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do you actively avoid listening to the piece that you are working on. For example, if you are working on a Bach invention, you avoid listening to that on a Gould's CD.

One of my friends told me that , to test if you have the ability to interpret the piece yourself and not to have a 'pre-impression' of it or phrasing, etc, you need to avoid listening to other poeple's play, especially virtuoso's.

I found this notion make a little bit sense after a while. Do you?

Being able to listen to what you are working on shortens the time that you need to work on the piece, though, IMHO.

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I think that's the worst "advice" ever.

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I attend piano camps taught by a concert pianist; he strongly encourages his students (both at camp and private) not to pre-listen. The reasoning is to avoid copying what you hear rather than interpret what you see on the score.

I personally don’t find listening to be so problematic, but that depends on whether you recognize that what you hear is only one view of the score.. not the only view. I use the analogy for myself of a Target with a bullseyes: you can be faithful to the score and the composer’s intent in a wide range. I will never copy what I hear, but find my own voice.

If you will copy, I would agree with my teacher: don’t listen.


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Yeah, if I find myself accidentally sounding like Glen Gould because I listened to him performing the piece I was working on, I will bravely accept that terrible draw back smile


Enjoying the journey and the delicious music.
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I don't see much difference between copying what one hears on a recording and copying advice given by one's teacher. I think for most beginning and intermediate students listening to a recording is actually preferable because figuring everything out by themselves is too complex. I would compare it to someone just starting out on computers. There is just too much on the screen for them to comprehend everything. One just has to listen to some horrible YouTube recordings and wonder if the pianist ever heard the piece played by a professional.

There is a huge piano pedagogy project, I think at the University of Iowa, where several piano professors have recorded thousands of elementary and intermediate pieces so that students can listen to them. I'm quite sure their performances are designed to be listened to before and during the learning of a piece. Advanced players learning a piece usually have heard many performances of a piece before they start learning it unless it is not a mainstream repertoire work. So in that sense their interpretation isn't all their own.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 02/20/21 09:15 AM.
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In blues and jazz piano the first advice is to listen to other jazz and blues performers.



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For the record; I have never copied my teacher’s interpretation. In fact, I have never had a teacher play any of my scores for me from beginning to end. Copying is not how I view lessons


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I never deliberately listen to any piece I'm working on until it's done & dusted, though I don't "actively" avoid it. I much prefer to have my own interpretation of the score set down before checking out other pianists'.

Though of course, at my age, I've probably heard most piano music that's worth playing (and a lot that isn't smirk ).

When I was a student, 99.9% of the pieces I learnt with my teacher (and by myself, without my teacher's knowledge) were totally unfamiliar, and the only person I ever heard playing them was myself. I soon learnt how to make musical sense of any new score I came across, which is an invaluable skill for any serious musician. As a kid, I just loved trying out new music (begging, borrowing or stealing volumes of it from anyone and anywhere whistle - though of course, I always returned anything I stole......after making a copy) to discover their riches, entirely by myself - and for myself. (It was the age of discovery, the Amazon basin was largely unknown, Everest and K2 had yet to be conquered......but I digress.)

These days, it seems most adult students only ever learn pieces that they already know from YT videos - or if they were prepared to learn stuff given to them by their teachers, the first thing they do is to find a recording on YT.....before they even play a single note from the score.
Personally, I don't see how that benefits the acquisition of real musicianship, and I make sure my students don't fall into that trap - I plonk new scores in front of their unsuspecting eyes and say: "Play!" grin (just like my four teachers did with me in the good old days).


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With a piece that is relatively unknown to me, I listen to as many versions of it as I can find, before learning it. While learning it, I make up my mind as to how it should actually sound.

If I have known the work for a long time, my mind will already have been made up.


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Originally Posted by Serge88
In blues and jazz piano the first advice is to listen to other jazz and blues performers.
And folk music is handed down by aural tradition, and gradually changed over the ages. Which is why their provenance is often not possible to pin down.

Western classical music is much more complex and has to be set down on manuscript paper, and performers became proficient at reading and making sense of it very quickly. Bach composed a complete cantata every week for performance almost before the ink was dry - and his musicians were practically sight-reading his music.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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No I’m the opposite. I actively listen to it . Il try and listen to a recording played correctly though.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Plover For the record; I have never copied my teacher’s interpretation. In fact, I have never had a teacher play any of my scores for me from beginning to end. Copying is not how I view lessons
You don't have to hear them play the music. Any verbal suggestion they make that you use is the equivalent of copying their idea about a piece. They don't have to play a piece from beginning to end to illustrate something that you might use. Every master class I have attended has consisted mostly of the teacher giving interpretive ideas to the student. I think other than giving technical advice on a piece, everything else a teacher says is interpretive advice, although some of the advice might be better called correcting clearly incorrect readings or musical approaches vs. interpretive as in one of many possible approaches.

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As a beginner, I have learned very much by trying to imitate my teachers and play it just like they do. Can I make the same fluent, gradual diminuendo as I hear? Can I play towards the culmination of a phrase, without creating an accent - just like she demonstrates? Can I play light but not shallow, loud but not harsh, just like my teacher?

This is the adult beginners' forum. Adult beginners can learn a lot by listening first to other people playing a piece. Intermediates and advanced players may want to come up with their own interpretation first, and therefore avoid listening to others.


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After reading through the score and first approaching a piece of music, I often have an idealized sound that I want from a piece, from my estimation of the structure, nuances, and character of the piece. Listening to recordings for most pieces is something I do critically, or something with a specialized focus (usually rubato, dynamics, and tempo). Where recordings are helpful to me are with either extremely virtuosic music or modern music where I might not get the theory behind musical choices. With extremely virtuosic music it's sometimes difficult to envision sonorities because there is so much going on--how to balance all these voices, what to prioritize, where the focus should be, what their relationships are, can all be tricky. With modern and contemporary music the sonorities are complex, and getting a sense of cohesion and an organic sound can be very difficult, rather than a mechanical rendition that is a little nightmarish to me, sense I aspire to nuance and delicacy.

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Originally Posted by Animisha
As a beginner, I have learned very much by trying to imitate my teachers and play it just like they do. Can I make the same fluent, gradual diminuendo as I hear? Can I play towards the culmination of a phrase, without creating an accent - just like she demonstrates? Can I play light but not shallow, loud but not harsh, just like my teacher?

This is the adult beginners' forum. Adult beginners can learn a lot by listening first to other people playing a piece. Intermediates and advanced players may want to come up with their own interpretation first, and therefore avoid listening to others.


Different approach by different teachers and perhaps different times. My teacher when I was a beginner never played the piece for me. We just opened the score and I started playing. Since this was pre-internet and my family was not musically oriented, even standard classics were ‘new to me.’

The concert pianist/teacher I referenced above encourages beginners not to pre-listen.


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I do pre-listen. I feel I don't know enough techniques to do my own interpretation. Right now my only ability for interpretation is basically deciding how loud I want to play the different hands haha. Maybe when I have better technique and gotten further along in my piano journey I'll try to avoid pre-listening.

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Originally Posted by WittyName
I do pre-listen. I feel I don't know enough techniques to do my own interpretation. Right now my only ability for interpretation is basically deciding how loud I want to play the different hands haha. Maybe when I have better technique and gotten further along in my piano journey I'll try to avoid pre-listening.


Seems reasonable to me — as does the teacher who plays the piece for his/her students to emulate. Being different doesn’t mean it is ‘wrong’ IMO.


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All 4 of my instrumental teachers encourage me to listen to others to get a sense of different people’s interpretations, then use my own judgment (i.e. think for myself) on how I want to interpret it.

I think telling absolute beginners to not listen to others is poor advice. If you do that I don’t think you’d get very far because you don’t know all the nuances yet. How do you know what you don’t know? Once you’re somewhat experienced, however, I think it makes more sense not listening, if that’s what you want. That’s still not what I’d do though.

There are so many other instances of learning where students are either told what to do or shown what to do (visual and aural). If you’re learning carpentry, you would watch the master carpenter show you his skills, tips and tricks. You might even pick up his style and preferences and personalize it for yourself. If you are a surgery student, you’d be in the operating room, watching the lead doctor operate to learn how to do surgery. You’d pick up on his style and preferences and then when you do surgery on your own, you’d personalize what you previously learned from the teacher. If you are a child, you’d learn how to speak by imitating your mother or father’s speech. The list goes on. I think it is no different for music.

Maybe some child prodigies don’t need to listen to outside influences and have their own ideas at very young age but how many of us are child prodigies?


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I listen in the early stages, when I am choosing what to study. Assuming I have never really heard it before. In most cases I decide to play something because I heard it in a recital or online. While I am working on the piece I rarely listen to a recording. Then when I am getting close to finishing the piece I will gather several recordings and actively listen to them to hear what I can improve in my own playing.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by WittyName
I do pre-listen. I feel I don't know enough techniques to do my own interpretation. Right now my only ability for interpretation is basically deciding how loud I want to play the different hands haha. Maybe when I have better technique and gotten further along in my piano journey I'll try to avoid pre-listening.


Seems reasonable to me — as does the teacher who plays the piece for his/her students to emulate. Being different doesn’t mean it is ‘wrong’ IMO.

But is WittyNitty being “different” here? I’d suggest this “do not listen approach” is a piece of advice that’s being perpetuated on piano forums and it has undeservedly grown bigger than it really is. It has grown to gospel status and it’s just not so. In the real world (i.e. in the piano schools and studios, real everyday pianists and musicians, etc), the majority of learners/teachers do exactly as WittyNitty does. It is actually the “normal”.

I’ve heard so much “advice” on here and on other unrelated fora (not just music-related) that are taken as gospel and when I go out into the real world and interact with real musicians (as opposed to anonymous online ones), I tell them what I’d heard online and they all scratch their heads, sometimes with amusement, sometimes with “OMG”.

An example from another forum: 80 - 90% of members on a scuba diving forum strongly advocate and personally use a certain type of gear in a certain type of configuration. So I took that as gospel as the right thing to do as a noob and bought myself a set. And for the next couple of years, I go out into the wild so to speak and it’s the exact opposite. Only 5 - 10% of “real divers” on any boat is using that type of gear and configuration. And the funny thing is, since there are usually only 10 -12 people in a dive boat, that 5 - 10% is made up of my husband and me! Go figure!

Lesson learned? Online forums can be biased and there’s a lot of group think going on. Lots of good advice being used by the wrong people. For example, what might be good advice for experienced people are being taken as gospel by beginners.

I have to admit there’s some great experienced people here who give great advice as well but it so hard for beginners to tell what is what.

Beginners: be careful what advice you get online. Getting a private teacher is always the best bet.

Sorry for the rant and stay safe out there! (from COVID and misinformation)

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 02/20/21 11:47 AM.

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