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#2120587 - 07/20/13 03:44 PM Need a new strategy for special piece
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Hello,

I am trying to learn this piece:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh4Vl1qKIt4

I bought the sheet and I think it is in my capabilities to play it. The problem is that I have a brutal time learning it.

I have to admit that I am a dreadful sheet reader. I know the notes, but I can´t play anthing from sheet, not even the easiest pieces. It´s more like putting togehter a puzzle. But I am very good at memorizing. So my normal process of learning is this:
- Figure out right hand of a small part and memorize it
- Train right hand until I can play it fluently at slow speed
- Figure out the left hand of that part and memorize it
- Train left hand until I can play it fluently at slow speed
- Put both hands together until it´s fluent
- Increasing speed
When finished, I move to the next part.

But in this case, this strategy does not work at all. The music is arranged in a way that the hands (especially the left hand) cannot be figured and trained alone. Each hand alone does not make any sense at all - it doesn´t even sound like music in some cases. It only gets a meaning as soon as you put both hands together. But I can´t figure out both hands at the same time and I can´t train them at the same time.

Do you have any advice on how to figure out a piece like this? I am really having a hard time here. I already got the first page, but it took me ages. And the consecutive pages are even harder. Any help is appreciated.

Thanks a lot!
D

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#2120607 - 07/20/13 04:25 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Some thoughts: Depending on your technique, the piece may not be too out of the question (though I'll warn you, it's certainly advanced), however, if you can't comfortably read and understand (this doesn't necessarily mean be able to play at the same time) the sheet music, then the music is still probably beyond you currently. In order to play something from the sheet, you must be able to:
  • Interpret the sheet
  • Have or acquire the technique demanded to play all the right notes with the right note values with the proper phrasing and dynamics


Even if you have the second requirement (technique), without the first, you'll have a miserable time trying to learn the music. Have you considered spending some time with a teacher to learn to better read music? The skill - and a teachers help with it - is invaluable to any and all musicians.

If you spend a couple of weeks/months on the basics of music reading (and in the process, maybe practicing some easier pieces that you like, but whose written page(s) you can better understand), you may find your task significantly easier.

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#2120692 - 07/20/13 08:19 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
Dragon777, I have read your post, here:

I am trying to learn this piece:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh4Vl1qKIt4

I bought the sheet and I think it is in my capabilities to play it. The problem is that I have a brutal time learning it.

I have to admit that I am a dreadful sheet reader. I know the notes, but I can´t play anthing from sheet, not even the easiest pieces. It´s more like putting togehter a puzzle. But I am very good at memorizing. So my normal process of learning is this:
- Figure out right hand of a small part and memorize it
- Train right hand until I can play it fluently at slow speed
- Figure out the left hand of that part and memorize it
- Train left hand until I can play it fluently at slow speed
- Put both hands together until it´s fluent
- Increasing speed
When finished, I move to the next part.

But in this case, this strategy does not work at all. The music is arranged in a way that the hands (especially the left hand) cannot be figured and trained alone. Each hand alone does not make any sense at all - it doesn´t even sound like music in some cases. It only gets a meaning as soon as you put both hands together. But I can´t figure out both hands at the same time and I can´t train them at the same time.

Do you have any advice on how to figure out a piece like this? I am really having a hard time here. I already got the first page, but it took me ages. And the consecutive pages are even harder. Any help is appreciated.

Thanks a lot!
D

_________________________________________________

The first thing one does when he goes to learn a piece is to look at all the measures to determine that you know the names of the notes and can play them on the staff, above the staff on ledger lines and below the staff on ledger lines.

Next, it is important to know the note values of every note in the piece so you can count through the measures to make sure you can play the notes for the correct length of time else the piece will not sound right.

Next, it is important to have the technique to be able toplay all the notes in the piece:

technique:
broken chords
one note extension in left hand, thumb, pinky
one note extension in the right hand, thumb, pinky
right hand crossover
left hand crossover
2nd finger crossover thumb
thumb under the 2nd finger
thumb under the 3rd crossover
4th finger crossing thumb, etc.

Next, you have to play the piece extremely slowly without making any mistakes - else you are going way too fast.

So there is lots of stuff you have to know and do to be able to play a piece at your level. And to play the play a piece at tempo and without errors and played smoothly can take 3 to 6 months depending on how difficult the piece is for you to be able to play it. Of, course, Always look at your music, not at your hands.
I

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#2120752 - 07/20/13 10:07 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2397
Loc: Virginia, USA
The danger with hands separate practice is .. that it's hands separate. And when you get to a piece which really needs hands together, you get stuck.

Only really two options I see:

a) Put the piece aside for now and work on improving reading and playing hands together from the get go. Note this does not mean abandoning hands separate practice - rather you use it where it's appropriate. For a specific tricky passage; to get the phrasing in each hand right; better memorization - all the good things about it.

b) Assuming you don't want to - and I see why you might not (though I would still strongly suggest you start progressing your reading with really really really simple pieces!) - then you will just have to go slllooooowwwww. Really slowly. One measure at a time or less and slowly build up.

I don't see a third option but perhaps someone else does.
_________________________
  • Liszt - Liebestrume No. 3, S541
  • Scarlatti - Sonata in D minor, K. 213

Kawai K3

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#2120775 - 07/20/13 10:49 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
earlofmar Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1656
Loc: Australia
I would totally agree with Bobpickle and Andy, their advice is tried and tested.

I find the best method of learning a new piece, is to learn the right hand part fluently (or as close as). I will practice the left hand part to see if there is no obvious barrier as far as my modest technical abilities are concerned but will not specifically try to memorise it yet. I will then put the two hands together and start playing through the piece very slowly. With the right hand secure in the memory I can concentrate more on the left hand. When I find a tricky section (usually more than one) then that will get quite a bit of attention from a few days to several weeks. I think you should read further on how to learn new pieces and Bobpickle has collected and wrote quite a bit on this forum, start by looking for his posts here

I know I am not alone when I say learning a new piece can sometimes be a big challenge, and indeed this is a skill which needs to be developed. The best advice I ever received was to slow a piece down while learning and use the practice time wisely and in a methodical manner. There is no quick fix so patience is the key, good luck and lets hear the finished product (or anything else) when you are happy to record.
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
XXXV-6-XXX

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#2120865 - 07/21/13 04:49 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: earlofmar]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Hello,

thanks for your help.

I think it really comes down to sheet reading and understanding a piece based on the notes. It´s really a pity because I think my playing technique is up to it. Normally I figure the notes slowly and as soon as they are memorized, I start playing by ear. I have an extremely hard time to play a piece from sheet which I cannot hear beforehand. When I hear it, normally I can play it after figuring out the notes. But this one is tricky for me as there is no chance to puzzle it together bit by bit. You have to understand right and left hand as a whole from the start to be able to play it. And my current strategy does not help much in this regard. Strange thing is that I have mastered some tough ones (even harder to play than this one) with this strategy without problems. This is really the first piece where I struggle massively. Must be about the way it is composed.

I guess you are right and I should consult a teacher to get me up a bit on the sheet reading. I was hoping there is a little trick for cases like this, but obviously there isn´t.

Best
D

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#2120874 - 07/21/13 05:47 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
There is no shortcut to sight reading. It's a bit like swimming, you just have to do it.

There are tips that make progress easier though, such as not trying to read up to speed. Read material that's within your reading ability as well as your playing ability (Mikrokosmos Vols 1-4, Beyer Op. 101, Czerny Op. 139, Book One of the popular methods etc.). Learn to read the whole text not just the notes. And, of course, keeping the eyes on the score and learn the keys by feel. Pay as much attention as you can to the piece before you start. Experience helps with this but key and time signatures are useful, phrasing and dynamic indicators, heavy use of ledger lines or accidentals etc.

Learning to sight sing helps.

Learning a new piece that bypasses hands separate and compensates for poor sight reading means start with analysis. Work out the harmonies bar by bar and beat by beat and the note names will slowly filter in.

The piece is a song so play through the melody notes alone with loose block chords as accompaniment just to establish the cantabile in the line.

There should be a climax in every line and in every verse. It's typically on the highest note or on the dominant. If it's not on the highest note most of the notes after it are usually falling. Neapolitan songs typically end on the highest and loudest note but they are not always the climax.

If the song is to be played without a vocal line the music should progress from verse to verse not just be repeat after repeat, again building a slow climax, typically to the penultimate verse, and falling away on the last one. How does the accompaniment change from verse to verse? Understanding this will help you read the notes just from knowing what they are.

Breaking the song into verses should be easy, intros, codas and cadenzas can be separated out and tackled separately. Each verse can be broken into lines.

Reading just each line may be possible by reading and playing at a speed at which you can read. If not break each line into beats from the first note of each beat to the first note of the next. Play each beat a few times until you feel comfortable with it up to the end of the line then go through again two beats at a time, then either three or four. When you can play the whole line as one fragment drop it for a few days (or just play it a couple of times each day) and work on the next.

When you've got one verse add a simple intro and coda and you've got something to work with. You can build it up from there. As it's a song, you don't have to stick rigidly with the music unless the discipline appeals. If you have showy licks that you can add you're free to throw them in, or you can drop any from the score that are beyond your present ability, do the climax verse in octaves, etc, etc.
_________________________
Richard

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#2120881 - 07/21/13 06:46 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: zrtf90]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Hi Richard,

you made an important point. In order to learn a piece, you first have to distinguish between what´s the core of the melody, what the harmonies are and what´s there solely for decoration. Normally I can do that quite well, but not in this case. It´s the way both hands work together to form a whole with this piece. The structure is unlike anything I have played before. It´s really hard to distinguish. Sometimes the melody does not work without the decoration parts played, sometimes notes or chords on one hand sound out of key without adding the other hand etc..

It´s really challenging to work into it, though playing it is not that hard once you have figured it. I guess the arranger came up with the arrangement through improvising and changing the core more and more until it sounded good as a solo piano piece. It was not built up as a composition but more an improvisation of a very skillful player who wrote it down afterwards. Maybe that´s why it´s so hard to figure.

Has anybody here seen the sheet?
He has the first page as a sample on his website for free:
http://www.fabriziocaligaris.com/Welcome_files/Nobody%20pag1.pdf
I have already figured this first page (took me a while, though), but it becomes much harder later on. The first page is pretty straight forward compared to the rest. But still it would interest me if this looks like a cakewalk to anybody skilled in sight reading or if you are wondering a bit as well.

My playing technique and my sight reading skills are vastly apart. That´s why I didn´t bother about improving the sight reading recently, because it would mean playing "boring" pieces for quite a while. But maybe this will be the only way.

Best
D


Edited by Dragon777 (07/21/13 06:56 AM)

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#2120885 - 07/21/13 07:10 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1406
Loc: uk south
It’s not a particularly difficult read (obviously that's a relative appraisal!) but what makes it more difficult than it need be is that the arrangement, in order to compensate for lack of band and singer, has been elaborated from a much more straightforward piano accompaniment.

I’d recommend looking for a simple chord chart for this song (it’s relatively straightforward), learn to play it as an accompaniment and then come back to this arrangement subsequently.

(I'm assuming you can play from a chord chart! - if you can't then it would pay you handsomely to learn to do that first, particularly if you're in the habit of playing pop songs)





Edited by dire tonic (07/21/13 07:12 AM)

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#2120888 - 07/21/13 07:16 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4380
Loc: Jersey Shore
Looking at the pdf, if you are not a reader, then this will be extremely hard for you to play off the sheet. It would take years of reading practice to get to this point.

You should memorize it unless you want to spend a long time building up your sight reading.

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#2120891 - 07/21/13 07:32 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Mark...]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
In fact, it´s my first attempt at a pop song. Normally I find pop song arrangements boring sounding for solo piano. This one caught my attention and I think it sounds awesome the way he plays it in the video.

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#2120892 - 07/21/13 07:46 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1406
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Dragon777
In fact, it´s my first attempt at a pop song. Normally I find pop song arrangements boring sounding for solo piano. This one caught my attention and I think it sounds awesome the way he plays it in the video.


Forget the chord symbols idea.

There are one or two issues in the reading that could present you with a problem. I agree, there's little to be gained by trying to play this HS.

Those opening 2 bars are characteristic of the entire song.
I would do whatever it takes to learn to play those. If it takes you a week to get to grips with them, the rest will follow with increasing ease (although there are one or two potential difficulties in the triplet 8ths mixing with 16ths but take one thing at a time).

You've talked of difficulties. Is it merely a matter of overcoming your eagerness to be able to play this immediately or are there specific technical issues you can identify?

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#2120900 - 07/21/13 08:18 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: dire tonic]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Hi dire_tonic,

I already figured the first page and I am able to play it (though not completely up to speed, yet). I think, once I figure out how it´s meant to be played, I can do it. But figuring it out is my problem and I am stuck on page 2 doing that (I think it gets harder than on first page).

One of the main issues here is timing. It´s hard for me to identify how to bring out the melody and de-emphasize the elaborations. And it´s hard to figure how both hands work together timing-wise. When learning the first page, I was constantly checking the YouTube video to see how each passage is meant to sound. Without the video, I would have been completely lost. It´s very time consuming, but I decided to fight through it.

On page 2, for example, there is a bar which is not looking very intimidating, but when I try playing it, it just doesn´t sound at all (it´s from 0:46 in the video). It does not become alive and just sounds "wrong". Almost like I am playing the wrong notes, but I´m not. Not sure if it is because of my poor reading skills, but my feeling is that he is playing some parts differently than they are noted. For example in bar 2 it sounds to me like he is playing the second triple in a different timing than the first one (cantabile?). Or the triple in bar 8 is similar.

Thank you, guys, for bein so helpful! This is a great forum.
D

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#2120902 - 07/21/13 08:31 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1406
Loc: uk south
Quote:
It´s very time consuming, but I decided to fight through it.


- that is exactly the right approach!

He seems to be playing the piece with relaxed but fixed tempo so there should be no ambiguities in the timing. It's entirely possible that his score is modified to hide or simplify some of the more elaborate things he's playing - I haven't cross checked page 1 with the video but if you're already playing page 1 albeit under tempo then that's good progress.

Can you post up the bar in question on page 2? (no more than that - copyright needs to be respected as far as poss).

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#2120910 - 07/21/13 08:54 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: dire tonic]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1406
Loc: uk south
...to be honest, I read through the first 4 bars without a hitch (maybe it was easier for me because I know the song well) but went no further when first posting. Now I see there are some nasty notational errors. Bar 5, the last 5 RH notes are almost unreadable as they're laid out. Second half of bar 7, RH - it's hard to be sure what he expects to be played although one can make a reasonable guess. The last half of bar 8 LH would never be written like that.

It's possible you're fighting a losing battle with some of the notational errors. Your only way round that will be to try and divine the timing from what you can hear on the video.

As I mentioned, I could look at the page 2 bar that's giving you trouble if you can show an image.

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#2120921 - 07/21/13 09:34 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Looking at the first page, I don't see the need for immediate HT. Each hand HS makes sense to me.

How long is this piece (how many pages or measures)?
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2120986 - 07/21/13 12:34 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1406
Loc: uk south
..meanwhile...I've had another look at page 1 of the score.


Bar 8, RH does NOT represent what Fabrizio is playing. On the score the second beat as written is a triplet Bb,A,G. In the playing, with a re-iterated Bb, this is an unmusical mess.

- it SHOULD be

4 semiquavers (16th notes) Bb,Bb,A,G with the first Bb tied over from the previous Bb 16th note in the first beat.


That together with poor notation strongly suggests that your problem is rather more a result of a poorly transcribed score than your reading skills, no matter how basic.

If you're wary about the copyright issue feel free to PM me...

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#2121046 - 07/21/13 02:31 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: dire tonic]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Thanks, dire tonic,
I will PM you about the details of some bars, then.

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#2121129 - 07/21/13 04:46 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1415
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
PMFJI --

As I listen to the video, I'm hearing _a lot_ of rhythmic complexity. Syncopations, 3-against-2 patterns, gentle grace notes that aren't _quite_ grace notes (just a little bit too long). And "accompaniment patterns" that go freely from LH to RH, and back.

Very subtle music, not easy to notate well. And _very hard_ to sight-read, IMHO.

If I were learning this, I'd do it hands-separate, really, really slowly, until I got the timing right.

Just my (very) humble opinion . . .

. Charles

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#2121329 - 07/22/13 01:26 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1406
Loc: uk south
There’s no problem, Charles, he’s got this now, at least up until bar 18 apparently, with 14 having been minced up in the transcription - unfortunately so often the case with pop stuff.

Dragon’s reading is probably pretty good and his observation about the interdependence of the hands with a piece like this (typical modern pop piano copy with a 16th note basis) was quite sound – it’s very often much easier to learn the two hands together.

There’s almost nothing in the way of cross-rhythm, incidentally - the triplet passages are all 2 hands triplet-based and bar 8 is incorrectly written.

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#2121372 - 07/22/13 04:45 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: dire tonic]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Hi guys,

dire tonic was really helpful in framing out some things for me with the transcription. Therefore I got the first part figured and ready for practice now.

As I sad before, normally I am all into hands seperate practice when learning a new piece. But with this one, in some bars single hands make no sense as melody and elaborations move from one hand to the other and complement each other.

I struggled with separating the melody from the elaborations in some bars, which is a neccessity in order to get it right. This in combination with the odd rhythmical writing causes the problems. But dire tonic helped me out with both.

Fabrizio is playing this piece quite freely and therefore it is hard for him to write down exactly what he wants without loosing the subtleties. It´s a bit hard to follow, but I will get there.

Thank you all for help!

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#2121387 - 07/22/13 05:57 AM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
If you think you may wish to learn further transcriptions like this (or even better, to improvise in similar styles), you might consider pursuing private lessons on jazz improvisation and theory as many would argue trying to play music of the non-classical genre this way is ironic (learning to play music that sounds improvised by practicing from a written sheet) and more difficult and less rewarding than if you were to study how to be able to improvise in the style. If nothing else, the lessons in jazz harmony and theory would be invaluable.

My favorite example of such a piece (written-out jazz arrangement/composition) is Makoto Ozone's arrangement of Boz Scagg's "You're Not Alone"

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#2121915 - 07/23/13 12:56 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Bobpickle]
Dragon777 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 27
Hi Bobpickle,

yes, I already thought about learning to improvise a bit, but found it too time consuming of an effort to do it without a teacher. The problem is, that I don´t know of any good teachers in my area that would come to my home (I am a bit busy with the job). Maybe I´ll have to start looking agin.

Best
D

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#2122040 - 07/23/13 06:52 PM Re: Need a new strategy for special piece [Re: Dragon777]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
There are also a great many method books that introduce and discuss the topic. Forum member Dave Frank has his "Joy of Improv" books 1 and 2 and the Jamey Aebersold Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz and Improvise is probably the most popular.

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