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Trifonov Live in Carnegie Hall

Hear Trifonovs captivating recital at Carnegie Hall as of December 7th in works by Schumann, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and encores by Medtner. The music on this program requires poetry and passion that only a master pianist can deliver. “Daniil Trifonov’s playing has it all … he leaves you struggling for superlatives,” said The Guardian. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Preserving Touch  (Read 635 times)
cuberdrift
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« on: July 26, 2017, 08:44:32 AM »

So I press a note several times.

Eventually I get it to sound EXACTLY THE WAY I WANT.

But then later, I press it again.

The touch is different.

I have to repeatedly press it again until I get the tone I want, again.

I can't seem to "memorize" this tone.

Do you guys have any ideas on how I might be able to memorize this tone?

Thanks,
cuberdrift
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hardy_practice
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2017, 11:10:17 AM »

Your body will do it for you.  You just need to expect the sound (and obviously know the sound).
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timothy42b
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« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2017, 05:28:02 PM »

There are two standard approaches.

One is the goal focused method, suggested by hardy.  Have a clear and powerful image of the sound you want, and don't worry too much about exactly how you get it.  This is sometimes called Inner Tennis after the book by Gallwey. 

The other is the method focused approach.  Learn what it is you do differently when it works.  Is it a forearm relaxation, a shoulder rotation, a careful curvature of the finger, etc.?  Once you know how it's done, you know how to reproduce it, and you can analyze why when it goes wrong.

Which works better?  Well, there are proponents for both camps.  Most of the better players, and all the naturals, tend to be goal players.  But it is my feeling that each of us tends to learn best in one or the other style, and attempts to use the other style lead to frustration.

One thing for sure, if you want to be a good teacher, you'd better have some access to the methodological style. 

 
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Tim
cuberdrift
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2017, 05:52:44 PM »

Thank you for your responses!

As I see it, acquiring great technique is about "internalizing" these motions that enable one to produce the sound he desires.

It is this internalization that I want to know about.

When I internalize a technique, I no longer need to "picture" the sound in my head - it is already in my "sensory system". It comes out automatically the moment I play the piano.

Must I merely repeat the note several times in order to internalize it?

Then there is the problem of increased speed - i.e. if I want to do a quick scale but with a certain nuance, I play each individual note at a certain volume - yet it becomes increasingly difficult for me to retain this clarity and volume as my speed increases.

I think I understand both concepts - goal-oriented & method-oriented. Yet how do I use either to internalize it?

Thanks once more.
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hardy_practice
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2017, 06:25:55 PM »

I wouldn't 'do' anything - it's a listening thing.  If you read this book: http://www.northeastern.edu/cos/2017/03/psychology-professors-newest-book-looks-brain-constructs-emotions/ you will realize that the world is created from the inside (ourselves) to the outside.  You create the sound in the world by experiencing it.  Any other way is that centipede story (or was it a millipede?).  Focused approach helps the teacher to deliver what's required - I don't believe it's of any help to the learner/player.
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timothy42b
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2017, 06:35:09 PM »

Focused approach helps the teacher to deliver what's required - I don't believe it's of any help to the learner/player.

I agree with you 100% - for you.

I don't learn that way.  I need the other approach. 
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Tim
timothy42b
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2017, 06:37:43 PM »



Then there is the problem of increased speed - i.e. if I want to do a quick scale but with a certain nuance, I play each individual note at a certain volume - yet it becomes increasingly difficult for me to retain this clarity and volume as my speed increases.


I think that is not an internalization problem, but a technique problem.

By doing slow practice, you have built a "speed wall."  You have learned mechanics that work when done slowly, as many of them do, but do not work at speed.  Now you have to unlearn them, which is twice as hard.  The slow incremental speedup methods of practice carry great risk of this. 
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Tim
hardy_practice
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2017, 06:53:09 PM »

Notes in a scale have a natural increase in volume as you go up and decrease as you go down (the last thing you want is an even scale - read Harold Bauer in Harriette Brower's book Piano Mastery (at archive.org)).  Hear the whole scale not individual notes.
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hardy_practice
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2017, 06:56:42 PM »

I agree with you 100% - for you.

I don't learn that way.  I need the other approach. 
It's how the body works Tim, you haven't a choice.
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outin
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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2017, 01:14:52 AM »

There are two standard approaches.

One is the goal focused method, suggested by hardy.  Have a clear and powerful image of the sound you want, and don't worry too much about exactly how you get it.  This is sometimes called Inner Tennis after the book by Gallwey. 

The other is the method focused approach.  Learn what it is you do differently when it works.  Is it a forearm relaxation, a shoulder rotation, a careful curvature of the finger, etc.?  Once you know how it's done, you know how to reproduce it, and you can analyze why when it goes wrong.
 

That's an interesting dichotomy. While I assume most people can and do both, I personally can only really manage the first. Which makes me difficult to teach. No matter how many times my teacher tries to show me what to do, I can only really learn by trial and error. I sit down at the piano for an hour or two just trying until whatever I want to play (could be just a few notes) sounds the way it needs to sound. At some point it just clicks and my body instinctively knows what to do from then on.

The teacher's role is still important, to help me understand what this musical goal is, what is lacking and to "dissect" the larger goals to minor ones. But my body awareness and physical perception skills are just too poor to be able to analyze what exactly I do or imitate what my teacher does. If I try I get terribly tense. I play best when it's something intuitive guided by my ear.
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
keypeg
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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2017, 06:43:56 AM »

I'll go with experimenting, and I won't preclude starting with physical motions and hearing what happens, in that experimentation.  In regards to having inner feelings lead the way, that is what I did most of my life because I had to do music on my own.  I would often produce the sound that I heard in my head but they were not necessarily the ideal way of going about it.  For example, staccato was a sharp poke with pokey-fingers that were stiff and ineffective for anything faster.  Some things are counter-intuitive.  I learned of something more like a loose swinging motion, or whip-like motion, that was relaxed and easy, very unlike what I had felt inside for "loud".  It really depends where you are.  If all roads lead to Rome, you first have to know if Rome lies east of you or west of you.  I may have to go east while you need to go west, for us both to arrive there.

What has helped me is to experiment with the kinds of physical motions I can do, and what the results will be, and then knit this together with the sounds I want to create.  The other way around had exhausted its possibilities, and had flaws to it (for me).
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hardy_practice
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2017, 11:15:07 AM »

  For example, staccato was a sharp poke with pokey-fingers that were stiff and ineffective for anything faster. 
Staccato is often a 'sharp poke with pokey-fingers' (when it's loud for instance).  The secret is having 'pokey-fingers' for only milliseconds (1000'ths of a second).
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timothy42b
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2017, 12:30:31 PM »

I'll go with experimenting, and I won't preclude starting with physical motions and hearing what happens, in that experimentation.  In regards to having inner feelings lead the way, that is what I did most of my life because I had to do music on my own.  I would often produce the sound that I heard in my head but they were not necessarily the ideal way of going about it. 

Yes. 

This is one of the risks of the goal focused approach. 

I suspect we all fit on two continuums.

One is which approach we most habitually use, goal or method.

The other (or, maybe, ANother) is the degree of flexibility we have in approach.  Some of us are probably like outin, strong goal approach and very little flexibility, or like me, method approach and very little flexibility.  Others may be able to do either when it suits them, large flexibility. 

One basic problem is that when actually making music we need to forget about method - method is best left in the practice room.  The brass pedagogue Reinhardt was famous for being one of the most precise method oriented teachers, who nevertheless insisted that his students not focus on method when performing. 
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Tim
cuberdrift
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2017, 02:32:21 PM »

There are certain parts of pieces that I am VERY comfortable playing because I already have "internalized" the technique to play them.

This is the key, I think, to improving technique at all.

Simply put, I want to

1) Find the sound I want, and
2) Be able to memorize that sound so that I can do it automatically next time.
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keypeg
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« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2017, 11:23:55 PM »

Staccato is often a 'sharp poke with pokey-fingers' (when it's loud for instance).  The secret is having 'pokey-fingers' for only milliseconds (1000'ths of a second).
I was referring to what I ended up doing, via following the internal impulses and the internally heard music, which is all I knew while untaught.  It was NOT done in a good way, and quite a few other things I did weren't either.  I think I wrote more than that one line.  Wink
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hardy_practice
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« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2017, 10:57:00 AM »

It's just that poking is a very important concept to get.  When you poke someone they don't fall over do they?  You don't bruise them do you?  How is that?
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stephenv
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« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2017, 02:22:49 AM »

once upon a time there was a "magical" teacher in the USA...Dr. Guy Maier.....he wanted to make it possible for all pianists to play beautifully ......touch was one of the main principles he worked with.  He had done extensive work with Arthur Schnabel ...another magician who devoted his life to beautiful sound.   Dr. Maier  used to write for a music magazine and throughout the years answered questions from pupils and teachers...after his death, his wife compile many of these question answer pages in a book called "The Piano Teachers Companion.....in that book you can get a sense of Maier's approach.   He left two books of exercises:  Thinking Fingers 1 and 2...which can still be found on Ebay and sometimes on Amazon.   Some of you might recall Francis Clark... she studies with Maier and was his colleague. 
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chopinlover3
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« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2017, 03:11:52 AM »

It depends on the music you're playing. Classical piano requires many nuances of touch. Some ways to change your touch is the way your hands are on the keys. A loud touch could be acquired by curving your fingers and playing on your finger tips. To play softly would be the opposite: stretch your fingers nearly flat on the keys, the flatter the softer. Also, to change the tone you could half-pedal with the sustain or the soft pedal. It also depends on the piano: a piano with impacted felt on the hammers would have a brighter sound. A piano that has the hammers voiced would have a softer sound.
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j_tour
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« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2017, 03:58:52 AM »

Interesting thread.

This is sort of OT, but I wonder if people like me who have, for the past few decades, been playing almost exclusively on digital and electro-mechanical pianos, in addition to typing regularly, developed a kind of loss of sensitivity in their fingertips.

Not exactly callouses, like a string player would have, but just kind of a dulled sensitivity at the fingertips.

I have a pretty sharp attack on piano, in general -- I don't bash the keys hard, I just strike at them like a snake's tongue, even in fast RH runs.  It's generally the sound I prefer for most things except for gentle little things.

Just wondering if there are any thoughts on this phenomenon from others, related to the subject of touch.
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keypeg
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« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2017, 03:53:40 PM »

J tour, on your question -- I replaced my mid-range to low-range Yamaha digital with a Kawai CA97 hybrid last year.  The first thing I confronted was a kind of "heavy handedness" that I had developed.  With the old piano I could only push down one way --- to one level close to the keybed, otherwise no sound would be produced.  So for each note it was  "all the way up, to almost all the way down".  The new piano behaved more like a good quality acoustic - you could feel your way into different depths, and ranges of motion therefore.  This part had the hand working with the ear.  But because of the way the key mechanism was designed, I also had the feel of the levers under my fingers.  Originally my hand had been so "dull" that I did not feel these things. There is a catchment like grands have, and now I'm am sensitive to that tiny jolt (joltlette) if I am near and past it.

When I played my first digital piano I felt as if my fingers had become blindfolded, because I am quite tactile, and there was nothing to feel as you press down - no mechanism sitting underneath that counter-presses against your hand and then suddenly releases.
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j_tour
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« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2017, 09:47:03 PM »

Thanks for that, keypeg.  Yeah, I'm still playing a good old Yamaha P-80, basic weighted action, and occasionally the Rhodes (sluggish, but I just use it for funk and jazz occasionally, so it doesn't matter too much) and the Hammond clone (light action, not without some resistance, but still heavier than some of the more crappy spinets you see).

I enjoy playing the Kimball grand at my folks' place every once in a while, but that *** is just way too loud for the room (among other problems with it).  I'll have to see the next time I visit if I can observe some more -- in general, from memory, I recall being pleased primarily at being able to play sustained notes in Bach for their full length and have them ring out, but also the more subtle range of dynamics I can get through touch (well, "attack" is probably closer to the way I think it works).  So I haven't completely lost it -- anyway, I'm not a concert pianist and if I felt like playing out, it'd most likely be on my own gear.

Thanks for giving me something to think about -- always nice to have.
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