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Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
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#2007577 - 01/01/13 05:20 PM What is good piano technique and performance?
Mohannad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 79
Hello, I am a beginner, 16 years old, no teacher, been playing by ear (pop) for a few months, recently started learning to read and play classical. - Just some background information.

I am having some difficulty understanding, what is good piano technique. I listen to a virtuoso pianist performing something like Für Elise, and then I listen to an amateur pianist performing the same piece, there is a difference, differences in dynamics, articulation evenness of tone. I see people criticizing a performance, and praising another, but I can't tell whether something is a bad performance or bad interpretation. Provided that the notes and rhythm and anything indicated on the score is correct, the piece is being played
correctly, then there is the rest which is up to you, your interpretation. I sometimes watch a video of a piano teacher explaining something to someone, and they say that something is wrong, this note is important, it should be more pronounced than that, the composer meant this not that, but I really didn't hear a problem with what the student did.

Take a look at these two performances of the same piece:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QB7ugJnHgs

and then this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIIwhoPmI9A

What exactly is being done different in each one?

I believe that the score tells you:

1 - The notes
2 - The rhythm
3 - Basic dynamics
4 - Basic articulation

I am looking for a general list of the things to pay attention to after learning a piece that will make my performance a good performance. I haven't learned much classical yet (I am waiting for my digital piano to arrive).

So after getting the notes, rhythm, dynamics and articulation right, what are the things I should be paying attention to and doing to make my playing good. I am a beginner, the only classical piece I can play is Fur Elise, including the middle section but excluding the end, I play it quite horribly on a real piano since I initially learned on the keyboard, but I am just giving a general idea of my hand independence and physical ability.

I want to learn to play Turkish March, and I am very very certain that I can do it, but people seem to say that you shouldn't skip to higher level pieces, I haven't learned any grade 1, 2, 3, 4 pieces, I don't take lessons and I don't have exams since I am only learning as a hobby and because I love it.

Now if I were to learn to play Turkish March, and skip to it, provided that I can get the notes and rhythm right with what ever basic dynamics and articulation are dictated in the score, which I am certain that I can do within a short period of time based on my experience with learning different pieces, what more is there to it?
I know that there is more to it, I know that there is a lot to do with the underlying theory, for example when I am learning a pop arrangement, I know that a certain note is part of an arpeggio and that this chord harmonizes that group of notes, and these basic theory things like I am ending on the tonic, that certain notes are 7ths and 9ths that add tension and that gives me a sense of what I should be hitting louder or softer, or what notes I can just omit.

If I want to learn to play a classical piece, what are the things apart from the things shown in the score that will make my performance a good one? This is my question.

I know that I will have limitations since classical pieces are much more complex, and I don't know much about theory, all I know is basic chord construction, so I wont be able to fully understand the musicality of the piece, but I am certain that there are tonnes of people that perform a piece well without having analysed it or understood everything being done in it prior.

Thank you for your help.


Edited by Mohannad (01/01/13 05:23 PM)

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#2007590 - 01/01/13 05:45 PM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Mohannad]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 813
Music and language are tightly related. Your melody line needs to be a story that you would want to listen to if it were the spoken word. A person talking in a monotone is far less interesting than someone who varies their delivery and far less interesting still than someone who varies their articulation in a way that underscores the meaning of their words.

Music works through building towards and then resolving tension. Use your touch, use your rhythm, tell a story.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2007720 - 01/01/13 11:10 PM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Whizbang]
outo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 796
Loc: Finland
I personally think good technique begins with good tone production and touch which is basically something one has to learn to physically do and learning it takes time. This is why one has to learn easy stuff first. Also basic things include being able to keep pulse and rhythm and have the required undependence of hands and fingers.

When one has the basic physical technique down one can start working on interpretation. That's about knowing what is essential in the music of an era/composer and what can one do differently without going too far. Also there are things that are not notated and one has to decide what and how to do.

To be really able to understand professional pianists' interpretations and the differences seems to require some experience in playing. When you have learned the piece yourself you notice all the little things they do.

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#2008310 - 01/03/13 01:05 AM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Mohannad]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1082
Loc: Southern California
Maybe this same question would get a better response on the pianists forum.

My answer is the use of analogies. The story analogy is a good one. A rhetorical question, what makes for a good movie? Part of it is an emotional connection with the audience. Part of it is taking the audience to another place, so they lose themselves in the movie and can forget the cares of the day.

How does a musician get there? There many elements. Rhythm, tempo and dynamics are part of the equation. There is also the mental, the spiritual connection. This quote from the immortal John Coltrane peeks at that side of it:

"My music is the spiritual expression of what I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being … When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups … I want to speak to their souls."
- John Coltrane

Another Coltrane quote:
"You can play a shoestring if you're sincere"

How does a musician express sincerity? How does a musician bare their soul? How does one go about expressing conviction in their music?

While rhythm, tempo, rubato, dynamics, pedaling form a base for what makes for a good performance there is so much more to being an effective musician and forming that connection with an audience. There are some musicians that are technically near perfect, but can not seem to get audiences to warm up to them. What is missing?

On other instruments, especially wind instruments, tone is a big emphasis.

Like movie critics, part of learning what to appreciate often only comes from watching lots of movies. If a person attends a lot of live performances, they will likely refine their view of what separates one performer from another.
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#2008463 - 01/03/13 10:26 AM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Sand Tiger]
Greener Offline

Platinum Supporter until July 22 2014


Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Sand Tiger

While rhythm, tempo, rubato, dynamics, pedaling form a base for what makes for a good performance there is so much more to being an effective musician and forming that connection with an audience. There are some musicians that are technically near perfect, but can not seem to get audiences to warm up to them. What is missing?


The trouble is not what is missing, but what is in the way.

Of course, do all of the above in your practice but after that, let it go now and let the music play itself.

One needs to get in the zone and let the music flow through them. However, getting to this state only comes after applying all of the disciplines mentioned.

Michael Jackson quote "Get out of the way of music. Let the music write itself"

I believe the same applies for performance. Obviously, not easy advice to absorb as a new musician, but a state we all need to try and get to if we can.


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#2008673 - 01/03/13 06:21 PM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Mohannad]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2430
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
This is an easy question to ask, Mohannad, and an easy one to understand but it is very difficult to answer.

If you could take yourself off to your local library or bookshop and find a copy of E.M. Gombrich's The Story of Art, the introduction would help clarify the difference between a beautiful subject and a beautiful drawing. It doesn't take much learning to spot the difference between a figure study by Raphael and the picture of Mum and Dad on the 'fridge door. (It takes a lot more to understand the different values applied to them.) It's easier to see and analyse the difference between what is physically present in the real world and can be shown but it is harder with something so transient as music. You can't point to the differences and show them.

When we want to evaluate the difference between our own playing and that of a world class pianist the differences may be too small for our notation system to bring them out but they are tangibly there or we would not universally recognise the worth of Horowitz, Schiff, Brendel and co. over lesser pianists. But it takes time to be able to hear them and even longer to be able to identify them.

In the visual arts it takes time to tell the difference between Leonardo's cartoon of the Virgin or Rembrandt's Elephant and the sketches of a gifted amateur. In piano playing it takes a lot of listening to the very best. Not just putting them on the hi-fi or mp3 player but following the score, analysing and really listening.

It doesn't take long to find out who are the great composers and what are their greatest works. Listen to these pieces by the greatest orchestras and the greatest virtuosi and follow great critiques. Soon you will be forming your own judgements and will be able to apply that ability to lesser pieces and lesser performers (or yourself - it's not my intention to belittle your playing) and know a) what the difference is and b) what is needed to change it.
_________________________
Richard

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#2008755 - 01/03/13 09:55 PM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Mohannad]
aTallGuyNH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/22/12
Posts: 509
You have lots of wonderful advice above re: your more general questions, but I'll zero in on this portion since I've struggled with the "why shouldn't I skip?" question as well:

Originally Posted By: Mohannad
I want to learn to play Turkish March, and I am very very certain that I can do it, but people seem to say that you shouldn't skip to higher level pieces, I haven't learned any grade 1, 2, 3, 4 pieces, I don't take lessons and I don't have exams since I am only learning as a hobby and because I love it.

Now if I were to learn to play Turkish March, and skip to it, provided that I can get the notes and rhythm right with what ever basic dynamics and articulation are dictated in the score, which I am certain that I can do within a short period of time based on my experience with learning different pieces, what more is there to it?

Which one though?

Mozart?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1fgo7hp-Ko

Beethoven?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9veUpy_WjxA

For the sake of argument, I'll assume Mozart -- a more interesting piece IMHO.

What you are liable to wind up with is something closer to this, or similar, as your outcome:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx5l--_wFDc

It's basically a display of flat out manual dexterity (with lots of mistakes) at breakneck speed, little to no articulation, dynamics, or musicality. Am I saying I could do better? No... but it's clearly an example of someone who set out to do this piece that seemed so impossible, but he was bound and determined to do it, even though it is clearly way beyond his level.

Mind you -- from everything you say above, I think you would do better than he did here. You would be more thoughtful about the accuracy of the notes, articulation, and so on.

Still -- and exaggerating for the sake of illustration -- starting with Turkish March is like deciding to start painting by doing so at the level of Renoir or Monet, or sculpting as Michelangelo or Rodin did, or cursing to rival Rex Ryan or the father in 'A Christmas Story'. One has to develop from a more modest foundation in order to be a true master.

So.... not what you want to hear, right? And from what you've said above, you've heard others already say "don't skip", right?

For what it's worth, this is coming from someone who has gone down the same path, trying to learn Clair de Lune even though it is clearly not something that any beginner should attempt (curses on you, Hugh Sung smile ), assuming that beginner actually wants to develop into something other than a so-so one-trick pony.

I've done fairly well with Clair de Lune, all things considered, but have not managed to finish it and done so at the expense of having a decent foundation to build on. Now, I'm starting back at the beginning to get those skills built up, brick by brick.

All that said, actually I don't think trying to learn Turkish March (whichever one) is that bad of an idea, just so long as you have reasonable expectations and recognize that the time you spend on it will be at the expense of the time needed to build a solid foundation for yourself for the long term. There's no free lunch to be had by skipping the basics.

Here's where I wound up (quite recently) re: getting myself on the path to long term piano satisfaction vs. overly focused on pieces way over my head.

Final thought...

A couple years from now, do you want to know a small handful of difficult pieces that you can play only passably well? Or would you rather that you not know those pieces (yet) but have given yourself the foundation that will allow you (in a couple more years) to play those pieces, and many more, exceptionally well?
_________________________
"...when you do practice properly, it seems to take no time at all. Just do it right five times or so, and then stop." -- JimF

Working on: my aversion to practicing in front of my wife

1978 Vose & Sons spinet "Rufus"
1914 Huntington upright "Mabel"

XXIX-XXXII

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#2008888 - 01/04/13 08:36 AM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Mohannad]
Mohannad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/12/12
Posts: 79
Thanks a lot for the replies, they were very informative.

And yes I was talking about the Mozart Turkish march, I understood what you meant by building foundation.

I haven't decided if I still want to learn it after reading your reply.


Edited by Mohannad (01/04/13 08:37 AM)

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#2011006 - 01/08/13 05:47 AM Re: What is good piano technique and performance? [Re: Mohannad]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
I think what helped me when I was in your position not too long ago, Mohannad, was to listen to any and all piano compositions I could find. The more I've listened, the more my tastes have not only grown for pieces I'd heard early on but couldn't seem to enjoy, but also for completely different eras of music I didn't think I could enjoy. I can now better listen to and appreciate jazz and modern composers of the 20th century when I was unable to before. As a result of this, more level-relevant pieces (to learn) have also come into focus instead of simply tunnel-visioning on those harder, but more popular works.

Just be sure to listen sparingly at first as the amount available to which to listen can easily be overwhelming; at first there can be too much of a good thing.

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