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Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by ranjit
To add to that, I'd say that trying to mimic a concert pianist 1:1 is an incredible learning tool. I've tried it before -- listen to them playing, and then try to keep the recording going on in your head while you play. Then, you compare your playing to theirs. It will sound worse. But listen very carefully to both recordings side by side. You'll realize -- oh, I need to give that downbeat some more oomph, I need to create a rum-pum-pum left hand accompaniment by shortening the second beat, I need to play this section softly to create space for the next one, this time around is just an echo of the previous one, etc. It is super instructive.
.

I would not recommend copying the interpretation of a concert pianist. As a exercise, listen to the same piece performed by a variety of pianists, and there will be individuality to how each interpret and play the music. You want to establish your own voice not a copy of someone else's.

And an anecdote that was shared with me: a teenager was applying to Juilliard if the fall and decided it would be great to play the Goldberg Variations like Glenn . Gould. So she did. It was recognized and not received well at the audition.
Yes, but we're talking about mimicking a concert pianist as a pedagogical device, not to fix your interpretation along those lines. If you want to, you can attempt to mimic multiple concert pianists.

I think it's healthy to mimic other people's playing and steal their ideas. You shouldn't go all out and simply copy all of the time, but how else will you broaden your horizons? You may never get the idea to play something a certain way unless you copy a certain concert pianist who managed to get that sound.

There is something to be said about not going overboard with that though, and I thought I would mention one of my favorite interviews of all time, Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFNMw3GW3Ng
.

If you think it’s good to mimic rather than absorb, carry on with what you are doing. IMO, listening to several performances and analyzing the differences in interpretation would be much more instructive.


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Originally Posted by QuasiUnaFantasia
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.

This is exactly what I do and makes the most sense to me, or rather it is very logical to go about it this way.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
If you think it’s good to mimic rather than absorb, carry on with what you are doing. IMO, listening to several performances and analyzing the differences in interpretation would be much more instructive.

Spot on.

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Originally Posted by trooplewis
Even when I had a teacher, when I played something incorrectly, the teacher would show me the right way by playing it correctly right there in front of me. I'm willing to bet that 99% of face-to-face teachers do the same thing today.

So what is different having your teacher play it then listening to Lang Lang or Horowitz play it?

I would suggest that some would consider that there is a considerable difference between a teacher illustrating a phrase and discussing ways of interpreting it and sitting there and playing an entire piece for the student. I don't think that is what most (good) teachers do.

I think that a good teacher gives the students the tools to work with and requires that the student use those tools to figure out some things for him/herself. Otherwise, how is there to be personal growth and development?

On the other hand, if the student is playing literature that is beyond the beginner level and if that student already has the notes well in hand, then I don't see anything untoward if the teacher were to say: "You should listen to what Rubinstein does with this," or "Have you heard Gould's unorthodox take on this?"

Situational context counts.

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I think it's a very good thing to avoid listening to other interpretations before creating your own interpretation, and it's tremendously interesting to compare interpretations afterwards.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by ranjit
Originally Posted by dogperson
Originally Posted by ranjit
To add to that, I'd say that trying to mimic a concert pianist 1:1 is an incredible learning tool. I've tried it before -- listen to them playing, and then try to keep the recording going on in your head while you play. Then, you compare your playing to theirs. It will sound worse. But listen very carefully to both recordings side by side. You'll realize -- oh, I need to give that downbeat some more oomph, I need to create a rum-pum-pum left hand accompaniment by shortening the second beat, I need to play this section softly to create space for the next one, this time around is just an echo of the previous one, etc. It is super instructive.
.

I would not recommend copying the interpretation of a concert pianist. As a exercise, listen to the same piece performed by a variety of pianists, and there will be individuality to how each interpret and play the music. You want to establish your own voice not a copy of someone else's.

And an anecdote that was shared with me: a teenager was applying to Juilliard if the fall and decided it would be great to play the Goldberg Variations like Glenn . Gould. So she did. It was recognized and not received well at the audition.
Yes, but we're talking about mimicking a concert pianist as a pedagogical device, not to fix your interpretation along those lines. If you want to, you can attempt to mimic multiple concert pianists.

I think it's healthy to mimic other people's playing and steal their ideas. You shouldn't go all out and simply copy all of the time, but how else will you broaden your horizons? You may never get the idea to play something a certain way unless you copy a certain concert pianist who managed to get that sound.

There is something to be said about not going overboard with that though, and I thought I would mention one of my favorite interviews of all time, Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFNMw3GW3Ng
.

If you think it’s good to mimic rather than absorb, carry on with what you are doing. IMO, listening to several performances and analyzing the differences in interpretation would be much more instructive.

What's the difference between listening to different interpretations and mimicking them? I still think that the latter is more instructive because you might realize ways of playing that you hadn't thought of earlier.

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I was not suggesting mimicking anyone. Sorry Im not able to explain it better for you to consider a different approach.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by 24000rpm
in my untrained ear, i found Gould's style has a lot of staccatos, even the original sheet doesn't mark as so,
and of course hi lines of voice separation is crystal clear

Thats an excellent point. So if you are referring to Bach, most of his scores dont mention where to play staccato. In fact many things are not written at all. There are no dynamics either (for obvious reasons). That is typically a composer that requires that you understand his stylistic components, assuming you would want to remain somehow faithfull to his style. Now the level of separation is not always the same for all pianists. But there is a fair consensus for some pieces. Learning how to play Bach is not something you can do on your own. You need a teacher and guidance and examples to understand.

When it comes to Gould, he is known to overuse staccato, even when it is not necessary. Of course in his case it is a deliberate choice made with a full knowledge of Bach style and his own biaises and their musical effect. Gould was looking at showing at best the underlying contrapunctal architecture of the piece. As such he privileged clear separation of voices and little legato. When you listen to various versions on the net, you do need to have a minimum of understanding of what you are listening to. Of course many people play simple pieces of Bach for the purpose of developping hand coordination and other skills but are usually not that aware of stylistic constraints. You develop your musical maturity over time by taking scores and trying to understand how to play them and comparing with other versions. For some things, there are different options but that does not mean that anything is good ....

When i was studying advanced math, i would learn the theory but then when actually trying to do an exercice i would be unable. I would need to look at the solution and understand how the theory should be applied to solve the problem. And then i understood how to use it. I think music is not different. Once you have the basics, You need to hear the various solutions taken by interprets to understand how to translate a specific score into a leaving interpretation. Generic concepts are usefull but you need practical hand on cases.

I dont have a rigid predefined rule as to listen before or after. I think again if you have no clue about how to play a piece, listen first. It will avoid you to waist time, and as i said there is nothing wrong with copying a good version. If you already have good basis, you can work it out on your own and listen when you have doubts or need guidance or to check if your view is somehow valid. If you have a teacher, of course you will do that work with him/her.

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Originally Posted by BruceD
I would suggest that some would consider that there is a considerable difference between a teacher illustrating a phrase and discussing ways of interpreting it and sitting there and playing an entire piece for the student. I don't think that is what most (good) teachers do.

I think that a good teacher gives the students the tools to work with and requires that the student use those tools to figure out some things for him/herself. Otherwise, how is there to be personal growth and development?

On the other hand, if the student is playing literature that is beyond the beginner level and if that student already has the notes well in hand, then I don't see anything untoward if the teacher were to say: "You should listen to what Rubinstein does with this," or "Have you heard Gould's unorthodox take on this?"

Situational context counts.
That is exactly my take on this conundrum.

If the student is unable to comprehend what the teacher is asking him to do, the teacher 'illustrates' by playing the offending bit - maybe a few notes, maybe a few bars. A far cry from playing the whole piece for the student, or the student listening to the whole piece played by someone else before starting to learn it.

Once learnt, it's always a good idea to listen widely to see what other pianists come up with. I well remember my last teacher being pleasantly surprised by the way I played the coda of Schumann's Arabeske (in my voicing and rubato) - he asked me to repeat it so he could assimilate it properly. Even a teacher can learn interesting new things from his students........


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If you're in Suzuki music, you're learning your pieces partly out of CDs at the back of the Suzuki Books.

When we're practicing a piece, we all practice slow. Listening to pieces (especially technical ones) would give us some indication how much faster to push.

When we get into pieces that are not originally for solo piano we want to compare the arrangements against original performances.

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Haven't there been studies which show that songbirds raised in isolation can sing, but not very well? They learn to sing by listening to adults and getting feedback from their mothers.

I don't know much about this field, of course. I just remember seeing this study ages ago, and felt sorry for the poor birds that were raised in isolation. A quick google search shows lots of results.

Seems to me we could use this example to make a decision about becoming musicians...

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I don't listen to piano recordings because after more than a half century of listening, I've heard it already!

But on a serious note I would never listen to somebody else to get tips on how to play a piece. If I am merely repeating what somebody else has done, why bother? If I need know how a piece sounds I open the score and (sight)read it.

Honestly at this point in my peculiar piano journey I don't want any outside influences. I'm searching for my own style. It isn't easy and requires copious amounts of quiet contemplation.


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Originally Posted by Fidel
I don't listen to piano recordings because after more than a half century of listening, I've heard it already!

But on a serious note I would never listen to somebody else to get tips on how to play a piece. If I am merely repeating what somebody else has done, why bother? If I need know how a piece sounds I open the score and (sight)read it.

Honestly at this point in my peculiar piano journey I don't want any outside influences. I'm searching for my own style.
Assuming you'd agree that some performances are superior to your own, don't you think you could learn something from them?

My guess is most professionals listen to other performances, although for some it is only after they've learned a piece. For most pieces in the standard repertoire they've already heard many performances before they start learning a work. And I assume after listening to other performances they get some new ideas that they incorporate into their own playing.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Fidel
I don't listen to piano recordings because after more than a half century of listening, I've heard it already!

But on a serious note I would never listen to somebody else to get tips on how to play a piece. If I am merely repeating what somebody else has done, why bother? If I need know how a piece sounds I open the score and (sight)read it.

Honestly at this point in my peculiar piano journey I don't want any outside influences. I'm searching for my own style.
Assuming you'd agree that some performances are superior to your own, don't you think you could learn something from them?

My guess is most professionals listen to other performances, although for some it is only after they've learned a piece. For most pieces in the standard repertoire they've already heard many performances before they start learning a work. And I assume after listening to other performances they get some new ideas that they incorporate into their own playing.

Absolutely you can get new ideas from listening. What I find wrong is for a student to listen and copy what is done by someone without any thought of whether the decision is supported by the score: I.s. He emphasized that note, I need to emphasize that note.

That process is not learning how to analyze and form an interpretation, but learning how to copy.


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Are we saying then for example that a piece by Beethoven we should not strive to play it the way he did?

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Originally Posted by Sam S
Haven't there been studies which show that songbirds raised in isolation can sing, but not very well? They learn to sing by listening to adults and getting feedback from their mothers.

Totally OT but:
- My parents had a canary. While watching tv in the evening, invariably someone got up when the microwave beeped, to get out the other person's coffee. Empty. It had been the canary.
- Our own roller had a beautiful song that it regularly interspersed with ugly squawks learned from some outside birds. It had no "musical taste" and was simply some kind of random-generating tape recorder
- Our last offspring, which tried to sing while still a ball of fluff, got sold to a pet shop owner who spoiled him, and named him McNeil - because of all the music she exposed him to, he loved Rita McNeil the most. McNeil was an orphan btw: parent died just as he had learned to get his own food.

Have you heard of the whales? cool
Years ago we watched a documentary about one breed of whales, which an expert had been following for a decade, learning the language of their music in detail. In this species there was a repertoire that had to be learned; then improvised with embellishments; and sung through a cycle that could be akin to sung in an array of keys. The whale that did the most perfect, but complex version, got the females - who did not sing, but had a fine and discerning whale-musical ear.

Are these whales closer to this thing we're talking about? Or do they relate to the time of Bach, when musicians improvised, and jazz, where they still do?

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Apologies if this has been mentioned earlier (I can't read the whole thread) but here's a very interesting recent article in the New York Times on how a pianist studied prior recordings of a piece by Liszt before recording it. The article (it may be behind a paywall) has excerpts of phrases comparing prior recordings and the new one. Very interesting read!

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/arts/music/benjamin-grosvenor-piano-liszt-classical-music.html

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Originally Posted by jjo
Apologies if this has been mentioned earlier (I can't read the whole thread) but here's a very interesting recent article in the New York Times on how a pianist studied prior recordings of a piece by Liszt before recording it. The article (it may be behind a paywall) has excerpts of phrases comparing prior recordings and the new one. Very interesting read!

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/arts/music/benjamin-grosvenor-piano-liszt-classical-music.html
Just in case anyone gets the idea from the article that Grosvenor listened to several celebrated pianists before he started learning the Liszt from scratch, the opposite is true - he first performed it in concert when he was about 15 (I have a recording from a BBC Radio 3 broadcast from around that time), and he's continued to listen to other performers since then.

His new CD recording is strikingly very similar to his teenage live performance. I don't know how old he was when he first learnt it, but I get the impression that no matter how many other performances he listens to after learning pieces, he'd already made up his mind about his conception of those pieces. I have a CD that he made when he was ten (called, appropriately, "Ben at 10"), and it's striking how he played many pieces with that kind of early 20th century 'style' - even though at the time, he'd not heard recordings of those pianists.


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Originally Posted by jjo
Apologies if this has been mentioned earlier (I can't read the whole thread) but here's a very interesting recent article in the New York Times on how a pianist studied prior recordings of a piece by Liszt before recording it. The article (it may be behind a paywall) has excerpts of phrases comparing prior recordings and the new one. Very interesting read!

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/arts/music/benjamin-grosvenor-piano-liszt-classical-music.html

Well in the case of Grosvenor, obviously other performances fuel his imagination and he gets inspired to try certain things he may not have thought of otherwise. I guess other pianists may think otherwise.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by jjo
Apologies if this has been mentioned earlier (I can't read the whole thread) but here's a very interesting recent article in the New York Times on how a pianist studied prior recordings of a piece by Liszt before recording it. The article (it may be behind a paywall) has excerpts of phrases comparing prior recordings and the new one. Very interesting read!

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/arts/music/benjamin-grosvenor-piano-liszt-classical-music.html
Just in case anyone gets the idea from the article that Grosvenor listened to several celebrated pianists before he started learning the Liszt from scratch, the opposite is true - he first performed it in concert when he was about 15 (I have a recording from a BBC Radio 3 broadcast from around that time), and he's continued to listen to other performers since then.
How do you know he didn't listen to recordings when he first learned this piece at 15? And didn't his teacher at the time undoubtedly offer advice about playing the piece? This is equivalent to listening to recordings IMO. Don't you think Grosvenor had probably heard many recordings/live performances of the piece before he started learning it or even decided to learn it?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 02/22/21 04:59 PM.
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