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#565437 - 07/24/01 02:12 AM Fast Pieces
jgoo Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/23/01
Posts: 3974
Loc: Seattle, Washington, USA
For any of you that are able to play fast moveing pieces, I would just like to how you do it. By the way, have you ever noticed that a piece supposed to be played fast sounds terrible when you play it slow? Take the Third Movment of the Moonlight Sonata (Presto Agitato) by Beethoven for example. I have it on CD and its sounds great but when I tried playing it (A lot slower, of course, because I really can't play that fast) it sounded awful. Are there any tips any of you can give me to speed up my performance?
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#565438 - 07/24/01 04:52 AM Re: Fast Pieces
Daniel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 57
Loc: Denmark
Well I can't really tell you anything about the technics.. But what worked for me was just to practise the first page over and over again untill I was able to play it blindfolded.. After that I could start concentrate on the speed and not so much the movement of my fingers. I only played the first 4 pages though since the 3'rd movement is really out of my league hehe :p

- Daniel

#565439 - 07/24/01 06:31 AM Re: Fast Pieces
sj@@k Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 30
Loc: holland
when i'm learning a fast piece, i start playing the piece for example with the metronome on 60 and when i mastered this then i speed it up to the required speed


#565440 - 07/24/01 08:02 AM Re: Fast Pieces
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
since you've already heard the CD, try not to touch it again until you've completed your Moonlight 3. the more you listen to it the faster you would want to play it, and playing it fast when you're just starting out is a bad thing. get familiar with the piece at a slower tempo first. once you know it well enough, with the correct fingerings etc you will almost naturally be able to play it rather fast and fluently with minimal mistakes... hope this helps...

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#565441 - 07/24/01 09:27 AM Re: Fast Pieces
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
Pieces tend sound bad when played out of tempo only when they are played badly. I can take the third movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata and play it slowly with tons of color and character, paying close attention to articulation, accents, dynamics, phrasing, rhythmic drive, direction, etc. and it will actually sound pretty good. In fact, it will sound better played slowly this way than it would played fast without any character. When learning a piece, it is valuable to strive to play it as musically as you can from the beginning, even if it means learning it at a slower tempo at first. This used to frustrate me, because I wanted to learn the notes first. But now I know that it makes my practice time a lot more efficient, and it makes it more fun to learn new pieces.


#565442 - 07/24/01 10:06 AM Re: Fast Pieces
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I wanted to add one more point about the third movement of the "Moonlight" Sonata. If you don't have the technique to play it up to tempo pretty quickly, then it would probably be a lot more productive to learn it in small pieces, rather than trying to learn large chunks all at once. Trying to swallow too much at one time (e.g. one page, three pages, etc.) doesn't help you develop the technique you need to play the thing. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty, and break the thing apart into small pieces, working on each piece until you can play it perfectly. This is a much more efficient way to practice, and it has lasting results.

For example, you could practice each arpeggio in the opening of the movement seperately until you can play them fluidly at tempo. Then put two of them together, then three, then all of them. Same thing with the rest of the piece. If you can't play the left hand tremelo at tempo, work on it by itself until you can. Work on one measure of the chordal section at a time. And so forth. Actually, just as an aside, this is a valuable place for a teacher who can show you the proper hand motions to allow you to play it at tempo and make it sound like music at the same time.


#565443 - 07/24/01 10:26 AM Re: Fast Pieces
Alex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Plano, tx
And here is another tip to remember (though I admit that I forget this one far too often) -- playing slower and cleaner can actually sound faster than playing faster and sloppy. It's weird but true. I have a recording of one of my recitals (many years ago in college) where I played the Mendelssohn Variations Serieuses (please don't ask me to spell all of this off the top of my head). I had some trouble playing several of the middle variations which are really the most difficult ones. My teacher gave me the above advice and made me slow it down. Now, not too long ago I listened to that tape and was shocked how "fast" I played it. But, when I got to the piano and played with it to check the tempo, I realized that I was playing it at the slower tempo. Amazing.

Plus, I agree with Ryan's comments on playing slower. I don't think that most pianists realize the wide range of tempos possible on many pieces. If you just listen to the recordings you find that pianists play the simpler things as fast as possible. Yet, I recently heard on the radio a lovely version of the Chopin Minute Waltz played at an actual dancing waltz tempo. Try playing the Gb waltz slow - it's so much more beautiful than when you tear through it. Also, I heard in a recital once someone (sorry many years ago again) play the last movment of the Appassionata at what started to be an excruciating slow tempo. Yet, as the performance went on, I began to hear the piece in another way.

But the bottom line always remains - never play faster than you can control and still play musically.

#565444 - 07/24/01 04:06 PM Re: Fast Pieces
BruceD Offline

Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 20227
Loc: Victoria, BC
I think we are talking about two things here: preparedness and preparation.
Preparedness: Are you equipped to handle this piece? Say you have the technique - although you haven't learned the piece yet - to work through and eventually master the 3d movement of the so-called "Moonlight." Then, by all means, start working on it. However, many of us in our earlier years of playing are so eager to move on to the great works of piano literature, that we often outstep ourselves and find,eventually that we are practicing an exercise in frustration. Of course we are curious to see what the music looks like and how it feels, even if we know we can't play it. However, if we continue struggling with something that is beyond our grasp of the moment, we end up not only frustrated but often losing our love for the piece. So, if you have the technique to handle it, start working on it. If not, now is not the time.
Now, as for preparation: Let us assume that you're technically proficient enough to start working on the 3rd movement of the "Moonlight." I don't think there is any pianist of any stature who would start it at anything near tempo, no matter how technically proficient nor how well s/he reads music. For most of us mortals, fast pieces can only be learned by starting them slowly. And here's another point very germaine to this argument: if you try to practice a movement such as this too quickly, you cannot be assured that you have all the notes properly placed, weighted and voiced, and you are always going to play it "sloppily."
A metronome is a most valuable practice tool, if used wisely. Learning a "fast" piece or a "difficult" piece, we often tend to labor over the "hard" parts and breeze through the easier parts. Using a metronome while practicing helps you keep all parts in relative perspective as far as tempo is concerned.
I read recently of a story told by a friend of the British pianist Dame Myra Hess. It seems that just before a recital Miss Hess wanted to go over one of the Schubert Impromptus she was going to play. Her friend was astonished that Miss Hess sat down at the piano and, very methodically and very musically played through the entire piece at about 1/4 of the tempo she used for performance. She was calculating, placing, weighting and voicing each note and - I guess, obviously - listening very carefully to herself as she was doing so. Incidentally, one of the tests - among many, of course - of how well you know a piece is whether or not you can play it at about 1/4 the performance speed.
Anyway, back to the question:
If you are ready to tackle the Beethoven "Moonlight" 3rd movement, go for it. Otherwise, don't spend a lot of time with it; you may start learning bad habits that will be harder to break, later. For the present you could always use small sections of it as practice exercises: right hand arpeggios and left hand tremolos, for example.
If you're not ready for it yet, wait a while, and go on to things that you can master, but that still present a challenge to you. While it's frustrating to not be able to play, yet, all that you'd like to play, it is also very satisfying to find your level and master those pieces that are within your grasp. The "Moonlight" will be around for a while, I'm sure of that!
Please forgive the long discourse!
- - - - -
Estonia 190

#565445 - 07/25/01 08:40 AM Re: Fast Pieces
netizen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/01
Posts: 1926
Loc: New York
You've gotten some excellent advice already. BruceD's suggestion that perhaps you might use parts for the sonata is a good one. This goes to something that was raised here in a thread about Hanon and such. I have abandoned pre-fab (Hanon, Czerny, etc) excercises in favor of "real" piano works --even if a particular work is a bit beyond a student's command it can still serve, if done rightly, as an excellent vehicle for learning.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that
we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."-- Theodore Roosevelt

#565446 - 07/25/01 09:36 PM Re: Fast Pieces
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
All of these suggestions are golden, since playing a piece too fast too early will make you skip over notes and not progress as much. Musically, the 3rd movement isn't terribily hard, the sections fall in nicely and all one has to do is observe the expression and articulation, but it is harder technically, but not trasncendental. Some pieces make little musical sense when working slowly, but as everything comes together it comes into prospective.
When I learned Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #12 for example, some parts sounded strange at first, disconnected even, but after properly playing it, it came together like a puzzle. The key to learning difficult pieces is to play them very slow, even after they are sufficiently memorized, in order to insure that no note is left out.

#565447 - 07/25/01 11:55 PM Re: Fast Pieces
SethW Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/24/01
Posts: 106
This is all good advice.
Firstly,as others have said, do not play pieces out of your league.Even if the piece is in your range of difficulty, getting a good understanding of what you are playing is essential(especialy true for complex pieces like the "Hammerklavier"sonata).If it is to fast, you can slow it down.The 3rd movement of the "Moonlight" sonata is an example.One thing that is important ,I think, is getting the feel in your bones.Once you connect with the music you will sort of flow with the tempo.Even for pieces like Presto Agitato, the notes just flow out of your hands without even thinking about it.Of course talent is involved.There are some very good pianist who always consult with there notes when playing.Then again, there are the pianist who scarcely even glance at their music even if they have rarely played it.(There comes a point when things get a little to difficult for that ,however.)I have met numerous pianist in both fields.The main thing however is to practice,practice,and practice.This particular piece is not overtly difficult,and after some time, pieces like this will not become as difficult anymore.

#565448 - 07/27/01 07:21 PM Re: Fast Pieces
Wags Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/24/01
Posts: 26
Whenever, I find something like the Moonlight 3rd that is going to take a lot of practice, I just memorize a little bit of it. Play that little bit once or twice every time I think about it. Then I don't even consider learning the rest of the piece until I can play that part comfortably. This may take weeks or even months, but all of a sudden it works well enough to start learning the rest of the song. In the mean time I can concentrate on other pieces. The key here is to play that difficult part many times over a period of time as slowly as it takes to play it as perfectly as you can. It will speed up and the rest of the similar parts will be much easier to learn.


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