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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068831 01/13/21 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If you or your teacher feel there's some emotion missing, I think you should discuss that and they should give you some specifics ideas on what to do.

This is input from two teachers in a row...it's not something I'm able to detect on my own (at least not yet). That makes it really frustrating and difficult to work on, and it's discouraging to be getting the same type of feedback for 2 years now. There must be some fundamental thing I'm missing. Hopefully one day the light bulb will come on. Yes, I'm sure we'll keep at it in my lessons...with every new piece I play, since they all seem to lack character. crazy

Lacking character is pretty vague. Since your teacher identified something is missing. They should also be able to tell you more precisely what is missing. Lack of dynamics, too metronomic, phrasing, .... iIs that not their job to teach how to play expressively ? If the solution is to to tell you to create a story and that should solve the issue is not going to help you much. You can post one of your recording if you wish more feedback from the forum. Take care.

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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
pianoloverus #3068832 01/13/21 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
My view is that just thinking about some emotion or memory or story has little to do with actually creating that in the music. To create a certain feeling takes skill, a lot of thought, technique, etc. The person playing the music might think their thoughts affected their playing but I think that's mostly just their imagination or, in the case of the part I quoted, the teacher's imagination.

So you are saying it takes a lot of thought...but not thinking about a specific image/emotion while playing? Maybe you mean thinking about how to phrase, how to shape the dynamics, etc? As an intermediate player who does not yet possess great skill/technique, I am trying to understand how I can go about putting more emotion/character into my performance. Based on feedback I have gotten from teachers, I don't believe I play mechanically...but there's obviously still something missing, and their suggestions so far haven't clicked. Or maybe I'm just not at a level where I can do it well yet.
If you or your teacher feel there's some emotion missing, I think you should discuss that and they should give you some specifics ideas on what to do. I definitely don't think that it's wrong to think about some emotion or picture or story when playing but I'm not convinced that really helps. But I could be completely wrong. I've seen many master classes where the teacher tries to get an idea across by using images or verbal descriptions of the character of a passage.

You have seen professional pianists, with the skills to teach a masterclass encourage imagery, but you are still convinced it may not really help? It seems like if they encourage it, they would have the background and history to come to a different conclusion: that they have seen to be effective.


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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068834 01/13/21 05:19 PM
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Maybe I'm just being a dunce here. We've branched out to discuss dynamics in more detail, which I've already admitted I'm not doing well with. Maybe if I get that sorted out I won't be hearing so much that I'm missing the character.

That's interesting Chrispy...sometimes when I know a voice is supposed to represent a cello, I do try to think of that when I'm playing. Another good idea to add to the list.


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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068840 01/13/21 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
If you or your teacher feel there's some emotion missing, I think you should discuss that and they should give you some specifics ideas on what to do.

This is input from two teachers in a row...it's not something I'm able to detect on my own (at least not yet). That makes it really frustrating and difficult to work on, and it's discouraging to be getting the same type of feedback for 2 years now. There must be some fundamental thing I'm missing. Hopefully one day the light bulb will come on. Yes, I'm sure we'll keep at it in my lessons...with every new piece I play, since they all seem to lack character. crazy
The teacher should do a lot more than just say your playing of a piece lacks character or emotion!

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
dogperson #3068842 01/13/21 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
My view is that just thinking about some emotion or memory or story has little to do with actually creating that in the music. To create a certain feeling takes skill, a lot of thought, technique, etc. The person playing the music might think their thoughts affected their playing but I think that's mostly just their imagination or, in the case of the part I quoted, the teacher's imagination.

So you are saying it takes a lot of thought...but not thinking about a specific image/emotion while playing? Maybe you mean thinking about how to phrase, how to shape the dynamics, etc? As an intermediate player who does not yet possess great skill/technique, I am trying to understand how I can go about putting more emotion/character into my performance. Based on feedback I have gotten from teachers, I don't believe I play mechanically...but there's obviously still something missing, and their suggestions so far haven't clicked. Or maybe I'm just not at a level where I can do it well yet.
If you or your teacher feel there's some emotion missing, I think you should discuss that and they should give you some specifics ideas on what to do. I definitely don't think that it's wrong to think about some emotion or picture or story when playing but I'm not convinced that really helps. But I could be completely wrong. I've seen many master classes where the teacher tries to get an idea across by using images or verbal descriptions of the character of a passage.

You have seen professional pianists, with the skills to teach a masterclass encourage imagery, but you are still convinced it may not really help? It seems like if they encourage it, they would have the background and history to come to a different conclusion: that they have seen to be effective.
That still leaves the question of how or why it helps. For example, in the Beethoven Sonata example I mentioned earlier, how does knowing the opening phrase is "questioning" help make it sound questioning? What would someone do differently if one knew that vs. someone who didn't know that? The "questioning" is written into the music IMO. Same idea for the passage in Ravel's A Boat on the Ocean I mentioned. If one plays the passage in question as written in the dynamic written it will sound like the huge wave Trifonov mentioned.

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
dogperson #3068844 01/13/21 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
@Keystring
My experience is ‘imagery/story’ vs ‘working on the nitty gritty’ is not an either one or the other. I initially work on the fine details of the music and then the imagery evolves the more in depth I have studied it. That’s just me.
No ideas given here should be taken as absolute or complete, and I did not intend mine to be. I wrote "personally I feel" regarding the nitty gritties. I also realize I was not that clear in what I meant by "nitty gritties" in that last paragraph. I think I can assume from your posts over the years that you know how to do things like play dynamics and probably various kinds of articulation. If you were not able to produce the dynamics you imagine in the "story" of the piece, then picturing the story won't help you much. Learning to produce the dynamics that give life to the imagined story will help you. Those are the nitty gritties I meant. The OP appears in part to be in that situation. I was once in that situation.

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
dogperson #3068845 01/13/21 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
You have seen professional pianists, with the skills to teach a masterclass encourage imagery, but you are still convinced it may not really help? It seems like if they encourage it, they would have the background and history to come to a different conclusion: that they have seen to be effective.
Do they know whether it is effective? Do they ever see the people they coach in the masterclass again, to find out?

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068848 01/13/21 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
That's interesting Chrispy...sometimes when I know a voice is supposed to represent a cello, I do try to think of that when I'm playing. Another good idea to add to the list.
I have no idea how to make the piano sound like a cello. I don't even know how to make it sound like other instruments I play. The piano sort of sounds like .... erm .... a piano.

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
Sidokar #3068849 01/13/21 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Lacking character is pretty vague. Since your teacher identified something is missing. They should also be able to tell you more precisely what is missing. Lack of dynamics, too metronomic, phrasing, .... iIs that not their job to teach how to play expressively ? If the solution is to to tell you to create a story and that should solve the issue is not going to help you much. You can post one of your recording if you wish more feedback from the forum. Take care.
Agree.

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
keystring #3068851 01/13/21 05:57 PM
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LOL...I didn't mean I try to make the piano sound like a cello. I guess with that in mind, I might make the passage as legato as possible, and imagine the sound of the cello in my mind. But it probably comes out sounding exactly the same either way. smile


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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
keystring #3068852 01/13/21 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by dogperson
You have seen professional pianists, with the skills to teach a masterclass encourage imagery, but you are still convinced it may not really help? It seems like if they encourage it, they would have the background and history to come to a different conclusion: that they have seen to be effective.
Do they know whether it is effective? Do they ever see the people they coach in the masterclass again, to find out?

I have seen Barenboim do this in a recorded masterclass and he stated he always uses imagery. He thinks it works,


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
Sidokar #3068855 01/13/21 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Lacking character is pretty vague. Since your teacher identified something is missing. They should also be able to tell you more precisely what is missing. Lack of dynamics, too metronomic, phrasing, .... iIs that not their job to teach how to play expressively ? If the solution is to to tell you to create a story and that should solve the issue is not going to help you much. You can post one of your recording if you wish more feedback from the forum. Take care.

I agree that communication could be improved...I will think of some better questions to ask in my upcoming lesson. Thanks!

Last edited by JB_PW; 01/13/21 06:09 PM.

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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068856 01/13/21 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
Maybe I'm just being a dunce here. We've branched out to discuss dynamics in more detail, which I've already admitted I'm not doing well with. Maybe if I get that sorted out I won't be hearing so much that I'm missing the character.
Dynamics - and their gradation - as well as variety of articulation is often where students are too "tame" at exploiting. And don't forget the 'voicing', the inflexion of the melodic line(s) over and above the accompaniment: another aspect of piano playing that many students don't appreciate, or deploy sufficiently. Though of course, to be able to do that, you must first have the skill: as Horowitz once said: "The technique is the expression."

Listen to this - and hear how Horowitz is able to draw out such a range of color & expression from a single repeated note (reminiscent of the tolling of Russian Orthodox Church bells), by using extreme voicing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=o8J1kc6tp1E&feature=youtu.be

I still remember how amazed I was, as a ten-year-old beginner who had hardly heard any classical music before (let alone played live in front of me), when I heard my first teacher play for me after each lesson. She drew out a huge range of dynamics and variety of articulation that even I, a compete neophyte, could appreciate in contributing towards the expressiveness of the music itself - and she achieved that playing on the cheap little upright that my parents bought (with little expectation that any of their children would continue lessons beyond a year), which was what I was learning on.

Develop the skills required to enable you to express all the emotions implicit in the music you're playing, which includes the ability to play notes - singly or in combination - at a wide range of dynamics, and you're already well on the way towards 'story-telling'.......whether or not you have an actual story in your mind. Because, what matters is not what you're creating/imagining in your head, but what your listener/audience is discerning from hearing you play.

The pianist is, in a sense, an actor. He doesn't have to 'feel inwardly' everything he is expressing by his playing. He doesn't have to be a method actor - in fact, with piano playing, it would be detrimental to his playing if the pianist starts sobbing whenever he plays something mournful, or laughs with glee when he plays a happy & witty piece grin.


"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: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
keystring #3068863 01/13/21 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by dogperson
You have seen professional pianists, with the skills to teach a masterclass encourage imagery, but you are still convinced it may not really help? It seems like if they encourage it, they would have the background and history to come to a different conclusion: that they have seen to be effective.
Do they know whether it is effective? Do they ever see the people they coach in the masterclass again, to find out?
I'm sure they think it's effective. In master classes the student almost always is expected to immediately try to do what the teacher suggests so the teacher doesn't have to see them at a later date to find out of a suggestion helped. Sometimes, if the teacher just uses an image or verbal description of the character(and not something specific like a different tempo or a crescendo or different voicing), the teacher seems to think the student's playing is better but I can't hear anything different. And I wonder if the student is thinking the same thing.

To repeat an example I've mentioned several times in this thread, if the teacher pointed out that the opening of Beethoven's Sonata Op.31 #3 is a questioning motive, how would that effect one's playing? I think that description makes perfect sense and may be important to understand, but I am not at all sure it would change my playing assuming I was following what Beethoven wrote in the score. To me, the passage automatically sounds questioning.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/13/21 06:30 PM.
Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
keystring #3068873 01/13/21 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by JB_PW
That's interesting Chrispy...sometimes when I know a voice is supposed to represent a cello, I do try to think of that when I'm playing. Another good idea to add to the list.
I have no idea how to make the piano sound like a cello. I don't even know how to make it sound like other instruments I play. The piano sort of sounds like .... erm .... a piano.

That's not the point, obviously a piano sounds like a piano. What my teacher is getting it is that if you think about how an instrument sounds, what kind of phrasing and dynamics can you perform on the piano that are somewhat analogous.


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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068883 01/13/21 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
The most recent example is Burgmuller Op 100 No 25. Several distinct character changes, usually with very different dynamics as well.

This is a perfect piece for stories!
Since the title is Knight Errant or some other translation, I'd start with a dopey chivalrous knight trotting properly along on his horse, looking for adventure or a maiden in distress or a dragon harassing the peasants. Then he finds what he finds and engages with it (you make this part up). Then he trots off.


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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068888 01/13/21 08:05 PM
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I think there are image moods and there are image stories. For some pieces I will imagine a mood that I think will fit with the composer's intent. I never come up with stories. I suppose for some programmatic pieces a story might be appropriate (and will often be suggested in the title or subtitles), but for most other things a story would just get in the way for me.

Some professional pianists might find imagery (mood or story?) useful, but it is by no means universal amongst professional pianists.


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Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068952 01/14/21 02:05 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
I have no idea how to make the piano sound like a cello. I don't even know how to make it sound like other instruments I play. The piano sort of sounds like .... erm .... a piano.

https://ozmusic.me/track-mp3/177618346-keith-jarrett-jack-dejohnette-gary-peacock-old-folks

If Keith Jarrett can sound like a human voice, then similarly, you can bring the piano sound closer to the cello, using register, articulation, timbre, dynamics, agogics, pedals. It takes imagination and exploration.

Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068972 01/14/21 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
I’ve now had two teachers encourage me to create a backstory for the pieces I’m learning to help me get the character right. The new teacher expanded this a bit to include just deciding on an emotion, or even a color for different sections.
Getting the character from the imagery depends on the ability to express it at the piano. If you're lacking an ability to phrase well then developing new tools will help with giving a piece character.

You might find this article, Dr. Brent Hugh on Phrasing, helpful in bringing out the phrasing better but you must also listen to professional piano playing. The ear needs fine tuning to hear the less perceptible nuances in different interpretations before you can realise them yourself.

You might also try, when practising more slowly, to exaggerate the dynamics and the accents so that they're still there when you play at tempo but they're less forceful.


Richard
Re: Do you create/imagine ‘stories’ for your pieces?
JB_PW #3068976 01/14/21 04:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by Sidokar
Lacking character is pretty vague. Since your teacher identified something is missing. They should also be able to tell you more precisely what is missing. Lack of dynamics, too metronomic, phrasing, .... iIs that not their job to teach how to play expressively ? If the solution is to to tell you to create a story and that should solve the issue is not going to help you much. You can post one of your recording if you wish more feedback from the forum. Take care.

I agree that communication could be improved...I will think of some better questions to ask in my upcoming lesson. Thanks!

Well, what i meant is that it is really up to your teachers to help you add more character. The objective is not to necessarily impose upon you their view of the piece, but to show you practically what could be done better. And that means working out the piece phrase by phrase, bar by bar, beat by beat. Are you not doing that with them ? It is also a good idea to record yourself and compare with other performances on YT.

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