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Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces (Read 4103 times)

Offline feddera

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Hi everyone!  :D

So, I plan on getting all 4 movements of Beethovens first sonata ready for perfomance around july/august. I have just spent the past six weeks memorising the first movement, and while it's far from perfect (need better trills and dynamics), five more months should be plenty of time. After reading around this forum, I decided working on all the movements at the same time would be a better idea.

The 4th movement seemed like the hardest one, so I started working on the first 5 bars with the LH, and the ending with my RH. Well, it's been three days, and i can only manage those sections at 160 bpm comfortably, it falls apart around 180, and there is no way I can play that at 208. I have seen suggestions to learn hands seperate at 140% the final speed, which in this case means like, 300 bpm. Is that even possible? My question to those who have learnt this piece (or similiar pieces), is how much time do you need to reach the final speed? Maybe I am impatient after just three days, but I have never played anything this fast and I have no idea what is normal.

I guess I could always learn the entire thing hands together at 160 bpm and increase the speed gradually from there, but according to most here that is the "old fashioned" way to do it? But on the other hand, if I can play those two sections at 208 bpm, the rest of the piece is really just memorising.

And yes, the more general question. This is the longest piece I have worked on, my first Beethoven-sonata and my only multi-movement piece. How much time is "ok" to use on a piece like this? Is 6 months to much, to little or just right? I'm sure it depends on skill-level etc. but some general pointers would be nice  :P

piano sheet music of Sonata 1


Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 09:10:32 AM »
The presto should be very easy to do if you are doing it correctly.  Considering that it's been more than a couple of days since you started practicing it, you are practicing it incorrectly.

You have hit a speed wall because you are using an inappropriate technique which may be fine if you are playing slowly but not at presto.  You'll have to search for the most correct manner to play it.

When I first learned it, I learned it incorrectly but it did not prevent me from reaching the desired musical tempo.  The issue I had was that my hand would cramp up.  This should never happen.  It should be easy and if it is not, then you are doing it wrong.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 10:24:25 AM »
Thank you for your reply!

I did manage 180 bpm this morning, but you are right, it is very difficult and uncomfortable. My whole shoulder and upper arm are tensing like crazy and I'm really sore afterwards.

I did search before starting this tread, but I couldn't find anything realy helpful. What I am doing now, is just starting the metronome at 100 bpm, and gradually increasing it until it falls apart at 180 bpm+. A few more specfic pointers on how to get this up to tempo would be very appreciated.

I'm also attaching a recording of half the first movment, and me failing at playing those RH arpeggios at the end of movement 4, if anyone is interessted  :P

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #3 on: February 26, 2008, 06:10:16 AM »
I did manage 180 bpm this morning, but you are right, it is very difficult and uncomfortable. My whole shoulder and upper arm are tensing like crazy and I'm really sore afterwards.

I did search before starting this tread, but I couldn't find anything realy helpful. What I am doing now, is just starting the metronome at 100 bpm, and gradually increasing it until it falls apart at 180 bpm+. A few more specfic pointers on how to get this up to tempo would be very appreciated.
Do you run by gradually walking faster?  How fast do you think you'll be able to walk?  For how long do you think you'll be able to walk while your muscles build up lactic acid and burn?  How sore do you think they'll be if you continued?

Now pick up your knees and run.  Notice the ease?  The speeeed?

If you continue this kind of practice, it will take several months while you build up muscles and tolerance but the feeling of strain lessens.  But you still won't be able to play this piece.  So you have a choice: 1)continue with what you are doing and it will get better but you'll never be satisfied with it or have total control or 2)do something else.

If you decide on the second option, you've just chosen the more difficult of the two.  Why is it more difficult if it results in your ability to play this piece with ease?  Because it's easier to continue the same old instead of learning an entirely new set of coordinated movements that you currently do not possess.

I've listened to your practicing clips and you are using your fingers a lot without the coordination of the other parts of your body.  You are also pressing down to play chords and in order for to you to play loudly you probably push down even harder.  This is a waste of energy and creates tension, if only for a moment.  Also, from the closing arpeggios, you lack fine control (can be easily gained) and you are also holding an extreme amount of tension in the fingers (thus causing the lack of control.)

Here's some things you should consider in playing arpeggios:
1.   Lateral shift of the hand/forearm
2.   Rotation of the hand
3.   Slanting the hand in relation to the keyboard
4.   Backwards and forwards movement of the arm

All of these, in conjunction with the precise movements with your fingers will net the results you should want.  But you'll have to learn an entirely new way of playing beyond the utterly absurd "five-finger" position.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #4 on: February 26, 2008, 06:09:27 PM »
This is interesting, again thank you for taking the time to write all this.

I was already paying attention to point 1 and 2 when doing arpeggios, but the backward and forward-motions really helped my control! So what I did today was basically setting the metronome to 208 and playing one broken chord at the time. When I can play them easily, it should only be a matter of linking them together, at least in theory. I still could not play two in a row with control at that speed though. Is this a more correct way of practising?

And as I'm sure you heard from the recording, I'm not used to playing the first movement at that speed either. Some parts got really tense. Maybe these pieces just are beyond my abilites at the moment, but I'm not ready to give up just yet. I'll keep polishing the 1st movement and practising those arpeggios while I'm memorising the 2nd and 3rd movements. They seem easier, but the score could be deceiving, what do I know.

Perhaps learing some other fast pieces (chopin prelude 3 or 16) could help?

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 05:14:25 AM »
The easier part is just letting the keys that fall under the hands of the arpeggios.  The harder is connecting them with the lateral shifts.  This is tricky.

Generally, I do not believe that pieces can be out of someones abilities.  If you consider patience, intelligence and diligence, and perseverence in practice as abilites, then these are requirements for learning anything and these must be present for the quality of learning to be of the highest possible realm.

Technically, this sonata is actually quite easy if you are using the best practice techniques.
Musically, it is a bit of a challenge, but most music is challenging, even if it isn't technically challenging.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #6 on: February 27, 2008, 09:48:47 AM »
Maybe I'm weird, but I am having more trouble with the arpeggios in the same place than the lateral shifts. Especially the left hand. Thanks to your suggestions the speed is pikcing up, but the control and eveness is just not there yet. I guess all I needed to know was that it is within reach if I just keep practising. I don't want to be "that guy" who starts learning the hammerklavier sonata after 1 month of lessons, only to spend 5 years on basically nothing and get discouraged, lol.

If I remember correctly, in Chang's book this particular movement was used as an example on "outlining" the score. Is this something I could benefit from, or would it just make the learning process longer? Either way, I think this will keep me busy for a while.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #7 on: February 28, 2008, 01:05:44 AM »
Any piece can be outlined.  It has numerous benefits including form, structure, motive...  all of which can greatly help the memorization process.

As for eveness of the touch, depending on how long you've been playing, the fine control may not be present if you've been learning the piano with an inferior and insecure technique which prevents your neuralogical system from developing properly.  If you have been practicing with excellent technique and excellent practice techniques, fine control can be gained quite quickly in a matter of a couple of months and it just develops from there.  This process shouldn't take more than a couple of months.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #8 on: February 29, 2008, 04:01:36 AM »
Maybe I'll try the outlining then, but I won't start memorising this movement until I've memorised movement 2 and 3. Hopefully I'm able to do these arpeggios at tempo by then.

I played keyboard (the digital one) as a kid for like a year and a half. Ten years later I decided to buy an accustic upright and learn the real thing. That was about a year ago, which means my total "keyboard-time" is something like 2 years and a half. This may not be sufficient time to develop the fine control you speak of. On the other hand I really don't have any really integrated habits (good or bad), so it should not be that hard to gain the correct technique, as I don't have to "unlearn" that much. Speaking of unlearning, I think I'll start a new topic on that.

Whatever, I'm sure this is boring you, so I'll cut to the chase. :P Let's see if I got this right by summarizing the thread:

- Don't start slowly and gradually increase the speed.
- Don't do the same movements again if they don't work.
- Focus on the large movements of the arm and wrist.
- Shut up and do all of the above every day for the next 60 days.

The only thing I might be missing is how to gain the "fine control". Is this were playing slower will help? Or will it just develop with time?

As always, thank you so much.  :)

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #9 on: February 29, 2008, 07:06:40 AM »
That's a simple summary.

Here is some more information about coordination: In order to gain coordination most effectively for something that should be really fast, and you can't immediately do it at that speed, you have to do it slowly.  This prevents any co-contraction that would occur because the muscles have not yet learned how to cooperate together for the task.  This really only takes a couple of days to get the coordination right.  The caveat of this kind of coordination practice is that it is very easy for someone without experience to practice the movement, which should be fast, incorrectly slowly.  As a example, walking is not the same as running and no matter how fast you walk you'll never be running.  Only running is running and you have to be sure that the movement you are practicing slowly is the same movement required for doing fast.  So per the example above, practicing running slowly is how you gain coordinatin to run fast.  (Running is actually a bad example.)

Fine control requires coordination of the muscles and muscular development.  Your muscles need to be conditioned for certain aspects of piano playing to be done effectively.  This is not an endorsement for exercising your fingers (actually your forearms).  This isn't an endorsement of finger exercises, either.  The most effective way to condition your muscles is by playing the piano in the most efficient and effective manner.  Playing the piano requires that these sets of muscles contract and relax in very specific patterns.

Fine control also requires a highly developed nervous system capable of sending electrical impulses at incredibly fast speeds.  As you learn how to play the piano properly and effectively, your nervous system will actual send electrical signals to your muscles faster because the nerves develop an insulating mechanism.  Just like insulated electrical wire sends electricity faster than non-insulated ones, so too does your nervous system.  But this insulation will only develop the minimum required for a certain activity - if the music you play never gets beyond a certain speed, don't expect to meraculously get it when you play a fast piece or the fourth movement of Op.2-1.  In order to get your muscles coordinated faster, you'd have to practice fast (but keep in mind how to gain coordination).

The one problem of developing your nervous system is that it is just as easy to develop it in a manner that prevents you from playing the piano well.  For beginners, any kind of development gets noticeable results but only the correct and proper development allows for ease in playing.  If you were to continue practicing the fourth movement with all of the tension, you'll actual condition your nervous system in the same manner.  You may be able to perform the piece to your satisfaction but you'll always have to practice it.  Do you really want to practice the same piece for years... decades just so you'll be able to play it well?  And imagine what you wouldn't be able to play because you developed this faulty system.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #10 on: February 29, 2008, 09:49:26 AM »
So, if I understand correctly, I should aim for not only being able to DO the arpeggios, they should be really easy to do. What I meant with learning more fast pieces, was that if playing fast is so different from playing slow, playing every slow piece in the world won't improve my ability to play fast. One piece has to be my first fast one, so why not this one?  :D

Your saying that this piece should be technically easy is also motivating, as it indicates that my efforts will pay off eventually. And this morning, they did! I set the metronome to 208, and played the beginning with my left hand a couple of times, followed by the end with my right hand a couple of times. While not 100% accurate, I can now play these sections at 208 bpm, more accurately than what I managed at 180 bpm just 4 days ago. I can not thank you enough for your advice, this is way faster progress than I expected.

Now, there is still some slight tension, so I guess what I should do now is analyze every motion and mix it up until I can play this without any tension at all. One thing you haven't mentioned, is how do you use the metronome when you practice? Here is a 30 second clip of me practising with the metronome at 208, I hope you'll check out my progress.  :)

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #11 on: February 29, 2008, 11:37:55 PM »
Yes, the arpeggios should be very easy to do.

From the recording, it sounds like every time there is a lateral shift, there is a break in the musical line.  At this point, I imagine this is the point where you are holding tension in the hand, probably the thumb is moving inward which causes the tension.  In other words, your thumb is reaching for the landing spot and seizes up under the hand.

The thumb can't reach any further inward because your hand just so happens to be in the way.  Experiment with just how much your thumb can move inward before it seizes up and becomes practically useless because it's stuck under your hand.  Then find out just how much it can move inward while maintaining the maximum amount of movement.  Make sure your thumb is relaxed.

Once you've figure this out, the other movement to combine is with the lateral shift and forearm rotation.  In this process, pay attention to how much forearm rotation you need to move the thumb just a bit closer to the landing key with the minimum amount of movement.  The rotation should be an inward rotation where your thumb rotates down.  If you notice, when you rotate this direction, your thumb actually moves closer to the desired location.  The shift should feel like your arm is floating to the desired spot and your thumb just lands correctly in place.

The other movement is the wrist.  This should fall naturally in place if you've figured out the issue with the thumb and lateral shift so you don't have to think about this one.

Specifically regarding the right hand as it plays the closing arpeggio patterns, it sounds like there is just a slight bit of tension in the fingers, probably the 3 or 4 finger, depending on which fingers you are using.  Maybe you are preparing this finger to play the note before it needs to play.  Some preparation is necessary to limit the amount of movement but the hand should still be relaxed.  Experiment to see if the chosen fingering is the easiest and most effective.  Make sure you are also adjusting the wrist to minimize the movement of the fingers.  As a quick example, you can place your five fingers on the white keys and play with the 3rd finger just be raising your wrist.


On using the metronome, it's important to be able to feel the pulse inside your mind and not on the metronome.  But that takes quite a bit of practice.  As soon as the metronome has done its job in providing an objectively consistent beat, and you are able to play with the beat, it should be done away with because you do not want to use it as a crutch.  Using the metronome also prevents developing an inner ear for musical phrases that can spand dozens of measures because music is never metronomic.

If you have the music memorized in your mind not just in your fingers, the next step is to play just the music in your mind.  This assumes that you have solved all technical problems and you are free to be able to shape the music as you like.  This also assumes you have specific opinions about how the piece should sound like.

In a piece like this movement, and you are still learning, this is the basic process you should go through.  As you gradually become more comfortable playing and more patterns are learned and ingrained, you will be able to listen to music in your mind before actually playing the music.  You should have listened to lots of music, performed by excellent musician-pianists, and also the same music performed by mediocre pianists.  And of course balance it all out by listening to bad performances so you'll develop an even greater appreciation for excellent performances.  This process helps to shape your musical preferences and helps you to make very precise musical decisions in performance and practice.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #12 on: March 01, 2008, 06:14:00 AM »
The biggest breaks in the musical line, or at least the motion that feels most akward, is when I'm doing lateral shift above my thumb. (Ascending with my left and descending with my right). I am using the thumb over-method, but I guess it still needs some more work. On my right hand it is my 4th finger causing the uneveness, and the fact that my hand is not big enough to do a F-minor chord with a double F. Well, not that fast anyway, so I have to really roll with my wrist.

Now, here's an idea on how to mix things up a little. When I first started playing Bach (this is fairly recently), I was not used to paying close attention to more than one voice at the same time, there were some akward trills, etc. After "learning it", my technique and the final result was poor in more ways than one. I could practise it as much as I wanted, it did not get any more comfortable to play. Then, when I learnt my second piece by Bach, the difficulties I could not overcome the first time, was for some reason really not difficult at all. This piece had the same technical difficulties as the first one, but with a different melody with different notes.

Where am I going with this? Well, I have practised those 5 measures with my right hand, and 5 measures with my left, every day for a week now. This was my first time dealing with this particular technical obstacle (fast arpeggios), and I might have integrated more bad habits than I am aware of. What if I just forget about those 5 measures, and proceed to the next 5 similiar, but not identical ones? Judging from the score, Beethoven modulates these patterns alot, so my left hand has plenty of similiar passages to learn. Let's say I just jump to measure 13, and learn the left hand to measure 19. When I can play those measures at 208, which should now take less than a week, I forget about those and proceed to the next group of arpeggios with lateral shifts.

In theory, at some point I have mastered _every_ difficult arpeggio group in the score, and learning it hands together should only be a matter of memorising. Am I on to something or is this a bad idea?

Thank you for another excellent analysis of the technical difficulties of arpeggios. I really have a lot to think about when I am practising now, this is great! This tread is getting pretty long, I sure hope I'm not the only one benefitting from it. Judging from it's views, at least someone is reading all this.

Regarding the musicality, I have only heard two versions of this piece. One is by Jenő Jandó, and the other one is a recording from a member of this forum (can't remember by whom right now). I can't find any version of this on youtube unfortunately. I am considering buying Wilhelm Kempff's recordings of all the sonatas from Amazon. I really liked his intepretations of the moonlight and tempest sonatas on youtube. I am, as always, open to more suggestions.  :)

Offline guendola

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #13 on: March 01, 2008, 03:10:20 PM »
After reading most of this thread I think what you really have to do is get a teacher. You need a pro looking at your fingers - and the whole body. Tempo isn't magic, it is the appropriate use of the right movements and adaptation to the music. It is a bit like downhill skiing where the ground would represent the music. Actually it is better because you can study the "ground" perfectly before playing and decide how to play every single note or phrase.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #14 on: March 01, 2008, 03:37:15 PM »
I do have a teacher, but I do not see him every week. He has a pretty solid technique, but he is not a classical pianist. Of course, I will have him look at my playing, but it should not stop me from getting ideas from other places in the meantime. Also keep in mind that this tread has only been going on for 5 days, and I have really improved alot in that short time. When all is said and done, all the teachers and books in the world won't make my technique better, I am the one who has to practise. And faulty_damper has given me tons of things to consider during that practise.  :)

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #15 on: March 02, 2008, 08:36:27 AM »
The biggest breaks in the musical line, or at least the motion that feels most akward, is when I'm doing lateral shift above my thumb. (Ascending with my left and descending with my right). I am using the thumb over-method, but I guess it still needs some more work.

The reason this is more uncomfortable/awkward is because your torso is in the way.  You'll soon realize the reason playing the piano is so difficult is because something is always in the way; either the fingers are attached to the hand, the hand to the wrist, the wrist to the forearm, or the arm to your torso... it's just easier if nothing were attached to anything.  And ultimately, you'll learn that mastering the performance of piano is about mastering how you accomodate your body to yourself in relation to the piano.  Master yourself, not the piano.  Once you learn this, you can play any instrument because you mastered how your body works.

Moving outward is easy because nothing gets in the way so you don't have to be careful except for where you need to play.  Moving inward is complicated because you can only move in so far before your torso prevents any comfortable and easy movement.  This is just like the thumbs being seized up if passed under the palms of your hand.

So here's something to consider: holding your arms relaxed like you were playing the piano, jerk your elbow out and in.  Notice that your hands move quite a bit of distance very quickly.  (This is one major movement in playing the leaps in La Campanella and it's the difference between absolute, ridiculously insane speed and ease VS. laboured, muscle-building practice that you will never be satisfied with.)

Now to apply this to the arpeggio, you shouldn't be thinking about your elbow but thinking about how to move your finger over to the next note quickly enough to prevent the break.  In actuallity, you are really moving your shoulder out and in which makes the bent elbow leverage the forearm which moves the finger/hand.  But don't think about your shoulder, either.  Now experiment with just how the other movements interconnect with this movement.  You should notice an immediate increase in ease, if not accuracy.  Focus more on ease because this is a new concoction movements.  Accuracy will come soon.  And just like those large leaps in La Campanella can be rendered a brisk stroll through Central Park, so can large inward motions.

Notice one more thing: This is NOT thumb over.  Thumb over only effectively works moving outward.  But in both outward and inward movements, the shoulders' out/in movements, coupled with the bent elbow, provides the quick leverage needed to displace the fingers/hand to the desired location.

Quote
On my right hand it is my 4th finger causing the uneveness, and the fact that my hand is not big enough to do a F-minor chord with a double F. Well, not that fast anyway, so I have to really roll with my wrist.
  Is this a continuation of the same technical issue or is this referring to a different one? 

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #16 on: March 02, 2008, 08:57:48 AM »
In theory, at some point I have mastered _every_ difficult arpeggio group in the score, and learning it hands together should only be a matter of memorising. Am I on to something or is this a bad idea?

You need to be careful of practicing hands separately because hands-separate practice is only practicing one hand at a time, without regard to how you coordinate the other hand.  Once you feel confident hands separate, you should add the other hand immediately.  This assumes you've spent enough investigative practice on the other hand that you are also able to play confidently.

When adding the other hand, don't expect it to be easy.  You'll have to learn how to coordinate the two hands (which are attached to separate arms which are attached to a single torso).  Both arms moving simultaneously will throw off your balance and the confidence you've gained hands separate will no longer be as secure.

Hands-together practice is another practice of coordinated movements for the entire body, just like hands-separate is practice of coordinated movements but only focusing on one hand/arm.  You'll have to learn to coordinate both sides of your body equally well to make it all fit together easily, comfortably, and securely.  Ease, comfort, and security enables confidence.

In the fourth movement, the chords that accompany the arpeggios may seem like less of a challenge but they may not be.  Almost every pianist I have observed (students and professionals) cannot play chords as easily as they possibly could.  The reason for this is because they tend to push down the keys to achieve this goal.  If you are pushing down to play chords, then I will suggest that there is another way to do it which makes it insanely easy. 

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #17 on: March 02, 2008, 09:16:30 AM »
My own suggestion for a recording of all of Beethoven's piano sonatas would be by the musician John O'Conor.  He also happens to be pianist. ;)  He recorded the complete cycle separately but you can now purchase the entire 9 disc set very cheaply.  The retail price is $80 but I paid $55 from a seller on Amazon.com.

These are excellent recordings both sonically and musically.  The recordings are very vibrant and the piano sounds good.  As a musician, you can hear how O'Conor put a lot on effort in making as much music as possible.  It seems like every articulation is clear and well-shaped and phrases connect to bring out musical ideas.  The only minor complaints to note are that on some sonatas, the tempo could be a bit faster like in the opening movement of Op.109.  But otherwise, I would recommend this set for O'Conors clear musical ideas, accurate obligation to the composer's intent, technical mastery, and excellent recorded sound.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #18 on: March 02, 2008, 10:33:07 AM »
That has to be the most solid answer in the history of forum posts. I really hope you enjoy writing.  :)

Hands together vs. hands seperate:
What I usually do, is just get the fingering right for both hands, memorize perhaps 5 measures, and just start practising hands together. This may be the cause of many passages which are uncomfortable to play, in all of my pieces. I never even tought about how it should feel easy, I was pretty contend with just beeing able to pull it off. That is why I figured I'd try something different this time, and I believe it is working. I am also not in a rush to memorize this, I have two other movements to learn first. They do look easier than both the first and last movement, so they should not cause any problems. If I can overcome most of the technical difficulties of the 4th movement at the same time, great!

Chords:
I am not entirely sure how to play chords as easy as one should. I just move my fingers in position and push down, I guess. If you could elaborate on how to play these correctly, it would be great!

Lateral shifting arpeggios inwards:
Your explanation, well, explains alot. Also, my thumb seems to automatically reach for that last note when I'm descending with my right hand. That is making the motion tense and forced, maybe I just need more wrist motion. I will isolate the problem and just do some more descending arpeggios, taking all your advice in consideration.

My techical issues causing unevenness:
I've uploaded an excerpt from the score. This is the part my right hand is looping on my recordings. My markings in red is were the unevenness occurs. There is my 4th finger, the big stretch of the four notes, and the descending lateral shift all at once in succession. Maybe the anticipation of the upcoming lateral shift is what is making my thumb tense and my playing weird.

Sonata recordings:
I listened to some samples from the John O'Conor collection, and it did sound great. Different, but great! I have the impression that most people (maybe just the youtube-mob, I wouldn't know), tend to like the first version they hear the most. Was these the first recordings you heard, or did you hear a lot before "settling" on this one? Slightly off-topic perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.

Anyway, I probably will videotape some of my playing asap. It's pretty hard to pay attention to every little detail while you're playing, it would be alot easier to analyze a video. When(/if) I get something recorded, I will upload it here!

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #19 on: March 03, 2008, 05:03:33 AM »
A quick response:
You should use the 5th finger instead of the 4th where you have marked in the score.  You'll immediately notice that your hand returns to a more neutral (and comfortable) position if you make this change.

I'll respond more thoroughly when I have the time.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #20 on: March 04, 2008, 02:53:33 AM »

So here's something to consider: holding your arms relaxed like you were playing the piano, jerk your elbow out and in.  Notice that your hands move quite a bit of distance very quickly.

Now to apply this to the arpeggio, you shouldn't be thinking about your elbow but thinking about how to move your finger over to the next note quickly enough to prevent the break.  In actuallity, you are really moving your shoulder out and in which makes the bent elbow leverage the forearm which moves the finger/hand.  But don't think about your shoulder, either.

Notice one more thing: This is NOT thumb over.  Thumb over only effectively works moving outward.  But in both outward and inward movements, the shoulders' out/in movements, coupled with the bent elbow, provides the quick leverage needed to displace the fingers/hand to the desired location.

That's an interesting and I think effective description of a difficult problem, that is the role of the rest of the arm in maneuvering the keyboard.  It seems to me though that you describe it backwards: you say that the elbow moves because the shoulder moves.  This seems impractical and counter-intuitive: the shoulders move because we desire our elbow to move.  I can't imagine deliberately moving my shoulder to do anything except roll it around after I wake up in the morning.

While this is not "thumb over" technique, it should also be mentioned that when done properly, the thumb will naturally, comfortably, and practically bend a bit underneath the hand, when coming down that f minor arpeggio; this will not block the rest of the arm from doing its job, and it will enable you to connect the sound without dealing with an unnecessary "break," which all the thumb over people insist is necessary.

Allow your thumb to be as flexible as the rest of your arm, and you've got it made.

Walter Ramsey



Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #21 on: March 04, 2008, 06:58:46 AM »
Chords:
I am not entirely sure how to play chords as easy as one should. I just move my fingers in position and push down, I guess. If you could elaborate on how to play these correctly, it would be great!
I'll let you figure this one out! ;)  Just try a movement that allows you to follow through while achieving the necessary goal.  Notice that when you just push down, your entire arm stops (causing tension) when the key(s) can no longer be depressed any farther.  Now try another movement that prevents your arm from seizing up.  The result should be really easy when compared to just pushing down.  Try figuring out this motion playing loudly at first because this exagerates the necessary motion.  Once you've figured it out, you can use this motion to play softly and you'll gain quite a lot of control and huge dynamic range with just this one simple change.

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Lateral shifting arpeggios inwards:
Your explanation, well, explains alot. Also, my thumb seems to automatically reach for that last note when I'm descending with my right hand. That is making the motion tense and forced, maybe I just need more wrist motion. I will isolate the problem and just do some more descending arpeggios, taking all your advice in consideration.

My techical issues causing unevenness:
I've uploaded an excerpt from the score. This is the part my right hand is looping on my recordings. My markings in red is were the unevenness occurs. There is my 4th finger, the big stretch of the four notes, and the descending lateral shift all at once in succession. Maybe the anticipation of the upcoming lateral shift is what is making my thumb tense and my playing weird.
You may be reaching because your other fingers are still over the keys they just depressed.  Do you stay on the toilet once you've finished unloading?  Once the fingers have released the keys, they no longer have to be anywhere near them.  Move them out of the way that allows your thumb as much freedom as necessary.  Once it's freed, you'll no longer have to hold your breath; it will be relaxed and you'll no longer have to reach for it.  This is also the technique to play Chopin's Etude Op. 10 No. 1 in C major with minimal practice, rediculous speed and ease.

The most critical part of the descending arpeggio pattern is the thumb because it has two functions: playing the note and pivoting the hand.  If your other fingers are still over the keys they just depressed, the thumb will only have one function like a urinal and you still need to do #2.  So get your fingers (hand) up into a better position that allows your thumb to be more like a toilet so it can play the note and pivot.  It may feel uncomfortable at first because your hand may momentarily not be touching any key and you'll have to learn to coordinate your entire hand and arm in the air.  Quite unsettling!

Quote
Sonata recordings:
I listened to some samples from the John O'Conor collection, and it did sound great. Different, but great! I have the impression that most people (maybe just the youtube-mob, I wouldn't know), tend to like the first version they hear the most. Was these the first recordings you heard, or did you hear a lot before "settling" on this one? Slightly off-topic perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.
As for myself, I first listened to all of Beethoven's piano sonatas from MIDI files.  It really spoiled my ear (in a good way).  I didn't (couldn't) hear any technical issues from these "recordings" and it was quite a shock to hear many of the sonatas later by real people and hearing all sorts of excruciatingly minor technical blunders.  These technical issues really interrupt the flow of the music and they distract it as well.  And surprisingly, MIDI files have quite a lot of musical expression when the correct tempo is selected!  Or maybe it was the person who encoded it...

The cycle by O'Conor was the first complete set I've ever purchased, and that was almost a year ago!  Beethoven was my favourite composer when I started playing the piano and I've never been satisfied with humans performing the sonatas.  As a result, I never could just give in and spontaneously buy a set because I knew the pianist was either not a good musician, pianist, or both for performing these sonatas.  I decided to purchase O'Conor's set because he offered what no other musician could with these sonatas.  There is a great deal of music in these sonatas and he brings it out.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #22 on: March 04, 2008, 07:19:48 AM »
That's an interesting and I think effective description of a difficult problem, that is the role of the rest of the arm in maneuvering the keyboard.  It seems to me though that you describe it backwards: you say that the elbow moves because the shoulder moves.  This seems impractical and counter-intuitive: the shoulders move because we desire our elbow to move.  I can't imagine deliberately moving my shoulder to do anything except roll it around after I wake up in the morning.
The elbow is just a joint that bends and that's it's only function.  The only way it actually moves around is if the other joint it's indirectly attached to moves, and that's the shoulder's ball-n-socket joint.  In fact, the shoulder is perhaps the single most flexible joint in terms of piano playing because it controls a helluva lot of movement.  The elbow just bends and the forearm only rotates.  But it's the shoulder that directs these bends and rotations to the appropriate spot on the keyboard.

The shoulder is perhaps the least acknowledged when discussing piano technique.  It can't be seen when playing yet so much happens under the sleeve that we are not aware of it.  Contrast this to those long, thin appendages reaching out from the sleeves and everyone thinks it's just the fingers dancing, including the puppeteer!

When the shoulder is doing it's job, you can do everything including balance without ever having to think about it.  When you've injured it, it's worse than getting a paper cut on your finger.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #23 on: May 31, 2008, 11:45:22 PM »
Sorry for opening up this "old" thread!

Anyway, I meant to reply three months ago, but I lost my internet connection for a short period after your last post faulty_damper. I have read your posts like 200 times, and they have helped me alot.

So I've memorized the 3rd movement by now, and most of the 2nd. And almost until the repeat of the 4th movement! But progress has been slowing down lately. I just can't seem to "get" those =/&%#)/& polyrythmic passages in the 2nd and 4th movement. I can do 2 against 3, and 3 against 4 if I do it really slow. But this is crazy fast, and I'm stuck.  :P Any advice here would be extremely helpful!

I just recorded 20 seconds of the 4th movement on my phone, so quality isn't the greatest. Is this tempo ok, or should I aim to play it a little faster? This tempo is pretty comfortable, so it shouldn't be too hard.

This was probably way too hard for me when I started it, but now it's not that bad. My goal is to perform the entire sonata by the end of the summer!  :)

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #24 on: June 01, 2008, 01:59:40 AM »
When dealing with 2 vs 3 or 3 vs 4, feel the downbeat, not individual notes.  Whatever happens between beats stay between beats, like that Las Vegas commercial.  Use a metronome and practice one hand at a time.  Once you've engrained the feel of 2s in one hand and 3s in the other with the same tempo, combine both hands and here's the tricky part:

When feeling beats, don't worry that the notes between are uneven.
When feeling beats, don't worry that the notes between are uneven.
... and one last time for good measure:

When feeling beats, don't worry that the notes between are uneven.

The only thing you should worry about is to make sure that the notes on the downbeat are simultaneously played.  It's the beat that must be ingrained.  Once you've ingrained the beat you will notice that you'll have control over what happens between them so you end up evening (and odding) them out.  This requires more mental effort.  Pay attention to one hand at a time and work out the eveness.  If not, you'll just ingrain the combined movements incorrectly making it more difficult to correct (because your mind will have gotten lazy.)


Your recording sounds slow.  It doesn't sound like music yet.  The goal in piano-playing is to make music.  But what kind of music?  Ask yourself as you listen to this movement what the feeling of it is?  Is it happy?  Is it playful? Funny?  Angry?  Irritated?  Perhaps at times reflective?

These are extremely important questions that you must know the answer to.  Otherwise, you'll just be another pianist.

Offline feddera

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #25 on: June 01, 2008, 02:28:26 AM »
Thank you for another quick reply!

Kempff plays that part in 15 seconds, so I guess you're right. I'll aim for playing it about 25% faster. But I have a good start, I think.  :P

I'll try the metronome-thing asap. Counting just doesn't work at 200bpm.

Let's see... I'm really bad at writing these things but I'll give it a try. I think frustration might be the central feeling to this movement. I don't know, it certanly isn't funny. The loud parts is like someone banging on a locked door. Followed up with a part when you are trying to calm down. And the soft part is like realising it is useless to even try. But then you make another effort, etc. And the middle part is sort of looking back at something, or maybe picturing what could have been. It ends with one final effort.

This is sort of the picture I've got so far, but it might change as I get to know the piece more. I can only play 1/3 of it so far, so yeah. Feel free to share your interpretive ideas, if you have any!

Offline shubertimproviz

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Re: Beethoven op2no1 and a more general question regarding long pieces
«Reply #26 on: September 18, 2011, 11:37:14 AM »
i'm 12, i play this. i have learnt 1st and 2nd movements, later i will learn 3rd and 4rth!! ;)