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#1080388 - 07/07/07 05:24 PM What does it feel like to play ?
ClassicalImproviser Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 77
Loc: Boston, MA
This is a really random question, but I was just wondering what it feels like for people to play piano.

If I have a good practice I feel pretty good about it. It takes me a while to get past the feeling bad about it, but I noticed today that I feel better about the whole thing after all my frustration with reading the music and memorizing. The more the notes get under your fingers the more it just feels like music.

So, what does it feel like to play for you? Any similar experiences or observations?

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#1080389 - 07/07/07 05:39 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Nomadness Offline
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Registered: 04/05/07
Posts: 145
Loc: Friday Harbor, WA
Good question, CI.

I'm enough of a newbie (7 months) that I'm still very conscious of this transition. Most of my practice is yet somewhat painful on some level ("Dang it, why is this part so hard?"), and I am by no means quick on the uptake where sight-reading is involved... even with simple stuff. I'm just starting to play pieces that are interesting enough to listen to, but it takes a long time to internalize them.

But now and then there are moments.

The most recent is Gillock's Aeolian Harp, which I discovered thanks to a post in this forum by Atropos. Between the posted recording and the blurry preview page from sheetmusicplus I learned the first half, and when the score finally arrived I eagerly dove in and finished getting it under my fingers the same evening.

Then over the next week or so a most amazing thing happened. I started really hearing the music instead of thinking about the notes, stopped looking at the page, and found myself expressing feeling. Nuances of pedal timing to eliminate the abrupt break between chordal structures, delicate rubato, little silences shaped by emotion instead of mental grappling, and even that lift-and-drop dance of the hands that my teacher has been trying to get me to do. Ah. It has to come from within. Of course.

Now I want to go back to some of the pieces I learned stiffly and take them to this level. It's quite delicious.

Cheers,
Steve
_________________________
Nomadic Research Labs
PX-5S aboard sailboat

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#1080390 - 07/07/07 06:52 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I'd say for me that 75% of the time, playing the piano feels relaxing and pleasurable, like soaking in a nice jacuzzi tub or how you feel right after, er, some intense cuddling with a significant other. ;\) Maybe 15% of the time I feel very task-oriented and tense, such as when I'm going over a complicated section for the first time and concentrating very hard on getting the notes and rhythm right. 5% of the time nothing goes right and I walk away from the bench in disgust. The other 5% of the time I'm playing in public and feeling terrified.
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#1080391 - 07/07/07 07:12 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
ClassicalImproviser Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 77
Loc: Boston, MA
I started playing when I was 9 and then I gave it up for oboe and picked it up again when I was 16. I'm 20 now, so I've been playing for the past 4 years "consistently." When I was 16 I started improvising a lot and so what happened was I put more effort into that than studying classical and I hated studying music like that because it felt like all I was doing was reading the notes and trying to get the fingerings. Now, I feel like I understand more and more what is so wonderful and divine about the piano.

Now I have to learn how to balance studying pieces and improvising (time wise, because I already use pieces to help me improvise).

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#1080392 - 07/07/07 07:17 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
[off-topic] ClassicalImproviser, I've heard that the oboe is about one of the most difficult orchestra instruments to learn. How would you say it compares to piano?[/off-topic]
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#1080393 - 07/07/07 07:29 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
elainelynn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/01/07
Posts: 210
Loc: Michigan
Playing the piano has always been an emotional outlet for me. It can feel like crying. It can feel like laughing. It can feel like flying. Sorry if that sounds trite but that's really how it feels for me.

I'm not saying I feel those things every single time I sit down at the piano; Lord knows I've had my fair share of frustrating practice sessions.

It also feels like a great accomplishment - nothing feels better than when that piece you've been working on (for what seems like forever) finally starts to come together.

Elaine

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#1080394 - 07/07/07 07:38 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
ClassicalImproviser Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 77
Loc: Boston, MA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica Kern:
[off-topic] ClassicalImproviser, I've heard that the oboe is about one of the most difficult orchestra instruments to learn. How would you say it compares to piano?[/off-topic] [/b]
Hahahahaha. Actually I thought it was a lot easier. I only had one staff to read. But I guess that's just me saying that music is reading and it isn't. I did pretty well on oboe though. Superior in 7th grade and 3 excellents in 8th. I don't think I did so well in 9th haha. But, the oboe is a wonderful instrument that I miss dearly.

You can't practice for very long on oboe when you start out your lips get too tired. But oboe has a distinct tone and it's supposed to sound like an oboe. But when I play piano pieces my teacher points out like different orchestral parts as if we're orchestrating it almost. "This is the full orchestra, this is the soloist." So, with oboe you don't really have to evoke all these different instruments and what not and it's not really about the arms and fingers as much as it is the mouth. So, it's very different and I love them both \:\) Feel free to ask more questions if you'd like.

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#1080395 - 07/07/07 07:44 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Anonymous
Unregistered


When I play the piano I like hearing the music come out, but I am really into how the keys feel. I love having the keys under my fingers and I love watching my fingers play the keys.

But repeating myself I just like when everything goes right and the feeling in my fingers made good music. I want the two to match. I want each key to feel balanced when I play it. I want to know exactly where I will feel that note. Wierd, Huh?

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#1080396 - 07/07/07 08:23 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
ClassicalImproviser Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/07
Posts: 77
Loc: Boston, MA
 Quote:
Originally posted by karenabcde:
When I play the piano I like hearing the music come out, but I am really into how the keys feel. I love having the keys under my fingers and I love watching my fingers play the keys.

But repeating myself I just like when everything goes right and the feeling in my fingers made good music. I want the two to match. I want each key to feel balanced when I play it. I want to know exactly where I will feel that note. Wierd, Huh? [/b]
I think that's wonderful not weird! I think that's what I need to work on haha.
I like watching my hands play too. If I'm on a shiny piano I can see the reflection of my hands, but sometimes it throws me off :p

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#1080397 - 07/08/07 01:08 AM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
When I am at my best each key feels like a giant iceberg I am bobbing down. Is that anything to do with yours karenabcde?

I was also an oboist. Living in London I was able to have a famous player for my teacher - which was nice. Compared to playing the piano the oboe is as easy as falling out of bed. With the piano it's all those notes at once. The oboe - running fingers up and down a tube is so intuitive.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#1080398 - 07/08/07 04:41 AM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2160
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi CI \:\)

I find it helps me relax and unwind, I also find it an addiction from which there seems no escape!

I can find it very emotional, although many times I find it plain old fun and most of the time I wish I just had more time.

I love playing for hours in my own little "headphoned world" and I love playing out and about too. I love creating sing-a-longs (with people I don't even know) and I love the power I have (at times) to effect the emotions of people who listen to me play (it can be such a powerful thing!! )

regards


Lee \:\)
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#1080399 - 07/08/07 05:01 AM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Johan B Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/07
Posts: 922
Loc: The Netherlands, Grootegast-Gr...
 Quote:
Originally posted by elainelynn:
Playing the piano has always been an emotional outlet for me. It can feel like crying. It can feel like laughing. It can feel like flying.

Elaine [/b]
I stopped perform music and playing churchorgan when I was at the age of 37. I started when I was 9 or 10.
Last year when I was 53, I had a terrible time \:\( , **** about my job. In november 2006 I rediscovered music as a way to let my feelings go. I played a short period on my old keyboard.

In spring I bought my DP. I am playing more than two hours a day.......my wife can hear if I'm sad or happy.

Life changed in a positive way............Music is a big part of my life again. \:D
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#1080400 - 07/08/07 09:04 AM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
dannylux Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 1815
Loc: Connecticut
 Quote:
Originally posted by karenabcde:
I love having the keys under my fingers and I love watching my fingers play the keys.[/b]
Me too.

My main feeling playing the piano is joy.

It doesn't matter in the slightest if the piece is sad or happy, for me it's a joy to play.

On those days when my fingers just aren't working right, I either remind myself that this is the way it is for today-tomorrow will be better, or I switch to playing scales, which always produces joy.

When I'm learning a new piece and things are difficult, I remind myself that it's only a matter of time and practice (self discipline, learning to delay gratification).

Eventually, I'll be able to play it and feel the piece in my fingers and body.


Mel
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"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn

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#1080401 - 07/08/07 09:40 AM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I shall be watching this thread with interest. When I first read the title I got a little excited - I'm interested in how others perceive their physiology when playing (see my previous post). Typically for me, everybody else equates feeling with emotion. I can't quite get my head round it.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
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#1080402 - 07/08/07 01:12 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
TThomas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/24/06
Posts: 545
Loc: Richmond, VA
 Quote:
I shall be watching this thread with interest.
I agree, it is interesting to see the varying feelings one instrument can prompt. I'm anxious to hear what others will have to say!

For me, there's quite a range in what I feel. When I start to learn a piece, it's like trying to solve one of those puzzles out of a logic puzzle book or a complex math problem (which I'm not especially gifted in!) if that makes any sense. So, it starts out more mental for me and I really enjoy that part of it.
Then as I learn technically, it allows me to feel more of the emotional part of playing and that gives me the most joy, whether it is a fun, upbeat piece or more laid back. Playing music was a big part of my life for many years and I always missed it when I got caught up in life stuff and stopped playing. Now that I am learning piano, it evokes the very same things inside me that I felt many years ago but I can't really pinpoint what it is or put a word on it. But, you've given me something to think on because I'd like to figure it out! \:\)

Tina
_________________________
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

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#1080403 - 07/08/07 01:29 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Keyboardklutz:

Physiology is important to everything we do at the piano - we are the instrument that plays the instrument - and our movements and emotions must be closely in tune with the composers intentions if playing classical music, but still this would be the same if you were improvising.

The music is carried by our emotional state and our neurological and physiological movements. When we are not yet connected in these ways, we hear the mistakes, feel our efforts, and are uncomfortable and frustrated.

If well trained and well thought out, you should be an incredible outcome when you play. If the music is still underconstruction and needing analysis, these things will not yet be in place, and the sound and flow we are not yet getting will show that.

We as musicians are a product of our repetitious patterning and musical experiences, everything we have in our personal tool-boxes!

I am able to look at the music, sightread well, with a very good musical outcome. This always amazes me because I am simply moving ahead on the music to the next beat and my brain picks up all the details of my vision and produces this music. I am a spectator of what I am doing, it comes through my mind and body magically as I am usually not thinking a thing, I am listening. I guess this is a product of my preparation over the years. But I am very grateful, because I spent many years in examining all the componet parts to making and understanding music.

I hope you don't think this is bragging, I am reporting the outcome of many years of of my own piano study and then being a teacher. It truly is a gift to me and I think "evolution" would be a good word to explain it.

For choreography and physiological information, Seymour Bernstein wrote several books that are very helpful. If you are interested I can list them in another post to you.

Betty

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#1080404 - 07/08/07 03:18 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
funburger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/27/06
Posts: 1417
i feel much the same way as monica without getting into any further details ;\)
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#1080405 - 07/08/07 04:29 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4372
Loc: Jersey Shore
When I play without thinking, I know I'm really playing...

Does that make any sense?

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#1080406 - 07/08/07 04:51 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
TThomas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/24/06
Posts: 545
Loc: Richmond, VA
 Quote:
When I play without thinking, I know I'm really playing...

Does that make any sense?
Yup....good one! I haven't reached that even close with piano but did with clarinet, so I think I know what you mean \:\)
Kind of like what Betty Patnude said, how she is not so much thinking, rather listening to her playing.

Tina
_________________________
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

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#1080407 - 07/08/07 04:58 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 516
Loc: So.Cal.USA
[I wrote this in a thread last year, but it seems relevant here too ...]

I read a review in The New Yorker of a book called "The Happiness Hypothesis," by J. Haidt, which looks at what happiness is and how it’s achieved. I haven’t read the book itself yet. But I was struck by this description, in the review, of a study the book talks about:

“The study showed that people were most content when they were experiencing what [researcher Mihaly] Csikzentmihalyi called ‘flow’ — in Haidt’s definition, ‘the state of total immersion in a task that is challenging yet closely matched to one’s abilities.’ We are at our happiest when we are absorbed in what we are doing; the most useful way of regarding happiness is, to borrow a phrase of Clive James’s, as ‘a by-product of absorption.’”

That’s exactly how I feel practicing the piano. Almost literally, it’s as if I fall *through* the practicing into that Zen-like state of absorption. I don’t even consciously think of myself as being happy at the time, but clearly I am. It’s what brings me back to the piano day after day.

I can definitely see, in my own practicing, that getting to that state of absorption requires both of the elements described in the study: the task has to be challenging, but it can’t be too far out of the reach of my abilities at the time. If it’s too easy, or too hard, I lose interest. But if I can keep riding that edge between the two -- like keeping a surfboard in the sweet spot of a wave, I imagine, although I’m not a surfer -- then I can be completely absorbed for hours, hardly noticing the time. And I make progress because the reach of my abilities grows a little bit each time. I’m ready for more challenge, or a different challenge, the next time.

I think that for a great many people who play and who stick with it, this is what they find at the piano. It’s that absorption, and the happiness that comes with it. It’s a sweet, powerful, enduring, benevolent drug.

What makes practice hard for beginners is that with limited skills in hand, the edge between “challenging” and yet “closely matched to one’s abilities” is razor-thin. It’s very easy to fall off that wave. So practicing yields more frustration than absorption. The trick - and it’s not an easy one - is to find a sweet spot, even just a little one at first, that will hold interest, long enough so that the student forgets the passage of time. Once that happens, there’s no turning back.

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#1080408 - 07/08/07 05:22 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4372
Loc: Jersey Shore
 Quote:
Originally posted by TThomas:
 Quote:
When I play without thinking, I know I'm really playing...

Does that make any sense?
Yup....good one! I haven't reached that even close with piano but did with clarinet, so I think I know what you mean \:\)
Kind of like what Betty Patnude said, how she is not so much thinking, rather listening to her playing.

Tina [/b]
It doesn't happen too often, but I'm working on it... \:D

Mike that really hits the nail on the head. It sums what I have been going through...thanks
Its also what makes method books work...

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#1080409 - 07/08/07 06:16 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Nomadness Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/07
Posts: 145
Loc: Friday Harbor, WA
I have played the flute most of my life, although never formally; I'm just now learning to read music. In a long-ago book I described the sweet spot that Mike mentioned thus:

...seeking and quickly finding that precise balance between too much and too little attention. I became a focused listener, absorbed in the sound without fully realizing that I was the one making it, guiding it gently with humor and expectation.

I am yet very far from reaching that point on the piano, alas, but I can sense it somewhere out there...

-Steve
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#1080410 - 07/09/07 01:08 PM Re: What does it feel like to play ?
Margareth Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/04/05
Posts: 99
Loc: Estonia
Sometimes I know a piece very well it feels like fingers find the right keys themselves - that's a good feeling
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