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#483275 - 10/05/05 01:41 PM Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
Joined: May 2004
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Adagiolady Offline
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Adagiolady  Offline
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Joined: May 2004
Posts: 103
Washington State
I am currently working on this piece. There are several polyrhythms, most notably a group of notes of 11 against 6 and 22 against 12 (and there’s a 20 against something in there too). I’ve been given three possible approaches to working these out. They are:

1) divide the 11 such that it is played as 2 against one evenly except for one triple against 2

2) Train my brain (and my hands) to play them completely independently and free form

3) Do the math and go through the exercise of rhythmically figuring out where the notes fall (for me this always results in the passages sounding forced)

All of these approaches have their merits and they are all making my brain hurt….
Any advice?

Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio!
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#483276 - 10/05/05 01:56 PM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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8ude Offline
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8ude  Offline
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One thing that helped me was to subdivide it into mostly equal pieces, and then once I had a feel for it, relax the note values. For instance, in the first run of 11/6, I learned it by playing the first 8 notes as eighth notes and the last 3 as an eighth note triplet (basically what you said in your first bullet). After I had it down, I started to relax the strict timing so as to lengthen the eighth notes and shorten the triplet until I could play it pretty evenly.

I never try to work it out mathematically - because I agree, it can make it sound mechanical. If you can't get it perfectly even, there's nothing wrong with subdividing it into roughly equal parts so that you can line up notes with the left and right hands. There is a certain degree of rubato freedom in Chopin (though don't take it too far), so I try not to stress these type of runs too much.

What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.
#483277 - 10/05/05 02:05 PM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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Adagiolady Offline
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Adagiolady  Offline
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Washington State
Thanks! You've confirmed my belief that bullet number is the way to go. I agree, that once that is working well, it's easier to then relax it all a bit.

Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio!
#483278 - 10/05/05 03:15 PM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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boomerpizza Offline
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I would say to try and go as independently as possible. Have the left hand keep time pretty strictly. With your right hand, follow the line of the music and vary note importance/length accordingly. For instance, there are some turns that are imbedded into the runs that should probably be brought out. Maybe try to think of it as improvising over the broken chord in your left hand except you know what the notes are. If your right hand needs more time to fill in the notes, then ease up on left hand and then start up again on the next measure.

sweet, sweet harmony
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#483279 - 10/05/05 03:32 PM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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Gyro Offline
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Gyro  Offline
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I think it's interesting to see the different
approaches to handling polyrhythms, which shows how
strong the psychological factor is in playing the
piano. Some people can apparently do it by
instinct and can get the hands to mesh
satifactorily that way, and prefer it
this way. I personally cannot do it this way, and
in fact polyrhythms were an insurmountable
obstacle to me until I learned how to handle
them exactly (from a book I ran across by
chance, Playing the Piano for Pleasure, by
Charles Cooke, an amateur--I am unaware
of any other source of information on this
critical topic).

Figuring them out exactly is really very
easy: simply multiply one number by the other
and you have the matrix over which you
can lay out both hands and see exactly how
each falls. For example, multiply 11 by 6
and get 66. Then draw a line of 66 dashes
on a sht. of paper and then lay out the
rt. hand strikes on the first, 7th, 13th,
etc. (one strike per 6 dashes ---> 11 strikes
total). Similarly, for the lt. hand lay
out the strikes on the first, 12th, 23rd,
etc. (one per 11 dashes ---> 6 strikes total).
(In all polyrhythms the first note of the
rt. and lt. hand are always played together.)
When you do this you can see graphically
how each hand falls, so then you can maybe
draw lines on the score to show where each
notes meshes. I personally don't see how
this will make the passage sound forced, just
the opposite in fact. This is the way I
personally have to handle polyrhythms,
I graphically figure every one out and note
it all on the score. Maybe the end result
is that I will sound the same as
a player who plays it instinctively, but
I have to draw them out exactly or I can't
play them.

#483280 - 10/05/05 11:19 PM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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John Citron Offline
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John Citron  Offline
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Haverhill, Massachusetts
The runs and flourishes in Chopin mesh together, but at the same time they do not. What you want to achieve is the effect of a soprano opera singer snatching that moment to add a flourish to a melodic line.

What I find helps is to make sure the left hand is perfectly solid so you don't have to think about it too much. With the left hand happpily trudging along lightly, focus the energy on getting the soprano librettist to sing the fourish up and down the way she would in an aria.

The thing is to make sure that you don't lose the steady time in the left hand, although during Chopin's time, rubato is appropriate for the music, and you may have to slow things down a bit here and there, or even speed up other bits to fit everything in the measure.

One of the things that helps here is to setup goal points to move to during the flourish, and use them as places to aim for, maybe use these for finger or hand position changes, even a meshing point with the left hand perhaps. When you finally reach the peak, bring out that note a bit more, like the singer would with a vibrato, and then work the rest of it down, maybe a crescendo when the notes go up a little, and more of a diminuendo when going down. I think of a feather or leaf floating on a breeze. As it goes up it turns and twists and then gradually settles down again.

It really does help, by the way, to sing the melody, with the flourish, to yourself while playing. This seems to keep the line together as a whole.

Once you achieve this effect, you'll give yourself goose bumps.


#483281 - 10/06/05 12:08 AM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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Derulux Offline
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If there is a melody, and not just a bunch of quick notes, give the melody strict time. Otherwise, give whichever hand has the least number of notes strict time, and let the other hand play approximately. Especially as the numbers get higher and higher (6v20, 35v42, 876v221 or however nasty it gets). NOBODY can do that kind of math that quickly while you're playing a performance. (There are a few people who can do it, but they're in a cubicle doing it, and not at your concert.) wink

Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
#483282 - 10/06/05 12:11 AM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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Adagiolady Offline
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Adagiolady  Offline
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Washington State
Thanks so much to everyone. You've all given me ways to incorporate all the concepts that I outlined in my post, and which I knew intellectually, but which just weren't clicking. In the end, I think it's probably a combination of all three. I was able to make significant progress at the piano today, so that is something!

Grave - Allegro di molto e con brio!
#483283 - 10/07/05 12:01 AM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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kcoul058 Offline
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I've played the 9/1 and IMO you have to, as with many Chopin runs (others are in strict time, like some of the big run in 27/2), play the run freely starting more slowly and accelerating and then slowing freely. It is crucial that you keep rhythmic control over the left hand but that you create the "gypsy style" effect (for lack of a better term) by sneaking the run in at the beginning and making it feel as though you have inspired it to crescendo and accelerate a little, and then hold it back a little at the end, usually with a triplet of a (relatively) slower note value.

Hope this helps!

#483284 - 10/07/05 07:26 PM Re: Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 1: Looking for advice on polyrhythms  
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tomasino Offline
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I'm with Gyro. Figure it out with a little multiplication, and see where the notes fall in relation to one another. The trick, I feel, to not having it sound forced, is to then figure out which notes are upbeat preperatory notes, which notes are on the beat, and which notes are afterbeats, in relation to whatever hand is maintaining the beat.

Practice it carefully this way, and then forget it, and see how it works out.


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

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