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#2167704 - 10/17/13 01:15 PM Scherzo 4 help
JoelW Online   content
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How does one get the descending chord progressions up to speed? They're the reason why I put this piece on the shelf. When I play them, I choke. I've tried practicing them slower but I didn't get much results. Is this a case of starting slow and working up speed or is this some kind of mental block I have?

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#2167734 - 10/17/13 02:39 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
TheHappyMoron Offline
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what i always do in these situations is reshelve it!! grin

Am i right in presuming you mean Chopin's scherzo?
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#2167756 - 10/17/13 03:37 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Polyphonist Online   content
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I don't know which part you're talking about. Could you point it out in this score, please?

http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/..._ed.Schott_.pdf
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#2167761 - 10/17/13 03:47 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
BruceD Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
How does one get the descending chord progressions up to speed?[...]


Not to sound facetious : the same way that one resolves getting any challenging passage up to speed should apply here - wherever "here" is.

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#2167766 - 10/17/13 03:57 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Morodiene Online   content
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If you could be more specific with where you are having problems and what's happening when you play we may be able to help further.
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#2167788 - 10/17/13 05:03 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
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Sorry for the taking so long to reply. Had an internet guy come out. grin

I'm talking about each one of the descending chord passages. Going up is no problem. Going back down is for some reason very challenging for me at tempo.

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#2167792 - 10/17/13 05:19 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
patH Offline
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Simplify! grin
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#2167793 - 10/17/13 05:24 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Of course. Simplify. What else? Chopin has too many notes anyway.
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#2167796 - 10/17/13 05:35 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
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Does anyone have any real advice?

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#2167797 - 10/17/13 05:38 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
currawong Offline
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What does your teacher say?
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#2167799 - 10/17/13 05:41 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: currawong]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Post a video. That's my advice.
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#2167801 - 10/17/13 05:44 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Kuanpiano Offline
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Try voicing away from your thumbs. Also the nature of the chords implies "out-in, out-in" with the right hand, which sort of hinders the direction of the line. Bringing out the outer voices and then having those guide the phrase might help increase the lightness.
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#2167806 - 10/17/13 05:49 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Kuanpiano Offline
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Also, how fast are you trying to go? Typically I found that around 104 per bar was comfortable for the chords, but getting too quick for the running 8ths....and an ideal tempo should be maybe 108 or 112. I guess you have the opposite problem as me...
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#2167808 - 10/17/13 05:52 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: Kuanpiano]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Kuanpiano
Typically I found that around 104 per bar was comfortable for the chords, but getting too quick for the running 8ths....and an ideal tempo should be maybe 108 or 112.

An ideal tempo is around 120, and if you can't play it cleanly at 104 you shouldn't be studying it.
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#2167810 - 10/17/13 05:59 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Kuanpiano Offline
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I shelved it because I had other things to study.
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#2167823 - 10/17/13 06:24 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Like the Sonata? grin
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#2167851 - 10/17/13 07:34 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
jeffreyjones Offline
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You're talking about the staccato chord progressions that go in all kinds of interesting harmonic directions, right? Including the massively long one right before the coda which is a real "Hail Mary" moment. I know exactly what you mean and had the same issue with the same passages. The thing that solved it for me was normalizing my hand position so that I wasn't twisting. It's not the speed of it that would trip me up, it would be trying to do too many conflicting motions too quickly. When I cut those motions out, it was suddenly easy.

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#2167865 - 10/17/13 08:47 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Morodiene Online   content
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OK, once I realized that the music Polyphonist posted was by a different composer :P

I think I know what may help. Have you tried playing it non-staccato? Just playing them one hand at a time, perhaps tenuto but still with some separation. Exaggerate the lift off and dropping into the next chord. (this is also done super-slow). Try to drop from a bit above the keys thinking more vertical movement than horizontal. You may miss, in which case go back and forth between to two chords until you can make the transition easily. Do the same with the LH. While still playing in this manner, then play LH beat 1 first then RH beat 1, alternating hands like this. Then do RH first then LH. You can also try playing the outside notes in each hand then add the inside notes, then repeat the passage with inside notes first then outside.

These should all help you orient yourself better and make the adjustments needed. Play as written, still not staccato but still slow and make sure the wrists are flexible and you still feel dropping into the keys as you reduce the vertical height. Now at a slow tempo add the staccato back in. This is actually marked portato in the score, so think of the staccato as less crisp. Let yourself feel the key bounce your hands up and help prepare you to drop in the next chord. Gradually increase tempo while maintaining the flexibility.

There's probably some other things you can do if this doesn't help, but probably the main thing is that you are adding tension when you increase the tempo, so working it slowly like this will help you gain awareness of how it should feel at whatever tempo you bring it to.
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#2168055 - 10/18/13 10:00 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
....When I play them, I choke....

Haven't read all the replies in detail, but I think this is different than what has been said:

I think there's a high chance that what I quoted is the key part of what you said, and that this whole thing isn't primarily a "technical" problem but one of a certain kind of confusion smile -- deceptively confusing aspects of the passage, and lack of awareness of them.

What I do know is, this passage gave me extra trouble too, and that seemed to be the reason.

The passage has various kinds of irregularity to it -- in terms of directionality and groupings. It's a type of passage that usually would be regular in its pattern, and that's what the head and hands are used to, and sort of what they expect -- but this isn't. For example, there's sort of a hemiola going on: The meter is 3/4, and the passage is very 'rhythmic,' so the head is thinking 3 beats; but in terms of the physicality (and really of the music too), the chords are in groups of 2. (Right? Right.) smile
Plus, the directionality is jagged and irregular.

None of that is immediately obvious to the conscious mind. (Sorry to be using psychobabble vocabulary but I don't know how else to put it.) grin
Some pianists can play such passages without any problem anyway, without worrying or particularly knowing about things like this. But I think most people can't -- and many never get past it, because they assume it's just a technical issue and keep practicing and practicing it, without ever realizing that the main problem is that the patterns are confusing and that they don't have the irregularities straight in their minds and hands. I think if you look at the passage this way, realize the conflict between the meter and the 'groupings,' and realize the irregularities/changes of direction within the passage -- which will take some attention and study but not that much -- you'll stop choking, and you won't have very much trouble with these passages.

(Except the last one, which is harder smile because it's longer and so there's more of this 'stuff' in it.
You'll be able to do that too but it'll take more work.)

One of the things I found useful was practicing the passages a bit as though they were in 2/4 time -- i.e. thinking of them as groups of 2 -- which takes care of about half of the problem.


There are similar issues in parts of the 3rd Scherzo -- the 'fluttering' passages. In those, there's exactly the same quasi-hemiola, plus a physically confusing aspect that many people seem not to appreciate: While the hands seem to be fluttering in the same direction, and that's how the 'head' thinks of it, anatomically they're fluttering in opposite directions, which for many of us can cause brainlock because of the conflict between head and hands. (Won't go into the anatomical details unless anybody wants me to.)

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#2168058 - 10/18/13 10:07 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
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Thanks everyone. I will try what you all said, but I think what Mark said comes closest to my problem. I'm a big believer in technique being half physical half mental. It's definitely a mental block. Mark, I will try what you said and let you know how it works out for me.

And by the way, "conscious mind" isn't that bad. grin

Quote:
There are similar issues in parts of the 3rd Scherzo -- the 'fluttering' passages.


Yes! When I attempted this Scherzo, I choked on that too. It's definitely not physical because if it were, it would be impossible for me every time, but that wasn't the case. I could play them sometimes perfectly, and sometimes choke halfway through.

Technique is very mental!


Edited by JoelW (10/18/13 10:10 AM)

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#2168064 - 10/18/13 10:27 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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BTW there are similar issues in the 1st Scherzo too....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUiHBjQku0o

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#2168067 - 10/18/13 10:49 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
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The introduction is funnier than the playing.

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#2168074 - 10/18/13 11:07 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
The introduction is funnier than the playing.

Indeed. grin
And the ovation is second funniest.

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#2168120 - 10/18/13 01:01 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
Thanks everyone. I will try what you all said, but I think what Mark said comes closest to my problem. I'm a big believer in technique being half physical half mental. It's definitely a mental block. Mark, I will try what you said and let you know how it works out for me.

And by the way, "conscious mind" isn't that bad. grin

Quote:
There are similar issues in parts of the 3rd Scherzo -- the 'fluttering' passages.


Yes! When I attempted this Scherzo, I choked on that too. It's definitely not physical because if it were, it would be impossible for me every time, but that wasn't the case. I could play them sometimes perfectly, and sometimes choke halfway through.

Technique is very mental!
And yet, mental tension can originate from a physical technical issue. By looking at the passage in question from many different angles can be helpful in overcoming psychological barriers by being able to fully understand what is going on in the passage and how it should feel when you play it.
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#2168130 - 10/18/13 01:21 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
BruceD Offline
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It happens so often in Chopin that it can almost be considered a "characteristic trait" of his : the note "patterns" or "groupings" are in physical conflict - as it were - with the time signature. I so often see "patterns" of four notes, repeated every two beats in a time signature of 3/4.

You may call it 'hemiola' - although I'm not sure it is - but that certainly is the idea. Once you isolate the passage and play in groups of two or groups of four instead of trying to think of it in groups of three, then the technical challenges seem somewhat minimized.

Eventually, however, the patterns have to be put back into the triple meter.

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#2168139 - 10/18/13 01:58 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
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What about the F major waltz? hahaha

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#2168223 - 10/18/13 05:35 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
What about the F major waltz? hahaha

Same thing! smile

And my 'favorite' example, because of the agony I've gone through with it: The final RH riff in the B minor sonata. It's groups of 4 -- not 6, which is what it looks like on the page -- and the groups-of-4 aren't really exactly where they look like they are either.

BTW those groups-of-4 are an exact retrograde of the 2nd through 5th notes of the movement's main theme.

And they're also an exact inversion of those notes.

Chopin is full of puzzles like that. Not nearly as much as Bach, but he might be a distant 2nd. smile


OK, OK -- 3rd. There's Beethoven.

Ooops, there's Mozart too.
4th.
ha

Bruce: You're right that the thing in the 4th scherzo isn't absolutely a "hemiola" -- but it is a hemiola according to the broader definition, which is pretty commonly how the term is taken. Not necessarily most commonly smile but pretty commonly. Anyway that's why I qualified it by saying "sort of" and "quasi."

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#2168226 - 10/18/13 05:45 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: Mark_C]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Chopin is full of puzzles like that. Not nearly as much as Bach, but he might be a distant 2nd. smile


OK, OK -- 3rd. There's Beethoven.

Ooops, there's Mozart too.
4th.
ha

What about Brahms? grin
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#2169776 - 10/21/13 09:55 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
pianist.ame Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
How does one get the descending chord progressions up to speed? They're the reason why I put this piece on the shelf. When I play them, I choke. I've tried practicing them slower but I didn't get much results. Is this a case of starting slow and working up speed or is this some kind of mental block I have?


Practice everything legato; both the ascending& descending chord progressions. It works
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#2169860 - 10/22/13 02:04 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
Bobpickle Offline

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Originally Posted By: JoelW
Does anyone have any real advice?


Simplifying - or what may technically be referred to as outlining or skeletonizing - is very real advice and often claimed by pedagogues to be the single best practice tool.

Here are a few topical resources on the subject:


Graham Fitch goes into further detail about how to use the powerful tool in his ebook, Practising the Piano eBook - Practice Tools

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#2169877 - 10/22/13 04:22 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
stores Offline
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Slow practice, slow practice and slow practice... and concentration (which is something you must train yourself to do). The inconsistency you're experiencing isn't from some mental "block", but because the physical aspect isn't there yet. When we "get it" part of the time and "know" we can do it and the rest of the time we're frustrated, because we can't replicate what we've done when successful, it means that we don't know exactly what needs to be done yet to properly execute said passage. We're only guessing. This is where a good teacher pays off in dividends. We need to learn, and learn how to employ, the proper technique for said passage and mentally learn how to concentrate our focus so that we consistently do the same thing each time we're presented with said challenge.
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#2169912 - 10/22/13 07:57 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: stores]
Morodiene Online   content
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Originally Posted By: stores
Slow practice, slow practice and slow practice... and concentration (which is something you must train yourself to do). The inconsistency you're experiencing isn't from some mental "block", but because the physical aspect isn't there yet. When we "get it" part of the time and "know" we can do it and the rest of the time we're frustrated, because we can't replicate what we've done when successful, it means that we don't know exactly what needs to be done yet to properly execute said passage. We're only guessing. This is where a good teacher pays off in dividends. We need to learn, and learn how to employ, the proper technique for said passage and mentally learn how to concentrate our focus so that we consistently do the same thing each time we're presented with said challenge.
This is a great explanation of how the physical and the mental are so tied together. Playing piano is a physical act, but we first have to wrap our minds completely around what we need to do physically. That doesn't mean we micro-manage every physical component - that tends to be slow and stiff at best. But understand the parts that we play consciously and letting the unconscious parts go. If you don't completely understand it, you may have success now and then but not be able to replicate it every time. It is really important to process after the fact how something felt, to analyze what you did - and better, when you try again and it fails, to analyze what was different and why it failed.

I agree, having a teacher is so valuable for these things.
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#2169997 - 10/22/13 11:27 AM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: Morodiene]
Mark_C Offline
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....and IMO what it shows is the divergent ways of seeing this, and how one can possibly miss the boat if he just dismisses one of them.

Most here approached it as though it's primarily a technical thing. I'm saying it's hardly that at all. You're tying the ideas together nicely. I think that for most people who have a problem like what Joel described, all the slow practice or fast practice or medium practice in the world wouldn't straighten it out unless he also realized aspects of the passage like the ones that were noted. It would enable him to play it better, but not totally reliably, plus it would be a much less efficient approach.

I'm not saying it's necessarily right to look at it mainly this other way (although I think so) grin i.e. that it's mainly a failure to grasp that what's going on in the passage is deceptively confusing -- but I'm saying that it's a big mistake to dismiss this. It's at least a useful additional approach -- to wonder, why is this passage giving me so much trouble, and that sometimes it's conceptual things about the passage that one hasn't been realizing.

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#2170198 - 10/22/13 05:53 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
dolce sfogato Offline
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Having practised, played and performed the Scherzi quite a lot, I must say that your problems with the ascending/descending chordprogressions as you mentioned bewilder me a bit, the whole problem of the 4th Scherzo shouldn't be in being able to play those accurately, it's much more in the the 'asides' that the problem lurks, and in maintaining a basic tempo for the whole piece, even in the first half of the coda, the sunny trills that even might evoke Siegfried's Waldvogel...If you have trouble in playing the chordprogressions, well, do try a bit of Saint-Saens's 2nd concerto, 2dn mov, or even Pierné's concerto, and concentrate on the trills in thirds, those are rather difficult to keep even and soft, harder than all those chords and all those tricky rubs up and downs that have to sound so lightweight.
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#2170203 - 10/22/13 05:57 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: dolce sfogato]
JoelW Online   content
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Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
Having practised, played and performed the Scherzi quite a lot, I must say that your problems with the ascending/descending chordprogressions as you mentioned bewilder me a bit, the whole problem of the 4th Scherzo shouldn't be in being able to play those accurately, it's much more in the the 'asides' that the problem lurks, and in maintaining a basic tempo for the whole piece, even in the first half of the coda, the sunny trills that even might evoke Siegfried's Waldvogel...If you have trouble in playing the chordprogressions, well, do try a bit of Saint-Saens's 2nd concerto, 2dn mov, or even Pierné's concerto, and concentrate on the trills in thirds, those are rather difficult to keep even and soft, harder than all those chords and all those tricky rubs up and downs that have to sound so lightweight.


But I don't have a problem with that stuff. The thirds trills are easy for me and all of the runs are relatively easy except for a certain one and the ascending half of the run in the codetta, but those just take metronome work for me to get faster. I was making good progress with those. The descending chords are seriously the hardest part of the whole piece for me.

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#2170256 - 10/22/13 08:00 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
pianist.ame Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: dolce sfogato
Having practised, played and performed the Scherzi quite a lot, I must say that your problems with the ascending/descending chordprogressions as you mentioned bewilder me a bit, the whole problem of the 4th Scherzo shouldn't be in being able to play those accurately, it's much more in the the 'asides' that the problem lurks, and in maintaining a basic tempo for the whole piece, even in the first half of the coda, the sunny trills that even might evoke Siegfried's Waldvogel...If you have trouble in playing the chordprogressions, well, do try a bit of Saint-Saens's 2nd concerto, 2dn mov, or even Pierné's concerto, and concentrate on the trills in thirds, those are rather difficult to keep even and soft, harder than all those chords and all those tricky rubs up and downs that have to sound so lightweight.


But I don't have a problem with that stuff. The thirds trills are easy for me and all of the runs are relatively easy except for a certain one and the ascending half of the run in the codetta, but those just take metronome work for me to get faster. I was making good progress with those. The descending chords are seriously the hardest part of the whole piece for me.


Like I said, practice those descending chords legato. That's the advice I got from my mentor when learning the Scherzo and up till now I still practice it that way.
_________________________
Currently working on:J.S Bach Prelude&Fugue in C major from bk 1,Chopin Etude op.10 no.12,Impromptus nos.1&4 and Mendelssohn Song without words op.67

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#2170260 - 10/22/13 08:04 PM Re: Scherzo 4 help [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4747
Loc: USA
Okay I will.

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