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Every now and then I think about blind pianists.

Although they can't see the keys, they can in their mind. I guess.

I know when I play, I'm not necessarily looking at the keys all the time, but when learning the piece, I might.

I know, when my right thumb is on middle C, then my index is on D and so on, but when I move, and a different finger is on a different key, my mind gets confused. I feel like I can't see the notes in my mind anymore. In the end the reason I end up being able to play a piece is from pure muscle memory.

Sometimes I wonder if I should change my approach and learn the keyboard with my eyes closed and be able to go to any key. That way I know instinctively where everything is, so I never have to take my eyes off of the score.

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So funny you posted this. As I was reading it, I noticed my son playing the piano with the cover on it.

I guess it would be good for germaphobes. smile Or for those who don't want to look at the keys.

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I'm not sure that "see" is an appropriate term. I guess it depends on if the person lost their sight after learning to play or learned to play after becoming blind. A person who was born blind would have no visual concept of what a keyboard looks like. To them it would be a combination audible and tactile sensations.


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@bananasushi
The topic reminds me of this video showing Tom Brier playing the Spinach Rag. He hits the right keys even when the woman covers his view with her hand. I reckon that knowing the keyboard topography to such an extent takes years of practice.

As to how to actually practice it, I don't know. Since you've mentioned seeing the keyboard in your mind, maybe start with the following exercise. Close your eyes and imagine the keyboard.

a) In your mind play the C major scale backwards, i.e. C, B, A, ..., C and name the notes.

b) Imagine playing triads with your right hand using the fingers 1, 3, 5.
Start with (C, E, G). Shift your fingers one key to the right, so you play (D, F, A). Mentally shift your fingers again one key to the right. What are the notes you are playing?

How did you find the exercise? What is it easy?

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Originally Posted by Dru Morgan
So funny you posted this. As I was reading it, I noticed my son playing the piano with the cover on it.

I guess it would be good for germaphobes. smile Or for those who don't want to look at the keys.

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Haha. Funny.

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I have a mild learning disability that wasn't recognized when I was growing up, and only realized during my own teacher training when I learned about these things. I did have trouble in primary school with d b p q and mixing up whether to write on the red line or the blue line; I got lost easily. It has to do with visually orienting things in space along left-right and up-down, but this is only visual. As a result, I oriented to the piano by sound and touch. When I first tried to look at the keys while I played, it disoriented me because of their symmetry, I think.

For me, the piano originally was first of all where the sounds were located, with the sense like you can reach for the old light switch or the gear shift because your hands just know where they are (called proprioception). Secondly, by the touch of high up black keys and down low white keys. Sound and touch were the primary senses and worked together. I've learned to see the keys visually only in the last few years, for a different reason, and wed this to the original sound and touch.

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Originally Posted by Veelo


As to how to actually practice it, I don't know.
In order to practice, you have to practice - it's the whole secret. However, there is a precondition that cannot be undone: NECESSARY TO LEARN MISS THE MARK ! But precisely this the teachers do not teach ...

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Why some teachers don't like adult student: Episode #78 Season 34

"Too much thinking, not enough good robust practice."

You don't have to be blind to know where the keys are. The keyboard topography grows in your mind as you practice and you have somebody making you notice the right things.
At a decently advanced stage, one practice the hand positions and pivot notes in order to don't have to guess where the hand moves and when.
Deciding when to move a finger from one position to the next, in advance of the note being pressed, in order to be -already- in the position and have to do only the minimum controlled effort to play is one of the thousands of trick of the trade.

In a piece like the coda of Chopin 1st ballade, the first section is virtually impossible to be played at speed if that kind of technique isn't acquired. The same goes for some particularly quick prelude of the well tempered clavier. In piece much less advantage a similar technique can be applied to reduce the wasteful movement that an inexperienced pianist tend to make.

This technique allow not only to "visualize" the whole keyboard but to develop a safe "feeling" of the keys.


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Originally Posted by Ataru074
Why some teachers don't like adult student: Episode #78 Season 34

"Too much thinking, not enough good robust practice"




The OP is asking whether he needs to change the way he is practicing. Therefore he is practicing and is asking how to do it more efficiently. I see your advice as being good, but is your initial jab really needed? It seems not.

After all, this is an Adult Beginner Forum, where the solution may be self-evident to someone with more experience, but to an Adult Beginner it is not. Thinking IMHO shows a motivation to improve and looking for the best way.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by Ataru074
Why some teachers don't like adult student: Episode #78 Season 34
"Too much thinking, not enough good robust practice"

The OP is asking whether he needs to change the way he is practicing. Therefore he is practicing and is asking how to do it more efficiently. I see your advice as being good, but is your initial jab really needed? It seems not.
After all, this is an Adult Beginner Forum, where the solution may be self-evident to someone with more experience, but to an Adult Beginner it is not. Thinking IMHO shows a motivation to improve and looking for the best way.

The OP is opening multiple threads about any question he has instead of just trying to listen (or read) to what more than one person has already told him.
"Get a teacher and start from there."
The inability to "see" the keyboard, the "tug of war between sight reading and memorization" and the 6 years to get to the RCM prep while he admit practicing playing trough pieces until he gets to the end of the book and then restart instead of "chunking" and so on... I'm readying his threads and the only things that comes out is that the OP has no clue whatsoever about how to practice in any efficient way. Denying this simple fact is doing a detrimental job for the op, in the same way is trying to "give him a pat on the back" and carry on.

The OP should wake up, get a teacher YESTERDAY, stop thinking too much, start listening to somebody that can help him and follow instructions for a couple of years. When, after two years, and few RCM exam successfully passed, maybe thinking can be reactivated.

I always find "thinking" being the biggest issue in learning the piano in beginners.
Is not rocket science, at the beginning is more fine motor conditioning... observation and repetition works great, in the same way the suzuki method is very effective for violinist.

In a real life example it works like the composite interest in a mortgage.
At the beginning, you pay mostly interest, that to me is like the technique, our body develop much faster at the beginning compared to the end were you work on very minimal nuances.
In the same way the principal is the "musicality" and the understanding of what lies beneath the surface of the score... at the beginning we are able to see only the marks on the page, but as we progress and the technical issues becomes secondary, we start appreciating so many more levels that we didn't see at the beginning.

The op spent a significant amount of time running in circles without really progressing but developing curiosity. I think, as adult beginners, we should help him to progress instead of encouraging him to keep running around.

My opinion.


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Yes, I think I can start taking lessons again soon. I was unemployed for a bit, but I found a job again. For about 4 years of learning piano I could only practice for a couple hours a week. When I was a student it took a back seat to my studies. I didn't get home from school till 10 pm, had to make my lunch for the next day and go to bed pretty much right away. I practiced on Sunday mostly. My back hurts after work. I've mostly been working at restaurants where I have to be hunched over a cutting board all day and my back is so sore when I get home I can't sit at the piano till the soreness goes away. While a student, I worked one day a week. All my savings went to tuition. Then I got married and had no money again. lol.

I have the zeal and determination to practice piano all day but my back just gets sore so quickly, I have to take many breaks.

I'm trying to ask questions and learn about learning techniques best I can for the time being while at this forum. My questions aren't to show I'm stubborn or rebellious. I'm curious about different ideas. The question of playing with my eyes closed was just an idea I was curious about. I think blind players have been able to develop a very good ear which I envy. I notice there are songs I can play perfectly, but while looking at the keyboard. I wondered if I could develop a deeper internal knowledge of the keyboard topography if I practiced with my eyes closed so I could see the keys more instinctively with my mind rather than out of the corner of my eye or something. I wasn't refuting the concept of real normal practice as well. I appreciate each and everyone's comments no matter how blunt and I take them to heart. I know I need a teacher. However, when I took lessons, it was for 30 min once a week. Some time is always wasted with a bit of chit chat, and many times I didn't even get to play or had to rush through a song in the last few minutes because my teacher was explaining stuff and 30 min just FLIES! It was very frustrating. I would like at least 1 hour lessons. And I definitely need someone to just sit and watch me play so I can get over my nervousness. But here on the forum I can ask lots of question and get lots of answers from many people. I like that.

I have noticed that many high level piano players argue about a lot of study methods. There are piano professors, giving lectures on controversial study methods and turn stuff upside down. There are opposing sides as to the importance of scales, and books like Czerny and so on. Some people say Czerny is invaluable, some say it's useless. It's interesting to hear different opinions. (hand up in the air, I'm not taking sides)

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I guess I didn't mean ONLY learn with my eyes closed. I was thinking of including some eyes closed practice. While at work, I could cut an onion into paper thin slices very fast with my eyes closed because my muscles had already learned the exact precise movements which were repetitive.
Maybe I do have a learning disability. To this day I still often screw up sight reading the notes on the treble clef in the 2nd, 3rd space A<->C and 3rd and 4th line B<->D (and same on the bass clef)

It's not that I don't know them.
Could be a minor bit of dyslexia could be the page is small so all the lines all look smooshed together. Could be lighting. I dunno.

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Play blind or looking - it's not a question of talent, but a habit. Children who start early to use the computer keyboard, after after some time ( to each his own) starts printing a blinded fashion, and there is nothing special. Any strings player play by "blind" method; and this applies to 100% of performers.If you force a child to play without looking - he will do it. Are only required the appropriate psychological training to miss.

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Originally Posted by bananasushi
I guess I didn't mean ONLY learn with my eyes closed. I was thinking of including some eyes closed practice.

You need to improve your sight-reading ability, rather than waste time practicing with eyes closed, because your main problem is recognizing notes on the staves and relating them instantly to their locations on the keyboard (which is not the same thing as knowing that G is immediately to the left of A etc).

You'll develop a good 'keyboard sense' only by spending time at the piano, playing lots of different pieces that require your hands to move around the keyboard, that force you to sight-read and develop an 'interval sense' of your hands & fingers, such that, for instance, when you've just played a RH triad of C (C-E-G) and the next note is a higher B, your pinky can reach out to play it without you having to 'know' that the note on the staff is B, then hunting on the keyboard for that B. Your pinky should already know where that note is without you having to look down.

And so on......


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There are times almost every day when I realize I am playing without looking at the keyboard. Immediately I slip up when my conscious mind takes over!


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Originally Posted by Ataru074



I always find "thinking" being the biggest issue in learning the piano in beginners.


There's some truth to that, but there are a couple of issues:
- It's not that easy to completely turn off intelligent thinking if you used to that. Most adults cannot turn back the clock and become children again when sitting on the bench.
- Thinking actually adds to one's practicing when administered in suitable doses. One should think more while not moving the keys and less while doing it.

I think the problem is usually not thinking too much in general, but thinking in a too restricted way and picking and choosing, looking for answers that suit one's ideas instead of actually collecting and analyzing information.


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Originally Posted by bananasushi
Every now and then I think about blind pianists.

Although they can't see the keys, they can in their mind. I guess.
...

I think it would be more feel and listen then trying to replace anything visual, if indeed they had ever experienced sight prior to being blind.

My Piano friend and past Teacher James, is blind. When everything is within reasonable reach he never has an issue and plays great. He won't play big stride though. Short hops he is fine, but he is always careful to keep his stride short and remain accurate. Sight is a big bonus here (big leaps), so he tells me.

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Art Tatum was legally blind, although he had partial sight in one eye, & he played stride, ragtime, etc.
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5qWC6VjCS0>


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Nobuyuki Tsuji is the best blind pianist (& composer) around - he was joint winner of the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition in 2009.

And he hardly ever hits a wrong note, even in the most virtuosic pieces - he obviously has an uncanny mental topography of the keyboard, as unlike some other completely blind pianists, he never has to 'feel' the keys prior to launching into a fusillade of octaves & chords:
http://youtu.be/bDtT5sSu5VQ

If you can get hold of the Peter Rosen film "Touching the Sound" (DVD/BD-R), documenting his rise from child prodigy to his present celebrity status, you won't fail to be inspired. BTW, he doesn't learn his pieces by Braille.


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That was an amazing video! I would love to be able to play that well.


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