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#2111848 - 07/02/13 10:18 PM It's not my enemy
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4794
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I just had a private lesson with the wonderful concert pianist and teacher, Walter Prossnitz. He was describing what separates a gifted student from a professional. I am paraphrasing what he said: the student, (me,) plays the music like the piano is an enemy that must be conquered. I was embarassed to admit he was right on target. He said, no it's your dance partner and it is designed to do exactly what you tell it. Stop fighting it like you are entering a battle. Let the music flow into your heart and then flow back out into the instrument. Pay attention to the moment and don't worry about all the tiny details and that upcoming difficult passage. It will continue to be difficult as long as you think it is. You can play it if you just let go.

I feel like my heart has been freed up from paying too much attention to detail and not enough to the overall soul of the piece. I need to remember to love my piano not conquer it.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2111857 - 07/02/13 10:39 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5317
Loc: Philadelphia
To quote Boris the Boglodyte (MIB 3), "I prefer to do both." grin
_________________________
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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#2111871 - 07/02/13 11:05 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
It will continue to be difficult as long as you think it is. You can play it if you just let go.


I understand the guy, and I agree with the psychology behind the statement. But the first thing that passed across my brain was …

"Use the force, Luke … " grin
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#2112190 - 07/03/13 12:48 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1349
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Sometimes a metaphor like this, especially from a musician who is not one's regular teacher, can unlock worlds. That sounds like inspirational teaching, gooddog.

Canadian Walter Prossnitz, a native of Victoria, BC but based for many years in Zurich, Switzerland, has recently taken a position as head of the piano faculty at the Victoria Conservatory. He is now dividing his time between Canada and Switzerland.

Very interesting fellow, very fine pianist, and a kind soul.

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#2112254 - 07/03/13 03:20 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
I wonder if the music can flow without a certain amount of time and concentration spent on the details, though.

I've been pondering this question because I've recently had two transformative experiences in two different areas, and wondering if some similar epiphany is possible in piano.

In Argentine tango dancing, I recently had a lesson which gave me one simple key (move into my partner, and don't care at all about doing the steps right) that has moved my dancing to a whole new level of enjoyment and connection. It's like finding nirvana after twenty years of seeking through attention to all sorts of details. But just because I'm not caring about the details now, does that mean I could have done without them? Or does my ability to stay connected with my partner and not fall over my or his feet, even when not paying conscious attention to my feet, come partly from those twenty years of focused attention on my feet?

In my spiritual life, I've just ditched feeling any allegiance of "should believe this" to everything I've learned since about the age of 10. I feel much lighter, and clearer about what's important, than I could have imagined it would be possible to feel. Yet, would it have been possible to be in this current state if I had just not done any of the extensive seeking and study and yearning and wondering that I've been doing from age 10? Or are these 41 years of journeying necessary for me to be where I am now in my faith journey, even as I reject most of the shape of what I thought I was seeking?

T.S. Eliot wrote "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." I have always thought of that as suggesting that we eventually discover that our exploration was unnecessary. But perhaps one needs the exploration in order to know the place we started for the first time, and we couldn't gain that knowledge just by staying home the whole time.

Perhaps it works differently for different people. I know people who seem to catch on to the essence of skilled and effortless Argentine tango dancing much faster than I did, and people who seem to have a much smoother faith journey than I have had (although I'm not sure it's easy to know what struggles a person with a currently confident-seeming faith may have been through).

Bringing this back to piano. I'd like to learn to play my music effortlessly, smoothly, beautifully. Is the secret solely to think "I love the piano" rather than "I am trying to conquer the piano"? Or do I need some amount of just plain doggedly working on the details before I can graduate to just letting the music flow out of my heart and into the instrument? Or is the point that I can (even, must) approach even my apprentice phase of learning the building blocks as if they are music flowing out of my heart into the piano, rather than an obstacle to be surmounted?

Is the revelation gooddog received a revelation for all pianists, no matter how beginner, or only a revelation that can be enjoyed by pianists at a certain level of skill already?
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2112281 - 07/03/13 04:05 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I suspect strongly that it is a message that requires a certain mastery of basic technique before it is fully relevant.

BTW, this is a superb post, PS88.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#2112396 - 07/03/13 07:23 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Funny, I've never once regarded my piano as the enemy, more as a very long suffering friend. The enemy as my own ineptitude, lack of concentration, lack of effective tutelage, and a certain neurologic deficit which will never allow for anything approaching a flawless performance. But the piano itself, never. To paraphrase Liszt, the piano is my beloved horse, and I frequently fall off.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2112405 - 07/03/13 07:34 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: Peter K. Mose]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18018
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose

Canadian Walter Prossnitz, a native of Victoria, BC but based for many years in Zurich, Switzerland, has recently taken a position as head of the piano faculty at the Victoria Conservatory. He is now dividing his time between Canada and Switzerland.

Very interesting fellow, very fine pianist, and a kind soul.


Just to up-date you on Mr. Prossnitz' position in Victoria : He will be returning permanently to Europe this summer, resigning his all-too-brief tenure as Head of the Keyboard Department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

He will endeavour to maintain his connection with VCM through some (electronic) distance-teaching, but he will no longer be Head of Keyboard nor will he physically be present in this area.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2112410 - 07/03/13 07:46 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19339
Loc: New York City
I don't think it's a choice between thinking of the piano as your enemy and "Let the music flow into your heart and then flow back out into the instrument". Neither extreme makes much sense to me.

Haven't the professionals the teacher described spent many years perfecting their technique in great detail and with much thought so that they don't have to think so much about technical considerations compared to an amateur?

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#2112416 - 07/03/13 07:58 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1089
Did the suggestion help with your playing?

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#2112443 - 07/03/13 09:19 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1349
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Thanks for this news update, Bruce.

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#2112502 - 07/03/13 11:39 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: Peter K. Mose]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4794
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I wonder if the music can flow without a certain amount of time and concentration spent on the details...do I need some amount of just plain doggedly working on the details before I can graduate to just letting the music flow out of my heart and into the instrument? Is the revelation gooddog received a revelation for all pianists, no matter how beginner, or only a revelation that can be enjoyed by pianists at a certain level of skill already?


Beautiful post PianoStudent88. Yes, I do believe you first must put in the hours of work before you can freely play the music from your heart unless you are some kind of savant who can immediately play anything without effort. Does this idea help others? I hope so. I know I tend to become so engrossed in taming "the beast", (in this case Chopin's Ballade #3) that I forget how to relax and let the music flow. I think I am too intense, always striving to play it better with less mistakes, more subtlety, more clarity, etc. I get in my own way by overthinking it instead of just letting it flow. I tend to forget the music because I'm having a non-stop inner dialogue with myself, " okay, here comes the leggiero, make it light and quiet, here's that ascending arpeggio-now don't rush it, ah, here comes that hard part, stay loose". It reminds me of the expression, "you can't see the forest for the trees". Walter was reminding me to look beyond the labor and the details and to just take a breath and enjoy the music. Did it help my playing? I think so and I think with time, it will help even more as the idea blooms in my head.

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Very interesting fellow, very fine pianist, and a kind soul.
Yes indeed. I've had a total of 3 lessons with Walter Prossnitz and each one has left me with a gem of an idea that completely changed my direction. He has a great deal to offer and I will miss him.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2112541 - 07/04/13 01:09 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Well, my teachers Nina Scolnik and Dorothy Taubman just showed you how to make it easy, and expressive.

I wonder if that is what the guy meant?
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2112576 - 07/04/13 03:06 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: PianoStudent88]
Cinnamonbear Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3904
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
I wonder if the music can flow without a certain amount of time and concentration spent on the details, though.

I've been pondering this question because I've recently had two transformative experiences in two different areas, and wondering if some similar epiphany is possible in piano.

In Argentine tango dancing, I recently had a lesson which gave me one simple key (move into my partner, and don't care at all about doing the steps right) that has moved my dancing to a whole new level of enjoyment and connection. It's like finding nirvana after twenty years of seeking through attention to all sorts of details. But just because I'm not caring about the details now, does that mean I could have done without them? Or does my ability to stay connected with my partner and not fall over my or his feet, even when not paying conscious attention to my feet, come partly from those twenty years of focused attention on my feet?

In my spiritual life, I've just ditched feeling any allegiance of "should believe this" to everything I've learned since about the age of 10. I feel much lighter, and clearer about what's important, than I could have imagined it would be possible to feel. Yet, would it have been possible to be in this current state if I had just not done any of the extensive seeking and study and yearning and wondering that I've been doing from age 10? Or are these 41 years of journeying necessary for me to be where I am now in my faith journey, even as I reject most of the shape of what I thought I was seeking?

T.S. Eliot wrote "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." I have always thought of that as suggesting that we eventually discover that our exploration was unnecessary. But perhaps one needs the exploration in order to know the place we started for the first time, and we couldn't gain that knowledge just by staying home the whole time.

Perhaps it works differently for different people. I know people who seem to catch on to the essence of skilled and effortless Argentine tango dancing much faster than I did, and people who seem to have a much smoother faith journey than I have had (although I'm not sure it's easy to know what struggles a person with a currently confident-seeming faith may have been through).

Bringing this back to piano. I'd like to learn to play my music effortlessly, smoothly, beautifully. Is the secret solely to think "I love the piano" rather than "I am trying to conquer the piano"? Or do I need some amount of just plain doggedly working on the details before I can graduate to just letting the music flow out of my heart and into the instrument? Or is the point that I can (even, must) approach even my apprentice phase of learning the building blocks as if they are music flowing out of my heart into the piano, rather than an obstacle to be surmounted?

Is the revelation gooddog received a revelation for all pianists, no matter how beginner, or only a revelation that can be enjoyed by pianists at a certain level of skill already?


Every once in a while, there is a post on Piano World that makes the time spent here all worthwhile. This is such a post. Thank you so much for sharing, PS88!!!

If I may trade a poem with you, cf. Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality."

Then, to answer your question with your own answer: move into your piano. It's your partner. (Mine likes to be caressed. wink )
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2112590 - 07/04/13 03:39 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4777
Loc: USA
Um, this is nice but it sounds like a little bit of BS if you ask me. I crappy piano vs a wonderfully regulated Steinway can REALLY change how much I "fight" the instrument...

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#2112594 - 07/04/13 03:46 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: JoelW]
Cinnamonbear Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3904
Loc: Rockford, IL
Originally Posted By: JoelW
Um, this is nice but it sounds like a little bit of BS if you ask me.


Give yourself some time to fall, get beat up, bruised and disillusioned. Then, you'll start to see it.
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2112645 - 07/04/13 06:32 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: Cinnamonbear]
bennevis Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 5114
It's definitely a lot easier to carress a piano that is well-tuned & regulated and has a nice tone grin.

I've done a lot of fighting against the limitations of some pretty crappy (is this word OK in this august forum?) junk masquerading as 'pianos' for decades: if their limitations far transcend mine (in terms of my technique), you know they really are bad. Like higher notes so out of tune that their pitch are lower than the notes below them, missing keys, missing strings (= no sound)...you get the idea.

But when I play on good pianos, I never feel like it's 'me v the piano'; not even when my technique is felt wanting when trying to master something. The piano is my collaborator, egging me on to achieve the unsurmountable, even the impossible...... wink .
_________________________
"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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#2112661 - 07/04/13 07:20 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
gooddog, I have read your post, here:

I just had a private lesson with the wonderful concert pianist and teacher, Walter Prossnitz. He was describing what separates a gifted student from a professional. I am paraphrasing what he said: the student, (me,) plays the music like the piano is an enemy that must be conquered. I was embarassed to admit he was right on target. He said, no it's your dance partner and it is designed to do exactly what you tell it. Stop fighting it like you are entering a battle. Let the music flow into your heart and then flow back out into the instrument. Pay attention to the moment and don't worry about all the tiny details and that upcoming difficult passage. It will continue to be difficult as long as you think it is. You can play it if you just let go.

I feel like my heart has been freed up from paying too much attention to detail and not enough to the overall soul of the piece. I need to remember to love my piano not conquer it.
_______________________________

I don't know if I understand this post.

I tried 4 time in my life to take piano lessons but failed because I typed for a living and I just could do both - type and practice piano.

My last chance came when I had a cancer and a stoke and had to learn to walk and talk, but my fingers were okay with a little numbness - so very lucky.

I had learning difficulties my whole life, am dyslexic and failed grades 1 and 3 and decided on a job I could do in grade six, so that was my goal and focused on that trying get through high school with the parents helping me. Finally, I got to college and was slow, of course. I was a bit worried then then that maybe I couldn't do it. Fortunately I was very determined and never ever give up - so I thought if the average student took 2 years to graduate, then I will probably take 4 years to graduate, and that is okay. In the end, I was able to do it in 2 years. A funny thing happened. I subscribed in grade six to a U.S. national magazine of the profession at a student rate for students, of course. After a few years, they wrote me a letter saying you cannot subscribe to this national magazine at a student rate any longer. I wrote them back and said. I am still only in high school and started subscribing when I was in grade 6, so I haven't even got to college yet. Of course, everything was okay.

So as I was saying I took my chance of learning to play the piano at 63. I couldn't afford a teacher because I was on a disability and still am.

When I started to learn the piano, I used Leila Fletcher Piano course book 1. It took me about a year to work through the book of 50 pages, 50 pieces. They say that learning the piano can be a bit difficult. Because I had played as a beginner in a community band as a beginner not doing well and had tired piano lessons 4 times, I expected to be able to play the little book. When I got to page 24, my brain almost exploded when I had to play two notes together at the same time. I figured this could be the end for me. It took several months before I could do two notes together. I could play one hand, of course, but it was a show stopper when I would reach a point where I had to play two notes together. So I was a bit worried. But as a beginner and couldn't afford a teacher, and had played badly, I knew I had to keep a high standard not knowing what I was facing down the road. So my standard was to always play without errors with no exception else I slow down until it was done without errors. So it took me at least 3 to 4 months or more before I could play 2 notes smoothly and witout it being a show stopper. Understand I knew the notes by name without hesitation because I repeated everything I learned over and over everyday day after day for a year so hands together was the isolated issues for my brain. I move to John Thompson book 1 and have just finished it and started book 2 - and am very excited. I am positive, determined, and love learning the piano but everyday I worry that this will be it and I won't be able to do it or have the ability of my brain to do it or continue. I read in the postings that chopin's ballade 4 was perhaps one of most difficult pieces to play. Curious as a beginner, I went out and bought the music. And yes, it is impossible to understand. But I occasionally look at the music and I see it is in 6/8 time so I looked to see if I could count out a measure and, yes, I could count out the measure. No, I couldn't play it. I also saw lot of measures that had notes that were way, way, way below the staff on ledger lines. Now, daily I try to work at learning notes below and above the staff by always writing out the major scales - don't play them much yet - but I have learned to recognize instantly any notes 5 below and above the staff. Looking at difficult music, I learned that most but not all are an octave apart - which was a huge suprise. So now when ever I look at very difficult music and see notes hanging down below the bass clef I look at the top note and then sure enough it is an octave reach. I can't play it as a beginner but I am learning little things. All being well, I hope to be able to play something like chopin's ballade 4 in 10 years if I am able to do it, so I will be 74, if I am still alive. I should say that once I got through the two notes at one time issue - things improved and I have not had any show stoppers yet but there could be in the future of the unknown. I know that some people worry about starting piano late, but I can't think of anything more awesome to give your brain and you such an awesome journey of learning to play the piano. I have traveled the world a bit, but for me, now, traveling the keys of the piano is plenty enough for me.



Edited by Michael_99 (07/04/13 07:25 AM)

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#2112688 - 07/04/13 09:10 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Just to up-date you on Mr. Prossnitz' position in Victoria : He will be returning permanently to Europe this summer, resigning his all-too-brief tenure as Head of the Keyboard Department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.


Bruce,

Is this just another example of the difficulties that smaller universities in more remote locations have in keeping the tip-top talent that sometimes comes their way? I say that very affectionately about Victoria, since I think it is a jewel of a town. Those difficulties often include (but are not limited to) lower pay, fewer tip-top colleagues than they would have at other places, and less access to a wider colleague network and broader cultural environment.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#2112748 - 07/04/13 11:28 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: Michael_99]
cefinow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/27/10
Posts: 360
Loc: Western NC (US)
Originally Posted By: Michael_99
When I got to page 24, my brain almost exploded...


Moments like that are great, aren't they? grin

To return to the OP: That is a wonderful insight. It made me think about the concept of "enemy" and what we struggle against in our practicing and playing. Maybe it is a pyrrhic victory when we think we are winning, but some essence is lost from the music.

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#2112938 - 07/04/13 06:29 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
derekjr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/09
Posts: 21
I think I know what he was trying to say to the OP, and I had a similar experience. It's a more eloquent way of saying what my teacher told me: "you are your own worst enemy". Specifically your mind -- well, mine anyway. If you have no confidence in your ability to tackle that tough spot, it will probably not happen, even if you've put the time into physically practicing it. This has been true for me at least. Whenever there are fast runs, I get too focused on the minute details (individual 16th or 32nd notes) instead of the overall gesture or idea. Taking a simple scale as an example, I'd be occupied with 123-1234-123-1234-123-12345, and what would I get? Those typical lumps when the shift over to the thumb happened. Once it was suggested to focus on the last note (the destination) of the scale -- one long gesture -- I noticed an immediate improvement.

Reading Neuhaus' The Art of Piano Playing reinforced this bit of insight (there is a section of Chapter IV called "Confidence As A Basis for Freedom"). Over time I've changed my attitude to be less concerned with mistakes, in the sense that I don't feel like a failure for having them, or botching what I perceived to be "sacred texts" hahaha. Building things up in my head was/is a huge motivator but also a great obstacle, and source of physical tension for me. Realizing that I was the only one that could change this perception, also changed my playing (for the better).

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#2112958 - 07/04/13 07:11 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: Piano*Dad]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18018
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Just to up-date you on Mr. Prossnitz' position in Victoria : He will be returning permanently to Europe this summer, resigning his all-too-brief tenure as Head of the Keyboard Department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.


Bruce,

Is this just another example of the difficulties that smaller universities in more remote locations have in keeping the tip-top talent that sometimes comes their way? I say that very affectionately about Victoria, since I think it is a jewel of a town. Those difficulties often include (but are not limited to) lower pay, fewer tip-top colleagues than they would have at other places, and less access to a wider colleague network and broader cultural environment.


I write the following in the firm belief that I am not betraying any confidences since it is public knowledge here.

The primary reason for Walter's departure is that he finds it more difficult than he had imagined trying to maintain a "bachelor's" life here, while his wife (with a successful, established musical career in Europe) and children (?) are a continent and an ocean away.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2112979 - 07/04/13 08:12 PM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: Cinnamonbear]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4794
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted By: Cinnamonbear
If I may trade a poem with you, cf. Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality."

Then, to answer your question with your own answer: move into your piano. It's your partner. (Mine likes to be caressed. wink )
That is my favorite poem. When I was a youngster, I had to write an analysis of it and it has held a place of high importance ever since! I think I'll find a copy and re-read it right now. Thanks for the reminder.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2113179 - 07/05/13 10:05 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10362
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Bruce,

Got it. That's an insuperable set of problems.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#2113211 - 07/05/13 11:34 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: derekjr]
ClsscLib Offline

Platinum Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 1754
Loc: Northern VA, U.S.
Originally Posted By: derekjr
I think I know what he was trying to say to the OP, and I had a similar experience. It's a more eloquent way of saying what my teacher told me: "you are your own worst enemy". Specifically your mind -- well, mine anyway. If you have no confidence in your ability to tackle that tough spot, it will probably not happen, even if you've put the time into physically practicing it. This has been true for me at least. Whenever there are fast runs, I get too focused on the minute details (individual 16th or 32nd notes) instead of the overall gesture or idea. Taking a simple scale as an example, I'd be occupied with 123-1234-123-1234-123-12345, and what would I get? Those typical lumps when the shift over to the thumb happened. Once it was suggested to focus on the last note (the destination) of the scale -- one long gesture -- I noticed an immediate improvement.

Reading Neuhaus' The Art of Piano Playing reinforced this bit of insight (there is a section of Chapter IV called "Confidence As A Basis for Freedom"). Over time I've changed my attitude to be less concerned with mistakes, in the sense that I don't feel like a failure for having them, or botching what I perceived to be "sacred texts" hahaha. Building things up in my head was/is a huge motivator but also a great obstacle, and source of physical tension for me. Realizing that I was the only one that could change this perception, also changed my playing (for the better).


For me, I'm convinced part of what holds me back is my mind's conviction that what's important are the notes printed on the score, rather than the music itself. I wish I could focus more on the music, and less on the printed notes -- if that makes any sense.
_________________________


"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins

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#2113214 - 07/05/13 11:41 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: ClsscLib]
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2629
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
I wish I could focus more on the music, and less on the printed notes -- if that makes any sense.

Do you memorize your pieces? I find that playing from memory frees me from the tyranny of the printed notes (after they've been absorbed) and allows me to play "by heart."
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#2113217 - 07/05/13 11:53 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: ClsscLib]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19339
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: ClsscLib
For me, I'm convinced part of what holds me back is my mind's conviction that what's important are the notes printed on the score, rather than the music itself. I wish I could focus more on the music, and less on the printed notes -- if that makes any sense.
I think most pianists focus more/mpstly on the notes to begin with and as those are mastered focus more and more on the music. I think the notes and the music are both important so it's not one or the other. One can focus more on the music as one masters the notes.

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#2113495 - 07/06/13 12:13 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
WinsomeAllegretto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/10
Posts: 831
That sounds like a very inspiring lesson! I hope someday I can come to view my piano as my friend. Right now I view it as someone with which I have a very odd, private, and rocky relationship and with whom I have to have weekly therapy sessions (with my teacher). Kind of like two married people who are hardly ever seen together in public, but when they are, everything is so rehearsed that everyone thinks the marriage is perfect, but both secretly know the truth. (Wow I think I took that analogy way too far...). I'm just afraid my technique will always get in the way. It is so difficult to get past.

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#2113501 - 07/06/13 12:43 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6101
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
What gooddog's teacher said works very well for me, but I am not sure it really works for everyone. Some more "combative" people might prefer the opposite approach.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#2113568 - 07/06/13 06:01 AM Re: It's not my enemy [Re: gooddog]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7840
Thanks for posting that, gooddog - while I never really think of the piano as the enemy to be conquered, I sure can get all bound up on working at this or that detail or concept, rather than just playing the music. It's great to be reminded that the music itself is still there, beyond all the details, and that sometimes just letting go is exactly the thing that will do the most good.

I've had enough experiences along those lines that I really ought to keep the idea in mind more than I do. Just reading your post made an instant and pretty wonderful difference in some pieces I'd been working on, the next time I sat down at the piano. It was like my hands were liberated for a while.

The part about something being "difficult if you think it is" is a little more established in my consciousness - it's VERY obvious to me that if I have a mind-set that a certain passage is difficult, it will be. The question for me becomes one of how to work through very real technical issues without letting them become set in one's mind as something "difficult". I think I'm getting better at it, but it seems like an unusual kind of problem, one that forces a kind of self-awareness that seems pretty subtle (and, dare I say it, "difficult"), at least for me it does.

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