Piano Forum



Lucas Debargue - A Matter of Life or Death
Pianist Lucas Debargue recently recorded the complete piano works of Gabriel Fauré on the Opus 102, a very special grand piano by Stephen Paulello. Eric Schoones from the German/Dutch magazine PIANIST had a conversation with him. Read more >>

Topic: Bad Habits  (Read 6702 times)

Offline StoreBrand

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 23
Bad Habits
on: May 28, 2004, 09:02:02 PM
What are some of the most common (and not so common yet interesting) bad habits picked up by piano students that need to be corrected?  There are probably thousands but it would be interesting to know some of the more common that have to be corrected.

Offline bernhard

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #1 on: May 29, 2004, 02:15:34 AM
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 poernomo

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 5
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #2 on: May 29, 2004, 05:30:12 AM
Try to read book by Chuan C Chang in https://members.aol.com/cc88m/PianoBook.html
You will be  know soonly more bad habits in playing piano.
Good Luck :)

Poernomo

Offline StoreBrand

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 23
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #3 on: May 29, 2004, 08:13:41 AM
poernomo, I bookmarked that page and will read through it as soon as I find the time.  Thanks!

Bernhard--what can I say?  You're on fire, man.  You wield a great deal of influence by how thorough you are!  You're like a burning bush that speaks.  And I bet you massage your scalp every day.  

Ok, I read the thread that you gave a link to.  It's good to know that I am not the first one to ask this question since the question is enough to drive me nuts if I think about it too much.  Is it possible that you could elaborate even further onto that list?  The list you gave, though very very informative, focused mainly on practice.  Could you list some of the more physical bad habits that you have had to correct in your students?  It can be a list of painfully obvious things hardly worth typing such as not pressing simultaneously the keys of a chord or practicing with sore fingers, etc.  However, any thing of this sort would be very helpful to have in writing.

An example of what I am trying to ask could be unnecessary motions. I would say that they can be considered bad habits.  But could you describe some unnecessary motions that your students have made that needed to be corrected.  Or an example of bad motions a student thought enhanced the sound of his/her playing. If it helps, every time I think of this bad habit question, I think of the movie Shine where the teacher marked that a few bad habits can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.

Knowing what not to do would paint a crystal clear picture of what I should do.  In general, there is only but so much that I can do in life but I can think of a millions things that I SHOULD NOT do.  I can think of a million things that I chose not to do but I can't think of too many things that I actually chose to do (free of circumstances).  To go back to the piano, I am trying to get it to where I am actively avoiding these bad habits (because Bernhard said so), not just by chance!

Also Bernhard, there are two other off topic questions that I want to ask you.  Your retired student that learned what she did in 6 months--at any point did you ever attempt to persuade her to play a different easier piece only to have her stump her foot and say "No, this is the piece I want to learn"?  Do you think that, if you started playing the piano at her age, you would have progressed as quick as she has?  

And finally, does reading your posts count as practice or music study?  Am I allowed to add the hours spent reading your posts to my practice diary?  : )

Jonathan

Offline bernhard

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #4 on: May 29, 2004, 05:31:06 PM
Quote
Bernhard--what can I say?  You're on fire, man.  You wield a great deal of influence by how thorough you are!  You're like a burning bush that speaks.  And I bet you massage your scalp every day.  


Actually I have a team of geishas to massage my scalp. I don’t do it myself.  :D

Quote
Ok, I read the thread that you gave a link to.  It's good to know that I am not the first one to ask this question since the question is enough to drive me nuts if I think about it too much.  Is it possible that you could elaborate even further onto that list?  The list you gave, though very very informative, focused mainly on practice.  Could you list some of the more physical bad habits that you have had to correct in your students?  It can be a list of painfully obvious things hardly worth typing such as not pressing simultaneously the keys of a chord or practicing with sore fingers, etc.  However, any thing of this sort would be very helpful to have in writing.  


The problem with such lists is that there are infinite  ways to do it wrong, and just a few ways (sometimes just one way) to do it right. So a list of every possible bad habit would be far too large. Moreover people have different physicalities, so what would be a bad physical habit in one person may be a good one in a different person.

For instance, the other day I watched a video of pianist Daniel Abraham. I noticed straightaway that he was pressing the pedals with his left foot. Although not exactly a terrible bad habit, it is certainly not the most efficient way to use the pedal. I was puzzled until (at the end of the tape) he explained that he had an artificial right leg. So for him, pressing the pedals with the left foot was not only a good habit, as the only way he could negotiate it. Also the question is too general. Therefore almost anything can be said. Remember: The more specific your question, the more useful and pertinent the answer will be.

Quote
An example of what I am trying to ask could be unnecessary motions. I would say that they can be considered bad habits.  But could you describe some unnecessary motions that your students have made that needed to be corrected.  Or an example of bad motions a student thought enhanced the sound of his/her playing. If it helps, every time I think of this bad habit question, I think of the movie Shine where the teacher marked that a few bad habits can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.


Again this will depend very much on the physicality of the student and on the piece/passage one is playing – and also on the specific sound one is trying to achieve.

For instance, passing the 3rd finger over the 4th  (a very common habit in beginners, specially children) is considered a bad habit. Yet there are many passages that can only be negotiated through such an awkward fingering. Historically passing the 3rd over the 4th was quite an accepted fingering in the baroque (keyboardists then did not use the thumb – which was considered a bad habit!).

So I would say that the most pernicious bad habit is to use always the same technique irrespective of its appropriateness. If all you use is the passing of the 3rd over the 4th finger irrespective of its usefulness you have a problem. If all you do is pass the thumb under, you also have a problem. This problem has a name: limited technique. So one should master a wide range of possible movements and one should be able to match the movement to the  passage/piece/ aimed sound. This is of course the greatest difficulty in learning the piano, and one of the main reasons teachers are such a valuable asset (if they know their stuff): They can save you years of misguided effort.

So to sum it all up. Strictly speaking there is no list of “bad” movements, since there will always be circumstances where that “bad” movement will be the most appropriate one. However it will be a “bad movement” if you use it in the wrong place. And any movement will turn up to be bad if you only use that movement no matter what the circumstances.


Quote
Also Bernhard, there are two other off topic questions that I want to ask you.  Your retired student that learned what she did in 6 months--at any point did you ever attempt to persuade her to play a different easier piece only to have her stump her foot and say "No, this is the piece I want to learn"?  Do you think that, if you started playing the piano at her age, you would have progressed as quick as she has?


The piano repertory is huge. Life is short. When you reach 60 it is even shorter. We do not have time to mock about playing things we don’t like. I could have suggested easier pieces, and I am sure she would have meekly complied. But what would be the point? She is much happier this way.

But there is something much deeper going on here. Consider that the human body/mind has these three functions (there are more, but these three are the ones that interest us for the moment being): emotional, intellectual and motional.

The emotional function works on the basis of: I like it I hate it. There is no argument or explanation, just a feeling of attraction or of repulsion. It is very quick to react to various stimuli. Emotional responses (like/dislike) are almost immediate.

The intellectual function works on the basis of comparisons. It takes a long time for all that comparing to take place. It also has nothing to do with likes or dislikes. If you are in intellectual mode you may do something you dislike deeply (e.g. washing the dishes) because you have reasoned yourself into it. But you will be resentful and unhappy about it. And eventually you will stop doing it.

The motional function has to do with your movements and with the five (+) senses: your sensual perception. The motional function is amazingly fast: much faster than the emotional, which is itself much faster than the intellectual. Piano playing at the physical level is done purely with the motional function. If – as you play – you start “thinking” – that is using your intellectual function – about what you are doing it will all fall apart. Also, the only way to learn motional tasks is by imitation. You cannot use an intellectual approach (making comparisons and analysis). Try to learn how to dance by telling yourself to step this way, turn to the left, turn to the right and so on and so forth. It will not work. Instead find the best dancer in the hall and imitate what s/he is doing. You have to be in a certain state of mindlessness to do that: all your attention must be directed outwards. If you are not used to it, you will find it really hard to concentrate on pure imitation. Chances are you will slip into intellectual mode and flop it.

The emotional function does not learn. It just likes or dislikes. It is pretty much useless in general and is always causing trouble. However it does have a very important function to fulfil: It is the emotional that will make you do anything. You can sit down and reason to yourself all night why you should practise everyday (intellectual function).  You can even sit down at the piano and go through the movements of practice (motional function). But unless you come to like practice , that is unless you succeed in engaging your emotional function in a positive way, you will not practice. It is as simple as that.

So all this long preamble to explain this obvious fact: quick progress is a result of deeply enjoying what you are doing. In other words, if you succeed in engaging the emotional function, the student will go through heel and fire to follow your instructions. And all the pedagogy in the whole world will not change this simple, but mostly ignored fact. Your teaching system can be very logical (intellectually well reasoned), it can be incredibly efficient and correct technically (motionally appropriate), but if the student dislike it intensely that is it.

Therefore by assuring that the student loves the piece s/he is learning the problem is dealt with at the root.

And yes, if I had me as my teacher, I would have progressed just as quickly (perhaps even more quickly because I tend to obey myself and not spend time arguing with me – obedience is a much underrated virtue).  

Quote
And finally, does reading your posts count as practice or music study?  Am I allowed to add the hours spent reading your posts to my practice diary?  : )


I am afraid not. Unless you want to make a (substantial)donation to the BCF (Bernhard’s Charity Fund) in which case you can add one hour to your practice for every minute you spend reading my posts. (I got the idea from the Catholic Church who used to sell “indulgences” – a place in heaven for the right amount of money – maybe they still do it) . ;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 StoreBrand

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 23
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #5 on: May 29, 2004, 11:36:57 PM
This is sad : (   Once again, I've been shown that the answer to my question is not merely just an answer but the realization of a pile of missing pieces to puzzle.  This is unfair!

Oh well, I can't wait to go reading through all of your posts.  There is no telling what I am going to learn.  Bernhard, you shouldn't just write a book, you should make videos (multiple series of them) with written sections to compliment the videos.  But if I could dive into your skull and take samples of your brain, I would probably see that you do not agree with this.  Emanating from a sample of your brain tissue would be the message that the only way to truly teach is to personally address each problem as it arises--the pragmatic way!  A written book or a video course, even if made by the tissue donor himself, would only serve to be the type of learning "system" that Bernhard would not have agreed with (before I took the sample, of course). j/k

Um, let's see.  Ok... There is one other question that has been bugging me.  I don't have the mental resources to figure this one out on my own.  What is the difference between musical expression and musical interpretation?  I'm having a bit of trouble grasping these concepts.  

Also.... out of curiosity, Bernhard how is your relative pitch?  Sorry for asking so many questions,

Jonathan

Offline bernhard

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #6 on: May 30, 2004, 12:27:50 AM
Quote
Um, let's see.  Ok... There is one other question that has been bugging me.  I don't have the mental resources to figure this one out on my own.  What is the difference between musical expression and musical interpretation?  I'm having a bit of trouble grasping these concepts.
 

Musical notation is a model of musical realisation, in the same sense that a map is a model of the territory it represents. As such, it is transformed by the three basic modelling processes: distortion, deletion and generalisation. We know that a map is a model because we can identify these three processes as we compare the map with the territory: The map is much smaller and two dimensional (distortion); the map does not contain all the diverse things the territory contains, for instance people and buildings (deletion). Finally a map is based on several assumptions that do not take into consideration specific events, for instance, it assumes that the territory does not change with the seasons, the weather, or the political party in power (generalisation).

Interpretation is the art of looking at a model and from it to be able to reconstruct the reality it models. Many people cannot do this. A lot of people cannot read maps. There is a famous story by anthropologist Colin Turnbull who spent many years in Africa living amongst the pigmies. The pigmies could not interpret a photograph (another model of reality), so when shown a picture of an elephant all they saw was coloured patterns. They could not “interpret” the photograph and recognise the elephant it depicted.

Likewise, when faced with a score, all we have is a model of the music. It is up to the performer to “interpret” the model and bring forth the music from it. Since a model is always distorted, and deleted, and more limited than the music it models, the performer must put it all back, complete and undistort it. It is a process completely analogous to getting directions from a map.

It is highly amusing to hear people say how one must follow the score to the letter, and how the score contains all of the composer intentions.

It does not and it cannot.

When I read this sort of opinion it always reminds me of a friend who had as a hobby to make model airplanes. Whenever he finished another one he would show it to me in a state of great excitement: “Look at this airplane! It is exactly like the real thing.” I would always patiently explain: “No, it is not. Look at its size! The real thing is much bigger! Feel its weight: the real thing is much heavier. And look at the pilot: it has no legs! And there is no engine either. This is not at all like the real thing! It is a distorted, generalised and full of deletions modelof the real thing, you moron!”. Come to think about it, I haven’t heard from my friend for a while now. I wonder why… ;)

So much for musical interpretation.

As for musical expression, I am not sure what you mean by it, so give me more details.

Quote
Also.... out of curiosity, Bernhard how is your relative pitch?  Sorry for asking so many questions,


I have perfect relative pitch, and my absolute pitch (which I was not born with) has improved a lot over the years as a consequence of practising on a digital piano (headphones mean that I can play any time of the day or night). Since digital pianos are perfectly tuned, my ear has responded well and now I have absolute pitch as well. As a consequence I do not believe anymore in the theory that people are born with absolute pitch. People do not develop absolute pitch simply because an acoustic piano is never perfectly in tune.


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 johnreef

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 48
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #7 on: May 30, 2004, 02:35:45 AM
Bad habits I particularly dislike:

1 -- Rushing through long rests and long note values--everyone (even professionals) do this. Try counting along with your recordings to see if those rests are really long enough!!!!

2 -- Increasing tempi when music thins out to single voice texture--especially in the music of Liszt, often single note melody will emerge out of a thicker texture; so often people think they must play this faster.

3 -- Playing easier music fast --- so often weaker players will be so glad they are capable of playing SOMETHING fast that they do so to compensate for their struggling with more difficult pieces.

4 -- Not bothering to understand the music you play -- pianists don't even care half the time.

5 -- If at first you don't succeed, try, try again --- the worst possible way to practice! Rather, if at first you don't succeed, don't try again until understand why you didn't succeed!!!!!

Offline goalevan

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 241
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #8 on: May 30, 2004, 06:06:18 AM
I've got a little question - is it a bad habit that my pinky throws into the air when pressing down my third or fourth finger, or just in general it's very hard to keep the pinky rested on the surface of the keys whan using the other fingers?

Offline StoreBrand

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 23
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #9 on: May 30, 2004, 08:25:09 AM
Quote
Musical notation is a model...


Though your comments about it were made in another thread I do want to point out that you have made the importance of apprenticeship very clear to me--that it is likely one will steer wildly off course without a guide.  I not only wish you were my teacher but my mentor also!  hehe I'm gearing up to read through all of your posts and I will (!) be crediting each and every hour into my music diary as music study : )  In fact, I'm going to make a "Bernhard notepad".  As for the BCF, I wish I could but I must confess that I can not afford to pay : (   I feel that I am on the receiving end of your donation!  I'd donate to everyone on the planet if I could.

Quote
So much for musical interpretation.


Honestly, it makes sense to me now!

Quote
As for musical expression, I am not sure what you mean by it, so give me more details.


Let's see how can I put it?  Um, maybe I can describe to you where I have run into a dead road.  Take this definition of musical expression for a start:  

"Of the many factors which go to make a pleasing and successful musical performance, the most important is that combination of colouring, intensifying, and shading which we term Expression in music.  A composition may be ever so cleverly written, but its vitality often depends upon the way it is presented, -- whether the spirit of the work is revealed, the proper atmosphere caught, the crises well arranged."

I'm a bit stuck in my thinking that it is impossible to play anything absolutely the same twice.  So if you play a piece differently (as you always will) or with more energy in the morning is it your expression of the piece that has changed or your interpretation of the written piece?  If you're having a bad day playing at the piano (i.e. you're not playing exactly the way you want to be playing) is this your musical expression or your interpretation that has taken a dive?  I guess my confusion stems from the fact that music is not immaculate.  

The oddball would be the computer which is capable of playing something exactly the same twice.  If I scan sheet music with my computer and it plays it back, is this music interpretation?  What if I really like the way the computer plays it back?  Did the computer express the piece?  What does expression have to do with the actual written composition?  What does expression not have to do with the written composition?  Where does interpretation come into this picture?  I'm having trouble separating the differences.

There seems to be a chain I am trying link.  Where the composer interprets his idea into sheet music.  The performer then performs his interpretation of the sheet music with the intention (maybe) of capturing the composer's original intent.  Then each member of the audience may have their own interpretation of the performer's interpretation of (...so on).  Then the audience has their own ideas about how the piece they are listening to is better than, say an Elvis Presley song etc.  I'm just trying to put together a "model" of music life.

Bernhard, as you can see, I have ventured far into the Lost Woods.  Sorry for bestowing this confusion on you but I am probably more lost than confused.  I may need to dump half of the stuff I am thinking and start over from scratch!  The above questions are not really questions but my attempt at giving you the details of where I have gone wrong  : )

Quote
I have perfect relative pitch, and my absolute pitch (which I was not born with) has improved a lot over the years as a consequence of practising on a digital piano (headphones mean that I can play any time of the day or night). Since digital pianos are perfectly tuned, my ear has responded well and now I have absolute pitch as well. As a consequence I do not believe anymore in the theory that people are born with absolute pitch. People do not develop absolute pitch simply because an acoustic piano is never perfectly in tune.


This is incredibly helpful.  I have been getting the feeling lately that perfect pitch is indeed attainable but I did not want to get my hopes up because so many claim that it is not.  I was wanting to ask you about this but you beat me to it.  If you say that you have developed a good sense of absolute pitch without being "born" with it then I believe you.  I am completely discarding everything I have heard to the contrary.

Quote
Bad habits I particularly dislike:

1 -- Rushing through long rests and long note values--everyone (even professionals) do this. Try counting along with your recordings to see if those rests are really long enough!!!!

2 -- Increasing tempi when music thins out to single voice texture--especially in the music of Liszt, often single note melody will emerge out of a thicker texture; so often people think they must play this faster.

3 -- Playing easier music fast --- so often weaker players will be so glad they are capable of playing SOMETHING fast that they do so to compensate for their struggling with more difficult pieces.

4 -- Not bothering to understand the music you play -- pianists don't even care half the time.

5 -- If at first you don't succeed, try, try again --- the worst possible way to practice! Rather, if at first you don't succeed, don't try again until understand why you didn't succeed!!!!!


I'm going to need a vacation to paradise after this thread.  I'm scared to even practice now!

Jonathan

Offline bernhard

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #10 on: May 30, 2004, 04:30:55 PM
Quote
Bad habits I particularly dislike:

1 -- Rushing through long rests and long note values--everyone (even professionals) do this. Try counting along with your recordings to see if those rests are really long enough!!!!

2 -- Increasing tempi when music thins out to single voice texture--especially in the music of Liszt, often single note melody will emerge out of a thicker texture; so often people think they must play this faster.

3 -- Playing easier music fast --- so often weaker players will be so glad they are capable of playing SOMETHING fast that they do so to compensate for their struggling with more difficult pieces.

4 -- Not bothering to understand the music you play -- pianists don't even care half the time.

5 -- If at first you don't succeed, try, try again --- the worst possible way to practice! Rather, if at first you don't succeed, don't try again until understand why you didn't succeed!!!!!



Excellent list!

I hate them all too. >:(
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

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #11 on: May 30, 2004, 04:37:19 PM
Quote
Take this definition of musical expression for a start:  

"Of the many factors which go to make a pleasing and successful musical performance, the most important is that combination of colouring, intensifying, and shading which we term Expression in music.  A composition may be ever so cleverly written, but its vitality often depends upon the way it is presented, -- whether the spirit of the work is revealed, the proper atmosphere caught, the crises well arranged."  

I'm a bit stuck in my thinking that it is impossible to play anything absolutely the same twice.  So if you play a piece differently (as you always will) or with more energy in the morning is it your expression of the piece that has changed or your interpretation of the written piece?  If you're having a bad day playing at the piano (i.e. you're not playing exactly the way you want to be playing) is this your musical expression or your interpretation that has taken a dive?  I guess my confusion stems from the fact that music is not immaculate.  


Think of the script of a theatre play. The actual script (the words on paper) are the equivalent of the score. It is a model of the drama that will eventually unfold on stage. By simply reading the script, you are already “interpreting” and “expressing” it, even if only on your mind. Of course one assumes that you know how to “read”, which is the art of decoding the particular model we call “writing”. If you don’t know how to read, you will not be able to decode the model and the script will mean nothing to you, just marks on paper.

Now an actor gets this script. He will not just read it aloud (that would be one kind of “interpretation” though). He will add to it by his voice inflections, his facial expressions, the dynamics of his voice and his body movements/posture. This “interpretation” maybe quite different form what you yourself “interpreted” when you read the script. You may be pleasant or unpleasantly surprised. The author of the script may have his own ideas. He may have written them in the script in greater or lesser detail. The author may be quite surprised as well by the actor’s interpretation. He may disagree and instruct the actor otherwise, or he may be surprised that the actor could read in his text things that he himself was not aware of and encourage the actor to go ahead, even if that was not what he himself did not have in mind originally.

It is exactly the same with a music score. The performer must be thoroughly conversant with the convention of musical notation. However he must also understand that the notation by its very nature of being a model contains many deletions, distortions and generalisations, and it is up to him as a performer to unravel those and bring the music modelled by the score to life.

And just like different actors will have radically different interpretations, so will different performers actualise the score in radically different ways, depending on how much they read on it.

It is important to point out that the composer does not necessarily knows best. The real superior works of art come from the unconscious mind – which is vast and with unimaginable depths. The composer may have some conscious ideas of what he wanted, but chances are (if his music is truly superior) that his unconscious mind provided much more, far much more than he bargained for. So much more that his work will keep being interpreted forever as different performers keep finding new ways to interpret it.

A piece of music that can only be interpreted in one single unambiguous and definite (correct) way is basically a crap piece.

Quote
The oddball would be the computer which is capable of playing something exactly the same twice.  If I scan sheet music with my computer and it plays it back, is this music interpretation?  What if I really like the way the computer plays it back?  Did the computer express the piece?  What does expression have to do with the actual written composition?  What does expression not have to do with the written composition?  Where does interpretation come into this picture?  I'm having trouble separating the differences.


Yes, of course the computer interpreted and expressed the piece. But it did so according to a program that instructed it how to do it. The more complex the program the more satisfying the interpretation, because it will supply more and more details. For instance, the most basic notation software will recognise rhythm and pitch but not dynamics. So you have the piece played metronomically and with all the notes given the same volume. This is the barest interpretation of the score: the right notes at the right time. But we know that there are many more details that are not presented in the score (deletions in the model). For instance, the fact that in ¾ the first beat is accented. The score tells us that through the time signature, but the programmer must be aware of this fact if he is to make the computer accent the first beat. Then there is the rhythm itself, which the notation only approximates. This is far more difficult to program the computer to do, and again the programmer must choose beforehand what his choice of parameters are going to be. Given enough time and programming detail I am sure a computer could come up with a superb interpretation of any piece.

Expression in this sense will be simply the result of the myriad choices the performer made in relation to the several interpretation (i.e. model/score decoding) problems the score poses.

Quote
There seems to be a chain I am trying link.  Where the composer interprets his idea into sheet music.  The performer then performs his interpretation of the sheet music with the intention (maybe) of capturing the composer's original intent.  Then each member of the audience may have their own interpretation of the performer's interpretation of (...so on).  Then the audience has their own ideas about how the piece they are listening to is better than, say an Elvis Presley song etc.  I'm just trying to put together a "model" of music life.


Yes. That is pretty much it.

At the end of the day, you make a decision and you accept full responsibilitiy for that decision. But the beautiful thing about music is that you can always rethink your decisions!. There are many pieces I play in vastly different ways. Depending on my mood, on the audience, or simply because I want to experiment. And if the music is truly good, it will allow all of these interpretations/expressions. This is what makes it bearable for a pianist to work on a single piece for 40 – 50 years, and be always discovering new possibilities and new readings. Any piece that has just one “correct reading” is not worth learning. If even Hanon can be practised in a variety of ways, imagine the expressive potential of Chopin, Bach, Schubert, etc. etc. etc.

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)

Spatula

  • Guest
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #12 on: May 31, 2004, 02:42:01 AM
Cracking your knuckles over the long run?   :-/

Offline goalevan

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 241
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #13 on: May 31, 2004, 02:43:30 AM
Ooh, I'm starting Moonlight Sonata which should help me out with the problem I posted earlier - what a wonderful discovery I've made :)

Offline johnreef

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 48
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #14 on: May 31, 2004, 05:21:28 AM
Quote


Excellent list!

I hate them all too. >:(


Bernhard -- thanks for agreeing with something I posted!!!!!!!!    :)

Offline johnreef

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 48
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #15 on: May 31, 2004, 05:21:40 AM
Quote


Excellent list!

I hate them all too. >:(


Bernhard -- thanks for agreeing with something I posted!!!!!!!!    :)

Offline johnreef

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 48
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #16 on: May 31, 2004, 05:25:50 AM
Quote
I've got a little question - is it a bad habit that my pinky throws into the air when pressing down my third or fourth finger, or just in general it's very hard to keep the pinky rested on the surface of the keys whan using the other fingers?


Depends on the circumstances -- watch clips of Horowitz playing and you will see that he does this sometimes -- it's inevitable that this will happen at times and should not be harmful when it doesn't impede your playing.

But, in other instances, I suspect that this is a result of insuffieicnt strength in the flexors of the third and fourth fingers -- raising the fifth is a subconcious and natural way to add an opposite force on the wrist in order to stabalize it so as to maximize muscular efficiency. This is a difficult concept to explain -- let me know if I am being clear or not.

Offline goalevan

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 241
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #17 on: May 31, 2004, 06:01:05 AM
Yep, I know exactly what you mean, raising the fifth finger helps to apply a more controlled force to the third or fourth finger, but yeah I'm not sure if it will affect my playing in the future and could be classified as a bad habit.

Offline StoreBrand

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 23
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #18 on: June 02, 2004, 08:54:10 PM
Hey thanks Bernhard...  I finally have been able to put the missing pieces of the puzzle together based off of what you have said.  I nearly fried my brain trying to figure this one out but, to make a long story short, I went wrong in thinking that an interpretation of a piece is "static" and that the pianist practices to match this static interpretation.

I now realize that, not only is it impossible to play a piece exactly the same time twice, but it is also impossible to interpret a piece absolutely the same twice.  So even if a computer can play a piece exactly the same (for all practical purposes), it is not possible for the human mind to interpret it exactly the same.  This would explain why a piece is still being refined in one's brain even after decades of practice.  It also would explain why one's first (or even lasting) impression of a piece can be deemed irrelevant because, if anything is certain in the world of musical interpretation it is change.    

Alas, I have figured it out!!!!!   .... I think : (

In any case, it is time to dance now and eat good expensive comfort food.

Jonathan


Oh, I almost forgot to ask.  Has a list ever been been put together of good practice habits?

Offline belvoce

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 70
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #19 on: June 03, 2004, 12:29:26 AM
Pianist Maurice Hinson wrote an article on good practice habits.

Offline janice

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 917
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #20 on: June 03, 2004, 01:28:54 AM
Quote
Pianist Maurice Hinson wrote an article on good practice habits.


Where can I find this article?
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Spatula

  • Guest
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #21 on: June 03, 2004, 07:23:14 AM
Yeah I want to know about GOOD practice habits too, because I do a lot of bad habits....  :P

Offline belvoce

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 70
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #22 on: June 05, 2004, 08:25:51 PM
This article appeared in the AMT Journal in 1965. I have found it to be the most helpful to me.


Does Your Practice Make Perfect
by Maurice Hinson

Security in Performance can only be achieved by thoughtful and systematic methods of correct practice. The old saying, "Practice makes perfect," is not true. A more valid statement would be, "Correct Practice Leas towards Perfection."

Some of our greatest teachers of the past have made some fascinating statements of this subject. Isidor Phillipp said, "The student must be made to understand that it is not the quantity of work but the quality of work which counts." Stephen Heller gave us a striking motto: "Practice very slowly--progress very fast." Saint-Saens put it in a humorous way when he stated that "One must practice slowly, then more slowly, and finally slowly!" Slow practice has been insisted upon by many famous pedagogues, and its value is well-known. But on cardinal rule must be observed in slow practice: the muscular processes must be the same in slow practice as those used when the piece is played up to tempo.

These famous musicians remind us of the importance of what should go on during practice. What may be "correct" for one person may be incorrect for another, and, for this reason, all the following suggestions will not work for all people. The thread runniing through all these rules is "concentration", for let us remember that the best work is done in the brain. There is no substitute for thoughtful concentration when practicing. Many students have fooled themselves into thinking they were practiceing all the time they were at the piano, but there is a great difference between practicing and playing.

The following suggestions (by no means all original, but added to over the years with ideas derived from teachers, students, and fellow pianists) are offered as a "check list" by which pianists can measure the efficiency of their practice methods. The author is sure there are many other vitally important rules for fine practice habits, and he would welcome suggestions for new rules and comments concerning the ones here listed. How do you "stack up" with these rules?

1. The first time you play through your piece, or any section of it, be fanatically careful not to make any mistakes either in the notes or in time values.

2. Subdivide the piece into short sections.

3. Occasionally begin your practice by beginning at the last section of the piece, then do the next to last section, and so on till you have reached the beginning.

4. For the first few days of practice on a new piece, repeat one section four to eight times before beginning to practice the next. When two sections have been practiced in this way, they should be joined and given two to four repititions as a whole. Ultimately, all the sections should be fitted together in this way.

5. Resist the temptation to go on playing faster and faster. If you have a metronome, use it for an "external discipline" to check yourself.

6. During practice, try to free your mind from any anxiety concerning the final results of your practice, either with regard to standards or deadlines.

7. Always try to approach the act of learning a new piece when your are as fresh as possible. I prefer the morning for my practice.

8. Always be on the watch for signs of staleness. This usually reveals itself though lack of interest in your peice or in the presence of more that the usual amount of inaccuracy. It is east to "turn on the fingers" and "tune off the mind."

9. In the earliest stages of learning anything new, the rate of foegetting is very rapid. Therefore, the maxim of "little and often" in early stages of learning is very important.

10. Do not practice if you feel annoyed, irritable, or upset about anything.

11. Get into the habit of trying to look upon yourself as an ordinary human being. This means that you neither set absurd and impossible stardards of work for yourself nor allow yourself to besatisfied with a standard which you know really could and ought to be better.

12. Think ten times and play once.

13. Count bars, not beats, if your playing is lacking in movement.

14. Always think the rhythm and meter before starting to play.

15. Trills should aim as regularity before speed.

16. Listen for resonance, not noise, in loud passages.

17. Do not work against time. If you have only one hour at your disposal, plan 45 minutes of practice and do the most with each minute. If you attempt to plan for the whole hour, you will have your eye on the clock, a nervous tension that may result in muscular tension, and much of your mental energy will be wasted. "Surround every action with a circle of non-hurry."

18. Perform always, even when sight-reading. Always express something, and never "just run though."

19. Mark the beat with your other hand.

20. Think a piece though without any playing, either will or without the music.

21. Remember - every pianistic problem has both its origin and solution in the music itself.

Offline bernhard

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #23 on: June 07, 2004, 12:08:47 AM
Good list!

Here is another one:

FANNY BLOOMFIELD-ZEISLER’S
TEN RULES FOR PRACTICE

1.       Concentrate during every second of your practice.
     
2.       Divide your practice time into periods of not more than two hours.
     
3.       In commencing your practice, play over your  piece once or twice before beginning to memorise. Then pick out the more difficult passages for special attention and reiteration.
     
4.       Always practise slowly at first.
     
5.       Do not attempt to practise your whole piece at first. Take a small section or even a phrase.
     
6.       First memorise mentally the section you have selected for study.
     
7.       Occasionally memorise backwards.
     
8.       Remember that practice is simply a means of cultivating habits. If you play correctly from the start  you will form good habits.
     
9.       Always listen while you are playing.
     
10. Never attempt to play anything in public that you have just finished studying.


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 jeff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 154
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #24 on: August 12, 2004, 04:02:00 PM
quote from Bernhard, from another thread:
"there are also movements that are generally inappropriate, and no one should use them (e.g. “breaking” the nail joint as you press the keys). "

i've been wondering recently, what are the reasons why this is a bad habit?

Offline bernhard

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5078
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #25 on: August 12, 2004, 06:26:41 PM
Quote
quote from Bernhard, from another thread:
"there are also movements that are generally inappropriate, and no one should use them (e.g. “breaking” the nail joint as you press the keys). "

i've been wondering recently, what are the reasons why this is a bad habit?


Because the fingers are just the final link in a long chain of co-ordinations.

For a movement that starts, say, at the shoulder to be efficiently transmitted to the keyboard, every joint must be properly aligned, otherwise the force/energy cannot be transmitted in full. Breaking the nail joint (or misaligning any other joint for that matter) breaks the chain. In other joints (wrist, elbow) the effect is more dramatic, so people can get away  - up to a point – with breaking the nail joint. However it will be a major block later on, so one must become habituated to proper alignment from the very start.

By the way the same is true of a karate punch. Since the punch comes from the hip and the fist is just the last link in the chain, any misaligned joint will result in you injuring yourself. It is surprisingly common for untrained persons to break their hand/wrist by punching someone – it happens even to boxers (e.g. Mike Tyson) when they fight bare knuckle, since their joints are no more kept in place by the bandaging and gloves.

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 shasta

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 492
Re: Bad Habits
Reply #26 on: August 12, 2004, 07:27:18 PM
Performing without shoes on.

Sounds bizarre, but I developed this bad habit, as did many of my piano colleagues, when we were all little kids.  It was born from our professors not wanting us to track dirtprints around and ruin their carpeting with our muddy, snowy shoes --- we always had to remove our shoes in the doorway when we arrived for our lessons.  We played in our socks during lessons, master classes, and monthly recitals, which all took place in the professors' homes/studios (on top of playing without shoes while practicing in the comfort of your home).

Suddenly, you have a formal recital/competition to do, and you're wearing shoes or heels.  THE DIFFERENCE IS AMAZING.  Your entire physique at the piano is different, the angle of your knees is different, the angle of your foot to the pedal is different, the feel of the pedal is different...  Bad habit.
"self is self"   - i_m_robot
For more information about this topic, click search below!
 

Logo light pianostreet.com - the website for classical pianists, piano teachers, students and piano music enthusiasts.

Subscribe for unlimited access

Sign up

Follow us

Piano Street Digicert