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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650683
06/05/17 09:23 AM
06/05/17 09:23 AM
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I wouldn't worry too much about sight reading at this time. You are learning to read by playing pieces. You are playing a lot of pieces, which imo is a plus for learning to read well. All these piano skills take years to learn. A lot of times, seems like beginners get way ahead of themselves concerning themselves with issues an intermediate player would be working on. Piano world just encourages that! I wonder if the teacher always teaches relaxation, or just saw that you personally were rather tense. Or maybe because you're an adult (you may have said, but I'm not going to re-read the whole thread). It is customized instruction when you have an experienced teacher.

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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650699
06/05/17 10:08 AM
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@Richard, I'm glad that you nit-picked on the muscle memory part, because you managed to word my thoughts better than I could myself. I do indeed mean that I want to avoid having muscle memory as my main/only way of memorization. I'm aware that there's a response from the brain to the hand when I see a certain interval, and I can definitely see the benefits to that. A few days ago, when I played through a Kabalevsky piece for the first time, I had to play a fifth chord (D A), for which my left hand had to move two or three keys over to the left. I saw it and my hand automatically moved over and played the right keys. To be quite honest with you, it left me shocked for the remainder o the day, and it only happens when I'm truly focused.

I've read through most of the FOYD thread, so I've read a fair bit about your methods of learning a piece. I've used a somewhat similar method (which was infinitely less analytical, but still lots of memorization from the start and away from the piano), but at this point in my playing I definitely feel like my current method is more efficient.

@Pianocat3, I try not to worry about my sight-reading ability, ever since someone made a similar point to yours earlier in the thread. My reading ability is improving by leaps and bounds, and that's more than enough for the time being.

I do know that she teaches this method for all her students (she only teaches adults), but you are right in your assumption that there was a lot of tension in my body. My body reacts incredibly badly to stress or prolonged tension, and if I do not deal with them momentarily I'll get pains through my entire body. It's quite annoying in my daily life, but it's quite handy when trying to learn the piano. The instant feedback has saved me from developing a bad habit or two. Anyway, due to this issue, I asked her to monitor my technique more closely, and she really does do so.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650712
06/05/17 10:40 AM
06/05/17 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo
...at this point in my playing I definitely feel like my current method is more efficient.
Another thing that's easily overlooked is that all the efficiency in the world isn't worth the effort if you're not comfortable with the process. You have to grow into these disciplines. It's taken me years - I sincerely hope you get there quicker than I did - and I still try other methods in the hope of finding one only 'slightly' slower but more enjoyable.

It takes a lot of discipline to adopt these efficiencies and you have to see the success on a continual basis to recognise the worth of it. I still take shortcuts to the music even though I know it'll take longer to learn a particular piece but it has so much more immediate appeal - and that itself is an efficiency! smile

We each have to make our own compromises between efficient and enjoyable and while piano playing is more journey than destination the efficient can take a back seat more often. The important thing, really, is to know what works when it matters and for that a written and dated journal can be priceless.


Richard
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: zrtf90] #2650720
06/05/17 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
Another thing that's easily overlooked is that all the efficiency in the world isn't worth the effort if you're not comfortable with the process. You have to grow into these disciplines. It's taken me years - I sincerely hope you get there quicker than I did - and I still try other methods in the hope of finding one only 'slightly' slower but more enjoyable.

You're absolutely right. In that regard, I consider myself very lucky to have found a method which yields good results and is very enjoyable. I just love working on multiple pieces by multiple composers at a time, but I also know that I will lose interest after I've played a piece for too long. What "too long" exactly is, differs per piece, but so far there has been only one piece which I wanted to get over with. I think I'm very lucky with how broad my musical tastes are, there's enough that I want to play to last me a lifetime and then some.

I try and stick to my method, but it would be arrogant to think you can't learn anything from the approaches of others. I apply what I think might be a good addition, or at least keep them in mind for future evaluation. The way I do things may slightly change over a period of time, but the bigger picture remains the same. I'm not looking for a perfect method, I'm looking to get good at working with one method, and make that method better when I can.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650725
06/05/17 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo

.....I also know that I will lose interest after I've played a piece for too long.....


That concerns me. Over the 2 years of exposure I had acquired of piano, I realized that there are some aspects of a piece which take a lifetime to cultivate.
I started on a grade 2 piece (Comptine D'un Autre Ete) after 1-2 weeks of my first piano class. My teacher assigned it to me. I could play the whole piece fluently within a month. I got it to a point where I could get distinction for it's performance in a piano exam, in no more than 2 months of starting it. That was when my piano exposure was half of what yours is currently.
Could I impress an audience? Yes. Could I make them cry? No.
I got the notes right, it was an easy piece to play fluently with no real technical challenges, but that piece takes a lot of emotional maturity to bring out everything from it. It's been nearly 2 years now, and 6 months ago I couldn't play it as beautifully as I can play it now, and 6 months into future, I'll probably be able to play an even more beautiful version of it than I currently can.
This is the same with all of my pieces. I regularly practice each and every piece I learned so far and manage my time accordingly. Try not to loose interest and abandon a piece once you manage to play it sufficiently good. Chances are, you are capable of bringing out much more from it, if you still keep at it for a few years.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650731
06/05/17 11:18 AM
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I don't have the time or energy to bring all my pieces to such heights. The ones that do really interest me, I can probably play for the rest of my life, but if I don't 'feel' what the composer meant, or if I can't appreciate a piece for what it is, then I'm not going to spend my time on it.

If I decide to commit to a piece, it must always be because it's special in some way to me. If it doesn't make me happy to play it, I'm not going to keep on doing so just because of the time that I've invested into it. Whether I like it or not, when I abandon a piece I've made an initial recording and learned many of the things that the piece teaches. It is also worth mentioning that the material that I play right now has some room for growth, but the truth is many of these pieces are very simple.

There are pieces that I've learned by now that I can see myself playing well into the future, and there'll be only more pieces added as time goes on. There's so much that I want to play that is out of my reach right now, and I want to find a path which leads me to a point where I can play these pieces. One such goal is Grieg's Op. 12, his first Lyric Pieces album. I love all 8 pieces, and my two favourite Lyric Pieces (#2 Waltz and #3 Watchman's Song) are on that album.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650746
06/05/17 11:52 AM
06/05/17 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Keselo
I don't have the time or energy to bring all my pieces to such heights. The ones that do really interest me, I can probably play for the rest of my life, but if I don't 'feel' what the composer meant, or if I can't appreciate a piece for what it is, then I'm not going to spend my time on it.

If I decide to commit to a piece, it must always be because it's special in some way to me. If it doesn't make me happy to play it, I'm not going to keep on doing so just because of the time that I've invested into it. Whether I like it or not, when I abandon a piece I've made an initial recording and learned many of the things that the piece teaches. It is also worth mentioning that the material that I play right now has some room for growth, but the truth is many of these pieces are very simple.

There are pieces that I've learned by now that I can see myself playing well into the future, and there'll be only more pieces added as time goes on. There's so much that I want to play that is out of my reach right now, and I want to find a path which leads me to a point where I can play these pieces. One such goal is Grieg's Op. 12, his first Lyric Pieces album. I love all 8 pieces, and my two favourite Lyric Pieces (#2 Waltz and #3 Watchman's Song) are on that album.


I totally agree with not needing to hang onto every piece. Yes, there can always be room for improvement (even over decades), but sometimes the goal of the piece is not to add to your repertoire, but to learn the associated skill. Once the skill is learned, you can move on. For those that you want to retain, you can work on the interpretation for months/years/decades.
IMHO, it is important for me to make this distinction as I cannot continue to polish every new piece or keep it at performance standard.

In fact, don't concert pianists even make the distrinction about what they want to retain in their repertoire?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650752
06/05/17 12:07 PM
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This discussion about keeping pieces or polishing pieces or how long one has been working on a piece makes me think: I am always practicing, and never getting to play the piano for fun. Also from practicing I now have a critical attitude towards my playing, even when I'm trying to play through a piece for fun, where stumbles really bother me and I'm afraid I'm ruining my playing by playing through them.

I recently had occasion to listen to my (4 years ago) Grieg recital pieces and there were imperfections in them, but they weren't critical and didn't affect my enjoyment of listening to them now. Watching (I videotaped them) and listening, I was mostly struck by a fluid sense of ease.

I feel like I've gone backwards in terms of ever feeling good about my pieces like that.


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Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650758
06/05/17 12:18 PM
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PianoStudent88: To turn off the 'critic' in ourselves and just enjoy is really difficult for all of us-- as we spend so much time 'practicing', 'working of problems', 'working on polishing'.
The ONLY thing that works for me to is to mentally say to myself 'NO CRiTICISM ALLOWED THIS AFTERNOON. YOU WILL JUST PLAY FOR FUN (without stopping and correcting)
I just need to do it more often! P.S. You won't ruin your playing to tell the internal critic to go take a nap smile

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650763
06/05/17 12:33 PM
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I'm sorry I forgot to exclude exercises and other similar pieces from my initial comment because I never practiced exercises apart from during the first 15 days of starting piano maybe.

I really played about 6-7 pieces off of sheet music so far that I can recall, so I can keep track of each one individually.
If you got a lot of pieces in your repertoire, it'd be stupid to practice each piece regularly. My apologies for the misleading post.

I was talking about the pieces you love only. I love each and every piece I took up so far dearly. I never take a piece up if I don't find it dear to me. So, give due years to the pieces you wish to convey your emotions with and keep up the good work. wink

Edit - I'm kind of guilty of criticizing myself during practice too, even when I don't want to. It just feels wrong somewhere that I am playing just for fun and plowing through the wrong phrases and mistakes instead of correcting myself, or playing at concert speed with a flurry of mistakes instead when I clearly know that I'm not up to the job yet. I wish I had that turn off button you got, dogperson.

Last edited by luckiest_charm; 06/05/17 12:40 PM.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650771
06/05/17 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Keselo
I don't have the time or energy to bring all my pieces to such heights. The ones that do really interest me, I can probably play for the rest of my life, but if I don't 'feel' what the composer meant, or if I can't appreciate a piece for what it is, then I'm not going to spend my time on it.

If I decide to commit to a piece, it must always be because it's special in some way to me.

A few thoughts came into my mind from your posts.

I agree there's no point in spending time on polishing pieces to performance standard that you aren't particularly interested in, or that you're not planning to perform or keep in your rep. All the pieces you're currently learning are 'learning pieces' (which was Bartók's aim), and designed to build skills, so if your teacher is satisfied that you've got what you needed from them, move on to new pastures to build more skills.

Most advanced pianists (including concert pianists) learn many pieces that they never polish, because they don't intend to perform them in public. For myself, the only pieces I polished to that degree as a student were my exam pieces, and the pieces I really liked, for my own personal satisfaction. (I never performed in recitals as a student).

Also, I agree with your teacher about playing from the sheet music, whether or not you've got some of the notes into your memory. Repeatedly reinforcing the association between notes on the score with the notes you play on the keyboard helps imprint them into your memory, your ultimate goal being able to read whole groups of notes at a glance and play them on the piano instantly. But that's a long way off. The first step is to be able to play any note you see on the staff instantly, without having to count intervals etc.

Also, 'muscle memory' doesn't restrict you to always playing the notes exactly the same way. You will still be able to change the way in which you play them, whether in the articulation, dynamics or tempo. Most of the pieces I've memorized are fast, full of notes and leaps, and I play them predominantly using muscle memory. But I can vary the way I play them in any way I like, while still remembering the actual notes. It's the notes that I've memorized, not the dynamics. Not even the rhythm - there're a few Baroque pieces that I experimented with double dotting, ornaments etc, while playing from memory, though when I memorized them, they were single dotted and without ornaments.


"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: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: bennevis] #2650797
06/05/17 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Also, I agree with your teacher about playing from the sheet music, whether or not you've got some of the notes into your memory. Repeatedly reinforcing the association between notes on the score with the notes you play on the keyboard helps imprint them into your memory, your ultimate goal being able to read whole groups of notes at a glance and play them on the piano instantly. But that's a long way off. The first step is to be able to play any note you see on the staff instantly, without having to count intervals etc.


I'm still quite a way off from being able to play a note without any point of reference instantly; the time it takes to determine my starting position can take embarrassingly long. Still, I've made some big improvements in the reading-while-playing department.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Also, 'muscle memory' doesn't restrict you to always playing the notes exactly the same way. You will still be able to change the way in which you play them, whether in the articulation, dynamics or tempo. Most of the pieces I've memorized are fast, full of notes and leaps, and I play them predominantly using muscle memory. But I can vary the way I play them in any way I like, while still remembering the actual notes.


Right, that make a lot of sense. I've always thought of muscle memory as someone relying on his muscles to play the next note, without actively knowing what it is. I like your definition a lot better.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Not even the rhythm - there're a few Baroque pieces that I experimented with double dotting, ornaments etc, while playing from memory, though when I memorized them, they were single dotted and without ornaments.


You completely lost me there, I'm afraid.


Last edited by Keselo; 06/05/17 01:58 PM.

Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2650823
06/05/17 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Keselo


Originally Posted by bennevis
Not even the rhythm - there're a few Baroque pieces that I experimented with double dotting, ornaments etc, while playing from memory, though when I memorized them, they were single dotted and without ornaments.


You completely lost me there, I'm afraid.


Have a listen to the start of these:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQHgtWmk0Zg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K27AmNo-XI

Believe it or not, they're playing the same piece grin.


"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: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2651041
06/06/17 04:39 AM
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When I started out with lessons every piece I learnt was a repertoire piece and took longer to get to grips with than it did to memorise so it was automatically memorised and retained. Later on I began to pick up 'petty' pieces that were playable before they'd been memorised and became more readily discarded as passing fancies.

I now retain a number pieces that are kept ready to perform without notice and change the list around every so often.

I use well learned pieces to develop higher technique than is possible in pieces that are still being learnt. I do think it's well to keep a small number of pieces at the fingertips but I agree that it needn't be every piece we learn.

Dogperson also raises an important point. Playing through wrong notes is an important skill for performance and known repertoire is ideal for that as it doesn't interfere with the more cautious learning process.


Richard
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2651431
06/07/17 02:09 PM
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I don’t thank everyone who replies to my questions or contributes to the discussion, but please do know that I truly appreciate the time and effort each one of you puts into their posts. Even if I don’t react to your post, do know that I’ve read it (probably more than once). I just want to make sure that half this thread isn’t me thanking people for their time and effort, as I think that’s rather pointless, just so long that you all know that you’re very much appreciated.

I’ve decided to keep track of my weekly goals / progress in this thread, instead of the FOYD. I generally feel like it fits better in this thread, and maybe allows for discussion. If nothing else, keeping all my reports in one thread makes it easier for me to keep track of everything.

Week 6


I initially felt like I made relatively little progress this week, and like things lacked behind a bit. However, now that I’ve read back my last post, I’ve achieved nearly all my goals, which is nice.

My Mikrokosmos pieces are coming along splendidly. No. 32 is probably ready for performance this weekend, and Nos. 33 and 34 would be close, if it weren’t for the higher tempo which trips me up. I’m starting to enjoy this book less and less, though. I hope it’s just because the last few pieces are fairly long and difficult, and that book 2 brings back the joy that I felt for the first 30 or so pieces.

Gurlitt Op. 117, The First Lessons, on the other hand, is getting better and better. No. 11 is such a lovely little piece, and it’s getting close to ready. I’ve started work on Nos. 12, 13, and 14, which came very easily to me. Some scales, lots of 8th notes and the occasional interval of an octave. I feel like I’m really benefiting from this book, as I’m getting faster and faster at reading 8th notes.

Kunz Op. 14 is something I can recommend every beginning to intermediate pianist should get. It’s great sight reading material or, if you’re as bad as me, just ordinary playing material. Playing a canon while reading the score is fairly tricky, but it’s also very much learnable. I’m starting to feel more in control when I play these pieces. I’ve played the first 9 this week, but I do expect that my progress through this book will slow down from now on.

Diabelli Op. 125 I’m starting to seriously dislike. I’m probably abandoning this, as I feel it adds little and I’ve got enough material that I do enjoy.

Kabalevsky Op. 39 gave me the most trouble. No. 4, a cradle song, gave me some issues last week, but my teacher gave me some pointers and I instantly got it. No. 5 is pretty tough: one hand at a time, staccato, B flat major, and the hands move. I find it’s very hard to keep track of where my hand is when playing staccato; I’m not touching any keys so I have to really focus to keep track of where I exactly am. It’s getting better, and I suppose it just needs a lot of practice, but it’s something to keep in mind.

I want to work on the following material the coming week. New pieces will be added evenly throughout the week, though most work on these is done in the weekend. Needs work will need at least another week. Good enough pieces are at the point where I try and get an initial recording during the weekend. Future repertoire I will try and get a second recording of this weekend. Repertoire has been recorded twice, uploaded to YouTube, and is maintained by spreading out the frequency at which I practice them.

This is the list that I use and update on a daily basis, and ever since I've started using it I've found my practice is more purposeful.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 35
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 10, 11, 12

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 33, 34
- Gurlitt Op. 117 Nos. 14
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5
- Kunz Op. 14 Nos. 7, 8, 9

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No. 32
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 11, 12, 13
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 3, 4
- Kunz Op. 14 Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6

Future repertoire
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 30, 31
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 10
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 Nos. 1, 2

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 16, 22, 23, 26, 29

Kabalevsky No. 6 is a little piece with simultaneous 8th notes in both hands, the majority played staccato, so I expect that will not be too easy. Gurlitt No. 15 is a page long piece, the first in the book, and contains chords and hand movement. In theory, there shouldn’t be anything new in it, but I’ve learned to be more careful when judging a piece by its cover, so to say.

To end this post on a sad note: no piano lesson this week. Boo hoo. cry


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2653546
06/14/17 03:58 PM
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Week 7

I made better progress than I initially expected, which mostly comes from my growing love for Gurlitt's music.

Mikrokosmos (Bartók) keeps chugging along. I’m starting to pick up pieces with intervals of 4ths and 5ths more easily now, though I have a lot of trouble when I try to bring these pieces up in tempo. My brain can’t process it fast enough, at least not all the time. Still, it’s getting better, so I’m happy. I managed to record No. 32, and started on No. 35. The second to last piece in the book, it continues where 32, 33, and 34 left off.

The First Lessons (Gurlitt) gets better every week. I felt like the first pieces were a little too much like études. One third through the book it gets a lot better; I’m very tempted to memorize every piece from No. 10 to 17, except for 12. The melodies are simple enough to let me experiment with tempo, rubato, and volume, which in turn makes it that much more enjoyable to play.

I wanted to start on No. 15, but wasn’t sure how hard it would be. Turned out it was very easy; Mr. Gurlitt very clearly reused things that were introduced in previous pieces. The sensation of my hand automatically playing a chord just upon seeing it was quite the sensation, and it gives me hope that I’m on the right track. I’ve also started No. 16, which was my favourite new piece of the week. What a beautiful piece to play around with, definitely one to stay. No. 17, a cradle song, is a bit harder than the previous pieces (lots of left hand movement in the second part). That one is still very much in the new category.

200 Small Canons (Kunz) is a fine book, and as close to an exercise as I currently play. Some canons are somewhat satisfying to play, but for the most part it’s training my ability to read ahead. It’s doing a fine job at that, though.

24 Little Pieces (Kabalevsky). After a week of slow(er) practice of No. 5, I’m finally starting to get it. It’s very challenging with the staccato, accents, and hand movement, but also proved a great introduction to the next pieces in the book. 6 and 7 are also heavy on staccato with hand movement, but they very clearly benefitted from the work I put into No. 5.

For my lesson tomorrow, I’ll bring two books with me. First Lessons in Bach, and 12 Very Easy and Melodious Studies (Streabbog). I’m curious if my teacher thinks I’m ready to start on either one. I personally think Bach is still a bit beyond me, but the first Streabbog piece looks manageable.

The coming week will look something like this in terms of material. Gurlitt lets the hands move a bit more, Bartók is more of the same, Kabalevsky ventures into the lands of legato playing, and Kunz starts mixing staccato and legato playing. I think this perfectly illustrates my philosophy of controlled exposure; no major new concepts, instead looking to take small steps every week.


New
- Mikrokosmos No. 36
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 17, 18, 19
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 7, 8
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 12, 13

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos No. 33, 34, 35
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 11

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No.
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 13, 14, 16
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 9, 10

Future repertoire
- Mikrokosmos No. 30
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 10, 11
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1, 2

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos Nos. 16, 22, 23, 26, 29


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654617
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Playing with rubato and dynamics

During my lesson, last Thursday, my teacher told me that I should try and play more freely. I was limiting myself by playing just what the sheet said, without giving any meaningful own interpretation to it.

The next day, I played around with it. Adhering to the notes on the paper, but that’s about it. No two playthroughs are the same like this, and instead of trying to get everything perfectly, I react to what’s happening right now, using my ears to judge when the next note should be played. It’s something that, like pretty much everything else piano related, still needs a ton of work, but it’s encouraging that I can do it in a way which sounds satisfying (to me).

The first two pieces to which I could apply this newly introduced way of playing were two pieces by Gurlitt, from his Op. 117. No. 13 ‘Morning Salute’ and No. 14 ‘Going to School’. I had very little trouble learning both pieces, as they didn’t introduce any new concepts, and this is why (I think) I can play around with dynamics and rubato with these pieces.

While neither piece is perfect, it’s a very real representation of my current ability of playing. As I continue to grow as a player, there’s no doubt I can make these pieces sound better, but for now I’m more than satisfied.





Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654662
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I believe that the former of the two pieces has a march like rhythm to it. I just played through the whole piece with a faster tempo and that seemed to fit in with the composition's nature.

If you're feeling comfortable with the piece, how about going a little faster?

Also, that much rubato isn't desirable, in my humble opinion. If the whole piece is played with frequent rubatos, it feels inconsistent and rhythm gets shaky.
Pieces like these benefit from being stood tall, while at the same time, being consistent and delicate. There are thick, march like chords providing a strong rhythmic drive here, so it's better to follow that, even though played slowly.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654730
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You're probably right that this much rubato isn't desirable. I reckon that looking back at this in a couple of months will make me cringe pretty badly, but since this was meant as an exercise in doing my own thing, I don't really mind (for now). But yes, I definitely need to learn how to give a dash of rubato, instead of a whole heap like I did here.

I've tried playing it faster, but I think it sounds better when played more slowly. I've played it like a march in my head, but that makes it sound very static, which imo doesn't fit in the piece. I imagine a kid, excited for the new day that has dawned, his attention constantly jumping between the hundreds of things that he wants to do. This carries over into No. 14, when he needs to go to school, but he'd rather do other things. Imagine a fight with his mom, but in the end he gives in and goes.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654745
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Keselo, I suspect that you are doing exactly the right thing in that recording, and above all, the feedback you need is that of your teacher, who told you to do this at this time for a reason.

Babies grow up to become dancers, orators, singers, mathematicians, engineers, cooks. But what they do first as babies is to experiment wildly, crazily. They explore their world, their senses, their actions in right, wrong, and exaggerated ways. Then later these get honed into "right ways".

You said that you played the music literally as it was written and your teacher has asked you to do rubato. You won't get that rubato perfect first time round - you're the exploring baby. Before learning the fine control of a tool, you just have to get used to it. Last year I discovered agogic accents - a way of slightly moving the length of a note for expression like an orator. I stuck agogic accents all over the place and sort of felt there were too many and most were not in the right place, but couldn't always tell where that right place might be. But I got help and guidance, it got refined, and then I started to get the feeling of it.

In a few pieces in the past I kept vacillating between rubato, and the pulse fell apart, and strict pulse, and the piece was boring. Finding the sweet spot, the balance, is hard.

Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2654753
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Hello Keystring,

What a beautiful analogy. It makes a lot of sense that the best way to learn something, is by doing it a lot, whether it’s the wrong or right way. Learning how the right way should sound is much easier when knowing how the wrong way sounds. I can’t say that I feel like a baby (I don’t remember how being a baby felt), but I do indeed feel like a child when playing and experimenting with rubato (and dynamics).

In terms of pulse, that is all over the place. It’s something very tricky to establish, and while I feel like I’m doing fine without any rubato, once rubato is introduced my pulse trips over itself. I don’t worry too much about it, and instead add it to my never-ending list of things that need work.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2655373
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Revisiting Beethoven's Ecossaise in E Flat Major.

On 3 June, just under three weeks ago, I’ve shared with you a thorough look at Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat. I thought I could handle it, and then realized that I couldn’t. I decided back then to lay it aside and revisit it once I’ve familiarized myself with some of the concepts in the piece. Since it’s now two and a half weeks later, I’ve decided to once again look at it, see if I’m in a better place to tackle it.


Originally Posted by Keselo

The key

It is written, as the name of the piece kind of gives away, in the key of E flat major. At this stage in my piano playing journey, any key other than that of C major mustn’t be underestimated. It isn’t terribly hard to get used to playing in a different key, especially once you figure out the logic behind which keys are flat/sharp in the different keys, but it is something time must be spent on. I would tackle this by improvising for a few minutes every day in the key of E flat major.

The black keys

Up until now, most my key presses are those of white keys. There is the occasional black key, but it isn’t the norm. So, along comes this Ecossaise, in which Beethoven requires you to use a key with three black keys. These black keys make the fingering fairly awkward; it isn’t at all as intuitive as the Bartók pieces are.


Kabalevsky is the composer who’s provided me with the most relevant practice in this regard. The five pieces that I’ve worked on over the past two weeks are written in four different keys. I feel more confident in my ability to quickly switch between keys, though it remains to be seen if this will hold up for the key of E flat major, which is new to me.

In addition, Bartók is really fond of accidentals. It will not help me much, but I may benefit from this in one way or another.

Originally Posted by Keselo

The right hand

There’s two different kinds of measures for the right hand in this piece. There’s the quarter note followed by two 8th notes, and there’s four 8th notes. That’s all I looked at before deciding the right hand wouldn’t give me any trouble. After trying to play this for 20 minutes, however, difficulties arose.
-The right hand doesn’t stay set during the piece.
-The fingering of the 8th notes can be awkward.
-Me wanting to play legato wherever possible is a huge crutch, and limits mainly my ability to smoothly play these 8th notes.

Again, Kabalevsky is of big help in resolving these issues. Nos. 4 through 8 from his Op. 39 (it’s not in the public domain, but you can find it on Google if you want to see what I mean) all have moving hands, and my hands having to move now gives me noticeably less trouble than it did two weeks ago.

The awkward fingering is probably still awkward, that’s okay.

Stopping myself from playing everything I come across that isn’t staccato as if it is legato is something my teacher and I have worked on during my last two lessons. I’ve worked on it every day, and I’m confident in my ability to apply this newfound skill to a new piece. I’ve practiced this with works from all four composers that I play, most notably Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 4.

Originally Posted by Keselo
The left hand

I saw a two-note chord followed by a single quarter note, and, again, thought that it would be easy. I didn’t consider that the chords move down, but the quarter note stays put(most of the time). This considerably limits my ability to play these notes legato.

I haven’t come across this concept in any other piece. Though I expect my practice with hand movement to be beneficial to tackling this. My initial expectation is that this will need some isolated practice (and a constant reminder that I needn’t play everything legato).



Originally Posted by keselo
The tempo

I was unable to tell this by looking at the sheet, but every performance of the piece that I could find was played very fast. So fast, that I have doubt in my own ability to produce a similar tempo within a reasonable amount of time.

This is the only thing that is probably still beyond my reach. I’ve played a fast piece (Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6), but both hands play in symmetry, which is a lot easier than this piece.

Originally Posted by keselo
The verdict

At first glance, this piece introduced no new concepts. After further analysis, this piece introduces at least four new concepts, which is simply too many. These concepts are more of a continuation on previously learned ones. Regardless, it’s a lot to keep track of. I will wait at least two more weeks before re-evaluating my ability to start work on this piece. I don’t mind a challenge, but right now the challenge that this piece brings me is too big.

Luckily, some of the difficulties that this piece has, will come back in other pieces that I will start work on the coming days. Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5 has moving hands. Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 4 teaches me to not play everything legato. When I can sufficiently play these pieces, the difficulties of the Beethoven piece will be brought back to two new concepts, which should be a lot easier to tackle.

I’m glad to see that I rightly judged the benefits the Kabalevsky pieces would have. I’m even happier that I managed to progress beyond what I expected in that book and got a lot of meaningful and relevant practice. I think I've benefited from the other composers, too, though that is more a matter of generally getting better at playing the piano. Two weeks isn't very long, but I've noticed with my recordings that meaningful progress is made in such a short time.

I must be aware of my habit of constantly overestimating my own abilities, no matter how conservative I think I’m being. Still, I think I can give this piece an honest try, I’ll just have to settle for a slower than perhaps desired end-result.




Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2655869
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Week 8

I’ve had two lessons since my last weekly update, and quite a bit has changed since then. Both lessons were very productive, during which I’ve gained many valuable insights. It’s weeks like this that I’m so very grateful that I’ve found my teacher.

Mikrokosmos (Bartók) is where the biggest change occurred. I was way too focused on getting the pieces up to the tempo that’s written down in the book, which was quite a negative influence on my playing. I got demotivated when I couldn’t get it much faster without tripping up, and my focus on bringing the tempo up caused a loss of musicality. During last week’s lesson, my teacher basically told me to ignore the tempo markings. These pieces trip up all her beginning students, and no one ends up playing these pieces in tempo. This helped me in thinking less critically of myself, and brought back the enjoyment I get out of Mikrokosmos. I’m satisfied with every piece but the very last one of the book, which is fair enough, since I’ve been practicing it for a week now.

Oh, and I'll start on the second book as well! How very exciting.

The First Lessons (Gurlitt). Progress halted a bit, as No. 17 is quite tricky. It’s a cradle song, where the melody in the right hand is simple enough, but the broken chord accompaniment in the left hand is quite a bit trickier. Not only does the left hand move positions throughout the piece, different chords get broken, and I’ve had great difficulties reading it quick enough. I would focus on the first note of the broken chord, and attempt to read the other two notes by reading the intervals. This way of playing went fairly well while at home, but it fell completely apart during yesterday’s lesson. Luckily, my teacher, being an amazing teacher, had a very good solution for this.

She explained to me a concept she called ‘grouping’. Left hand alone, play the broken chords in the left hand as normal chords. When playing the chord, slightly press the fingers into the keys, settle into the keys, and then release. Don’t play repeat chords, but look for the next one which is different from the last. Never guess, making sure to always identify the chord on the sheet, identifying the notes on the keyboard, and then playing it. This also teaches a much better way of reading broken chords; reading the entire chord instead of the bottom note and going from there.

I could apply this technique today, and it made a huge difference. I’d play through the left hand like this once or twice, and then try the piece. The broken chords that tripped me up yesterday, felt very natural today. Only at the end I'd hesitate a little bit, so that will get isolated practice this weekend. I also had a much easier time keeping the left hand softer than the right. In one day, I’ve made more progress than during the last 7 days combined.

200 Small Canons (Kunz) remains very solid material. I played it during my lesson yesterday, and my teacher commented how pleasantly surprised she was to see me playing from this book. A very solid book, that’s criminally underplayed, for which very few players have the patience to work through, and an excellent introduction to baroque music (because it’s so good for training hand independence); that's how she described it. I’m very glad to hear from her how I feels about this book, especially the part about the baroque music. I’m keen on playing baroque music, but it’s too hard for now. Still, the idea that I’m working on some good introductory material is good to hear. The canons are getting just a tad more complex every week, but also more pleasant to the ear. No. 12, 13, and 14 I really enjoy the sound of, and I will probably record these as repertoire pieces.

24 Little Pieces (Kabalevsky). I’m finally getting a grasp on No. 5, and I’ve started work on No. 8. It’s fairly easy, but also very beautiful. Definitely my favourite from this book so far.

Last week, I also said I’d ask my teacher if I was ready for either First Lessons in Bach or Streabbog Op. 63. I thought I could start on Streabbog, but she quickly brought me back to earth. I have enough to work on for now, anyway. Goes to show, once again, how easily I overestimate myself. She did give me the green light on starting the Beethoven piece I reviewed two days ago.

This is what the coming week will look like in terms of material. There’s a lot of initial recording to do, but no new repertoire pieces. That’s okay, though, after recording 7 last Sunday. I've also decided to abandon a few repertoire pieces. I enjoyed learning them, but I don't enjoy maintaining them. That should open up some hard drive memory for the future.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 37
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 18, 19
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 9
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 14, 15
- Beethoven Ecossaise in E Flat

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos No. 36
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 17
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 13

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No. 33, 34, 35
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 15, 16
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5, 6, 7, 8
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 9, 10, 11, 12

Future repertoire

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos No. 16, 23, 26, 29, 30
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 11, 13, 14
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2656261
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Continuing with rubato and dynamics

This is a follow-up on my post from last week, when I first explored the use of dynamics and rubato in two pieces by Gurlitt. I was very enthusiastic, resulting in an overload of rubato throughout the pieces. Keystring very eloquently compared my experimentation with the way a baby experiments; very exaggerated, trying everything that comes to mind and then some.

It’s now a week later, and I’ve continued to practice these two pieces. I’ve got a better idea about what I want from both pieces, and letting them settle for a week has brought them closer to what I expect from them.

I let my teacher listen to my interpretation of the pieces, and she had some nice pointers, which I’ve tried to incorporate into my new way of playing these pieces. I’ve also made a story, or rather a scenario, in which these pieces fit. This helps me stay on track and play it the way I want it.

No. 13, Morning Salute, starts with a kid getting ready for a new day. He (or she, but let’s assume it’s a he for simplicity’s sake) thinks about all the things that can be done today. Constantly changing his mind about what to do, his mind overflowing with the endless possibilities that the day brings. Then, towards the end of the piece, he realizes he can’t do all that he wants. He has to go to school, but he doesn’t want to go.

No. 14 represents the struggle that going to school is. It’s a daily ‘fight’ between a mother and her child, where the mother is the left hand and the child is the right hand. He doesn’t want to go, but his mother is having none of it. At first, he’s just sad that he has to go to school. During the second repetition of the first part, he starts whining, which is expressed by playing more loudly and with slightly more rubato. During the second part of the piece, the mother really starts putting her foot down, which is when the left hand becomes louder. At first, the kid still tries to outmanoeuvre her, but in the end he realizes it’s a lost cause, accepts his fate, and goes to school.




Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2657223
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Week 9

This week has been my most productive week yet. With one day still to go, I’ve already practiced for 10 hours. I had assigned myself a lot of things to work on over the weekend, and while I was initially wary that it would end up demotivating me, the opposite happened. My breaks between practice sessions were shorter than usual, and the practice sessions themselves felt more efficient than ever.

Mikrokosmos (Bartók) book 1 is very nearly done. There’s still two pieces left to record; 34 is ready next weekend, 36 needs another week.

I’ve also started on book 2 this past week. I wanted to start with No. 37, but that piece came very easily to me (I could play it (slowly) after the first day). So, on Sunday, I also started work on No. 38. It’s quite a bit harder, though it did go very well when practicing it earlier today. No. 37 will definitely become a repertoire piece when it’s ready, I absolutely love it.

The First Lessons (Gurlitt). The practicing technique for learning No. 17 really paid dividends. It’s getting along very well, and I reckon it will be ready in another week. Another piece that will definitely become repertoire (like so much or Mr. Gurlitt’s work). Started work on No. 18, which really benefits from the time and learning techniques from 17. I also restarted on No. 19, a piece which I learned back in March, before I started with my teacher. Having put two hours into the piece those months ago made the learning process a lot easier.

200 Small Canons (Kunz). Playing canons with staccato in one hand while the other plays something else is quite tricky, and as such No. 15 gave me a bit of trouble. No. 14 turns out to be a very beautiful little piece, now that I can play it in tempo. I’ve also outdone myself here by starting on No. 16 today. It’s in B flat, which is yet another new key to me, but since neither hand has to play an E, it’s not that big of a deal.

24 Little Pieces (Kabalevsky). Here, I wanted to start with No. 9, but I could play it after 10 minutes, so I decided to also start work on No. 10. No. 9 does need to be played in a higher tempo than I can play it as of now, but increasing the tempo is something that needs days of consecutive practice, so I’ll give it the time it needs. No. 10 is a very tricky march in C major, which has a B section in C minor. The hands also have to move around quite a bit, but I found out today that the patterns are kind of predictable. It feels as challenging to me as No. 5 felt when I just started it.

Ecossaise in E Flat (Beethoven) was the biggest unknown in terms of new material. You can read all about it in two of my previous posts this month. In the last post I expressed my hopes that it would be within my grasp to tackle it, and I’m glad that judgement was right. It was quite tricky to get started with, something mostly caused by the key of E Flat and the fact that I had to figure out the fingering myself. Since finding a good fingering it’s progressing nicely. I don’t expect to finish it before the second half of July, but I’m sure it will get there.

I’m also very excited to start work on yet another book: For Children (Bartók). The first three pieces of the first book look very manageable, and I’m very keen to explore more of Bartók’s works. I don’t think I’ll end up having to reduce the time spent on other material; I'm looking to have it fill the gap that Mikrokosmos book 1 is going to leave after completion.

My practice for the coming week will be spent on the following pieces.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 39
- Bartók Sz 42 No. 1
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 20
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 10
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 16, 17, 18

Needs work
- Mikrokosmos No. 36, 37, 38
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 17, 18, 19
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 9
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 15
- Beethoven Ecossaise in E Flat

Good enough
- Mikrokosmos No. 34
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5, 7
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 13, 14

Future repertoire
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15, 16
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 6, 8
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 12

Repertoire
- Mikrokosmos No. 16, 23, 26, 29, 30
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 11, 13, 14
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 1




Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2657871
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Monthly Review – June 2017

Today marks the last day of what was an exceptionally hot month of June. The keys of my piano had a lot of sweat to endure, but they did so without complaining even once. June was a month in which I really started diversifying the music of which my practice consists. It was the month in which I fell in love with the music of Cornelius Gurlitt. I also gained more hand independence thanks to the excellent canons of Konrad Kunz, and my video editing skills were pushed to the maximum of their ability (which sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is).

I started June, naturally, where May left off. I continued to work on Mikrokosmos Book 1, Gurlitt Op. 117 ‘The First Lessons’ and Kabalevsky Op. 39 ‘24 Little Pieces’. These three books have a very fair progression curve and complement one another nicely. As such, I have been able to steadily continue to work on and progress through these books.

On the very first day of June, I also added Kunz Op. 14 ‘200 Small Canons’. The benefits of playing this book have become very clear even after playing it for just a month. My hand independence seems to be quite a bit better than it was. This may have naturally happened without working from this book, but I’m certain it has at least accelerated the process. This book serves as a springboard to Baroque music, though I could do with a bit more practice before diving into the years of Bach, Scarlatti, and Handel. Lastly, these small canons are very charming, which plays no small part in me returning to this book daily.

I ditched Diabelli Op. 125 ‘The First Lessons’ a week into June. I didn’t enjoy playing the pieces, and it seems silly to play something that I don’t enjoy, especially when there’s so many good alternatives.

Towards the last week of June, I started on a piece that I have thoroughly covered in previous posts. Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat is coming along nicely, though I’ll not be able to play it as fast as I would want to straight away. I also started work on Mikrokosmos book 2, which feels easier than the last pieces of book 1. This comes down to concepts from Kabalevsky, Gurlitt, and Kunz carrying over into this book.

Lastly, I started working on Bartók Sz 42 ‘For Children’ just yesterday. It felt amazing how easily I could pick No. 1 and 3 from the first book up, I could play both after just fifteen minutes of practice. Sure, they still need plenty of work before they are ready for recording, but it’s very encouraging that I can pick up these new pieces in so little time without needing to memorize the whole thing (like I had to do three months back). All that was needed, was playing through once hands alone, just to get a feeling for what both hands need to do. After that, I could slowly play hands together while keeping my eyes on the page. It was while working on these pieces that I felt like I've found the right path to walk. There doesn't seem to be a destination, though. I guess I'll have to keep on walking, see what I'll come across.

Repertoire

It is perhaps unsurprising that my three favourite repertoire pieces from this month have all been written by Mr. Gurlitt.



Op. 117 No. 11 is a lovely little waltz, the first one that I played. I absolutely adore waltzes, and as such this piece has a special place in my heart (at least until I learn a new waltz). I’m continuing to work on this piece, and while it sounds a lot better when played today, I think the point of these videos is more to showcase my ability at a given point in time.



Op. 117 No. 13 and No. 14 have to be played together, as far as I’m concerned. I still enjoy playing these pieces, but I reckon they will be replaced within a month or two as repertoire pieces. Still, they taught me a lot of new things, like rubato, so they are definitely important pieces for my development.

All the other repertoire pieces can be found in this playlist. This Sunday, I'm looking to add Kunz Op. 14 No. 12 and Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 15, 16.

Looking forward

Sadly, I only have two more lessons before the summer vacation, both next week, so I’ll be on my own for the rest of the month. I’m still very excited to learn what July will bring in terms of music. I will continue progressing through all the books that I’m currently working on, and don’t expect many new things to be added. Maybe I’ll try my hand at Streabbog Op. 63 towards the end of the month, let’s see.

June by the numbers.

No monthly update is complete without graphs, so here they are.

[Linked Image]

I’ve added the pieces that were in progress at the end of May, both those without the initial recording (‘In Progress May’) and those that weren’t ready for a second recording (‘Future Repertoire May’). Those pieces, along with the 40 started in June, equals a total of 55 pieces that I’ve worked on in June. Of these 55 pieces, 38 were completed, which leaves 17 pieces still in various stages of progress. That seems to be around the sweet spot for me; not all 17 pieces need an equal amount of work, and this current workload ensures that every piece started is initially recorded within a month.

Something else that I started keeping track of, is the number of pages of music that has been started in a month (thus, the amount of pages of new music that I've read). Since a piece can be as short as 8 measures and as long as 32 measures (for now), this puts it into a bit more perspective. It isn’t perfect, as Kunz Op. 14 contains 48 bars per page, while Mikrokosmos has pages with half of that. In May, I went through 25 pages of music, while in June this was 19 pages. This can largely be attributed to the first 19 or so pieces of Mikrokosmos book 1, through which I went very quickly back in May.

[Linked Image]

I wonder how much more data this graph can handle before it becomes completely unreadable. Still, if nothing else, it shows how balanced my current practice is, with a nearly equal number of pieces from each work in progress. I’ve cheated a little bit by counting the pieces that I’m to record this weekend as Good Enough / Repertoire. I feel like it gives a slightly fairer (and better looking) representation, so I just went for it.

[Linked Image]

This graph is a lot more balanced than last month, when over half my time was spent on Mikrokosmos book 1. I think in July this graph will balance out even more, if my new method of practicing works out the way it does. I will make a more detailed post on this subject once I've got a more concrete idea on the subject.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2659541
07/07/17 06:47 AM
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Book review – Mikrokosmos Book 1 by Béla Bartók

Back in May, the first book that I started working on was Bartók’s Mikrokosmos book 1. My teacher uses this book with all her beginning students, and I can see why. Since I’ve completed the book last weekend (recorded the last two pieces on July 1st), I’ll give you a rundown of the book to which I’ll add my personal thoughts. I hope some of you may find it useful. N.B. I bought the Boosey and Hawkes edition, and I recommend anyone who wants to work through this book to do the same. The preface written by Bartók himself is invaluable, and the English titles make a lot clearer the purpose of the pieces.

The first 21 pieces of the book focus heavily on establishing the ability to play legato in contrary motion. There are other concepts introduced; dotted notes (7), repetition (8), syncopation (9), reflection (12), accidentals (15, 17) and change of position (13, 16). Every piece, except two, familiarizes you with this contrary motion playing. It feels almost redundant, I thought it was before I started with my new teacher, but it’s a foundation that lots of following concepts are built on.

No. 10 has playing with alternate hands, and I think this serves as a first introduction to playing canons, which is something Bartók introduces later in the book. The introduction of contrary motion (17) is another concept that’s used frequently later in the book. The first 17 pieces are then reviewed with Nos. 18-21.

What makes these first 21 pieces interesting, even if you’ve been playing for some months, is that they can all sound beautiful. If you look on YouTube, most of it sounds like the most horrendous études you’ve ever come across, but I’ve found these pieces a very pleasant introduction to really listening while playing. On being less focused on what the sheet says, and more focused on what you think sounds good. As such, a piece is done when you think it sounds good, as that is when (I think) a good amount is learned from it.

It is at No. 22 things get interesting; counterpoint is introduced. From this point onward, hand independence becomes a big factor (as it should). Up to No. 27 feels like an introduction to the playing of canons. The hands imitate one another, but the melodies are easy enough to let you focus on developing hand independence.

Another small step up is made with the next four pieces; Nos. 28-31 introduce canons, slowly building on the concepts previously learned in the book.

The last five pieces of the book is what you work up to. Five one page long pieces which use all the previously introduced concepts, and are by far the most challenging pieces of the book. Consistently reading 4th and 5th intervals was what tripped me up for the longest time, as well as finding a way to read two staves at a time. The pieces are very charming, though it is worth mentioning to not beat your head against the wall to play them at the tempo marking that Mr. Bartók gave. Not only are they properly beautiful when played more slowly, Bartók also said in the preface that the tempo markings don’t need to be adhered to by beginning students.

Those who have read my previous posts, know how highly I speak of Mikrokosmos. I honestly don’t think there’s another book that teaches a beginner such a complete set of fundamentals (without taking method books into account, I really don’t care for those). There’s definitely material that supplements Mikrokosmos nicely, but nothing comes close to replacing it.

The two key works of supplementary material are, in my opinion, Gurlitt Op. 117 and Kunz Op. 14.

The predictability of Gurlitt’s work makes playing it a breeze, and his introduction of 8th notes and accompaniment in the left hand shouldn’t give much trouble. Playing through his music will also make reading 4th and 5th intervals more natural, and more reading practice in general isn’t a bad idea. I’d recommend working on this book once you’ve reached No. 18.

Kunz Op. 14 becomes interesting once you reach No. 22. From my own experience, I know how much difficulty No. 22 can give, and Kunz Op. 14 presents a ton of material to improve hand independence. Mr. Kunz himself wrote in the preface of the book that it is suited for the student who can play legato fingers 1 to 5 and back. Since that’s exactly what the first 21 pieces of Mikrokosmos focus on, adding this book once you get to the world of counterpoint seems a good idea.

It took me exactly two months to complete Mikrokosmos book 1, starting on May 1st and finishing on July 1st. During these two months, I practiced it for 32 hours and 10 minutes; an average of 32 minutes per day, 53.5 minutes per piece. I’ve committed six pieces to my repertoire, which you can find in this playlist. I did enjoy the last five pieces a lot, but committing them to memory would’ve been more work than I could be bothered to do. It is encouraging, however, that the second book has a lot of music that is as beautiful.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Yeargdribble, a user (and moderator) of the piano community on Reddit. It were his words that inspired me to go down the path that I’m on right now, and this has been extremely eye-opening to me.

“If you can’t sight-read something at full tempo, there’s something to be learned from it.”


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2662565
07/19/17 10:02 AM
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Reviewing Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat

On 21 June, I talked about revisiting Beethoven’s Ecossaise in E Flat Major. I concluded that I was ready to learn the piece, and got to work the next day.

Last Saturday, on 15 July, I finished the piece by getting a recording. It took me 2 hours and 47 minutes of practice, spread over 25 days, which is just over 6 minutes each day. It was comparable to Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 5 and the last five pieces of the first Mikrokosmos book in terms of relative difficulty, all pieces which I considered at the time of learning as barely doable. (Barely doable sounds a lot worse than it actually is; I simply want to refrain from learning pieces that take longer than a month to learn).

The piece initially gave me quite some trouble. The use of three black keys, as well as having to figure out the fingering all by myself were the cause for most of this. After a week I had the fingering down, at which point the most time-intensive part of practicing the new piece lay behind me. Revisiting the piece on a daily basis for as little as five minutes, focusing the bulk of my time on a few problematic spots, is what brought the piece to a reasonable level (that, and a nightly night’s rest).

While I’m not 100% satisfied with the piece, I didn’t feel like I was getting much more out of the piece. The second half feels a bit rushed, and as such that’s where the tempo falls apart a bit. I also stopped enjoying the piece, so I’m happy to have learned from it what I have, and I’m happy to move on.



Looking back on the past month, one of the most significant improvements is in my ability to pick up works in different keys. Not only from this Beethoven piece. Kunz, Kabalevsky, Bartók, and Gurlitt are all stepping away from the scale of C major (or A minor). Once I’ve seen in which key a piece is, I have to spend very little time on remembering which black keys replace which white keys. This comes, I think, mainly from improvements made in the reading department.

I will try and post a rundown of my current practice regime soon. Not because I feel like it’s perfect (it isn't) and everyone needs to practice the way I do, but because I think it’s interesting to document things like this. It should be interesting to be able to look back on such posts in the future, seeing which ideas were good and which not so much.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2662845
07/20/17 04:31 PM
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A comprehensive look at my current practice regime

Over the past month, I’d written for myself some concerns regarding my practice habits. Some of these concerns were:

When do I practice what?
When add new pieces?
How often to practice future repertoire?
What to do with repertoire?
Is there an optimal learning curve (time spent practicing vs. nights slept)?

Those who’ve read my previous posts probably know that I liked to sort my works-in-progress under a couple of different stages of completion. These were the following five stages.

New, Needs Work, Good Enough, Future Repertoire, and Repertoire.

Since I’m not at all happy with this current system, I’ll change things around a bit. My aim is to not change things every few months for the sake of clarity, but for now I think I can make a clearer and more representative system of categorization. I’ll use this new method for the remainder of my post (and hopefully well into the future, no need to make things more complicated than they are).

New: Same as before. Pieces are at a stage where I cannot play through the piece without hesitations. Technical issues need to be specifically addressed.

In Progress: Self-explanatory. I’ve merged the previous stages of ‘needs work’ and ‘good enough’ in the hopes of increasing clarity. The goal of this stage is to get every piece to a point where I can get an initial recording. Time is spent on ironing out kinks, and bringing out musicality.

Polish: Again, pretty obvious. This is what previously was ‘future repertoire’. Pieces get memorized, and musicality gets the brunt of the focus. What was before ‘repertoire’ gets removed entirely for now.

These past months, I’ve experimented with the order in which I practice my material on a given day, as well as the frequency at which every piece is practiced. My current method is the result of continuous small tweaks made in an attempt to make my time spent practicing as efficient as possible. I’m sure that I haven’t found the ultimate way for myself to practice, but I do know that my current method is the most efficient it has been in these past months. I’m always looking to improve the process, but I’m reasonably happy with how it is right now.

Time is spent on a piece depending on which stage it finds itself in; a new piece gets more time on a day than a piece that’s nearly ready for recording. Before I can show you how this works out on a typical day of practice, it is first important that you understand how new pieces are added into my routine.

Let’s say New has four empty slots. In each of these empty slots I can put a piece of music that I wish to learn. I look in these new pieces for new concepts, but not so many that I get overwhelmed. I look for previously learned concepts, which I can then reinforce. I also look for preparatory fundamentals a piece can teach. And, most important of all, I look for music that I have fun learning and playing. For my current practice regime, these slots are filled as follows:

Slot 1: Baroque. Since Baroque music is still too complicated for me to grasp in a reasonable amount of time, this slot is filled by Kunz Op. 14 ‘200 Small Canons’. It teaches hand independence, and as such seems an excellent introduction to Baroque. Many of these pieces are simple enough to be learned in a week, so the turnover rate is high. I expect this slot to be filled with music from the Baroque for a long time into the future.

Slot 2: Mikrokosmos. The benchmark around which my entire practice regime is based. I’m constantly looking for works of equal difficulty. Since most other works that I have progress more quickly than Mikrokosmos, I’m now looking to progress through this book. Since Bartók himself said the first three books can stand on their own, I expect a steady stream of Mikrokosmos for the foreseeable future.

Slot 3: Along with 4, this slot is less rigid. I start on whatever catches my fancy, which now happens to be Löschhorn Op. 181 ‘Kinder Etüden’. I’ve exhausted the easiest works of Gurlitt and Kabalevsky, yet found myself still in need of easier material. Löschhorn fills that gap quite well; I think the studies sound marvellous (when played slow, which is the only way I can play), and there’s 40 of them.

Slot 4: This is currently occupied by Rybicki’s Sad Autumn. After that’s finished, Streabbog Op. 63 ’12 Very Easy and Melodious Studies’ will take its place.

As time progresses, I might find myself in need of more slots (or less). For now, I’m quite satisfied with the increased clarity it provides me. So, on to the practice. A typical day of practice consists of 5 sessions of 15-25 minutes, fully depending on my concentration (or lack thereof) at any time.

Session 1: Spend 5-10 minutes on each of the four new pieces. My aim is to a) learn some new measures and b) reinforce measures learned on previous days. How many new measures are learned depends entirely on the difficulty of the piece. Most Kunz canons get learned within a day (8 bars), while with the other slots I some days find myself struggling to add two new bars. While I typically (try to) refrain from playing through start to finish, I still find this useful to do once in order to find problematic spots.

Whether I spend 5 or 10 minutes depends on how much I like the piece and how much difficulty it gives me. I do not worry when I practice a piece for ‘only’ 5 minutes. Much more important than the actual time spent, is the number of fully focused revisits.

Session 2: Same as first session. At the end of this session, all the books that I’m currently working on (no matter its progress) get stacked on top of my piano.

Sessions 3, 4, 5: I pick the top book from the stack, and work through all the material that’s currently in progress. Pieces get as much time as I can give them while being fully concentrated, which is anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes. I do this until I've gone through all the material once (keep in mind I do revisit the new pieces, too. As such, these get practiced thrice a day, all the other material once.

A piece that’s nearly done might only need as much as a single playthrough (or sometimes even nothing at all), as the most meaningful progress will be made overnight, whereas a new piece or piece that recently got promoted into ‘In Progress’ might take 10 minutes for me to cover everything that I want to.

On a piece that poses no more technical challenges, I spend my time working on musicality. Phrasing, rubato, and dynamics, either my own or as written by the composer, as well as ‘learning to listen’. It is with these pieces that I’m somewhat concerned about the efficiency of my methods, and I’ll certainly look to revisit these concerns in the future.

This results in a daily practice time of around 1 hour and 45 minutes, which is as long as I can fully concentrate on a typical workday. In the weekends, I might find myself pushing for 3 hours, but I always stop once I feel my concentration waning. I feel this is of the utmost importance, considering both how valuable time is as a resource and how motivation works. Even the danger of ingraining bad habits when playing poorly is very real.

My average daily practice consists of 12 pieces (ranging from half a page to two pages) plus 2 pages of Kunz canons, everything in varying stages of completion. My aim still remains to get an initial recording of a piece within a month, and the amount of material that I work on at any given time should always allow for that. The turnover rate of this all is as such, that 3-5 pieces get completed every week, keeping the workload in check.In case anyone wonders, this is a rundown of what I currently work on.

New
- Mikrokosmos No. 45
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 26
- Löschhorn Op. 181 No. 2
- Rybicki ‘Sad Autumn’

In Progress
- Mikrokosmos No. 41, 42
- Gurlitt Op. 117 No. 20, 21
- Kabalevsky Op. 39 No. 12, 13
- Kunz Op. 14 No. 18-25
- Löschhorn Op. 181 No. 1
- Streabbog Op. 63 No. 1

Polish
- Mikrokosmos No. 37, 40
- Gurlitt Op. 117, No. 17

For now, I’ve answered all but the last concern that I raised at the beginning.

Quote
Is there an optimal learning curve (time spent practicing vs. nights slept)?


Is there a personal optimal learning curve, and if so, how on earth am I going to find it? I probably won’t, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. At the very least I’ll become better at playing the piano in the process.


Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
Re: Nothing is too easy - A Beginner's Journey [Re: Keselo] #2664384
07/27/17 05:14 PM
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That went well...

It’s funny how I write this huge post about my practice regime, only to have my practice completely overhauled not a week later. I think that’s funny, at least. It’s something that’s quite familiar to me, too. I’m always trying to find the best solution to things. The most efficient, definitive way of doing things. It’s lost me quite some hobbies over the years; if I found out after a year that I could’ve done things better, well, what’s the point?

I’m starting to realize that there is a point still. A combination of growing up and therapy, perhaps? So what if I didn’t do things perfectly? Why would the 20% that I didn’t get be more important than the 80% that I did get? It should definitely be the other way around; looking for the positive, especially when looking at yourself.

So, practice has been completely overhauled. I’ve realized that there isn’t this perfect way of practicing. Every day is different. The music practiced is different. The problems that are encountered are different. Life itself is not only different every day, but also unpredictable, which is absolutely terrible if you need a strict set of rules and activities to keep to. There is simply no place for a rigid system as I described it last week.

This realization came to me when I was listening back to some practice that I did. I’d recorded two sessions last Sunday, and decided that analysing it might give me some ways to improve. Boy, did it ever.

I was wasting so much practice time by playing through pieces. If I wanted to practice a single passage, I’d keep going and finish the piece. This happened again and again. No wonder I felt like my improvement was stagnating over the last 2 weeks; it was. At the very least, I wasn’t improving as fast as I would’ve liked to.

The silly thing was, I know how chunking works. I know why it works. I know it works. I thought I used it, but I didn’t. It’s incredible how easily your brain can fool you. This is why periodic reviews are in order; I’ve steered myself in the right direction (at least a better one), but I must make sure that I stay on track. Not only is recording a great way to catch mistakes in practicing, it’s also a good way to evaluate what I want from a piece.

To make sure I keep chunking away, I’ve started writing in my books. It felt weird at first, but I’m already used to it, and it’s been of great help so far. Having written down instructions of which part to practice, makes it a lot easier to stop and start over. There's no need to remember to stop, it's written right there! I mark my chunks, keep track of how many days I’ve practiced the chunk, and maybe add some dynamics. How often to practice each one before moving on, and at which point to let a chunk rest are still questions that I need answered.

[Linked Image]
An excerpt from the second book of Mikrokosmos. Chunks are initially made keeping phrasing in mind, and are made smaller as needed. I keep tally above the start of every chunk (1 is practiced 3 days, 2a and 2b are practiced 2 days, etc.).

Instead of saying, I'm practicing this 3 times every day and that once every day, I'm just going to give a piece the time it needs. If I feel I need 15 minutes to progress, 15 minutes it is. Starting new material only when there is time for it, instead of working on it because I'm supposed to start it according to this silly system.

I've found that the total time I spend practicing on a day is about the same, but the time is spread out more evenly between pieces. I definitely feel like I’m making more progress than I was a week ago, which is what it’s all about. Progress is good, but more progress is better.






Tim

Started playing January 2017

Nothing is too easy is where I keep track of my progress.
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