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Bach technique

Discussion in 'Technique' started by Terez, Aug 8, 2009.

  1. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    This isn't really a question about technique, but just an observation. I've been working on Bach's 6th partita in e minor (which Felipe submitted fairly recently) for a long time now, but I just recently started working on the gavotte because I had a sort of complex about it (due to trying to sight-read it over ten years ago when I thought it was supposed to be 3 against 4 polyrhythm, and I'd never even tried to play 3 against 4 before so the experience traumatized me a bit).

    Anyway, I finally got over it since the recital is coming up and I've learned all the other movements so I couldn't ignore it any more. And I'm really enjoying it. In particular, the bouncing of the dotted eighth/sixteenth figures (which are meant to be aligned with the triplets, so I'm told), and how, because of that figuration, the piece really feels like a dance when you're playing it (and I imagine that the same lifting technique would be used on a harpsichord even though the instrument doesn't have the percussive advantage of the piano). The courante and the gigue really made me feel the same way (the air, sarabande, and allemande less so), so it was nice to get this feeling right off with the gavotte (only been working on it about two weeks now).

    Anyway, I've sort of marked the articulation of the dance figure, and there's an example here of a technical difficulty that surprised me. It seems like the sort of thing that is so simple that I should have gotten over years ago, but apparently I've never had to do it before:

    [​IMG]

    The technical problem didn't exist until I started using the lifting technique with the dotted figures (and that technique improves the feel of the piece in every way - it feels better, the technique itself is easier, fingering problems disappear, and it sounds better).

    Anyway, as you can see, in the second measure (m. 10), the left hand has the dotted figures, starting on beat 3, and the right hand has a scalar passage with repeated notes. And of course, the only real way to play that properly is to change fingers on the repeated note. You might choose any number of fingerings, but in pretty much everything you could choose, it requires you to lift your hand between the repeated notes to change fingers.

    Meanwhile, the left hand has already been lifted, and is falling at the same instant that the right hand is lifting.

    Same thing at the end of the B section:

    [​IMG]

    So, I could cheat and ease with the lifting during those passages, but I won't - I'm already starting to adapt. It was just such a simple thing that I can't believe I've made it this far without ever having come across it before.
     
  2. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This confirms a huge and often overlooked truth about piano technique - once you've understood the right movements to make, many technical problems magically disappear or got reduced. Regarding the 3-against-4 rhythm, yes, there are very few instances of that in Bach's music (for example in the 3rd movement of the C minor Sonata BWV 1017).
     
  3. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I'm guessing you're talking about the general advantages to the bouncing technique. I've come across similar situations in Bach before, where a simple matter of articulation solved many technical difficulties.

    I suppose I have enough of it since the first of Chopin's trois nouvelles etudes is on the recital program. :lol:
     
  4. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I played this for my teacher today, and I mentioned the technical problem to her. So she played it, and didn't quite get it, because she didn't realize at first that she was changing the way she played the dotted-eighth/sixteenths when she added the other hand to it (she lost the bounce, or swing technique, and she agreed when I pointed it out that the technique is definitely the optimal way to play the figures). It's really that counter-intuitive (my teacher is no slouch - she's MUCH more technically proficient than I am, being able to sight-read most things I work on reasonably well). Anyway, I made her play it slow the right way, and it took her several tries. But once she got it right, she was laughing with me about how hard it is to make your fingers do it properly. Hard, and fun at the same time. :D

    I will be writing a paper for her (I owe her a paper for a piano pedagogy course) on the technical difficulties in this partita. It's supposed to be 10 pages, but it will probably end up being longer.
     
  5. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Technical problems disappearing!?

    You...must...be...kidding...???

    If there is one aspect of "playing" the piano that I have observed, it is that I have encountered more problems, more difficulties, and more frustration.

    I don't even want to look at Bach because that music is too complex and too difficult. Hell even the simple early-Mozart compositions are a pain in the ass.

    Nevertheless, I do have a question for Terezzi (sounds Italian, ey?) Can I "line up" music notes using a ruler or is mathematically pairing notes the only way of finding out which note in the LH and RH are played together?
     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Even when I work out the counting (the math) I still draw vertical lines down the bar showing when the two hands come down together. For me, it helps to see that as I am playing through that particular spot.

    (sorry - I'm not Terezzi, but I like your question here.)
     
  7. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    That's OK, you're Monmon Hart which is Italian too. :p
     
  8. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Juufa - You're better off counting the bars every time, rather than using the ruler technique. While most of the time the notes are correctly placed on the sheet, in many cases it can be wrong, especially in the instance of polyrhythms (and then again, you hardly every need to check the rhythm if there aren't any of those). I remember a prelude by Scriabin that had triplets on the right hand, and a simple chordal accompagniement on every beat, the editor when placing the notes had missed the triplets, effectively adding a few beats in the bar and completly misplacing the chords. Counting takes little time when you get used to it and has too many advantages to neglect ! :) Don't be lazy !
     
  9. organtechnic23

    organtechnic23 New Member

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    There's also cases where several voices are at work in either hand and some voices have rests while others continue. The beginnings of beats will usually line up with each other, but what happens within each individual beat is another matter entirely (as you well know!)
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, and this is something you only fully start to appreciate when playing organ. Even seasoned pianists have a habit of keeping notes down for longer than written, and it often goes unnoticed. or organ however this will usually sound plain ugly. The rests become as important as the notes.
     
  11. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    I think you are asking, do they take the care to make sure that the notes are properly aligned vertically? Yes, they do, usually, but in cases like this where performance practice is different than what is actually written, this doesn't work, as you can see - the sixteenth notes are slightly to the right of the 3rd note of the triplets, as they should be in an actual polyrhythmic situation. But they are supposed to be played together.

    Also...I think Alfie calls me 'Teresina' or something like that, lol.

    And yes, I was serious when I said that a different approach with articulation can make technical problems in Bach disappear. The more I get to know Bach, the more instances of this I see.
     
  12. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    On another note, this is another perfect example why implicit polyrhythm notation is an horrible idea that should disappear alltogether from written piano music. After a quick glance at the sheet parts you've given here Terez, I also assumed it was 4 / 3, not just 2+1 / 1+1+1.

    Anyways on topic, all the hand / wrist / arms movement are at least as important as the fingering you use ; not only do they dictate a certain phrasing, they also are crucial in both the dynamics you can use (most of the time a bad posture will force you to dwarf or exagerate your dynamics) and the stamina you use, which can be a determining factor sometimes. They also all work together ; a bad wrist position will prevent you from using an indicated fingering, and while trying to use that indicated fingering with bad wrist posture will lead to injury, careful thinking on that spot will allow you to understand the wrist position the composer wants you to use. It is especially frequent with Chopin for instance, fingerings that seem absurds but that will force you into using a different angle in your play, often permitting better speed or dynamics.

    I totally have those moments too when after a while practicing, I just get "that" movement and it becomes soooo much easier, like having an epiphany. They also become part of your "muscle memory" or whatever it is called, allowing you to use that technique with easy when it is needed.
     
  13. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Well, it has disappeared for the most part, but in cases like these where the performance practice is not so clear from what Bach wrote, most people would still prefer to have what Bach wrote. There's a great deal of stuff from the baroque period that is like that (especially in French or French style music), but it's not so much of a problem after the baroque.
     
  14. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Well, it's also a problem for those who use sheets with jazz music too, where sometimes ternary rhythm is implied ; I'm not sure, here again it might be something specifically French - or so I've been told.
    I don't even bother decyphering older sheets I get to play, I just listen to someone playing it first and memorize it... I can't wrap my head around all those "it's written XXX but you should play it YYY" ; please, for clarity's sake :( Even Chopin has some, "you think that's three 16s, but in fact there's a dotted 8 !' or things like that. You either have to make some historical research, or listen to some trusted interpret, since you can't make an educated guess alone.
     
  15. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    You're right about the jazz thing (I was thinking more along the lines of 'legit' music) but I'm not sure what you're talking about with Chopin.
     
  16. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Nope, mine is a very general observation. Above, Teddy explains very well what I meant.
     
  17. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Exactly. Nowadays, conventional notation is quite straightforward and when it is not, the modern composer clearly explains new symbols or anyway what differs from common practice. As to the music of the past, it's not up to the editors to tell the performer how to play! A good edition should just make every effort to improve the readability of the musical text and give explanations about every questionable editorial decision, not take decisions in the performer's place.

    Moreover, in Bach's time, there wasn't ONE performance practice ragarding rhytmic notation. For instance, Emanuel Bach aligned the 16th to the last note of the triplet, Quantz didn't. To add confusion to an already difficult matter, sometimes (not always) in Bach's autographs there is a graphical alignment among triplets and dotted rhythms. And lastly, during his life, Bach may have changed mind about rhythmic notation. There are a lot of things we don't know and cannot figure out.
     
  18. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    The final section of the Polonaise-Fantaisie, or the Prelude Op.28/9.
     
  19. alf

    alf Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Very well said. As a poorly educated pianist, I often and avidly watch (especially on YT) great pianists in action to "steal" fingerings and movements.
     
  20. Terez

    Terez New Member

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    Well, I'm not intimately familiar with the Polonaise-Fantasie (one of the few Chopin pieces I can say that about, lol) but I can't think of anything in 28/9 that is written differently than it is intended to be played.
     

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