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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: JohnSprung] #2720730
03/12/18 01:34 PM
03/12/18 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Recording and playing it back lets you put your full attention on listening, without the distraction of actually playing at the same time.

To give the same quality of attention to the sound you're making while actually playing, you have to work on something slow, short, and easy. It has to be no problem at all to get the right fingers to the right keys fast enough. Four bars melody only is enough to start with. But once you get that right, adding more gets easier.

That is certainly part of it, but not all of it, so I would not agree that the post you quoted is "the most useful" in this thread. Several things about this:
- You have to be able to know how to produce what it is that you want to produce, i.e. technique
- You have to know what to listen for; combined with what you want to produce

Both of these things come at least in part from teachers.

In my own journey, there are things I hear now that I was unaware of before, and so could not listen for or try to produce - there are ways of moving that I have learned which are far better than the awkward ways I originally had.

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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720762
03/12/18 03:11 PM
03/12/18 03:11 PM
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Hello all --

Thanks to everyone for their advice!

So far I've decided (1) I will definitely try recording myself and listening to my own playing; (2) I will try intensively practicing short passages carefully and repeatedly, further than the point where I'm not making any obvious "mistakes"; (3) I will e-mail my teacher and let her know that I want to practice according to her advice but don't understand how. I welcome further input!

To answer some of the questions that people asked: I have been practicing for two years, and working on repertoire like Bach little preludes, Clementi sonatinas, Fur Elise, etc. So maybe "intermediate" rather than "beginner", but I think of myself as a beginner. I've been practicing this simultaneously with a Bach prelude; Bach is my favorite composer to practice, but I love Chopin too.

I've been working on this piece for two months with my teacher. The sorts of issues I mentioned above have come up before, and I've consistently tried to ask for clarification. I've usually felt like I at least sort of understood, and most weeks have been better, but there have been some communication gaps in the past.


To those suggesting I find a different teacher: perhaps it's worth considering. But... I live in a medium-small college town and I don't think there are lots of options. Moreover, the town has a laid back atmosphere and I am very type-A, and so I've experienced these kinds of communication gaps elsewhere also.

My teacher is a student in the Ph.D. piano pedagogy program at the university where I teach. So she's inexperienced (and I think her other students are all little kids), but I do know she's very sincere and wants to help me, and I appreciate that she wants me to excel. Also, if I say something like "I really do want to follow your advice, but I still don't understand it", then she has her graduate program backing her up, so she can get advice on her end too. So I think I should stay the course for awhile, and do my best to make this work.

Thanks again to all!

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720774
03/12/18 03:43 PM
03/12/18 03:43 PM
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Frankly, I don't think it's as bad as people here make it to be. I have also experienced communication gaps and my teacher is usually good at seeing my clueless face and trying to explain differently. But I also had "aha" moments months later where I suddenly realised that my teacher did talk about something and I didn't fully understand it at the time but finally got it in retrospective. Sometimes you just need more experience in general to understand something.

My teacher also talked about the physical aspect of tone production. One thing that really helped was when he demonstrated by pressing his fingers on my hand. When he was demonstrating on the keyboard I didn't really get it but when he did it on my hand I really felt what he meant and had a better idea of how to replicate that on the keyboard. If you don't mind your teacher touching you maybe you can ask for such a demonstration.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720796
03/12/18 05:32 PM
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One thought occurred to me.

Tone quality is often almost entirely down to the balance between the melody and the accompaniment (and subsidiary voices if any). Do you have sufficient hand independence? Can your RH playing the melody make it soar above the accompaniment like a bel canto singer, and phrase like one? Or is what your RH able to do tied down to what the LH does?

Listen to Horowitz here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcfkyW_uVBQ

He plays the simple bell-like melody as a great singer might sing it. Listen to the difference in loudness between the melody and the accompaniment (which BTW is not just in LH here, but he makes it sound like it) at the start, and the way the melody seems completely independent of the accompaniment in the way it floats, breathes and phrases - including shading down to a merest whisper. The accompaniment stays subdued, while the 'singer' sings her heart out.......

Pieces like this waltz (and many of the other Chopin waltzes and nocturnes etc) require this sort of hand independence (and finger independence when you have to play pieces where the RH also has a share of the accompaniment, like in the Rachmaninov movement). You have to imagine the melody being sung by the greatest singer who ever lived:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYl8GRJGnBY (OK, she was not the greatest, but better than most).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J7JM0tGgRY

Chopin loved bel canto singing and always told his students to listen to the great bel canto singers in the operas of Bellini and Donizetti to understand how his melodies should go.


"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: How to listen as I practice? [Re: keystring] #2721071
03/14/18 08:12 AM
03/14/18 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
- You have to be able to know how to produce what it is that you want to produce, i.e. technique

This is a very interesting point, I remember that we discussed it with you some time ago. I hope you don't mind if I repeat here some things that I said in our private discussion, because I think they are very important.

There are two ways of playing the piano. The first way is when technique guides the music; the second way is when music guides technique. While playing the first way, a person thinks mainly of making correct arm and hand movements, hoping that such carefully performed movements will produce a sound of certain tone. While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, hoping that his/her brain will intuitively find out a correct body motions to produce that sound.

Now I' would say, that I believe that the second way is the only way to really play the piano. The first way is much, much inferior, and from what I know, no good pianist relies upon it.

One of great pianists (sorry, I have forgotten who it was exactly) said, "There is no technique". This is a phrase of great revelation. Certainly it doesn't mean that the technique doesn't really exist, but it means that the pianist doesn't pay any attention to it (to his physical movements) when he plays, his motions are almost totally intuitive, they are controlled subconsciously, and the sound and the emotions are the only things that he carries about.

Now, the only way to build such subconscious connection between aural image and the hands, that I'm aware of, is to play with highest possible concentration on the desired aural image, letting the brain to find out the correct physical motions by itself. Playing with eyes closed is even more beneficial, because it removes that unnecessary "visual" unit from sound-to-hands connection. This certainly requires experience, but imo these are the things of extreme importance.

By the way, ear training greatly helps in that matter, too, because not only it improves the pitch, but it also makes sound images inside the mind more vivid.


Sorry for such a long post, I did my best to be make it concise.

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 03/14/18 01:09 PM.
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721078
03/14/18 09:00 AM
03/14/18 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by keystring
- You have to be able to know how to produce what it is that you want to produce, i.e. technique

This is a very interesting point, I remember that we discussed it with you some time ago. I hope you don't mind if I repeat here some things that I said in our private discussion, because I think they are very important.

There are two ways of playing the piano. The first way is when technique guides the music; the second way is when music guides technique. While playing the first way, a person thinks mainly of making correct arm and hand movements, hoping that such carefully performed movements will produce a sound of certain tone. While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, hoping that his/her brain will intuitively find out a correct body motions to produce that sound.

Now I' would say, that I believe that the second way is the only way to really play the piano. The first way is much, much inferior, and from what I know, no good pianist relies upon it.

One of great pianists (sorry, I have forgotten who it was exactly) said, "There is no technique". This is a phrase of great revelation. Certainly it doesn't mean that the technique doesn't really exist, but it means that the pianist doesn't pay any attention to it (to his physical movements) when he plays, his motions are almost totally intuitive, they are controlled subconsciously, and the sound and the emotions are the only things that he carries about.

.,.,.,,,.

I believe you are correct about concentrating on the sound, however, I believe this only applies to more advanced pianists. First you have to develop the skill to be able to translate to your fingers how you want it to sound and have it sound that way. For instanice, to use the example of a singing right hand melody, you need to develop the skill of playing with different volumes and tone between two hands. I believe that every great pianist was not born just knowing how to do this, but I had to develop the skill


"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
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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721113
03/14/18 10:59 AM
03/14/18 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
.

There are two ways of playing the piano. The first way is when technique guides the music; the second way is when music guides technique. While playing the first way, a person thinks mainly of making correct arm and hand movements, hoping that such carefully performed movements will produce a sound of certain tone. While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, hoping that his/her brain will intuitively find out a correct body motions to produce that sound.

.

It is required to clarify: two stages ,and each has its own time.

Last edited by Nahum; 03/14/18 11:07 AM.
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721122
03/14/18 11:22 AM
03/14/18 11:22 AM
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Always work on getting the tone right. Playing the notes wrong is as bad as playing the wrong notes.


-- J.S.

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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: bennevis] #2721146
03/14/18 01:27 PM
03/14/18 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
One thought occurred to me.

Tone quality is often almost entirely down to the balance between the melody and the accompaniment (and subsidiary voices if any). Do you have sufficient hand independence? Can your RH playing the melody make it soar above the accompaniment like a bel canto singer, and phrase like one? Or is what your RH able to do tied down to what the LH does?



Thanks Bennevis. My teacher has also mentioned this, on multiple occasions. It's definitely something I keep working on, but it doesn't seem to be the only thing my teacher wants me to learn.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721151
03/14/18 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
One of great pianists (sorry, I have forgotten who it was exactly) said, "There is no technique". This is a phrase of great revelation. Certainly it doesn't mean that the technique doesn't really exist, but it means that the pianist doesn't pay any attention to it (to his physical movements) when he plays, his motions are almost totally intuitive, they are controlled subconsciously, and the sound and the emotions are the only things that he carries about.


A few years ago I saw a video in which Maria Joao Pires noted, "Technique does not exist." Found the video below (Quote is in the first 60 seconds)...

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

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: newer player] #2721308
03/15/18 03:21 AM
03/15/18 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by newer player
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
One of great pianists (sorry, I have forgotten who it was exactly) said, "There is no technique". This is a phrase of great revelation. Certainly it doesn't mean that the technique doesn't really exist, but it means that the pianist doesn't pay any attention to it (to his physical movements) when he plays, his motions are almost totally intuitive, they are controlled subconsciously, and the sound and the emotions are the only things that he carries about.


A few years ago I saw a video in which Maria Joao Pires noted, "Technique does not exist." Found the video below (Quote is in the first 60 seconds)...

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


Great! Although I think for the first time it was said much earlier.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Nahum] #2721311
03/15/18 03:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
.

There are two ways of playing the piano. The first way is when technique guides the music; the second way is when music guides technique. While playing the first way, a person thinks mainly of making correct arm and hand movements, hoping that such carefully performed movements will produce a sound of certain tone. While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, hoping that his/her brain will intuitively find out a correct body motions to produce that sound.

.

It is required to clarify: two stages ,and each has its own time.


Not sure about that. I think an adult student can begin playing simple pieces the second way pretty early, if the pieces are very well learned.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721366
03/15/18 09:18 AM
03/15/18 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
.
..... While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, ....
.

It is required to clarify: two stages ,and each has its own time.


Not sure about that. I think an adult student can begin playing simple pieces the second way pretty early, if the pieces are very well learned.


Indeed, you can concentrate on the desired sound pretty much from the beginning, before you have anything memorized. You can do it with a single note melody line. You can do it with the first seven notes of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" -- The first three are G's, and you can play those three G's alone in a way that people will recognize as "Night and Day".

It's what Little Richard says: "It Ain't Whatcha Do (It's The Way How You Do It)"


-- J.S.

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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721404
03/15/18 10:54 AM
03/15/18 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
.

There are two ways of playing the piano. The first way is when technique guides the music; the second way is when music guides technique. While playing the first way, a person thinks mainly of making correct arm and hand movements, hoping that such carefully performed movements will produce a sound of certain tone. While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, hoping that his/her brain will intuitively find out a correct body motions to produce that sound.

.

It is required to clarify: two stages ,and each has its own time.


Not sure about that. I think an adult student can begin playing simple pieces the second way pretty early, if the pieces are very well learned.

I'm not understanding your thought process in what you're saying. You have a cause-effect: if a piece is "well learned", this will cause the student to be able to intuit correct body movement while aiming at sound. The first thing is to understand what you mean by "learned". Most people seem to use the term to mean that the piece has been memorized, or that the student can ready very well and knows the piece inside-out - what the notes are, and how the notes should sound. Is that what you mean?

If that is what you mean, then I disagree with your logic. There is no reason why knowing what the note are, where they are on the piano, and how they should sound --- that this will cause someone to know how to move properly.

I am going by both logic and personal experience. This is precisely where I have to do the most work. I can grasp a piece of music quite early, and can hear just how I want it to sound. But the motions my body came up with to produce those sounds were awkward and ineffective. For slow beginner piece the desired sound could still be produced, but you can do ineffective and even harmful things for easy slow music and still get an effect. I have had to learn and relearn. The brain does NOT intuitively find the correct motions. If you began as a child, you were probably guided into some quite simple things that became automatic, and from then on, all your motions came from that healthy base.

The bottom line, however,is that nothing is black and white. I don't lean totally toward Nahum's idea either. It depends.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721422
03/15/18 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev


Not sure about that. I think an adult student can begin playing simple pieces the second way pretty early, if the pieces are very well learned.
I am sure that since each student is individual, so are the methods of work as well. The target is always attacked from several sides, and not necessarily in the same order. In this sense, we can say: for each student - his own method.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721425
03/15/18 11:30 AM
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Three things were brought up. A chicken-egg thing, a) whether feeling the music intuitively will induce the body to move the right way for producing the desired musical sounds, b) whether learning to use the body properly will get us at the desired musical sounds, c) "There is no technique". These three things were main themes in my first attempt at music lesson over about 5 years. It was a wild ride, and I learned from it.

1. "There is no technique".
An old 85 year old teacher told this to me first, after telling me to hang a violin bow from my fingers with no thumb, talking of sensitive fingers, and then, "There is no technique. This is all there is." My violin teacher struggled that year, first saying, "Everything is technique." then "Not everything is technique, you know." and finally executed a simple bow stroke, "There is no technique. This is all there is." All three being true.

If you see technique as a formula, as though we were Ikea furniture that must be assembled per instruction, and each thing like staccato, crescendo etc. is a formulaic set of motions, then you are looking for something that does not exist. In this sense "There is no technique." But there are basic principles, and everything grows out of them. "This is all there is." Some examples:

- If you sit ramrod straight with your hands a single "round shape", maybe somewhat claw-like for a chord, the sound you envision will never come out as you want it to. If you acquire a principle of ease, physical balance, that no joint should ever be locked - if you sit at a good height and distance so your body is not stressed, ditto. The principle of ease, naturalness, working with how your body works, how physics works, and how your instrument works: that is a root of technique. "Everything is technique. There is no technique. This is all there is." But not a formula. This one is true for all instruments.

- I perceived fortissimo as an intense loud sound, maybe an angry sound, and put force into my playing, also making the body tight, and did indeed produce loud sounds. Pianissimo was sad, quiet, the opposite, and was produced by a kind of sad limpness. Otoh, you can understand that loudness depends on speed of key descent rather than force: that a whip-like loose action rather than angry force can create fffffff - that when you engage more of your larger limbs, make larger motions, or smaller motions, you can affect dynamics. In other words, you have known variables to play with What I did initially was not effective. As soon as I tried to play fast and loud, the angry tension tied me into knots. My ppp was cutting out notes, and was uneven.

There IS "technique" in the sense of understanding such principles. In the example of ffff vs. ppppp and all in between; if you understand about keeping the body unspasmed, and the variables of degrees of motion and speed, then you can play with these things. Much is a matter of degree. We have staccatissimo going to a blurred new age super-beyond-legato blur. You could say they are "one thing", namely the amount of space between two subsequent notes.

This is what the teachers I dealt with back then meant by "There is no technique. This is all there is."

Otoh, if an accomplished pianist who maybe doesn't teach says it, then she may not be aware that she is using well practised technique every time she plays, and what she thinks is instinctual (and is) arises from that kind of base.

I hope this makes some sense. I had to figure this out over several years, and some of what happened in between was not a nice experience.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721432
03/15/18 11:52 AM
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On the chicken-egg part, Iaroslav's idea is what was applied first. It was a brand new instrument that I had never played before so there was no issue of starting with wrongly learned technique. I learned several years down the line that the idea was that if I "let go" to instinct, my body would go into a crude direction of the technique that would produce the sound. To some degree that had happened. But I had hit a glass ceiling, and I was also full of aches. When I started finding points of technique - mechanical, technical, "unmusical" things - the quality of my playing made a sudden improvement. The teacher I was with discussed this very thing, and the balance of the two got turned around.

The main principle I learned at the time, is that technique and "music" (the expressive part) are not two separate elements to be pursued separately: you go after technique, then you go after music ..... or; as soon as your attention goes to the one, the other snaps shut. This was the first discussion I ever had. Instead, it was proposed that technique and music are intertwined, one causing the other. The question then came, Which do you focus on, to get the other going?" For me, where I was at, where my strengths and weaknesses were, it had to be:

- understanding how to use my body to affect sound on the instrument; while learning the nature of the instrument
- understanding "theoretical" elements of how music is constructed, music history etc., to help with making musical decisions (how fast, how loud, what to emphasize, etc.)

I had the instinctive part, but without the rest it was raw, crude, and limiting.

A simple example of these two elements would be a waltz. You understand 3/4 time, that it is a dance and if intended for the dance floor, should get the dancers' feet swinging through a strong downbeat and not ultra-rubato to mix them up; if in G major, you can easily find those F#'s. Physically you know how to make the melody louder, how to make the melody sing with phrasing etc.; how to pedal; what sound you want in the LH and how to produce it physically. And then you also "feel" the waltz ..... but also knowing what to listen for in your playing, and what to aim for.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: keystring] #2721484
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
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There are two ways of playing the piano. The first way is when technique guides the music; the second way is when music guides technique. While playing the first way, a person thinks mainly of making correct arm and hand movements, hoping that such carefully performed movements will produce a sound of certain tone. While playing the second way, a person concentrates mainly on the desired sound, hoping that his/her brain will intuitively find out a correct body motions to produce that sound.

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It is required to clarify: two stages ,and each has its own time.


Not sure about that. I think an adult student can begin playing simple pieces the second way pretty early, if the pieces are very well learned.

I'm not understanding your thought process in what you're saying. You have a cause-effect: if a piece is "well learned", this will cause the student to be able to intuit correct body movement while aiming at sound. The first thing is to understand what you mean by "learned". Most people seem to use the term to mean that the piece has been memorized, or that the student can ready very well and knows the piece inside-out - what the notes are, and how the notes should sound. Is that what you mean?

If that is what you mean, then I disagree with your logic. There is no reason why knowing what the note are, where they are on the piano, and how they should sound --- that this will cause someone to know how to move properly.

I am going by both logic and personal experience. This is precisely where I have to do the most work. I can grasp a piece of music quite early, and can hear just how I want it to sound. But the motions my body came up with to produce those sounds were awkward and ineffective. For slow beginner piece the desired sound could still be produced, but you can do ineffective and even harmful things for easy slow music and still get an effect. I have had to learn and relearn. The brain does NOT intuitively find the correct motions. If you began as a child, you were probably guided into some quite simple things that became automatic, and from then on, all your motions came from that healthy base.

The bottom line, however,is that nothing is black and white. I don't lean totally toward Nahum's idea either. It depends.


By saying that a piece is learned very well I mean just that all notes and fingering are learned and memorized by muscle memory, so no cognitive effort is required to hit the right notes. It is difficult to concentrate on sound when one is struggling to hit the right notes. But once the the piece is memorized by muscle memory it becomes much easier.

The idea that the brain can intuitively find the correct motions may seem strange, but, in fact, this idea is fundamental for every sport that requires accuracy: tennis, basketball, soccer, hockey, darts, etc. If you have ever tried to throw a ball into a basket or to hit a bullseye with a dart, you know that concentrating on joint motions will get you nowhere, only very thorough concentration on the target (basket, or bullseye, or whatever) will bring success - after many attempts, of course. The same applies to the piano, but instead of visual feedback, like that in basketball or darts, you get auditory feedback. Being guided by auditory feedback is more difficult, because it's less natural, because the human relied almost exclusively on visual feedback during the evolution (hunting, fishing, etc.). Still being guided by auditory feedback is absolutely possible.

You might be right that for beginner some motions may be suboptimal even if they produce the desired sound, but I think it's only an issue of insufficient practice and slow tempo. As the tempo increases, the motions become more and more optimal, and it also happens intuitively and naturally, because our brain is designed by evolution to optimize the frequently repeated movements and the movements that need to be performed at higher tempo, in order to make these motions more economical. It's a natural process that we should take full advantage of.

And the only reason for this optimization to fail in an otherwise healthy person, that I can think of, is a tendency to constantly mindfully (over)control every motion, that disrupts the natural process of optimization. As one popular young lady said, "Let it go!" wink

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721539
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Iaroslav, I think that you are going by ideas and what might be, rather than experience as an adult student or teaching students. I'm also hoping that you will address some of the real things that I wrote and described. I wrote three separate posts, each on a different topic. They included concrete things and examples. My actual experience (as opposed to ideas and conjecture) are behind them.

In the meantime:
Originally Posted by Iaroslav
The idea that the brain can intuitively find the correct motions may seem strange,...

This idea does not seem strange. Otoh, over-reliance on this idea is what can get people into trouble.
Quote
but, in fact, this idea is fundamental for every sport that requires accuracy: tennis, basketball, soccer, hockey, darts, etc......

I am quite certain that in those sports, people are guided into their movement, and don't get there all by themselves. Is there any top tennis player who simply intuited his or her way in, and never had coaching or guidance?
Quote
Being guided by auditory feedback is more difficult, because it's less natural, because the human relied almost exclusively on visual feedback during the evolution (hunting, fishing, etc.).

We do not rely almost exclusively on visual feedback, in addition to which some people are more auditory, some more visual, and some more tactile. Be that as it may, whether the cue is from the eyes or the ears, inefficient and wrongly conceived motion to produce the right sound will still happen. Did you read what I wrote, and my examples? That is exactly what did happen.

Quote
....but I think it's only an issue of insufficient practice and slow tempo. As the tempo increases, the motions become more and more optimal, and it also happens intuitively and naturally,

That is a theory. No, that is not what happens. For you, who did learn to move well with a good basis of movement, this will happen. For me it did not happen. I just seized up. However, I have been told by trained pianists and teachers, that if you get on the right track, then the motions may indeed become optimal.

I got stuck four YEARS as a student because I was with a teacher who tried your theory. It was a painful dreadful experience, and it didn't need to happen at all!

Please do read what I wrote previously, especially, the 2nd one defining "technique". I'd be interested in your response.

Last edited by keystring; 03/15/18 09:22 PM.
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721549
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I think listening is soooo very important. I’m very fortunate and able to listen really well. In fact if I try focusing even more than usual on listening while I practice I’ve found the next day to have improved a lot MORE than if I didn’t bother listening much.

That said, I find it much harder to listen when I’m just beginning a new piece. And yes, recording yourself is AMAZINGLY helpful but I would suggest not only playing it back for yourself but listen WITH your teacher.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721704
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Originally Posted by keystring
Did you read what I wrote, and my examples?

No, sorry, I had no chance to. While I was writing the response to your first post, you wrote two more. smile

Originally Posted by keystring

We do not rely almost exclusively on visual feedback, in addition to which some people are more auditory, some more visual, and some more tactile.

I was talking about feedback that guides our motions. I can hardly imagine prehistoric physical activity that was guided by auditory feedback, except, maybe, for slinking on a hunt. But I agree that there are people who are more talented at being guided by the sound than the others.

Originally Posted by keystring

I am quite certain that in those sports, people are guided into their movement, and don't get there all by themselves. Is there any top tennis player who simply intuited his or her way in, and never had coaching or guidance?

You are absolutely right. Initially the correct motion should be shown and described verbally by the coach. This is quite obvious. The question is when the transition from concentration on a motion to concentration on a target should take place. If I remember correctly, when we learned to play basketball at school we had exactly one lesson on which a coach was showing a correct technique of a throw and then we had a couple of lessons on which he made remarks about it. After that AFAIR he never touched that topic and we were supposed to improve the throw by ourselves, doing exercises and concentrating on a basket. That's the natural way of impovement after some initial guidance. The fine movements on the piano seem to be more complicated and they require more conscious relaxation, still I believe that it doesn't require more than a few months for adult to start playing the simplest phrases with concentration on the internal sound image and auditory feedback. At least to try to do it. I agree with Nahum that each student has different qualities and for someone a few months may be too soon.

And certainly I don't mean that all practice should at once be carried out that way. I just think that it would be great to indroduce such training to adult students early as an exercise, using the simplest, well learned pieces as I have mentioned.

Originally Posted by keystring
I got stuck four YEARS as a student because I was with a teacher who tried your theory. It was a painful dreadful experience, and it didn't need to happen at all!

I'm aware of the problems you had in the past and I'm very sorry about it. But I consider your experience quite exceptional and I would not generalize it. It seems that your first teacher ignored even the most fundamental things that must have been taught first of all and you had no option to learn them from other sources. Furthermore your situation might have been aggravated by some general motion coordination difficulties. But I hope all this is not the case for most students and trying to concentrate on aural image and auditory feedback will bring no harm.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721728
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
[ trying to concentrate on aural image and auditory feedback will bring no harm.


This view was discussed with the late Vladimir Mazel ( about which I already wrote on the site), which researched it for decades. His conclusions were: 1. in specific situation there is only one correct movement for the desired sound production , 2. you can achieve the correct result by incorrect movement, 3. correct and incorrect movement may look quite the same.
Right movement is a movement that takes place in accordance with anatomical structure and possibility of the human body. The main thesis of the Russian piano (and adjacent) school: "Play even with nose, the main thing is to sound! "- is the complete opposite.
How many performers ruined their technique ,and only then became patients of VM !

Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by keystring
Did you read what I wrote, and my examples?

No, sorry, I had no chance to. While I was writing the response to your first post, you wrote two more.
I have the same problem. ))

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721750
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Iaroslav, thanks for responding. Yes, I had sort of forgotten that I wrote those three posts one after the other, and if you saw the first right away and responded, you wouldn't see the others.

In the meantime, I would like very much for you read and study those posts retroactively. I put together concepts and things I learned over some years. It's not light reading. I'm no oracle or claim exclusive knowledge, but simply, we can't really communicate about these things unless we catch up that way.

Originally Posted by Iaroslav
I'm aware of the problems you had in the past and I'm very sorry about it. But I consider your experience quite exceptional and I would not generalize it. It seems that your first teacher ignored even the most fundamental things that must have been taught first of all and you had no option to learn them from other sources. Furthermore your situation might have been aggravated by some general motion coordination difficulties. But I hope all this is not the case for most students and trying to concentrate on aural image and auditory feedback will bring no harm.


I will never put out a generalization willy nilly. When you think it may be exceptional, this is by theorizing where adult students are. You're postulating some norms that you find logical, and may not be how things are. Let me try to set out some of what I found.

(A caveat: people differ from each other, and that is kept in mind.)

*** When I got into this over a decade ago, the talk everywhere was about the "impossibility" of adults learning anything of substance in music, that they soon quit, and fall drastically behind. Nobody was looking at what was being taught to adults, or how it was being taught; nor what process adults were using for learning, toward what kinds of goals. Here are some teaching principles:

- If my student isn't learning and is struggling, either it's because that student has limited intelligence or abilities, or a learning disability or physical handicap; or it's because of my teaching (what, how, toward what etc.)
- when I've taught students coming to me with problems, often there were underlying fundamental things that were missing, and when those were gotten, everything else opened up
- teachers can be wedded to the belief that their teaching principles are sound, by tradition or similar, and dismiss any casualty to that method as being due to lack of ability or diligence, and thus don't question their own "what, how, toward what" of teaching.

In short, there was an all-round problem, but it was being dismissed as "this group can't learn". If everybody else was fine, but I wasn't, then I'd be unique.

*** The solution for my own thing was to get a fundamental things, especially for physical playing. Initially I simply had a gut feeling that "there is something at the bottom that's starting from the wrong place". When you seek, you find, since others addressing similar things will appear. So then:

- some teachers starting appearing publicly such as Jaak Sikk and Piano-Ologist. Both went at the most basic elements of moving, using the body, and it was at the level of the small child getting at things. It is logical that if kids are getting it; adults aren't; adults are approaching things several abstract levels above the kids, maybe that's why "kids succeed and adults don't". These folks were addressing things at a base level that I needed, and clearly they saw a need for that. I saw the adult students of some of them, and there was a clear smoothness to their motion and sound that was not "typically adult".

- I was seeing students publicly working out things and being helped, and I also worked together with fellow students here and there trouble shooting. Often again it would be missing fundamental things; the physical was in there, as well as things such as presumed reading abilities, and approach. Very often these students were being rushed forward, or the very basic things were never addressed and so remained faulty. The idea was that it would "gradually come automatically" but it never did. Some sought another teacher and moved forward; others asked their existing teachers for a different kind of teaching. One switched to a teacher who had been trained by Taubman herself, and things turned around that way.

Both of these points suggest that I am not unique. The balance of various elements will be unique to me, but not the whole of it.

- Meanwhile, in PW students will discuss foundations; effective practising; elements such as rotation and other movements. Those who are doing well with their teachers often write about the physical elements being taught to them. If anything, I think I've seen a rise of this over the years.

-----------------
If I write more, it will get tangled up. I'm insisting again to please read where I set things up. For example, the idea of "technique" can go the wrong way.

Last edited by keystring; 03/16/18 01:51 PM. Reason: still not satisfied with what I wrote
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721768
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Originally Posted by keystring
For example, Nahum's quote about the body, which leaves out the nature of the instrument and knowledge of music. .
keystring, you counterpose the body and instrument? Because the student from the very beginning studies 2 tools, and not by very intuitive way, otherwise there would be no need for teachers.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Nahum] #2721771
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by keystring
For example, Nahum's quote about the body, which leaves out the nature of the instrument and knowledge of music. .
keystring, you counterpose the body and instrument? Because the student from the very beginning studies 2 tools, and not by very intuitive way, otherwise there would be no need for teachers.


Sorry, I deleted a rather brief post because I was finding myself too insistent (pushy) writing too many posts in a row.

I wrote three posts yesterday where I tried to set out all my main ideas and how they intermesh together. You will find the three elements in there. wink I hope that helps.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721867
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I've read all the posts- but can't take the time to comment on so many. I have to say I appreciate keystring's efforts to "fight the good fight" and represent music students who have had poor teaching (insufficient or misdirected) or negative learning experiences which handicap their progress. I have similar experiences to examples presented here, both as a student and a teacher.

Tension can cause stilted, unnatural movement. Over-zealous, unnatural practice can cause injury. For example, I played Hanon and other exercises fingers high and pounding month after month until my forearms swelled and I had ganglion cysts in my wrists. No pain no gain, right? No one told me not to practice that way and I figured the problem was that I needed more rigorous training. Seems silly now--but anyone older should be able to relate to this mind set.

Mental or emotional tension can also cause stilted, unnatural movement. That may come from overly negative, critical teaching (or family dynamics). Once a student becomes self-conscious, on-cue efficient, natural execution of a physical movement can be very difficult. I don't think there's any need to give examples here. It's a vicious circle of tension, poor performance, and criticism.

I don't think just these two types of experiences are that uncommon. Add to these, what's already been discussed, just some lack of athleticism, or need to break a bad habit...etc. Not that uncommon.

I was not taught much technique as an adolescent piano student. Two examiners commented that while I was "mature" in musical feeling, unfortunately my technique was too poor to support that expression. I wasn't from a musical family. If my teacher didn't correct me, who knew? After 6 piano teachers in my life, and hurting myself a lot (with long, long breaks between) I finally learned, for example, how to move the wrist at the end of a slur. That was a couple years ago. Amazing, isn't it? I had some well-credentialed teachers too. (I am so grateful, finally in my 60's, to have a wonderful teacher who teaches "me.")

I don't believe we can all have ideal, well-matched teaching. Realistically we all make do with opportunities we have. My point is that a student should not be told by their teacher they're doing something wrong, without the teacher demonstrating and teaching, step by the tiniest step, if needed, how to correct the problem for that particular student. Students need tasks broken down to varying degrees.

The other route is to only accept naturally talented students.

As a child and adolescent I wanted to study music. I didn't, I studied foreign language. I really like learning and teaching foreign languages. How many people say they got nothing from their foreign language studies? Well, I lucked out and had incredibly gifted foreign language teachers--storytellers and comics who knew how to feed the students just the right amount and deal tactfully and efficiently with problems before they became big obstacles.

So much has been written here--better than what I've contributed. Just wanted to add my 2 cents.

(Another thumbs up for Jaak Sikk)


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2722144
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Originally Posted by keystring
In the meantime, I would like very much for you read and study those posts retroactively. I put together concepts and things I learned over some years.

All right. Sorry for delay. Today I have time to read your posts very carefully and I'll do my best to find some sensible comments for them.

Originally Posted by keystring
Three things were brought up. A chicken-egg thing, a) whether feeling the music intuitively will induce the body to move the right way for producing the desired musical sounds, b) whether learning to use the body properly will get us at the desired musical sounds, c) "There is no technique". These three things were main themes in my first attempt at music lesson over about 5 years. It was a wild ride, and I learned from it.

1. "There is no technique".
An old 85 year old teacher told this to me first, after telling me to hang a violin bow from my fingers with no thumb, talking of sensitive fingers, and then, "There is no technique. This is all there is." My violin teacher struggled that year, first saying, "Everything is technique." then "Not everything is technique, you know." and finally executed a simple bow stroke, "There is no technique. This is all there is." All three being true.

If you see technique as a formula, as though we were Ikea furniture that must be assembled per instruction, and each thing like staccato, crescendo etc. is a formulaic set of motions, then you are looking for something that does not exist. In this sense "There is no technique." But there are basic principles, and everything grows out of them. "This is all there is." Some examples:

- If you sit ramrod straight with your hands a single "round shape", maybe somewhat claw-like for a chord, the sound you envision will never come out as you want it to. If you acquire a principle of ease, physical balance, that no joint should ever be locked - if you sit at a good height and distance so your body is not stressed, ditto. The principle of ease, naturalness, working with how your body works, how physics works, and how your instrument works: that is a root of technique. "Everything is technique. There is no technique. This is all there is." But not a formula. This one is true for all instruments.

- I perceived fortissimo as an intense loud sound, maybe an angry sound, and put force into my playing, also making the body tight, and did indeed produce loud sounds. Pianissimo was sad, quiet, the opposite, and was produced by a kind of sad limpness. Otoh, you can understand that loudness depends on speed of key descent rather than force: that a whip-like loose action rather than angry force can create fffffff - that when you engage more of your larger limbs, make larger motions, or smaller motions, you can affect dynamics. In other words, you have known variables to play with What I did initially was not effective. As soon as I tried to play fast and loud, the angry tension tied me into knots. My ppp was cutting out notes, and was uneven.

There IS "technique" in the sense of understanding such principles. In the example of ffff vs. ppppp and all in between; if you understand about keeping the body unspasmed, and the variables of degrees of motion and speed, then you can play with these things. Much is a matter of degree. We have staccatissimo going to a blurred new age super-beyond-legato blur. You could say they are "one thing", namely the amount of space between two subsequent notes.

This is what the teachers I dealt with back then meant by "There is no technique. This is all there is."

Otoh, if an accomplished pianist who maybe doesn't teach says it, then she may not be aware that she is using well practised technique every time she plays, and what she thinks is instinctual (and is) arises from that kind of base.

I hope this makes some sense. I had to figure this out over several years, and some of what happened in between was not a nice experience.


I see. I usually use the word "technique" in a narrow sense, meaning exactly a motional formula that is used to produce a sound of a certain tonal quality. E.g. "finger staccato technique", "wrist staccato technique", "finger legato", "pedal legato", etc. Such formulas undoubtedly exist, trust me, and are widely used to communicate ideas between pianists. And I think the great pianist used that word in the same sense; by saying "There is no technique" he meant that he did not need a predefined formula, the formula (the technique) was born instantly in his fingers when he followed his mental sound. (Of course this requires experience and training.)

And when we say, for example, "Horowitz' octaves technique" we mean exactly that - his own technique, his own manner of playing octaves that was born this way in his fingers when he desired the new specific sound of octaves. At the same time we may say "Mister Smith's octaves technique is mediocre", it means that his octaves don't sound nice. If his octaves sounded nice, but his motions looked somewhat awkward, we would say "His octaves technique is unusual". wink We may perceive his technique as suboptimal, but in fact that technique may best suit his anatomy. That's why giving birth to one's own technique at some point is so important - we all have different hands. Just repeating the motions after somebody (a teacher, for example, or Dorothy Taubman, or Horowitz) is always suboptimal. And all the motional formulas are very schematic. Only by exercising and following our mental aural desires everyone of us naturally develops and optimizes his own technique(s). With time.

Your teacher obviously used the word "technique" in a broader sense, meaning not only the whole of these motional formulas, but also all the basic principles of playing piano and all the physics of the process. In that case yes, it makes some sense to say "Everything is technique" or "This is all there is". Though, strictly speaking, technique in any sense is still not the music.

Now, can some technique (in a narrow sense) be developed without mental sound image? In my opinion, in my experience, no. Except, maybe, the most simple things, I don't think anyone can consistently archieve the desired sound without imagining it first, at least for a fraction of a second before playing. Do I believe that it is possible to concentrate on both the motions and the sound equally at the same time and still archieve the desired sound? No. I think that adjusting motions knowingly inevitably breaks the desirable direct unconscious connection between inner sound and the hands. And when the tempo is high enough there is simply no time to think of both the motions and the sound, you have to choose. Do I believe that knowing the basic principles of piano playing (like keeping the unused muscles relaxed, keeping wrists flexible, using the arm weight) is essential for development of any technique? Absolutely. Until these principles are well learned and applied it may be better to stay away from the piano at all.

I hope I managed to make some points clear.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2722152
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Quite interesting to read the philosophical discussion here!

In the meantime, I e-mailed my teacher, said I'd like to practice according to her suggestions, but didn't know exactly how.

She encouraged me, for now, to focus on balance between the left and right hands, and on playing all notes in chords at exactly the same time. This I know how to work on. (When I started, I had a bad habit of loudly banging out accompaniment parts in the LH.)

She seemed to have more she wanted to convey -- I'll see what she has to suggest next time around.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2722270
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Iaroslav, thank you for finding the time. This is a good conversation. smile
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I see. I usually use the word "technique" in a narrow sense, meaning exactly a motional formula that is used to produce a sound of a certain tonal quality. E.g. "finger staccato technique", "wrist staccato technique", "finger legato", "pedal legato", etc. Such formulas undoubtedly exist, trust me, and are widely used to communicate ideas between pianists. ....

.... At the same time we may say "Mister Smith's octaves technique is mediocre", it means that his octaves don't sound nice. If his octaves sounded nice, but his motions looked somewhat awkward, we would say "His octaves technique is unusual". wink We may perceive his technique as suboptimal, but in fact that technique may best suit his anatomy.


You got what I'm getting at. This area is extremely important and may even be at the heart of everything. If you find a teacher who can bring even some such things across, you have a gem. It goes astray many ways.

What I've cobbled together over time:

To play a piece musically, you have to know what you want to achieve (eg. crescendo), optimally knowing why you want to achieve it (understanding), be capable physically to produce it. If you don't know it should crescendo, or can't picture cresc., then you're missing a key element. A 3-legged stool is sturdy. Remove a leg and it topples. Often our training can miss even the 'knowing' part.

Staying with one "leg" of the stool: physical technique: As you have set out, it is not a formula, or especially not an isolated formula. Instead, there are some overarching principles lying underneath, which are like a steady floor allowing us to dance any dance. Being well balanced and free to move, and free to move about the 3-dimensional topography of the piano is one principle. "Every joint must be free to move at least a little bit and none should be locked." The fact that loudness comes from velocity, which can also be affected by what proportion of small and large joints you move. These are the "atoms" that can be combined in many ways, continually changing, to give you "finger staccato", "wrist staccato" etc. which are simply variants.

If we're not there, we have to get at it. How teachers bring us there is a topic by itself. As is how teachers might actually block us from it. When we have a bit of knowledge, we can listen to our bodies for what feels more comfortable, what sounds better, and the practised eye and ear of a good teacher works wonders.

Quote
That's why giving birth to one's own technique at some point is so important - we all have different hands. Just repeating the motions after somebody (a teacher, for example, or Dorothy Taubman, or Horowitz) is always suboptimal. And all the motional formulas are very schematic.

Yes. Otoh, if you have started to sense things so that you can see some things behind what a pianist does, sometimes you can catch things or get insight. But not (I'm agreeing) the way described.

Quote
Only by exercising and following our mental aural desires everyone of us naturally develops and optimizes his own technique(s). With time. .....

Now, can some technique (in a narrow sense) be developed without mental sound image? In my opinion, in my experience, no. Except, maybe, the most simple things, I don't think anyone can consistently achieve the desired sound without imagining it first, at least for a fraction of a second before playing. Do I believe that it is possible to concentrate on both the motions and the sound equally at the same time and still achieve the desired sound? No. I think that adjusting motions knowingly inevitably breaks the desirable direct unconscious connection between inner sound and the hands. And when the tempo is high enough there is simply no time to think of both the motions and the sound, you have to choose. Do I believe that knowing the basic principles of piano playing (like keeping the unused muscles relaxed, keeping wrists flexible, using the arm weight) is essential for development of any technique? Absolutely. Until these principles are well learned and applied it may be better to stay away from the piano at all.


The main thing I disagree with is the "only", and the ONE-directional process. I do not disagree with the whole thing. :)I want to write about this separately, as it is another concept.

Last edited by keystring; 03/18/18 02:11 PM.
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2722276
03/18/18 02:10 PM
03/18/18 02:10 PM
Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,245
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keystring Offline
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keystring  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 16,245
Canada
To Iaroslav again. smile

On the concept you proposed:
Quote
Only by exercising and following our mental aural desires everyone of us naturally develops and optimizes his own technique(s). With time. .....

Now, can some technique (in a narrow sense) be developed without mental sound image? In my opinion, in my experience, no. Except, maybe, the most simple things, I don't think anyone can consistently achieve the desired sound without imagining it first, at least for a fraction of a second before playing. Do I believe that it is possible to concentrate on both the motions and the sound equally at the same time and still achieve the desired sound? No. I think that adjusting motions knowingly inevitably breaks the desirable direct unconscious connection between inner sound and the hands. And when the tempo is high enough there is simply no time to think of both the motions and the sound, you have to choose. Do I believe that knowing the basic principles of piano playing (like keeping the unused muscles relaxed, keeping wrists flexible, using the arm weight) is essential for development of any technique? Absolutely. Until these principles are well learned and applied it may be better to stay away from the piano at all.


I disagree with part of this, and in particular with the unidirectional cause-effect.

We have here: a) desired sound image b) physical action for creating it c) spontaneous unconscious connection between the two. I want to explore this. I suggest a fluid omni-directional approach.

A few scenarios. I mentally hear crescendo, and my "direct unconscious" connection is increasing force and tightness, which does create that crescendo. Or I mentally hear a sustained note, and I "hold it down" for its duration because that's how I picture it; even if pedal will hold it. These are not good, and they will stay. However, I can [i]create[/b] such connections, which will then be there in my "direct unconscious". I can use conscious knowledge, direct my body to do the effective motion for that sound, keeping my attention on the physical motion and tactile sensations, and hearing the sound secondary. After a while, when I picture that crescendo, my body will go into "automatic" and will go into that mode. The correct reflex will not necessarily be automatic through a "sound-cue" and it can in fact be very wrong.

I believe in a shuttling, or fluid approach, and it also depends where the person is at. Someone who "prehears" strongly will be in different place than someone who doesn't imagine any music as they play, and passively receive the sounds after typing them in.

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