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#2051598 - 03/20/13 09:34 PM The role of mental anticipation in accuracy
Arghhh Offline
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Registered: 12/31/08
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How much/often do you mentally anticipate what you are going to play?

I am an inconsistent player, which means that often I can execute a passage correctly maybe 50% of the time. I'm wondering if I anticipated more what I want to play that I will be more successful in actually playing what I should. I was trying in the practice room today to hear the correct notes/dynamics before I played them, and seemed to have more success than before. But, man, this is hard to do. After a couple lines of music, I can't do it anymore.

I'm also wondering for my problem spots if my mental image of the sounds is incorrect or fuzzy. Once in a performance with a violinist I had to repeat a figure just after he played it. He flubbed it, and I remember thinking that I'm NOT gong to play it the same way. It didn't work, as I also flubbed it.

Any other thoughts or questions on this matter?

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#2051812 - 03/21/13 09:07 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Gerard12 Offline
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Registered: 03/19/10
Posts: 757
Loc: South Carolina
I hope that I'm not mis-understandng your dillemna.

Playing music is something that occurs in real time. Instead of anticipating, get used to playing as you aurally recreate the music in your head as you read the score. This is where sight singing skills will come into use.

Practice this first with shorter and simpler pieces of music at slower tempi. If pitches seem squirrely in your head, just recreate the rhythm for now.

If technical accuracy is the bigger issue, break up a tricky passage by inserting silent beats at various places. This will direct your attention to anything you may be doing with your hands (paradoxically, the problem might stem from your hands anticipating what comes next, instead of 'being' with the notes in real time).


Edited by Gerard12 (03/21/13 09:08 AM)
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#2051821 - 03/21/13 09:32 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Originally Posted By: Arghhh
How much/often do you mentally anticipate what you are going to play?

I am an inconsistent player, which means that often I can execute a passage correctly maybe 50% of the time. I'm wondering if I anticipated more what I want to play that I will be more successful in actually playing what I should. I was trying in the practice room today to hear the correct notes/dynamics before I played them, and seemed to have more success than before. But, man, this is hard to do. After a couple lines of music, I can't do it anymore.

I'm also wondering for my problem spots if my mental image of the sounds is incorrect or fuzzy. Once in a performance with a violinist I had to repeat a figure just after he played it. He flubbed it, and I remember thinking that I'm NOT gong to play it the same way. It didn't work, as I also flubbed it.

Any other thoughts or questions on this matter?


You really have to anticipate what you're going to do before you do it. If you do it as you are playing the passage it is too late and also may result in unwanted tension. It does require intense focus, so you may want to practice in short bursts, perhaps phrase by phrase playing it exactly how you would like it to come out. You can certainly build this idea into your muscle memory. Then that will free your mind up for spontaneous things, which, of course, happen slightly before you play.

This concept is something that good singers have to employ in order to be able to successfully sing an aria. Without the anticipation of the coming phrase the whole thing could easily fall to pieces.
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#2051829 - 03/21/13 09:50 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
FSO Offline
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Registered: 04/03/12
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Loc: UK, Brighton
Conflicting advice? Never... laugh Um...always bear in mind that every person works differently, so perhaps for you anticipation *is* the best call. Whichever way, practicing in that manner will increase your agility and fortitude with each technique; it'll get easier. Personally I rarely anticipate...but then I don't mind playing "wrong" notes :S wink Um...worry less, practice more and the way (*your* way) will present itself...but again, this is only *my* advice, as flawed as anyone's. Take care!
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#2051994 - 03/21/13 02:29 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5317
Loc: Philadelphia
I'm inclined to answer both "yes" and "no".

Yes- you must anticipate where the hands need to move. The farther they're going, the greater the prep. If you think in terms of chords or scales, you'll need that picture in your mind (however you create it) in order to transition effectively.

No- anticipating music makes it sound choppy, like you're stepping on the beat. So, in terms of playing, you must relax and let the music happen.

Hmm... perhaps the best way to say it is: mind thinks fast, hands play slow. (Kind of like public speaking: think fast, speak slow.) Then, eventually, the better you get at it, the more subconscious this process becomes. smile
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#2051997 - 03/21/13 02:34 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Gerard12]
Scordatura Offline
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Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Originally Posted By: Gerard12
I hope that I'm not mis-understandng your dillemna.

Playing music is something that occurs in real time. Instead of anticipating, get used to playing as you aurally recreate the music in your head as you read the score. This is where sight singing skills will come into use.


Gerard,
I can't actually decide whether you're misunderstanding Aargh's substance or not. That's because your advice to aurally recreate the music as you read the score is precisely what I understand - and it seems clear to me, Aargh, understands - anticipating to consist of, and necessarily involve doing in mentally practicable terms. If the brain/ mind offers any alternative means of anticipating then I've yet to discover it myself or to identify mention of it in any document I've come across. So, logically, it would seem that you must be understanding "anticipating" to comprise something other than what I understand. Please, tell us what the word implies to you!

Without your clarification, I can't tell whether you're intending your good tips on rhythmic/ metrical mentating to be interpreted as a method of "anticipating" or as something one can profitably do (as you put it) "instead of anticipating". For me, it most definitely is a basic constituent of anticipating (i.e., aurally recreating in my head) the music I'm about to play - and unquestionably, rhythmic mentation on its own can yield big improvements in fluency of playing (both from score and from memory) over playing based solely on automatic "finger-memory" without any form of mentation. But, as regards my own process of anticipating (after 45 years of working at it), rhythmic mentation has become integrated with, and is conducted in terms of, other mentated properties of music. For me, the concepts "aurally recreate" and "the music" connote recalling to mind sounds I wish to be emerging next from the piano as I play. Not mere "pitches", but as-physically-experienced, "piano-flavoured" sounds. In fact (like Artur Schnabel), I confess I can't aurally recreate and accurately deliberate any aspect of the music's timing if I'm unable to call to mind the sounds that are to be timed (and which mark the timing).

I have to say that developing the ability to clearly recall - on demand! - sounds in an acoustically faithful form necessitates for me an immense amount of fiercely intense listening to them individually while practising. But the results of such effort far exceed what and how I'm capable of playing by trying to rely exclusively on rhythmic mentation. The other aspect included in my aural recreating of the music is the expressive (structural and emotional) import or "weight" of the sounds I'm recalling, which I find considerably facilitates remembering their acoustic, tonal, qualities, and that further impacts on the fluency, ease and controlling of my physical execution. This is what I meant by the constituents of my anticipating process being "integrated" - "mutually dependent and reinforcing" would be another way of putting it.

Aargh, I don't know if the above is enough to help you, but I'd say without hesitation your mind is pondering what is most fundamentally important in music, and the crucial key (and the only at all dependable basis on which) to developing your pianistic powers - sounds, and your instinctive feeling that you need to know them more intimately. So, get listening to them and get ready to reap your rewards!

I'll be happy to expand on the above where I can, so if you wish, ask away.

Richard

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#2052011 - 03/21/13 03:03 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
FSO Offline
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Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 854
Loc: UK, Brighton
I must admit, Scordatura, you're certainly on the money...but to what extent do you believe the mentated aural reproduction to affect your physical aural reproduction? To what extent are these memories (or perhaps within you they are composites) recreated and, if not fully, what parts do you consider less necessary? I mean, um...for example, were you to practice a piece on a piano, then the strings (without affecting the keys, such as the action remains uniform) were tempered slightly, by obstruction or use of a different material for instance, um, how would your performance alter? I'm interested in whether your memories of the acoustic variations in your performance affect how you would approach the present; evidently they would (if you make unwelcome noises by doing A* you're more likely to avoid it, after all), but how much? How rich are these memories and are they of the physical vibration or the interpolation, the a-physical resonances; I mean, um, do you recall the many frequencies as they appear or do you rather remember, to analogise, the blue car in all its detail, the road in all its detail, pedestrians etc. *individually*, but composite sketches together in the present moment, trusting the sketch to include all the strokes you put into them in the first place? Um...I'm just...*really* interested.....completely academically, of course! *Cough* laugh
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#2052121 - 03/21/13 07:40 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Old Man Offline
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Registered: 04/04/12
Posts: 777
Loc: Michigan, USA
As a sub-sub-amateur, I rarely post to the more technical threads on PC because I have little to offer. But from a purely intuitive point of view, I would think that a certain amount of mental anticipation would be required if the music is to flow properly.

A good analog to playing music might be performing a dramatic reading of some piece of literature, say Hamlet's soliloquy. After reading through it a few times, and gathering the overall meaning, I would begin to work on sentences, viewing each sentence as a unified whole, and not merely a succession of words. Depending on the work, those sentences may be compound-complex, and may contain many phrases, clauses, etc., so I would want to think about where and when to pause, accelerate, etc.

So when I finally read it aloud, I would not want to live too much "in the now", simply reading each word as a discrete unit. Instead, I'd want to convey the broad meaning and sweep of the entire sentence, and to always know where I came from and where I was headed. This would necessarily require me to anticipate the succeeding phrases, clauses, etc. of each sentence as I begin to say it. Without that anticipation of what's coming, I think my reading would become a series of punctuated, disjointed words, lacking poetic rhythm and devoid of meaning.

But as I said, I'm no pianist or teacher, so the analogy may not apply. So take it for what it's worth, which probably ain't much. smile

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#2052123 - 03/21/13 07:45 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Old Man]
BruceD Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Old Man
[...]
But as I said, I'm no pianist or teacher, so the analogy may not apply.


I think the analogy does apply.

Originally Posted By: Old Man
So take it for what it's worth, which probably ain't much. smile


On the contrary, this is really the essence - or at least one way, I believe - to achieve a sense of structure and a sense of a unified whole in the performance of a work.

Regards,
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#2052141 - 03/21/13 08:52 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
JoelW Offline
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Registered: 05/25/12
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Loc: USA
Mental focus is like half the game.

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#2052152 - 03/21/13 09:31 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Old Man]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5317
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Old Man
As a sub-sub-amateur, I rarely post to the more technical threads on PC because I have little to offer. But from a purely intuitive point of view, I would think that a certain amount of mental anticipation would be required if the music is to flow properly.

Forget the sub-sub.. if you've got something to add, don't shy away. smile

I think the "mental anticipation" aspect is a little overdeveloped sometimes. I like to think of walking as an example:

When you were learning how to walk, you had to anticipate everything, whether it was a step or a toy you were climbing over. But as you learned coordination, and as your brain better "mapped" your body, you no longer actively have to anticipate those things.. your body just does it naturally. Same thing with the piano. The better you learn coordination, and the better your body "maps", the less actively you will have to focus on anticipation.

Think about walking: when was the last time you looked down at your feet to make sure you wouldn't trip? Even when going up stairs, you know (without looking) how high to lift your foot.

So, that is why I said "yes" and "no" to the question. wink
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#2052168 - 03/21/13 10:30 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Arghhh Offline
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Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1089
Scordatura - that was a great post. I think you answered what I was in essence asking, and you introduced me to a new word - mentating. I will continue working on my "mentation skills".

Here's an odd thing: for now, if I'm away from the piano, I find that I cannot hear the pitches without silently humming them. I can audiate my voice humming, but hearing piano sounds is very difficult. Hearing in my mind the full texture of what both hands are playing is even more difficult. Maybe one has to choose which line to listen to.

Morodiene - this is a bit of a tangent, but I was wondering if you could expand on why a singer's aria could fall to pieces without anticipation. Is is more than anticipating how much breath to use, and how much space to create for singing higher/lower?

I appreciated the good suggestions and reading from the other replies too.

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#2052188 - 03/21/13 11:34 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Derulux]
Old Man Offline
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Registered: 04/04/12
Posts: 777
Loc: Michigan, USA
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: Old Man
As a sub-sub-amateur, I rarely post to the more technical threads on PC because I have little to offer. But from a purely intuitive point of view, I would think that a certain amount of mental anticipation would be required if the music is to flow properly.

Forget the sub-sub.. if you've got something to add, don't shy away. smile

I think the "mental anticipation" aspect is a little overdeveloped sometimes. I like to think of walking as an example:

When you were learning how to walk, you had to anticipate everything, whether it was a step or a toy you were climbing over. But as you learned coordination, and as your brain better "mapped" your body, you no longer actively have to anticipate those things.. your body just does it naturally. Same thing with the piano. The better you learn coordination, and the better your body "maps", the less actively you will have to focus on anticipation.

Think about walking: when was the last time you looked down at your feet to make sure you wouldn't trip? Even when going up stairs, you know (without looking) how high to lift your foot.

So, that is why I said "yes" and "no" to the question. wink

Derulux, I think you expressed much more clearly and succinctly what I was trying to. (Words are sometimes like taffy for me. I get myself wrapped up in them, and can't claw my way out.)

While you may think we disagree, I disagree that we do. confused You were you using the word "anticipation" as something done consciously, and I wasn't. Then I re-read the OP, and he says, "But, man, this is hard to do. After a couple lines of music, I can't do it anymore." So obviously he was expending a lot of energy trying to consciously anticipate, and it was wearing him out. So you were reading him correctly.

My point was to view music in larger segments, and not focus on individual measures, just as we speak in sentences and not individual words. But I believed that would require some level of subconscious anticipation, not conscious. Just as in your analogy of walking, we subconsciously anticipate where we're heading, but we no longer need to focus on our individual steps.

Well anyway, with all this anticipation, I think it's time to dig up an old Carly Simon album! grin

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#2052224 - 03/22/13 01:13 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Old Man]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
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Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Old Man
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: Old Man
As a sub-sub-amateur, I rarely post to the more technical threads on PC because I have little to offer. But from a purely intuitive point of view, I would think that a certain amount of mental anticipation would be required if the music is to flow properly.

Forget the sub-sub.. if you've got something to add, don't shy away. smile

I think the "mental anticipation" aspect is a little overdeveloped sometimes. I like to think of walking as an example:

When you were learning how to walk, you had to anticipate everything, whether it was a step or a toy you were climbing over. But as you learned coordination, and as your brain better "mapped" your body, you no longer actively have to anticipate those things.. your body just does it naturally. Same thing with the piano. The better you learn coordination, and the better your body "maps", the less actively you will have to focus on anticipation.

Think about walking: when was the last time you looked down at your feet to make sure you wouldn't trip? Even when going up stairs, you know (without looking) how high to lift your foot.

So, that is why I said "yes" and "no" to the question. wink

Derulux, I think you expressed much more clearly and succinctly what I was trying to. (Words are sometimes like taffy for me. I get myself wrapped up in them, and can't claw my way out.)

While you may think we disagree, I disagree that we do. confused You were you using the word "anticipation" as something done consciously, and I wasn't. Then I re-read the OP, and he says, "But, man, this is hard to do. After a couple lines of music, I can't do it anymore." So obviously he was expending a lot of energy trying to consciously anticipate, and it was wearing him out. So you were reading him correctly.

My point was to view music in larger segments, and not focus on individual measures, just as we speak in sentences and not individual words. But I believed that would require some level of subconscious anticipation, not conscious. Just as in your analogy of walking, we subconsciously anticipate where we're heading, but we no longer need to focus on our individual steps.

Well anyway, with all this anticipation, I think it's time to dig up an old Carly Simon album! grin

I don't think we disagreed at all. I was merely expanding on the point with an additional thought. smile
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#2052320 - 03/22/13 07:53 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Derulux]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Derulux
I'm inclined to answer both "yes" and "no".

Yes- you must anticipate where the hands need to move. The farther they're going, the greater the prep. If you think in terms of chords or scales, you'll need that picture in your mind (however you create it) in order to transition effectively.

No- anticipating music makes it sound choppy, like you're stepping on the beat. So, in terms of playing, you must relax and let the music happen.

Hmm... perhaps the best way to say it is: mind thinks fast, hands play slow. (Kind of like public speaking: think fast, speak slow.) Then, eventually, the better you get at it, the more subconscious this process becomes. smile


I think in your "No" answer above you are assuming the OP is thinking of anticipating the beat. This shouldn't happen unless it is for musical purposes. I agree with the conclusion you arrive at though. The idea is to think ahead, but not play faster or ahead of the beat as a result, IMO.
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#2052330 - 03/22/13 08:21 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Arghhh
Here's an odd thing: for now, if I'm away from the piano, I find that I cannot hear the pitches without silently humming them. I can audiate my voice humming, but hearing piano sounds is very difficult. Hearing in my mind the full texture of what both hands are playing is even more difficult. Maybe one has to choose which line to listen to.


I do not think this is an issue, for we want the piano to "sing", and so using your own voice in your head is fine. Are you able to sing in your head without actually humming?

The reason you are not able to get the full texture of both hands playing in your mind is that the brain cannot really perceive two or more notes at one time. Let me expound on that before someone attacks the statement: when we hear a triad played on the piano, the brain perceives that as one sound event. We train our "ears" to then pick out the 3 individual pitches, but that is always after the fact. The first perception is one sound unless the notes are played slightly off from one another (rolled), then the brain perceives that as 4 sounds events: the 3 individual notes plus the sound of the triad altogether when sustained.

So I wouldn't be concerned about not being able to hear things all together. Really the best thing to do is to separate the distinct sound events and "sing" them in your head to your satisfaction before trying to play. I hope that makes sense. smile

Quote:
Morodiene - this is a bit of a tangent, but I was wondering if you could expand on why a singer's aria could fall to pieces without anticipation. Is is more than anticipating how much breath to use, and how much space to create for singing higher/lower?

Partially because yes, we need to breath in the same place each time we sing. This is because built into the muscle memory is the exact amount of breath needed to complete the given phrase.

But more than that, in singing we have to deal with subglottal pressure. This is the upward air pressure the breath pushes on the larynx. The higher the note, the more subglottal pressure. Also, the less air you have in your lungs and higher the pressure. To cope with this we use what the Italians term "appoggio" breathing. This is how we get the fullest expansion of the lungs plus the greatest control over the speed at which the air is allowed to pass through the cords. Another commonly used term for this is "breath support".

If your breathing is not anticipating the high notes in the phrase (and where they lie within the phrase) then other tensions in the throat, neck, chest, law and tongue come in to help protect the delicate cords from extreme pressure. Think about how much air pressure is contained within the lungs when doing the Heimlich maneuver! Of course, these secondary protective means (tensions) the body has are not pleasant to listen to and can result in all sorts of unwanted effects.

Lastly, the idea of anticipating for singing also has to do with expression. This is very similar to what that previous poster said with the Hamlet analogy. If you cannot anticipate what you are going to say musically, understanding completely what it is your are trying to say before saying it, then how can you possibly express it effectively? In singing, if I do not know what words and notes in a phrase are most important, how can I possibly shape the phrase in such a way as to highlight that most important part? I need to be able to anticipate - in my mind before actually making sound - where I will be doing portamenti, how much vibrato to use, if I'm to start softly and crescendo to the peak of the phrase. These things cannot be done without forethought, as it is thought that completely drives the voice.

I'm not sure what you mean by the 2nd part of your question here: " Is is more than anticipating how much breath to use, and how much space to create for singing higher/lower?" I'm particularly confused about the creating space part. Can you please clarify?
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#2052518 - 03/22/13 02:30 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Morodiene]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5317
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Derulux
I'm inclined to answer both "yes" and "no".

Yes- you must anticipate where the hands need to move. The farther they're going, the greater the prep. If you think in terms of chords or scales, you'll need that picture in your mind (however you create it) in order to transition effectively.

No- anticipating music makes it sound choppy, like you're stepping on the beat. So, in terms of playing, you must relax and let the music happen.

Hmm... perhaps the best way to say it is: mind thinks fast, hands play slow. (Kind of like public speaking: think fast, speak slow.) Then, eventually, the better you get at it, the more subconscious this process becomes. smile


I think in your "No" answer above you are assuming the OP is thinking of anticipating the beat. This shouldn't happen unless it is for musical purposes. I agree with the conclusion you arrive at though. The idea is to think ahead, but not play faster or ahead of the beat as a result, IMO.

Yeah, it can be a daunting balancing act when you're first trying to learn how to do it. You have to keep so much in your head at one time, it can drive you crazy. haha smile That's probably why we all start with "Mary Had A Little Lamb" (or some variant).
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#2052710 - 03/22/13 08:34 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Scordatura Offline
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Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Arghhh - thanks for your kind reply!

Mentation is a handy general word for referring to any kind of deliberate, purpose-orientated mental activity - thinking, problem-solving, planning, trying to recall something, anticipating the desired consequence of an action, etc. Useful words more specific to anticipating musical events include "audiating", "imagining", or "recalling aurally". (Look up "audiation" in Wikipedia - I'm sure it will interest you.) "Auralizing" would be best of all, but is non-standard English.

Training oneself to aurally recall piano-sounds is difficult, very difficult for some, but with patience most find it comes. It is for me - it may take a number of intensive sessions before I can audiate the sounds I want to play next sufficiently clearly to avoid being distracted by a sound I've just played. If I'm at all fuzzy or mentally tired, I can't do that at all; it's usually much easier for me first thing in the morning. What makes this audiating harder for some is probably directly linked to the level of loudness they are naturally capable of audiating. Research conducted a century ago by the pioneer music psychologist Carl Seashore established that individuals differ greatly in this capacity, ranging from imagery as loud as actually experienced sounds to no imagery at all. Top professionals tended to rank near or at the loud end, while a large percentage of piano-teachers and psychologists reported only very faint or no imagery. Non-musicians likewise varied individually across the spectrum. (see "music stuck in my head" for an interesting topic on this on PW last year) Seashore's research led him to conclude that the maximum level of loudness for each person is fixed and is not increased with practice, and unfortunately, on the basis of my own experience, I'd have to agree. However, practice at intensive listening definitely improves auditory acuity (fine discrimination of differences in tone quality), so, even though the loudness of your audiated piano-sounds probably won't increase with practice, the clarity and realism of your imagery, and the time it takes you to develop it, should improve over time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I find it harder to learn the sound of atonal chords than tonal ones - most pianists seem to find that, which probably explains why atonal music is most often performed from score rather than from memory. I also find it harder audiating Baroque and Classical works in terms of piano-sound than the Romantic repertoire, which I can't imagine in any other terms. Oddly enough, however, despite that, the effort of trying to audiate the earlier repertoire immensely increases my rate of memorizing it and the reliability of recalling it. Before evolving this technique for myself, memorizing was an absolute pain for me; nowadays, it just happens naturally, simply as the result of my attending more closely to sounds and trying to recall their qualities mentally.

As regards audiating the full "hands together" texture, I (and the majority of persons I've trained) find my brain wants naturally, by default, to register the sounds I make with the left hand as distinct from those made with the right, rather than as a single integrated sound. Some extended effort always seems necessary to overcome this - the farther apart the hands are, the longer it takes me to hear them (both as physical sound and in my mind) as integrated. Very often I have to mentally play around with the sound, eg, arpeggiating it, isolating a particular voice, imagining I'm playing it several times in rapid succession while I hold the keys down, audiating it transposed to different octaves, etc. etc.. As for silently humming the pitches, I've come to realize that when I do that, I'm engaged in trying to mentally work out or reconstruct the sound I'm trying to recall, as opposed to just trying to recall the actually experienced piano-sound as such. It's counterproductive, because it involves making use of brain circuitry other than that responsible for recording the experienced sound and pre-empts the possibility of accessing that circuitry.

For me, there's no substitute for being able to audiate the full texture. It's the only way I can fully and dependably control the accuracy of physical execution required to faithfully reproduce the quality of sound I want - which, when you think about it, is a truism, because if I weren't imagining the sound I wanted, I couldn't possibly reproduce it faithfully, n'est-ce pas?

Best wishes,

Richard

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#2052830 - 03/23/13 07:06 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Morodiene]
Scordatura Offline
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Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
Here's an odd thing: for now, if I'm away from the piano, I find that I cannot hear the pitches without silently humming them. I can audiate my voice humming, but hearing piano sounds is very difficult. Hearing in my mind the full texture of what both hands are playing is even more difficult. Maybe one has to choose which line to listen to.


I do not think this is an issue, for we want the piano to "sing", and so using your own voice in your head is fine. Are you able to sing in your head without actually humming?

The reason you are not able to get the full texture of both hands playing in your mind is that the brain cannot really perceive two or more notes at one time. Let me expound on that before someone attacks the statement: when we hear a triad played on the piano, the brain perceives that as one sound event. We train our "ears" to then pick out the 3 individual pitches, but that is always after the fact. The first perception is one sound unless the notes are played slightly off from one another (rolled), then the brain perceives that as 4 sounds events: the 3 individual notes plus the sound of the triad altogether when sustained.

So I wouldn't be concerned about not being able to hear things all together. Really the best thing to do is to separate the distinct sound events and "sing" them in your head to your satisfaction before trying to play. I hope that makes sense. smile


Morodiene,
I may be misunderstanding what you say about the brain being unable to perceive two or more pitches at one time, but to me that seems entirely incorrect and the implication of it is that human perception of sound texture (and differences thereof) would be impossible. Please consider, for example, the following cases of evidence showing that the brain can in fact perceive more than one pitch at a time and that this directly translates into perception of texture that is not based on side-by-side comparison.

1. A notorious example is the 8-part chord opening Beethoven's 4th Concerto. Very many musically untrained music-lovers who know the work well are able to perceive when just one of its pitches is missing (it just doesn't sound like the sound they know and were expecting to hear) or, alternatively, if the pianist plays one of the pitches louder than the others, tell which one it was.

2. Undergraduate music-students can generally recognize 4-part harmony as such simply on the basis of its particular texture-characteristics and their familiarity with them - and most are able to write out the 4 pitches of each sound-event from dictation (given an initial, named key-note or chord).

3. Revesz (1954) gives examples of extremely obscure atonal harmonies in 5, 6 and 7 parts that a musically talented youth was able was able to write down faultlessly when played to him on the piano.

4. Trained musicians are able to perceive textural differences between presented single tones on the basis of the number of upper partials (overtones) of the harmonic series included or excluded from the presented tone. Moore and Ogushi (1993) found that in some subjects such discrimination of texture was achievable for as many as eight upper partials (ie. the pitches of the first eight in the harmonic series)

I would also comment that perceptual discrimination of any kind, including perceived combinations of pitches, and the perceived texture produced by given combinations, is by nature inevitably based on "after-the-fact" cortical analysis having occurred, regardless of whether we then proceed by consciously picking out (parsing) a chord's constituent pitches.

Please would you mind citing sources of research supporting your statement? That might help me to spot if and how I'm misunderstanding you.

Regarding mentally humming or singing pitches, please read my remark on this in my reply to the OP.

Regards,

Richard



Edited by Scordatura (03/23/13 07:32 AM)
Edit Reason: Request for citations

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#2052851 - 03/23/13 08:55 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Scordatura]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Scordatura
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
Here's an odd thing: for now, if I'm away from the piano, I find that I cannot hear the pitches without silently humming them. I can audiate my voice humming, but hearing piano sounds is very difficult. Hearing in my mind the full texture of what both hands are playing is even more difficult. Maybe one has to choose which line to listen to.


I do not think this is an issue, for we want the piano to "sing", and so using your own voice in your head is fine. Are you able to sing in your head without actually humming?

The reason you are not able to get the full texture of both hands playing in your mind is that the brain cannot really perceive two or more notes at one time. Let me expound on that before someone attacks the statement: when we hear a triad played on the piano, the brain perceives that as one sound event. We train our "ears" to then pick out the 3 individual pitches, but that is always after the fact. The first perception is one sound unless the notes are played slightly off from one another (rolled), then the brain perceives that as 4 sounds events: the 3 individual notes plus the sound of the triad altogether when sustained.

So I wouldn't be concerned about not being able to hear things all together. Really the best thing to do is to separate the distinct sound events and "sing" them in your head to your satisfaction before trying to play. I hope that makes sense. smile


Morodiene,
I may be misunderstanding what you say about the brain being unable to perceive two or more pitches at one time, but to me that seems entirely incorrect and the implication of it is that human perception of sound texture (and differences thereof) would be impossible. Please consider, for example, the following cases of evidence showing that the brain can in fact perceive more than one pitch at a time and that this directly translates into perception of texture that is not based on side-by-side comparison.

1. A notorious example is the 8-part chord opening Beethoven's 4th Concerto. Very many musically untrained music-lovers who know the work well are able to perceive when just one of its pitches is missing (it just doesn't sound like the sound they know and were expecting to hear) or, alternatively, if the pianist plays one of the pitches louder than the others, tell which one it was.

2. Undergraduate music-students can generally recognize 4-part harmony as such simply on the basis of its particular texture-characteristics and their familiarity with them - and most are able to write out the 4 pitches of each sound-event from dictation (given an initial, named key-note or chord).

3. Revesz (1954) gives examples of extremely obscure atonal harmonies in 5, 6 and 7 parts that a musically talented youth was able was able to write down faultlessly when played to him on the piano.

4. Trained musicians are able to perceive textural differences between presented single tones on the basis of the number of upper partials (overtones) of the harmonic series included or excluded from the presented tone. Moore and Ogushi (1993) found that in some subjects such discrimination of texture was achievable for as many as eight upper partials (ie. the pitches of the first eight in the harmonic series)

I would also comment that perceptual discrimination of any kind, including perceived combinations of pitches, and the perceived texture produced by given combinations, is by nature inevitably based on "after-the-fact" cortical analysis having occurred, regardless of whether we then proceed by consciously picking out (parsing) a chord's constituent pitches.

Please would you mind citing sources of research supporting your statement? That might help me to spot if and how I'm misunderstanding you.

Regarding mentally humming or singing pitches, please read my remark on this in my reply to the OP.

Regards,

Richard


I think the misunderstanding is that I'm coming from the angle that we are trained to listen for the different pitches to pick them out, whereas normally you hear a chord as one sound event. The fact that someone can tell the difference between two sound events (i.e., the 8 note chord in Beethoven's 4th concerto vs. that chord with one note missing) does not mean that they are hearing each distinct note simultaneously, it simply means they can hear when two sound events are different from one another.

The other examples you provide are in reference to people trained to hear specific notes. That still does not prove they hear them simultaneously, but that they are able to deconstruct the quality of simultaneous notes (one sound event) into individual notes.

I appreciate you wanting citations, however I have to do some serious digging to find them as this was from research done many years ago. So my response may take a while, but I will look. smile
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#2052888 - 03/23/13 10:23 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Morodiene]
Scordatura Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Thanks, Morodiene - I'll be looking forward to what you dig up!

Yes, I absolutely agree that you normally hear a chord as one sound event, and primarily, you experience its texture before any conscious parsing of constituent pitches might begin. You'll recall in my reply to Gerard12 that, in listening to sounds I'm studying, I'm trying to learn the experienced sound and recall the impact of its acoustic qualities, and not to learn its constituent pitches per se. I'm simply trying to exploit the capacity to experience sounds as sheer auditory phenomena (ie events) in themselves, as they come, uncritically and without dissecting them. And they can, I find, be recalled to mind as such - provided I prevent myself from trying to mentally process them in advance of becoming aware of their image in my head. For the trained musician who might habitually deconstruct the experienced sound events, it may take some practice finding the different frame of mind needed for listening and recalling in this more naive way. But after all, this is how any of us become familiar with music through listening to performances without a score in hand.

Regards,

Richard.

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#2052901 - 03/23/13 10:53 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Scordatura]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11911
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Scordatura
Thanks, Morodiene - I'll be looking forward to what you dig up!

Yes, I absolutely agree that you normally hear a chord as one sound event, and primarily, you experience its texture before any conscious parsing of constituent pitches might begin. You'll recall in my reply to Gerard12 that, in listening to sounds I'm studying, I'm trying to learn the experienced sound and recall the impact of its acoustic qualities, and not to learn its constituent pitches per se. I'm simply trying to exploit the capacity to experience sounds as sheer auditory phenomena (ie events) in themselves, as they come, uncritically and without dissecting them. And they can, I find, be recalled to mind as such - provided I prevent myself from trying to mentally process them in advance of becoming aware of their image in my head. For the trained musician who might habitually deconstruct the experienced sound events, it may take some practice finding the different frame of mind needed for listening and recalling in this more naive way. But after all, this is how any of us become familiar with music through listening to performances without a score in hand.

Regards,

Richard.


OK, then I think we are not necessarily in disagreement here. The only difference perhaps is that when I audiate pieces I am trying to experience both the individual pitches and the entire sound event. Sometimes one can get bogged down too much in the details and neglect the overall sound coming out. I find this often happens when all notes of a c hord are played with the same dynamic level. Sometimes this is a desired effect, but many times it is better if the performer brings out or "voices" a particular note within the chord for the purposes of giving more of a sense of line or melody.
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#2053271 - 03/24/13 03:02 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
chopin_r_us Offline
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Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 940
Loc: UK
I would hazard a guess that mirror neurons, as they are innervated both on observing behaviour and behaving, are the anticipatory element in all acting out.

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#2053622 - 03/24/13 06:19 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: chopin_r_us]
Scordatura Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Originally Posted By: chopin_r_us
I would hazard a guess that mirror neurons, as they are innervated both on observing behaviour and behaving, are the anticipatory element in all acting out.


Fascinating possibility, that - it hadn't occurred to me. At present the accepted notion, relating to the generating of learnt actions, of the "motor program" has yet to be correlated with any particular cortical area or neural populations, but mirror neurons could in part be a plausible candidate there. Perhaps there are other yet-to-be discovered types of population that would contribute to the motor-progam model, too. Delicious food for thought - thanks!

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#2056398 - 03/29/13 06:04 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Scordatura]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Scordatura
Thanks, Morodiene - I'll be looking forward to what you dig up!


Sorry it took so long to get back to you on this! I couldn't find all of the resources that I remember using, but the main source I had was an article written by Keith Hill and Marianne Ploger called "The Craft of Musical Communication".

I quote the section in part here that directly applies, but I encourage readers to look at the entire article for the full explanation he provides:

Quote:
Although the many different frequencies and timbres are detected differently by the ears, we 'hear' or perceive musical and other regular simultaneous sounds as composites as opposed to distinct and discreet frequencies and timbres. When music is performed in a way designed to have sounds such as chords heard as composites, the normal human ear hears only one sound. If the composer has written a four note chord, and all the notes are played simultaneously, the normal listener will hear not four notes but one sound only; a rich sound, but nonetheless only one sound. If the performer endeavors to perform each note in the chord so that the notes don't sound absolutely together or simultaneously, the normal listener will easily hear all four notes and the chord simultaneously. That creates an experience for the normal listener of hearing a total of five sounds altogether.


The link for this part of the article is: http://www.musicalratio.com/synaesthesis.html
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#2056659 - 03/30/13 03:45 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
Bobpickle Offline

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Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Mental anticipation has a place in playing and performing; one should always have a fairly clear idea of what they wish to do with the proceeding phrases - the clearer the idea, the clearer the result. This said, though, when you're playing, you should focus on the task at hand and not what's coming before or what's coming after - that is to say, this type of "preparation" should be worked out to some extent ahead of time (the key is to use balance; see below for a wonderful Rubinstein quote).

Mental anticipation of accuracy, however, has no place in playing and performing. I believe an expert once said, "only once you've memorized and grown comfortable enough with a piece that there no longer exists any section upon whose approach there is concern of tripping or stumbling is it truly done/ready" (paraphrasing).


The following quote is terrific, but don't use what he says as an excuse to not sufficiently practice each and every phrase.

Originally Posted By: Arthur Rubinstein
If you play with a feeling of ‘Oh, I know this,’ you play without that little drop of fresh blood that is necessary – and the audience feels it. At every concert I leave a lot to the moment. I must have the unexpected, the unforeseen. I want to risk, to dare. I want to be surprised by what comes out. I want to enjoy it more than the audience. That way the music can bloom anew. It’s like making love. The act is always the same, but each time it’s different.

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#2056665 - 03/30/13 04:08 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Arghhh]
btb Offline
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Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
All good books have a start, middle and end ... music similarly.

I tend to speed up the start to reach the “meat” ...
but then slow down at the end ... not wanting to wipe the spell.

But then I never was a vegetarian.

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#2057280 - 03/31/13 09:28 AM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Morodiene]
Scordatura Offline
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Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 129
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Many thanks, Morodiene - I really appreciate your taking the trouble to find this.

Your quoted passage is first class, and in fact I identify with its content 100 per cent. Indeed the idea of multiple voices synchronizing to form a perceived single, integrated acoustic event is basic to the way I study polyphonic repertoire - learning the music initially in homophonic terms as successions of purely harmonic, textured sounds - and only when I'm able to clearly and individually audiate those sounds before playing them, progressing to consider questions of making individual voices distinct. It's an utterly un-traditional approach, of course, but it really works. Feeling the detailed homophonic progress of the music enormously enriches the musical experience created by its polyphony, and the expressive possibilities contained within its polyphony, I find.

Most interesting and informative website you linked to, I must say.

Kind regards and thanks again,

Richard

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#2057430 - 03/31/13 03:38 PM Re: The role of mental anticipation in accuracy [Re: Scordatura]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11911
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Scordatura
Many thanks, Morodiene - I really appreciate your taking the trouble to find this.

Your quoted passage is first class, and in fact I identify with its content 100 per cent. Indeed the idea of multiple voices synchronizing to form a perceived single, integrated acoustic event is basic to the way I study polyphonic repertoire - learning the music initially in homophonic terms as successions of purely harmonic, textured sounds - and only when I'm able to clearly and individually audiate those sounds before playing them, progressing to consider questions of making individual voices distinct. It's an utterly un-traditional approach, of course, but it really works. Feeling the detailed homophonic progress of the music enormously enriches the musical experience created by its polyphony, and the expressive possibilities contained within its polyphony, I find.

Most interesting and informative website you linked to, I must say.

Kind regards and thanks again,

Richard




Glad you enjoyed it. Hill and Ploger have been extremely helpful to me as a pianist and singer and I am glad they gave us this resource to better understand how we perceive sound and perhaps alternative ways of performing it.
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