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#2064615 - 04/14/13 06:10 PM If you could improve only one of these
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19263
Loc: New York City
This is a theoretical question...not one that would normally occur in reality. Given the way you play right now if you were given a choice between only improving your technique or only improving your musicality which would you choose and why?

Twenty five years ago I remember thinking that I would choose technique. My reasoning was that even though I understood my understanding of music was not so high when I played I wasn't so aware of what I didn't understand. In other words one could argue that in the area of musicality "ignorance is bliss". OTOH if one can't play the notes of piece up to tempo(some technical weakness), it is far more obvious.

At this point in my life I would probably choose musicality. Perhaps because of the availability of YouTube I've become more interested in being able to understand what the best pianists are doing musically that makes their playing of even less technically demanding pieces so much better than mine.

Which would you choose and why?

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#2064616 - 04/14/13 06:13 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Morodiene Online   content
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I would choose technique, because I find that to be more limiting to me right now than my musicality.
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#2064624 - 04/14/13 06:23 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Musicality, without a doubt. I have been told all my life that my playing is extraordinarily musical, but when I listen to other performers, I am amazed and moved by the fresh and varied interpretations I hear and wonder, "Where did they come with that?"

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#2064632 - 04/14/13 06:55 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
I always understood "musicality" to be the ability to play musically, and was limited from full expression by limited technique.

So to me, at least how I understand it, an improvement in musicality would automatically include a corresponding improvement in technique.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#2064635 - 04/14/13 07:01 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: rocket88]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: rocket88

I always assumed that "musicality" i.e. the ability to play musically, was limited from full expression by limited technique.

So to me, at least how I understand it, an improvement in musicality would automatically include a corresponding improvement in technique.
I'm using musicality perhpas slightly differently i.e. to mean one's understanding of music...what one wants to be able to do with the music. It's definitely true that in practice one's technique can limit the expression of that musical understanding, which is why most would choose improvement in both areas if they were given that choice.

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#2064636 - 04/14/13 07:07 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158

I thought that might be what you meant. Thanks.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#2064637 - 04/14/13 07:11 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
AldenH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/11
Posts: 412
Loc: Texas
I think this is an interesting question, but in reality it would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to bring one to a very high level without the other tagging along also, as they both involve a similar improvement process: experimentation, analysis, and diligence. The first two have a somewhat fluid ordering: one could experiment freely with different musical or technical ideas and then analyze what makes each idea more or less useful, or one might start by analyzing what you currently are doing musically or technically and then experiment with various approaches. I suppose that analysis (which can be objective and qualitative or intuitive) will always be the last step before getting waist-deep in the work, but the beginning of the improvement process can begin with either analysis or experimentation.

All this is purely theoretical, I suppose: if one is less inclined to work on technical problems, then it will not develop at the same rate as one's musical toolbox. At the same time, however, one's ability to improve these two bedfellows will improve at the same rate regardless of which you work on - it is merely your choice of which to refine that determines which will improve the most. Additionally, some musical questions can be answered with skills from our technical toolbox, and vice versa (a particular gesture requiring zip and sparkle for musical effect might be improved by "throwing" the wrist; a difficult leap might be made more technically feasible through a musically effective use of "reaching" rubato).

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#2064669 - 04/14/13 08:38 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
mermilylumpkin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/13
Posts: 121
For me it's difficult to imagine really being able to do exactly what you want musically without the technique to be able to do it. It seems to me that they are destined to be intertwined and it's not really possible to develop musicality without technique? Though perhaps it's possible to develop "technique" without musicality (if by "technique" we only mean being able to play so-and-so passage or arpeggio or whatever at a mechanical 180bpm).

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#2064676 - 04/14/13 08:51 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Technique. To make the music, you must have the technique to do it.

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#2064689 - 04/14/13 09:38 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: Morodiene]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4791
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I would choose technique, because I find that to be more limiting to me right now than my musicality.
Yes, technique. My teacher is now helping me develop my own musicality and I'm having so much fun, I'm happy to keep working on it. Second wish would be: fingers that are only slightly longer.
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#2064700 - 04/14/13 10:23 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Any automaton can play the piano. Midi files are goods examples of just that. Any one can learn the technique to play 90% of the piano music written, as fast as they want to, given enough time to practice. Musicality doesn't tag along with technique. Some of the greatest musicians can play a simple Haydn piano sonata in a manner that will bring tears to the eyes. All they needed to do that was a very low level of technique. Most other piano players will never play that simple Haydn sonata as musically, no matter how much technique they develop over a lifetime of practice.

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#2064703 - 04/14/13 10:28 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
cefinow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/27/10
Posts: 358
Loc: Western NC (US)
Technique, fer sure. Nothing more frustrating than trying to pour your soul into the music, but being distracted by fumbly fingers. (Thank you, Czerny, for helping me play Chopin's nocturnes!)

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#2064709 - 04/14/13 10:41 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5293
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: rocket88

I always assumed that "musicality" i.e. the ability to play musically, was limited from full expression by limited technique.

So to me, at least how I understand it, an improvement in musicality would automatically include a corresponding improvement in technique.
I'm using musicality perhpas slightly differently i.e. to mean one's understanding of music...what one wants to be able to do with the music. It's definitely true that in practice one's technique can limit the expression of that musical understanding, which is why most would choose improvement in both areas if they were given that choice.

I think, in this light, if I were going for composition, I might select musicality. But I'm pretty sure every performer will pick technique.
_________________________
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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#2064710 - 04/14/13 10:44 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Obviously, I am in the minority. Not unusual for me. Most of you seem to look at learning technique as if it was akin to learning to colour inside the lines. Once you have achieved that goal, you can now be an artist.

Most of us learn to write in our native language with considerable technical proficiency, to the extent, for example, of publishing peer reviewed papers. We have developed sufficient technique to handle the most difficult grammatical conundrums. The better among us learn just when and where to place the all important comma, in order to further elucidate our point. Yet, how many of us are renowned authors whose books will be read throughout the world for hundreds of years?

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#2064734 - 04/15/13 12:20 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: Mwm]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5293
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Obviously, I am in the minority. Not unusual for me. Most of you seem to look at learning technique as if it was akin to learning to colour inside the lines. Once you have achieved that goal, you can now be an artist.

Most of us learn to write in our native language with considerable technical proficiency, to the extent, for example, of publishing peer reviewed papers. We have developed sufficient technique to handle the most difficult grammatical conundrums. The better among us learn just when and where to place the all important comma, in order to further elucidate our point. Yet, how many of us are renowned authors whose books will be read throughout the world for hundreds of years?

That, unfortunately, is more a matter of luck than skill. There are many fabulous writers who will never be published in the first place, much like many outstanding pianists will never play a major concert venue.
_________________________
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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#2064737 - 04/15/13 12:27 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Dwscamel Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 461
Easily, technique. It is a crushing fact that I'll probably never unlearn all of my bad habits, no matter how many teachers I study with, to play pieces I'm really passionate about like Rachmaninoff's etude op.39 no.5 in e-flat minor or Scriabin's third piano sonata in f-sharp minor.

Besides, I think even the driest technical playing can't help but be a little musical. After all, the reason technique is important is that it enables us to make varied, interesting, complicated sounds on the piano: polyphonic, interlocking Rachmaninoff textures require good technique. They also sound very different from simple one-note melodies of Yann Tiersen. So, many of the rich sounds that technique enables on the piano form a subset of musicality, but musicality doesn't necessarily require huge technique.

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#2064742 - 04/15/13 12:40 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
beet31425 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3752
Loc: Bay Area, CA
I think the original question posits a false dichotomy, and even considering it reinforces some unhelpful views on the relationship between technique and musicality.


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

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#2064759 - 04/15/13 01:29 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: beet31425]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5293
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: beet31425
I think the original question posits a false dichotomy, and even considering it reinforces some unhelpful views on the relationship between technique and musicality.


-J

That was my first thought, but upon deeper reflection, I understood the possibility that one of the two may advance more quickly than the other. Of course, in that case, it might be equally ponderous to ask which of the two one feels they have mastered better. In that case, we can get a pretty good idea of which answer they would provide.
_________________________
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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#2064763 - 04/15/13 01:52 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Easy. Musicality. 100% Final answer. Next question plz...
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2064766 - 04/15/13 02:04 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: Kreisler]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11647
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Easy. Musicality. 100% Final answer. Next question plz...

Which you are able to achieve without technique? I suspect that you started to learn to play the piano in childhood and probably had some good teachers along the way. Put yourself in the shoes of any musical person who does not have the ability to control loud and soft, articulations, and other things you have in your fingertips, because they never learned. How musical will it sound? I think that maybe "technique" should be defined, because I have a feeling different things are being imagined by different people.

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#2064769 - 04/15/13 02:15 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: Mwm]
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 936
Loc: California
[
Originally Posted By: Mwm
Any automaton can play the piano. Midi files are goods examples of just that. Any one can learn the technique to play 90% of the piano music written, as fast as they want to, given enough time to practice. Musicality doesn't tag along with technique. Some of the greatest musicians can play a simple Haydn piano sonata in a manner that will bring tears to the eyes. All they needed to do that was a very low level of technique. Most other piano players will never play that simple Haydn sonata as musically, no matter how much technique they develop over a lifetime of practice.
To play a "simple" Haydn sonata and bring out its meaning requires a high degree of physical control over dynamics and timing. Usually that degree of control is achieved only by professional-level pianists. Even if the pianist doesn't need fast double thirds to play the sonata, he or she is still employing what I would call a very high level of technique. There are fortunate individuals who happen to find from the start a correct physical approach to the keyboard, such that their thoughts flow through their fingers and the keyboard into the world of sound. But most of us have to work long and hard to acquire that.

For the original question, I would choose technique, without question. My current technique lags far behind my musical understanding. Whenever I gain a bit more control over the mechanism, every piece I am working on immediately shows up decidely more nuanced and closer to the ideal image. It's as if the next level of meaning is in the background, shut out, and rushes in to fill the space created by the disappearing of some physical awkwardness.

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#2064850 - 04/15/13 08:30 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: Ferdinand]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
[quote=Ferdinand... To play a "simple" Haydn sonata and bring out its meaning requires a high degree of physical control over dynamics and timing. Usually that degree of control is achieved only by professional-level pianists. Even if the pianist doesn't need fast double thirds to play the sonata, he or she is still employing what I would call a very high level of technique. There are fortunate individuals who happen to find from the start a correct physical approach to the keyboard, such that their thougts flow through their fingers and the keyboard into the world of sound. But most of us have to work long and hard to acquire that. [/quote]

I would argue that physical control over the dynamics, and many other aspects of the physical side of controlling the piano, are highly dependent on the qualitiy of the regulation of the piano. One cannot play softly, or achieve fast repetition, if the piano is incapable of producing the desired result. We should all be so lucky (or have astute parents) to start on a decent instrument.

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#2064865 - 04/15/13 08:56 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: Morodiene]
patH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/09/13
Posts: 558
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I would choose technique, because I find that to be more limiting to me right now than my musicality.

Ditto. My technique is a bit sloppy, so having it improved would help me focus on the music.
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Everything is possible, and nothing is sure.
XXXI

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#2064934 - 04/15/13 11:13 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: patH]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11689
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: patH
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I would choose technique, because I find that to be more limiting to me right now than my musicality.

Ditto. My technique is a bit sloppy, so having it improved would help me focus on the music.


Just to further clarify, I say this with the meaning that technique is a mean to an end: to have more in my arsenal so that I can be more musical. Or rather, to make being more musical easier to achieve. "Technical" playing (i.e., playing with precision but without attention to musicality) is not the goal, nor did I interpret that to be the aim of the OP's question. Hopefully technique works to aid the performer in being more musical/communicating better to the audience.
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#2065034 - 04/15/13 02:59 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: keystring]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Easy. Musicality. 100% Final answer. Next question plz...

Which you are able to achieve without technique? I suspect that you started to learn to play the piano in childhood and probably had some good teachers along the way. Put yourself in the shoes of any musical person who does not have the ability to control loud and soft, articulations, and other things you have in your fingertips, because they never learned. How musical will it sound? I think that maybe "technique" should be defined, because I have a feeling different things are being imagined by different people.


The original question was "Given the way you play right now if you were given a choice between only improving your technique or only improving your musicality which would you choose and why?."

I answered that. I don't believe the answer would or should be the same for everyone. I chose my answer because my technique is at a point where, if I can hear and feel something, my hands tend to respond fairly well. (And what they don't respond to I can practice...)

Plus, musical improvement is where the artistry lies. I won't ever have the technique to dash off Feux Follets, but I don't really want it. I have enough technique to play the kinds of music I like to play. I would much rather explore musical territory with existing tools than simply gain new tools.

(And of course, the premise of the whole thread is purely an academic exercise with little bearing in real life, so I don't really think parsing definitions is all that useful..)
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#2065064 - 04/15/13 04:14 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
Mwm Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 752
Again, I say musicality. When I am too old and infirm to play, my technique will mean nothing, but my musicality will allow me to enjoy listening to others who have both technique and musicality.

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#2065140 - 04/15/13 07:28 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6098
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Technique.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#2065268 - 04/16/13 12:18 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
ShannanwL Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/22/13
Posts: 11
Technique
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Working on:
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#2065894 - 04/17/13 07:55 AM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
SlatterFan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 783
Loc: Brighton, UK
I would choose technique, because I am content that my musicality is improving as the years go by, but during the same period my technique has hardly improved. I think the main reason for this is simple: over the years I have been thinking through music and/or listening to recordings for hours a day, while only spending an average of about 5 minutes per day actually playing (for lots of reasons). I also believe that maturity and life experience have helped my musicality over the years while doing little for my technique.

To those who doubt the worth of the original question, try considering this: what if there were a way to make your interpretation a reality without technical limitations? The way this hypothetical magic would be achieved is not important, and could be whatever produces the most satisfying result to you. For example, finding oneself in the body of a great concert pianist and then practicing and performing without any time or energy constraints. Or being able to tweak, in all respects and levels of detail, a combination of reference performances until you reach your desired interpretation. (I would much prefer the former scenario, while others might prefer the latter or another.)

The point is, if you could produce your "ideal" interpretation with all technical weaknesses resolved, what would the results be? I conjecture that there would be a whole spectrum of results, ranging almost as widely as people's technical ability. At the extreme ends: some music fans who have never even touched a piano or played a musical instrument in their lives would turn out to be wonderful musicians when endowed with the technique to express themselves; while some competent technicians would not produce very musical results even when endowed with the best possible technique in the world.

Even though it is not possible in reality to separate musicality and technique, I think it is interesting and thought-provoking to imagine that they could be separated, and thanks for asking the question.
_________________________
Julian

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#2067668 - 04/20/13 03:40 PM Re: If you could improve only one of these [Re: pianoloverus]
LaBellaVita Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/10/13
Posts: 2
Loc: Kaunas, Lithuania
Musicality. I'm so lacking this.

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