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#2105474 06/20/13 07:44 PM
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My teacher tells me that analyzing a piece should help me "interpret" the music.
But I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do to "interpret" the music.

I googled "music interpretation". one website said one rule was to "making a natural crescendo with ascending passages, and a decrescendo with descending passages".
what other rules are there?

For example, how should I play non-chordal tones like appogiaturas?
My teacher tells me that the "appogiaturas" should "lean" on the chordal note.
I have no idea what this means, and she cannot give another explanation.
Does this mean I should play the appogiatura weaker than the chordal note?

Or how should I play cadences?
How do I express that the music is coming to a pause?

Also, how can understanding the structure of the music help my playing?

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by Yuuki; 06/20/13 07:46 PM.
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This is a very broad topic. In terms of structure, you'd be looking for repetitive patterns, inner melodies, resolutions, etc. etc. etc. But there really is no "rule" to interpretation like the ascending/descending example you gave (which isn't always true, by the way).

What issues are you having with interpretation? Is there a specific piece/passage giving you trouble? Without hearing you play, it's difficult for us to narrow down what might be helpful to you. I'm sure there are members here who can write an entire dissertation on interpretation. I'm not one of them, but I can help you analyze your playing or a particular piece. smile


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Thank you for the answer.

My problem is that I don't know what exactly "interpretation" is.
I don't know at I'm supposed to do.
Is it to make subtle changes in dynamics, articulation, and timbre which are not explicitly written in the score?
What goes on in the process of interpretation?
How do you relate your analysis to your playing?

My teacher says my playing is too "flat".
While I don't notice that I'm listening directly from the piano, I do see something is wrong (eg banging on chords) if I listen to a recording of my own playing.
But I don't know how to remedy this blandness.
So I think one question I have is what methods of interpretation there are, i.e. how to vary the quality of the sound.

I'll post a recording later.


Right now I'm playing Beethoven's 11 Bagatelles and Haydn's Sonata in g minor (Hob. XVI-44).
If it's possible, could I have an example of interpretation for one of these pieces, so I can understand interpretation better?

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Originally Posted by Yuuki
Thank you for the answer.

My problem is that I don't know what exactly "interpretation" is.
I don't know at I'm supposed to do.
Is it to make subtle changes in dynamics, articulation, and timbre which are not explicitly written in the score?
What goes on in the process of interpretation?
How do you relate your analysis to your playing?

My teacher says my playing is too "flat".
While I don't notice that I'm listening directly from the piano, I do see something is wrong (eg banging on chords) if I listen to a recording of my own playing.
But I don't know how to remedy this blandness.
So I think one question I have is what methods of interpretation there are, i.e. how to vary the quality of the sound.

I'll post a recording later.


Right now I'm playing Beethoven's 11 Bagatelles and Haydn's Sonata in g minor (Hob. XVI-44).
If it's possible, could I have an example of interpretation for one of these pieces, so I can understand interpretation better?
Listen to some great opera singers, preferably of previous generations. It's even better if you can look at the score while you listen to see what they are doing that goes beyond what is on the page: hold a note a little bit longer to create tension and then release when you move on, not making running 8th notes all identical, things like that.

Also, listen to great pianists playing the pieces you are working on. What do they do? The more you hear, the more it will make sense to you. The stuff on the page is like a road map. It's supposed to get to to the place you want to be, but it doesn't show you what that place will look like with trees, buildings, and people. The music score will get you to the point where you know the notes and rhythms and basic musical markings, but once you get there you want to add your own interpretation, your own feeling, your own personality to it.

Try singing a melody in a comfortable octave from one of your pieces, and sing it as musically engaging as you can, as if you are trying to show it to a 5 year old because you think they will love it. But they're 5, so you have to overdo things to keep their attention. You may feel a bit foolish doing this at first, but it will really help you to understand the music on a more instinctual level.


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My teacher tells me that analyzing a piece should help me "interpret" the music.
But I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do to "interpret" the music.


Listening first. I think it is about subtle changes, dynamics, articulation, all of it. How do you hear it being played as opposed to how you play a piece. You can give definitions to all this stuff but if you can't hear, sense realize or feel these things in music then you have no real connection to it. It's one thing to be able to play all the notes correctly. It's another to give what you play feeling. Music is an "ART FORM"! Play like it's coming from the heart. There are no instructions for this. What I'm talking about has to come from within.... you.

Quote
My teacher says my playing is too "flat".
Exactly! Give it some "feeling" and listen to how it's done first.

Your teacher says to analyze a piece. To me, that means listening.


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Originally Posted by Yuuki
My teacher tells me that analyzing a piece should help me "interpret" the music.
But I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do to "interpret" the music.

I googled "music interpretation". one website said one rule was to "making a natural crescendo with ascending passages, and a decrescendo with descending passages".
what other rules are there?



Hi, Yukki! There are probably a million rules. And guess what? That example that you quoted is an illustration, yes, but not necessarily a "rule." But guess what else? I think it's easier than finding and following rules.

For me, "interpretation" means "breathing life into the music." In other words, I need to be careful to read what the composer put on the page, but it's up to me to make it come to life. It has nothing to do with following "rules of interpretation," though it cannot be accomplished without reading the music and all of the detailed notations. It has everything to do with using my imagination, intellect and emotions to connect with what I believe the composer is trying to relate, and then get my fingers to do the talking (or singing).

Reading the music is "little picture." Interpretation is "big picture." Interpretation is, "what is this piece trying to say? How does the piece get from point A to point B and say what it has to say--that is, what is it driving at here? And where is it going there?" When you start looking at it like that, you start to see things about the structure that will help you decide what to bring into the foreground and what to keep in the background when you play.

Hope that helps!

--Andy

Last edited by Cinnamonbear; 06/20/13 10:37 PM.

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Thank you for the advices.

@Andy
Quote
"what is this piece trying to say? How does the piece get from point A to point B and say what it has to say--that is, what is it driving at here? And where is it going there?"

This is exactly what my teacher tells me to think about, and what I do not understand.
Can you specify "what a piece is trying to say"?
What I thought of were things like the mood of the piece (melancholic, lively, etc) and speed (not necessarily the tempo stated at the beginning, but for example a section with a lot of 32nd notes would have a comparatively "faster" feel).
Is this in the right direction?
What are some other examples?

Also how does knowing the direction of a piece guide your performance?
Another thing my teacher always says and I do not understand is to feel "where the note leads to".
What should I do in mechanical terms (eg build a crescendo toward the goal) in order to create the sense of direction?

I now see there is no rule, but can you give an example?

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Welcome to the forum Yuuki!

A wonderful Russian pianist by the name of Anna Cal gave me this most valuable piece of advice: listen to opera. (Pretty much what Morodienne said.)Pay attention to when the singer takes a breath. These are probably the pauses you are looking for. Listen for how the singer stretches phrases - that's the rubato. Often there is a pause and slight lingering on the high notes, (more difficult to sing). Sing your music!

Many may not agree with me, but I think you should get out of your head and stop trying to analyze the music. Get into your heart, let yourself go and feel your music. Don't be afraid to over-express it. Your teacher can always rein you back in if you overdo it.

The so-called rule of "making a natural crescendo with ascending passages, and a decrescendo with descending passages" is pretty primitive. It applies to a lot of music but doesn't apply to all so I wouldn't adhere to it strictly.

My current teacher says it is important to have a larger view of the piece - understanding (on an emotional level) the longer phrases and where the piece is going and what the composer is trying to say. He also told me: in Romantic music, if there are repeated notes, you never play them alike. Each one is played a little differently.


Best regards,

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EDIT: I may say a few things that have already been said. I started replying just after your response to me, but I got side-tracked by a work project, and took a couple hours to complete my post. Sorry about that!


Anytime, happy to have the discussion. smile

It's interesting you ask for that particular Haydn sonata. Here is a performance by a PW member who is a wonderful pianist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks3DsMX_Arg.

There are a few ways to work on developing your ear/interpretation.

ACTIVE PROCESS:
One of the things you can do is record your playing, and then analyze it. Compare it to how you want it to sound. Take notes. Write in the score. Whatever you have to do to remind yourself to do something particular in a certain place. Then, go back to that place, and practice what it is you have to do to make happen what it is you want to happen.

When you feel you've gotten it where you want it, record it again. Listen again. Take more notes. See if you've really "gotten it", or if you have to make more changes/adjustments to how you hear it.

Repeat the process until you get the piece where you want it.


PASSIVE PROCESS:
Listen to a recording of a piece with the score in hand. Listen and see what the performer does with the piece, and try to anticipate where the music is going. What do you think should happen? What does the performer do? What would you do differently than the performer?


I always believe that, much like learning to read words requires picking up a book, learning to read music requires picking up a score. When we learn to read, someone teaches us the sounds to make, what they mean, and how to read them. When we learn to read music, the same process applies. What sounds need to be made? How do you "hear" the music? How do you get your fingers to do what it is you "hear"?

Incidentally, if that last question becomes a problem -- how to get your fingers to reproduce the sound -- then you don't actually have an interpretation problem. You have a technique issue. wink

Hope this helps. smile

Last edited by Derulux; 06/21/13 12:07 AM.

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Beethoven Bagatelles Opus 119

I’ve given a good look at the first page to be able
to make a more concrete suggestion on a set piece.

First of all, the piece starts in the key of A minor
at a quick allegretto tempo.

The RH bustles along at either 3 or 6 notes to the measure ...
while the LH throws in a rhythmic variation of

blocky chords
(eg. as in measures 1-4 and 9-10)
and single note outlines
(eg. as in measures 5-8 and 11-14)

Opus 119 is not considered “great shakes” in the masterpiece
order of things ... the 32 Sonatas being the true fountain.

Hoping the suggestion is of assistance.
kind regards in Tokyo, btb


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Have a look at this series of videos.

They are amazing!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PZEJ9CsBfM

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Originally Posted by Yuuki

...

For example, how should I play non-chordal tones like appogiaturas?
My teacher tells me that the "appogiaturas" should "lean" on the chordal note.
I have no idea what this means, and she cannot give another explanation.
Does this mean I should play the appogiatura weaker than the chordal note?

...



Rather than trying talk about interpretation in general, I'll try to talk about just this one thing a little bit...

Your teacher is relying on the literal translation of the Italian for appoggiatura - it actually means to lean on.

In music, what does that mean? Without going into specific examples, I think it still can be said in general that the (long) appoggiatura is a non-chordal note that occurs on the beat, and then the next note in the musical line moves to a chordal note (I'm sure the real scholars here will correct me if that's wrong).

The musical effect is that tension is created by the non-chordal note, and then the tension is released when the musical line moves to a chordal note. And the musical tension of the appoggiatura is enhanced by being on the beat.

Interpretation happens when you decide how much tension you want to put into an appoggiatura, and how it fits into the neighboring musical context. The range of possibility is huge - anything from dramatic and intense to something so subtle as to be barely perceptible.

The "leaning" part, to me, is about how one leans into the appoggiatura note by giving it a special emphasis, and then taking away that "leaning" emphasis on the next note.

But, prior to interpreting, you need to have an idea of how the musical line is being shaped by the tension and release that is created by the appoggiatura, so that you can judge what will be appropriate. And basically, you have to trust your ear for that, I think. If your ear has been educated by a lot of listening to classical music from the same era played by respected artists, it will have a good starting idea of what you need to do.


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Thank you for the all replies.

I will definitely listen to opera singers, and will also check out the YouTube videos.
Are there any singers/pieces you would especially recommend listening to?

@Deborah
Quote

Many may not agree with me, but I think you should get out of your head and stop trying to analyze the music. Get into your heart, let yourself go and feel your music. Don't be afraid to over-express it. Your teacher can always rein you back in if you overdo it.


Unfortunately, when I "let myself go", all my playing just becomes banging.
I feel that I'm expressing emotions with crescendos, but that's not what my teacher and the video tells me.
My recording sounds better when I don't let go of myself and have more control over my playing.
I think I have a connection problem with my hands and my mind.

@Andy
Thank you for the detailed advice.
I'll try out the method.
Quote
Listen and see what the performer does with the piece, and try to anticipate where the music is going. What do you think should happen?

So the "direction" of the music is the anticipation?

Quote

I always believe that, much like learning to read words requires picking up a book, learning to read music requires picking up a score. When we learn to read, someone teaches us the sounds to make, what they mean, and how to read them. When we learn to read music, the same process applies. What sounds need to be made? How do you "hear" the music? How do you get your fingers to do what it is you "hear"?

This analogy made me realize something important.
Maybe the reason I don't understand what interpretation is that I don't know the "meaning" of each sound.
I think I'd like to discuss this topic further.
Would saying that a non-chordal note has the meaning of "tension", "unrest", or "uneasy feeling" be correct?
It could be that the disassociation with sound and its meaning is the cause for my not being able to relate analysis to performance.

I would appreciate it if I could receive responses on this topic of "meaning" in sound.

@wr
Thank you for the explanation on appoggiaturas.
It helped me better understand what leaning meant as well as the effect created by appogiaturas.

I was planning to post my recording but I couldn't find the cable.
I will post one as soon as I find it.


Last edited by Yuuki; 06/21/13 08:46 AM.
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Originally Posted by Yuuki

I will definitely listen to opera singers, and will also check out the YouTube videos.
Are there any singers/pieces you would especially recommend listening to?

@Unfortunately, when I "let myself go", all my playing just becomes banging.
I feel that I'm expressing emotions with crescendos, but that's not what my teacher and the video tells me.




He may not always elicit universal appeal, but Luciano Pavarotti is the epitome of the bel canto style of Italianate singing, and the way he phrases and shades his tone is second to none. And Maria Callas too, in her very different manner - especially in more passionate music - like Bellini's Casta diva (Norma).

And that's what you want to cultivate in your playing, especially of cantabile music like that in Chopin Nocturnes. Even phrasing a simple melody like that at the beginning of Mozart's K545 Sonata will benefit from knowing how to breathe, the direction of the melody, where it's heading, and how each phrase is answered by the next. Try singing it yourself and you'll get an idea.....

AS for 'letting yourself go', it's playing as you feel, without inhibitions - you don't shout non-stop when you sing, so you don't just bang away when you play. You might exaggerate the dynamics and rubato, but that's better than playing in a flat manner......

'Che gelida manina' (La Boheme) http://youtu.be/rpxXlhTP8os
'Casta diva' (Norma) http://youtu.be/7rjGwS20V94

Last edited by bennevis; 06/21/13 09:18 AM. Reason: links added

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Originally Posted by Yuuki
Thank you for the advices.

@Andy
Quote
"what is this piece trying to say? How does the piece get from point A to point B and say what it has to say--that is, what is it driving at here? And where is it going there?"

This is exactly what my teacher tells me to think about, and what I do not understand.
Can you specify "what a piece is trying to say"?
What I thought of were things like the mood of the piece (melancholic, lively, etc) and speed (not necessarily the tempo stated at the beginning, but for example a section with a lot of 32nd notes would have a comparatively "faster" feel).
Is this in the right direction?
What are some other examples?

Also how does knowing the direction of a piece guide your performance?
Another thing my teacher always says and I do not understand is to feel "where the note leads to".
What should I do in mechanical terms (eg build a crescendo toward the goal) in order to create the sense of direction?

I now see there is no rule, but can you give an example?


Hi, Yukki! I see you've already received a lot of good ideas from lots of people, including Derelux, who I think you may have confused with me. No big deal. If I'm going to be mistaken for anyone on Piano World, I'm very happy for it to be Derelux! grin

Anyway, I'll have more thoughts later, but I wanted to share this one quickly. I should have put it in my first post to you:

You are already interpreting the music. The moment that the printed notations on the page come into your eyes and out your fingers, YOU are the one doing the interpretation...

Have you ever read a storybook out loud to someone? Well, if you have, then you "interpreted" it. You gave it voice. Maybe there was an exciting part, and you used your voice to make the words sound suspenseful. Maybe you used the breathless dramatic --- pause. Maybe in a happy part, you even used your voice to laugh through the words a little. Maybe there was a lion who said something, so you made your voice growl through the words a little. And they all lived happily ever after-grrrr.

So, you are the interpreter. That's all there is to it. When music comes off the printed page and into the air because you are the one reading and playing, that music is coming THROUGH YOU.

So, who are you? What are you like? What are your hopes and dreams and fears? What are your strengths of character? What are your weaknesses? Who are you as a person? Don't answer that out loud, here, just think about it for a minute--because all of that comes out when you play. You can't hide it. And you should NOT hide it!!! laugh In fact, you must embrace who you are when you play the piano. That is how authentic, genuine music is made. One of the wonderful things about "interpretation" is that a piece of written music can be shared with all of the beauty of the music intended by the composer, but it is given the touch of eternal uniqueness by coming through you. Or me. Or anyone else who decides to play it--oh--I mean, "interpret" it. blush

--Andy


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Originally Posted by gooddog
Many may not agree with me, but I think you should get out of your head and stop trying to analyze the music. Get into your heart, let yourself go and feel your music. Don't be afraid to over-express it. Your teacher can always rein you back in if you overdo it.
I completely agree. Looking for a list of rules on how to be expressive defeats the purpose of being expressive and will only continue to make your music sound "flat", even if you can make such a list and follow it to the letter.

Many people say that music is a universal language. It's not exactly a language, but in many ways it is like one. What does music communicate? Just notes and rhythms? Black dots on a page? Surely it's more than that. Certainly it can tell a story, but words are far more efficient at doing that. But something that sometimes words cannot fully do is communicate feeling or emotion. Music, however, does this very well - it speaks directly to the soul of the listener from the souls of the composer and the performer.

Right now, I'm guessing your music sounds flat because you are relying completely upon the notes on the page to communicate. And perhaps you actually do feel things while you are playing and are trying to get that out of your fingers, but you simply do not know how. So you ask for rules. I get that. But instead of rules, how about some techniques on how to be expressive, how to play what's on the page but also be more free with it so you can add your own feelings to that of the composer?

If you are interested, I learned these techniques and they have transformed my playing. Some may not like them, and that's OK too. Take what you will from it, and at first you may have to go too far and then come back to find a good balance.

www.musicalratio.com

This website describes in detail with musical examples to listen to on different techniques used by great musicians over the centuries. In recent times (the last 75 years or so) this has gone out of style, but I personally enjoy it. Feel free to PM me with any questions on this stuff:




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For some opera examples that I think show lots of musical expression:

Jerry Hadley: Donizetti, L'elisir D'amore - [/i]Una furtiva lagrima

Mario del Monaco: Bizet, [i]Carmen[/i] - La fleur que tu m`avais jetée (check out the applause at the end!)

Renata Tebaldi: Puccini, [i]Madama Butterfly[/i] - Un bel di vedremo

Maria Callas: Bellini, [i]Norma - Casta diva



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Originally Posted by Yuuki

I think I have a connection problem with my hands and my mind.



Don't we all !!! smile

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Originally Posted by Yuuki
My teacher tells me that analyzing a piece should help me "interpret" the music.
But I don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do to "interpret" the music.


Yuki,

I just came across a new book when I was at a music teachers conference in the US which will address your concerns in a straight forward way and get you started on understanding interpretation. It was just published in 2013.

The title of the book is:

Playing Beyond the Notes: A pianist's Guide to Musical Interpretation

Author: Deborah Rambo Sinn

Publisher: Oxford University Press, April 2013

You can get it at Amazon.com and they do have a preview of the actual contents of the book where you can see the actual topics she covers. Not too expensive for an Oxford University Press book.

I am going to buy a copy for myself.

A R


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I'd like to talk a little bit more about the intangibles of interpretation.

Interpretation is the art of conveying what you find meaningful in a performed work.

A good way to figure out how to interpret a piece of music is to listen and pay close attention to as many different recordings of it as you can. Study the score closely when at the piano.

The most important thing is to get the piece fundamentally down- that is, under your fingers. Of course, interpretation occurs while you are learning, but you can't truly give a good interpreted performance without mastering the technical details of a work.

As you study, you'll naturally find elements of the piece that you like, things that you take joy in. Figure out what little details, and what overall grand structures, you like, and determine how (within the guidelines of the written score) you want those elements to sound. Do you want to bring them out? Do you want them mixed in with the texture of the work.

Perhaps you'll find you appreciate a particularly beautiful melody. Play with it in isolation and figure out how to make it sound as beautiful as you can and then work on folding it back into rest of the piece. Or maybe you'll find a lovely counter-melody, hidden in the harmonic texture, something that seems amusing or unexpected. Maybe you might want to use subtle dynamics to draw it out.


Ask you work out what you like ask yourself questions: Do you like the piece light and delicate or lush and Pedal-y? Should the whole piece be that way? How would others play this? Should I follow their lead (usually a good idea) or strike out on my own? Should I just add a few small touches of my own to another's interpretation?

The possibilities are endless.

There have been, historically, certain ways of interpreting certain music that have been considered "tasteful" or "correct". It's always a good idea to learn what the great pianists and piano teachers of the past have thought about a work and how they thought it ought to be played. However, I don't think you have to play exactly like them for a work to sound meaningful or interesting. There's always room within a work to play around and "make it yours."

Also important is to >listen< to yourself play. Does what you're playing sound good to you? Or, when you hear your teacher or a recording of the work, do you like that sound better. There's nothing wrong with imitating someone else, especially in your formative years. There's an old saying "good artists borrow, great artists steal!" Since no one is exactly like anyone else, however, no matter how much you borrow or steal, there are always going to be elements that sound "like you."

Don't worry about what others think to a certain extent. Glenn Gould, for instance, was often criticized for his idiosyncratic "non-standard" manner of interpreting the piano literature (Bach, in particular, but pretty much anything he played was rather different than what had been done before). But I think that style was his greatness. Whether or not you liked how he played a given work (Brahms' Concerto at extremely slow tempo?) what he was doing had meaning >to him< and was certainly worth paying attention to. Better to be yourself, and express what you love about a piece of music, than to unhappily conform to what someone else thinks you >ought< to do.



Last edited by Brad Hoehne; 06/21/13 03:57 PM.

1999 Petrof 125-111 (upright)
Casio Privia PX-330

Currently working on:
Chopin Etude op 25 #2 and op 10 #5
Schubert Op 90 #2, #3
Playing by ear and "filling out" pop tunes
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