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FWIW, and get ready for a big name-drop, during a masterclass I did with Olga Kern on Islamey, she suggested practicing these passages using only the RH thumb along with the LH. I think she was just spitballing, but I gave it a try nevertheless and found that the only way to do it that made sense in terms of the technical objective was to kind of cover the unplayed notes with the other fingers, so why not just play them anyway? I mention it, therefore, not because it did me any good but because it could possibly help you.

One piece of advice I do have would be to focus on the second iteration of this passagework, where the composer yanks it up from Db to E and thereby makes it even harder because the LH leaps have to land on white notes, among other complications. If you can perfect this version, the one in the A section will be a snap (relatively speaking).

Here's a recording of one of my attempts at this passage, admittedly at a rather stately tempo. As others have mentioned, the only hope one has of getting this even close to fluent is to achieve maximum efficiency and relaxation. Happy Islameying! https://youtu.be/vUuMAY4HJh4?t=116


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Originally Posted by SiFi
FWIW, and get ready for a big name-drop, during a masterclass I did with Olga Kern on Islamey, she suggested practicing these passages using only the RH thumb along with the LH. I think she was just spitballing, but I gave it a try nevertheless and found that the only way to do it that made sense in terms of the technical objective was to kind of cover the unplayed notes with the other fingers, so why not just play them anyway?====snip====
@SRF - your playing wasn't all THAT stately ;-)
Peter Feuchtwanger also had us practice 8ve scales up and down with just the thumb. His own thumb was extraordinarily flexible, and a lot of his exercises have the goal of developing thumb flexibility.

Regarding the passage in question - I've come to believe (and of course I could be wrong) that what makes it hard is not the RH, per se, but that the RH is making those fast movements simultaneous with the LH hand making leaps down to the Db's. You can prove me right or wrong by playing the passage OMITTING the leaps, just playing the chords Eb minor, Eb minor, Ab7....etc. I personally have found the right hand easier to play when doing so.

...which brings me to the idea that, at least for me, the REAL difficulty there is the leaps to the Db and then the Db below that, because I have to turn my head slightly so I can SEE where to land....so I think, ultimately, the problem isn't really one of thumb flexibility in the RH or even "shaking out 8ves from the wrist", rather it is co-ordination between the 2 hands when one hand has uneven leaps.

My practice, then, for that passage was to work so I could make the leaps as automatic as possible, practicing a leap or two at a time LH only, then adding the RH. Over time my speed and accuracy both improved.

One other thing to try: play the LH as written, play a simple scalar passage with the RH - doesn't matter what notes - but in the same rhythm as what is written. I suspect the LH will clamor for your attention even if you play that simple scalar passage in 8ves.

Yes - Islamey is HARD.


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Originally Posted by Seeker
....Regarding the passage in question - I've come to believe (and of course I could be wrong) that what makes it hard is not the RH, per se, but that the RH is making those fast movements simultaneous with the LH hand making leaps down to the Db's....
...which brings me to the idea that, at least for me, the REAL difficulty there is the leaps to the Db and then the Db below that, because I have to turn my head slightly so I can SEE where to land....

I haven't played this piece (which is a good thing for us all) ha ....and so I'm not speaking exactly about that passage, because I don't know, but it seems like that's an example of a thing I've talked about.

There have been many passages on which, it turned out, the main difficulty and obstacle was not being clear on where I was looking, and when.
.....part of which was, not being consistent about it.

Especially: If I was practicing slowly, my eyes would go in one particular manner.
If I practiced one hand alone, my eyes would go in another manner.
And when I played the piece for real, it would be still different.

To some extent this has to be so. (pretty much)
But I've found that unless I eventually 'eradicate' that, and come around to forcing myself to 'do my eyes' the same way every time, no matter whether I'm practicing slowly or playing just one hand, then I'm practicing the piece in a different physical way than how I'll be actually playing it -- and it can actually make the playing worse!

It can be essentially working against how I'll be actually playing the piece, by preventing me from getting fully into the physical approach that I'll be using when I actually play the piece, and in fact creating an internal conflict on it, because of all the different physical approaches I'd been doing.

I don't know how true this would be for anyone else, but it's very true for me, and it's a thing I've never (literally never) seen or heard anywhere, by anybody.

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For me, the RH thumb is almost passive in these passages. It's all about the forearm, with the thumb sliding from one note to the next. The thumb is just there, and the movement comes (almost) entirely from the forearm. In reality, the thumb feels like a spring that helps the hand bounce off the keybed, but there's no sense that it has to do anything other than react.

For the LH, I play an octave on the big leap when practising (the "chord-leap-chord-bigleap" pattern). I find it much easier mentally, and then just don't play the thumb when actually playing it. It's much harder later on when jumping down to white notes (as SiFi mentioned) which is necessary in later versions of this passage.

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So, all you guys really play the piece!!

Even though I'm dissing the piece, call me impressed. smile

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
So, all you guys really play the piece!!

Even though I'm dissing the piece, call me impressed. smile

I murder it. 😀 It's something I've never been able to get out of my head. I remember the first time I heard it. It's like a kaleidoscope of harmonic colour. I think of a Persian rug or a magic carpet, which probably isn't too far from the effect the composer intended. I've always found it odd that it gets dismissed as an empty showpiece. I suppose we don't all hear things the same way.

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Originally Posted by Seeker
Islamey is HARD.


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Nice work SiFi!

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
I haven't played this piece (which is a good thing for us all) ha ....and so I'm not speaking exactly about that passage, because I don't know, but it seems like that's an example of a thing I've talked about.

There have been many passages on which, it turned out, the main difficulty and obstacle was not being clear on where I was looking, and when.
.....part of which was, not being consistent about it.

Especially: If I was practicing slowly, my eyes would go in one particular manner.
If I practiced one hand alone, my eyes would go in another manner.
And when I played the piece for real, it would be still different.

To some extent this has to be so. (pretty much)
But I've found that unless I eventually 'eradicate' that, and come around to forcing myself to 'do my eyes' the same way every time, no matter whether I'm practicing slowly or playing just one hand, then I'm practicing the piece in a different physical way than how I'll be actually playing it -- and it can actually make the playing worse!

It can be essentially working against how I'll be actually playing the piece, by preventing me from getting fully into the physical approach that I'll be using when I actually play the piece, and in fact creating an internal conflict on it, because of all the different physical approaches I'd been doing.

I don't know how true this would be for anyone else, but it's very true for me, and it's a thing I've never (literally never) seen or heard anywhere, by anybody.

Oh my goodness, this is ABSOLUTELY true. You and I play on vastly different levels, I am not about to touch Islamey with a ten foot pole, and also I play with a score almost 100% of the time, but I also discovered quickly that I had to practice where I was looking and figure out exactly when and where and how no matter how I was practicing, similar to how you have to stick with one fingering. Without it, everything would fall apart when I would perform or be in a situation more stressful than the one in which I was practicing. I also have a nasty habit of staring hard at the score when I should look down, and this habit only gets worse when I have to perform, which of course ruins everything because not only will that NOT solve anything, but, as we've established looking at places you weren't looking before completely trips up the mind. Again, it's like changing the fingering on yourself. Recipe for disaster.

These days I actually practice where my eyes are going to go and when, and build in exactly where I'll be looking down, or looking at the score. The more complicated the piece, the more I plan where the eyes will go, and do this even if I'm separating the hands so that the eye pattern is as sure as the fingering. Take note of this and put the left hand in motion towards it before going over here and giving the right hand a visual landing place? Or the other way around? Look, plan, play.

One funny moment happened a few weeks ago in which I was playing something for ballet class that I had played so many times (a Grieg Norwegian dance) that I realized I could play it without looking at the score OR my hands. At all. For many, many measures. I found myself looking at literally nothing in particular, so my eyes wandered back to the page like they always do. But I am trying so hard to break that habit, plus there's nothing there that's new anyway, and I need to look at the dancers in general, that I made myself look past the piano to various things that I would then change each measure. Now, I just steadily look at each dancer in the room and move from dancer to dancer even when looking at them isn't exactly required in that particular moment.

But there are so many pieces that I have planned eye movements and do not violate the pattern, because I know if I do, things will go south.

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Originally Posted by johnstaf
think of a Persian rug or a magic carpet, which probably isn't too far from the effect the composer intended. I've always found it odd that it gets dismissed as an empty showpiece. I suppose we don't all hear things the same way.

I like Persian rugs a lot more. grin

BTW right now I'm typing on a Turkish rug.
I mean, not really typing 'on' it ha ....y'know what I mean. grin

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by johnstaf
think of a Persian rug or a magic carpet, which probably isn't too far from the effect the composer intended. I've always found it odd that it gets dismissed as an empty showpiece. I suppose we don't all hear things the same way.
I like Persian rugs a lot more. grin
BTW right now I'm typing on a Turkish rug.
I mean, not really typing 'on' it ha ....y'know what I mean. grin
Not to stray off topic, but the magic carpet reference reminded me of the Magic Carpet Fun House ride that used to be at Playland in Rye, NY. Ever go there as a kid? I loved it. grin


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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by johnstaf
think of a Persian rug or a magic carpet, which probably isn't too far from the effect the composer intended. I've always found it odd that it gets dismissed as an empty showpiece. I suppose we don't all hear things the same way.
I like Persian rugs a lot more. grin
BTW right now I'm typing on a Turkish rug.
I mean, not really typing 'on' it ha ....y'know what I mean. grin
Not to stray off topic, but the magic carpet reference reminded me of the Magic Carpet Fun House ride that used to be at Playland in Rye, NY. Ever go there as a kid? I loved it. grin

No!
But I've been there a few times as an adult (I live just a few miles from it), but only for (of all things) the baseball batting cage!
Which I think is no more. I think they did away with it some years ago.
It was pretty cool. When you batted, your visual background was, the water. It's right on a thing called the Long Island Sound, which is basically part of the ocean.
As nice a visual background as you can get.

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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by johnstaf
think of a Persian rug or a magic carpet, which probably isn't too far from the effect the composer intended. I've always found it odd that it gets dismissed as an empty showpiece. I suppose we don't all hear things the same way.
I like Persian rugs a lot more. grin
BTW right now I'm typing on a Turkish rug.
I mean, not really typing 'on' it ha ....y'know what I mean. grin
Not to stray off topic, but the magic carpet reference reminded me of the Magic Carpet Fun House ride that used to be at Playland in Rye, NY. Ever go there as a kid? I loved it. grin
Here's what I'm talking about......the closest I ever came to riding a magic carpet. So now, every time I hear Islamey in the future......

https://collections.westchestergov.com/digital/collection/ppl/id/2369/


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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by johnstaf
think of a Persian rug or a magic carpet, which probably isn't too far from the effect the composer intended. I've always found it odd that it gets dismissed as an empty showpiece. I suppose we don't all hear things the same way.
I like Persian rugs a lot more. grin
BTW right now I'm typing on a Turkish rug.
I mean, not really typing 'on' it ha ....y'know what I mean. grin
Not to stray off topic, but the magic carpet reference reminded me of the Magic Carpet Fun House ride that used to be at Playland in Rye, NY. Ever go there as a kid? I loved it. grin

No!
But I've been there a few times as an adult (I live just a few miles from it), but only for (of all things) the baseball batting cage!
Which I think is no more. I think they did away with it some years ago.
It was pretty cool. When you batted, your visual background was, the water. It's right on a thing called the Long Island Sound, which is basically part of the ocean.
As nice a visual background as you can get.
Unfortunately, the magic carpet ride and fun house burned down in 1966. The batting cage must have been a blast. Certainly a beautiful location along the Sound.


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Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Originally Posted by Mark_C
....not being clear on where I was looking, and when.
.....part of which was, not being consistent about it.....
Oh my goodness, this is ABSOLUTELY true. You and I play on vastly different levels...

Don't necessarily be sure about that! ha
Besides, I bet you're darn good.

Quote
...I also discovered quickly that I had to practice where I was looking and figure out exactly when and where and how no matter how I was practicing, similar to how you have to stick with one fingering....

I'm glad you mentioned that, because for me it's exactly like that.

A thing about fingering that's a little related, about slow practice: I've mentioned that a thing I have to watch out for, with slow practice, is not to get fooled into thinking I need to change the fingering. Sometimes we do get a good clue from that, but I think usually we get a bad one. Things feel different and are different when we play things slower than they really go. The hand feels different, and is different. The fingerings that are best at regular speed can feel wrong or even ridiculous at lower speed.

And at the same time (or, "on the other hand"?"), an opposite kind of thing might apply with a piece like Islamey, on which many of us might have to learn it and practice it for a fair while at slower speeds before getting to where we can start playing meaningfully through much of it at eventual speed. We might develop fingerings that are fine at slower speeds but which don't work real well at the eventual speed. We sometimes talk in terms of what "lies under the hand" or how the hand lays out. Well, at fast speeds, the hands lays differently, and often it doesn't "lay" at all, because it's flying. I've learned that for pieces like that, I can't let myself start getting much wedded to any fingerings until I'm playing through passages at very close to the real speed.

But, back to the "looking" thing:

Quote
Without it, everything would fall apart when I would perform or be in a situation more stressful than the one in which I was practicing. I also have a nasty habit of staring hard at the score when I should look down, and this habit only gets worse when I have to perform, which of course ruins everything because not only will that NOT solve anything, but, as we've established looking at places you weren't looking before completely trips up the mind. Again, it's like changing the fingering on yourself. Recipe for disaster.

These days I actually practice where my eyes are going to go and when, and build in exactly where I'll be looking down, or looking at the score. The more complicated the piece, the more I plan where the eyes will go, and do this even if I'm separating the hands so that the eye pattern is as sure as the fingering. Take note of this and put the left hand in motion towards it before going over here and giving the right hand a visual landing place? Or the other way around? Look, plan, play.

YES.
That is great.
I wonder how many other people give that kind of attention to it.

Quote
One funny moment happened a few weeks ago in which I was playing something for ballet class that I had played so many times (a Grieg Norwegian dance) that I realized I could play it without looking at the score OR my hands. At all. For many, many measures. I found myself looking at literally nothing in particular, so my eyes wandered back to the page like they always do. But I am trying so hard to break that habit, plus there's nothing there that's new anyway, and I need to look at the dancers in general, that I made myself look past the piano to various things that I would then change each measure. Now, I just steadily look at each dancer in the room and move from dancer to dancer even when looking at them isn't exactly required in that particular moment.

But there are so many pieces that I have planned eye movements and do not violate the pattern, because I know if I do, things will go south.

With such pieces I try hard to be seeing nothing.
Which usually means staring blankly straight ahead and a little upward and to the left (i.e. away from the audience).
I've wondered if some people sometimes might think I have an image of the score projected on the wall up there....

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Originally Posted by Carey
Here's what I'm talking about......the closest I ever came to riding a magic carpet. So now, every time I hear Islamey in the future......

https://collections.westchestergov.com/digital/collection/ppl/id/2369/

Thank you! Although, I don't really get an impression of what the ride does. However, I can tell that that's you and 'friend' in the photo, right? grin

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Carey
Here's what I'm talking about......the closest I ever came to riding a magic carpet. So now, every time I hear Islamey in the future......

https://collections.westchestergov.com/digital/collection/ppl/id/2369/

Thank you! Although, I don't really get an impression of what the ride does. However, I can tell that that's you and 'friend' in the photo, right? grin
The archive photo was probably taken a few years before I was born. ha The Magic Carpet ride was preceded by a series of dark tunnels and challenging gravity defying rooms and obstacles.

https://collections.westchestergov.com/digital/collection/ppl/id/3460/

https://collections.westchestergov.com/digital/collection/ppl/id/1213/

The magic carpet itself was like a giant electric treadmill on rollers with a flexible cover that propelled you forward as you sat on it, and gently dumped you onto a slide at the end. It was a 30 second cheap thrill.

https://collections.westchestergov.com/digital/collection/ppl/id/2370/

Honestly, I just found these photos tonight. grin


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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Seeker
....Regarding the passage in question - I've come to believe (and of course I could be wrong) that what makes it hard is not the RH, per se, but that the RH is making those fast movements simultaneous with the LH hand making leaps down to the Db's....
...which brings me to the idea that, at least for me, the REAL difficulty there is the leaps to the Db and then the Db below that, because I have to turn my head slightly so I can SEE where to land....

I haven't played this piece (which is a good thing for us all) ha ....and so I'm not speaking exactly about that passage, because I don't know, but it seems like that's an example of a thing I've talked about.

There have been many passages on which, it turned out, the main difficulty and obstacle was not being clear on where I was looking, and when.
.....part of which was, not being consistent about it.

Especially: If I was practicing slowly, my eyes would go in one particular manner.
If I practiced one hand alone, my eyes would go in another manner.
And when I played the piece for real, it would be still different.

To some extent this has to be so. (pretty much)
But I've found that unless I eventually 'eradicate' that, and come around to forcing myself to 'do my eyes' the same way every time, no matter whether I'm practicing slowly or playing just one hand, then I'm practicing the piece in a different physical way than how I'll be actually playing it -- and it can actually make the playing worse!

It can be essentially working against how I'll be actually playing the piece, by preventing me from getting fully into the physical approach that I'll be using when I actually play the piece, and in fact creating an internal conflict on it, because of all the different physical approaches I'd been doing.

I don't know how true this would be for anyone else, but it's very true for me, and it's a thing I've never (literally never) seen or heard anywhere, by anybody.

That's a pretty good analysis of a difficulty that I've been experiencing with a passage in a Scriabin piece I've been working on. I've been re-learning the 24th Prelude of the op. 11 set for the third time. The last few measures has the left hand playing octaves in leaps of fourths and fifths, in eighth-note triplets, "presto" tempo. On top of that, the right hand has four-note rolled chords that span a 12th...so the pinkie finger has to jump to get that highest note. Both hands need some eyeball attention, but the points that they need it most are in competition with each other. At slow practice tempo, I can jerk my eyes/head fast enough to cover both hands. But when I speed up beyond a certain tempo where I can't do that, it becomes a train-wreck. The only hope seems to be to get one hand able to do its thing blind.

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Originally Posted by scriabinfanatic
That's a pretty good analysis of a difficulty that I've been experiencing with a passage in a Scriabin piece I've been working on. I've been re-learning the 24th Prelude of the op. 11 set for the third time. The last few measures has the left hand playing octaves in leaps of fourths and fifths, in eighth-note triplets, "presto" tempo. On top of that, the right hand has four-note rolled chords that span a 12th...so the pinkie finger has to jump to get that highest note. Both hands need some eyeball attention, but the points that they need it most are in competition with each other. At slow practice tempo, I can jerk my eyes/head fast enough to cover both hands. But when I speed up beyond a certain tempo where I can't do that, it becomes a train-wreck. The only hope seems to be to get one hand able to do its thing blind.

Great example -- and in fact a lot of where I've been experiencing this is with Scriabin.

I find that usually there's another (better?) solution besides making one hand do it 'blind.'
What I usually try to work out for such things is, rather than doing it "blind," just before the double leap I do a quick glance at that hand and where it will need to go, so I sort of have that image in my mind, and then quickly switch to look at the other hand. Usually this all happens in just a fraction of a second, like maybe half a second -- but that's all that it needs, and it helps.
The main obstacle on it (or main potential obstacle) is the thing I said before, that it doesn't come naturally to do it that way when practicing slowly or just one hand at a time, and so I have to make myself do the exact same looking, or else I'm practicing a 'habit' that's different from what I'll really need to be doing.

BTW, I do some practicing of such passages "blindly," both on practicing each hand by itself and hands together, as part of really getting a feel for the leaps. But I try pretty soon to put that away and just do it the way I'll be doing when I actually play the piece.


Great example, and very well described!

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Many great pianists have performed Islamey. There are many other pieces that are of similar difficulty or potential as a show piece but they still chose to learn it. So I think for many it has appeal beyond its technical difficulties. I do think it is somewhat overlong.

Many great pianists have performed Grand Galop Chromatique. I mean, really, what kind of argument is that, not that I care to argue?

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