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How to be a better Pianist? (Read 1132 times)

Offline slurred_beat

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How to be a better Pianist?
« on: August 01, 2021, 09:31:21 PM »
Heyy all! I wanted to ask a question with many different answer, which is how to be a better pianist? Give all your best tips on how to be a better pianist here! How to have better technique, how to have more emotion, how to understand the scores better, anything you can think about! I think this can be useful information for everyone. Thanks all!  8)

Offline j_tour

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #1 on: August 01, 2021, 09:46:32 PM »
Heyy all! I wanted to ask a question with many different answer, which is how to be a better pianist? Give all your best tips on how to be a better pianist here! How to have better technique, how to have more emotion, how to understand the scores better, anything you can think about! I think this can be useful information for everyone. Thanks all!  8)

Well, for one general advice:  learn to read.

Sight read everything you possibly can borrow or acquire.  And texts as well, in whatever language or languages you're most comfortable reading. 

What else does one need, a scout guide? ;D

Come back in four or ten years after having followed the above advice.  You might have a question then.

And there is a shortcut method, or "method":  play in public, every chance you get.  Doesn't matter what.  Tunes you hate.  Show tunes, pop tunes, Chopin, or country and western.  Doesn't matter.  If you want to be a musician, you'd best be used to performing, live, on stage, every day. 

For the rest of your life.  Every day.  Every single day, for the rest of your life.  Without an end in sight.

There's probably a reason Berg chose Woyzeck, an infamous Büchner tale, to adopt as one of his comparatively few works in his corpus.  The Büchner text is sometimes cited as one of the early pieces of the "existential-ennui" "genre" that became so popular perhaps a hundred years later:  the tedium of repetition, without any goal except survival, at a bare minimal, exasperating pace.

And the super-secret method is combine both of the above approaches. 

If you don't want to be a musician, you can either compose, or become a musicologist.  Either of those "alternative" routes generally require some competence at several instruments, however, so you should probably get started.

No matter what road you choose, competence at the keyboard is absolutely a minimum requirement.  Not virtuosity, but sight-reading, basic functional analysis, and at least a level of crude sight-transposition for accompaniment and orchestration work.

My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #2 on: August 02, 2021, 12:41:16 AM »
I think any answers to this question is only going to provide superficial understanding.

Two major bottle necks for peoples progress is reading and practice method. Improve both of these and you will improve the most. Reading allows the information to flow into your mind and body, practice method allows you to reduce the amount of thinking you require to play with minimal repeats.
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Offline kepijapa

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #3 on: August 02, 2021, 07:01:37 PM »
Very good answer to such a vague question j_tour. I recognize my shortcomings in it. By the way, did you know Stephan Grappelli learned how to play piano by being hired in cafes, cabarets and cinemas (to accompany silent movies),... to play piano. He was hungry, and needed the money. So yes, that is a real shortcut if you have the talent.

Offline nightwindsonata

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #4 on: August 02, 2021, 10:12:56 PM »
As the others have said--learning to read music well is the single best way to improve at playing, and this only comes with time and study. Pre-college, I was good at reading individual notes and figuring out the rest through practice, but sight-reading was always difficult nevertheless. Even though I have since improved my reading by leaps and bounds through study of theory and form, I have such a long ways to go ... put a book of Schubert art songs in front of me and I might be able to get through about half of them at first sight (struggling with more difficult ones like Die Forelle or Gretchen am Spinnrade), but sight-reading in performance/accompaniment is a different skill from sitting down with the same book of Schubert songs for a day and being able to play all of them proficiently by the end of the practice session. As lostinidlewonder said, one relies on reading, and one relies on practice method.
Program:
Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata
Bach Prelude and Fugue in A flat, WTC 1
Beethoven Sonata Op. 31 No. 3 "The Hunt"
Brahms Op. 119
Florence Price Clouds
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5

Offline j_tour

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #5 on: August 03, 2021, 01:22:29 AM »
By the way, did you know Stephan Grappelli learned how to play piano by being hired in cafes, cabarets and cinemas (to accompany silent movies),... to play piano.

No, I didn't know that....I guess it shouldn't be a surprise, since you probably figured out my opinion that a "musician is a musician," and the rest is just a matter of specialization.

So, there's Brahms and his early dance hall days, and Grappelli.  Probably a bunch more examples out there!

/* edit And why I'm gratified that many others agree with me that becoming an adept sight-reader, who reads anything and everything is one part of the royal road, while recognizing that, no, it's not the whole answer. 

But it's a magnificent start, especially if one has a solid foundation (or is working toward that aim) and is aware of basic ideas of fingering, and identifying what one must know to perform and interpret at a basic professional level, if not at the level of a conservatory student.

I suppose someone might say "quality not quantity," but I don't think there is any substitute for reading and performing as much as possible:  eventually, one must get the technique straightened out, but why not do what one can at the beginning stages?  Hundreds or thousands of pieces, at the minimum, across all kinds of styles of representation in standard notation or even chord/lead sheets, recognition of patterns at a glance, basic professional tools when it comes to performing at the drop of a hat, which also requires a kind of functional, if rudimentary, technical facility.  All at one's fingertips, really.

The only other element at a beginning stage is sing every line.  Away from the keyboard, or, alternatively, on a different instrument entirely, including the voice.  And writing lines and voices:  basic musicianship.

A practical solution, I find or have found.

Think about it this way:  you want to be a musician, I should think. A very good musician.  So, build your toolbox painstakingly and work at it.

Why compare yourself to other mechanics or technicians?  Become a great musician.  And, yes, work scales and do passage work, but it seems to me as though you'd rather be a good musician.  Don't ignore technical or mechanical work, but start with fundamentals, is MHO.*/
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Online ranjit

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #6 on: August 03, 2021, 05:52:02 AM »
Here's an easy one-step solution for improving musicianship. Figure out how to play back music, chords and all, away from the keyboard in your head. ;D

Offline slurred_beat

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #7 on: August 03, 2021, 09:44:22 PM »
Many here have so far said reading! Do I understand this is the most important skill? Isn't technic also very very important?

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #8 on: August 04, 2021, 02:47:30 AM »
As your sight reading improves so does your technique. Liszt said something along the lines that "Technique is Fingering", and I think this is very true. I see it in the light that if your sight reading skills are at a point where you can determine the correct fingering immediately your technique is much stronger than those who must labor with countless repeats or need to be told exactly what to do.

I often notice people who have a very small repertoire but play excessively difficult music. As if they need to prove to themselves or others they have the ability to do it. This is not impressive technique imho, good technique is someone who can master a piece quickly and within measured time. But yes there are clever parrots who can mimic well but they really don't know what they are doing or take forever to get there.
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Offline lelle

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #9 on: August 04, 2021, 11:44:56 PM »
I agree that reading ability is important and have seen that my general skill at playing has gone up together with my skill at reading. I do have to say, though, that I saw improvement in my reading ability through improving my technique as well. As my body has become more responsive and efficient, the less it gets in the way of what I'm reading - sometimes the barrier is not the ability to read but the ability to control the body.

Offline slurred_beat

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #10 on: August 15, 2021, 11:52:36 PM »
I apologize. I'm sceptical. I will try your advice and practice reading but I'm sceptical that I just practice reading and it is everything I need to play super fast and hard pieces  :-\

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #11 on: August 16, 2021, 11:59:29 AM »
I apologize. I'm sceptical. I will try your advice and practice reading but I'm sceptical that I just practice reading and it is everything I need to play super fast and hard pieces  :-\
It's hard to just "try" the advice since it is something that requires years of development. So there really is no short term "let's try and see how it goes", beginner reading skills are not going to help you that much with highly advanced pieces. You may need years of studying difficult music with poor sight reading skills to understand the benefits that it actually has. With strong reading skills you will have a large experience of all sorts of technique and fast playing. So really getting better at sight reading means you have successfully practice through thousands upon thousands of works which unavoidably will improve your technique a huge amount and develop your practice method tools to deal with difficult technical passages effectively.

Again like I said before you will only ever get a surface understand of this all when asking such broad questions.
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Offline ryan-piano

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #12 on: September 27, 2021, 04:27:25 AM »
I think in order to become a "better pianist" one must develop a beneficial practice routine that helps with technical development. Here's an article on the topic that I find interesting that discusses this!

https://www.tonebase.co/piano-blog-posts/5-concert-pianists-teach-practice-strategies-part-1

Offline brogers70

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #13 on: September 27, 2021, 11:25:46 AM »
I agree that reading ability is important and have seen that my general skill at playing has gone up together with my skill at reading. I do have to say, though, that I saw improvement in my reading ability through improving my technique as well. As my body has become more responsive and efficient, the less it gets in the way of what I'm reading - sometimes the barrier is not the ability to read but the ability to control the body.

It just (finally) dawned on me that lack of reading skill is why there are questions here about which of two fairly difficult pieces is more difficult. I suspect the people who ask are people with poor reading skills who have gotten enough technique to play pretty difficult things. But it takes them so long to learn the notes that they can't just play through something to figure out how hard it is, it's faster just to ask rather than to spend months learning the notes only to find out that there's one bit that's just too hard.

I was in that boat for a long time, and it's only been deliberately practicing sight reading every day that is starting to get me out of it. Twenty minutes a day reading ultra easy things without looking at my hands plus twenty minutes a day learning (over a week) some short piece that's way below the technical level of the main things I'm working on. It has improved my reading a lot in just the first six months, and it's pretty enjoyable.

Online ranjit

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #14 on: September 27, 2021, 04:19:47 PM »
It just (finally) dawned on me that lack of reading skill is why there are questions here about which of two fairly difficult pieces is more difficult.
Interesting. However, I don't think you necessarily need reading skill to figure out how hard a piece is. I typically watch a video of someone playing, along with listening to the audio, and that can make apparent what is hard. On the other hand, even after you read the score, you will not know which parts would be pesky and notorious to control and perfect. For example, you might use too much wrist motion while reading and play it okay-ish, but that simply won't work eventually and cause issues.

Online lostinidlewonder

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Re: How to be a better Pianist?
«Reply #15 on: September 28, 2021, 03:04:22 AM »
Strong reading skills allows you to pinpoint where challenges lie very quickly. Strong sight readers also have strong technique, so they can play passages with sub optimal movements or with some error because they know what it should be like and how to make the gradual correction through multiple reading attempts.

This process is practically impossible for less experienced pianists who are developing their technique. If you don't know the technique through and through and attempt to sight read it you are just going to be lost and require a lot of experimenting to come to some kind of solution. This is why sight reading training must be built predominantly from the bottom up, with works you can successfully read and ideally some which offer a little challenge here and there but nothing you cannot manage.

It certainly should not be the interest of those with poor technical skills to be bothered with dedicating a huge amount to reading skills but they should certainly practice reading every day. You should certainly make a habit to read music where you have experience with the technical demands, everyone of all levels can find the right material to do that. At the earlier levels you just want to play and coordinate yourself, don't be slowed down with the drudgery of poor reading skills. I usually avoid normal score reading skills with beginners until they can play at least 50-100 small pieces but even so I still make it a priority to set up their mind to think like a sight reader and do that without the traditional score.

Perception of difficulty can certainly vary between individuals you can see how wrong it can go in the syllabus of examinations and they have a panel trying to judge it.
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