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Technique vs. Musicality #2933536 01/14/20 12:19 AM
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A recent video came up from Robert Estrin on Technique vs. Musicality in playing. Do you focus on technique or musicality?

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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2933549 01/14/20 01:49 AM
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I always enjoy Robert Estrin's videos, but he exudes so much energy (and enthusiasm) when he talks that I sometimes feel out of breath listening to him and wish he would calm down a bit!

As he says at the outset of this video, technique and musicality are inseparable.

I almost always play music - work on music - that is within my technical grasp. I find it more satisfying to be able to express myself in a work over which I have technical control than unsuccessfully struggling to master something which is beyond my technique. That, essentially, is what Estrin says at the end of his video we should aim for.

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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2933565 01/14/20 04:05 AM
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What the pianist brings to the piece of music is all that matters. As he says there are thousands of pianists with amazing technique.

Of course if you haven't sufficient command of the piano to bring the piece to life, all the talent and musical vision in the world is going to go to waste.

As Horowitz said, if you want to be more than just a virtuoso, first of all you have to be a virtuoso. I think the lesson in that for us mere mortals is that if you want to go beyond just playing the notes, you need to have the technique to do so. That's as true for easier pieces as it is for the virtuoso repertoire. There are some great performances in the Adult Beginners' recitals.

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2933597 01/14/20 08:12 AM
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The reason why I keep pushing my technical skills further to where no man has gone before, er, I mean, to where I've never gone before whistle is so that I can play all the crazily difficult stuff (crazy for me, that is) that I like, with real musicality.

Technique is a means to an end, not an end in itself, as Plato once said.

Any player piano can play crazy stuff with complete accuracy that no mere mortal can play, not even with twelve fingers and three hands......
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWnK5DImdlU


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2933912 01/14/20 07:24 PM
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At this point in my life I am only interested in learning about musicality since I gave up the hope/wish of being able to play virtuoso literature a long time ago. I realized that there were still an almost infinite number of very great pieces that were within my ability. And I became more interested in why great pianists sounded so much better than me even in music that did not require virtuoso technique,

OTOH if someone plays only for themselves there is something to be said for concentrating on technique. My thinking about this is that a person can make poor musical decisions but will generally not be aware of them but any technical problems are usually obvious. So I think it's possible to enjoy one's own playing if one has very good technique but has a lower level of musical understanding. The only problem is that other people may not enjoy your playing!

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2934256 01/15/20 01:16 PM
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This thread reminds me of Neuhaus' comparision between Rubinstein and Godovski. He wrote that the first could 'drop half a concerto under the piano and no one would notice' while Godovski could play flawlessly but if he made a single mistake it would strike all the listeners.


From player's perspective, I believie that both technique and musicality should be balanced to each other, although there is a range between, and while musicality gives more pleasure, technique gives more satisfaction of achievement. From what I know, musicality is something that makes the technique, play music about something, instead of just executing notes and playing something about nothing.

It's good to push yourself a little bit technically, to get better, but this should rather be done, if your technique is really correct, and you can well play musically what you've learnt.

Who cares that I was once able to quickly move from nothing, to playing fugues and some Chopin's pieces if my musicality was lacking, there were technical problems as well, and I ended up going back to square one, also with hand injuries that took me a year to heal. You can't do shortcuts, it just won't work. Neither physically or mentally.

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2934301 01/15/20 03:13 PM
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This is a question of values.

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2934311 01/15/20 03:34 PM
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I think the video is spot on and it is something my teacher (https://www.muenwei.com/) has emphasized with me on several occasions especially when I acquire about it. I think her exact words were when I asked her if expression/musicality and technique were different things to strive for as I have often read, I believe her exact words were, "That's BS". You can't separate the technique from musicality because without a developed technique you cannot have a developed sense of musicality. (Apparently that's a central truth in most of best music schools/conservatories in the world) The way I look at it is like brushstrokes to a painter. How does a painter aspire to create a masterpiece if he is limited to so few brushstrokes? How does he recreate the scene that he has in his mind's eye if he can't put it through brushstrokes? Sure he can paint a few nice scenes just as a pianist with only partially developed technique can play a few pieces (yes, that would be me) but he/she wouldn't have the range to create the full spectrum of effects and colors that are available to the painter or the pianist. So I agree with the video presenter you can't really separate the two. The art of the piano is something we all have to learn and practice, it's not something we were born with. The idea behind technique is that we will create a set of skills that will allow us to express ourselves in a limitless number of ways possible in our chosen instrument. Real musicians (the people I look up to and aspire to) have a high level of true musicality born out of years of developing their technique. Me, I'm a total beginner.

Last edited by Jethro; 01/15/20 03:42 PM.

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Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Chopin: G Minor Ballade
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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: Jethro] #2934400 01/15/20 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Jethro
I think the video is spot on and it is something my teacher (https://www.muenwei.com/) has emphasized with me on several occasions especially when I acquire about it. I think her exact words were when I asked her if expression/musicality and technique were different things to strive for as I have often read, I believe her exact words were, "That's BS". You can't separate the technique from musicality because without a developed technique you cannot have a developed sense of musicality.
I think one can have excellent musical ideas but not be able to execute them well. I equate "musicality" with musical understanding/ideas so one can have one without the other. Conversely, someone might be able to play all the Chopin Etudes flawlessly but have poor musical ideas. This is excellent technique without good musicality

The above does not mean that it should ever be a question of technique VS. musicality.

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: Jethro] #2934632 01/16/20 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Jethro
I believe her exact words were, "That's BS". You can't separate the technique from musicality because without a developed technique you cannot have a developed sense of musicality.


I vehemently disagree with your teacher on this: a person can have an excellently developed sense of musicality without having ever learned to play any instrument and thus not having any technique at all.

But I would of course agree that a person can not play technically difficult music with great musicality, without also having good technique.


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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: QuasiUnaFantasia] #2934639 01/16/20 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
a person can have an excellently developed sense of musicality without having ever learned to play any instrument and thus not having any technique at all.


But how can you know what is in this person's mind? His sense of musicality cannot be heard, is not communicated through sound. So we cannot know. Because there is no sound, he can at most be musical in some abstract sense. And the music critic/listener does not have the same musicality as a musician because the listener does not express.

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: wszxbcl] #2934649 01/16/20 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
a person can have an excellently developed sense of musicality without having ever learned to play any instrument and thus not having any technique at all.


But how can you know what is in this person's mind? His sense of musicality cannot be heard, is not communicated through sound. So we cannot know. Because there is no sound, he can at most be musical in some abstract sense. And the music critic/listener does not have the same musicality as a musician because the listener does not express.


Of course a listener cannot easily prove his/her musicality to another person (although goose bumps may give a hint wink ), but musicality is not dependent on evaluation by others; it either is there, or it is not there (or, arguably, it is there to some extent). I agree with you that musicality in a listener may differ from that in a musician, and probably often does.

EDIT: Just saw that this is my 500th post. [Note to self: spend more time playing, and less writing about playing]. wink


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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: QuasiUnaFantasia] #2934681 01/16/20 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
Originally Posted by Jethro
I believe her exact words were, "That's BS". You can't separate the technique from musicality because without a developed technique you cannot have a developed sense of musicality.


I vehemently disagree with your teacher on this: a person can have an excellently developed sense of musicality without having ever learned to play any instrument and thus not having any technique at all.

But I would of course agree that a person can not play technically difficult music with great musicality, without also having good technique.
I think a person cannot play technically difficult music with or without great musicality, without having good technique.

I also don't really agree with you first paragraph. I think
it's very hard(close to impossible) to develop great musical understanding for playing an instrument without having played pieces and actually having to make all the musical decisions. For example, I don't play the violin at all and am not really aware of even what the possible musical choices are in some passage. There is some carryover from my understanding of music from playing the piano literature but I feel it's limited.

Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: pianoloverus] #2934684 01/16/20 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I also don't really agree with you first paragraph. I think
it's very hard(close to impossible) to develop great musical understanding for playing an instrument without having played pieces and actually having to make all the musical decisions. For example, I don't play the violin at all and am not really aware of even what the possible musical choices are in some passage. There is some carryover from my understanding of music from playing the piano literature but I feel it's limited.


We seem to use different meanings for the word "musicality". With this word I imply "getting the music", i.e. understanding it. I certainly agree that it requires technique to know how to play musically. But in my view it does not require technique to hear whether something is being played musically or not.


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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2934710 01/16/20 09:44 AM
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It's quite easy to find out whether someone has "musicality", whether or not he can play any instrument, or even sing.

Just ask him to sing Happy Birthday - or hum, or whistle the tune. If he gets the rhythm right (allowing for breathing etc), and intervals between the notes right (give or take a few Hz - we don't expect perfection) and ends the song a perfect 4th higher than he began it, he's musical. If not, and he doesn't realize it, well...... whistle


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: QuasiUnaFantasia] #2934819 01/16/20 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
Originally Posted by Jethro
I believe her exact words were, "That's BS". You can't separate the technique from musicality because without a developed technique you cannot have a developed sense of musicality.


I vehemently disagree with your teacher on this: a person can have an excellently developed sense of musicality without having ever learned to play any instrument and thus not having any technique at all.

But I would of course agree that a person can not play technically difficult music with great musicality, without also having good technique.

I think she's referring to how we are referring to it here, as in when developed an advanced sense of musicality when playing an instrument such as the piano you have to have technique. Of course people can have a greater appreciation of music without having knowledge of any instrument but that's different when compared to producing music. Like I said, I see technical ability as brushstrokes or letters of the alphabet. How can you be a great painter if you are so limited in brushstrokes or a great writer as the video presenter argued without the building blocks of language?

I have a greater sense of appreciation for much of the music I play when I hear it from a professional then when I play it because I'm still a relative beginner. I know my playing needs a lot polishing. So in a sense I have a great appreciation for good music but my musicality in producing the same pieces is lacking because I'm still lacking in my technique. If I can play it with ease, I can express the music that's in my minds eye. Right now for the more difficult pieces I play I'm still quite raw, but I know what they are supposed to sound like in my minds eye and that's what I'm striving for. I've only had about 5 years of piano lessons in my own personal case for example and I have a long way to go. It's about learning to be a better musician by developing musicality and technique simultaneously because you can't separate the two.

Last edited by Jethro; 01/16/20 12:45 PM.

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Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Chopin: G Minor Ballade
Schumann/Liszt Widmung

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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: bennevis] #2934825 01/16/20 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
It's quite easy to find out whether someone has "musicality", whether or not he can play any instrument, or even sing.

Just ask him to sing Happy Birthday - or hum, or whistle the tune. If he gets the rhythm right (allowing for breathing etc), and intervals between the notes right (give or take a few Hz - we don't expect perfection) and ends the song a perfect 4th higher than he began it, he's musical. If not, and he doesn't realize it, well...... whistle

If you are saying there are differences between individual's proficiency potential for music even as I child. I do agree there are differences. Just ask a few kids to clap in time with you and you know who has it, and who doesn't quite readily. Or those who can sing in tune with you. But I don't know if that's exactly what we are referring to here.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Chopin: G Minor Ballade
Schumann/Liszt Widmung

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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: thepianoplayer416] #2934866 01/16/20 01:59 PM
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Not watched the video yet but because I'm still learning to play piano, and because I believe I have natural musicality, I focus on technique.

Last edited by LarryShone; 01/16/20 01:59 PM.

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Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: Jethro] #2934873 01/16/20 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Jethro
Originally Posted by bennevis
It's quite easy to find out whether someone has "musicality", whether or not he can play any instrument, or even sing.

Just ask him to sing Happy Birthday - or hum, or whistle the tune. If he gets the rhythm right (allowing for breathing etc), and intervals between the notes right (give or take a few Hz - we don't expect perfection) and ends the song a perfect 4th higher than he began it, he's musical. If not, and he doesn't realize it, well...... whistle

If you are saying there are differences between individual's proficiency potential for music even as I child. I do agree there are differences. Just ask a few kids to clap in time with you and you know who has it, and who doesn't quite readily. Or those who can sing in tune with you. But I don't know if that's exactly what we are referring to here.

I was talking more in terms of adults than kids, because children may not have been exposed to music that gets them to listen with focus, whereas adults would certainly have, if they have any interest in music (of any sort) at all. Thus a child might not be able to sing in tune because he's never tried to, and his vocal apparatus and hearing acumen is still developing.

But an adult who can't sing Happy Birthday (a song which even the king penguins in deepest darkest Antarctica know well whistle) with approximately the correct 'notes' and rhythm, and doesn't know he's not singing it correctly is clearly lacking in musicality, whatever he believes. That's not to say he can't develop it, of course, if he truly applies himself.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Technique vs. Musicality [Re: bennevis] #2934886 01/16/20 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Jethro
Originally Posted by bennevis
It's quite easy to find out whether someone has "musicality", whether or not he can play any instrument, or even sing.

Just ask him to sing Happy Birthday - or hum, or whistle the tune. If he gets the rhythm right (allowing for breathing etc), and intervals between the notes right (give or take a few Hz - we don't expect perfection) and ends the song a perfect 4th higher than he began it, he's musical. If not, and he doesn't realize it, well...... whistle

If you are saying there are differences between individual's proficiency potential for music even as I child. I do agree there are differences. Just ask a few kids to clap in time with you and you know who has it, and who doesn't quite readily. Or those who can sing in tune with you. But I don't know if that's exactly what we are referring to here.

I was talking more in terms of adults than kids, because children may not have been exposed to music that gets them to listen with focus, whereas adults would certainly have, if they have any interest in music (of any sort) at all. Thus a child might not be able to sing in tune because he's never tried to, and his vocal apparatus and hearing acumen is still developing.

But an adult who can't sing Happy Birthday (a song which even the king penguins in deepest darkest Antarctica know well whistle) with approximately the correct 'notes' and rhythm, and doesn't know he's not singing it correctly is clearly lacking in musicality, whatever he believes. That's not to say he can't develop it, of course, if he truly applies himself.

Ha, maybe so.


Working on:

Bach/Busoni Chaconne in D minor BWV 1004
Chopin: G Minor Ballade
Schumann/Liszt Widmung

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