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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817663 02/19/19 08:38 PM
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The group is called Piano Technique and Musicality Improvement. Couldn't tell you the credentials, but I do think he is a teacher. I tried searching through the group, but it's hard to find old topics.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817665 02/19/19 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Animisha

But if you would have googled John Mortensen cat legato, you would have found this video!


I have seen the "cat legato" video before. It goes together with things I have learned, so I believe I understand it. Setting it out, especially for the needs many of us have here, is more difficult.

In theory, legato is a continuous line of sound. A singer who does a continuous oo-oo-oo-oo-oo while changing notes would be doing a true legato. Piano is such that even if you do link two notes legato by doing the almost-overlap thing, you'll still get dips as M illustrates. M's "legato cat" which he draws without ever lifting his pen, represents the attempt to create a "true legato". This drawing looks awkward and strained in comparison to his next cat, where he lifts the pen. The human mind fills in the missing parts and sees a whole cat. What a viewer or listener "fills in" is important here. M is talking about the aesthetics, which is part of it. But for us it also concerns the issue of tension etc. I.e. "straining to create perfect legato".

The important thing is this idea of the imagination of the listener, or how we hear things. I was once in a choir where the choirmaster had us sing a legato piece with short staccatos, because the church in which we would be performing had a huge reverb. It sounded horrid in the practise room but perfect in the church. Had we literally sung the music legato, it would have come out a mess wash.
(digression: on the topic - this is funny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqCDDRAy8hQ )

The thing I learned is that "piano is an instrument of illusion". For example, I may have a note, joined by another note 2 octaves away so my hand has to jump and leave the keyboard. Using the pedal, I can let that note keep ringing even though my hand has left the note a long time ago. If we try to literally hold on to every note, pressing it down for its duration, straining for a perfect legato, then we are introducing tension. Physical freedom is gained by discovering what you actually can do, and do not have to do, when you play the music.

Mortensen teaches at a university level. But I think some of the principles are things we get wrong at the grade 1 level, and they keep messing us up further down the line.

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: bSharp(C)yclist] #2817668 02/19/19 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
The group is called Piano Technique and Musicality Improvement. Couldn't tell you the credentials, but I do think he is a teacher. I tried searching through the group, but it's hard to find old topics.

Thanks. OK. I see now he does indeed meets the minimum credentials needed to criticize a colleague. In that case, I see it as more of a professional disagreement on approach. Also he's a DMA student if not already recently graduated with his DMA, and PhD students often find it almost their "ethical duty" as recent entrants to the profession to attack the views of members of "the establishment." In a past life, I was in a field where entire wars were cordially fought in the "Letters to the Editors" section of scientific journals where all combatants had an appropriate academic credential. smile


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817674 02/19/19 09:01 PM
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I don't think that's the same guy. The guy on facebook is a different race laugh


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817677 02/19/19 09:24 PM
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I don't care about "credentials". There are people who have a dozen letters after their name who are stuffy idiots using big words and lofty quotes, and others without letters who know something and have the capacity to think. What I want is actual arguments and facts. If somebody is critical of soandso that tells me nothing. What, in particular, are they criticizing, and why. What do they propose instead? Are they proposing it because they have taught students and it works: or did they read about it in some book so it must be so. Etc.

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: bSharp(C)yclist] #2817678 02/19/19 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
I don't think that's the same guy. The guy on facebook is a different race laugh

I find it hard to take seriously someone who puts Mortensen in the same bucket as Cory Hall.

Originally Posted by keystring
What, in particular, are they criticizing, and why. What do they propose instead? Are they proposing it because they have taught students and it works: or did they read about it in some book so it must be so. Etc.

What I've seen is he criticizes Mortensen for "zero musicality." For not playing scales evenly. For making remarks in his videos with "incorrect/irrelevant advice". He has shown no evidence for any of these three remarks, that I can see. He also claims that Mortensen is "haughty and arrogant," which is simply a hit. As a data point, I went to RateMyProfessors to see what students think of him. Nothing like "haughty and arrogant" comes up (he's rated a overall 4.9 out of 5.0 there).

BTW, Mortensen plays Piazzolla here. I know there are some Piazzolla fans on PW. You all can judge if he has "zero musicality" for yourself: (starts at 3:14)



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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817683 02/19/19 09:52 PM
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Mortensen is excellent IMHO.

For what it's worth, on a lower resolution scale, I was taught from the beginning that you move your hand according to what you're about to play, rather than what you're playing, if that makes sense. One simple rule that kept coming up.

Once you know that, a lot of these things start to make sense, the "cat" legato, wrist movements, etc.

I suppose the most obvious example of this "predictive" hand movement is the thumb-under that you learn for scales - to start moving the thumb when the preceding note is being played, or similar.

I find I don't really "strike" notes that much. Usually I think my finger is touching the key before I play it. I tend to strike a bit more with staccato.

In response to the original post, yes you should kind of get away with as little hand movement and stretching out as you can. This is, I'm guessing, how people with small hands play Rachmaninoff without the need for Schumann's cigar box.

The centering thing of Mortensen is bang on IMHO if it's the video I remember watching of him.

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Zaphod] #2817684 02/19/19 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod


I find I don't really "strike" notes that much. Usually I think my finger is touching the key before I play it. I tend to strike a bit more with staccato.


Along those lines, I often see posters here referring to every time they reach for or play a note as "hitting" the note / key.

That is a bad mental image for much of piano playing. Hitting is quite different from what is done to play softly, for example. Hitting, IMHO, contributes in some kind of way to tense playing. In other words, words mean things and our bodies / minds respond in kind.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: rocket88] #2817685 02/19/19 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by rocket88

Along those lines, I often see posters here referring to every time they reach for or play a note as "hitting" the note / key.

That is a bad mental image for much of piano playing. Hitting is quite different from what is done to play softly, for example. Hitting, IMHO, contributes in some kind of way to tense playing. In other words, words mean things and our bodies / minds respond in kind.


Yes, one "plays" it. Hence the nagging of "sink in to the note" by our teachers.

Mind you, a few of the pros have some pretty weird techniques. But we don't argue with that.

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817688 02/19/19 10:11 PM
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As a linguist ............ There is a fundamental problem, that we do not have an actual word to describe the action of the hand, fingers, and arms, used to elicit a sound from a piano, through interaction with piano keys, so as to set real hammers into motion on an acoustic piano - or imaginary hammers on a digital piano. Complicated definition on purpose. laugh

I don't like "press" either. It reminds me uncomfortably of the type of motion I developed from having been given a little "child size" electric organ as my first instrument, and bringing the same kind of "pressing" to a piano, as though it were an organ.

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2817703 02/19/19 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

I find it hard to take seriously someone who puts Mortensen in the same bucket as Cory Hall.


Maybe he was a former student. I'm not saying I agree with him, just interesting the difference in opinions. I don't mind Corey Hall, although his juggling video seemed kind of odd.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: bSharp(C)yclist] #2817706 02/19/19 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop

I find it hard to take seriously someone who puts Mortensen in the same bucket as Cory Hall.

I don't mind Corey Hall, although his juggling video seemed kind of odd.

Oops. Sorry, I should have been clearer. I have no problems with Cory Hall. I've even used his videos recently for Clementi Sonatina No. 1. I do know that Cory Hall is very tough on naysayers and bans people rather than defend himself. (I also know Cory Hall played my favorite piano piece, La Campanella, so far under performance tempo that I don't know why he even bothered! LOL).

However, Cory Hall has many detractors, while this fellow is the first detractor of John Mortensen I've read of. That's what I meant about putting Mortensen in the same bucket at Cory Hall. Personally, I think Cory Hall has gotten a bad rap, and there are other good pianists with foul tempers, so Cory Hall's temper should not be at issue w/ respect to his pianism or lack thereof.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Tyrone Slothrop] #2817713 02/20/19 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
What I've seen is he criticizes Mortensen for "zero musicality." For not playing scales evenly. For making remarks in his videos with "incorrect/irrelevant advice". He has shown no evidence for any of these three remarks, that I can see. He also claims that Mortensen is "haughty and arrogant," which is simply a hit.

There is absolutely nothing of substance here, when considering the quality of a teacher, or what that teacher is teaching. I studied a fair bit of Mortensen's material and I think by now know enough to be able to have some judgment on what I'm seeing. I found it excellent, and could at another time state way. But this is about that person's assessment.

1. "zero musicality" ---- That is general and subjective. It also says little about teaching. Some very "musical" pianists are not teachers though they may label themselves as such.
2. "playing scales evenly" (or not) ....What does that have to do with teaching? One could discuss the "evenly" thing, but that is another matter.
3. "incorrect / irrelevant advice". He would have to say what advice is, specifically, is "incorrect", or "irrelevant" (to what?). I can only go by my own impressions of those teaching units that I studied some time ago. I found all of it useful, none of it seemed wrong. I also found that if you look at only one video, instead of all of them in a teaching unit, you might not get the correct impression.
4. "arrogance" --- No idea. I suppose some good teachers are arrogant, and are still good teachers, but this again is rather subjective.

There is nothing there.

(Why are we discussing the merits of individual teachers btw? And is that fair to them?)

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Zaphod] #2817848 02/20/19 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Originally Posted by rocket88

Along those lines, I often see posters here referring to every time they reach for or play a note as "hitting" the note / key.

That is a bad mental image for much of piano playing. Hitting is quite different from what is done to play softly, for example. Hitting, IMHO, contributes in some kind of way to tense playing. In other words, words mean things and our bodies / minds respond in kind.


Yes, one "plays" it. Hence the nagging of "sink in to the note" by our teachers.

Mind you, a few of the pros have some pretty weird techniques. But we don't argue with that.
I find that very useful (and appropriate) as a mental image. Thanks for posting it. thumb


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817910 02/20/19 11:25 AM
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Talk to your teacher about your proposed claw method and she if she agrees with it.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2817923 02/20/19 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Talk to your teacher about your proposed claw method and she if she agrees with it.
I don't think the OP is proposing playing with the claw hands. Her teacher observed her doing it and suggested a remedy.

Originally Posted by Animisha
I just watched this video, called Tension at the Piano (Part 3): Lateral Reaching Vs. Centering. In this video John Mortensen explains that when you have to play a wide range of notes, you should not spread out your hand and freeze it there while playing each note, but move your hand so it is centered for each note. For a short demonstration, start watching at 3:55 in which he spreads his hand, and at 4:15 he plays while moving his hand.

This makes perfect sense to me, and it is actually the way in which I try to play.

However, when I recorded my playing and sent it to my video teacher I could see that I had claw hands. Her reply to me was: "Your hands look like claw hands because your fingers are hovering above the keys. Make sure that your fingers are always on the keys."

Now I know she is not the only teacher who says the fingers should be on the keys.
My question is: how do I combine playing with fingers on the keys with this motion that Mortensen describes?

This is a prime example of the advantage of having a teacher observe your playing. Better yet for the OP would have been an in-person teacher* who could have observed it while it was happening, suggested a remedy, and confirmed that the student understood and could implement the fix correctly.

*I know a "live" teacher isn't always possible.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Stubbie] #2817968 02/20/19 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Talk to your teacher about your proposed claw method and she if she agrees with it.
I don't think the OP is proposing playing with the claw hands. Her teacher observed her doing it and suggested a remedy.

Exactly!

Originally Posted by Stubbie
This is a prime example of the advantage of having a teacher observe your playing. Better yet for the OP would have been an in-person teacher* who could have observed it while it was happening, suggested a remedy, and confirmed that the student understood and could implement the fix correctly.

*I know a "live" teacher isn't always possible.

Of course! I am waiting for her feedback on my last video, so I can send her a new video, and ask her my new questions. In the meantime, this forum and friends help me a lot. smile


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Animisha] #2818078 02/20/19 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Animisha

My question is: how do I combine playing with fingers on the keys with this motion that Mortensen describes?


The discussion, exercises, and practice techniques in the following two videos were very illuminating to me. Although, I embraced these techniques at a time when my focus was on incorporating more gravity/arm weight forces into my play, the rolling/sweeping of the hand into optimal position behind/over each finger as it plays yields the dual benefit of avoiding tension as Mortensen describes in this video, and utilizing arm weight in lieu of finger striking power.

Here are the videos:
Hanon-Faber, Gesture 1: Fingers 1-5 “Swoop”
Hanon-Faber, Gesture 2: Fingers 5-1 “Arc”

I think Mortensen and Faber are in agreement. The Mortensen video in this thread additionally elaborates on this motion's benefit to playing wider spans than the Faber videos.


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Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Ralphiano] #2818141 02/20/19 07:43 PM
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An interesting, and not trivial observation with the "swoop" video - Turn the sound off so that you see what you see, instead of what you are directed to see by the words. Look also at the torso and the hips which tell you something about shifting body weight. Look not just at what a teacher demonstrates, but everything he does. In this instant, a student might "sit up straight" and only move the arms, wrists, hands as directed, while the teacher allows his body to be part of the movement. You end up not doing the same thing, and this difference may be a difference of being natural and relaxed. Also, feel what you feel - don't just imitate.

Re: Fingers on the keys and centering on the notes [Re: Ralphiano] #2818225 02/21/19 12:59 AM
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Thank you for the videos Ralphiano!


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