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Posted By: Emissary52 Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 01:43 AM
Hi Folks!
I need your thoughts and advice about what happened at my recital today. I bombed ...I could not finish the piece I was playing and I'm a little upset about the whole matter. Here's the story.

First, I really like my piano teacher. I'm sooo glad I found her through a friend and I've been taking lessons from her since February 2013. She comes to my house to give me lessons. One of the reasons she's eager to come, is that I have a decent grand piano. In her own studio across town, she has a very nice Kurzweil Digital piano - her only piano, that I've only had a chance to play during the recitals -which are held in a small auditorium in our local library. Even though I still have my 5 year old Yamaha digital piano, I rarely play it, but I am used to the touch differences between a digital and acoustic piano so that's only a minor problem.

The major problem for me, in this year's recital as well as last year's, is that she used her Kurzweil hooked up to a Marshall Amp and a mixer to make sure everyone can hear it and she can balance the sound with some of her voice students' vocals. If you are sitting in the audience, the piano and any vocals sound terrific. My problem was ...when I started to play, I couldn't really hear the piano. The notes sounded like they were coming from an iPad with a broken speaker on "low volume". I swear I could hear the faint "swoosh" of the plastic keys on her piano just as loudly as I could hear the notes I was playing. You'd think with a Marshall amp a couple of feet away, I'd be "serenaded" with the sound of my own playing, but to me it didn't sound much louder than a digital piano that's been turned off. Needless to say, my rendition of Attwood's Sonatina in G Mov. 1 was terrible. I scraped by last year, with L. Mozart's Bourlesque with the same setup. As far as next year goes, I think I'll stay home.

The sad part was, I know this piece, but not being able to hear the sound adequately, threw me for a loop! This setup didn't seem to bother any of her other students. I asked my teacher about this and she told me that I was the only student whose home she came to, for lessons. If I had my piano on that stage or any other acoustic piano for that matter, I would have sailed through my piece. I don't get that nervous on stage because I'm used to public speaking.

I just wonder now, when I see performers with what appears to be earplugs, but are in reality, just little in-ear devices that are feeding them a balanced sound of the other instruments. Maybe I need something like those for next year!!! Has something like this ever happened to any of you?

Posted By: hreichgott Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 02:02 AM
Sorry about the rough performance. It IS totally distracting playing on a weird piano!

Yes, a monitor would help -- a monitor is a speaker or headphone set up where the performer can hear.

Or just getting a chance to run through your piece on the performance setup once or twice before the recital next time.

(With such a nice piano, maybe you might be a better host for the recital??)
Posted By: Emissary52 Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 02:17 AM
hreichgott - I thought I might get a few minutes beforehand to practice, but the auditorium was pretty full a hour before it started! Most of the performers are kids and there was just five adults. A couple of the adults told me they probably wouldn't come back for next year's recital.

Your idea of a small get-together at my house seems like a good one. I just wonder if the other adult players would have the reverse problem of adapting to an acoustic piano if they themselves don't have one. It took me about 2 weeks to adjust to it when I first got it. But I'm sure glad I adapted!!!
Posted By: Peyton Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 03:05 AM
Wow, that's really rough. I know I've had problems just playing a different piano in a different house so I can imagine how difficult it would be to play for an audience in the situation you described. It would be a shame to just not do the recital next year because of this. If nothing else maybe go to her place a few times before the recital to play the piece on her set up. If you could do that it might help.
Posted By: Emissary52 Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 03:39 AM
Peyton - I thought of that last year, but then for this year, I figured that I would practice with my digital piano a few times, using the piece I was going to perform today and that would be enough. But it's not so much her digital piano or mine, which throws me off, but the total sound setup in that auditorium, that just doesn't work for me. It would almost be analogous to playing a digital piano in your living room which is turned off and then wondering how your performance sounded! grin It's a very strange sensation!! In the middle of the sonatina, I felt like Helen Keller at an audiology convention! grin
Originally Posted by Emissary52
. . .
I just wonder now, when I see performers with what appears to be earplugs, but are in reality, just little in-ear devices that are feeding them a balanced sound of the other instruments. Maybe I need something like those for next year!!! Has something like this ever happened to you?


They are "in-ear monitors". At the low end is something like the Shure SE215 (which I own, and like). At the high end -- how much do you want to spend?

If you plugged one into the DP's headphone output, you'd be all set. You'd have to balance the levels (between the IEM and the Marshall), but that takes only a few moments.

An alternative is to use a "stage monitor" -- a smaller PA speaker, pointed at your head, close to you or on the front of the stage, pointing away from the audience, toward the performer.

No matter how big the main PA speaker is, you won't hear it if you're sitting behind it, and you'll hear it poorly if you're sitting beside it. High frequencies, especially, are quite concentrated _ahead_ of the speaker. If you watch stage performers who rely on their own amps and speakers, they stand _in front of_ the speaker, not behind it. [Unless they're using IEM's, or headphones.]

These are hard-learned lessons. My vocal group sang a lot better after we started using a stage monitor, and we could hear each other.

. Charles

Posted By: Emissary52 Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 03:54 AM
Charles - Thanks for that info! I mentioned the headphone scenario to my teacher and she told me that if you plug in headphones that the output of the piano to the mixer or amp is muted. It must be that the Kurzweil Digital piano she has is more than a few years old and has a very limited selection of inputs and outputs on it. Just my luck!!!!

I tried to create my own little setup in attempting to sing along with the piano at home. A normal singing voice tends to get drowned out by a grand. I bought a Fender Passport and some Shure mics, but I didn't know enough about the equipment I would need, to create a balance of piano and voice that I could "monitor" with headphones or something I could plug in to the Passport. I think I need a mixer somewhere along the line!!

P.S. Charles, I checked out the Shure SE215, but I notice that a lot of performers must have "wireless versions" or maybe they really are "hearing aids" for some of the older baby boomer performers. What do the wireless ones cost? (He said ...almost afraid to ask!)
Posted By: Silver Keys Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 05:13 AM
+1 to what Charles said.

A Marshall amp is not a PA system! Any decent small
PA system nowadays will have a mixer with multiple inputs and outputs for things like mics, stage monitors, headphones, etc., including the two out-front speakers.
Posted By: Emissary52 Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 05:44 AM
Silver Keys - My piano teacher's husband is her soundman and "roadie". To be fair, I did note that they had a mixer on top of the Marshall amp that had mic inputs on it for the mike they used for the vocalists. There might have been another small speaker/amplifier for her husband's Yamaha stage piano, but that's all I can recall!

I did get a bit of sympathy from one of the younger piano students who told me that she "knew that I knew my piece" but just didn't "like the sound". An understanding soul!!!!

Oh well, I think it's time to knock back a few brews and listen to the 2 CD soundtracks I bought of "Boardwalk Empire". As Scarlett O'Hara once said "Tomorrow's another day!"
Posted By: Brandon Sip Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 07:02 AM
Originally Posted by Peyton
Wow, that's really rough. I know I've had problems just playing a different piano in a different house

Oh wow, I'm so glad I'm not the only one! I swear I sit down at a different piano and my last 2 years just seem to evaporate!

To the OP, I feel your pain. Only hearing the sound of the keys being pressed would've thrown me from measure 1. I hope you find a good solution. Looks like you have many good ideas shown here.
Posted By: Johan B Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 09:32 AM
You can use headphones or a monitor-speaker.........

Or....better......a nice grand piano and normal performance an circumstances.....

Johan B
Posted By: SwissMS Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 09:45 AM
I am sorry you had such a bad experience! Doing a live recital is stressful enough without that! Do you get an opportunity to practice with the set up before the recital? That would help a bit, but I cannot imagine being able to put the right feel into the music without hearing it well. I think headphones would be a good solution, but it still sounds like a difficult way to perform. I would practice on her piano with headphones in a lesson to get the feel of it.
Posted By: AZ_Astro Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 11:55 AM
Based on your description I'm pretty sure I would have crashed and burned too.

Not only are you losing the all-important feedback of the sound, but the touch and feel of the keyboard can really throw you off too. I had a piano teacher who used an old and poorly regulated upright for lessons and I could hardly play it!

Somehow you will need to get headphones working. And certainly plan for extra time on that piano setup.

Posted By: Sand Tiger Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 04:24 PM
I have a similar problem when I attend my local music group. The host owns a 1990-era Roland Synth. While it was good unit for its day, it isn't now. I still have problems adjusting.

My suggestion might be to seek out other unfamiliar digitals in not so ideal set ups and try them. Public performance is a tough go for most amateurs. Pianists have the disadvantage of performing on unfamiliar instruments. Getting used to a variety is the best solution, because every venue has its challenges. One idea is to go to the studio once a month for a lesson, to get used to the set up.

A venue with a nice acoustic might throw off the many performers that own a digital at home. Adding a monitor closer to the piano sounds like it can help. However, digitals don't have the volume and vibrancy of an acoustic, so it will still be a very different experience.

I like the idea of an informal, adults only session at some other venue. Being mixed in with kids, many of which are clearly better than some of the adults adds intimidation to an already difficult situation.

Lastly, practice the piece starting 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 of the way through. That way if there is a halt, you have already rehearsed recovery points. This improves the memorization, and lessens the tension, which improves the chance of a play through without a halt. Don't be hard on yourself.

Public performance can be a difficult thing. Many experienced musicians have had similar experiences and some have written that they are giving up on the public performance rituals. I see it as part of putting yourself out there. It is also where the magic has the potential to happen. My best moments in music have been performing in public, and I have less skill at my various instruments than most on the forum have with piano.

Good luck and keep at it.

/edit to add: I thought of one more. Practice with the sound off on the digital. If you can do that, any loss of feedback won't be an issue. I also like to practice with the sound on, eyes closed and then mental practice away from the piano. If a person knows a piece without sight, sound or touch, at various starting points, then they know it backwards and forwards and will rarely crash and burn. Time to learn a piece that well, is an issue because that level of intimacy can triple the time needed. Complex pieces can't be done all this way, but sections can be.
Posted By: Stubbie Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 05:34 PM
Perhaps the placement of the amp/mixer/speakers and the piano can be adjusted so the piano is in front of the speakers.
Posted By: Peyton Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 07:44 PM
I'll second the small speaker up near the performer (just like what rock performers used to do until the in ear monitors). In fact, after reading your description further I don't know how any of the other performers did it. That's crazy.
Posted By: Emissary52 Re: Bad Recital! Some Advice please!!!! - 11/16/14 09:26 PM
After getting a good night's sleep, I've decided that if conditions are the same for next year's recital, I'll repectfully decline. One of the conditions that may alter that, is the fact that her Kurzweil digital piano is getting a little elderly. One of the Bb's is starting to go ballistic and some of the accompanyment sound buttons are getting sticky! Digital pianos as a whole, do not age gracefully - that's for sure!

I'm hoping that by next year, she might have a new one, or perhaps an acoustic upright, which would solve my problem totally! But this woman, who is a wonderful teacher, has a daughter in college, in New York City, which I know is costing her an arm and a leg! Add to that, a mother with serious health issues who is going into a nearby nursing home. My teacher has a very stressful life, but handles it with such grace! I once told her that if I ever won the lottery, I'd take her piano shopping - "Steinways for Everybody!" For the next 8 weeks or so, she is suspending lessons for her students, so she can get her mother situated. I wish her the best!

So if worse comes to worst, next year I'll just be an enthusiastic audience member cheering on all the little kids, who seem immune to the situation! thumb

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