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Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth

Posted By: Living_tribunal

Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 03:18 AM

I've been learning piano for a few months. One of the major things I've learned is that development comes in waves, it seems like every day is a major epiphany or you're stuck in a rut.

I'm currently in one of those purgatory moments. My skills are at the point where I can pick up an intermediate piece and play it moderately well. However, everything is very generic and straightforward, not insulting but not a major delight to listen to.

I'm finding myself going nuts trying to get dynamics interesting and at a place where I enjoy what I'm playing but it's just another roadblock. I sometimes just end up repeating a passage for hours trying to get something remotely nice to no avail.

I wanted to hear yalls experience on the subject. Did your style develop organically over time? Did you have a piece that sparked it? Is there quite a bit of skill involved to developing interesting dynamics? Anything you'd like to add.

I ask because I don't want to just keep learning songs if I don't make them into anything. At the same token, I don't want to slow down technical development for things I may be diving into too early.
Posted By: outo

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 05:34 AM

If you have only been learning a few months you would be quite a rare genious if you could get interpretive depth into intermediate pieces. It normally takes years to get beyond playing these pieces correctly.

Just to learn to listen to one's own playing critically is a lengthy process.
Posted By: Animisha

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 05:59 AM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
However, everything is very generic and straightforward, not insulting but not a major delight to listen to. .

I was at that point just over a year ago, and I realised it was because I had not learned technique properly. I started over again, from scratch, first watching different YT videos, then following lessons from an online video teacher - learning how to play beautifully. The way I sound now compared to a before, it's a huge difference.
Posted By: wouter79

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 09:53 AM


I usually like the sound but have problems hearing some problems with my playing, particularly hands out of sync and notes that have bad accents. What I hear in these cases is some "blockyness" or non-fluency of the playing, like bad phrasing.

Another problem is that I like the dynamics more extreme than what a real piano can deliver. I'm often playing at the edge of ppp and that is not good for practicing nor does it work if you switch to another piano (eg at the lessons).

I have been working on these issues for a long time now (years). Progress seems very slow but maybe I can get it.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:22 AM

Be patient with yourself! This is not something you will be able to do after a few months of playing. You can begin gradually working on the skills you will need to use: play a five note scale starting very soft and getting each note gradually louder without being harsh. Then start loud and get gradually softer. Then work on doing this for an octave.

As you progress over time, practice two handed scales: one hand loud and the other one soft; one hand legato and one staccato. Listen to what you do.

Play a simple melody in one hand, with simple accompaniment in the other. Work on making the melody distinguished from the accompaniment.

Chord voicing is another skill. Again, not a beginner one

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eNGWFxnA_SQ

Patience, critical listening and development of the necessary skills are your friends.
It takes time!! (And it can always be improved, even when you have been playing for years)
Posted By: Lillith

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:30 AM

As they said, it takes longer than that.
The key thing though is that you are at least trying to make nice musical sounds, which normally comes a fair bit later than your stage.

Best advice I got was try and put expression into every single thing you play, so you don't get into the habit of just banging out the right notes.
It will surely come, as you say, suddenly one day when you least expect it there'll be a noticeable improvement in quality.

Have you seen Mark Almond's three part video called Piano for Life?
He covers that kind of thing in there, along with other great tips and things, pointing gout patterns on the keyboard that some people never notice smile
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 11:00 AM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
I'm finding myself going nuts trying to get dynamics interesting and at a place where I enjoy what I'm playing but it's just another roadblock. I sometimes just end up repeating a passage for hours trying to get something remotely nice to no avail.

I wanted to hear yalls experience on the subject. Did your style develop organically over time? Did you have a piece that sparked it? Is there quite a bit of skill involved to developing interesting dynamics?
I don't think it's a question of developing "interesting dynamics". With the exception of Baroque composers most of the works by later composers have detailed dynamics, articulation, tempi, etc, in the score. Except at the highest professional level sounding good doesn't require a great interpretation.

But playing with musical understanding(how loud should that passage marked f be played, pedaling, shaping of phrases(often not marked in the score), voicing, rubato, understanding why a composer marked something in the score a certain way, understanding the harmonic structure, ad infinitum) and excellent technical control take a lifetime to learn.

If you think your playing of a piece is lacking one good thing to do is to listen to a performance of the piece by a great pianist and try to figure out why they sound better. Often times you may see that they just followed the score more closely.
Posted By: Ted

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 11:13 AM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
I've been learning piano for a few months. One of the major things I've learned is that development comes in waves, it seems like every day is a major epiphany or you're stuck in a rut.


That is normal, all my learning of anything seems to go in quantum leaps of insight rather than continuously. Somebody has probably written a book on it by now.

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
Did your style develop organically over time?


Yes, about forty years.

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
Did you have a piece that sparked it?


No.

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
Is there quite a bit of skill involved to developing interesting dynamics? Anything you'd like to add.


Yes, of course, but "skill" is a grossly inadequate description of it. That's the trouble with the tutorials on the internet and almost all teachers. They imply that the learning of a huge mass of skills and data, in specified order, is necessary and sufficient to release personal artistic expression. In fact it is neither necessary nor sufficient, and the forces at work are much deeper. At your stage, I think enjoyment of your music, in whatever form it takes, is very important, possibly more important than discipline. Start improvising, it is the key to many things.
Posted By: Living_tribunal

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:12 PM

This is the hardest part of learning the piano imo. Learning pieces, developing technique, and enhancing site reading are all things that you can kind of passively grow with lots of practice. Style and dynamics are very tricky. I record a lot of my practice sessions and always nitpick what doesn't sound good but have difficulty coming back and making it the way I want.
Posted By: Living_tribunal

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:15 PM

I really like this idea, I will incorporate phrasing scales and varying tonalities into my daily scale practice. I think adding better dynamics is a two pronged process one being an effective listener and appreciator or music and the other is the technical skill required to play the sounds you seek. I'm learning two different pieces currently that I could implement this on as well.
Posted By: Living_tribunal

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:17 PM

What I enjoy are the pieces I'm learning but not so much my playing. Would you advise that I just continue to focus on developing technique/ learning new pieces while exploring different dynamics where possible instead of trying to get the pieces articulated well at my stage?
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:47 PM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
What I enjoy are the pieces I'm learning but not so much my playing. Would you advise that I just continue to focus on developing technique/ learning new pieces while exploring different dynamics where possible instead of trying to get the pieces articulated well at my stage?

Everything in its own good time.

You can't jump before you can stand, and you can't run before you can walk.

If you only started piano a few months ago, you cannot expect to compare yourself to experienced pianists who can make even the easiest pieces sound like great music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUEa8ZnyYnc

Technique is the first pre-requisite: if you don't yet have hand independence, you can't play the melody in RH louder than the accompaniment in LH:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtIW2r1EalM

If you don't yet have finger independence, you can't bring out the tune on the top line of chords:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FP7NosLxkw

If you don't have sufficient finger control, you can't play staccato v legato properly.

And so on......
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 10:49 PM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
What I enjoy are the pieces I'm learning but not so much my playing. Would you advise that I just continue to focus on developing technique/ learning new pieces while exploring different dynamics where possible instead of trying to get the pieces articulated well at my stage?
What do you mean by "exploring different dynamics"? In classical music the major dynamics are in the score except for Baroque music.

The only choices one has are things like how loud/soft one should play based on what's in the score(how loud should I play when it's marked f) or how to shape a phrase(the much smaller cresc/decrescendos one can add to a score or knowing which notes in a phrase to emphasize),

Since you enjoy the pieces you're playing but don't enjoy your own playing so much, my guess is you've listened to performances of your pieces by great pianists. I think it's good that you can hear the difference, and you should now ask yourself why you think they sound better.
Posted By: Living_tribunal

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/01/19 11:52 PM

'Dynamics' is probably not the best word, I more so mean interpretation. Even with how straightforward classical is you can add a significant amount of texture to the piece. I primarily focus on Romantic era pieces as opposed to classical (my instructor would prefer the latter) which has a bit more wiggle room for what you can do in terms of tempo, tonality, phrasing and expression.

I definitely have my opinions on why I prefer various pianists for a specific piece/composer/style but have trouble mimicking the aspects that I like. It's one thing to have a style you'd like to engage but another to actually incorporate it into the piece you're working on. I think I'm possibly getting ahead of myself and have to pay my dues developing the technique, in combination with a good year, that makes interesting expression possible.
Posted By: dogperson

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/02/19 12:10 AM

You are definitely getting ahead of yourself😊 which is ok unless it leads to discouragement and the common feeling of ‘I can’t do this!’ Keep the faith: listen to yourself, other pianists, work on technique and be patient. The patience is the hard part for all of us. You’ll get there
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/02/19 12:35 AM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
'Dynamics' is probably not the best word, I more so mean interpretation. Even with how straightforward classical is you can add a significant amount of texture to the piece. I primarily focus on Romantic era pieces as opposed to classical (my instructor would prefer the latter) which has a bit more wiggle room for what you can do in terms of tempo, tonality, phrasing and expression.
Yes, dynamics is not at all the same as interpretation.

But even what qualifies as interpretation is not particularly relevant until one gets quite advanced IMO. If one simply follows all the markings in the score and learns how to play musically(do things that are not marked in the score but are not really open to interpretation, e.g. how to voice chords, which notes in a melodic line to emphasize or play softly, basic pedal technique, basic legato technique, balance between the melody an accompaniment, etc.), one will sound better than most non pros.

When an amateur gives what I would call a poor performance of a piece, I think it's almost always not because their interpretation is poor. It's because they lack musical understanding and make musical mistakes(different from interpretive mistakes).
Posted By: sinophilia

Re: Your experience in developing style/ interpretation depth - 05/02/19 06:17 AM

Originally Posted by Living_tribunal
I've been learning piano for a few months. [...]
I can pick up an intermediate piece and play it moderately well.


Well then please - and I'm not kidding - tell me how you do it! I've been at it for 7 years and it still takes me weeks and months to learn an intermediate piece, and then more weeks and months to polish it and be able to play it reasonably well. We're talking about classical music, right? Or simple pop/new age songs with the same chords going over and over?
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