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Tash
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« on: October 17, 2004, 06:32:30 AM »

ok so 2 out of the 3 people who go to my piano teacher failed their Amus exam the other week, and apparently the examiners 'growled' at their technic. now i'm guessing this refers somewhat to scales and stuff and that they may have neglected them which was seen through their pieces.

so my question is, what does 'technic' actually refer to, and how would you suggest i go about improving mine? so far i'm doing 4-6 keys in their variety of scales and arpeggios and stuff, and then hanon. would you suggest that i do more, or just attempt to perfect them more by doing slower, more accurate practice?

or maybe i'm not even making sense...
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Spatula
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2004, 07:27:20 AM »

ok so 2 out of the 3 people who go to my piano teacher failed their Amus exam the other week, and apparently the examiners 'growled' at their technic. now i'm guessing this refers somewhat to scales and stuff and that they may have neglected them which was seen through their pieces.

so my question is, what does 'technic' actually refer to, and how would you suggest i go about improving mine? so far i'm doing 4-6 keys in their variety of scales and arpeggios and stuff, and then hanon. would you suggest that i do more, or just attempt to perfect them more by doing slower, more accurate practice?

or maybe i'm not even making sense...

I axed off the Hanon after reading Bernhard and CC's notes.  Plus one of my personal acquaintences who graduated with a music uni degree said Hanon is useless, just focus on the real mac koy technique.
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comme_le_vent
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2004, 07:48:38 AM »

technic = technique

godowsky refered to it as the 1st of the 3 elements in piano performance
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galonia
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2004, 09:16:45 AM »

At AMusA level, you should be proficient at studies from Czerny Op 299, and in particular No 36.  Once you can play that, I'd suggest Czerny Op 740.  These are more interesting than Hanon, and you can pick the studies that develop a particular part of your technique that you need.

I also do Moskowski studies for variety (they're more fun than Czerny), as well as my scales and arpeggios.  If you have good technique, you can achieve the musical effects you want to.  My teacher requires all her students to present studies at their lesson each week, because with good technique, it doesn't take us very long to master our performance repertoire.
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bernhard
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2004, 02:34:03 PM »

ok so 2 out of the 3 people who go to my piano teacher failed their Amus exam the other week, and apparently the examiners 'growled' at their technic. now i'm guessing this refers somewhat to scales and stuff and that they may have neglected them which was seen through their pieces.

so my question is, what does 'technic' actually refer to, and how would you suggest i go about improving mine? so far i'm doing 4-6 keys in their variety of scales and arpeggios and stuff, and then hanon. would you suggest that i do more, or just attempt to perfect them more by doing slower, more accurate practice?

or maybe i'm not even making sense...

Look at these quotes:


Seymour Fink:

“What is piano technique?

I define it as purposeful movement for musical ends.

Purposeful coordinated movement triggered by inner hearing form the basis of musical expression. The spirit and quality of this movement is as much a part of the artistic message as accuracy of pitch and rhythm.

Mind and body are trained together. Good training encourages a variety of physical approaches for this increases the emotional range of your playing.

I also emphasize adaptability for we must constantly adjust to different pianos, rooms and associated musicians, let alone music spontaneity.

We seek the coherent development of advantageous coordinations.

The focus is on the player’s body, the way it is positioned, the way it moves, the sensations it feels and the sounds it produces.

The newly learned gestures will become fused with your musical imagination and spur you to more beautiful, more expressive piano playing.”


Gyorgy Sandor:

“Technique is the sum total of organised motions executed by the performer. These motions produce sounds that recreate the moods of the composer in the performer’s own interpretation.”

Maria João Pires:

“Technique is not something that exists in itself. It’s the way that you come to your goals and realise your musical wishes. It’s about how you use your body. People don’t talk about your “walking technique”; they talk about your “way of walking”. Similarly there is a way of using your body to play the piano. Technique implies something that you can repeat the same way, like a machine. But a musician has to be free to change at every moment. If music can never be played the same way twice, how can you have a technique? The word is dangerous because want the musician should learn is how to use his body, how to keep his body healthy an in good condition. This is exactly the opposite of most musicians.”

They are good but they only go so far. And they will not help you much with your question.

So here is something for you to ponder:

Consider playing this incomplete arpeggio with the LH: A-E-A.

What would I be looking for, if I was to tell if someone has good technique or not? (Unfortunately I am not the examiners, so I cannot really say what they would be looking for).

Now a lot of students think of playing the piano as pressing the keys in any way and producing any sort of sound. Their movements are inefficient, they are all over the place, the sound they produce is random, and the music they make is not going anywhere. This is poor technique. Yet, if practised enough it will soon feel “natural”.

Let us look at A-E-A. Go to the piano and observe how you do it. Most beginners and students with poor technique will have the 2nd finger on the E, right at the edge of the key. The little finger and the thumb – being much shorter will be dangling in the air. When the student needs to press the A, s/he usually throws the elbow out, and pivots on the second finger to get the little finger in position. When it is time to play the other A (with the thumb), the thumb is again so far from the key, that the hand must again pivot (and press the nerve centres at the outside of the wrist) to bring the thumb into reach. If you play a sequence of A1 – E – A2 –E – A1 – E - !2 etc. like that, your hand will be moving from side to side (as if waving bye bye). Understand that this movement is itself a technique, just a very poor one. Moreover, when using this sort of movement, the fingers are “reaching” for the keys. The fingers are initiating the movement and like little tractors pulling the hand , forearm , arm, etc. behind them. This kind of technique is however, very intuitive. Anyone who starts to play the piano will use it. Very few people will “naturally” use the correct technique.

So now let us have a look at what “good technique” looks and eels like in this particular case.

Start as before by placing your 2nd finger on the edge of the E and the little finger and thumb dangling in the air. Now, using your upper arm, push the forearm/hand/finger forward, do that the2nd finger slide on the key and brings the little finger and thumb on top of the two As. The feeling is that your elbow is pushing the hand (it is a false statement: the elbow pushes nothing – the upper arm is doing the push). Now your arm is positioning the fingers in their proper place, rather than the fingers reaching for the keys. Practise this sliding movement. Then as you slide back and forth, co-ordinate this movement with a small rotation of the forearm so that you use the weight of your arm to press the A with the little finger and the A with the thumb. This is a very simple movement, very difficult to describe in writing and very easy to do wrong form a written description. You need someone knowledgeable to demonstrate it for you and check that you are doing the right movement (= a good teacher).

But if you now compare this movement with the “bad” one described previously, you may detect these differences:

1.   the “good” movement is far more economical and efficient. It looks this way, it feels this way, and you will have far more control over the sound thus produced. You could even call it an “elegant” movement.

2.   The “good” movement is far less taxing physically, since you are using the large muscles of the arm to do all the work, while the “bad” movement was exhausting since you were using the small muscles of the hand/forearm. As a consequence, you would soon be tired and in pain (and eventually injured) if you practised it for more than a few minutes, while the “good” movement would allow you to keep practising for hours without any physical fatigue or risk of injury (not that this should be necessary).

[to be continued...]

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bernhard
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2004, 02:35:28 PM »

[continued from above]

The way to get good technique:

1.   Observe people with good technique. How are you going to do that, if you do not know what good technique is in the first place? You must get rid of the often found misconception that some one has good technique if they can play pieces/passages regarded as difficult (fast, loud, double thirds, octaves, etc.). Someone has good technique if they make it look as if what they are doing is easy. Anyone who seems to be labouring under tremendous physical effort and awkwardness to pull a passage has not yet figured out the technique to play that passage. This is the first and most important tell tale. The second is: What does it sound like? Only the best technique will allow for the best musical rendition. Now you must imitate this people you are observing as having good technique. But what you are going to imitate is not their actual  movements (this never works: you must come up with your own movements), but rather the easiness with which they play and the musical results they achieve.

2.   Good technique always result in easy playing. If you compare Rubinstein and Horowitz (just two examples any other two pianists would do) you cannot imagine more different movements/techniques, and yet they had this in common: when they played it looked easy. So always practise with “easy” as a goal. Keep investigating and changing your movements until what was impossible becomes easy. Most people are happy if they arrive at a situation where an impossible passage becomes playable. Any passage can become playable with bad technique. But it will only become easy if the technique is right. By all means get inspiration for new ideas to try from the great pianists, but everyone’s physicality is different, so you must eventually come up with your own movements, your personal technique, that makes the passage/piece utterly easy for you. As the old Chinese saying goes: “Do not follow in the old masters footsteps; rather seek what they sought.”

3.   Always acquire technique from repertory – that is, whatever technique you are acquiring it should always have a direct import and be guided by the pieces you are working on. Your technical range will increase with the increase of your repertory.

4.   Spend as much time as needed investigating different movements. A lot of time can be saved if you have a teacher that will show you the most appropriate movement/technique, or even better – if s/he can give you a range of movement/techniques that you can investigate to see which one best fits you personally.

5.   Before even thinking of getting near a piano, develop a very clear mental representation of what you would like your piece to sound like. Make sure through thorough study that your representation is faithful to the style, period and composer’s intentions for the piece. Then by striving to achieve that representation you will develop the appropriate technical requirements.

So, summing it all up:

1.   Bad technique will get you results up to a point, but the results will not be as good as the results using good technique.

2.   You can practise Hanon and Czerny for years and not get good technique, since they are perfectly playable with bad technique. In fact, if you read Hanon’s own preface where he describes the technique you should use when playing his exercises, it is one of the worst (if not the worst) technique ever put down on paper.

3.   You will not be able to play the advanced repertory with bad technique

4.   Bad technique if practised exhaustively will lead to injury.

5.   There is no universal bad or good technique. It depends on the passage you are playing. The contrast I made above with A-E-A is true only for A-E-A. The technique which was good for A-E-A may be bad for a different passage and vice-versa. This is the reason why the “logical” way of practising technique by itself will never work. You can only decide if the technique is good or bad as relating to a specific passage. Practising Hanon with a superb technique will only produce an excellent technique to play…Hanon! What is worse, even the technique I suggested as a good one to play AEA may have to be modified depending on what comes before and after the AEA.

6.   On reading the above, people often argue that there are many piano figurations (scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.) that occur so often that in order to acquire the technique to play them one could save a  lot of time just practising them by themselves. It sounds very logical, but it simply does not work this way. Even if you practice scales day and night with a perfect technique, the moment you find a similar scale ina piece, you will not be able to use your hardly acquired technique because most likely a different fingering will be required, or the scale starts on a different note form the tonic (e.g., the first movement of Mozart’s K 545).

7.   Moreover the whole point of “technique” is to produce the correct sound for a particular piece. The “sound” required to play a Bach fugue is very different from the “sound” required to play a Rachmaninoff prelude. The “techniques” are of necessity very different. This differences in sound on the piano, have nothing to do with the way you press the keys – a favorite superstition amongst piano teachers and pianists – but rather with dynamics, and agogics: the way you accent and emphasise certain notes by playing them louder or softer, or shorter or longer. This means that before sitting at the piano and doing ten hours of mindless repetition hoping to acquire “technique” one should spend a lot of time investigating the style of the piece one is going to play, the musical conventions of the period of the piece one is going to play, deciding on ornamentation (if that is the case), on where the melodic and harmonic accents are, on rhythm and how to get the real rhythm out of the notated rhythm (particularly crucial in Chopin and the Romantics in general).

8.   So do you want to do Hanon or Czerny like exercises? Then always start from the real piece you are going to play. Isolate the technically difficult sections and write your very own little exercise that will deal with the technical difficulties of the specific passage in the specific piece you are tackling.

9.   And by the way a lot of examiners do not have a clue either. They sit there, they listen to the piece, they know something is not quite right and say: “it is the technique”. But if you press them hard: “what do you mean” they may well come up with some inanity like “ you need to do Hanon and Czerny”. This is not to say that they are unable to play the piece perfectly, but they are (not all of them of course) like a native speaker of English, who can use the language to perfection, but has no idea of grammar or syntax.

10.   The best technique is always personal. You have to investigate what works best for you and you alone.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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rohansahai
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2004, 06:47:09 AM »

I agree with Bernhard on most of the points! However, there are certain instances when Technique clashes with Musicality! I've never believed that playing should look effortless! I think that one should work out the technical part and make it effortless! But the work only STARTS there!!!!! If you leave it at that point the playing will be dull and lifeless, (although it'll seem effortless). Some of these rigidities with the technique have to be sacrificed in order to bring out the excitement in the playing.  That's all I have to say. I guess most of u will disagree but that's my way of thinking!!!
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2004, 09:20:45 AM »

When you're technique is perfect,  you should be able to play the required pieces without flaws in any circumstance.

How to improve?  Practice the pieces more,  or alter your practice method.

However there are sometimes where yourtechnique may not allow you to play the way you want.  Good technique should not do this.
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bernhard
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2004, 09:59:14 AM »

I agree with Bernhard on most of the points! However, there are certain instances when Technique clashes with Musicality! I've never believed that playing should look effortless! I think that one should work out the technical part and make it effortless! But the work only STARTS there!!!!! If you leave it at that point the playing will be dull and lifeless, (although it'll seem effortless). Some of these rigidities with the technique have to be sacrificed in order to bring out the excitement in the playing.  That's all I have to say. I guess most of u will disagree but that's my way of thinking!!!

To play effortlessly takes a lot of effort. Wink
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Tash
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2004, 11:31:51 AM »

*bows down to bernhard*

if for anything the length of your answer! thanks so much, i shall contemplate all you've said, it's bril Wink

and thanks everyone else too, i now have some new ideas to work with, you're all super!
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Spatula
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2004, 02:01:14 PM »

I'm still starting out on Chopin's Sonata 1 Presto Movement.

There are some very tricky parts that I've stated before in previous posts.  I've also noted that the fingering written is probably the better fingering than I can come up with, even though some of it seems very illogical, but they work under hight amounts of pressure and speed, so I don't bend my fingers the wrong way even though at slow speeds the wrong fingering works.

For this one, I'm having a difficult time writing out the outline, so I'm not sure where the main theme or melody is.  I can faintly see roughly the structure of the piece, but cannot get every detail (an outline limits or omits most of the detail and focuses on the bare necessities of what the piece is made up of)

I'm finding this piece is where technique makes it or breaks it, so there's the conventional technique found (broken octave scales) and other 4 note chord patterns and diminished 7th broken chords in both LH and RH.

Any other arm movemenets or technique to make this piece "easier" or more manageable?  I'm trying out different arm and wrist movements to cope with the demanding stuff in it.
 
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