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Topic: not understanding what you play  (Read 1451 times)

Offline danisageek

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not understanding what you play
on: October 23, 2021, 01:02:44 PM
I always found that I sucked at playing the piano untill I was taught to find the patterns in the music. Most of the lessons I took when I was younger were about only repeating what is in the sheet music. I never understood what I was playing and could never play simple melodies by ear. My issue was that I could baraely play the pieces/tunes because I could never find the patterns. I am a pattern person.
 Is it common for people to play music without much understanding? What has helped me is focusin on both playing by ear, playing from the score and learning practical theory. I think I need all these aspects when learning to play the piano.
Am I weird? I always thought that pianists should understand what they played. It seems most of them don't unless they took theory courses but that would outside of piano lessons.
 Why don't teachers focus on all the important aspects?
Is it just me or can piano lessons be really bad? THe weirdest thing was that I was never really taught hot to read sheet music that well even if the focus was sheet music.

Nowadays I take lessons from a jazz pianist (who studied "classical"). He allows me to focus on different aspects. I wish I had a teacher like him when I was younger.
 

Offline lelle

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #1 on: October 23, 2021, 11:16:26 PM
There is a lot to understand in music and you can always learn more, even if you understand a lot. When I studied music in university, it was not uncommon that I felt that some people didn't understand certain fundamental aspects of music theory, and that it showed in their playing. I had some ambitions to be a composer when I was I teenager, so I learned a lot about how music is constructed, and I think it's been very helpful for memorization, and informing how I want to play the music, and just appreciating how beautifully constructed some music is. Just my 2 cents.

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #2 on: October 24, 2021, 08:17:56 AM
There is a lot to understand in music and you can always learn more, even if you understand a lot. When I studied music in university, it was not uncommon that I felt that some people didn't understand certain fundamental aspects of music theory, and that it showed in their playing. I had some ambitions to be a composer when I was I teenager, so I learned a lot about how music is constructed, and I think it's been very helpful for memorization, and informing how I want to play the music, and just appreciating how beautifully constructed some music is. Just my 2 cents.
they did not understand all the aspects of fundamental music theory and they were gat university? I once met a fiddler who could play well but did not even understand when I asked him what key he was playing in. He had aural skills, I think. He at least knew the name of the first note in the melody. Could that be the thing, ie the people will less theoretical knowledge have better aural skills?

Offline Bob

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #3 on: October 24, 2021, 04:09:56 PM
There's always some level you don't understand.  If it's a different style, there's plenty to not be familiar with.  Even when you analyze a piece, there might be spots you don't fully understand or things are just ambiguous.  You can still play the piece fine with a good interpretation without understanding everything about it. 

There's also understanding/knowing/controlling that level understanding as you play.

The more you know, the more you understand, the more you can understand and control it while you're playing, the easier it is.

For piano lessons, a teacher could teach other things most likely.  They might not be the teacher for theory or aural skills.  They might not even be that great of a teacher for performing either too.  A lot of traditional piano lessons is just prepping a student to perform pieces.  If they don't understand it all but can play it well, people are happy.

For the fiddler, people who play by ear like that a different type of musician.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #4 on: October 24, 2021, 06:07:36 PM
I found that my memorization improved significantly once I understood theory. I asked some good memorizers in college and they replied that they memorize by chords, which I assume is very similar. Yeah, you don't really need to have theory knowledge to be studying in college. I've found that I have better working knowledge of music theory than many piano majors. Several people just play and don't really analyze because it feels like hard work and they don't want to use their brain. Other people understand concepts to varying degrees at an intuitive level, but it is all subconscious. Just think of guitar players for pop songs in the 20th century. One gripe I have with them is that they often lack range, they have only internalized a small subset of rules and things which fall outside of that are "wrong" in their view.

Offline dogperson

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #5 on: October 24, 2021, 06:07:51 PM
Does anyone really expect a teacher to train on good technique, interpretation, aural skills and theory in one weekly lesson? .  You shouldn’t.  Want to learn theory, take the time to learn it yourself and use your teacher for questions only.

What has not been discussed is there is much more to ‘understanding’ a composer than just the theory.  What are the stylistic elements, what were the personal and country/world events that effect his music and are reflected in it? 

As adults, we can learn a lot on our own rather than expecting a teacher to do everything.
The joy of being an adult.

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #6 on: October 24, 2021, 07:47:10 PM
Does anyone really expect a teacher to train on good technique, interpretation, aural skills and theory in one weekly lesson? .  You shouldn’t.  Want to learn theory, take the time to learn it yourself and use your teacher for questions only.

What has not been discussed is there is much more to ‘understanding’ a composer than just the theory.  What are the stylistic elements, what were the personal and country/world events that effect his music and are reflected in it? 

As adults, we can learn a lot on our own rather than expecting a teacher to do everything.
The joy of being an adult.
This is very important to talk about. Yes, you cannot focus on every aspect on all the lessons.
The thing with aural skills is that I also play by ear and sing. I need good aural skills.
I need specific help with aural skills. I always failed before I got better aural skills. Even sheet music became easier.
If I play a dance I often learn the dance. I  am also a  dancer. Theory is just one thing. Ubderstanding is much more

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #7 on: October 24, 2021, 07:56:10 PM
I found that my memorization improved significantly once I understood theory. I asked some good memorizers in college and they replied that they memorize by chords, which I assume is very similar. Yeah, you don't really need to have theory knowledge to be studying in college. I've found that I have better working knowledge of music theory than many piano majors. Several people just play and don't really analyze because it feels like hard work and they don't want to use their brain. Other people understand concepts to varying degrees at an intuitive level, but it is all subconscious. Just think of guitar players for pop songs in the 20th century. One gripe I have with them is that they often lack range, they have only internalized a small subset of rules and things which fall outside of that are "wrong" in their view.
Chords.? Classical pianist think like that? They are not jazz cats who also play classical?

Online brogers70

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #8 on: October 24, 2021, 09:28:47 PM
Chords.? Classical pianist think like that? They are not jazz cats who also play classical?

Well, I couldn't play jazz to save my life, but I definitely memorize by thinking about the chords and chord progressions.

Offline lelle

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #9 on: October 24, 2021, 10:40:30 PM
they did not understand all the aspects of fundamental music theory and they were gat university? I once met a fiddler who could play well but did not even understand when I asked him what key he was playing in. He had aural skills, I think. He at least knew the name of the first note in the melody. Could that be the thing, ie the people will less theoretical knowledge have better aural skills?

Well, you do have to know some basics to get admitted to music university. My favourite example of what I mean is that we listened to a recording of a violinist in class, playing something by Bach that was a never ending sequence of sixteenth notes creating various phrases. The phrasing was fine, but it was clear that the violinist wasn't fully aware of what harmonies the sixteenth note melody was outlining. At one point, the music reached a deceptive cadence but they just played on as if nothing special had happened. It was clear that they weren't aware that they had just run through a cadence like it wasn't there, and some of the shape and meaning of the music was lost. It's like saying two sentences after each other but speaking like the dot and the small break it creates between the two sentences didn't exist.

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #10 on: October 25, 2021, 01:23:14 AM
Chords.? Classical pianist think like that? They are not jazz cats who also play classical?
No, a high level piano student who could memorize a Beethoven sonata in 1-2 weeks. I asked him how, and he said he learned by the chords. And yes, classical pianists do think like that, it would be ridiculous not to use every tool at your disposal if you're serious about it.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #11 on: October 25, 2021, 01:45:14 AM
There's lots of patterns in music, a cropping of thought to express a larger amount of information. Adults tend to intellectualise learning where younger students tend to just feel and do it. All good pianists use a combination of both feeling and intellectual observation. I feel family of chords and string of scales rather than care about the individual notes, but I also can see the topography of all of them on a keyboard and reveal their individual parts.

I don't know what you mean by "not understanding" what you play because someone who plays without considering for instance chord names can understand their music perfectly fine. Practical theory vs paper theory, really there is a difference. Not everyone benefits from strong theoretical skills, it can be overdone and lack practical application.
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Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #12 on: October 25, 2021, 08:55:16 AM
Well, I couldn't play jazz to save my life, but I definitely memorize by thinking about the chords and chord progressions.
I cant play anything on piano to save my life (whatever that means)

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #13 on: October 25, 2021, 08:59:58 AM
There's lots of patterns in music, a cropping of thought to express a larger amount of information. Adults tend to intellectualise learning where younger students tend to just feel and do it. All good pianists use a combination of both feeling and intellectual observation. I feel family of chords and string of scales rather than care about the individual notes, but I also can see the topography of all of them on a keyboard and reveal their individual parts.

I don't know what you mean by "not understanding" what you play because someone who plays without considering for instance chord names can understand their music perfectly fine. Practical theory vs paper theory, really there is a difference. Not everyone benefits from strong theoretical skills, it can be overdone and lack practical application.
Teachers often just ask students to play the exact concrete notes and never help them to see the patterns. And people often cannot even play a tune in two different keys.
I hate when people say "you have the exact concrete notes so just play it!". I get upset. I learn when I get help with seeing the patterns. I hate how teachers have tried to make me a person who should avoid seeing the patterns. Even people who play by ear may not see the patterns involved and therefore cannot play well. I am sure people like Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang can see the patterns and they can probably improvise on all kinds of music.
This is why we like to listen to them.

Offline dogperson

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #14 on: October 25, 2021, 09:16:10 AM
Teachers often just ask students to play the exact concrete notes and never help them to see the patterns. And people often cannot even play a tune in two different keys.
I hate when people say "you have the exact concrete notes so just play it!". I get upset. I learn when I get help with seeing the patterns. I hate how teachers have tried to make me a person who should avoid seeing the patterns. Even people who play by ear may not see the patterns involved and therefore cannot play well. I am sure people like Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang can see the patterns and they can probably improvise on all kinds of music.
This is why we like to listen to them.


Please stop expecting everything from teachers.  If you need in-depth theoretical analysis in order to understand snd play music, go learn it. You do not need a teacher for this.
I would not assume what classical pianist improvises unless you hear them do it.

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #15 on: October 25, 2021, 10:16:03 AM
Teachers often just ask students to play the exact concrete notes and never help them to see the patterns. And people often cannot even play a tune in two different keys.
I hate when people say "you have the exact concrete notes so just play it!". I get upset. I learn when I get help with seeing the patterns. I hate how teachers have tried to make me a person who should avoid seeing the patterns.
I disagree with dogperson, I wouldn't study with a teacher who didn't know any theory, because they would be unable to understand many of my questions, it's something every professional musician should know and does study in college. It's not rocket science.

Try to find better teachers, they are out there. I think there are a great number of poor piano teachers, they may even be the majority. I don't completely blame them, it's hard to teach because there are so many moving parts and you need to be competent at a number of things.

Here's what I would expect from a good teacher:
 - Very good technical foundations and the ability to articulate movements at the piano
- The ability to observe and think of ways to improve your technical approach at the piano, for example observing where your muscles flex and realizing that you are pushing at a certain angle causing inefficiency.
- The ability to hear how that translates into the sound
- Being able to hear basic musicality and interpretation, phrases, voicing, evenness, and how your technical approach affects those
- A good enough ear to pick out wrong notes, and to play basic melodies/chords by ear. This is important because it ties into their ability to correctly hear what you are doing and improve it. Ideally they should be able to play back pieces of what you play using your technical approach, and how it can be modified
-A decent idea of other approaches at the keyboard, so that if you come across different ideas they can discuss them in class
- And they need to be able to figure out what level of pieces you can work on comfortably and improve upon.
- Theory knowledge, either implicit or explicit, preferably both. This is involved in memory, hearing chords and harmony, etc. Implicit theory understanding is a double edged sword because it's hard to teach.

I have met a number of teachers, but it's hard to find those who really understand and know how to teach. One had perfect pitch, but I felt could hear the notes accurately but didn't really give good advice in terms of phrasing or musical interpretation, or technique. She had learned technique as a kid and just expected it to come with time. Another worked on tougher pieces which I could play but which weren't optimal for technical development. You see all sorts of combinations of skills, and different approaches.

However if the teacher is considerably lacking in one area, that will result in a corresponding inefficacy of teaching. If they don't understand good technique and technical development, they will often just assign pieces assuming it will come with time. It almost never does, even for kids, who will then need to relearn it with a good teacher. If they don't understand theory and how music is structured, they will tend to make their students learn by rote. If they don't understand musicality or phrasing, they will tend to focus on wrong notes which results in mechanical playing. If they don't have a good ear, they will often neglect developing their student's ear. If they don't have good sight reading skills, their students will not acquire it either usually.

Of course, it's a lot to ask and it may not be practical to expect teachers to have a complete understanding, but in short if you feel your teacher is considerably lacking in some area, you could try another one.

Offline anacrusis

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #16 on: October 26, 2021, 08:52:12 PM
Teachers often just ask students to play the exact concrete notes and never help them to see the patterns. And people often cannot even play a tune in two different keys.
I hate when people say "you have the exact concrete notes so just play it!". I get upset. I learn when I get help with seeing the patterns. I hate how teachers have tried to make me a person who should avoid seeing the patterns. Even people who play by ear may not see the patterns involved and therefore cannot play well. I am sure people like Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang can see the patterns and they can probably improvise on all kinds of music.
This is why we like to listen to them.

These sound like bad teachers. To be a good classical musician you absolutely need to understand what chords you are playing, and what the purpose of those specific chords are in the harmony.

I always know in real time what chords I'm playing, regardless if I'm playing something I've already learned or am reading something for the first time (assuming it's western tonal music). It's not a big thing to ask of a student to learn how to do this.

Offline dogperson

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #17 on: October 26, 2021, 10:22:29 PM
I disagree with dogperson, I wouldn't study with a teacher who didn't know any theory, because they would be unable to understand many of my questions, it's something every professional musician should know and does study in college. It's not rocket science.

Try to find better teachers, they are out there. I think there are a great number of poor piano teachers, they may even be the majority. I don't completely blame them, it's hard to teach because there are so many moving parts and you need to be competent at a number of things.

Here's what I would expect from a good teacher:
 - Very good technical foundations and the ability to articulate movements at the piano
- The ability to observe and think of ways to improve your technical approach at the piano, for example observing where your muscles flex and realizing that you are pushing at a certain angle causing inefficiency.
- The ability to hear how that translates into the sound
- Being able to hear basic musicality and interpretation, phrases, voicing, evenness, and how your technical approach affects those
- A good enough ear to pick out wrong notes, and to play basic melodies/chords by ear. This is important because it ties into their ability to correctly hear what you are doing and improve it. Ideally they should be able to play back pieces of what you play using your technical approach, and how it can be modified
-A decent idea of other approaches at the keyboard, so that if you come across different ideas they can discuss them in class
- And they need to be able to figure out what level of pieces you can work on comfortably and improve upon.
- Theory knowledge, either implicit or explicit, preferably both. This is involved in memory, hearing chords and harmony, etc. Implicit theory understanding is a double edged sword because it's hard to teach.

I have met a number of teachers, but it's hard to find those who really understand and know how to teach. One had perfect pitch, but I felt could hear the notes accurately but didn't really give good advice in terms of phrasing or musical interpretation, or technique. She had learned technique as a kid and just expected it to come with time. Another worked on tougher pieces which I could play but which weren't optimal for technical development. You see all sorts of combinations of skills, and different approaches.

However if the teacher is considerably lacking in one area, that will result in a corresponding inefficacy of teaching. If they don't understand good technique and technical development, they will often just assign pieces assuming it will come with time. It almost never does, even for kids, who will then need to relearn it with a good teacher. If they don't understand theory and how music is structured, they will tend to make their students learn by rote. If they don't understand musicality or phrasing, they will tend to focus on wrong notes which results in mechanical playing. If they don't have a good ear, they will often neglect developing their student's ear. If they don't have good sight reading skills, their students will not acquire it either usually.

Of course, it's a lot to ask and it may not be practical to expect teachers to have a complete understanding, but in short if you feel your teacher is considerably lacking in some area, you could try another one.


Please go back and read my posts. I did not state that teachers should not understand theory, but that they will not be able to cram everything into one short, weekly lesson.  I suggested the adult student  can learn theory on his own AND USE ThE TEACHER AS A THEORY RESOURCE

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #18 on: October 27, 2021, 12:11:53 AM
I think the student can ask the teacher for resources and direction, though.

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #19 on: October 27, 2021, 08:09:53 AM


Please go back and read my posts. I did not state that teachers should not understand theory, but that they will not be able to cram everything into one short, weekly lesson.  I suggested the adult student  can learn theory on his own AND USE ThE TEACHER AS A THEORY RESOURCE
You could even have said that one can learn to play piano without a teacher.

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #20 on: October 27, 2021, 08:10:51 AM
I think the student can ask the teacher for resources and direction, though.
You seem to be the one who thinks that only focusing on reading sheet music at a lesson is very good.

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #21 on: October 27, 2021, 08:46:31 AM
You seem to be the one who thinks that only focusing on reading sheet music at a lesson is very good.
And you seem to be the one who's too lazy to read. Just above that post, I wrote about the qualities I would look for in a teacher, take a look.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #22 on: October 27, 2021, 03:47:23 PM
Teachers often just ask students to play the exact concrete notes and never help them to see the patterns. And people often cannot even play a tune in two different keys.
I hate when people say "you have the exact concrete notes so just play it!". I get upset. I learn when I get help with seeing the patterns. I hate how teachers have tried to make me a person who should avoid seeing the patterns. Even people who play by ear may not see the patterns involved and therefore cannot play well. I am sure people like Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang can see the patterns and they can probably improvise on all kinds of music.
This is why we like to listen to them.
You didn't answer my question, what do you exactly mean by "not understanding"? I understand you appreciate the usefulness of using patterns when learning the piano but exactly what patterns are we talking about? I argue that someone who learns the piano without thinking about chords or scale names for example can perfectly understand what they play without it because they see pattern in another way. Some people might be very visually inclined and need to see someone play something and that helps them a great deal to play it themselves, that is pattern recognition that can come with quite sophisticated tools that can even be quite difficult to verbally describe.

It is far too stringent to think that there is only one way to consider pattern at the piano. Yes there is pattern recognition which runs in line with approrpriate sight reading skills but to constrain all pattern recognition to just simply this would be to limit the many different ways people approach music.



You seem to be the one who thinks that only focusing on reading sheet music at a lesson is very good.
And you seem to be the one who's too lazy to read. Just above that post, I wrote about the qualities I would look for in a teacher, take a look.

Lol twilight zone stuff happening here lol, what the heck danisageek?? lol.
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Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #23 on: October 27, 2021, 04:24:50 PM
And you seem to be the one who's too lazy to read. Just above that post, I wrote about the qualities I would look for in a teacher, take a look.
You missunderstand me. I did read your post. You didn't say that learning songs by ear or with leadsheets is extremely important.

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #24 on: October 27, 2021, 04:28:20 PM
You didn't answer my question, what do you exactly mean by "not understanding"? I understand you appreciate the usefulness of using patterns when learning the piano but exactly what patterns are we talking about? I argue that someone who learns the piano without thinking about chords or scale names for example can perfectly understand what they play without it because they see pattern in another way. Some people might be very visually inclined and need to see someone play something and that helps them a great deal to play it themselves, that is pattern recognition that can come with quite sophisticated tools that can even be quite difficult to verbally describe.

It is far too stringent to think that there is only one way to consider pattern at the piano. Yes there is pattern recognition which runs in line with approrpriate sight reading skills but to constrain all pattern recognition to just simply this would be to limit the many different ways people approach music.



Lol twilight zone stuff happening here lol, what the heck danisageek?? lol.
For me the harmony, rhytm, pulse , voice leading, voicings and form are part of the "understanding".

It's kind of amazing that people actually learn to play the piano with the "traditional" methods. I failed!
Have you seen other people fail too? Why did they fail?
For some people just being showed how to play a song/piece and then just play it is extremely fun and interesting. I myself hated that approach to music. It's like I could never force myself to enjoy it or even do it at all.
The method has "concrete notes" as its focus instead of "scale degrees". I failed. I find extremely interesting that there are super humans who actually learned piano that way.

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #25 on: October 27, 2021, 05:17:19 PM
For me the harmony, rhytm, pulse , voice leading, voicings and form are part of the "understanding".
The catch is that for some people, these things are picked up intuitively rather than formally.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #26 on: October 27, 2021, 06:56:40 PM
The catch is that for some people, these things are picked up intuitively rather than formally.

You beat me to it.

A lot of people can hear a chord progression and fit their note into it but not name a chord to save their life.  They may not have an intellectual understanding but if they sound good they are feeling it. 

Singing parts in a choir helps internalize that, I think, if you are paying attention.  You can look at the sheet music and sing your part accurately by knowing the intervals.  When you start doing that you tend to block the other voices out so they don't distract you.  But as you gain skill it becomes easier to do sing your part when you hear the others and know where you fit in the larger whole.
Tim

Offline Bob

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #27 on: October 27, 2021, 10:30:19 PM
That would be interesting to hire someone for each angle on a piece.  Hire someone heavy into music theory and have them analyze the piece.  Someone into music history, research the piece.  Etc.  If that's their area, they should do that better than you, unless that's also your area.  I suppose lessons on their method for doing that would be smarter too to pick up how they achieved whatever they do.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #28 on: October 28, 2021, 05:36:27 AM
You beat me to it.

A lot of people can hear a chord progression and fit their note into it but not name a chord to save their life. 
why woud that save a person's life?

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #29 on: October 28, 2021, 05:38:53 AM
The catch is that for some people, these things are picked up intuitively rather than formally.
???

Offline lelle

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #30 on: October 28, 2021, 09:32:55 AM
why woud that save a person's life?

It's a figure of speech. It means that the person is completely unable to name chords. (If you were in a situation where somebody threatened to shoot you unless you could name a chord, if you had any theoretical knowledge of chord names, you'd certainly be naming them. However, if you don't know anything at all about chords, you couldn't name them even if it could save your life. Because you simply don't know anything).

Offline ted

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #31 on: October 28, 2021, 10:27:42 AM
I doubt I would ever be satisfied completely understanding a piece of music, with its implication that a condition of stasis had been attained in how I perceived it. Quality in music for me is the precise opposite of this, rather an ongoing series of dynamic revelations. I understood much music fifty years ago and still understand it now but in a different way, with a concomitant sensation of returning to a place and knowing it for the first time. Understanding is a deeper notion than knowledge of descriptive or even constructive theories. When I hear David Cope's splendid algorithm imitating Bach just who is doing some understanding, me, Cope or the algorithm ? And what exactly is being understood ? There is a simple way out of the dilemma. I know thousands would disagree but I feel that it is my mind which creates and imposes meaning on what it hears, and not music which transmits external meaning to my mind. If this is true, and I increasingly believe it is, then perhaps the music I hear, play and create understands me and not the other way around, at least in a playful metaphysical sense.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #32 on: October 28, 2021, 12:35:34 PM
There is a simple way out of the dilemma. I know thousands would disagree but I feel that it is my mind which creates and imposes meaning on what it hears, and not music which transmits external meaning to my mind.
I find it odd that people would disagree with the idea that the mind is the one which imposes meaning on music. However, there is clearly something in the construction of music that can either help or hinder that. I think that can, to some extent be objectively described. I like the way you distinguish between understanding and mere factual knowledge and it is very true, although they are related and each can influence the other.

However, again, the meaning your mind assigns to a piece of music is based on the associations you have made from the music you have heard in your lifetime. So, in that sense, the music does map onto your brain, which maps back meaning onto music. It is a rather cyclical, iterative process as I see it. You generate structure from the music you hear, which serves as a basis for your mental algorithm for decoding new music. The precise emotional reaction to a piece of music is somewhat individual, but still to an extent culturally derived. Cultural connotations even play a role in the emotional reaction you have, and you can sometimes even trace it back to the source. However, with layers upon layers of knowledge and associations, these original sources get obscured imo, and it starts feeling like your mind is independently creating meaning.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #33 on: October 28, 2021, 04:02:15 PM
Some time back I was hired to play trombone for a German style dance band.

We played gigs of 3 or more hours, reading from sheet music in a 4 inch thick binder. 

Did I really have time to understand that at some kind of deep level? or did I play the ink on the page?  We played many pieces in a night, in different genres.  (can't do all waltzes, the crowd gets bored)  Listen with big ears to the group, play the right rhythms with the right articulations and dynamics, play in tune, but mostly play the ink.  Sometimes a piece might be familiar, but often not. 
Tim

Offline ted

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #34 on: October 28, 2021, 10:21:54 PM
However, again, the meaning your mind assigns to a piece of music is based on the associations you have made from the music you have heard in your lifetime. So, in that sense, the music does map onto your brain, which maps back meaning onto music. It is a rather cyclical, iterative process as I see it. You generate structure from the music you hear, which serves as a basis for your mental algorithm for decoding new music. The precise emotional reaction to a piece of music is somewhat individual, but still to an extent culturally derived. Cultural connotations even play a role in the emotional reaction you have, and you can sometimes even trace it back to the source. However, with layers upon layers of knowledge and associations, these original sources get obscured imo, and it starts feeling like your mind is independently creating meaning.

Yes, that summarises it pretty nicely, a huge web of mathematically chaotic feedback loops. You are right, if the long term memory is strong some of the sources can indeed be traced. Such childhood origins with me, at least those I can bring to the conscious surface,  tend to be banal, commonplace, even trite if viewed objectively and sound nonsensical if discussed; certainly not the stuff of esoteric art or intellect. 
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline ranjit

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #35 on: October 28, 2021, 10:44:10 PM
Yes, that summarises it pretty nicely, a huge web of mathematically chaotic feedback loops. You are right, if the long term memory is strong some of the sources can indeed be traced. Such childhood origins with me, at least those I can bring to the conscious surface,  tend to be banal, commonplace, even trite if viewed objectively and sound nonsensical if discussed; certainly not the stuff of esoteric art or intellect.
Exactly! I can trace a few. Some rather common ones -- having a Strauss waltz stuck in my head as a child from a golden age cartoon for example. Since I really got into classical music as an adult, I tried to reverse engineer the process and actually plant some ideas (such as harmony) and to try to actually understand how the feedback loops worked, with decent success.

It is also the reason why I don't take people seriously in their assessments of music who are confined in their tastes to a particular genre of music. That is because they don't understand the way the feedback loops work and how your musical taste can change quite rapidly, as a kid at least and probably even as an adult, with exposure to a certain kind of music.

For me, I've found that I can begin to understand and internalize a new kind of music by getting it stuck in my head. At some point, I will have dreams with that music in the background. And a few days after that, I magically 'get' it. It's like my head has done all the calculus and figured out the new set of rules. It's scary because it makes me question if my perception of music is real at all, but on the other hand it certainly contributes to an eclectic taste in music. It's also why I'm convinced that a large part of musical ability derives from memory, both long term and working memory.

Offline danisageek

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #36 on: October 30, 2021, 09:37:34 AM
Some time back I was hired to play trombone for a German style dance band.

We played gigs of 3 or more hours, reading from sheet music in a 4 inch thick binder. 

Did I really have time to understand that at some kind of deep level? or did I play the ink on the page?  We played many pieces in a night, in different genres.  (can't do all waltzes, the crowd gets bored)  Listen with big ears to the group, play the right rhythms with the right articulations and dynamics, play in tune, but mostly play the ink.  Sometimes a piece might be familiar, but often not.
I really do think you understood the music. You had the understanding you needed. Perhaps even a deep understanding. I think a deep understanding is something that is beyond the thinking part of the understanding. You used your ears which is a big part of the understanding I am refering to.

Offline keypeg

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #37 on: October 30, 2021, 07:59:29 PM

Please stop expecting everything from teachers.  If you need in-depth theoretical analysis in order to understand and play music, go learn it. You do not need a teacher for this. 
Do we know that the OP wants "in depth" understanding?  Do we know what the original background actually consisted of?

I had my first ever lessons at age 47, and supposedly it went along the RCM program.  Somehow I played the assigned material, but there was a lot I didn't know, and was unaware of what I should know.  Key signatures and time signatures (compound time) would have been good.  Don't most decent teachers teach things about music as they go along?  Say, phrases - dividing up the music into logical parts - ABA form, where the middle has modulated into another key?  Theory and patterns would seem to be part and parcel of what gets taught.  The teachers I work with now do this.

If a student should be studying theory, then shouldn't the teacher at least advise them to do so, and maybe point out what resources to use?  What if the student doesn't know he should do so?  Hasn't he hire an expert to be advising him?

I joined PS and PW after my original stint.  So much had gone awry that the first thing I did was to start asking teachers and advanced musicians what kinds of things we ought to learn and study.   How would you know?   Unless you come from a musical family, where others got the training.   Or maybe, nowadays there's the Internet.  I'm not young, and my musical lesson adventures started about 20 years ago when there wasn't that much out there.

Offline lelle

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #38 on: October 30, 2021, 11:12:42 PM
Do we know that the OP wants "in depth" understanding?  Do we know what the original background actually consisted of?

I had my first ever lessons at age 47, and supposedly it went along the RCM program.  Somehow I played the assigned material, but there was a lot I didn't know, and was unaware of what I should know.  Key signatures and time signatures (compound time) would have been good.  Don't most decent teachers teach things about music as they go along?  Say, phrases - dividing up the music into logical parts - ABA form, where the middle has modulated into another key?  Theory and patterns would seem to be part and parcel of what gets taught.  The teachers I work with now do this.

If a student should be studying theory, then shouldn't the teacher at least advise them to do so, and maybe point out what resources to use?  What if the student doesn't know he should do so?  Hasn't he hire an expert to be advising him?

I joined PS and PW after my original stint.  So much had gone awry that the first thing I did was to start asking teachers and advanced musicians what kinds of things we ought to learn and study.   How would you know?   Unless you come from a musical family, where others got the training.   Or maybe, nowadays there's the Internet.  I'm not young, and my musical lesson adventures started about 20 years ago when there wasn't that much out there.

I think you are right. Your piano teacher can maybe not give you an indepth course in harmony while also working on your technique and pieces, but they can certainly let you know that you need to study it if you want to improve your musicianship (because you have to) and point you in the right direction for more study.

Offline keypeg

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Re: not understanding what you play
Reply #39 on: November 04, 2021, 09:58:11 PM
I think you are right. Your piano teacher can maybe not give you an indepth course in harmony while also working on your technique and pieces, but they can certainly let you know that you need to study it if you want to improve your musicianship (because you have to) and point you in the right direction for more study.

Thank you.  I came in knowing nothing.   I had some way of "reading" music because a primary grade teacher had done some Solfege exercises with us so I could guess-anticipate diatonic music.  Lessons were violin.  Since I played my assigned pieces, the lack of knowledge was hidden.  One example is the Saint Saens "Swan", which is in 6/8 = compound meter = 2 beats/measure which I didn't know.  It took some time to figure out that "the swan kicks its legs twice per measures" as the feel of it.  One cannot assume that an adult will know even basic things, nor will know what is needed.  Nowdays we will learn a lot of things on the Net, for example here. That was barely there when I started.
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