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Piano roadmap to technical excellence (Read 9073 times)

Offline pt109

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Piano roadmap to technical excellence
« on: June 23, 2003, 04:58:49 PM »
Hello

As a new user, passionate about classical piano, I am slowly exiting jazz and impro to acquire a classical technique. I have been playing since I was 8; however mostly modern modern and jazz. I am not a professional pianist per se, so maybe i don't qualify to speak in this forum, however if I could afford it, i would play 8 hours per day at my upright. Here is my query:

In order to acquire a technique sufficient enough to play most romantic virtuoso pieces, can ayone suggest a "romantic roadmap" to slowly but surely build from next-to-scratch a strong enough technique to be able to play Chopin's Etudes? I know it is a multi-year process, that every student is different and so forth, that technique should not be a primary focus of mine, as opposed to expression, however there should exist a ranking of romantic piano compositions, such that a motivated enough student can take this road and finally play Chopin Op 10 no 1 for instance or Op 25 no 11.

Some teachers suggest it is possible to start Chopin Etudes from scratch but I just cant believe them. Please advise, and apologies if this subject has already been covered.

Best regards, Pierre (Paris)

Offline BuyBuy

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #1 on: June 23, 2003, 06:41:10 PM »
You wanna tell us if you've got an instructor or if you're by yourself ? Cause it might make a big difference...

Offline pt109

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #2 on: June 23, 2003, 06:43:56 PM »
I am by myself, with a huge motivation quite frankly, however I am not sure I can have an instructor on a regular basis for agenda purposes. I wish I could.

Pierre

Offline ayahav

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #3 on: June 24, 2003, 01:11:52 AM »
frankly, and with no intention of discouraging you in any way, it is damn near impossible to get technique without some sort of instructor. The romantic technique is the most demanding of all, and although you may already be doing smoe of it without knowing when you improvise, the transition to playing a set work from the music is a big one... I would suggest you start with exercises from the era (busoni, clementi, czerny) and then move on to simple things that can be found in collections for beginners. Again, I highly doubt (not because of who you are) that you will be able to build an amazing technique on your own....

Amit :)

Offline pt109

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #4 on: July 02, 2003, 11:51:29 AM »
I understand and actually am preparing myself to do so i.e. hire an instructor. However is not there some kind of ideal list of pieces sorted by difficulty level I could have a look at, maybe music school programs?

Thanks,

Offline Colette

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #5 on: July 02, 2003, 05:12:09 PM »
well, i'm not quite sure exactly where you are, level wise, but why don't you start with the old standards of piano technique? good exercise books for building technique (not by themselves, along with "real" compositions) are hannon---i'd say take what you want from this book. don't feel like you have to work through the whole thing, some of it i think is unnecessary. scales (which can be found in hannon) are extremely important technique builders. perfected scales in all keys will be invaluable to any person interested in piano. czerny is annoying but good for beginners. small doses won't kill you. the pishna and brahms exercises are great for the next level in advancement.
i know you eventually want to be able to play difficult romantic compositions, but, realistically, it'll be a loooong time before you'll be able to. there is no one specific road to mastering the chopin etudes. these are some of the most advanced compositions in the entire piano repertoire and take even professional pianists a lifetime to master.
i was started on clementi sonatas and scarlatti sonatas and a few movements of mozart---they are short, some are easy to digest, and they are good for building technique. try some bach inventions. don't be tempted to buy level I books with silly arrangements of classical works. you can substitute this method with original, less difficult works, without playing watered down versions of beethoven's tempest sonata. move slowly and carefully through your work.
it is admirable what you're doing, but, honestly, you can learn all the exercises and repertoire on your own that you want, but you won't every fully know if you are accomplishing all the correct finer points of technique and musicianship if you don't have the advice of an experienced teacher. it's like attempting to read every 20th century poet without someone to guide your inturpretations; very very difficult. if you have no time for a regular instructor, which is understandable, maybe you can just arrange to have lessons on an irregular basis, a couple times a month as a "check up" to see if you're on track. it's better than nothing, right?

Offline Hmoll

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #6 on: July 02, 2003, 05:45:13 PM »
There is no universally accepted list of pieces by difficulty. Canada and UK have grading systems where you play exams with repertoire graded to certain levels, and there are lists of pieces within each grade level (don't actually know much about them myself because I don't live in either country).  It's my understanding that  many of the very difficult pieces my not be included in these lists because they are beyond even the top grade levels. I may be wrong, though and someone will correct me here if I am.

One reason there is no definitive list arranged by difficulty is difficulty can be subjective. While most people will agree that Chopins Prelude Op 28# 4 is easier than his Etude Op 10# 4, there are other pieces that are closer in difficulty to the Etude #4 - Op 10 #2 perhaps - but the technique for both those pieces are different enough that one person will find op 10#4 more difficult than op10#2, while another might find the opposite true.

The above is an example within music of the same genre by the same composer. It gets even more subjective once you compare different composers and different genres. For example, the Brahms Handel variations might be easier for one person than Schumann's Kreileriana simply because that person may be more "suited" to playing Brahms and the idiomatic writing specific to that piece than they are to Schumann, and the specifics of Kreisleriana.

The other posters here are right in saying ideally you should have a teacher.

As far as a roadmap to romantic technique, once again there is no definitive agreed upon roadmap. One thing I will say is, in order to play romantic era music well, it helps to be able to play Baroque and Classical era music as well. Music of the Romantic era, though it sounds very different, grew out of what came before - just as Debussy and Scriabin, for example, were influenced by Romantic composers like Chopin.
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me!" -- Max Reger

Offline pt109

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #7 on: July 02, 2003, 06:30:29 PM »
OK. Thank you both for your replies it is very helpful.
Pierre

Offline rachfan

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #8 on: July 04, 2003, 05:10:29 AM »
I think there have been any number of excellent performers who did not enjoy a "big technique".  I'm an accomplished amateur who studied for 17 years in total. In my time I've played the complete Hanon and Schmidt, routinely all the scales and arpeggios, etc.  I still have certain technical deficiencies and know them all too well.  

This subject reminds me of mathematics in a way (I'm not a mathematician either!)  There are various expressions  describing curvilinear functions (i.e., curved rather than straight lines on an x and y axis.)  Yet, so often when you work with real, not theoretical, data, it forms a curve that somewhat approximates that functional expression, but it is far from being exact.  Nature is too chaotic for that!

It is no different when it comes to piano technique.  You might be expert at performing a scale in four octaves, but the composer has decided to write scalar figures with perturbations thrown in.  Or you say you practiced trills in Hanon?  Great... but Mozart has decided on a string of varying mordents to vastly complicate execution of the trills.  Perhaps you learned some of the Czerny "School of Velocity" pieces?  Yes, but there's that extended prestissimo cadenza in a Rachmaninoff Prelude that must be met on its own terms, since none of Czerny's exercises are really applicable to that situation, strictly speaking.  

So where does all this lead?  1) Pedagogical exercises form a rough foundation for technique, but by themselves can never deliver end-all technique.  2) A series of five-finger exercises can give one the fundamentals of execution of those figurations, but composers will often create challenges that break the mold, as when Brahms often tortures the pianist by "writing outside of the octave" causing one to run out of fingers and necessitating fingering schemes to cope with that.  Hanon didn't foresee that in his all too orderly world.  And 3) the only way to hone technique is not in exercises, but within real music--that is, making a practice exercise out of a rough spot in the music to overcome that difficulty through repetition, a change to a more efficient fingering, a studied re-choreographing of  hand positions, a clever distribution of notes between the hands, mentally reconceiving the linear note groupings other than as visually perceived on paper, a special pedal effect to assist in reaching an objective, etc.

So what I am suggesting here, unfortunately, is that there is and can be no prescribed "roadmap" to technique that will guarantee its attainment.  Rather, the battle for technique has to be waged and won day by day in creatively overcoming particularly difficult challenges within the real repertoire.
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline pt109

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #9 on: July 04, 2003, 05:35:15 PM »
I have taken the option of practicing music I really like, even if it is too technical for me, I just break down all difficulties into individual small difficulties and it works OK.

The option I have not taken, as of today, is to play first easy pieces. Schumann used to say precisely the contrary: better play well easy pieces than badly hard ones. Although he must be right, I just don't derive any pleasure in doing so and for pleasure and feeling of overcoming obstacles must always come first.

I can see by your name you like Rachmaninov. Do you personally find it doable to play (even very slowly) a Rachmanninov Elegie? As long as I have the slightest feeling of walking in the shoes of a favorite composer of mine, I am ready to build technique in his own pieces, even very gradually.

Offline rachfan

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #10 on: July 04, 2003, 09:00:34 PM »
Hi PT109:

Others will differ with me, but I believe the three places in the repertoire to build technical proficiency are Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff (after paying one's dues first on Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, of course).    

Yes, Rachmaninoff is my favorite and always has been.  He's one of a kind!  

To answer your question, I do agree with Schumann's observation that it is better to play a piece at one's level very well than to make a hopeless mess of a far more difficult piece.  Everyone would agree, however, that as one progresses, it is imperative to alway be studying at least one piece that is at a higher level in order to continually "stretch" one's abilities.  Otherwise, there could be no progress.  

If you love Rachmaninoff's music, the Elergy would be a good start.   It is not without challenges though--consider the expansive arpeggios in the LH; the RH scale in thirds in measure 10 and elsewhere (Hanon's scale in thirds exercise would be helpful for that); melodic chord voicings starting in 26; half pedals on many of the third beats throughout; double note study at 41; three against four in 58; octave voicings with thumb at 76; choreographing LH over RH at 93, etc.  When it comes to Rachmaninoff, nothing is ever easy!  The reason is that he never wrote music for other pianists.  As a touring artist, he wrote his works for himself (but luckily for us, wrote them all down). Where he was one of the supreme technicians, he did not have to worry about it.  We mortals do!  

You might look at his Melodie in E in that same Op. 3 set.  Rachmaninoff had his own recital version of this piece that was more intricate and far more beautiful; unfortunately, I don't think any manuscript still exists of it.  Also consider the Moments Musicaux, Op.16, particularly No. 3 in and No. 5 in D flat, which is very much like a barcarolle.  You might also enjoy doing his own transcription of his song Daisies, Op. 38, No. 3.  The only problem with it is that while it looks ultra simple on paper, Rach ensures that only a high level of musicianship will succeed there.  I would not recommend Lilacs, Op. 21, No. 5, as it is a far more challenging transcription.  Some students have done a fine job with his Oriental Sketch.  The only problem I have with it is that I just don't like the piece.  The Preludes and Etudes are all difficult in their varous ways, so I cannot recommend them to you.

Jazz and classical piano always seem to be on opposite sides of the planet.  Yet if a survey were done, it would not amaze me at all to discover that a surprising percentage of jazz pianists actually have a formal classical training.



Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline peter_g_moll

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #11 on: April 27, 2004, 08:44:36 PM »
I would recommend following the syllabuses laid out by other experienced teachers and professors.  One need not do this slavishly but they would provide a rough guide as to the order in which to attempt the works.  

One is the undergraduate syllabus of Catholic University, at http://music.cua.edu/images/pnolvls.pdf.  

Another is the syllabus of the ABRSM at http://www.abrsm.org/?page=exams/gradedMusicExams/practical/piano/piano0304_G8.html   or   http://www.abrsm.org/?page=exams/diplomas/diplomaspdf.html

Or the syllabuses of London or Trinity which are similar to the ABRSM.

Despite a long search, though, I have not found many syllabuses on the web sites of American conservatories.

I hope this helps.
Peter Moll

Offline pt109

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #12 on: April 28, 2004, 07:17:20 PM »
I will look into that. thanks a lot!

Offline Clare

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #13 on: April 29, 2004, 03:11:04 AM »
If I were you, I would read 'Famous Pianists and their technique' by Reginald Gerig because there are a lot of ideas in there that are really useful, especially if you don't have a teacher at the moment. Some concepts outlined in there oftentimes never even cross the minds of pianists.
Also, I would read 'Piano Technique' by Leimer and Gieseking. It's a short book, but encouraging and very useful.
Both of these books are widely available, I believe. I recommend these books to you because I think you've already got a sound idea of the basics, but your technique is trying to catch up with your musical thinking.

Offline pt109

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Re: Piano roadmap to technical excellence
«Reply #14 on: April 29, 2004, 02:29:57 PM »
You are absolutely right. My technique is far behind my musical thinking. I will look at these books asap. Thanks,