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Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Morodiene] #2873286
07/27/19 05:10 PM
07/27/19 05:10 PM
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 290
Tallahassee, FL
Chopin Acolyte Offline OP
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Chopin Acolyte  Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Morodiene

I think that unless you come to lessons with specific questions, teachers will generally listen to the whole piece and offer suggestions that run the gamut.

I think that it's worth just trying whatever your teacher suggests since you've been self-teaching for so long, but definitely if you have specific issues to be addressed, be sure to say that right at the beginning of the lesson and jump right in to that.

As for musician friends, does your teacher have other adult students? And if so, do he hold an adult student recital or piano "luncheon" or something? Another option would be to find a piano group in our area, where people who love to play just get together to play for one another, and that might be a great way to meet like-minded musicians. This social aspect to piano is not really something addressed during lessons (and rightfully so - you're spending money on education, not socializing), however, it's wonderful to keep things from getting too serious and to be able to share what you're working on with other musicians.


Great suggestion! I will ask him in the next lesson. Unfortunately, he's out of town for a long time, so I don't know when that might be.

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Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873327
07/27/19 08:01 PM
07/27/19 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte


I don't quite get that "not much time right now" shocked

I meant that I did not have much time to write so I just quickly dashed off my question. wink
Quote
Actually, I didn't! I probable should have, shouldn't I? I naturally assumed that he would acommodate to my plans. By the way, he didn't say anything, when I said what pieces I was working on he just said "okay" and when I played them for him he said okay, but this this this and that (pedal, details of dynamics etc.). I assumed that that's kinda like lessons work, student plays and the teacher will say what is to be improved. I also assumed that the technical things will get resolved over time (like some things got resolved when I studied alone, with a teacher I just hope to speed up the process by maybe figuring out what would help me quicker than I would figure it out on my own).


Communication is an important thing. I have had good lessons over the past number of years, but I started as an adult student who had never had lessons, before having piano lessons, and things went awry. In the "normal" path, a teacher will start with a child, and assuming he's a good teacher (not all are), he will be aiming to give the skills and knowledge needed - not just how to play this piece, and this next, harder piece. The teacher will also be mindful of what kinds of skills etc. are needed, and he usually has some way of developing or teaching them. When it comes to adult students, especially those who have studied for some years before, and esp. on their own, everything is a big unknown.

You guys are "having at it" without any kind of goals, consultation, plans, or anything. Assuming he's a decent teacher, I'd be asking what he would like to teach, what things he has observed that he thinks you may benefit from learning; if there is some way he would prefer to teach you that he finds effective; what your goals are, what he thinks of those goals, and if he has some ways he'd like to go toward them. Right now you seem to be sort of guessing at each other, lesson by lesson.

In regard to interpretation (wet or dry pedal etc.), some teachers give students tools so that they student can create his own knowledgeable interpretation eventually (like the Barenboim example). Others have an idea that there is one single correct interpretation, which they will teach, and none other. Your teacher could be either of the two. But if the skills-bit, and the goals-bit hasn't been established, what could he even draw on for the former?

I am sort of lost myself about what you guys are doing, what you are working toward. I think you listed some technical problems. Do you actually want to be working toward the fine points of interpretation, or do you want to be working toward whatever it is you are missing. communication, I think, is first. You can't work toward goals, when the goals are not clear, and you cannot work together with someone if both of you are groping around during lessons not knowing what the goals are.

I don't have the time to polish my thoughts, so I hope some of this is useful. If confusing, discard.

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: keystring] #2873340
07/27/19 09:27 PM
07/27/19 09:27 PM
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 290
Tallahassee, FL
Chopin Acolyte Offline OP
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Originally Posted by keystring
...
I don't have the time to polish my thoughts, so I hope some of this is useful. If confusing, discard.


No no, it's actually very clear and useful! I will talk to him to sure our goals meet.

(this is not a rant toward keystring)

As for the technique vs. interpretation: I firmly believe, that a pianist need to be trained in terms of technique, otherwise the pieces will fall apart, no matter how much in love he is with music and how much he understands music theory. I don't think any person need to be told how to feel music, especially not an amateur pianist who plays for the joy of it (for myself, for my family, friends etc., who are happy with any interpretation I give it). I am never going to audition for a job in music and sit in front of a bunch of furrowed brows telling me that my interpretation is wrong because I pressed pedal only half-way, while, in fact, I should've pressed it all way down and thus it's ruined and I'm a joke of a musician and never get a job. No, I play a piece however I feel it in that particular moment. However, when my technique lacks and the piece falls apart on some technicality (arpeggios, thirds, trills, whatever), that's very disappointing to me.

I get it that my interpretation, thoughts and reasoning for how I play wouldn't please Mr. Barenboim, but that's not my goal...to me "because I like it that way" is a completely valid reason. Sometimes I just sit at a piano and play random chords and intervals (even disharmonic) with random force and enjoy the resonances. Why would I do that? I don't know. My mind wanders. I don't feel like explaining my every mental step. On the other hand, if I play a piece and my hands are tense and I play wrong notes, that's pretty much indisputable and inexcusable, something even my non-musician friends would notice. I think professional musicians need to acknowledge that there is a group called "amateurs" or "enthusiasts" and that they might need different treatment... Maybe my goals in music is just to enjoy it personally, but gaining enough technique to do it without injury and comfortably with confidence. If I pay money to someone to work with me on that "technique" part, why would they feel and urge and divert the lesson to tell me that my feeling of music is wrong? If I hire a painter to paint my ceiling, why would I put up with him persuading me that my bathroom needs a make over and I need new doors (of course, the ones he sells) etc.? Maybe I like my bathroom the way it is! It might be reasonable (for example: it's better to paint the walls after we redo the floors, in case I want both done), but I don't see how proper (according to one teacher) pedaling and dynamics in one particular piece is essential for a general technique, i.e. being able to play arpeggios fast and comfortable without tension. I first must be able to play them fast and without tension in order to be comfortable to play around with dynamics in arpeggios. I don't know, I could go on and on forever, I guess I have a different opinion on this than most of pianist, but it's weird that someone would insist on getting done things B, C, D if I want to address thing A momentarily (much like the painter that wants to redo my entire bathroom despite I only want my ceiling painted).

Last edited by Chopin Acolyte; 07/27/19 09:27 PM.
Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873434
07/28/19 10:36 AM
07/28/19 10:36 AM
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Chopin Acolyte, to summarize what you are saying - you believe that you need the physical-technical means in order to be able to play the music, and this is what you need from a teacher; rather than a quibbling about interpretation. I believe I got that right. (?) I am also assuming that you wrote in the teacher forum, not to vent frustrations, but to get some advice. That is why I am writing. smile

So the first thing, as said before, is that no purpose for the lessons has ever been established, either by you, or your teacher - The teacher may well be following your "lead" because adult students are a relatively recent phenomenon and there is no "map". (I wrote this before). On this point:
Quote
If I pay money to someone to work with me on that "technique" part, why would they feel and urge and divert the lesson to tell me that my feeling of music is wrong?

This is why I asked before trying to advise. wink Your answers to my questions were that you did not state your goals to this teacher before starting lessons, he did not tell you what he usually does, and you did not ask. To your painter analogy: you invited someone who works with houses into your house, and he started changing your decor because you never said you wanted the walls painted. You never established what you wanted.

I'm coming from a dual place, because I am a trained teacher who has worked both in groups and one-on-one, and I am also a student who began lessons as an adult after having some self-taught background. The main thing that went wrong in my first ever lessons was that goals and purpose were never discussed (until the last year, which was a game changer) so we were both guessing and assuming.

We have solved the first layer of your problem: bringing to the surface, for you, your purpose for lessons. You want to solve your "technique" - the physical side of playing the piano. Your teacher can't know this: You never had this discussion.

[Had you known this first step initially, it would have been part of your selecting and starting to work with a teacher. This teacher may, in fact, train students in physical technique, and remediate physical technique in students, in which case if you state that goal, he may already have a game plan. But the kinds of discussion you are having, it sounds like you may have hired what I once saw described as a "finisher" - a teacher who gets advanced, well-trained students, and guides them in interpretation. What I have seen in recent years among adult students is that some want to make sure to get an excellent teacher, so they go to universities or lofty places and study advanced physics, so to say, with a prof who is not trained it teaching how to use counters for figuring out how addition works. Some advanced-type teachers do not know how to solve fundamental playing problems, because they are used to working with students who already have all that sorted out. The better ones do.]

The second step is that if your goal is established: get physical-technical playing in line --- the work to get there. How will this be done? This really needs to be in your teacher's hands. The teacher has to be competent to do this, want to do it (it's a major job), and know how to do it. If you hired this teacher as someone who is great at interpreting, is a fantastic musician who plays super wonderfully, or similar, he may not be someone who does this. Supposing he is:

The next immediate obstacle that will come up, is if you have your own ideas on how this will happen. It is very possible that you will have ideas of "how this will work" in the back of your mind that you are not consciously aware of, but that governs your expectations. For example, you've ended up with pieces in your lessons, where you actually want help with your technique. You may have the idea that if you always get tense hands in m. 120 of piece X, you should be working on m. 120 of piece X, and work on not getting tense hands. (Or you may have ended up with pieces, because your teacher asked you "what pieces do you play?") A teacher who works on remediating and (re)building technique will have ways of working that are not what you expect. He can only work with you if you are willing to work in the way he suggests for solving the problems - even if at the moment something doesn't make sense.

That is jumping the gun, however. At present, you are studying with a teacher for the first time in your life, newly, where your wish to solve technical difficulties hasn't even been established.

Solving problems in technique is harder and trickier than creating good technique in the first place. When I wrote that you need to work with the teacher in the way he suggests (once that goal has been established) it also has to be a trustworthy teacher. In remediating technique, some things will seem and feel strange or illogical, until they start falling together and working .... unless of course they are strange and make things not work. (Before finding the right teachers, I had that happening as well.)

Your first step is to establish your goals (which you have done), then communicate those goals to your teacher, and find out if he wants to work with you toward those goals. At this point, he may have a totally different game plan for you. You may need to indicate overtly that you are willing to try what he says; whatever repertoire, exercises, etc., that he suggests - because teachers hesitate on that front for good reason - students not following through, resisting, quitting, etc.

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873466
07/28/19 12:22 PM
07/28/19 12:22 PM
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Another part I wanted to address, hopefully more briefly:

Quote
..... I get it that my interpretation, thoughts and reasoning for how I play wouldn't please Mr. Barenboim,

I watched that Barenboim excerpt a couple of years ago and did not refresh my memory this time round. The point was that the student was not to a) follow some rules of how it's supposed to go (the mindset you are resisting at present), nor just throw himself at some feeling mindlessly, but rather, to have made decisions consciously and thus be able to state why he made those decisions. In your intro you have actually stated reasons for your choices.
Quote
.... "because I like it that way" is a completely valid reason.

It might be. Or it could be a beginning of something more. wink
Quote
Sometimes I just sit at a piano and play random chords and intervals (even disharmonic) with random force and enjoy the resonances. Why would I do that? I don't know. My mind wanders. I don't feel like explaining my every mental step.

Many of us do that, and I imagine that includes the professionals. To me this is part of discovery and learning. Hey - I really like what I just did there. What's behind it? Can I duplicate it? Can I do more with this in the future? And here some formal learning (incl. what you can find from reliable Internet sources) can come into play, and/or a knowledgeable teacher who can help expand on this.
Quote
On the other hand, if I play a piece and my hands are tense and I play wrong notes, that's pretty much indisputable and inexcusable, something even my non-musician friends would notice.

That, of course, goes back to our main point, already discussed.
Quote
I think professional musicians need to acknowledge that there is a group called "amateurs" or "enthusiasts" and that they might need different treatment...

Here you're stepping into my world, since I am a learner and not a professional, and am an age where I could never become one - I want to be careful about this one. First: What is it that any musician needs? It is skills and knowledge. On the knowledge front it is not, to play a piece how it is "supposed to be played" in order to satisfy some examiner with narrow prejudices. That's not real learning, and leads to shallow musicianship, sort of second rate, if that is all there is. Of course for earning bread an butter, some teachers may (all or some of the time) churn out students as products all creating the same predetermined things. But I hold that the amateur and the musician may want and need the same thing: namely the tools, with which to work. Understanding music is part of that. I do not want that withheld as a student because we need to be "treated differently". Rather I want to look at what things, needed by all musicians, I also need.

Your musical choices right now may be because of interpretations you heard by other players; If you can get to understanding these things more deeply, you can make your own interpretations, knowledgeably, and also understand better what it is that you like(d) in the things you like(d). *If* you want to go that direction at all. But if you want to get at technique then you need:

- directions that help you get at that technique
- material on which to practice that technique (which pieces will get you there)
- and possibly things like pedal choices, for the sake of the technique, even if it would not be your musical choice.

(That's the end of my off the cuff exploration. Response appreciated, if possible.)

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873531
07/28/19 02:52 PM
07/28/19 02:52 PM
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The pedal is either on or off on most modern pianos. Look at it yourself. My old piano allows me to clear only half of a big bass note's sound while changing chords above it, but that is rare. Half pedalling is not an issue at all for me and I've played piano for 44 years. The issue is when you choose the pedal down and when you let it come up. That's it. The rest is by feel.

As for arpeggios, try the following:
-change the fingering. For C major, play 4124 in the right hand.
-play 4(C)1 (E) 4 (next C) 1(E).
play 4141 all the way up the arpeggio.
Add the 2 back in.

I visited a teacher once who didn't want to stray from Samuel Barber's tempo for his blues movement of his Excursions (second movement) which is too fast. She wasn't interested in hearing competing interpretations on youtube. Sayonara.

That's what I'd say to you. Find somebody alive and responsive to your presence. Consider that the ultimate goal for a musician is to be self-guiding. As a piano teacher, I'd be thrilled to have a student like you who has a pulse and is alive.

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873553
07/28/19 04:24 PM
07/28/19 04:24 PM
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 290
Tallahassee, FL
Chopin Acolyte Offline OP
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keystring: I get your points, they're good, sometime I just have to trade my free time which I have rather little of, so I'd rather make choices that would get me to my goals as quick as possible (and not finding myself paying the same person for 5 years and instead of polishing techniques I wanted we're doing something he finds relevant instead)...but I totally get it, in the ideal world when I have all the time to discover all possible paths for several hours a day, I would listen to everybody and try everything (after all, every teacher says sometims slightly, sometimes vastly, different things (Hanon is great, you should separate your fingers and lift them high! No, Hanon is crap, separation is BS) - should I feel bad for not following ALL of them at the same time? You can always point me to someone else and say "hey, this is useful", and "hey, that is, too!" and soon all I would do is use all my time in the day to do it)

Candywoman: ever since the summer started, all undergrads including piano majors are probably taking vacation, so I have fairly unlimited access to our local practice Steinway grand which has a very good pedal - as I described earlier:
unpressed = note dies out immediately*
pressed half-way = various amount of which the pedal is pressed down creates different "reverb"-like effect when the notes are sustained but just a little.
pressed fully = standard sustain, as if the key stayed pressed down, plus all other dampers are lifted, so it creates that interesting resonance loom (if you check the score for Heroic Polonaise, the very first E flat octave in both hands is indicated with pedal, which is to be depressed at the end of the first beat - this is the proof they are aware of the resonance, if it wasn't for the resonance, there would be no point of pressing pedal down on a single chord which is followed by a rest)

Every piano is set up differently, so one has to play a bit with the pedal, but the effect of half-pedal is totally cool. Even my digital controller (VPC-1) sends continuous signal from the pedal and Pianoteq interprets it fairly similarly to the real piano.

*there's another practice Steinway grand which probably has worn out dampers, that buzz when notes are depressed (every note does this differently). The experience from that is somewhat stained and it doesn't sound good. Even a single chord sounds weird, since every note in it dies differently and it leaves pretty much random aftertaste.


Yeah I say if the teacher pushes you to a tempo you're not comfortable with, that's crazy. Mine says that I'll have enough time to worry about tempo and I should slow down to produce dynamics we'd be happy with in the first place and I agree with this: I found that playing something fast and loud is somewhat simpler than playing fast and quiet, especially if it involves (properly voiced) chords (playing a chord softly with one note standing out is hard even if it's just that one chord alone, let alone a sequence of chords). I hope to learn how to control my dynamics with him, since he seems to have good ear for that (and also, when he sits down to demonstrate, it sounds great, so he's not just a talker, he can really do it).

EDIT: thanks for the tip on arpeggio, I'll try it when I get to a piano...from what I've seen from Paul Barton or John Mortensen's videos, arpeggios are a lot about correct movement and rotation...I'm afraid this either clicks automatically with me eventually, or someone has to have a look at it and point out what I'm doing wrong. Now it's uneven and I sometimes miss notes frown

Last edited by Chopin Acolyte; 07/28/19 04:27 PM.
Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873567
07/28/19 05:23 PM
07/28/19 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
keystring: I get your points, they're good, sometime I just have to trade my free time which I have rather little of, so I'd rather make choices that would get me to my goals as quick as possible (and not finding myself paying the same person for 5 years and instead of polishing techniques I wanted we're doing something he finds relevant instead)...but I totally get it, in the ideal world when I have all the time to discover all possible paths for several hours a day, I would listen to everybody and try everything (after all, every teacher says sometims slightly, sometimes vastly, different things (Hanon is great, you should separate your fingers and lift them high! No, Hanon is crap, separation is BS) - should I feel bad for not following ALL of them at the same time? You can always point me to someone else and say "hey, this is useful", and "hey, that is, too!" and soon all I would do is use all my time in the day to do it)(


CA - What I just gave you is the path for getting at things as quickly as possible, with as little time wasted as possible. This begins with identifying your goal (I agree with your goal of wanting to get physical technique etc. in order), then finding the most efficient way of reaching that goal. I'm sure that you agree with me so far. Since you cannot find the answers by yourself, you engaged a specialist, which is also a logical thing to do. Am I wrong about anything so far?

2. The problem is that you engaged a specialist without telling that specialist what those goals are; In fact, he may not even be a specialist for your project (acquiring the technique need - solving technical problems that are currently aware of). This will not get you to your goal; you will waste your time. At present, you and your teacher are going in circles since he is focusing on things that are not your goal - that sort of underlines what I'm saying.

You seem to be arguing against what I'm saying, and that doesn't make sense to me. Either that, or you simply have not acknowledged my first point which is: You have to state your goal to the teacher you hire as a first step. Do you disagree with this? Can you see how things can go amiss if this is not done? The teacher has to want to help you reach that goal, and you need to work together in order to reach it. Do you disagree with this, and if so, why?

Otoh, you may not be arguing against my first point, but simply not acknowledging it.

So - the ARGUMENT(what you seem to be arguing against)
Quote
..... the time to discover all possible paths for several hours a day, I would listen to everybody and try everything (after all, every teacher says sometimes slightly, sometimes vastly, different things (Hanon is great, ......

You seem to be arguing against what you imagine I may be saying about working with a teacher. Of course that imagination can go anywhere, because you haven't actually experienced working with any teacher, until now, let alone a teacher helping you toward that kind of goal. wink You have the confetti which is the Internet - bits and pieces of shredded stuff spread helter skelter that can give us useful things and nonsense all mixed together.
So:

You approach a teacher and tell him that you want to get what you are missing, which is preventing you from being able to play well. That teacher observes you, and sees what you need to learn, and has things he will have you do, which he fashions over time as the two of you work together. It requires a really good teacher, or you will indeed be wasting your time. It has nothing to do with Hanon or other popular stuff. And if you do not work with that teacher ........ including intelligently .......... then you are also wasting your time.

I am also short on time - both in life years, and literally today, tomorrow, etc. in everyday life. I took the time to write because I once found myself going in circles, having lessons going toward the wrong goals, because I didn't know what I needed to know. The stating of goals was the first thing - one cannot assume in this regard. I hope that my time has not been wasted. Please do consider these things.

To the teacher you will engage / have engaged:
- I want to work on my physical playing so that I can play well with ease (or some wording in that direction)
- Will you help me?
- (and if he does, --- he being this teacher or another) -- after he observes you ..... Do what he suggests, take time to understand, give feedback on what does and doesn't work, be ready to listen, if you're confused speak up.

Reasonable, or not? wink

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: keystring] #2873575
07/28/19 05:45 PM
07/28/19 05:45 PM
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 290
Tallahassee, FL
Chopin Acolyte Offline OP
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Oh yes, I see that what you suggest makes sense: I just need to talk to him again that my goal is actually to work on technique smile I'll see about his reaction, but some teacher operate on basis of having a few pieces to practice and technique being just a thing to improve "on the side"... What you say totally makes sense, it is up to me to express my desires to him, not up to him to guess them.

Originally Posted by keystring

You seem to be arguing against what you imagine I may be saying about working with a teacher. Of course that imagination can go anywhere, because you haven't actually experienced working with any teacher, until now, let alone a teacher helping you toward that kind of goal. wink You have the confetti which is the Internet - bits and pieces of shredded stuff spread helter skelter that can give us useful things and nonsense all mixed together.


Actually I had a teacher the first year I started, but she pressed too much on the side of etudes and scales and technical exercises which I didn't like, I wanted to PLAY THE REAL MUSIC laugh only a few years ago my viewpoint completely shifted, as I realized a thing: if I want to play a piece, I take the score and read through it. If there's a troubling passage (arpeggios), it doesn't seem to be such a great idea to address that technicality in that piece, because 1) it slows down the progress in that piece significantly 2) makes me hate that piece eventually. So I actually prefer to play a short exercise to address some issue before I get to that issue in real music, which can help greatly!*

Maybe the mistake I made when he asked what are my immediate goals was to list pieces I'm currently working on, while in fact, my true goals I need help with from him are of a technical nature.

*Example: first page of the (Chopin) Heroic Polonaise contains four phrases consisting of semiquaver chords. Before I even thought about playing chromatic thirds in one hand I wanted to play Heroic Polonaise but couldn't wrap my head around it. I put the piece aside, even forgot about it and eventually I thought that practicing chromatic thirds might be a good idea, I looked up a fingering on the internet and then I got back to the piece. I played the first page in solid tempo after 30 minutes. It's doing a short simple exercise a few minutes each day for one week vs. making myself hate my favorite piece because one page of it would take one week. I pick the former. Practicing thirds aside from any real music also made me think about fingering in a more clever way, in a way that it would sound more smooth and be very comfortable for both hands, if it appears in music. This was just a particular example, but for me it solidified this idea of how to approach music: first, having the technique to do it, only after that attempt to play real music (which will be much much easier and will progress infinitely faster). I have a similar problem with Rachmaninoff 23-5, the middle section with (slower) arpeggios in left hand. My hand tenses up when trying to play quicker, I can't wrap my head around some of the progressions etc. All it would take I think is to explore some technical exercise for arpeggios in left hand and maybe play something that is exclusively focused on arpeggios (wouldn't hurt to solidify arpeggios in the right hand, for that matter). My teacher said that I can try Chopin 10-1 and 10-12, actually he deems those "easy" (and I trust him, since he's not the first person to say this about Waterfall and Revolutionary). However I'm afraid teachers kind of frown upon putting pieces aside, it makes the student look indecisive and vacillating in his taste, while, in fact, I'm happy to return to Rachmaninoff after I have a solid technique on arpeggios.

Sorry for the long post, and for wasting your time, I just feel like I needed to set this straight.

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873586
07/28/19 07:24 PM
07/28/19 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
Maybe the mistake I made when he asked what are my immediate goals was to list pieces I'm currently working on, while in fact, my true goals I need help with from him are of a technical nature.

Very likely.

There’s a trap that can arise in music lessons where the teacher thinks the student will only work on pieces, and not just any pieces, but only the pieces the student likes, and therefore the teacher doesn’t bring up any alternate ways of working. In the meantime (as revealed by you in the next paragraph I quote), the student might think the teacher only wants students who are devoted to pieces, and therefore the student doesn’t bring up any alternate goals.

Quote
However I'm afraid teachers kind of frown upon putting pieces aside, it makes the student look indecisive and vacillating in his taste, while, in fact, I'm happy to return to Rachmaninoff after I have a solid technique on arpeggios.

Why do you think this, if you’ve never had a teacher before? In any case, you don’t want just any teacher, you presumably want a teacher who can help you reach your goals.

As keystring says, communication with your teacher is key. You might describe what you said in your long paragraph (that I snipped from between the two paragraphs I did quote) to your teacher, and ask him what he thinks about that kind of approach, and if he uses some other approach, what is it? And/or share your final sentence in this paragraph, about putting aside Rachmaninoff to focus on your technique goals.

Further regarding technique: you listed some very specific techniques that you feel are interfering with your playing. Are you open to your teacher hearing other things in your playing which he also points out as techniques for you to learn? There isn’t necessarily a right answer to this, but a “yes” answer would be an avenue for enlarging both your musical and technical horizons, and also acknowledging that your teacher may have a wider perspective and knowledge to share than only treating your self-diagnosed ailments — as you describe he has done with dynamics for you.


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Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873677
07/29/19 03:11 AM
07/29/19 03:11 AM
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keystring Offline
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Originally Posted by Chopin Acolyte
Sorry for the long post, and for wasting your time, I just feel like I needed to set this straight.

It would only be a waste of time if the conversation were one-way..
Quote
Actually I had a teacher the first year I started, but she pressed too much on the side of etudes and scales and technical exercises which I didn't like, I wanted to PLAY THE REAL MUSIC laugh only a few years ago my viewpoint completely shifted....

If you're 26 now, then you were a 16 year old kid then - of course you wanted to play real music! smile In any case, now is now and this is where you are at now. Etudes, scales and exercises do not give us the skills and of themselves, unless they are practised in a good way, and with purpose behind them. Maybe those things would not have served you well then, for more than one reason.

You're finding other ways of working on music now, such as approaching a new technical skill or problem away from the music, so that you have the skill when you get back to the music. There are lots of approaches. One of the things I discovered was the fact of approaches, and that is changes things considerably. One thing too is that it's not only a matter of fingering, but can be ways of moving that may be different - there are lots of variables. That in itself already gives more possibilities, or makes more things possible. If you do manage to communicate with your teacher about this, it would be interesting to know how that evolves. smile

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873678
07/29/19 03:21 AM
07/29/19 03:21 AM
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 290
Tallahassee, FL
Chopin Acolyte Offline OP
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I will talk to my teacher once he gets back in town so we're on the same page (or try to be) and let you know how that went.

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2873913
07/29/19 07:12 PM
07/29/19 07:12 PM
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RogerRL Offline
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I don't have much experience in being taught piano, but tons with classical guitar. Simply put, some teachers have an extremely rigid and unyielding view of music. I recall playing a piece by Leo Brouwer. For better or worse, my playing was heavily influenced by a guitarist who is a friend and collaborator with the composer, and also internationally recognized as one of the best of the best. So, no way to argue he is 'wrong', all you can say is you may not personally like his performance choices. I guarantee he knows more about this composer than any commenter.

Not one friggen note played by me was found acceptable. Not that my playing is flawless, but all the criticism centered on interpretative choices. This is latin american music, it has a beat not captured too well by the traditional notation, it has conventions that are usually not notated (e.g. chords are habitually rolled, and so on). Nope, not allowed. He'd complain about x, I'd point out I have 3 different recording where x is done at that point, not acceptable. There is only one correct way to play, which apparently is a way that has never been recorded by a great artist. Then there was the cello teacher that required all of Bach to be played in the French style, even when playing an Italian dance, the piano teacher that insisted you couldn't finger pedal Bach because it wasn't notated.... oy vey.

Life is too short for that, for 'shutting up' and listening to what your teacher tells you to do, IMO. It's one thing if you are being asked to do something to correct a technical deficiency, but another if you are being fed pre-formed interpretive choices.

Here's a story I like that Philip Glass told about himself. He is a proponent of free, liberal interpretation of music, and has stated so in several interviews. One time he was at afriend's house, also a pianist, and asked Glass to play a specific Glass composition for him. Glass did so, quite freely. The friend was flabbergasted, asking 'You can play it that way!!??" Philip's response? "Apparently".

I love much of classical music, but can do without all the strictures. Don't wear short dresses (Yuja Wang), don't hum(Gould) don't sway around, don't ignore the pp in this section, did you hear that gratuitous staccato. tsk tsk tsk. Sour faces complaining. Nothing is good enough. Play it exactly in the approved way, don't you know the composer is rolling in his grave.

I love this story about Casals (the great(est) cellist). A cellist had a very important premiere, and Casals attended. It was one of "those" nights. Wrong notes, memory lapses, wobbly intonation, a night when you just want to crawl off the stage. Casals came back stage afterwards and praised the cellist effusively. This rubbed the cellist the wrong way, as it was clearly not genuine, but they merely said thanks and turned to somebody else. Many years later he ran into Casals, and decided to bring this up, as it still rankled them. Casals immediately cried out "No, no, not at all" or something like that, and then proceeded to recount the entire program. 'I loved how in the 6th bar you used Bariolage", "In this passage you played close to the frog; I've never heard that done in this piece and I incorporated it into my own performance", and so on through the entire program. He was listening for the music, not for the mistakes, and was genuinely moved by the music that night, so much so he not only remembered it years later, but it actually changed how Casals played the music himself.

Probably none of us can be the musician Casals was, but we can try to learn from him to be a bit better, more open and accepting, to love the music, not the petty rules of the international stage or the world weary disdain of the professional reviewer. A musical peformance is a gift. I'd love to hear your dry pedalling, even if it is not how I would play myself.

I like watching Schiff master clases; he has very definite ideas about interpretation, but even he will say "try it this way, in the end you choose, but try it my way".


Last edited by RogerRL; 07/29/19 07:18 PM.

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Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: RogerRL] #2874002
07/30/19 01:01 AM
07/30/19 01:01 AM
Joined: Dec 2016
Posts: 290
Tallahassee, FL
Chopin Acolyte Offline OP
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Chopin Acolyte  Offline OP
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RogerRL, you're preaching to the choir here (at least as far as I'm concerned), especially with this

Originally Posted by RogerRL

Life is too short for that, for 'shutting up' and listening to what your teacher tells you to do, IMO. It's one thing if you are being asked to do something to correct a technical deficiency, but another if you are being fed pre-formed interpretive choices.


and

Originally Posted by RogerRL

I love much of classical music, but can do without all the strictures. Don't wear short dresses (Yuja Wang), don't hum(Gould) don't sway around, don't ignore the pp in this section, did you hear that gratuitous staccato. tsk tsk tsk. Sour faces complaining. Nothing is good enough. Play it exactly in the approved way, don't you know the composer is rolling in his grave.


I enjoyed the stories about Philip Glass and Casals!

While technique is something pretty objective (if we want to be too scientific about it, we can measure (but a good ear does hear it without slowing it down digitally) all kinds of parameters: evenness in both dynamics and rhythm, amount and consistency of legato etc etc), the interpretation should be up to the pianist, up to his current mood. I often listen to many interpretations of the same piece and put together a complete image of an "ideal" interpretation in my mind, where some sections are (to me) better sounding played by one pianist, other by others and for some parts I don't like how they're played by anyone, but I might have an idea what I'd like to go for. To do that comfortably, first thing I need is technique that surpasses the difficulties in the piece (a certain amount of polishing is naturally needed for any piece, but I can't approach a piece being clueless).

I might sound like being overly obsessed with technique, but I find myself enjoying music I'm playing most when I feel like it does not pose a technical difficulty for me. I can only judge from other interpretations, but when I hear someone struggle with the instrument (it might be just a stage fright btw), I don't enjoy it quite that much.


I agree with my teacher about the dynamics: I might not like dynamics in current pieces I'm attempting, but it sure helps to learn how to play proper pp, should the need arise. This also falls into the "technique" category, a pianist should be able to produce a wide range of dynamics, within the instrument's possibilities...we don't want to take a hammer to a piano, on the other hand we probably do not count the hum of strings merely when the damper is lifted as a "proper tone", as those are either destructive or simply not replicable on just any piano...except...well, you mentioned Philip Glass, who knows how he might torture the poor instrument next time shocked. But if there is a possibility to create a very very quiet note (while the hammer still hits the string, i.e. it's not just a result of a damper being lifted off the string), I think this possibility needs to be captured and tamed, so that I can do it at command, in any passage, no matter how juicy the chords are or how fast the passage is (I still find voicing of big chords in pp to be quite hard).

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2879306
08/13/19 05:21 PM
08/13/19 05:21 PM
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For me you can’t control technique with the mind, you have to have acquired it in the past, but even this does not mean you can deliver it in the moment. It’s about being there, in now, the moment, that’s what is required, seeing the whole, feeling the phrase deep within, like it’s in your body, part of your skeleton, this is what makes an artist rather than a technician.

Re: Micomanaging the phrasing? [Re: Chopin Acolyte] #2880472
08/17/19 01:48 AM
08/17/19 01:48 AM
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Quote

Example: first page of the (Chopin) Heroic Polonaise contains four phrases consisting of semiquaver chords. Before I even thought about playing chromatic thirds in one hand I wanted to play Heroic Polonaise but couldn't wrap my head around it. I put the piece aside, even forgot about it and eventually I thought that practicing chromatic thirds might be a good idea, I looked up a fingering on the internet and then I got back to the piece. I played the first page in solid tempo after 30 minutes. It's doing a short simple exercise a few minutes each day for one week vs. making myself hate my favorite piece because one page of it would take one week. I pick the former. Practicing thirds aside from any real music also made me think about fingering in a more clever way, in a way that it would sound more smooth and be very comfortable for both hands, if it appears in music. This was just a particular example, but for me it solidified this idea of how to approach music: first, having the technique to do it, only after that attempt to play real music

I hope you won’t mind my very candid feedback. You seem to be looking for shortcuts and magic, instead of following the program your teacher is trying to lay out for you. Learning to play music is a marathon, not a sprint. There is sublime music at many levels. I think it is more satisfactory to use actual music to develop technique rather than studies because it will integrate interpretive work as well. That is not to say technical studies are useless. But if you need to do technical work before approaching a piece, it probably means you are not ready for the piece.

The Chopin Polonaise in Ab Op. 53 is extremely difficult to play to performance standards. I had completed 13 years of lessons when I attempted it. I was working with an advanced teacher (piano professor at a university) who fortunately was patient with me because it was very difficult for me to learn this piece. I could not imagine learning to play it after one or two years of lessons.


Login name is a tribute to Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, arguably the historically first great keyboard virtuoso.
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