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#2235954 - 02/22/14 12:30 PM Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do?  
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Sometimes I'm sitting at the piano and I sort of go into third person mode and look at my hands flying across the keys and wonder "how am I doing that?".

I've been playing for about 15 years now and I've tackled a lot of pieces. I know everyone here has done their share of work learning, performing or attempting plenty of pieces of varying complexity. However, even at this stage of experience, does anyone wonder how they're able to navigate across 88 similarly shaped keys at varying speeds? I sit here astounded and still perplexed by my own capability.

Last edited by ChopinLives81; 02/22/14 12:31 PM.

"A Sorceror of tonality; the piano is my cauldron and the music is my spell, let those who cannot hear my calling die and burn in He11."

Check my videos @:
http://www.youtube.com/user/chopinlives81
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#2235960 - 02/22/14 12:41 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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Its kind of the opposite for me. On rare occasions I do feel satisfied with my accomplishments but more often I'm amazed by the knowledge and skill gap. Glass half empty I guess.

#2235966 - 02/22/14 12:54 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I have this feeling often--not that my skills are all that stunning! smile But especially after doing lots of slow work with a piece, at some point it will start to move at speed, and I'll think, gee, who knew I could do that? (Plus I could never explain how it is that I'm doing it.)


1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:
Chopin, Waltz in E minor (op. posth.)
Schubert, Op. 90 no. 2
Mendelssohn, Op. 19 no. 2
#2235983 - 02/22/14 01:56 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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N.B. Those of a squeamish disposition - please don't read this post!

Having just watched (on TV) the dissection of a (fairly fresh) human hand and forearm, which reminded me of the year I spent doing the same on a cadaver learning anatomy many, many years ago, I'm again in awe of how we pianists manage to hit all the right keys, in the right order. Or at least, some of the time. Well, maybe most of the time. grin

After all, it's all just a series of mechanical linkages - muscles (attached to bones) turning into tendons enclosed within sheaths, culminating in insertions onto other bones.....

Not sure if this link works outside the UK, but be warned - it contains 'graphic medical scenes':
www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p01mv2md/Dissected_The_Incredible_Human_Hand


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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#2236022 - 02/22/14 03:04 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: Pathbreaker]  
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Originally Posted by Pathbreaker
Its kind of the opposite for me. On rare occasions I do feel satisfied with my accomplishments but more often I'm amazed by the knowledge and skill gap. Glass half empty I guess.


Me too, my incredible ability to take a piece of music by any composer and completely muck it up has never failed to disappoint me. I don't see that ever changing. Playing the piano for me is simply a prolonged series of massive failure. It reminds me of that famous old saying, "One door closes, and the corridor gets darker!" Glass Half-empty? Doesn't begin to define the bleak and comfortless desolation of the piano. Only rivalled by a Jack Benny Birthday Party, I would guess.

#2236025 - 02/22/14 03:09 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I think about it constantly. Trying to understand the brain and how it works.....


Poetry is rhythm
#2236028 - 02/22/14 03:14 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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More incredible to me - since I rarely get everything right when I'm playing - is the fact that we can be trained and can learn to look at lines, dots, squiggles and a few foreign language words on a piece of paper and transform them into sounds that can range from the ethereally sublime and evocative, to the tender and loving to the passionate and outright aggressive. That is amazing!

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
#2236038 - 02/22/14 03:44 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I experience those feelings when I hear recordings of my own playing or seeing vids of my playing. It is then that I am amazed, and baffled, by the ability to play.

I except that others can do it, but I'm surprised that I have the ability, also.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2236040 - 02/22/14 03:52 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I'm no more baffled by skill at piano than I am with skill at chess, speed skating, auto racing, figure skating, Rubik's cube, or anything else requiring enormous amounts of training and practice.

I have a little bias toward piano of course, but most other things are equally amazing.


"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson
#2236043 - 02/22/14 03:59 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I'll take it a step further: I am always baffled and amazed, when I consider it, that I can give a mental command to raise my arm, and then the arm just... raises. One thinks of the mental world and the physical world as being separate, but here I am, just... willing things to happen. I'm quite serious, this amazes me.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow...


-J


Beethoven op.110, Chopin op.27/2, Liszt Vallée d'Obermann
#2236050 - 02/22/14 04:10 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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Not really with myself, because I'm too aware of my own flaws for that, but I am always amazed at beginner students smile It's just incredible how they become able to make music! I think this is why I love teaching beginners...


Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

Working on:
Fauré, Preludes Op. 103
Beethoven trios for an original ballet
Four-hands program of Mozart, Corigliano, Schubert and Barber
And... Nunsense II (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
#2236053 - 02/22/14 04:14 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: beet31425]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425
I'll take it a step further: I am always baffled and amazed, when I consider it, that I can give a mental command to raise my arm, and then the arm just... raises. One thinks of the mental world and the physical world as being separate, but here I am, just... willing things to happen. I'm quite serious, this amazes me.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow...


-J



Wait, so you're saying you can move your arms just by using your thoughts!? I knew telekinesis was real!


"A Sorceror of tonality; the piano is my cauldron and the music is my spell, let those who cannot hear my calling die and burn in He11."

Check my videos @:
http://www.youtube.com/user/chopinlives81
#2236119 - 02/22/14 07:16 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: slipperykeys]  
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Originally Posted by slipperykeys
Originally Posted by Pathbreaker
Its kind of the opposite for me. On rare occasions I do feel satisfied with my accomplishments but more often I'm amazed by the knowledge and skill gap. Glass half empty I guess.


Me too, my incredible ability to take a piece of music by any composer and completely muck it up has never failed to disappoint me. I don't see that ever changing. Playing the piano for me is simply a prolonged series of massive failure. It reminds me of that famous old saying, "One door closes, and the corridor gets darker!" Glass Half-empty? Doesn't begin to define the bleak and comfortless desolation of the piano. Only rivalled by a Jack Benny Birthday Party, I would guess.

Maybe you should re-evaluate your goals at playing the piano. Are you trying to impress the world? You will likely always be disappointed.
Are you trying to play beautiful music? That may be a goal you've already reached.


Poetry is rhythm
#2236124 - 02/22/14 07:25 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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If one looked at what the average pianist could do after one month most wouldn't find it amazing. Then just multiply that by the rest of the time you spent reaching your present level.

What is amazing is the level reached by the top .01% of pianists.

#2236130 - 02/22/14 07:38 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If one looked at what the average pianist could do after one month most wouldn't find it amazing. Then just multiply that by the rest of the time you spent reaching your present level.

What is amazing is the level reached by the top .01% of pianists.

Heh, reminds me of a quote I read,

"I do not consider myself a virtuoso. I do not find the things I do difficult." --Arcadi Volodos


Poetry is rhythm
#2236187 - 02/22/14 11:45 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I think the discussion is going slightly off my intended track. I'm really just pointing out the fact that we are capable of playing the piano at all. The thought that we can put our hands to the keys and execute complex movement is astonishing to me. Regardless of the fact that I'm self aware and I know whats going on between my brain, hands, fingers etc,... I still cannot comprehend how it's possible.


"A Sorceror of tonality; the piano is my cauldron and the music is my spell, let those who cannot hear my calling die and burn in He11."

Check my videos @:
http://www.youtube.com/user/chopinlives81
#2236208 - 02/23/14 01:58 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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My experience chimes with this thread (except for the "when I play very advanced..." parts).

Even if it's only a small piece, hearing the piano sound and knowing that your fingers made that is one of the best parts of life. You only get frustrated by what you CAN'T make!


Beethoven - Op.49 No.1 (sonata 19)
Czerny - Op.299 Nos. 5,7 (School of Velocity)
Liszt - S.172 No.2 (Consolation No.2)

Dream piece:
Rachmaninoff - Sonata 2, movement 2 in E minor
#2236214 - 02/23/14 02:26 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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It seems... very usual and not original at all to me.

On the other hand seeing someone running 100 meters in less than 8 secs, or seeing someone RUN 44 klm in a few hours is just stunning! These are super humans!

#2236218 - 02/23/14 02:43 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: Nikolas]  
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Originally Posted by Nikolas
It seems... very usual and not original at all to me.

On the other hand seeing someone running 100 meters in less than 8 secs, or seeing someone RUN 44 klm in a few hours is just stunning! These are super humans!

Oh, check out the Badwater Ultramarathon sometime


Poetry is rhythm
#2236227 - 02/23/14 04:06 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: Nikolas]  
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Originally Posted by Nikolas


On the other hand seeing someone running 100 meters in less than 8 secs, or seeing someone RUN 44 klm in a few hours is just stunning! These are super humans!

I can't run 100m in less than 8 sec (I might just scrape in under 16 sec....), but I've run 44km non-stop in a few hours several times.

But I don't think Superman has much to fear from me, either as a competitor or as an adversary grin. And I've definitely spent more hours tinkling the plastics (a.k.a. 'ivories') to get to a decent (i.e. mediocre) standard than I have pounding the pavements (a.k.a. sidewalks) and trails to enable me to run 44km in less than 3 1/2 hr.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2236247 - 02/23/14 07:06 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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This thread reminded me of a book that was written pretty much because the author had this same question. It's The Hand: How its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture by Frank R. Wilson. I read it some years ago but really only remember this paragraph, from the prologue -

Quote
Like most people, I have spent the better part of my life oblivious to the workings of my own hands. My first extended attempt to master a specific manual skill for its own sake took place at the piano. I was in my early forties at the time and in my dual role as parent and neurologist had become enchanted by the pianistic flights of my twelve-year-old daughter, Suzanna. 'How does she make her fingers go so fast?' was the question that occurred to me when I interrupted my listening long enough to watch her play. I read everything I could about the subject and finally realized I would never find the answer until I took myself to the piano to find out.


(And, speaking "how do we do stuff with our hands" it surprised me that I could type that paragraph with only a couple of errors and fairly quickly.)

Now that I've pulled the book off the shelf, I'm thinking I should reread it and see if I get more from it the second time around. I won't recommend it, because my remembered impression is that it had disappointed me, but the reviews on Amazon seem mostly positive, so maybe it was just me.




#2237052 - 02/24/14 09:03 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I'm not so fascinated by the mechanical side of the instrument. My amazement is more so at the fact that when we learn music, or at least when I learn music, no matter how many times the piece has been played, by myself or someone else, it's always different.

#2237135 - 02/24/14 11:03 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Nikolas


On the other hand seeing someone running 100 meters in less than 8 secs, or seeing someone RUN 44 klm in a few hours is just stunning! These are super humans!

I can't run 100m in less than 8 sec (I might just scrape in under 16 sec....), but I've run 44km non-stop in a few hours several times.

But I don't think Superman has much to fear from me, either as a competitor or as an adversary grin. And I've definitely spent more hours tinkling the plastics (a.k.a. 'ivories') to get to a decent (i.e. mediocre) standard than I have pounding the pavements (a.k.a. sidewalks) and trails to enable me to run 44km in less than 3 1/2 hr.
Well perhaps my example was poorly set. I'll try again.

The feat that the Olympic athlets do are simply stunning for me! To be able and jump some 8.95 meters long, without touching the ground seems insane to me! Playing the piano doesn't! :-/

But your feat at doing a marathon at 3 and half hours or less is simply stunning as well! My respect to you sir!

#2237239 - 02/25/14 06:39 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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Every time I think I know a lot about piano, I am always amazed by the endless "freshness" and complexity gained from playing new pieces.

#2237467 - 02/25/14 02:07 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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Yes it's all miraculous. We hardly understand anything of all of the body, brain and world, yet we can make it work.

The perception process (seeing and hearing) is even more miraculous. If you have done even a little bit of image or audio processing, you know that what we think as 'the usual percepts' is really a huge mess, and somehow we make sense of it. Those olympics are nothing compared to that


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#2237882 - 02/26/14 10:30 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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See: the cerebellum.

Kind of a sub-brain that does a LOT of stuff, but one major task is to manage our motor output.

When you "get that piece in your fingers" or "get the muscle memory down" for a piece, what you've really done is trained your cerebellum how to play it. Now you can set your "mind" to other tasks, like interpretation etc, while your little minion brain churns out all the fine motor stuff needed to hit the notes at the time with the right speed.

"This Is Your Brain On Music" speaks to this point. Fun book.


Kawai RX-5 BLAK
Working on: Chopin Nocturne Op 27 No 1, Mendelssohn Op 19 No 5
Wish list: Beethoven var's c minor, Brahms Rhapsody 2, Schubert Klavierstucke #2
#2238243 - 02/27/14 12:47 AM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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Don't think about it too hard.

The centipede's dilemma:
A centipede was happy quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run. -- Katherine Craster


Professional pianist and piano teacher.
#2238452 - 02/27/14 12:53 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: ChopinLives81]  
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I often wondered what natural skills a person would have are necessary for successful piano playing. Keyboard instruments have only been around for a fraction of human existence, yet it is doubtless that the skillset required to play a keyboard instrument existed before their invention. I believe that the most important things are hand eye coordination, dexterity, rhythmic sense and determination. I'm not sure these things can be taught, but Elsie Segar, the creator of Pop-Eye the sailor, said that someone with less talent but who works harder can eclipse one with more talent, who does not work as hard.


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#2238468 - 02/27/14 01:33 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: Nikolas]  
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Originally Posted by Nikolas

seeing someone running 100 meters in less than 8 secs, or seeing someone RUN 44 klm in a few hours is just stunning!

The feat that the Olympic athlets do are simply stunning for me! To be able and jump some 8.95 meters long, without touching the ground seems insane to me! Playing the piano doesn't! :-/


Well, isn't that how it should be? you're a pianist, you're used to playing the piano, it normal that it doesn't seem that that difficult to you anymore. I bet if those olympic athletes who jump 8.95 metres watch you play the piano, they would be as stunned as you are when you're watching them... i mean, you could play "Fr elise" to a non-musician, and they'd go all "oh my that's AMAZING!!! how can you do that"?

Last edited by Svenno; 02/27/14 01:36 PM.

Prokofiev - Toccata
Ligeti - Etude "Der Zauberlehrling"
Rachmaninov - Piano concerto no. 3 mvt 1 (w/ ossia)
Bach - WTC I P&F no. 9 in E-major
Kangro - "Display II - portrait of Mozart)
#2238490 - 02/27/14 02:04 PM Re: Anyone else still not understand how we do what we do? [Re: Svenno]  
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Originally Posted by Svenno
Originally Posted by Nikolas

seeing someone running 100 meters in less than 8 secs, or seeing someone RUN 44 klm in a few hours is just stunning!

The feat that the Olympic athlets do are simply stunning for me! To be able and jump some 8.95 meters long, without touching the ground seems insane to me! Playing the piano doesn't! :-/


Well, isn't that how it should be? you're a pianist, you're used to playing the piano, it normal that it doesn't seem that that difficult to you anymore. I bet if those olympic athletes who jump 8.95 metres watch you play the piano, they would be as stunned as you are when you're watching them... i mean, you could play "Fr elise" to a non-musician, and they'd go all "oh my that's AMAZING!!! how can you do that"?


Even though I hold a music performance degree and teach music, I still find jumping 8.95 metres more comprehensible than how we play piano! I know what can be done to increase skills and understanding and make a better musician, but it's still an extraordinary confluence of so many factors - many of which we can't be aware of while we are doing it. Jumping a long distance is not nearly so sophisticated a proposition - incredible athleticism and technique notwithstanding.

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by Dnsmo. 12/11/17 05:47 PM
Why I love and hate the internet.
by JayWalkingBlues. 12/11/17 04:32 PM
Thought I was retired!
by synthnut. 12/11/17 04:07 PM
Which is the best software synth for AP's & EP's ?
by sonicblasphemy. 12/11/17 02:09 PM
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