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#2051652 - 03/20/13 11:37 PM Stamina in big works
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
When I was younger (hah! maybe 4 years ago), I never really considered stamina to be an issue when playing big works. However, I'm realizing more and more that during recitals, the quality of my playing noticeably gets worse in some pieces as time goes by.

What are you experiences with fatigue and how do you deal with it? Currently all I do right now is try to cleverly select the order of my pieces, so I conclude with my biggest piece. For example, the Liszt sonata will be closing two my of upcoming concerts.

Any thoughts?
_________________________
Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

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#2051655 - 03/20/13 11:44 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
I'm guessing at least some of the fatigue could be tension. Is it acute fatigue? Meaning, very tiring, very quickly, and after a brief break, you're fine? Or is it a longer, drawn-out process, where you breathe very heavily, perspire until your clothes are soaked, and feel utterly exhausted to the point where you need to take a few hours' rest, while hydrating and eating large quantities of food to even begin to recover?

If it's the former, look to potential technique issues. If it's the latter, you either suffer from severe lack of physical exercise, or there could be an underlying medical problem.


In my experience (which, obviously, is going to be unique to me), any time I tire at the keys, there is an underlying technique issue. While I am athletic away from the instrument, I also use my hands enough throughout the day that they should not be so fatigued I cannot play. When I recognize this happening, I try to find the cause of the tension and remove it. If I am successful, I play the piece well and without fatigue. If I am not successful at first, I keep trying until I figure it out. wink
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2051659 - 03/20/13 11:52 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
I just get really tired, mentally and physically. The first time was probably when I played a full concert for friends, then encored with the Heroic Polonaise afterwards, and I was actually playing around with it just before performing. Or whenever I run through the Liszt sonata, I'm just drained, and can't focus at all (which explains why I'm not practicing for a concert tomorrow!).

I'm quite fit, so I'm not exactly sure...but I'm just a tad nervous for an upcoming performance which will include both the Franck Violin sonata and the Liszt.

I'm VERY impressed by people who can include a huge work in the middle of a performance, and still have the stamina to keep playing other pieces!
_________________________
Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

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#2051665 - 03/20/13 11:59 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7648
Loc: New York City
The longest piece I've ever played was Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. At least there was nothing else on the program. grin
I was wiped out after that concert. I think it's easier to play 2 hours of 10 minute pieces, with a short intermission, than 1 hour on one piece without a break.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2051676 - 03/21/13 12:36 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Polyphonist]
DanS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/12
Posts: 558
I prefer to put the big stuff early in a program.

I'm not sure if this is helpful, but I always make sure I eat healthy before a concert...fruit, veggies, protein. Also, I've given my best performances when I've warmed up for 20 minutes before, arrived and played. I've given my worst, and have been most exhausted, when I've spent a lot of time before hand playing/warming up.

Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
I think it's easier to play 2 hours of 10 minute pieces, with a short intermission, than 1 hour on one piece without a break.

+1!
_________________________
"Most pianists are poor musicians, they dissect music into bits-and-pieces, like a roast chicken" -Debussy

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#2051695 - 03/21/13 01:15 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5303
Loc: Europe
It's the mental tiredness that gets in the way, rather than the actual muscles getting tired I think. And I think that this is something that one can practice on at home, by staying focused for a long periods of time while studying, and trying recital simulations A LOT. some times studying the piano can be mechanical. Avoid this and you should get better.

I think...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2051697 - 03/21/13 01:20 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8903
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: kuanpiano
but I'm just a tad nervous for an upcoming performance which will include both the Franck Violin sonata and the Liszt.

I think the intense emotions in the Franck might well do me in, though a number of members here have played it, seemingly without coming to grief.
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
The longest piece I've ever played was Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. At least there was nothing else on the program.

My last formal piano recital ended with the Schumann Symphonic Variations. I don't recall at the time I had any particular stamina issues, but I do wonder how -11 years later- it might fare.
_________________________
Jason

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#2051743 - 03/21/13 04:51 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
I agree with what you, and others, have said. It's most-likely a mental problem. I wonder.. do you focus so intently on the playing of the piece that you don't enjoy it while performing it? Or, perhaps you have played the piece so many times you're bored of it (and in need of a rest from it--this used to happen to me a lot)?
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2051802 - 03/21/13 08:28 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Gerard12 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 758
Loc: South Carolina
Though it's been years since I've done a substantial program, I've found that just "going through the motions" during the first couple of complete program run-throughs helps tremendously.

Gradually upping the amount of interpretive minuteia during each subsequent run through, I would hit a plateau - and then I would scale back a little bit.

That way, when the program is finally taken to the stage, there's room for adjustment to the mechanics of the instrument (and not to mention, nerves and adrenaline).
_________________________
Piano performance and instruction (former college music professor).

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#2051813 - 03/21/13 09:07 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5273
I find the use of caffeine very useful - in both mental and physical fatigue. The two are often inextricably linked: it's long been known that caffeine boosts endurance in distance running, which has nothing to do with its carbohydrate-sparing effects (which has been shown to be largely a myth), but everything to do with the reduction of the feeling of tiredness. Therefore, the mind allows the body to push through the perceived fatigue barrier. Apart from achieving my marathon PR (=PB in UK) by using caffeine tablets prior to the race, I've also used them to to save people (mountaineers and hikers) who were almost collapsed with exhaustion in the mountains, who felt they couldn't go any further despite the coming blizzard: washed down with coffee (or indeed just swallowed), the effects are almost miraculous within minutes. I've also used caffeine to save myself....but that's another story grin.

For piano playing, I'm in the fortunate position of only performing if I choose to, but I've used strong coffee/espresso to keep me going when I've been given say, four hours to practice at the grand that I'll be performing on, and need to make full use of my time because there is no further opportunity. But because I'm prone to performance anxiety occasionally, I avoid caffeine before giving a performance. If you don't suffer from nerves, you won't have any problems with caffeine (though it's wise to experiment first to make sure you don't get the jitters), and a couple of cups of espresso during the interval (or in between two long works) could stave off mental and physical fatigue, and allow you to give of your best. Or, just take a couple of caffeine tablets if you're worried about the effects of the liquid on your bladder (the diuretic effects of caffeine itself is minimal, and over-exaggerated by too many people).

BTW, before anyone accuses me of cheating in the marathon, caffeine is a perfectly legal performance-enhancing drug in world athletics, including in the Olympics grin .
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2051817 - 03/21/13 09:14 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Polyphonist]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19460
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
The longest piece I've ever played was Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. At least there was nothing else on the program. grin
I was wiped out after that concert. I think it's easier to play 2 hours of 10 minute pieces, with a short intermission, than 1 hour on one piece without a break.
I remember hearing(I think it was?)Andsnes play the Diabelli Variations at Carnegie Hall, and it looked like he could just about walk off stage after he finished.

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#2051878 - 03/21/13 11:32 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Yup, it's usually in the middle of the second half of a recital when you want to kill yourself, haha.

Just be prepared - how many times have you ran a program through before performing it for people? In the two weeks before performing a program, especially for the first time (ie at a school recital), I try to run the program almost every day. That's 10-13 times. And I mean a REAL run through - absolutely NO stopping whatsoever, having a mini intermission just like you would, not going on your phone, blocking out distractions. You actually get nervous, which is good. And then it won't be so tiring after, because you'll have done it so many times.
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2051996 - 03/21/13 02:34 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: bennevis
I've also used them to to save people (mountaineers and hikers) who were almost collapsed with fatigue in the mountains, who felt they couldn't go any further despite the coming blizzard: washed down with coffee (or indeed just swallowed), the effects are almost miraculous within minutes. I've also used caffeine to save myself....but that's another story

You're nuts. N-V-T-S nuts! laugh

Quote:
Or, just take a couple of caffeine tablets if you're worried about the effects of the liquid on your bladder (the diuretic effects of caffeine itself is minimal, and over-exaggerated by too many people).

I agree, but if you're mentally focused/concerned with this, it does two things: 1) becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, 2) distracts you from focusing on the music.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2052136 - 03/21/13 08:42 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: bennevis]
RachelEDNC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/09
Posts: 81
It's got to be mental! Performing seems to always just completely exhaust me. I had a teacher who was a big fan of meditation as a way to prepare for the mental aspect of piano. While not strict meditation, I do try to sit away from the piano and mentally run through my program. Once I have muscle memory learned, I feel away from the piano practice helps more with mental alertness than simply playing through the program (but both are necessary). I think it is very difficult to play through something in your mind, having to fully concentrate on the notes and what comes next. Your hands cannot keep going with muscle memory while your mind wanders, it is all up to your mind to stay focused.


Originally Posted By: bennevis
Or, just take a couple of caffeine tablets if you're worried about the effects of the liquid on your bladder (the diuretic effects of caffeine itself is minimal, and over-exaggerated by too many people).


Bennevis,
I tried to purchase powdered caffeine, because I drink smoothies a lot for breakfast, and I wanted some way to add the coffee caffeine kick to it (minus the coffee). When reading about it though, lots of people advised against powdered caffeine because they said it was really hard to measure out accurately. Any preference on powder vs pills for this kind of thing? Does your body react the same to pills, powdered as to caffeine in coffee or other beverages?

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#2052142 - 03/21/13 08:55 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4828
Loc: USA
If time allows, just play the whole program every single day for like a month before the recital.

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#2052150 - 03/21/13 09:19 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: RachelEDNC]
bennevis Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5273
Originally Posted By: RachelEDNC




Bennevis,
I tried to purchase powdered caffeine, because I drink smoothies a lot for breakfast, and I wanted some way to add the coffee caffeine kick to it (minus the coffee). When reading about it though, lots of people advised against powdered caffeine because they said it was really hard to measure out accurately. Any preference on powder vs pills for this kind of thing? Does your body react the same to pills, powdered as to caffeine in coffee or other beverages?


Yes, caffeine is caffeine in any form, I think. Whether in Red Bull soda/'energy drinks' or coffee or tea or cola or caffeine tablets or powder. Though I didn't know you could get caffeine in powder form - I haven't seen it here in the UK. I don't think you need to measure it out correctly in any case - after all, coffee varies widely in its caffeine content, depending on the brand.

You can always experiment, and use a measuring spoon, levelled off, to find out how much will give you the 'kick' you require.

In tablet form of course, you get the exact dose, though absorption will probably be slightly slower than the powdered form, which in turn will be slower than the liquid form.
_________________________
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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#2052195 - 03/21/13 11:45 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2151
Loc: Canada
All good advice!! Looks like I'll be playing the Liszt a lot this month :P.

For the record, I don't think caffeine is an issue, I don't even drink coffee to go to early morning class.

I will definitely try to prepare more for my performances! (The only time I had run through all of my pieces that I played today was last night...).
_________________________
Working on:
Chopin - Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante
Rachmaninoff - Preludes op. 23 nos. 3,4,6, op. 32 no.12
Franck - Violin Sonata

Top
#2052443 - 03/22/13 12:38 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
Pogorelich. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/28/08
Posts: 4528
Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
All good advice!! Looks like I'll be playing the Liszt a lot this month :P.

For the record, I don't think caffeine is an issue, I don't even drink coffee to go to early morning class.

I will definitely try to prepare more for my performances! (The only time I had run through all of my pieces that I played today was last night...).


You ran them through the night before a performance? Crazy hahaha! I tend to avoid run through the day before a concert... IF the program is big and emotionally exhausting!
_________________________

'I want to invest my emotions only in music; it will never disappoint me or hurt me - it is a safe place to be.'

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#2052502 - 03/22/13 02:11 PM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
fnork Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1796
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
Perhaps it has been said already, but when putting a large-scale piece in the program that will test your endurance, it might be wise to make the rest of the program consist of short and less draining works, and it might be preferable to save the larger piece for the end of the concert. That's how I did first time I performed Hammerklavier for example, which worked out fairly well - the rest of the program was Berg sonata (very old piece for me), one Chopin nocturne and Schumann's Gesänge der fruhe. Those are all pieces that require a good deal of concentration, but on a smaller scale than a piece like Hammerklavier.

A student at my academy just performed the Chopin op 10 by the way. She had had all but two of the studies in the rep for long though - I guess a set of etudes like this starts to become 'comfortable' after years of study...

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#2052852 - 03/23/13 08:58 AM Re: Stamina in big works [Re: Kuanpiano]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3554
Yes I always have this with longer pieces. And it's a mental thing, nothing technically for me.

With me it's usually that I have phrased the music inappropriately. I keep on racing for too long at the top speed. Then I have not enough mental capacity left to keep an eye on the bigger structure. Sometimes the music asks for it but even then it's my choice to do it that way.

So for me avoiding this is very much a matter of rephrasing and taking back the speed a little at some places so that I can mentally relax for the next run.
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