\"\"
Piano Forum logo

How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated (Read 800 times)

Offline pope urban ii

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Hello, first time posting here. I've been playing piano for a little less than a year but only taking it really seriously in the last 4 months. (first 6 months mostly slapped the keys around for 30-60 min/day)

It has become my main hobby but I often feel a little lost when it comes to the big picture of my piano journey. I have lofty goals and I hope to one day play pieces like Gaspard de la Nuit, Liszt's cool kid pieces, and lots of others. I just don't always know what I'm supposed to be doing to get there. I try to practice a total of 4 hours a day, I do 15 min/day of drills (scales, some things I found online to relax hand) and 15 min/day of sight reading basic stuff and the rest on songs.

(of reasonable quality) I can play Moonlight Sonata mvt 1, Gymnopedie no. 1, Gnossienne no. 1, Asturias, Patrik Pietschmann's LOTR Theme, Kiss the Rain.

I am working on: (always a Satie piece), Rachmaninoff Prelude in C Sharp minor, Pavane pour une Infante defunte, The Lark (glinka/balakirev), Arabesque no. 1, and Un Sospiro.

I have troubles with polyrhythms at this stage so Arabesque and Un sospiro very hard for me. The long runs in the Lark are new to me and lots of jumping towards the end are not easy. The Lark, arabesque and un sospiro are above my skill level and the idea is that working on some pieces like that is overall beneficial and help raise my current skill level. What do you think? Is that the best way to build up my skill, working on hard pieces?

tl;dr

Should I be practicing songs above my skill level? Any further advice on drills much appreciated. I have heard good things about the Dohnanyi Essential Finger Exercises book and I think that I need some resource for drills.

Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Debussy: Arabesque, no 1
piano sheet music of Arabesque


Offline anacrusis

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 338
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #1 on: May 13, 2021, 08:56:09 PM »
If you have those lofty goals, the most useful thing you could ever do to build your skill is to get yourself a really good teacher. There are so many things to know when it comes to playing the piano, and some of them are less than obvious. You can easily go the wrong way and cause yourself problems that take a long time to fix if you try to figure it out all by yourself. Especially if you try to tackle pieces that are very advanced before you are ready.

A good teacher will set up a plan of study that will help you take a shorter road to your goals, and help establishing good technical habits and correct any bad habits before they get deeply ingrained to the point of taking years to fix.

I would chill a bit with big Liszt pieces like Un Sospiro for now. The Debussy Arabesque might be fine, but it depends on where you are at right now, which is impossible to judge just based on what pieces you are working on.

I'm not saying this to discourage you but just because I know from experience that you need to learn to walk before you try to run. It is beneficial to work on pieces above your skill level but I would set my sights at pieces that are not quite that far above what you have learned so far, considering you've only played a year. Most importantly, you also need to play many pieces that are completely within your capabilities to master right now to establish good foundations. Can you, for example, competently play a Clementi sonatina or a Bach two part invention with a feeling of being relaxed and at ease and few to no mistakes? If not, you'll need to dial it back a bit.

Offline pope urban ii

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #2 on: May 13, 2021, 10:06:52 PM »
Thank you for replying anacrusis. In terms of playing pieces at my level I definitely do that. I try to learn and be able to play well a Satie piece at all time and work on songs that are not technically difficult but sound nice.

As for finding a good teacher I do have a teacher right now and he has recommended recently that I get a teacher who is more is more focused on piano since he is more of a jack of all trades and not a piano specialist. He has offered to recommend me someone but I'll be moving this summer so perhaps I'll wait until then to find a new teacher.

I have wondered about online teachers as it seems you have a greater pool to choose from.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #3 on: May 13, 2021, 10:59:28 PM »
Online teaching can most certainly work and was quite effective for me. However, you need to make sure that you are very, very observant -- as much as you can possibly muster.

Get yourself an excellent teacher -- I would say it would basically be impossible to learn those pieces to a satisfactory level without one. I have similar ambitions and am improving quite a bit with a really good teacher. I would say it's imperative that you really find the best piano teacher possible if you really want to advance to playing those pieces -- someone, ideally who can play similar pieces at a performance standard themselves. You will realize that this will narrow down the number of qualified teachers quite dramatically, and you will be left with people like college professors, and at the very least, graduates from excellent universities with years or performing experience.

I self-taught for several years and am not bad at playing the piano, but when you get ever-finer nuances which you need to perfect, which recordings sometimes don't even reproduce properly, you will be hard-pressed to recreate that on your own.

My teacher says that I've achieved a high level of "imitation" based on listening to a lot of recordings. However, it sounds noticeably fake or approximated.

However, all of this really only applies since I have high ambitions like yours. I have always told teachers that my hypothetical goal is to play Liszt etudes well, and they have taught accordingly, by trying to solidify my basics as much as possible, although each teacher has had their own approach.

You need to be the complete package to get there, and actively try and improve any deficiencies you see. It is doubly hard as an adult, but still possible, or at least I hope so for my sake!

Also, don't just follow your teacher. Think long and hard about what they have to say and try and come up with effective ways to develop the things you are trying to work on. For example, transcription and composition can help with understanding theory and ear training. Set yourself high standards and dream big, beyond what the teachers expect. The best students always imbibe things from teachers and challenge them when it is appropriate. A good teacher will not ask you to blindly imitate.

ETA. Again, get a GOOD teacher if you're serious about attempting this. They should know about hand physiology, as since you are presumably an adult, you can't simply rely on imitation. They should blow you away every lesson with how much they are able to point out which can be improved, even in the simplest things. Don't settle, it just won't cut it if you really want to be able to play at a high level.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #4 on: May 13, 2021, 11:27:48 PM »
You seem quite talented and dedicated, and I was in your shoes until last year. I went through a couple of teachers before finding one who could tell me what exactly was missing in my playing. Later on, a few other pianists have told me these things, and I think I needed a bit of a jolt to realize what it actually meant to play classical music at a high level -- there's so much thought that needs to go into it, so many decisions and movements, and all of it needs to be automated so that it can be executed in real time.

You are spending 4 hours a day at the piano. At some point, you will realize that a lot of it was spent ineffectively. It's better to find a great teacher immediately and have lessons, even if it's once or twice a month, and even if it's online. Online lessons are effective for good students, approaching the effectiveness of in person lessons if you are very perceptive, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

An important thing to develop is perception. Being able to perceive music -- phrases, dynamics, whether pedals are being used and how much, whether the soft pedal is being used, what kinds of attack are being used, etc. They are hard to hear, but it is possible to do so, and you want to develop that skill. Also, try to develop the skill of being able to observe and imitate hand positions and body movements when it comes to the piano. Record yourself, play in front of a mirror, do whatever it takes. It's not easy to judge yourself accurately, but the better you can observe and the quicker you can pick up on things, the better your progress will be.

Take a look at this video and observe how many things the pianist is able to pick up on. You need to develop this skill as quickly as possible so that you can oversee your progress while you're learning. Essentially, your mind should always be ahead of your fingers if you want to self-teach to a considerable extent (even if you supplement with occasional lessons).

Offline pope urban ii

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #5 on: May 14, 2021, 04:11:04 PM »
Online teaching can most certainly work and was quite effective for me. However, you need to make sure that you are very, very observant -- as much as you can possibly muster.

Get yourself an excellent teacher -- I would say it would basically be impossible to learn those pieces to a satisfactory level without one. I have similar ambitions and am improving quite a bit with a really good teacher. I would say it's imperative that you really find the best piano teacher possible if you really want to advance to playing those pieces -- someone, ideally who can play similar pieces at a performance standard themselves. You will realize that this will narrow down the number of qualified teachers quite dramatically, and you will be left with people like college professors, and at the very least, graduates from excellent universities with years or performing experience.

I self-taught for several years and am not bad at playing the piano, but when you get ever-finer nuances which you need to perfect, which recordings sometimes don't even reproduce properly, you will be hard-pressed to recreate that on your own.

My teacher says that I've achieved a high level of "imitation" based on listening to a lot of recordings. However, it sounds noticeably fake or approximated.

However, all of this really only applies since I have high ambitions like yours. I have always told teachers that my hypothetical goal is to play Liszt etudes well, and they have taught accordingly, by trying to solidify my basics as much as possible, although each teacher has had their own approach.

You need to be the complete package to get there, and actively try and improve any deficiencies you see. It is doubly hard as an adult, but still possible, or at least I hope so for my sake!

Also, don't just follow your teacher. Think long and hard about what they have to say and try and come up with effective ways to develop the things you are trying to work on. For example, transcription and composition can help with understanding theory and ear training. Set yourself high standards and dream big, beyond what the teachers expect. The best students always imbibe things from teachers and challenge them when it is appropriate. A good teacher will not ask you to blindly imitate.

ETA. Again, get a GOOD teacher if you're serious about attempting this. They should know about hand physiology, as since you are presumably an adult, you can't simply rely on imitation. They should blow you away every lesson with how much they are able to point out which can be improved, even in the simplest things. Don't settle, it just won't cut it if you really want to be able to play at a high level.

Thanks so much for taking the time to reply ranjit. I will begin seriously looking into finding a good online teacher. I have often wondered how much I would be improving if I had someone watching "over my shoulder" more often. I currently have very poor wifi so I may have to wait until I move but we'll see.

Offline lelle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1103
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #6 on: May 14, 2021, 09:51:28 PM »

As for finding a good teacher I do have a teacher right now and he has recommended recently that I get a teacher who is more is more focused on piano since he is more of a jack of all trades and not a piano specialist. He has offered to recommend me someone but I'll be moving this summer so perhaps I'll wait until then to find a new teacher.

This sounds like a good plan. If you want to get to Gaspard de la Nuit a jack of all trades teacher that is not a specialist on piano simply wont do it unless you are a world class tier level of talent. (99.99% of us aren't). I would investigate the recommendation. Also keep in mind that while online lessons are useful, it won't be as efficient as in person lessons. Some technical concepts are most easily communicated through physical touch rather than with words which you obviously can't do online. THings you need to understand with your body moreso than with your mind.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #7 on: May 15, 2021, 12:19:43 AM »
This sounds like a good plan. If you want to get to Gaspard de la Nuit a jack of all trades teacher that is not a specialist on piano simply wont do it unless you are a world class tier level of talent. (99.99% of us aren't). I would investigate the recommendation. Also keep in mind that while online lessons are useful, it won't be as efficient as in person lessons. Some technical concepts are most easily communicated through physical touch rather than with words which you obviously can't do online. THings you need to understand with your body moreso than with your mind.
I would just like to add that online lessons with a great teacher can be much better than in person lessons with an average on. But if you filter teachers based on whether they can play Gaspard, you'll probably not end up with too many poor ones, methinks.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #8 on: May 15, 2021, 01:05:05 AM »
Before the internet piano studies were different and piano students aims different. Today you have so many recordings and videos of piano playing, a real overwhelming amount of information at no cost! It was difficult and expensive to get videos of piano playing before the digital age. Nowadays you also have access to all sorts of sheet music instantly, when I was younger I would have to save up my money to buy some sheets (not unusual to pay $20 for a single peice sent from overseas) or visit the state library or a music university to browse new sheet music.

This set up an environment for me which was very insulated, there was not that much information of other peoples achievements distracting me left right and centre or super impressive recordings/videos of repertoire to intoxicate me. There were no videos of people my age or younger or older wowing me in videos and inspiring me to keep up with them. I merely focused on my own piano development without caring what other people did or how much better or worse they were than me. The years went by and I quietly improved my skills without drawing motivation to keep up with other pianists.

I played piano for some 10+ years and never had heard of Gaspard de la Nuit or really knew who Ravel was, I had heard his Bolero but that was about all! Chopin and Liszt Etudes I became aware of around 6-7 years into my piano journey and started to dabble with in my teenage years a few years later when I finally accessed the sheet music and some more recordings. Beethoven Sonata's I knew very early on as a child since we had cassette tapes of them which I loved, this inspired me to learn his Sonata's when I was younger.

When the internet came out there were tons of MIDI since MP3's didn't exist and WAV files where far too large to download back when max download speed was like 10kb/s lol. I already had over a decade piano playing experience behind me and I felt when I heard all these new pieces I had to find the ability to organize how I wanted to learn them, quite a confusing mess!

So listening experience really does impact on ones direction and motivation. When I grew up my attention was so focused on the limited materials we had to study piano but it was really quite perfect. For a long time before the internet the piano world was full of mystery and discoveries to be made. Today you can listen to all the popular masterpieces in a matter of weeks, something that to me was revealed over many years. This to me seems like a problem, it's just so overwhelming for people who are developing at the piano. I felt overwhelmed as a teen seeing all these new works on the internet even though I had over a decade experience behind me and a teacher to support me.

I come across many self taught pianists who are just thinly spread all over the place and with plenty of holes in their development because they have so much listening experience and have developed a taste of music that is quite advanced. It is just so backwards I feel, there should be years of not even knowing about these master pieces while you study the piano and then when it is finally revealed to you it becomes a new chapter in your journey a new target.

The internet is a wonderful place to learn but I feel it has severely disrupted efficient short/mid term goals for many aspiring pianists. When I was younger the piano students rarely overextended with works too difficult for themselves it just didn't happen, the choice was made always by the teacher and we followed. Nowadays students are expected to have some freedom of choice as to what they play and teachers should submit to it, we have the internet with access to so much music that we can craft different musical paths which are still highly effective to develop with. Self learners however easily have access to sheet music of pieces far too difficult for themselves and then go ahead and learn it. Rewind back to the 1980s, youd have to purchase the sheets, probably have to get it sent over to you from overseas, that would set you back at over $100 if it was a larger volume, if you wanted recordings if they existed it would cost you at least $20 again. So say you wanted to study the Chopin etudes you would have to spend at least $100 just to get access to the sheets and recordings. Or you could borrow from the library but you can't copy it, there wasn't easy access to photocopiers and taking digital images didn't exist. People were just not stupid enough to invest into pieces far too difficult for themselves, today you can do it for free but it is very expensive with your time wasted and sets people up for a world of estimated piano playing which is just such a tangled mess to unwind that it is almost always better to build from bottom up instead.




"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #9 on: May 15, 2021, 02:24:03 AM »
I played piano for some 10+ years and never had heard of Gaspard de la Nuit or really knew who Ravel was, I had heard his Bolero but that was about all! Chopin and Liszt Etudes I became aware of around 6-7 years into my piano journey and started to dabble with in my teenage years a few years later when I finally accessed the sheet music and some more recordings. Beethoven Sonata's I knew very early on as a child since we had cassette tapes of them which I loved, this inspired me to learn his Sonata's when I was younger.
The way you put it, there is an advantage to this. How would you get to know lesser known composers? I'm personally not so sure that it's healthy to only know about Beethoven, Chopin, etc., if I'm getting you correctly.

For a long time before the internet the piano world was full of mystery and discoveries to be made. Today you can listen to all the popular masterpieces in a matter of weeks, something that to me was revealed over many years. This to me seems like a problem, it's just so overwhelming for people who are developing at the piano. I felt overwhelmed as a teen seeing all these new works on the internet even though I had over a decade experience behind me and a teacher to support me.

I definitely agree with the sentiment here. Of course, I  would literally not be playing the piano if not for the internet, so I am deeply indebted to it. However, I think in general, that the deluge of information the internet provides overwhelms most people and often, paradoxically, makes them somewhat dumber. The amount of information seems so insurmountable that many people end up not spending enough time thinking about anything, and it leads to a shallow, uncertain understanding of most things. Another problem is that it's unmoderated, and people who aren't good at critical thinking just don't know what to believe any more, which I believe leads to more delusional thinking.

I come across many self taught pianists who are just thinly spread all over the place and with plenty of holes in their development because they have so much listening experience and have developed a taste of music that is quite advanced. It is just so backwards I feel, there should be years of not even knowing about these master pieces while you study the piano and then when it is finally revealed to you it becomes a new chapter in your journey a new target.
I feel personally attacked  ;D

I see where you're coming from, but if you think of music as being a language, wouldn't it be best to have as much listening exposure as possible? You had classical music in your home growing up, which is certainly one way to go about it, but I think that making it a point to actively listen to a lot of music is important if you have had no prior exposure. For example, I did not have any exposure to classical music growing up, except the occasional Tom and Jerry cartoon. So there's no conceivable way in which I could make musical decisions while playing without getting some first-hand listening experience.

However, I definitely agree that the listening should be deep rather than shallow, spending a lot of time on individual pieces and figuring them out.


When I was younger the piano students rarely overextended with works too difficult for themselves it just didn't happen, the choice was made always by the teacher and we followed. Nowadays students are expected to have some freedom of choice as to what they play and teachers should submit to it, we have the internet with access to so much music that we can craft different musical paths which are still highly effective to develop with. Self learners however easily have access to sheet music of pieces far too difficult for themselves and then go ahead and learn it.
I think this is somewhat true, but not quite. I think that the average student is much more likely to overextend themselves nowadays. However, I think that the obsessed types overextended themselves in the past as well. Ted, for example, often recounts the time he taught himself the Fantaisie Impromptu before he met his first teacher, and this was about 60 years ago.

but it is very expensive with your time wasted and sets people up for a world of estimated piano playing which is just such a tangled mess to unwind that it is almost always better to build from bottom up instead.
Yes, this has happened to me. Now that I've got a really good teacher, I have realized what people were telling me about estimated playing. However, there are multiple obstacles. I wouldn't entrust my progress to 99% of the teachers out there, and it's very likely that my teachers would have been like that starting out, discouraging questions and stifling creativity -- and that would have put me off piano playing for a long time.

So I'm somewhat glad that I taught myself to the point where I could tell what I actually needed in a teacher, and to where I've gotten some confidence in my abilities.

However, again, the way I've seen so many teachers teach online, on YouTube, on pianoworld and pianostreet, really scared me off. I was concerned that I would be made to blindly do exercises and recite things with no true understanding like I see so often.

I have observed that the regular posters here, like yourself, are excellent teachers and pianists, but from what I've seen, the horror stories are considerably more common.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #10 on: May 15, 2021, 03:09:55 AM »
How would you get to know lesser known composers? I'm personally not so sure that it's healthy to only know about Beethoven, Chopin, etc., if I'm getting you correctly.
I only mentioned these as masterpieces which require high technical skill. In fact I don't think it's important to see the entire landscape of repertoire while learning in the earlier stages and even intermediate since it can confuse ones goals as I mentioned previously. Sure listen to all sorts of recordings not only piano solo but be wary if they start influencing your decision making and even encourage you to try them out if you haven't developed your skills elsewhere first. This is just a general warning of course there are a certain few who won't have to worry about this. I just have never come across anyone who plays at a masters level who didn't come from years of playing much smaller eaiser pieces and building from the bottom up. You don't just go,from c major scale to, Für Elise, fantasie impromptu, Chopin etudes like you see people online try or story tell about!

I definitely agree with the sentiment here. Of course, I  would literally not be playing the piano if not for the internet, so I am deeply indebted to it. However, I think in general, that the deluge of information the internet provides overwhelms most people and often, paradoxically, makes them somewhat dumber. The amount of information seems so insurmountable that many people end up not spending enough time thinking about anything, and it leads to a shallow, uncertain understanding of most things.
Exactly what I feel well put. It also can make one look down upon much easier works because it sounds so little by comparison, that is a terrible danger IMHO. I learned the vast majority of musical language and expression from very simple works and this easily translates to more difficult works.

Another problem is that it's unmoderated, and people who aren't good at critical thinking just don't know what to believe any more, which I believe leads to more delusional thinking.
You have to measure all the info and judge what is useful, it just takes a lot of effort and often you don't know how to weigh it. Its just too much info to sift through and not enough effective work,

I feel personally attacked  ;D
Lol, you do a good job ranjit, we all can admit that at some point in time we have overextended our ambitions and struggle with pieces too difficult for ourselves. I've done it plenty of times myself over the years but always push myself to avoid it as much as possible. Too difficult means to me that you cannot acquire an effortless touch with the entire piece, you are always aware of what you need to physically do and it doesn't feel like "honey on our fingers" as sir Mozart might have put it. It is not what piano playing should feel like, we should aim for that effortless control.


I see where you're coming from, but if you think of music as being a language, wouldn't it be best to have as much listening exposure as possible? You had classical music in your home growing up, which is certainly one way to go about it, but I think that making it a point to actively listen to a lot of music is important if you have had no prior exposure. For example, I did not have any exposure to classical music growing up, except the occasional Tom and Jerry cartoon. So there's no conceivable way in which I could make musical decisions while playing without getting some first-hand listening experience.
Deep musical expression can be found in many simple pieces and you don't need a long list of masterpieces to reveal it. For instance I had years of study with other works before I listened to Beethoven sonatas but I understood the expression. It was not like the Beethoven was a totally new language with expression I had never come across. Tempo and volume control can be felt in the most simple pieces. So exposure to hundreds of masterpieces is just not necessary and in fact I can only name a handful of my own students who are so interested, the vast majority don't listen to much piano music but play it a lot.

I think that the average student is much more likely to overextend themselves nowadays.
Yes it is because that info is so easy to get and free, before we just were not as aware and just focused on developing.

However, I think that the obsessed types overextended themselves in the past as well. Ted, for example, often recounts the time he taught himself the Fantaisie Impromptu before he met his first teacher, and this was about 60 years ago.
Yes, this has happened to me. Now that I've got a really good teacher, I have realized what people were telling me about estimated playing. However, there are multiple obstacles. I wouldn't entrust my progress to 99% of the teachers out there, and it's very likely that my teachers would have been like that starting out, discouraging questions and stifling creativity -- and that would have put me off piano playing for a long time.
I mean sure people overextended in the past too before the Internet but it's more common these days because of how readily all the info is there. I couldn't Google "most difficult piano piece" and get tons of results when I was younger, in fact that kind of question never came into my mind. Today though all sorts of questions can be answered which then impact on ones decision making and not always for the better.

So I'm somewhat glad that I taught myself to the point where I could tell what I actually needed in a teacher, and to where I've gotten some confidence in my abilities.

However, again, the way I've seen so many teachers teach online, on YouTube, on pianoworld and pianostreet, really scared me off. I was concerned that I would be made to blindly do exercises and recite things with no true understanding like I see so often.

I have observed that the regular posters here, like yourself, are excellent teachers and pianists, but from what I've seen, the horror stories are considerably more common.
I'm always surprised how some people solve learning the piano and I think we as teachers should not stifle it if it is producing results. On the Internet however I tend to talk in terms of the general experience, what most people will go through, we do have to be aware rules can be broken and strange paths can bring great results, there are also many who will be lost in that wilderness too some for far too long.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #11 on: May 16, 2021, 01:45:33 AM »
On the point of listening to a lot of piano music, I noted with interest that you mention that very few of your students were interested in seeking out recordings on their own. I have observed this as well -- even among university students, having a wide knowledge of recordings is not that common. I can't help it because I innately feel curious to check out how people can bring out different things with what appear to be the exact same notes -- however, that kind of curiosity is not shared by many.

On rethinking it, I think that this sort of thing is far more useful to a composer than a performer. And if you look at great composers, almost all of them tend to have a phenomenal grasp of the music that came before them, very commonly accompanied by an incredible memory for music.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #12 on: May 19, 2021, 03:18:03 AM »
...I innately feel curious to check out how people can bring out different things with what appear to be the exact same notes -- however, that kind of curiosity is not shared by many.
It is because you can learn the language of music without copying what others do. Of course you need to start from easier situations rather than in the deep end of concert repertoire. If you can play easy music highly musical this also translates to skills used in playing more challenging music musically.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline romanticperiod

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 9
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #13 on: May 25, 2021, 05:16:59 PM »
I am dealing with the exact same thing thank you so much for posting this this question has been haunting me lmao  :-[

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #14 on: May 25, 2021, 06:19:36 PM »
It is because you can learn the language of music without copying what others do. Of course you need to start from easier situations rather than in the deep end of concert repertoire. If you can play easy music highly musical this also translates to skills used in playing more challenging music musically.
Musicality isn't one concrete thing, there are tons of ideas which you usually imbibe by listening to them. It is why so many classical pianists do a terrible job at playing pop music on the piano. They play the notes, bit can't nail the feel.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #15 on: May 26, 2021, 01:28:43 AM »
If you can play easier works with a high level of musically it translates to the capacity to play more difficult works musically. The only difference is the technique, number of notes, that does not necessarily make understanding the musicality in your minds eye any more difficult. Musicality can be strangled by ineffective technique and this is predominantly the issue. Overly technical playing also strangles musicality but if someone is in that boat they would have problems playing easy music musically as well thus if they focused on playing much easier works musically it will help them find it in more difficult works too.

In my mind there is zero difference in the power of musical expression when more notes are added. If something is written well it can have minimal notes and express deep musical ideas, there are countless examples out there I don't need to even list them. Yes everyone should listen to excellent interpretations of works but it is just not necessary to obsess about that.

When MP3s came into existence so many real recordings of people could be listened to, it was really overwhelming and even more today where you can listen to 100 people play the same popular pieces. As a young musician I actually found it annoying to listen to real people play pieces I wanted to learn and much preferred to listen to midi recoridngs with very little expression. This allowed me to understand the notes of a piece (because my sight reading was quite poor back then) but be able to solve it musically myself as I imagined how the notes should be played. I really feel it is a trap to listen to masterful human recordings and learn your musicality from them, it should be found first and foremost from your own playing and develop from there, copy pasting ideas of mastery is usually not a good idea. There are stages to ones own musical playing and merely approximating someone else neglects that imho.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #16 on: May 26, 2021, 05:55:06 AM »
If you can play easier works with a high level of musically it translates to the capacity to play more difficult works musically. The only difference is the technique, number of notes, that does not necessarily make understanding the musicality in your minds eye any more difficult.
I think this is usually only true for stylistically similar pieces. If you learn Chopin waltzes/nocturnes, you will not need to develop your musicality separately for his Ballades. However, I don't think it will transfer effortlessly to Mozart or Bach or Scriabin. There will be some overlap, but not that much imo. I did not find it obvious at all how to bring out musicality in Bach, but at the same time I find Chopin very intuitive. From what I've seen, the same holds true for pop/jazz music as well -- even though I haven't played them, I have heard enough to get a decent grasp of the musicality of those specific styles, and it's obvious to me when a classical player tries to play those pieces, without having absorbed the stylistic idiom.

Now, if we generalize the idea of stylistic idiom further, there is very often a Hungarian/Polish/French/Russian way to play pieces by certain composers -- they are similar enough, but the accents, the way the rubato is shaped etc. is quite different. Take Annie Fischer vs Arrau for example -- it isn't just their personalities which makes the difference; it is also background.

And I think that listening is the only way to be able to absorb those influences and hear those musical ideas for yourself. It's not really something that you will come up with on your own.

In my mind there is zero difference in the power of musical expression when more notes are added. If something is written well it can have minimal notes and express deep musical ideas, there are countless examples out there I don't need to even list them.
It's not about the number of notes at all -- and in that, I think we agree. To draw an analogy, I think of music as being comprised of a number of different languages (even if they are related): if you know one, you can say more complicated statements in that language. However, that will not translate into being able to speak other languages well.


As a young musician I actually found it annoying to listen to real people play pieces I wanted to learn and much preferred to listen to midi recoridngs with very little expression. This allowed me to understand the notes of a piece (because my sight reading was quite poor back then) but be able to solve it musically myself as I imagined how the notes should be played.
This hit me right in the feels! I used to do precisely that when I was starting out -- watching a synthesia version of Liszt's Rondo Fantastique iirc among other pieces, and trying to imagine how I would play it (even if I couldn't quite play it, I could imagine the correct fingering etc.). I recommend this to people sometimes, but it is easily misinterpreted.

I really feel it is a trap to listen to masterful human recordings and learn your musicality from them, it should be found first and foremost from your own playing and develop from there, copy pasting ideas of mastery is usually not a good idea. There are stages to ones own musical playing and merely approximating someone else neglects that imho.
Yes, but on the other hand, I would never have understood Liszt if I hadn't listened to Cziffra. Otherwise, I might still have the opinion that Liszt is just a bunch of notes. The same goes with a number of other composers.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #17 on: May 26, 2021, 06:45:06 AM »
I think this is usually only true for stylistically similar pieces. If you learn Chopin waltzes/nocturnes, you will not need to develop your musicality separately for his Ballades. However, I don't think it will transfer effortlessly to Mozart or Bach or Scriabin. There will be some overlap, but not that much imo. I did not find it obvious at all how to bring out musicality in Bach, but at the same time I find Chopin very intuitive. From what I've seen, the same holds true for pop/jazz music as well -- even though I haven't played them, I have heard enough to get a decent grasp of the musicality of those specific styles, and it's obvious to me when a classical player tries to play those pieces, without having absorbed the stylistic idiom.
You should be exposed to examples of good playing and appreciate them. We should not miss out on the proces of discovering musical expression ourselves which is quite a valuable and exciting process.

And I think that listening is the only way to be able to absorb those influences and hear those musical ideas for yourself. It's not really something that you will come up with on your own.
Music styles are not segmented and mutually exclusive from one another, there is a mutually inclusive relationship between all music really.

...I think of music as being comprised of a number of different languages (even if they are related): if you know one, you can say more complicated statements in that language. However, that will not translate into being able to speak other languages well.
Music is somewhat different though because you can understand it and emotionally connect to it immediately without ever being exposed or told anything about the specific musical genre. The connection between music styles are very strong much more so than the difference in spoken language.

You do need some kind of feedback early on as to what makes your playing more musical than something else and it is good to check if you are on the right track now and then if you are uncertain we have easy access to the information these days but I really don't like the idea of relying on recordings of other people to tell you what to do or even be necessary to fully introduce the idea, you can study the idea and come to a lot of musical conclusions and then complete the picture by listening to recordings, I feel there is a subtle difference here but one which has larger consquences. I think we can switch between the modes though but ultimately should come to rely on our own musical understanding.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #18 on: May 26, 2021, 07:35:22 AM »
Music is somewhat different though because you can understand it and emotionally connect to it immediately without ever being exposed or told anything about the specific musical genre. The connection between music styles are very strong much more so than the difference in spoken language.
I sort of see where you're getting at, but how universal do you think music is? Do you think that someone without the necessary foreknowledge will be able to immediately understand Arabian music, or gamelan music, or Indian music, or Schoenberg?

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #19 on: May 27, 2021, 04:36:28 AM »
I think you can appreciate the music no problems there is no need for any information. There are videos online of tribesmen/women listening to opera music for the first time and you can see some really connect with it. Some really feel the emotions and beauty of the music and they have never heard anything like it before let alone heard recorded music. This is somewhat different to one trying to determine the musical expression for a given piece having never heard it before. Unless you have never heard music before the experience is not going to be totally alien and we can piece together a solid interpretation and understanding. I'd like to play microtonal Indian music but would have to change instruments ha!
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #20 on: May 27, 2021, 05:36:43 AM »
From personal experience, I think that the music sounds pleasant the first time around, but you don't really "understand" it. I remember when I first heard the first Chopin ballade -- someone showed it to me when I was 17. It sounded decent but it wasn't until a year after that it "clicked". The same happened with Ravel's Daphnis st Chloe -- at some point, my ears opened up to how brilliant the orchestration was.

Basically, I think that you can appreciate the surface features of you've never listened to a style of music before, but usually not much that runs deeper.

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 6365
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #21 on: May 27, 2021, 10:36:08 AM »
I don't really feel that knowledge and understanding improves the listening experience a huge amount perhaps you can elaborate how it does? It does help though to know the story behind a composition or the reason why a composer wrote something if the information is there, that way we can attach it more readily to our own life experiences or interpret certain sounds to represent some idea or image. I don't feel that I can listen to a piece and feel the emotion any more deeply now that I have trained in piano for so many years, if anything the initial experience I had as a youngster listening to music had a more powerful effect. Too much thinking I think gets in the way of the enjoyment, in fact I have to sometimes focus not to think so much when I listen to people play the piano beacuse it actually takes away from the enjoyment of just listening and allowing the music to flow over you.

Music really is personal taste, I can play something that I am totally in love with and feel so emotional about but a listener might find feel nothing and instead Fur Elise a better choice or something that they know that is on the charts. I notice it often when I am playing for random people there are some who just don't care it really means nothing to them, it is more of a curiosity how my fingers are moving around to create the music but the music doesn't really get them, they would never choose to listen to it. So perhaps musical taste really does play a strong factor as to how well you can emotionally connect with music and be influenced by its effect, to me though this isn't an understanding.

"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.facebook.com/groups/348933611793249/

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 944
Re: How to build up to difficult pieces? General Advice Appreciated
«Reply #22 on: May 31, 2021, 10:32:14 PM »
I don't really feel that knowledge and understanding improves the listening experience a huge amount perhaps you can elaborate how it does?
It's more about listening experience than it is about knowledge imo. The more music you listen to, the more patterns become obvious to your subconscious, and what was initially overly complex sludge will start to sound clearer, and the intent will be obvious. Although this did not happen to me personally, I know a lot of people who have said that they appreciated Liszt Transcendental Etudes more after a few years, because initially it was just too much information to process. For me, initially it felt delightful to listen to, because there was so much going on and it was all new, but now my mind has become more efficient at listening and it almost feels predictable at parts.

When I play something fast or complex for layman audiences, I see this effect firsthand. Inventions which are simpler and easier on the ear are easily appreciated by those who don't normally listen to music, and I have found that people with sharp minds tend to have that reflected in their musical tastes as well -- if I play them a simple pop song, they will get bored, whereas the ordinary person will find it overwhelming if I play a complicated classical piece, or an improvisation with too much going on.

At the very beginning, it was hard for me to process multiple lines which were going on when I was listening to a piece, so I was listening more to the melody, and the rest of the accompaniment was "boiled down" in my mind. Later on, as my ear got better, I could hear more clearly, and even transcribe individual parts. That resulted in me being able to understand some music which I hadn't liked before, but also resulted in me getting bored a bit quicker by "easy" music.