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Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
#2505127 01/29/16 02:04 AM
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I'm a professional violinist, and was taught to practice rapid passage work (and etudes such as Hanon) when I took piano lessons in college. It's how I teach my violin students, and the ones who use the method rapidly master scales and all manner of passages. Piano problems with control and evenness are similar to those for string players: our 4 fingers differ in strength, and we have issues such as shifting and string crossing with the bow that causes unevenness. Practicing in a variety of grouping and rhythms very quickly evens things out. The method also gives focus to practice and can relieve the tedium of technical practice.

I often have violin students that also take piano lessons, and I ask them if their piano teachers teach them this method. It surprises me that more are not taught this, even by the more experienced piano teachers in the area.

So my question: are you (or were you) taught to practice with groups and rhythms, and if so do you use them consistently in your practice of scales, etudes, and fast passage work?
If you teach, do teach this method?

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505135 01/29/16 03:06 AM
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No. I used to. It's a good method if you're having trouble playing in tempo between the beats.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505156 01/29/16 05:29 AM
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I was taught this and I still use it, also with slow practise, when some passages aren't even. I think it's a must.


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Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505177 01/29/16 08:26 AM
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sfc, your violin students would not be encountering this technique if they were only studying piano in the beginning stages, perhaps as a secondary instrument to violin, or if they're trying to pass a keyboard 101 requirement or something.

In piano a lot of the learning stages are about coordinating the hands and developing good balance (essentially, good ensemble playing) between the hands. We don't really get into fast complicated passagework comparable to fast violin passagework until around the late intermediate stage. At that point, subgroups are useful for some students, others just need metronome and consistent fingerings, and others need some remedial work on their technique. Rhythms practice is a little unnecessary. Also in my experience it's hard to get children to follow multi-step instructions for practicing a passage, evaluate their results at each step, and customize the steps for themselves if needed -- you really have to do that to get the most out of rhythms practice.

But if they are advanced teen or adult piano students (Mozart sonatas and up) then they definitely should be learning it. I don't know how you'd learn advanced etudes without rhythms practice. I would think most advanced students would find subgroupings and rhythms practice to be indispensable. Certainly all of the teachers I worked with in the advanced stages had me use subgroupings and rhythms practice all the time. I use them quite often still.

Last edited by hreichgott; 01/29/16 08:35 AM.

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Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
hreichgott #2505223 01/29/16 11:06 AM
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I returned to the piano for lessons five years ago. My teacher had me do rhythms and subgroup work right from the beginning even when we were just working on sonatinas. Now that I am working on harder repertoire of course I use it a lot. He also had me use ghosting or pretending to play the left hand during the first year. I had played in the past but it had been 40 years since I had touched a piano.


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Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505465 01/30/16 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by sfc
Practicing in a variety of grouping and rhythms very quickly evens things out.


I understand practicing in rhythms, but can you describe what you mean by grouping?

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505657 01/30/16 07:45 PM
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Yes I do, but when I do rhythn practice, I focus less on the rhythm and more on slowly isolating many quick motions.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Orange Soda King #2505695 01/30/16 11:12 PM
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No, I don't. Technically, it gets in the way of actually making scale passagework even.

I also never do it with my students.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505712 01/31/16 12:32 AM
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Yes - on occasion at a slower tempo, but not regularly. Most recently, I've been doing this on Chopin's Op 10 No 4.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505853 01/31/16 12:01 PM
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Yes, this is one of the best ways to achieve even passagework. I also do "double dotted" rhythms (like a French overture).

For each pattern of dots or groups, I start at a low speed then gradually increase the speed with a metronome. If one can play dots at a very high speed, the passage will sound very even when played normally.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
laguna_greg #2505890 01/31/16 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by laguna_greg
No, I don't. Technically, it gets in the way of actually making scale passagework even.

I also never do it with my students.



Curious about your "why" here. I do use rhythms extensively for evenness and as a memorization aid, but I also have developed immense respect for you in the years since I've been a mamber here.

could ya, would ya elaborate?


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Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Scott Cole, RPT #2505916 01/31/16 03:22 PM
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I'm sorry, can someone please explain in detail to me what it means to practice in rhythms?

And the same for groups?

Are there videos of this on youtube?


Nordiska 120CA (Dongbei) upright from about 2004, Kawai MP11 digital piano, Sennheiser HD 600 headphones.
Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
pinkfloydhomer #2505968 01/31/16 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by pinkfloydhomer
I'm sorry, can someone please explain in detail to me what it means to practice in rhythms?

And the same for groups?

Are there videos of this on youtube?


here's one using the technique with a violin, but the principles apply to piano as well.

http://youtu.be/1OekcxpnKD8


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Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Forrest Halford #2506182 02/01/16 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Forrest Halford
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
No, I don't. Technically, it gets in the way of actually making scale passagework even.

I also never do it with my students.



Curious about your "why" here. I do use rhythms extensively for evenness and as a memorization aid, but I also have developed immense respect for you in the years since I've been a mamber here.

could ya, would ya elaborate?


Well thank you for that Forrest, I really appreciate your good words.

It's just as I wrote. Practicing dotted rhythms in scales passages, for example, actually gets in the way of evenness.

Please keep in mind that I come at this problem from a very unorthodox technical perspective. Evenness is achieved by:

1- the proper state of passively resting down on the bottom of the key,

2- the proper relating from the bottom of one key to the next,

3- the ability to feel when the keystroke has finished, which can only occur if #1 and #2 have happened, and

4- the ability to simply control the spacing between the keystrokes.

That's a theoretical explanation. It's even simpler in practical application.

In her master classes and lectures, Dorothy Taubman (is anybody getting tired of me always quoting her yet) pointed out that the properly coordinated pianist can sense and control these things even in speed.

Here's a simple example. Go to the keyboard, and play a straight glissando with your right index finger over the white keys. One of the things you'll feel, aside from a bruised cuticle, is a "tick-tick-tick" as the finger slips from one key to the next. That is the after-effect of the first 3 conditions described above being met.

Taubman called this a "slot", and said that it could be felt by the forearm in a scale passage using all the fingers. Evenness is just the ability to control the spacing between each of the slots accurately. That's all. It's really not much more difficult to do that, if you can already feel the slots, than playing a straight glissando.

The slotting will seem to disappear when other conditions are not met such as:

1- if the resting down goes away, for any reason,

2- if the forearm movements e.g. shaping, In and Out, rotation, are incoordinate and work against it,

3- if the synchronization between the forearm and finger movements goes out,

4- If there is a collapse of basic, minimal support in the finger, wrist, or forearm, or

5- If the musculature is too tense in any one body part, among others.

Dotted rhythms require a very different grouping than straight scales do, so the incorporation of dotted rhythms will tend to make them incoordinate in scale passages that don't ultimately have them. That's why they don't always work, and they don't work for everybody all the time.

When they do work, what I have observed is that they tend to leave the pianist more down and sometimes less collapsed than before. But my conclusion is always - why not just fix the resting down, or the collapse, in the first place? Those factors will make controlling the evenness even easier and whole bunch of other things besides, without all the gymnastics, and won't add a grouping into the movement pattern that doesn't belong there.

Last edited by laguna_greg; 02/01/16 01:24 PM. Reason: clarity
Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
laguna_greg #2506210 02/01/16 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by Forrest Halford
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
No, I don't. Technically, it gets in the way of actually making scale passagework even.

I also never do it with my students.



Curious about your "why" here. I do use rhythms extensively for evenness and as a memorization aid, but I also have developed immense respect for you in the years since I've been a mamber here.

could ya, would ya elaborate?


Well thank you for that Forrest, I really appreciate your good words.

It's just as I wrote. Practicing dotted rhythms in scales passages, for example, actually gets in the way of evenness.

Please keep in mind that I come at this problem from a very unorthodox technical perspective. Evenness is achieved by:

1- the proper state of passively resting down on the bottom of the key,

2- the proper relating from the bottom of one key to the next,

3- the ability to feel when the keystroke has finished, which can only occur if #1 and #2 have happened, and

4- the ability to simply control the spacing between the keystrokes.

That's a theoretical explanation. It's even simpler in practical application.

In her master classes and lectures, Dorothy Taubman (is anybody getting tired of me always quoting her yet) pointed out that the properly coordinated pianist can sense and control these things even in speed.

Here's a simple example. Go to the keyboard, and play a straight glissando with your right index finger over the white keys. One of the things you'll feel, aside from a bruised cuticle, is a "tick-tick-tick" as the finger slips from one key to the next. That is the after-effect of the first 3 conditions described above being met.

Taubman called this a "slot", and said that it could be felt by the forearm in a scale passage using all the fingers. Evenness is just the ability to control the spacing between each of the slots accurately. That's all. It's really not much more difficult to do that, if you can already feel the slots, than playing a straight glissando.

The slotting will seem to disappear when other conditions are not met such as:

1- if the resting down goes away, for any reason,

2- if the forearm movements e.g. shaping, In and Out, rotation, are incoordinate and work against it,

3- if the synchronization between the forearm and finger movements goes out,

4- If there is a collapse of basic, minimal support in the finger, wrist, or forearm, or

5- If the musculature is too tense any one body part, among others.

Dotted rhythms require a very different grouping than straight scales do, so the incorporation of dotted rhythms will tend to make them incoordinate in scale passages that don't ultimately have them. That's why they don't always work, and they don't work for everybody all the time.

When they do work, what I have observed is that they tend to leave the pianist more down and sometimes less collapsed than before. But my conclusion is always - why not just fix the resting down, or the collapse, in the first place? Those factors will make controlling the evenness even easier and whole bunch of other things besides, without all the gymnastics, and won't add a grouping into the movement pattern that doesn't belong there.


Interesting and informative post. I believe a conversation I had with a Golandsky Institute trained teacher used the word notch for "slot", so that clarifies some terminology she was using.

I do think that the spacing between slots is trickier and more important than most people pay attention to. This sense of spacing can become highly refined for rhythmic awareness and expressive effects, and even applied in layers at higher levels such as between groupings.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
anamnesis #2506219 02/01/16 01:19 PM
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The thing is, anamnesis, that most people don't feel the slotting. The typical French/Russian training most people get in this country makes it impossible for them to feel this at all. And what you don't feel, you can't control or even teach.

Which is why most players have trouble keeping things even, and lots of people sound unrhythmic when they play. that was certainly the case for me before I got retrained. As I was able to incorporate the new movements patterns into my playing, I went from a kid who sounded pretty musical but sloppy to someone with a very high level of rhythmic and sonic control.

You are right about that. Slotting/grouping/shaping give you an unparalleled level of microscopic control over the rhythmic/metric expression and inflection.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
laguna_greg #2506227 02/01/16 01:56 PM
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Greg,

Thank you. I'm trying to develop awareness of co-contraction as I play, and this is another idea which I'm sure will help.

Your Wikipedia article is excellent.

appreciation!

Forrest


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Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
laguna_greg #2506249 02/01/16 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by laguna_greg
The thing is, anamnesis, that most people don't feel the slotting. The typical French/Russian training most people get in this country makes it impossible for them to feel this at all. And what you don't feel, you can't control or even teach.

Which is why most players have trouble keeping things even, and lots of people sound unrhythmic when they play. that was certainly the case for me before I got retrained. As I was able to incorporate the new movements patterns into my playing, I went from a kid who sounded pretty musical but sloppy to someone with a very high level of rhythmic and sonic control.

You are right about that. Slotting/grouping/shaping give you an unparalleled level of microscopic control over the rhythmic/metric expression and inflection.


That makes sense. At least the way I interpret it, this slotting effect heavily involves the prioprioceptive feedback enhanced by closing the kinematic chain. It is that enhanced proprioception that lets you feel the continuity in the playing mechanism needed to control these rhythmic nuances toward, away, and and all degrees between the production of tones.

Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
anamnesis #2506252 02/01/16 03:36 PM
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Have you been to the Institute very much?

"...enhanced by closing the kinematic chain."

I rather like that description! Highly technical, but very accurate and complete. When those other requisite conditions I described previously are not present, then the kinematic elements, or elements of physical movement, cannot be present, and so the prevailing sensory input is absent.

Very strictly speaking, I also think there is some sensory input involved as well as the body part perception, and that the one tends to enhance the other. The external sense perception of the forearm falling into the key behind the finger aids the internal proprioception of exactly where the upper extremity actually is located in space.

Last edited by laguna_greg; 02/01/16 03:48 PM. Reason: more is always better
Re: Poll: do you practice passage work in groups and rhythms?
Forrest Halford #2506256 02/01/16 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Forrest Halford
Greg,

Thank you. I'm trying to develop awareness of co-contraction as I play, and this is another idea which I'm sure will help.

Your Wikipedia article is excellent.

appreciation!

Forrest


Thanks for that. I'm so glad you liked it!

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