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#3183331 01/08/22 05:54 AM
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As I've got more experienced I've started to try figure out why exactly it is that something that I can play easily at home, can be a struggle to play on stage or in public. I recently had the experience of messing up part of a song on stage, and afterwards decided to play the next song anyway. What was interesting is that in spite of the fact that I felt like I was going to die, I managed to play the next song perfectly! Anyway this made me have a few thoughts.

I assume that often for beginners, the better you get at a song the less you think about it, so therefore the less well you actually know it. So if you mess up, you'll have lost your bearing. The trick is the not only know what chord is coming next but to know the exact way in which it starts. I think if one wants to play pieces that are beyond their ability I think this sort of analysation is needed.

What can make it easier for me on stage is to get my bearing on the instrument first by just messing around a bit. Unfortunately it isn't always appropriate to do this. But at a few open mics I have attended before I've noticed one or two people jokingly introduce their song by saying "this is probably going to be terrible but I'll try it anyway", and then go on to play it superbly! I don't know if it's because those guys had a very high standard, or if it's because they know they'll be less pressure on them if the audience isn't expecting a lot. Seems like a clever trick to me.

I take the view that for any technical pieces, that unless I've been playing them for more than about two months, that I won't let myself perform it... even if I have mastered it. I find it's when you're on stage that you realise just how new you actually are to the song.

Here's a two specific examples of where I've messed up before:

  • Recently I needed to play a Bb chord going into a C/Bb. When I moved to the C/Bb my left hand also moved to the C! This would never happen when playing it at home. Anyone else had this experience?
  • Another isn't so much a mistake I tend to make, but one I find it hard to get out of. It's when, for whatever reason, instead of hitting the base note of the chord I'm moving to, I end up hitting the base note of the chord that's after that. I've found that when this happens, the funny thing is that once I finish with that chord (the one I messed up on) that my left hand will want to move again... even though it's already in place. Do you follow me? That can be very confusing for the brain.


Some of the tricks I use to help me memorise stuff are far too specific to explain, but here is one or two things some of you might relate to:

  • I realised that often when practising Fur Elise, that even though I intended to play the C note on the Am chord by crossing the left hand thumb over, that sometimes I would play this same note with the right hand. It was one of those things you could do either way, but when I did it that way it of course caused my fingers of the right hand to be placed in a different set up for the notes. I went as far as practising the other way of doing it just a little bit just in case I'd go for that C note with the other hand. Low and behold I did end up going for that note with the wrong hand when performing it, but thankfully it was all fine.
  • For another piece of music recently I found that when my RH moved to a Dm chord (FAD) that my fifth finger wouldn't move far enough right. It would land between the C and the D. I realised that in order to get the fifth finger far enough right, I needed to move my hand forward (in to the piano). The reason I didn't want to move my hand forward was because subconsciously I felt that it could hit the black keys in doing so.


Maybe the reason I go to such extremes is because I'm far from a natural. In any case please do share your own snippets of wisdom.

Last edited by Visalia; 01/08/22 06:03 AM.
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Originally Posted by Visalia
the better you get at a song the less you think about it, so therefore the less well you actually know it.
Logical contradiction; or it is necessary to indicate the meaning attached to get at a song and know it .

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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Visalia
the better you get at a song the less you think about it, so therefore the less well you actually know it.
Logical contradiction; or it is necessary to indicate the meaning attached to get at a song and know it .
If you're not just being difficult, then I would think about it for a second and you should realise what I mean. If need be I may spell it out for you, but it would be lengthy to explain.

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Originally Posted by Visalia
If you're not just being difficult, then I would think about it for a second and you should realise what I mean. If need be I may spell it out for you, but it would be lengthy to explain.
If you really know music, you can play it without mistakes, anywhere; but if not, sometimes you can play without mistakes, sometimes not.
Do you think you can play Mary Had a Little Lamb without mistakes at the White House in the presence of the President?

Last edited by Nahum; 01/08/22 07:51 AM.
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Visalia
If you're not just being difficult, then I would think about it for a second and you should realise what I mean. If need be I may spell it out for you, but it would be lengthy to explain.
If you really know music, you can play it without mistakes, anywhere; but if not, sometimes you can play without mistakes, sometimes not.
Do you think you can play Mary Had a Little Lamb without mistakes at the White House in the presence of the President?
Just with one hand. The left wouldn't be able to do anything apart from hitting the base note for each measure.

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There are songs that I know well and have played for years, but I still make mistakes sometimes, especially when I am trying to record. I know which notes I want to hit, but sometimes my fingers miss.

Last edited by CWT; 01/08/22 11:22 PM.
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Originally Posted by CWT
There are songs that I know well and have played for years, but I still make mistakes sometimes, especially when I am trying to record. I know which notes I want to hit, but sometimes my fingers miss.
Well at least you know which notes to hit.

For a while there it was as if I was supposed to feel I'm the only one on the forum who's ever had the experience of forgetting their notes. Surely people remember experiences like this from their beginner years? Or was everyone here just fantastic from the start? I know for a fact that there's a lot of sight readers out there, who if you took away the sheets from them that they'd be left pretty clueless. It's a lot easier to remember words when performing than it is notes, and people have been known to forget words.

I'm sure their plenty of good song writers who don't play their songs for this very reason. Like why is it David Bowie would never play 'Life on Mars'?? Or would Kate Bush be able to play Wuthering Heights?

Last edited by Visalia; 01/09/22 07:12 AM.
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Hi

David Bowie performed Life on Mars many times. You only have to look on YouTube. His Glastonbury 2000 performance being one of my favourites. Kate Bush is a bit of a reclusive character anyway, but she's perfectly capable of performing her material.

You really can't make comparisons between yourself and professional performers and musicians.


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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

David Bowie performed Life on Mars many times. You only have to look on YouTube. His Glastonbury 2000 performance being one of my favourites. Kate Bush is a bit of a reclusive character anyway, but she's perfectly capable of performing her material.

I think you misunderstand me. He's never "played" it live, as distinct from "performed". Even if it was the case that he never sang it live, me saying that here still wouldn't be relevant to the thread topic.

I actually watched that performance on BBC last night as yesterday was his birthday. I assume it was Mike Garson who was actually playing it on the piano.
Originally Posted by Simon_b
You really can't make comparisons between yourself and professional performers and musicians.
You can always make comparisons. They're only human after all, albeit more famous than us. Bowie himself joked at the idea of him being a musician.

If you have nothing to share from your own experiences related to this thread topic, that's fine. You don't need to say anything.

Last edited by Visalia; 01/09/22 09:25 AM.
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Quote
For a while there it was as if I was supposed to feel I'm the only one on the forum who's ever had the experience of forgetting their notes. Surely people remember experiences like this from their beginner years?
Of course, a blank is not an uncommon experience, and it certainly wouldn't be confined to beginners. Inventive pro players with good ears would be able to avoid discontinuity by simply inventing something on the spot to fill the gap until they were back on track.

Writers have the advantage that their own compositions are almost certainly more embedded in the memory although for live gigs where the routine for any one song (variations on order of verses, choruses and instrumental breaks) may vary from one performance to the next, there is the potential for a blank.

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David Bowie may never have 'played' Life on Mars live - at least not solo. You could be right. Though I don't see it has any relevance to this thread, since Bowie was not primarily a player.

I've had plenty of experiences of my own, as I'm sure many others have.

I heard Mike Garson tell a story about playing with David Bowie. Sadly I've forgotten which song it related to. Anyway, he always played an improvised introduction to this particular song. Bowie would wait for a particular phrase which would then be his cue for the vocals. At this show Garson started his introduction in the wrong key. He said that for the next half a dozen shows Bowie would always give him a worried look before the start the song in question. Even a great musician like Mike Garson makes mistakes.


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VISALIA QUOTE
I've started to try figure out why exactly it is that something that I can play easily at home, can be a struggle to play on stage or in public

Here is a couple post that might be useful
DPVJAZZ DEC 3 2005
Do you stress out before a performance or after?
I know this may seem like a silly question but I have been working on not stressing out before a gig so that I can play relaxed and enjoy the moment and I have been making progress. I noticed though now after the gig I focus on maybe the two or three mistakes of the whole night instead of enjoying what just took place. We have had great turnouts and real positive feedback from the audiences and for me every musician saying what a great time they had and please call anytime so they can do it again. Plus I record the night and can hear how nice it sounds so why do I still focus on the mistakes? Anyway I was wondering how many of you that actually perform professionally still stress out.

SARABANDE DEC 3 2005
I'm not really a performance minded person. I had to play a lot in college in front of students and professors in order to get a degree. Also, in private teaching, I try to play a couple pieces at the end of student recitals. My teacher used to do the same and I thought it was neat when I took lessons at a young age. Playing in front of the parents to me seems really high pressure as if I really mess up, I'm worried the parents will think I'm not qualified to teach (if I can't play well). During both the college but more so the student recitals, my hands used to shake so uncontrollably I could hardly hang on to the keys. One particular time, I was so nervous my entire r.h. and arm went completely numb. Now how is one suppose to play when you can't feel your hand? Has this ever happened to anyone? I somehow made it through. At these student recitals I usually make a few note mistakes here and there, but my students think I play flawlessly. I say, "didn't you hear the mistakes?" and they don't. Of course, that's coming from beginners, however. But it makes me feel good.

Needless to say, I was really worried about a repeat of the numbing hand experience so I determined to relax and just enjoy playing when "performing". This year at a student recital, I put my focus on moving the audience emotionally rather than whether I might make a mistake. It worked and I was very relaxed and enjoyed performing. My suggestion then is to primarly concentrate on getting the audience wrapped up in the piece, having an emotional impact on them, carry them along for a story where you are the story teller. I like to relate performing to figure skating. Figure skaters make mistakes, fall, slip, make technical errors and the performance isn't considered a total loss even when there's a major flaw, people focus on what was good about it. The best performances I've seen are not the one's where the performer is conscious of trying to be perfect but where the performer impacts the audiences emotions. These are the one's everyone walks away remembering for a long time to come. Are you a concert or professional pianist? I'm talking from a whole different level of course. There's not as much "riding" on my playing. I've often wondered what goes through the minds of professionals while performing - what they are primarly focused on.

DPVJAZZ DEC 3 2005
Thanks for advice and at the next concert I will try to focus on the connection being made between the music and the audience to make sure I am story telling with some emotion. I know sometimes we get so wrap up into the performance part that we forget as performers if we play without and emotional connection to an audience that we leave with a different opinion as to what was heard. And I think that is what happening to me HEARING good things but not FEELING them. I am a professional pianist and know and met a lot of other professional musicians in the 20 plus years I have been working at this passion of mine. Believe me when I say the approach to making good music with others is to listen be flexible and willing to go with the flow and be kind and considerate of others. That being said some of the pros are thinking about what songs or changes might work or what the audiences might like or what is for dinner or maybe another drink it just depends like any professional or person sometimes you are focused and sometimes your thoughts are running wild. I really like the concept of making mistakes within limits it somehow make it more manageable. I remember onetime a promoter wanted to showcase five up and coming pianists in our area and I was asked to be part of it well it turnout to be a disaster for me to the point I was physically and mentally sick and of course nothing work that day so I can understand the numbness mine went to my brain and that is all I remember. Anyway thanks for the replies. DPVJAZZ

This was over 17 year ago and it holds true today make the emotional connection between you and your audiences


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I think there is a type of tune that's more piano specific, with a more elaborate chord progression. Then there's tunes that one could play on anything. These could have a 1-4-5, or a 2-5-1, chord motif. Or better yet a 2 chord tune. Hard to mess up. I'm no great shakes on any particular instrument, but I try to know my instrument first. Know what I can and can't do. I may mess up all the time? I don't pay it much attention. I guess they are small. Clams and brain pharts thrive on attention. BTW you still have to rehearse. You still have to keep your chops up. It's not free.


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IMO one should play from a sheet of music even if they know the song by heart. I can play some songs from memory but I prefer the sheet music in front of my face. That way I have less chance of a mistake.

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Originally Posted by Visalia
Just with one hand. The left wouldn't be able to do anything apart from hitting the base note for each measure.
OK, if so, then it is worth considering why you are NOT mistaken in the melody . Try to intentionally play the wrong notes. Is it true that this is a completely different feeling than accidentally making a mistake? I remember this advice: study music to such an extent that you cannot be wrong, even if you want to.

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Originally Posted by Farmerjones
BTW you still have to rehearse. You still have to keep your chops up. It's not free.
Most people do. But what Elton says here, from 1:37, is interesting.


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Hi

No, virtually everyone does, and Elton John isn't an exception. That interview just demonstrates why he's a good (maybe very good), but not great Pianist.

He got to a certain level when he was younger and has largely maintained that level through the thousands of (sometimes 3 hour) shows he's done, and to a lesser extent the recordings he made over the decades.

But he could have been a much better Pianist if he'd continued to practise after he became successful. Now of course he's not doing any shows because of the pandemic, so that means he's hardly playing at all.

Fortunately for Elton he doesn't need to have great technique to accompany himself. So I'm sure he will continue to perform and record, though undoubtedly less than he used to.

Cheers


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Originally Posted by Simon_b
Hi

No, virtually everyone does, and Elton John isn't an exception. That interview just demonstrates why he's a good (maybe very good), but not great Pianist.
There was a time when I thought he was great. Still, a lot of pianists who are way better but aren't any where near as prolific as him.

I do wonder if he's as good now though. I haven't seen him play stride piano in decades.


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Originally Posted by Visalia
There was a time when I thought he was great. Still, a lot of pianists who are way better but aren't any where near as prolific as him.

It must be precisely defined: Elton John (was) - among the big pop pianists - accompanists, also in the groove. He is an example to all of us!

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A piano, being a tool, seems to serve EJ's purpose, and serve it well. He's not Oscar Peterson. But we already have one of those. NFN EJ spoke of 200 shows a year. Inferring he still keeps his chops up. Playing over 60 years. Gracious!

Last edited by Farmerjones; 01/12/22 08:52 AM.

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