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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2897908 10/07/19 12:10 PM
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Playing everything with eyes closed should not be a goal so it really doesn't matter if it's realistic. Same for being able to play from a score without ever looking at one's hands.

Decreasing the amount one has to look at the keys while playing with a score, especially when one is a beginner, is a good goal. Decreasing the amount down to zero is in no way necessary.

As far as I know, no great pianist or teacher has ever mentioned that as a goal. If you look at some of the Richter videos from when he started playing with the score, you'll see even someone of that level looks at his hands quite a bit and definitely not only when there are big jumps.

Occasionally practicing with one's eyes closed or without looking at the keyboard is reasonable but not necessary or the same as what the OP suggested.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2898058 10/07/19 09:14 PM
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If you want to be a good sight-reader, it certainly helps to be able to feel your way around for the most part, while looking at the sheet music, so in that respect it pays to learn to play by feel to some extent, but nowhere near the extent that "playing blind" would suggest.

For example, if I'm reading from the music then I will play by feel until I get a slightly trickier part, at which point I'll glance at the keyboard a couple of times to place my hands. If, however, I'm playing from memory then I look at the keyboard most of the time.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
dogperson #2898204 10/08/19 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson

No, there cannot be a 1:1 correlation between blind and sighted pianists; blind pianists have an incredible sense of proprioception which we can only aspire to developing.


There was a well known blind organist where I live, and his ability to navigate the keyboard (two of them) was the same as a sighted person's. It's fascinating how people can develop "impossible" skills when they need to.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
johnstaf #2898248 10/08/19 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Originally Posted by dogperson

No, there cannot be a 1:1 correlation between blind and sighted pianists; blind pianists have an incredible sense of proprioception which we can only aspire to developing.


There was a well known blind organist where I live, and his ability to navigate the keyboard (two of them) was the same as a sighted person's. It's fascinating how people can develop "impossible" skills when they need to.


the blind pianist I know had a much superior sense of the keyboard than I do. Multi-octave leaps? He never missed one.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2898418 10/09/19 12:38 AM
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I know as a singer, I have to look at my vocal cords a lot... wait. wink

I can understand that playing without looking at your hands sounds incredibly hard but it's amazing how easy things can become when you regularly practice it. I believe the keyboard should become an extension of your voice that you can command even in a dark room.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
R111 #2898480 10/09/19 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by R111
I know as a singer, I have to look at my vocal cords a lot... wait. wink

I can understand that playing without looking at your hands sounds incredibly hard but it's amazing how easy things can become when you regularly practice it. I believe the keyboard should become an extension of your voice that you can command even in a dark room.
But even the greatest pianists don't attempt what you suggest(although they could probably learn to do it) and all of them look at their hands occasionally when playing with the score and most of the time when playing without the score.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2898514 10/09/19 08:05 AM
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I told my teacher yesterdays that the fellows from pianoworld.com saying that the truth is somewhere in the middle and it is not good to look at your hands all the time, but professionals still look at their hands from time to time and also you can use peripheral vision.

He answered: Fair enough but in order to that you first have to practice a lot with not looking at all and with peripheral vision, after you well trained you can combine the three.

By the way, I think that playing all scales and arpeggios with closed eyes shouldn't be very difficult and it is a must.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2898555 10/09/19 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by hag01
I told my teacher yesterdays that the fellows from pianoworld.com saying that the truth is somewhere in the middle and it is not good to look at your hands all the time, but professionals still look at their hands from time to time and also you can use peripheral vision.

He answered: Fair enough but in order to that you first have to practice a lot with not looking at all and with peripheral vision, after you well trained you can combine the three.

By the way, I think that playing all scales and arpeggios with closed eyes shouldn't be very difficult and it is a must.
I think most pianists from the beginning look at their hands sometimes when playing with the score and this is appropriate.The important thing is not to have to do so "a lot" because then the constant looking back and forth creates a problem. As one gets more advanced passages where one had to previously look no longer fit that description but the music also gets more advanced so that new appropriate situations arise. Perhaps your teacher feels you look at your hands far too much so is trying to change that habit by asking you to not look at all.

Re scales and arpeggios I think until one is fairly advanced one probably should look at their hands to make sure one is using proper technique.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2899031 10/10/19 03:37 PM
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I knew a guy who practiced scales and arpeggios with the light out in a practice room (he was rather advanced). There is a legend at my old music school about someone finishing a rather difficult work (Chopin's 1st Ballade, I think) during a student recital in the dark following a sudden power outage.

Many people tend to play Bach from memory while starring at where the score would have been or into a grand piano when the music desk is down. When they do look at their hands, they tend to get lost. They needed to have practiced playing from memory while looking. So, not looking isn't always desirable, and you need to for leaps.


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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2899049 10/10/19 04:46 PM
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"In order to become oriented at the keyboard and thus make easier the acquistion of a necessary skill at sight reading, it is a good practice to play memorized pieces in the dark"
C. P. E. Bach, Essay on the true art of playing keyboard instruments (trans. W. Mitchell, p 55 )

A top ranking blind pianist no-one has recalled so far is Bernard d'Ascoli - details on his competition prizes, concert career, recordings, on http://www.bernard-dascoli.com/modules/presentation/ ; also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_d%27Ascoli


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein

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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2899181 10/11/19 09:06 AM
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I don't think it's as meaningful a skill for sighted pianists as it is for players of violin family instruments. With those, you pretty much *have* to be able to develop intonation skills to the point that deciding where to put your fingers on the fingerboard, and developing a feel for where this note is on this string, becomes instinctive. Proper intonation isn't quite that kind of required skill on a keyboard. At any rate, after you've played and practiced long enough, being able to play without watching your hands becomes more or less instinctive as well. It just comes down to memory, I guess.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
rmns2bseen #2899185 10/11/19 09:14 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
I don't think it's as meaningful a skill for sighted pianists as it is for players of violin family instruments. With those, you pretty much *have* to be able to develop intonation skills to the point that deciding where to put your fingers on the fingerboard becomes instinctive. Proper intonation isn't quite that kind of required skill on a keyboard. At any rate, after you've played and practiced long enough, being able to play without watching your hands becomes more or less instinctive as well. It just comes down to memory, I guess.


I played the violin for about ten years and it’s different than the piano. You don’t hold a violin in a way that makes it easy to see your hand on the fretboard. I’ve studied classical guitar for the last ten years and I can tell you that many professional classical guitarists look at their left hand a lot and don’t get criticized for it. To be accurate on the guitar, you often have to look at your left hand, although, I agree, with enough practice, it becomes natural to be able to play without looking, and so I don’t look that often anymore, but I do look sometimes. I might be a better player if I look more often and so that is something to consider.

Last edited by LarryK; 10/11/19 09:17 AM.

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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
LarryK #2899195 10/11/19 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK


I played the violin for about ten years and it’s different than the piano. You don’t hold a violin in a way that makes it easy to see your hand on the fretboard. I’ve studied classical guitar for the last ten years and I can tell you that many professional classical guitarists look at their left hand a lot and don’t get criticized for it. To be accurate on the guitar, you often have to look at your left hand, although, I agree, with enough practice, it becomes natural to be able to play without looking, and so I don’t look that often anymore.

I play the cello and I could stare a hole in my left hand if I want, except right near the nut in first position. But I've found that it's unnecessary and even a distraction. Many guitarists look at the left hand - er, their fretting hand - most likely because they're accustomed to using frets as visual cues...sort of like the tape some beginners use on fingerboards. But a John Williams or Manuel Barrueco could no doubt play with eyes closed.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
rmns2bseen #2899210 10/11/19 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by LarryK


I played the violin for about ten years and it’s different than the piano. You don’t hold a violin in a way that makes it easy to see your hand on the fretboard. I’ve studied classical guitar for the last ten years and I can tell you that many professional classical guitarists look at their left hand a lot and don’t get criticized for it. To be accurate on the guitar, you often have to look at your left hand, although, I agree, with enough practice, it becomes natural to be able to play without looking, and so I don’t look that often anymore.

I play the cello and I could stare a hole in my left hand if I want, except right near the nut in first position. But I've found that it's unnecessary and even a distraction. Many guitarists look at the left hand - er, their fretting hand - most likely because they're accustomed to using frets as visual cues...sort of like the tape some beginners use on fingerboards. But a John Williams or Manuel Barrueco could no doubt play with eyes closed.


Oh, I'm not saying that the top classical guitar players can't play without looking at their hands but that perhaps it helps them increase their level of accuracy to look when placing multiple fingers on the fretboard at the same time, and moving some of them. With the classical guitar, you are often playing with complicated positions of the left hand on the fretboard, holding notes in the bass and melody, perhaps moving the middle voice, or the other way around, moving the melody and holding the bass and middle voice.

I think classical guitar players are obsessed with getting the right position of the fingers, in terms of getting as close to the fret wire as possible, without touching it, because you get dead notes if you touch the fret wire. You don't have fret wires on the cello or the violin so I don't think it is a fair comparison. There are usually dot markers on the edge of the fingerboard because looking at frets is kind of like looking at railroad ties that go on forever, it's not helpful. I have a dot just at the seventh fret but some people have them at five and seven. Don't hand me a steel string guitar with markers on almost every fret, as that just confuses the heck out of me.

Another thing, when playing harmonics, you absolutely have to look at your hand to place your finger lightly over the correct fret, and have memorized the passage because if you miss a harmonic note on the classical guitar, you get the open string, which is not what you want at all.

I saw Judicaël Perroy, a brilliant player, perform and he looked at his fretting hand a lot. Halfway through the concert, he took off his glasses, which were a funny color of blue for a man to wear, and he told us that he had broken his glasses just before he left home and so he had grabbed his wife's pair! He said they weren't quite right for him and so he would play the next piece without them, lol. Well, he still played brilliantly, although I have no idea what he was seeing. But, you know, the Paris Conservatory knows how to turn out talented players.

My teacher has never told me not to look at the fretboard. He has told me to look further ahead in the music and plan better how I move and organize my hand in the air between notes and measures, and if that takes looking at the fretboard, so be it.

Last edited by LarryK; 10/11/19 10:17 AM.

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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2899409 10/12/19 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK

My teacher has never told me not to look at the fretboard. He has told me to look further ahead in the music and plan better how I move and organize my hand in the air between notes and measures, and if that takes looking at the fretboard, so be it.
True enough, and good advice I'm sure...but then guitarists don't have quite as much control over intonation as players of fretless bowed instruments do. I don't think "sightless" playing as a skill on either guitar or piano by a sighted person means all that much. It's a valuable thing to be able to do though since we don't know what shape our vision is always going to be in.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
rmns2bseen #2899434 10/12/19 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
It's a valuable thing to be able to do though since we don't know what shape our vision is always going to be in.
I think one would have to have incredibly poor vision(close to blind) to not be able to distinguish notes on the keyboard. If that was the case one couldn't read music, and the only pieces one could play are those that were memorized.

Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
pianoloverus #2899453 10/12/19 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
It's a valuable thing to be able to do though since we don't know what shape our vision is always going to be in.
I think one would have to have incredibly poor vision(close to blind) to not be able to distinguish notes on the keyboard. If that was the case one couldn't read music, and the only pieces one could play are those that were memorized.


Luckily, given the advanced state of cataract surgery, eye drops for reducing pressure in the eye, and laser surgery to repair the retina, I think it is relatively rare to go blind. That French woman who lived to be 122 said that it was natural to be blind at the end of life but I read that she refused cataract surgery that would have restored her sight. I helped my mom get through cataract surgery in her 80s and it helped her a lot.

If blindness comes, I’d try to learn Braille musical notation and play what I remembered.


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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
LarryK #2899454 10/12/19 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by LarryK
Luckily, given the advanced state of cataract surgery, eye drops for reducing pressure in the eye, and laser surgery to repair the retina, I think it is relatively rare to go blind. That French woman who lived to be 122 said that it was natural to be blind at the end of life but I read that she refused cataract surgery that would have restored her sight. I helped my mom get through cataract surgery in her 80s and it helped her a lot.

My brother feels cataract surgery is one of the most rewarding things he does - bringing back the sight of those who lost it. Not so much Lasik and he's found a job now where he doesn't need to ever perform Lasik. Just lots of cataracts, glaucoma, etc.


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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
Tyrone Slothrop #2899459 10/12/19 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by LarryK
Luckily, given the advanced state of cataract surgery, eye drops for reducing pressure in the eye, and laser surgery to repair the retina, I think it is relatively rare to go blind. That French woman who lived to be 122 said that it was natural to be blind at the end of life but I read that she refused cataract surgery that would have restored her sight. I helped my mom get through cataract surgery in her 80s and it helped her a lot.

My brother feels cataract surgery is one of the most rewarding things he does - bringing back the sight of those who lost it. Not so much Lasik and he's found a job now where he doesn't need to ever perform Lasik. Just lots of cataracts, glaucoma, etc.


I can understand why. Restoring sight to the blind is a wondrous thing. I had to talk my mother into cataract surgery but she finally relented. She had started to lose her ability to read, and has lost central vision in one eye due to macular degeneration. After the cataract surgery, she is much better.

A Nepali doctor has restored sight to over 100,000 people by buying lenses in bulk and developing a microsurgery technique that costs $25/patient.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/sunday/in-5-minutes-he-lets-the-blind-see.html

The risk of developing cataracts increases the more your eyes are exposed to UV light so people at higher altitudes are more prone to develop cataracts. Most likely, we will all develop cataracts eventually.

Last edited by LarryK; 10/12/19 10:48 AM.

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Re: Is it realistic goal to play everything with closed eyes?
hag01 #2899461 10/12/19 10:54 AM
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As for Lasik, I am afraid of how the eye will age after that surgery and I am afraid of the side effects, like starbursts around lights, and so, I will continue to wear glasses for the rest of my life. Glasses do provide some impact protection for the eyes so they’re not a bad thing. I’ll never wear contacts again, too risky, in my opinion.

Last edited by LarryK; 10/12/19 10:55 AM.

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