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Topic: How vital is understanding chords?  (Read 2882 times)

Offline alistaircrane4

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How vital is understanding chords?
on: May 17, 2014, 04:53:16 PM
One of my peers plays piano and he always gives me a hard time because I dont care to understand what chords are being played in a piece. I just play whats written and play it well. but he believes i should know when an Eflat7 is being played in a piece and i shoulde know the progression otherwise dont play. He likens it to reading and says that we read because we know sentences and words and tells me you just know letters and dont understand what they make up. Even though my repetoire is larger than his he still doesnt give me any credit he can only play rach c-sharp minor prelude fully some of g minor and half of Hungarian rhapsody number two where as i can play pathetique second movement, lento con gran espression, Nocturne op 27 no1 op 55 no1 and military polonaise. he always belittles me. is it important to know progressions? i can tell when i change key by hearing it and what not

Offline iansinclair

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #1 on: May 17, 2014, 10:34:12 PM
Depends on where, and how far, you want to go with your piano playing.  If you want to become reasonably advanced, you will find that understanding the chords and the harmonic progressions in any music from Beethoven (or even late Mozart) on is very important to really understanding what the piece has to say.  Not that you can't simply play the notes mechanically, but it will tend to sound mechanical.  If you want to get into jazz or things like "faking" more popular music or improvising in any style -- classical or popular, understanding chords and harmonic progressions is so essential that I would say that it simply can't be done without.
Ian

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #2 on: May 17, 2014, 10:38:17 PM
Composing, jazz, improvising etc, yes. Very important.

Playing notes and making music? No, not important at all, even though some people want to make others believe that their own studies about them have been very essential (but questionable).
1+1=11

Offline ted

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #3 on: May 18, 2014, 12:24:41 AM
In the end it is just a choice, like anything else in piano music. Knowing a huge heap of chords by their commonly used labels is not the same as understanding them in terms of aural and haptic effect at the instrument, and both these states might be far from important to an individual's personal improvisation, depending on what he wants to do, and exactly how harmony relates to that purpose.

It probably cannot do any harm, put it that way, a creative mind uses anything it can absorb, but it is not strictly necessary, and certainly not sufficient. I was drilled in chords and harmony as a kid, it was how my teacher thought about music, how everybody used to. Now, as far as my own music is concerned, especially improvisation, harmony is just surface colouring in relation to the deeper aspects of rhythm, phrase and ideas in general.

Also, I have serious doubts that dynamic harmony can be defined by "chords" anyway. The almost universal tendency, in classical and jazz, to think of music as a series of chord blocks into which musical matter is plopped, now seems as destructive to me as old-fashioned, square-toed forms, ABAC and the like. It is simply not how I think any more at my age.

In short, learn about chords by all means, they are certainly interesting, but how you use them is a creative choice, like everything else, not a mandatory command.      
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Offline pianoguy711

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #4 on: May 18, 2014, 01:05:32 AM
Can you produce a beautiful painting without knowledge of color blending and shading? Definitely.  Same goes for playing music.  Chords and harmony are the coloring and shading of music.  You can still make great music without knowing much about chords.  However, if you chose to compose music, you will definitely need these tools.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #5 on: May 18, 2014, 03:16:29 AM
One of my peers plays piano and he always gives me a hard time because I dont care to understand what chords are being played in a piece. I just play whats written and play it well. but he believes i should know when an Eflat7 is being played in a piece and i shoulde know the progression otherwise dont play. He likens it to reading and says that we read because we know sentences and words and tells me you just know letters and dont understand what they make up. Even though my repetoire is larger than his he still doesnt give me any credit he can only play rach c-sharp minor prelude fully some of g minor and half of Hungarian rhapsody number two where as i can play pathetique second movement, lento con gran espression, Nocturne op 27 no1 op 55 no1 and military polonaise. he always belittles me. is it important to know progressions? i can tell when i change key by hearing it and what not

If you enjoy your music with or without knowing certain elements, then continue enjoying. IF you start working with others like singers, or other instrumentalists, then knowing how to communicate what you are playing  can be a great help.  That is when knowing the chord can help. Also if you ever play with a singer who needs to play in a different key than written, then knowing the chords and progressions is probably very necessary in order to transpose. I know someone who is a fantastic sight reader but knows nothing about the theory. It is not all-defining to know chords. Just depend on your approach. As for me , I love to just say Eflat7 . Eflat13 is cool too.

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #6 on: May 18, 2014, 10:20:07 PM
If you want to become reasonably advanced, you will find that understanding the chords and the harmonic progressions in any music from Beethoven (or even late Mozart) on is very important to really understanding what the piece has to say. 

My quibble with this is that from Beethoven on, naming chords becomes increasingly descriptive rather than providing so much "why".  In other words, yes you can name the chord, but that offers no insight whatsoever as to why that particular chord was chosen. And, after all, any random arrangement of notes can be given a chord name.
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Offline schwartzer

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #7 on: May 18, 2014, 11:01:03 PM
Knowing chords is pretty useful when you're memorizing pieces. Say,, Clair de Lune's arpeggios part. If you don't know chords, you will be simply playing a seemingly random sequence of notes. If you do know, however, it comes down to Db major, F minor and E major. If you ask me, I'd say it's easier to memorize 3 chords rather than 18 notes.

It becomes noticeably useful when playing works with large amount of chords, like Chopin's Military Polonaise and Rachmaninoff's C sharp minor prelude.

Sure you can work your way around that, but it's of great help to know all the chords. It's not even hard to memorize them all.

Offline lelle

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #8 on: May 19, 2014, 07:58:34 PM
My quibble with this is that from Beethoven on, naming chords becomes increasingly descriptive rather than providing so much "why".  In other words, yes you can name the chord, but that offers no insight whatsoever as to why that particular chord was chosen. And, after all, any random arrangement of notes can be given a chord name.

There are no random arrangements of notes in beethoven ;) The descriptive naming of chords does not in itself tell you "why" but it is a part of finding out why. Knowing what they are tells you about their function in relation to the other chords, and knowing its function tells you something about its purpose. Some teachers always insists on "bring out the harmony, do what the harmony tells you" but if you have no idea how the harmony works, how will you know how to do that? How will you know when something "expected" or "unexpected" happens?

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #9 on: May 19, 2014, 10:19:25 PM
There are no random arrangements of notes in beethoven ;)

Nor in anything else, except those compositions that make a virtue of it.  I made the point simply to show that anything can be described without it necessarily revealing meaning.

The descriptive naming of chords does not in itself tell you "why" but it is a part of finding out why. Knowing what they are tells you about their function in relation to the other chords, and knowing its function tells you something about its purpose. Some teachers always insists on "bring out the harmony, do what the harmony tells you" but if you have no idea how the harmony works, how will you know how to do that? How will you know when something "expected" or "unexpected" happens?

My Ears. I know what things sound like, but what does naming them add?
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Offline lelle

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #10 on: May 19, 2014, 11:05:11 PM
My Ears. I know what things sound like, but what does naming them add?

The ears are the ultimate guide. Knowing the theoretical end gives you more tools to know what to look/listen for.

Sometimes I hear people who play very nice but fail to notice harmonically significant chords. They are not exactly doing something wrong per se, because their ears guide them to play very nice sounds and phrasing but they don't show that something harmonically significant is happening. The composers knew all this stuff so to them i.e. a mediant was something special, it should be to us too.

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #11 on: May 19, 2014, 11:15:13 PM
The ears are the ultimate guide. Knowing the theoretical end gives you more tools to know what to look/listen for.

Sometimes I hear people who play very nice but fail to notice harmonically significant chords. They are not exactly doing something wrong per se, because their ears guide them to play very nice sounds and phrasing but they don't show that something harmonically significant is happening.

It seems unlikely something harmonically significant could be happening that wasn't audible.

The composers knew all this stuff so to them i.e. a mediant was something special, it should be to us too.

Perhaps for Beethoven. What about Scriabin, say? What about extended tonality, atonality, serialism?
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Offline lelle

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #12 on: May 19, 2014, 11:43:10 PM
It seems unlikely something harmonically significant could be happening that wasn't audible.

You will still hear it, but in my experience you also hear if the player hears it or not. If I were to phrase a melody poorly because I didn't know what to listen for my teacher would say "no, no, you're not listening, you got to reach for this high note here". My teacher still heard my melody but something was missing.

Quote
Perhaps for Beethoven. What about Scriabin, say? What about extended tonality, atonality, serialism?

Yeah, I'm talking mainly about Beethoven and his ilk, those are a different story of course. Atonality and serialism were created to generate music different from classical tonal western music, so the language also becomes different. So what I'm talking about is aimed at playing pre-modernist tonal music (baroque, classical, romantic...).

Offline hfmadopter

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #13 on: May 21, 2014, 07:34:44 PM
One of my peers plays piano and he always gives me a hard time because I dont care to understand what chords are being played in a piece. I just play whats written and play it well. but he believes i should know when an Eflat7 is being played in a piece and i shoulde know the progression otherwise dont play. He likens it to reading and says that we read because we know sentences and words and tells me you just know letters and dont understand what they make up.

His analogy should read more like in reading you know nouns, pronouns, adverbs, verbs and actively identify those as you read. Just my opinion of course. You should not concern yourself with the peers opinion at any rate, if you are succeeding and happy.

I don't know the answer to the rest of your question, if to or not to etc.. What I do know is that when you need it you will learn it.
Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.

Offline pianoman53

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #14 on: May 22, 2014, 07:07:26 AM
To simply know what an E7 chord is is not quite important, I think. What's important is to know how the voicing goes, and it's relationship with other chords. Deceptive cadences becomes much more "powerful" (in lack of a better word) when you know how it got there, and why it's special.

Offline lecafe88

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #15 on: May 25, 2014, 12:14:43 AM
If you think about it, one of the main advantages of the piano and keyboard instruments is the ability to create a ten voice melody (or maybe 12, as demonstrated by Alkan's Fire in the Neighbouring village 8)). Say that to a woodwind/brass player. As it is such a unique trait to the piano, even if one has absolutely no idea what the actual numbers/progressions are, he or she should at least recognise that if the composer wrote a chord, there's a deeper meaning into the music, as otherwise the composer may have simply written an octave (or a single note!)
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Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #16 on: May 25, 2014, 02:48:20 AM
To simply know what an E7 chord is is not quite important, I think. What's important is to know how the voicing goes, and it's relationship with other chords. Deceptive cadences becomes much more "powerful" (in lack of a better word) when you know how it got there, and why it's special.


I sort of agree but there's no excuse for not knowing what an e7 chord is. That said, musical voicing comes from horizontal voice leading in individual parts and awareness of which intervals give vertical interest. If there's a minor 9th anywhere in a chord, you should know exactly where and be sure that the tension between those two specific voices is heard. I've heard pianists who understand harmony fine but are clueless about how to actually voice chords to reflect harmonic tension. Some people do so instinctively, but it's much more likely that harmony will be reflected when a pianist pinpoints and colours them. I IV V etc is often nothing special. It's the rogue notes that matter, in association with the more ordinary notes they clash with. A former teacher used to make a very big deal of the importance of knowing exactly which two voices cause conflict and being aware of them. For example, the first page of scriabin's black mass sonata has an E flat minor chord with a natural on the bass. To reflect the tension, you must voice the a against the tritone E flat and also against the minor 9th b flat. You cannot evoke harmonic tension unless you know in which intervals that tension lies and work hard at learning to colour them. In that sense, merely knowing it's an E flat minor plus an A really is the tip of the iceberg. Good pianists know exactly where the tension exists and use that as a basis to decide on voicing. A good exercise is to isolate the most interesting intervals two notes at a time and play around with the colouring of only those notes. Then add the rest back in. The worst sin in voicing is to fail to colour interesting intervals and to show that interest (no matter how well hidden it may be among the rest of the chord). Note that tension may often exist purely in inner voices rather than involve the melodic line. This is often the specific reason why golden age pianists will bring out inner voices- not for the hell of it but rather because that's where the harmonic tension exists. A good pianist notices these things even when sightreading- because the unusual intervals and their resolutions start standing out to them.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #17 on: May 25, 2014, 03:15:03 AM
It seems unlikely something harmonically significant could be happening that wasn't audible.

It's extremely likely. A MIDI file sounds rubbish if it's programmed with every note equal. I strongly feel that some performers even listen TOO well and thus don't appreciate how to to make a listener hear interest. Just listen to how Horowitz brings out the minor 9th from g sharp to a just before the main theme comes back in scriabin's op. 2 no. 1. He knew that if he didn't bring it out, it wouldn't be heard properly as the tension that it should be. A pianist who assumes that merely because a minor 9th exists, musical tension will sort itself out is not a pianist I can bear to listen to. Music doesn't speak for itself at all and harmonic interest in particular doesn't automatically speak. In inner voices, it's typically lost quite pitifully by all but a handful of great artists. With equality (such as in bad MIDI) chromatic intervals tend to either be too grating for the ear to bear or lost altogether, when delivered to an impartial ear. A good performer has to make various decisions about whether to maximise or soften tensions in the music. If you can't notice these issues in the score, they won't necessarily be heard by performer or listener.

PS. Sorry to bring it to your own playing, but you make next to nothing of many of the wonderful harmonic tensions in your schumann on youtube.



You're hearing notes, but you're not hearing or delivering the colour of harmonic tensions, or reflecting the things that make the piece extremely interesting (rather than a trivial, simple miniature) in the hands of a true artist. If you break up individual chords and really listen in to every separate interval inside them, you'll start hearing something totally new that is currently absent. The Russians call it intonatsia. Piano playing is just notes without it, not music. Naming doesn't matter if you reflect the interest, but for those who don't, analysing chromaticisms is the first step of hearing a hierarchy of significance within chords, rather than hearing and executing a generic clump of undifferentiated sounds without real musical context.

Sorry, to be so critical, but it's necessary to reference such a blasť attitude about musical issues to the results you achieve from that attitude. People don't get to wow a listener with simple Schumann miniatures like in this fine execution



unless they are either super-talented on an instinctive level, or consciously aware of what ingredients contribute to profoundly musical results. Achieve something profound before you scoff at musical analysis.

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #18 on: May 26, 2014, 06:07:29 AM
Just listen to how Horowitz brings out the minor 9th from g sharp to a just before the main theme comes back in scriabin's op. 2 no. 1. He knew that if he didn't bring it out, it wouldn't be heard properly as the tension that it should be. A pianist who assumes that merely because a minor 9th exists, musical tension will sort itself out is not a pianist I can bear to listen to.

Perhaps it is fortunate you came to him late, then.  By the 1980's, he was doing as you say regularly....



Most clearly, or
similarly.

Listen, however, to his earlier recording from 1962:



Missing in action.

I would explain the need to bring out that A (and I agree it should be) in terms of the polyphony of the piece - how it works in the voice it appears in - but we have been down that path before and it may, in any case,  be a case of pronouncing tomato.

As an aside, this piece is based entirely on common practice harmony, albeit somewhat chromatic. It is, in this instance unproblematic to regard that interval as a minor 9th. How does one do the same thing in late Scriabin, where he uses a synthetic scale? Are you suggesting the same relationships apply anyway?
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Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #19 on: May 26, 2014, 10:58:44 AM
Perhaps it is fortunate you came to him late, then.  By the 1980's, he was doing as you say regularly....



Most clearly, or
similarly.

Listen, however, to his earlier recording from 1962:



Missing in action.

I would explain the need to bring out that A (and I agree it should be) in terms of the polyphony of the piece - how it works in the voice it appears in - but we have been down that path before and it may, in any case,  be a case of pronouncing tomato.

As an aside, this piece is based entirely on common practice harmony, albeit somewhat chromatic. It is, in this instance unproblematic to regard that interval as a minor 9th. How does one do the same thing in late Scriabin, where he uses a synthetic scale? Are you suggesting the same relationships apply anyway?

Missing in action? Really? Compare to other pianists playing the piece. The note comes out loud and clear still, just marginally less extremely than his late performances. Compare to many other pianists in the work. I assure you that it takes tremendous care and attention to bring it out even that much (although it projects even more when delayed by a millisecond for clarity). That's not the execution of someone who is either ignorant to the interesting interval or expecting it project of its own accord.

Counterpoint is always an issue, but what makes this part significant contrapuntally? The interval. What's the big deal about a new voice that enters merely to do a descending second? It's not a notable motif in the work or spectacularly interesting in its own right as a voice, but almost solely by virtue of the fact it contributes to a wagnerian chromatic harmony, when associated to the bass. Would you project that if it were merely an octave g sharp? It just wouldn't have the significance. Vertical harmonic hierarchy is part of what influences how horizontal voices will be sculpted (if we call a single descending second a 'voice') in the playing of all fine artists. Sorry to come back to this, but you really have got it badly wrong if you still believe that counterpoint is only about independent voices and not an integrated harmonic whole. Listen also in the playing of the Schumann by Demus. Would he have projected the very first note of the inner lines quite so fully, had they not involved chromatic notes? Almost certainly not. The tradition would be start a little under for the new voice and build through to the peak. But because the harmonic tension exists in the vertical intervals, he starts with an extremely full tone to make the tension come out. To speak as if counterpoint and harmonic issues are entirely separate would be missing out on a massive aspect of how masters approach counterpoint- with awareness of the significance in vertical intervals as well as horizontal ones. Music doesn't get off the ground without reflection of harmonic tensions. Rather than be blasť about it, you should fully consider these issues and ask yourself how they could add those dimensions that are absent in your sound.

In late scriabin, a minor 9th is still tension. His collections of fourths often sound extremely consonant. Traditionally chromatic intervals still give the tension to his music. Look at the opening tritones in ver la flames. That shouldn't sound ordinary to anyone, simply because he was using more chromatic chords in general. Minor seconds, major 7ths and such intervals always tend to evoke the most tension. Hearing the different qualities of different intervals can only be considered more important for scriabin.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #20 on: May 26, 2014, 09:26:27 PM
Still, its not much of an argument that it is essential that somebody should know what an Em7 chord is before he can properly play classical music.
1+1=11

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #21 on: May 26, 2014, 10:59:52 PM
Missing in action? Really? Compare to other pianists playing the piece. The note comes out loud and clear still, just marginally less extremely than his late performances.

If you say so.  ::)


What's the big deal about a new voice that enters merely to do a descending second?

New? You haven't been paying attention.

In late scriabin, a minor 9th is still tension. His collections of fourths often sound extremely consonant. Traditionally chromatic intervals still give the tension to his music. Look at the opening tritones in ver la flames. That shouldn't sound ordinary to anyone, simply because he was using more chromatic chords in general. Minor seconds, major 7ths and such intervals always tend to evoke the most tension. Hearing the different qualities of different intervals can only be considered more important for scriabin.

My question - an it is a question - is whether in a synthetic scale it is appropriate to refer to scale intervals by reference to the synthetic scale or by reference to a standard scale or to consider them in that way.  Even moreso in some 12 tone, particularly serial 12 tone, or other atonal forms. It 's clearly possible to do so, but doesn't thinking of it in that way presuppose the primacy or inevatbility of tonality?
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Offline faulty_damper

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #22 on: May 27, 2014, 04:58:30 AM
To change the direction of this debate...

In the pop music world of songwriting, chords are taught not just for voice-leading concerns, but principally for it's musical-emotional effects.  You learn to play chords, and then you learn to listen to how it sounds!  What kind of feelings it expresses is of utmost importance in songwriting because it must match the mood of the lyrics.  Having great lyrics means almost nothing if the music doesn't express it.

So, the importance of understanding chords is not in a pianist's ability to play them, but for the musician's ability to understand its meaning.  Good improvisors understand this (Gabriela Montero, for example, or Frederic Chopin) and uses it to their advantage at expressing certain ideas.  They can do this because they think in terms of emotion or color, not pianism (e.g. Scriabin, who was not a good improvisor).

Very few pianists actually listen to the color of the chords they play.  Thus, they see a 4-note chord and play it without consideration to the tone that is best able to express the mood.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #23 on: May 27, 2014, 02:56:23 PM
If you say so.  ::)


New? You haven't been paying attention.

My question - an it is a question - is whether in a synthetic scale it is appropriate to refer to scale intervals by reference to the synthetic scale or by reference to a standard scale or to consider them in that way.  Even moreso in some 12 tone, particularly serial 12 tone, or other atonal forms. It 's clearly possible to do so, but doesn't thinking of it in that way presuppose the primacy or inevatbility of tonality?

If you're splitting hairs about the fact that the piece has had a tenor voice before, that's not something that escaped my attention. The point is that it's a new entry compared to the prior bar. Your polyphony explanation fails, because nobody would bring out the rest of that tenor part in most of the middle section. In orchestration, you'd expect the fs to be merged in with other strings. It's just harmonic filler. The a would likely be something like a new entry from a French horn, to give a new colour to the chromaticisms and let it be heard as the tension it should be. That note is only interesting due to harmonic context and would not be given prominence if it was a g sharp. A normal note would be placed in the background like the harmonic fs. Harmonic context dictates execution of this tit-bit of polyphony and no other factor explains why the tenor part is so important here.

Regarding intervals, usage of standard accepted terminology for intervals is only terminology- not a reflection of being stuck in major vs minor thinking . Given that a minor second is not even the interval found in a minor scale, the system doesn't even fit consistently logically within tonality. I haven't been discussing in relation to minor or major, but in relation to the different innate qualities of different intervals, be they in regular tonality or in atonal music.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #24 on: May 27, 2014, 02:57:57 PM
Still, its not much of an argument that it is essential that somebody should know what an Em7 chord is before he can properly play classical music.

If someone doesn't know what E minor 7 is, neither will they have much sense of what chords are interesting.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #25 on: May 27, 2014, 03:06:30 PM
They can do this because they think in terms of emotion or color, not pianism (e.g. Scriabin, who was not a good improvisor).

Given that you never heard him improvise and that he was regarded by many as a very fine improviser, what are you basing this on?

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #26 on: May 27, 2014, 03:48:48 PM
If someone doesn't know what E minor 7 is, neither will they have much sense of what chords are interesting.

Understanding what an Em7 chord is, doesnt mean somebody can do better things with music either.

And believe it or not.... But some people create a feeling for music by -listening- to music, instead of reading about music.
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Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #27 on: May 27, 2014, 04:44:33 PM
Understanding what an Em7 chord is, doesnt mean somebody can do better things with music either.

And believe it or not.... But some people create a feeling for music by -listening- to music, instead of reading about music.

I said as much myself before. Harmonic tension lies mostly in awareness of intervals, not in naming chords. But it's extremely unlikely that someone who doesn't know what a 7th chord is will have any understanding of the fact that it's the 7th that creates the tension- if they don't even know what a 7th is. Labelling doesn't mean understanding. But being completely unable to label usually means minimal understanding the issues that contribute to character. It's a lot easier to evoke tension in sound if you already understand which notes actually carry it. Why hope to be the intuitive genius few succeed in being when you can instead learn these things?

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #28 on: May 27, 2014, 05:48:26 PM
Given that you never heard him improvise and that he was regarded by many as a very fine improviser, what are you basing this on?

His compositions, my dear.  No one who improvised well would really write in such heavy, block-like chords.  They'd make far better use of the notes to express the intended emotions.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #29 on: May 27, 2014, 07:37:27 PM
His compositions, my dear.  No one who improvised well would really write in such heavy, block-like chords.  They'd make far better use of the notes to express the intended emotions.

I'd humour you, were that not one of the single stupidest and most illogical pieces of reasoning I've ever heard. Even if he only wrote the first piano sonata, the reasoning would not make sense. The link is absurdly tenuous. But even the initial statement is not even accurate. Are you completely unfamiliar with the preludes? I've never encountered such an embarrassingly empty piece of reasoning for such a damning proclamation about something you are unable to judge or even witness.

Offline dima_ogorodnikov

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #30 on: May 27, 2014, 08:03:30 PM
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No amount of how-to information is going to work if you have the wrong mindset, the wrong guiding philosophies. Avoid losers like the plague, and gather with and learn from winners only.

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #31 on: May 27, 2014, 10:27:44 PM
Your polyphony explanation fails, because nobody would bring out the rest of that tenor part in most of the middle section. In orchestration, you'd expect the fs to be merged in with other strings. It's just harmonic filler.

Just out of curiosity, when you listen to a polyphonic piece (and lets step aside from this one, let's make it one that is undoubtedly polyphonic and fully contrapuntal) do you hear each of the voices as voices all throughout, whether they are the most prominent at a given point or not, or do you hear the most prominent voice and the remainder as harmony?

Regarding intervals, usage of standard accepted terminology for intervals is only terminology- not a reflection of being stuck in major vs minor thinking . Given that a minor second is not even the interval found in a minor scale, the system doesn't even fit consistently logically within tonality. I haven't been discussing in relation to minor or major, but in relation to the different innate qualities of different intervals, be they in regular tonality or in atonal music.

OK, makes sense. But do different intervals only have an innate quality. Don't they also have a contextual quality?
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Offline ashtonm

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #32 on: May 27, 2014, 10:37:30 PM
Understanding chords can only help you. Not quite sure why one would wish to avoid learning/identifying what can benefit them.

Cap

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #33 on: May 27, 2014, 10:52:11 PM
I'd humour you, were that not one of the single stupidest and most illogical pieces of reasoning I've ever heard. Even if he only wrote the first piano sonata, the reasoning would not make sense. The link is absurdly tenuous. But even the initial statement is not even accurate. Are you completely unfamiliar with the preludes? I've never encountered such an embarrassingly empty piece of reasoning for such a damning proclamation about something you are unable to judge or even witness.

There's a reason why Scriabin isn't as well-liked as Chopin; he didn't write in a manner that best conveyed certain emotions.  Even in the Preludes, the harmony lacks a lot of the necessary texture, often times a hollowness. If they were such masterpieces, it'd be far more often played and well-known, but it isn't.

BTW, I have not ever called you're ideas stupid even if that's what I think half of the time, especially when you twist or change things to suit your argument, like you did here about the Horowitz performances.  You purposefully distort so that you can be right.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #34 on: May 28, 2014, 01:48:34 AM
Just out of curiosity, when you listen to a polyphonic piece (and lets step aside from this one, let's make it one that is undoubtedly polyphonic and fully contrapuntal) do you hear each of the voices as voices all throughout, whether they are the most prominent at a given point or not, or do you hear the most prominent voice and the remainder as harmony?

Why would you even ask that? What kind of naive sort do you take me for? You seriously feel a need to ask if I would listen to fugue in such a staggeringly ignorant manner- merely because I wish to direct attention to additional aspects, within the overall picture? I don't even listen to homophonic pieces purely as melody and harmony. In fact, it's arguably a greater challenge to use vertical intervallic awareness to know when to project inner parts momentarily in homophonic music, than it is in counterpoint. It's obvious enough that fugue sujects need to take precedence for musical reasons and that no voice of a fugue should ever be relegated fully to a role of accompaniment. It takes a more refined awareness to appreciate when what might easily be taken as merely a full melody vs soft accompaniment occasionally requires greater projection of seemingly secondary parts, that play a vital in the harmonic schemes. No accomplished performer views even accompaniments purely as a background block of secondary sounds. They all notice both horizontal and vertical issues, that dictate the finer shadings.

Quote
OK, makes sense. But do different intervals only have an innate quality. Don't they also have a contextual quality?

Of course. Existing among additional ingredients affects the overall sound. Did I say anything that suggested otherwise? The point is that individual intervals still have their own personal flavour. The fact that bringing in extra ingredients changes the overall balance doesn't change the innate quality of separate intervals. Those who voice chords well don't miss the tension present in the most interesting intervals merely because they are disguised amongst additional context. However, lesser players merely tend to hear a single composite impression and thus fail to voice the tension well. Again, it's arguably a greater challenge in some ways to know how to make a single chromatic harmony resonate well (with minimal context in voice leading) than it is to follow obvious counterpoint horizontally. Most pianists simply don't have consistent awareness of where the tension lies in harmonies, but instead let their ears pick up the averaged out composite of what happens when you simply strike notes fairly equally. A minor ninth should evoke special tensions in any harmony (provided that you pick it out from the surroundings and listen in, rather than merely limit awareness to the overall blend- which can allow a perfomer to both miss it themself and miss getting it to the listener). Your first question is really bizarre to me, because to voice a chromatic chord as I have been describing, you have to listen and explore the interplay between all constituent voices. It simply couldn't be more opposite from the transparent implication that I only bother listening to melody plus an averaged out impression of a harmony. Not a single chord can be a mere slab of harmony, when such thinking has actually been applied between all combinations of constituent parts (or at least, going on to think of a harmonic clump would be an informed decision, after first checking out the components behind it and then deciding to treat them a singular, unified harmonic background- which can be valid in the right context, provided it's done with purpose).

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #35 on: May 28, 2014, 03:01:07 AM
Why would you even ask that?

No offence intended. I didn't doubt your analysis incorporated such factors, but it wasn't clear from what you had said that your actual hearing did. Not everyone's does, even if their analysis is impeccable.


The point is that individual intervals still have their own personal flavour.

Some pieces have polytonality. I'm curious how you regard intervals between the (say) two differently based parts. Are they more tightly bound to the tonality of the part they are in, or are all intervals equal?
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline Mayla

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #36 on: May 28, 2014, 03:05:23 AM
.
"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #37 on: May 28, 2014, 11:35:37 AM
No offence intended. I didn't doubt your analysis incorporated such factors, but it wasn't clear from what you had said that your actual hearing did. Not everyone's does, even if their analysis is impeccable.


Some pieces have polytonality. I'm curious how you regard intervals between the (say) two differently based parts. Are they more tightly bound to the tonality of the part they are in, or are all intervals equal?


How is it even possible to hear a five voice fugue as if mere melody and harmony? Different ears will pick out different levels of detail and different performers will make a point of drawing attention to different details. But I struggle to see how it's even possible to hear that way- nevermind how it might be implied by the fact that I choose to pay attention to the musical significance of vertical intervals within a harmony (be they approached by voice leading or a one off chord).


All intervals are compared to all intervals. That's the crux of what I've been saying. Say if you have f sharp and C major together, superficial analysis reveals two harmonies that can be reasonably clumped together as groups of sound. It may also pay heed to the obvious tritone. Proper intervallic awareness ALSO reveals that the tension exists primarily in f sharp against g and C sharp against C. Nothing is separate from the value of these principles, assuming it's grounded in the western scale.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #38 on: May 28, 2014, 11:59:01 AM

How is it even possible to hear a five voice fugue as if mere melody and harmony? Different ears will pick out different levels of detail and different performers will make a point of drawing attention to different details. But I struggle to see how it's even possible to hear that way- nevermind how it might be implied by the fact that I choose to pay attention to the musical significance of vertical intervals within a harmony (be they approached by voice leading or a one off chord).


All intervals are compared to all intervals. That's the crux of what I've been saying. Say if you have f sharp and C major together, superficial analysis reveals two harmonies that can be reasonably clumped together as groups of sound. It may also pay heed to the obvious tritone. Proper intervallic awareness ALSO reveals that the tension exists primarily in f sharp against g and C sharp against C. Nothing is separate from the value of these principles, assuming it's grounded in the western scale.

A lot of theory and analysis of music, but the ability of putting this on paper doesnt suddenly make someone better at getting it out of the piano, neither is it a requirement.

A decent performing musician can hear the friction/tension in a chord and the effect it has on the surrounding notes. Its all about the emotion that surrounds it, not about talking about it.
1+1=11

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #39 on: May 28, 2014, 12:25:52 PM
A lot of theory and analysis of music, but the ability of putting this on paper doesnt suddenly make someone better at getting it out of the piano, neither is it a requirement.

A decent performing musician can hear the friction/tension in a chord and the effect it has on the surrounding notes. Its all about the emotion that surrounds it, not about talking about it.

And it's also about whether you have the first clue to how to convey that. The whole point here is that you don't get to hear the tension unless you appreciate what generates it and voice accordingly. Even then, it takes a lot of practise to bring it out. There's is no advantage to rummaging around in the dark. Someone who doesn't even understand which notes generate the tension of a harmony is at a big disadvantage. appreciating precisely where harmonic tension actually lies is only the first steps towards expressing it, but it's a very important step. As jmenz described, people who work on mere feel tend to make a nice melody that stands out from harmonic background, but they also tend not to catch all the interesting harmonic details.

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #40 on: May 28, 2014, 02:14:35 PM
And it's also about whether you have the first clue to how to convey that. The whole point here is that you don't get to hear the tension unless you appreciate what generates it and voice accordingly. Even then, it takes a lot of practise to bring it out. There's is no advantage to rummaging around in the dark. Someone who doesn't even understand which notes generate the tension of a harmony is at a big disadvantage. appreciating precisely where harmonic tension actually lies is only the first steps towards expressing it, but it's a very important step. As jmenz described, people who work on mere feel tend to make a nice melody that stands out from harmonic background, but they also tend not to catch all the interesting harmonic details.

I suppose that will also mean that a pianist will never be able to master a piano untill he has worked in a piano factory and fully understands how the piano mechanically functions?
1+1=11

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #41 on: May 28, 2014, 05:53:52 PM
I suppose that will also mean that a pianist will never be able to master a piano untill he has worked in a piano factory and fully understands how the piano mechanically functions?


A completely illogical comparison. You cannot sculpt the details in intervals if you are not aware of them and cannot perceive which ones carry tension and which ones carry normal consonance. Everyone knows what pianos do in practise. Anyone who doesn't understand which notes carry consonance and dissonance has no means of reflecting it. Everyone who does achieve good voicing will still have to notice these issues to succeed, without any guidance or assistance. Most likely they just won't notice and will miss all the interesting details that they know nothing of. You have be even more aware of the ingredients involved in harmonic tension, to do it on intution. It's a fools goal, given how easy it is to take the time to organise the process of listening in and getting to know the flavour of each possible interval and then get used to recognising the interesting ones at first sight, rather than rummaging in the dark until it sounds nice. Very basic analysis shows where the interest lies in chords and gives the basis upon which to 'feel' the necessary colouration. Real interpretation is not slapped on randomly but reflects tensions and releases.

Offline j_menz

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #42 on: May 29, 2014, 11:10:13 AM
How is it even possible to hear a five voice fugue as if mere melody and harmony?

Quite a lot of people do. Cultural training?

Say if you have f sharp and C major together, superficial analysis reveals two harmonies that can be reasonably clumped together as groups of sound. It may also pay heed to the obvious tritone. Proper intervallic awareness ALSO reveals that the tension exists primarily in f sharp against g and C sharp against C.

If you have a melody in C major, and a simultaneous melody in F# major, it is quite possible that the intervals you describe never actually occur simultaneously.  It mat be all perfectly harmonious  regular intervals.   My question is to what extent do we need to regard the intervals between the two voices as the harmonic determinate, and to what extent does the place of an individual note in the scale of the key of which it is part have a place?
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #43 on: May 29, 2014, 12:55:30 PM
Quite a lot of people do. Cultural training?

If you have a melody in C major, and a simultaneous melody in F# major, it is quite possible that the intervals you describe never actually occur simultaneously.  It mat be all perfectly harmonious  regular intervals.   My question is to what extent do we need to regard the intervals between the two voices as the harmonic determinate, and to what extent does the place of an individual note in the scale of the key of which it is part have a place?

There's no difference. Dissonant intervals are dissonant, consonant ones are consonant. You'd have to give a specific example of how those could supposedly end up being harmonious if set together. This sounds more like a very hypothetical concept than a practical reality. To have any notable melodic variety, you'd either have dissonances between the voices or chromatic intervals/ odd harmonic shifts inside the parts. It couldn't sound like normal consonance. You'd really need to scribble down an example of what you're suggesting, if this is any more than a theory on the breeze.

Your argument seems to be based on a false dichotomy. The notes involved would generally be normal in their own part and dissonant against the other part. There's nothing exempted from the intervallic issues I described. What makes you feel this is some kind of counterexample to that?

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #44 on: May 29, 2014, 02:12:44 PM

A completely illogical comparison. You cannot sculpt the details in intervals if you are not aware of them and cannot perceive which ones carry tension and which ones carry normal consonance. Everyone knows what pianos do in practise. Anyone who doesn't understand which notes carry consonance and dissonance has no means of reflecting it. Everyone who does achieve good voicing will still have to notice these issues to succeed, without any guidance or assistance. Most likely they just won't notice and will miss all the interesting details that they know nothing of. You have be even more aware of the ingredients involved in harmonic tension, to do it on intution. It's a fools goal, given how easy it is to take the time to organise the process of listening in and getting to know the flavour of each possible interval and then get used to recognising the interesting ones at first sight, rather than rummaging in the dark until it sounds nice. Very basic analysis shows where the interest lies in chords and gives the basis upon which to 'feel' the necessary colouration. Real interpretation is not slapped on randomly but reflects tensions and releases.

You call it a completely illogical comparison because 'everybody knows what pianos do in practise' and at the same time you claim that people cant make music of an Em7 chord unless they analysed it till they can call it an Em7 chord?

I'd rather 'rummage in the dark' and hear the chords and patterns in them, than trying to cope with it like some math project like you seem to do know.
Do you even get to the point that you start -playing- the pieces? ;)
1+1=11

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #45 on: May 29, 2014, 02:37:04 PM
You call it a completely illogical comparison because 'everybody knows what pianos do in practise' and at the same time you claim that people cant make music of an Em7 chord unless they analysed it till they can call it an Em7 chord?

I'd rather 'rummage in the dark' and hear the chords and patterns in them, than trying to cope with it like some math project like you seem to do know.
Do you even get to the point that you start -playing- the pieces? ;)

You call it a completely illogical comparison because 'everybody knows what pianos do in practise' and at the same time you claim that people cant make music of an Em7 chord unless they analysed it till they can call it an Em7 chord?

I'd rather 'rummage in the dark' and hear the chords and patterns in them, than trying to cope with it like some math project like you seem to do know.
Do you even get to the point that you start -playing- the pieces? ;)

Em7 was your example not mine. It means next to nothing on it's own. The primary issue is chromaticisms and you don't understand that without knowing a simple 7th chord. Pianists without awareness typically do nothing to reflect the- because they neither know what they are not the musical significance of them. I play almost solely by feel in the end- so drop the fallacious polarisation.The difference is that I know where to look for inherent tension before experimenting with realisation of it, whereas someone who knows nothing of harmony is just hoping to get lucky, merely to even notice where the interest likes in the music (before we even get onto bringing it out). You can't play the opening of tristan and Isolde effectively on the piano unless you either copy someone else's interpretation like a mindless fool, or understand that the a sharp is a chromatic note that resolves into a hanging 7th chord. However you do it you need to understand exactly the same things of tension and release. Harmonic awareness is a big head start over anyone who is clueless about which notes stand out harmonically.

Decide for yourself whether I reflect harmonic tension or merely treat things like maths

https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=NwYnKYz41uQ&list=UU4hSnveJkhG8rLxQ9op8unw.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhg2Vic-LSo

Offline gyzzzmo

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #46 on: May 29, 2014, 04:30:22 PM
You can't play the opening of tristan and Isolde effectively on the piano unless you either copy someone else's interpretation like a mindless fool, or understand that the a sharp is a chromatic note that resolves into a hanging 7th chord.

Is it that hard to understand that maybe not everybody has to analyse music that much before being able to play it?
I listened to your recording and you seem to play it decently (recording isnt that good), so it obviously works for you. But dont make the mistake to think that because it is a requirement for you, other people can not effectively play it without the analysis unless copying. That is a pretty bold statement only based on yourself.

1+1=11

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: How vital is understanding chords?
Reply #47 on: May 29, 2014, 05:04:05 PM
Is it that hard to understand that maybe not everybody has to analyse music that much before being able to play it?
I listened to your recording and you seem to play it decently (recording isnt that good), so it obviously works for you. But dont make the mistake to think that because it is a requirement for you, other people can not effectively play it without the analysis unless copying. That is a pretty bold statement only based on yourself.



I didn't say that. I said they can't reflect what  they aren't aware of- unless copying someone who was aware of it. If someone has never noticed which intervals carry the most musical tension, neither are they likely to reflect interest where it occurs. It's down to luck whether they detect it. Being ignorant is never anything but a disadvantage that radically lowers the odds of significance being either observed or reflected. You might as well argue that a pianist who doesn't know what the subject of a fugue is might intuitively bring it out. More likely, they'll miss what they are unaware of as being important.. And the importance of a subject is actually more obvious than the location of significant harmonic intervals, not less so. Ignorance is not bliss and the evolutionary approach of unguided learning rarely leads to an an all round result. Analysis is there to pick the important issues that intuition almost always misses, not a replacement for listening or feeling.

I wouldn't have reached my own level had I not had a teacher who made me more of aware of what harmonic tension is and who showed me how to find it. I used to do it all intuitively and thus didn't learn anything other than what my instincts could see at the time. You don't expand your limits unless you go outside of them.
 

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