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Why is Bach so hard?! (Read 21736 times)

Offline rachmaninoff_forever

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Why is Bach so hard?!
« on: May 08, 2012, 12:23:38 AM »
Okay so the prelude was OKAY, it was quite a hassle for me learning it, but whatever.  But the fugue is really starting to get to me.  Why is his stuff so hard?!  It's not like technically challenging or anything, but what the heck?!  I'm so confused, I don't even know what exactly the problems I'm having with his music!  It's like there's a wall that prevents me from learning his music?  What the heck is going on?!  His music is so weird, It will take me an extra long time for me to learn the notes, because I can't sightread half a measure of Bach's music, and once I learn them, I can't even play them properly!  I'm starting to get really mad that I can't learn this extra small four minute long piece.  It's literally been a whole month, I've spent WAY too much time on this!!! >:(

It's the prelude and fugue in A flat major from Book one by the way.
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Offline j_menz

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #1 on: May 08, 2012, 12:55:59 AM »
There is a barrier everyone faces with Bach.  It's true of all contrapuntal music, but Bach is the one where it is most obvious, and especially in the fugues.

In order to play Bach you need to be able to think of each of the voices individually all at the same time.  That's not something that's easy. In this fugue, there are four of them, so you kind of have to split your brain in four.

The reward, apart from finally being able to really access some of the most sublime music ever written, is that a range of other technical aspects applicable to all other pieces suddenly becomes much easier - voicing and polyrhythms most notably.

So, yes; it is hard. But perservere and it will become easy. At some point, the ability to do what is required will just click, and you will be a much better pianist (in all aspects) because of it. Until then, it's just bloody hard work.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline brogers70

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #2 on: May 08, 2012, 01:25:57 AM »
I just learned that Prelude and Fugue. It took about 3 months. To me they are really wonderful and worth the effort. Here's how I learned the fugue. First I copied it out by hand on four staves as though it were a string quartet. Then I listened to a couple of versions over and over so that each time I listened I focused on hearing only one voice, first soprano, then alto, then tenor, then bass. Then I played through each voice separately, until I had the sound pretty much memorized. Then I worked on hands separate. That took weeks, but it's not very stressful. Then I started putting the hands together. That took a few more weeks. Then, when I had hands together and fingerings I liked for the whole thing. I took it apart again, this time playing individual voices as before, except using the same fingerings I used when I played hands together. This bit was fun. I worked on shaping all the lines and bringing out motifs and all that. Then I'd put it back together again. Whenever I'd get frustrated at the hands together stage, I'd take a break and work on hands separate or on individual lines. Gradually it came together. It is wonderful to play; I feel like I'm transformed into an entire Baroque orchestra.

For me, the key in learning a piece like that is patience and breaking it down into small, non-frustrating steps. There may be people who sightread through Bach fugues and have them performable in a week, but I'm sure not one of those people.

Offline pts1

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #3 on: May 08, 2012, 01:30:28 AM »
I'm a fairly decent Bach player so I'll tell you what I find to be of difficulty with him.

First off, it is often deceptively simple in the sense only two or three notes are being played at any time like for instance, the two or three part inventions.

So, like a white linen shirt, anything you spill will show up immediately!
IOW, these two or three notes must be played with great accuracy in every way... tempo, rhythm, timing between notes, etc. There's simply NO room for error.

Then, you must train both hands to play quite independently and equally well.
You may have noticed that Bach, especially in the fugues, but also in many predudes, really does not favor the right hand over the left, but demands equal tasks from them both.

Then there is the voicing issues as in the fugues, where the melody motifs not only continue from one hand to the other, but the melody starts over in another voice (like soprano, tenor, alto) while a previously begun melody is already mid-way through its turn, entwining back and forth to both hands, sometimes on top voices, on bottom and in-between.

Then there is the bringing out, i.e. playing louder, the different voices with different dynamics and touches. And since the human brain really cannot actively think about 4 things at once, all of this must be trained into the hands with great care and diligence, which takes a good deal of time and control.

Then there is the fact that Bach's music is not especially beautiful unless it is made so... no Chopinesque romantic melodies swathed in sostenuto pedal to flow out of the piano.... just a few simple things which you the player must create, shape and control simultaneously.

There is nothing for pianists that requires the technique and control that Bach does, when its all said and done. And if you could play the 24 Preludes and Fugues, you would likely have the technique and musicality to play anything in the literature with few exceptions.

Offline j_menz

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #4 on: May 08, 2012, 01:47:21 AM »
Then I worked on hands separate. That took weeks, but it's not very stressful. Then I started putting the hands together.

I'd suggest that rateher than hands seperate, after doing voices seperately, I'd try sticking various combinations of voices together.Some of the voices go accropss the hands, so HS tends to confuse matters, but the various combinations of voices will help you see how they interrelate.

And since the human brain really cannot actively think about 4 things at once, all of this must be trained into the hands with great care and diligence, which takes a good deal of time and control.

Actually, it can. It takes a bit of time and effort, burt is achievable. Bach, after all, could actually improvise fugues.

Then there is the fact that Bach's music is not especially beautiful unless it is made so... no Chopinesque romantic melodies swathed in sostenuto pedal to flow out of the piano.... just a few simple things which you the player must create, shape and control simultaneously.

I find much of Bach to be absolutely the equal of Chopin in terms of melodic beauty.


Apart from these minor quibbles, agree wholeheartedly with both brogers70 and pts1.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline 49410enrique

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #5 on: May 08, 2012, 02:06:14 AM »
fyi i treid to post this as soon as you posted but i had internet problems so ihad the text body sitting in a word file till i could connect again


patience grasshopper. it is difficult becuase the music is so deep, refined, as close to perfect as one can get i think at times. think about it like this, bach was a master composer, he had a command of the musical language that was so rare in his time that even in later generations, few are the people who had abilities rivaling his.  it isn't so much a complexity of language but rather how it is used.

analogy. let's take english, two people can have very similar 'vocabulary' they know roughly the same words, the basic grammar rules, etc. both could probably express similar ideas by writting down say a story, but one , the genious novelist writes a masterpiece of literature, the other a forgetful short story not even worth remembering. have you ever tried reading a novel or essay by a giant in the lit world, or even in history like the federalist papers? they're using basic english words you'd not have problems with, but sometimes it'd dense reading. it takes thought after you've read it to process just what was said, you have to go  back and review the passages, you need to discuss them, synthesize your own thoughts and reactions to what's on the page.

similar deal with bach (or even mozart, or ____insert genious composer).  the organization, the symmetry, the eloquent almost 'effortless' perfection in following conventions and 'rules of counterpoint' etc. there are so many layers, also it is more linear polyphonic writing vs vertically organized, all this together adds up to a heaping hard mess of music!

you're not alone, i struggle (did and still do) but it is SOOOO worth the effort and headache (literally lol).  you're upset about practicing a month in? i was lucky to barely pass a couple of juries with a p and f wtc that i had an entire semester (and the whole vacation break before the start of the term) to work on.  one of my senior recital pieces i had that p and f for over a year, and two weeks before the recital me and my professor were still finding more and more new places to make it better!

worry not. the fact that its giving you difficulty just means you're normal. as normal as we can be with worrying about bach i suppose.... ;D

Offline pts1

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #6 on: May 08, 2012, 02:17:10 AM »
j menz

I also find a good deal of Bach's music more beautiful than Chopin, but I was attempting to address the poster and make him realize that while there is "wiggle room" in Chopin melodies, one has to really work to make the melodies in Bach things of beauty. Just playing the notes will not cut it.

As for the brain thinking about four things at once.... I'm not so sure.

I think a genius like Bach was able to, but many times normal humans mistake jumping back and forth quickly in thought tasks as "thinking about two, or three things at once."

In Bach, I think we train ourselves to play the parts simultaneously, and once trained we "think the whole thing" and from a directorial overview shape the performance.

I read that a study was done with an elite college in California with students who were the brightest who were ardent multi-taskers, eg, using their computers at the same time they were in class listening to a lecture at the same time using their Iphones while taking notes., etc. And these kids believed themselves to be superior to the non-multi taskers.

Well, the psychologists tested these really bright multi-tasking kids and to the kids disbelief, the testing showed that their performance while multi-tasking was inferior to doing things in a linear way. IOW, the brain is not a multi-tasking device when learning new tasks.

A simple test would be to take 3 short columns of single digit easy to add numbers, and simultaneously add all 3 columns and get the total at once (without jumping back and forth between the columns).

I cannot do it

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #7 on: May 08, 2012, 02:19:01 AM »
Okay so the prelude was OKAY, it was quite a hassle for me learning it, but whatever.  But the fugue is really starting to get to me.  Why is his stuff so hard?!  It's not like technically challenging or anything, but what the heck?!  I'm so confused, I don't even know what exactly the problems I'm having with his music!  It's like there's a wall that prevents me from learning his music?  What the heck is going on?!  His music is so weird, It will take me an extra long time for me to learn the notes, because I can't sightread half a measure of Bach's music, and once I learn them, I can't even play them properly!  I'm starting to get really mad that I can't learn this extra small four minute long piece.  It's literally been a whole month, I've spent WAY too much time on this!!! >:(

It's the prelude and fugue in A flat major from Book one by the way.

I think what makes Bach a particular challenge is that there are so many notes to make each phrase. and each phrase is always accomponied by at least one other phrase of equal numbers of notes. So lots of individual notes to keep track of all the time. One thing I think is easy about Bach is that there are few hand spans of more than octave nor are there big skips so the hands dont get stretched as much. In any case, once I have learned a Bach piece, I dare not look at my hands as looking causes me to get confused and crash

Offline 49410enrique

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #8 on: May 08, 2012, 02:31:07 AM »
i recall a fantastic lecture where the professor was giving an incredibly detailed breakdown of some of his fugues, there are levels of organization that i don't think could be possible unless he really was thinking about multiple things at once as we put it.

it was a long time ago and he convered a decent number of works but one of the things that struck me was how he was able to analyze and show various relationships not immediately apparent in the music, one such fugue not only stated the melodic premise of the fugue backwards/in but in inversion too (i think essentially an upside down backwards) bear in mind i believe this was across voices meaning without disturbing the flow of the music he managed to weave incredible relationships amongst these 'moving targets' !, it is something this incredibly intelligent professor with years of experience with this had to really take apart and analyze and look for it, and yet somehow dear johoann sebastian just sort of did it almost playfully in the midst of what he was doing with all the other voices...incredible (at leats if i remeber the lecture series properly).  the professor even commented it was his [educated-my words] opinion that in spots jsb was showing off just becuase he could, even if no one else ever found it, he knew.


Offline brogers70

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #9 on: May 08, 2012, 03:38:08 AM »
I'd suggest that rateher than hands seperate, after doing voices seperately, I'd try sticking various combinations of voices together.Some of the voices go accropss the hands, so HS tends to confuse matters, but the various combinations of voices will help you see how they interrelate.


Absolutely true that voices often go across the hands (and in this particular fugue there's one tenor entrance of the subject that switches between the hands four times in the space of seven notes). Still, once I've worked on individual voices, I find I need to work HS just to solidify the fingerings I'll need to use when it's all put together. Then, as I said, I go back and take it apart again, using those fingerings for individual lines. And certainly putting combinations of the individual lines together is a good idea.

Offline marik1

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #10 on: May 08, 2012, 05:30:25 AM »

It's the prelude and fugue in A flat major from Book one by the way.

Have you played any Bach before?
In any case, I was taught to learn Bach's fugues by voices (as J_menz has already suggested). Take one voice and play it with correct hand distribution and fingering. After that the same with the second, third, fourth voices.

After that put two voices in pairs and go through all their combinations. Next step take 3 voices, and so forth.

From the very beginning pay very special attention to the right phrasing and melody (or with Bach very often we can call it "speech") shaping. This last part is extremely important, as it will teach you horizontal thinking about this music from the very beginning. It will give you a sense of "purpose" and "logic" of this music, as opposed to the "vertical" (or note by note) approach. This last can easily happen if you are trying to learn everything at once. Exactly the same, when you speak to somebody you think not by single letters (like single notes in music), but by ideas (or horizontally). When you start spelling your words (i.e. thinking vertically) you get lost and definitely you cannot learn anything if you try memorize letters, instead of ideas.

Hope it makes sense.

Best, M  

Offline revanyoda777

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #11 on: May 08, 2012, 06:54:54 AM »
I absolutely love the wtc. If I could choose one piano book to bring with me and study for the rest of my life it would be wtc. Bach was a master craftsman; every single note he wrote on the page matters enormously in the grand scheme of the piece.  Every entrance of the fugue subject must be treated with care and be paid attention to.

I suggest marking each theme entrance on the score and keeping track of where they go. Make tally's each time the fugue subject comes up and practice each section slowly. It won't be as complex and you will know where the musical lines are going.

Bach is HIGHLY rewarding and the growth you will obtain as a musician by studying him is well worth the struggle.

Offline pts1

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #12 on: May 08, 2012, 08:32:35 PM »
Rachmaninoff

You've gotten some really excellent advice here... enough for a great deal of exploration.

Especially good regarding the fugues was Marik's observations.

After I read his post, I immediately agreed that it's treacherously easy to focus on the "verticality" of these pieces as opposed to the "horizontal".

This is why, IMHO, its very important when starting out in these P&F's to pick something that is not only at or close to your ability, but something that you've heard a lot and really like!

If you really like it and are familiar with it, then you're already predisposed to thinking linearly -- as in melody -- as opposed to vertically plodding along and trying to make sense of the fugue.
Having a distinct sense of the melody is half the battle.

I only have played about half of the P&F's, so Marik may have a better suggestion than mine, but why not the very first one.

The prelude is literally one note at a time (strongly suggesting the Ave Maria melody), and the fugue is also quite beautiful, slow and not as technically difficult as many others.
(now let me contradict myself somewhat by saying that IMHO, the slow fugues may be harder than the faster ones in a way since you don't have the type muscle memory, and momentum involved in technical passages to kind of "sweep you along"... if that makes any sense at all, so they require even MORE control in a way... clear as mud, right?<g>)  :)

Offline burnttoast

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #13 on: May 27, 2012, 04:58:50 AM »
You're right. The only thing I can handle really quickly by Bach is the very first prelude from the Well Tempered Clavier. After that though, It is all confusingly simplistic and is the kind of stuff that tricks your hands. Bach is a very interesting composer, though, and I plan to put some more effort into his works in the future.

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #14 on: August 09, 2015, 08:42:14 PM »
Hi all,

I know this is a ol 3 year ago thread, but I saw some nice ideas so I just want keep it going...

I have not much experience with Fugue and I'm learning a fugue. It's a 3 voices fugue. C minor from WTC BK 1. I've been playing it for over 6 months now. I can play from memory every single voice, but can't yet play from memory any two voice combination, especially the Soprano and Tenor combination in some places. The question is in some moments I can hear all 3 voices, but not like actively listening/involving, not like I'm participating in the chorale and so I can't feel the real work and get excited.

Sometimes I use my digital piano to record all 3 voices together and play the recording while playing only one voice, and at some places I feel exhilarated because I feel the other two voices accompanying the one I'm playing. But when I put all three voices together, the feeling is gone. I wonder if it's because once again I'm the one playing/in control of all 3 voices and thus lose the feeling of the other two voices are played by someone else (the recording) and therefore no exciting effect.

The point is, how to enjoy a fugue. I only heard it's quite difficult, but apparently there are plenty mortals have done it. So I want to have some first hand suggestion/opinion starting at my current status of this fugue.

Thank you in advance!
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Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #15 on: August 10, 2015, 12:13:37 AM »
Sounds like you are hot on the trail… It does take time, being that it highlights a kind of a3D quality- as opposed to melody and accompaniment structure (2D).. The excitement  from playing 3 or more, (or even two voice pieces, sometimes) and Hearing it all gives me a sensation of "flying" or levitating … but the metaphors fall short.

I would go One to the places in the score where you have trouble hearing it 'all'.. And play just That part - slowly  - so your ears can hear it better.. Sing Each of the voices in That section, and then play it again slowly.. Then you might try singing one of the lines While you play That section (without dropping out that voice in your playing).  And then sing the other two the same way. (again and again). Do it slowly, so your ears grabs on..  It takes a while, but to me, it is among the greatest of joys!
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Offline invictious

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #16 on: August 10, 2015, 08:19:39 AM »
I used to be like you, finding Bach unapproachable and I would veer away anything by Bach. It was not until relatively recently, say, a year and a half ago, when I finally(!) appreciated the beauty and genius in Bach. Despite my particular penchant for late Romantic and 20th C musical works, I have also fallen in love with Bach's music.

The posters have already been thorough with the information that you need to know, and there is nothing useful that I can add in respect of what has already been said.

What I will say is that if you imagine playing Bach's compositions on a harpsichord. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to adjust dynamics on a harpsichord, albeit in a restrictive manner. What is not possible, however, is the balance the dynamics of each voice individually, unless you are on a harpsichord with multiple manuals. Thus, each note ion the fugue, in Bach's mind, must have carried significance.

What is interesting is that, should we as musicians who perform Bach's work on the pianoforte, play it as Bach envisaged it in his time, or should we play it as if Bach would have access to the modern pianoforte? There is no simple answer to this question. This will require research and thoughts as to the artistic interpretations.

For example, since I am learning Bach's Italian Concerto right now, you can compare Gould's recording to de Larrocha's recording:





and also with Hewitt's recording



I think giving thought as to this matter will help you in approach Bach's multivoiced problem (heh).

For something more fun, you can imagine how voices should interplay. If you imagine 4 saxophones / string quartet / electric guitar quartet / whatever playing each voice, it should help you in the voicing.



One last thing about practicing Bach is that, from personal experience, every time I play through a passage, the improvement is linear. I can always hear an improvement for each time I play through a passage. In comparison with other works, such as those in the Romantic era onwards, I sometimes find myself practicing the same passage over and over again before I hear any marginal improvement.

I know I have gone off-topic here but I think this would help in appreciating Bach as a whole!
Bach - Partita No.2
Scriabin - Etude 8/12
Debussy - L'isle Joyeuse
Liszt - Un Sospiro

Goal:
Prokofiev - Toccata

>LISTEN<

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #17 on: August 10, 2015, 09:01:08 PM »
I would go One to the places in the score where you have trouble hearing it 'all'.. And play just That part - slowly  - so your ears can hear it better.. Sing Each of the voices in That section, and then play it again slowly.. Then you might try singing one of the lines While you play That section (without dropping out that voice in your playing).  And then sing the other two the same way. (again and again). Do it slowly, so your ears grabs on..  It takes a while, but to me, it is among the greatest of joys!

Thanks for the guidance. I will try it tonight.  :)

And I imagine it'll be easier than sing one voice and play another. I tried that, but alas, I feel my voice is only one octave range, can't match up the notes on the score.  ;D

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #18 on: August 10, 2015, 09:59:58 PM »
Yes… It is not important (nor expected) for the purposes here, to sing in the correct octave indicated. (one would have to have a ridiculously wide range for some of it)
The idea being that singing it while you play - shows to yourself you are hearing that voice..  it is a confirmation. I do feel that this is the best approach for training the ear..
Good luck!  And, I will be curious to know how it goes for you, should you decide to give us an update.
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Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #19 on: August 10, 2015, 10:58:46 PM »
I think this would help in appreciating Bach as a whole!

Thank you, it does help! :D

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #20 on: August 10, 2015, 11:01:26 PM »
Yes… It is not important (nor expected) for the purposes here, to sing in the correct octave indicated. (one would have to have a ridiculously wide range for some of it)
The idea being that singing it while you play - shows to yourself you are hearing that voice..  it is a confirmation. I do feel that this is the best approach for training the ear..
Good luck!  And, I will be curious to know how it goes for you, should you decide to give us an update.

I'll update as often as I have progress.  ;D

Offline sabtan

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #21 on: August 11, 2015, 01:09:39 AM »
I can feel your pain!!
Took me about 2 years to finally "get" the Toccata and Fugue in Gmaj.
Like you was struggling with the Fugue.
Not because of notes, but because of the phrasing/ breathing. Whole thing felt rush.

Have you recorded yourself ? Remember to see where the phrases sit and slow down at the cadences. That will help space things out a little.

Good luck. Slow practice, breathe (literally and musically) and listen heaps.
Current repertoire:

Haydn Sonata in C maj Hob 50
Bach Toccata and Fugue in G maj
Faure Nocturne no.2 in B maj Op 33
Faure Impromptu no.3 in A major Op 34
Debussy Reflets dans l'eau

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #22 on: August 11, 2015, 01:50:51 AM »
i think approaching Bach's music via sight reading route is most effective rather than muscular memory. One must also be able to hear the phrases in their head and all of the polyphony which can be more difficult than music that is simply melody vs support. I never approach Bach with separate hands it is always together. Fingering is of utmost importance too many people substitute their own fingerings to their detriment! The great thing about Bach is that you can often play his music very very slowly without losing the music which makes it perfect for slow and accurate reading practice. Sight read Bach!
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Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #23 on: August 11, 2015, 02:45:09 AM »
OK, themeandvariation, report #1: I felt the music while singing, especially while singing the tenor on the first page. However, once I stopped singing, everything goes back to square 1. Do you mean I have to sing the whole time while practicing/performing? Because once I stop singing it doesn't work any more!

lostinidlewonder, I can't really sight read more than 2 measures of anything! Oh, but I know what you mean.

Offline josh93248

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #24 on: August 11, 2015, 02:53:57 AM »
Those techniques the other mention can be good but perhaps you need to breakdown your technical problems more thoroughly. If your problem is combing the voices then you may need to plan the way you play better, so you can get all the voices and play all the notes for the right duration.

I've found that paying special attention to the fingering you use in Bach is can be even more helpful than most composers, also once the piece is further along it can be good to experiment with the voices, trying different mixtures of emphasis. If you want some more information on fingering, I made a thread about it.

Also, I actually fingered that prelude and fugue a long time ago, It's not as up to date and good as my modern fingering but I could give it to you if you're interested...
Care to see my playing?

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqAtDI8LYOZ2ZzvEwRln7A/videos

I Also offer FREE PIANO LESSONS over Skype. Those who want to know more, feel free to PM me.

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #25 on: August 11, 2015, 03:35:42 AM »
josh93248, I'm willing to try anything and everything or a combination of things.  Can I see your fingering for this fugue?

Thanks in advance!

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #26 on: August 11, 2015, 04:13:07 AM »
OK, themeandvariation, report #1: I felt the music while singing, especially while singing the tenor on the first page. However, once I stopped singing, everything goes back to square 1. Do you mean I have to sing the whole time while practicing/performing? Because once I stop singing it doesn't work any more!


OK .. that is great.  The tenor line is the hardest to hear (usually) . Is it not easy to hear the soprano and bass while you sing the tenor?  All while playing the piano?  So obviously you hear all 3 voices on the first page.  Now, instead of stopping the singing altogether on the first page, try singing at less of a volume..  And try it again -slightly less volume… If you still hear all 3 voices, then next sing sotto voce.  See then if you still hear it… If so, you are ready to feel the notes (tenor) in your body as if you were singing them; and breathing  like you would sing it/phrase it, but Don't sing…  Just focus on the first page while trying this… Good luck!
4'33"

Offline josh93248

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #27 on: August 11, 2015, 04:19:48 AM »
Okay, this may take me a while but I'll do it for you one hand at a time.

Left Hand, which starts off in the treble: 2,3,2,5,4,2,3,2,1,5,2,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,5,1,-1, (this means you slide the finger from Eb to D) 2,3,1,3,2,4,1,2,3,1

There's a semiquaver rest here in my score, I'll mention landmarks occasionally so we don't get lost

5,4,3,2,1,2,5,4,3,2,1,2,4,3,1,2,1,2,3,1 now the voice moves into the right hand and there's a quaver rest 2,3,2,5,4,2,3,2,1,4,2,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,4,3,2,3,1,2,3,4,5 (leap) 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,4,3,2,1,2,3,1,4,5 (leap) 1,-1 (as it's faster and smoother than getting 2 into position after that stretch) 2,3,4,1,4,5,1,2,3,4 (two voices now, fingered from bottom to top with commas separating the de facto chords) 53,42,3-21 (The "-" means you substitute 3 to 2, it may seem unnecessary and pedantic but substitutions are like a free move that let you put yourself in a better position for the next move, but you can ignore them if you like) 5,42,1,32,53,42,31,32-1 (again a quick substitution to set up 2 for the next chord) 42,21,32,41,53,21,13,42,3-21,32,41,53,42-3, (now we leap and play the subject again) 1,2,1,3,1, (the voice changes to right hand and now we move down to C) 5,3,4 (This may seem really strange, but on slower notes it can work. What you do is angle your hand so that 3 actually reaches over the top of 5) quaver rest 2,1,3,2,3,4,3,2,5 leap 1,-1,2,5,4,1,2,1,5,4,1,2,1,3,2-1 (plenty of time for this substitution and it really sets us up for the next low note) 5,4,3,2,1,2,4,3,2,1,3,2,4,3,1,4 (weird sudden stretch, the middle voice also returns to the left hand, play the C and F, regardless of your score, with the RIGHT hand, I'll show you later, return the voice to the left hand on the Eb) 1,2,1,2,43,1,2-1,5,3,4 rest

What I've just written may seem bizarre and ridiculous or maybe you can see the logic. But you can't deny, it's a tricky section that needs a tricky solution.

Anyway, continuing from the Ab: 2,1,3,1,2,3,1,4,1,3,2,3,1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,4,3,2,1,2,3,1,4,5,1,-1,2,3,1,2,3,4,3,1,2,3,1,3,4,5,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2 Rest

2,1,3,2,1,3,2,1,3,2,1,2,3,1,2,3,2,3,2,5,4,2,3,2,1,5,2,3,2,1,4,3,2,1,3,4 rest

1,2,3,1,4-2,51.

There might be a few mistakes in my typing so if anything seems really wrong see if you can figure out what I must have meant. Also tell me if you like any bits in particular or think some are silly. Of course the real business is mostly in the right hand on this one but this gives you something to work with for now and you can tell me if you want more.
Care to see my playing?

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqAtDI8LYOZ2ZzvEwRln7A/videos

I Also offer FREE PIANO LESSONS over Skype. Those who want to know more, feel free to PM me.

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #28 on: August 11, 2015, 05:20:01 AM »
themeandvariation, I kinda did what you said. I just played the whole fugue while singing the tenor in my heart. God, it was loud and clear! Usually tenor is difficult for me to hear. People say I have no left hand, but this piece Tenor doesn't have a lot variations. Things are easier. However, the Soprano and Alto are sorta in the air, coming in and out. They come in where I love the melody and fade out when I'm not so sure about the melody. I think this is GREAT! I basically mostly only sang tenor tonight because I feel the effect is most obvious. I'll sing Soprano and Alto tomorrow! And report back!


Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #29 on: August 11, 2015, 06:27:28 AM »
Wow, josh93248, thanks so much for your time. I'll print out and take a look at it during weekend when I have more time.

Offline josh93248

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #30 on: August 11, 2015, 06:32:01 AM »
Cool, I hope it helps at least a bit, I know I only did the left hand but that should be enough to see whether you like my approach or not. Good luck with the piece :)
Care to see my playing?

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqAtDI8LYOZ2ZzvEwRln7A/videos

I Also offer FREE PIANO LESSONS over Skype. Those who want to know more, feel free to PM me.

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #31 on: August 11, 2015, 02:07:32 PM »
raindrop - this is a wonderful break-thru!  
It is the middle voiced lines that are usually the harder ones to hear..
In measures 9 - 11 is a fun spot where the soprano and middle voice play 'tag' -  where last 2 notes of first phrase of the soprano (ending on e flat in the middle of measure 9) are joined as the first 2 notes of the middle line's response.(call and response). This is then a beginning of a 'sequence' that continues thru measure 11..
There are some parts, where the writing is in parallel motion And  movement -  occurs - as in ms. 12 - 14.  (The first half of m. 12 has 3 voices in parallel).. When this occurs, it is natural for a voice to lose its 'independence' and tends to more sound like 'texture' - a thickening of a single melody - if you will…) . This is especially  noticeable when closely voiced - like being an interval of a third apart.  
In measures 13, 14 - this parallel motion happens with the middle and the bass voices.. In this section it would be advantages to sing the bass line, as the middle one hits the ear as more obvious.. .
You are definitely making great strides!  Your whole sense of musicianship is being greatly enhanced… This is one of the most intense 'meditations' on 'hearing' one can engage in, imo.
Cheers!
4'33"

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #32 on: August 11, 2015, 09:41:12 PM »
Well things are still on the blurry side. :)

I tried a couple measures of the middle voice. When I played all 3 together, I lost the pitch of the middle voice when singing it. I could never sing the exact pitch of the tenor. It's only because it's so unique that I was able to separate it from the other two voices. I think for this piece to sing the exact pitch of the middle and high voices are important as they are similar just playing tags. I guess this step is easier for people with perfect pitch?

Offline outin

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #33 on: August 12, 2015, 03:17:46 AM »
Well things are still on the blurry side. :)

I tried a couple measures of the middle voice. When I played all 3 together, I lost the pitch of the middle voice when singing it. I could never sing the exact pitch of the tenor. It's only because it's so unique that I was able to separate it from the other two voices. I think for this piece to sing the exact pitch of the middle and high voices are important as they are similar just playing tags. I guess this step is easier for people with perfect pitch?

Don't be too hard on yourself. You don't have to get everything 100% right in singing to play the piece. If you keep at it it will be a bit easier with every new piece. You cannot become a master of this new practice technique in just a few days :)

It's quite common here that people recommend their successful practice techniques as instant fixes, completely ignoring the fact that they have themselves developed those techniques with time and experience.


Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #34 on: August 12, 2015, 04:56:11 AM »
Raindrop, for that part you mention, trying singing the tenor while playing only the soprano.. Then singing the tenor while playing only the bass..  I wouldn't concern much about singing the pitch 'exactly'  it might not fit your range.. You may want to sing  the higher notes an octave lower.. That is fine… Try that a bit, then try playing all 3 voices and ''feeling' the tenor..
And it does take time, but you have started a process that will be helpful to you, i believe..

@outin
 'quick fix'? …  :-X
in my first response to Raindrop, you'll notice that said Twice that it takes time.  I was just trying to address specifically Raindrop's question.. :-*
I see now that i'll have to make a trip to 'last post wins'….
 
4'33"

Offline outin

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #35 on: August 12, 2015, 12:11:35 PM »

@outin
 'quick fix'? …  :-X
in my first response to Raindrop, you'll notice that said Twice that it takes time.  I was just trying to address specifically Raindrop's question.. :-*
I see now that i'll have to make a trip to 'last post wins'….
 

I was NOT referring to your advice, it was just a general observation from the years I've been around :)

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #36 on: August 13, 2015, 05:31:55 AM »
It's a long haul, not ordinary long haul, its an extra long haul.... but if this guy can do this, I hope one day I can handle the three 3voices..[ Invalid YouTube link ]


Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #37 on: August 14, 2015, 02:49:19 AM »
josh93248

I don't feel the substitute thing will work for me. Plus my fingerings are pretty set by now. My only trouble is trying to do measure 13-14 legarto for both middle and tenor voice, right now it only has middle voice stands out, the tenor is not so happy.

Offline josh93248

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #38 on: August 14, 2015, 03:03:08 AM »
Oh well, good luck anyway. Also if you like you can post a video of your progress once you've got something to show us. I'd be happy to give you some more advice.
Care to see my playing?

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqAtDI8LYOZ2ZzvEwRln7A/videos

I Also offer FREE PIANO LESSONS over Skype. Those who want to know more, feel free to PM me.

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #39 on: August 14, 2015, 04:00:17 AM »
I don't have a good recorder, my cell phone sucks, so the sound is not my piano's true sound.



Themevariantion, by end of day, what is the end result your looking for? Do you have to pick a voice and sing in your heart or you only listen?

Offline josh93248

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #40 on: August 14, 2015, 04:20:11 AM »
It's really not bad at all. It could be a touch faster if you like but the speed isn't really that much of a problem.

I guess I'm trying to understand what you want. In my opinion Bach can be played with more freedom and expression if you so choose. Some may say that's "not allowed" but I think if you want to "enjoy" this fugue then you should try experimenting more. Hearing every single voice is one thing and it's admirable to be able to PROCESS all the music. But if you want to ENJOY it and be more expressive then you have to just play around with it, take some pressure off yourself and exaggerate things and test out ideas. Try really over-emphasising certain voices at certain moments and see if you like the results, things like that.

Anyway, you're so close, just keep at it until you feel satisfied.
Care to see my playing?

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I Also offer FREE PIANO LESSONS over Skype. Those who want to know more, feel free to PM me.

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #41 on: August 14, 2015, 04:26:49 AM »
Thanks, to get which voice out at which point is what I'm trying to find out. Right now just every voice is struggling to stand out, afraid that I leave them alone and can't hear them. So there is zero balance there.  :D

Offline josh93248

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #42 on: August 14, 2015, 04:45:06 AM »
I see what you mean about the tenor. Being a tenor myself I can empathise with not always being the most prominent line... But you can definitely bring it out more, just use a little more weight in the hand or part of the hand that the tenor occupies.

As for how to go about bringing out different parts at different times, really the choice is up to you. But whenever the subject enters (the main theme) it's a good idea to emphasise that and make it clear. Another one you might consider is to really bring out the longer notes and subdue the quieter ones but you naturally do that to some extent already.

Really, there are no "rules" to how to go about bringing out voices in Bach because dynamics weren't a part of his instruments or his compositional process. But if you want some cues, look up Glenn Gould, he handles Bach very creatively and with lots of good handling of different voices
Care to see my playing?

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBqAtDI8LYOZ2ZzvEwRln7A/videos

I Also offer FREE PIANO LESSONS over Skype. Those who want to know more, feel free to PM me.

Offline raindropshome

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #43 on: August 14, 2015, 05:20:15 AM »
josh93248 thanks. I think it'll come in time when I can hear all the voices 90% of the time I'll be able to pick and choose at will.  :)

Offline dcstudio

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #44 on: August 14, 2015, 05:40:33 PM »



patience grasshopper.

"when you can take the pebble from my hand it will be time for you to leave"








Offline briansaddleback

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #45 on: August 25, 2015, 08:10:22 PM »
What's all this fuss about Bach being hard??

I find his stuff easy to learn.













.
.
NOT!

hahaha. uh ...thxbai
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline grahamfitch

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #46 on: March 31, 2016, 01:20:24 PM »
For information, I have just published a free annotated study guide for the C minor Prelude and Fugue from Book 1. I have included a practice stepladder with single voices and combinations of two voices, and you can choose whether you download the Urtext edition/stepladder or my own annotated edition (with fingerings, articulations, dynamic suggestions and footnotes). I hope you enjoy using it, and I hope it helps you!

http://www.ptpdemo.informance.biz/content/practising/page/4-the-practice-stepladder

Offline rachmaninoff_forever

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #47 on: March 31, 2016, 02:18:11 PM »
Lol
Live large, die large.  Leave a giant coffin.

Offline visitor

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #48 on: March 31, 2016, 02:26:22 PM »
lel

Offline jimroof

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Re: Why is Bach so hard?!
«Reply #49 on: March 31, 2016, 02:31:11 PM »
Back is difficult for a number of reasons...

1.  It is usually fairly rhythmically homogeneous.  A steady stream of 8th note or 16th note pulses that reveal any inconsistencies in performance like a purple and black swollen thumb.

2.  It is usually harmonically understandable.  Ie., the listener will usually pick up on any wrong notes played IN tempo because the harmony is not very far afield.  Add to this the manner in which sequential phrases appear and the stage is set for mishaps to once again, stand out like the aforementioned mangled thumb.

3.  It is transparent.  No hiding behind a cascade of pedaled bravura.  Bach is written so that each note is totally in the open and easily heard.  

Many years ago I had the opportunity to appear on a local Atlanta TV show.  Before you get too excited, it was a show that aired on Sunday mornings at something like 7:00 and the guest usually was showing the viewer fun things they could make out of egg cartons or how to fix a leaky faucet. What made it a little daunting was the fact that the show was taped in one take with ZERO opportunities for edits.  Thankfully I was not playing Bach, but I was playing two very different pieces - an early Beethoven Sonata (Opus 22) first movement and the first movement of the Ginastera Piano Sonata 1.   The host asked me "What is the difference in performing those two pieces" and my answer was that, while the first piece seemed easier to the ear, it was much harder to perform because everything is rather expected and mistakes would be easily heard.  The Ginastera had more bravura and such, but is much less demanding to perform because the palette is rather foreign to most people's ears and chances are I could have made a dozen mistakes and nobody would have known.

Bach is even MORE transparent than early Beethoven.  
Chopin Ballades
Chopin Scherzos 2 and 3
Mephisto Waltz 1
Beethoven Piano Concerto 3
Schumann Concerto Am
Ginastera Piano Sonata
L'isle Joyeuse
Feux d'Artifice
Prokofiev Sonata Dm