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Mind and technique

Discussion in 'Technique' started by richard66, Nov 18, 2013.

  1. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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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?
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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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.
     
  3. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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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.
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    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.
     
  5. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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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.
     
  6. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    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?
     
  7. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    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.
     
  8. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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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.
     
  9. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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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.
     
  10. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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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
     
  11. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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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?
     
  12. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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    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.
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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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.
     
  14. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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    Aha, yes, that will do it :) Looking at your hands to identify problems seems to be helping then.
     
  15. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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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.
     
  16. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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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.
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I do tend to daydream a lot when I'm practicing. I hope that's all it is...
     
  18. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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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.
     
  19. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Sorry, Heather, is your question directed to me or to Richard?
     
  20. hreichgott

    hreichgott New Member

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    Both, actually... or whoever feels like responding to my curiosity :)
     

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