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Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
#2447891 08/05/15 12:19 PM
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Good afternoon everyone!
Recently I got to a smaller piano competition in NYC and only made it to the quarterfinal rounds, and I later got to talk to one of the jury members who wishes to remain anonymous. He commentated that I have a sensitive playing but my technical skills need to be improved if I want to be in the same caliber as the finalists.

Admittedly I'm a late starter with a shoddy fundamental skill. I recently picked up Bach's Inventions and a few WTC preludes and fugues, and I've been looking into ways to improve my skill.

He actually suggested learning pieces faster and improving my sightreading skill as well as expanding my repertoire. So here's what I have in mind:

Learn (at least just for my fingers) Mozart Piano Sonatas and Concertos, Early Beethoven Sonatas, study Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, and maybe do Dohnanyi exercises and attempt a few Chopin Etudes at a time.

I'm quite frustrated with my finger's lack of consistency and agility, as well as lack of experience. Are Czerny and Hanon essential? I've done Hanon in different keys before but I haven't done it rigorously as of late. Are Brahms Exercises and Liszt Exercises worth looking into?

Is there anything else I could add onto my regimen to increase my skill level?

Lastly, what does the Russian piano school's exercises comprise of? Where can I find ways to utilize arpeggios, scales, octaves, sixths, and so on? Are there textbooks or sheet music that I can download or purchase?

Thank you, everyone!

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447897 08/05/15 12:36 PM
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It's hard to tell your level from the few pieces you listed(WTC pieces vary greatly in difficulty). I'd suggest listing a few more pieces you've studied to help us advise you.

I wouldn't play Mozart Concerti until you've played quite a few of the Sonatas. As far as Beethoven goes I wouldn't specifically study the early sonatas as these vary greatly in difficulty also. You could use some to help with technique if you didn't need to play that at performance speed.There are many lists on the internet and even at PW of the Beethoven Sonatas arranged in approximate order of difficulty. I would use that list to help find appropriate sonatas. I'm guessing there is also a list for the Mozart Sonatas arranged by difficulty somewhere.

You've listed many sets of exercises and some of them I don't know. But most of them except some Czerny(again these vary greatly in difficulty) and Hanon are what I'd call advanced exercises and probably not appropriate. How good would you say your scales and arpeggios at this point? I think these are much more basic and probably more useful. Things like thirds and sixths or Brahms are MUCH more advanced and not needed except for the most advanced pianists.

Of course, the best thing by far would be to find a good teacher to help with technique even if due to time or budget constraints you can only take a few lessons altogether or a lesson every two or three weeks.

What pieces did you play in the competition?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/05/15 12:41 PM.
Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447900 08/05/15 12:40 PM
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Are you working with a teacher?

I think before you throw yourself at all this repertoire and exercises it would be better to pin down exactly what are your technical deficiencies. There may be physical things that you are doing (or not doing) that is holding you back. Unless you can address these you will not overcome these problems by just doing a lot of technical work.

A (good) teacher's guidance would be my starting point.


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Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447902 08/05/15 12:45 PM
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I have been working with a teacher and he suggested that I work on some technical skills over this summer if I want to take it to the 'next level'. I have issues with even fingers, agility, and narrow repertoire.
I've began to branch out my repertoire fairly recently.

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447908 08/05/15 12:55 PM
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What is your current (and recent) repertoire like?


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

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447918 08/05/15 01:22 PM
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There is "pure" technique--scales, chords, cadences, Hanon; and "applied" technique--Czerny, studies, etudes. The ultimate applied technique is actual pieces, or etudes that have both technical and artistic merit, like the Chopin etudes.

The good thing about studies like Czerny is that they are disposable--you can glean technical benefit from them without airing a finished, public performance. But, working that hard on something not ultimately repertoire, IMO, is not worth it.

There is something to be said for a light-to-moderate warmup routine that keeps pure technique up--some sort of Hanon, scales, chords, arpeggios regimen. It can be varied: you don't have to do everything in all keys everyday--you can cycle through things over multiple days. Be very careful! I hate to see people lock into too much warmup, speed, or stamina training to the point that they cannot play well without hours of prestodigitation before performing or even just practicing repertoire (sort of like Tiger Woods not being able to play without hitting 500 warmup golf shots).


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Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
Vid #2447928 08/05/15 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Vid
I think before you throw yourself at all this repertoire and exercises it would be better to pin down exactly what are your technical deficiencies.

Yes. It's not clear at all where he is in terms of capabilities.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447929 08/05/15 01:52 PM
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It's worth mentioning that how you practice is more important than what you practice. You can practice Hannon all day long and not get much out of it, or you can practice it for 10 minutes a day and improve quite dramatically.

But again, unless we see where you are, it's hard for us to give you any advice, except generic exercises (Cortot's book is good, etc).


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2447936 08/05/15 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by albumblatter
I have issues with even fingers, agility, and narrow repertoire.


Even fingers - do you use a metronome when you practice? For scales, Bach, or most exercises you can set the metronome at a high tempo with one tick per 16th note. If you consistently (relentlessly?) work on your pieces this way it will help a lot in getting your fingers to play evenly. You can slowly boost the tempo and then start playing two 16ths per tick, and then work to one tick per beat.

Some loathe using the metronome in practice but I have found it has helped me a lot with this issue.

Agility? - well, its such a generic term its hard to say how you can address that.

Narrow Repertoire - the answer is easy on this one. There is a lot to choose from. Read through collections like 2 part inventions, suites, sonatas, and start to pick out what you like.




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Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448014 08/05/15 06:15 PM
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There's moving the key and moving to the next key. Agility, to me, means moving on to the next key with freedom and speed (within tempo). Miss-applying the force intended to move the key such that you press too hard for too long on a key that is already down impedes agility--moving to the next key.


WhoDwaldi
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Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448160 08/06/15 09:12 AM
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Here are some of the videos I recorded half a year ago.

Chopin Ballade No. 4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NvK5NAEMn4
Poulenc Nocturne No. 7
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud8x5Mb0hts
Chopin Impromptu No. 3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz3j7RNy3ag
Chopin Etude No. 4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzkpnJ6tQgc
Clementi Sonata in C, Op. 33 No. 3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kj-rHGzvozM


My current repertoire is:

Bach Prelude and Fugue in F Minor, from WTC Book I
Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 7 in D, Op. 10 No. 3
Liszt Dante Sonata
Bartok Op. 14 Suite (Started to learn)
Gershwin/Wild Seven Virtuoso Etudes (Still working on these)
Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 5 in F

My future repertoire for next year includes Rach 3 (Will start learning this fall) and I think my skills are mediocre, or not as refined as I want them to be. So I was thinking of ways to increase my repertoire and my finger strength.

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448184 08/06/15 10:06 AM
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Well, based on your videos, perhaps we should be asking YOU about technique--marvelous playing, bravo!

Perhaps a bit more interpretive ferocity? Every note need not be a pearl! (OK, cliches are all that I've got. blush )


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Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448207 08/06/15 11:20 AM
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Well now that you've posted some videos I have to take back everything in my previous posts. When you wrote you were studying a few Bach Inventions and wanted to try some Mozart Sonatas(implying maybe you had never done any) I assumed/guessed you were a relatively average intermediate player.

I cannot make specific technical suggestions as you are way beyond my level but there are a few at PW who might be able to do so. If you have confidence in your present teacher's ability why not email him/her for suggestions about repertoire and specific technical exercises since he/she knows your playing much better than anyone else?

Are you already or planning to become a performance major in college? The only thing I can suggest is to make sure as much as is possible that you have a teacher that is both excellent and a good fit for you.

If for whatever reason you are unfamiliar with repertoire, I'd suggest listening on YouTube and buying the Hinson book on the Literature of the Piano.

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448225 08/06/15 12:02 PM
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Where did you record those videos? Looks super similar to my college recital hall.


"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448229 08/06/15 12:09 PM
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After just watching your Op 10 No 4 I think, first of all you did a fine job. However when you had that passage where both hands are playing the same thing (measure 46) you lost some of your synchronization. I also noticed this at the end of the Chopin ballade 5 or 6 measures from the end. At first glance it might seem that whenever you come across a passage like this it would be pretty easy and straightforward, however it can be deceptively tricky since you are using totally opposite hand movements in each hand. I suggest learning some pieces that have a lot of this.

The last movement of Chopin's second sonata comes to mind and the C# minor Scherzo has a passage like this in the coda.

Last edited by Cheeto717; 08/06/15 12:15 PM.

"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
pianoloverus #2448233 08/06/15 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I cannot make specific technical suggestions as you are way beyond my level but there are a few at PW who might be able to do so.


Ditto - don't listen to me because you have surpassed my abilities.


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Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448234 08/06/15 12:35 PM
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Thank you for the input!
I am a late starter -- began playing the piano seriously when I was 15 and was largely self taught until I was 19, and have had lessons with a college professor for three years now.
So in terms of piano literature, I am lacking some fundamentals -- Mozart sonatas, big name piano concertos (Tchai concertos, Rach concertos, etc -- I've only done Chopin 1 and Mozart 22 & 27), and a lot of Bach. Quite a lot of Bach.
And I feel that I have so much more to improve on my technicality, so I recently started to learn Mozart's Sonatas (no. 9 and 10), Bach's French Suite No. 3, and was thinking of expanding onto his English Suites and some easier WTC works.

Admittedly I haven't done much of Czerny, Pischna, Moszkowski, or any of the established etudes save for halfhearted Hanon. Should I work on my fundamental skills and learn Czerny and other technical exercises to supplement Chopin and Liszt etudes that I'm currently attempting? Because I've attempted Rach 3 last year and faced too many road blocks that I put it aside and will return to it soon and would like to have my technique ready for that work.
Or is Rach 3 just like Chopin etude, in a way that I get ready as I practice it?

Thank you!

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448237 08/06/15 12:39 PM
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Rach 3 is similar to to Chopin etudes in that you should already be well versed in the "genre" before getting to those. For example you should already be pretty good at arpeggios before starting op 10 no 1 and you should have a lot of the big name romantic concerti under your belt before you attempt Rach 3.

I think right now you should focus on getting more pieces in your repertoire that challenge you a reasonable amount, but nothing too crazy.

A lot of Beethoven sonatas are fantastic for building technique. For example Op 2 no 3 is fiendishly difficult and would be a great sonata for you to work on.

Last edited by Cheeto717; 08/06/15 12:39 PM.

"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448245 08/06/15 12:56 PM
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Thank you for the suggestions. I began studying Beethoven's Op. 10 sonatas and I'm going to add Op. 2/3 and Op. 7 as well.,

Slight off topic, but would playing Chopin 1st for a concerto competition give me a better chance than playing Rach 3? I'm much more familiar with Chopin 1st, but I was afraid that it wouldn't be easy to make a good impression. I was also thinking Saint-Saens 5th.

Re: Looking for ways to improve my technical abilities!
albumblatter #2448264 08/06/15 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by albumblatter
Slight off topic, but would playing Chopin 1st for a concerto competition give me a better chance than playing Rach 3? I'm much more familiar with Chopin 1st, but I was afraid that it wouldn't be easy to make a good impression.
Trifonov won the Tchaikovsky Competition with Chopin 1. How you play is more important than what you play.

I'm still unclear why all these questions haven't been posed to your teacher. Or have they and your looking for second opinions? Although input from others might be valuable, you need to find one person for your main source of how to proceed. If 10 people start answering your questions at PW, you may well get 10 different answers.

Are you studying piano performance in college? If not, I wouldn't be so concerned with winning competitions.

I don't understand why you are limiting yourself to early Beethoven. You don't have to choose the hardest sonatas or late Beethoven but why only early? Also, you said you've played a lot of Bach and are trying to expand your repertoire, so why study more Bach now and in the future?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/06/15 01:44 PM.
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