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12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... #1575502
12/12/10 06:59 PM
12/12/10 06:59 PM
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Yep - I was on a mission to reminisce through the repertoire that I loved in my teenage peak 20 years ago.

After much searching through my memory banks I remember after finshing my Grade 8 at Easter before I went off to uni that September my teacher suggesed a few things to work on. One - rather ambitiously was Chopin Scherzo #2.

At that time ambitious didnt scare me - I had a good stab at playing huge chunks of Rach #2 (to play along with a bunch of attractive female violinists who seemed to swoon whenever my fingers touched the keyboard), I played a large prcentage of Mussorgskys pictures (again playing to the orchestral crowd who had great familiarilty with the work).

BUT this Scherzo killed me. Huge chunks of it were ok, impressive, beautiful even - but I never got to grips with it. Soon enough I said goodbye to my teacher, toddled off to uni and worked on all kids of other stuff.

...Cut to 20 years later and I recently heard a stunning performance of Chopin Scherzo #1 by an incredibly talented 14yr old. I was completely blown away and more than a little inspired. I searched for a few minutes and located the Chopin Scherzo that I never mastered and decided to take another look.

Obviously the years have taken their toll and my first reading was more than a little dodgy (and probably around 3rd the required speed). But within a hour or so I found that most of the piece fell encouragingly into that "I could do this if I worked on it" state. The problem however, I have managed to isolate 12 bars that I see as unplayable.

Bars 117-129 have me beat. Even a super slow I simply cannot play them! So here it is - the 12 bars that defeated me and threw me to the ground with the stark realisation that I did not have 'what it takes'. They killed me 20 years ago and again today I see no way around them.
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(of course if anyone has any magical 'silver bullet' advice that turns this from impossible into 'do-able with a bit of work' then I'm all ears!)


Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)
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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575514
12/12/10 07:23 PM
12/12/10 07:23 PM
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BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted by DadAgain
[...]
Bars 117-129 have me beat. Even a super slow I simply cannot play them! [...]

(of course if anyone has any magical 'silver bullet' advice that turns this from impossible into 'do-able with a bit of work' then I'm all ears!)


Are you relying too much on finger work rather than arm movement to place your hands over the right notes at the right time?

Try this exercise :
Measure 118 : Starting with the RH alone and imagining two beats per bar :
- play F with the thumb
- move the hand to play thumb on F an octave higher
- move the hand to play 1/4 on C/Ab
Gradually increase the speed of this exercise so that you are playing F-F-F/Ab in one movement

then, similar to above :
F/Db 1/3 (as a two-note chord)
F/Db 1/3
C/Ab 1/4

then, similar to above :
F/Db/Ab 1/3/5 as a broken chord
F/Db/Bb 1/3/5 as a broken chord
C/Ab 1/4

then the six note broken chord followed by the final A/Ab chord, gradually increasing the speed but always doing it as one continuous upward movement.

Repeat this exercise with each successive chord group.

The 'bit of work' is the 'silver bullet,' I believe. For me, these are not the hardest measures of this work.

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575540
12/12/10 07:59 PM
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in my case these are the least worrying bars of the piece, having practiced them for almost 30 years now, I feel quite confident, haha, the problem with the piece for me is, that it's so much played that it's hard to be original, that's the reason I never listen to it, just play it.


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575627
12/12/10 11:36 PM
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It would help if you said something more specific about what is hard about the passage, or what goes wrong, or.....whatever.

I don't see how we can begin to know what to tell you otherwise.

These bars of the piece absolutely galvanized me when I heard it, years ago (in the Chopin movie, "Song to Remember"). I didn't know what the piece was, and this spectacular ending to the first section so grabbed me that I just had to find out, and with not inconsiderable effort smile .....I did.

And, this part gave me trouble too. It took me a while, then it 'just came.'

Tell us some more, and then we can tell you more. smile

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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575640
12/13/10 12:11 AM
12/13/10 12:11 AM
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Hard to say exactly what it is (particularly as I'm sat at a desk at work, nowhere near a piano right now).

BruceD - I underand what your saying about working it slowly - and I did that for quite some time. My right hand was almost getting it, but when I tried throwing in the left hand it all went pear shaped!.

I'm not sure whether for some reason I cant remember the very simple basic root & chord structure:
Db - Ab - Db - Ab
- or whether in looking at my left hand to get placement of the root notes I get out of sync with RH. It seemed that I kept geting the wrong chord pattern and playing Ab LH with Db RH.

Of course you are right - 'bit of work' is indeed the secret. Truth is I've probably over-reached my capabilies taking this on - but I'll be interested to see if I can (with the benefit of extra maturity have to patience to get furher with what I abandonned all those years ago)


Parent....
Orchestral Viola player (stictly amateur)....
Hack Pianist.... (faded skills from glory days 20 yrs ago)
Vague Guitar & Bass player.... (former minor income stream 15 yrs ago)
Former conductor... (been a long time since I was set loose with a magic wand!)
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575696
12/13/10 02:44 AM
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That's one of the loveliest bits! Easy if you follow Bruce's advice - I think you've too much tension.


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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: keyboardklutz] #1575700
12/13/10 03:01 AM
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Amazing the advice some people can give without knowing the problem!
You must be better men than I am. smile

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Mark_C] #1575707
12/13/10 03:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Amazing the advice some people can give without knowing the problem!
You must be better men than I am. smile
If that refers to me I have to say I studied it with one of the worlds top teachers - one of only a few people to receive one of MTNA's highest honor.


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

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: keyboardklutz] #1575724
12/13/10 04:18 AM
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^ You didn't address the post that you were supposedly replying to. ^ smile

(And yes indeed, you were one of the people whose reply I had to wonder about. It has nothing to do with your qualifications or knowledge. Take another look.)

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575729
12/13/10 04:42 AM
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The 12 bars? Dunno what you're going on about.


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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: keyboardklutz] #1575733
12/13/10 04:51 AM
12/13/10 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
The 12 bars? Dunno what you're going on about.

I think Mark's general complaint was that we didn't have enough information from the OP to diagnose what his particular difficulty is in playing those measures. So he was surprised that people were giving such specific advice, given that we knew so few specifics about the OP's playing.

So then when kbk said "I don't know if you're complaining about me, but I have excellent credentials", Mark replied something like "it's got nothing to do with your credentials; I just think you don't know enough about the OP's technique and the specifics of his difficulties to give advice." (Having said that, it's hard to imagine that kbk's point about the OP having too much tension is wrong, right?)

I have no stake in this discussion (and not that much interest smile ); just trying to clear up a little confusion before going to bed. smile

-Jason



Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575736
12/13/10 05:17 AM
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Thanks beet, other than tension what could it be? Is he missing a hand?


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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: beet31425] #1575741
12/13/10 05:41 AM
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Thanks, 314. smile

In answer to both your post and KBK's last one: Sure it might have no particular relation to tension. In fact, I extremely doubt that it does, because of his apparently handling the rest of the piece OK.

KBK: It could be so many other things - trust me!
Not that I imagine for a second that you will. smile

A few examples:

-- Failure to realize (really realize) that the 'rhythm' of the 'beat' is in conflict with the fingering. I won't elaborate for now; these aren't intended as answers yet, just something to give a flavor of some of the possibilities.

-- One pivotal note that the person needs to pay particular attention to, but which he isn't. (Could be any one of various notes -- but it would usually be just one.)

-- Not having a secure notion of "which" hand he's looking at, "when" -- which I suspect is most likely to be the problem. This is a particularly common issue in passages where the hands are moving far apart in opposite directions.

And other possibilities as well.

I could have just gone ahead and said that third thing, since I think it's most likely. But the person learns more by first being more specific about what's the problem -- sometimes even figures it out right away on his own, once he has done that. And if he doesn't, then whatever he has mentioned gives us a better chance to zero in. As it is, IMO we have zero chance to zero in. We can only guess, or fool ourselves by imagining it's simpler than it is.

KBK: I am at a complete loss at to how you didn't understand the previous posts.

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575753
12/13/10 06:29 AM
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We can correctly reduce the content of the original question to "Why isn't this easy?", and confidently, correctly, and completely answer "Because you're doing something wrong." smile

Now, DadAgain, do you have some more information about what exactly is going wrong? smile


(I'm a piano teacher.)
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575755
12/13/10 06:33 AM
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(Often, the mere attempt to explain the problem more clearly leads the player to his own solution anyway.)


(I'm a piano teacher.)
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575757
12/13/10 06:41 AM
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DadAgain
from your OP it appears that you've only worked on this section for one day. Is that correct? If so, I have the answer to your problem. Spend a week or two! Hands separately wouldn't hurt either.

You look very relaxed to me, just be careful about muttering under your breath, could become a habit wink


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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575763
12/13/10 07:23 AM
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I'll say it again - it's tension - knowing where it should be and, more importantly, knowing where it shouldn't be. If you can drop'n'flop, you can do this easy.


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

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575876
12/13/10 12:00 PM
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Try the Chopin Etude Op.25 No.12? The technique is similar and transferrable to those bars.

I find that playing the same bars over and over can become counter-productive, as it builds muscle memory only for those specific notes. Playing some music with similar technique but different notes forces you to use the same muscles in a different way and can build better control of your muscles overall. (one reason why we learn scales of all 24 keys, not just 12 or so, when the technique is mostly transferrable)

Last edited by ConcertEtudes; 12/13/10 12:04 PM.
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Mark_C] #1575878
12/13/10 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Amazing the advice some people can give without knowing the problem!
You must be better men than I am. smile


Mea culpa, Marc_C, mea culpa!

How complex can the problem be when the only technical demand is playing a broken chord.

Admittedly I jumped the gun by not asking what the problem was, so just put me down as not knowing what the appropriate response to the question should have been. Does that satisfy?


BruceD
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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: BruceD] #1575917
12/13/10 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
....How complex can the problem be when the only technical demand is playing a broken chord....

That's the case only if the player has an incredibly great technique, musicianship, and feel for the keyboard. Otherwise there are other things about it.

Such as, as I said (and probably the key thing), the hands moving widely apart and creating an issue about where to look, and when.

But, that said, I screwed up myself. smile
I didn't see the OP's second post!
(Sorry!)

The second post helps a lot.
With the benefit of that, I would put even more emphasis on "knowing where you're looking."

DadAgain: If you find this of interest, I can go into it more -- or maybe you can take it yourself from there. I'll bet you a nickel this is the issue. smile
I think "tension" has nothing to do with it, and just practicing it till the cows come home won't help much either.

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Mark_C] #1575918
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
I think "tension" has nothing to do with it, and just practicing it till the cows come home won't help much either.
Holy cow, how do you know that?


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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: keyboardklutz] #1575931
12/13/10 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by keyboardklutz
Holy cow, how do you know that?

Tell you what: Let's wait and see if it's right. smile

(I think the "where to look" issue is in general the main 'technical' difficulty of the passage, although not often recognized, and the OP's reply seems in line with it. Also I addressed the thing about "tension" a little in an earlier post.)

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Mark_C] #1575933
12/13/10 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
The second post helps a lot.
With the benefit of that, I would put even more emphasis on "knowing where you're looking."

DadAgain: If you find this of interest, I can go into it more --

Hey Mark--

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about the "where to look" issue, either applied to this passage in particular, or more generally. If you have some spare time and feel like producing a little missive, please do, either on this thread, or a new one.

-Jason



Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Mark_C] #1575938
12/13/10 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Mark_C
(I think the "where to look" issue is in general the main 'technical' difficulty of the passage, although not often recognized, and the OP's reply seems in line with it. Also I addressed the thing about "tension" a little in an earlier post.)


If it's about where to look, why not practice with your eyes closed? That's solved all of my "where to look" problems so far.

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575943
12/13/10 02:48 PM
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Is this any help? All I had time to do as I'm rushing out to dinner - it didn't come back to me unfortunately. See if you can work out when the wrist rises, then drops, then flops. For some reason there's loads of dark silence (probably the best bit as far as my critics are concerned). Like I say I'm in a rush.



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Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Orange Soda King] #1575948
12/13/10 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
If it's about where to look, why not practice with your eyes closed? That's solved all of my "where to look" problems so far.

Something like that will probably be part of the solution, but it doesn't have to go that far. You don't have to do it for the whole passage but you do need to be able to do something like that at certain moments.

When a passage like this is an issue, a couple of things that help a lot (and usually solve it) are:

-- Understand that the problem is that the hands are moving apart and you can't be looking everywhere at the same time.

-- See exactly where the problem is -- I mean microscopically where. Sometimes it's where the wrong notes start occurring, sometimes it's a little before that -- where you tense up in anticipation.
But without it being primarily an issue of tension. smile
It's an issue of knowing that you're about to screw up, and so you might tense up in advance because of knowing deep-down that you don't have a way to play what's coming.

-- Decide where the eyes are going to go, and when. You can't really be looking at both hands in those key spots, because the hands are too far apart and moving in opposite directions; your gaze has to be shifting. So, decide.

-- Do make sure to "look" where you absolutely have to look, like in certain spots where the hand plays a note that it leaps to.

-- Where you won't be "looking," your hand needs to know the notes and the spacings of the notes COLD, as though you had your eyes closed (and maybe practicing it literally that way, as OSK said).
Sometimes you might find that you can't really do those parts without looking -- and that means you have to re-think "where you look and when."

Cliff's Notes version: You need to KNOW where are the spots where you HAVE TO BE looking (there will be some spots like that) -- and make sure that you do the same kind of looking every time you play the passage, rather than haphazardly, and make sure you can play the hand you're not looking at without looking at it.

Originally Posted by beet31425
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about the "where to look" issue, either applied to this passage in particular, or more generally. If you have some spare time and feel like producing a little missive, please do, either on this thread, or a new one.

I think I just covered it smile -- did I?

Last edited by Mark_C; 12/13/10 03:23 PM.
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: DadAgain] #1575979
12/13/10 03:42 PM
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You need to uncover which specific interval you have problems with. I'd imagine that it would be going from 5 to 1. Every other interval is basically straightforward.

Try checking every pair of notes individually with very good exaggerated legato and check that the fingers can support without any effort from the arm. I'm afraid that I can't personally see what playing it half-tempo with exaggerated wrist movement is going to contribute to the ability to glide across the notes at full speed. One of the most important difficulties is to avoid accenting the thumb. Sorry for the directness of my honesty, but in that demonstration the thumb is so prominent as to suggest a 6/8 time signature- the most common error for this type of figure. The heavy thumb landing would be far easier to avoid with more concise movements and with a controlled legato connection.

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: WayneP] #1575988
12/13/10 04:00 PM
12/13/10 04:00 PM
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Mark_C Online content
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Originally Posted by WayneP
....One of the most important difficulties is to avoid accenting the thumb. Sorry for the directness of my honesty, but in that demonstration the thumb is so prominent as to suggest a 6/8 time signature- the most common error for this type of figure. The heavy thumb landing would be far easier to avoid with more concise movements and with a controlled legato connection.

Well said. Still, I think it can be useful to practice it that way, because -- let's face it -- it's what the hand is doing, and it's good for the hand to "know" that. But at the same time, it's important to be highly conscious that it's NOT how we'll actually be playing the passage. If we're going to be practicing it in this "wrong" way -- i.e. landing on the thumbs, two stresses per measure -- then we probably must counter it by also practicing it a lot with 3 stresses per measure, then finally aiming for the continuous upward sweep but retaining some impression of the "3" stresses.

I am amazed that knowledgeable people can think this is a simple passage, just a broken arpeggio, and that there's almost nothing to it. There's the issue of the hands moving in opposite directions and the impossibility of looking everywhere at once, plus the thing that you're getting at (and which I mentioned also): the 'beat' of the hand movement is in conflict with the actual 'beat,' and therefore for musical reasons we have to sort of "fight" against what the hand would find it most natural to do.

Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: Mark_C] #1575990
12/13/10 04:02 PM
12/13/10 04:02 PM
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Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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BruceD  Offline
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Victoria, BC
Originally Posted by Mark_C
[...]
I am amazed that knowledgeable people can think this is a simple passage, just a broken arpeggio, and that there's almost nothing to it. [...]


Thank goodness I'm not a knowledgeable people!


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: 12 bars [of Chopin] that stopped my world..... [Re: BruceD] #1575993
12/13/10 04:04 PM
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Mark_C Online content
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Yes you are. smile

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