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#2034890 - 02/17/13 06:11 PM Bach
Thomas3177 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/17/13
Posts: 3
Hi piano folks. Well, I've not played properly for over four years, but have just started up again. When I played before I was playing Chopin nocturnes,mazurkas,Debussy pieces from children's corner amongst others. However, looking back I can see these pieces were too advanced for me. It always seemed like such a struggle to get through a piece, and I would frequently lose control (wrong notes, hesitancy). My piano teacher sent me for grade 8, though I got nervous, played dreadfully and and walked out!
I want more control over my playing and have decided to study Bachs inventions. Any thoughts???

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#2034962 - 02/17/13 08:12 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Without actually hearing you play, it would be difficult for us to know if working on the Bach inventions would be the best strategy for you. You realize that you'd probably benefit from tacking easier repertoire at this stage of your development - but if the challenges you had with past repertoire were related to sloppy practice habits, technical or musical problems, etc. then simply working on the Bach inventions on your own won't necessarily solve anything unless you first address those issues - preferably under the guidance of a good teacher. I guess one question I'd ask is - how do approach learning a new piece?
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#2035395 - 02/18/13 05:35 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
Thomas3177 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/17/13
Posts: 3
Thanks for response. Well, in learning a new piece, I'd generally play through each hand separately, then together, slowly. I'm learning invention no 8 at the moment. It's coming along ok. Have been working on it since Thursday. Still need to practice it fairly slowly though to avoid error. Hopefully I'll have it within the next week or so. I've never played bach before and am quite hypnotised by it.

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#2035450 - 02/18/13 07:20 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4859
If I may make a suggestion, try learning all new pieces from the beginning with both hands together - even polyphonic music like the Bach Inventions. It might slow you down initially, but it will pay dividends in the long term when you learn more complex music. After all, you're Grade 8 standard, or close to it.

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#2035486 - 02/18/13 08:43 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Hands separately and VERY SLOWLY to begin with as you're doing. Then you graduate to hands together SLOWLY and eventually increase your tempo.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2035508 - 02/18/13 09:28 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17851
Loc: Victoria, BC
I'm with bennevis. Practice hands together from the outset as slowly as you need to to get them together; only practice hands separately those sections in individual hand parts that need to be worked out independently.

That should be pretty straightforward with Two-part Inventions particularly.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2035509 - 02/18/13 09:29 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
jawhitti Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/01/12
Posts: 235
Bennevis your advice is contrary to what I hear everywhere else - that for contrapuntal works it makes sense to even practice one voice at a time for voices > 2. I've never heard anyone advocating learning contrapuntal music by just jumping straight into hands-together practice.

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#2035530 - 02/18/13 10:26 PM Re: Bach [Re: stores]
carey Online   content
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Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: stores
Hands separately and VERY SLOWLY to begin with as you're doing. Then you graduate to hands together SLOWLY and eventually increase your tempo.


Agreed.

And while you're at it, take the time to actually write the fingering that you intend to use in the score itself - in pencil - and stick with it. Also remember that a fingering that works when playing hands separately may not work as well when the hands are put together - in which case you'll need to make adjustments down the road. If your fingering isn't consistent each time you work on the piece, chances are you'll have trouble learning it - be it a two part invention or a four voice fugue. Using a metronome from time to time when practicing hands separately or together will also be beneficial.
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#2035546 - 02/18/13 11:14 PM Re: Bach [Re: carey]
AnneJ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/10
Posts: 48
Loc: Toronto, ON
Originally Posted By: carey
Originally Posted By: stores
Hands separately and VERY SLOWLY to begin with as you're doing. Then you graduate to hands together SLOWLY and eventually increase your tempo.


Agreed.

And while you're at it, take the time to actually write the fingering that you intend to use in the score itself - in pencil - and stick with it. Also remember that a fingering that works when playing hands separately may not work as well when the hands are put together - in which case you'll need to make adjustments down the road. If your fingering isn't consistent each time you work on the piece, chances are you'll have trouble learning it - be it a two part invention or a four voice fugue.


I agree with both of these gentlemen. I do find it useful, even while working carefully on the pieces hands separately, to do a little hands-together just to see and hear how the parts fit together.

I don't personally find that I make much progress on the hands-together practice until I begin to memorize the music hands separately. I didn't think that this would really make much difference until I tried it on my teacher's advice.

Work in small sections so you have lots of starting places. My teacher advises sections of 2-4 bars for Bach, depending on the piece. This is where having all your fingering written in is particularly helpful.

At some point you will probably want to get yourself a good teacher. There is a lot more to Bach than simply getting the right notes at the right time.

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#2035549 - 02/18/13 11:21 PM Re: Bach [Re: AnneJ]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3847
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: AnneJ
Originally Posted By: carey
Originally Posted By: stores
Hands separately and VERY SLOWLY to begin with as you're doing. Then you graduate to hands together SLOWLY and eventually increase your tempo.


Agreed.

And while you're at it, take the time to actually write the fingering that you intend to use in the score itself - in pencil - and stick with it. Also remember that a fingering that works when playing hands separately may not work as well when the hands are put together - in which case you'll need to make adjustments down the road. If your fingering isn't consistent each time you work on the piece, chances are you'll have trouble learning it - be it a two part invention or a four voice fugue.


I agree with both of these gentlemen. I do find it useful, even while working carefully on the pieces hands separately, to do a little hands-together just to see and hear how the parts fit together.

I don't personally find that I make much progress on the hands-together practice until I begin to memorize the music hands separately. I didn't think that this would really make much difference until I tried it on my teacher's advice.

Work in small sections so you have lots of starting places. My teacher advises sections of 2-4 bars for Bach, depending on the piece. This is where having all your fingering written in is particularly helpful.

At some point you will probably want to get yourself a good teacher. There is a lot more to Bach than simply getting the right notes at the right time.


http://www.herberttsang.com/Ruth%20Slenczynska%20Article.htm

However, I always start a piece HT, slowly, and practice HS as needed, slowly. Always slowly. And deliberately.

In addition, I would say that practicing Bach, no matter what level of playing you find yourself, will help you with the next level.

--Andy
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2035886 - 02/19/13 01:49 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
Thomas3177 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/17/13
Posts: 3
Ok thanks for everyone's comments 😊

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#2036152 - 02/19/13 11:28 PM Re: Bach [Re: AnneJ]
beet31425 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3729
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: AnneJ
At some point you will probably want to get yourself a good teacher. There is a lot more to Bach than simply getting the right notes at the right time.

Thomas,

A good teacher with whom you have a good rapport is worth 1000 of our posts. Especially if you have a history of working on pieces that are too difficult-- you probably have some bad habits. You're like a want-to-be runner asking a running forum about training times and workout rituals... when you really need someone to remove the pebbles from your shoes. Good luck.

-Jason
_________________________
Beethoven: op.109, 110, 111

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#2036193 - 02/20/13 01:41 AM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
BDB Online   content
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21306
Loc: Oakland
If you like the Bach Inventions, then they will work for developing your control. If you do not, chances are you will get tired of them before you get what you want from them.
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#2036480 - 02/20/13 02:51 PM Re: Bach [Re: BDB]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: BDB
If you like the Bach Inventions, then they will work for developing your control. If you do not, chances are you will get tired of them before you get what you want from them.

You should learn 2-3 of the inventions whether you "like" them or not - because, quite frankly, if you can't play these fairly simple works with some degree of control you most likely won't be able to perform more advanced contrapuntal works successfully either. cool
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#2036708 - 02/21/13 01:47 AM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
wower Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 242
Loc: Calgary
Originally Posted By: Thomas3177
I want more control over my playing and have decided to study Bachs inventions. Any thoughts???


At the prompting of a member's suggestion in another thread I brought my Henle edition of the Inventions and Sinfonias over to the computer. I think one thing which playing through the entire set makes clear is that the voices and fingers are too perfectly intermingled to ever attack hand separate. However, in practice, when played hands together, I often get to the end of the piece and have no idea how I got there. A very bad feeling and exactly opposite of my intention. Oh how to analyze Bach pieces! They are just impenetrable to me. Just the kind of problem I like to tackle. On Invention No. 11 G minor I have scrawled in some frustration - Where is the melody?

Another fruitful angle to consider might be to elaborate on "want more control over my playing", but I think I've contributed enough to get started. Welcome to PW.



Edited by wower (02/21/13 01:48 AM)
Edit Reason: adding
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#2037794 - 02/23/13 01:23 AM Re: Bach [Re: wower]
MathGuy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 232
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: wower
Oh how to analyze Bach pieces! They are just impenetrable to me. Just the kind of problem I like to tackle. On Invention No. 11 G minor I have scrawled in some frustration - Where is the melody?

I'm not sure that last question is answerable, since the "the" implies there's just one melody at any given time! Still, you've spurred me to look up the score on IMSLP, as this is the kind of problem I like to tackle too. smile I'm not very familiar with this one, but here are a few things that pop out in the score.

Starting in the first bar, there are a couple of distinctive motives that recur several times, namely the one the right hand that starts with an ascending scale and has a couple of ascending 7ths later on, and the one in the left hand with the groups of falling half-steps. The latter motive shows up with some cool tweaks later on: it's inverted in two places (easy to spot because the half-steps are ascending), and there's sort of an extended riff on it - right-side-up this time - in measures 7-10.

As for tonality, the key signature never changes, but we're pretty clearly in D minor in measures 7-10, C minor in measures 13-16, and back in good ol' G minor from measure 18 on. The relative major key of Bb gets at best a couple of quick cameos, in measure 5 and arguably in 17-18. Measure 10 contains a perfect cadence in D, per standard practice. (I'm pretty sure all the major key inventions contain a cadence in the dominant key, and the minor key ones have a cadence in either the dominant or the relative major.) Measure 16 also has a nice C minor cadence, followed instantly by a rather striking jump of a 9th in the bass.

In longer pieces, Bach often completes the cycle back to the tonic with a series of sequences, which are invariably awesome. Here, though, he settles for another short spell in what seems like Bb, straddling measures 17 and 18, but with those F#'s in measure 18 we're definitely back in black.

Sorry for going on so long, but even so this is barely even scratching the surface. Anyway, those are some of the kinds of road signs that can help make sense of Bach. It's always a delightful bit of problem solving!


Edited by MathGuy (02/23/13 01:27 AM)
Edit Reason: Added link to the score

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#2037869 - 02/23/13 09:23 AM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Hi Thomas,

Definitely NOT the Bach Inventions ...

the secret to making constructive progress
is to play a keyboard gem within your compass ...
and once you’ve got this under your belt
(and felt an encouraging boost of confidence) ...
move on the next adventure.

Small steps at the start ... whatever you do, don’t
submit yourself to the purgatory of a dose of
cod liver oil (medicinal Bach).

Playing the piano should always be a joy.

Why not rejuvenate your Chopin and Debussy works?

PS Try Bach when you feel that you are on more solid ground.

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#2038052 - 02/23/13 03:30 PM Re: Bach [Re: btb]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17851
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: btb
Hi Thomas,

Definitely NOT the Bach Inventions ...

the secret to making constructive progress
is to play a keyboard gem within your compass ...
and once you’ve got this under your belt
(and felt an encouraging boost of confidence) ...
move on the next adventure.

Small steps at the start ... whatever you do, don’t
submit yourself to the purgatory of a dose of
cod liver oil (medicinal Bach).

Playing the piano should always be a joy.

Why not rejuvenate your Chopin and Debussy works?

PS Try Bach when you feel that you are on more solid ground.


If the daily playing of Bach was good for Chopin, surely it's good for those of us playing/studying Chopin's works. The Two-part Inventions are indeed considered by many as "keyboard gems," they are widely accepted as excellent works for developing technique at a low-intermediate level, and many, many musicians consider playing them "a joy."

Purgatory? Cod-liver oil? I would suggest guarding against imposing one's own musical tastes and preferences on others without qualification [1]. If the OP has, indeed, Chopin and Debussy in his repertoire, the Bach Two-part Inventions should easily fit "under [his] belt" and be "within [his] compass."

[1]
Click to reveal..
Except, of course, when it comes to my oft-repeated opinion of Balakirev's "Islamey" smile

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2038072 - 02/23/13 04:28 PM Re: Bach [Re: carey]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21306
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: carey
Originally Posted By: BDB
If you like the Bach Inventions, then they will work for developing your control. If you do not, chances are you will get tired of them before you get what you want from them.

You should learn 2-3 of the inventions whether you "like" them or not - because, quite frankly, if you can't play these fairly simple works with some degree of control you most likely won't be able to perform more advanced contrapuntal works successfully either. cool


In an age where you can push a button and play any music that you like, that is the sort of advice that keeps people from learning to play an instrument.
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Semipro Tech

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#2038121 - 02/23/13 06:59 PM Re: Bach [Re: MathGuy]
wower Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 242
Loc: Calgary
Originally Posted By: MathGuy
Anyway, those are some of the kinds of road signs that can help make sense of Bach. It's always a delightful bit of problem solving!


I think there's been a bit of a miscommunication. The easy step is identifying each motif as it's playfully manipulated, distended, mirrored etc. throughout the Inventions and Sinfonias. However, in contrast to say a waltz, the dense polyphony starts right at the beginning and does not let up until the last chord. Voices move in and out seemingly on any beat, intermingling perfectly, lending the pieces a random feeling, but I prefer to think of it as inspired genius writing.

I'll continue a bit to sharpen my point because maybe there is help to be found. The "random" quality makes these pieces tricky to analyze structurally (and, for me, memorize). Maybe one should have written, "Where is the harmonic/melodic structure?" but I felt it didn't have the same furore in the spur of the moment I wanted to represent in pencil on my manuscript. For one thing - and I have been meaning to ask Kreisler this forever - how on earth can one decipher which key the modulation has switched to so quickly? Unlike Chopin's Waltzes or - or more recently for me, Tchaikovsky's Seasons - there seems no high-level handle which allows easy entry into the Inventions and Sinfonias, despite how short each one is. It's an enchanting quality that keep one coming back to the sets.
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Bad spellers of the world untie!

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#2038131 - 02/23/13 07:36 PM Re: Bach [Re: BDB]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: BDB
Originally Posted By: carey
Originally Posted By: BDB
If you like the Bach Inventions, then they will work for developing your control. If you do not, chances are you will get tired of them before you get what you want from them.

You should learn 2-3 of the inventions whether you "like" them or not - because, quite frankly, if you can't play these fairly simple works with some degree of control you most likely won't be able to perform more advanced contrapuntal works successfully either. cool

In an age where you can push a button and play any music that you like, that is the sort of advice that keeps people from learning to play an instrument.

Guess it's a good thing I'm not teaching anymore. grin
Let the button pushing begin....


Edited by carey (02/23/13 08:17 PM)
_________________________
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#2038215 - 02/23/13 11:15 PM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6096
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
About HT vs HS - it is also subjective to a certain degree of course. If you don't find it difficult to play HT *SLOWLY* to learn Bach, then go for it, as others have said. But if you feel you struggle too much don't. However, I think there will always be passages which you will have to practice HS.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#2038242 - 02/24/13 12:35 AM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Whether you opt to practice hands together or hands separately - at some point (preferably early in the learning process rather than later) you should consider writing the fingering in for the trickier passages - and then try to stick to it.
_________________________
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#2038248 - 02/24/13 01:08 AM Re: Bach [Re: wower]
MathGuy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 232
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: wower
Originally Posted By: MathGuy
Anyway, those are some of the kinds of road signs that can help make sense of Bach. It's always a delightful bit of problem solving!
I think there's been a bit of a miscommunication. The easy step is identifying each motif as it's playfully manipulated, distended, mirrored etc. throughout the Inventions and Sinfonias. However, in contrast to say a waltz, the dense polyphony starts right at the beginning and does not let up until the last chord. Voices move in and out seemingly on any beat, intermingling perfectly, lending the pieces a random feeling, but I prefer to think of it as inspired genius writing.

I'll continue a bit to sharpen my point because maybe there is help to be found. The "random" quality makes these pieces tricky to analyze structurally (and, for me, memorize). Maybe one should have written, "Where is the harmonic/melodic structure?" but I felt it didn't have the same furore in the spur of the moment I wanted to represent in pencil on my manuscript. For one thing - and I have been meaning to ask Kreisler this forever - how on earth can one decipher which key the modulation has switched to so quickly? Unlike Chopin's Waltzes or - or more recently for me, Tchaikovsky's Seasons - there seems no high-level handle which allows easy entry into the Inventions and Sinfonias, despite how short each one is. It's an enchanting quality that keep one coming back to the sets.
Sorry I didn't get your full meaning. It certainly would be interesting to hear what an expert like Kreisler has to say about the modulations.

Personally, I usually depend on accidentals, or the lack thereof, to track the harmonic flow. For example, if a piece is in G minor and I'm seeing B naturals but not E naturals, my first guess is that the passage I'm looking at is probably in C minor. But examining the notes like that - with a microscope, so to speak - is a far cry from understanding the overall structure. I hope you find what you're after, Wower!

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#2038249 - 02/24/13 01:22 AM Re: Bach [Re: Thomas3177]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
I agree with wowser ... the Bach Inventions are sheer
purgatory ... up and down and all over the shop.

They gave me cod liver oil when I was 6 years of age ... I’ve steered clear of the ghastly stuff ever since ... but to come clean ... now I’d don’t like Bach (except in teeny-tiny doses) ...
there are much better chaps like Chopin and Debussy to brighten the day.

Bach for King ... put up your hands ... one, two ...
any more?

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#2038301 - 02/24/13 06:57 AM Re: Bach [Re: ChopinAddict]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: ChopinAddict
About HT vs HS - it is also subjective to a certain degree of course. If you don't find it difficult to play HT *SLOWLY* to learn Bach, then go for it, as others have said. But if you feel you struggle too much don't. However, I think there will always be passages which you will have to practice HS.


With Bach, each hand is as important as the other and you must be able to use each equally well. You'll find that the left hand drives everything. Practise hands separately, whether you find it difficult to play hands together or not. There are works I've known for 30 years that I revisit and work through hands separately, because you give yourself the chance to learn (or re-learn) the geography of a work in greater detail and on a broader scale by breaking it down. Slow practise is an absolute must as well (no greater than half tempo until it's in your fingers) and there is simply no substitute for intelligent fingering, which is everything when it comes to Bach...I cannot even begin to stress the importance of fingering with this music!
If you have no teacher then get one (which really should go without saying...)
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2038304 - 02/24/13 07:02 AM Re: Bach [Re: carey]
stores Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/09
Posts: 6646
Loc: Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted By: carey
Whether you opt to practice hands together or hands separately - at some point (preferably early in the learning process rather than later) you should consider writing the fingering in for the trickier passages - and then try to stick to it.


And not only the trickier passages. I have many, many scores that have every single note fingered(granted, this makes for a rather messy ordeal at times when you decide that another fingering is stronger than the one you've been using). Now I'm not saying everyone should write in a fingering for every single note, but I am saying that we should go further with it than we usually do, because what comes before and what comes after makes such a huge difference.
_________________________

"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $


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#2038334 - 02/24/13 09:00 AM Re: Bach [Re: btb]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: btb
I agree with wowser ... the Bach Inventions are sheer purgatory ... up and down and all over the shop. They gave me cod liver oil when I was 6 years of age ... I’ve steered clear of the ghastly stuff ever since ... but to come clean ... now I’d don’t like Bach (except in teeny-tiny doses) ... there are much better chaps like Chopin and Debussy to brighten the day.

Bach for King ... put up your hands ... one, two ... any more?


...three....Bach IS King !!!!
_________________________
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#2038337 - 02/24/13 09:03 AM Re: Bach [Re: stores]
carey Online   content
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6226
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: stores
Now I'm not saying everyone should write in a fingering for every single note, but I am saying that we should go further with it than we usually do, because what comes before and what comes after makes such a huge difference.

So true !!!!
_________________________
YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/pianophilo

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#2038412 - 02/24/13 12:08 PM Re: Bach [Re: stores]
wower Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/10
Posts: 242
Loc: Calgary
Originally Posted By: stores
because what comes before and what comes after makes such a huge difference.


Thank you for expanding on your argument for HS. Just a followup question; your point above was not entirely clear to me but I have a nagging feeling it might be important. Would you be so kind as to elaborate?
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