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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
What's wrong with father Charles goes down and ends battle? It's a lot quicker (far less typing too smile ).

I like it! I must have heard it before but it didn't stay with me.

The other two I know about have been of great help:

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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
What's wrong with father Charles goes down and ends battle? It's a lot quicker (far less typing too smile ).

Well, for one thing, it doesn't begin with a blank slate.

And for another, it doesn't cover all twelve keys, if I understand it correctly.

But more important for me, learning it the way I did (which didn't involve any typing on the part of teacher or student, at the time) had the big advantage of a hands-on tying of the information directly to the physical layout of the keyboard. It was done in such an immediate and logical way that I could absorb it right on the spot, no extraneous memory aids needed.

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I learned the sequence of fifths by actually going up and down the keyboard by fifths. The coolest thing to me was that you add sharps with each 5th up and flats with each 5th down. I still picture the keyboard fifths when I'm thinking about Db with 5 flats down to Gb with 6 (and of course, if you wanted 7 flats you'd be at Cb, but that starts to get crazy).


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Originally Posted by gooddog
My point is, it's not automatic and I have to mentally go through, what are for me, cumbersome steps to find something I haven't found helpful, when it's easier for me to just remember which notes are accidentals.

I think if the question you are asking is whether it is worth the effort to be able to more easily name the key from the signature, i would say no, if that is strictly speaking your concern. But the effort to get there is not very high either. So i dont think it is an issue altogether.

Now if you broaden the question to whether it is generally usefull is some ways to understand the key structure of a piece, that is a different question. Of course for example knowing what the key is vs just the number of flats/sharps makes it much more simple to anticipate certain melodic mouvements or certain chords. Understanding the relationships between the keys allows to better make sense of modulations.

There are a lot of usefull benefits understanding the harmonic structure of a piece, but that implies some investment in music theory and form structure. Whether it will make a difference in the way you play the piece or make it easier to play is an open topic.

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Thanks Sidokar.


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On a night with insomnia...some people count sheep. I go through the circle of fifths.


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Originally Posted by Sidokar
There are a lot of usefull benefits understanding the harmonic structure of a piece, but that implies some investment in music theory and form structure. Whether it will make a difference in the way you play the piece or make it easier to play is an open topic.
Even though my understanding of harmonry is not great, I think understanding the harmonic structure of a piece must be very important and make a difference in the way one plays a piece. Isn't harmony one of the basic elements of music along with things like melody, rhythm, and structure?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 02/25/21 12:51 PM.
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Now if you broaden the question to whether it is generally usefull is some ways to understand the key structure of a piece, that is a different question. Of course for example knowing what the key is vs just the number of flats/sharps makes it much more simple to anticipate certain melodic mouvements or certain chords. Understanding the relationships between the keys allows to better make sense of modulations.
.
I just re-read you post. I understand the part about anticipating chords, but my knowledge of theory does not encompass anticipating modulations. Sadly, I have no idea what you mean. My ear can anticipate changes; I just can't identify their names.


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Originally Posted by gooddog
I just re-read you post. I understand the part about anticipating chords, but my knowledge of theory does not encompass anticipating modulations. Sadly, I have no idea what you mean. My ear can anticipate changes; I just can't identify their names.
Frankly, I don't see any need to be able to "name" key changes during modulations, unless you're into academism.

What is important is for the pianist to hear them, which you obviously do - and then you can decide how you want to 'bring it out', whether with a change of tone color or an agogic accent or change in dynamics etc - or just plough straight through as if nothing untoward has occurred......


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Originally Posted by gooddog
Understanding the relationships between the keys allows to better make sense of modulations.

.
I just re-read you post. I understand the part about anticipating chords, but my knowledge of theory does not encompass anticipating modulations. Sadly, I have no idea what you mean. My ear can anticipate changes; I just can't identify their names.[/quote]

I did not say necessarily anticipate but make sense of the way the piece evolves. It makes you more comfortable navigating inside the piece and understanding the harmonic evolution. For relatively long pieces, it helps to make sense of the evolution as most often the harmonic evolution is linked to the rhetoric of the piece. A simple example is that very frequently in classical music when you are in the exposition of a sonata and go a VI chord it usually means a preparation for a modulation to the dominant. Or at the end of the development you can expect to be on the dominant for the return of the tonic.

That said, if you are at this stage comfortable the way you are, and you enjoy playing as you do, i see no reason to invest a lot of time into learning a lot of theory and structural staff.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by gooddog
I just re-read you post. I understand the part about anticipating chords, but my knowledge of theory does not encompass anticipating modulations. Sadly, I have no idea what you mean. My ear can anticipate changes; I just can't identify their names.
Frankly, I don't see any need to be able to "name" key changes during modulations, unless you're into academism.

What is important is for the pianist to hear them, which you obviously do - and then you can decide how you want to 'bring it out', whether with a change of tone color or an agogic accent or change in dynamics etc - or just plough straight through as if nothing untoward has occurred......
This^^^^

Just because one cannot 'name the thing' doesn't mean one can't recognise it and respond to it. Yes, having a name for it is great - we could name these 'things' - 'apples' as per the OP, 'pears,' 'bananas,' 'elephants' or what have you, but yes, the real name is good. However, I find playing music is less a technical exercise than an experience which transcends the technical (hmm, not sure I phrased that well) and the theory aspect rarely entered my head. I just enjoyed playing.

It isn't possible to see / hear / experience things the same way as another person does, so for somebody well-versed in music theory I can well believe that it is difficult to comprehend that without recognising by name that a flattened 13th 9th or whatever has just arrived or the chords along the path taken before and after it that somebody can still be aware of and respond to what is going on. They / we just cannot name it, and frankly I now find that frustrating although for many years I didn't care one hoot.

I have learnt a lot of piano terminology since joining PW, but most of it is just the name for things I do having found them useful when playing over the years. Being mostly self-taught I discovered them for myself, but didn't name them.

PW has been an eye-opener for me, although in a way I was happier in my ignorance - those that don't know they don't know and all that.

Last edited by petebfrance; 02/25/21 05:44 PM.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
What is important is for the pianist to hear them, which you obviously do - and then you can decide how you want to 'bring it out', whether with a change of tone color or an agogic accent or change in dynamics etc - or just plough straight through as if nothing untoward has occurred......
Yes, I seem to hear it all, without knowing the proper names and I consider this aural gift to be a blessing. Sometimes it’s frustrating to try to discuss something I hear and am trying to reproduce, only to find others don’t hear it and have no idea what I am talking about. I also find that a huge amount of subtlety is lost in recordings. (Thank goodness my teacher gets it).

Something that has confused me is that most pianists I’ve talked with prefer to express their music spontaneously. My understanding is that they believe their moment to moment feelings give their music life. I, OTOH, with my instinctive understanding of musical organization and phrasing, painstakingly plan every note, every phrase. I’m not saying my music sounds mechanical. It’s just that I know exactly how I am going to play each note and approach every phrase before I start. I have spent hours developing a clear picture of what I am trying to say and I figure out how I am going to do it. This is to me, the most enjoyable part of practicing. My friends at PW seem to think this stifles creativity but I think it refines my musical expression within the phrases and within the scope of the whole piece.

Would I rather have my ear or the theoretical knowledge? I’ll take the ear every time.


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Originally Posted by petebfrance
...PW has been an eye-opener for me, although in a way I was happier in my ignorance - those that don't know they don't know and all that.

Me too, and not just PW but also in general studying more seriously.
I performed much more comfortably when I didn't know anything. ha

Years ago I read that Schnabel said he felt a performance was successful if he accomplished 40% of what he set out to. I thought heck, I accomplish like 99% of what I'm trying to do. Then I realized that the reason for that was that I wasn't really trying to do anything. grin

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
Years ago I read that Schnabel said he felt a performance was successful if he accomplished 40% of what he set out to do.:
It sounds like Schnabel planned his expression ahead of time, not spontaneously.


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Originally Posted by gooddog
Originally Posted by Mark_C
Years ago I read that Schnabel said he felt a performance was successful if he accomplished 40% of what he set out to do.:
It sounds like Schnabel planned his expression ahead of time, not spontaneously.

Or perhaps the hope of 40% accomplishment was his plan for structure, balance and mastering technical challenges/hurdles, and the remaining 60% was for hoped but unplanned-for inspiration and letting spontaneity of the moment take over.

Certainly a look through his edition of the Beethoven Sonatas shows that a lot of planning obviously took place: frequent and often very small changes in tempo (indicated by metronome markings), dynamic markings not included by Beethoven, for example.

That doesn't mean, though, that he would necessarily have played these works following these indications exactly the same way every time; what great artist does?

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Originally Posted by gooddog
Mark you are understanding me. I remember what the accidentals are; I just don’t pay attention to the actual name of the key. Once a piece is solid, I usually don’t have significant memory problems because, besides muscle memory, my ears tell my hands where to go and I have little snapshots of the score in my mind, (not as sharp as eidetic memory but similar). Comprehension of the structure of the piece is, for me, more visceral than intellectual. I would not be able to analyze the structure or relationship between the key changes for a class but I understand them on an organic level, (if I am using the word correctly). I feel that they make sense and I know when they happen.

As I rethink this, I realize you may have a point about memory. For example, I’ve got the Bach/Rach violin partita memorized. I can picture much of the score in my mind. But then I asked myself “what is the key signature?” Um. I think it has some flats, maybe 4?

BDB The only time I encountered some embarrassment was in a master class. The teacher asked me to identify the key of some scale passages I was flashing through in Schubert’s impromptu D142/4. She knows me well and likes to tease me so she probably asked me this on purpose. I shrugged and my chagrined answer was, “I honestly have no idea.”
I play pieces the same way goodog. I quickly look at the key signature before playing a piece and identify them as you do. How many sharps or how many flats and I recognize the pattern from having played many pieces. I can figure out the key by analyzing the piece and pulling out the old pneumonics such as five cowboys get drunk at Ed’s bar or bead greatest common factor but it doesn’t really help my playing. I would like to anticipate key modulations at some point and I had taken college level courses in music theory but forgot a lot of it until a teacher asks a specific question such as do you recognize this first inversion and when they do speak with music theory vocabulary I usually have an idea of what they are talking about. I played lots of chords when learning the organ so I can identify those in a piece as well.

I think understanding chord modulations would help one memorize a piece or not lose ones place when reading from a score. It would also help one play if they lost their place in the middle of reading from the page and had to wing it for a while but I think a good ear can accomplish the same. Both just take practice and experience I think.

Meanwhile I just began learning the Rach Bach Partita myself and I recognize the piece as one with 4 sharps. If my teacher asks me how do I know it’s E major I usually say with a smile because it’s written on the cover now can we get started?

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Originally Posted by gooddog
Would I rather have my ear or the theoretical knowledge? I’ll take the ear every time.

I dont think you have to choose one or the other. Each one brings you something different and complementary. Knowing some theory does not replace the importance of ear judgement. Understanding a piece structure does not replace a parallel understanding of the musical flow, rhetoric and intonation. The question in your case is simply whether it is worth to invest quite some time into something that you dont feel the need for. And it seems that in your case, the answer is probably no. That said, the effort to learn a few basics is not very high either, especially with your experience.

Apart from that, from a more general point of view, every activity starts with naming/creating a terminology and trying to organize it in a consistent way. Terminology is at the basis of communication.

I dont believe much in spontaneity when it come to classical music. What most people call spontaneity is just the result of years of practice building phrasing skills and indepth knowledge of certain type of music. Just like good improvisation skills is not innate (at least not for the average joe).

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I think those who don't think knowing the harmonic structure of a piece is important to play a piece at a high level are kidding themselves. I also don't think one can know they are feeling all the harmonic changes if one cannot name them. How can one know one is feeling something that one is not intellectually aware of?

Doesn't every piano major at a conservatory have to study harmony? Isn't harmony one of the main elements of music? Many jazz transcriptions have the chords written down as part of the transcription. Are the chords any less important in classical music?

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Many jazz transcriptions have the chords written down as part of the transcription. Are the chords any less important in classical music?
To see how ridiculous it is to analyze a classical piece like a jazz piece, you only have to look at a thread in ABF where someone attempted it (for Debussy's Arabesque No.1, if I'm not mistaken).

'Classical' composers - especially from the Romantic era onwards, use harmony in ways that transcends jazz chords.

Incidentally, I once observed the bar pianist on a cruise ship play Für Elise from the score, in what sounded like a jazz arrangement. He let me see his score (on his iPad) - it was the original Für Elise all right, but with chord names printed beneath each arpeggio etc. Rather than reading the two staves simultaneously like a classical pianist would, he was using the score like a lead sheet, which actually works OK for this masterpiece (whatever Luddy might say from his perch in the sky).

But I defied him to do the same with a far simpler piece like Chopin's Op.10/12 (- I played it for him, while he followed with the score which he'd downloaded from IMSLP for the purpose): he admitted defeat.


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Originally Posted by gooddog
Something that has confused me is that most pianists I’ve talked with prefer to express their music spontaneously. My understanding is that they believe their moment to moment feelings give their music life. I, OTOH, with my instinctive understanding of musical organization and phrasing, painstakingly plan every note, every phrase. I’m not saying my music sounds mechanical. It’s just that I know exactly how I am going to play each note and approach every phrase before I start. I have spent hours developing a clear picture of what I am trying to say and I figure out how I am going to do it.
For me, when performing, 80% is rehearsed and 20% is spontaneous.

The great Herbert von Karajan rehearsed his Berliner Philharmoniker to the nth degree, leaving nothing to chance, and never letting them off the leash during the rehearsals, exhorting them (and his singers, and soloists, if any) to save themselves for the actual performance, when there must be no inhibitions. Thus, in performance, you hear a huge dynamic and tonal range, with barely suppressed outsized corporate virtuosity and controlled abandon, as if the musicians have been let loose like tigers from their cages for the first time - which in effect, they have.

Which is the way I like to perform too. For me, performances must always sound spontaneous and 'in the moment', no matter how much preparation has been done beforehand. I often do things on the spur of the moment in performance, when an idea comes to me which I'd not thought of during my practice sessions. Occasionally, people send me recordings that they made of my recitals, and I have sometimes been surprised by how much they differ from anything I do at home on my piano - not in overall conception, but in expressive intensity and sometimes, even sheer 'wildness'. The worse compliment anyone could pay me is to tell me that my playing is "very accurate". The best criticism was when someone told me that even though the music was 'too complicated' for her to understand (at which I told her that she didn't need to understand classical music - it's purely for enjoyment), she 'got' what it was about from the way I played it.


"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."
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