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Topic: What knowledge and skills should you have for the pieces you're playing?  (Read 4130 times)

Offline Bob

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- background information about the composer, time period, that specific piece if possible, the type of music the piece is (sonata form, fugue, etc.)

should you have....
- the melodic line memorized by itself?
- the chord progressions memorized by themself?



https://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,7720.0.html
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline pianonut

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i don't know what to respond to first--the geese or derek liking red.  and i thought i was nutty.  do you know, they still haven't found out the real reason for accurate migrations.  they used to think that it was one thing, and then recently on a show, they disproved it and said that it was still being researched.  ok.  now derek can like red all he wants.  just don't paint his bedroom with it.  my son is still hyperactive from the lime green (supposed to be an 'in color' at the time - and made him hyper sometimes and sick the other).  am i as nutty as you?

in terms of what knowledge and skills...  this is a very logical question!  i used to rely on my teachers for most of my info (out of laziness - and, i thought, a shortage of time).   now i realize time shortage is what all of us deal with (teachers included).  so, it never hurts to learn about periodicals.  that way, you are up to date, and people say 'wow, you really know your stuff'  even though you are quoting somebody else who just researched it.  there is so much to be learned even though it is history.  always someone discovers something new.  you don't want to be requoting textbooks from 20 years ago (as i was want to do - until taking more classes).  just as with new math (can't stand the stuff-but have to understand it better someday) you won't be able to keep up with the times.  things are very much 'if you can explain it, you can do it.'  so, if you are playing the preludes without the fugues - tell them why - and it's ok.  personally (i do like the old textbooks) people just want the basic facts and then something perky or interesting to go along with it.
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline bernhard

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in terms of what knowledge and skills...  this is a very logical question!  i used to rely on my teachers for most of my info (out of laziness - and, i thought, a shortage of time).   now i realize time shortage is what all of us deal with (teachers included).  so, it never hurts to learn about periodicals.  that way, you are up to date, and people say 'wow, you really know your stuff'  even though you are quoting somebody else who just researched it.  there is so much to be learned even though it is history.  always someone discovers something new.  you don't want to be requoting textbooks from 20 years ago (as i was want to do - until taking more classes).  just as with new math (can't stand the stuff-but have to understand it better someday) you won't be able to keep up with the times.  things are very much 'if you can explain it, you can do it.'  so, if you are playing the preludes without the fugues - tell them why - and it's ok.  personally (i do like the old textbooks) people just want the basic facts and then something perky or interesting to go along with it.

I agree with pianonut.

I guess the minimum are the right notes at the right time, but personally once a piece catches my attention I have an unquenching curiosity about all of its aspects: details on the composer’s life and ideas, how it was received by the public/critics at the time, how different people perceive analyse/it, what makes it “work” as music, how it reflects on the culture and times when it was composed.

What perhaps interest me most of all, is that certain pieces quickly lead to dead ends, while in others (Bach, Schumann and Beethoven come quickly to mind) it seems that the more you research the more they unfold. :D

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline anda

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What perhaps interest me most of all, is that certain pieces quickly lead to dead ends, while in others (Bach, Schumann and Beethoven come quickly to mind) it seems that the more you research the more they unfold. :D

absolutely! plus the fact that you need background data in order to build an accurate image of the work you're playing! imagine approaching a bach prelude same as a chopin one :)

Offline anda

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as for skills (all kinds, not just technical)  i thing most important is imagination. technical skills - everything the work requires (i mean, you couldn't play a mozart concerto without being able to play the simple scale of that tonality, right?)

Offline pianonut

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bernhard is so right about certain music making you more and more curious.  and, anda, about imagination combined with pianistic skills.  all the really great composers (mozart, i'd add, too) of which are never a limited number - were very familiar with the musical 'atoms' of rhythm, melody, harmony, and texture.  i'm reading a neat book by robert harris entitled 'what to listen for in mozart.'  instead of starting with a big symphony, he starts with ein kleine nachtmusik.  he says "of the four elements, the most indefinable and yet the first one we notice, is texture."  he goes on to say: "texture is the word we use to refer to the actual sound of the music: the instruments with which it is played, it's 'tone colors', its dynamic range, loud to soft, its sparseness or complexity...the overall impression that a piece of music creates in our emotional imagination."  this sums up what bernhard and anda said!

i like this book because it (eww just killed a spider - summer is coming) goes on to explain that music doesn't exist in a vaccum. (this isn't written as an answer to Ted, but for those who don't know much about music yet)  he says, 'certain classical pieces are so evocative that they almost give off an odor of a specific time and place.'  when you are a musician, as all of us are, we can explain this to the general public and they will start 'seeing' what we see.  for harris, he sees the end of the feudal era in Europe (when he listens to Mozart).  since his music was written for nobility, it was often quiet, resprained, modest, and pleasant.  the orchestras were small.  the dynamic range limited.  balance, symmetry, and order were valued more highly than expression and passion.  harris sees a sumptuous ballroom.  if you put this in the mind of your audience, they won't be disappointed by the lack of beethoven in mozart.  and visa-versa, you don't want to play beethoven too timidly, as if you were in a salon.  probably more, like you were playing in open air.

this is my take!  now, to take it a step farther, when you know that you are dealing with 'heavenly proportions'  you would balance the texture (no saxophones sticking out).  i happen to love jazz, too, so i think it all works together. you get what you expect, expecially when you tell about your piece and what the instruments were like at that time (or how they have changed to become what they are today).  i really liked this question because it was simple and you reach audiences by getting to their level and making music fun.
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline pianonut

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i must be having a good day.  here's a lecture (taken right out my book as i read it).  ok - we have ein kleine (eine meaning allegro and kleine meaning lively).  this is a simple communication that might be missed by the audience if they weren't told what the name means!  also, he goes into detail about the variations of rhythms that mozart put into the regular metric system (bar lines every four beats).  if you compare the first four bars with the next four - you see very different rhythms!  and not just rhythms, but after those four bars, he cuts the phrases down to two bars.  innovative, creative, and imaginative. 

what harris finds the most creative about mozart was his ability to manipulate phrases and rhythms within this steady environment of a single meter.  also, the 'questions and answers' are so cool.  the first two bars are the question, the second two -the answer.  kind of similar to the jazz version of 'i got rhythm - and then again 'i got music'   then he does something different ' i got my man'  and finally something totally different 'who could ask for anything more?'  maybe gershwin studied mozart?  who knows!
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline pianonut

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sorry to keep posting, but here's my perky, not so well known fact to add:

"mozart's musical memory was just as fantastic as his ear.  by the time he was in his early teens, he could write out any piece of music perfectly, note for note, however complex it was, after hearing it ONLY ONCE.  when he traveled to rome with his father in his teens, he heard a famous baroque piece called the 'miserere', which noone outside st peter's was allowed to perform.  after each presentation of this long and complicated contrapuntal work, the parts would be collected and locked up so that no other group of musicians could ever perform the work.  wolfgang heard it, returned to his hotel later that day and wrote the whole thing out -every part, every note.  his father was terrified that the copy would be discovered and he would be excommunicated for stealing the piece.  no one would ever have believed that anyone - let alone a boy of fourteen - could have written the piece out from memory after just one hearing."
do you know why benches fall apart?  it is because they have lids with little tiny hinges so you can store music inside them.  hint:  buy a bench that does not hinge.  buy it for sturdiness.

Offline dinosaurtales

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Some of this will depend on where you are at in your learning.  A pro would address this differently from me!

regarding technical skills, I (and my teacher, too, I think) try  to select pieces where I don't have all the technical skills (yet) to do it when I start. if I did, I wouldn't gain any technique by doing the piece.  But it needs to be a piece where I can attain those skills during the course of learning it. Otherwise, I would never be ablt to do a good job on it. 

As for history and background, I look these things up more out of my own curiosity, not because I think it will make me play it any better.
So much music, so little time........

Offline ramseytheii

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- background information about the composer, time period, that specific piece if possible, the type of music the piece is (sonata form, fugue, etc.)

should you have....
- the melodic line memorized by itself?
- the chord progressions memorized by themself?



https://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,7720.0.html

It is not necessary to know any background knowledge at all.  This is coming from one who studied music in the Ivory Tower, where the background knowledge was an indispensable part of the training.  I, like other posters, am fascinated by the history of the composers and their times.  Fascinated, like when I read a Maureen Dowd gossip piece in the Times.  Some people are truly inspired, and they will follow their inspiration, and learn more and more.  Such as Nicholas Harnoncourt.
However don't forget the politics involved in such a thing.  Any fact that can be used to support one interpretation, can be used to support a diametrically opposed interpretation!  Music time and time again evades the facts.  Why is that?  In the words of Sandor Marai, 'To identify is to accuse."  We cannot identify the "truth" in music, beyond our own subjective insight.  These days subjectivity is treated like a crime.  In fact it is the only truth.   Even those who take inspiration, from researching the lives of the composers, are subjectively selecting that which makes the most compelling case to them.  And that is not wrong. 

When we play a melody, without question, we should be able to hear the harmonies associated with the melody.  One does not exist without the other.

When we play a progression of chords, definitely we ought to be able to hear a melody on top, either imagined, or what was already written.  It is a mistake to consider the two things as separate entities.

Walter Ramsey

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