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Topic: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist  (Read 5704 times)

Offline Bachclavier

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Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
on: April 13, 2005, 06:14:55 AM
I was just wondering how some performances are just spellbinding and others are just average. What makes this difference? What kind of effort does it require to turn a "good pianist" into a "great pianist"?

Offline Waldszenen

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #1 on: April 13, 2005, 10:19:04 AM
How the public thinks of them!
Fortune favours the musical.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #2 on: April 15, 2005, 09:12:18 PM
What's the difference between a good pianist and a great pianist?
And what is the difference between a good musician and a great one?

Answer these questions together and it amazing how many musicians are not great even though they are great pianists/vilionists/singers/etc. but only good to average musicians. :P

Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #3 on: April 16, 2005, 12:11:25 AM
they find a characteristic about themselves that they can capitalize on.  that way, they are different than everyone else (in something technical or tonal).  people like to see something done that noone else has thought of - or produced in a sort of indefinable way (hard for others to recreate).

i'm finding, when i listen almost in a meditative state to a recording that i like over and over, i start hearing some 'tricks' that are audible.  for instance, some people like to schmultz over the high notes (waiting a bit before they get to them). in the murray perahia tape that i have, i notice in some of the fast places, he just gets right to the high notes and then lets them ring longer (like a singer getting rid of the consonant - or first sound- so the listener can enjoy the note the longest possible time).  of course, being too predictable is not what artists want - so you have to keep your audience guessing, i think, as to how you will play a piece.  the most interesting pianists are the ones that vary things from time to time (tempos - etc - just according to how they feel that day - within reason).
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 sonatainfsharp

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #4 on: April 17, 2005, 06:07:10 PM
When I start to further push ideas such as nuance and advanced tone control to my students, I often ask the same question.

I will ask them, "you played all the notes corrently, all the rhythm well, and all the dynamics just fine, but why would my playing of the same piece sound better, given I am the teacher?" It is amazing how many kids can describe nuance without ever hearing the word before!

Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #5 on: April 17, 2005, 07:20:47 PM
dear SonatainfSharp,

please tell us more.  it's almost as if when you get to a certain level, you are left to figure most of it out by ear.  which is ok, but not the fastest way to get a result.  are there specific ideas or tricks that you use to get better nuances.  i realize fingering can be a huge help or setback, but beyond fingering...is there some book that explains interpretive shadings for various composers?

right now, i am sort of a picnic table pianist.  i don't know exactly why i say this, other than i am not completely at the formal elements and occasionally happen upon a good cookie or sandwich.  my teacher helps me with several ideas at a time.  one is not thinking so divisively about rhythm.  i am trying to focus on this - so i don't always play so exactly when i have one rhythm in the rh and one in the left (as in Barber nocturne).  BUT, there must be more...because he plays so well, and i am sort of 'blank' in terms of spots in my pieces.  it's like i eat a great piece of fried chicken here (really bring it out) and then there's a spot i just don't know what to do with (maybe transitional) so i don't do anything.  my mind even sort of blanks out - and i just play the notes.  how can i be 'there' always and always making good music?
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 Mayla

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #6 on: April 18, 2005, 06:14:06 AM
.
"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #7 on: April 18, 2005, 11:40:01 PM
intention. yes.  sometimes, from playing a piece over and over, it's not that i don't have good intentions.  i'm just not trying as hard as other times.  maybe that comes with experience.  overplaying for effect - especially in transitional passages that usually mean nothing but a transition, but can be made surprising at the points of modulation or lightly played and crescendoed, etc.  i guess professional pianists have a lot of stamina to keep putting out, and not take a rest here and there and space out.
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 lagin

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #8 on: April 19, 2005, 03:28:37 AM
Uh?  I think Mayla was being sarcastic about your post or rather, the way you communicated it.
Christians aren't perfect; just forgiven.

Offline Mayla

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #9 on: April 19, 2005, 03:32:21 AM
.
"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline lagin

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #10 on: April 19, 2005, 03:42:28 AM
Oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh!  doh!
Christians aren't perfect; just forgiven.

Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #11 on: April 19, 2005, 06:37:40 PM
forgive me, please, mayla, if i copied an idea from a post of yours!  i probably read it and it 'clicked.'  did you also use the term picnic table pianist?  if you did, i was not making light of it...but rather relating to it myself.

there are days with three children that i simply dream of putting in the practice time.  and then, when things don't go smoothly together in my practice i am frustrated.  it is not my teacher because he takes time to go over what i have practiced.  it is probably more that i am trying to do many things at once.  it is crazy actually to try to even take lessons - but i am convinced if i wait until the children are grown and out of the house - i will have totally forgotten everything.  so am just dwiddling toward my picnic practices (until babysitter is found this summer - for at least 2-3 hour practices) and reading a lot about beethoven right now.  going to listen to some of his symphonies.  (if i get interrupted, at least the symphony keeps on going.  it works well in the car too, whereas practice while driving might be hazardous).
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 rebel1ns

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #12 on: April 20, 2005, 06:08:05 AM
when im auditioning/competing, ive realized that it really doesnt matter how technically advanced you are as much as how musical you can play a piece..like bringing out melodies and shaping etc...and ive screwed up in my pieces technically yet i still got into panel(for mtac) with an audition ..that being said personally i think a great pianist is one who can shape well and make their interpretations clever and original..iono

Offline pbr2005

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #13 on: April 30, 2005, 04:00:19 AM
OK - If you think about all the greats, they all had something in common, and that is that they all somehow had their own voice, their own sound, their own ideas.  Easier said than done, and it's extremely rare when one encounters it.  Most very good pianists are still in some kind of hero-worship mode, modeling thier performances after Horowitz, Rubinstein, Richter, their own teacher, etc.  and really they don't know a damn thing about the music that they are playing. 

Oh, and add also technique, tone, accuracy, sense of structure, pedaling effects, sense of rubato, variey of touch, sensitivity to harmonic change, personal charisma...gee, am I forgeting anything?  : )

Basically, it is not easy to become "great"...

Offline Dazzer

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #14 on: April 30, 2005, 05:13:23 AM
between average and great? piano monkeys.

Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #15 on: May 01, 2005, 01:56:13 AM
i like that dazzer.  it makes me feel like there is some kind of hope left.

sensitivity to harmonic change (besides rhythm) is also what i have recently learned more about.  i thought i was extremely sensitive to this.  surpise.  i was a piano monkey.  now, it's like a lightbulb in my head, and i see the many varied ways one can approach a harmonic change (especially those sharp four's - or tritones in chopin ballade op. 38 #2).  my teacher is obssessive about them, so to placate him, i really bring them out (even highlight with a yellow marker).  BUT, then i realize, WOW if you bring out dissonances then the harmonies sound better.  it's really wierd.  maybe wierd isn't the word.  interesting.

i'm learning that there are many ways to look at melodies, too, and in the brahm's intermezzo #2 at measures 49-56 i vary the melody from the top line to the tenor line when i repeat (thumb of lh and rh more).  it sounds stunning, to me, and i think people like hearing something different in repeats sometimes.  what do you think?  maybe not in mozart, but in romantic music it's ok, right?

   
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 Dazzer

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #16 on: May 01, 2005, 02:59:03 AM
i'm just digging at that other thread on piano monkeys.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #17 on: May 01, 2005, 05:50:42 AM
I think its similar to a rating a book. A good book will entertain you but a great book changes you. Same as musicians, after hearing a great musican one can't help but be changed. Our eyes open to a new grounds or there is a revelation to our way of listening to sound that reach far away into the infinite power of the musical expression.
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Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #18 on: May 01, 2005, 12:33:29 PM
that's very apt.  i wish i could hear you play.  you sound very similar in thoughts to my teacher.  sometimes i learn more from him just by sitting and listening.  for one thing...it helps me expand my 'listening repertoire.'  as a piano monkey, i gravitate to what i have liked for years.  now, i just think, i guess there are some really great contemporary pieces and maybe i have limited myself too much.

agreed about the book idea.  i wonder if you tend to like classics then you like classical music the most.  my most favorite books thus far are still the works of shakespeare, milton, pearl s. buck, michner, louis lamour, steinbeck...because they tend to mine the dictionary and find precise adjectives so when you read whatever, you say, 'oh, i've felt that way' or 'i've seen that' or when describing things a continent away you can picture it. you can directly relate it and it's a universal language no matter the nationality.

the most life changing book was one i read in highschool on 'hiroshima.'  it's funny because someone on the radio yesterday was talking about what we remember from cold war times.  my mom remembers the bomb-shelters and drills, i don't.  i don't remember any drills other than for earthquakes.  now, with the possibilty of bombs in the hands of rogue countries (to us) we understand the deadly significance of them being created in the first place.  power isn't might anymore.  perhaps this goes for piano playing,too. 

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 lostinidlewonder

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #19 on: May 02, 2005, 12:07:20 AM
Music nowadays (Instrumental peformers or modern artists even) seems really artificial and overall uninspirational to listeners, although there are some gems that come out now and again, and no WhateverCountry IDOL make that list! lol

I find it ridiculous when a music career prospers with the quick ticket of fame because most of them in time will eventually fizzle down to mediocrity. You see a lot of that with one hit wonders who write one great song then vanish. I guess quit while your ahead, but this also goes for those piano greats who make a name for themselves by winning a competition or two.

Favorite books my whole life have been for me ones which direct and insipre us to learn about life. Like Dale Carnegie's legendary book "How to win Friends and Influence people" and motivational/business books (especially "The Magic of thinking Big" David Schwartz) which I have always read since I was young as well under my fathers constant plead to start those things early which I greatly am thankful for.

When I was younger I use to read a lot of "fantasy" that took me totally away from the reality of this world. Now I think nowadays it is the Bible. Yes I hear few people groan. But no matter how many times i read it, i always come away with someone new and inspirational, nothing I have read does this so often and constantly.

My musical tastes are pretty wide and various. I love piano solo music the most of anything else of course, but I find a lot of listening and playing interest in music from people like Steve Wonder, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Billy Joel etc. I really love music from the 50's-70s, some of the best "modern" ever written then even though that is before my time (i was born 81), but that doesn't really matter, Bach is even more before my time ;).

I don't see myself as a special pianist although I have been told by a few concert pianists who still play around the world today that I am. I know my limitations and my boundaries, I have thrown myself into the deep end of a peforming artist life, 9 hours a day practice and preparing concertos within 2 weeks for public peformance, I hate that life. Music to me is such a more gentle art and slow, delicately woven. Solo Concerts of my own I spend at least 2 years practicing them and play that repetiore in a few smaller priviate concerts before i would give it to the public audience. I am very slow in revealing new music which would make me not really a great in the music world, because greats are efficiency machines and can churn out hundreds of bars a day of memory.
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Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #20 on: May 02, 2005, 05:06:57 PM
nine hours of practice, two weeks for a concerto?  wow.  i knew you sounded a lot like my teacher.  the thing is, is that i think he would agree 100 % with what you are saying about a more gentle approach to practicing.  unfortunately, it sounds like finances forbid it yet for you both.

i can't help but look at your ages probable good looks (my teacher looks like a gq model) and think, surely there must be a rich woman who will sponsor you (like tchaikovsky) whether you marry her or not.  maybe then, you'll be able to practice when you want to and at a pace that is not 'killing you.'

personally, when i was teaching a lot, i didn't practice much.  now i am back to practicing, but wonder if i start teaching more if that will fizzle again.  am amazed that my teacher can practice AND teach.  it's a lot of self-discipline.

the Bible always refocuses me to add goals that are different than the single goals of learning piano repertoire that i set for myself.  if my kids get ignored too much, i can hear a little voice saying - think more about your kids.  if i'm too tired to 'be there' then it's not good.  so, just a few hours now - but maybe when the 3 year old is in school then i'll practice more.

i really do want to be a concert pianist.  maybe a half pianomonkey pianist, but still want to perform piano concertos and things like that (duets).  i liked what you said in the concerto section about charity concerts.  that would not put pressure on to be competing with anyone, just the best that i can be personally for a good cause.  i'd probably perform better with less pressure (and less of a musically discerning audience for now).  just the practice of doing it (getting my memory back).
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 Siberian Husky

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #21 on: May 02, 2005, 05:28:36 PM
to my understanding...if we could concretely solidify an answer to the question "what is the difference between a good and great pianist?"...then that specific element(s) in which contributes to "greatness" and not necessarily "goodness,"...wouldnt captivate us as an audience..i agree with the concept of the unexpected ingredients whilst playing being a key role in catching one's (audience) attention...but its what you as the pianist, does with the audeience's attention...THAT, in my opinion, is the breaking point and the fork in the road to "good" and "great"....the art of holding one's attention is relatively easy...but its something unexplainable that determines its large magnitude of GREATNESS in a pianist...and the quality of something unexplainable..is unmatched..thus   
making its quality unmeasurable..and so on and so forth...thats my deep philosophical view point on a great musician...i dont think objective discriptions do them any justice...

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Offline pianonut

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #22 on: May 02, 2005, 05:52:38 PM
agreed.  usually it has to do with a great amount of practice and preparation (not just winging it).

something that bothers me is that if i pay for a ticket to hear a piano concerto, i would expect it to be worth the price of the ticket.  not necessarily grand, but good enough that the concerto will have a 'flow.'  but, many times, the orchestra and pianist haven't worked things out enough, or the pianist is just not as practiced.  this makes me irratated and think 'i could play that!'  that's where the kind of practice that lostinidle is talking about comes in.  where you have all the time you need to really let a piece sink deep into your 'soul.' and, when you play it, it is really your interpretation and not what it makes itself into.  of course, i haven't played a concerto in a long time, so i may be dreaming of how easy it is.
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 Romantic_Keys

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #23 on: May 07, 2005, 02:26:10 PM
I beleive that emotion 100% makes the performance worth while. If your all uptight and timid wile performing then the audience cna sense it, and won't enjoy relaxing during the peice. You have to make them relax, and relax yourself while jsut having a good time yourself doing your thing. Put everything into your peice everytime you play it, make it your own, and keep the audience allways wondering. If your playing a peice and the audience is getting tired or bord, well then you ahve to kick it up a couple notches, keep them suspenseful, whats ocmming up next.
Emotion thats what i think is really important, what mkaes a good peice great! ;D
i'm 15,  and currently working on my Gr 9 piano, (Gr 8 violin and Gr 5 voice lol ) i'm doing my piano exam in June, getting kind of nervous lol
I love the Romantic peices ther my favorite !

Offline Doodle

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #24 on: June 17, 2005, 07:16:20 PM
A good pianist can play the music with correct notes, rhythm, dynamics etc.

A great pianist can communicate a piece to such a degree that you forget all about correct notes, rhythm, dynamics etc.

A good pianist has music coming from the piano.

A great pianist seems to have music coming from their soul.

All music inhales, and exhales, (tension and release), sways back and forth,  is born, grows, and dies, just like nature.  A great pianist brings the music to life, and transports the listener somewhere else.
D

Offline ako

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #25 on: June 18, 2005, 02:14:37 AM
lostinidlewonde,

I enjoy reading your posts regarding this topic. It echos a feeling I have about music that I cannot put into words. When I hear a performance that either puts new ideas in my head, makes me question my own view on it or brings tears to my eyes, the performer has succeeded in bringing the music out.

Offline Barbosa-piano

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #26 on: June 19, 2005, 04:54:35 AM
 A good pianist plays well, often has good technique.
A great pianist: Knows how to coax with the audience, at most occasions has a virtuosistic technique, has a sound of his or her own. Ex: Padarewski's technique was poor according to pianists of his time, but his charisma and the way he related to audience was fantastic.

It is my opinion, but I might be wrong...

Mario Barbosa  ;D
 
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Offline felia

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #27 on: June 19, 2005, 06:54:08 AM
really like to read this thread...it exvokes me to think more about music and your life time... ;)

Offline thalbergmad

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #28 on: June 19, 2005, 10:45:22 AM
A great pianist gets you excited before he even touches the keys.
Curator/Director
Concerto Preservation Society

Offline stormx

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #29 on: June 19, 2005, 11:43:59 PM
Lets take examples...

Why are pianists as Benjamin Frith or Konstantin Scherbakov(sp?) almost unknown (and excellent, in my opinion. Check their Naxos recordings), and Barenboim or Kempff, for instance, so famous?

Pease, dont misunderstand my point (i am NOT saying that Frith is better than Barenboim !!).
I really like Barenboim and Kempff (love his Beethoven sonatas), but i cannot see a so HUGE difference to justify why they are considered to play in another league than the former ones...

Dont you think that, after all,  there is some marketing behind all this?

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #30 on: June 21, 2005, 04:23:46 PM
A great pianist can give a fantasitic performance on wednesday and a truely toe curling one on thursday  - but heres the catch  - they have the power of communication and presence that wills the audience into submission - plus usually the audience have heard the reviews and already have in their mind - i am coming to hear a great performance. Its interesting that many great pianists were not college trained as colleges teach that even your worst performance must be good enough to put before the audience - they specialise in creating the 'good pianist'. Great pianists are almost born not made! There is something deeper in them than the whole aspect of performance that no matter what goes wrong there is a tremendous energy concentrated on the music (they forget themselves or at least make themselves subject to the music) and that cant be taught it has to come from a total love for the music. Listening to great pianists can be both inspiring and depressing! ::)

Offline nanabush

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #31 on: June 21, 2005, 09:24:21 PM
Take Glen Gould for example, and his Well tempered Clavier... he played them with a very very unique style, and his recordings are famous...Once a pianist has a 'style' and does not just regurgitate what many have done in the past, they will be remembered, which I think makes a great pianist...
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2

Offline wufnu

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #32 on: June 26, 2005, 04:07:46 AM
It is my observation, in everything not just music, the difference between ordinary and greatness is attention to detail.  Even if the great person doesn't know they're doing it.  It's also my observation that ordinary people are unable to provide the amount of detail needed for greatness.  Imagine if you had to paint a picture of a tree on a lake.  An ordinary person would pay almost all their attention to the tree and the lake, the great person would wonder which way a certain blade of grass should point.  In their minds eye "It just doesn't feel right pointing that way... better this way."  An ordinary person probably wouldn't bother or think of putting in a hazy reflection of the mountains in the background, or that under the bush near the lake there is a fish underneath waiting for a bug to drop. 

Attention to detail.  :)

This is all made up BS, just something that I believe to be important.  Others may find it silly.  No big whoop. 

Offline greenphase

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Re: Difference between a good pianist/great pianist
Reply #33 on: June 27, 2005, 02:34:06 AM
I never had a chance to listen to someone play piano live, but I have this unusual habit of my own way of determining who's a great pianist/musician and whatnot: I fall asleep during the middle of their recording.  ;D

Which can be determined as an offense, but really, it's a compliment if I sleep through their recording. Usually I can't fall asleep with music on so someone who's an excellent pianist reaches into my sleep psyche and makes me feel much more refreshed after I wake up.  :D
 

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