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Topic: Could improvising harm technique?  (Read 1821 times)

Offline will

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Could improvising harm technique?
on: December 11, 2004, 04:54:10 AM
Seymour Fink defines technique as "purposeful movement for musical ends.
Purposeful coordinated movement triggered by inner hearing form the basis of musical expression."

Now, an unskilled improviser (e.g. me) can play much faster than what they can 'think' the music. What I mean is that the player's fingers move and create sound but the player doen't really know exactly what it is going to sound like before it actually sounds.  (especially concerning the note's exact pitch)

The player may know whether the note(s) is going to be loud or soft, long or short but that is about it.  Therefore an unskilled improviser will not have precise inner hearing of what they are about to play.

Therefore, do you think this kind of improvising could be harmful to technique?

 

Offline Brian Healey

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #1 on: December 11, 2004, 05:10:47 AM
It wouldn't be harmful unless your technique itself is harmful. What it will do, though, is get you in the habit of playing emotionally meaningless improvisations. The more you can get your inner voice onto the instrument, the more satisfying improvisation will become. It's tough at first, because you're hearing all this stuff and you don't know how to play it. Start out with singing very diatonic melodies and playing them back on the piano. Your singing voice may sound like crap, but it will improve. The more you practice this, the more you will be able to hear and play more complex lines. I know that before I started doing this, my solos felt like a bunch of meaningless notes. When you can really play your inner music, it also affects your audience. An audience can sense the genuine-ness of it, and they appreciate it more than just a bunch of willy-nilly notes.

Offline ted

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #2 on: December 11, 2004, 07:17:19 AM

Will:

No, I do not think improvisation is more likely to harm technique than is any other mode of playing. In fact I have found precisely the opposite.

Also, I think the ways of improvising vary greatly from person to person. Some know exactly where they are going, some do not; some employ much freer structures than others. For me part of the thrill of improvisation is surprising myself. Were I to do it entirely at the conscious level there would be no surprise at all and I think I would get sick of that pretty quickly.

I disagree with the often quoted definition of improvisation as simply very rapid composition; for me it is something completely different. I compose too, and the two processes can certainly reinforce and feed each other in many ways but improvisation employs the unconscious to a much greater degree.

Improvisation is a critical mixture of knowing and not knowing what is coming. When this mixture has just the right proportion of knowing and not knowing, amazing things start to happen. It is neither a precise verbatim realisation of mental sound nor a  random cascade of physically convenient notes. Both these two extremes miss the point.

Well, I suppose in the end I can only answer for myself, and no improvisation of any kind, interesting, dull, precise or wild has ever harmed my physical technique in the slightest. On the contrary, because of the extremely wide variation in keyboard vocabulary I use, it has done my physical technique a great service. I guess if somebody improvised by just using the same old positions and figures over and over it could have a negative effect, but I don't do that.
"Everything in music should be fun, a celebration of life....”  - Cecil Taylor

Offline Daevren

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #3 on: December 13, 2004, 12:41:29 AM
I am amazed that somone would wonder this. Of course not.

What does it matter for technique if you know or don't know how the music is going to sound?

Improvising will only make you a better musician.

I wonder if there are people that try to spread lies like this one.

Offline Goldberg

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #4 on: December 13, 2004, 02:00:38 AM
Yes, everyone above is absolutely correct. I'll even add that Cziffra (one of the undisputed masters of improv) stated that his supreme command of the keyboard was vastly due to "the incessant practicing of all kinds of technique, and frequent systematic improvisation." (paraphrased a little; I don't have an exact source in front of me, and only read it once on some random site I think). So, I think it's important to keep in mind that improvisation can really HELP your technique, as mentioned above. In fact, aside from occassional technical exercises, I often improvise "etudes" with a specific technique to work on, like thirds or octaves, and just pay close attention to that in particular, while exploring various interesting chords and melodies. This is somewhat similar to how Cziffra did it, only he was much better at it! (of course, he also essentially *learned* how to play that way too)

Offline will

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #5 on: December 13, 2004, 03:23:40 AM

What does it matter for technique if you know or don't know how the music is going to sound?


   Isn't a good technique one which perfectly transfers the sound 'in your head' to the  sound that actually comes out from the keyboard? This means that you need to know in advance what the music will sound like before you play it.   

Offline Maui

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #6 on: December 13, 2004, 02:59:04 PM


   Isn't a good technique one which perfectly transfers the sound 'in your head' to the  sound that actually comes out from the keyboard? This means that you need to know in advance what the music will sound like before you play it.   


You can call it a technique but is not physical technique, its not finger technique.

Offline Daevren

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #7 on: December 14, 2004, 10:46:58 AM
Yes, it isn't a physical technique.

And guess what you need to practice to know how each note is going to sound before you play it? Right, improvisation, because that mental technique is almost improvisation, its transfering the melody in your head in real time unto the keys and into sound.

I don't get it at all.

Offline Derek

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Re: Could improvising harm technique?
Reply #8 on: January 22, 2005, 05:25:44 PM
I have an interesting specific example from my experience that sheds light on this question.

Long before I taught myself to play the Fantasy Impromptu, I had a vocabulary of dozens of runs that go up and down various scales in weird/crooked ways. I discovered these just by moving my fingers in a sort of repeatable pattern such that my fingers would land on physically convenient keys on the keyboard.

Amusingly, one of these runs happens to be remarkably similar to the fast, descending run near the beginning of Fantasy Impromptu (starts at the high B and sort of follows the pattern of a diminished run)...so when I practiced that run from the impromptu it turned out to be very easy to play.

So no, I don't think improvisation or ANY kind of playing could harm technique. The only thing that could harm your technique is if you're obviously tense all the time while playing. Sometimes when learning a new technique you'll be tense a little bit, but just remain aware of it and practice a new figure more slowly until it becomes natural and easy.
 

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