places and dissapear if I concentrate hard enough - the problem is concentrating that much for such lengths of time. This is the case with some of Bach's WTC, which I am using as study pieces (the preludes in c minor and D major from book I, as they are moti perpetui), but it also applies to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bortkiewicz and so on. I am not aware of any relaxation issues (no arm hurts) or even nervousness, as I know some of these pieces backwards. I could move on to new repertoire, but the same problems creep into those too, so I am tryng to find a way to weed this out before everything is riuned.

Has anyone else experienced this?

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:34 pm 
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If you mean with braking up that while recording some little thing will go wrong every one or two pages, sure that is a fact of life, at least for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:59 pm 
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No, I do not: I mean when playing, with no recorder in sight finding that a passage that offers no challenge, gets muddled up. How can one ever perform in such a way?

If my aim were solely to record it might be all right: in the end a bit of editing I could come up with a decent Mozart sonata, but my real objective is to play and in this case the recording definitevely would not reflect my playing, would it?

I have toyed with the idea of braking up a Schubert Improtu into little pieces, recording one at a time and the glueing it all together, but have never considered that fair game. I realise that a bit of editing can make Donald Duck sound like Caruso, but the fact remians that Donald will never be Enrico.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 11:23 pm 
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richard66 wrote:
If my aim were solely to record it might be all right: in the end a bit of editing I could come up with a decent Mozart sonata, but my real objective is to play and in this case the recording definitevely would not reflect my playing, would it?

Oh boy, another one from Camp David :P

So what you're saying is that when a recording contains some cuts it definitely does not reflect the person's playing anymore ? That is such BS. My audio-only recordings have about one cut per page on average. Just because I can't do it in one go without a single slip does not diminish the quality, credibility and enjoyability of my playing (such as there are, I mean :) )

Or have I misunderstood once again ?

Anyway my tentative answer to your question is: when you're not recording and still foul up a simple passage (as opposed to slipping the odd note) then you're just not concentrating.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:02 am 
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Maybe cut down the number of pieces you are playing for a while but play those few more frequently and for longer periods daily, including playing sections repeatedly, playing one voice at a time, and playing slowly enough that nothing can go wrong?
Obviously you know the music mentally but maybe building stronger habitual connections would help.

I have had similar experiences but they seem to be specific to Bach. I have learned that if I want to play any Bach for anyone, ever, even if the stakes are very low and I learned the piece at age 10, I must spend two or three months playing the piece flawlessly at least once a day and taking it apart/putting it back together again at least once a week.


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:01 am 
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techneut wrote:
richard66 wrote:
If my aim were solely to record it might be all right: in the end a bit of editing I could come up with a decent Mozart sonata, but my real objective is to play and in this case the recording definitevely would not reflect my playing, would it?

Oh boy, another one from Camp David :P

So what you're saying is that when a recording contains some cuts it definitely does not reflect the person's playing anymore ? That is such BS. My audio-only recordings have about one cut per page on average. Just because I can't do it in one go without a single slip does not diminish the quality, credibility and enjoyability of my playing (such as there are, I mean :) )

Or have I misunderstood once again ?

Anyway my tentative answer to your question is: when you're not recording and still foul up a simple passage (as opposed to slipping the odd note) then you're just not concentrating.


I did not say some cuts where the dog sneezes or the postman says you are wanted to sign: I said, when a single movement is recorded this way: bar 1 to 47 STOP 48 to 72 STOP 73 to 114 STOP 115 to 149 STOP. Then go to the editing programme with these 4 recordings of four different sections, glue them together and lo! you have a recording! Now, if I cannot play from bar 1 to 149 without a break (and I do not mean a slipped note here and there) do I have the right to call myself a pianist?

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:04 am 
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hreichgott wrote:
Maybe cut down the number of pieces you are playing for a while but play those few more frequently and for longer periods daily, including playing sections repeatedly, playing one voice at a time, and playing slowly enough that nothing can go wrong?
Obviously you know the music mentally but maybe building stronger habitual connections would help.

I have had similar experiences but they seem to be specific to Bach. I have learned that if I want to play any Bach for anyone, ever, even if the stakes are very low and I learned the piece at age 10, I must spend two or three months playing the piece flawlessly at least once a day and taking it apart/putting it back together again at least once a week.


This is my routine, but it does make for an extremely limited repertoire of 3 Mozart sonatas, 3 Schubert Impromptus and 2,5 Beethoven sonatas and the odd Bach. Since my aim is not to record but to play and eventually to record if the playing is good enough, it does mean very little progress has been made over the last years and I can no longer blame the piano, unless, of course, if this is the result of all the years when I could not practise properly.

I think there is a mental aspect which is not taken care of in the teaching of musical instruments.

I enquired at the music school where the little opera singer goes to if I might take some lessons and the answer was, "You're joking! You don't need any lessons: you have a degree!", which, of course, I do not.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:50 am 
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So that's 6-10 working pieces at a time and some of them multi-movement. That seems like a lot. For me it would be something like a 9-hour-a-day practice load. They aren't virtuoso pieces but they aren't easy either and there's a lot inside them. Also, many are long. It must take, what, 3 hours just to play all that through, let alone practice it in the way you say is your routine? Unless you really are practicing 9 hours a day, you probably aren't likely to do more than keep that number of pieces in the same shape they already are in. I don't think you have a problem of mental focus... I think you've got so many working pieces that they are all getting rusty in between visits.

Why not choose maybe one piece per half hour of daily practice time, or one movement per half-hour if it is multi-movement, and work on those daily? Then when pieces do become mastered to your satisfaction, keep them around as active repertoire (as in play through for fun once a week or so, so they don't get rusty again) and pick other pieces to work on daily.

If you really just get bored with fewer working pieces, then find some much easier working pieces.


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:35 pm 
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Sorry I have only been able to reply today.

I did not make myself clear: I am not working on all those pieces: these are the most of my repertoire and you will agree that if this is all I can show for 20 years work it is a bit scarce, considering that not a sinlge of them can be considered ready.

I have been trying some new methods this week, including trying to play the music in my head. It is hard, but it seems to make all the difference and increases confidence incredibly.

I happen to have that book by the Chinese gentleman who has been dismissed in some quarters as hogwash, but it is incredible how much of it was taught to me but I had apparently forgotten.

Yesterday I happened to be waiting at the musc school while the little girl was playing with some classmates, so I decided it might be a good idea to find a grand piano and to play. I was sure I was capable of playing and, having sat down and even noticing the piano had quite a different feel (I think mine at home is superior), I managed to play a Mozart sonata (no score and I did bungle the slow movement, where I was aware I could not play it mentally). There were slips here and there, but not because of technique.

Maybe there is some hope.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 7:20 pm 
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Ok, I seem to be having some trouble understanding what you are trying to do. Now it sounds like your concern is memory issues on pieces that you have known for a long time, but you don't say whether your goal is to sit down and trying to perform a piece from memory when you haven't played it much over the last week or two, or what.

Anyway, whatever the goal is, I am glad you are finding some good strategies to work on!
Heather


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:11 pm 
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I must be hoplessly muddled. What I say is that non matter how hard I work on any given piece it never reaches performance stage any any new piece added simply goes on to have the same problems that plagued older pieces, so I know that ist is pointless to start anything new until the old ones are ready and the old ones never are. Memory seems to be one issue, however. Does that make sense?

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:41 am 
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richard66 wrote:
non matter how hard I work on any given piece it never reaches performance stage

Now I think I see what you mean. I'm sorry this is happening to you. It must be incredibly frustrating.
The only suggestions I have are ones you've probably heard before; the first is still the suggestion I made earlier about choosing one or two working pieces (or movements if it's a multi movement work) but working on those every day for about a half hour per piece or more. The other suggestion is to avoid playing through a piece until the very end of the practice session. Use other strategies for working on difficult areas during most of your practice time, then the play-through at the end is for putting all the parts back in context, and it helps make the transition from short term to long term memory for whatever you improved that day. I notice with myself and with my students that relying on play-through as a practice strategy leads to no decay but no progress either, unless the piece is extremely short or very easy for that particular pianist.


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:13 am 
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These are stategies I have been applying over the last months and I do notice some results.

The good thing is that I have almost memorised (in my mind and neither sound or finger memory, which are not reliable) a Bach prelude where this problem crops up and I have pinpointed the problem, as I am free to look at what my hands are donig: it is the indeed the hands which are causing the problem, either by "inventing" fingerings that were never practised and therefore hitting wrong notes consistently (that is, always the same wrong note), or having the left hand fifth ginger going all genteel and pointing up like the pinky of a café society drinking tea or the whole hand simply going flat and waiving, the right one particularly. About the fifth finger I knew about and was trying to correct, but apparently I need to concentrate more on that aspect.

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"Please do not shoot the pianist
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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 3:32 am 
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Aha, yes, that will do it :) Looking at your hands to identify problems seems to be helping then.


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:16 pm 
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I have a different problem. I'll be playing along fine and then all of a sudden my hands forget where they are on the keyboard. They don't remember the topography and I have to look at the piano to see if I am placing my hands in the correct general area. Like all of a sudden, I am not sure if I am going to press down on a C# and D# like I'm supposed to, or if my hand got out of position. I'm not sure that makes sense. It's a strange feeling, though.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 8:11 pm 
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I have that too, now and then. What happens is that you have the sound in your mind but little else. Lose concentration for a moment and you are lost. because you cannot remember the music, only the way it sounds.

It happens because you are playing automatically, daydreaming, if you like.

That is how it is with me.

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"Please do not shoot the pianist
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Oscar Wilde: Impressions of America: Leadville


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:16 am 
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I do tend to daydream a lot when I'm practicing. I hope that's all it is...

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:18 pm 
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This is interesting. Were you trained to never look at the keys while reading and playing? I was trained to look back and forth between score and keys.


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:37 pm 
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Sorry, Heather, is your question directed to me or to Richard?

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:16 pm 
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Both, actually... or whoever feels like responding to my curiosity :)


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:46 am 
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Well, in my case, I wasn't trained in either wya. But I do try to keep looking up at the score as much as possible and not look down. the thing with me suddenly forgetting where my hands are is so random...I've no idea why it happens.l

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:02 am 
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I was trained to do both, so as not to rely too much either on the score or on the hands. Remembering where the hands go is not always ideal. I remember when I was learning Solvejg's Song and my piano went up to the top C while the teacher's only up to A. As that A is reached in this piece, the extra two keys (or the lack of them) was distracting. The same goes for a score. Change edition and I was lost.

I see a lot of talk here about "muscle memory" or "finger memory" on this site, which is trecherous type of memory and is to be avoided. This explains, Monica, why, after some months, you cano no longer play a piece you have even recorded. The ideal situation is that you can play it in your head, that you can play from any single point and are even able to sit down and write it down.

Your problem is the daydreaming. Once you come back to the surface and have relied on any other type of memory, you are lost, because you cano no longer remember what went before.

This is all big talk, but I am trying to train myself to do this too and it does keep the mind from wandering.

Are you able to talk while you play and do you jump if someone interrupts you?

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:23 pm 
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Muscle memory is important for me. Isn't it how we practice a piece over and over until we can finally play it? Also practicing scales and arpeggios. It's how I train my fingers to know where they're going. They 'remember' how to move in certain ways. I do agree that you have to know the music backwards and forwards in order to keep a piece in your fingers. I have one Chopin piece like that. I can play it with my eyes closed.

I think the reason I cannot play something a month later after I recorded it, is because I'm not practicing it anymore - I'm practicing new pieces. Hence, my fingers don't remember where to go anymore. But I do still know the music in my head - I just can't play it well. Currently, I have started re-learning six pieces that I've played a couple years ago. They are coming back a lot faster than I expected, which is a nice feeling. Is it because I have the notes in my head? I dunno, I'm confused now....

Anyway, yes I do jump a lot when someone interrupts me as I'm practicing. Or something. My phone is often on the piano when I'm practicing (my watch broke and I want to see the time), and I jump if I get a notification from email or facebook. But that really doesn't have anything to do with why my hands sometimes forget where they are on the keys. And daydreaming while practicing can only happen (for me) if I know the piece well already; I'm not concentrating and just play along in my little dreamworld. My problem of forgetting where my hands are happens when I am in the middle stages of learning a piece. I know the piece, but I still have to concentrate on the score. It hasn't happened in about a week, but next time it does I will pay attention and try to figure out the cause.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 8:50 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
I think the reason I cannot play something a month later after I recorded it, is because I'm not practicing it anymore

Of course pieces get rusty if we let more than a week go by without playing them. The more time, the more rust. This is normal and no one should criticize themselves (or each other) when it happens.

pianolady wrote:
They are coming back a lot faster than I expected, which is a nice feeling.

Exactly... you are just knocking off the rust, not building a new building :) You still know the pieces to a large extent. It's just a matter of getting them back in your fingers.

Muscle memory does exist and it is helpful. Be thankful for muscle memory every time you try to walk across the room and don't have to think about which foot comes after the left foot! Muscle memory is part of kinesthetic intelligence and is not related to starting a piece only at the beginning, any more than it is related to starting your walk across the room only at one doorway.


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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:37 pm 
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hreichgott wrote:
Muscle memory does exist and it is helpful. Be thankful for muscle memory every time you try to walk across the room and don't have to think about which foot comes after the left foot! Muscle memory is part of kinesthetic intelligence and is not related to starting a piece only at the beginning, any more than it is related to starting your walk across the room only at one doorway.


Of course this is for normal, everyday activities that need little thought, but a tightrope walker would soon be dead were he to rely on muscle memory. That is why it is not a good idea to rely on it while playing, because any blackout would be fatal. I cannot think of a more uncomfortable feeling than having the fingers go right and left while I have forgotten how the music goes. It is like seeing that I am going to fall and yet not be able to stop it.

Monica maybe remembers that when I joined I had a broken ankle. It took me about three months to walk again and then... I had to learn again how to do it and it took several weeks. And this is for something I had done every day for over 40 years. Imagine if it is a piece that you have played for a week!

I must say I am now trying to understand the structure of the music: the scale, time signature, rhythm and all that and try to remember the music, not just let my fingers do it. An interesting esercise I have at times tried is to play something in a different octave or even in a different scale. That way you fool the muscle memory and have to rely on the more solid one to get the job done.

I forgot to mention: i asked about jumpimg to see how much you concentrate.

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:44 pm 
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I think getting a piece in your fingers is the same as muscle memory. But then there is also just plain memory. When you have memorized a piece, it's in your fingers AND your head. But in my case, even this is not sufficient regarding whether or not I can play a piece a month later. Now that I think about this more, I'm realizing that the music isn't in my long-term memory. It's more like a place between short-term and long-term. But I can sit down and still play some old pop songs that I used to play when I was a teenybopper. Guess they are REALLY in my long-term memory.

richard66 wrote:
I forgot to mention: i asked about jumpimg to see how much you concentrate.


And....? What do you conclude? Do you jump too?

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:02 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
I think getting a piece in your fingers is the same as muscle memory. But then there is also just plain memory. When you have memorized a piece, it's in your fingers AND your head. But in my case, even this is not sufficient regarding whether or not I can play a piece a month later. Now that I think about this more, I'm realizing that the music isn't in my long-term memory. It's more like a place between short-term and long-term. But I can sit down and still play some old pop songs that I used to play when I was a teenybopper. Guess they are REALLY in my long-term memory.

It might be what you want, really. You want to play something and then record it, not to build a repertoire.
pianolady wrote:
richard66 wrote:
I forgot to mention: i asked about jumping to see how much you concentrate.

And....? What do you conclude? Do you jump too?

I conlcude that you cut the outside world out when you play. I cannot even talk if I am playing! I am still struggling to make my wife understand that when I play I cannot be interrupted to tell her where the potatoes are!

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 7:35 pm 
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The potatoes are in the pantry. :P

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 Post subject: Re: Mind and technique
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:31 pm 
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And how many wrong notes after that? :D

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