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Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032482
11/13/07 07:40 AM
11/13/07 07:40 AM
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Torquay, Devon, England
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My teacher often tells me that I should 'play from the heart' and really listen to, or 'hear' what I'm playing. She emphasises these points constantly and I know she's right but, the 'really hearing' part intrigues me, because I feel that this ability is central to really developing and improving as a pianist. Of course I can 'hear' myself play but I'm sure I don't really hear the sounds - the harmonies etc - I'm producing and what's more, I don't know how to acquire this essential ability... I hope it's not a case of 'you've either got it or you haven't!'. Maybe this has a lot to do with the fact that, more often than not I don't really enjoy my playing, as much as I love the piano and the musiic I'm trying to play.

I hope this makes some sense and I wonder if anyone else feels this way or has some advice to offer?


Michael
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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032483
11/13/07 07:49 AM
11/13/07 07:49 AM
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Mumbles, Wales
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Hi Celt,

Yes it makes sense and I have the same problem - I don't actually hear what I play - I hear what I think I play. I've started counting a lot more while playing (timing is one of my problems - I always add a rit to a diminuendo) and more recording and listening to what I actually play... The phrase my teacher uses a lot is that I "wallow in the melody"...

smile

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032484
11/13/07 08:05 AM
11/13/07 08:05 AM
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LaValse eluded to it.......the answer is to record yourself on a regular basis. Get yourself a Zoom H4 recorder. This will allow you to hear your playing as it really sounds and make the corrections necessary to improve. It will also lead to an improved ability to make those corrections in real time as you are playing, because you will be more familiar with your shortcomings and watch for them in advance.


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032485
11/13/07 08:10 AM
11/13/07 08:10 AM
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Torquay, Devon, England
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Thanks for replying LaValse, it's reassuring to know I'm not alone in this! smile

Yes, I believe that recording oneself is an essential tool for helping with the 'hearing' dilemma. Trouble is, when I replay my recordings I can hardly believe that I played whatever it was so badly, so unmusically. I don't seem to be able to hear this as I'm actually playing though - curious!


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032486
11/13/07 08:17 AM
11/13/07 08:17 AM
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Netherlands
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Play slower. And I mean: really, really slow. While you're playing, listen to the sounds. Learn to improvise and to play by ear. (Really, really slow.) The slower you play, the more time you have to listen to what you're doing.


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032487
11/13/07 08:17 AM
11/13/07 08:17 AM
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Torquay, Devon, England
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Thanks CC2 and Chopin Lover. Of necessity I play mostly on a digital (Kawai CA 91) and so recording myself is not a problem. I'll make a determined effort to do this more often! smile


Michael
Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032488
11/13/07 08:24 AM
11/13/07 08:24 AM
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Mumbles, Wales
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Celt,

Based on yesterday's lesson I think that harmonic analysis and knowing exactly what you want from each phrase helps a lot too - you must have a definite plan. For example yesterday my teacher analysed a phrase for me showing me the composer was staying in V mode - resisting the resolution to I - building tension - winding up the listener - knowing that, you can apply it to the interpretation... It must be better to know how you want each and every note to sound (Matt's suggestion of slower would help here I think) rather than obeying the ornaments in general...(?) The more detailed your mental model, the better chance you have of replicating it...(?)

All stuff I intend to try...

smile

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032489
11/13/07 08:44 AM
11/13/07 08:44 AM
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I've been silently sight-reading two part 16th century counterpoint for some months now. When I have occasionally heard them (if I'm printing them with Sibelius) I don't hear them so well. When your brain generates the sound there is much less work to do - also you don't need to 'follow' a line if your creating it. It's the only answer and I do now know hearing music on an instrument is second rate. Here is Ralph Kirkpatrick on WTC:
Quote
I do not think I ever play a Bach work of any kind without hearing it in a harmonic context. Even if it appears to be a predominantly contrapuntal work, even if it is only a two-part invention, my INNER EAR [my caps] hears it dripping with harmony. There is a kind of harmonic atmosphere from which it gains its life and breath. Without it, it wuld shrink to something very insignificant indeed. There is present in everything I play a kind of silent, unwritten continuo.... I can well recall that it took me years to acquire security in this kind of hearing. At first it had constantly to be renewed, for my MUSICAL IMAGINATION [my caps] was not strong enough to hold what I was not physically hearing...
If you create with your musical imagination, the rest will take care of itself (and it's not that interesting anyway).


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032490
11/13/07 09:18 AM
11/13/07 09:18 AM
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A good subject to discuss I think! My teacher emphasized critical self listening too. She lamented the fact that many pianists do not listen to themselves. She also promoted very slow practice with intense concentration on what was happening in the score. Of course most people think they are 'listening' because they hear the sound they are creating but they may not be listening for the effect of that sound and the quality of the tone or the voicing and balancing that will make the music more meaningful.

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032491
11/13/07 09:25 AM
11/13/07 09:25 AM
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I'm with LaValse that recording really helps a lot. I find after I've listened to a recording and made my mental list of everything I need to work on, I can hear the things that made me wince in the recording without having to work at it. Then when I've fixed those it's time to make another recording and start on the next set of problems!

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032492
11/13/07 09:37 AM
11/13/07 09:37 AM
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This is a very important topic for musicality and interpretation while you are playing.

If I might -

My teacher taught this to me from almost the very beginning, so when I started teaching, I did the same thing:

A student plays something. They heard what they thought they were playing. I heard something differently. So rather than just say that, I would demonstrate. I would play it similarly while they were to just listen for the demonstrated fault.

For example, they landed hard on the last note, LH bass C. Or they would play a triplet and stop, before the next note was played. dadada, stop, when it should be dadadaDA. I would demonstrate but exagerate and of course they would 'hear' the problem.

As one gets better learning to listen, I could then demonstrate more nuances - such as a counter melody or a bass line being brought out.

My point is, it really helps when a teacher/mentor 'shows' you what to listen for.

Recording is good and I recommend it in some instances, but what if you don't know what to 'do' about what you are hearing? Just what is wrong with it, besides it sounding badly?

Training one's ear to really listen to what you are playing needs to be developed just like any other aspect of playing.

What you are all doing when you are sharing your recordings is amazing to me. And that you are open to positive critical notes, I think is wonderful. A group like this ABF should have been around a longgggg time ago!!!

Hope what I shared helps. LL


"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032493
11/13/07 09:48 AM
11/13/07 09:48 AM
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Mumbles, Wales
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Hi keyboardklutz,

> RK: "dripping with harmony."
> RK: "harmonic atmosphere"

Lovely phrases.

Getting to the point where a good performance is the physical realisation of a detailed mental model, i.e. to the point where one implies the other, is a wonderful goal, but I would think some serious critical listening is going to be needed along the way to developing such a skill...!

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032494
11/13/07 09:54 AM
11/13/07 09:54 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by LaValse:
... The more detailed your mental model, the better chance you have of replicating it...(?)
On a slightly off-topic thought...

I sometimes hear/play incorrectly so much that it becomes "correct" somehow, and when I hear someone else play correctly, it sounds wrong...

I have learned to not trust myself to be right, always checking, always looking for other versions. This forum is a great place for me for just that reason.

The question is just how to we (ok, I) get so far off base when reading the music almost daily? It's a mystery.


"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro
Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032495
11/13/07 10:07 AM
11/13/07 10:07 AM
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Speaking as a self-teacher who has had lessons, so I've seen how watching a better player's version of your piece can open your eyes to all sorts of nuance,I'd say malzheit's comment is closest to the heart of the matter as I see it. Sure, it's good to record yourself to see how you sound, but I think it's even more critical to slow down and focus on how your piano/keyboard sounds when you press on the keys.

Having jammed a lot with an instrument I have some control over, I can't overstate how much listening was critical to playing. Because the piano is such a technically demanding instrument, I think that we have very little attention left for the nuances of tone and attack when we first start trying to bang out our pieces.

Recently, I have made it a point to practise my listening skills on pieces I have already "mastered". I find that it allows my hands to relax and produce a lot more musicality.

I am unable to do it with pieces I haven't memorized or with those that are still giving me substantial technical trouble: I find that listening takes most of my attention and that I also need relative quiet in the room when I'm attempting it.

As Dave Limina says: "Music is not about forcing some technical act..."

Just my $0.02...


Without music life would be a mistake
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032496
11/13/07 10:19 AM
11/13/07 10:19 AM
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Mumbles, Wales
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Hi Lilylady,

> Recording is good and I recommend it in some
> instances, but what if you don't know what
> to 'do' about what you are hearing? Just what
> is wrong with it, besides it sounding badly?

Yes, I suppose it's a kind of gradual focusing process - we handle the more obvious interpretive problems ourselves, by recording and critical listening if necessary, then our teachers can fix the less obvious ones (and ones we fail to fix) in a lesson - and hopeully not have to unfix our fixes too much...!

My teacher often demonstrates what I do and asks if I can hear what's wrong - nope - again - nope - exaggerates like you said - ah yes I see...

You teachers are worth your weight in gold IMO...

smile

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032497
11/13/07 10:26 AM
11/13/07 10:26 AM
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Yup Pasta,

I think that you and Matt are spot on.

Well said LilyLady.... smile


Rerun

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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032498
11/13/07 10:30 AM
11/13/07 10:30 AM
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Here is Schenker:
Quote
In the end, what matters is the ability to hear and evaluate all the effects of one's own playing; this is surely the most difficult task of all! If one is still struggling with finger control and uses up nervous energy in achieving the correct finger motion, then nothing is left to control that which the fingers produce. Only one who speedily produces into the fingers, so to speak, gains sufficient time and energy to judge the effect as well.
He is saying you have to go straight from imagination to realization with nothing in between in order to hear yourself. Any one who has studied a martial art knows this.

Here he is again:

Quote
Basically, a composition does not require a performance in order to exist. Just as an imagined sound appears real in the mind, the reading of a score is sufficient to prove the existence of the composition. The mechanical realization of the work of art can thus be considered superfluous.


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032499
11/13/07 11:01 AM
11/13/07 11:01 AM
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This is such a great discussion! I'm really trying to work on developing my listening skills to pick up much more than I have been, both in listening to others and myself. It's been a very gradual process, though.

Sophia

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032500
11/13/07 11:20 AM
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One thing we haven't mentioned here, that I think is very important. Often the piece is being played improperly, or lacking the proper control/emotion, not just because the player is not listening to him/herself, but because he/she is technically incapable of achieving the proper nuance and control necessary to play it properly. It is also important to note that this technical deficiency may be just as much the fault of the piano as it is the player. When I go into a home to tune or regulate a piano, only one in a few hundred is regulated anywhere near what it would take to really give the player fine control of the instrument. Add to this the fact that most people are playing, and practicing, on beat up or ill maintained uprights or consoles/spinets, and is it any wonder that people are having difficulty achieving the proper levels of expression and control?


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032501
11/13/07 12:01 PM
11/13/07 12:01 PM
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Interesting and important topic.

I can only hear what I'm playing after I've memorized the piece. Once I am able to take the music away I can concentrate on letting it breathe and really listen to what I am trying to achieve with the melody, phrases, dynamics, pedal, etc...

If I'm still struggling with the notes, looking up at the music, looking down at my hands, it ends up sounding rather mechanical. That doesn't mean that I don't practice the "feeling" while reading the music but for me I find that I play a piece a lot better once I am confident that it's committed to memory.

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032502
11/13/07 12:12 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
It is also important to note that this technical deficiency may be just as much the fault of the piano as it is the player. When I go into a home to tune or regulate a piano, only one in a few hundred is regulated anywhere near what it would take to really give the player fine control of the instrument. Add to this the fact that most people are playing, and practicing, on beat up or ill maintained uprights or consoles/spinets, and is it any wonder that people are having difficulty achieving the proper levels of expression and control?
I'm not sure how relevant that is. In fact a poor piano requires you to have a very clear idea of your intentions. Your body should automatically compensate. It's like when you drive a different car, even a poorly maintained one; you'll be used to it in no time. I'm not advocating using poor pianos but the effort may have it's own rewards.


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032503
11/13/07 12:37 PM
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This is one thing that was stressed so much in my lessons at music camp. "Listen, listen, listen."

It's hard to do until you get the notes under your fingers but it's very important. Just today at my lesson I was playing my most recent 'finished' piece. Well I really messed up the pedaling because I was a little nervous (wanted to play as well as at home - HA!) and was concentrating so hard on the notes and timing (which I also managed to screw up in places shocked )that I forgot to change the pedal often enough. In other words I wasn't LISTENING.....


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032504
11/13/07 01:10 PM
11/13/07 01:10 PM
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A last quote (maybe). This time Tobias Matthay:
Quote
...Please do not misunderstand me to maintain that such power of absolute attention is the attribute which, alone, constitutes genius. Far from it! To concentration we must add vividness of imagination.[Matthay's italics] Here, indeed, we have the most salient feature of genius and of real talent - Imagination, the ability keenly to visualise, or auralise things apart from their actual physical happening outside of us. This more subtle faculty, imaginativeness - this power of pre-hearing - can also be cultivated in far greater measure than is generally suspected to be possible...


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032505
11/13/07 01:11 PM
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keyboardklutz said:
Quote
I'm not sure how relevant that is. In fact a poor piano requires you to have a very clear idea of your intentions. Your body should automatically compensate. It's like when you drive a different car, even a poorly maintained one; you'll be used to it in no time. I'm not advocating using poor pianos but the effort may have it's own rewards.
The fact that you may be required to have a very clear idea of your intentions doesn't mean you will be able to compensate enough to be able to fulfill those intentions. A typical poorly regulated keyboard will have downweights and upweights, and friction components, that will vary tremendously from one key to the next. In addition the let off and drop will vary so that power and tone will vary from one note to the next as well. There is no way the average player could compensate for all this variation and uneveness to optimize their playing on such an instrument. They may be able to adjust enough to play better in an hour than they did when they first sat down, but that is a far cry from playing the piece optimally.


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032506
11/13/07 01:15 PM
11/13/07 01:15 PM
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I shan't argue with a tech. Let's not underestimate the human body though!


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032507
11/13/07 01:43 PM
11/13/07 01:43 PM
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My teacher also stresses this. Like Chopin952, until I have the notes under my fingers its hard to work on feeling the music. I have realized that when I work on smaller sections, I can work on the notes and listening at the same time.

Everytime my teacher plays a passage that I'm struggling with I always say "Thats amazing" because I can clearly hear the glorious sound shes making. The problem is I can't duplicate that sound. So I guess its a combination of listening and having the technical competence to recreate the sound.

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032508
11/13/07 01:52 PM
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i try to, but not always do so when i struggle with notes. i feel the same as you when i was watching my teacher plays. the point is that when you don't have to worry about technical part of piece, it's easier to hear what you're doing and even notice the musical aspect of the piece. but when you're learning and still have a lot of technical difficulties, it's not always possible to think about music aspect of the piece, unless you're working on 'creating' the sound.

teachers or professional pianists don't have to worry about technical part of the piece they play anymore or that much, and therefore, all they need to worry about is the sound concept of the piece and musicality. so, don't feel bad if you cannot yet do the same, because you're still at learning stage, and even learning to listen to your own playing.

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032509
11/13/07 02:02 PM
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Practicing in small segments also helps me. I find I can listen much better when I play just a few measures at a time, even if I don't know the piece well. I have also been trying to memorize as I learn a piece, using those same small segments, and this also helps.

BTS, just knowing how something "should" sound and being able to hear it mentally is no guarantee that you will be able to duplicate it, although it's a step in the right direction! It's a combination of this mental effort and sheer physical application.


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Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032510
11/13/07 02:05 PM
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Piano Again, it is the ONLY guarantee. As in 'Zen and the Art of Archery'.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

Re: Do you really 'hear' what you're playing? #1032511
11/13/07 02:11 PM
11/13/07 02:11 PM
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,289
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mr_super-hunky Offline
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mr_super-hunky  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 4,289
Hi Celt:

I ONLY play what I "hear" in my head. I hear absolutely wonderful melodies in my head but my problem is finding the notes that correspond to the sounds that I hear.

The best advice I can give you is what Mahlzeit has mentioned and that is to play everything in SUPER-SLO-MO at first. This will give you the time needed to *find* the correct notes, even if you have to plunk around a bit..(or a lot!).

Btw, there is no music as pure and as representative of yourself as the music YOU create from deep within yourself!.

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