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Legato Line Help? (Read 1211 times)

Offline pianorahrah

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Legato Line Help?
« on: May 10, 2016, 05:26:54 PM »
Hi everyone, I need help with playing a legato line. I've been learning the piano for 8 years, and for some reason, no matter how hard I try, everybody says I have a bad touch and a bad legato. My teacher says my touch is unsophisticated.
And the thing is, I know how a legato works. You put body and arm weight on your fingers, and then slowly lift it up and exchange with the other finger slowly.
Then I go home and work on it, and it doesn't get better. :(
Can somebody help me? Thanks!
Scriabin, Chopin, Ravel, and Handel.

Offline outin

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #1 on: May 11, 2016, 03:10:00 AM »
My teacher says my touch is unsophisticated.
And the thing is, I know how a legato works. You put body and arm weight on your fingers, and then slowly lift it up and exchange with the other finger slowly.

I your teacher thinks your touch is inadequate he/she should be a better help for you... And that's not how I perceive legato at all. Do you listen to how your playing sounds or do you just think about what you are physically doing?

Offline adodd81802

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #2 on: May 11, 2016, 08:21:49 AM »
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Offline pianorahrah

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #3 on: May 17, 2016, 02:07:00 AM »
Here's my thoughts

I think legato, firstly is NOT staccato. They may be obvious, but what do we do with staccato, we attack a note and bring our finger off, usually quite suddenly like the note is a trampoline pushing our finger away. This action in most circumstances breaks the connection to the next note, I think because we want to give that note individual importance.

You can play a slur of staccato notes, or even with pedal, but we know it's staccato because of how we touch the keys.

Legato, I find is the opposite approach, we don't attack the notes, but our fingers jump into them as if each note was a swimming pool of sound, with main focus being to connect that sound with the next note.

Legato, like staccato, doesn't need pedal to make it legato, it can be big jumps, or notes next to each other, but it must sound connected, it must have shape and phrase and unless intended by the composer, no particular notes must stand out, but the whole phrase or slur must be very clear.

Often comparable is slurs and phrases to breathing, and so in between those slurs must be clear that a new breath is being taken.

There's probably nothing wrong with your actual legato playing, but if it doesn't not have shape you simply have a list of notes to go through like a robot, not pleasing on the ear.

Interestingly you say you've been learning 8 years, it surprises me you can go 8 years being taught and only now realized you've got a bad touch.

I have known that I have a bad touch but never knew how to fix it :(
Scriabin, Chopin, Ravel, and Handel.

Offline pianorahrah

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #4 on: May 17, 2016, 02:07:57 AM »
I your teacher thinks your touch is inadequate he/she should be a better help for you... And that's not how I perceive legato at all. Do you listen to how your playing sounds or do you just think about what you are physically doing?

My teacher is actually very very advanced...he is a teacher in a top conservatory.
I listen to myself and I know something's wrong, I just don't know what to do.
Scriabin, Chopin, Ravel, and Handel.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #5 on: May 17, 2016, 02:39:19 AM »
Sing the phrase then emulate that breath in your playing. Unfortunately not much else I can say without sitting next to you and working on something with musical context.
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Offline outin

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #6 on: May 17, 2016, 04:00:22 AM »
My teacher is actually very very advanced...he is a teacher in a top conservatory.
I listen to myself and I know something's wrong, I just don't know what to do.

It seems he is not the right teacher for you right now. You need someone used to fixing problems with basics of playing and who will tell and show you what you must do to sound better.

The other option is to just experiment yourself. Slowly and with simple passages. You cannot just miraculously change your playing of advanced music that you already learned. Try different things with your arms, hands and fingers until you think it sounds good and then record yourself to actually hear it. Your perception of how your playing sounds may be off.

It could also be as suggested above that your playing of the notes is ok, but you cannot connect them into meaningful and smooth phrases. Much of piano playing is make believe in the sense that what it perceived is more important than what actually happens.

Offline pianoplayer002

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #7 on: May 17, 2016, 09:32:36 AM »
My teacher is actually very very advanced...he is a teacher in a top conservatory.
I listen to myself and I know something's wrong, I just don't know what to do.

And that is your teacher's job to help you with. If your teacher cannot teach you how to improve your legato and touch, but rather just keep telling you that it is bad, then, I am sorry, he is still not a good teacher for you. Because he is not, you know, teaching you the skills you need.

I recently visited a top conservatory with lots of great musicians at teaching posts, but it was a complete joke. Everybody was basically just telling the student: "play it like this". No explanation why, no overarching musical principles, no pedagogic approach, and if the student struggled too much, the teacher got bored and just moved on. There was one student who was really tense, and visibly frustrated that he didn't get the musical results he wanted, and the teacher didn't do anything to help him, didn't say one word about relaxation. The most talented students got good musical input, the rest were just left behind.

Offline pianorahrah

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #8 on: May 19, 2016, 02:44:40 AM »
And that is your teacher's job to help you with. If your teacher cannot teach you how to improve your legato and touch, but rather just keep telling you that it is bad, then, I am sorry, he is still not a good teacher for you. Because he is not, you know, teaching you the skills you need.

I recently visited a top conservatory with lots of great musicians at teaching posts, but it was a complete joke. Everybody was basically just telling the student: "play it like this". No explanation why, no overarching musical principles, no pedagogic approach, and if the student struggled too much, the teacher got bored and just moved on. There was one student who was really tense, and visibly frustrated that he didn't get the musical results he wanted, and the teacher didn't do anything to help him, didn't say one word about relaxation. The most talented students got good musical input, the rest were just left behind.
Something weird about me is that my teacher is teaching me to improve touch and legato and shows me the sound, shows it to me over 50 times and even teaches me how to distribute weight and the correct touch on EVERY. SINGLE. NOTE, but I just don't get it. He tells me what's wrong and how to fix it but I don't know how to do it :'( maybe i'm just not talented?
Scriabin, Chopin, Ravel, and Handel.

Offline bzzzzzt

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #9 on: June 03, 2016, 08:58:45 AM »
Something weird about me is that my teacher is teaching me to improve touch and legato and shows me the sound, shows it to me over 50 times and even teaches me how to distribute weight and the correct touch on EVERY. SINGLE. NOTE, but I just don't get it. He tells me what's wrong and how to fix it but I don't know how to do it :'( maybe i'm just not talented?

I don't believe that you're "just not talented".  It's obvious from what you write that you have a love for, and commitment to the piano.  From my experience of similar problems I'd agree with others above that listening might be more important than analysing the mechanics of what you are doing.  I learnt a lot from listening to recordings of older pianists like Arthur Rubinstein.  And critically listening to recordings of myself playing very simple phrases.

One of the best tips I read on this forum was when I was struggling to get the right tone in a passage in Beethoven Op28 with two legato lines in the right hand.  The advice - try playing it with both hands to get the sound you want in your head.  Then it becomes easier to reproduce that sound with the one-hand fingering needed. It worked!
Beethoven 2/3
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Offline amytsuda

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #10 on: June 05, 2016, 07:39:33 AM »
Something weird about me is that my teacher is teaching me to improve touch and legato and shows me the sound, shows it to me over 50 times and even teaches me how to distribute weight and the correct touch on EVERY. SINGLE. NOTE, but I just don't get it. He tells me what's wrong and how to fix it but I don't know how to do it :'( maybe i'm just not talented?

I noticed you are playing Scriabin Sonata No 2 in another post. So I think you are discussing the legato line at the very higher level, at the proper level for someone who studied piano for 8 years with a conservatory teacher. The difference of tones and legato lines of ordinary students v.s. ones who can actually pursue performance study can not be attained in 50 times, I think.

I have horrible touches and horrible legatos. I was mostly self-taught, but have been getting lessons now for 2.5 years. Those teachers have been putting me on all sorts of things but I think ultimately they are: 1) finger independence, 2) strengthening my extremely short and weak pinkies, 3) freeing my body and arms, 4) core support, 5) wrist position, 6) mindful action on every note. On the way, I learned about my small hands, small pinkies, position of my thumbs, big stretch with weak joints, etc and what those do on my playing. I gave up on Scriabin, I will never get the sounds and lines that are needed for Scriabin.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #11 on: June 05, 2016, 11:13:44 PM »
Hi everyone, I need help with playing a legato line. I've been learning the piano for 8 years, and for some reason, no matter how hard I try, everybody says I have a bad touch and a bad legato. My teacher says my touch is unsophisticated.
And the thing is, I know how a legato works. You put body and arm weight on your fingers, and then slowly lift it up and exchange with the other finger slowly.
Then I go home and work on it, and it doesn't get better. :(
Can somebody help me? Thanks!
1)  Your predicate does not adequately define what you mean by legato.  A whole lot of people throw this word around as if it is assumed that all of pianists agree, accordingly.  That is not true!

2)  If the inference is to effectuate a "smooth line," then their are many ways to do that.  However, as politely stated by your less than genuine teacher, you are supposed to figure that out for yourself.  That, also, is not true.

3)  Specifically, in regards 20th century repertoire, "proper" pedaling can accomplish this in most instances.

4)  However, when it comes to a mid-19th century piano and beyond, this is how I was taught to play legato. (without the pedal):

1)  Sitting quietly at the piano, with a good relaxed posture, one plays the following with no arm weight:

2)  Starting at middle C, you play a five finger scale to G.  Then starting over, you play C, and then D, while holding onto the prior C for a half beat.  And, then you release.

3)  Phrased another way, you play (one, two and half), and then (two, three and a half), and so forth until you reach the note G.

6)  Additionally, referencing my prior post on super-staccato, it is "extremely important" that the matriculate does not press or push when doing this exercise.

As always, any questions may be forwarded to me by PM.


Offline xdjuicebox

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #12 on: June 07, 2016, 03:40:58 AM »
The damper for the first note should not touch the string until the hammer strikes for the second note. Flawless legato is when the overlap is minimal, but still there.

Forget trying to be smooth; start with considerable overlap and then reduce it little by little.

Also, a lot of legato is the illusion of "line." One consistent motion in terms of dynamics, in terms of touch, tone, etc.

Your voice is a continuous thing is it not? Yet if randomly start SCREAMING and then talking really quiet, it does not sound legato, however, if you did this on one breath without stopping phonation, it technically WAS legato. Something to think about.

Best of luck!
I am trying to become Franz Liszt. Trying. And failing.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Legato Line Help?
«Reply #13 on: June 07, 2016, 10:13:11 PM »
The damper for the first note should not touch the string until the hammer strikes for the second note. Flawless legato is when the overlap is minimal, but still there.

Forget trying to be smooth; start with considerable overlap and then reduce it little by little.

Also, a lot of legato is the illusion of "line." One consistent motion in terms of dynamics, in terms of touch, tone, etc.

Your voice is a continuous thing is it not? Yet if randomly start SCREAMING and then talking really quiet, it does not sound legato, however, if you did this on one breath without stopping phonation, it technically WAS legato. Something to think about.

Best of luck!
Coupled with the basic technique I referred to in my post, this particular post pretty much takes the effectuation of "Legato" to a doctoral level.

That is:  you can search and search forever, ask any so-called great Master Class teacher you can find, and then you would be hard-pressed to find a more definitive answer to the OP's original interrogatory than what is before you.

Muchisimas gracias to "xdjuicebox."