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Muscle and gravity #486637
05/04/04 04:13 AM
05/04/04 04:13 AM
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benedict Offline OP
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benedict  Offline OP
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No, this is not a political thread laugh

I have been trained by teachers of the old school and for decades have used the muscles of my fingers to press the keys.

My new adventures with metric rythm have made me conscious of how the downbeat/upbeat movement gives soul and texture to the music.

I have two questions :

1 How should I emphasize the downbeat ? Should I hit stronger or just lift my arm a bit more and just let go and let gravity take control ?

2 In general, how could I play more fluidly by using much less muscle and give way to gravity, especially for legato playing.

Thank you for your suggestions and your own experiences.

smile


Benedict
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Re: Muscle and gravity #486638
05/04/04 06:25 AM
05/04/04 06:25 AM
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Phlebas Offline
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Kreisler said before, there are a few ways you can emphasise a beat. Stop thinking about it so much. Get the sound you want in your head, and make it on the piano.

Re: Muscle and gravity #486639
05/04/04 07:22 AM
05/04/04 07:22 AM
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benedict Offline OP
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Phlebas,

If I ask the question, it mean it is important for me. You do not have to answer, of course.

But please do not imply that you know better than me what I should think about and not think about.
I find it slightly...imperialistic. So, this thread seems to turn out to be political after all. laugh

Gyorgy Sandor has written a whole book about these matters, so has Abby Whiteside and Leimer-Gieseking and in fact hundreds of writers about technique since Liszt's days.

I do know that I need to make my playing more natural.
You do not seem to comprehend that bad habits like playing with the muscles of one's fingers instead of with the weight of the bigger muscles are extremely difficult to get rid of.

I am listening to Brendel. I could try to listen to the sound he makes for a century and I still would play like I do.

Are you sure you really understood my question ?

smile


Benedict
Re: Muscle and gravity #486640
05/04/04 07:40 AM
05/04/04 07:40 AM
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BruceD Offline
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Benedict:

I think what Phlebas is saying is that you may be trying to "intellectualize" too much the process rather than concentrating on the result (c'est bien francais, d'ailleurs!). Yes, you have to know the process before you are able to achieve the result; but you have read Sandor, Whiteside and Leimer-Gieseking, so you know what the process is. Just do not focus too much on the process while you are playing but concentrate on the sound you want to produce.

Rhythm in most compositions - leaving aside those compositions where marked rhythmic impetus is a characteristic - is a subtle enough thing that you should not have to do anything overtly physical to achieve it. In my playing I am not aware that any "extra" arm or finger movement is used to mark the rhythm or pulse of a piece; it comes of its own accord. If anything, perhaps a little extra weight is added to those notes that fall on the beat. What also does help, I believe, is thinking ahead. Thinking of where a phrase is going is almost enough to give the right rhythmic pulse to the phrase.

As I suggested, thinking too much about it while you are plahing is quite likely to produce an effect that is not musical.

Does this help at all?

Regards,


BruceD
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Re: Muscle and gravity #486641
05/04/04 08:18 AM
05/04/04 08:18 AM
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benedict Offline OP
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Yes BruceD, it helps a lot.

Let us forget about playing a piece.

I would very much like to work on an exercize of an Etude to really uncondition my fingers and teach them to let the weight of my hand provide the main source of energy.

I know it sounds intellectual, but I assure you that in the last week or so, the musical quality of my playing has improved more that in many decades.

I think the understanding of the downbeat/upbeat (which I found confirmed in Sandor) was absolutely enlightening.

Everything I played became much more alive. It naturally sang.

I would be very happy to work on this particular aspect.

Ir is very difficult to break a conditioning.

Milton Erikson had to relearn how to walk when he was an adult (he had had polio as a child). I was struck how he said it took he months to achieve something everybody did without thinking.

He had to think a lot.

In fact, all pianists from mediocre to virtuoso think a lot about their technique when they want to break through something that they see as an obstacle to self-expression.

I am sure that Elena, Phlebas and you do it as well as the next man.

Je me trompe, cher ami ?

smile


Benedict
Re: Muscle and gravity #486642
05/04/04 09:52 AM
05/04/04 09:52 AM
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ryan Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by benedict:

1 How should I emphasize the downbeat ? Should I hit stronger or just lift my arm a bit more and just let go and let gravity take control ?
Depends on the context of the note, of course. In rapid passage work your lift and drop will be more subtle and you may need to use more finger muscle (which you will be using anyway to carry you through the passage). But still, in general you will lift your arm and git a bit more distance between your finger and the key. You still want to keep your finger(s) activated, but the lifting and dropping of the arm provides your kinetic energy. In contrast, holding your arm still and trying to play accents with just your fingers will probably yield an unmusical sound, as you have already found out. Remember to always maintain a "soft wrist", as Starmander wrote in another post. You don't want it to be floppy, but rather should lift on the rebound of your drop, even if just a little bit.

Quote

2 In general, how could I play more fluidly by using much less muscle and give way to gravity, especially for legato playing.
Again it depends on the type of passage. I use a lot more finger in rapid passagework, but that element of lift-drop should still be there. In fast passagework you may lift and drop on every single note or choose to lift-drop-lift-drop in a cycle over groups of notes. It all depends smile

Interestingly, this is something I worked on in the past and am now working on it again after slipping into bad habits smirk

Ryan

Re: Muscle and gravity #486643
05/04/04 10:09 AM
05/04/04 10:09 AM
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benedict Offline OP
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Ryan,

I feel relieved by your answer.
I was beginning to feel like KittyKat with her teacher.

Actually, i don't play anything fast for the moment. I am memorizing Chopin's Etude op 10 n1, but when I listen to Martha Argerich playing it, I just wonder if we belong to the same species laugh .
Anyway, the downbeats in this Etude are on the left hand, aren't they ? and I cannot play fast till this cursing arpeggios decide to run instead of walking at their pace.

You answered my question perfectly.
My main goal now is to get a really singing (lyrical) quality to my playing and I find that the more I get "inside" the downbeat/upbeat dynamic, the more the beauty of the the piece reveals itself without any special effort.

On Gnossienne 1, the left little finger should really give a strong and steady pulse. The hand must move like a wave and fall on the bass note and then fly like a seagull and land gently on the chord.

If I can do that, I'll have to worry about the accents of the melody. I will have to listen to Aldo Ciccolini to see if he emphasizes the 1st and 3rd beats in the melodic line.

I think it is important that anybody here feels allowed to ask a question without being told that it is a foolish question and he/she should just listen to what teacher says and stop thinking.

Thank you for answering in a sincere, modest and respectful way.
And good luck with your endeavours.

smile


Benedict
Re: Muscle and gravity #486644
05/04/04 01:01 PM
05/04/04 01:01 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
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ryan Offline
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In Chopin's Op. 10 No. 1 the downbeat is in the LF, but the other strong beat (3) is in both hands - don't neglect it. Some free advice? You are going to want to use a good amount of finger in the RH with a flexible wrist and active arm to help you get to the notes. You will want finger, though, to make sure the notes are articulate, even, and accurate. Make sure you are getting enough distance between the keys and your fingers before you pull them down into the keys - exaggerate it at first. Try keeping your hand low on the way up and higher on the way down.

On Gnossienne 1 try to make a CW circle with the LH. In the three note groups (chord-bass-chord), drop on the first chord and keep your hand really low as it moves down to play the low note. Lift when you play the low not and inscribe the top part of the circle on the way back up to the chord. Lifting on the low note will help you give it the necessary emphasis.

Thanks for your kind words! I'm so glad you are enjoying your music making efforts - it is really refreshing to read from someone who is sincerely tryin to make good music. Emphasising the strong beats has long been a fundamental part of music - great rock and folk musicians do it instinctively without necessarily even knowing what they are doing. In fact, you can learn some interesting things by watching what popular and folk musicians do...

Ryan

Re: Muscle and gravity #486645
05/04/04 05:29 PM
05/04/04 05:29 PM
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Phlebas Offline
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Benedict,
You're mistaking a short answer for a dismissive one. I do not imply anywhere in my post that I know more than you. You ask how to emphasize the downbeat - weight/gravity or muscle. It's too complicated to answer because a) there are a multitude of ways to emphasize notes - articulation, various types of accents, timing, shaping the phrase. It depends on the section of the piece you are playing. b) it's not - as I'm sure you know - either/or. You use both your muscles and your weight. The ratio depends on what you're playing. That is in no way telling you what to think.
There is an intellectual approach, and an intuitive one. I tend to think of the sound I want, go for it, and let my muscles and gravity work it out between themselves. If I get too tense, I try to use more weight, relax more from the shoulders, and use less force/muscle. Is that the right or wrong approach? Works for me, but don't know for sure. Is it wrong to try to be more analytical about it? Certainly not.
I enjoy reading your posts because you do things differently than me.

Re: Muscle and gravity #486646
05/04/04 05:44 PM
05/04/04 05:44 PM
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Hi Benedict,

Just one little thing from my recent experience (learning Bach B flat Prelude, book I, WTC, a most joyful piece!).

Was having trouble getting some of the sections to behave -- this piece has lots of scale passages and such, and has to be played at a fairly rapid tempo.

The problem turned out to be, that having read again and again in those books about using more arm and less finger motion, I was *overdoing* this, and using too little active finger motion, trying to get the notes to sound mostly by rotation and arm movement. Once I began to use more fingers, the problems cleared up.

As many have emphasized in various contexts, balance is often the right way.

Have fun with your music!!


pianodevo
Re: Muscle and gravity #486647
05/04/04 06:11 PM
05/04/04 06:11 PM
Joined: Sep 2003
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snap_apple Offline
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Bendedict, the key to the down beat is the beats that come before it. ONE two Three FOur ONE. Now since three is the second strongest beat it gets a tad more wait then two and four but overall you want a feeling of movement toward each down beat.

If you really want to get the piece to sing try singing it...then recreate that.

Re: Muscle and gravity #486648
05/05/04 05:52 AM
05/05/04 05:52 AM
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Posts: 2,519
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benedict Offline OP
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benedict  Offline OP
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Ryan, BruceD, Phlebas, PianoDevo, snap_apple,

Thank you very much for all your suggestions. They are very precious to me.

I really enjoy working, reading books, asking questions, reading answers. It is like a neverending quest.

I thought about Elena's advice (with 3 laugh ) of just stop thinking and just feel.
And about Phlebas and BruceD's advice of hearing the music first.

The trouble is that I do not hear the music first. What I hear is the name of the pitch.
This is probably why I have concentrated so much on rythm and rythm led me to the importance of the "oscillatory" system that gives music a lot of its bounce and in turn, it has given me new insights (ans sensations and feelings and intuitions) about the interplay between melody and bass (or counterpoint).

This morning, I concentrated on hearing the music before and ... it worked. I do not hear the music before, but I hear the ghost of the music. I hope the ghost will turn into a real presence with practice.

The problem now, is that concentrating on the music makes my brain say the name of the pitches again. I find this really painful and useless.

Do any of you hear the name of the pitches in your head ?

Thanks again for your input : it is priceless really. And I seem to have a window into you working with so much passion and humility.

As the French say : tous les chemins menent a Rome laugh
(which I suppose means :every path leads to the same ultimate goal) :t:

smile


Benedict

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