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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: pianopi] #2720570
03/11/18 07:19 PM
03/11/18 07:19 PM
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I think the posts about Mortensen that pianopi is thinking of were on the Should recitals be error-free? thread.

There were also two other recent Mortensen threads: Mortensen on tension at the piano and More Mortensen.

Last edited by PianoStudent88; 03/11/18 08:03 PM. Reason: added links

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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: PianoStudent88] #2720575
03/11/18 07:57 PM
03/11/18 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
I think the posts about Mortensen that pianopi is thinking of were on the “Should recitals be error-free?” thread..

Found it, and also a "reaction" - mine. It was not a "complaint" but placing the video in context. It was in the context of 6 videos that presented a complete idea, and if that one was seen alone and out of context, it would be misleading. As part of the whole, it was spot on.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720584
03/11/18 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by impendia
Adult beginner, tense lesson with my teacher last week. I played Chopin's Waltz in A Minor for her -- I thought I did alright, but she was extremely disappointed.

What made you conclude that she was "extremely disappointed"?

Was this the first time playing the Waltz for her? If so, what were you hoping her reaction would be? If not, what were her reactions and suggestions the previous times?

A common scenario for the first few months with my second piano teacher was that I would learn the notes of a piece and bring it the week after, and she would stop me after a few bars and start reconstructing it completely. After a while I learned that just knowing the bare notes (and hacking them out) was not at all what she was looking for. Slowly I learned to pay attention during my practice to more than "did I play the right note at the right time."

Quote
She said (as she has said in the past) that the "quality of tone" is not there. I asked her what she meant, and she did give me some interesting practical advice: to touch the keys before I play them, and to not move my finger at the very last instant.

With my second teacher, every desired tone from the piano had a specific touch that produced that tone. My lessons could have been called "how to touch the piano" lessons instead of "piano" lessons smile . Is this the first time your teacher has given you physical suggestions for how to produce a certain tone?

Has she made "quality of tone" comments on other pieces beside this Chopin waltz? If so, which pieces? Are there any pieces where you have achieved her desired quality of tone?

Quote
But, to my frustration (and no doubt hers also), I don't completely understand what she's driving at. I kind of do -- when she plays and imitates my bad habits, I can usually tell the difference and agree that "the other way" is better. (Sometimes much better.) But not always, and I often don't hear this sort of thing when I am the one playing.

When you can't tell the difference or when you don't agree that "the other way" is better, do you tell her? What does she say in reply? When you can tell the difference, does she explain how she's producing the different effect? (If she is, I have some more thoughts, but it starts with whether she's explaining at all.)

There is perhaps something to be said for learning to produce different sounds by experimenting with different kinds of touch and listening for the different effects, but when I was taking lessons I had no idea of all the variables I could put into how I touched the piano, and would never have arrived at my teacher's solutions ever in a million years on my own. Fortunately, she gave me actual instruction and I did leave lessons understanding the physical motions and effects she wanted me to practice, and able to hear the difference it made in the sound, and thus I was able to practice on my own. Some effects took me weeks or months to achieve (e.g. the desired sound for the LH part in your Chopin waltz), but I was not operating in an instructionless vacuum.

Quote
When I practice, I confess that I tend to be happy when I hit the right notes at the right time. I do know that there is much more to playing than that, but I wonder if when I play, maybe my imagination is filling in the details from recordings I've heard, and not listening closely enough to the sounds actually coming out of the piano?

Do you want to learn to discern more in your playing than solely whether you're playing the right notes at the right time? If you do, is that your own goal or is it only because you want to please your teacher?

Quote
She asked me to hold myself to a higher standard. But I don't understand what this is, and have a difficult time telling if I've met it in my own practice. And my asking her to clarify wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped.

What did she say when you asked her to clarify? Also, there are two separate issues here: (a) what she means by "a higher standard", and (b) how you achieve that (including how you learn to discern it).

Quote
Any advice?

Thank you!

I have more ideas, but I want to understand more about your situation before going further, hence all the questions above.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720610
03/12/18 03:46 AM
03/12/18 03:46 AM
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"More hearing, less playing" - as Anne Goldsworthy's teacher kept repeating (in her book Piano Lessons).

This is something I have been focusing on recently - even if it's so much easier to just play through something, do scales and exercises, and basically complete your homework without paying enough attention. I'm also still at a point where I'm usually happy if I get all the notes right, especially with some pieces and when I try to practice "performing", but it's very clear to me that when I don't really know how something is supposed to sound, I just can't play it. If I don't "hear it", maybe I can read the notes and rhythm alright, but I can't really learn it and play it fluently, let alone give it expression.

What this really means and how to fit it into your practice, is very subjective and not at all straightforward. Recording yourself is good, even mandatory, but you should also learn to listen while you play. Maybe just slow down enough, and/or practice only short bits. I usually find that I play better if I listen to some great pianist's recording of the piece just before recording myself. I think that if I had a better ear and if I had listened to classical music since childhood, everything would be much easier for me now. I try to make up for it now by listening to a lot of music and also doing ear training exercises, even if that's quite frustrating.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720635
03/12/18 08:11 AM
03/12/18 08:11 AM
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Hi Impendia,

Maybe you can ask your teacher to work with you on listening in small sections, such as 4 measures, RH only. There's a lot to work on in 4 measures of a Chopin melody. If your teacher can't zero in and demonstrate how to improve your sound at this level, I'd suspect that she doesn't know how to teach. Tone quality, phrasing, shaping, shouldn't be tacked on AFTER you've learned all the notes. You have to undo all the bad habits of motion that you've practiced in.

I don't want to read too much into your situation, and I almost didn't reply because I'm painfully reminded of a teacher (highly credentialed BTW) I had some decades ago. I'd work on the entire piece and then she tear it to shreds--especially my "tone." I only had her for a year but she did a lot of damage.

There are teachers who will work with you, right as you start a piece, on tone, articulation, shaping, dynamics in small sections. They can demonstrate and make sure you hear differences and can play them yourself too. You can try out different ways of shaping a phrase, right in your lesson. Then you go home and practice your interpretation (again, in small sections). Eventually you improve your ear and technique and are able to apply what you've learned on your own.

The process is learning how to approach details in a piece and feeling confident about the appropriate movements (technique) to express them. After that, it's fluency, which is lots of practice--more for some of us than others:-)

Sorry if I misunderstand, but alarms went off as I read your post. Decide, as others have suggested, on your goals. Discuss with your teacher--she may not understand that playing musically is important to you. If she can't teach you, rather than just critique you, find a better teacher.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720648
03/12/18 08:46 AM
03/12/18 08:46 AM
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Sometimes our teachers disappoint US too! My teacher is--for the most part--wonderful, but she catches colds, gets watery red eyes, has sinus issues, and sometimes can be distracted by her own discomfort and health problems. I have learned to take the good with the bad, because her "good" is really amazing. She can tell me precisely what I need to do differently, and can figure out exactly why certain passages are difficult for me. However, I distinctly remember a time when she kept repeating the same words over and over and I had no idea what she meant. Finally, I put it into my own words, and she said "no thats' not what I mean," so I tried again, and eventually MY words fit with the meaning behind her words. and suddenly I "got it." It's messy business working so closely with someone who is far superior in skill and ability but trying to speak on equal footing with each other. I'd suggest that you let her know that you need different words to explain what she means, and then if this keeps continuing, I'd find someone else. The most damaging part of what you wrote---to me---is that she was disappointed in you. That's not acceptable, and it can make you feel horrible in the long run. If that continues, you must find another teacher. I hope that she just had an off day.



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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720673
03/12/18 11:18 AM
03/12/18 11:18 AM
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It is necessary but not sufficient that your teacher shows you how to do it. You need to do it yourself during the lesson, after your teacher has demonstrated it, and be able to repeat it at least three times (five would be better).

My teacher can explain something and demonstrate it and it makes perfect sense to me. Then when I try to repeat it myself, I find that I really wasn't picking up on some critical aspect. The time to deal with that is during the lesson, in front of the teacher. There should be a back-and-forth discussion and demonstration until you, the student, get it right.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: gingko2] #2720680
03/12/18 11:29 AM
03/12/18 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by gingko2
Hi Impendia,

Maybe you can ask your teacher to work with you on listening in small sections, such as 4 measures, RH only. There's a lot to work on in 4 measures of a Chopin melody. If your teacher can't zero in and demonstrate how to improve your sound at this level, I'd suspect that she doesn't know how to teach. Tone quality, phrasing, shaping, shouldn't be tacked on AFTER you've learned all the notes. You have to undo all the bad habits of motion that you've practiced in.

I don't want to read too much into your situation, and I almost didn't reply because I'm painfully reminded of a teacher (highly credentialed BTW) I had some decades ago. I'd work on the entire piece and then she tear it to shreds--especially my "tone." I only had her for a year but she did a lot of damage.

There are teachers who will work with you, right as you start a piece, on tone, articulation, shaping, dynamics in small sections. They can demonstrate and make sure you hear differences and can play them yourself too. You can try out different ways of shaping a phrase, right in your lesson. Then you go home and practice your interpretation (again, in small sections). Eventually you improve your ear and technique and are able to apply what you've learned on your own.

The process is learning how to approach details in a piece and feeling confident about the appropriate movements (technique) to express them. After that, it's fluency, which is lots of practice--more for some of us than others:-)

Sorry if I misunderstand, but alarms went off as I read your post. Decide, as others have suggested, on your goals. Discuss with your teacher--she may not understand that playing musically is important to you. If she can't teach you, rather than just critique you, find a better teacher.


Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2720689
03/12/18 12:19 PM
03/12/18 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
The ability to hear nuances of one's own playing is, in fact, the most critical thing for every musician. It is the thing that should be trained first of all and I'm sorry to say that without it any other type of training is mostly useless.

What you need to do to develop it, is to get a nice, slow, short phrase, that you feel comfortable playing, ....

Recording and listening to your recordings is also greatly useful.

Good luck! And be patient!


This is the most useful post in this thread (Iaroslav's, not mine).

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.

It's a waste of effort to memorize a bunch of notes without the right tone and feel. That would all have to be un-learned and re-learned to get it right, because the muscle memory would be wrong.




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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720709
03/12/18 01:55 PM
03/12/18 01:55 PM
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My own experience of Chopin is that this 'tone' is very hard to achieve. I've spending a lot of time on how to get the effect in some Chopin but I'm never happy with the result when I play the recording. I'm not saying that the above people are wrong, its just that I ask my teacher to explain and improve but I didnt get it sounding really nice. I know Chopin is very popular composer to play but I find get the sound right can be very difficult and I get quite impatient. I don't normally finish his pieces and dont really enjoy playing him. So to be honest I've stopped. There is a lot of other composers to play so I'm not without choices!

I think it is most important that you enjoy what you are playing. If you are not enjoying the Chopin and it is causing frustration , if you cannot get it dont worry. Rather than switching teacher or searching out for a magically tonal style, switching music pieces might be the best option. I often find you learn tone and musical style from many pieces and there are often many ways (hotly debated!) amongst piano players about how to achieve the best tone.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: JohnSprung] #2720730
03/12/18 02:34 PM
03/12/18 02:34 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.

Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2720762
03/12/18 04:11 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 04:43 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 06:32 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.


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Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: keystring] #2721071
03/14/18 09:12 AM
03/14/18 09:12 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 02:09 PM.
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2721078
03/14/18 10:00 AM
03/14/18 10:00 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
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721113
03/14/18 11:59 AM
03/14/18 11:59 AM
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Israel
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Nahum Online content
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Israel
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 12:07 PM.
Re: How to listen as I practice? [Re: impendia] #2721122
03/14/18 12:22 PM
03/14/18 12:22 PM
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JohnSprung Offline
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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 02:27 PM
03/14/18 02:27 PM
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impendia Offline OP
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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 02:55 PM
03/14/18 02:55 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

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