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How do you get technique from pieces? (Read 13016 times)

Offline bernhard

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How do you get technique from pieces?
« on: December 19, 2003, 03:07:18 PM »
It has been stated several times in this forum (and by many famous pianists) that one of the ways to work on technique is to work on the technical difficulties of the pieces one is learning.

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of agreeing or disagreeing with this statement (there are already other threads on the subject of technical exercises),  how do you that? How do you develop technique from a piece?

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Offline eddie92099

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #1 on: December 19, 2003, 03:21:29 PM »
By playing it...
Ed

Offline Jemmers

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #2 on: December 19, 2003, 04:26:46 PM »
ed is completely right. Play a piece to perfection (at least from your point of view) and you will have mastered it's difficulties.

like..erm.. if you so choose to play the ocean etude, you will have pretty good command of arpeggios by the end of it.

Offline robert_henry

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #3 on: December 19, 2003, 04:55:22 PM »
Pieces present you with difficulties that challenge your existing technique.  They make you find tricks that you probably wouldn't find otherwise.  

Also, and probably most importantly, difficulties are presented in random order throughout the piece, making you "switch gears" quickly.

Robert Henry


Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #4 on: December 19, 2003, 05:24:30 PM »
Thanks for the replies.

But you all seem to be holding your cards pretty close to your bodies... :(

Tell me something I don't know (unless it is a professional secret ;)).

Bernhard.

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)

Offline thracozaag

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #5 on: December 19, 2003, 05:26:45 PM »
Quote
Thanks for the replies.

But you all seem to be holding your cards pretty close to your bodies... :(

Tell me something I don't know (unless it is a professional secret ;)).

Bernhard.



 "C'mhere kid...let me tell you the secret to pianoo playing"
 *leans in*
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 "The secret to piano playing is.......there is no secret."
"We have to reach a certain level before we realize how small we are."--Georges Cziffra

Offline Jemmers

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #6 on: December 19, 2003, 05:35:25 PM »
The secret to playing well is sleeping with the Chopin etudes under your pillow. The awesome technique that goes into every one seeps into your brain while you sleep, endowing you with superhuman abilities on the piano.

Seriously though, PRACTISE!

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #7 on: December 19, 2003, 06:28:29 PM »
Is that it?

Play – practise?

I have got the why (Robert Henry), the what (Ed and Jemmers) and the when (Jemmers).

My question was “How?”

So here is a quick list, by no means complete. (I will be very disappointed if no one can come up with more stuff… :'(). Of course, only do that after you have slept with the piece under your pillow – Thanks Jemmer. Great tip! ;D

1.      Start by sight reading the piece to pinpoint where your particular technical deficiencies may lie (everyone is different).
2.      Isolate the bars/passages/sequence of notes (sometimes as little as two notes) that you need to work on.
3.      Technical difficulties are defined as awkward fingerings/impossible movements (e.g. accurate jumpings, impossible stretches between fingers), lack of tone/volume control, rhythm inaccuracies. etc. Co-ordination between hands is not considered a technical difficulty for the present and will be dealt separately.
4.      Work on technical difficulties with hands separate. First aim is to investigate fingering/movement most adequate for producing final result. Playing fast at this stage is essential. Once this is figured out, practise by repeating the passage as many times as necessary to develop facility and being able to play it subconsciously . Playing slowly at this stage is essential.
5.      Still with hands separate, work on the technically challenging passage with as many variations as you can think of (rhythm, dynamic, stress, repeated notes, repeated note-groups etc.).
6.      once hands separate is completely mastered join hands. This will need a special approach (the best one that I know is dropping notes).
7.      If necessary simplify (play separate voices, play only melody and bass, etc.) but do not alter.
8.      Memorise at this stage.
9.      Do not bother with the parts of the piece you have no technical difficulty. (great saving time device).
10.      Join the technically challenging passage (once it is no more challenging) to the rest of the piece.
11.      Work on the musical concept and interpretation once technique has been mastered. You may find out you need to modify your technique if it proves inadequate for concept. A (good) teacher may help a beginner here because s/he will already have thought out the concept and the necessary technique. But if you are an advanced player, you may (should) do this on your own.
12.      Move on to next piece – preferably of a completely different character in order to expand your technique (don't forget to put it under your pillow! ;D).

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Offline Dave_2004_G

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #8 on: December 19, 2003, 07:45:16 PM »
Just make sure when you get the pieces you spend an adequate amount of time playing SLOWLY - that way the technique you're learning will gradually become embedded - speed up slowly as well..

For instance, in the waldstein sonata 3rd movement when there are triplets in both hands, to play the left hand part with the low bass notes you have to hit that note then lift the arm hand lower it down again to really hit those notes - you could probably play it in other ways, but it wouldn't sound great, the bottom note wouldn't come out and you'd probably hit the wrong note more often then not - it's vital to go through the motions VERY slowly to get them right and then speed them up very very gradually so they don't become sloppy - if you do this you should have no trouble with the teqhnique required for the passage and it should stay with you

Dave

Offline Hmoll

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #9 on: December 19, 2003, 07:52:58 PM »
Bernhard,
Your ideas are pretty good as far as practising and learning pieces, although I'm not sure what this means:

"9. Do not bother with the parts of the piece you have no technical difficulty. (great saving time device). "

You'll still have to work on those parts, and they may be even more difficult to memorize.

In general, what you are doing with yur pieces is isolating the technical problems, and learning technique by practicing those sections hands sep, in rhythms, with different dynamics, articulation, etc. Also, slow practice is very important. There is not much more to say than that, but you always have to think creatively and analytically.

I like the way you said in your first post that "one of the ways to work on technique is to work on the technical difficulties of the pieces..." That is true. It is one way to work on technique, and not - as some didactically maintain - the only way. There are a handful of pianists who may have said scales and exercises are not necessary - Ashkenazy for example.  I am not coniviced that these pianists got where they are by never using scales or exercises to a significant degree at some point in their education.

Relying on just the pieces you are working on for technical development is pretty dubious, and only shows a limited, closed mind-set that ignores all the possibilities and tools that pianists can use for their development.


"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 bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #10 on: December 19, 2003, 09:52:52 PM »
Quote


Just make sure when you get the pieces you spend an adequate amount of time playing SLOWLY - that way the technique you're learning will gradually become embedded - speed up slowly as well..



Thanks for the input, Dave.

I agree with you with the following proviso: you should have worked out the movement before practising slowly. Now maybe the teacher has showed you the movement, so that's ok. But otherwise, you may have to play fast first in order to figure out the movement. When playing slowly one may get away with movements that would not work at the final speed. So I wouldn't say to pracatise slowly, but to practise in slow motion, which is a very different concept (but I believe we are saying the same thing here).

(Good tip for the Waldstein, thanks :)).

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #11 on: December 19, 2003, 10:22:07 PM »
Thanks for your reply, Hmoll.

Quote


I'm not sure what this means:

"9. Do not bother with the parts of the piece you have no technical difficulty. (great saving time device). "

You'll still have to work on those parts, and they may be even more difficult to memorize.

(...)

There is not much more to say than that, but you always have to think creatively and analytically.


It means that if you can sigth-read perfectly through a passage, you do not need to work on it as far as technique is concerned (I am using a limited definition of technique here - which basically means you do not need to work hands separate). You can simply play it. You still need to work on other levels though - like memorisation (as you mentioned - it is just that I do not approach memorisation with the same tools that I approach technical problems) and the musical concept (which is far more difficult than the technique - but without technique no musical concept :()

No more to say than that? Ok, here are a few more tricks:

1. If you have a digital piano, switch it off. Not being encumbered by sound (and emotion) one is able to concentrate completely on the movement. This also works wonders for some aspects of memorisation (you really have to know the piece/passage since you cannot rely on your ears. You have to memorise where the keys are and use positional information to guide you).

2. Learn the whole piece from the score. Only play it at the piano once you can play it perfectly from memory. If you go to the piano and cannot do it, stop and go back to the score.

3. Get a video of the piece you are trying to master. Visualise your face on the body of the pianist playing it. Try to feel like it is you who is playing it.

Come on guys, I am the only one talking here! ;D

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Offline Hmoll

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #12 on: December 19, 2003, 11:36:25 PM »
Quote

1. If you have a digital piano, switch it off. Not being encumbered by sound (and emotion) one is able to concentrate completely on the movement. This also works wonders for some aspects of memorisation (you really have to know the piece/passage since you cannot rely on your ears. You have to memorise where the keys are and use positional information to guide you).



That can have it's place, but in small doses. You don't want to get too far away from creating the correct sound.

Another technique: practice a difficult passage slowly, gradually increasing the tempo. Every 4 to 5 repetitions play it at performance tempo. Often you will find that each successive "fast" rep. is better than the last one, and you are able to bring the passage up to tempo more quickly.


"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 bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #13 on: December 20, 2003, 01:40:43 AM »
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Another technique: practice a difficult passage slowly, gradually increasing the tempo. Every 4 to 5 repetitions play it at performance tempo. Often you will find that each successive "fast" rep. is better than the last one, and you are able to bring the passage up to tempo more quickly.


Yes, that is good :). I also do the reverse. If I hit a speed wall (with perfect accuracy), say at MM.=92, I will increase the metronome speed even if it results in a few inaccuracies, say to MM = 120, then increase it again to MM = 132 (which starts to border on the impossible). Then come back to MM = 120, and usually it is much easier and better.

Thanks, Bernhard.
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)

Offline Jemmers

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #14 on: December 20, 2003, 04:47:03 AM »
haha... I must have the weirdest way of learning a piece than. It's not very good, I warn you.

I simply speed through the piece at performance speed. And when I hit a speed wall, I try again. And again, and again, and again, until eventually I find out the problem is psychological. Then I continue blazing through until I hit the next wall. Takes me ages to do a piece.

Offline Dave_2004_G

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #15 on: December 20, 2003, 12:48:59 PM »
Yes that is quite strange - everyone works in their own ways, but that sounds pretty dangerous to me :-/

When you finish the pieces have you not done any slow work on them at all?  What pieces have you played?  When you're done can you play them perfectly e.g. no sloppy passages?

If this practice method works for you then fair play though!

Dave

Offline Jemmers

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #16 on: December 20, 2003, 03:01:19 PM »
I only do slow work when I tire of playing quickly. And yes, sometimes it is very sloppy if I (for some reason) have not done any slow work. It's really unhealthy, I know.

Offline trunks

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #17 on: April 17, 2004, 10:43:09 AM »
Every time when I face a difficult passage I pause and think for a while. The following list shows some of the points that I would contemplate on:

1. What fingering? I have never relied on any printed or otherwise suggested fingerings appearing on the score, unless I find them convenient to my hands. I always device my own fingerings through experimenting with various sets. I mark the final, adopted set on the score and stick to it.
2. What different rhythms could help while practising?
3. What re-groupings of the notes could help while practising?
4. How should I memorise the passage?

Acquiring technique through attacking difficulty is more a process of problem-solving rather than repeating the same passage over and over for 10N times.
Peter (Hong Kong)
part-time piano tutor
amateur classical concert pianist

Offline anda

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #18 on: April 17, 2004, 12:43:27 PM »
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My question was “How?”

So here is a quick list, by no means complete. (I will be very disappointed if no one can come up with more stuff… :'(). Of course, only do that after you have slept with the piece under your pillow – Thanks Jemmer. Great tip! ;D

1.      Start by sight reading the piece to pinpoint where your particular technical deficiencies may lie (everyone is different).

not just for pinpointing the difficulties, but especially for understating why is there this passage, what's its role in the whole structure (that usually helps me build an image on how it should finally sound, so, there, i have an aim for this particular passage)

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2.      Isolate the bars/passages/sequence of notes (sometimes as little as two notes) that you need to work on.

the passage usually comes from something and continues with something, so the passage to practice starts before the bars with problems and ends after. the passage to practice is usually a motif/phrase/period. practice technically to get all notes clear and keep in mind all the time the image you decided on.
Quote

3.      Technical difficulties are defined as awkward fingerings/impossible movements (e.g. accurate jumpings, impossible stretches between fingers), lack of tone/volume control, rhythm inaccuracies. etc. Co-ordination between hands is not considered a technical difficulty for the present and will be dealt separately.
4.      Work on technical difficulties with hands separate. First aim is to investigate fingering/movement most adequate for producing final result. Playing fast at this stage is essential. Once this is figured out, practise by repeating the passage as many times as necessary to develop facility and being able to play it subconsciously . Playing slowly at this stage is essential.

personally, i hardly ever practice separately: i would practice separately a jump, or a fast passage in abnormal sequences (and that usually takes only a gew minutes). i agree on the importance of fingering, once you found your own best fingering, the devil isn't that black anymore. also, on this stage: for every passage decide which hand has to play without visual control and focus on the other.
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5.      Still with hands separate, work on the technically challenging passage with as many variations as you can think of (rhythm, dynamic, stress, repeated notes, repeated note-groups etc.).

this is something i never do. especially rhythmic variations... i totally forbid my students to practice in different rhythms, i found it ruins their rhythmic sense. i prefer working on the passage exactly as it is written (rhythm, dynamics, everything), also helps the hand memorizing.
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6.      once hands separate is completely mastered join hands. This will need a special approach (the best one that I know is dropping notes).
7.      If necessary simplify (play separate voices, play only melody and bass, etc.) but do not alter.
8.      Memorise at this stage.

especially when you're dealing with more than 2 voices, i always practice (and have my students do it as well) on combinations of voices (1+2, 1+3, 2+3, or, if there are 4 voices, all combinations of 2 and 3 voices), always with the final fingering and always with the correct dynamics and everything. helps the ear get used to different levels of sonority. also, memorizing should have happened long before reaching this stage.
Quote

9.      Do not bother with the parts of the piece you have no technical difficulty. (great saving time device).
10.      Join the technically challenging passage (once it is no more challenging) to the rest of the piece.

yes, bother! i had a teacher once who used to say that the sound (the quality of the sound) is a technical problem! even if the passage doesn't look technically chalenging in the begining, based on personal experience i can tell you that in the end, these are the passages that eat you inside out, and especially for us, who have to play on different instruments wherever we go, these passages get to cause you most trouble.
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11.      Work on the musical concept and interpretation once technique has been mastered. You may find out you need to modify your technique if it proves inadequate for concept. A (good) teacher may help a beginner here because s/he will already have thought out the concept and the necessary technique. But if you are an advanced player, you may (should) do this on your own.

sorry, i have to disagree with you on this point - you cannot separate technical issues from musical ones. the best way (and believe me, i tried on myself doing as you say, i have had teachers who practice this theory) is to work on all levels at the same time. it may seem like too many things to worry about at the same time, but in the end you'll find it saves a lot of time. also, you get to skip the part "find out you need to modify your technique if it proves inadequate for concept"
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12.      Move on to next piece – preferably of a completely different character in order to expand your technique (don't forget to put it under your pillow! ;D).

absolutely.

generally i prefer memorizing as soon as possible, as soon as i have read a few times the work and have a personal image on it; also, what i do (at all stages) is playing the whole work as many times as possible (at a slower tempo, if necessary). and i do as i preach :)

Offline green

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #19 on: April 17, 2004, 10:24:59 PM »
What do u mean by 'hand memory'? The movements of the hand that may be memorized in place of the music?

What is the difference between playing slowly and in slow motion?

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5. Still with hands separate, work on the technically challenging passage with as many variations as you can think of (rhythm, dynamic, stress, repeated notes, repeated note-groups etc.).


what r repeated notes, repeated note-groups?

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6. once hands separate is completely mastered join hands. This will need a special approach (the best one that I know is dropping notes).


What is dropping notes?

In order to 'break' a piece down into practice sections, I have actually cut the piece up (with scissors), place all the sections in one envelop, take one section out at a time, 'practice' it (all that that entails), then it goes into a second envelop when that section is 'finished'. When I have gone through all of the sections in the first envelop, reverse the process. Just pass over any sections that do not present major difficulties, or r repeated.

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #20 on: April 18, 2004, 12:59:12 AM »
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not just for pinpointing the difficulties, but especially for understating why is there this passage, what's its role in the whole structure (that usually helps me build an image on how it should finally sound, so, there, i have an aim for this particular passage)



Now, now Anda, you cannot resist disagreeing with me can you? (and you promised!) ;)

First of all, have you read the full thread? It is not about learning a new piece. It is about developing technique from a piece. This was actually one of my very first posts.

The answers people gave were: “Play it!”, or  “Practise it!”. And other very helpful stuff like that. So the list you decided to comment on is by no means complete. It was meant as an example of the sort of thing I was expecting as an answer.

So let us have a look at your additions, shall we?

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not just for pinpointing the difficulties, but especially for understating why is there this passage, what's its role in the whole structure (that usually helps me build an image on how it should finally sound, so, there, i have an aim for this particular passage)


Certainly understanding what is behind of a piece of music is of the utmost importance for its eventual performance. It is of almost no importance if you are working on a particular difficult physical movement. If you have to give an accurate skip or if you have to do an awkward change of fingering, analysis is not going to help you. You just will have to work on it on its own (physical) terms.

But perhaps most importantly, I would certainly not analyse a piece when sight reading it. I would do that by referring to the score, miles away from the piano. Is it important to analyse a piece? Absolutely. In fact I will not touch the piano before I have the piece thoroughly analysed in terms of motif variations and development, harmonic structure and form and so on. Will I do that by sight-reading the piece? You must be joking.

So the first sight reading will show me instantly how well the piece falls under my fingers. Have you ever got a piece that looks easy on the page, and yet as you sight read throught it your fingers tie themselves in knots? So this is what I am exploring when sight-reading the piece.

Am I developing technique form the piece at this stage? Of course not. I am investigating the areas that will need technical work.


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the passage usually comes from something and continues with something, so the passage to practice starts before the bars with problems and ends after. the passage to practice is usually a motif/phrase/period. practice technically to get all notes clear and keep in mind all the time the image you decided on.


Yes, I could not agree more. That is in fact what I said. But sometimes a motif/phrase/period cannot be tackled in its entirety. Sometimes a whole passage is falling apart because of only two notes. If so you must ignore for the moment the larger episode and work on those single two notes until you master them. The alternative is to keep practising the whole passage and playing it badly because either you are unaware that the two notes are causing the whole problem, or from simple laziness. The consequence? Soon that tiny technical problem will have developed into an ingrained habit and you will have to sell your soul to the devil to get rid of it.


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personally, i hardly ever practice separately: i would practice separately a jump, or a fast passage in abnormal sequences (and that usually takes only a gew minutes). i agree on the importance of fingering, once you found your own best fingering, the devil isn't that black anymore. also, on this stage: for every passage decide which hand has to play without visual control and focus on the other.


Of course you never practise hands separately. You are a concert pianist, for crying out loud! At your level I doubt if you have any technical problems (in the sense of physical movement) left to solve. So, yes, go straight to hands together and my bet is that even co-ordination (which is what one learns when practising hands together) is not a problem for you. So of course, you should waste no time on this and you should indeed move on to voicing and interpretation.

But for a beginner/intermediate player it is important to understand that it is not possible to acquire technique and co-ordination at the same time – or let us say that it is possible but much more difficult and time consuming. So for a beginner –intermediate student, separate hands for the passages that they find technically challenging – and only for those passages it is a must.

Consequence of not doing this: As the student plays, s/he always botches the very same passage. No matter how much they practice, that passage is a major block. Continue doing this with hands together, and soon it will be inbuilt in hand memory. And continue doing it for some time and to the physical problem you will add a psychological problem that will hinder the student even if s/he conquers the physical one (“oh, no! there comes that passage I always botch!). Avoid all this suffering at the root by practising technically challenging passages (for the student, not for you) with hands separate until the passage becomes easy as a breeze. Then join hands.

And yes, that is one of the beauties of hands separate practice: it only takes a few minutes – even for beginners – to master the passage.

By the way, it is not necessary to practise the whole piece hands separate. Just the technically challenging bits (but a total beginner may need to do the whole piece with HS).

Again, this is advice for developping technique from a piece. It is not advice for, say, learning to sight-read. If your goal is to learn to sight-read, then hands together is a must.


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this is something i never do. especially rhythmic variations... i totally forbid my students to practice in different rhythms, i found it ruins their rhythmic sense. i prefer working on the passage exactly as it is written (rhythm, dynamics, everything), also helps the hand memorizing.


Of course you never do. As I said you probably do not need to do it. You already have a superb technique.

The advice given is for someone who has reached a dead end: They practise (usually this means that they unintelligently repeat) and do not get anywhere. I have never seen anyone’s rhythmic sense being destroyed by rhythmic variations. Quite the opposite, it sharpens it. And if you look at any composition, what is the composer doing (amongst other things) but rhythmical variations on a motif?

Rhythmical variations in particular are not a general practice procedure, but they will be particularly helpful in fast, even, running passages (e.g. Schubert’s Impromptu op. 90 no. 2, or variation 1 in Mozart’s “Ah Je vous dirais maman”).

By the way, forbidding students to do something, just means they are going to do it behind your back he he he ;D. How many of your students do you think are members of this forum ands getting ideas from me to do what you forbid them? He he he  ;D


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especially when you're dealing with more than 2 voices, i always practice (and have my students do it as well) on combinations of voices (1+2, 1+3, 2+3, or, if there are 4 voices, all combinations of 2 and 3 voices), always with the final fingering and always with the correct dynamics and everything. helps the ear get used to different levels of sonority. also, memorizing should have happened long before reaching this stage.


No, memorising has to start at the level where everything is simple: when you are dealing with a single voice. Are you suggesting that one should memorise a whole Fugue and only then take it apart?

Quite the opposite. Start with one single voice and memorise it. Then do the next voice and so on. Then join them in parts (as you said: 1+2, 1+3, 1+4, 2+3, 2+4, 1+2+3, 1+2+4, 1+3+4, 2+3+4, 1+2+3+4)

But then again, this is about memorising, not about developing technique from a piece.

In fact, if the purpose is to thouroughly learn a fugue, a very good strategy  is to reverse the voices, since this more than anything else will teach one to think contrapuntually. But this will not help you with technique: It assumes that you already have the technique.


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yes, bother! i had a teacher once who used to say that the sound (the quality of the sound) is a technical problem! even if the passage doesn't look technically chalenging in the begining, based on personal experience i can tell you that in the end, these are the passages that eat you inside out, and especially for us, who have to play on different instruments wherever we go, these passages get to cause you most trouble.


You are not reading carefully, Anda.

Here is what I said: Do not bother [practising separate hands] the parts of the piece you have no technical difficulty [meaning: go straight to hands together practice on these passages]. Since you yourself said you never bother practising hands separate unless it is a difficult technical passage for you, why are you now stating that you should bother?

Of course quality of sound is technical, but I was –for the purposes of discussion – restricting technique to physical movement. Of course everything is interrelated. Of course this all goes without saying.

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sorry, i have to disagree with you on this point - you cannot separate technical issues from musical ones. the best way (and believe me, i tried on myself doing as you say, i have had teachers who practice this theory) is to work on all levels at the same time. it may seem like too many things to worry about at the same time, but in the end you'll find it saves a lot of time. also, you get to skip the part "find out you need to modify your technique if it proves inadequate for concept"


Yes, I agree that technique cannot separated from musicality. However, for learning purposes separate them one must. Piano playing is a complex task. Not a complicated task, but a complex one. As such the way to learn it is the way one learns any complex task: break the task into its simplest components. Practise each component so that its performance becomes unconscious. Eventually all the single tasks will “gell” into the complex task. This “gelling” happens by itself and it is a most mysterious process an at the moment of writing not understood at all (ask any psychologist). However, just because we have no idea how it happens does not mean that it does not happen. It does, and the best (perhaps the only) way to make sure it happens is to keep working at the separate components.

Of course, if you are an advanced student, or in your case an accomplished pianist, many of these simple components will already have been fully mastered: they are part of your unconscious. So you can give yourself the luxury of approaching a piece in a “holistic” manner. Good for you!

However, beginner/intermediate students will be completely lost with this sort of approach. It has been tried by well meaning pedagogues in several areas. It was a monumental failure. Faulty Damper has described one such pedagogical initiative and what happened to the students as a consequence. I suggest you read it:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=teac;action=display;num=1081684084;start=1

(it is the second post on the thread. Read the second paragraph wehre he talks about what happened in  Californian schools)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.


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)

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #21 on: April 18, 2004, 04:49:29 AM »
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What do u mean by 'hand memory'? The movements of the hand that may be memorized in place of the music?



Hand memory is muscle memory, motor co-ordination memory. Your body simply remembers the movements without you having to think about it. You throw your hands at the piano, and the fingers play and you can hold on a conversation, or watch TV at the same time. In fact you do not need to think about what you are playing at all.

Hand memory is acquired by repeating a sequence of movements over and over again with hands together . Hand memory is also sequential: one movement leads to the next. Which means that if you forget one movement in the chain you get a huge blank.

Hand memory is absolutely necessary. It is impossible to play the piano without hand memory. However, it is not sufficient. You need other sorts of memory to back it up, since hand memory is notoriously unreliable.

You know you have hand memory if you always need to start from the beginning of a piece in order to play it.

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What is the difference between playing slowly and in slow motion?



There are two completely reasons for slow practice. The first one is to make sure that your memorisation of the piece is not just hand-memory.

If you only have hand memory, chances of a blackout in performance are huge.

By practising ultra slowly you stop hand memory form functioning (since hand memory is based on sequential movements) and you are forced to really know the music in order to play the next note. This kind of slow practice is really slow (like 5 – 10 seconds each note). Now, don’t get me wrong here. Hand memory is essential. No one can play anything without it. But it must be backed up by other kinds of memories. If all you have is hand memory you are in big trouble. If you don’t have hand memory you are in even worse trouble!

The second reason for slow practice is to learn a movement that your fingers are not yet ready to do fast.

This is where many people go dreadfully wrong.

If all you do is play slowly, you will get away with many movements that are unnecessary and that you will actually not be able to do when doing the passage at speed. And you will be practising and ingraining these inappropriate movements into your subconscious. So you must first practise the passage at top speed (even if there are mistakes) in order to figure out the movement appropriate for that speed. Then you must perfect the movement by playing it slowly  - or in other words, in slow motion.

You are working on exactly the same movements you will use when playing fast. But to figure out the movements you must start playing fast. But how can you do this if you don’t know the piece? Easy! Work in small manageable sections. Depending on the difficulty of the passage this may mean working on only two notes. This kind of slow practice is far faster than the memory one. In fact it is as slow as needed to allow you to work on the movement comfortably – in some case this may be close to the final speed. It is most important that you work on hands separate when doing slow practice for the purpose of practising movement, since if you make any consistent mistakes they will not be inbuilt in your hand memory (if they do, they will be there forever). So always work on technique with hands separate (technique means fingering, movement, speed, touch). Hands together practice is for co-ordination (between the hands) and for playing, once the technique of the piece has been completely mastered.

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what r repeated notes, repeated note-groups?


Repeated notes: This is useful when you have, for instance a chord progression and you keep forgetting what is the next chord (or you cannot read it very well either because you are a poor sight reader, or because there are lots of accidentals). Repeated notes is designed to keep the movement flowing and avoid hesitiations and start-stops. This is what you do (think for instance of Chopin Prelude Op, 28 no 20, or the first part of Schubert’s Impromptu op. 142 no. 2): Play the first chord, and keep repeating it for as long as it takes for you to figure out the next chord. When you feel comfortable with it, move to the next chord. Then keep repeating that chord until you figure out the next. Once you can do the passage you chosen to work on reasonably well this way, limit the number of repetitions of each chord to, say, 5 chords. Once you can do that, move to 4 chords, then 3, then 2, than 1. This will teach your playing apparatus to move from one chord to the next without gaps in between them. Interestingly enough, you can reverse this procedure if the music actually has several repeated chords (e.g. Chopin prelude op. 28 no. 4). In this case, play each repeated chord only once.

Repeated note-groups:
Look at the 8th post of this thread where I briefly describe it. I have described it elsewhere in more detail, but I cannot remember where:

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1079553524


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What is dropping notes?


Have a look here: I describe it halfway through the thread.

http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=stud;action=display;num=1067980504


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In order to 'break' a piece down into practice sections, I have actually cut the piece up (with scissors), place all the sections in one envelop, take one section out at a time, 'practice' it (all that that entails), then it goes into a second envelop when that section is 'finished'. When I have gone through all of the sections in the first envelop, reverse the process. Just pass over any sections that do not present major difficulties, or r repeated.


Yes, this is a good idea. You can also make several copies of the most difficult sections and place them in the envelope against just one copy of the easy sections to ensure that the difficult sections get practised more.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Shagdac

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #22 on: April 18, 2004, 10:59:04 AM »
Much of what I do has already been stated, but I usually start by studying the score, and trying to play it mentally in my head before I touch the piano. I do this until I feel comfortable. Then I will listen to a recording or several of the piece, then follow-up by listening to the recording of the piece while following along with the score. I do this when I'm learning a piece or just working on a certain part. Then I practice the right hand about 10 times...left hand 10 times...then right 9 times...left 9 times...then 8 , then 8, then 7, etc.I will do this very fast until I have slowed to a pace that I can do this at reasonably well. Then I will run thru it slowly. I have recently started using the note sequencing idea...doing the 1 note...then the 1st and 2nd..then 1,2, and 3, etc....it has been a trememdous help. If I am having difficulty I will start back at practicing the seperate hands. When I am at work I play on my desk during free time. Even when I am driving, I pretend I'm doing 1 hand at a time and hum the tune.  Usually by the time I have a piece down, it's memorized.

One trick I do use for say chord progressions or really any note progressions...(and I hesitate to say as it sounds really stupid, but it helps me anyway)....I make up little sayings...for instance, i.e. If I have a chord progression that is quite lengthy or just giving me difficulty, I will write out the notes in order on a piece of paper....first I see if there is a pattern, that is easy to see that I would be able to remember...if I don't see something that sticks out, I will take the bottom note say of all the right hand chords in order and make up a saying....such as......if the bottom notes to the chords are: B E A C G.....I will either sound out "beacg" and make it a word I will remember or make a sentence like
get out of Bed, Eat breakfast, but not After brushing, let Cat out, Go to work......(sorry, can't figure out how to underline)...so I remember the B, the E, the A the C and the G. Make sense? I know it's silly, but you'd be surprised at how many times this has made it easy to move from one chord to another.....Usually by the time I have the saying memorized I have the chords memorzied as well!

Also, one other trick I have used is to play say there is a lengthy arpeggio....I play it right to left, but then start in different places, making a circle to come back to where I started from....Ususally by the time I've started on every different note included and made my way back, I've got it.....it's the speed that usually gives me trouble though. I've even tried going right to left.... then left tracing back the way I came. And yes, I also record myself. I have found it offers much more of an opportunity for me to listen objectively to myself playing than when I am actually playing at the same time. I hear SO much more when I can just listen.


Shag :)

Shagdac

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #23 on: April 18, 2004, 10:59:27 AM »
Much of what I do has already been stated, but I usually start by studying the score, and trying to play it mentally in my head before I touch the piano. I do this until I feel comfortable. Then I will listen to a recording or several of the piece, then follow-up by listening to the recording of the piece while following along with the score. I do this when I'm learning a piece or just working on a certain part. Then I practice the right hand about 10 times...left hand 10 times...then right 9 times...left 9 times...then 8 , then 8, then 7, etc.I will do this very fast until I have slowed to a pace that I can do this at reasonably well. Then I will run thru it slowly. I have recently started using the note sequencing idea...doing the 1 note...then the 1st and 2nd..then 1,2, and 3, etc....it has been a trememdous help. If I am having difficulty I will start back at practicing the seperate hands. When I am at work I play on my desk during free time. Even when I am driving, I pretend I'm doing 1 hand at a time and hum the tune.  Usually by the time I have a piece down, it's memorized.

One trick I do use for say chord progressions or really any note progressions...(and I hesitate to say as it sounds really stupid, but it helps me anyway)....I make up little sayings...for instance, i.e. If I have a chord progression that is quite lengthy or just giving me difficulty, I will write out the notes in order on a piece of paper....first I see if there is a pattern, that is easy to see that I would be able to remember...if I don't see something that sticks out, I will take the bottom note say of all the right hand chords in order and make up a saying....such as......if the bottom notes to the chords are: B E A C G.....I will either sound out "beacg" and make it a word I will remember or make a sentence like
get out of Bed, Eat breakfast, but not After brushing, let Cat out, Go to work......(sorry, can't figure out how to underline)...so I remember the B, the E, the A the C and the G. Make sense? I know it's silly, but you'd be surprised at how many times this has made it easy to move from one chord to another.....Usually by the time I have the saying memorized I have the chords memorzied as well!

Also, one other trick I have used is to play say there is a lengthy arpeggio....I play it right to left, but then start in different places, making a circle to come back to where I started from....Ususally by the time I've started on every different note included and made my way back, I've got it.....it's the speed that usually gives me trouble though. I've even tried going right to left.... then left tracing back the way I came. And yes, I also record myself. I have found it offers much more of an opportunity for me to listen objectively to myself playing than when I am actually playing at the same time. I hear SO much more when I can just listen.


Shag :)

Shagdac

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #24 on: April 18, 2004, 11:02:37 AM »
I apologize...did not mean to post twice!
Sorry.

shag ???

Offline anda

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #25 on: April 20, 2004, 05:41:34 PM »
dear bernhardt,

when i have a year i'll explain myself (and have someone translate to decent understandable english), or, when i have 10 min i'll show you what i meant with my "commentaries" on your list  :) .  meanwhile, best reagrds,

anda

Offline thracozaag

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #26 on: April 20, 2004, 05:46:36 PM »
Quote


Hand memory is muscle memory, motor co-ordination memory. Your body simply remembers the movements without you having to think about it. You throw your hands at the piano, and the fingers play and you can hold on a conversation, or watch TV at the same time. In fact you do not need to think about what you are playing at all.

Hand memory is acquired by repeating a sequence of movements over and over again with hands together . Hand memory is also sequential: one movement leads to the next. Which means that if you forget one movement in the chain you get a huge blank.

Hand memory is absolutely necessary. It is impossible to play the piano without hand memory. However, it is not sufficient. You need other sorts of memory to back it up, since hand memory is notoriously unreliable.

You know you have hand memory if you always need to start from the beginning of a piece in order to play it.

 Excellent point about muscle memory.  I agree completely, and in fact, hand memory, when done properly is actually VERY realiable, but as you mention you need other sort of memory to back it up.

koji
"We have to reach a certain level before we realize how small we are."--Georges Cziffra

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #27 on: April 21, 2004, 02:10:29 AM »
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dear bernhardt,

when i have a year i'll explain myself (and have someone translate to decent understandable english), or, when i have 10 min i'll show you what i meant with my "commentaries" on your list  :) .  meanwhile, best reagrds,

anda


Don't be lazy! ;D
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)

Offline anda

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #28 on: April 21, 2004, 05:16:29 PM »
dear bernhardt,

fine, but remember - you asked for it! :)

so:

Quote

First of all, have you read the full thread? It is not about learning a new piece. It is about developing technique from a piece.


i did. and i'm talking about "developing technique from a piece" - which has nothing to do with learning a work in order to improve your technique (hope u agree at least on this)

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Certainly understanding what is behind of a piece of music is of the utmost importance for its eventual performance. It is of almost no importance if you are working on a particular difficult physical movement. If you have to give an accurate skip or if you have to do an awkward change of fingering, analysis is not going to help you. You just will have to work on it on its own (physical) terms.

understanding what is the musical role of a passage in the whole context helps defining aims even in technical concerns! everything depends on why is this passage like this and why it is here... so, structure analysis helps in technical terms (of course it doesn't help you solve the technical problems in a passage, but it helps you define what kind of problems they are - same passage in a different context may rise different problems!)

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But perhaps most importantly, I would certainly not analyse a piece when sight reading it. I would do that by referring to the score, miles away from the piano. Is it important to analyse a piece? Absolutely. In fact I will not touch the piano before I have the piece thoroughly analysed in terms of motif variations and development, harmonic structure and form and so on. Will I do that by sight-reading the piece? You must be joking.

i was talking about structure analysis, not harmonic (though you could also do that, but not detalied)

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sometimes a motif/phrase/period cannot be tackled in its entirety. Sometimes a whole passage is falling apart because of only two notes. If so you must ignore for the moment the larger episode and work on those single two notes until you master them. The alternative is to keep practising the whole passage and playing it badly because either you are unaware that the two notes are causing the whole problem, or from simple laziness. The consequence? Soon that tiny technical problem will have developed into an ingrained habit and you will have to sell your soul to the devil to get rid of it.


i never said "practice a whole passage"! actually what i said was "the passage to practice is usually a motif/phrase/period"! you talk about "two notes" that can create problems - not unless they make a motif (and you know i'm right about this)! and anyway, i don't think i'd sell my soul so cheap... :)

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Of course you never practise hands separately. You are a concert pianist, for crying out loud! At your level I doubt if you have any technical problems (in the sense of physical movement) left to solve. So, yes, go straight to hands together and my bet is that even co-ordination (which is what one learns when practising hands together) is not a problem for you. So of course, you should waste no time on this and you should indeed move on to voicing and interpretation.


thank you, thank you... (now i'm taking a bow :)) but you're wrong, i'm not a concert pianist. thanks anyway :)

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But for a beginner/intermediate player it is important to understand that it is not possible to acquire technique and co-ordination at the same time – or let us say that it is possible but much more difficult and time consuming. So for a beginner –intermediate student, separate hands for the passages that they find technically challenging – and only for those passages it is a must.

and i couldn't agree more on that! (yes, it's not a typo :) ) of course i have my students practice separately! i even sometimes practice with them (they play one hand and i the other, helps them later on coordination). so...

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Rhythmical variations in particular are not a general practice procedure, but they will be particularly helpful in fast, even, running passages

By the way, forbidding students to do something, just means they are going to do it behind your back he he he . How many of your students do you think are members of this forum ands getting ideas from me to do what you forbid them? He he he  


not mine, sorry :) (because they're too young to get ideas somewhere else...)

sorry, practicing in variations - that's a method you'll never get me to teach - i know what they are, i even practiced like this when i was younger (had teachers praising it), and, based on personal experience, nothing good comes out of this (imho!)

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No, memorising has to start at the level where everything is simple: when you are dealing with a single voice. Are you suggesting that one should memorise a whole Fugue and only then take it apart?

no, of course not. what i said (tried to say, actually :)) was that memorising should take place at first stage, right after sight-reading.

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You are not reading carefully, Anda.

Here is what I said: Do not bother [practising separate hands] the parts of the piece you have no technical difficulty [meaning: go straight to hands together practice on these passages]. Since you yourself said you never bother practising hands separate unless it is a difficult technical passage for you, why are you now stating that you should bother?

Of course quality of sound is technical, but I was –for the purposes of discussion – restricting technique to physical movement. Of course everything is interrelated. Of course this all goes without saying.  

actually, i practice separate hands on delicate passages, things in slow motion about colour, texture and harmonics - i actually break the chords in these passages and practice note by note. last thing i practiced this was satie gnossienne 3 (for an encore)

and you said "technical". you should have mentioned the restrictions - so now it's not my misreading :)

Quote

Yes, I agree that technique cannot separated from musicality. However, for learning purposes separate them one must. Piano playing is a complex task. Not a complicated task, but a complex one. As such the way to learn it is the way one learns any complex task: break the task into its simplest components. Practise each component so that its performance becomes unconscious. Eventually all the single tasks will “gell” into the complex task. This “gelling” happens by itself and it is a most mysterious process an at the moment of writing not understood at all (ask any psychologist). However, just because we have no idea how it happens does not mean that it does not happen. It does, and the best (perhaps the only) way to make sure it happens is to keep working at the separate components.  
However, beginner/intermediate students will be completely lost with this sort of approach. It has been tried by well meaning pedagogues in several areas. It was a monumental failure.

ok, so all i'm saying is strictly based on personal playing and teaching experience - and note that all my current students are beginners! i reasoned same as you say, and tried having them learn the work technically and then "add" interpretation - i found it saves a lot of time teaching everything at the same time. i'm not going to try to explain how come. it just does (maybe just with my students? :))


so, i didn't get a translator, it's again my poor english - hope you can understand.

best regards,
anda

p.s. see how i write long long posts just by quoting you? :)

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #29 on: April 22, 2004, 12:27:14 AM »
Hi, Anda!

Thank you for your very interesting reply.

I think we agree much more than we disagree. ;)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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)

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #30 on: April 22, 2004, 01:35:45 AM »
hey bernhard dont u get pissed at ppl always typing your name wrong?

bernhardt must be a romanian variation on you name or something.

and some people also call you bernard, when its obvious from your personality that your first name has to start with C  ;)

and to add to this thread - i am a relative beginner and im learning chopin's etudes - i am obviously rather gifted, or rather stupid.

i believe i am the former, because i think i will advance my technique much quicker from these pieces...  ;D
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline bernhard

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #31 on: April 22, 2004, 01:53:18 AM »
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hey bernhard dont u get pissed at ppl always typing your name wrong?


Actually no. I am highly amused by it. ;D

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bernhardt must be a romanian variation on you name or something.


Actually, I am waiting any of these days for some form of formal recogntion from the Dutch Royal family. ;)


Quote
and to add to this thread - i am a relative beginner and im learning chopin's etudes - i am obviously rather gifted, or rather stupid.

i believe i am the former, because i think i will advance my technique much quicker from these pieces...  ;D


To quote from a famous zen master:

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few.
(Shunryu Suzuki)

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)

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #32 on: April 23, 2004, 03:52:48 AM »
lol, i hate zen master quotes, they make me think too much, and consequently hurt my brian, and brian is a good friend of mine.
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline Antnee

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #33 on: April 23, 2004, 04:48:41 AM »
...and the winner for most smileys in a single post goes to................................... ANDA!!!!  :D :D

;)

-Tony-
"The trouble with music appreciation in general is that people are taught to have too much respect for music they should be taught to love it instead." -  Stravinsky

Offline anda

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #34 on: April 23, 2004, 04:34:44 PM »
sorry for spelling wrong your name, bernhard, i'll pay more attention next time i disagree with you :)

Offline anda

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Re: How do you get technique from pieces?
«Reply #35 on: April 23, 2004, 04:38:20 PM »
Quote
...and the winner for most smileys in a single post goes to................................... ANDA!!!!  :D :D

;)

-Tony-


thanks for the award, i'm really proud of it

i guess i can only write as i speak  :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)