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Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It?

Posted By: StartwithBach

Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 07:48 PM

Hi All- I am not talking about 2 on 3 (which is hard enough) in isolated patches of music. I am talking about relentless 4 on 3, measure after measure- i.e., Chopin's Opus 66. I have mathematically constructed exactly where the notes fall on charts (using Cook's Playing the Piano for Pleasure as a guide). I have used my hands on a table to beat out measures and hear exactly where the notes would fall. However, the actual act of putting together two lines seamlessly on the piano itself is so much of a hassle and undertaking, it has me wondering whether I really need to do this at all. What's your take on this? I'm ok not playing Scriabin or Chopin's F-I. Has anyone just given up on complex polyrhythm and pursued other music with no regrets? Any words of encouragement?
Posted By: jonnyboy126

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 08:03 PM

ESPECIALLY with Chopin/Scriabin, you don't need to be mathematical with the rhythm. just play the notes that are together together and approximate the rest using the physical gesture.
Posted By: gooddog

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 08:21 PM

I would have to say that mastering polyrhythms is an essential skill that you must learn and the Fantasie Impromptu is a good place to start. I work well with the mathematical model you described but some people find sentences helpful. In the case of 3/4 try one of these: "Pass the golden butter" or "I can play this rhythm." Both hands play at the same time on the first word, and alternate on the other words.

Using the math or sentence models enables your brain to develop the neural pathways that will eventually make this automatic. Start slowly and be very, very patient with yourself. Eventually, you will be able to leave the math and sentences behind and it will flow effortlessly. The essential lesson here is to be patient!
Posted By: TheHappyPianoMuse

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 08:34 PM

Chopin's Famatasie Impromptu foiled me for years ... through a number of degrees and diplomas. So much for pinning things down to formulas and drawing little lines joining some notes and between others. My first score looked like a mathematical equation in advanced physics. And confounded me equally.

Then decades after losing the war with this lovely piece, I had a student who insisted on learning it. Caught in the cross fire, I decided there was no way out. I had to learn the darned thing. I found the solution was fairly simple. I concentrated on the basic beat, exaggerating that beat until I had the right hand absolutely smooth. It MUST be smooth. You cannot be searching for the notes or you'll tip the boat. When the RH is smooth. Then tackle the left hand at exactly the same beat tempo ( which since there are only 3 notes to the beat, will of necessity sound a little slower. But KEEP that beat), Get the left hand completely fluent.

Now put them together. To do this, exaggerate the RH ... listen to it while you add the left hand ON each beat. It will be bumpy at first. But eventually, it will "click". You know you have it when you can easily exaggerate one hand and let the other "float". But the notes MUST be even. NO approximation for this particular piece. The beat is your "anchor". Keep that beat.

However in the Chopin Nocturne Op. 20 ... the only way to make it through the complex avalanches of notes is indeed to "approximate. The final page has four wonderful and very fast scales ... which you do indeed have to "fit" the LH into. The largest scale, an incredible 35 notes .... must flow over the basic 4 eighth notes without a hitch. To do this you have to slow down and employ some legerdemain of tempo.

I checked a large number of performances on YouTube to see how various pianists handled the problems in this postumously published Nocturne. The variation was considerable. blush
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 09:03 PM

Originally Posted by gooddog
In the case of 3/4 try one of these: "Pass the golden butter" or "I can play this rhythm."

Interesting. The ones I was taught were much less polite. grin
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 09:18 PM

Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
[...]
However in the Chopin Nocturne Op. 20 ... the only way to make it through the complex avalanches of notes is indeed to "approximate. [...]


All that you say is good and to the point, except that there is no Nocturne, Op. 20 in Chopin's oeuvre. His Op. 20 is the Scherzo in B minor.

Doubtless you are referring to the "Lento con gran espressione" (not a Nocturne, officially) but which is frequently included in the publications of Nocturnes as number 20.

Regards,
Posted By: TwelfthRoot2

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/12/16 09:23 PM

Maybe try and break the dependency of your hands with each other. As a more simple exercise, play hands together over a one octave range for each hand 2 octaves apart (play left hand C3 to C4 and right hand C5 to C6... or whichever octaves you choose). Play each hand at a different tempo. Don't be so technical and exact about it though. You're trying to create confusion in your hands and break the dependency of your left hand with your right. Play in constant time, play with rubato, etc.. This dependency is what you've trained your hands for over the years, and now you have to break it to operate your hands more freely.

Try this as a daily exercise, and then go back to Op 66 when you've gotten better at it.


TR
Posted By: DanS

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 02:45 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist
Originally Posted by gooddog
In the case of 3/4 try one of these: "Pass the golden butter" or "I can play this rhythm."

Interesting. The ones I was taught were much less polite. grin


You took the words right off of my keyboard!

The way I learn them is to slop them together and slowing start getting the timing correct. You can set up a click, play each hand separately 4 times, then 3 times, then 2 times, then try to play it together.

For me, the key to having a polyrhythm down is when I can feel the lower count beat. That way, I'm not just sticking in a note (or notes) in between some other notes, but there's truly two rhythms happening in my brain.

If there's a situation where someone thinks they don't need to have a polyrhythm 100% on, then it should probably be a deliberate artistic decision, not just a lack of hard work.
Posted By: gooddog

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 03:18 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist
Originally Posted by gooddog
In the case of 3/4 try one of these: "Pass the golden butter" or "I can play this rhythm."

Interesting. The ones I was taught were much less polite. grin

As was I, but... blush
Posted By: outo

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 03:52 AM

If you have free choice on music you play (meaning you're an amateur) then of course you can just ignore the pieces with extensive polyrhythms... There's no need for anyone to play FI (it's far from Chopin's best work) and there's plenty of Chopin and Scriabin you can still play. If you feel you cannot master those few pieces it's no big deal, no more than someone with small hands avoiding certain repertoire. The only issue is if you insist on playing them but do it badly...

But if you do want to, I think there are several ways to work on polyrhythms and it's a personal choice. For me the best way is to analyze and understand first, then get my hands playing them together until I hear the right result. Only after that will I achieve some automatization and my hands start to gain indepence. But that's my way and whatever works for you...
Posted By: preludetr

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 07:11 AM

I personally hate polyrhythms and have avoided learning FI. Some of the pieces I play have brief instances of polyrhythms (the Barcarolle, for instance) and I've managed to master them reasonable well, but I really don't feel like learning anything which uses them more frequently.

If you want nightmares, check out this etude:

Posted By: jdw

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 01:09 PM

I enjoy polyrhythms myself--but there are lots of other reasons why I'm not up to playing FI! Two against three is still my favorite, because you can feel and hear the two rhythms so clearly. I'm not quite as keen on 3 against 4 and 5 against 2, which are in the music I'm learning now. I can play them but the musical goal is not as clear to me. Probably just need to work on them more.
Posted By: chopinoholic

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 01:46 PM

I've never had problems with polyrhythms actually. It's just aiming for the beat where the hands come together if the speed allows it. When playing for example, the slow 7 against 6 ending of op27 no2 I "aim" where the right hand should be between the notes of the left and vary that when going up to meet the hands on the beat. In time there's no need anymore to consciously play the polyrhythm as it goes automatically.

I would not calculate which fractures are there to find the common denominator in order to play these. Especially in romantic and late romantic like Chopin and Scriabin.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 02:40 PM

It's best to learn to dissociate/desynchronize the hands and allow them to play at different tempi, then come together on specific notes. Once you've mastered that, you can play any polyrhythm easily - including those that include two prime numbers wink , like 13 against 7. (I challenge anyone to subdivide that mathematically......).

You can start by playing a regular arpeggio (say, C-E-G-C-G-E-C) in LH which you play perfectly evenly and repeatedly, then add on your own doodles in RH (or even a scale), and get specific notes to come together. For instance play C-D-E-F-G-F-E-D-C in RH and gradually (by speeding up or slowing down in RH) make the two low C's (played with pinky in LH and thumb in RH) come together, plus the upper C in LH come together with the G in RH. Guess what? - you're now playing a complex polyrhythm.

What it takes is to be able to play the notes in each hand perfectly evenly HS (practice them until you can), then play them HT and match them in accordance with what's on the score.

If you don't ever master the art of polyrhythm playing, you'll never be able to play beautiful (and actually quite simple) pieces like Chopin's Op.9/1 - and you do want to play that, don't you? wink
Posted By: StartwithBach

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 08:40 PM

Bennevis, yes, I would love to play Chopin's Op. 9, No. 1! I eyed it many years ago and gave up because of the... polyrhythm.

Thank you to everyone who has weighed in on this. I appreciate the insightful comments and suggestions. I guess I'll make it a New Years resolution: if I can get a better handle on polyrhthm- especially the kind found in the Fantasie-Impromptu- I will consider it a great feat indeed.

And, outo, I am an adult amateur, so I have free reign to learn or not learn polyrhythm. This is true! However, I like a challenge, so we'll see where this goes!
Posted By: TheHappyPianoMuse

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/13/16 11:31 PM

Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
[...]
However in the Chopin Nocturne Op. 20 ... the only way to make it through the complex avalanches of notes is indeed to "approximate. [...]


All that you say is good and to the point, except that there is no Nocturne, Op. 20 in Chopin's oeuvre. His Op. 20 is the Scherzo in B minor.

Doubtless you are referring to the "Lento con gran espressione" (not a Nocturne, officially) but which is frequently included in the publications of Nocturnes as number 20.

Regards,


Thanks for solving a mystery. I downloaded this Nocturne some time ago from IMSLP ... where the title page listed it as No. 21 ( Les Editions Outremontaises) . I realized an error had been made since the Opus 21 is Piano Concerto No. 2. Apparently even as No. 21 ( rather than Opus 21 ) it is still an error. YouTube showed it as No. 20 to which I unconsciously prefixed "Opus" ...

And of course a quick check shows that the Opus 20 is the Scherzo. And you are quite correct in that all the other editions (except for the one I downloaded) correctly assign it a No. 20. One performance on YouTube adds a B49 to further compound the confusion. Now I'm puzzled as to how I found the score in the first place. Frankly I don't remember.

It was published 26 years after Chopin's death, apparently languishing in a private collection. Which gives me hope for my pieces languishing on the Internet. laugh
Posted By: wr

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/14/16 01:34 AM

Originally Posted by chopinoholic
I've never had problems with polyrhythms actually. It's just aiming for the beat where the hands come together if the speed allows it. When playing for example, the slow 7 against 6 ending of op27 no2 I "aim" where the right hand should be between the notes of the left and vary that when going up to meet the hands on the beat. In time there's no need anymore to consciously play the polyrhythm as it goes automatically.

I would not calculate which fractures are there to find the common denominator in order to play these. Especially in romantic and late romantic like Chopin and Scriabin.


It took me a while to learn to do what you are describing in the ending of that nocturne. But I think the real reason was not so much the polyrhythm itself, but more that I didn't a good feel for playing the seven notes evenly. Seven per beat just hadn't become second nature to me. Even five notes per beat still feels a bit weird to me as well, although it is finally getting to feel more natural (after six decades of playing the piano!!).

There is a YouTube video of Garrick Ohlsson talking about Chopin in which he mentions the seven against six in the ending of op. 27, no. 2. I guess it is something of a bugaboo even among professionals. Arrau told him not to worry about getting it exact, but to cheat by simply alternating the hands. Personally, I think it sounds better if the sevens actually are a little more exact and smooth - the "floating away into the ether" effect comes off better that way, to my ear.

The helpfulness of working out the precise mathematics of a polyrhythm via the common denominator method seems to vary from person to person, and from example to example. I find it a useful thing to do sometimes, and sometimes I don't. It is often hard for me to predict if it will be of any use in advance; it has to be tried to find out. And too, regardless of how mathematically precise my playing is in the end, I will often feel better about it with the knowledge that at some point I did take the trouble to figure out exactly what was going mathematically, rather than just bashing my way through sort of, maybe, close to what is written. There is a kind of security in having done the math, for me.

(While writing this, it crossed my mind that a good New Year's resolution for me would be to work on the first of Brahms' 51 exercises, which methodically works through various polyrhythms. Hmmm...I need to think some more about that.)





Posted By: hreichgott

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/14/16 03:14 AM

4 against 3 is definitely worth learning because it occurs in lots of repertoire, and it often does need to be very rhythmic.
If you're struggling, just count it in 12 for a while, and add to your daily scale regimen either full 4x3 scales or something like LH CDEFGFED against RH CDEFED.
(This is assuming you already do 2x3 scales.)

Other more exotic polyrhythms... depends on the piece, and whether a more rhythmic or more improvisatory style is called for. (I do tend to see it much the way wr does: knowing the mathematically exact rhythm is helpful, whether or not I choose to play it that way. That way if I have rubato, I at least know what my rubato is.)
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/14/16 05:43 PM

Originally Posted by wr


(While writing this, it crossed my mind that a good New Year's resolution for me would be to work on the first of Brahms' 51 exercises, which methodically works through various polyrhythms. Hmmm...I need to think some more about that.)


I did that 1st Brahms exercise for a year before I finally got it smooth and even in both hands. My first teacher insisted that the delivery sound as if two different instruments were playing the polyrhythm, without any respect to one another except at the beats. I stopped having any difficulty with polyrhythms after that.

Figuring these things out arithmetically works very well for some people, and I sometimes use that method myself for the really exotic combinations. But the other method is generally how I teach it to my students. No matter how I get the ensemble worked out, I always try to give a perfectly smooth and even delivery. As Heather suggested, the rubato depends on you understanding how the rhythms work.
Posted By: wouter79

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/18/16 09:54 PM

Is 4 against 3 "complex polyrhythm"? I thought you were referring to 5 against 6 against 7 or so eek
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/19/16 01:38 AM

Originally Posted by wouter79
Is 4 against 3 "complex polyrhythm"? I thought you were referring to 5 against 6 against 7 or so eek


I certainly think it is, at least in teaching the neophyte who has never encountered it before.

If I can get a student to master 3 against 4, then the more exotic combinations are much much less of a problem.
Posted By: BDB

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/19/16 02:20 AM

Complex can depend on the circumstance. Playing 3 against 2 is complex if you have to do it in the same hand.
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/19/16 02:36 AM

+1
Posted By: SonatainfSharp

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/19/16 04:11 PM

Originally Posted by BDB
Complex can depend on the circumstance. Playing 3 against 2 is complex if you have to do it in the same hand.

Lera Aurbach, Prelude in f minor: quarters, eights, and triplet eights in the right hand at the same time, for four measures. At least the left hand voices the melody.

Seems impossible at first, but once it "clicks" in one's head, it's not so bad. Oh, and all a semitone apart, too, making my ears swoon with pleasure. smile

Back in college, we would practice our scales 7v6, 5v7, 4v7, just because we can. All you need to do is calculate where the hands eventually play together and go for it. Seems like such a waste of time now though, but hey, we were young.
Posted By: BDB

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 05:45 AM

I was thinking of one of the Brahms Cello Sonatas. I think it is the first one.
Posted By: RealPlayer

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 06:32 AM

Polyrhythms are even more fun when there are rests inserted in both figures.
Posted By: Arghhh

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 06:48 AM

I too was assigned to learn Fantaisie-Impromptu in university and felt like a failure because I never mastered the rhythms and it was assigned to me as an easier piece.

A year or two later I was playing something else with the 3 vs. 4 polyrhythm, and had no problem with it. I'd like to think that all that time struggling to play it helped for future use. In my current rep, I'm able to let the left hand play go on autopilot for the 4 sixteenths while hearing the melody in triplets. Being able to hear the melody in triplets allows me to play that part in time.

Even now I think there is something funny with my 2 vs. 3 polyrhythm because the duple always messes with my melodic shaping.

Hope I never have to play polyrhythms with rests!
Posted By: SonatainfSharp

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 02:58 PM

I just realized that no one has mentioned Barber's 3rd Excursion yet.
Posted By: anamnesis

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 05:24 PM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
I just realized that no one has mentioned Barber's 3rd Excursion yet.


Not to mention Godowsky's 45th transcription study based on the Chopin's A flat major posthumous etude. It definitely teaches you that one of the most successful ways to handle polyrhythms in tonal compositions is to pay attention to the counterpoint control of consonance and dissonance.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 05:52 PM

Other than Scriabin, are there any other composers pre-1950 who regularly use in their piano music polyrhythms more complicated than 4 vs.3 ?
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 05:57 PM

Other than Scriabin, are there any other composers pre-1950 who regularly use in their piano music polyrhythms more complicated than 4 vs.3 ?
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 06:48 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Other than Scriabin, are there any other composers pre-1950 who regularly use in their piano music polyrhythms more complicated than 4 vs.3 ?


All the major ones from Beethoven on. Bach writes a 2 vs.3, but the practice of the time required that you play the 2 as a dog-legged triplet so I'm pretty sure that doesn't count.
Posted By: SonatainfSharp

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 07:10 PM

Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 07:14 PM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.

That's right - even an early piece like Op.9/1 has 11:6 in bar 2.......
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 07:34 PM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.
Yes, I wouldn't call those fiorituras polyrhythms because I don't think they're usually played or meant to be played with perfect rhythm.
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 07:48 PM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.


I disagree. Many examples from his output, in particular the ballades and nocturnes come to mind, are not fioritura but are written out as exact polyrhythms to be played as written.
Posted By: SonatainfSharp

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 09:07 PM

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.


I disagree. Many examples from his output, in particular the ballades and nocturnes come to mind, are not fioritura but are written out as exact polyrhythms to be played as written.

Sure, but I sure hope you don't play them mathmatically perfect against each other...that would be anti-Romantic period.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 10:19 PM

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.


I disagree. Many examples from his output, in particular the ballades and nocturnes come to mind, are not fioritura but are written out as exact polyrhythms to be played as written.

That would certainly be the exception rather than the rule, unless you are taking into account very simple types of polyrhythms.
Posted By: TimV

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 11:05 PM

Charles Griffes's Roman Sketches has a bunch of complex polyrhythms. I dusted off Nightfall about a year ago. It has a couple of 7:5 and 7:6 sections, but nothing more than a measure at a time. They go by quickly and you can just sort of plow through them.

My teacher at the time told me to learn each hand separately and completely. Then "just play them together." Oh, okay.

I think most people will focus on one rhythm to the detriment of the other. The trick is to "check in" with the other part often enough that it will still sound steady enough to be a recognizable grouping.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 11:07 PM

The more difficult complex polyrhythms are the ones in which the two figures in question have less similar numbers of notes. For example, an 11 against 10 polyrhythm would be much easier than a 7 against 10.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 11:39 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.

That's right - even an early piece like Op.9/1 has 11:6 in bar 2.......
But does anyone play that mathematically precisely? I doubt it, so I don't think of that as a polyrhythm. My guess is that most pianists play two notes in the RH for each note in the LH and then play 3 vs. 2 at the end. I can't imagine Chopin meant anything like a precise 11:6.

Although I don't consider myself particularly adept with polyrhythms, I never gave this a second thought in composers like Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Debussy, or any of the Romantics /Impressionist composers. But looking at many of the Scriabin Sonatas or late Scriabin works it seems like he uses polyrhythms on a completely different level than of the composers mentioned after I asked my question.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/20/16 11:48 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.

That's right - even an early piece like Op.9/1 has 11:6 in bar 2.......
But does anyone play that mathematically precisely?

No, it is hardly possible to play them mathematically precisely, and one would be a fool to try.
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:01 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist

That would certainly be the exception rather than the rule, unless you are taking into account very simple types of polyrhythms.


Hardly.

ballades

f minor- mm.152- 155, and the page that follows even if it is only 2 vs. 3.
mm. 175-176 is a very complex polyrhythm that is supposed to be played exactly as written, and is thus notated.

g minor- mm. 169-172 is 5 vs. 6.
mm. 179, the second half, is 2 vs. 4 vs. 6, and I think very difficult to get right considering the physical problems involved.

nocturnes

b-flat minor Op. 9 #1, the first page has so many they can hardly be counted, most obviously the 11 vs. 6 in m.4, and the 22 vs. 12 ( in my score anyway)in the following measure. None of these are written as a cadenza, and the piece is slow enough, that they must be played as written.

f-sharp major Op. 15 #2, the doppio movimento where you have quintuplets against regular 8ths (5 vs. 2) for 8 measures consistently.

d-flat Op. 27 #2, two measures before the end, the two 7s vs. 6s.

a-flat major Op. 32 #2, the 5s vs. 3s that starts 6 measures before the end. that piece has several complex polyrhythms occurring from time to time throughout and, as the piece is slow enough, they all have to be played as written.

c minor Op. 48 #1, the doppio movimento recap, and towards the end he has many 4 vs. 3s, 6s and 7s vs. 3s, that must be played as written.

e-flat major, Op. 55 #2, has many very complex polyrhythms throughout that must all be played as written, not as flourishes. the 8 vs. 3 in measure m. 7, the 10 vs. 6 in m. 25 and others. The most difficult passage starts 10 measure before the end, first with a set of 4s vs. 3s, and then a continuous texture of 5s vs. 3s for 3 measures until the coda.

Can anybody think of others?
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:04 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist

No, it is hardly possible to play them mathematically precisely, and one would be a fool to try.


I disagree entirely with that notion, and it's a very uninformed thing to say.
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:06 AM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp

Sure, but I sure hope you don't play them mathmatically perfect against each other...that would be anti-Romantic period.


Of course I do! I've studied quite a bit of that literature with major teachers, and not one of them has ever suggested anything else.

While I don't mean to offend, both of those notions are ridiculous.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:18 AM

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp

Sure, but I sure hope you don't play them mathmatically perfect against each other...that would be anti-Romantic period.


Of course I do!

You may think you do, but it's very unlikely that you actually do. What we do as pianists is to approximate. I can tell you with relative certainty that Chopin's intent was not for the pianist to sit there attempting to divide the beat up into 66 equal parts.
Posted By: JoelW

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:30 AM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.

Of course, not all polyrhythms Chopin wrote were right-hand flourishes. Places like "the spot" in the fourth ballade are meant to serve as a texture change, and are not meant to be divided mathematically. That would miss the whole point.
Posted By: wr

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:35 AM

Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp
Chopin uses complex polyrhythms all the time, but they are intended to be ornamentation and flourishes, so maybe people don't think of them as polyrhythms.


I disagree. Many examples from his output, in particular the ballades and nocturnes come to mind, are not fioritura but are written out as exact polyrhythms to be played as written.

Sure, but I sure hope you don't play them mathmatically perfect against each other...that would be anti-Romantic period.


Well, I don't necessarily agree that playing Romantic era music must be rhythmically sloppy at all times. For example, in the middle section of Chopin's op. 15, no. 2 nocturne, there is an interesting shift in the right-hand figuration (in the ninth measure of that section) that is more telling musically if you start off by playing the groups of 5 precisely. IMO, of course. Just so nobody gets the wrong idea of what I mean, I should add that my idea of rhythmic precision doesn't equate to "without nuance".

I think it is also worth mentioning that it is known that in France in the 1800s there was a "dry" and rhythmically precise style of playing that was distinct from the looser style we tend to associate with the Romantic era.
Posted By: Arghhh

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 12:50 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Other than Scriabin, are there any other composers pre-1950 who regularly use in their piano music polyrhythms more complicated than 4 vs.3 ?


Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Major has continuous quintuplets in the left hand vs. 2, 3, or 4 in the right. There's also one in the Prelude in G# minor with ~ 6 notes in one hand and ~8 notes in the other.
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 04:13 AM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by SonatainfSharp

Sure, but I sure hope you don't play them mathmatically perfect against each other...that would be anti-Romantic period.


Of course I do!

You may think you do, but it's very unlikely that you actually do. What we do as pianists is to approximate. I can tell you with relative certainty that Chopin's intent was not for the pianist to sit there attempting to divide the beat up into 66 equal parts.


Oh poly, you are speaking entirely for yourself. Anybody who recommends that a player ignore the underlying rhythmic and metric structure, which is really what you are saying, doesn't know what they are talking about.

I don't think Chopin was necessarily trying to get people to divide the beat into 66 equal parts either. However, the written accounts of his teaching tell us that he certainly was very strict about the clarity of the rhythm as written, and the persistent steadiness of the metric pulse, in his student's playing as well as his peers..

Also, he had a choice about how to write these things out, as noted above. And if he wanted a free, ad libitum delivery, he would have written every polyrhythm out in fioritura.

Which he did not.

And frankly, keep your opinions about my playing, which you've never heard, out of it.
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 04:16 AM

Originally Posted by wr

I think it is also worth mentioning that it is known that in France in the 1800s there was a "dry" and rhythmically precise style of playing that was distinct from the looser style we tend to associate with the Romantic era.


That's right. What is being described here is really mannerisms of late 19th century pianists, not the performance style or practice of the earlier period.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 05:03 AM

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Oh poly, you are speaking entirely for yourself. Anybody who recommends that a player ignore the underlying rhythmic and metric structure...

You are equating awareness of the underlying rhythmic and metric structure to an attempt to subdivide and execute polyrhythms with mathematical precision?

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
I don't think Chopin was necessarily trying to get people to divide the beat into 66 equal parts either.

You don't think? I find it absurd even to suggest that Chopin might have intended the pianist to attempt such a division. Yet such an exercise would be the only possible way to try to get as close to perfect mathematical precision as possible. This method's extreme impracticality is why I have been repeatedly making the case that it is unnecessary.

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
However, the written accounts of his teaching tell us that he certainly was very strict about...the persistent steadiness of the metric pulse...

...which can certainly be retained even while exercising some degree of freedom in how the other part of the polyrhythm is set against this fundamental pulse. There is no contradiction here.

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Also, he had a choice about how to write these things out, as noted above. And if he wanted a free, ad libitum delivery, he would have written every polyrhythm out in fioritura.

This is not is as much of a binary as you are making it out to be. It is not an either/or between an attempt at a perfectly mathematical rhythmic division and a no-holds-barred completely free and improvisatory approach to the passage. There is a middle ground which involves a performance fairly close to the exact rhythm as written, which retains the clarity and constancy of the fundamental pulse, but which also does not necessitate going to extreme lengths (i.e. the subdivision into 66) in order to assure oneself of the most mathematically "correct" rendition of the passage.
Posted By: SonatainfSharp

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 03:29 PM

Man, I wish the Internet (as we know it today) existed 20 years ago. I remember listening to a recording where some pianist recorded a few samples of Chopin's "polyrhythms" played mathematically perfectly. It sounded hideous, as one would expect. Perhaps if I go through my 12 binders of notes, I may have written the recording down in a margin somewhere! smile

I really do want to hear laguna_greg play Op.9/1 "written out as it's intended to be played" compared to how I play it. (This is a piece I have kept in my "back pocket" for 25 years, so I know it sort of well.) wink
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 04:12 PM

Even in a "relatively simple" place like the opening of Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9 No.1 with its 11:6:

1. I don't think many pianists even attempt to play it with mathematical precision

2. Even if they did attempt this, I don't see how anyone could tell if they were doing it this way unless they slowed down the recording to maybe 10% of the actual speed
Posted By: laguna_greg

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 05:23 PM

Originally Posted by Polyphonist
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Oh poly, you are speaking entirely for yourself. Anybody who recommends that a player ignore the underlying rhythmic and metric structure...

You are equating awareness of the underlying rhythmic and metric structure to an attempt to subdivide and execute polyrhythms with mathematical precision?

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
I don't think Chopin was necessarily trying to get people to divide the beat into 66 equal parts either.

You don't think? I find it absurd even to suggest that Chopin might have intended the pianist to attempt such a division. Yet such an exercise would be the only possible way to try to get as close to perfect mathematical precision as possible. This method's extreme impracticality is why I have been repeatedly making the case that it is unnecessary.

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
However, the written accounts of his teaching tell us that he certainly was very strict about...the persistent steadiness of the metric pulse...

...which can certainly be retained even while exercising some degree of freedom in how the other part of the polyrhythm is set against this fundamental pulse. There is no contradiction here.

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Also, he had a choice about how to write these things out, as noted above. And if he wanted a free, ad libitum delivery, he would have written every polyrhythm out in fioritura.

This is not is as much of a binary as you are making it out to be. It is not an either/or between an attempt at a perfectly mathematical rhythmic division and a no-holds-barred completely free and improvisatory approach to the passage. There is a middle ground which involves a performance fairly close to the exact rhythm as written, which retains the clarity and constancy of the fundamental pulse, but which also does not necessitate going to extreme lengths (i.e. the subdivision into 66) in order to assure oneself of the most mathematically "correct" rendition of the passage.


Yeah, well I find it absurd and really nervy of you to try to tell other people how they play they piano in performance, when you've never even heard them.

Stop talking about my playing. Or I'll start talking about yours. And your teaching too, if you can't find a way to restrain yourself like any young adult has been taught to.
Posted By: casinitaly

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 06:19 PM

Polyphonist and Laguna Greg - knock it off.

If you want to continue bickering, take it to Private Messages.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 08:04 PM

Originally Posted by casinitaly
Polyphonist and Laguna Greg - knock it off.

If you want to continue bickering, take it to Private Messages.

I beg your pardon.

I suggest you please reread the posts made by both of us during this conversation. Mine have been devoted solely to analysis of the musical issue in question. To characterize them as "bickering" is incorrect. Any ad hominems which have been presented have not come from me.

Case in point:
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Yeah, well I find it absurd and really nervy of you to try to tell other people how they play they piano in performance, when you've never even heard them.

Stop talking about my playing...

The post to which this particular comment refers contained nothing which could remotely be construed as a reference to how he plays the piano. In fact, it contains no personal references whatsoever. Simply the fact that an accusation is made during an argument does not make that accusation valid. I would encourage moderators of this forum to try to read and absorb the dynamic of the whole discussion before apportioning blame to specific participants.
Posted By: casinitaly

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/21/16 09:55 PM

Polyphonist. My apologies. I did mis-read something. It's been a long day, and even moderators can make mistakes.

My previous post should only have been addressed to Laguna Greg.

So, correcting my error: Greg, - calm down and stop being so unnecessarily aggressive.

Posted By: Isabelle1949

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/22/16 11:34 PM

Originally Posted by gooddog
I would have to say that mastering polyrhythms is an essential skill that you must learn and the Fantasie Impromptu is a good place to start. I work well with the mathematical model you described but some people find sentences helpful. In the case of 3/4 try one of these: "Pass the golden butter" or "I can play this rhythm." Both hands play at the same time on the first word, and alternate on the other words.

Using the math or sentence models enables your brain to develop the neural pathways that will eventually make this automatic. Start slowly and be very, very patient with yourself. Eventually, you will be able to leave the math and sentences behind and it will flow effortlessly. The essential lesson here is to be patient!


Do as gooddog says using words for where the notes fall. Before playing the notes on the piano, tap out the rhythm with your hands or feet to get it into your system. I did this years ago for a section in a Beethoven sonata and it really helped. Once you get it, you won't have a problem with it in the future. Good luck.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/23/16 12:17 AM

Originally Posted by Isabelle1949
Originally Posted by gooddog
I would have to say that mastering polyrhythms is an essential skill that you must learn and the Fantasie Impromptu is a good place to start. I work well with the mathematical model you described but some people find sentences helpful. In the case of 3/4 try one of these: "Pass the golden butter" or "I can play this rhythm." Both hands play at the same time on the first word, and alternate on the other words.

Using the math or sentence models enables your brain to develop the neural pathways that will eventually make this automatic. Start slowly and be very, very patient with yourself. Eventually, you will be able to leave the math and sentences behind and it will flow effortlessly. The essential lesson here is to be patient!


Do as gooddog says using words for where the notes fall. Before playing the notes on the piano, tap out the rhythm with your hands or feet to get it into your system. I did this years ago for a section in a Beethoven sonata and it really helped. Once you get it, you won't have a problem with it in the future. Good luck.
I this approach only makes sense when the 4:3 occurs in a piece played at a much slower tempo than the FI. It won't help for a 4:3 anywhere near the tempo of the FI.

I think almost everyone who learns this successfully does so by making sure that the beginning of each 4 group in the RH coincides with the beginning of each 3 group in the LH while playing the piece at a reasonably fast tempo. Then the "polyrhythm problem" disappears. Learn each hand separately first if you cannot play it at a fairly fast speed to begin with.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/23/16 12:52 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus

I think almost everyone who learns this successfully does so by making sure that the beginning of each 4 group in the RH coincides with the beginning of each 3 group in the LH while playing the piece at a reasonably fast tempo. Then the "polyrhythm problem" disappears. Learn each hand separately first if you cannot play it at a fairly fast speed to begin with.

thumb

Over-analyzing is unhelpful in such pieces. You could end up plodding slowly forever and never get it up to speed because when you try to speed it up, the mathematical subdivisions cannot be discerned.

I rarely learn pieces HS, but with this one, the easiest way is to become so fluent with each hand that it's automatic, then put them together and synchronize on the right notes.
Posted By: Polyphonist

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/23/16 12:53 AM

Originally Posted by bennevis
Over-analyzing is unhelpful in such pieces. You could end up plodding slowly forever and never get it up to speed because when you try to speed it up, the mathematical subdivisions cannot be discerned.

I rarely learn pieces HS, but with this one, the easiest way is to become so fluent with each hand that it's automatic, then put them together and synchronize on the right notes.

Precisely.
Posted By: gooddog

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/23/16 01:48 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I this approach (using sentences or math), only makes sense when the 4:3 occurs in a piece played at a much slower tempo than the FI. It won't help for a 4:3 anywhere near the tempo of the FI.
Well, yes, of course. We are talking about a learning tempo not the final performance tempo. Once slow practice establishes the brain/finger coordination, the sentence or mathematical models are no longer necessary. They are discarded, the tempo is gradually increased until it reaches performance tempo and the notes flow easily and musically.

Incidentally, when I use the mathematical model to figure out polyrhythms that are new to me, I use them to mark the music so I can see the relationship between the two hands. My goal is never to play the notes with mathematical precision. It is merely to establish the right hand/left hand coordination through slow practice. Later, I erase my markings and let the music flow.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/23/16 01:23 PM

Originally Posted by gooddog
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I this approach (using sentences or math), only makes sense when the 4:3 occurs in a piece played at a much slower tempo than the FI. It won't help for a 4:3 anywhere near the tempo of the FI.
Well, yes, of course. We are talking about a learning tempo not the final performance tempo. Once slow practice establishes the brain/finger coordination, the sentence or mathematical models are no longer necessary. They are discarded, the tempo is gradually increased until it reaches performance tempo and the notes flow easily and musically.

Incidentally, when I use the mathematical model to figure out polyrhythms that are new to me, I use them to mark the music so I can see the relationship between the two hands. My goal is never to play the notes with mathematical precision. It is merely to establish the right hand/left hand coordination through slow practice. Later, I erase my markings and let the music flow.
I can't really agree with this. My point was that for a piece like the FI there is little point practicing it at a very slow learning tempo because that will not help when playing/practicing it closer to performance speed.

Maybe if the FI was the first example of 4:3 one ever did, it would be a good idea to graph the notes out mathematically to see where they fall. But once one realizes that the second note in the 4 group comes before the 2nd note in the 3 group and the last note in the 4 group comes after the last note in the 3 group, I don't see much use in slow practice. I think the physical coordination of the first note in each 4 group and 3 group is the best way to practice from the beginning and eliminates the polyrhythm "problem". I'd recommend practicing the FI at least around 60% of the final tempo, but even at that speed only concentrating on the coordination of the first note in each 4 note or 3 note grouping.

If I had a new for me polyrhythm in a piece, I would consider starting out with a mathematical approach like you mentioned to see where the notes in each hand were relatively placed. But I would only practice it very slowly if the final tempo was also quite slow(slower than the FI).

Of course, if your approach works best for you or some others one can't really argue with it, but I think the endless discussions of the rhythmical problems of the FI miss the boat.
Posted By: gooddog

Re: Complex Polyrhythm: How Detrimental is Failing to Master It? - 12/23/16 04:56 PM

pianoloverus, I'm not sure if we agreeing or disagreeing. I think it is necessary to learn polyrhythms slowly, then gradually speed up as the execution becomes automatic. Bringing a piece up to tempo is another task entirely.

I am a strong advocate of slow practice, at any stage in the learning process. Even when one has a piece up to performance standard and memorized, I think it is essential to be able to play the piece slowly. An esteemed teacher, who studied with Alfred Brendel, quoted him, (or maybe it was Leon Fleischer), as saying: "slow practice means fast progress." The same teacher told a story from when she was a conservatory student. She heard someone behind a closed door practicing a piece painfully sloooowly. She asked another student who was in the room and was told, "Oh, that's Murray Perahia". He was preparing for that evening's performance.

My final story may create some controversy. I was told you can always tell an amateur student from a professional by listening to them practice. The student practices fast because they are concerned about the judgement of anyone who might be listening. The pro practices slowly to get the work done.
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