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Because nowadays I`m learning to play the piano by myself I`m not sure of the method teachers use. As far as me is concerned the logical way for a teacher is to first use one side of his personality as a technical teacher to show a pupil how to play a piece (when he is ready for it, of course) in a perfect technical way, so that there is no question of hesitation etc, when playing like a pianola.

Once the teacher is satisfied that by metaphorically inserting the pianola roll into the pupil and make him play the technical results are perfect, then it is time to bring out the other personality of the teacher as an inspiration and artist to teach the pupil how to artistically play.

I don`t see the point of teaching a pupil who is technically struggling with the first movement of Beethoven`s Moon Light Sonata, how to give it expression and feeling until he masters the technicalities of that movement.

As I`m not involved in music circles and teaching may be I`m all wrong, and that is why I ask here for advice as this will help me a lot to follow an efficient method of learning.

Thank you.

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When I teach, I try to keep the technical and musical concerns both in equal focus. I want my students to understand that theoretical knowledge and technical acumen are useless if not used for the sake of serving the music. And if you are learning to play a piece like an automaton and then having to re-learn it "correctly," you are just wasting your time. It should all be part of the same learning process.

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I never think of technical and musical components of a piece as a separate entity. Technique is a means to realize musical ideas and without even being sure of what musical ideas you wish to realize, how would you know what technique to use?

Anyway, learning the notes exclusively without the musical ideas behind them will prove to be more time consuming in the long run as you would have to undo and reinsert the expression.


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+2 for both of the above. The technical and the musical are inextricably linked. For years I played notes, sometimes well, sometimes not. But once I started hearing what I was playing, all the movements I made became, ultimately, to be made in order to play music, not just notes.

If I was having trouble, as an example, with a particular run at speed because I wasn't getting my fingers in place fast enough, it was, really, a musical problem. The piece's rhythm would be off - rushed a little here, behind a little there - and the music's pulse would be muddied. In addition, I couldn't pay attention to accents, or subtle dynamics, because I didn't have control over my fingers (or the rest of my body, because it's all connected), so the phrasing of the music didn't exist, and it became only noise. Finding the movement, and learning the movement, that allowed me to play the run at speed wasn't "only" about getting the notes played - it was about making music.

And to learn that I often did very slow playing, I read here at PW the things others had to say about moving my fingers/arms/elbows/any other body part, I listend intently, I paid attention to the sound. Because, in the end, the music is what it's about.

There are often discussions here about whether sets of technical exercises, Hanon in particular, are useful or not. And the consensus seems to be that, whether one plays Hanon or does other kinds of exercises, exercises aren't useful if one does them only mechanically and mindlessly. I agree entirely. At every level of skill, the music is primary. The mechanics, the "technical", the "technique", all fails if it fails to make music.

JMO, of course.

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I agree with both the above posts: it's a waste of time and perhaps an inhibition to artistic growth to separate technique from musicality, entirely. Yes, at a certain point one needs to focus on solving technical questions that arise in any given selection and that may involve some exercises that are less than musically inspiring.

Nevertheless, when working with the notes of a piece, musicality should never be considered a second thought, an add-on; it's an integral part of the whole. It may have to be developed and refined after the technical challenges of a piece have been mastered, but it still should be part of the learning process from the beginning.

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did Chopin ever play Hanon?????????????????


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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
did Chopin ever play Hanon?????????????????


Not possible - check the dates.

Chopin did teach Clementi exercises and apparently was quite rigorous about it, too.

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Originally Posted by Diablo
I don`t see the point of teaching a pupil who is technically struggling with the first movement of Beethoven`s Moon Light Sonata, how to give it expression and feeling until he masters the technicalities of that movement.
A teacher wouldn't get into a situation where the student is technically struggling. Those without teachers tend to find themselves in that boat usually due to poor technique or choice of material.

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Originally Posted by jotur
+2 for both of the above. The technical and the musical are inextricably linked. For years I played notes, sometimes well, sometimes not. But once I started hearing what I was playing, all the movements I made became, ultimately, to be made in order to play music, not just notes.

If I was having trouble, as an example, with a particular run at speed because I wasn't getting my fingers in place fast enough, it was, really, a musical problem. The piece's rhythm would be off - rushed a little here, behind a little there - and the music's pulse would be muddied. In addition, I couldn't pay attention to accents, or subtle dynamics, because I didn't have control over my fingers (or the rest of my body, because it's all connected), so the phrasing of the music didn't exist, and it became only noise. Finding the movement, and learning the movement, that allowed me to play the run at speed wasn't "only" about getting the notes played - it was about making music.



Absolutely right. I can't tell you how many times it has happened that I thought I was having a technical problem, but it was resolved by ignoring "technique" and instead, actually listening to what the music wanted to sound like at that point. Sometimes there is something almost weird about how that works, how your hands can sort things out on their own if only you pay attention to the music.

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Personally, I can't tell you how many major technical problems I've been left having to attempt to resolve as a result of ignoring technique and only thinking of the musical intentions. It's a very dangerous approach, unless you already have an extremely solid foundation. The most effective results that I can achieve often come from practising about as far from the immediately music result as imaginable. For example, one of my relative strengths is to differentiate greatly between voices. If you heard how I practise to get that (playing everything staccato except the voice I intend to bring out- and I'd use this especially in something like the Moonlight first movement) you'd probably imagine I have no musicianship whatsoever. However, once I start playing instead of practising, I've always found this method producing a startling change in my ability to differentiate parts. Sometimes music follows technique, as well as vice versa.

In particular, with my students this method always makes a big difference almost instantly. Telling them to bring out the top more can be understood in seconds but it often makes virtually no difference at all. Sometimes the hard part is merely how to do things.

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Well, I don`t disagree with any answers here because I`m not in the "trade" as it were but throughout the years I had 2 or 3 teachers who really didn`t help much. I think it was because they were school piano teachers used to children only.

I follow this method which seems to help me. I`m now nearly half way through Bach`s first book of preludes and fugues. First of all I learn half the piece with separate hands until I don`t find any difficulty at all. I only pay attention to the beat and tempo at that stage. Then I put hands together and learn the piece till I don`t find any difficulty playing like a robot, if you like.

After learning the whole piece thus I then start paying attention to the shades of colour, interpretation and feeling which I think the piece conveys taking into account that most compositions "speak" back to the player telling him how it should be interpreted. I think this is more emphasized in Bach`s compositions because I haven`t seen many indications of how his compositions should be interpreted written by him. I am not even sure if he even wrote down the tempo in all his compositions. May be it is because the 48 are meant not only as enjoyment for good players but also for learners, as they were composed for students after learning the inventions and symphonies.

I understand that a teacher has to show a young average learner how to give feeling to a composition because he is immature to recognize it, but an average adult fond of music can feel if a piece is played as it should be after years of listening to good players.

This method only works for me because I`m learning for my own enjoyment only. I have never had any desire to play for anybody, for fear they would smash up my piano...........

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To be honest, despite my above post, I would say you're going too far. Especially in fugues, articulation is a huge part of the technical difficulty. I think this should be present from the very start. Sometimes there are great reasons to practise joining things that aren't meant to be and sometimes it's useful to practise legato passages staccato. However, simply to play the notes without aiming for anything other than that itself is likely to make it very hard later on.

I suppose I'd sum up my personal stance by saying that it can be wise to underplay interpretative aspects while learning the notes. However, when you are not yet doing things, you ought to have a solid grasp as to what it is you're not yet doing. That way, you can add it later. However, if you play truly robotically, without remembering what you're building up to, there's a good chance you'll keep to much of that deapan approach when you try to add something. You need to find a balance. To only think of the musical intentions may not enable you to even scratch the surface of the physical requirements of meeting them. But to forget about the music entirely would be disastrous for the same reasons. Sometimes you need to push it into the background, so as to concentrate on the means of musical realisation. But you should never lose sight of what you're not doing in the immediate present, but would want to be being doing later. The staccato exercise I mentioned is geared towards voicing, not merely note learning. So while it sounds immediately unmusical and dry, it leads so specifically to heightened control over musical voicing that it is actually very conducive towards a musical goal. That's just not immediately at the surface but the whole premise for this seemingly 'dead' execution is to make the musical voicing easy to achieve. Anything that really is about 'dead' notes for the sake of notes alone can be dangerous.

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Originally Posted by Diablo
throughout the years I had 2 or 3 teachers who really didn`t help much.
Not uncommon - keep looking

Originally Posted by Diablo
I`m now nearly half way through Bach`s first book of preludes and fugues.
If you haven't a teacher you're probably playing them poorly - sorry to be so blunt. Bach, a first rate teacher, would agree I'm sure.

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Keyboardklutz, if Bach didn`t agree with you about my playing, he wouldn`t be Bach, would he?, he would be my mother if he thought otherwise.

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Now that certainly cuts to the chase. So you only wanna please your mum? Bach would still be unhappy!

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IMHO, aiming for musical playing actually makes it easier to hit the right notes. It's the same thing with shooting or trowing stuff: if you aim at a small point you're likely to get better results than by aiming at a large spot (your target being the same). I think it has to do with using more you brain (I read somewhere we only use a tiny fraction of our potential). It also helps focus on what one's doing. If you set your goal too low you'll get bored/unable to focus. Plus, you'll develop better touch when trying to do things as accurately as possible.

PS: What I said about aiming at a small spot is widely accepted by all kinds of shooters (it's my personal opinion too), but moving the same idea to the piano is just my thought.

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mps, your argument's full o' holes!

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It's by no means meant to be a scientific thing, just my thoughts, but could you explain what holes there are?

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It was a joke! grin grin

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Oh, well, glad (and slightly embarassed!) to hear that grin

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