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#2695168 - 12/07/17 05:45 PM Should recitals be error-free?  
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tinman1943 Offline

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Should recital perfomances be "error free"?

I'm a senior adult trying to learn piano, currenlty playing pieces from Adult Piano Adventures Book 2 and supplements.
I'm wonder, should students be able to play such pieces without errors?

When my kids were taking Suzuki violin,
they (and their peers) were expected to perform their recital pieces without mistakes.

But various piano teachers I have tried routinely stage recitals where student performances (including my own) are often marred by wrong notes, lapses in rhythm, etc.

I know stage fright happens, but I'm concered whether I've just chosen some poor teachers, or am deficient in talent, or is it not expected to be able to play the lesson pieces "correcty"?
If I'm still making errors after studying a lessom piece for a month, is the problem me, or the teacher, or the method, or what?


tinman1943
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#2695183 - 12/07/17 06:55 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Originally Posted by tinman1943
Should recital perfomances be "error free"?
No. It takes years to be able to perform eror free and even then needs rigorous practise and a certain personality.

Originally Posted by tinman1943
If I'm still making errors after studying a lessom piece for a month, is the problem me, or the teacher, or the method, or what?
If you are 'still' making errors then you're practising wrong. Practise only as much as you can get right and get it right a few times before moving on. In your practise you should not be making errors regularly, the odd slip maybe. In performance it's another kettle of fish.


Richard
#2695199 - 12/07/17 07:59 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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If you're routinely making the same error over and over in practice, what you're learning is to make that specific error. And you'll perform it that way, too. Drill the problem areas, going very slow, and learn the right way, not the ingrained error.


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#2695206 - 12/07/17 08:24 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Errors in performance are due to three principal causes. Experienced pianists can easily spot which one(s).

1) Inadequate practice, or ingrained errors.
2) Inadequate technique. That is, playing a piece that's too difficult.
3) Accidents that can occur to anyone, including the greatest.

Of course, all three are aggravated by nerves, but it's easy to tell a nervy, accident-prone performance that hasn't been adequately prepared or due to insufficient skills from an equally nervy, accident-prone one which has.


"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."
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#2695212 - 12/07/17 08:47 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Errors if random in nature are normal, but you have to scrutinize everything you do in your practice and playing to try to eliminate errors. I think as you become more experienced you learn a piece differently, perhaps at a deeper level, possibly more intellectually as your theory knowledge grows.

Errors for me generally tell me I don't know the piece as well as I think I do, but to get to know the piece really well can take much longer than we want (or need) to devote to one piece. One thing I like to with my main pieces is play them as slowly as needed hands separate until I get a mistake free run through. If I can get them mistake free consistently I will then go to hands together and repeat. This does sometimes mean sacrificing the timing but for me it is an important confidence builder just to have that mistake free run through. Usually what I find is I have been playing the piece too fast or have rushed into hands together too soon, or both.


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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#2695221 - 12/07/17 09:29 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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In order to get a flawless performance, you need to be practicing at home to the point of making no mistakes.

The Suzuki method start people off by playing pieces that are repetitious like the "Twinkle" song (violin/piano version) with every note 6x. If you repeat your pieces enough # times, you learn them naturally. On stage you have another factor: the audience. You can't show "stage fright" and the most you can do to prepare to go on stage is to have a few family members and friends watching at home and just run through the performance pieces.

The first performance can be nerve wracking. After that you lose the nervousness. Once a friend of the family came for a visit with 2 sons in the Suzuki program (piano & violin). They played a few songs in our living room as duet including "Minuet in G" without a noticeable mistake. A few years back our local city council put out a few street pianos downtown. Many people walked by playing anything from Pop songs like Billy Joel "The Piano Man" & Classical pieces like the 1st mvt. of the Beethoven "Moonlight Sonata". One day a young teen walked by a piano and played Scott Joplin "Maple Leaf Rag" from memory. He gave a near flawless performance like he must have practiced for a few weeks. A small crowd gathered to watch. People don't usually carry sheet music around. You play the pieces you know best. And no amount of practice can prepare you to face the audience.

I've seen a few online videos posted by a Ukrainian piano teacher (Irina Gorin) including a few lessons & actual performances. Besides getting her students to play pieces "note perfect", she would teach them proper phrasing (where to breath) and the graceful hand gestures that goes with each piece. What she is able to accomplish with her students is impressive.

#2695231 - 12/07/17 10:12 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Originally Posted by tinman1943

I'm wonder, should students be able to play such pieces without errors?


Ouch. So many questions and, as I didn't think I could address them all, I picked up on this one.

The answer is "no," BUT... you want to have that as a goal.

As zrtf mentions, I think this comes down to a set of personality traits: meticulous attention to detail, persistence, and the ability to constructively channel nerves into a performance.

I've spent a long time at the piano. I've got only the second of these traits.

I never play a piece error-free. Literally never. I, do, however play them with fewer errors now and I recover better when the inevitable flubs come up. I also am now much better about trying to get pieces into my fingers with fewer sloppy bits. If you get sloppy bits into your fingers, then they're the most likely thing that will come out when you perform them under pressure.

Do your best to not put them there. When you are studying a piece, is there always a set of notes that you fat-finger? I can save you decades of floundering with this one piece of advice, which is extremely hard to hold yourself to: don't play through it a gazillion times hoping it will get better magically. It won't. Flubbing something three times in a row is a sign. Slow it down, figure out what's going on. Have your teacher watch your fingering there and give practice advice. Follow that advice. I KNOW. It's totally clear what notes you should be playing. They're written right there on the page. Like the music version of your native tongue. It's simple, right? Except it isn't. Because playing music not like reading aloud. It's like if you had to do a gymnastics tumbling routine at the same time as reading "Harry Potter".

Now, where you are in your studies is a point where you don't need to perfect every piece. You are laying a foundation of skills that you will be able to leverage in the future for pieces to play for enjoyment for yourself or others. But a certain mindfulness and care while studying your pieces now--without getting angsty about 'being perfect'--will pay dividends later if you can incorporate them into your approach to study.

As I mentioned, I still never play things without flubs. (I have studied the 'wrong' way for a long time.) And if I listen to recordings of my playing, boy, do I hear all the things I did wrong or could do better. It's maddening ! But ... I guess music is a human endeavor and humans aren't necessarily perfect, so if you play something and you brighten someone's day or bring a smile to their face, what's a flub here and there?


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#2695251 - 12/07/17 11:49 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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A month is not a long time to play a piece. It can take much longer for many adults with other obligations to securely memorize something. You did not say if you play from memory?

Some teachers want to teach the students of all levels to perform without fear and learn to cope with mistakes and recover so recitals are not that serious. Mistakes can happen because the piece is not completely learned yet but they let you play anyway. They are not like exams where you must be extremely well prepared.

There are several kinds of errors:
- Learning something wrong the first time (misreadings, not understanding the rhythm etc.). Teacher should not let these pass.
- Stumbles due to playing too fast or without adequate technique to the piece. These should not be passed either imo.
- Memory lapses. Sometimes from inadequare practice but can also be from nerves, concentration issues or inherent problems with memory in general. Some can be eliminated by more and better practice, some cannot if random. Sometimes these are so tiny that you only hear them as rhythmic problems.
- Mistakes of tone quality, voicing or dynamics etc. These are the "that did not sound quite how I wanted" moments. Playing in a different room and different piano these are almost unavoidable. To think about them can cause a breakdown so one should learn to ignore them while performing. Something I cannot do yet...

#2695274 - 12/08/17 03:32 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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My hope is to provide a entertaining and moving musical performance. If it's error-free with respect to the printed score then that's an advantage, but not a crucial one.

The problem is that, whilst I can make a huge number of such errors that I think nobody except a real expert would spot, it's all to easy to make a single, minor error that is musically catastrophic.

My gut feeling is that learning to cope with that kind of situation is a more useful, and more achievable, skill than learning to play a specific piece with perfect accuracy. At least, I think it is at my age.

Also, I agree with outo that a month isn't a long time to learn a piece to performance standard that is at or near your limit of technique -- whatever that limit happens to be at the time. Again, the situation may be different for enthusiastic youngsters with plenty of time on their hands, but older people usually have to juggle a bunch of conflicting commitments. For me personally, I would say 3-4 months is more realistic. I guess it depends on how much repertoire you're learning at the same time, and what other kinds of practice you have to do.

I don't know if this is common, or just me, but: I find a significant "diminishing returns" effect when it comes to learning to play a piece without errors. I probably improve in accuracy more in the first hour of working on a piece, than I do in the following week; and more in the following week than in the month after that. To be honest, I doubt I could play Three Blind Mice with the certainty of perfect accuracy. Absolute certainty of perfect accuracy is pretty hard for humans to achieve in any field of endeavour, I think.

#2695275 - 12/08/17 03:33 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Fingering is the answer. The correct fingers for you. Might not be as indicated on the score, but that is usually a good guide. If a wrong finger gets into the mix, then your crescendo becomes a crashendo which could actually be quite funny as long as it happened to someone else . . .


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#2695285 - 12/08/17 05:12 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: peterws]  
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Originally Posted by peterws
... If a wrong finger gets into the mix, then your crescendo becomes a crashendo which could actually be quite funny as long as it happened to someone else . . .

grin
I have had plenty of those. I have learned to just improvise forward and pretend that I meant to do that.

I have never played a note perfect recital. Nerves always play a part. I have played note perfect in exams, after six months or more with a piece. That does not mean the piece was perfect! The examiners always have suggestions of how I need to improve the piece.

#2695291 - 12/08/17 06:00 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Should recitals be error-free? It depends on the circumstances, but it's a worthy goal.
Can recitals be error-free? No.

Sam

#2695301 - 12/08/17 07:35 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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About half of all the recitals I've played (or more accurately, half of the pieces I've performed over the years) have been free of errors, but they still weren't always performed to my complete satisfaction. In fact, I've been more satisfied with some of the pieces in which there have been errors, because my playing in them was more 'inspired' (more 'live', more exciting, more emotional, more communicative) than some of the perfectly accurate ones.

Did my audience care about the wrong notes? Not in the least. Did the wrong notes diminish their enjoyment and appreciation? Not in the least. What they wanted was communicative music-making that 'spoke' to them there and then, not sterile note-perfect playing that they can get from plenty of YT videos........


"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."
#2695310 - 12/08/17 08:53 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: bennevis]  
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When I perform at my teacher's "musicales" our goals are pretty simple. My teacher is much more interested in the overall presentation of the pieces (dynamics, tempo, shaping, etc.) than expecting 100% of the notes being correct.

For example, at our last gathering three weeks ago I made a decision to "go long" as far as picking a piece that was at the limits of what I could technically do (not beyond mind you). My goal was to play the piece at the proper tempo and dynamics (it goes from pp to ff in places). I knew I was going to make a few mistakes. Well I did, but I got the performance part pretty darn good. The big smile on my teacher's face at the end said it all.


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#2695313 - 12/08/17 09:09 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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My teacher does not ever expect note perfect performances, And we have discussed what should be done when there is an incorrect note, because it will happen. Her advice is to keep moving if the passage is fast. If the note missed is longer, such as a half note, NOT To immediately change the note as if you’ve hit a hot stove, Because that draws attention to the error But to change the note to the correct one, at the same note valuation or to keep moving, Whichever sounds better in the context of the score.

Note that we are talking about a public performance, and not a lesson.Neither one of us view my lessons as a performance


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#2695316 - 12/08/17 09:20 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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In my view hitting the right notes at the right time helps, but it's neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for a good, let alone a "perfect", performance. You can listen to many note-perfect but dull performances on youtube by keen students that no doubt have been practicing those tunes for ages, yet they still sound mediocre at best.

I think with classical works, part of the problem is that if you're used to listening to piano recordings almost exclusively performed by great pianists, anyone else sounds awful in comparison... pop and jazz may be safer spaces for the amateur, not because they're easier, but because they're inherently more flexible and forgiving.


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#2695346 - 12/08/17 11:58 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: Sam S]  
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Originally Posted by Sam S
Should recitals be error-free? It depends on the circumstances, but it's a worthy goal.
Can recitals be error-free? No.

Sam


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#2695433 - 12/08/17 06:40 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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If my teacher expected note perfect recitals, she would never invite me. As far as playing "correctly", remember, you are trying to make music not computer code.

#2695705 - 12/10/17 12:34 AM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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I can report my observations from watching a young relative perform. He started in piano competitions at a young age. During the first and second year, the kids often crashed and burned. Missed notes, severe breaks in rhythm, an occasional complete halt and abandonment were common. Only a few seemed able to get through their low level pieces without glaring mistakes.

As time went on, the bar kept getting higher. The kids got older, more polished, more used to performing. More and more would get through their pieces without the worst kind of mistakes. At some point, perhaps year four of competitions, every kid would play fairly well, at least to untrained ears. At that level, it was the pedaling, the dynamics, the subtle rhythms that were being looked at. To many of the parents, it seemed that all the kids played note perfect. Most parents don't have trained ears. The judges and teachers still could discern and separate.

It was at this stage my young relative gave up competitions. The judging was becoming finer and finer. The teacher suggested a grand piano as a necessary tool to compete on those finer points. The family didn't have the space or the money for a grand, so that was the end of the road as far as competitions.

#2695891 - 12/10/17 04:59 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Originally Posted by tinman1943

When my kids were taking Suzuki violin,
they (and their peers) were expected to perform their recital pieces without mistakes.

But various piano teachers I have tried routinely stage recitals where student performances (including my own) are often marred by wrong notes, lapses in rhythm, etc.

Imho the difference here is a difference between piano and violin.
(Or, really, a difference between piano and any other instrument, except maybe the pipe organ.)
Pianists have more notes in a piece than any other instrument. More simultaneous notes per hand, and two hands playing two independent parts far far earlier in training than violinists have to learn multiple notes and multiple parts.
So a wrong note is not a sign of not knowing the piece.


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#2695898 - 12/10/17 05:43 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: hreichgott]  
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Originally Posted by tinman1943

When my kids were taking Suzuki violin,
they (and their peers) were expected to perform their recital pieces without mistakes.

But various piano teachers I have tried routinely stage recitals where student performances (including my own) are often marred by wrong notes, lapses in rhythm, etc.

Imho the difference here is a difference between piano and violin.
(Or, really, a difference between piano and any other instrument, except maybe the pipe organ.)
Pianists have more notes in a piece than any other instrument. More simultaneous notes per hand, and two hands playing two independent parts far far earlier in training than violinists have to learn multiple notes and multiple parts.
So a wrong note is not a sign of not knowing the piece.

You know, I don't think that perfect is expected in violin recitals either. I do believe that the teacher of tinman's kids asked for it, as he relates. In violin, a note might not be in tune, a bow might not be straight leading to an off-sound - there are other challenges, and these things are at least as difficult.

In regards to recitals, I believe their first purpose is to get students used to playing before others. The first time I ever did a recital (violin btw, as an adult) I ended up playing faster and faster. I didn't know I would do that, or that it is normal for it to happen. I gained knowledge and self-knowledge from that experience. The next time I could expect it and use strategies to counter it. With more recitals, they started to become more "normal", like having a conversation. That's what I think recitals are actually about. I'd be interested in what others think about this.

#2695929 - 12/10/17 09:26 PM Re: Should recitals be error-free? [Re: tinman1943]  
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Thanks to everyone for the encouraging (yes) and perceptive comments. I hesitate to reply to individual ones lest someone feel left out.
But my overall impressions are:
(a) fix the way I practice (lots of specific, relevant suggestions on this one)
(b) don't get discouraged, and maybe
(c) learn some "recovery" techniques.

BTW, one poster remarked:
"remember, you are trying to make music, not computer code."
As it happens, making computer code is what I did for a living,
So perhaps I need to learn to change my mindset as well.

I'll be checking back again in case anyone else has any new suggestions.

TM


tinman1943
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