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#3089790 03/06/21 07:18 AM
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I have been thinking about how people learn pieces. One thing that I have noticed is that most beginners learn them without much understanding of the music. This to me would indicate that they rely a lot on muscle memory. Is this true?
Do most people who quit taking lessons have issues with muscle memory, ie they don't have a good muscle memory?
Isn't it really hard to play music either from memory or by looking at a score if you don't understand the music? I have not been able to learn much music without understanding it.
Many people could probably recite poems in a language they don't speak. Many people, who do not speak Latin, learn simple prayers in Latin but still they look at the patterns involved. Perhaps this is what most pianist do. They don't speak the musical language but still find some patterns. Can you please explain?
I find that it is extremely difficult to play music without speaking the musical language. I learn a lot hen I also play by ear or get to do my own arrangements.
I should add that when I sing I also have muscle memory issues. I learn much better if I analyse the music. It's not really piano specific, I guess.
What do you think?

Last edited by Billy Johnsson; 03/06/21 07:20 AM.
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You should explain more about what you mean when you say "understand the music" to make your post clearer.

Also, "muscle memory" is generally used when talking about memorizing a piece, and I don't think many beginners or even more advanced pianists memorize most of their pieces. Thus I don't see why having poor muscle memory would make someone quit piano unless they were forced to memorize all their pieces or endlessly play from memory in teachers' recitals. Maybe you mean something different when referring to muscle memory?

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
You should explain more about what you mean when you say "understand the music" to make your post clearer.

Also, "muscle memory" is generally used when talking about memorizing a piece, and I don't think many beginners or even more advanced pianists memorize most of their pieces. Thus I don't see why having poor muscle memory would make someone quit piano unless they were forced to memorize all their pieces or endlessly play from memory in teachers' recitals. Maybe you mean something different when referring to muscle memory?
I always try to memorize the music. You cannot go trough life only playing from a score.

understanding music? I guess it can mean a lot of things. It could refer to being able to play by ear. Eg being able to play simple chords to Twinkle twinkle little star or Abide with me. When you can play music without needing to always depend on sheet music.

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There is more to music than just music theory including how the pieces were arranged with an intro to the main section and back to the opening theme to end the piece, L & R chords and melody lines on top of each other as in counterpoint. Even intermediate players would dive into challenging pieces and try to learn them from day 1 without much knowledge of the piece. Advanced players know a lot more music theory and can pick up things in a new piece quickly just by listening to it once.

The history behind a piece is just as fascinating. Back in my school days I was in the school orchestra and we played an arrangement of the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture. The students knew why the date was 1812 because there was a war in Europe. Not many people know that somewhere in the piece Tchaikovsky cleverly inserted the first few notes of the French national anthem "La Marseillaise" as an insult to Napoleon's army who failed to invade Russia. Young people play pieces by Mozart, Haydn & Beethoven with the title "Turkish" Rondo or March. Some are very young and accomplished but probably none would think about why "Turkish" is in the title. Once the Ottoman Empire occupied much of Eastern Europe and their great army was stopped at the gates of Vienna. Do they play these pieces to perfection like technical exercises or do they think about the possible Middle-Eastern influences on the music?

A few years ago I met a retired man who got into playing the Debussy "Clair de Lune" as an absolute beginner. Without any training on reading music he dived into the piece by watching hand gestures on demo videos. He had fond memories of his father playing the piece. He managed to imitate the hand gestures in the demos and in a few months played like an advanced player. It's interesting to find that Debussy wrote the piece after he visited the Paris World's Fair and got the idea after hearing performers played a gamelan with complex harmonies in the Indonesian pavilion. To cut the long story short, the man had no interest in the history behind the piece and just wanted to dive into it. I found it rude for somebody to close his ears when we got into a conversation on music history. The interesting info went in 1 ear and out the other. C de L is certainly not a beginner piece but as good as his playing can get, he behaved very much like a beginner.

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understanding music? I guess it can mean a lot of things. It could refer to being able to play by ear. Eg being able to play simple chords to Twinkle twinkle little star or Abide with me. When you can play music without needing to always depend on sheet music.
Most people (on this forum, anyway) would define "understanding the music" as being able to name the chords and perhaps analyze using Roman numerals, identify phrases and cadences, and spot key changes--things of that ilk. Your definition of "understanding the music" seems to be the same as playing by ear.

You should be able to do both. Play by ear and read from a score. Many people will have a few pieces committed to memory, but are in no way limited to only playing from memory.


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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Quote
understanding music? I guess it can mean a lot of things. It could refer to being able to play by ear. Eg being able to play simple chords to Twinkle twinkle little star or Abide with me. When you can play music without needing to always depend on sheet music.
Most people (on this forum, anyway) would define "understanding the music" as being able to name the chords and perhaps analyze using Roman numerals, identify phrases and cadences, and spot key changes--things of that ilk. Your definition of "understanding the music" seems to be the same as playing by ear.

You should be able to do both. Play by ear and read from a score. Many people will have a few pieces committed to memory, but are in no way limited to only playing from memory.
thanks for the clarification. It is very important to use the correct terminology. I am refering to playing by ear which can be accompanied by theory.

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I learn by first reading and playing the music. I couldn't play anything by ear, although my ear almost always tells me when I play a wrong note.

By reading, I begin to memorize patterns and some basic structure to the music. Then I can play it from memory. But that's usually short lived. If after sometime I go back and play it, I almost always forget some part. But that's an easy fix, pull out the sheet music, read and play, and get it back into my working memory. And remember that particular part for next time. Repeat this process as needed.


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I think my issue is: playing by ear is often forgotten at piano lessons.
What does that mean to me? It would refer to teachers not asking students to play eg melodies by imitating what they hear and that music often is not taught using numbers or solfege (I am a pattern person9.
My theory is that most people quit piano lessons if this is not included in the lesons.

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Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
I think my issue is: playing by ear is often forgotten at piano lessons.
What does that mean to me? It would refer to teachers not asking students to play eg melodies by imitating what they hear and that music often is not taught using numbers or solfege (I am a pattern person9.
My theory is that most people quit piano lessons if this is not included in the lesons.
You make a lot of theories and assumptions, none of which are true.

Firstly, teachers don't tend to teach playing by ear, unless you have Suzuki teachers (which frankly have a dubious reputation when it comes to piano learning). If you don't have a teacher, you'd probably start by playing by ear. That's what all kids do. Few kids who don't have teachers ever continue with piano - they get bored, because all they can do is pick out simple tunes with one finger. (I know of one personally.)

And secondly, you don't need a teacher to play by ear: I (and my fellow students) were never taught to play by ear, but we all did - because that's the only way we could play pop and folk tunes etc. It's not rocket science for us, because we all had ear training (required for our exams).......and we all could sight sing (required for joining the school choir).

And finally, the vast majority of professional classical musicians - including of course pianists - hardly ever play from memory: they almost always have fabulous sight-reading skills, and therefore also learn new scores very quickly. The only pianists who play from memory are solo concert pianists. Of my four teachers, three of them have never played any classical piece from memory - but they could all play by ear and had excellent sight-reading skills.

And no - you don't need to "understand" music (not even theoretically, certainly not your incorrect 'definition' of playing by ear) - to be able to play it successfully. Just like you can read words of which you don't know the meaning.


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Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
You cannot go trough life only playing from a score.

No? I have gone through 65 years only playing from a score. I have never memorised any piece - I feel that for me, the effort spent on memorising is better spent on practising.

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Originally Posted by David-G
Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
You cannot go trough life only playing from a score.

No? I have gone through 65 years only playing from a score. I have never memorised any piece - I feel that for me, the effort spent on memorising is better spent on practising.
I find that most people I meet play from memory. It's easy to memorize if you understand the music.
Many people memorize music. People use sheet music due to poor memorizing skills.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
I think my issue is: playing by ear is often forgotten at piano lessons.
What does that mean to me? It would refer to teachers not asking students to play eg melodies by imitating what they hear and that music often is not taught using numbers or solfege (I am a pattern person9.
My theory is that most people quit piano lessons if this is not included in the lesons.
You make a lot of theories and assumptions, none of which are true.

Firstly, teachers don't tend to teach playing by ear, unless you have Suzuki teachers (which frankly have a dubious reputation when it comes to piano learning). If you don't have a teacher, you'd probably start by playing by ear. That's what all kids do. Few kids who don't have teachers ever continue with piano - they get bored, because all they can do is pick out simple tunes with one finger. (I know of one personally.)

And secondly, you don't need a teacher to play by ear: I (and my fellow students) were never taught to play by ear, but we all did - because that's the only way we could play pop and folk tunes etc. It's not rocket science for us, because we all had ear training (required for our exams).......and we all could sight sing (required for joining the school choir).

And finally, the vast majority of professional classical musicians - including of course pianists - hardly ever play from memory: they almost always have fabulous sight-reading skills, and therefore also learn new scores very quickly. The only pianists who play from memory are solo concert pianists. Of my four teachers, three of them have never played any classical piece from memory - but they could all play by ear and had excellent sight-reading skills.

And no - you don't need to "understand" music (not even theoretically, certainly not your incorrect 'definition' of playing by ear) - to be able to play it successfully. Just like you can read words of which you don't know the meaning.
You are saying that there a kids who can recite the whole Quran without speaking Arabic. It's the same thing.
Most people I know have difficulties learning something without undersatanding it. You have a specific talent. Please don't say that we all have your talent.
It is easy to think that what is easy for me must be easy for you.Also, playing by ear still requier a teacher. It is hard to do something good if you have no teacher.
Listening skills is something that teachers help you with. You assume too much!

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
I think my issue is: playing by ear is often forgotten at piano lessons.
What does that mean to me? It would refer to teachers not asking students to play eg melodies by imitating what they hear and that music often is not taught using numbers or solfege (I am a pattern person9.
My theory is that most people quit piano lessons if this is not included in the lesons.
You make a lot of theories and assumptions, none of which are true.

Firstly, teachers don't tend to teach playing by ear, unless you have Suzuki teachers (which frankly have a dubious reputation when it comes to piano learning). If you don't have a teacher, you'd probably start by playing by ear. That's what all kids do. Few kids who don't have teachers ever continue with piano - they get bored, because all they can do is pick out simple tunes with one finger. (I know of one personally.)

And secondly, you don't need a teacher to play by ear: I (and my fellow students) were never taught to play by ear, but we all did - because that's the only way we could play pop and folk tunes etc. It's not rocket science for us, because we all had ear training (required for our exams).......and we all could sight sing (required for joining the school choir).

And finally, the vast majority of professional classical musicians - including of course pianists - hardly ever play from memory: they almost always have fabulous sight-reading skills, and therefore also learn new scores very quickly. The only pianists who play from memory are solo concert pianists. Of my four teachers, three of them have never played any classical piece from memory - but they could all play by ear and had excellent sight-reading skills.

And no - you don't need to "understand" music (not even theoretically, certainly not your incorrect 'definition' of playing by ear) - to be able to play it successfully. Just like you can read words of which you don't know the meaning.
you say that you can only play simple stuff by ear and therefore need no teacher for playing by ear. Doesn't make sense. If you cannot do something you need a teacher!

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
I think my issue is: playing by ear is often forgotten at piano lessons.
What does that mean to me? It would refer to teachers not asking students to play eg melodies by imitating what they hear and that music often is not taught using numbers or solfege (I am a pattern person9.
My theory is that most people quit piano lessons if this is not included in the lesons.
You make a lot of theories and assumptions, none of which are true.

Firstly, teachers don't tend to teach playing by ear, unless you have Suzuki teachers (which frankly have a dubious reputation when it comes to piano learning). If you don't have a teacher, you'd probably start by playing by ear. That's what all kids do. Few kids who don't have teachers ever continue with piano - they get bored, because all they can do is pick out simple tunes with one finger. (I know of one personally.)

And secondly, you don't need a teacher to play by ear: I (and my fellow students) were never taught to play by ear, but we all did - because that's the only way we could play pop and folk tunes etc. It's not rocket science for us, because we all had ear training (required for our exams).......and we all could sight sing (required for joining the school choir).

Exams?
I have never studied music at a music school so I never took any exams in music.
Did you study piano at music school? I have never done that.
You don't do exams unless you study music at a music school. Or do schools in your country require people to take exams in music?

people on this forum too much opinion.
people often ssume stuff eg all people can play by not understanding the music or that you will take music exams.
even I assume too much! We are too emotional. We talk from our frustrations.
People are different. I need to play by ear more than other people do. Some people can play anything by just seeing a score when other people cannot.
We should stop assuming that we are all the same! This is why we have all the dumbd comments.

Last edited by Billy Johnsson; 03/07/21 11:46 AM.
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Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
People use sheet music due to poor memorizing skills.
I'm sure you can memorize this short, simple piece in an hour, with your superior memorizing skills wow:



Others just sight-read it - instantly whistle.


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Billy Johnsson
People use sheet music due to poor memorizing skills.
I'm sure you can memorize this short, simple piece in an hour, with your superior memorizing skills wow:



Others just sight-read it - instantly whistle.
I cannot even sight-read it. If I can sight-reed it memorizing shouldn't be too difficult.


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