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Sticking with a piece

Discussion in 'Repertoire' started by juufa72, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    The first question should be: to what level am I expected to perform?

    If you are playing only for your own personal enjoyment (and you are not a zealous perfectionist), then it would be ok, as it is in my case, to play through a composition with a few mistakes and slips. Or even rubato because that's the way you feel like playing.

    However, if you have to perform a piece for exams or a recital, then of course the mindset is completely different.


    I have trouble staying focused. I hear recordings of compositions played by better players on this site, and it makes me want to have a go at the piece. However, I have to restrain myself because I know that I am not that good and couldn't even get passed the first five notes.

    What I have found that works FOR ME, is to find a composition that really blows my socks off and is not too terribly difficult. If during the course of the stuttering through the piece I find myself hating it, I just toss it aside.

    If you have no external pressures (i.e. exams, recitals), then there should be no pressure to complete a piece you are struggling through or hating every moment of.

    That's the good thing about music for the self, it is for your own pleasure and you can do what you want to do!

    I hope my ramblings help.

    -JG

    p.s. If not, then you can always hire a person to stand behind you and every mistake you make they will hit you over the upper back with a small stick of bamboo and shout: "NO! AGAIN! WRONG!"
     
  2. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Depending on location, I can do that, and for a very reasonable price :p
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think you need to have a specific goal in mind in order to get a piece down. For some of the regular members here at Piano Society, the goal is to practice a piece until it is good enough for the site. As you can imagine, this is very motivating and for me it is the most motivating factor! Yes - I usually pick out pieces that I like and then practice the dickens out of them. But there have been many times when I did not especially care for a particular piece. However it was part of a set, and I wanted to complete the set.

    Like Juufa said, we don’t know anything about you, but if it is picking out potential pieces to learn and play, you simply have to keep listening to piano music. Every now and then, I load up my IPod with many new pieces and then listen as I do my workout. It’s a good way to kill two birds with one stone. And it sometimes takes listening to a piece more than once for it start sounding appealing to you.

    The good news is that you’ve come to right place to sample a lot of classical piano music, so go ahead and listen to as much as you want. You are bound to find music you want to learn yourself. And if you have the means to record yourself, I think you will go all the way with the piece.
     
  4. wiser_guy

    wiser_guy New Member

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    I think your query, by the way it's phrased, is self-answered. Sorry for stating the obvious, but have you tried Bach?
     
  5. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    It sounds like you get tired of any piece you pick. I assume you pick a piece because you like it (can't think of another reason, if you say it's always impulsive). Are you always picking flashy things and then finding out you can't handle them ? In that case, pick something that you like and CAN play. There is more satisfaction in playing a simpler piece well than in playing a virtuoso piece sloppily (though it may take some life experience to feel that way).
    Sticking to a piece is a matter of will power. Asssuming that you love the piece enough to stick with it, that is. If you just ultimately get bored by any piece at all, I'm not sure music is the thing for you....
     
  6. Chopinesque

    Chopinesque New Member

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    Hi,

    I've found that some of the pieces I used to be in love with as a beginner (some of the most popular suspects!) are not always that great. Paradoxically, my piano teacher has recommended some pieces by composers I never used to like much (Debussy and Ravel), and I was reluctant at first, but by making an effort with these pieces I've gradually learned to enjoy the music, which isn't always the catchiest, but can be very rewarding to play.
     
  7. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    I get bored really quickly too, which is especially bad considering there are about 4324 pieces I'd like to add to my repertoire, so I tend to juggle them a lot.
    What I do is work on a technically hard piece (usually an etude), and sight-read through one or two technically easier pieces (usually with voicing work to do, or huge dynamic contrasts) ; when I'm about to give up on one, I work on the other. Some days I have to take off the piano, otherwise I get frustrated and angry with the pieces, which can't be good. I also stop listening to pieces I am working on - not only because it completly messes your interpretation (especially when its a piece with precise rythm, and when your favorite interprete uses a lot of rubato ; for instance, anything you like played by Horowitz), but also because it adds to the number of times you've heard "that damned piece I've been working on for so long".

    Also, when I have a piece memorized and almost at tempo, if it demanded a lot of technical work to get to that point, I will stop playing it for a few days so I don't get fed up with it. It also has that "second coat of paint" effect, meaning it will strenghten your memory, to have it rest. Just be careful and check the score after a break !

    Another thing that helps against quick boredom is to play for others, without sheet music. Getting on someone else's piano and wanting to play that piece, yet not being able to do so satisfactorily, is my biggest incentive to work. "I know I can, if only I had worked a little more...".

    Last, but quite obvious, is to pick pieces you really like (for instance I love a few bars of Glazunov's first sonata third movement, but I know the rest is so boring I'd die before I can play the complete movement, so I avoid it) and that are within your reach (my rule of the thumb is being able to sight read it HS at a very slow tempo ; when you look at the sheet and it just looks foreign, never a good sign... though some pieces have very strange writing, but are in fact easy to learn once you figured the "trick" ; for instance, at first I couldn't figure the strange harmonies in some Scriabin, so I played a few prelude and it began to come easily under the fingers).
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    You'll probably say I am lifting this out of context, and maybe I am, but this sort of remark really makes me wonder.

    You love a few bars of this great work, and find the rest deadly boring. Actually Glazunov is more coherent and consistent than many of his Russian collegues, and never boring. Admittedly, you do need staying power for big-boned works like this. Without patience and endurance, stay well away from this music. But don't say it is boring, rather admit it is you who gets bored with it.

    You say that music is the thing for you (because I wondered about that), and yet you can't seem to find any music that does not bore you. Boredom, anger and frustration will not make you a good musician.
     
  9. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Unless your name is Mussorgsky and you need a bottle to live :wink:


    Techie, is right. I am beginning to understand that your biggest problem is finding music that is fun for you. Even if you play through a 1 page ditty but have a big smile on your face, then that is your area you should concentrate on. Abandon the hopes of becoming a Richter, Horowitz, etc. and put away those virtuostic, flashy, technically impossible pieces because if you strive to master them, it is only making your more angry, frustrated, and bored because you see no results or are not living up to standards of the greats.


    Just a humble thought; no malice intended.

    -jg
     
  10. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    (I'm confused by your comment Techneut, I'm not the original poster though you quote me)

    Well, my bad for exagerating ! Actually, I like that sonata, which is amongst my favorites (it really moves me) ; however, if you know it, the first two minutes of the third movement are actually (to me, again) more akin to Czerny than Glazunov. My musical analysis skills are really low, so this might explain that ; I understand that those first two minutes are preparing you for the climax, but sadly I feel Glazunov could have used some more variety (I also don't like the chordal accompagnement, probably a matter of taste on that one) without detracting from the climax. I like small details, and I feel the beginning of this particular movement lacks them. I'm not seeking war though, Glazunov's first sonata is wonderful regardless.

    Anyway that was mostly an example of a work I wouldn't undertake because I know I'd want to "skip to the good parts", and find not playing a work in its entirety quite lame. At least not undertake yet, meaning, I'll probably be back when I understand it better (or when the "boring" parts become trivial to learn. Right now it would take a lot of time my enjoyement could use better, I guess ; like "it's okay but I'd rather do something else").

    Looking back on my advice, "pick works you like in their whole", it can be so tricky sometimes. My favorite parts when playing are rarely those I liked when listening, so in the end I can often only find out by playing - more experience needed, maybe !


    Obviously those are two qualities you'll need on the piano ; but you can be patient yet be frustrated : let me give you an exemple : the moonlight sonata first movement ; some people play it so slowly (and I mean really slowly), and I just can't, independantly of my interpretation of the piece. It just bores me to death (it is so frustrating, not even mentionning it hides some voices), while I love the work at a brisk tempo.
    To extrapolate to my comment on Glazunov, it would be the same ; I'd love playing the third movement, but I would dread the opening because I'd have to leash myself not to hurry / truncate it (or maybe not, since I do not know the work ; so I'm more talking about my experience of it as a listener).

    Keep in mind my comments applies to works you find challeging to learn, or you are playing for your own pleasure ; when performing for an audience, a work is hardly boring, even if it's only because of the incredible pressure (and anyway I'm usually so adrenaline-full that I can't get bored). I have the "bad" learning method of doing a lot of repetitions (mainly because it's how I memorize and hear things), so I will hear a piece quite a lot before being able to perform it correctly. Even the pieces that make me drool WILL bore me at some point, because I'll have played them so SO many times. Boredom (or maybe my word isn't well chosen, maybe it is more of monotony I am talking ?) will fade with time though, and has nothing to do with music ; it is merely the way I, at least, function as a human being ; I like shiny new things, whether those are harmonies or technical difficulties (hard passages are never boring to me, because they require you to be all ready). I know that when I teach (or learn, all the same), I give my students many different ideas on the same topic (like you know, illustrating that grammar point with several sentences from different texts), to provide them with variety that will hopefully spark interest, that will in turn trigger results.

    Also, I think naming virtues makes them quite hollow ; patience can mean so many things, and while one easily understand what meaning you are refering to, using such word quickly points huge character flaws, regardless of your intention. In fact, I think sitting five hours a day behind a piano keyboard, not every single of which you deeply enjoy, automatically brands you as patient ! (on a side note, learning piano as an adult requires so much patience it can be scary ; learning as a kid is much easier because you don't think about it ; now, I just ask myself, "am I working correctly ? Am I efficient ? Will it be ok with time or do I need to work more on that ?)

    I dont think that was directed specifically toward me, but I think that is one of the problem with boredom. Sometimes, music is not THE thing for you, it's something you like amongst many other things ; I don't know what composer / musician said that you either have to dedicate yourself to the piano or forget it, but I think this is utmostly untrue. Of course some level of "virtuoso" technique is required to be able to do what you want with the instrument, but I don't think you have to forfeit your life to obtain it (though you will never be able to play the end of the hungarian rhapsody correctly unless you have the shiniest gift ever, remember kids). And most likely, if you've been playing for a few years seriously, playing the piano is A thing for you, because you've invested, are investing, and plan to invest a lot of time in it. To make an analogy, if you want to learn Japanese, you'll have to learn how to write it, that means learning all those ugly little signs and weird figures, though it's a lot of (boring) work ; you'll have to get acquainted to the culture as well ; however, you don't have to become Japanese, just have one as your objective and it'll be fine.

    Like in all things however, there are days with and without ; moments with and without. If you're not a professional pianist, you can afford the moments without ; I've made litterature my life, and frankly there are many moments I'm bored with it, so I think it's only natural the same happens with the piano ! I'll dare that analogy, for those that have a significant other, it sometimes might happen that you get bored with him / her ; depending on your morals, beliefs and opportunity, you might act on that boredom or not, but that doesn't change that fact that you are bored...



    So rather than say some things, like absolute dedication or boredom, make or make not the pianist, I'd rather try to find ways for the pianist to evolve with these things (hence why I spoke mostly of boredom in my answer to the OP, looking like I was some always-bored person, which is far from the truth !). I mean, how can you be bored when you write so much stuff you have to keep cutting it so it doesn't spill out of the "reply" window ? Maybe when you read it, you tell me...


    I often wonder ! I am for instance a really calm person, but like many "too calm" persons, I have those rage-like moment, those instants of fleeting fury. It can be quite devastating, but it can also be quite inspiring ; you all know those situations when, while speaking, you get so into your subject that the words flow naturally, arguments come by themselves (especially when you are a trained speaker, as you have reflexes you fall back on, organizing your speech without thinking about it for example). I'd venture it can be the same on the piano ; when your technique is lacking, it will be murder ; but when you already "dominate" technically, it will give you excess energy, adrenaline, to fuel your ideas, as long as you keep your cool enough to think about the music (not pounding recklessly). Not unlike playing for strangers !

    Well, I think half the pleasure of learning is trying high, failing, and failing better the next day. You might never reach your goal (I'd quote Kant if I could word it in english !) but it will make you progress. I personally love difficulties, though I might like it easier as years pile upon my back :) Also, don't underestimate the pleasure of playing virtuoso and flashy pieces ! Some Scriabin Etudes (though maybe not the hardest Etudes out there, I was humbled to read the Godowsky studies after having learnt a few Chopin originals... I couldn't even sight read it !) give me chills down my spine when playing them. Oh the satisfaction ! It was such a hard work, but finally you can play it. It makes it all worth it. Then you get frustrated because it's not perfect, because you don't have that "Horowitz dynamic" or that "Pletnev tone" or whatever, so you work more, and it gets better. For every second I slam my piano in rage, I know there are several hours of hard work. I'd feel sorry for it if I didn't know I can also make it sound good.




    Finally, I never really introduced myself, so let me say, I really talk a lot (that's my job, so it grew into quite the bad habit), and sadly (?) I'd say talking gives me about as much pleasure as piano playing. I try to keep it useful or intelligent, but sometimes it might not be, so feel free to shoot at me when I'm not constructive (I hardly get offended though I might get into it so much as to write more and more). I have a weird sense of humour, but like Juufa said, no malice intended. Especially since I speak english about as much as the next mute lizard.
    I like playing the piano, a lot, it is definitly A thing I want in my life. Not having a piano makes me miserable enough to know that. I love listening to recordings here, I discovered many interesting pieces (some of which I love but are probably too boring for me to learn !), so I want to help when I can, and I'd love to post some of my own recordings (soon ? maybe ? but then again, my personality...). I also have many questions I want to ask, but dare not (because I'm shy, really).

    (my post was so long I actually had to log back on...)
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yeah sorry, I had you two mixed up there for a while. So quick to defend Glazunov that I lost view of the thread. He is a composer who, in spite of his weaknesses, I am very fond of. I know his sonatas very well even if I haven't played them for ages now. They may be a bit long and winding but so are many large-scale Russian works.

    Anyway your point is clear now, despite the very long post :p
     
  12. fluterific00

    fluterific00 Member

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    techneut wrote:
    You are very good at that Chris! lol- but I suppose that makes us want to work all the harder just to get on here.


    As far as the pieces you aren't finishing, are you picking pieces that you enjoy? It's kind of hard to make oneself play something, if they don't enjoy it, even if you're wanting a well rounded musical experience. I have tried some strange things, and I have just figured that I'm not meant for them. I think it's also okay to have some pieces to play that are just for fun. Then you can feel like you are playing. This is like what juufa72 said. It also may be a nice to have a relaxer piece when you are practicing long hours just as a way to loosen you up.

    Anyway- good luck- hope you can finish one soon. :)
     
  13. Teddy

    Teddy New Member

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    Eheh :) Well, I recently discovered Glazunov, and though friends of mine had dismissed him as, like you said, "long and winding", I was surprised by the emotional strenght of many of his pieces. In a way, he has chatty passages that remind me of the final from Chopin's second sonata (and some of Scriabin's prestissimos), but the piece suddenly explodes with a very clear and dramatic melody. I like Kuerti's recording of the first sonata, though I have it on his Scriabin's Etude CD, which is surprisingly bad (sadly) ; for Glazunov, he manages to draw out the emotion, its amazing, while others I've heard tend to blur it to keep up the tempo. I'll agree he's definitly a "forgotten" composer...
     
  14. Biggemski

    Biggemski New Member

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    Hehe, unless you play to fight boredom, anger and frustration in life. Then you progress ! :wink:
     

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