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I know this question has been asked a lot but the diversity of answers always confuses me. I started learning Fantasie-impropmtu a while ago (I know... stop telling me it's over-played and what not). Honestly, I think it's a great piece, very pianistic, with lots of challenges to overcome which will improve my technique, and bring a great addition to my repertoire. I haven't worked on a "longer" work in a while; I've been doing lots of shorter pieces, most of them slow, so I'm excited to start working on this.

As you can imagine, the 4 vs 3 is tripping me up. I have no problem whatsoever with playing 3 against 2 (and I find myself using it a lot in my pathetic improvisation attempts), but I can't for the life of me do 4 against 3. Some people say you should practice it slowly, with the correct rhythm. I tried doing that (Together, Right-left, Right, Left-right... doing that in the correct rhythm), but I can't get myself to play that with anything faster than a snail's pace.

Others say I should just focus on getting the beats aligned, but that doesn't work, because sometimes one hand or the other won't be exactly correct (Skewed triplet rhythm, for example). Another method I read about was playing 1 beat of the RH and finishing on the first note of the next beat (So for example, bar 5, starting with 2nd half of measure, I'd play D#-C#-D#-C#-B#), and then immediately - when I play the B# - I start playing the LH triplet, all while using the metronome. Read more about this method here: http://www.practisingthepiano.com/more-on-practising-polyrhythms/

The last method I talked about seemed helpful but I'm worried that I'm actually not doing it correctly. Sometimes I feel the LH is lagging behind on a certain note (skewed triplet rhythm again) or the RH is playing faster than it should.

The piece is full of challenges with voicing, phrasing, and general accuracy, but I find it all fun and rewarding to work on except this particular challenge, which is showing no sign of letting off. So does anyone have any experiences with this and have any ideas on how I can solve it so I can start enjoying myself? :P

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I think with polyrhythms you should attempt to play them together at a snail's pace to get a feel for what they sound like together, but when you actually learn you should try to think in groups of notes falling under each beat, "automating" each hand separately. This is coming from someone who's learned a good bit of Scriabin who throws crap like 7 against 12 at you.

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Unless you're a genius, you're playing too advanced pieces for being self-taught since 3 years IMHO.
With the piano, one could learn any piece with zero experience, the point is how good he will play it in the end, how long it takes him to read it and assimilate it, how much it will stay in memory, and how good is the general musical / harmonic understanding of the piece.

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Originally Posted by Pover
Others say I should just focus on getting the beats aligned, but that doesn't work, because sometimes one hand or the other won't be exactly correct (Skewed triplet rhythm, for example).
IMO this is the only reasonable way to practice this. Just make sure the first 16th note of each group is alligned. If sometimes one hand or the other won't be correct, then you may need to practice it more!

I think most people who are ready to play this piece have almost no difficulty with the 4 vs. 3 and learn it this way. Slow practice makes the 4 vs. 3 much harder.

If you check the Pianist Corner FAQ I think there is a lengthy thread about this.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 09/19/14 03:25 PM.
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@225: I know what you mean. I'm no genius by any means, and I'm sure both of us can agree on that. Lately I'm striving to get pieces to a really high level, and not just learn them. I've started noticing this particularly in the Debussy arabesque, where I found myself doing a lot with it after I "finished" it. I try to explore different options with interpretation and expression, and as far as understanding goes, my theory is adequate.

Since I've started playing I've really loved the piano, in general. I can't tell you how much I read in order to educate myself as much as I can. I've learned from previous mistakes, trial-and-error has been one of my greatest teachers, and I can honestly say that I don't approach works which I think are too difficult for me anymore.

I've been working on the FI for a couple of days, and I think I'll give it a week before deciding whether or not I think it's appropriate. So far I've worked on different sections, including the section with the melody changing between the thumb and pinky (I hope you know what I mean), and the one right before the middle section, and I don't find it particularly difficult. I've also worked a bit on the middle section, which is just absolutely beautiful, and I feel this is enough motivation for me to go through it. If I feel at any point that this is a huge undertaking or that it's gonna take up a lot of undeserved practice, I will immediately drop it. Right now the main problem seems to be 3 vs 4.


@Trigalg and piano: That's what I was talking about ha . Always 2 contradictory opinions. Trig, I tried your method with a strange video that showed a diagram of 4 against 3 (beeping in the background, together with a visual aid), and it started out really slow and gradually sped up and I felt good about it. At a certain point I started "feeling" the rhythm, but when I tried to speed it up beyond a certain limit I felt like I was losing it again.

PL, do you suggest I go back to practicing HS to make sure everything is ABSOLUTELY even? I think that could help, but IDK when to stop :P

The reason I'm having difficulty with FI is because it's the first time I ever encountered it. From the technical standpoint (RH passage work, excluding some sections), it looks like it's going to be pretty enjoyable to work on. I haven't played something fast in a while, so this looks like fun. Of course, it's not going to be without certain challenges, but what piece isn't? In fact, I think those particular challenges are going to be pretty beneficial for me, especially since I'm not finding them really difficult from my first glances.

Btw, I couldn't find which thread you were talking about smirk

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Originally Posted by Pover
PL, do you suggest I go back to practicing HS to make sure everything is ABSOLUTELY even? I think that could help, but IDK when to stop :P
When the passages are played at a reasonable speed(not necessarily the final goal speed)if you coordinate the first 16th of each RH grouping with the first triplet note in the LH I think it's almost impossible to not play them evenly. If you cannot play the passages reasonable quickly hands together then I would practice hands separately not so much to worry about evenness but to be able to practice hands together at a reasonable speed.

For those ready to play this piece I think there should be virtually no issue with the 4 vs. 3 even if the pianist has never encountered this before. It's when people try something other than coordinating the first notes in each hand or practice the passage very slowly that IMO they make a mountain out of molehill.

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Can you tap 3 in one hand and 4 in the other? For me, just getting the feeling of a 3 against 4 rhythm helped a lot when I was learning to play something that had it. I started out very slowly, of course, then got faster until I could tap the rhythm at a reasonable speed to be able to feel how it should go.

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Originally Posted by WinsomeAllegretto
Can you tap 3 in one hand and 4 in the other? For me, just getting the feeling of a 3 against 4 rhythm helped a lot when I was learning to play something that had it. I started out very slowly, of course, then got faster until I could tap the rhythm at a reasonable speed to be able to feel how it should go.
I think tapping is far harder than playing the notes. Just like playing 4 vs. 3 but hitting a single note with each hand is harder.

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Originally Posted by Pover
it's the first time I ever encountered it.

You need cross-rhythm scales.


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Divide the beat into 12 equal parts and practice it super slow. It takes awhile, but believe me, the results are worth it. Same is true for other polyrhythms. Of course at some point, you can't use that many equal parts or it will be too fast to count, so simply as much as possible. Then just practice playing things slightly before and after as they would sound when played to tempo.


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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
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You can get to know 3 against 4 really well by banging out "pass the g*dd*mn butter" on your legs with both hands. That can be "pass the golden butter" if you don't want the swear word.

Someone told this to me on this forum some time back and it really works well.

If you do it for a while you can get that polyrhythm inside you so you just know it.

If you can't get it from this post then draw it out on paper or put it in excel. Then you can see it.

Or, if I use upper case for the hits it is like this:

"Pass The Go*Da*mn ButTer"
the 3 hand does Pass, God and But
the 4 hand does Pass, The, D*mn, and Ter.

Don't forget to sometimes reverse which hand does four and which hand does three.


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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Originally Posted by Pover
it's the first time I ever encountered it.

You need cross-rhythm scales.

What are those?


Poetry is rhythm
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Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

PL, I tried practicing the LH with the metronome, cycling it like 10 times to make sure I get the correct movement in the arm (I felt that if I had a constant arm movement which kind of just cycles then I can ease up on the lining up of things). After that I played the RH several times, again using a metronome at the same speed, also to get a feel for the speed of the notes, and tried putting them together. After a while I think I kind of got it, but I'm thinking of posting a recording here of one the first few measure to see what you guys think, and to check whether or not I'm hearing it correctly, or just imagining. Btw, the tempo is about 80 to the quarter, is that a reasonable speed? I think it is.

Heather, I used to use those with 3 against 2, but I feel the notes of the piece are not causing any trouble. In fact, the movement required of the arm to play the LH arpeggios is kind of helping me with that.

Roland and bolt, I'll try alternating your methods with the one I'm doing. I wasn't sure whether doing that would help in playing it at the (very) fast tempo, but I'll give it a shot as well, thanks.

As I said above, I think I'll post a recording of me playing HT the first couple of bars to see what you think of it. I want to make sure I'm doing it correctly before practicing getting the "feel" of it down and ingrained. Thanks for the help so far. smile

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Originally Posted by Pover
PL, I tried practicing the LH with the metronome, cycling it like 10 times to make sure I get the correct movement in the arm (I felt that if I had a constant arm movement which kind of just cycles then I can ease up on the lining up of things).
IMO the lining up is the ONE thing you should concentrate on. Forget about the metronome or anything else.

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PL, I meant to say that when I kind of just do it, it somehow works. If I keep doing it then it becomes much more precise, but I still want to make sure I'm doing it correctly.

(Meant to say that if I ease up on concentrating too hard on lining it up, it kind of happens by itself.)

How can I make sure it all lines up perfectly at a very high speed anyway? I think by that point I should have "it" and just do it. I hope I'm being clear smirk

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Would it be worthwhile to program a passage in notation software, maybe just using two pitches, one for each hand, to fix the sound in mind?


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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by hreichgott
Originally Posted by Pover
it's the first time I ever encountered it.

You need cross-rhythm scales.

What are those?

One hand plays a 4 octave scale in 16ths while the other plays a 3 octave scale in triplet 8ths. The hands line up every beat.

If it's hard to do a scale right off, one can start by playing for example RH in 16ths CDEFGFEDC while LH in 8th triplets CDEFEDC, lining up on the Cs and on the high note F/G.

And like Faris said, you can do these in 2 vs. 3 too.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
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Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

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Originally Posted by Pover

Heather, I used to use those with 3 against 2, but I feel the notes of the piece are not causing any trouble.

The purpose of the scale isn't to avoid difficulties created by the notes of the piece, it's to take advantage of the fact that we all know what an even scale sounds like. Irregularities jump out at us in scales more so than in a new repertoire piece.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

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Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
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hey pover,

I've been working on this piece for a couple of months. This seems to be a pretty advanced piece given your time at the piano but I was pretty well along at 3 years too. You sound like me!

Here's what I did and maybe it will help. There's a youtube piano teacher with a series called "The Back Scholar" and he has 2 videos on the subject. One is 3:4 and 4:3 counting. I learned it better by feel. He shows diagrams but they didn't cut it for me but I'll tell you what did. He plays a C scale switching both hands, that is 4 in the left and after that run, then 3 in the left, you get the idea. I found doing this in addition to tapping it out on my legs did the trick. His other video plays the first part of the FI in using graduated speeds AND he plays it "dry" with no pedal.

So my approach to the FI was to get the 4:3 down using scales and tapping it out until I could switch hands on every other measure. Once I was able to do that, I knew I mastered the timing part of it. When I went to play the piece, I started really slow. Next issue was finding the right fingering that worked for me. You'll find fingering is super important to get this piece up to speed. I have only the ending left now. One good thing to come of this practice is that I'm finding it helped with the Arabesque for timing. Another benefit was learning this piece at speed. I've always wanted to play the revolutionary etude and I find I now have the dexterity and speed for that piece. I attribute most of this advancement to the FI. I had no idea I would glean so much from this piece. Glad I attempted it and I'm sure you will be too. Hang in there, it's worth it in my book.........blob


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Originally Posted by Pover
Roland and bolt, I'll try alternating your methods with the one I'm doing. I wasn't sure whether doing that would help in playing it at the (very) fast tempo, but I'll give it a shot as well, thanks.


Well, banging it out the way I wrote is just the first step toward internalizing the polyrhythm. The next step would be to play scales with RH and LH using the same feeling. There you can ramp up to your very fast speed.

The cool thing about banging the polyrhythm out against yourself is you can also do it when away from the piano. After you get good at it using the mnemonic aid you can easily switch back and forth between different polyrhythms.

I am indebted to the person on this forum who explained this technique to me some time back.


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