Piano Forum logo
July 24, 2017, 12:39:05 PM *
   Forum Home   Help Search  


Imagine: Being a Concert Pianist

The documentary “Imagine: Being a Concert Pianist” gets under the lid of this extreme form of musicianship. Celebrated pianists, including Yevgeny Kissin, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Lang Lang, talk intimately about their lives, their work and their motivation. Read more >>

Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Practise Finger Exercises...how?  (Read 8080 times)
sissco
PS Silver Member
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 199


« on: January 30, 2006, 02:01:24 PM »

Hi....

I have studyed the "Dohnanyi-Essential Finger Exercises" (found on the forum here, many thanks for that). But my question is: how do you practise that?

-One exercise the whole week?
-Some exercises 10 minutes every day....
-Until you master one...

What is the best way to do that?

Thx...!
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
sissco
PS Silver Member
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 199


« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2006, 08:24:12 AM »

Euh....plz?
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
rc
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 1935


« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2006, 05:34:33 PM »

The idea is to be able to pull these exercises off fluently and easily... Nothing wrong with doing more than one at a time, so long as you achieve that goal in the end. I'll stress the idea of being able to play them with ease, because it's not hard to use too much tension in Dohnanyi and injure yourself. Be careful of that.

To me, it seems that after a certain point something clicks, I'm suddenly able to do the exercise and that's the end of it. I wouldn't use a set amount of time to practice these, just until I could do it and maybe once in a while to remind. They're so awful to listen to Lips Sealed.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
erak
PS Silver Member
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 127


« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2006, 06:20:34 PM »

When playing these, just listen to the sound you're making, and not to how they sound. Make sure it sounds even and stuff, try to work towards a "perfect technique", not only in the fingers, but also tone-wise. This makes them a bit more bareable Smiley.


It helps if you get good at them, when you feel they do really work, you'll want to play.. practice, I mean, them more Wink.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
rc
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 1935


« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2006, 07:37:23 PM »

When playing these, just listen to the sound you're making, and not to how they sound. Make sure it sounds even and stuff, try to work towards a "perfect technique", not only in the fingers, but also tone-wise. This makes them a bit more bareable Smiley.


It helps if you get good at them, when you feel they do really work, you'll want to play.. practice, I mean, them more Wink.

hahah! yes, there's always the great challenge of making dull exercises sound bearable. Still, polishing a turd doesn't mean it isn't a turd... Musically speaking of course Grin.

With Dohnanyi, it's more like a puzzle to solve and never worry about again for me. More than anything, getting good at them makes me want to dig into a Bach fugue.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
bernhard
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 5078


« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2006, 12:35:07 AM »

Hi....

I have studyed the "Dohnanyi-Essential Finger Exercises" (found on the forum here, many thanks for that). But my question is: how do you practise that?

-One exercise the whole week?
-Some exercises 10 minutes every day....
-Until you master one...

What is the best way to do that?

Thx...!


How do you practise the Dohnanyi exercises?

You don´t.

They are unnecessary at best, and dangerous at worst.

I have said it many times and I will say it again: There is no need to “exercise” the fingers. Working correctly in any piece of music will do that naturally and safely.
 How do you work correctly on a´piece of music? If you don´t know what I am talking about, this will be a long post.

So start by having a look here:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5767.msg56133.html#msg56133
(huge collection of links)

Please don´t misunderstand me: Dohnanyi (like Cortot) was a great pianist. However his ideas on how one gets to be a great pianist are so off the mark and so wrong as to be scary (same applies to Cortot). And yet, you will find no shortage of pianists of the highest caliber attributing their success to following their precepts (they usually don´t mention their injuries either). The fact is, conditioning - especially early age conditioning – is very difficult to get rid of.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
pianolearner
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 573


« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2006, 08:26:44 AM »

Quote
There is no need to “exercise” the fingers. Working correctly in any piece of music will do that naturally and safely.

Bernhard,

1) I make finger exercises a part of my daily practice routine along with scales. My teacher wants me to do them and they warm up my fingers. I agree with what you because I found that as a result of the pieces I have been learning my left hand is now "stronger" than my right even though I am right handed. I discovered this whilst practising a Schmitt exercise. I was practising hands together and gradually increased the tempo and my Right hand always gave up before my Left. This puzzled me until I looked over the pieces I have been studying over the last year, Attwood No1 and Burgmuller Op100 and they seem to work the Left hand more than the right. So now I'm afraid my Right hand is falling behind and I need the exercises to bring it up to speed.


2) I have read in other threads that inexperienced players should NOT attempt some pieces because they are so difficult that an injury can be sustained if played with incorrect technique. Can you please qualify your statement "Working correctly in any piece of music will do that naturally and safely"?

Basically, what I am asking is: If a complete novice started with Scmitt/Hanon will they be less likely to injure themselves than if they chose a piece that may be beyond them? (My question is from the perspective of a person who has never read a thread from this forum)
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
sissco
PS Silver Member
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 199


« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2006, 12:03:17 PM »

Well...i'm reading that book from Chuan C. Chang. He says finger exercises aren't really    that necessary...and yes...they are really uncomfortable  Roll Eyes So i'll wait with this for a while  Wink
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
bearzinthehood
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 448


« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2006, 08:11:28 PM »


How do you practise the Dohnanyi exercises?

You don´t.

They are unnecessary at best, and dangerous at worst.

I have said it many times and I will say it again: There is no need to “exercise” the fingers. Working correctly in any piece of music will do that naturally and safely.
 How do you work correctly on a´piece of music? If you don´t know what I am talking about, this will be a long post.

So start by having a look here:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5767.msg56133.html#msg56133
(huge collection of links)

Please don´t misunderstand me: Dohnanyi (like Cortot) was a great pianist. However his ideas on how one gets to be a great pianist are so off the mark and so wrong as to be scary (same applies to Cortot). And yet, you will find no shortage of pianists of the highest caliber attributing their success to following their precepts (they usually don´t mention their injuries either). The fact is, conditioning - especially early age conditioning – is very difficult to get rid of.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.



I firmly believe that if you can't play at least the first two Dohnanyi exercises very well then you cannot be a good pianist.  Some exercises are ridiculous yes, but some exercises are just a matter of flexibility and yes, strength and control.  The analogy that I would give is a martial artist with poor groin flexibility attempting high kicks.  There's no point in learning high kicks without having the proper flexibility, in fact that's a good way to get injured.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
bernhard
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 5078


« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2006, 12:11:17 AM »

Bernhard,

1) I make finger exercises a part of my daily practice routine along with scales. My teacher wants me to do them and they warm up my fingers. I agree with what you because I found that as a result of the pieces I have been learning my left hand is now "stronger" than my right even though I am right handed. I discovered this whilst practising a Schmitt exercise. I was practising hands together and gradually increased the tempo and my Right hand always gave up before my Left. This puzzled me until I looked over the pieces I have been studying over the last year, Attwood No1 and Burgmuller Op100 and they seem to work the Left hand more than the right. So now I'm afraid my Right hand is falling behind and I need the exercises to bring it up to speed.


2) I have read in other threads that inexperienced players should NOT attempt some pieces because they are so difficult that an injury can be sustained if played with incorrect technique. Can you please qualify your statement "Working correctly in any piece of music will do that naturally and safely"?

Basically, what I am asking is: If a complete novice started with Scmitt/Hanon will they be less likely to injure themselves than if they chose a piece that may be beyond them? (My question is from the perspective of a person who has never read a thread from this forum)


Er... I actually did qualify my statement:

“Working correctly in any piece of music will do that naturally and safely.”

“Correctly” implies, amongst other things that you are tackling a [/i]challenging[/i], but not impossible piece, that you are employing the correct movement patterns (= technique), that you are working in small sections, and that you are not practising for more than 15 – 20 minutes per day on that particular piece/section, etc. etc. etc.

Injuries result almost invariably form insisting on some bizarre movement (that is, inappropriate in view of human anatomical constraints) for several hours a day, over a couple of years, on the mistaken belief that somehow, if repeated endlessly, the bizarre movement will overcome the anatomical constraints that make it so.

The first and main purpose of practice should be to find out which movement patterns, for you, and for the piece/section, will render it easy to play. Once such a pattern has been found (and it may take a lot of experimentation, investigation and exploration), ingraining the technique is a matter of minutes – and it will never be forgotten or need to be practiced again (partly because you will be using it when playing the piece).

Although some general patterns have been discovered over the last 300 years (e.g. thumb over for fast scales, which by the way is rarely formally taught since all exercise books insist on thumb under). Mostly this is a painstakingly slow process of investigation and personal discovery. This ultimately makes playing the piano highly individual. I am afraid that exercises of the kind you are doing cannot take you there, and will actually delay the  process and postpone the results.

[to be continued...]
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
bernhard
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 5078


« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2006, 12:12:19 AM »

[... continued from previous post]

I have already written extensively about all this. Have a look here, for instance (these threads should qualify my statements further):

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3677.msg32879.html#msg32879
(What is the best practice diet?  The key to practice is familiarisation with the piece.  Schumann’s Remembrance)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4059.msg37072.html#msg37072
(Does there come a time when piano learning will not be so difficult – The problem: a good teacher, enough practice and yet very slow progress –  approach maybe everything: practice to make it easy. Guardian link to Alan Rustrbridge article – summary of PPI - alternate hands)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4004.msg47440.html#msg47440
(3 correct X wrong attitudes when practising)

http://www.pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,8981.msg91081.html#msg91081
(repertory x purely technical exercises to acquire technique)

http://www.pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,8417.msg85259.html#msg85259
(when is a piece finished – why technique and interpretation cannot be divorced)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,1867.msg14268.html#msg14268
(Getting technique from pieces – several important tricks: hand memory, dropping notes, repeated note-groups)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2429.msg21061.html#msg21061
(Technical studies x pieces – the genesis of Studies and how Czerny derived his exercises from Beethoven sonatas - why scales are useless and at the same time essential – Chopin x Kalkbrenner story – Unorthodox fingering for scales).

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2998.msg26268.html#msg26268
(Scales HT, why? – why and when to practise scales HS and HT – Pragmatical  x logical way of teaching – analogy with aikido – list of piano techniques – DVORAK – realistic x sports martial arts – technique and how to acquire it by solving technical problems – Hanon and why it should be avoided - Lemmings)

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,2619.msg104249.html#msg104249
(Scale fingering must be modified according to the piece – Godard op. 149 no.5 – yet another example of the folly of technical exercises)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2526.msg21829.html#msg21829
(how to organise piano practise in short/medium/long term – Principle of memory retention – Principle of 15 minute sessions – stopping when you achieve your goals. Teachers should teach how to learn)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2599.msg22431.html#msg22431
(How long does it all take? – self-taught students - the cake analogy - criticism of ABRSM for expecting people to reach grade 8 in 10 years - learning is not gradual  comparison with reading - different ways of learning - how to learn to drive a car -   the dispersive method of teaching - 15 list to “disperse” learning).

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3039.msg26525.html#msg26525
(how big are your hands, and does it matter?  7 x 20 minutes – exercise/activities to strengthen the playing apparatus – ways to deal with wide chords – the myth that Richter was self-taught – 3 stages of learning – Example: Chopin militaire Polonaise - scientific principles for testing practice methods – Example: Prelude in F#m from WTC1 – when to join hands and why HS – practice is improvement – the principle of “easy” – Example: Chopin’s ballade no. 4 – repeated groups)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3625.msg32673.html#msg32673
(PPI –  comparison with body building – brief mention of movement and intellectual centre – comparison with babies walking and coma patients- muscle tension and nerve inhibition – how to investigate and test practice ideas – How to teach by using progressively difficult repertory)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4105.msg37603.html#msg37603
(Does age and practice time matter? –  Summaries of the 7 x 20 approach – averages and standard deviations are given for the several numbers – need for a practice diary – how to deal with mastering something and forgetting it next day – what exactly is mastery – the 3 stages of mastery)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4123.msg37829.html#msg37829
(How to investigate the best movement pattern: Example Scarlatti sonata K70 – How to work out the best fingering. Example: CPE Bach Allegro in A – Slow x slow motion practice – HS x HT – practising for only 5 – 10 minutes)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4244.msg39203.html#msg39203
(How long to practice – having an aim, achieving it and moving on – How to define aim)





http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3561.msg31700.html#msg31700
(Questions about Bernhard’s method – Bernhard’s answers – mostly about the 7 X 20 principle, how do you know when you mastered a section, when to use the methods, and when they are not necessary – investigating the reasons for difficult)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4689.msg44184.html#msg44184
(Bernhard answers questions and elucidates further about: 20 minutes – practice starts when you get it right – definition of mastery : learned – mastered – omniscience – Aim for easy – final speed in practice must be faster than performance speed – Example: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2 – outline – repeated note groups – HS x HT)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4710.msg44538.html#msg44538
(Bernhard explains once more about 7 x 20 minutes – Progress is the ultimate decider – How to break a piece in practice sessions – Example: Satie gymnopedie – importance of planning – aim at 100 pieces per year – Example: Bach Cm WTC 2 -)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4750.msg45125.html#msg45125
(more details: learned – mastered –omniscience – why repertory must be paramount – how to work on 20 pieces per month – a case for easy repertory – importance of discipline and of having a plan – analogy of mastering a piece and making wine – musicality is ultimately good taste – Example: Beethoven op. 49 no. 2- A list of progressive repertory to lead to Rach prelude op. 32 no. 5 – mastery is when it is easy)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4797.msg45744.html#msg45744
(No skipped steps – Bernhard enlightens further and tells the usual places where students go wrong – Ht x HS)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4858.msg46087.html#msg46087
(Paul’s report on B’s method. Feedback from Bernhard including: HS x HT – Example: Lecuona’s malaguena – 7x20 – need to adjust and adapt – repeated note-groups – importance of HS – hand memory – 7 items only in consciousness – playing in automatic pilot - )

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5177.msg49229.html#msg49229
(more on 7x20 – what it means to master a passage)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5298.msg50376.html#msg50376
(alternative to the chord trick – Rhythm variations  - repeated note-groups – starting with the difficult bars – how to break down a piece in sessions – ways to tackle speed that do not involve the chord trick)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/board,4/topic,4880.3.html#msg46319
(discusses how to acquire technique and what technique actually is)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4082.msg37362.html#msg37362
(one cannot learn technique in a vacuum. At the same time one cannot simply play pieces – comparison with tennis)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4385.msg41226.html#msg41226
(technique is personal and relative to the piece – Fosberry flop – the best books on technique)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4734.msg44770.html#msg44770
(how to acquire virtuoso technique – aiming at 100 pieces in five years)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4880.msg46339.html#msg46339
(definition of technique: quote from Fink, Sandor and Pires – Example of the A-E-A arpeggio)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5352.msg50998.html#msg50998
(Exercises x repertory – why technique cannot be isolated from music)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5375.msg51272.html#msg51272
(Defending technicalexercises – two different philosophies regarding exercises – chopstick analogy)

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,7341.msg114168.html#msg114168
(repeated note-groups for difficult passages – correct technique is never uncomfortable – rotation as the solution to 5th finger weakness – criticism to misguided technical exercises – trusting the unconscious)

http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,7175.msg114163.html#msg114163
(wrist action – the movements that should be avoided when playing and the movements that should be used).


http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=13583.msg147163#msg147163
(Why Hanon is a waste of time – or not -  summary of arguments and many relevant links)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
bernhard
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 5078


« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2006, 12:15:39 AM »

I firmly believe that if you can't play at least the first two Dohnanyi exercises very well then you cannot be a good pianist.

Er… People firmly believe all sorts of things. For a long time people firmly believed the earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it. Many members of this forum believe that dinosaurs do not exist and the earth is 6000 years old. Some people believed not long ago that UFOs would come to take them to a better planet, and they all committed mass suicide to that end. So, how exactly does your firm belief makes any difference to the case in question?

Now let us shake this firm belief a bit, shall we? Dohnanyi – one of the greatest virtuoso pianists (and superb composer) of his generation was born in 1877 and died in 1960. His set of exercises was first published in 1929. Hey, wait a minute! Liszt was born in 1811 and died in 1886. So, according to your firm beliefs, Liszt´s palying must have sucked, after all, he didn´t have the opportunity to pracitse Dohnayi´s exercises 1 and 2! Come to think of it, Chopin was born in 1810 and died in 1849, almost 30 years before Dohnanyi was born. Hence he could not have been a good pianist. Grab a copy of Harold C. Schonberg´s “The great pianists, and see how many of the greatest pianists in history managed to get by without Dohnanyi´s exercises, thank you very much.

Quote
Some exercises are ridiculous yes, but some exercises are just a matter of flexibility and yes, strength and control.

And what criteria are you going to use to decide that?

Quote
  The analogy that I would give is a martial artist with poor groin flexibility attempting high kicks.  There's no point in learning high kicks without having the proper flexibility, in fact that's a good way to get injured.

I am very happy you came up with this analogy. First of all – and quite a few martial art instructors completely ignore what is to follow – There are different kinds of flexibility (as many as six). But for practical purposes, we need only consider two kinds: Dynamic flexibility and static passive flexibility. Their relationship is not straightforward (and is not completely understood either). If you are going to high kick (something that is actually unnecessary as we shall see), you need dynamic flexibility. And the way to develop dynamic flexibility is by… doing high kicks! Of course, you have to do it the correct way to develop dynamic flexibility, which – summarizing – involves three main principles:

1.   Practise the movement slowly, using muscle, not moment (when doing an actual kick the movement will be ballistic – if you have not done your dynamic flexibility training properly, that is when you get injured).
 
2.   Repeat the movement slowly always striving to kick a bit higher – but stop the moment you feel fatigue – fatigue actually contracts the muscles and is self-defeating. This is the opposite of strenght training, where fatigue and even pain are important to develop muscles. So you cannot develop strength and dynamic flexibility optimally. You must choose one. The stronger you are, the less flexible, and vice versa.

3.   Have a physical obstacle to stop your movement. Do not just swing the leg in the air, because this leads your brain to panic and tense the muscles at the moment of maximum extension. This again is the major cause of injuries when doing dynamic flexibility training. So, have your arm-hand in front of you, so that it stops your leg from ascending. The brain is reassured that your leg will not swing out of safety, and therefore the leg is allowed to relax and you will reach a higher height.

On the other hand trying to develop static passive flexibility (like in yoga postures) is a definite no no if you want to do high kicks. The reason is very simple. Static flexibility destroys (temporarily) motor co-ordination. Just watch the guys and girls coming out of an yoga class: they can hardly walk! Countless times I have seen ignorant taekwondo and karate instructors lead their classe through warm-up followed by a long session of yoga-like stretching which immediately had two consequences: it cooled the class down, and it made their motor co-ordination rubbish. When this was followed immediately by high kicks and sparring I could only shake my head in disbelief. Injuries in these classes were quite frequent. When I challenged the instructors, all they could come up with was: “I firmly believe in the worthiness of my way”, or less often “That is how my instructor did things and I don’t see why change things”. None had the vaguest notion about the physiology of flexibility and muscle injury.

The correct sequence should have been: Warm-up using dynamic flexibility routines. Followed by the class proper (with the movements now done ballisticaly) followed by static flexibility routine as way to cool down. To see this correct sequence applied is unfortunately pretty rare.

You can have a look here, where I go into further detail in these matters. (See specially reply # 8 ).

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5352.msg50998.html#msg50998
(Exercises x repertory – why technique cannot be isolated from music – analogy with warmup in the martial arts – dynamic flexibility and co-ordination – how to do high kicks without warming up)

But there is something else one should keep in mind. I believe in the practice of martial arts for the purpose of self-defence, not as a sport, not as acrobatics and not as a way to get a role in a martial arts movie. And for self-defence you don’t really need extreme, or even above average flexibility. Again I do not need to firmly believe in this statement. I can provide evidence for it. Consider a sidekick to the throat or to the face. Get a tape measure and measure yourself from the nose down. In my case, (I am 1.80m), 1.63m will get the tip of my nose. Now mark this distance on the floor, stand up and stretch your legs so that they cover that span. I am prepared to bet that 99% of unfit people will be able to stretch that distance without great effort. This means that I should be able to side kick anyone my size on the nose without any special flexibility training. Moreover, if I decide to kill them by sidekicking them on the throat, the stretch is even less, since my throat is at a meager 1.46m.

You see, the problem is that realistic high-kicks to realistic targets do not require great stretches. But they do require (and that is what take years to train) proper balance, proper joint alignment, proper body impulse (which by the way can only be learned by kicking a real target like a sandbag – kicking the air as some many martial instructors do is pretty useless – and very bad for the joints). Sure, I have seen Taekwondo people kick so high that their sole of their feet is parallel to the ceiling, but who exactly are they fighting? Andre the Giant? A helicopter?

Moreover, in real life fights, you will rarely kick. If you do, your main targets will be pretty low: knee and pubic bone. If you are attacked by several adversaries, then kicking is a complete no no: The chances of you being unbalanced and thrown to the floor are too large to risk it. At close range, even punches may be useless: you will be using mostly elbows head buts and – less often – knees. Grappling will be a far more important skill than people who like to watch martial arts movies (and believe fights go like that) would believe.

So you see, your high kick analogy seems reasonable, but all it does is reveal a monumental ignorance of what truly goes on. Likewise, good piano playing may not be what you believe it to be. And the skills that make up for it may be quite different form what one would expect.

Having debunked Hanon elsewhere, I will now debunk Dohnanyi.

[to be continued in the next post…]
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
bernhard
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 5078


« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2006, 12:21:15 AM »

[…continued from previous post]

I will follow with Dohnanyi the same procedure I did with Hanon: I will examine what he has to say in his preface to “Essential finger exercises for obtaining a reliable piano technique” (First published in 1929) and se if it makes any sense.

I have italicized Dohnanyi´s words, while my comments are in normal typeface. He starts:

In music schools piano tuition suffers mostly from far too much exercise material given for the purely technical development of the pupils, the many hours of daily practice spent on these not being in proportion to the results obtained. Musicality is hereby badly neglected and consequently show many weak points. The fault lies on one side that pupils are not taught to practise properly, and on the other hand, that far too many studies and exercises are given from which only little value can be gained, whilst not enough time is left for the study of repertory pieces. A few show pieces are usually repeated to excess, as they are needed for public production, whereby the teacher’s reputation is generally more benefited than the pupil’s progress. Correct sense of style can however, only be furthered by a sufficient knowledge of musical literature.

Needless to say, I wholeheartedly agree with Dohananyi´s assessment of the situation.

Therefore, before all else, the amount of studies must be reduced and this can be done without harm if they are replaced by such exercises which in lesser time, bring forth the same benefits. Finger exercises are preferable to studies, if only for the reason that they can be practised from memory and consequently the whole attention can be concentrated on the proper execution, which is most important.

Now we have here in this paragraph a comedy of errors, and it is difficult even to decide where to begin unraveling it.

Certainly the amount of studies should be reduced. They should in fact be relegated to the dustbin altogether – unless one is interested in playing them as part of one’s repertory – this is the logical follow-up to the first paragraph. Instead Dohnanyi comes up with yet another book of exercises to add to the already voluminous opus around. Sure this is the mother of all exercise books according to him, and we should drop all the others in favour of his. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? And so have every other author of piano exercises claimed in their prefaces, from Hanon to Cortot. They all deplore the fact that too much time is wasted on exercises, just to come up with another bunch of them, this time the ultimate ones.

So, Dohnanyi continues, let us replace all these exercises by just a few (40 in his case) that will bring forth the same benefits. All right, but what exactly are these benefits? In no point in his preface does Dohnanyi discloses this information. In no point in the book does he mention what exactly is the particular exercise supposed to achieve in any specific way. Sure, in exercise 1 he tells us: “Exercises for the independence and strengthening of the fingers”.  One would expect that by now (1929), the basics of anatomy should be part of the knowledge a pianist should have. And if so, to talk about finger independence (impossible anatomically) and finger strength (even more impossible, since there are no muscles in the fingers) should be a definite no-no.

Anyway, after exercise 1, no other direction whatsoever is given as to how to perform the exercises until one gets to exercise no. 38, where the following gem can be found:

This exercise is to be practised forte from the arm and piano from the wrist; both always with different fingering, i.e. once throughout with 15, and then alternating 15 with 14 whereby 15 come on the white keys, and 14 on the black keys.

Ah! Now everything is clear!

Back to the preface, Dohnanyi continues:

Finger exercises are preferable to studies, if only for the reason that they can be practised from memory.

No, finger exercises are to be shunned altogether, because what one wants to develop is not isolated finger whatever (independence, strength, flexibility) but total co-ordination of the playing apparatus which in its most restricted sense goes from the shoulder girdle to the fingertips, but in its most general sense must necessarily involve the whole body (as Richter is reputed to have said: “I played that note with my big toe”). And if the only reason Dohnanyi can think of for preferring finger exercises is facility of memory, think again.

The fact is, finger exercises are mostly meaningless, and there is nothing as difficult to memorise as meaningless information. It is always easier to memorise a line of meaningful text than a line of random letters. Typically of many exercise proponents, Dohnanyi seems oblivious to such contradictions, even when he himself points out the difficulty of memorising his exercises: He feels obliged to produce in exercises no. 9, no. 10, no. 11 convoluted schemes to facilitate the memorising of these exercises!

The preparatory degrees are not considered here. Beginning with the middle stages, a judicious choice of studies by Cramer and Bertini suffices; later a selection from Clementi’ Gradus with the subservient exercises, is sufficient for obtaining a reliable technique. Everything else, even Czerny, is superfluous; it does not contain anything of essential importance which might not be acquired through finger-exercises, or by conscientious practising of appropriate passages of pieces. The etudes by Chopin and Liszt belong of course to the category of concert-pieces, and play a role as important for higher and highest stages, as Bach’s Two and Three part Inventions in connection with Bertini and Cramer, and the Well-Tempered Clavier with Clementi.

I agree that Czerny is superfluous. But so are Cramer, Bertini and Clementi. And so are finger exercises. All you need – as Dohnanyi himself points out – is the conscientious practising of appropriate passages of pieces. The proposition that finger exercises, Cramer et al. is all you need to obtain a reliable technique, is as laughable as the proposition that doing 100 press-ups every morning will turn you into an irresistible lover. Such propositions simply reveal how limited one’s idea of what playing the piano – or love-making - is.

Thus, by diminishing the amount of studies, time is won for repertory music, and this time can be utilised still better, if only some of the pieces are practised up to finishing stage; concerning the large number of pieces the teacher should be satisfied as long as they are played by the pupil in a clear and efficient manner. In the long run the pupil will benefit from this.

Well, by getting rid of studies and exercises altogether, even more time will be won for repertory music. I must say that I am not sure what benefit can come from half learning pieces. Maybe at the time when he wrote this (1929) this (sight-reading and learning only part of a piece) was the only way to get acquainted with repertory. Nowadays, we have CDs for that purpose, so if you are going to learn something do it to your best ability.

A wide knowledge of music literature can only be acquired by sight reading. I cannot recommend pupils to start early with sight-reading: piano as well as chamber music. I do not mean playing a piece once through, but to play it several times, so as to become well acquainted with it. It may be argued, that this must lead into superficial, untidy (“sloppy”), amateurish playing. The disadvantages of much sight-reading has however advantages, which are unfortunately not sufficiently considered. Independently of the great advantage of a wider knowledge of musical literature, thus acquired, the sense of style is improved, and it is also of use, in regard to technique, for the deftness and the surety of the fingers are increased.

Although I agree in general, sightreading is certainly not the only way to get acquainted with the literature. It may well have been so in 1929, but nowadays we have CDs, notation software and its associated MIDI, and these are by far a much more efficient way to get a first acquaintance with pieces one may be interested in playing. I myself am a firm believer in sight-reading, but for different reasons. Just like there is great pleasure in reading  a book, there is great pleasure in playing (through sight-reading) and exploring repertory for itself with no ulterior motives. (You should eat broccoli because you like it, not because it is good for you).

The less time spent on purely technical studies, the more important it is to practise with full concentrated thought. It is absolutely useless to practise exercises in a thoughtless, mechanical manner, especially when the eyes are riveted on the music. When playing, even the simplest of finger exercises, the full attention must be fixed on the finger-work, each note must be played consciously, in short: not to practise merely with  the fingers, but through the fingers with the brain

Sure. But then why go to the trouble of publishing 40 brain-killing exercises?

As far as finger exercises are concerned, there are a number of works, which offer a vast field of profit and interest. They contain however too many exercises, the usefulness of which are questionable, when it comes to practical playing. After all, however technically well equipped a pianist may be, certain difficulties have to be conquered by special practice during the study of the piece itself. I do not speak of special cases, such as hands spoiled by bad training, deeply rooted faults, etc., where special exercises are necessary.

A vast field of profit – maybe for the writer/publisher, especially if they can convince the public that their exercises are better and fit to replace all others – but interest?

Then we have the next two sentences: either the exercises are profitable and interesting, or their usefulness is questionable. Which one is it?

And finally Dohnanyi puts the finger in the wound, so to speak:

After all, however technically well equipped a pianist may be, certain difficulties have to be conquered by special practice during the study of the piece itself.

Exactly. At the end of the day, it is the repertory that matters,  and it is the repertory that will show a pianist´s limitations (technical and/or musical) and it is through work on repertory that such limitations will be best addressed and hopefully overcome.

In the following exercises, I have endeavoured to collect material in condensed form, yet as complete as possible which should help piano students to acquire a reliable technique. They are even all-sufficient for finished pianists to keep in training, and to retain the already acquired technique. Many exercises are new, they do not however lay any claim either to originality or beauty. I hope withal that they will prove useful.

A reliable technique for what? To play the Dohnanyi exercises, I am sure. Like Hanon preposterous claims that his 60 exercises would turn anyone into a “virtuoso”, Dohnanyi exercises do not even scratch the surface of the tip of the iceberg. None of his exercises will help with the proper performance of Baroque articulation and ornamentation, for instance.

[to be continued…]

Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
bernhard
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 5078


« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2006, 12:25:19 AM »

[continued form the previous post…]

Now, we should not however be too harsh on Dohannyi.

Check out this interview (boldened statments are my emphasis, not his), given in 1926, where he pretty much disavows all exercises and says that ultimately one needs to find technique in repertory (incidentally contradicting statements of the preface above several times) :

I firmly believe in individuality in piano teaching. Each pupil is a different mentality and forms a separate study. My own ease would not be that of anyone else. A piano method which works well for one pupil might not be the best for another. It is true a desired result may be attained through different means, and these means should be adapted to the ends of each pupil.

Of course, in the early stages, one must be well grounded in finger exercises, scales, arpeggios and octaves. There is nothing that will quite take the place of scales to gain fluency and command of the keyboard. As the student advances he should be given a liberal amount of Bach. A selection of Czerny is also indispensable . Then comes Clementi; we cannot do without him either, if we are to help the pupil to build a thoroughly furnished background.


Yet three years later. In the preface to his exercises (see previous post) he was considering Czerny completely superfluous.

To this end an adequate familiarity with the classics is necessary. Mozart, Haydn, even Hummel, are not to be neglected. Mozart has left numerous Sonatas, Concertos and several Fatasies; some of these are very beautiful, especially the Fantasies, and are of the greatest value in forming the student’s taste. The Sonatas of Haydn, also, are perhaps even richer in technical and musical material.

The keeping up of my own technique and repertory is perhaps a case of what I do not do . At present I spend little time on abstract routine technical exercises, as so many pianists think they must do, for that seems to me a waste of time, which is so precious to the musician. Of course, as you know, every pianist has some little mechanical forms, which he uses to oil up his machinery, so to speak; but that is an individual matter, I can truly say I have never practised technique exhaustively. I began to play the piano at the age of six, and even in those early days read much at sight and played with other instruments. Thus I gradually evolved a technique of my own at the instrument.

It goes without saying that one can that one can waste much time over so-called technical material, and not really get anywhere, or make a definite advance. It can be merely useless repetition. Of the books on pure technique, like Hanon and Pischna I prefer the latter. It has been said a player ought to be able to go through Hanon in one hour – what a grind!

Everything depends on how one practises. One student may spend five hours at the piano and will not accomplish as much or progress as one who spends one hour at work, but concentrates his whole mind on the task before him. The first is a mechanical machine, the second uses his mental powers.

One of the best ways to keep up one’s technique as well as one’s repertoire is, I have found, to select the difficult portions of compositions, and make technical studies out of them. The literature of the piano provides such rich material of all kinds that the student or artist need never to be at a loss.

I should like to offer a protest against using too many studies, for much valuable time may thus be wasted. Students often think the greater number of etudes they go   through, the better players they will be; whereas they had much better put some of that time on mastering repertory. What masses of etudes have been written! Their name is legion. Von Bullow edited a book of fifty Cramer studies, selecting those he considered the best. But while the player is learning these, he could put in the time to more advantage on pieces of value, which would add just as much to his repertory.

Of course some of the etudes are very nice, but we have grown away, in these modern days, from the older ways of study. We do not seem to need so many studies, nor do we use them in the way a past generation did. If, however, you speak of the Etudes of Chopin, that is quite another matter. Chopin etudes belong to the repertory of every pianist; indeed they are not etudes at all but beautiful works of art, which everyone must love. In them one finds every form of technical problem, which is necessary for the building up of a virtuoso pianism. Why should one seek afar, when such wonderful material is ready to the hand? Of course, they are not for the immature student. For all who attempt to master them must be prepared through the practice of scales, chords, octaves and so on.
(1926)

(Jeffery Johnson, ed. – “Piano Mastery – The Harriet Brower Interviews – Dover)

I rest my case (mostly made for myself, three years earlier,  by Dohnanyi himself).

And by the way, if you want to know the anatomical reason why exercises 1 and 2 should not be practiced, have a look here:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4145.msg38568.html#msg38568
(beginner’s muscle development – anatomy of the hand forearm – true reasons for extremely slow practice)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)
bearzinthehood
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 448


« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2006, 02:09:35 AM »

I will come back and read the essay in more depth later, as I have class.  However, a clarification:

Now let us shake this firm belief a bit, shall we? Dohnanyi – one of the greatest virtuoso pianists (and superb composer) of his generation was born in 1877 and died in 1960. His set of exercises was first published in 1929. Hey, wait a minute! Liszt was born in 1811 and died in 1886. So, according to your firm beliefs, Liszt´s palying must have sucked, after all, he didn´t have the opportunity to pracitse Dohnayi´s exercises 1 and 2! Come to think of it, Chopin was born in 1810 and died in 1849, almost 30 years before Dohnanyi was born. Hence he could not have been a good pianist.

I did not mean to imply that good pianists necessarily must have even played the exercises I referred to.  What I meant was that all good pianists are capable of playing them well, which something that beginners cannot do.  The existence of great pianists prior to the invention of a certain exercise does not necessarily invalidate the exercise.  Exercise => good pianist does not necessarily imply the reverse is true, that is that good pianist => exercise.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
bearzinthehood
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 448


« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2006, 05:10:02 AM »

Ok, now that I'm back, here are a couple more thoughts:

Er… People firmly believe all sorts of things. For a long time people firmly believed the earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it. Many members of this forum believe that dinosaurs do not exist and the earth is 6000 years old. Some people believed not long ago that UFOs would come to take them to a better planet, and they all committed mass suicide to that end. So, how exactly does your firm belief makes any difference to the case in question?

I believe what I see in person from my teachers, what I hear from them in terms of not just words, but also the sounds they produce from the piano.  I also believe my own experience.  There is no amount of printed text that is going to have that same impact, and while I would love to have a lesson with you, from which I could undoubtedly learn quite a bit, such an occurence is unfortunately a practical impossibility.  Therefore, all I am left with is words, which lose too much meaning in transmission from your brain to mine.

But there is something else one should keep in mind. I believe in the practice of martial arts for the purpose of self-defence, not as a sport, not as acrobatics and not as a way to get a role in a martial arts movie. And for self-defence you don’t really need extreme, or even above average flexibility. Again I do not need to firmly believe in this statement. I can provide evidence for it. Consider a sidekick to the throat or to the face. Get a tape measure and measure yourself from the nose down. In my case, (I am 1.80m), 1.63m will get the tip of my nose. Now mark this distance on the floor, stand up and stretch your legs so that they cover that span. I am prepared to bet that 99% of unfit people will be able to stretch that distance without great effort. This means that I should be able to side kick anyone my size on the nose without any special flexibility training. Moreover, if I decide to kill them by sidekicking them on the throat, the stretch is even less, since my throat is at a meager 1.46m.

Some people are just naturally inflexible.  I am the exact same height as you, and I'm not overweight, and I cannot stretch that far.  It took a lot of so called "useless" finger exercises for me to achieve the same "static" finger flexibility that most non pianists have at the outset.  I really don't see how there's a substitute for this, even something as simple as a D Major scale becomes difficult without enough independence between fingers 3 and 4.

No, finger exercises are to be shunned altogether, because what one wants to develop is not isolated finger whatever (independence, strength, flexibility) but total co-ordination of the playing apparatus which in its most restricted sense goes from the shoulder girdle to the fingertips, but in its most general sense must necessarily involve the whole body (as Richter is reputed to have said: “I played that note with my big toe”). And if the only reason Dohnanyi can think of for preferring finger exercises is facility of memory, think again.

There comes a point when in order to avoid a very tiny finger motion, a very large arm motion must be made.  I don't believe this is effortless technique, and I don't believe it's efficient technique.  Piano technique to me is similar to a "shortest path" problem of the type you see in graph theory.  I want to achieve the desired goal with the absolute minimum energy expenditure possible.  Of course the entire body is involved, but there's no substitute for the fingers.

Again, everyone has their own unique problems, and for me flexibility is a huge problem that has been solved with a couple minutes a day of "finger exercises".  Hardly a waste in my own personal experience.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
jinfiesto
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 263


« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2007, 03:56:28 AM »

Wow Bernhard... I really disagree with you. Pieces shouldn't really be used to teach technique. Not all technique at least... It seriously detracts from the musicality to have to focus that much on technique. That alone warrants the use of un-musical technical exercises to develop technique. Plus, technical exercises help develop a  uniform approach to a problem that can be used again and again. Very helpful in sightreading. I disagree with you wholeheartedly. And yes... Technical exercises are annoying.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
ramseytheii
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2515


« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2007, 07:27:16 PM »

Wow Bernhard... I really disagree with you. Pieces shouldn't really be used to teach technique. Not all technique at least... It seriously detracts from the musicality to have to focus that much on technique. That alone warrants the use of un-musical technical exercises to develop technique. Plus, technical exercises help develop a  uniform approach to a problem that can be used again and again. Very helpful in sightreading. I disagree with you wholeheartedly. And yes... Technical exercises are annoying.

Let us know how Bernhard rebuts your disagreement!

Walter Ramsey



Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
opus10no2
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2137


« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2007, 07:54:33 PM »

Haha, I disagree with both  Cool
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
sideshow
PS Silver Member
Newbie
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 15


« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2007, 10:35:36 AM »

Can anyone please link to those "Dohnanyi-Essential Finger Exercises" ?
I cannot find them on the forums.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

Ze bumble bee
Mayla
PS Gold Member
Sr. Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 6638


« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2007, 02:36:17 PM »

.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged

"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
opus10no2
PS Silver Member
Sr. Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 2137


« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2007, 07:13:59 PM »

I wonder how good Bernhard actually is at the piano.

I value alot of his ideas, but disagree with some fundamentals.

I do get a little annoyed reading his posts sometimes.

It's like he takes alot of words to say something that can be said with few, and I can guess that's because alot of students would need ever analogy there is, but I'm sure there are a few like me who prefer direct single sentences that sum everything up.
Do you find this post useful? Yes / No
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  


Need more info or help?


Search pianostreet.com - the web's largest resource of information about piano playing:



 
Jump to:  


Most popular classical piano composers:
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2006-2007, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!

o