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Talk of the Town: Bavouzet´s Debussy Complete

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet took the Instrumental Award at this year’s BBC Music Awards for the third (out of four) volume of his complete Debussy piano music series on the Chandos label. Read more >>

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betricia
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« on: January 25, 2005, 06:35:14 PM »

Dear Bermhard
Forgive the impertinence of writing directly to you.  I found this forum yesterday and have been reading through some of the posts as I am a beginner.  I cannot believe what I have read from you and wish you could teach me.  It sounds amazing to be able to play so well after only a couple of years.  Where can I learn the "correct" way to practise so that i can achieve good results.  any tips please.  I will trawl through the site but there is just so much stuff here.
thanks in advance.
Patricia
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bernhard
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2005, 09:03:54 PM »

You are forgiven. Wink

Piano technique is not that difficult to acquire. Anyone should be able to acquire all the technique in 1 – 2 years Cheesy. Technique is movement. There are only so many movements one can do, and only a fraction of those are used in piano playing.

Music theory is also very simple and straightforward (that includes sight-reading). There is really no reason not to master this subject in one or two years Cheesy. Consider any complex subject (brain surgery, nuclear physics, molecular biology, mathematical ecology, etc.) Most people get a degree and are proficient in these subjects after 3 – 4 years mostly spent in student parties. Music is far below in complexity to any of these subjects. Yet you see people who have been playing since they were five or six and they can hardly tell you the key signature of a major scale, what a mode is and why a haromic minor scale has its leading note sharped.

So it is well to enquire what is going on here. And the answer in a nutshell is that people constantly sabotage themselves. It all hinges on these two simple statements:

1.   Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.
2.   Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Add to that this beautiful thought by E. Jaynes:

A person who persists in believing what is not true and disbelieving what is true can waste a lifetime of effort on something that is without hope of success

Repertory is a different matter altogether. It will take years to acquire repertory. So I strongly suggest that you do not waste anytime learning anything you have no intention of performing (for you, for yourself, for family and friends, for the world at large).

If you are a total beginner even your very first piece should be a worthwhile piece. There is no reason whatsoever to learn pedagogical drivel. There are superb pieces at every level. If you have a teacher who insists on assigning you drivel, it is up to you to challenge your teacher by bringing to his/her attention pieces you would like to play. Maybe the teacher is unaware of the vast repertory out there. Maybe the teacher simply does not know your taste. With my own students I do not ask twice. If they do not tell me what they want to learn they will end up learning what I want to teach.

And although many do not agree with me on this next point, I will say it again: There is no reason whatsoever to learn technical exercises unless you value them as worthwhile pieces of music. For instance, the Chopin Etudes, and JSBach WTC could be considered technical exercises, but they are also superlative pieces of music. However monstrosities like Hanon, Pischna, Schmidtt, Plaidy, Bertini  and so on should consigned to their rightful place: The dustbin.

Finally, I would like to suggest that you ask specific questions. You will get more useful answers. Large general questions like this one will just generate lots of my philosophical verbiage.

In the meantime, have a look at the links on this thread:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5767.msg56133.html#msg56133

And here you will find suggestions for superlative repertory for total beginners (or almost) to get you started.

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4140.msg38111.html#msg38111
(True repertory for total beginners)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4416.msg41105.html#msg41105
(nice slow romantic piece for beginner)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2562.msg22127.html#msg22127
(Suggestions for repertory for someone who has been playing for a year)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2147.msg18098.html#msg18098
(Easiest piano piece ever written)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2314.msg19869.html#msg19869
(Schumann’s Album for the young)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2340.msg20224.html#msg20224
(Building your piano foundations – suggestions for a progressive repertory)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2398.msg20989.html#msg20989
(suggestions for Scarlatti sonatas and Prokofiev pieces of beginner/intermediate level).
http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2851.msg24984.html#msg24984
(Introduction to romantic pieces)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,1970.msg15762.html#msg15762
(easy sonatas)


Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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jlh
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2005, 10:24:25 PM »

Music theory is also very simple and straightforward (that includes sight-reading). There is really no reason not to master this subject in one or two years Cheesy. Consider any complex subject (brain surgery, nuclear physics, molecular biology, mathematical ecology, etc.) Most people get a degree and are proficient in these subjects after 3 – 4 years mostly spent in student parties. Music is far below in complexity to any of these subjects.

I have no trouble believing that one can gain a working knowledge of music theory in 1-2 years, but to MASTER the subject?  Sure, it might not be quite as complex as some other subjects, but please don't belittle the complexity of music theory.  It's an incredibly complex subject if you wish to delve into its depths.
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puma
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2005, 01:04:46 AM »

Wow, 1-2 years!  I guess I'm a master at theory!  It is true that the essentials of music theory, which are used over and over again in even the most complicated pieces, can be learned in about 1-2 years.  I dunno about all music theory though.  Maybe if you doubled up on courses and focused, you'd learn it all in 2 years - college level time.  You could certainly learn it outside of school through private teaching if you wanted as well, but that could take more time.  Hmmm...
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betricia
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2005, 07:13:16 PM »

Thanks a million Bernhard
I have printed out the list of beginners pieces that you suggest and will take them along to my teacher.  I will have a look in the music shop this weekend and see if I can buy one or two.  Thanks for all the useful references.  I am feeling more confident already.
Patricia
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berrt
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2005, 09:15:04 AM »

You are forgiven. Wink

Piano technique is not that difficult to acquire. Anyone should be able to acquire all the technique in 1 ? 2 years Cheesy.


Bernhard, thank you for your encouraging philosophical verbiage! However, I cannot agree completely: I studied physics and medicine and the piano is a harder job - at least for me (being at it for 10 months now)

Bye!
Berrt
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bernhard
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2005, 05:52:24 PM »



I have no trouble believing that one can gain a working knowledge of music theory in 1-2 years, but to MASTER the subject?  Sure, it might not be quite as complex as some other subjects, but please don't belittle the complexity of music theory.  It's an incredibly complex subject if you wish to delve into its depths.

Music itself is a very complex subject, I would evensay it it unfathomable and ultimately unknowable. Music Theory on the other hand is pretty simple - as it should be, since the main purpose of theories is to simplify reality so that we can grasp it. This is as true of music as it is of physical theories. If the theory becomes too complicated it just ends up being replaced by something simpler.

But I think you may be missing the point. It is not exactly music theory which I am belittling. It is music student's industriousness. Grin Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard.

 
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bernhard
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2005, 05:58:18 PM »



Bernhard, thank you for your encouraging philosophical verbiage! However, I cannot agree completely: I studied physics and medicine and the piano is a harder job - at least for me (being at it for 10 months now)

Bye!
Berrt

Then again, industriousness may not be the central issue. Misplaced industriousness can be as bad as indolence.

Consider this: did you learn about physics and medicine by having one half hour lesson per week (the usual in piano learning procedure) and then being left to your own devices for the remainder of the week? And if you had what would be your rate of progress at these subjects? Then you have the added problem of conflicting views. Usually physical and medical professors are pretty much in agreement about the theories and skills they teach. This is far from true in piano learning.

However, if you devote to the piano the same efforts and time you devoted to medicine and physics, and if you are mentored at the same high level in the same intensive manner, then piano learning will definitely take you much less time it took you to learn physics and medicine.
 Cheesy

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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berrt
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« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2005, 08:43:55 AM »

Consider this: did you learn about physics and medicine by having one half hour lesson per week (the usual in piano learning procedure) and then being left to your own devices for the remainder of the week?
It was, of course, much more than this (AND both are really easy!) - but i doubt that 6-hours on a daily basis with a teacher would accellerate me much. The theory is not so problematic, but the simple thing of hitting the right key with the right touch the right moment iaw: control of movements, i feel, i have to practice mainly on my own (after some advice how to do that).
industriousness
a new word to my vocabulary... thank you for that too!
bye
Berrt
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atticus
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« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2005, 12:45:14 PM »

Just curious, who is E. Jeney?

Thanks,
atticus
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buddy
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2005, 02:22:45 PM »

I just wanted to second batricia's comments about Berhnard.  I can just imagine the attention you give to your lesson plan and students.  Based on all your posts here, they are very lucky indeed.
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bernhard
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2005, 10:06:31 PM »

Just curious, who is E. Jeney?

Thanks,
atticus

Sorry, I have just realised I have been mispelling his name.

Edwin Thompson Jaynes (1922 - 1998) - Physicist extraordinaire and superlative amateur pianist.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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bernhard
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« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2005, 10:18:28 PM »


 but i doubt that 6-hours on a daily basis with a teacher would accellerate me much. The theory is not so problematic, but the simple thing of hitting the right key with the right touch the right moment iaw: control of movements, i feel, i have to practice mainly on my own (after some advice how to do that).


Think again, because this brings to mind Claudio Arrau.

There is a most wonderful book everyone interested in piano (or in pianists or in Arrau) should read:

Joseph Horowitz - "Arrau on Music and Performance" (Dover)

In it Arrau reminisces about his apprenticeship with Martin Krause who had been a student of Liszt. Arrau studied with Krause in Berlin for five years (from ages 12 - 17).

He tells that in those days it was not unusual to practise for 10 hours a day. But as you read things get more and more interesting.

First, he discloses that he had lessons everyday with Krause, and that the lessons usually lasted for two hours, sometimes more.

Then he says an even more interesting thing. Krause had several daughters, all of which were piano teachers in their own right. So, as he practised in whatever piano was free in the house before and after his lessons with Krause, one of the daughters would come in, listen for a while, and if necessary, correct him, and move on.

So during his formative years, Arrau was never left alone. This means that he was not given the opportunity to develop bad habits. Ever.

Now take the usual piano student who sees the teacher for 1/2 hour per week and then is left to his own devices for a full week. Just figure out how many bad habits can crop in during a whole week.

Just some food for thought. Wink

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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betricia
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« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2005, 01:04:07 PM »

Thanks Bernhard
However your last post has given me indigestion.  what hope have we beginners with our half hour a week??  what are the worst habits or are there no such things.  Are all bad habits bad?  How can I know if I am making them?  My teacher has just had a baby and I have not seen her since early December so my bad habits may be spiralling out of control.  I am reading this forum for help and advice and it is great.  sometimes I think I am taking part in displacement activity though.  I should be practising not reading.
Thanks for your input though.
Patricia
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berrt
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« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2005, 01:24:59 PM »

Now take the usual piano student who sees the teacher for 1/2 hour per week and then is left to his own devices for a full week. Just figure out how many bad habits can crop in during a whole week.

My lesson is 60 minutes/week - so im 100% better off  Cheesy

Bye Berrt
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mound
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« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2005, 05:38:14 PM »

Thanks Bernhard
However your last post has given me indigestion.  what hope have we beginners with our half hour a week??  what are the worst habits or are there no such things.  Are all bad habits bad?  How can I know if I am making them?

Hi Patricia - You might be interested in this book:

The Practice Revolution : Getting great results from the six days between lessons

-Paul
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betricia
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« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2005, 06:04:37 PM »

Thanks Paul
I will try and get it. 
Patricia
 Cheesy
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will
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« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2005, 08:32:41 AM »

My lesson is 60 minutes/week - so im 100% better off  Cheesy

Perhaps not 100% better off. Having two 30 minute lessons a week may be more beneficial than one 60 min lesson. This way the teacher is able to monitor your progress more often. Getting rid of bad habits formed by three or four days incorrect practice is a lot easier than ridding bad habits formed by incorrect practice for a week.
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jlh
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« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2005, 06:09:14 AM »

Thanks Bernhard
However your last post has given me indigestion.  what hope have we beginners with our half hour a week??  what are the worst habits or are there no such things.  Are all bad habits bad?  How can I know if I am making them? 

You might find this article useful...

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,6663.msg65780.html#msg65780

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betricia
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« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2005, 08:16:27 AM »

Thanks a lot Jlh
I have printed out the Jane Allen practising notes and will find them helpful.  I am so grateful to you and all who have responded with useful advice.  It is really great and I no longer feel I am struggling on my own.  I am learning a lot just by reading the posts but there are so many it is easy to miss something so it is great when people point me in the right direction.  thanks again.  My enthusiasm has grown in the last week just from the encouragement I have got from this forum.  I cannot find the Sleeping Cat piece on any sheet music site.  Anyone know of where I might get it?  I can order it from a music shop of course but would like to be able to order online.

Thanks Patricia
 Cheesy
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bernhard
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« Reply #20 on: January 31, 2005, 01:04:19 PM »

I cannot find the Sleeping Cat piece on any sheet music site.  Anyone know of where I might get it?  I can order it from a music shop of course but would like to be able to order online.

Thanks Patricia
 Cheesy

“Sleeping cat” is part of a collection of pieces called “Sketchbook of Mr. Purple Poverty” op. 309.

You can get it (amongst other places on line) from:

http://www.burtnco.com/

You can also get it (just Sleeping Cats) in the ABRSM grade 1 collection of exam pieces for 2005/2006 (you can also get a CD of the exam pieces). You can order it directly from the ABRSM:

http://www.abrsmpub.co.uk/

or from Burt above.

I suggest however you get the whole collection of pieces since they are all very interesting. Cheesy

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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bernhard
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« Reply #21 on: January 31, 2005, 01:07:18 PM »

Thanks Bernhard
However your last post has given me indigestion.  what hope have we beginners with our half hour a week??  what are the worst habits or are there no such things.  Are all bad habits bad?  How can I know if I am making them?  My teacher has just had a baby and I have not seen her since early December so my bad habits may be spiralling out of control.  I am reading this forum for help and advice and it is great.  sometimes I think I am taking part in displacement activity though.  I should be practising not reading.
Thanks for your input though.
Patricia


You are welcome Smiley

Have a look here for a discussion of bad habits:

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,3202.msg28196.html#msg28196
(bad habits)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2916.msg25572.html#msg25572
(Bad habits when playing/practising)

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

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,5701.msg55639.html#msg55639
(3 principles of super efficient/fast learning)

http://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,4269.msg39706.html#msg39706
(Helping a student get rid of bad habits)

Also, the (excellent) book that Paul suggested above (“The Practice Revolution”) discusses in great detail several bad practice habits.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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betricia
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« Reply #22 on: January 31, 2005, 07:09:09 PM »

Thank you Bernhard
I went straight down to my local music shop who stock the grade books and bought the exam pieces with Sleeping Cat.  I can't wait to try it as so  many of you have said it is a lovely piece.    Thanks also for all the threads on bad habits and practising.  You have been a great help.
Patricia
 Grin
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bernhard
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« Reply #23 on: January 31, 2005, 11:27:41 PM »

You are welcome Smiley
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