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#1195845 - 05/08/09 07:31 PM How to demonstrate perfect physicality
Steve B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Canada
If anyone's had the same problem I've had with getting students to "relax," check out this video of Valentina Lisitsa playing La Campanella.



My first thought was "her hands must be huge!" The pedal tones and octave leaps in the first section have me shooting my hand frantically up and down the keyboard, but she seems to grip them all in one hand! The fact is, what she's showing here is perfect flexibility through a relaxed mechanism.

Also, the lighting of this particular concert is great, because you can see the exact interplay between her upper back, shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist and hand through the entire performance. The shading is just right to watch each muscle group as it functions in drawing out an incredible amount of tone with a subtle amount of actual effort...a terrific demonstration you should definitely get your advanced students to study carefully!

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#1196327 - 05/09/09 06:43 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: Steve B]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Steve,

I don't think watching her will help students at all. But I agree that people who already play very well should pay attention.

She reminds me of Agerich and a few more female "marvels" I've seen. Women, because they do not have as much physical strength (in general), have to do everything right to acheive such power, among other things.

Men are more likely to try to "muscle it through" and often succeed in younger years but cannot sustain it later in life.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#1196372 - 05/09/09 08:23 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: Gary D.]
Steve B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Canada
I'm particularly thinking of advanced students. I was lucky enough to study at a university that often had master classes with people like Andre LaPlante, Marc-Andre Hamelin and Jamie Parker, so seeing this stuff first-hand was definitely valuable as a senior player.

No, I don't think an 8 year old would find this useful smile And you're right, female players seem to have a clearer delivery of this kind of execution...I remember seeing Naida Cole in concert; a little waif of a thing, just 19 years old (and she had the flu at the time!), playing the Grieg Concerto. She broke a string on the Steinway in that performance. Brilliant!

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#1196494 - 05/10/09 01:48 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: Steve B]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Sit up and take notice you hold-a-ballers! (not so sure about her shoulders though)
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196506 - 05/10/09 02:09 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
I also thought her shoulders were tight, most likely not enough to cause serious physical problems, but certainly not the best for posture and spine!

Marc-Andre Hamelin is so incredibly talented physically that I can't tell much of anything by watching him. But what I like the most from watching him is how well he plays, using music and a page-turner. I would use him as a first-class example of how ridiculous the idea is that music can't be performed with great polish without playing it from memory. smile
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#1196508 - 05/10/09 02:14 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: Gary D.]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
It's always worth remembering that what a performer does on the platform may not necessarily bear a lot comparison to their daily 'workouts'. Another reason for not taking videos as gospel.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196510 - 05/10/09 02:24 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
But I do think that we can take videos of performances as accurate representations of what said performers think is necessary to be effective in public, and to me that says something important: watch what people do before you listen to what they SAY they do.
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Piano Teacher

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#1196512 - 05/10/09 02:29 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: Gary D.]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
watch what people do before you listen to what they SAY they do.
I'd have to say yes and no depending on your own state of knowledge and what you're looking for. But if you watch anything it needs to be where they are 100% in control i.e. in their own studios.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196518 - 05/10/09 02:42 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Speaking of this piece...I must have heard it played a dozen times at local competitions this year. Why are kids as young as 10 years old playiing this??? This piece is so beyond them...technically and musically.

It's nice to hear a professional playing this piece so effortlessly. And with such beauty.
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#1196542 - 05/10/09 04:46 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: AZNpiano]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
I don't think that you can demonstrate "perfect physicality." No more than you can demonstrate perfect musicality.

You can't show a video of, say, Horowitz playing and then say "now play like this" or "strive to play like this". Neither can you say, "now hold your hands like this", or "relax your musculature like this". Not to a child beginner, nor to an adult.

These things come from inside. It is up to the teacher to help a student find himself, his physical self, as well as his artistic or musical self. Even with a child student, the problem of a teacher is always to have him look inside himself and discover what is possible and also the difficulties that he has to affront.

The problem of relaxation, of position, is exactly there, it is never a question of sitting like that or like this, or holding or moving the hands in such or such a manner. It is a problem to become conscious of one's body, of one's musculature, one's weigth, one's tension. This demands a certain maturity of a child student, no doubt. But heck, isn't that what studying music is about?

The teaching of music is a human link. In my opinion the use of videos is in general not a positive thing for it turns everybody away from the essential: the teacher and the student.

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#1196546 - 05/10/09 04:55 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: landorrano]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: landorrano
Even with a child student, the problem of a teacher is always to have him look inside himself and discover what is possible and also the difficulties that he has to affront.

...This demands a certain maturity of a child student, no doubt. But heck, isn't that what studying music is about?

...The teaching of music is a human link. In my opinion the use of videos is in general not a positive thing for it turns everybody away from the essential: the teacher and the student.
And that is the problem with young children - their bodies are so new they often just want to play with them rather than 'look inside' to operate them effectively.

You must have missed my 'Some folks think they can learn something from Youtube' thread! http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/577652/1.html
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196551 - 05/10/09 05:08 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
Yeah, I didn't see that. I'll have a look later on.

However, I don't think that is a problem specifically with young children, more than anyone else. How many adults are running around, trying to find a yoga master to teach them to relax so that they can go to the bathroom everyday?

In my experience, in the teacher-childstudent relationship, the difficulty is above all the teacher and the parents, who want the kids to "play piano".

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#1196553 - 05/10/09 05:14 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: landorrano]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Yoga! You've hit on my bet noir! I do yoga at home so I can concentrate on balance and proprioception in my own time. How many go to classes to be told what to do?
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196603 - 05/10/09 09:02 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
lilylady Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/17/05
Posts: 4974
Loc: boston north
Yes, Lisitsa does have large strong hands. A couple of us compared them in person. I realize that stretch is not the same as hand size, but here is a pic of my hand next to Valentina's.

Each finger was slighty longer, the 4th and 5th being even more so. Not seen in the pic was that her thumb was also noticably longer.

I reach a ninth fairly comfortably.



Here playing with her husband.



And yes, she plays very relaxed! wow

The keyboard is an extension of her.





_________________________
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."

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#1196724 - 05/10/09 01:30 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Yoga! You've hit on my bet noir! I do yoga at home so I can concentrate on balance and proprioception in my own time. How many go to classes to be told what to do?


That's bĂȘte noire.

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#1196726 - 05/10/09 01:34 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Yoga! You've hit on my bet noir! I do yoga at home so I can concentrate on balance and proprioception in my own time. How many go to classes to be told what to do?


proprioception, is that like constipation?

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#1196749 - 05/10/09 02:15 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: landorrano]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: landorrano
That's bĂȘte noire.
There ya go, ya learn something every day!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196755 - 05/10/09 02:22 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: landorrano]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: landorrano

proprioception, is that like constipation?
For some.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1196790 - 05/10/09 03:38 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: keyboardklutz]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
I think that if you came across Horowitz and you said, "I've been watching your video from Carnegie Hall 1968, I've really learned a lot about that piece", "I've been trying to play like that" or "it's helped me a lot", or "I've been studying your hand position" ...

... He'd either

a) laugh, and say, God, I really was out of form that night ! What an embarassement that everybody is watching that on YouTube, I don't know how they can think that that is music!
or
b) laugh, and say why you silly fool, you want to learn how to play bad, then just watch and try to do as I do. You want to play as well as possible, listen to me and enjoy yourself, and then go home and forget me. Listen to yourself. Listen to your teacher. Listen to your composer. Just forget Horowitz.
or
c) ball you out, and say get out of my way, I don't have time for this nonsense.

If you managed to get on his good side and he invited you to his apartment for a lesson he'd tell you and show you things, none of which you had imagined he might say.


Edited by landorrano (05/10/09 03:41 PM)

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#1198403 - 05/13/09 10:05 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: landorrano]
Steve B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/09
Posts: 48
Loc: Canada
Excellent discussion! Of course, what I'm really getting at is I've often had trouble explaining "relax" to even my senior students, so a good visual demonstration is a extremely valuable aid to this process.

My biggest peeve is when teachers allow young students to tackle repertoire intended for the highest level of virtuoso. I have a dozen recordings of La Campanella (including Horowitz), and this performance by Valentina is a curiousity in that it is both one of the most flamboyantly virtuosic and one of the most aesthetically pleasing performances I've ever heard.

I have a single flaw that prevents this work from being easily within my grasp: on both hands my 5th finger just reaches the lower edge of the distal joint on my 4th finger. With flexibility I can grab a minor 10th (to a black key), but need to force the stretch to hit a major 10th (C to E, for example). So works with the 4-5 trill or auxilliary above an octave become physically quite taxing (this, and the Scherzo's Coda from Brahms' F# Minor Sonata, for example).


To see an artist who gives away nothing in his physical approach to the instrument, check out Anton Kuerti. Monster technique that is so effortless it's scary.

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#1198434 - 05/13/09 11:03 AM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: Steve B]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2443
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Steve B
Excellent discussion! Of course, what I'm really getting at is I've often had trouble explaining "relax" to even my senior students, so a good visual demonstration is a extremely valuable aid to this process.



Steve B

I am happy to hear that you undertake to adresse this problem with your students. I have been continually dissapointed at the teachers who have their little students banging away at the piano, tied up like knots, and they don't take the time to work on this problem, which is not, of course, resolved with a couple of words in passing.

To me it is a proof that you are a good teacher, something that is apparent in the general tone of your posts. I'm sure that all of your students gain a real insight, and that many are motivated by you.

This said, I don't believe that this video is "an extremely valuable aid" for you. I think that you are giving false credit to Madame Valentina. You can take the credit yourself, even if you aren't one ten-thousandth the pianist that she is.

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#1200440 - 05/16/09 01:46 PM Re: How to demonstrate perfect physicality [Re: landorrano]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4393
Loc: San Jose, CA
I saw Valentina in concert recently, in a very small hall. Man, did she tear that stage up. Her posture when playing is unique in my experience; she almost crouches into the keyboard. She gets a tone all right. Don't let the evening gown (with a train!) fool you, hers is a very athletic keyboard performance. Yet I'm not so sure that it would be right for students to emulate--- it might put some of us in a wheelchair within a few years.

I have a sense there's more than meets the eye (or Handi-Cam) in this. Since someone mentioned yoga, I can say that movements which appear identical to the observer's eye, can be completely different based on the inner posture, movement of energy, and breath. One can be beneficial, the other quite destructive. The difference is, the right instruction from someone who really knows. Reading a book, seeing a video, or watching from a concert hall seat is not the way to get there.

But with that precaution, we definitely all can learn from someone like her. It was not only a technical and athletic marvel in its way, but a very musical and satisfying artistic performance as well. Four encores. Even she was wearing out after the last one.

Nothing can take the place, for a student, of seeing live performance by such brilliant talents.
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Clef


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