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Mind's eye piano guiding line (Read 704 times)

Offline roblpiano

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Mind's eye piano guiding line
« on: September 13, 2020, 07:13:47 PM »
Hi, and thanks for having me here!

I had an interesting experience with the piano today that I wanted to discuss with other piano players, which prompted me to register here.

First a bit of background. Hopefully I won't bore you too much.

I've been playing piano/keys on and off for around 20 years. I started when I was 18.

I am self taught and have had no tuition, I don't come from a musical family background either. I began playing the keyboard in order to record my own music back when I was in college. I only ever played within my means and picked up a style that fit my playing method at the time  (I'm primarily a drummer, so rhythm complexity was always fine, finger shaping was very iffy!). I spent most of my 20 years of playing piano mostly small segments of piano and looping the patterns for recording purposes. Because I wrote my own music, I never truly went outside of my playing comfort zone. I'm a very basic piano player really. Basic chord shapes, but rhythm and melody can be more complex. But because I only played short segments at a time, I never really was able to play a whole song to perfection from start to finish. Good thing for modern recording technology, huh?

However, in January I treated myself to a nice digital piano. For the first time ever I wanted to learn entire songs and play them from start to finish without error. I have spent the year thus far learning my favourite artists' songs from online tab, or transcribing them myself by ear.

A month ago, I decided to really push myself out of my comfort zone and learn some jazz piano. Specifically i wanted to learn some McCoy Tyner. So I purchased an official book of his piano sheet music.

His chord shapes and playing style are so alien to me that it essentially felt like learning a new instrument from scratch. It's been tough but I've been learning one of my favourite songs that he wrote and am slowly mastering it.

Today however something happened when I was playing. I've been trying to learn a specific part of the song which is incredibly difficult for me to play. Today it clicked and I could play it. However, as I was playing it I experienced an odd sensation that persists to this moment if I sit by the piano and start playing this particular song. I will try my best to describe it.

As I'm playing these complex chord patterns, I can see overlayed on the keys a dark thread, which appears in place where I am to press the keys. I guess it's like a mind's eye overlayed image. The thread extends over the area I need to play.

My hands seem to automatically move across this virtual thread and work their thing almost automatically.  The thread itself doesn't really tell me where to press. Instead, it's more like my hands will be guided by the line itself. The hands and fingers follow the thread as if by command.

Now I totally understand the muscle memory thing and this is basically that. However I have never "seen" this guiding line before. That's a good way of explaining it, a guiding line. The difference is that when this guiding line/thread appears in my vision - and just to clarify I can actually see it, overlayed on the keys - my hands seem to work a lot better in following it and the fingers do their thing a lot better, automatically.

I wanted to post this because I thought it was an interesting experience and conversation starter, I wondered if there were any accomplished pianists on here who tend to actually "see" something in their mind's eye when they play. An actual visual manifestation.

The appearance of this thread in my playing also marks an evolution in my own piano skill, which I will admit is still rather rudimentary compared to most pianists on here I'm sure! But it does mark a vast improvement in my piano skill. It has also had a profound effect on me today and I wanted to share it with other pianists to see if they had anything else to add on the matter.

Thanks, and hello!


Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: Mind's eye piano guiding line
«Reply #1 on: September 14, 2020, 02:47:21 AM »
As I'm playing these complex chord patterns, I can see overlayed on the keys a dark thread, which appears in place where I am to press the keys.
Do you mean you see the shape of the chord you need to play? That's a good way to see what you play at the piano, for instance something like a Cminor chord (CEbG) looks like a triangle if you put dots on each note and connected them with a line.

You can visualize the keyboard in this manner to reenforce what you have to play however if it is required for every single position you play this may take too much of your thinking processes and you may not be able to listen to the sound you produce in a relaxed state.
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Offline j_tour

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Re: Mind's eye piano guiding line
«Reply #2 on: September 14, 2020, 02:56:04 AM »
I think that's an excellent first post.  Over the past year I did a bunch of transcribing of McCoy's playing, mostly off his first few albums as leader, and I still can't make his lines part of my vocabulary, but at least I know now a bit more what he's doing and why I go back to my own way, classic, angular bebop.  Maybe with more harmonies than just shell chords in my case, but the improvised lines.  Of course, I knew the big tunes and his solos like everybody else, but that was the first time I deliberately tried to incorporate some of his ideas into my own playing.

The visualization of shapes is interesting to me, because that['s exactly how I think about things like the octatonic W-H diminished scale.  It's an odd, idiosyncratic way of viewing things, but it makes sense to me, and after a number of years, I can't exactly forget about it. 

For me, it takes no effort, and is perhaps a kind of mnemonic, but in the sense that really old schemes, like "Every Good Boy Does Fine" or "My Dog Has Fleas" or whatever exist:  no effort, but one still remembers perhaps way back as a small child.
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Offline roblpiano

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Re: Mind's eye piano guiding line
«Reply #3 on: September 14, 2020, 06:25:03 AM »
Do you mean you see the shape of the chord you need to play? That's a good way to see what you play at the piano, for instance something like a Cminor chord (CEbG) looks like a triangle if you put dots on each note and connected them with a line.

Hi and thanks for replying. No, this is not quite what I'm seeing. It is essentially like a dark, flat line that basically lies across the areas where my hands are/will be moving. It does not change shape to the chord pattern, and I do not follow the line to see where I'm going. It's more that the line appears where I'm currently playing but when it doesn't appear, the chances of playing incorrectly are greatly reduced.

Offline roblpiano

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Re: Mind's eye piano guiding line
«Reply #4 on: September 14, 2020, 06:29:03 AM »
Of course, I knew the big tunes and his solos like everybody else, but that was the first time I deliberately tried to incorporate some of his ideas into my own playing.

Thanks for replying! Well I wish I could fall into the "everyone else" camp when it comes to learning McCoy's solos. They are so fast! For example, the salsa break during Fly With The Wind. This type of fast high note arpeggio type solo is beyond my means at this point. As I say I'm not a maestro player in any way. The chord shapes and patterns that McCoy did are certainly pushing me to my limits!

Any tips on playing the fast McCoy solos? :D

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: Mind's eye piano guiding line
«Reply #5 on: September 14, 2020, 07:31:41 AM »
It is essentially like a dark, flat line that basically lies across the areas where my hands are/will be moving. It does not change shape to the chord pattern, and I do not follow the line to see where I'm going. It's more that the line appears where I'm currently playing but when it doesn't appear, the chances of playing incorrectly are greatly reduced.
This makes no sense are you hallucinating? If it doesn't change shape to the notes how can you follow it and accurately play anything at all?
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Offline j_tour

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Re: Mind's eye piano guiding line
«Reply #6 on: September 14, 2020, 05:02:04 PM »
Any tips on playing the fast McCoy solos? :D

None whatsoever.  I didn't mean to imply that I actually played along to the record note-for-note, just that I was familiar with the solos. 

IIRC his playing on Coltrane's album Live at Birdland has its fast scalar moments as well.

No, I don't have any advice, just that McCoy was a good pianist!  Probably underrated as a technician, if anything.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.