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Topic: super octaves  (Read 5149 times)

Offline pskim

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super octaves
on: July 15, 2002, 10:51:48 AM
I saw a performance on tv yesterday where Martha Argerich was playing Liszt's Funeraille.  And when the octave passage came out I was just amazed at the speed and accuracy that she played it in.  Octave was never my forte and I always wanted to be able to play octaves super well.  But normal octave practicing doesn't seem enough.  Can any of you masters out there help me to achieve my super octave technique?  Thanks.

Offline martin_s

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Re: super octaves
Reply #1 on: July 15, 2002, 12:22:32 PM
Yes it's funny this octave bussiness... Think of knocking on a door... no, not heavy like "KNOCK, KNOCK", more of a slightly more discretely polite and quick knock: "knockelyknockelyknock". Think you know what I mean. Anyone can do that... And as far as I am concerned, octaves work like that. It is only when you have to do it for more than three or four notes rapidly that it becomes more difficult... And then you have to work out a way of keeping that feeling of staying very relaxed but still very alert throughout longer octave passages... I don't know if this makes any sense to you. It works for my in pieces like Chopin Ab Polonaise middle section, Liszt Orage and stuff like that. It is like a horse running very very fast (think, Lord of the Rings, when these dark souls haunt this elfwoman carrying Frodo on a white horse, running fast as H*** through the woods). It hardly touches the ground, but still it does. Like imagine that the ground was the keybed and that the horse's feet gets very very quickly into the key, but still into the keybed...
Then again, Brahms first concerto or Liszt B Minor Sonata stuff, is of course another story, but for me this kind of techinque works for those kind of Funerailles/Ab Polonaise kind of octaves...

Offline ludwig

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Re: super octaves
Reply #2 on: July 16, 2002, 08:38:41 AM

yeah, the most important thing playing fast, rapid octaves, even notes, staccatos, trills etc needs relaxation. The most trouble you can get into is to tense up and be frozen when the wrist movement becomes an all arm movement. La Campenella displays all sorts of practices with the octave. It is almost like making it a octave exercise. You could acheive an even, rapid, continues octave run by practicing wrist movement like martin_s said, remember, you neither want a push-down motion, or a push-up movement, its like a relaxed bounce sort of movement.
"Classical music snobs are some of the snobbiest snobs of all. Often their snobbery masquerades as helpfulnes... unaware that they are making you feel small in order to make themselves feel big..."ÜÜÜ

Offline robert_henry

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Re: super octaves
Reply #3 on: July 16, 2002, 10:44:47 AM
These are great comments from Martin and Ludwig.  I would add that the bridge of the hand must be strong while one is doing all of this relaxation business.  I hesitate in saying this because some might misunderstand, but if one can couple a firm bridge and fingers with a supple wrist, then octaves are easy.

That's my opinion and it should be yours. :P

Robert Henry

Offline martin_s

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Re: super octaves
Reply #4 on: July 16, 2002, 11:49:16 AM
Yes, very much so...
I agree totally on that firm bridge of the hand. I find, that area of the hand almost always needs to be firm, otherwise one loses control. Or as my teacher says, "You doesn't play the piano in a state of relaxation but in a state of controlled tension", clever yeah?!

Offline ted

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Re: super octaves
Reply #5 on: July 18, 2002, 12:18:55 AM

I've always been pretty lucky with octave playing but what I do doesn't quite coincide with the replies so far. I agree with most of what has been said but for really fast, smooth octaves I do a few other things.

1. I use a mixture of fingers 3,4 and 5 on the outside notes - usually, but not always, with 3 and 4 on the blacks.

2. As the speed increases I tend to bounce less and emply a sort of light, tentacular grip with the fingers. It helps to have a slightly larger hand than normal to do this.

3. My fingers tend to go much flatter in rapid octaves, with the tip joints of the outside fingers at times even bending backwards.

4. The faster I go, the closer my hands remain to the keyboard.

5. A comparison which comes to mind is with one of those delightful, large triantelope spiders when it runs. I live in the area of Auckland from which they were exported to Hollywood for the film "Arachnophobia".

"Everything in music should be fun, a celebration of life....”  - Cecil Taylor

Offline martin_s

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Re: super octaves
Reply #6 on: July 18, 2002, 12:08:39 PM
...I do the 3's and 4's on black keys as well, I think most people do, yeah? And staying closer to the keys when playing quicker seems natural to me...
I couldn't tell about the spiders though... Up here in Sweden we don't get them... We get elks instead I guess.  8)

Offline e60m5

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Re: super octaves
Reply #7 on: October 28, 2002, 03:08:41 AM
Octaves....  ;D ;D ;D

Yeah, I use 4 and 5 on the black keys (I only can't use 3 because my hands aren't big enough, I can't even use 4 on the white keys because of that), it's a great help.

But while relaxation is very very very important to octaves, if you're playing an extended passage of hyperoctaves (I don't know the Funeraille off the top of my head...  :() then tension is going to be necessary in order to prolong the amount of time that your wrist and forearm will last before falling off  ;)

After all, you still are using your muscles to make your wrist go up and down, even if you are completely 100% relaxed. This is a given physiological fact; and while it is possible to make these muscle contractions whilst remaining fully relaxed for maybe 2 or 3 consecutive blindingly-fast octaves, to try to prolong this into a real hyperoctave passage for a long amount of time is nigh on impossible... after all, none of our techniques is perfect! I don't know whether or not it's physiologically possible to maintain complete relaxation during a prolonged performance of octaves, but whenever I'm playing a passage like the octaves in the left hand from Chopin's Op.53 Polonaise, I do tense up, albeit minimally.

But I am happy with these results; when practicing the octave passage from the aforementioned Polonaise, one of the things I do to increase my endurance and my stamina in octave passages is to practice the passage crazily-fast... not that I perform that piece that fast however. Crazy-fast in my case is above 141bpm on a metronome... but that figure will be different for each of us. How fast do you guys practice that section? I'm curious..

Another octave tour-de-force that helps develop the technique is also Liszt's Orage, that I mentioned in another of my posts here (I know I'm making a lot of posts tonight.... I just found this forum and I'm so happy lol  ;)), and also the old favourite Islamey..

Offline JonE

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Re: super octaves
Reply #8 on: October 28, 2002, 06:37:08 AM
A few other comments to note:
1. I like to think in terms of "lines of motion:" in and out of the keys, up and down, and back-and-forth from top notes to bottom notes.  The faster you go, the more linear you want to be, not wasting motions up and down vertically, or in and out - therefore I play my fingertips in the same general place on the keys, near the front end of the black keys.
2. If you play octaves from the wrist (ie up and down at the wrist) - that is a surefire way to develop tension in the arm.  I'd rather "push off" from the keys, with a flexible wrist that reacts, but doesn't move a whole lot.  Of course, that's what's going on if you get that light bounce mentioned above.

Offline RhiAnne

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Re: super octaves
Reply #9 on: October 29, 2002, 06:37:57 PM
Hey guys,

 Good advice.  I am working on the Lizst Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6.

 The technique that I use it practice the octave passages with both hands.  That way both hands are developing at the same time.  Also start at a slow tempo that you can focus on your hand position rather than the notes.

 It is mainly arm and wrist action.  It must be done lightly to play the octaves clear.  Always allow the top note to come out, what I mean is play let the top note be the leading voice.

 And when your hand begins to hurt, STOP.  If you do not, you usually will end up hurting yourself.

 As it is, I cannot audition becuase I hurt my wrist becuase I foolishly went on.

 I shall audition next year.  Take the octaves slow and easy.  You should be able to increase the speed within a few days.

 I now spend an hour on the octave passage.  And it has helped and my hand does not hurt, becuase I have learned to relax it.

 Well I will see you later and have a nice day.

Offline stee

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Re: super octaves
Reply #10 on: October 30, 2002, 06:50:34 AM
Hi Guys

First--please rethink the use your 3rd and 4th fingers on octaves!  The resultant twist in your wrist can cause a host of injuries and severe pain.  I know this from bitter experience.  My rehab with Taubman technique has been the most enlightening experience in my career.  I've really learned how to move easily!  

Be careful experimenting with technical concepts without an excellent teacher.  If the execution is not entirely coordinate, you can actually ruin your technique.  It's just common sense.

Good luck!
.  

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: super octaves
Reply #11 on: June 02, 2006, 09:52:58 PM
There is a lot of good physical descriptions of how to practice octaves, and how they feel when you get them going good.  I want to add though for the sake of those who find those descriptions more disastrous than helpful, my own approach!

I found in my own playing that the biggest barrier in playing octaves was losing sight of the melodic content.  I tried to play them bouncing, I tried to play them with wrist, in, out, zig zags, around, all that.  In the end it didn't work for me.  It was the natural breathing space of the melody that I was missing.  On the recordings it is easy to be blown away by the octaves, and it sounds like exact, precise repetitions of movement.  But it is not that, it is superior melodic playing, that covers up all the seams in how the movement actually takes place.

The way I discovered to practice octaves is to play them in single notes and really learn in depth the melodic contours, and all the gradations of sound within the melody, and sometimes I learn them as if they were compound lines like in Bach's works.  This way the ear is naturally learning when to let up, and when to get more intense.  The problem with a lot of people's octaves is that they want them to be equal intensity, all the time.  Simply put, nothing works like that.  After you learn the contour, when does it get heavy, when does it get light, octaves become, I guarantee, at least 75% easier.  Maybe even more but that much I can guarantee.  I play the octaves in Liszt Sonata a tempo without any wrong notes, whereas before, trying all these physical voodooisms, it was just a big mess.  I hope that helps someone out there.

Walter Ramsey

Offline walking_encyclopedia

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Re: super octaves
Reply #12 on: June 03, 2006, 03:18:41 AM
when your hand begins to hurt, STOP.  If you do not, you usually will end up hurting yourself.

 As it is, I cannot audition becuase I hurt my wrist becuase I foolishly went on.

I shall audition next year.  Take the octaves slow and easy.  You should be able to increase the speed within a few days.

excellent advice. if you're out there, trying whatever it takes to get good octaves, try to remember that nothing is worth a wrist injury. nothing.

Hi Guys

First--please rethink the use your 3rd and 4th fingers on octaves! The resultant twist in your wrist can cause a host of injuries and severe pain. I know this from bitter experience. My rehab with Taubman technique has been the most enlightening experience in my career. I've really learned how to move easily!

waal...i'm going to have to disagree, but maybe that's just me.

now, i don't claim to know anything about the taubmann method. if taubmann teaches you to play chromatic octaves all with the fifth finger and it works for you, fine. but i think if i did that i would murder my poor fifth finger.

i happen to have hands that can hit a tenth. so playing octaves with my fifth finger on white keys and fourth finger on black keys has been one of the best-working plans that i ever used. if your hands are so small that you have to stretch to play octaves with your fourth, then i'd agree with stee.

but that's my little 'secret' for octaves. fifth finger on white, fourth on black. also avoid stiffening your wrist while playing them. try to keep a relaxed wrist. my teacher tests this by whacking my wrist while i'm playing, to see if it's relaxed. that's actually a good test, although it sounds kinda weird

chopin is great for developing good octaves. some pieces that come to mind...

etude 25/10
nocturne 48/1
polonaise 53

remember to keep relaxed and don't practice octaves for three hours straight.

good luck.

Offline henrah

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Re: super octaves
Reply #13 on: June 03, 2006, 11:12:39 AM
There is a lot of good physical descriptions of how to practice octaves, and how they feel when you get them going good. I want to add though for the sake of those who find those descriptions more disastrous than helpful, my own approach!

I found in my own playing that the biggest barrier in playing octaves was losing sight of the melodic content. I tried to play them bouncing, I tried to play them with wrist, in, out, zig zags, around, all that. In the end it didn't work for me. It was the natural breathing space of the melody that I was missing. On the recordings it is easy to be blown away by the octaves, and it sounds like exact, precise repetitions of movement. But it is not that, it is superior melodic playing, that covers up all the seams in how the movement actually takes place.

The way I discovered to practice octaves is to play them in single notes and really learn in depth the melodic contours, and all the gradations of sound within the melody, and sometimes I learn them as if they were compound lines like in Bach's works. This way the ear is naturally learning when to let up, and when to get more intense. The problem with a lot of people's octaves is that they want them to be equal intensity, all the time. Simply put, nothing works like that. After you learn the contour, when does it get heavy, when does it get light, octaves become, I guarantee, at least 75% easier. Maybe even more but that much I can guarantee. I play the octaves in Liszt Sonata a tempo without any wrong notes, whereas before, trying all these physical voodooisms, it was just a big mess. I hope that helps someone out there.

Walter Ramsey



A-thankyou!
Currently learning:<br />Liszt- Consolation No.3<br />J.W.Hässler- Sonata No.6 in C, 2nd mvt<br />Glière- No.10 from 12 Esquisses, Op.47<br />Saint-Saens- VII Aquarium<br />Mozart- Fantasie KV397<br /

Offline nicco

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Re: super octaves
Reply #14 on: June 03, 2006, 12:13:03 PM
but that's my little 'secret' for octaves. fifth finger on white, fourth on black.

ummm "your" little secret? I have never seen a pianist who doesent use this fingering for octaves, so if you thought you invented this you're way off  :P
"Without music, life would be a mistake." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Offline henrah

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Re: super octaves
Reply #15 on: June 03, 2006, 04:45:55 PM
ummm "your" little secret? I have never seen a pianist who doesent use this fingering for octaves

Yundi Li, 1-5 all the way baby 8)
Currently learning:<br />Liszt- Consolation No.3<br />J.W.Hässler- Sonata No.6 in C, 2nd mvt<br />Glière- No.10 from 12 Esquisses, Op.47<br />Saint-Saens- VII Aquarium<br />Mozart- Fantasie KV397<br /

Offline avetma

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Re: super octaves
Reply #16 on: June 03, 2006, 06:12:58 PM
If this is considered fast enough  ::)(HR6) - then I'll tell you my secret
(and sorry for that mistake on 'd') ;D

https://rapidshare.de/files/22083938/oktave_hr6_vetma.wav.html

Offline nicco

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Re: super octaves
Reply #17 on: June 03, 2006, 06:22:29 PM
Yundi Li, 1-5 all the way baby 8)

really? hmm i picture him using 4-5..ah well
"Without music, life would be a mistake." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Offline tompilk

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Re: super octaves
Reply #18 on: June 03, 2006, 07:50:00 PM
i can play octaves really quick... i like to play easy minor scales in octaves after every piece or so to practise them... but I can't get the octaves in En Rythme Mossolique by alkan - anyone know how to get these? Bar 30/31... halfway down the second page...
I've memorised the pattern - very simple - but my mind is just to engrossed and behind trying to play the notes that I cannot play the next ones etc...
I don't have a clue about the theory so i can only explain it in a way that makes sense to me - it is like an arpeggio in octaves - but two at once, alternating between the two...
My mind doesnt work fast enough to realise where my hands go next, although i can do it away from the piano.
Maybe i need to forget about thinking about it and just go for it... or i need it in finger memory by playing it slowly?
Tom
Oh, and I'm too stiff during octaves so they are accurate but I tire out after 2-3 mins...
Tom
Working on: Schubert - Piano Sonata D.664, Ravel - Sonatine, Ginastera - Danzas Argentinas

Offline thalbergmad

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Re: super octaves
Reply #19 on: June 03, 2006, 08:10:47 PM
Maybe i need to forget about thinking about it and just go for it

Exactly.
Curator/Director
Concerto Preservation Society

Offline donjuan

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Re: super octaves
Reply #20 on: June 03, 2006, 08:13:41 PM
Yes it's funny this octave bussiness... Think of knocking on a door... no, not heavy like "KNOCK, KNOCK", more of a slightly more discretely polite and quick knock: "knockelyknockelyknock".

i know exactly what you mean!  Gilels could really do it well.  it's like percussive, but it isnt, all at the same time; real trippy

I saw a performance on tv yesterday where Martha Argerich was playing Liszt's Funeraille.  And when the octave passage came out I was just amazed at the speed and accuracy that she played it in.
argerich and berzovsky have unique technique.  they just put their hands down on the piano and everything is automatically flawless and effortless.  cant copy it..
If this is considered fast enough  ::)(HR6) - then I'll tell you my secret
(and sorry for that mistake on 'd') ;D

https://rapidshare.de/files/22083938/oktave_hr6_vetma.wav.html
I wouldnt want it any faster than that anyway.  great playing

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: super octaves
Reply #21 on: June 04, 2006, 12:22:58 AM
i know exactly what you mean!  Gilels could really do it well.  it's like percussive, but it isnt, all at the same time; real trippy


I think what you are hearing is that every octave they play in the center of the key, their touch directs the hammer cleanly towards the string.  It is deceptive though to try and play it like it sounds because you are basically trying to imitate from the outside, soemthing that is happening on the inside.  So it is the activity inside that will produce the amazing and visceral feeling on the outside, and it can't be done the other way around.  That's why I always advocate melodic playing first, because in the end all the physical voodooisms are impossible to use unless they fit into a musical mould.

Walter Ramsey

Offline walking_encyclopedia

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Re: super octaves
Reply #22 on: June 04, 2006, 02:44:06 AM
ummm "your" little secret? I have never seen a pianist who doesent use this fingering for octaves, so if you thought you invented this you're way off  :P

i guess it came out like i thought i was the only one who knew this ;D but heck no, everyone i know uses 4-5 fingering- that's the way to do it!

Offline henrah

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Re: super octaves
Reply #23 on: June 04, 2006, 08:20:38 AM
I've started using the 4-5 fingering and it does increase my accuracy on the black keys, but when ever I play a black octave, it sounds slightly different than the white because of my relaxation after it, which brings my fourth off of the key. You see, I can only reach a 1-4 black octave if I stretch, so my sound falters somewhat due to the relaxation I need after playing it to avoid tension.

I have played around with using a grip action to play consecutive white octaves. I found that it worked quite well for quick little lateral jumps, and helped with my accuracy a bit. But it does get tiring quite quickly, and hurts the end phalange of my fifth finger after a while.

I think more about the down motion, and in turn I get a lot of conflicting movements where I try to move down too much. I need to think more about the up motion, and eventually balance them out so they don't act together.
Currently learning:<br />Liszt- Consolation No.3<br />J.W.Hässler- Sonata No.6 in C, 2nd mvt<br />Glière- No.10 from 12 Esquisses, Op.47<br />Saint-Saens- VII Aquarium<br />Mozart- Fantasie KV397<br /
 

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