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Why Limitations Don't Matter #374106
01/02/04 10:35 PM
01/02/04 10:35 PM
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Iowa City, IA
Kreisler Offline OP
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Regarding the other thread:

While limitations may or may not be present in all of us, the bottom line is: it doesn't matter.

Let's say you're working on the Mozart Rondo alla Turca and you were handed the answer. There are two possibilities:

1) There are no limitations. Therefore, your best course of action is to continue studying the Mozart and figure out how best to see your way through the musical and technical issues it presents.

2) There are some limitations. Therefore, your best course of action is to continue studying the Mozart and figure out whether the limitations you're experiencing are either real or imagined. (Knowing that 99% of all limitations are imagined and surmountable - I think we can all agree on that point.)

Which brings me to the nature of limitations. I do believe that there are some. Every pianist I know can list a few pieces that they, for some reason or another, won't do in public. The reasons are many - the pieces may not fit their technique, musical sensibilities, personality, or lifestyle (for example, their work schedule may not allow them much time to practice with a clear mind.) We all have limits of one kind or another. I have to spend 40 hours a week teaching, which doesn't exactly give me much time to practice. That's a limitation. Many people only have an upright piano - that's a limitation (there's only so much you can do with tone color on an upright.)

Now...once you allow that all manner of limitations exist, the question is how to proceed. For me, the answer is simple - regardless of the truth, you must always proceed as if there are no limitations. You must always proceed as if no problem is unsolvable. In the hundreds of student's I've taught, not once have I come across one who faced insurmountable problems. I thought I'd write up a quick "top 5" list of what I wish students had more of:

1. Patience
2. An inquisitive approach to practicing
3. Passion for ALL music
4. Faith in their ears
5. Patience

Unfortunately, students seem to be more concerned with things like:

1. What's the best way to ___________?
2. How do I __________?
3. I wonder if I can ___________?
4. I can't ______________.
5. I should have ___________.

So all ye students, hear my plea:

The job of a good teacher is to help you answer the above questions yourself. Teachers can only point (and maybe shove) you in the right direction, the rest is up to you. As for #4 and #5 above, a good teacher will help you remove "can't" from your vocabulary and motivate you so that the guilt of #5 doesn't hover over your head.

Okay...this was just off the top of my head, but I thought it'd be interesting to spout off for a page or two and have you guys talk about it.

Go fer it.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374107
01/03/04 07:31 AM
01/03/04 07:31 AM
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Yup, it's all true.

I think you can only really say you have reached a 'limitation' if you have been practicing 5+ hours a day, every or nearly every day working at it hard for a very long time.

And even then you may experience some change in perception and modify how you work at things.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374108
01/03/04 02:49 PM
01/03/04 02:49 PM
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Chicago, IL USA
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Quote
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Every pianist I know can list a few pieces that they, for some reason or another, won't do in public.
Even Earl Wild gave up playing one piece in public, a Godowsky transcription. He gave an interview, in which he said that he'd leave his hotel room to go to the venue, and all he could think of was the Godowsky, in the elevator, on the way to the recital, and while he was playing other pieces. He could clearly play it, but it just took too much concentration. I think it was the Wine, Women & Song Strauss transcription.


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374109
01/03/04 04:16 PM
01/03/04 04:16 PM
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New York City
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Quote
Originally posted by Kreisler:
In the hundreds of student's I've taught, not once have I come across one who faced insurmountable problems.
Isn't this because you were giving them pieces to learn at a level appropriate for their technical and musical abilites at the time? I was just listenng to Kissen play Liszt's Fireflies. Can you really tell me that with enough practice and the right mental approach all your students could play this? Unless you teach mostly very advanced students I would say(and this is in no way a criticism of you) that *none* (or very few)of your students could ever play this piece.

Of course, I chose a very difficult example, but I think there are literally thousands of pieces the average student could never master. Did you read most recent post in the other thread dealing with this where I gave a chess analogy?

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374110
01/03/04 04:22 PM
01/03/04 04:22 PM
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Double post -sorry!

Quote
Originally posted by Kreisler:
In the hundreds of student's I've taught, not once have I come across one who faced insurmountable problems.
Isn't this because you were giving them pieces to learn at a level appropriate for their technical and musical abilites at the time? I was just listenng to Kissen play Liszt's Fireflies. Can you really tell me that with enough practice and the right mental approach all your students could play this? Unless you teach mostly very advanced students I would say(and this is in no way a criticism of you) that *none* (or very few)of your students could ever play this piece.

Of course, I chose a very difficult example, but I think there are literally thousands of pieces the average student could never master. Did you read most recent post in the other thread dealing with this where I gave a chess analogy?

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374111
01/03/04 04:46 PM
01/03/04 04:46 PM
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Kreisler - Most Excellent.

Regards,
Steve


"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

anon
Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374112
01/03/04 05:04 PM
01/03/04 05:04 PM
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Iowa City, IA
Kreisler Offline OP
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Maybe so, but for most, it's not so much "can't" as "won't." smile

Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Quote
Originally posted by Kreisler:
[b] In the hundreds of student's I've taught, not once have I come across one who faced insurmountable problems.
Isn't this because you were giving them pieces to learn at a level appropriate for their technical and musical abilites at the time? I was just listenng to Kissen play Liszt's Fireflies. Can you really tell me that with enough practice and the right mental approach all your students could play this? Unless you teach mostly very advanced students I would say(and this is in no way a criticism of you) that *none* (or very few)of your students could ever play this piece.

Of course, I chose a very difficult example, but I think there are literally thousands of pieces the average student could never master. Did you read most recent post in the other thread dealing with this where I gave a chess analogy? [/b]


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374113
01/03/04 08:48 PM
01/03/04 08:48 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Isn't this because you were giving them pieces to learn at a level appropriate for their technical and musical abilites at the time? I was just listenng to Kissen play Liszt's Fireflies. Can you really tell me that with enough practice and the right mental approach all your students could play this?
Why do you have to construct a straw man with every post that you make? It's blindingly obvious that many beginner piano students won't ultimately have the ability to play Feux Follets; the comparison between a concert artist and a beginning student says nothing to underscore any point that you make.

What Kreisler is saying is that despite limitations, one can still enjoy playing the instrument and make a successful living out of being a pianist or teacher.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374114
01/03/04 08:49 PM
01/03/04 08:49 PM
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I agree with Kreisler.

I think half of the problem is the fact that we live in a "right now" world. We expect things to be done RIGHT NOW, or if not right now, very, very soon. We have no patience.
To say that students can't master a certain piece is, I think, an offshoot of this "Right Now" mentality. We assume that they would work on it for a month, maybe even up to half a year, but then they would give up. If every student picked a really difficult piece and worked on it for as long as it takes to get it right, some might take months, some years. But, in the end, we would see that it was mastered by all.
So, perhaps our only limitation is time?


"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff
Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374115
01/03/04 10:03 PM
01/03/04 10:03 PM
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Iowa City, IA
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Student #1

"Listened to Volodos' Rachmaninoff again last night. It's AWESOME! So today I got warmed up and continued work on Mozart K. 246. Ends of phrases are always a problem - it's so important to listen carefully and let them all end gracefully. My elbow's still a bit tight through arpeggiated passagework, but I'm starting to feel more in tune with my shoulder and arm muscles, so it's not quite the strain it used to be. Then I practiced the Gliere prelude. I still have some trouble with the key signature (it's in Db Major), but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. I did some analysis to figure out exactly how he moves from Db to A, it's interesting because the two keys not only sound different, they feel different under the hand. I'd like to put this on the next recital, although Chopin might be a good choice, too. I'll just wait and see how they feel in another week..."

Student #2
"OMG! I just keep listening to Volodos' Rachmaninoff over and over again. I can't handle the third concerto, but I practiced the Bb major prelude today for like an hour. It's awesome! I bet it would ROCK on a Mason & Hamlin, or maybe a Bosendorfer. Especially if I had a piano with the extra notes at the bottom, then I could use it for the big bass Bb. Oh yeah - ph43r mah hyooj B flatz!!!"

Funny how probably all of us can agree that student #1 is going to end up a stronger, more capable musician.

Annoying how many of us (myself included sometimes) spend too much time thinking like student #2.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374116
01/03/04 10:14 PM
01/03/04 10:14 PM
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Oklahoma City
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I don't set boundaries for myself. I set goals. Works for me.


Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness. :t:
Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374117
01/04/04 12:40 AM
01/04/04 12:40 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Can you really tell me that with enough practice and the right mental approach all your students could play this? Unless you teach mostly very advanced students I would say(and this is in no way a criticism of you) that *none* (or very few)of your students could ever play this piece.

I object to your "could ever play" phrase. If they had the right mental approach, why can't they be able to play it? Just because they can't play it doesn't neccessarily mean they can't "play" it. For example, a person is able to play a piece and the other cannot. Does that mean the person unable to play the piece is limited to such playing? No. Rather, the reason is simply choice. It can be affected by lack of time spent or not enough desire to really try. It's a question of their mentality. They say to themselves " forget it, it's impossible". Why? because they believe that they cannot reach this goal. Hence, the student voluntarily decides not to try or progress any further in it. Fustration takes over and encourages them to give up. So this doesn't mean they aren't physically able to play, they decide NOT to. A thing I never do is assume in this matter. I don't see any "limitations" in a normal student. If they can't play something, I, instead, see apathy, impatience, and/or apprehensiveness in progression.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374118
01/04/04 01:26 AM
01/04/04 01:26 AM
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my teacher says, "you can play anything you can hear." she herself began serious piano studies at age 30, when she was putting herself through school and raising a child alone. she went on to get an MM in performance, and is not only a wonderful musician--a gifted interpreter of mozart, btw--who concertizes and records, but also a very gifted teacher.

now, she is not someone who is well-known, so the likes of pianoloverus might discount what she has to say. however, heinrich neuhaus is a very well known teacher. he was gilels' and richter's teacher, and the head of the piano department at moscow conservatory. this is what he said on the subject:

"whoever is moved by music to the depths of his soul, and works on his instrument like one possessed, who loves music and his instrument with passion, will acquire virtuoso technique."

i find that to be a fairly unambiguous statement.

now, maybe the limitation may be "if you live long enough," but my teacher agrees with neuhaus, and i am starting to see enough progress in myself that i am starting to believe it, too.

but of course, one must love the process of learning. if you only care about immediate results, you'll end up quitting.


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Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374119
01/04/04 06:51 AM
01/04/04 06:51 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Brendan:
Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b] Isn't this because you were giving them pieces to learn at a level appropriate for their technical and musical abilites at the time? I was just listenng to Kissen play Liszt's Fireflies. Can you really tell me that with enough practice and the right mental approach all your students could play this?
Why do you have to construct a straw man with every post that you make? It's blindingly obvious that many beginner piano students won't ultimately have the ability to play Feux Follets; the comparison between a concert artist and a beginning student says nothing to underscore any point that you make.

What Kreisler is saying is that despite limitations, one can still enjoy playing the instrument and make a successful living out of being a pianist or teacher. [/b]
If that's what Kreisler meant, I would agree. But it seems to me that many of the posts in this thread and the other one on physical limitations state that anything(like mastering Feux Follets) is possible for anyone with enough work and the right attitude. And I would say that just like you seem to say it is "blidingly obvious" that they they can't do this. To do this would deny that natural ability plays any part in technical development.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374120
01/04/04 07:07 AM
01/04/04 07:07 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by piqu:
now, she is not someone who is well-known, so the likes of pianoloverus might discount what she has to say. however, heinrich neuhaus is a very well known teacher. he was gilels' and richter's teacher, and the head of the piano department at moscow conservatory. this is what he said on the subject:

"whoever is moved by music to the depths of his soul, and works on his instrument like one possessed, who loves music and his instrument with passion, will acquire virtuoso technique."
I don't think Neuhaus meant literally "anyone". I think he was refering to the highly talented pupils he taught. And if he meant literally "anyone", I would say he was wrong. If this was true than anyone could become a chess grandmaster or play golf like Tiger Woods.

It is good that your teacher is encouraging(and the fact that she is not famous in no way makes me discount what she has to say) but I'm not sure you really understand the technical difficulties present in some of the extremely advanced literature.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374121
01/04/04 07:32 AM
01/04/04 07:32 AM
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I think that some people have a distorted perception of the difficulty of piano playing (and other subjects). They seem to feel as if they are looking up from the bottom of Everest at these pieces on the summit with only a plastic raincoat and a pick-axe, and they feel intimidated. The objective difference between you and being able to play those pieces really isn't as great as you think. However, the condition of the subject determines the object the subject percieves.

It's not as if only a "select few" of 31337 /\/\@570rz can play these pieces... OK, so not everyone is going to manage the 'Hammerklavier' (even then, that word should not be associated with impossibility or 'lite'), but with enough dedication, an intelligent and clear-headed amateur (which only means someone who doesn't do it for a living) could play virtually all the other Beethoven sonatas at some point in their lives. I honestly believe that.

If you don't truly enjoy making music, and instead live in fearful reverence of the instrument and the people that are better than you, then something is seriously wrong.

If playing isn't an artistic expression but is instead a cold, abstract intellectual exercise, then something is wrong (with you).

If playing is about competition and seeing what pieces you can get in your repetoire, just for some form of prestige, then something is wrong.

I also believe that mental 'maturity' and absence of neuroses strongly determine how able someone is.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374122
01/04/04 08:14 AM
01/04/04 08:14 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by ears:

If you don't truly enjoy making music,
and instead live in fearful reverence of the instrument and the people that are better than you, then something is seriously wrong.
None of this applies to me, but I do understand the realities of my technical ability.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374123
01/04/04 11:30 AM
01/04/04 11:30 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by ears:
I think that some people have a distorted perception of the difficulty of piano playing (and other subjects). They seem to feel as if they are looking up from the bottom of Everest at these pieces on the summit with only a plastic raincoat and a pick-axe, and they feel intimidated. The objective difference between you and being able to play those pieces really isn't as great as you think. However, the condition of the subject determines the object the subject percieves.

It's not as if only a "select few" of 31337 /\/\@570rz can play these pieces... OK, so not everyone is going to manage the 'Hammerklavier' (even then, that word should not be associated with impossibility or 'lite'), but with enough dedication, an intelligent and clear-headed amateur (which only means someone who doesn't do it for a living) could play virtually all the other Beethoven sonatas at some point in their lives. I honestly believe that.

If you don't truly enjoy making music, and instead live in fearful reverence of the instrument and the people that are better than you, then something is seriously wrong.

If playing isn't an artistic expression but is instead a cold, abstract intellectual exercise, then something is wrong (with you).

If playing is about competition and seeing what pieces you can get in your repetoire, just for some form of prestige, then something is wrong.

I also believe that mental 'maturity' and absence of neuroses strongly determine how able someone is.
I wholeheartedly agree. Personally, I remember being doubted that I would ever be able to play this certain difficult piece at a young age. I had no lessons, merely just taught myself. I had no concrete, I guess you could say, experience from the styles of Liszt or any of his works. It's just one of those pieces you absolutely love that you WISH that you could play but seemed to difficult. But my ambition and desire overshadowed my dubiousness. Then one day, I just worked and worked on it. Did it take very long? of course. But that doesn't mean it was impossible. Once I finally got the piece played well and memorized, I felt like I overcame what everyone doubted of me. Kind of hard to explain but i'm sure many of you here have experienced it. So since then, I always have been pushing myself and never think at least twice about the impossible nature of "playing" a piece. I stand, as myself, an example of my own ideas about limitations.


By the way, the piece was the Paganini Etude No. 3 which I started on at the age of 11.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374124
01/04/04 12:03 PM
01/04/04 12:03 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by virtuoso418:
By the way, the piece was the Paganini Etude No. 3 which I started on at the age of 11.
Not impressed.

Re: Why Limitations Don't Matter #374125
01/04/04 02:43 PM
01/04/04 02:43 PM
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Quote
but I'm not sure you really understand the technical difficulties present in some of the extremely advanced literature.
it is comments such as these, over the time i've known you at pianoworld, PLU, that have led me to the conclusion that you are an elitist snob, who has no concept of or appreciation for the realities and aptitudes of others. i don't know how old you are, but i hope you are young, so that there is some possibility you may some day mature out of this attitude.

i've been doing a lot of reading on this subject lately. i think the mountain with the iceaxe analogy is a good one. as someone who literally climbs mountains every summer, i can vouch that the best and most efficient way to scale a mountain is step by step, always staying mentally in the present moment. to look too far ahead or to allow oneself to become intimidated by what lies ahead is to curtail one's confidence and possibly even ambition.

what each and every person's potential is is an unknown, until they've approached the mountain equipped with the right attitude and the gift of patience. the right attitude being they have to simply enjoy the beauty of putting one foot before the other.

one thing there is some consensus on in the piano pedagogy community: technical talent is not even remotely enough. i heard one pianist/teacher say it maybe makes up only ten percent of the qualitities one must have to become accomplished at the piano. and having a good ear and a deep understanding of music is far rarer.

Quote
I don't think Neuhaus meant literally "anyone". I think he was refering to the highly talented pupils he taught.
if you read the book, and thus that quote from him in context, you will see that he did indeed mean literally anyone. anyone who has the qualities he described. (of course, those qualities are rare ones, ime.) and according to him, the vast majority of his pupils were not talented.


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