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Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music? (Read 1240 times)

Offline slurred_beat

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Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music? Some people say that if you just listen hard enough you'll get the right technique. The right technique is the one that gives you the sound you want. Others say you need to work on technique separately and play exercises. I think exercises are pretty boring so I'd prefer to just listen. Which one is it?

Offline quantum

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #1 on: January 27, 2021, 03:56:59 PM »
Hi and welcome to Pianostreet.

It is like saying you want to be an astronaut but only want to stare up at the night sky.  If you actually want to go up to space you have to do the work. 

Similarly in music, if you want to progress with your skills at playing the piano you have to do the work.  It is not a matter of choosing either music or technique, you need both.  The technique serves the music by giving you the tools needed to express your ideas. 
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #2 on: January 27, 2021, 05:29:08 PM »
Some people say that if you just listen hard enough you'll get the right technique. The right technique is the one that gives you the sound you want. Others say you need to work on technique separately and play exercises. I think exercises are pretty boring so I'd prefer to just listen. Which one is it?
Regardless of whether you work on technique separately or not, you need to develop it.

The right technique is what produces the sound you want "effectively". But that I mean you should be able to execute the movement hundreds of times without tiring, it shouldn't contribute to injury, and you should be able to play it fast enough and clearly enough so that you can play the next figuration in time as well, without any jittery movements.

It's not true that you need to "just listen" because there is a definite physical aspect of piano playing. You need to acquire that physical aspect. It can be acquired often by playing pieces, or checking out videos of your hand positioning, etc. instead of just exercises, but it needs to be practiced regardless.

Offline slurred_beat

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #3 on: January 28, 2021, 07:13:26 PM »
Thank you. Im thinking partly about this video with Maria Jaoa Pires. She says "technique doesn't exist". What does she mean?


Offline brogers70

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #4 on: January 28, 2021, 09:08:21 PM »
I don't think that she means you don't need to learn your scales or that it does not matter what movements you make at the piano.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #5 on: January 29, 2021, 01:32:10 AM »
I think she means that an idea of a generalized technique, independent of what sound you want to produce at the instrument, does not exist. The sound produced and the motions made to produce that sound are intertwined and in a sense follow from one another, and from a will to produce that sound.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #6 on: January 29, 2021, 02:57:29 AM »
Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music? Some people say that if you just listen hard enough you'll get the right technique. The right technique is the one that gives you the sound you want. Others say you need to work on technique separately and play exercises. I think exercises are pretty boring so I'd prefer to just listen. Which one is it?
As a teacher I think practice method almost always trumps everything else and should be prioritized up until the higher levels of piano study. With good practice method you then can spend more effective time with your technique and musicality when studying appropriate pieces. Our capabilities change over time, so it is pointless attempting to produce "perfect" technique if you haven't built your skills up to a high level to begin with. In fact I find as a teacher it is a waste of time to try and correct a huge amount of technique immediately, let students play how they naturally feel and slowly allow them to realize for themselves how to improve it. This will leave you with someone who understands how their hands work rather than merely copy pastes ideas of what it should be doing without really understanding it or being flexible enough to apply it in varying situations.

So too I find it useless to waste time trying to polish a single piece up to a high level. If you are studying appropriate works you will not have to waste too much time to play at a good level and if the piece interests you enough you can spend a little more time to make it as good as you can currently manage. But to force the issue and to try and polish a piece as far as possible can waste you a lot of time. The return you gain from the time invested just isn't worth it. I find that most of the times piano study seems inefficient and rather boring with those who try to make everything perfect from the get go.
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Offline ted

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #7 on: January 29, 2021, 03:39:12 AM »
I am not much of an interpreter or performer so the others can answer about that aspect. It seems to me that in playing pieces we are using special techniques to solve special problems, whereas in improvisation we use general techniques to solve general problems. Therefore I have not hesitated to develop a large palette of physical techniques and keyboard vocabulary using means independent of the creative event itself. I know it is not a fashionable approach but it has certainly served me well over decades and continues to do so in my seventies. A good player has all aspects inextricably intertwined in his mind and hands, so absolute independence of technique is likely an illusion, but nonetheless for what it is worth I do spend time every day solely on technique and vocabulary. 
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #8 on: January 29, 2021, 04:12:37 AM »
I have also found it enlightening to practice common techniques while turning the volume of a digital piano down to zero. It made me realize certain mechanical things I could make more effective.

You could argue that the lack of sound feedback is a negative, but if you've been playing the piano for a while, you will probably have a really good intuitive idea of (and can imagine) the sound which would be produced when you play something on the keyboard.

Offline arantanen

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #9 on: January 29, 2021, 09:27:14 AM »
I would say that you benefit from focusing on technique first. My argument: with good technique you have more freedom with phrasing. And honestly, if you learn the notes and can play it with emotion, you are not interested in changing the fingering afterwards. On the opposite end, if you learn the technique, you'll learn/ want to learn the musicality of the piece automatically.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #10 on: January 29, 2021, 10:58:20 AM »
I have also found it enlightening to practice common techniques while turning the volume of a digital piano down to zero. It made me realize certain mechanical things I could make more effective.

You could argue that the lack of sound feedback is a negative, but if you've been playing the piano for a while, you will probably have a really good intuitive idea of (and can imagine) the sound which would be produced when you play something on the keyboard.


I have been playing for many years. If I played without the sound, yes I can imagine it; but the imagined version would sound like Horowitz and not like my playing.

Offline slurred_beat

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #11 on: January 29, 2021, 01:23:08 PM »
I think she means that an idea of a generalized technique, independent of what sound you want to produce at the instrument, does not exist. The sound produced and the motions made to produce that sound are intertwined and in a sense follow from one another, and from a will to produce that sound.

I still don't understand. In scales, isn't it always that you must have relaxed thumbs when you pass the thumb under? Isn't that a general technique? When would that be different?

Offline ranjit

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #12 on: January 29, 2021, 06:06:56 PM »
Often when eminent pianists talk about things, that take the basics for granted. I would say the same is going on here.

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #13 on: January 29, 2021, 07:27:50 PM »
Often when eminent pianists talk about things, that take the basics for granted. I would say the same is going on here.

I wish that was not the case sometimes. When I was a student I struggled a lot with my technique, and consulting videos etc. on technique didn't help much because of this reason. I had to work a lot to figure some basics out with a lot of blood, sweat, tears and frustration.

I would absolutely say technique is a skill that has to be understood and learned. I also feel the basics of it are rather simple, but hard to explain in writing. I would say the basics of "technique" is to be able to press down keys without stiffening any muscles or joints as you do so. Figuring out how to do that, on the other hand, I think is highly individual and I'm unsure if there is a standardized solution.

Online j_tour

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #14 on: January 30, 2021, 03:54:46 AM »
I would say the basics of "technique" is to be able to press down keys without stiffening any muscles or joints as you do so. Figuring out how to do that, on the other hand, I think is highly individual and I'm unsure if there is a standardized solution.

I'm trying to understand, but would you say that amounts to acquiring a flexible, adaptible technique, to be revised ad hoc for each situation?

Much in the manner of a Bruce Lee kind of kung fu based on practical "combat" necssities, rather than strict adherence to forms?

Of course, we're talking beyond being able to run scales and other fundamentals.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #15 on: January 31, 2021, 01:22:52 AM »
I think there is a difference in playing technique and reading technique. Playing technique is what you can muster with a lot of thought beforehand and being able to make difficult movements more efficient and gentle on your hands through mindful repetitions. Reading technique is very strongly connected to your fingering understanding and coordination capabilities. Liszt said that "technique is fingering" and this is the main reason why, with strong fingering technique you are able to sight read works much more effectively because the combinations of fingers used are well known and often you can come up with the solution on the go. So the library of fingering understanding that you have trained to naturally reside within you is a large part of what we understand as technique.
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Offline anacrusis

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #16 on: January 31, 2021, 11:00:23 PM »
I'm trying to understand, but would you say that amounts to acquiring a flexible, adaptible technique, to be revised ad hoc for each situation?

Much in the manner of a Bruce Lee kind of kung fu based on practical "combat" necssities, rather than strict adherence to forms?

Of course, we're talking beyond being able to run scales and other fundamentals.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you are asking, could you clarify? The basic idea I wrote applies in every hypothetical scenario, and to me doing different techniques - at least when I am doing them at my best - feels at its core like doing variations of the same basic thing.

Online j_tour

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #17 on: February 01, 2021, 01:41:36 AM »
I'm not sure I understand exactly what you are asking, could you clarify?

Yes, I was admittedly a bit elliptical with the Bruce Lee reference.

I think I understand what you mean:  you've distilled keyboard technique into one principle, that, while it may be simple conceptually, requires a great deal of discipline to apply rigorously.

So, it's a practical aim which applies in many or all circumstances.  It may differ in degrees in various places, but not in quality or kind.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #18 on: February 01, 2021, 04:09:02 AM »
I think one severely underestimated part about peoples technique is how it can naturally develop the more music you "effectively" learn. A large amount of people learning the piano try to approach technique front on rather than something that has a creation over time with experience with many successfully completed works (and the definition of what exactly is "success" does change as your ability increases).

If you find your hands struggle to play something, play something easier. In most cases you can gradually build from small successes rather than than forcing large ones. In my mind there really is no studying technique as a separate entity, you work on music you can manage and the technique is a resultant of your overall experience.

For example someone who has played through say 1000 small pieces which they completed with increasing intensities of success over time, they have a good amount of past experience to draw from and an understanding of how their playing has changed over time. When they are faced with a new challenge they have tools to tackle it based on their past playing experience, they can measure if it is far too difficult or something that relates to what they have done before. Someone however who tackles technique front on and obsesses about certain technical movements in isolation from pieces may understand very well how to play certain technical movements but when confronted with actual pieces this application of knowledge can be challenging. You may have the general idea as to what is ideal but you don't have much past experience of actual pieces to draw from which is simply a much stronger resource.
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Online j_tour

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #19 on: February 01, 2021, 05:25:30 AM »
So the library of fingering understanding that you have trained to naturally reside within you is a large part of what we understand as technique.

I find this fascinating, as an expression of an idea I've not heard before.  Nor have I heard the Liszt quip before, although of course it was said that he could and did sight-read any and all Bach fugues at tempo.

Again, I just have anecdotes, and I can't ascribe their truth to anything but my somewhat subjective assessment of my own abilities as a sight-reader (no, while I read quite a bit, at and away from the keyboard, I admit to having been defeated, or hampered, by some notations of Scriabin).

I'd compare the phenomenon to playing chess or a similar toy game:  intuition reigns, based on innumerable past experiences.  Not that one doesn't (I'd imagine most people, not just me) dither over the most effective fingering at one's leisure, for example, but that it's really something that is part of the furniture of the mind. 

The mind may be a chateau of many rooms, but it seems likely both in theory and from personal experience that there are a restricted set of options the subconscious (?) has marked off as suitable or amenable.

From which point, the task at hand becomes much simplified, and one can decide on-the-fly which of the comparatively few options are most suitable.

I wonder if one is, with a certain amount of disregard or laziness or complacency, in some way pre-destined oneself to become a very practical, adept reader of music, or an extremely diligent mechanic.

Probably the truth lies between, for most, but I suppose I'm content to be adept as a sight-reader and assimilator, whereas the end product may have some good qualities, but is more often "good enough....people don't throw tomatoes and sometimes give money....good enough!"

In other words, a hack, but a pretty good hack, and happy enough, in my own case.
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Offline slurred_beat

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #20 on: February 01, 2021, 12:30:06 PM »
Ok thank you all I understand now that I must focus on technique. What is the best way to work on it? Is it playing exercises or playing lots of music like lostindlewonder says?

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #21 on: February 02, 2021, 03:01:05 AM »
I find this fascinating, as an expression of an idea I've not heard before.  Nor have I heard the Liszt quip before, although of course it was said that he could and did sight-read any and all Bach fugues at tempo.
I'm glad there is something for you there. I have observed the effect over the years teaching piano to myself and others. I can't exactly put my finger on where that idea from Liszt came from and certainly the meaning of "fingering" is interpretive in itself but I feel it can be see in the manner described previously.

..while I read quite a bit, at and away from the keyboard, I admit to having been defeated, or hampered, by some notations of Scriabin/
Successful sight reading doesn't always require that you play a piece at tempo with mastery. This is one aspect of sight reading (being able to perform something immediately on first reading) but the other part is the practice method useage of sight reading. Those with good sight reading practice method one need only play through a piece at varying slower tempos or at tempo with various surgeries on the sheets that create manageable smaller passages with recovery points (eg: controlled pausing [freezing your hands and only moving when you know where to go next, a much better solution than micro isolated finger movements and hesitations which have no place in our playing and interfer with the acquisition of mastery], playing in groups, rhythmic alterations etc etc) and with these repetitions the piece becomes mastered and easier to read. So you can master a piece which you cannot play at concert standard by sight immediately by simply by sight reading through it multiple times succesfully and with varying slower tempos and at tempo movements bound in different ways.

I'd compare the phenomenon to playing chess or a similar toy game:  intuition reigns, based on innumerable past experiences.
Being an avid chess player myself I do see a connection between piano study and chess. When you understand the principles of chess you can negate a lot of useless moves and focus on what gives you the best results. The same occurs for piano. But in chess you have some crazy openings which go against the norm but oddly work, you see this also in piano. I have met for example some people who learn their music in strange ways but at a very high level, this includes playing totally by ear, watching synesthesia videos and learning by rote. Usually these skills are limited when it come to written music but some people find solutions that work for themselves which others would find totally alien or simple exhausting. As well you can come across music which just has alien fingering to you but actually have a lot of beneficial resources that should become a part of your fingering library. Piano is mostly an intuitive instrument but there are certainly a category of unintuitive fingerings which are very beneficial and should become well known tools.


Not that one doesn't (I'd imagine most people, not just me) dither over the most effective fingering at one's leisure, for example, but that it's really something that is part of the furniture of the mind.
When you sight read effectively often these solutions are done quickly on the go and many are simply done with very little thought just a response to a group of notes that you are not distrubed by since it is similar to what you have done before and thus you react accordingly and know the minimal thought required to play that part. You know when you come upon a part which you have little experience with, the flow all of a sudden stops and you start to become more aware of your fingers and note names, you start having to think more. These inefficient thoughts can be contained and made more effective with the varying tempo and surgery I mentioned previously.

The mind may be a chateau of many rooms, but it seems likely both in theory and from personal experience that there are a restricted set of options the subconscious (?) has marked off as suitable or amenable.

From which point, the task at hand becomes much simplified, and one can decide on-the-fly which of the comparatively few options are most suitable.
Exactly and the thought processes are very minimal since you are doing something you have done many times before. If what you are reading is well known then any decoration on top of that very well known structure, any added notes which are not normally found, can be easily added with a splitting of the mind between the well known parts which require little thought and those which are not so usually added (and which may be of a character you know well) are then contained by the minds "second room" as you might put it. 

I can go a little futher that this kind of splitting of the mind is not as efficient as containing it all as one. For example when I first studied Bach, I would see all the part writing as individual lines requiring separate thought. The more I studied part writing however the more I managed to contain multple voices with a single observation. The splitting the the mind becomes a more efficient singular observation. The brain must have these separate compartments initially and if train efficiently enough it manages then to bind them in some way and they act in synergy. Although they are bound together they however still can function separately as before. I do notice when sight reading something near my limitations that I break out of the more synergized observation and go into multitasking mode, but push to get back into that synergy. If I work with something very difficult I notice very clearly that the effective synergy of all the compartments in my mind are being isolated from one another. This then should be acted against with effective sight reading practice tools.


I wonder if one is, with a certain amount of disregard or laziness or complacency, in some way pre-destined oneself to become a very practical, adept reader of music, or an extremely diligent mechanic.
I think there is no need to be one or the other however with strong sight reading skills you can certainly play very difficult repertoire that you couldn't sight read at tempo. Someone who is a pure memorizer just never will have access to as much works as a sight reader so they will miss out where the sight readers can easily branch into the realms of learning difficult works as they develop their sight reading practice skills. I am yet to see a memorizer learn a piece faster than a high level sight reader reading something they are able to play immediately at standard, you just can't beat zero time. Are there any genius pianists who can repeat anything on first listening? I haven't heard of one yet and don't think that could ever exist. 

Probably the truth lies between, for most, but I suppose I'm content to be adept as a sight-reader and assimilator, whereas the end product may have some good qualities, but is more often "good enough....people don't throw tomatoes and sometimes give money....good enough!"

In other words, a hack, but a pretty good hack, and happy enough, in my own case.
Too much self deprecation :D Coming across sight readers who are "good enough" is still not so common.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #22 on: February 02, 2021, 03:02:16 AM »
Ok thank you all I understand now that I must focus on technique. What is the best way to work on it? Is it playing exercises or playing lots of music like lostindlewonder says?
Why not do both? I think if you focus on playing exercises you will get bored pretty fast and also have a false sense of security since application of technique to pieces is ultimately what you want to be proficient at. The challenge is however to find appropriate works which you learn effectively with (and enjoyment I think plays a part of effective learning), do that and you will be fine. 
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Online j_tour

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #23 on: February 02, 2021, 05:14:55 AM »
It seems you understand a great deal, lostinidlewonder.  I'm especially glad that the analogies between, for example, chess as a tension between tactics and strategy was not lost on you. 

IThose with good sight reading practice method one need only play through a piece at varying slower tempos or at tempo with various surgeries on the sheets that create manageable smaller passages with recovery points (eg: controlled pausing [freezing your hands and only moving when you know where to go next, a much better solution than micro isolated finger movements and hesitations which have no place in our playing and interfer with the acquisition of mastery], playing in groups, rhythmic alterations etc etc) and with these repetitions the piece becomes mastered and easier to read.

Yes, apologies for the longer quote from you, but that's how I see it as well.  That is, effectively progressing while reading great volumes of works at or away from the keyboard:  it's much like reading and analyzing a book, as a serious literary critic would.  A typical trick is to read backward through a narrative, while taking notes, especially when faced with a large collection of an author's corpus.

I see a truly adept sight-reader as one who is able to read in many different ways, and both analyze and de-compose a piece in the course of his or her reading.  That's what I strive for, anyway:  not just sitting down with volume after volume and mindlessly repeating it at the keyboard.

Although, admittedly, I do that as well, just to discover new or interesting pieces or even fragments.

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So you can master a piece which you cannot play at concert standard by sight immediately by simply by sight reading through it multiple times succesfully and with varying slower tempos and at tempo movements bound in different ways.

Yes, but especially combined with fragmentation to truly learn a piece, I find. 

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Being an avid chess player myself I do see a connection between piano study and chess. When you understand the principles of chess you can negate a lot of useless moves and focus on what gives you the best results. The same occurs for piano.

Exactly.  I think this is a rare example where I expressed an idea and someone else grasped the concept as well.  Precisely. 

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Piano is mostly an intuitive instrument but there are certainly a category of unintuitive fingerings which are very beneficial and should become well known tools.

Certainly true.  I get that from observing someone like Schiff performing, who has much smaller hands than me, and certain perverse works like the fingering of the chromatic scale in the Chopin Op. 10/2. 

Perhaps observing the stranger or different variations is not so good for a younger person, but I find it usually possible to observe something of interest.  Even if it is something to avoid, in such-and-such a situation.

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When you sight read effectively often these solutions are done quickly on the go and many are simply done with very little thought just a response to a group of notes that you are not distrubed by since it is similar to what you have done before and thus you react accordingly and know the minimal thought required to play that part.

Indeed!  That is why the odd notation of especially later Scriabin (and of the second Viennese School, of course) is so challenging. 

Not that it's easy to play a dense fugue at sight, for me, even at half-speed, or something else moderately complicated.  Debussy, for example, but also later Beethoven, in part because of the occasionally novel technical challenges.

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I think there is no need to be one or the other however with strong sight reading skills you can certainly play very difficult repertoire that you couldn't sight read at tempo. Someone who is a pure memorizer just never will have access to as much works as a sight reader so they will miss out where the sight readers can easily branch into the realms of learning difficult works as they develop their sight reading practice skills.

Well, I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but I do admit to having a private feeling of pity for, for example, jazz or other improvised music players who aren't session musicians, and therefore don't necessarily have access to the entire library of music on the page.

You introduce a funny term to this:  "the memorizers"!  Yes, I suppose you mean those who doggedly persist at, and usually excel at, doing various "tricks" as called for in various pieces of music.

Yes, one needs all of this to play.  Either point of the needle is not so great:  an avid sight-reader or a dogged memorizer.

I don't need to expand on any of that, but you gave a very impressive summary, and I wished to acknowledge that.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #24 on: February 03, 2021, 01:34:32 PM »
I see a truly adept sight-reader as one who is able to read in many different ways, and both analyze and de-compose a piece in the course of his or her reading.  That's what I strive for, anyway:  not just sitting down with volume after volume and mindlessly repeating it at the keyboard.

Although, admittedly, I do that as well, just to discover new or interesting pieces or even fragments.
It is something you have to resist as a good sight reader not to remain too comfortable with pieces you can do easily. When you get to a good level there is plenty of music which just feels so nice to play on the go and it brings a lot of joy. But we of course have to remember that there is really no end to how far you go in improving your reading and should always challenge ourselves a little each day.

Good sight readers cannot give up polishing up difficult pieces to performance standard. This does require a bit more focus on memorization skills however we still rely much on our reading skills to contain what we have to do and then through repetition the reading becomes less and less and the feeling in the hands and ears control more.



lostinidlewonder wrote: So you can master a piece which you cannot play at concert standard by sight immediately by simply by sight reading through it multiple times successfully and with varying slower tempos and at tempo movements bound in different ways.

response:
Yes, but especially combined with fragmentation to truly learn a piece, I find. 
Initially it is at that fragmented state but through repetition the reading becomes easier and then once a part can be successfully played while being supported by the reading skills you then can go through the process of relying less on the reading and more on the muscular/sound memorization, more the muscular because the sound often is very well known.

Perhaps observing the stranger or different variations is not so good for a younger person, but I find it usually possible to observe something of interest.  Even if it is something to avoid, in such-and-such a situation.
Generally people learning the piano will feel most fingering is strange and unusual since they have little experience with the basic movements. After you get some playing experience and understand fingering a little it can be all too easy to substitute alternative fingering for what you think is best based on your past experiences. In Bach for instance you can play with all sort of different fingerings. There are a number of the Inventions that I learned as a child which I used very repetitive type fingerings which I felt comfortabel with, I still can play them in that manner and never wanted to lose that because it reminded me of what I used to do in the past and a good point to meditate upon.

Indeed!  That is why the odd notation of especially later Scriabin (and of the second Viennese School, of course) is so challenging. 

Not that it's easy to play a dense fugue at sight, for me, even at half-speed, or something else moderately complicated.  Debussy, for example, but also later Beethoven, in part because of the occasionally novel technical challenges.
I mean first reading of any of these works are going to challenge the vast majority of us and I think unless you are amongst the very top 0.1% of readers you shouldn't expect to read this by sight at tempo. It would be nice to get to that level and I am no where near that level but I find that it is not actually necessary. If it takes you say 10 reads to start getting a knack for what is happening that is great success and many more times will start to make it just feel like more and more like routine reading. If of course the repetitions provide very little return then the piece is utterly too difficult to bother with unless you want to start memorizing tiny parts at a time (an absolute a waste of time imho).




j_tour wrote: I wonder if one is, with a certain amount of disregard or laziness or complacency, in some way pre-destined oneself to become a very practical, adept reader of music, or an extremely diligent mechanic

lostinidlewonder response: I think there is no need to be one or the other however with strong sight reading skills you can certainly play very difficult repertoire that you couldn't sight read at tempo. Someone who is a pure memorizer just never will have access to as much works as a sight reader so they will miss out where the sight readers can easily branch into the realms of learning difficult works as they develop their sight reading practice skills.

response:
Well, I'm not sure exactly what you mean, but I do admit to having a private feeling of pity for, for example, jazz or other improvised music players who aren't session musicians, and therefore don't necessarily have access to the entire library of music on the page.
So I took your "reader of music" and  "diligent mechanic" to mean a sight reader and a memorizer or someone who plays from a memorized set of routines. I might have misinterpreted you so thats where the confusion might lie. As a teacher I see sort of like two territories with it comes to approaching playing the piano, playing by reading and by memory. Of course we should work to combine the two together and create a synergy, but during early stages of ones piano development usually one sides heavily on one side or the other and I think the memorizers have a much larger population.
 
You introduce a funny term to this:  "the memorizers"!  Yes, I suppose you mean those who doggedly persist at, and usually excel at, doing various "tricks" as called for in various pieces of music.
Memorizers to me perfer not to improve their reading skills too far, so long they can find the correct notes, fingering and coordination they will then go ahead and attempt to put it to memory in all sorts of different ways.

Yes, one needs all of this to play.  Either point of the needle is not so great:  an avid sight-reader or a dogged memorizer.
Though I feel that someone who has strong reading skills is a better well rounded musician than the vast majority of memorizers. The repetoire of a sight reader eclipses practically all memorizers.
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Online j_tour

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #25 on: February 03, 2021, 09:57:21 PM »
But we of course have to remember that there is really no end to how far you go in improving your reading and should always challenge ourselves a little each day.

100% absolutely.  I don't view mindleslly sight-reading relatively simple pieces as fruitful in se, no matter how much good music is there. such as items by Schubert or Haydn, to give two somewhat obvious examples of extraordinary composers who can, nevertheless, very often be read at tempo.  With some mistakes, perhaps!

That is, it's rewarding in some ways for discovering new pieces or absorbing new ideas, but for me it's just a convenient way to find ways of progressing, even though new techniques might not be forthcoming on a regular basis.

Although they can.  New techniques or ways of fingering various passages can be found rather quickly in this way.

But, no one really likes to do chores without purpose.  And, I'd venture as far as nobody who is good at reading music from fresh really needs practice at that task.  Like riding a bicycle or something.

Except that reading Messiaen or Schönberg or so many others....they have considerably different bicycles to learn to ride.  I find your optimism that increasing gnomic, even obscure or eye-blurring works can be handled adeptly very encouraging.

To borrow a phrase from session musicians or jazz people, indeed, it's a height of accomplishment to be able to read fly sh*t off a page two seconds before the red light goes on!  Something to strive for.

I suspect any artist in any medium craves novelty and challenge, and reading music is no exception.  Yet, one never knows what one will find in some odd places in the printed repertoire.

Quote from: lostinidlewonder
Good sight readers cannot give up polishing up difficult pieces to performance standard.

Right.  Sight-reading is just a tool, but if it's one's only tool, such as a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. 

As in probably all arts, discrimination and application of the correct tool is half of the battle.


Quote from: lostinidlewonder
Memorizers to me perfer not to improve their reading skills too far, so long they can find the correct notes, fingering and coordination they will then go ahead and attempt to put it to memory in all sorts of different ways.

Yeah.  It can be discouraging, on the one hand, for the sight-reader to wonder at various mechanical tricks of The Memorizer.

On the other hand, it's a temptation to dismiss the abilities of The Memorizers as just some kind of trained monkeys, without analytic ability or breadth of stylistic diversity or command,  by a sight-reader's, I assume, generally unconscious comparative weighting of various pieces or even techniques or patterns at a smaller scale.

I still follow through with the notion that one needs both abilities.  I don't know if it's yin and yang, or quiet penance vs. self-flaggelation, or whatever, but I can imagine, particularly a younger player, investing these contrasting "styles of learning" with some kind of affective, competitive content.

For all know that's perfectly fine:  I don't teach younger people at all (let's say, younger than 18 or so, you know...I don't socialize with high school students, and I don't advertise, so, that limits my pool of contacts!), and never anything "classical" except some basic practical pointers derive from scalar work or use of intervals as it comes up in improvised music (or just copying parts from various pop music albums....I don't have any method, just show some of my peers some tricks, back when it was more possible to do such things prior to The Plague.  Without exception, always it's somebody who wants to learn a specific solo, or help with songwriting/harmony, or the basics of a certain style, which is easy for me to demonstrate and give tips on).  I probably shouldn't call myself a real teacher at all, except in the literal sense that I trade stuff for other stuff, or used to, before the whole thing with the novel virus and all that (!), just some guy who occasionally exchanges money (or beer!) for tips to people among people I know or friends of friends, and so forth.

But, yes, I have to work very hard at memorizing pieces:  I don't think it's due to reliance on the page (after all, if you've read the piece n number of times, it probably shouldn't be called sight-reading, really, just relying on visual cues or aides-mémoires.  I just don't the memory I did at age fifteen or so, say twenty-five or so years ago.  More probably, life is just more complicated as one gets older:  it's not all brain damage, probably.  Although, some of that too.  :)

So, there are tricks for that too:  sketch out Roman Numeral Analysis on post-it notes, or that kind of thing.  Or just listen and replay from memory a given piece, inside one's inner ear.  First with great concentration, and eventually an automatic recall of the sound and structure.  Sometimes it even works!

But that's getting a bit off-topic, I suppose.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #26 on: February 03, 2021, 11:46:15 PM »
From the memorizer camp: ;D

I think one of the best ways to practice memory is to give yourself, say, three attempts to play a page of music and some time to analyze it, say fifteen minutes. After that, don't allow yourself to look at the sheets. Tell yourself that it is memorized, and try your very best to recreate it in its entirety. If you can't manage to recreate everything after an hour so, you can look at the sheets again obviously. But your brain has to let go of using sheets as a crutch.

If you can read the page multiple times and it is automatically memorized in a way that you could play it without glancing at the score, this advice probably doesn't hold for you. But there is a definite tendency for your brain to get complacent when it comes to memorizing if you know that you have unlimited access to the score, and I think this helps in that regard.

I have also found it to be crucial to try and memorize everything upfront as much as possible. I agree that sight reading multiple times is probably the best way to memorize (if you're good enough that is), but I think you also cannot be thinking about the sheets as a failsafe in a capacity, otherwise your brain essentially chickens out of memorizing it.

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #27 on: February 04, 2021, 12:47:35 AM »
But your brain has to let go of using sheets as a crutch.

Word. That is the secret shame.  Like you, I am also an ear-player when it comes to a bunch of different kinds of music:  I'm not much of a free improviser, unlike many terrific pianists here, but there just isn't music written down for so many styles, so it's no choice.  Although, I pretty often write out parts off the record in standard notation, with pencil and paper....not really sure why....just that it might be months go by before I come back to some solo or part and it's easier to find a paper transcription than repeat the process again.  Well, ideally, once I finish my filing system instead of having random scores and hand-written transcriptions strewn all around my place!  Different strokes, I guess, or habits.

It's not like electric guitar (hssss!!!!!!! mortal enemies!!!! hissssss!!! :)) where there's tabs for everything online, most of it terrible.

Yeah, it's like anything else, right?  It must be a balance, and in the end it's the music that matters.

You know, speaking of complacency, I just had a thought.  There was some musician, a piano picker I believe, who had an idea of taking a sheet of cardboard and cutting out about an octave's space "window" through it, to challenge himself (I think it was a guy) to improvise melodies within a restricted tessitura.

One might well use a little trick like that on printed music:  sort of a palimpsest, opaque, but with a few "windows" open onto random bits in the score.

Just thought of that, but I think I'm going to "sacrifice" a bit of sturdy paper and play around with that.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Is technique really necessary or should you just focus on the music?
«Reply #28 on: February 04, 2021, 03:45:09 AM »
100% absolutely.  I don't view mindleslly sight-reading relatively simple pieces as fruitful in se, no matter how much good music is there.
Yes these "simple" peices may be considered advanced for the developing pianists and our output may impress the vast majority of observers but if our aim is to constantly improve our skills we shouldn't make this exclusively all we do. You naturally will solidify your skills and unavoidably improve your reading the more easy/moderate level pieces you study, they don't really have to challenge you but they keep all your well developed skills sharpened. These type of pieces are the most relaxing ones for us to play and we really can put a lot of expression into our playing no problems. They are very intoxicating because of this, we can express ourselves musically with pieces we hardly ever play, it has got to be one of the most musically liberating experiences. But these pieces ultimately don't really challenge us, to encourage improvement you need to sweat and struggle a little and push yourself reading of patterns and sounds that challenge you. Comparing the experience between the two of course we will recoil from the challenge because it's exhausing, you feel like a poor reader, but this is a good state to be in, you should feel the struggle like many beginners do.

That is, it's rewarding in some ways for discovering new pieces or absorbing new ideas, but for me it's just a convenient way to find ways of progressing, even though new techniques might not be forthcoming on a regular basis.
Yes sight reading is an excellent tool as you describe here. When you come across passages where the technique might not reveal itself readily in your hands/mind you at least pinpoint where that occurs and you are also aware of everything else which you can appropriately manage. This way through our reading skills we can very quicly map out where our work lies and thus when we try to improve it we know exactly where all the works is. This can be very helpful because you can solve problems in a mindful manner such as finding a relationship between certain challenging points to one another and being mroe aware as to how solving one problem solves others simultenously.

Although they can.  New techniques or ways of fingering various passages can be found rather quickly in this way.
Yes as we hit these points which are not so automatically solved we can then apply all sorts of inferred solutions rather than randomly trying different ideas, we focus the fingering options. A chess analogy can be used here (yay is this fun and now I probably will waffle on :P ). When you play a weaker player at chess you can make moves very fast at them, make mistakes and still beat them, this is what it is like when you sight read something which is manageable. When you play a more experienced opponent you have to think more and mistakes can be punished a more, this is what it is like when you play a piece which is at your level but challenges you a little (an area I think is most effective to study with). Then when you play an opponent who is much stronger than yourself your calculated move may be refuted, but in piano you can take back your moves and come up with another solution, that may be refuted also and thus you continue the procedure until you come up with the correct line. If you really play a strong grandmaster at chess you will feel just the same as practicing a piano piece that is far too difficult for you. I play chess against computers and get beaten to a pulp, they also defeat the very best players in the world. I like the idea of taking back the moves and trying to survive the computer, it makes me think about studying difficult piano pieces which have a tough solution, there is always a solution to be found but do you have to time to do it? Perhaps you are even down a lost pathway, I've had this problem trying to beat the computer, I try to improve the line I think should work but it is losing already from the start. I have to give up that failure no matter how confident I was in it and try something else, it all echos piano study very closely to me.

I find your optimism that increasing gnomic, even obscure or eye-blurring works can be handled adeptly very encouraging.
I think they first can be contained, that is sight read in a way which you can make improvements each repetition. It is akin to memorizers who will repeat a passage until it is memorized utilitizing all sorts of tools, however for sight readers we use reading skills to contain it and then apply memorization to it. This memorization we attach to it however initially requires sight reading to support it, then once the memory gets stronger the reading scaffolding can slowly come away more and more, we don't have to observe as much and we start to feel more free.

When I practice my sight reading study with difficult works I like to get to the point where I can contain the writing and understand the points of memorization required. If I then can improve it somewhat after a few repetitions I will be satistifed that it is solve and move onto something else or the next passage. Of course this does not give me the ability to play the piece at concert standard as a whole but that isn't my aim when I am practicing my reading skills with difficult works.

To borrow a phrase from session musicians or jazz people, indeed, it's a height of accomplishment to be able to read fly sh*t off a page two seconds before the red light goes on!  Something to strive for.
lol, I have heard a similar about flyshit on a page, it meant having an ability to make something good out of something that is really bad.

Yeah.  It can be discouraging, on the one hand, for the sight-reader to wonder at various mechanical tricks of The Memorizer.
Yes some tricks they use are really bizarre and amazing that it works so well for them. Personally I came from learning to play by ear, to becoming a memorizer, to becoming a sight reader, to combining all of the above into one. They probably were not isolated from one another for too long when I became aware of each but combining them all became more a realization once all the skills were at a good level, they just had to combine and synergize with one another for each to improve further.

On the other hand, it's a temptation to dismiss the abilities of The Memorizers as just some kind of trained monkeys, without analytic ability or breadth of stylistic diversity or command,  by a sight-reader's, I assume, generally unconscious comparative weighting of various pieces or even techniques or patterns at a smaller scale.
As a teacher I often dismiss it when it is being done very ineffectively and there is little room for improvement at their current level. But now and then I come across people who do it well and I like to investigate how they are doing it because that is where you can make improvements for them. Sometimes it is very alien, I had one particular student learn concert standard works with synesthesia videos. There was however a difficulty helping him to make changes in his fingerings and keeping track of it all. A great weakness in the approach even though the output was impressive. This reliance on his muscular memory solutions were very concrete and tough to break and mould, if a finger was changed the structure shattered, this of course is a very extreme situation. This I find is a common problem with memorizers however at different levels of intensity, they have muscular memory solutions which if they happen to have errors in them they are difficult to change without disrupting their memorized solution of the peice. Sight readers pretty much shrug off this problem like water on a ducks back.

I still follow through with the notion that one needs both abilities.  I don't know if it's yin and yang, or quiet penance vs. self-flaggelation, or whatever, but I can imagine, particularly a younger player, investing these contrasting "styles of learning" with some kind of affective, competitive content.
You certainly need to be a good memorizer and good sight reader and a good player by ear. It is the entire package one should strive for. Sight reading however I have found just widens the bottle neck of efficiency, you can churn through a tonn of work as your reading gets better. Memorizers can often flounder about with only a few pieces for a year. I used to detest sight reading when I was younger but now I am a vocal advocate for it.

For all know that's perfectly fine:  I don't teach younger people at all (let's say, younger than 18 or so, you know...I don't socialize with high school students, and I don't advertise, so, that limits my pool of contacts!), and never anything "classical" except some basic practical pointers derive from scalar work or use of intervals as it comes up in improvised music (or just copying parts from various pop music albums....I don't have any method, just show some of my peers some tricks, back when it was more possible to do such things prior to The Plague.  Without exception, always it's somebody who wants to learn a specific solo, or help with songwriting/harmony, or the basics of a certain style, which is easy for me to demonstrate and give tips on).  I probably shouldn't call myself a real teacher at all, except in the literal sense that I trade stuff for other stuff, or used to, before the whole thing with the novel virus and all that (!), just some guy who occasionally exchanges money (or beer!) for tips to people among people I know or friends of friends, and so forth.
My professional experience is in "classical" piano study, works that you study from a score so what I write is meant for this type of study. There is certainly a void between the classical and jazz world and when it comes to the keyboard I think the major difference is what is written on the sheets and what you do with them. Classical pianists need to be told what to do and we recite as best we can the instructions given to us. Jazz pianists although they do have reading of fake books and all sorts of technical work books, their playing is ultimately forumulated on rhythmic understanding, chord progression (telegraph poles) and a connection with improvisation inbetween (wires between the poles).

But, yes, I have to work very hard at memorizing pieces:  I don't think it's due to reliance on the page (after all, if you've read the piece n number of times, it probably shouldn't be called sight-reading, really, just relying on visual cues or aides-mémoires.  I just don't the memory I did at age fifteen or so, say twenty-five or so years ago.  More probably, life is just more complicated as one gets older:  it's not all brain damage, probably.  Although, some of that too.  :)
There is a definition of sightreading to mean something along the lines of reading something you have never come across for the first time. Although I agree with this definition I feel that in practice we are not using sight reading skills in total isolation to everything else and we don't always play a piece one time and then never again. Multiple reading attempts of a piece will automatically cause memorization to start happening, but it all relies on the sight reading to support the structure. So we do rely on the page still but the memorization is happening and we notice that as the reading becomes easier and easier through the repeats which in itself is an excellent indicator of memorisation creeping in. Once you attain that freedom of thought and the reading is efficient then the memorisation can totally take over if required, this is the minimum path to take if focused isolated memorisation efforts needs to take place after the synerized approach has ended.

So, there are tricks for that too:  sketch out Roman Numeral Analysis on post-it notes, or that kind of thing.  Or just listen and replay from memory a given piece, inside one's inner ear.  First with great concentration, and eventually an automatic recall of the sound and structure.  Sometimes it even works!
Yes a huge selection of tricks out there and quite an interesting discussion in itself.
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