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Topic: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150  (Read 8671 times)

Offline goldfish

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Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
on: October 05, 2004, 08:30:39 PM
Hi

I'm considering learning Chopin's A minor waltz without opus (BI 150). Mostly it looks straightforward but at bar 21 there is a rising 3 octave E Major arpeggio: E G# B  E G# B  E G# B.

These need to be played pretty quick: semiquavers and semiquaver triplets etc.

The marked fingering is 123 123 123 in the right hand which seems the only sensible way to do it but it looks impossible to reach the required speed.

I have a short thumb so the idea of doing some kind of thumb under move after each B is not really feasible - it leads to really dreadful hand twisting. On the other hand there doesn't seem to be time to just make a fast jump between each group, but that looks to be the only way to do it.

Does anyone have any practice tips for this scenario?

Thanks

-- goldfish

Offline allchopin

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #1 on: October 06, 2004, 01:15:27 AM
Don't think you have to play this extremely fast, just briskly.  The overall tempo of the piece is what, 40 to the dotted half?  The run can start somewhat slowly then accelerate, so the first group jump shouldn't be too hard.  For the final two groups, just think constant motion up the keyboard rather than groups of notes.  Practice slow and maintain accuracy - most of all, they groups must sound even or it will sound amateur.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #2 on: October 06, 2004, 01:50:35 AM
Quote
I'm considering learning Chopin's A minor waltz without opus (BI 150).

Very good choice! It is the prettiest of his Waltzes (IMO) and the easiest.

Quote
Mostly it looks straightforward but at bar 21 there is a rising 3 octave E Major arpeggio: E G# B  E G# B  E G# B.

These need to be played pretty quick: semiquavers and semiquaver triplets etc.

The marked fingering is 123 123 123 in the right hand which seems the only sensible way to do it but it looks impossible to reach the required speed.

Are you sure? Try 135 instead (see below).

Quote
I have a short thumb so the idea of doing some kind of thumb under move after each B is not really feasible - it leads to really dreadful hand twisting. On the other hand there doesn't seem to be time to just make a fast jump between each group, but that looks to be the only way to do it.

Yes, jump you should!

Here are my suggestions:

1. Start with playing the chords blocked, not broken. Move the hand from one chord to the next and increase the speed until you have reached the speed that you want. This is aimed at training your arm to move your hand to the right position on the keyboard, thus developing your body map.

2. Once your hand knows where it has to go, start playing the chords broken. Keep in mind that the first chord is slower than the others. Play everything with fingers 135. Shift the entire hand between the chords.

3. Don't use Cziffra as a standard in terms of speed. This Waltz sound beautiful even if you play it slowly and majestically. It is more important at this stage to get the piece executed well; speed will follow.

4. Don't even think about thumb under when playing arpeggios.

Hope that helps.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #3 on: October 06, 2004, 02:23:49 AM
Ah, yes, the dreaded bar 22.

Allchopin and xvimbi are right. Ignore speed for the moment. Not only the real problem lies elsewhere as this waltz is pretty effective when played slowly (half the speed most people play it – Ashkenazy probably had a plane to catch, or was just bored to have to play a grade 4 piece).

xvimbi's suggestion of playing the arpeggios as chords is also very good.

I prefer the fingering 123 best. But this is very personal. Try 135 (as xvimbi suggested) and see which you like best

Thumb under is a definite no-no. Instead shift your hand. Before I tell you how, let us have a look at the real problem.

The real problem in the passage is to get the rhythm right. It starts with quaver triplets, than semiquaver quintuplets and finally a dotted quaver+semiquaver. Get this rhythm right and the speed will take care of itself.

Is your score handy? So here is how you do it (bar 22):

     Ignore the left hand for the moment, and let us master the movement required to play the first 8 notes in bar 22 (RH).
     
1. Start by playing the first four notes. Notice that they form the arpeggio of E major. For the moment we will completely ignore the rhythm and assume that all the notes have exactly the same time value. Your goal is to master the fingering, and the movement required to play these four notes with this particular fingering. You should have no problems on the first three notes. However, moving from the B (3rd finger) to the E (1st finger) will require that you move the hand sideways, so that you are using the hand movement to position the finger, rather than passing the thumb under the 3rd finger. Play this as fast as you can without loosing accuracy.  A few seconds should give you hundreds of repetitions.

There will be a noticeable gap between the B (3rd finger ) and the E(thumb). But do not worry. The only reason you can hear this gap is because you are playing it slowly. As the speed increases, the gap will disappear (and you will use the pedal to mask it).

2. Now that you dealt with notes 1-2-3-4, move on to notes 4-5-6-7. You see, we are not moving to notes 5-6-7-8 because if we did, when the time came to join notes 1-2-3-4 to notes 5-6-7-8, we would almost certainly hesitate between notes 4 and 5. This way we avoid such hesitations right at the source. This is called overlapping and whenever you practise a piece or a section by breaking it down into small subsections, you must overlap the subsections.

Notice that these four notes are exactly the same as the four previous notes, except that they are played one octave higher (did you notice the octave sign?). Therefore this should be really easy.

     3. Now we move on to notes 7-8-9-10 (and let us add the first note of the next bar for overlapping purposes).
     
     Again, the first three notes are a repeat of the E major arpeggio one octave higher. However there is no lateral movement this time, since the next two notes are right there. So be careful that you do not move your hand automatically  - that is what you have been doing in the two previous sections – Also, ignore the rhythm for the moment – treat all notes as having the same value -  and concentrate on hitting the right notes with the correct movement.
     
     4. Now try joining the three sections together. You can play them uniformly for the moment (as if they were all quavers, for instance). We will deal with the rhythm in a moment. But first I want you to master the movement of the hand  - you have to cover three octaves! So concentrate on hitting the right notes, and above all do not hesitate. If you hit a wrong note, correct it next time around. If you cannot remember what the next note is, hit any note within the general vicinity of where it should be. Then make a mental note of it, so that you can correct it next repeat. So, no matter what happens, keep moving.
     
     5. Have you mastered the movement? Can you hit the right notes time after time even when playing at speed? Then brace yourself, because the next step is very difficult. Now we are going to play this passage in the correct rhythm.
     
     6. Start by setting the metronome to fairly slow speed (say 60). This is going to be a crochet beat. Since this passage has a triplet and quintuplet, this means that both the triplet and the quintuplet must be played in one beat.
     
     Again we will break down this section into three passages.
     
You have already practised this before. The difference is that now you want to play the lower E and the higher E right on the beat, with the two notes in between equally spaced. This should not be difficult. But the next thing I want you to do is difficult. I want you to memorise what it sounds like. Repeat as many times as you need to get the sound of this section firmly in your mind.

     7. If you find this difficult/impossible, try this trick: Play only the first and last note (the beat-notes)
     
     Playing these two notes on the beat should not be a problem (but remember to keep the fingering!). As you play them, I want you to imagine the other two notes fitting in between the two beat-notes, evenly and clearly. Once you can hear it in your mind, give it a go. You will find that when the mind is clear, the fingers will comply.
     
     8. Now we practise the quintuplet. The first and last notes fall right on the beat, and the notes in between must be evenly spaced as before, but they will have to be played faster, since there are more of them.
     
Notice that the first beat falls on an E as before, but the second beat falls on the B! If you find this difficult, do what we did previously: Play only the E and the B right on the beat. As you do that, imagine the four notes in between. Once you can hear the whole passage clearly in your mind (meanwhile you play only the E and B), try playing it. If your mind is clear, the fingers will comply!
     
     As before, you have two different tasks here. The first is to play these six notes evenly so that the first and last notes are right on the beat, while the four notes in between are evenly spaced. This, believe me, is the easy part. Now, as you repeat, you must accomplish your second task: memorise how it sounds.
     
     9. Can you still remember what the triplets sounded like? Because now we are going to join both sections, and the key to get it perfect right away is to be able to recall what each – triplet and quintuplet – sound like. I therefore suggest that before you join them, that you spend some time alternatively playing each of them.
     
     10. Now let us join them. Start by playing only the beat-notes.
     
This should be easy. But remember to use the correct fingerings, so that when you add the missing notes all fingers will be in place.
     
     Now play the passage as written.
     
     This is really difficult! So take your time. You may need to repeat this whole session again tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and who knows how many days. So don’t get discouraged. The key to this passage’s mastery lies in the memory. If you can remember what it sounds like, you will be able to play it.
     
     11. Finally the last segment is far easier.
     
You should not have any problems here. Just remember that the first note is dotted, so it should last three times more than the second note – a semiquaver – Make sure that the first and third note are right on the beat.
     
     Finally we join everything together, and this completes the right hand
     
     12. The left hand is far easier.
     
     For a start the rhythm is as simple as it could be: each note a beat and each beat a note. The two chords are simply different voicings of E7:
     
     13. I suggest that now you just alternate the right and left hand until you feel confident that they are in your subconscious. Work on speed and aim to be able to play both hands separately at crochet = 192 (Do this by working with the metronome. Start slow, say crochet = 60 and go up 2-4 beats each repetition until you reach your target speed of crochet = 192). If you can manage that, then you can work on hands together right at the suggested final speed: crochet = 126. (But this piece will still be effective at, say, crochet = 80).


     [to be continued…]
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bernhard

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #4 on: October 06, 2004, 02:25:54 AM
     […continuation]
     
     
     Joining hands:
     
     You should now be ready for joining hands. I am going to suggest to you two strategies. They will get you there as painless and expediently as possible. They are not either /or options. You should work on both of them.
     
     In the first one you will just repeat the work you did with the right hand and the metronome, but this time, the metronome beat will be replaced by the left hand. In fact we will still use the metronome, but each note/chord of the left hand will be right there with the beat:
     
14. Do the right hand exactly as you did in (7), that is, play only the notes that go with the beats, but now add the left hand. This should be really easy, after all you have already mastered both hands separately, and everything is on the beat. So you should have mastered this section after 5 – 10 repeats (or 5 – 10 seconds). Move on.
     
15. Now you must fit two notes in between beats (G# and B). This is a bit more difficult than the previous one, but not that more difficult. Remember this is fairly slow and don’t panic. Aim for a regular delivery of right hand notes. Avoid starting to slow and having to accelerate in order to be on the beat, or the opposite: starting too fast and having to slow down. If this is a persistent problem try going back to the previous item (14) and as you play the notes on beat, imagine the two notes in between. Play it in your mind. Since in your mind you will have no technical or co-ordination problems to contend with, you should be able to do it. Once you can hear clearly in your mind this passage, play it. As you play, try to memorise what it sounds like.
     
16. Now let us apply the same procedure to the next bit. Start by playing only the notes that go together with the beats. You should master this in 5 – 10 seconds. Mastered it? Good. Now keep repeating it right on the beat. And as you repeat, imagine the missing notes. Do not play them, just imagine them, right on time, evenly spaced in between the beat notes. Can you imagine it? Can you hear the perfect performance in your mind? Then move on to the next section where you actually play the notes you have just imagined.
     
     This will have to be played almost twice as fast as the previous section. But don’t panic! It is still pretty slow. Just make sure that the notes that should be on the beat are indeed on the beat, and that the notes in between are evenly spaced so that you do not need to either accelerate or slow down in order to be in time. Again, it will pay  to spend sometime with the metronome on, and instead of playing, imagining what it should sound like. Once you can do it, repeat it as many times as necessary to ingrain it, not only on your fingers bur on your memory as well.
     
     17. Time to join both sections. Can you still remember what each of them sounds like? Never mind, here is another opportunity to hear it in your mind before you actually play them. Just play the beat notes. Keep repeating and while you do so, imagine the missing notes, and what speed they need to be played in order to fit in perfectly within the beat notes. Done? Good. Then move on to the next score. Remember: What the mind hears the fingers play.
     
18. I find this really difficult. Although each subsection is easy enough, joining them is a bit of a nightmare. Why should it be so? After all if you mastered the separate sections and overlapped them, playing the larger section should come easily. One of the problems is of course the different speeds on the right hand. That is why it is so important that you remember what each of them sounds like, and imagine what they will sound like one after the other. As before your main aim is to be even, do not accelerate or slow down in order to keep up with the beats. If you have to accelerate or slow down it is because the notes were not evenly spaced to start with, and you had the wrong speed all along.
     
19. Almost there! This is the last bit. This is far easier than what came before. Just make sure that the two Bs in the right hand are on the beat (together with the left hand). The C must fall in between beats, and as you can see it is a semiquaver, so it is not evenly spaced in between the beat notes. Count its length. As the beats go, count 1[/u] –2 –3 –4  - 1[/u]  – 2 – 3 – 4 – 1[/u]  – 2 – 3 – 4 – etc. The beats fall on the 1[/u]  The C falls on the 4. Do you get it? No? Then ask your teacher during your lesson!
     
     20. Now join all sections together and play the whole thing! Easy? Of course not! But the easiest is not the noblest. Keep trying. If after some 10 repeats it has not yet come together, or give you hopes that it will, observe where the difficulty lies. And then go back to the subsection that deals with it and practise that subsection some more. If the difficulty persist ask your teacher during your lesson!
     
     20. Well done, you can now play the most difficult bar in the whole piece! But do not move on yet. Let us master it all over again, but this time using a different approach.
     
     The second strategy I want you to try is to keep one hand going no matter what, strictly in time with the metronome, while you drop one note at a time on the other hand. Start with the right hand going, and drop one left hand note at a time:
     
     21. Start by playing the whole of the right hand – use the metronome – making sure you are right in time with the beat. Then add the bass note only. Since you are playing only one note on the left hand, and since you have already mastered the right hand in a previous section, this should not be too difficult. Master it and move on.
     
22. Now add the chord. This should not be very difficult, since you have already mastered the previous one, and therefore you only have to negotiate the introduction of the chord. Keep the right hand going and do not let the placing of the chord interfere with the right hand movement. Your aim is to avoid hesitations at all costs.
     
23. Now add one more chord. The basic idea is to keep each hand independent, and yet co-ordinated so that they go together perfectly. What we want to avoid is the intuitive approach of “this note goes with this chord”, which leads to hesitations and unmusical playing. So, keep the right hand going no matter what, and drop the left hand notes at the appropriate points.
     
24. Finally add the last bass note. Follow the same directions as before.
     
     25. Now reverse the procedure. Play the full left hand passage and drop the right hand notes a group at a time. You may find this easier than the previous one:
     
     26. Well done, you mastered the most difficult section in this whole piece.
     
     However, be warned. Tomorrow it will be as if you have never seen it before!
     
     Do not get discouraged and drop the piece from your repertory as being impossible. Alternatively, do not go frantically trying to play the whole section by brute force and sheer mindless repetition in the hope that somehow it will come together again.
     
     No, you need a third approach. And I know this is going to hurt, but here is what you do: Start all over again. Go to item (1) and work your way through all of the sections, repeating all of the practice tricks, routines and strategies until you master it again. These are the bad news. The good news is that it will take you a fraction of the time to master it again. So, if it took you 35-40 minutes to master this practice session the first time around, the second time it will take you perhaps ten minutes (or less).
     
     Come next day you will have again forgot it. Never mind, repeat the whole process again. Except that this third time it will take you 3 minutes or less. The fourth time you will probably remember most of it, and by the fifth / sixth time you will know it. So it is important that you keep repeating this practice session over the next few days, concurrently with the rest of this piece.
     
     Please, keep also in mind that writing and reading about all this takes far more time than doing it! You should be able to do all the items above in about 15 – 25 minutes (I did it in 3!). However it is important to describe the process in detail so that you understand it.  At this point you are not only learning the piece, you are learning a certain method to learn and practise pieces. Once you are thoroughly familiarised with this method you will not need such detailed instructions.
     
     I hope this helps. :P ;)
     
     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 xvimbi

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #5 on: October 06, 2004, 02:57:41 AM
I wish I had had Bernhard's advice when I learned this piece...

After digging some more in my memory and actually sitting down at the keyboard, the fingering is definitely 123, not 135 as I suggested earlier. Nevertheless, try different fingerings and see what works best for you.

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #6 on: October 06, 2004, 03:08:37 AM
One more thought (now that my memory of this piece came back): make sure your hand position is ok when you play the G7 chord (bar 3). I hurt myself, because I didn't know how to play chords correctly, or, for that matter, what a correct hand position is in the first place. I was practicing this piece over and over again while playing the G7 chord with extreme ulnar deviation (thumb orientation). Together with a cramped and stiff hand, this resulted in severe pain and problems for weeks. I had to abandon playing anything that required stretching the hand too much (as well as rock climbing). So, I started playing Bach, although I hated Bach at that time. Now I love it.

Offline allchopin

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #7 on: October 06, 2004, 03:19:58 AM
Bernhard, I'm sorry but this is just overcomplicating things.  The number of steps to play the darned passage more than twice outnumbers the amount of notes themselves... just thinking about thinking about all this gives me a headache.  I would simply say it is a matter of slow practice (after all, arpeggios are a basic neccesity) and flowing each octave together to make it sound legato.  The rest should come naturally, and if it doesn't, well, then the piece may not be for you quite yet.
Also, what does BI 150 mean?  Does this relate to the fact that it was published posthumously?
A modern house without a flush toilet... uncanny.

Offline maxy

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #8 on: October 06, 2004, 07:36:16 AM
still, if you follow these steps, you will know the passage for the rest of you life....
garanteed...   ;)

Offline mound

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #9 on: October 06, 2004, 05:20:46 PM
Quote
I wish I had had Bernhard's advice when I learned this piece...


I was just going to write exactly the same thing! That was the only part of this piece that posed any real difficulty for me. I learned it via the "start slow and keep repeating faster and faster 'till you get it" method.. It worked, eventually, but took much longer than I now know it needed to.  Learning the whole piece was pretty simple, being really expressive with it was less simple and getting through that bar w/o sounding like somebody started screaming during a quiet interlude was another hurdle all together!  :-[  I've gone from playing this piece slow and far too romanticized, to playing really fast trying to sound like Cziffra, and now it's matured to something that is brisk, but not fast, expressive but not sorrowfull.. I really enjoy this piece.

I use 123 fingering on that measure and hand shifts.. I did at first experiment with 135 and thumb under, but there was just no way to get the right fluency with that passage using that technique.


-Paul

Offline goalevan

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #10 on: October 06, 2004, 05:38:07 PM
this is a beautiful piece that I would love to play, anybody know if it's in PDF form anywhere? Otherwise I'm gonna go pick up the sheet music today.

Offline goldfish

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #11 on: October 06, 2004, 11:50:17 PM
Many thanks to everyone for their suggestions for this piece. This group is *excellent*  ;D

I'e been practising tonight using the methods described by Bernhard (thought I'd struck gold when I saw your reply :D ) and although I still have a way to go I at least feel that I will master this ... eventually.

One thing I have done to try to ingrain the timing of this section into my mind is to make a couple of midi files in Finale of the same bar repeated over and over at 60 bpm and 100 bpm. I'm hoping that by playing along and matching my notes to what I hear in the midi file the timing will become automatic.

I also tried the 135 fingering but found 123 simpler because at the end of the run you need to move up to C so you couldn't use 135 all the way up the run.

Thanks again  ;D

-- goldfish

Offline bernhard

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Re: Chopin A Minor Waltz BI 150
Reply #12 on: October 07, 2004, 01:18:16 AM
Quote

One thing I have done to try to ingrain the timing of this section into my mind is to make a couple of midi files in Finale of the same bar repeated over and over at 60 bpm and 100 bpm. I'm hoping that by playing along and matching my notes to what I hear in the midi file the timing will become automatic.



This is an excellent idea.

However, eventually  - once you mastered the rhythm - you want to drop the metronome and the matching of notes (which may be very necessary at the beginning) and play it less regularly. I tend to play the triplets slower and accelerate on the quintuplet.

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)
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