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Does it get easier? #2320994
08/28/14 07:10 AM
08/28/14 07:10 AM
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So I've been thinking about this lately. I've found that over the months and years you play different pieces and you develop certain techniques, some more general or more specific than others, and eventually you achieve a new piece of music, often at performance level, and you pick up a new piece and do it all over again.

Undoubtedly, the next time you pick up a piece of a similar level it will likely go faster. This is usually self-evident and most of us have experienced this. But I was thinking about something else... are the techniques we develop through a certain piece kind of "gained" in the technique arsenal so that whenever we require them we can call upon them on command?

For example, I remember a long time ago I had a very hard time keeping a soft left hand, and I would read all kinds of articles and posts regarding the issue. Lately, I've found that I kind of do it when I need it, without excessively thinking about the particular movements and mechanics of it. So now I can say that this is a technique that has transferred to other pieces, and one that I can use on command.

OTOH, whenever I face a passage with multiple voices in the same hand, or double notes in which only one carries the main melody, I find myself working at it in all the different pieces, regardless of whether or not I have mastered it in previous pieces. So it makes me wonder: Have I actually acquired that technique or am I doing something wrong since I have to work at it whenever it arises? I mean, sure, it takes slightly less time to get the desired result now than it did before, but I can't just do it on the fly without thinking/practicing it beforehand. eek

So I was just wondering, has anyone experienced this? Should techniques be gained so that they are used when needed, or is it normal to have to work on something you already worked on (quite extensively, too) when you face it in a new piece? Another example is producing good tone quality, but that's understandable since I haven't been doing it long enough.

Share your thoughts and experiences please smile

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Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321003
08/28/14 07:51 AM
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It definitely gets easier.

Any skilled activity, like driving a car, or flying a plane - or even playing the piano - is an accumulation of learned skills. So, the more experience you have, the better you do it.

Professional concert pianists can play a lot of stuff very accurately and almost with impeccable technique even at the first sight-read, because a lot of classical music uses techniques - arpeggios, chords, octaves, scales & runs as well as voicing - already familiar to them from countless other pieces they've worked on in the past. There's very little in the way of keyboard technique that's not already been 'invented' in the past four centuries.

Once you've mastered a specific technique from similar stuff in previous pieces, you should find that when you encounter a similar requirement in a new piece, it becomes easier to learn and play fluently. On the other hand, if you didn't spend much time on that particular technique, or haven't played many pieces that needed it, you'll also go rusty. But each encounter will make the next one easier.

When a composer 'invents' something new (for his time) - e.g. when Ravel writes a scale in seconds, which no composer had done before (correct me if I'm wrong) - a pianist will have to practise it almost from scratch to master it, just as if he's learning a C major scale for the first time. But once mastered, when he encounters a similar figuration in another piece, it won't take long to learn and play it fluently.



"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."
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321017
08/28/14 08:40 AM
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When I read the title of your post, I was immediately reminded of a cycling quote from (I think) Greg Lemond: "it never gets easier, you just go faster". Quite applicable to piano too! Depending on how you define 'faster', that is...

Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321071
08/28/14 11:10 AM
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I can sightread songs now that would have taken weeks to learn before (not that I am particularly good at sightreading, I think this happens to everyone).

I saw an interview with Yuja Wang where she talked about pieces that would be difficult for her to play, and I guess once you can play anything, you start writing new songs for yourself that are even harder. So, always going faster....


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: phantomFive] #2321076
08/28/14 11:23 AM
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I can also sight-read songs easily, except atonal ones (we never sang any atonal songs when I was in the choir) - I find the intervals difficult to manage when there's no tonal base.

But when sight-reading pieces on the piano, it doesn't matter whether there's a key center - I just play what I see.....


"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."
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321107
08/28/14 12:32 PM
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I appreciate the contributions. I know I learn pieces much faster now than I did, say, a year ago. Some technical challenges seem kind of elementary now (like I said, keeping LH soft), but others seem like things I've barely even had experiences with, even though that's not the case, such as phrasing, voicing, giving the music "direction" and so on.

I guess it's just a waiting game and there's nothing else to do besides doing these things over and over and hoping that one day they seem natural when I face them.

Re: Does it get easier? [Re: bennevis] #2321135
08/28/14 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
I can also sight-read songs easily, except atonal ones (we never sang any atonal songs when I was in the choir) - I find the intervals difficult to manage when there's no tonal base.

But when sight-reading pieces on the piano, it doesn't matter whether there's a key center - I just play what I see.....

Plenty of songs have a piano part


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: phantomFive] #2321144
08/28/14 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive

Plenty of songs have a piano part

I love this song thumb:

http://youtu.be/HXxnePGrJeo


"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."
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321171
08/28/14 03:01 PM
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There's something magical about that moment when all of a sudden you are doing something right automatically without thinking, like it's being controlled by some computer hidden in your brain that you aren't consciously aware of. I believe that with things like double notes and harder techniques, you will eventually master them in this way, but it takes a LOT longer.

In this way, there are techniques of increasing difficulty that take longer and longer to become an effortless part of your arsenal, and there is seemingly no end to these tools because great pianists and composers constantly aim to invent new ones (i.e. Ravel with his gliss. seconds).

At some point though, you are a Marc Andre-Hamelin, and there's absolutely nothing left between you, the music, and the audience, and likely never will be again.


Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321172
08/28/14 03:06 PM
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Speaking of double notes, here's a great example. Josef Lhévinne is the king of Chopin's Etude in G# Minor of double notes. He was actually the teacher of my teacher Lois Roberts. How did he do it? Someone in the comments says he practiced it every day for 17 years. When you've done that, the barriers are gone and you can play it in the manner that you wish.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XCj-j7TBTY


Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321220
08/28/14 05:31 PM
08/28/14 05:31 PM
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Yes, the harder you work, the easier it gets.

Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321396
08/29/14 02:59 AM
08/29/14 02:59 AM
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Roland and Brendan that' reassuring. I guess I was just unsure of whether or not I'm doing something wrong, as I have to work on something I did earlier, if only for a shorter time. I appreciate the feedback and am starting to actually agree with your ideas. Maybe some techniques take longer for others despite the repetitive practice, like most things in piano.

P.S: That's a sick recording! that's unbelievable...

Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321501
08/29/14 10:53 AM
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Yes, prior learning does contribute to a technical arsenal. In psychology, the phenomenon is termed "transfer", in ordinary parlance, "learning from past experience". It's the necessary basis for all improvement of any skill, all unconsciously mediated trial-and-error learning, and all consciously deliberated problem-solving.

Transfer in the case of novel tasks requires conscious, deliberate focusing upon the task - in particular, upon the task's anticipated desired outcome. Where piano-playing is concerned, the desired outcome of any action is always the effortless mechanical achieving of a sound or succession of sounds. This conscious focusing on the intended outcome of an action before it is made is crucial to the brain's ability to re-access the results of earlier successful learning. K. Anders Ericsson's concept of "deliberate practice", and its effects on the improving of skills, relates directly to the phenomenon of transfer and the mental work involved in maximizing it.



Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein

https://understanding-piano-technique.com/ocportal
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321710
08/29/14 09:17 PM
08/29/14 09:17 PM
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Instead of starting a new topic, I thought about using this one since my question is somewhat related to this one.

Have you guys actually been fully satisfied with yourselves at one point or another? I mean, have you actually, when recorded something, thought "ok I like this. I have no problems with posting this on the internet", or been positive about a performance?

Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Pover] #2321759
08/29/14 11:27 PM
08/29/14 11:27 PM
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I admit, I have yet to perform fully to my 'true' standards. In other words, I've been involved in music long enough to have an idea of what's truly within my potential.

By this, I mean I can imagine playing a piece a certain way. I haven't yet gotten my technique to the point where I can make what I imagine real. That requires demolishing those barriers. However, my feelings about this reality have changed. Instead of getting as frustrated as I once did, I just see myself getting closer and closer and I feel that I will get there inevitably. One by one the barriers are getting demolished and it feels eventual triumph is no longer in doubt.

It takes a while to gain this kind of confidence in your own learning. This is because it takes a long, long time before it is demonstrated to YOU, the player, that such learning is possible. Because learning even beginning techniques stretches out such over a long period of time, and because it happens in such a non-linear and haphazard way, it will probably take you at least as long as it took me (a few years) before you are convinced of inevitable progress through any difficulty.

And some people need to be personally convinced, and therefore will take time to gain that assurance. They won't take it for granted from someone else saying "don't worry man, you'll get better." Some people are like that, and I know I am. Until I've been convinced myself of something, what others say doesn't fully grasp me.


Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Roland The Beagle] #2321765
08/29/14 11:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Roland The Beagle
I admit, I have yet to perform fully to my 'true' standards. In other words, I've been involved in music long enough to have an idea of what's truly within my potential.

By this, I mean I can imagine playing a piece a certain way. I haven't yet gotten my technique to the point where I can make what I imagine real. That requires demolishing those barriers. However, my feelings about this reality have changed. Instead of getting as frustrated as I once did, I just see myself getting closer and closer and I feel that I will get there inevitably. One by one the barriers are getting demolished and it feels eventual triumph is no longer in doubt.

It takes a while to gain this kind of confidence in your own learning. This is because it takes a long, long time before it is demonstrated to YOU, the player, that such learning is possible. Because learning even beginning techniques stretches out such over a long period of time, and because it happens in such a non-linear and haphazard way, it will probably take you at least as long as it took me (a few years) before you are convinced of inevitable progress through any difficulty.

And some people need to be personally convinced, and therefore will take time to gain that assurance. They won't take it for granted from someone else saying "don't worry man, you'll get better." Some people are like that, and I know I am. Until I've been convinced myself of something, what others say doesn't fully grasp me.

Do you think this "ideal" is static? I mean, I don't think the problem lies 100% on the technique, the actual doing. I believe standards, at least in my case, are ever-changing. I'm beginning to think I'll never be truly satisfied with myself, or at least that the problem lies in my head, and not on my playing. That's why I ask if this is case with you guys, I'm curious. Is it possible to "be reasonable" with yourself, or do you consider this a weakness?

Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2321800
08/30/14 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco

Have you guys actually been fully satisfied with yourselves at one point or another? I mean, have you actually, when recorded something, thought "ok I like this. I have no problems with posting this on the internet", or been positive about a performance?

When I made some piano recordings for a website not long ago, I included an arrangement I made of an orchestral piece, for which there is no existing transcription. Naturally, I was satisfied with that recording - or rather, that particular take I made (I think I played it through at least five times) - as there's no other recording of it wink .

On the other hand, though I was relatively satisfied with my recordings of the other pieces, they have been recorded by zillions of other pianists, from the totally inept to the greats, as they are so well-known (Mendelssohn's Rondo capriccioso, Schumann/Liszt's Widmung and a couple of Chopin pieces), I wouldn't say that I was fully satisfied when I compared them to some of those.

However, taken on their own terms, I was satisfied that I'd played them exactly the way I wanted at the time, which I'm still happy with now when I listen to them again. My conception of those pieces haven't changed - and no other pianist, no matter how much better they are, could have played them the way I wanted. Because they aren't me thumb. And I probably can't recreate those performances ever again, because the recording session was such a unique event for me - the microphone and video camera set-up, the three people sitting behind a large console with lots of levers and flashing lights, and not least, a new seven-foot grand that I'd never played before (which was a new model at the time) - that, after initial performance nerves (the first take was a complete mess, and I had a memory lapse), I settled down to play more spontaneously than I'd ever done before, with the adrenaline buzz brought about by the novel circumstances.

So, I'd say that if I took what I did on my own terms, and don't compare myself with anyone else, I was satisfied with my playing. That also applies to some (not all) of the public performances of some pieces that I've given over the years. Invariably, they are pieces that I've been playing for many years and know exactly how I want to play them (hopefully, with some added inspiration from the audience vibes). I've never been totally happy with any performance of pieces that I'd learnt recently, and trying out on an audience for the first time: I'd call those 'work-in-progress' pieces.


"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."
Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2321855
08/30/14 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco
Instead of starting a new topic, I thought about using this one since my question is somewhat related to this one.

Have you guys actually been fully satisfied with yourselves at one point or another? I mean, have you actually, when recorded something, thought "ok I like this. I have no problems with posting this on the internet", or been positive about a performance?

Sure, I often feel positively about how I played something, and I'm also aware of how much room for improvement there is. It doesn't have to sound like Argerich to make me happy.

Sometimes I think it's the best performances that give me the most opportunity for self-criticism, because when everything went pretty much the way I wanted in practice, I can then evaluate how that approach worked out for the audience, instead of dwelling on random clunkers. I never evaluate while performing though. Too inhibiting.

Last edited by hreichgott; 08/30/14 10:55 AM.

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

Working on:
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Re: Does it get easier? [Re: Francisco Scalco] #2321872
08/30/14 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Francisco Scalco
Do you think this "ideal" is static? I mean, I don't think the problem lies 100% on the technique, the actual doing. I believe standards, at least in my case, are ever-changing. I'm beginning to think I'll never be truly satisfied with myself, or at least that the problem lies in my head, and not on my playing. That's why I ask if this is case with you guys, I'm curious. Is it possible to "be reasonable" with yourself, or do you consider this a weakness?


Maybe just a shift in perspective can be helpful. I'm sure everybody here is the sort to be forever reaching for the horizon, somewhere between "not quite there" and "a long ways off!", but I think a valuable perspective can come from other people. When a friend enjoys my playing I could say "you only think that because you've never heard Perahia do it!", or I could take their appreciation as genuine and in that moment I've played my part in creating a musical experience for them.

So I guess my solution is to balance the ideal (which may be considered unattainable by definition) with the reality of sharing the music. To someone who just wants to enjoy some music what may even be easy and trite to us can still be a magical experience, and it's almost disrespectful to disregard their perspective!


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