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Playing like water flowing
#2622583 03/11/17 11:16 AM
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I thought I might jump out of my Russian Method diary to highlight one new, and exciting development in my piano practice. I would describe it as playing with expression as if "water is flowing" gestures. Here are two videos which visually exemplify this feeling:

Nicole Wang

Illinca Piano Career Academy

I am slowly learning this feeling for playing music via the Nikoleav Russian Method. I stopped using Alfred's because it seemed to be inhibiting the development of this feeling due to the emphasis on static finger positions and LH chords. I believe that this is a major difference between the two methods that other adult beginners may wish to take notice of.

The actual feeling is a sound that originates in the creative mind (not willful mind), that flows like water waves through my body and expresses itself in the sound through the instrument and into the strings. There is no feeling of bio-mechanics. It is very interesting and is precisely the same feeling that I use when practicing Tai Chi and dancing, and it is a feeling that I am trying to bring into my drawing.




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Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622589 03/11/17 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Richrf


The acoustics is awful in that room btw.
She's playing a real classical piece, in contrast to what is going on in Alfred's course. There may be some classical pieces in that course too. I haven't used it, but listened to a few things played from it on a YouTube link.
I have doubts that they go into deep classical techniques in that book.

Originally Posted by Richrf


She's talking a lot about the "illusion of".
I think a good test is to listen to it with eyes close.
Does it sound as it should, or is claimed to?

Originally Posted by Richrf

I am slowly learning this feeling for playing music via the Nikoleav Russian Method.


I haven't looked through this, or used it. But I have a notion that this is not far from the Czerny material which I am working at, and which contains all the intricacies of classical piano playing as played in Beethoven's time.

Originally Posted by Richrf

I stopped using Alfred's because it seemed to be inhibiting the development of this feeling due to the emphasis on static finger positions and LH chords. I believe that this is a major difference between the two methods that other adult beginners may wish to take notice of.


I've had it with that type of courses too.
Although, I've taken up Dwayne Shinn's course again in parallel, to work on vocals at the same time. How long I will keep that up remains to be seen.

Originally Posted by Richrf

The actual feeling is a sound that originates in the creative mind (not willful mind), that flows like water waves through my body and expresses itself in the sound through the instrument and into the strings. There is no feeling of bio-mechanics. It is very interesting and is precisely the same feeling that I use when practicing Tai Chi and dancing, and it is a feeling that I am trying to bring into my drawing.


I don't know about this part, though.
So far, it's not a transcendental experience for me.
I just do the work grin


Czerny's Piano School Vol. 1, now at #77 and giving it a break.
Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622593 03/11/17 12:00 PM
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Thanks for the comments.

My guess is that whatever type of music one wishes to play, there will be this natural flow from creative mind to expressive gestures. In another video I posted earlier, one can literally observe Nat King Cole's arms and hands dancing on the keyboard. Observe the "steps" he is using:


Nat King Cole Route 66

I think the method or already one uses affects the natural evolution of this creative expression.

Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622618 03/11/17 01:24 PM
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They said that of Chopin - 'played liek [sic] water' when he visited England. It's about arm weight and, therefore, how well you relate to gravity. My students get the same comment.

Re: Playing like water flowing
chopin_r_us #2622633 03/11/17 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
They said that of Chopin - 'played liek [sic] water' when he visited England. It's about arm weight and, therefore, how well you relate to gravity. My students get the same comment.


There certainly is a sense of allowing you body to feel the gravity, but there seems there is an additional feeling to me. It feels like water just flowing from my creative mind (spirit) into my finger tips and then out creating the sounds that I hear in my mind. The appears to be a full circular connection going out and then back in.

Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622637 03/11/17 02:18 PM
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All of those fancy gestures may be lovely to watch, and if somebody wants to play like that then go ahead, but it has no direct affect on the sound. It doesn't "soften the blow of the hammer against the strings." That's not how pianos work.

Dr. John Mortensen, Professor of Piano at Cedarville University, explains:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIUXBhw-7Wo


"A single note on the piano cannot be played more or less beautifully, only more or less forte or piano. In spite of the beliefs of generations of piano teachers, there is no way of pushing down a key more gracefully that will make the slightest difference to the resulting sound…. The graceful or dramatic movements of the arms and wrists of the performer are simply a form of choreography…."

--Charles Rosen http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1999/12/16/playing-the-piano/



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Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622639 03/11/17 02:20 PM
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It's not about a single note anymore than a stream is about a single drop.

Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622641 03/11/17 02:23 PM
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The feeling of flow exists during complete relaxation to begin to experience it. I first felt it while practicing Tai Chi (not all practitioners experience it) and later while learning Latin, Swing and Tango dancing. I've seen YouTube videos in very well known pianists refer to it as spiritual flow.

Last edited by Richrf; 03/11/17 02:26 PM.
Re: Playing like water flowing
chopin_r_us #2622643 03/11/17 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
It's not about a single note anymore than a stream is about a single drop.


Yes, this is the essence of my own feeling and understanding.

Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622859 03/12/17 12:46 AM
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You might be interested in Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery." Flow is a big theme. For those that don't want a book, he has some Youtube lectures on the subject.

I mentioned this to a friend, and he pooh-pooh it, saying the ideas were for advanced musicians. Me? I think all can learn to be in the flow, no matter what level they may be at. I certainly have felt it, when improvising, composing and performing.

As an experienced performer there is a big difference between an audience that is listening, "getting it," vs. when they might be checking their phones or perhaps yawning or getting up to leave.

As I understand it, being in the flow, tends to be separate from objective measures of skill level on piano and other activities. A beginner might be in the flow, but still be at beginner level. A person with a performance degree may have a high level of skill, but never quite get to that flow state.


Re: Playing like water flowing
chopin_r_us #2622866 03/12/17 01:32 AM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
It's not about a single note anymore than a stream is about a single drop.


Single notes in a piece of piano music are distinct and distinguishable, whereas single drops in a stream are not, so it's not a valid analogy. Personally, I want a teacher to give me accurate and correct information, and not zen-like sayings. Pianos produce sound in a very mechanical way, and ONLY in a mechanical way. I think it's beneficial for a piano student to know that, instead of believing in magic.

I can't think of a single world-class concert pianist who waves their arms around like they're directing traffic. But I do think about Horowiitz, who only moves what's necessary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxhbAGwEYGQ


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Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622868 03/12/17 01:56 AM
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I do see some value in gestures as a learning tool. They may help you relax to the music after you have spent a lot of time practicing the notes. Exaggerating can also help one understand the required movements better. But in really skillful playing the arm and wrist movements are usually reduced to minimum and almost invisible. Of course sometimes the pianist is deliberately making them to enhance the performance.

My teacher has compared classical piano playing to ballet and I understand now why. The efficiency and control of physical movement is the key in both. You cannot really produce that without rigorous training, so what one sees as just easily flowing with music is the result of a lot of practicing in a much less fluid way...

Re: Playing like water flowing
fishandchips #2622877 03/12/17 03:37 AM
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Originally Posted by fishandchips
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
It's not about a single note anymore than a stream is about a single drop.


Single notes in a piece of piano music are distinct and distinguishable, whereas single drops in a stream are not,
But we pretend they are, don't we? Isn't that the art? To make a group of discreet sounds into a single thing? - a tune, a motive?

You miss the point. Sounding 'liek water' is to do with timing and only those who can work with gravity can do it. The movements that matter are small and happen in the limb i.e. invisible. Maybe you should read Matthay's The Visible and Invisible in Piano Technique (though it's not a teach yourself kind of thing).

Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622931 03/12/17 09:56 AM
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I found a couple of YouTube videos that are applicable to this discussion:


Claudio Arrau speaking about connecting the soul to the piano:


Claudio Arrau Connecting to the Piano

Pianists discussing using imagination to create music in the piano:

Using imagination to play the piano

Last edited by Richrf; 03/12/17 09:57 AM.
Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622933 03/12/17 10:03 AM
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I agree that gestures can help if a student is too stiff, but I also think it would be helpful for a teacher to explain more precisely what's really going on. For example, what does "harsh tone" mean? That the playing is too loud? If it's too loud, I'd want my teacher to tell me to play quieter; sweeping arm gestures alone won't necessarily fix the issue.

Could you imagine if there were a bunch of adult beginner ballet students? What a sight that would be!

Anyway, Piano Career Academy looks like a good course and I'm glad Richrf is enjoying it.


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Re: Playing like water flowing
Sand Tiger #2622936 03/12/17 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Sand Tiger
You might be interested in Kenny Werner's book "Effortless Mastery." Flow is a big theme. For those that don't want a book, he has some Youtube lectures on the subject.

I mentioned this to a friend, and he pooh-pooh it, saying the ideas were for advanced musicians. Me? I think all can learn to be in the flow, no matter what level they may be at. I certainly have felt it, when improvising, composing and performing.

As an experienced performer there is a big difference between an audience that is listening, "getting it," vs. when they might be checking their phones or perhaps yawning or getting up to leave.

As I understand it, being in the flow, tends to be separate from objective measures of skill level on piano and other activities. A beginner might be in the flow, but still be at beginner level. A person with a performance degree may have a high level of skill, but never quite get to that flow state.



I listened here to Kenny Werner talking about falling into the "space". He mentions changing habits (body memory) and falling into the spiritual aspect of oneself.


Kenny Werner and falling into the "space"

I once some to a jazz piano teacher who to of me that the most fundamental concept he could teach me is that "it don't mean a thing of it ain't got that swing".

Re: Playing like water flowing
fishandchips #2622937 03/12/17 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by fishandchips

Could you imagine if there were a bunch of adult beginner ballet students? What a sight that would be!


It may shock you, but such a thing exists. I have a collague who goes twice a week and she started at 30 something...they have groups for adult starters and she told me that occasionally some do progress to the more advanced classes as well.

Re: Playing like water flowing
fishandchips #2622938 03/12/17 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by fishandchips
I agree that gestures can help if a student is too stiff, but I also think it would be helpful for a teacher to explain more precisely what's really going on. For example, what does "harsh tone" mean? That the playing is too loud? If it's too loud, I'd want my teacher to tell me to play quieter; sweeping arm gestures alone won't necessarily fix the issue.

Could you imagine if there were a bunch of adult beginner ballet students? What a sight that would be!

Anyway, Piano Career Academy looks like a good course and I'm glad Richrf is enjoying it.


It's not the size of the be gesture, but rather where it begins (in the imagination) and where it ends (the instrument). How it expresses itself is a matter of artistry, but the body must be relaxed for this expression to take place.

Re: Playing like water flowing
Richrf #2622939 03/12/17 10:30 AM
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Rich tanks for that video, I am aware of the channel and the charming instructor, it is mainly aimed at the more advanced, but nevertheless some useful snippets from time to time I picked up.

That being said, and perhaps its just me, and wonder how you feel about pianowell. To me it seems perhaps there is a bit a language barrier for her too, and I am a bit thick grin , however, when similar topics are covered on pianist magazine and such, I find them much easier to follow, Graham Fitch and all the videos are very precise with giving actual instructions and what to do and how to do it. Like something I like to see in a good teacher.

The issue I have with many of the pianowell materials, is that often, she talks a lot about imagination, connecting with sound and the voice and so on and so forth, I get that, but sometimes I also feel, when it comes to the actual obvious, how does that translate to putting those things into actual action, she is not that concise to the point on that part .. often times I think anyway.

To be fair, I only watched some them over time, but, considering the length of some of the videos, the actual bits of material that are important and can be clearly put into practice and action are small versus the total amount of talking in them .... as it were. I don't mean that in a rude way at all, fair play for her doing it, some may feel different about it of course.

Perhaps it is my background as well, a way of thinking and reasoning versus giving instructions, but I feel there could be less of the all in the head spiritual stuff, and more of a precise focus on the actual execution of it.

Good luck with the piano career acadamy. I could not bring myself to try it at any point, because she gives nothing away really in her free videos when I watched them for beginners, but you have give some useful insight in that in some posts that were interesting read. I hope it works out for you.

Good luck smile

Last edited by Alexander Borro; 03/12/17 10:30 AM.

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Re: Playing like water flowing
Alexander Borro #2622950 03/12/17 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Alexander Borro
Rich tanks for that video, I am aware of the channel and the charming instructor, it is mainly aimed at the more advanced, but nevertheless some useful snippets from time to time I picked up.

That being said, and perhaps its just me, and wonder how you feel about pianowell. To me it seems perhaps there is a bit a language barrier for her too, and I am a bit thick grin , however, when similar topics are covered on pianist magazine and such, I find them much easier to follow, Graham Fitch and all the videos are very precise with giving actual instructions and what to do and how to do it. Like something I like to see in a good teacher.

The issue I have with many of the pianowell materials, is that often, she talks a lot about imagination, connecting with sound and the voice and so on and so forth, I get that, but sometimes I also feel, when it comes to the actual obvious, how does that translate to putting those things into actual action, she is not that concise to the point on that part .. often times I think anyway.

To be fair, I only watched some them over time, but, considering the length of some of the videos, the actual bits of material that are important and can be clearly put into practice and action are small versus the total amount of talking in them .... as it were. I don't mean that in a rude way at all, fair play for her doing it, some may feel different about it of course.

Perhaps it is my background as well, a way of thinking and reasoning versus giving instructions, but I feel there could be less of the all in the head spiritual stuff, and more of a precise focus on the actual execution of it.

Good luck with the piano career acadamy. I could not bring myself to try it at any point, because she gives nothing away really in her free videos when I watched them for beginners, but you have give some useful insight in that in some posts that were interesting read. I hope it works out for you.

Good luck smile


In regards to the Pianowell YouTube channel, the instructor is clearly directing her videos to advanced students who wish to "breakthrough" by using a different approach to their practice. An approach that is based upon creative imagination, expression of this creative force, and the relaxed motion required for this expression to manifest in the instrument and then back again. This feeling is not something that can be taught, but rather must be found via practicing in a certain manner. I believe that it is this manner that the instructor is trying to impart by offering visual examples and verbal metaphors.

As for myself, I am not looking for precise explanations on how to express music via an instrument. Everyone is different and will express differently with different gestures. Same with any art form, whether it be dance, art, Tai Chi, or singing, etc. What I am looking for is observation of how others do it and some verbal metaphor or image of how they are accomplishing it. It is then up to me, via practice, to figure out how to express myself.

In this regard, the Piano career Academy course is most appropriate for me. While there is very in-depth discussion of each piece, most of it revolves around the rhythmic patterns, the dynamics and intonations, the melodies, and what the composer is expressing so that I can imagine the piece and practice to express it via the piano. As for the technical details, I gleam it through direct observation of the instructor, as well as her verbal cues. The studies themselves are designed to build a full repertoire of techniques that can be applied to expression.

Most of all, I wish to bring out the musician within myself. This is how I learn and grow.

Last edited by Richrf; 03/12/17 11:04 AM.
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