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#1622796 02/18/11 11:03 AM
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Last night after reading some interesting threads about adults who don’t practice and some of the ways people practice when they are away from the piano and it made me think that in order to become a really good/great pianist you would have to be somewhat obsessive about it (I don’t mean obsessive in a bad way.)

I don’t really know why but I feel like I HAVE to learn music theory. I NEED to understand it. I carry around a pocket size music theory book with me to read while I’m waiting for the train. Am I an expert at this stuff? No. But something just makes me want to figure out the music theory puzzle and all of its wonderful patterns.

And, when I am practicing sometimes I just don’t want to stop. If there is tricky part in a song I will play it over and over until it feels smooth under my fingers. Am I a great pianist? No. But I definitely feel like I can be a little obsessive about it.

Obviously desire and passion lead you to the piano in the first place. But do you have to be at least mildly obsessive to reach greatness?

What do you think?


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I agree! I think at least you have to want it enough to make it among the highest priorities in your life. Maybe the basis of that is that music, in general, occupies a bigger place in your being.

Not that I'm likely to ever reach greatness, but what's the title of the pocket-size theory book?


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I see nothing wrong with a "healthy dose of interest, determination and persistence."

I think of obsession as something that dominates your every waking moment with one having little control in the matter. Although I also have great enthusiasm for my piano studies, I am careful not to create an unhealthy imbalance in my life.

I also think there are varying degrees of "great." As in, "Mom, how did that sound?" "That sounded great, honey."

Same question to the concert pianist. "Don't quit your day job, kid."

I think as long as you are taking one step forward each day, all is right with the world.




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I'd answer but I need to get back to practicing.


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I think there's nothing wrong with a little obsessiveness. After all, a hobby--after Uncle Toby's "hobbyhorse" in Tristram Shandy--is something that pleasantly takes us away from the cares and woes of the day, that occupies our waking thoughts in a constructive way, that makes us keep coming back for more and more in the way of complexity and achievement.
I have, from time to time, gotten obsessive about chess--carrying a small book of problems with me at all times, trying to solve them in off moments, etc. But the problem with obsessing about chess is that, no matter how much you do it, you may fail miserably at getting any better.
With piano it's completely different! Once you've mastered the Bb major scale, you've got it. You're not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow and have no idea what to do. (As long as you keep it as part of your practice).
That's what I love about this particular obsession; there's always forward progress. The other day, for instance, I was working on the Db major and c# minor scales, and I wondered why there wasn't a Db minor. So, on my 2 mile walk around the neighborhood, I pondered that puzzle. And I solved it. No, I'm not going to tell!
So I say, celebrate the obsession!


I'm getting there--note by note.
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Originally Posted by Kymber

I don’t really know why but I feel like I HAVE to learn music theory. I NEED to understand it. I carry around a pocket size music theory book with me to read while I’m waiting for the train. Am I an expert at this stuff? No. But something just makes me want to figure out the music theory puzzle and all of its wonderful patterns.


I feel like that too, maybe not quite to the same degree as you, but I can relate. I think I "missed the boat" regarding theory when I first took lessons as a teen, and now I really want to understand it so I can learn the music quicker. I'm working on a series of piano theory workbooks on my own but it's slow-going; my brain is much older too smile . If I could afford it, I'd have a tutor come to my home 3 days a week, but I can barely afford my lessons, and taking a class at a college is out of the question right now.

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Originally Posted by joyoussong


Not that I'm likely to ever reach greatness, but what's the title of the pocket-size theory book?


Ah but you're great already,
The book is Pocket Music Theory A Comprehensive and Convenient Source for All Musucians by Hal Leonard.
I like it. Its very handy.


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And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
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Originally Posted by sleepingcats
Originally Posted by Kymber

I don’t really know why but I feel like I HAVE to learn music theory. I NEED to understand it. I carry around a pocket size music theory book with me to read while I’m waiting for the train. Am I an expert at this stuff? No. But something just makes me want to figure out the music theory puzzle and all of its wonderful patterns.


I feel like that too, maybe not quite to the same degree as you, but I can relate. I think I "missed the boat" regarding theory when I first took lessons as a teen, and now I really want to understand it so I can learn the music quicker. I'm working on a series of piano theory workbooks on my own but it's slow-going; my brain is much older too smile . If I could afford it, I'd have a tutor come to my home 3 days a week, but I can barely afford my lessons, and taking a class at a college is out of the question right now.


Yeah a tutor would be really cool. I did a lot on my own using various books. And then when I had the opportunity I'd take a class. Some things seem to click right away and others take extra effort.

Btw...some Adult Ed Centers offer scholarships and some have music theory classes. Might be worth looking into.


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I honestly think if you're on this forum to begin with - signed up, contributing, or lurking, then it's safe to say that you're at least somewhat obsessed...lol.

...speaking of which, I just spent 2 hours at the bench after complaining 2 hours ago how I haven't practiced all month! I had fun again!

I am also reviving a childhood classic of mine: Beethoven's (not Bach's) Minuet in G Major. I love this happy piece!

Yes, I am obsessed again.... (a bit streaky, I am)..


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Originally Posted by Kymber
Originally Posted by joyoussong


Not that I'm likely to ever reach greatness, but what's the title of the pocket-size theory book?


Ah but you're great already,
The book is Pocket Music Theory A Comprehensive and Convenient Source for All Musucians by Hal Leonard.
I like it. Its very handy.


I've added it to my wish list on Amazon - it looks good, & not at all expensive. Thanks!


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Originally Posted by Kymber
...Obviously desire and passion lead you to the piano in the first place. But do you have to be at least mildly obsessive to reach greatness?

What do you think?


Well, if it's desire and passion that lead one to the piano (and this might be debatable in a few cases) then it must be this same disire and passion that keeps one there in the long run - year after year after year of consistently practicing in the face of numerous and varied obstacles and hopefully improving surely but gradually.

One can call this being obsessive - but a more accurate and complimentary way of saying this is that one is in highly focused and determined pursuit of a very rational and substantially meaningful goal, i.e., one is supremely dedicated.

As far as "greatness" goes, it can be anything you want it to be or define it to be for yourself - from being an internationally acclaimed concert pianist to just being able to accompany your children or grandchilden when they sing their favorite songs (who think you're great because you can do that).

But, "obsessive" conjurs up images of someone who deparately needs to join an organization called "_____ Anonymous" (you fill in the blank).

JF

Last edited by John Frank; 02/19/11 07:33 AM.

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I think about music all the time, I listen to a lot also - I'm never without my trusty iPod. I read theory books in a lot of spare moments and devote some structured time each week to do theory exercises and such. I practice a minimum of 1 hour a day and sometimes spend a lot of sprinkled minutes and moments to "fool around at the keyboard" for discovery and "letting the sound speak to me". You could say I'm "sort of obsessed" with it all however I try to maintain a healthy balance with everything else in my life. Not easy for me since I know I'm an extremist personality in everything I do so I have to restrain myself at times. These days I think I'd devote the rest of my life to music if I had the means to do so.

Passionate would be a better word than obsessed smile

John


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I am a piano technician and don't usually post to the other forums but this one caught my eye in the sidebar. I am one of those technicians who practices and advocates the use of non-equal temperaments. The very idea upsets many people's sense of comfort with what they thought they had always known to be the unquestionable foundation of virtually all music.

See Stuart Isacoff's book, Temperament, for an example of that which many people would point to. Never mind that most of it was just made up. Now, if anyone were obsessed with a particular idea, it would be him, it seems to me.

I have been accused, of course of being obsessed with the idea and "diagnosed" by a washed up psycho therapist/turned piano tuner as "paranoid schizophrenic with all the classic signs of it". He went so far as to write the prescription for lithium too.

There was a lot that he said with which I disagreed and still do. Although now deceased, I recall writing to him, "If the way you think is considered normal, then I'd rather be crazy".

I like many kinds of music including at least some of the American Country/Western tradition. Waylon Jennings was my favorite singer in that genre. A favorite lyric of mine is, "I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane".

Another pop/rock artist sang, "They say I'm crazy but it takes all my time. Life's been good to me so far".

There is a difference between dedication, persistence, diligence, sticking to a goal in order to achieve success, belief in oneself, a reputation for being an iconoclast, eccentricity, passion for a dream yet unrealized and the drive that it takes to succeed and obsession.

The word, obsession, implies a destructive and debilitating mental disorder. For example, we must all be careful to wash our hands to prevent the spread of disease but there are those who focus so intently on what would otherwise be good hygiene, that they become dysfunctional.

Howard Hughes was a good example of that. Tall, handsome, enormously wealthy, intelligent, hard working, innovative and talented, he nevertheless allowed his obsessions to destroy him. To this day, he designed and constructed the very largest aircraft ever built. Although the project was a failure for a number of reasons and virtually useless, he was so obsessed with proving that it could fly that he piloted it himself on its one and only very short voyage.

Prince Machiabelli said, "One can neither be too rich nor too thin" but Howard Hughes was both. Intensely afraid of other people's germs, he holed himself up and lived among his own trash and filth in utter squalor. He died severely underweight and dehydrated. Few people attended his funeral.

Pianist Glenn Gould was also known to have obsessive behaviors. The readers here may know of other great artists who apparently had obsessive behaviors.

There is a particular performing artist whose name I will not mention because he is still living but about whom piano technicians often comment regarding certain requirements and odd schedules. But if you attend his performances, the amazing experience tells you that he simply does what he has to do to reach that level artistry. The sold out concert halls and standing ovations are proof that whatever he does and requires is necessary.

What we choose to focus upon and achieve is always a positive thing unless that focus becomes somehow destructive, either to oneself or one's family. We all have obligations aside from our artistic pursuits. It is only a matter of keeping things in the proper perspective to avoid obsession.


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Bill: you made me realize how generic the word obsessive has become. I hope I didnt offend you or anyone else.

I like John Franks term "supremely dedicated"

In truly admire that quality in people and would happily call myself supremely dedicated any day.

As far as "crazy" is concerned. I was called a lot of "names" growing up. And the funny thing is the people calling me those names made me appreciate who I am even more!



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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Howard Hughes was a good example of that. Tall, handsome, enormously wealthy, intelligent, hard working, innovative and talented, he nevertheless allowed his obsessions to destroy him. To this day, he designed and constructed the very largest aircraft ever built. Although the project was a failure for a number of reasons and virtually useless, he was so obsessed with proving that it could fly that he piloted it himself on its one and only very short voyage.

Pianist Glenn Gould was also known to have obsessive behaviors. The readers here may know of other great artists who apparently had obsessive behaviors.


Horowitz comes to mind. I was reading about him today in a book written by his long-time tuner, Franz Mohr. The story goes, he erupted because his piano wasn't "straight," although no one could figure out what he meant.

Regarding the Hercules, I guess it's largest in terms of wingspan, and probably 'looks' the biggest, but I might put a bid on the An-225 as largest. It's debatable I suppose, but as a former pilot, I take an interest in such things.


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I think I am definately mildly obsessive. My husband thinks I am a total nutcake. He says how else anyone can sit in front of the piano for 1 hour everyday doing the same thing. He also knows i would do more if i have time. I am glad I have piano in my life. It gives me balance. I like my work too. I do statistical problem solving for work. It's really interesting and I enjoy it so much I often forget about what I am doing (like beans in a pot etc). After I re-started piano second time in a couple of years ago, I am happily mildly obsessed with two things, work and piano. I am burning more rice and beans, but I am happy. only mildly though. I know when to stop.

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I think the Bill Bremmer is right about the Hercules (aka the Spruce Goose) if we add "at the time" - the 225 wasn't designed til the 80s.

smile
(I was pleased to see the Spruce Goose in the early 90s when I was visiting in California - it has since been relocated, but I don't remember where....)

As for obsession- yes, I'm mildly obsessed too, and happily so.
So far my husband doesn't seem to mind smile


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The Spruce Goose is now in the state of Oregon on permanent display.

From Wkipedia: "The Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built, and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history. It survives in good condition at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, USA."

Also, "Although the project did not move beyond the initial prototype, the H-4 Hercules was a forerunner of the massive transport aircraft of the late 20th century, such as the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, the Antonov An-124, and the An-225."

You can see the entire Wikipedia article here (since this is an off topic tangent): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_H-4_Hercules

However, this quote which is on topic to the discussion of obsession, can also be seen in the film, The Aviator which is quite good. Leonardo Di Caprio seemed an unlikely choice to portray Howard Hughes but he did an amazingly good job.

"The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That's more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it's a failure I'll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it."


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I won't argue the point, because the Hercules stood out so much more in its epoch than the other aircraft that followed. Besides, the Hercules probably might 'look' bigger if you compared them side by side...but yeah, a bit of a tangent. An interesting one, at that.


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It's funny, too, that you mention Howard Hughes. For a long time I was convinced that I was related to Hughes by blood, but it turns out that it was by marriage. And no, we didn't get any money--from what I am told (this is ancient history I think) our relatives backed out of the squabble at some point (probably ran out of money for lawyers or something like that, I am not sure). When I finally traced the lineage, it was far less impressive than I had hoped. Something like my grandfather's uncle was related to one of his wives, either her brother, or, more likely, cousin.

Last edited by hawgdriver; 02/20/11 06:31 PM.

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