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Back to playing piano. Need advice on Technique

Discussion in 'Technique' started by kofiaddaquay, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. kofiaddaquay

    kofiaddaquay New Member

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    Hello all, i am very excited to find out this site exists! The resources here are outstanding!! I played piano for 12 years, from the age of 13 to about 24. Piano was my everything till i graduated from college and the real world kicked in. i have NOT played piano for 6 years !! :( I finally bought the new yamaha nocturne grande and back to playing about 1 week now. i need some crucial advice as i want to approach things differently this time. and the advice is how do i go about strengthening my fingers back. I used to play a lot of hanon ...not czerny, but i have picked up both books just so i can mix and match them. i have also decided to not play actual pieces for about 2 months just play finger exercises..and when i do decide to play pieces, still continue to develop on playing scales, arpeggios, etc

    In order to develop the best techniques, how should i be approaching playing piano this time around??


    Kofi
     
  2. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    Hi Kofi, how do you like your Nocturne? That's what I have and I love it.
     
  3. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    First, hi everyone...

    I had stopped piano for a few years, and started playing again recently, so I felt we had comparable experiences and I couldn't resist answering. So much for lurking until I record something !

    What was I saying... Yes, you say you plan on playing only technical exercices for a few months, and I just had to disagree with that ; of course technique is an important aspect of piano playing, but is that why you invested so much money into a piano ? Is that why you invest so much time into pushing white and black keys ?
    Like many will tell you better than myself, there are numerous ways to get your fingers back into shape without swamping yourself into hours of Hanon and Czerny and Scales and Arpeggios. I didn't use to play piano as much as you apparently did, it was merely a side hobby, as I majored in Litterature, so obviously it wasn't so much about getting back into shape for me than it was about learning to play for the first time ; what I did was take some of my favorite pieces I had always longed to play as a kid, and learnt them. I started with the Moonlight 1st movement, and I enjoyed it a lot even if my playing was really deficient ; then I played some Bach inventions, because like you I was a bit obsessed with my "piano technique" ; after that, I started learning some Chopin Etudes Op.10, which I regularly play as both musically enjoyable pieces and technical work out.

    Though my technique is still very poor, I feel I've advanced quite a lot by playing difficult but enjoyable pieces. To some it may seem as pianistic butchery though, I'll admit to that - but well, I suppose it starts that way.
    I hope you'll reconsider and hop on the playing for fun (and technique !) wagon with me, and hopefully share your musings on this wonderful site.

    Hope I made sense, my english is like my Bach, very messy.
     
  4. kofiaddaquay

    kofiaddaquay New Member

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    thanks for the time taken to reply my post...

    to bclever:

    i was quite confused by "do you like your nocturne"...if you are trying to ask if i ever played/liked nocturnes... then YES, i played about 5 nocturnes by Chopin and i played one by john field. please clarify what you mean


    to Teddy:

    thanks for you insight..i greatly respect your opinion...after all that is why i made this post. to somehow sum up all the advice i get from here. Yes i would really love to get back to playing my beethoven sonates, chopin etudes and polonaises but i fear that if i didnt spend that time getting my fingers in shape i would have made some mistakes i feel i made when i used to practice 5 hours a day. and they were mainly on picking new pieces and just playing. i noticed that certain pieces were extremely hard to play because i lacked certain finger techniques. some of my closest friends who had played longer than me played them with ease cos they were masters are playing scales, arpeggios, hanon etc. Believe me...i am soo tempted...but i feel like the second time around is my life time dedication to the piano and hence dont mind to spending time on finger technique before moving forward. understand what i am trying to say. i did make a big investment like u say... but maybe enjoyment can come last...maybe. hahah..i dont know.


    also a question about Bach and Mozart...i see a lot of posts saying its important to play them, i played little to none back and mozart and i still played some really complicated pieces...can i really get better if i went thru the wtc book THIS second time around?? i dont know why...i dont really enjoy bach and mozart BUT if their exercises will make me better..then i am willing to sacrifice


    Thanks again...hope i hear back soon


    Sincerely,
    Kofi
     
  5. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Well, I think it's only natural that after not having played for years you find it difficult ; I don't think you can "cut corners" and have it all become suddenly easy. In my very limited experience, every time it gets easier, new difficulties arise and I end up working as much if not more.
    Basically, it only comes down to whether you'd rather suffer through Hanon, or play pieces at a slower tempo to improve. Though it's not like they're mutually exclusive, you can warm up with half an hour hanon, have a slow Chopin Etude, do some scales, play a sonata you know by heart, and then work a while on new pieces.
    If you delay the "fun" part, you'll get burned out really quickly too.

    Regarding bclever's comment, I think he was talking about your piano...

    I try to play some Bach when I can ; at first I hated it (sorry), but now I really enjoy counterpoint, and just playing several voices cantabile. It also did wonders for my technique, there's not doubt about it. Mozart... Well, it seems playing Mozart requires extreme precise playing, because every single mistake you make will stand out like an orange cow in a field of white roses. To me it is very frustrating.
     
  6. kofiaddaquay

    kofiaddaquay New Member

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    hahaha...that last comment about Mozart burst me out laughing :)))

    i see what you mean about delaying the fun part. Keep on playing the scales and finger dexterity stuff (for warm ups 30mins) but slowly get back into the other pieces...chopin etc. but taking them extremely slow bar by bar. i like that...i like that very much


    to bclever:

    haha..now i understand what you mean thanks to teddy. Yes i love love the nocturne grande..its a wonderful piano. i was disappointed to find out it has no metronome even though the yamaha sites etc all say it does. i contacted yahama and they are in a process of taking that false statement down :) ...how do you like yours?
     
  7. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy New Member

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    I think you're trying to separate technique from music which is a big mistake.

    There is no technique without music. Fingers are controlled by the brain. Finger dexterity, which apparently you are after, cannot be gained without brain involvement and the brain needs stimuli from real music to start the process of building technique.
    So, you need to find real music pieces with real musical content and value to start with. Hanon and all this stuff is no music so you have nothing to gain from it, you'll just waste your time.

    Instead I would suggest the master teacher, Bach. His 2 and 3-part Inventions are invaluable technique strengthening tools. Bach knew that keyboard technique cannot be separated from music so these exercises (the Inventions were supposed to be exercises), have everything a player needs to build finger technique and at the same time hold an incredible musical value.
    If your level is more advanced, try Bach's Well Tempered books. Again, these pieces are extraordinary musical. The preludes will arm you with finger evenness while the fugues will test your harmonic - musical brain capabilities to the ultimate.

    Chopin also was well aware of the music - mind - technique connection. His etudes are true works of art although they are essentially exercises. If your existing technique permits, playing some of these etudes would help you enormously.
    And in general, all etudes or exercise pieces from first class composers will build technique as they are both exercises and musical works.

    Slow play is essential to technique, helps focus on music and also helps memorising which in turn is essential to get all the potential of your pianistic powers.

    Of course, the above is just my personal view. But you can see for yourself whether these points work for you. Play some Inventions for, let's say a few months, and then try Hanon. You'll discover how extremely easy will be to tackle Hanon after the generous technique injections from Bach and his music. And surely you'll then see how pointless Hanon really is.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I could not agree more with wiser_guy. Especially on the recommendation to play Bach :D

    Many people seem to think one can't be a pianist without having a virtuoso technique. This may be a point if you aspire to play Liszt more than anything else. I believe technique is a nice-to-have. What counts is that you make music, and enjoy it. The majority of good music does not require virtuoso technique for which you have to practice scales, thirds, and blind octaves for hours a day. Should you hit a piece requiring that, just grit your teeth and make the best of it, or skip the piece for something less demanding. I've given up wanting to play certain pieces just because they are hard, fast, and loud. Actually, playing Bach has done infinirely more for me than struggling through virtuoso pieces for years.

    Whether or not Hanon does anything for your technique I would not know, having never played such material. It's for sure that it does not benefit you musically, and as such is indeed a waste of time. As a warming-up for some real virtuoso music, it could have its benefits.
     
  9. s_winitsky

    s_winitsky Member

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    You know I also started playing in my mid teens but stopped when I got to University.

    I only started again in my very early 30's. I would say I am pretty new to music and recording and playing Bach.

    I do think though that any improvements I made was due to playing Bach, the inventions, the sinfonia's, sarabandes, aria's, the fugues, even the chorales. It really opened my eyes to a whole world of music. I think it taught me to read music at the piano, to memorize quickly, to shape the start and end of musical phrases if that makes any sense. It taught me the value of articulation, of legato playing, of playing with and without the pedal. It also taught me relaxed fingers and relaxed play as a whole if that makes any sense which I think is required for fast play although I was never a fast player.

    Of course I realize all this is subjective and is really just my uneducated opinion :)


     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is neither subjective nor uneducated. I think 9 out of 10 musicians will tell the same story, which fits totally with mine. Maybe Bach is not sufficient to become a super virtuoso, but to become a good musician, look no further ! Playing a Bach Invention well beats the hell out of slaughtering a Chopin Polonaise :lol:
     
  11. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    Hey wiser_guy, I'm going to print out your response and hang it on my wall. I will chant it
    out loud daily. Thanks for posting!
     
  12. kofiaddaquay

    kofiaddaquay New Member

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    thanks a bunch you all... and i think you made a lot of sense wiser_guy. most of the guys i knew back then that i consider very good all started by playing bach and mozart. i guess there really is a hidden secret behind bach and i intend to find it. i will grab the 2 and 3-part Inventions as well as the Well Tempered books and like you say "slow play..." them.

    thank you ALL (i greatly appreciate your time)...u have nailed the point out loud and clear !


    Kofi


    one last question....what about czerny and School of velocity? also The Art of finger Dexterity? just wondering your thoughts on that
     
  13. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy New Member

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    Oh, I am sure you will discover a wealth of hidden secrets, not just one.
    I only wish I knew this earlier in my pianistic life. That behind this grim figure with the powdered wig, lay the foundations of modern music and a lot of fun too! Listen carefully and you will hear Bach everywhere, from jazz to film scores.

    About Czerny, Cramer-Bulow, Tausig and all the others. I can't say. I haven't played them. Well, just a few Czerny exercises as a kid maybe.
    Techneut pointed that they may help as warm-ups for virtuoso playing and I know that many pianists use them and trust them. I would prefer Bach for warm-up but then again, I am not a virtuoso.

    In any case, I don't think that an exercise will help you more with a difficult passage than practising the difficult passage itself! I mean, if I want to play Chopin's etude 2 Op.25, why practise mindless 'similar' or not so similar exercises from lesser composers and not sit down and practise my heart out on this specific etude right from the start.
     
  14. mixah

    mixah New Member

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    I woke my roommate up by laughing at that Mozart comment... Orange Cow? HAHAHAHA GOLDEN!
     
  15. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Well there could be several reasons :
    - you can't really touch that piece right now, though you reaaally want to play it ; so you practice on a similar yet easier piece.
    - you practice that piece 4 hours a day, and yet you want to practice it more, so you take a similar piece to avoid boredom / mindnumbness.

    I was playing some Bach today, and really, you can feel your fingers sort of merily tingling after (a lot of) it, and other composers don't do this to me. Scriabin for instance gives me huge forearm pains...
     
  16. kofiaddaquay

    kofiaddaquay New Member

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    I see...thanks again for that feedback wiser_guy. i guess for now i share the same feeling as Teddy when he started playing bach...i am not really enjoying it..but as i move from one piece to the next i am sure things will pick up. for instance just jumping to the first piece in the wtc book, i have found is not warming my fingers the way i want it to. naturally cos its a slow piece but i am sure the pieces most definitely become challenging. in any case...i will keep on pushing with wtc. good things come to those who are patient (i think...haha). :))) later !

    Kofi
     
  17. kofiaddaquay

    kofiaddaquay New Member

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    Hi bclever, about your Nocturne Grande piano. what touch sensitivity do you have it set to? Hard? just realized mine was set to medium. But i am think it should be hard. Let me know. Thanks

    K
     
  18. Sandro Bisotti

    Sandro Bisotti New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I agree 100% with Dohnanyi ideas : art (when we play a piece we must already have the 90% of the necessary technique) when we play, + pure technique work (this last for about 20-30% of the time at piano).
    I work on Dohnanyi excercises, on Brahms excercises, on my particular excercises, plus I use to
    study as technical excercises (not thinking to play them, also if in some cases I was able to play them after many months of work) some very difficult pieces.
    Bye,
    Sandro
     
  19. aryobrand

    aryobrand New Member

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    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    First of all I'd like to add my recomendation for practicing Bach to the stream. When I was young I HATE HATE HATED :evil: Bach!!! His music was so devoid of feeling and expression to me that I avoided playing his music as much as possible and instead spent all my time with Chopin and Prokofiev! :) Decades later I began taking lessons again and my teacher (Dr. Beaudette) had me audition and would not let me play ANY romantic music at all. Instead it was Bach and Mozart :( (as well as Debussy). At first I grudgingly went along with her plans, then after playing through Well Tempered Clavier one day it finally struck me as to just how much Bach had improved my technique. The way Bach makes you alter the way you THINK about music opens up a whole new world of performance technique, at least it did for me. Although I would HIGHLY recommend getting both books of WTC and playing through them thoroughly, I still would branch out into other pieces as well.

    As for Czerny's School of Velocity, etc... For me personally I'm feeling my age in the speed of my fingers. Sometimes I sit at the piano to play and my fingers feel like rusted-over-molasses!!! :oops: I've found however that a good 30 minutes to one hour of Czerny's School of Velocity gets my fingers pumping with blood again and they become much more spritely and fluid. Don't start off with so much though, after a great absence. Sometimes I'll sit down and play through Book I then take a half-hour break and come back and play through Book II and so forth. Czerny's musical ideas, I'll admit, were sometimes trite; but his techniques were remarkable. Remember when playing Czerny that the fingering for the pieces is THE most important aspect. Many times I'll have to slow an allegro down to Lentissimo just to play using Czerny's fingering but it pays off in the end. The important thing to remember when returning to playing after an absence is building up finger dexterity again is just body-building for your fingers. If you go too gung-ho, you'll have a greater risk of injury, so just take it slow at first until you've warmed up to killer workouts again. :wink:


    With that out of the way, I'd like to make some other suggestions that others have overlooked as they all are excellent technique builders, and at the same time are beautiful music that's quite enjoyable to play.

    First to gain the legato skills back, Chopin's Preludes and Field's Nocturnes are indispensable.

    To work on refreshing control of dynamics and expression, get a copy of Debussy's Preludes, especially Book I. These all range from fairly easy to fairly insane, so you'll have to just play through until you find something that speaks to you.

    To free up tonality and voicings, try Bartok's Microcosmos. Start with whichever book with which you feel comfortable. Chris Breemer may also have some good ideas concerning Bartok's repertoire, since he's recorded so much of Bartok. (Music for Children isn't just for children!!)

    Lastly, the study of Scriabin should be included in every pianist's studies. 8) His etudes Op. 8, Op. 11, and Op. 42 while being some of his most popular are also EXCELLENT for building up hand-separation, as well as polyrhythmy. Take them slow and try to play them at first with a metronome until you get the rhythms down. The techniques you build will apply to EVERYTHING else!

    Also as far as sight reading goes, try to play new music as often as possible. Get copies of Rachmaninoff's Etiudi Kartini Op. 33 and 39, Prokofiev's, von Beethoven's and Mozart's Piano Sonatas, pieces by Ravel and by Granados. Easier choices might be some of Grieg's pieces for children, Clementi's Sonatinas, etc. By forcing yourself to play music that's beyond your present abilities (whatever they happen to be) actually increases your abilities much more than playing the same songs over and over; and the more you do this the easier those difficult songs become.

    Hopefully this has given you some ideas with which to work. The pieces that I've mentioned were all VERY instrumental in forcing me out of my Romantic era shell; and ALL of them focus upon a different developmental technique. Good luck! and Enjoy!

    Love is the law, love under will.
    Aryobrand

    P.S. If you're into other musical forms, don't forget John Mehegan's Jazz Improvisational Techniques.
     

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