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#2108342 - 06/26/13 12:02 PM Evening out rapid passages rhythmically  
Joined: Apr 2011
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Brad Hoehne Offline
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Brad Hoehne  Offline
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Ohio
Hi all,

Lately I've been working on trying to iron out a particular weakness I have: playing rapid "16th note" passages with an even rhythm- that is, without the notes getting all bunched up at certain points.

In various Mozart sonatas, or in the simple CPE Bach Solfeggietto, for instance, I can generally play with a lovely, even rhythm up to a certain tempo- usually around 100 bpm with 16th note passages- and then above that, my rhythm develops hitches. Instead of a clean da---da---da---da--- I end up playing da--da---da----da---- or something of the sort.

I've tried a number of practice techniques to try to smooth out my playing a bit. First, a lot of slow careful practice. Second, I use dotted rhythms and note groupings. Finally, I try "tone clusters". All the while I try to remain relaxed. Despite this, I can't get the Solfeggietto, the D-minor bk 1 WTC prelude, or some of the faster Mozart sonata movements up to a presto speed without them sounding a bit choppy.

Anyone have any good practice suggestions to help alleviate this problem?


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
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#2108352 - 06/26/13 12:14 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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wower Offline
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Good question. I'll be interested in other's responses too. One followup question that came to mind is do you feel your fingering for the passages are secure?


Bad spellers of the world untie!
#2108359 - 06/26/13 12:31 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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TimV Offline
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One thing I always found helpful was to put slight accents on the quarter notes.

Instead of:
DEEdadedadedadedadedadedadedadeda
Do something like this:
DEEdadedaDEdadedaDEdadedaDEdadeda

Once you have the notes in your fingers, try the slight accentuation at tempo. You may decide not to accent the passages heavily in performance, but if you do it very slightly it gives you an anchor and can help prevent skating.

Tim V.


--------------------------
Bach WTC 1 #7
Brahms Op 76 #1, Op 118 #5
Debussy Suite Bergamasque
#2108367 - 06/26/13 12:40 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Can you play just four 16th notes at the desired tempo in perfect rhythm? Break up that long passage into sequences of four notes. Just think four notes at a time. Practice with a metronome clicking on the quarternote. Works for me!


"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP
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#2108384 - 06/26/13 12:57 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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gooddog Offline
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You've tried most of the things I would have suggested. I assume you are working with a metronome. Here are few other ideas:

It's natural to play a scale of 8 notes emphasizing the first and to a lesser extent 5th notes. Try playing the scales evenly while accenting different rhythm patterns - in 6ths, 7ths etc. For example, play a C major scale, in 6ths, emphasizing the notes in bold type: C D E F G A B C D E F G A

I know you wrote that you are trying to play with a relaxed hand but make sure your hand is truly relaxed.

What part of your thumb is playing the note? If it is the side, try playing with your thumb more upright, striking the key closer to the tip.

Observe your hands to discern which fingers are responsible for the unevenness. If it is consistently the same finger(s)study your hands to find out what the offending finger is doing and correct it.


Best regards,

Deborah
#2108389 - 06/26/13 01:09 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Orange Soda King Offline
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Maybe it has to do with your hand position, issues with tension, or something along those lines? That needs to be in order first.

#2108401 - 06/26/13 01:27 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: gooddog]  
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Brad Hoehne Offline
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Brad Hoehne  Offline
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Ohio
Originally Posted by gooddog
You've tried most of the things I would have suggested. I assume you are working with a metronome. Here are few other ideas:

It's natural to play a scale of 8 notes emphasizing the first and to a lesser extent 5th notes. Try playing the scales evenly while accenting different rhythm patterns - in 6ths, 7ths etc. For example, play a C major scale, in 6ths, emphasizing the notes in bold type: C D E F G A B C D E F G A

I know you wrote that you are trying to play with a relaxed hand but make sure your hand is truly relaxed.

What part of your thumb is playing the note? If it is the side, try playing with your thumb more upright, striking the key closer to the tip.

Observe your hands to discern which fingers are responsible for the unevenness. If it is consistently the same finger(s)study your hands to find out what the offending finger is doing and correct it.


I do use a metronome- not all the time, however.

Figuring out which finger(s) is(are) the issue seems a good idea. I do play with my thumb pretty much striking the key sideways. If I understand you correctly, you mean I should strive to lift the first joint up a bit, still striking the key with the thumb at rest sideways, but with only the side-tip striking the key. Is that right?

Also, how do you determine if you're completely relaxed. I've had trouble with this in the past, as evidenced by occasional fatigue I experience in complicated passages. I'm studying the Rach C#-minor right now and get a bit fatigued on the upper part of my forearm when practicing that descending bit at the end of the agitato section at speed. So I know I must be doing something wrong, but I can't, for the life of me, figure out what.

I know a teacher would help. I may have to go back to that.


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
#2108437 - 06/26/13 02:14 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 5,511
gooddog Offline
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Yes, the thumb is more upright as you described.

Relaxation: you're going to need a good teacher to help you with that. I've been working on it for 3 years and I'm still not completely relaxed. One thing I do is play with the metronome at a speed where I can stay completely relaxed. Then I move it up a notch and try again. When I reach the speed where the tension creeps in, I move it down a notch and practice at that speed until it is completely secure, then I try speeding it up a bit.


Best regards,

Deborah
#2108438 - 06/26/13 02:15 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Derulux Offline
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From the sounds of it, this is most-likely a technique issue. The trouble is, we don't have enough information to know what part of your technique might be at fault, so any suggestions are really stabs in the dark at trying to get your hands to intuit the solution.

Is there any chance you can post a video? That may help solve some issues.


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
#2108451 - 06/26/13 02:25 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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One thing worth trying - in your steady practising of a passage, be aware of how each finger supports the forearm (neither pushes down nor lifts up) and how this is transferred from finger to finger while "walking" from key to key. If you can achieve this then you can achieve seemingly effortless and sure control of these passages.

John


Vasa inania multum strepunt.
#2108458 - 06/26/13 02:35 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Mark Polishook Offline
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Brad,

Try this and see what think.

Download Transcribe software (30-day demo) - http://www.seventhstring.com/ - I don't work for them. Get a recording of the piece you're working on (get the recording from a CD or download from iTunes, etc) .. Load the recording into Transcribe.

Transcribe will let you slow down the recording (the speed of the performance). But pitch will stay the same. So slow it down to whatever speed you're now able to accurately play the trouble-spot passages. Put on headphones and play along w/the slowed down version. As you get comfortable at a slower tempos you can speed up the recording. Of course the magic key listen to the recording as you play and do everything you can to match all the nuances you'll hear - phrasing, dynamics, articulation,

If you have a few different recordings of the same piece then it'll be like having a few different teachers.

#2108459 - 06/26/13 02:36 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 391
Brad Hoehne Offline
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Brad Hoehne  Offline
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Ohio
Good idea. I may post a video. Thanks.


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
#2108478 - 06/26/13 03:06 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 105
TimV Offline
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A couple of things. A video would be helpful. And also, as drumour said, play with your arm weight, not by "squeezing" the keys.

Two things that my teacher always said to me:

1 - SHOULDERS DOWN!
2 - Play the key bed, not the key tops.

The second one, once you get it, you'll know. When you're relaxed and sinking all the way into the keys, you can "walk" across them, as drumour says.

Tim V.


--------------------------
Bach WTC 1 #7
Brahms Op 76 #1, Op 118 #5
Debussy Suite Bergamasque
#2108482 - 06/26/13 03:12 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Louis Podesta Offline
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I use the Juilliard method of 1 ta te ta, or 1 ta la ta li ta. However, especially in the Mozart, a lot of the time there are back and forth runs which can get you off kilter. So, what I do is to take a three tiered approach.

First, I use a technique that I was taught over 40 years ago that my teacher learned from Dalies Frantz, who learned it from Rachmaninoff. I call it soft staccato.

You take a scale or run and you play each note staccato as soft as you can with absolutely no wrist or hand movement. The hand has to be completely still, and it is important that you are totally relaxed, with no stiffening of the elbow or shoulder. And, there should be just the slightest arm weight into each key. Take it as slow as you want to in order to keep it even.

Then, I combine this with the Taubman technique of shaping, depending on which finger you are on, and where you are going to turn around on a back an forth run.

Finally, you get out your electronic metronome, and start slow, using regular arm weight without the staccato.

Earl Wild talks about this in his memoir where he said that Egon Petri taught him how to always strike from the top of they key. He also said that a certain way to attain speed was to master a passage at a certain metronome marking, and then just keep bumping it up a notch until you get the desired result.

#2108493 - 06/26/13 03:26 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: May 2010
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Kuanpiano Offline
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Canada
I usually practice things slowly to get the feel for hitting the notes correctly in good rhythm, then I work with a metronome and slowly increase the speed (like what Louis suggested). Find the trouble bars and work on those in particular, and don't forgot practice full sections as opposed to isolated bars, to build technical coherence.


Working on:
Chopin - Nocturne op. 48 no.1
Debussy - Images Book II

#2108502 - 06/26/13 03:43 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Brad Hoehne Offline
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Brad Hoehne  Offline
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Ohio
Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions. I'll put them to the test and report back.


1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
#2108514 - 06/26/13 04:08 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
Joined: Nov 2012
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Mark Polishook Offline
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Brad, THAT's what I'm talkin' about!

#2108529 - 06/26/13 04:22 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Louis Podesta]  
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gooddog Offline
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Originally Posted by Louis Podesta
You take a scale or run and you play each note staccato as soft as you can with absolutely no wrist or hand movement. The hand has to be completely still, and it is important that you are totally relaxed, with no stiffening of the elbow or shoulder. And, there should be just the slightest arm weight into each key. Take it as slow as you want to in order to keep it even.

Then, I combine this with the Taubman technique of shaping, depending on which finger you are on, and where you are going to turn around on a back an forth run.

Finally, you get out your electronic metronome, and start slow, using regular arm weight without the staccato.

Earl Wild talks about this in his memoir where he said that Egon Petri taught him how to always strike from the top of they key. He also said that a certain way to attain speed was to master a passage at a certain metronome marking, and then just keep bumping it up a notch until you get the desired result.
Interesting ideas.

Louis, I know this is off topic, but I'm really struggling to get into Earl Wild's book. I've only read about 75 pages but it seems so puerile with way too much detail. ("I thought I'd learn such and such a piece, and I did!".) I'm really tempted to put it down. It's an enormous book and so far I'm bored. Should I soldier on and keep reading it?


Best regards,

Deborah
#2108552 - 06/26/13 05:03 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Louis Podesta Offline
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Start at page 400 and something, and then read about ten pages a day. From the middle, he starts talking about piano performance and piano pedagogy.

The first half is nothing more than an outwardly gay man reminiscing about the good old days. If Michael is really serious about promoting this book, he will have it professionally edited. It is way too long.

Nevertheless, stick with it. How else would I know that Beethoven used to hit klinkers all the time, and old lady Schumann, the great teacher that she was, was boring in performance compared to today's artists.

He also teaches the difference between pedaling a piece for a recital hall as opposed to how you sound in a lesson. And, there is much, much more.

#2108557 - 06/26/13 05:07 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: gooddog]  
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Originally Posted by gooddog
It's an enormous book and so far I'm bored. Should I soldier on and keep reading it?


I love books and will ask forgiveness for pushing this topic slightly more off topic: I finish the majority of books I pick up but will admit to leaving a trail of unfinished books in my wake. Life is too short and there are too many good books to read. I've also become adept at skimming a book for their best insights. Some people look at me like I just kicked a puppy when I mention I skipped a chapter but I have no shame and really blame the author for not writing a more engaging book. Again, the majority of books I read every single word of and this really is about knowing oneself. In this case it sounds like you know what you want out of a book but maybe skip ahead a bit and try the next paragraph, section or chapter.

I played badminton for many years and modelled "relaxation" as an activity of the mind and breathing but always imagined movement more like a cat ready to pounce from any direction, focusing on extreme efficiency of movement. YMMV.

I'll need to try this speeding up of the metronome sometime because it seems wildly applied on PW.


Bad spellers of the world untie!
#2108580 - 06/26/13 05:40 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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gooddog Offline
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Thanks Louis and wower.


Best regards,

Deborah
#2108780 - 06/26/13 11:02 PM Re: Evening out rapid passages rhythmically [Re: Brad Hoehne]  
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Michael_99 Offline
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Brad Hoehne, I have read your post, here:

Lately I've been working on trying to iron out a particular weakness I have: playing rapid "16th note" passages with an even rhythm- that is, without the notes getting all bunched up at certain points.

In various Mozart sonatas, or in the simple CPE Bach Solfeggietto, for instance, I can generally play with a lovely, even rhythm up to a certain tempo- usually around 100 bpm with 16th note passages- and then above that, my rhythm develops hitches. Instead of a clean da---da---da---da--- I end up playing da--da---da----da---- or something of the sort.

I've tried a number of practice techniques to try to smooth out my playing a bit. First, a lot of slow careful practice. Second, I use dotted rhythms and note groupings. Finally, I try "tone clusters". All the while I try to remain relaxed. Despite this, I can't get the Solfeggietto, the D-minor bk 1 WTC prelude, or some of the faster Mozart sonata movements up to a presto speed without them sounding a bit choppy.

Anyone have any good practice suggestions to help alleviate this problem?

__________________________________________________

I am a beginner - so listen to the experts here.

It doesn't matter if you are typing on a computer or playing the piano.

Obviously hand position is critical whether you are typing or playing the piano. But speed of the fingers is controlled and limited by the brain.

As a brain function, you have to teach the brain slowly and accurately. How do you do that, you ask, well, you would play a passage slowly and accurately over many hours, days, weeks, months, years.

When you play at any speed, it is important and critical that you be relaxed at all time when playing.

I just took out my metronome and 200 beats is Presto and Largo is 60. So to play at 60 to 80 beats is like slow talking. But playing at 200 beats is like talking very fast. To go from 80 beats to 200 beats - it usually takes 1 to 2 years playing at least 2 to 4 hours a day. So you start playing slowly and gradually increase the speed no more than 5 beats at a time - and always without exception relaxed and in a controlled fashion - without errors, of course - else you have reduce the speed until the error level is zero!

You should also know that it is realted to the complexity as I mentioned. So you could play Mary had a little lamb easily as opposed to play Chopin's ballad 4, Op 25 - would be very difficult to reach at Presto/200.

So if you were playing a c major scale, you could go faster than if you were playing a C# major scale or Cb major scale.

There is no magic, just working slowly without mistakes and being relaxed.


You should also know that to be able to play a piece at 200/Presto, you actually have to play at 220 to to 250 beats so that you can play it at 200 beats in a relaxed accurate way.

That is why the average guy playing for change have been probably play 10 years and why people like Lang Lang have been play 10 years at a high level by playing complex and fast pieces everday for years and years without mistakes!

And lastingly, that is why I wish they would make a 48 weighted keyed digital piano so you could practice wherever you go, always carrying it in your backpack - with earbuds, of course.



Last edited by Michael_99; 06/26/13 11:36 PM.

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