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Posted By: Barly need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 12:54 PM
My technical shortcomings frustrate me more and more, and I'm ready to practice instead of "just playing".

Here is a random sample of my level: https://youtu.be/0-Ww_7atb0o (both hands from about 0:55 if you want to jump)

How do I best go at it, if I have maybe 30-60 minutes a day? I'll be thankful for any help, especially concrete suggestions.

(Happy to give any information in the thread if needed, or record any more samples if I have the sheet music somewhere.)
Posted By: indigo_dave Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 01:42 PM


I only have one simple tip. Slow down. It sounds like you basically know the piece in the video. But the stopping and starting destroys the rhythmic pulse of the music. Play it slowly enough so that you're able to play consistently without stopping and restarting. I'm sometimes guilty of this when I sight read certain Bach pieces. Sometimes I have to tell myself to slow down.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 02:10 PM
Thanks.

Slowing down - you mean to make it more bearable for myself and innocent bystanders, or is this the best way to improve my playing as well?
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 03:30 PM
If you want to learn this piece properly, you need to practice the sections or bars in which you're stumbling over or not coordinating your hands. Take them out and practice them slowly by themselves (after making sure that your fingering works for you) until you get them right 100% of the time before gradually increasing speed back up to tempo and putting them back into the passages.

Practicing isn't just playing through the piece again and again and again.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 03:51 PM
That sounds very right to me, for a given piece of music. (I had picked this impromptu because I had just heard a young boy purr it down without a wrong keystroke, while I still play it as badly as when I was a teenager myself.)

What about general improvement, though? Just practice single pieces until I don't make mistakes? I'm afraid that would mean I'll be stuck for a very long time, and then realise I'm simply not getting anywhere beond Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at a fifth of the speed, but maybe I'm wrong there. Or some sort of systematic exercises of the Hanon/Czerny/Dohnanyi type? Or somehing else?
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 04:30 PM
Have you got a teacher?

Without one, you'll keep making the same mistakes without knowing why (ingrained technical problems, rhythm problems, coordination problems etc).

If you do want to play advanced classical pieces to a high standard, you cannot do that without a good teacher. Of course, if you just want to have fun playing what you like, you don't need one.
Posted By: dogperson Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 04:43 PM
Barly
You need to be working on music where you can play a fair portion of it correct with only a little work; then you can spend your time working only on the measures that are giving you a problem. Those need to be practiced VERY slowly (slower than slow. If it sounds good for someone else to hear, it is not slow enough.

Work out fingerings, write them in and use them consistently every time you practice.

In the bigger sense..... learn music when you are ready for it, not just because you like it. There is enough wonderful music out there that you could find music you would love to learn and are ready to learn in the same piece. If you skip around from one difficult piece to the other, you are not doing anything to improve your technique and will have little to show for it. This means build up to difficult music
Posted By: RonaldSteinway Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 05:11 PM
Here how you practice this piece: I am learning this piece too. At the beginning, I could not play fast and cleanly, until I practice as stated below :

1. Play slowly first.
2. Play with rhythm, but slowly.
3, Play all right notes stacatto, slowly then play faster and faster.
4. Play phrase by phrase until you can play fast, then combine two phrases.


The key to be able to play this piece fast is that your muscle needs to remember the movements because you have no time to think.

Good luck!
Posted By: LarryK Re: need help to improve technique - 08/26/19 05:59 PM
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
Here how you practice this piece: I am learning this piece too. At the beginning, I could not play fast and cleanly, until I practice as stated below :

1. Play slowly first.
2. Play with rhythm, but slowly.
3, Play all right notes stacatto, slowly then play faster and faster.
4. Play phrase by phrase until you can play fast, then combine two phrases.


The key to be able to play this piece fast is that your muscle needs to remember the movements because you have no time to think.

Good luck!


The thing is, though, muscles have no memory. There is no structure in a muscle to store memories related to movement. When you practice, you’re encoding neurons in your brain which fire your muscles. The muscles themselves do not remember how they’ve been fired in the past. After you learn a sequence of muscle movements with your brain, you can play them back slowly, and then, with more practice, faster.

I believe the brain is doing forward planning of muscle firing based on previous practice sessions. I think this is similar to how we run races. Say, we’re running a 5k race and we’re standing on the start line. How does the brain know how fast to fire the muscles to complete the course? After all, we’ve never run that course. The brain does forward planning based on the distance, which it knows, and previous practice sessions, which were at a specific pace. With music, we know the course, and we’ve practiced the muscle movements at different speeds.

Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 12:37 PM
Originally Posted by dogperson
In the bigger sense..... learn music when you are ready for it, not just because you like it. [...] This means build up to difficult music


This is not at all to dismiss your words, but independently: is it realistic that I'll get beyond Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star with one hand at 30 beats per minute? This might look like an exaggeration, but as you see from the sample, I can't play a simple scale in an even and clean way, and I'm not 15 anymore.

Originally Posted by bennevis
Have you got a teacher?

Without one, you'll keep making the same mistakes without knowing why (ingrained technical problems, rhythm problems, coordination problems etc).


No teacher for a long time. It wouldn't be easy to get that organized practically, but I'm also not sure how much it would help. I'm fine with matters of rhythm, expression (in theory - the problem is that my fingers are busy enough hitting the right key), all kinds of things that aren't plain dexterity. Of course I'm not arrogant enough to think a teacher couldn't help me at all, but I'm a bit afraid it might come out in paying somebody for telling me to sit straight, basically, and he or she could do that only during the lesson, not while I practice. Even for that, it would have to be a really good teacher, and exactly where it might help, there's some ideology involved, say in holding your hands flat or high.

Originally Posted by bennevis
If you do want to play advanced classical pieces to a high standard, you cannot do that without a good teacher. Of course, if you just want to have fun playing what you like, you don't need one.


Both, which is the problem. I don't plan to give public performances, but to have fun playing what I like, I need to be on a high standard. I'm not talking about winning a blindfold Bumble Bee competition, but you heard what I did to Schubert.
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 12:50 PM
Originally Posted by Barly

Originally Posted by bennevis
If you do want to play advanced classical pieces to a high standard, you cannot do that without a good teacher. Of course, if you just want to have fun playing what you like, you don't need one.


Both, which is the problem. I don't plan to give public performances, but to have fun playing what I like, I need to be on a high standard. I'm not talking about winning a blindfold Bumble Bee competition, but you heard what I did to Schubert.

That is basically your problem in a nutshell.

You perceive you have some technical problems but all I can see and hear is that you're playing the piece sloppily (and you admit you haven't actually been practicing it) so I have no idea whether you'll be able to play it properly if you spend a few weeks working on it in the way we've been advising here (- or whether you really do have ingrained technical problems which cannot be fixed by proper practicing, and which requires a complete technical overhaul by a good teacher who knows how to fix such problems). The sort of practicing every serious pianist has to do to get any piece to a high enough standard to perform for others, or for piano exams or auditions.

A good teacher will get you to play scales & arpeggios as well as pieces that you've already worked on, and observe your playing carefully to see what your problems are.

If you're looking for a quick diagnosis - and quick fix - of your problems, you won't find it from anyone here.....
Posted By: dogperson Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 12:50 PM
Yes you will get beyond Twinkle Twinkle by being methodical about how you learn. There are several here in the ABF that study independently but play impressively well by doing just that.

Learning to play well is a matter of discipline and patience.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 02:17 PM
I wasn't looking for a quick fix - I hope that is believable from what I wrote above - nor even for a quick diagnosis, but for suggestions, "direction" if you will, so that the work and patience I'm willing to give won't be in vain. I'm honestly thankful for all replies yet.

If I'd hear somebody play like this, I might get the same impression, but "sloppily" doesn't sound quite right, that has elements of not giving a damn, playing down something casually, which wasn't the case. I intentionally didn't go back to re-record over and over again, but wanted to give a real sample. Within a certain range, this is simply how well I can play at the moment if I give it my full attention and commitment. I don't jump to the wrong bass key every second time because I don't consider it important, and in fact it bothers me more than most random listeners.
Posted By: Sidokar Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 02:18 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
My technical shortcomings frustrate me more and more, and I'm ready to practice instead of "just playing".

Here is a random sample of my level: https://youtu.be/0-Ww_7atb0o (both hands from about 0:55 if you want to jump)

How do I best go at it, if I have maybe 30-60 minutes a day? I'll be thankful for any help, especially concrete suggestions.

(Happy to give any information in the thread if needed, or record any more samples if I have the sheet music somewhere.)


Could you tell us how long you have been learning piano ? and also specifically for this piece, for how long have you practiced it ? Is there a particular reason you choose the Schubert 2nd Impromptu ? You posted this video and you are saying it is reflective of your level, but it is difficult to evaluate since there are many stops and mistakes. Is that due to the fact that you lack practice on this piece or is it usually like this ? I am not sure you know, but this impromptu is around RCM level 10, so it is for advanced students already. So if you are trying to play such a piece but your real level is quite below that, there is no surprise that you struggle to play it.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 02:54 PM
Of course. I started as a child, I think I was six, and had lessons until I was something like 13 or maybe 14, with quite a number of very diverse teachers, for external reasons. All standard classical piano. After that, I had no piano at home (and no lessons) and tried to play wherever I had the opportunity, that is planned opportunity. For example, I was allowed to drop by at my girlfriend's family's place from time to time and play a little when I was 18 and such things, all of that very irregular. (Planning also played a role because I can't play by heart, so unless there happened to be sheet music, I couldn't just sit down and play when there was a piano somewhere.)

When I was about 30, my wife and I bought a piano, and since then I've been playing more often again, but without formal lessons and without any systematic practice.

The impromptu (and the other impromtus) is something I already played as a teenager, when I still had lessons, so she probably deemed it to be at an appropriate level. It's a piece I've always liked, as Schubert in general, and the trigger to record i now was that I happened to hear a young boy play purr it down perfectly in a music shop where he tried out pianos with his mother. Of course, he may be the prodigy of the century and/or practice for six hours daily, but as I said, that was just the trigger.

By my level, I meant the playing, not the difficulty of the piece (I'm not familiar with the classification, will look it up.)
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 02:56 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
I wasn't looking for a quick fix - I hope that is believable from what I wrote above

If I'd hear somebody play like this, I might get the same impression, but "sloppily" doesn't sound quite right, that has elements of not giving a damn, playing down something casually, which wasn't the case.

I don't think you understand what we're getting at.

Have you actually worked on this Impromptu properly and endeavored to correct all those mistakes in the twists and turns that you're making in the RH passagework?

Because in the video, you sound like someone sight-reading, with frequent stumbles whenever there are changes of direction in the scales.

If you cannot be bothered to work on this piece properly in the manner we have suggested (isolating the problem sections and practicing them slowly until you get them correct etc), how can you - or I - tell whether you'll ever be able to play it correctly with assiduous practice?
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 03:53 PM
I practiced it, under tutelage, in my early teens. But this piece in particular was only an example.

There seems to be a misunderstanding: my whole point is I that do think playing like this will result in my abilities staying on this low level. At best actually, considering that at some point, eyes, muscles and bones don't tend to get better with age.

I am bothered a lot by this, and I never had the attitude that I can't be bothered to put in proper work and patience. This is why I asked here, not about quick fixes or to hear that it's fine if I just go on like that and I'll get better over time (which, as opposed to my wife, I think haven't in the last decade since I had an instrument again). I came here to be bothered.
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 04:16 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
I practiced it, under tutelage, in my early teens.

That's exactly what it sounds like. You haven't been practicing it, or even playing it recently, and it shows.



Quote
But this piece in particular was only an example.

An example of your sloppiness?

What's the point of presenting a piece you haven't practiced and asking us to comment on your technique?

If I was to play this piece now (which I haven't played for several years), and try to play it at your speed, I'd probably sound similar. Does that mean anything? NO.

Because I once performed it - perfectly - at a speed similar to Zimerman's. And I have no doubt that I can work it back up to performance standard within a week or two if I want to.


Quote
There seems to be a misunderstanding: my whole point is I that do think playing like this will result in my abilities staying on this low level. At best actually, considering that at some point, eyes, muscles and bones don't tend to get better with age.

I am bothered a lot by this, and I never had the attitude that I can't be bothered to put in proper work and patience. This is why I asked here, not about quick fixes or to hear that it's fine if I just go on like that and I'll get better over time (which, as opposed to my wife, I think haven't in the last decade since I had an instrument again). I came here to be bothered.

So - do you want to work at your pieces, or not?

You should, if you're bothered. And you won't get any better if you don't.

You keep persisting in insisting that you have some kind of "problem" unrelated to your practicing methods (which seem to be basically non-existent), when in fact, it could just be that you cannot be bothered to practice anything properly.

If there is a problem, the most likely one is that you don't have a proper (if any) method of practising your pieces.

If you want us to take you seriously, work on this piece properly for the next couple of months and then record yourself.
Posted By: Sidokar Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 04:50 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
I wasn't looking for a quick fix - I hope that is believable from what I wrote above - nor even for a quick diagnosis, but for suggestions, "direction" if you will, so that the work and patience I'm willing to give won't be in vain. I'm honestly thankful for all replies yet.

If I'd hear somebody play like this, I might get the same impression, but "sloppily" doesn't sound quite right, that has elements of not giving a damn, playing down something casually, which wasn't the case. I intentionally didn't go back to re-record over and over again, but wanted to give a real sample. Within a certain range, this is simply how well I can play at the moment if I give it my full attention and commitment. I don't jump to the wrong bass key every second time because I don't consider it important, and in fact it bothers me more than most random listeners.


I am not sure I follow your line of thinking. If you just heard a boy playing this piece and you decided to jump back to it after a break of 10 years, do you really expect that you can play it well ? So if the point is indeed that you haven't practice the piece at all or very little, your recording doesnt show much of what you can really do. Do you have a piece that you do play well ?

The fact that you have taken lessons in your youth is an advantage, but after a long break, it takes (lots of) time to get back to it. Piano unlike other skills requires regular practice to keep at level.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 07:34 PM
bennevis, I don't understand what you're answering to.

My current state is that I haven't practiced since I was a teenager, and since we bought a piano some years ago, I've just been playing whatever I liked - some things I played as a child, some new things. Doing this, I see that I don't play good enough to enjoy it, and also that mere playing doesn't improve it. So I resolved to change this and practice systematically. That part is settled, and I'm not looking for a cheap way, I'm looking for advice about effective ways, be it practicing passage by passage, practicing very slowly, or superfast, or with my hands crossed, or filming myself and running it through some NASA software for analysis.

The sample was really only that, a sample to show my current ability, with a piece that is probably pretty typical of what I tend to play. I didn't ask for concrete criticism of my technique - sorry if I hadn't made that clear. It was only to give everybody an idea of the bad quality of my playing in case it made a difference for any advice - some people may benefit more from slow scales and others more from Chopin etudes at double speed. That I played it ages ago isn't even so important, because I didn't play it better back then. I understand that the minimal difference between pieces I've played for a long time and pieces I see for the first time is exactly because I never practiced - not during the last years, and probably not well as a teenager. So it's not specifically about how to perfect this piece. If practicing a concrete piece, slowly and so on, is good advice, this is something to take seriously. That's why I'm asking the whole thing. Could as well have been that everybody tells me not to touch any "real" composition and first practice nothing but Hanon for two years.

I didn't imply a problem unrelated to practicing, and my practicing is indeed non-existent, which is exactly what I want to change.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 07:40 PM
Originally Posted by Sidokar
I am not sure I follow your line of thinking. If you just heard a boy playing this piece and you decided to jump back to it after a break of 10 years, do you really expect that you can play it well ? So if the point is indeed that you haven't practice the piece at all or very little, your recording doesnt show much of what you can really do. Do you have a piece that you do play well ?

The fact that you have taken lessons in your youth is an advantage, but after a long break, it takes (lots of) time to get back to it. Piano unlike other skills requires regular practice to keep at level.


No, that boy playing it was just a coincidence, a trigger to give myself a kick in the behind. I expected to play it the way I did. No, I can't think of a piece I play well.
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 07:52 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
I'm not looking for a cheap way, I'm looking for advice about effective ways....

If this is indeed what you're looking for, my first post still stands - and it applies to every piece you want to learn.

It is also the standard way for all pianists - of any level - to practice every piece they learn:

......you need to practice the sections or bars in which you're having difficulty, stumbling over or not coordinating your hands. Take them out and practice them slowly by themselves (after making sure that your fingering works for you) until you get them right 100% of the time before gradually increasing speed back up to tempo and putting them back into the passages.

And never play anything faster than you have complete control over all the notes.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/27/19 07:54 PM
Again, thank you.
Posted By: outo Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 05:11 AM
Originally Posted by Barly


I am bothered a lot by this, and I never had the attitude that I can't be bothered to put in proper work and patience. This is why I asked here, not about quick fixes or to hear that it's fine if I just go on like that and I'll get better over time (which, as opposed to my wife, I think haven't in the last decade since I had an instrument again). I came here to be bothered.


I can understand your worry. It is quite common to think that with age you cannot achieve what you could in your early years. And imo it's partly true, but not relevant here.

Let me tell you about my experience:
I had piano lesson for some years, cannot even remember how long, but never got beyond early method books before quitting at 11. Piano playing was both mentally and physically difficult for me then. I never looked back, although did other things with music.
Then I suddenly was 45 and got the idea that I want to try again. Tried by myself but found the kind of music I want to play way too difficult and got a teacher. That was about 8 years ago. During this 8 years I have had to completely change my lifestyle from a couch potato/fixed sitting on a PC all day to having physiotherapy and exercise. All his just because piano playing was physically too hard because I was incredibly stiff. Oh, did I mention I have small hands and hypermobile joints? After a couple of years I had already accepted that I will never play fast of technically difficult pieces, despite my teacher saying otherwise and always pushing for improvement. Now 8 years later (and older) my fingers can actually do things I could never imagine. It is rather my head that is slowing me down. But I too had doubts on the way: Am I wasting my time? Only my inborn stubborness kept me at it when difficulties hit me, I was never very diciplined.

The moral of this story: Yes, you will be able to play these things well if you keep studying wisely and take care of your body. So do not let doubt stop you from trying, just do it one day at the time. And do not let some people's manners discourage you from searching for help and motivation on this forum. It's just their way. Some people feel that when they are right and know better it is ok to be a little condescending.
Posted By: Lady Bird Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 05:56 AM
Originally Posted by indigo_dave


I only have one simple tip. Slow down. It sounds like you basically know the piece in the video. But the stopping and starting destroys the rhythmic pulse of the music. Play it slowly enough so that you're able to play consistently without stopping and restarting. I'm sometimes guilty of this when I sight read certain Bach pieces. Sometimes I have to tell myself to slow down.

No he does not know the piece ! Work out what is wrong in the RH in those unknown sections. I cannot see what is going on in this cell phone picture.(fingering, hand extensions ,contractions, ?)
Work on those bars only ,then work backwards a bar etc,)
To keep these passages fresh ,practice in dotted rhythms later when KNOWN .
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 07:26 AM
outo, thank you for your encouragement!

Originally Posted by Lady Bird

No he does not know the piece ! Work out what is wrong in the RH in those unknown sections. I cannot see what is going on in this cell phone picture.(fingering, hand extensions ,contractions, ?)
Work on those bars only ,then work backwards a bar etc,)
To keep these passages fresh ,practice in dotted rhythms later when KNOWN .


Thanks.

That's not even a contradiction. Knowing is all kinds of things: I've known the piece since my youth, I was probably familiar with it from recordings before the piano teacher introduced me to it. I also know it in the sense that I'm not surprised by any turns of tune the way one might be in sight-reading. But I don't know it in terms of knowing to play it properly, obviously.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 07:29 AM
But again, it's not about this piece in particular, and I may start with something easier. Same approach of slow speed, singling out passages, variation in staccato/legato, rhythm and the like - it seems the consensus here is that this is more useful than Hanon-style etudes.
Posted By: Hatchestron Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 09:05 AM
Bennevis's belligerent and arrogant attack seems both unnecessary and unnecessarily unpleasant for a friendly forum like this. Barly is an pianist in need, not some Amalekite to be smote hip and thigh!!

Barly is asking about his technique, not presenting a performance to be critiqued. For adults, technique is not synonymous with playing the right notes, it is the conscious biomechanical process of how we move from one note (or notes), to the next, in the most optimal and controlled way. And the happy consequence of good technique is that we stop playing wrong notes except when we haven't quite learned the piece!

Your video suggests what your problems might be, but the angle isn't ideal. My feeling is that you use your natural coordination to get your fingers on notes, and relying far too much on isolated fingers to push them. As a consequence, your tone is shallow and I suspect you are very conscious that your fourth and fifth fingers feel hopelessly weak. You also show indications of trying to play with an open hand position (stretching out fingers anticipating where they will be needed, rather than moving to the notes in coordinated fashion), which makes for unevenness and also tension and fatigue. What you really need to do is ensure that your fingers are supported by the hand and arm for each note (the moment you achieve this, the days of weak fourth and fifth fingers are over!) But for that, you really do need the services of a competent teacher who understands technique properly (and certainly in the UK where I live, these are rarer than hens teeth.)

You did ask should you do Donhányi exercises and the like. NO!!!!!! At least, don't do them unless you have discussed them with a proper teacher with a good reputation for understanding technique. The problem with exercises is that they tell you what notes to play, they do not tell you how. And some of Dohnányi's are potentially physically ruinous if you get the "how" wrong. The problem is that a lot of people make the false analogy with sport, assuming that a hand feels weak in the way a bicep might. And so drill technical exercises in the hope that muscles will grow and give them strength, which is actually a profound misunderstanding (and also a dangerous one, as it can lead to physical injury, especially when you get older).

If you live in the UK, then perhaps you could send me a pm and I'll tell you who I could recommend. If not, good luck. And don't let the likes of Bennevis put you off.
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 09:24 AM
Originally Posted by Hatchestron
Bennevis's belligerent and arrogant attack seems both unnecessary and unnecessarily unpleasant for a friendly forum like this. Barly is an pianist in need, not some Amalekite to be smote hip and thigh!!

Barly is asking about his technique, not presenting a performance to be critiqued.

Your outrage is misplaced.

The OP presented a piece which he hasn't practiced and asked for a diagnosis of technical problems - though he then changed that to 'practicing' issues when the advice people gave were all based on that. Hence my - and others' - exasperation.


Quote
For adults, technique is not synonymous with playing the right notes, it is the conscious biomechanical process of how we move from one note (or notes), to the next, in the most optimal and controlled way. And the happy consequence of good technique is that we stop playing wrong notes except when we haven't quite learned the piece!

It seems you failed to notice that the OP hasn't properly learned the piece.....

Quote
Your video suggests what your problems might be, but the angle isn't ideal. My feeling is that you use your natural coordination to get your fingers on notes, and relying far too much on isolated fingers to push them. As a consequence, your tone is shallow and I suspect you are very conscious that your fourth and fifth fingers feel hopelessly weak. You also show indications of trying to play with an open hand position (stretching out fingers anticipating where they will be needed, rather than moving to the notes in coordinated fashion), which makes for unevenness and also tension and fatigue. What you really need to do is ensure that your fingers are supported by the hand and arm for each note (the moment you achieve this, the days of weak fourth and fifth fingers are over!) But for that, you really do need the services of a competent teacher who understands technique properly (and certainly in the UK where I live, these are rarer than hens teeth.)

.

You're over-diagnosing and making wrong assumptions. Seriously.
You're obviously not a teacher.

BTW, my first advice to the OP is to get a good teacher.
Posted By: Sidokar Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 09:51 AM
Originally Posted by Barly
But again, it's not about this piece in particular, and I may start with something easier. Same approach of slow speed, singling out passages, variation in staccato/legato, rhythm and the like - it seems the consensus here is that this is more useful than Hanon-style etudes.


I think to a large extent, it is very difficult to give you a proper set of relevant advices as we have very limited kkowledge of your past experience, your practice routine, skills and weaknesses. The Czerny, Hanon and other exercices have nothing wrong or good in themselves. It all depends how they are being used in an overall technical improvement plan. In addition each teacher will also have their own approach, tools and preferences and so are the members of this forum. On almost any topic, you will get many different opinions.

From the limited amount of information that I have, my sense is that the piece is obviously too difficult at this stage. It is an advanced piece (Henle level 7 out of 9 levels ....). So if you were able to play that piece, it means you would be also able to play a large portion of the entire piano repertoire. From the parcellar information on your piano background, I think you need to get back to a formal practice plan. First step being to establish what is really your current level and what are your main technical weaknesses and as a consequence develop a proper training plan. Since there are no pieces you play well (however probably that you are trying to play again some too difficult), you would need to scale back until you reach the level at which you would be able to play a piece from end to end at speed with limited mistakes.

There is no particular issues that would imped your progress if you have a practice schedule and play everyday with a methodical plan and a proper teacher. What is important when you restart the piano is that you notice by yourself that you are making progress, even if slow. For that it is important to tackle pieces at your level which you will eventually be able to play so that it provides you with positive reinforcement. If you always tackle pieces too difficult which you will have to give up anyway, it will only build frustration.

I would also not compare yourself with talented kids. Anyway there will always be people that play better than you (and me !); it is not relevant as you are not in the same situation as they are. You are an adult with a job, a family life and responsibilities. Piano is a pleasure and a hobby among many other things. What you have to be prepared for is to practice seriously, get a good teacher and arm yourself with a lot of patience.

Kind regards and good luck.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 10:05 AM
Originally Posted by bennevis
The OP presented a piece which he hasn't practiced and asked for a diagnosis of technical problems - though he then changed that to 'practicing' issues when the advice people gave were all based on that. Hence my - and others' - exasperation.


I seriously didn't ask for a diagnosis of technical problems, and I didn't change that. The first post is still up there, unedited. For some reason you misunderstood my question from the start, and insisted on this. (I'm not even blaming you - if people misunderstand what I wrote, I obviously didn't write unambiguously enough.)

The situation was: "I play badly. I need to practice, and properly. Look, here is a random sample, only to show how badly I play, and that need to practice, and properly."

Somewhere my explicit question for advice was lost - as I said, I tend to blame my communication skills first - and triggered "You play badly. You need to practice, and properly. Come back when you've done that."
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 10:13 AM
Thanks again, everybody, this is really helpful. I haven't much hope to find a suitable teacher easily, but I may actually try, asking local friends and such. I'd be surprised if somebody knew more than one teacher and was able to evaluate the expertise, but it's worth a try.
Posted By: Hatchestron Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 10:15 AM
Bennevis, I still maintain the unpleasant tone of your responses to Barly is inappropriate for an internet forum such as this.

And given your own profile is decorated with an Oscar Wilde quote that excuses your own sloppy playing, I'm not sure you are one to give advice!
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 11:04 AM
Originally Posted by Barly
Originally Posted by bennevis
The OP presented a piece which he hasn't practiced and asked for a diagnosis of technical problems - though he then changed that to 'practicing' issues when the advice people gave were all based on that. Hence my - and others' - exasperation.


I seriously didn't ask for a diagnosis of technical problems, and I didn't change that. The first post is still up there, unedited. For some reason you misunderstood my question from the start, and insisted on this. (I'm not even blaming you - if people misunderstand what I wrote, I obviously didn't write unambiguously enough.)

The situation was: "I play badly. I need to practice, and properly. Look, here is a random sample, only to show how badly I play, and that need to practice, and properly."

Somewhere my explicit question for advice was lost - as I said, I tend to blame my communication skills first - and triggered "You play badly. You need to practice, and properly. Come back when you've done that."

This is what you wrote, after people gave advice on how to practice:

Quote
What about general improvement, though? Just practice single pieces until I don't make mistakes? I'm afraid that would mean I'll be stuck for a very long time, and then realise I'm simply not getting anywhere beond Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at a fifth of the speed


And this is from your OP:
Quote
My technical shortcomings frustrate me more and more


.....which give the impression that you don't think that slow practicing which is targeted at the problematic sections (which everyone else except Hatchestron have been advocating) will make any difference. Hence, my responses to you.

However, if you are prepared to take on board what has been advised (which, I reiterate, is nothing new, and which all serious pianists do when learning difficult pieces), I think you will see the benefits in your playing. But it's not going to be a quick improvement, and many casual amateurs don't bother with it. (I don't, with pieces that I have no intention of performing in public - I just play them for fun, no matter how rough & ready they sound.)
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 11:11 AM
Originally Posted by Hatchestron
Bennevis, I still maintain the unpleasant tone of your responses to Barly is inappropriate for an internet forum such as this.

And given your own profile is decorated with an Oscar Wilde quote that excuses your own sloppy playing, I'm not sure you are one to give advice!

As you are from the UK, I'm surprised you don't appreciate the irony in what you're saying.

But if my posts offend and/or annoy you, I advise that you put me on IGNORE (click on the box below my profile). That will save you from further stress and aggravation, which (the sages advise me) are detrimental to your sense of well-being, and I wouldn't want to wish that on anyone here in PW........ whistle
Posted By: dogperson Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 12:21 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
But again, it's not about this piece in particular, and I may start with something easier. Same approach of slow speed, singling out passages, variation in staccato/legato, rhythm and the like - it seems the consensus here is that this is more useful than Hanon-style etudes.


You got it!!!! Mindful, SLOW practice of the measures that need it. That may mean hands separate(or not), varying the rhythm of the measure. Always practice with the same fingering.

I will caution that as the piece sounds better, most of us get tempted to start from the beginning every time.... because it feels so GOOD to play what is sounding good. Don’t do that😊 keep working on the problems until they are no longer problems ( that will feel good as well!). Let us know how you are doing with your new practice plan. I wish I would have known how to practice as a child student, but better late than never.

One weird thing I do is use removable post-it arrows to flag the problems. I then practice ‘the flags’ until I can remove them. That feels GREAT to know I have conquered a problem .

You can do this!
Posted By: MichaelJK Re: need help to improve technique - 08/28/19 07:02 PM
Piano playing is complicated. There are no quick fixes for anything, unfortunately. Of course, you know that, and you're not looking for a quick fix.

dogperson gave good advice about not spending your time working on things that are not problems. Your practicing should not always sound good. If it does, you're wasting a lot of time. The idea behind practicing is not to "do the right thing over and over until it sticks." Instead, the idea is to "untangle knots that are causing problems". This is inherently a messy process. You need to embrace that messiness, rather than running away from it.

I can tell by watching the video that you have a lots of knots tied right now. You absolutely can untangle them, and you don't need a teacher for this (but that doesn't mean a good teacher wouldn't be helpful). What you need is a sense of which knot you are trying to untie at any given moment.

There are so many different types of exercises that can help you. Pick one and practice it until you feel you've learned something from it.
Posted By: Lady Bird Re: need help to improve technique - 08/29/19 10:25 AM
Originally Posted by Barly
outo, thank you for your encouragement!

Originally Posted by Lady Bird

No he does not know the piece ! Work out what is wrong in the RH in those unknown sections. I cannot see what is going on in this cell phone picture.(fingering, hand extensions ,contractions, ?)
Work on those bars only ,then work backwards a bar etc,)
To keep these passages fresh ,practice in dotted rhythms later when KNOWN .


Thanks.

That's not even a contradiction. Knowing is all kinds of things: I've known the piece since my youth, I was probably familiar with it from recordings before the piano teacher introduced me to it. I also know it in the sense that I'm not surprised by any turns of tune the way one might be in sight-reading. But I don't know it in terms of knowing to play it properly, obviously.

Yes many different levels of knowing for sure.If you play it wrongly you have then heard it wrong
it is then recorded wrongly in your mind.Mark the wrong areas ,work slowly decide what is wrong. Often two tricky things are causing problems,repair them.Only one hand work please ,then work backwards.Increase speed.If you can.Play those correted areas without an error 3 times in a row
you may have corrected the errors.They may however come back.Start the repair process again !
Your memory can be your undoing.Learn everything correctly from the beginning.
There were some very nice sections in your playing.
Posted By: Hakki Re: need help to improve technique - 08/29/19 09:05 PM
Nothing wrong with your technique. It is just that you have to be more patient and play at a tempo that you don't make mistakes.
Posted By: newport Re: need help to improve technique - 08/30/19 04:12 PM
In my view, you shouldn't avoid lifting your fingers (not saying that's what you were trying or not trying to do) at least when you practice. It will give you a better sense of how you are using your fingers individually and in the end collectively.
Posted By: newport Re: need help to improve technique - 08/30/19 04:42 PM
Also what fingerings are you using?

For example, in bar 3 and bar 4,, try 323 131 212 and 323 131 313
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 09/06/19 02:46 PM
To whom it may concern: I took my first piano lessons in decades today.
I'm not getting my hopes up too much, but will give it some weeks at the very least.
Posted By: Animisha Re: need help to improve technique - 09/06/19 05:03 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
To whom it may concern: I took my first piano lessons in decades today.
I'm not getting my hopes up too much, but will give it some weeks at the very least.

Good luck Barly!
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 09/06/19 05:13 PM
Thank you - strangely exciting.
Posted By: dogperson Re: need help to improve technique - 09/06/19 05:18 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
To whom it may concern: I took my first piano lessons in decades today.
I'm not getting my hopes up too much, but will give it some weeks at the very least.


Please give it some time! I knew from the first lesson that my teacher had the right skills but I questioned whether it was a good fit. I hung in there. After about three months I realized what a great fit it really was
Posted By: Scordatura Re: need help to improve technique - 09/08/19 05:41 PM
Hi Barly!

One of the most sought-after piano-teachers of our times, the American virtuoso Leon Fleisher, once stated in an interview:

"It's your musical ideas that form or decide for you what technique you are going to use. In other words, if you are trying to get a certain sound, you experiment around until you find a movement that gets it. That is technique."(Fleisher, 1963).

His two sentences utterly changed the way I approached practising, allowing me to break free of the kinds of never-improving result you're producing. The crux of what Fleisher is stating is this: technique's essential concern is how to produce a certain, wished-for sound (be that a single one or succession of them). That "how to" is the unknown factor here, the problem whose solution must be discovered by way of trial-and-error experimenting. But the question of "how" cannot even begin to be addressed unless one can first specifiy, and clearly imagine, what sound or sounds one wishes and intends to produce. The desired musical ends serve as one's reference for ascertaining whether or not one's technical means - i.e. one's actions - are actually achieving them.

The fundamental requirement for acquiring technical control, it follows, is: can you imagine the sound you intend to produce - its quality, its character that give it an identity - in advance of executing it.? Not after executing it! This simple test may reveal that your present ability to Imagine sounds in advance to be much poorer than you'd presumed, or requires a lot of time to form clearly in your mind. If so, the remedy is to prepare yourself to listen intently to the quality of a sound as you execute it, often enough so you can mentally recall your experiencing of it clearly and effortlessly in advance. This where slow practice is crucial - the amount of time it takes you to accurately imagine the sound dictates the pace at which you play. In the course of such repeated listening in this manner, you're likely to find that your action for executing the sound in question becomes increasingly accurate and refined - without even consciously attending to the action itself.
Posted By: DFSRN Re: need help to improve technique - 09/08/19 08:12 PM
Bennevis, good sound advice. This is my 6th year of lessons, and we are revisiting Hannon from a couple of years ago and are working at getting it up to speed. It takes months to get a piece to performance. When my teacher plays at the nursing home, I play one or two short pieces before he plays. I used to have really bad anxiety about this, now after 3 years, it is much better. It is practice and persistence.
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 09:04 AM
Scordatura, what Fleisher said and what you explain sounds right. But it's talking about another level. I'm not saying a later level, to be ignored now, but my current main difficulties aren't there.

I typically have a clear image of what I want the sound to be - not important whether full of dynamic expression and rubato in one case, or completely uniform without even the first of a group of four bearing any stress in another. But the clear picture and the will and the mental state won't help if the fourth finger is uninentionally pressing the key down too little, or in fact sometimes too much, for lack of reliable control, and the second finger is coming down too fast so that the run is uneven, and a jump from the chords to the bass in the left are hit or miss (and all other "sloppy" mistakes.)

Those who give this advice - good advice, as I mentioned - may talk about pianists who haven't got to fight with this (any more). Or they may not be aware of what the problem is in the first place, lucky bastards.
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 11:41 AM
Originally Posted by Barly
fBut the clear picture and the will and the mental state won't help if the fourth finger is uninentionally pressing the key down too little, or in fact sometimes too much, for lack of reliable control, and the second finger is coming down too fast so that the run is uneven, and a jump from the chords to the bass in the left are hit or miss (and all other "sloppy" mistakes.)

You might benefit from this book:

https://www.amazon.com/FOUNDATIONS-PIANO-TECHNIQUE-Geoffrey-Tankard/dp/0853605793

N.B. These are pure finger exercises designed to develop finger independence and agility. They are nothing like Hanon or Czerny. All are very short and and have no musical value. Only you can decide whether you want to bother with them.....
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 12:10 PM
I'll have a look at them, thank you.

(As I mentioned, I got me a teacher, and I'll see what way she deems best.)

Originally Posted by bennevis
Only you can decide whether you want to bother with them.....


Do you think it would be better to take "actual" pieces of music of progressive difficulty and train those fingers with tricky, concrete passages? This is an open question - I've heard both opinions, which seem to boil down to

A. you want to be able to play music, not formal exercises

versus

B. mastering formal exercises will enable you to play all music without surprises so you can focus on the musical aspect
Posted By: Hatchestron Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 12:11 PM
Originally Posted by Scordatura

"It's your musical ideas that form or decide for you what technique you are going to use. In other words, if you are trying to get a certain sound, you experiment around until you find a movement that gets it. That is technique."(Fleisher, 1963)..


I think anyone approving of this quotation might be wise to remember what happened to Leon Fleisher. Through following his own advice he wrecked his hands, and ended up with dystonia which destroyed not only his career but his ability to use his right hand properly ever again.

I should add that a few years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with him. But last year, I returned to the piano having not played much in recent years and out of the first 10 months of this new phase, I spent 3 months incapacitated due to pain and low grade injury. I was playing the Waldstein when I was 12, so I'm not a talentless idiot, but things I did instinctively and could get away with in my younger years caught up with me big time (I'm now over 50.)

Fortunately, this year I met a piano teacher who has transformed the way I use my hands by making me conscious of what I'm doing with them and how they need to move so as not to carry the risk of injury. That is the real essence of technique. When you have that control, you can then concentrate on musical ideas without the body getting in the way.
Posted By: malkin Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 12:19 PM
Originally Posted by Barly
I'll have a look at them, thank you.

(As I mentioned, I got me a teacher, and I'll see what way she deems best.)

Originally Posted by bennevis
Only you can decide whether you want to bother with them.....


Do you think it would be better to take "actual" pieces of music of progressive difficulty and train those fingers with tricky, concrete passages? ...


Trusting your teacher is probably the way to go.
In general, getting advice from a qualified person that you know and trust seems more rational than asking a bunch of yahoos on a forum.
Posted By: tkdoyle Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 04:05 PM
Remember that the unconscious brain is the one directing the fingers to go where we would like them to-or not directing them properly because it gets lost. I've noticed that I lose track of where my fingers are on the keyboard such that instead of moving to an adjacent key a finger will move an extra key over. Are you a good dancer or does it take a lot of time for you to learn the moves? The situation is similar. I struggle with similar issues to yours on a daily basis with pieces I should know cold, but I encounter spots where my hands just don't know where to go. It's just that the unconscious brain hasn't assembled the code to a fluent level yet. AND DOES IT TAKE TIME! The unconscious brain also doesn't understand the verbal commands we give it. Practice is the only way to get things done. I would also say that you might jump to another piece and come back to the one you're struggling with as that may allow you to learn a fingering approach in another context that might help. It's worked for me.
Posted By: bennevis Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 04:46 PM
Originally Posted by Barly

Do you think it would be better to take "actual" pieces of music of progressive difficulty and train those fingers with tricky, concrete passages? This is an open question - I've heard both opinions, which seem to boil down to

A. you want to be able to play music, not formal exercises

versus

B. mastering formal exercises will enable you to play all music without surprises so you can focus on the musical aspect

Your teacher is the best person to advise (now that you have one), and I only mentioned the book because you talked about specific weaknesses which are very common in people who haven't had instruction for a long time and not been doing dedicated practicing with a wide range of pieces.

My last teacher was the one who recommended me the follow-up volume (which I definitely wouldn't recommend to anyone of less than advanced skills) to the one I linked, to iron out remaining weaknesses in my technique when I was working towards my performance diploma. I found that it worked wonders for me, because I was having to step up to long advanced works one after the other (which I had to learn and master quickly) while working towards my goal, and could not afford to be bogged down by technical issues whenever something cropped up in them that I'd never previously encountered.
Posted By: WhoDwaldi Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 07:46 PM
I understand your desire to play one of the last things that you worked on, but you do realize that that piece is like Twister? 😆 It's a difficult thing to start back with. What are some slightly less demanding pieces that you played or want to play?

There are many positives to your playing and sound. The notes "aren't there." An approach is to really nail down fingerings in small chunks and then start putting those together. Slow practice, hands apart at first. Muscle memory is getting the feeling of the connection from one note to another, then from one group of notes to another.

Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 09/09/19 08:37 PM
Medium level Mozart sonata (311) now, for no other reason than that the new teacher happened to have it open when she asked me for a sample. Separate hands and slow is what I'm doing - I'll see what she'll recommend. (I didn't leave with much concrete, and no assignment, we were briefly talking about administrative things when I left, and she was late somewhere. Regular lesson soon.)
Posted By: Bosendorff Re: need help to improve technique - 09/10/19 12:11 AM
Originally Posted by Barly
Here is a random sample of my level: https://youtu.be/0-Ww_7atb0o (both hands from about 0:55 if you want to jump)

Hi there,

Late to the party but just a few things I'm thinking of. Just like other pieces (I'm thinking also like Fantaisie Impromptu, etc) this Schubert work is a lot more difficult to play well than it appears to be, especially in terms of reading complexity (mainly almost monophonic on both hands for most of the first section). So as you mention you are back to the piano after a long break, it is totally normal to have various difficulties playing it fluently. Its difficulty is actually quite high because of the RH (as many Schubert works).

You will end up succeeding after practicing it (ideally) daily for several weeks. At some point, you will figure out that the best approach for the RH is to be extremely relaxed with almost "slightly dancing" fingers. This won't come right away. Also, as for many works which demand good endurance (here for the RH), as you play through the piece you have to vary things like adding/removing forearm/arm weight as you play, not only for better expression depending where you are in the melody, but also to relax your fingers, etc. Other tricks can also include simple things like at times slightly moving your elbow to the right to help achieve more fluid RH movements, even sometimes slightly moving yourself on the left side for the minor RH passages, etc. In short, staying static makes this piece almost unplayable correctly. So give yourself time. Once you "recorded" the notes and what you need to do from the score, adding this relaxation and slight movements to achieve the needed melody/key "undulations" will remove tension and help you play the piece with less effort. Of course, this is near to impossible to explain in words, so my above modest advice might sound like nonsense or silly. Your new teacher will guide you for sure. But just thought I would try to help..
Posted By: Piano Fan 93501 Re: need help to improve technique - 09/28/19 10:33 AM
I think the most important thing is investing 10-20 minutes each day in only technique buildung exercises. Once you do that, the actual pieces will feel much easier. Here is a video with a warm-up routine of a professional pianist that takes about 10-12 minutes and builds technique:
https://youtu.be/qAAQk3FhQt4

The same channel also has videos on different piano techniques and how to approach and practice them:
Octaves: https://youtu.be/ur0FV0rRY6A
Trills: https://youtu.be/Y73scvQmhcg

And also videos on how long you should be practicing:
https://youtu.be/V1VR0VT0h2c

Hope this helps!
Posted By: Barly Re: need help to improve technique - 09/29/19 06:20 AM
Thank you, it seems she knows what she's talking about.
Posted By: Fidel Re: need help to improve technique - 09/30/19 02:31 AM
Originally Posted by Piano Fan 93501
I think the most important thing is investing 10-20 minutes each day in only technique buildung exercises. Once you do that, the actual pieces will feel much easier. Here is a video with a warm-up routine of a professional pianist that takes about 10-12 minutes and builds technique...

The same channel also has videos on different piano techniques...
Trills: https://youtu.be/Y73scvQmhcg

....
Hope this helps!



She's young and she's a pro. On trills she has fast firing small finger muscles, that helps but not everybody does. People with slower small muscles will need to incorporate large muscle groups and larger rotations. And her wrist positions won't work for everyone. Be very careful when you watch stuff like this because unless you have her body type, she may end up hurting you.

I get what she's trying to convey but my body and my technique are different so I focus more on the what (trill all fingers, think in multiples of 3, black white, Mozart trills) than the how. There are many ways to play piano. Be extremely mindful (conscious) of the way your body works.

Barly, I see you found a good teacher. Trust their advice but verify. Make sure the tips actually work for your hands/arms.
Posted By: Colin Miles Re: need help to improve technique - 09/30/19 08:34 AM
Originally Posted by Fidel

She's young and she's a pro. On trills she has fast firing small finger muscles, that helps but not everybody does. People with slower small muscles will need to incorporate large muscle groups and larger rotations. And her wrist positions won't work for everyone. Be very careful when you watch stuff like this because unless you have her body type, she may end up hurting you.

I get what she's trying to convey but my body and my technique are different so I focus more on the what (trill all fingers, think in multiples of 3, black white, Mozart trills) than the how. There are many ways to play piano. Be extremely mindful (conscious) of the way your body works.

Barly, I see you found a good teacher. Trust their advice but verify. Make sure the tips actually work for your hands/arms.

She can also stretch to 11ths. This is all that works for her and some of her ideas such as relaxation, stretching are worth considering bearing in mind that most won't be able to do such fast trills and scales like her during the warmup. But scales and arpeggios yes - very much the basics needed for classical music.
Posted By: op299 Re: need help to improve technique - 09/30/19 09:33 PM
I appreciate the sentiment with regard to such an abstract quote as the Fleischer one, but just a suggestion to stay with it a bit longer.

When you say you can't play an even scale beacause the second finger is coming down to early, you are simply aiming to high.

Play it slower, play only two consecutive notes,slowly, stopping on the second finger, relaxed, with some sense of balance, awareness and so on. Listen to those two notes and adjust.

Not trying to be obnoxious, but one thing that made me improve was realizing the perfectionism it really takes to get beyond amateurish level. It is also rewarding in a different way when you start to be able to play at least very simple things Really Well - it gets kind of addictive and you want to break things down ever more and slow down. For me the hurdle was getting into that super basic attentive mind set in the first place
Posted By: Scordatura Re: need help to improve technique - 10/02/19 10:29 PM
Originally Posted by op299
I appreciate the sentiment with regard to such an abstract quote as the Fleischer one, but just a suggestion to stay with it a bit longer.

When you say you can't play an even scale because the second finger is coming down too early, you are simply aiming to high.

Play it slower, play only two consecutive notes,slowly, stopping on the second finger, relaxed, with some sense of balance, awareness and so on. Listen to those two notes and adjust.

Not trying to be obnoxious, but one thing that made me improve was realizing the perfectionism it really takes to get beyond amateurish level. It is also rewarding in a different way when you start to be able to play at least very simple things Really Well - it gets kind of addictive and you want to break things down ever more and slow down. For me the hurdle was getting into that super basic attentive mind set in the first place

I couldn't agree more. Every word you've written here accords exactly with my own ongoing learning-experience over my 50 year-long, deepening-by-the-day love affair with the piano and addiction to discovering the infinite diversity of sounds that composers have conceived for it.

Listen to those two notes and adjust. - that is Fleisher's point in a nutshell, and the key to accessing the super-attentive mindset you're referring to. The mindset revolves around acquainting yourself with the distinctive acoustical quality and character of a sound you wish to experience, aiming when you make the action to exactly imitate and reproduce that experience, listening to the sound that results, and on each re-attempt allowing the qualities of your actions to be naturally guided entirely on the basis of how well the sound they produce matches the one you experienced on your previous attempt. It's all matter of letting your ear take control over your actions, instead of the opposite. That, after all, is the basic function of our senses and of conscious experiencing - to inform our actions and enable us to adjust them in accord with whatever it is we're experiencing.
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