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Mental Development (Read 4189 times)

Offline danthecomposer

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Mental Development
« on: October 09, 2014, 10:32:57 AM »
Hello,

I wrote an article.

"Your body follows your mind; an excellent mental technique will always create an excellent physical technique.  Excessive mindless practice creates a technician, not a musician with a musical personality", and would welcome comments on it.

Read more:  http://piano-jazz.blogspot.hu/2014/10/developing-mental-technique.html

Enjoy :)
www.danthecomposer.com
Ich weiss dass mein Erlöser lebt - Liszt Ferenc

Offline dima_ogorodnikov

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #1 on: October 09, 2014, 12:28:47 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 outin

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #2 on: October 09, 2014, 12:51:40 PM »

- You seem to suggest that scales and arpeggios are boring. They're only boring if the teacher's or student's attitude towards them is uncreative.


I personally find the basic scales tonally boring, just like a lot of music that operates on them. How do you get creative with them, play wrong?  ;D

Offline dima_ogorodnikov

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #3 on: October 09, 2014, 01:04:21 PM »
-
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 outin

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #4 on: October 09, 2014, 01:31:46 PM »
They're the building blocks for chords and a very good starting point for improvising, arranging already existing melodies, etc. That's the way they should be introduced and practised. When you know and recognize them, when your fingers know them, the pieces you play get more context and you play with less effort.

True, but does that make them any less boring to play?
It just makes them interesting theoretically...

Offline dima_ogorodnikov

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #5 on: October 09, 2014, 01:39:41 PM »
-
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 outin

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #6 on: October 09, 2014, 01:56:28 PM »
It's a pity that theory and practice are no longer taught in an integrated fashion as the Old Masters did. Instead we practise the same repertoire over and over, weeks and months on end, often without even understanding what we play and call that a "more musical approach".

That I can agree with. Theory can make practicing pieces more interesting and practicing pieces makes the theory feel much more useful and connected to what I do.

Offline danthecomposer

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #7 on: October 12, 2014, 06:31:47 AM »
In response to Dima_...,

"- You seem to suggest that scales and arpeggios are boring. They're only boring if the teacher's or student's attitude towards them is uncreative.
- You also seem to suggest that a student can magically make conscious decisions on the spot about beauty without having done a great deal of practical theory (= "technique"). I mean, it's not an easy feat to voice cascades of chords on the spot in different styles, different keys, etc. and to create interesting melody lines on top of them. It seems to me that this requires years and years of practice in ... "technique".

As to the Liszt quote "Technique should create itself from spirit, not from mechanics". This is NOT a statement against technique and/or technical formulas/patterns as such. It's against endless mindless repetition. His bundles of Technical Exercises are not for the faint of heart, by the way. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of drilling them, while his purpose is quite different."

I may seem it to suggest this, but I do not intend to.  Scales are absolutely necessary to the pianist.  I, however, do not see scales as part of melodic music, which sounds strange, but let me explain; I see them as a tool to play the piano both physically so and musically so.  Put another way, I usee them as a tool to develop (well, manitain) finger independence and I am aware of their existence musically so that I may 'find myself' in a song, or improvisation, like a kind of road map, so that I don't get lost.  This is what I meant when I wrote 'not part of melodic music'.  Playing scales as an improvisation, or basing a new composition on scales alone, is very basic.  A good starting point for newbies but to be advanced upon immediately.

I do indeed imply that a 'student' (when does a student become not a student, by the way?) is to create beauty on the spot.  Do you know why? Because it's entirely possible and doable.  Have you ever recognised that when people whistle, even if they're not musical, they can whistle IN KEY?  They can improvise a whistling melody on the stop, in a key which comes naturally (without thought) and will subconsciously hit all the correct notes to make their improvisation?  The problem with piano players ('students' and 'teachers') is that they consider the piano separate to the body; it is not. The only way to play, or do for that matter, anything 'arty' is to become the finished product in your mind so that your body may catch up and create it for others to see or hear.

Your final point about years and years is exactly my point; no!  I urge you, with the greatest of respect, to stop thinking in this way and to alter your consideration of what is possible.  One technique I use with improvisation students is to ask them to give me 10 numbers between 1 and 13 (due to the jazzy 13th being the highest value note in jazz theory, rather than just 7, from the major scale).  Once they do, we apply the note values based on the root of the chord of the part of the song we're at (this may be 2 or 3 chords).  This then provides us with a random, improvised melody.  When asked, no student can ever explain why they gave me those numbers.  They did not worry about theory, they did not question the number, they did not worry if it would sound good or not; this way of thinking, combined with an underlying knowledge of scales (as I said inthe beginning, to not get lost), enables the pianist to be more free in their subconscious playing and less tied up by pointless conscious worrying.

:)
www.danthecomposer.com
Ich weiss dass mein Erlöser lebt - Liszt Ferenc

Offline danthecomposer

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #8 on: October 12, 2014, 06:33:46 AM »
(... oh, and I have those Technical Exercises.  I work through them regularly, again, not to 'be good at them', but to develop particular finger independence.  I do this with eyes closed (once the pattern has been internalised from the score) so that I can develop my internal piano and make the physical piano more of myself than just 'looking at it with eyes and playing it with fingers').
www.danthecomposer.com
Ich weiss dass mein Erlöser lebt - Liszt Ferenc

Offline ted

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #9 on: October 13, 2014, 09:26:27 AM »
It is an interesting viewpoint, and thanks for posting the link. However, I have always felt completely free to create and play as I please, and the existence of magisteria such as classical and jazz, with their huge traditions, do not at all imply that I must either follow them or attack them. I do not see that anything needs "smashing". They may enjoy themselves in their way and I in mine. Scales, and any other keyboard formations, are just arbitrary aural and haptic data which I have never felt less than free to use as I please to map onto my psyche over a lifetime. Incidentally, I suggest that ragtime, in particular, is by no means easy to play well; that implication seems to me simply wrong. Really good ragtime players and composers are much rarer than good classical or jazz pianists, and by a good margin in my experience.

But maybe I was just lucky with the teachers of my youth, who never tried to mould me, and I therefore do not see the problem.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline keypeg

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #10 on: October 14, 2014, 04:50:16 PM »
I have some strong opinions because of my own experiences.  Let me see if I can set them out.

For the article, when it talks about "technique", it describes things like playing scales, apparently at the level of pressing an endless series of notes in identical intervals.  I understand too much of that happens, but that seems to be a description of poor and lackluster "teaching".  I would not want to be taught that way (or teach that way) either.  Agreed so far.

For the rest - I'm coming from the opposite place of many of you who began young with teachers.  I had all the exploring and imagining you could ever want, since there were no lessons - ever - until these last years.  I did what the subject line proposes: I imagined mentally how it should sound, and played it that way.  This was with classical written music that was in the house, but the process remains.  Because my idea of reading was sketchy and more like a singer, I pictured how it would sound and played what I pictured - mind leading.  I might also take a few notes from my Clementi or Mozart, play with them, and create something new.  Quite like what is being proposed.  Is it ideal or complete?  No - it was not!

Take something simple.  In your mind you are picturing the music getting louder, then fast and loud.  The intensity and the loudness make you feel "force", "pushing hard and intensely into the keys" - you're untrained and have no technique.  If you're young, maybe your hands will survive the cramping.  But the "intense loud" may sound like banging, lacking subtlety - the speed is never yours. You cannot produce what you are picturing, because you don't have the technique to pull it off.  What you imagine will only bring you so far.  After that it's a brick wall.  Getting the PHYSICAL part from a competent teacher gets you out of that cage.  (I described my own experience, btw).

Some other experiences:  When I studied my first instrument to be with lessons at age 50, I came up with a snatch of a melody one day, which that teacher urged me to develop.  When I did he said I had modulated from C to G, and it would sound even better if it modulated back.  The modulating had been subconscious (seen as a good thing in the OP) - I had no idea how I had done it.  It took two weeks of the melody spinning in my head to get it modulating back down "somehow".  These days I could do it in ten minutes, because I have the theory.  But.... When I studied theory finally, it was mentally.  For piano, (again) the physical experience of playing all your "white" major chords (C, F, G), all the bl.wh.bl. (Eb etc.) - toggling to minor via the middle note - experiencing these in your hands and ear, and letting senses and experience teach the mind - this is also invaluable.  Imho, "theory" must be a physical / sensory (ears) experience as well.  In fact, I don't think that any part of the three should always be put ahead of the others - the three being mind - body - senses (ears etc.).

I often see people who were given technique and some degree of theory in their childhood wax lyrical about learning unfettered from these things.  While having those skills.  Or (it might happen often) that they got mediocre teaching but picked up enough through the exposure.  But if by any chance you are teaching students from scratch, they need more than their imagination.  They need the things that I hoped to describe.  Otherwise anyone who does have an imagination ultimately will become frustrated at what they "can't" do, simply for lack of tools.

However, a regimen of scales is not "technique" or anything.  Dima made some solid inroads into that part as I recall.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #11 on: October 14, 2014, 05:13:58 PM »
Taking this last paragraph:
Quote
(linked article in OP)
... If pianists of all calibres began to see and play the piano as an extension of the body producing what the mind has create as a 'sonic image' (playing with your eyes closed, for example) and realise that obsessive scale study doesn't produce a pianist much in the same way that spending much of your time (alone or with a student) on arm positions is not a carved-in-stone solution for everyone, I assure you that playing the piano will become a much more enjoyable, personal affair and a lot of the energy wasted through worrying about doing things wrong will be chanelled into doing what your heart and ears feel as right.

 Wall smashed?

In the first sentence, you are describing where I was at initially.  Any instrument was an extension of what I mentally pictured.  I left out "body" because I wasn't aware of it.  Somehow I blew into the recorder, or got sounds out of the piano keys, or plucked out what I wanted out of the guitar.  It was somewhat convincing to non-musicians, because I did feel the music as I played it, and some of that went into my playing.  For teachers, maybe they heard potential.  My point is that it was limited and limiting.

Presently I am working in an almost unmusical way in order to overcome my lacks.    I've become aware of my position in space = near middle C, that to reach the distant keys I'm leaning to the left or right and counterbalancing even with my legs or where I'm seated, which keeps my arms loose.  I know that "loud" is a loose motion, not an intense tight poke, and aim for it.  What I get from that allows me to make the music sound the way I want it to sound.  

I'd say  that it depends on where the student is at, what the student's needs are, and how it is taught.  I would not ascribe to mindless scales, nor to some dogmatic "arm position".  However, I do ascribe strongly to physical guidance by an observant teacher who has mastered his/her craft and knows how to impart these things.  For me, being guided through technique and other things written in my last post brings me OUT of imprisoning walls: the limitations of what I can reach through my imagination were the walls.  Not only did I go as far as I could go on my own long ago, but some of the things I created through imagination alone ended up hampering me.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #12 on: October 19, 2014, 07:56:28 AM »
Danthecomposer, you wrote about hypothetical students.  I wrote from the viewpoint of the experiences of an actual student.  Will you be responding to those particular concerns at any time?  It is somewhat disappointing to see zero response.

Offline danthecomposer

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #13 on: November 04, 2014, 10:36:37 AM »
Hello there,

I do apologise.  I have been insanely occupied with my novel and also was in England for 1 week for my birthday.  I have just returned and need to prioritise the many things I am doing.

I shall respond to your points in due course and thank you for your involvement in this discussion!

Dan
www.danthecomposer.com
Ich weiss dass mein Erlöser lebt - Liszt Ferenc

Offline keypeg

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Re: Mental Development
«Reply #14 on: December 29, 2014, 06:24:40 AM »
I shall certainly continue to look forward to your response.