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#2168755 - 10/20/13 02:02 AM Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece
jazzyprof Online   content
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Registered: 11/30/04
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Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
There has been a running debate on whether it is harmful to listen to recordings of a piece one is working on. I happen to believe that it is a good thing and that it does no harm to one's "creativity". Today I stumbled upon an interview in which Rachmaninoff describes ten important attributes of beautiful pianoforte playing.

Rachmaninoff: You ask me, “How can the student form the proper conception of the work as a whole?" Doubtless the best way is to hear it performed by some pianist whose authority as an interpreter cannot be questioned.
(From interview published in Etude Magazine, March 1910)

So now I can listen without worry, knowing that Rach himself would approve!

Your thoughts?
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#2168760 - 10/20/13 02:19 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
BruceD Online   content
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My thoughts? They haven't changed much over the number of times this question has come up.

I don't usually listen to recordings when I'm studying a work; I enjoy the artistic challenge of finding out what I can from the score. Don't tell me that this is time not well spent and that listening to recordings can shorten the learning process. Listening to recordings will tell me what others think of the work. I believe that continuing to first get what I can from the score makes me more aware of and more attentive to detail that I might otherwise overlook. I like to believe that I have become a better reader because of that.

That said, I do, eventually, listen to a few recordings after I have learned the work. We each have our own learning methods, but I rather doubt that many who do listen to recordings are "worrying" about doing so as if they were committing an artistic breach of some sort.

My teacher often asks me which recordings of a work in progress I have listened to, but that question usually comes up at a point in the study where I have to reply that I haven't listened to any yet.

Regards,
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#2168796 - 10/20/13 06:50 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
bennevis Offline
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Well, it's been a very long time since I last learnt a piece that I've never heard before on a recording, a radio broadcast or in concert. (Probably when I was playing through some polkas by Smetana some 10 years ago, and found one I really liked, and wanted to learn it properly).

But I don't go out of my way to listen (again) to a recording of something I'm working on, though if it comes up on the radio, I'd listen to it. But I wouldn't buy a ticket to a concert just because it's on the program, and I don't look at YouTube videos. I'd almost certainly have had the 'baggage' of remembering all the recordings or performances of it that I've heard before anyway, even if it was years ago. Even for the most recent work that I've learnt, Carl Vine's Piano Sonata No.1, I'd already heard two different pianists play it before I decided to learn it myself.
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#2168815 - 10/20/13 08:03 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Morodiene Offline
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I may listen to a piece once before deciding whether or not to work on it. But I try not to listen too much, lest that pianist's ideas taint my own concepts. So while I'm learning it I wont' listen, then I may go back and listen to several renditions to get some ideas on places where I'm undecided musically.
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#2168825 - 10/20/13 08:37 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
stores Offline
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To which I would ask, "Whose authority as an interpreter cannot be questioned?"
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"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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#2168834 - 10/20/13 09:03 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7891
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
There has been a running debate on whether it is harmful to listen to recordings of a piece one is working on. I happen to believe that it is a good thing and that it does no harm to one's "creativity". Today I stumbled upon an interview in which Rachmaninoff describes ten important attributes of beautiful pianoforte playing.

Rachmaninoff: You ask me, “How can the student form the proper conception of the work as a whole?" Doubtless the best way is to hear it performed by some pianist whose authority as an interpreter cannot be questioned.
(From interview published in Etude Magazine, March 1910)

So now I can listen without worry, knowing that Rach himself would approve!

Your thoughts?


You made a mistake - Rachmaninoff was not talking about recordings.

And therein lies a world of difference in what the discussion is about.

But another world of difference is that Rachmaninoff's idea of what he meant, at the time when he said it, comes out in a completely different way in our own time. There's also a bit of salesmanship going on in what he says, i.e., hint, hint, nudge, nudge - "come to my concerts to hear a pianist whose authority cannot be questioned".

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#2168836 - 10/20/13 09:06 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
JoelW Online   content
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Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4820
Loc: USA
If you have a strong musical personality, do whatever you want. If you don't, stay away from recordings -- you WILL wind up trying to copy most if not all of your favorite recording of a piece.

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#2168845 - 10/20/13 09:32 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Psychonaut Offline
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Registered: 08/21/13
Posts: 234
I absolutely do listen to anything I'm working on, because my reading skills are poor, especially dissecting rhythmic content. Once I've learned how to play something, I WILL play it my own way, whether I want to or not. It's inevitable.

But everyone is different. My goal in learning to sight read is primarily for acquiring technical and theoretical competence, and anything I can do to fast-track the process is a good thing. I don't believe that personal "artistic interpretation" is particularly fragile, or subject to being damaged by bad influences. Anyone who feels the impulse to interpret a piece of music will, for better or worse, interpret it from whatever awareness and perspective we choose to bring to bear, within the constraints imposed by any technical limitations we may have.

So I listen to both mechanical, lifeless MIDI and a variety of recorded performances if I can.
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#2168853 - 10/20/13 09:50 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: JoelW]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
If you have a strong musical personality, do whatever you want.
Having a strong musical personality does not necessarily mean one has great or even adequate musical understanding. Those who are very independent minded but less than musically superb would probably benefit from listening to recordings by great pianists.

Originally Posted By: JoelW
If you don't, stay away from recordings -- you WILL wind up trying to copy most if not all of your favorite recording of a piece.
What about the overwhelming majority of those who are somewhere in the middle in terms of how independent they can be?
-------------------------------------------------------------

There is no significant difference between listening to a recording, or taking a lesson, or using a heavily edited edition by a great pianist or excellent editor(assuming the composer's marking and the editor's can be distinguished). All are ways to increase one's musical understanding of either a specific piece or music in general. Yet few of those who think listening to recordings is bad would also say taking lessons is bad.

I think those who are against listening assume that the person doing this will mindlessly copy another performance. Of course, that is possible but not at all necessarily the case. I also think that some(definitely not all)those who say they would never listen to a recording a piece they were learning do so out of an inflated opinion of their own musical understanding.

The entire discussion, I think, has to be divided based on the level of the pianist. What's appropriate for one level of student is not necessarily right for a different level.

As many of you are aware(since I've mentioned it many times before), there is a huge pedagogy project going on now where literally thousands of typical student pieces are being recorded by outstanding university piano teachers so that students learning these pieces can listen to a good performance. I certainly think that for that level of student these recordings are an excellent idea.

Those who adamantly think students at all levels should learn completely independently of a recording I think miss the point that most students don't have the tools to do this very well. In even a relatively straightforward area like fingering(i.e. not something as complex as interpretation) student editions of works for intermediate level pianists usually have fingering suggestions. But even far more advanced works almost always have often have suggestions in this area. Godowsky's incredibly difficult pieces are fingered in extreme detail.

I think most pianists have seen some fingering suggestion and thought "Boy, I would have never thought of that." One of the main ways one learns good fingering is by studying/trying out fingering in an edition or by fingering suggestions from a teacher. The next time the student has to finger a similar passage, they may have learned enough from the suggestions in another piece to find the best fingering for a similar passage. But few pianists are capable of figuring everything out themselves with a good result.

In summary, I think for the overwhelming majority of pianists who are not ready to enter a conservatory, there is great benefit to listening to recordings. For the less than 1% who are ready to enter a conservatory, I'm not as sure about the pluses and minuses of the whole listening thing.


Edited by pianoloverus (10/20/13 10:09 AM)

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#2168858 - 10/20/13 10:03 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: pianoloverus]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus



I think those who are against listening assume that the person doing this will mindlessly copy another performance. Of course, that is possible but not at all necessarily the case. I also think that some(definitely not all)those who say they would never listen to a recording a piece they were learning do so out of an inflated opinion of their own musical understanding.
I think your assumption is incorrect - at least where I am concerned it is. It's not about mindlessly doing something, nor is it about not having an opinion of your own, as JoelW suggests. For me, there are some recordings I have loved over the years - Brendel's rendition Waldstein, Entremont's version of Pour le Piano, for instance. Since I've listened to them so much, it is difficult for me to separate in my mind the recordings I've heard from my own mental vision of the piece. Not impossible to do, but harder.

Usually when I'm doing mental practice of a piece I work out the musical things for myself like "What am I going to do with this passage?" It's like a puzzle for me to complete for myself until I find the right fit. But since I've memorized the sound of these pieces with another artist's interpretation, it's tough not to have that sound come instead, so I have to question everything.

Conversely, when in the course of learning a new piece I try to arrive at my own musical decisions solely based on what is written on the page. Once I've made most of my choices, then I go back to listening to a few interpretations and see what they did. This is always very interesting because sometimes I like what I did better, and other times I like what they did better. Whatever I like the most becomes a part of how I play it.
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#2168860 - 10/20/13 10:09 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Alan Lai Offline
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Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 309
Loc: USA/Hong Kong
Listening to past performances of the new piece you are learning is certainly not a bad idea.

However, you have to develop the ability to read the score and form the sound in your brain. What will you do if nobody performed the new piece before?

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#2168866 - 10/20/13 10:18 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
My son's teacher was quite clear to him that she strongly preferred that he not study recordings while he was just getting to know a work. She wanted him to pull it apart for himself and form some ideas of his own before confronting all the interpretations on YouTube. She felt that that was part of his musical education. For a student at his level, that seemed like very good advice.

Studying recordings wouldn't have quickened the learning. Like most advanced students, the mere notes came quickly enough. And pondering the "greats" wouldn't have helped on that score (pun intended). His lessons were the vehicle for thinking about the musical qualities in the work, and what choices one might make in expressing them. After he had some ideas, he was free to listen to others, however tame or outlandish they might be.

Of course, we all have heard most of the pieces from the standard repertoire. That's not the same as carefully studying recordings for their detail. That was what he was advised against.

If you would rather learn from recordings, go ahead. This isn't a straight and narrow path to heaven.
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#2168886 - 10/20/13 11:16 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
fnork Offline
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Registered: 10/01/04
Posts: 1792
Loc: Helsinki, Finland
I didn't read every comment here, but a few points -

listening to recordings - in a general sense - is worth tons for any musician, IMO. Had there been recording devices from when Chopin was alive, would anyone have considered it unwise to have a listen to his interpretations? But it's generally wise to listen to recordings not specifically to the very pieces you are playing, but just as much different music as possible. For instance, I was studying Szymanowski's "Metopes", of which I think there are almost no recordings that are completely satisfactory - first of all, there are much fewer recordings of a piece like that comparing to, say, Gaspard de la nuit, but also, the music leaves many things to the performer, and I didn't always like what other performers did. However, listening to songs by Szymanowski, symphonies, chamber music, choral pieces - THIS really helped me understand the man better and shape the music better, too.

know the score already, when you start listening to pieces that you are studying yourself. have a general understanding of what's written there, so that you can understand what aspects of the music that the performer tries to bring out.

just my opinions.

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#2168914 - 10/20/13 12:34 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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I think what people do when they listen is so variable it's almost impossible to say "listening to recordings" is either categorically good OR bad. If you're the kind of learner that "imprints" like a duckling on the first recording you hear, then I would stay far away from recordings. Same goes for those who use a recording to AVOID the score. And for those who feel they get benefit out of wrestling a score to the floor before getting any influence from others. Or those who have the predisposition to hear recordings as if they were "answer keys."

However, if you're the kind of learner whose mind starts to race with ideas and makes you want to dig into the score yourself to see what you can see, or WHY someone has done something one way, then seek out as many as possible. If you find yourself analyzing the score MORE closely when you hear recordings, then you should listen to recordings. If you are more compelled to find your own voice in it by listening to others' voices, then by all means, you should listen to recordings.

And you can be any of these things at any time. I have a tendency to "imprint" if it's a recording I heard when young. I also have a tendency to lean on recordings if the piece is on the hard side for me. If the piece is firmly within my grasp, recordings often inspire me to find my way. If a piece is almost too easy for me, I can struggle to find anything to say until I hear that something CAN be done with it, at which point I often quickly find something to say.

I always listen to many recordings, too.
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#2168931 - 10/20/13 01:12 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Pogorelich. Offline
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I'll tell you why I don't do it. In all honesty, I have done it before - as we all have, obsessively listening to a piece that we want to play or that we are currently learning. What used to happen to me is that I would have this ONE tempo in my mind, and would not physically be able to play it any other way, just because I'd heard it that way so many times. And sometimes it would be a tempo that completely did not work for me, and it sounded like crap.

Or, certain expression. You subconsciously - or consciously! - copy certain way of phrasing something and cannot do it any other way. And you have no idea why you're doing it, except that you've heard it that way. Another example - I was listening to a slow movement of something, and the person was playing it sooooooooo distorted, the pulse was almost cosmic. So of course, in my young stupidity, after listening to it so many times it got engraved into my head and I started distorting it as well. It made no sense, people told me they found it hard to follow and couldn't tell where the beats were, and it didn't sound natural. Why? Because it wasn't MINE. It wasn't MY way of doing it - I had to break it down after and find the expression for myself. And THEN it made sense, and THEN it was conductable.

I prefer to be in charge of how I play something, and not rely on someone else to learn it - because, for me, it actually does me a lot more harm than good. And creates habits that are really hard to break.

And it's the same for everybody. It's NOT because we should be weary of sounding "like" that person, but because we'll do things that we often don't even understand, instead of building the skeleton work ourselves and then working on constructing the whole picture.

I just had a coaching with someone (amazing musician!) and he agrees with me that - yes, it's fine to listen to a piece you're working on sometimes (though NOT obsessively), but it's WAY more important to get into the world of the composer - listening to other genres of his, like symphonic works, operas, chamber music, etc. It opens up a whole new perspective, and it's very interesting.


Edited by Pogorelich. (10/20/13 01:13 PM)
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#2168945 - 10/20/13 01:45 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Pogorelich.]
bennevis Offline
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Registered: 10/14/10
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Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.

And it's the same for everybody. It's NOT because we should be weary of sounding "like" that person, but because we'll do things that we often don't even understand, instead of building the skeleton work ourselves and then working on constructing the whole picture.


No, it's NOT the same for everybody.

Up until my late teens, the only recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas I knew was Wilhelm Backhaus's (because I had the full set on cassette tape). Yet, when I started learning a Beethoven sonata for the first time at aged 14 (by myself, without my teacher's knowledge), I already knew there were some things I didn't like about Backhaus's recording (which I almost knew by heart, measure by measure), and had no intention of copying him in any way.

And I didn't. No, I wasn't a headstrong kid. I just knew what I liked. (Otherwise, I'd have taken up smoking and under-aged drinking, like most of my peers in boarding school).
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#2168948 - 10/20/13 01:49 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: bennevis]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Registered: 12/28/08
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Loc: in the past
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.

And it's the same for everybody. It's NOT because we should be weary of sounding "like" that person, but because we'll do things that we often don't even understand, instead of building the skeleton work ourselves and then working on constructing the whole picture.


No, it's NOT the same for everybody.

Up until my late teens, the only recording of the Beethoven piano sonatas I knew was Wilhelm Backhaus's (because I had the full set on cassette tape). Yet, when I started learning a Beethoven sonata for the first time at aged 14 (by myself, without my teacher's knowledge), I already knew there were some things I didn't like about Backhaus's recording (which I almost knew by heart, measure by measure), and had no intention of copying him in any way.

And I didn't. No, I wasn't a headstrong kid. I just knew what I liked. (Otherwise, I'd have taken up smoking and under-aged drinking, like most of my peers in boarding school).


I hope you're not implying that I have no brain and don't know what I like grin

But that wasn't my point. For sure, we will even subconsciously pick up various things after obsessive listening. Even small things, like a wrong rhythm, a crazy tempo, wrongly learned notes. Of course these things can be fixed, but sometimes it's very annoying and difficult.....
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#2168998 - 10/20/13 03:34 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
frenchflip Offline
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Registered: 05/18/13
Posts: 107
Loc: New York, NY
Recordings are my primary inspiration for picking up a piece in the first place. My musical universe has grown exponentially since YouTube, and I am thankful for this--much more efficient than buying and cycling through CDs. I cannot sight read like Valentina did that concerto in one of her recent videos. What a gift!

Also, with very difficult passages, recordings help me gauge how wide of the mark I am. As for mirroring the artist's interpretation, some of this is probably inevitable, but it doesn't really bother me. Usually, I cannot play a piece up to tempo for quite a while after picking it up, depending on the difficulty of course. By this time, I have developed my own rendition, though likely still incorporating elements from the various performances I most enjoy. Just as often, though, I have reworked the elements not to my taste. So the result is a blend.

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#2169070 - 10/20/13 06:57 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: bennevis]
wr Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7891
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Yet, when I started learning a Beethoven sonata for the first time at aged 14 (by myself, without my teacher's knowledge), I already knew there were some things I didn't like about Backhaus's recording (which I almost knew by heart, measure by measure), and had no intention of copying him in any way.



Yes, but what about all the parts you did like?

Anyway, having no intention of copying doesn't necessarily equate to having your own fully-formed vision of the piece, IMO. Nor does it mean that you are aware of unconscious influences (obviously, since they are not conscious).

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#2169074 - 10/20/13 07:08 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19443
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: jazzyprof
There has been a running debate on whether it is harmful to listen to recordings of a piece one is working on. I happen to believe that it is a good thing and that it does no harm to one's "creativity". Today I stumbled upon an interview in which Rachmaninoff describes ten important attributes of beautiful pianoforte playing.

Rachmaninoff: You ask me, “How can the student form the proper conception of the work as a whole?" Doubtless the best way is to hear it performed by some pianist whose authority as an interpreter cannot be questioned.
(From interview published in Etude Magazine, March 1910)

So now I can listen without worry, knowing that Rach himself would approve!

Your thoughts?


You made a mistake - Rachmaninoff was not talking about recordings.

And therein lies a world of difference in what the discussion is about.

But another world of difference is that Rachmaninoff's idea of what he meant, at the time when he said it, comes out in a completely different way in our own time. There's also a bit of salesmanship going on in what he says, i.e., hint, hint, nudge, nudge - "come to my concerts to hear a pianist whose authority cannot be questioned".
How do you know he wasn't talking about recordings? Wss this statement made before recordings were possible?

Even if he was talking about live performances, I see no difference between live and recorded in terms of learning by listening to a great performance. What difference do you see?

I certainly don't think Rachmaninov needed to advertise his recitals by hinting that this was a good way to learn how to play a piece. He was one of the most popular and highly thought of pianists on the planet at a time when classical music was quite popular.

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#2169080 - 10/20/13 07:28 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
Even if he was talking about live performances, I see no difference between live and recorded in terms of learning by listening to a great performance. What difference do you see?


Well, for starters the ability to hit the replay button over and over …. and over.
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#2169082 - 10/20/13 07:32 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Yet, when I started learning a Beethoven sonata for the first time at aged 14 (by myself, without my teacher's knowledge), I already knew there were some things I didn't like about Backhaus's recording (which I almost knew by heart, measure by measure), and had no intention of copying him in any way.



Yes, but what about all the parts you did like?

Anyway, having no intention of copying doesn't necessarily equate to having your own fully-formed vision of the piece, IMO. Nor does it mean that you are aware of unconscious influences (obviously, since they are not conscious).
To turn your question around, what makes you think that even if you think you're playing your "own vision" of a piece you're not using some ideas from recitals or performances of the piece you've heard previously? Do you never use a single idea your teacher suggests? If you do, how can you say it's your own vision and how is it different from using an idea you learned from a recording? Do you never use an idea from a performance of a different piece you've heard? If you do, then I think your performance is not just your own vision.

I don't think there are many amateurs who, if they were honest with themselves, would object to someone saying that their performance was like Backhuas' performance. I think the reality is that, with the exception of pianists at the highest level(conservatory level or higher), those who have listened to a performance by a great pianist will almost always give a better performance than those who have not listened.

You use "own fully formed vision" as some kind of ideal, but I think with the exception of those who have never taken a lesson or are playing a piece that is so rare as to have never been recorded there is no such thing as a one's own fully formed vision. Even if they are the first person to ever play some piece, do they not use ideas they've learned by listening to pianists play other pieces?

IMO the only people who play 100% of their own ideas about a piece are those who have never heard anyone else play the piano, never taken a lesson, and never used an edited score. And anyone in that category will not sound good.

Do you really think the pedagogy project I mentioned earlier in this thread is a bad pedagogical idea?

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#2169090 - 10/20/13 07:40 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Piano*Dad]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Quote:
Even if he was talking about live performances, I see no difference between live and recorded in terms of learning by listening to a great performance. What difference do you see?


Well, for starters the ability to hit the replay button over and over …. and over.
I don't think that anyone who recommends listening to recordings is talking about or recommending some blind copying of every aspect of a performance that you seem to be talking about. This seems to be a common criticism of those who don't think listening to recordings is a good idea, but i think it assumes the pianist is unthinking and operating at the lowest possible level.

OTOH I think if one thinks there is anything that can be learned from listening to a great pianist's playing, one could also reasonably say that everything one can learn cannot be heard and absorbed in one or two listenings.

I bet your son, who you know I think is an terrific pianist, often took the advice of his teacher about how to play something. So why not take the "advice" of some great pianist on a recording?

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#2169095 - 10/20/13 07:52 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Because a recording can't talk!!! A good teacher will NEVER dictate everything! There should be discussion and trial and error, but NOT playing a passage over and over for your student and making them play it exactly that way, brainlessly. I know that this is done sometimes. And it is called BAD teaching!!!

That's why listening to a recording over and over again and having a lesson with a (non-mediocre) teacher are two very different things.
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#2169096 - 10/20/13 07:52 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis
Yet, when I started learning a Beethoven sonata for the first time at aged 14 (by myself, without my teacher's knowledge), I already knew there were some things I didn't like about Backhaus's recording (which I almost knew by heart, measure by measure), and had no intention of copying him in any way.



Yes, but what about all the parts you did like?

Anyway, having no intention of copying doesn't necessarily equate to having your own fully-formed vision of the piece, IMO. Nor does it mean that you are aware of unconscious influences (obviously, since they are not conscious).


I was young, and this was my first major Beethoven piece after Minuet in G and Für Elise (the latter of which I learnt by myself), and I wanted to learn it without the help of my teacher. No, it wasn't a 'fully-formed vision' - how could it? I'd had almost no exposure to any classical music until I was given all those tapes of Beethoven as a going-away present by my uncle, when I left home to go to a boarding school in a foreign country. And my parents gave me a portable radio-cassette recorder to play those tapes on, though I also had my Walkman.

I know for certain that my interpretation was nothing at all like Backhaus's, because I recorded myself playing it on cassette tape, a year after I started working on the sonata, which I kept for posterity grin (I have several tapes of my juvenile playing from my school and university years.....). And I can easily compare it with Backhaus's recordings, because Decca brought out the complete cycle on a bargain CD set a few years ago, which I bought.

Of course, I'd play it differently now, with all those years of listening experience behind me, and having several recordings on CD, not to mention having heard it in concert many times. (But I still wouldn't play it like Backhaus, nor any other pianist I've heard). Yes, those first few years when I arrived in the UK, with unlimited free classical music to listen to on radio, were a steep learning curve for me. I'd say that over 80% of my musical knowledge and musicianship (assuming I have any wink ) is gleaned from listening to BBC Radio 3's music and concert broadcasts (with their informative pre- and post-concert announcements/chat), and educational programs like Antony Hopkins's "Talking about Music", and Record Review (now CD Review of course), and a lot else.
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#2169098 - 10/20/13 07:55 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Piano*Dad Offline
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PL,

As a number of people have mentioned (fine pianists like Pogo, for instance), the influence of listening to recordings -- and modern equipment does permit easy repetition -- has many facets. Some are conscious and others less easily controlled.

The advice of a teacher is part of an ongoing and very direct conversation about technique, musicality, music history, and the specific work at hand. I'm guessing you would agree that learning from a recording is not as good as having a teacher?

In addition, the teacher in question (my son's) was not advocating ignoring recorded music altogether. She was positively suggesting working out the details initially in precisely the sort of direct and ongoing conversation I mentioned above. She preferred holding off on studying recordings until that teaching conversation was well under way and the student had begun to build an understanding of the work. Then recordings could enter the picture to enrich the interpretation.

If someone thinks that this process is just a vehicle for the teacher to impose his or her own narrow vision, then perhaps they have had some bad experiences with teachers. I'm sure some teachers do in fact delight in limiting a student to one particular view, but I doubt that jaundiced view of the profession is warranted. I know that wasn't the case in my son's training, and I know it from personal experience since I have occasionally worked with his teacher as well!

edit: while typing this tome, I noticed that others slipped in and made similar points.
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#2169103 - 10/20/13 08:04 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Remember that eventually you may want to play something that has not been recorded. Listening to recordings should not be a crutch.
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#2169107 - 10/20/13 08:19 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Piano*Dad Offline
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In all fairness, I will say that I do use recordings as an aid, but I try to follow the basic path of working through the piece first myself. Much of what I learn these days I figure out on my own -- the two little parts of the Grieg Lyric Pieces recital, for instance. So I don't have the benefit of much instruction.

I chose my pieces by sight reading through a bunch of options. That helped me narrow the list. Then I listened to a recording of the pieces just to get a flavor … sort of like attending a recital, but one where I chose the works played. That helped me select the pieces I would learn.

Then I worked on the pieces for a while to get the structure down, and I paid really close attention to the composer's expressed wishes. But I'm not a professional musician, and I would not pretend to have mastered any particular musical genre well enough to know the material cold, so to speak. I'm also not Norwegian, so there is no folk memory and early schooling to help me "feel" the style!

So, like many in my position, after developing my initial ideas about the piece I then looked around for recordings to see ...

1) the range of tempi.

It was generally faster than I had thought, and that was a big help. I pushed the envelope to match the speed of the pros.

2) how people pedaled the works.

I heard very wet and very dry and punctuated versions. That was reassuring because the choice I had already made seemed very appropriate to me.

and lastly,

3) how people played certain very specific phrases.

I had already worked out my own view, but I was happy to make some adjustments when I heard others play passages that just sounded more convincing to me than what I had constructed.

I had no teacher helping me with these piece. I think I would have operated differently if I had been working with one. And in any case, I worked through the pieces first and added the recordings later.
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#2169109 - 10/20/13 08:23 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Pogorelich.]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Because a recording can't talk!!! A good teacher will NEVER dictate everything! There should be discussion and trial and error, but NOT playing a passage over and over for your student and making them play it exactly that way, brainlessly. I know that this is done sometimes. And it is called BAD teaching!!!

That's why listening to a recording over and over again and having a lesson with a (non-mediocre) teacher are two very different things.
Yes, a good teacher will explain the idea behind all of his suggestions. And, because of this I've said almost every time this discussion comes up that learning from recordings is more difficult because the student has to figure out more for them self. But I certainly don't think this means that learning from recordings is impossible or without value.

Rote copying of recording (whether from one listening or listening over and over again) or blindly following a teacher's unexplained suggestion are both bad approaches, but that is not what I'm advocating.

Here's one example from my personal experience I've mentioned several times before. I was learning Keith Jarrett's incredibly beautiful version of Be My Love from his album The Melody And The Night With You:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1s84k5yTho

I listened to Jarrett's recording and not surprisingly found his playing much more beautiful than mine.(I think he's the greatest player of jazz ballads in history). After listening a few more times I found that he tended to start each phrase more emphatically that I often did, and I began adopting that approach in my playing to some extent. It became a possibility that I was not aware of previously,

I don't see how one could argue that anything I did or learned in this experience wasn't positive. And, amusingly enough at a Mannes master class a few weeks later, the teacher, Alexander Braginsky, talked about the same thing in reference to some classical piece being performed. He said something like(I'm paraphrasing here): "In Russia we have a saying that when a phrase begins one should make sure to begin it."

(If anyone would like a copy of the Jarrett transcription, I have the transcriber's permission to share this with anyone who wants it.)


Edited by pianoloverus (10/20/13 08:51 PM)

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#2169114 - 10/20/13 08:28 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Piano*Dad]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
The advice of a teacher is part of an ongoing and very direct conversation about technique, musicality, music history, and the specific work at hand. I'm guessing you would agree that learning from a recording is not as good as having a teacher?
I would phrase that slightly differently.

I'd say that if one has to choose between a good teacher and recordings the teacher is always better. I'd also say. as I mentioned a little earlier. that learning from a recording is usually much more difficult. But neither of those points means that learning from a recording can't be highly beneficial.

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#2169115 - 10/20/13 08:32 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Piano*Dad]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
In all fairness, I will say that I do use recordings as an aid, but I try to follow the basic path of working through the piece first myself. Much of what I learn these days I figure out on my own -- the two little parts of the Grieg Lyric Pieces recital, for instance. So I don't have the benefit of much instruction.

I chose my pieces by sight reading through a bunch of options. That helped me narrow the list. Then I listened to a recording of the pieces just to get a flavor … sort of like attending a recital, but one where I chose the works played. That helped me select the pieces I would learn.

Then I worked on the pieces for a while to get the structure down, and I paid really close attention to the composer's expressed wishes. But I'm not a professional musician, and I would not pretend to have mastered any particular musical genre well enough to know the material cold, so to speak. I'm also not Norwegian, so there is no folk memory and early schooling to help me "feel" the style!

So, like many in my position, after developing my initial ideas about the piece I then looked around for recordings to see ...

1) the range of tempi.

It was generally faster than I had thought, and that was a big help. I pushed the envelope to match the speed of the pros.

2) how people pedaled the works.

I heard very wet and very dry and punctuated versions. That was reassuring because the choice I had already made seemed very appropriate to me.

and lastly,

3) how people played certain very specific phrases.

I had already worked out my own view, but I was happy to make some adjustments when I heard others play passages that just sounded more convincing to me than what I had constructed.

I had no teacher helping me with these piece. I think I would have operated differently if I had been working with one. And in any case, I worked through the pieces first and added the recordings later.
That's perfectly reasonable and I often learn music that way. I think that when one listens to a recording is a relatively small point in the much bigger picture that you do listen to recordings.

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#2169120 - 10/20/13 08:47 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Piano*Dad Offline
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… and that may be one small point of disagreement. "When" and "how" one listens to recordings may be quite important, though the effects may vary by individual. I try to do as much of the heavy lifting on my own, early in the process. And I try to do that for the very reasons many have mentioned in this thread. But without benefit of high level professional instruction, I realize that there are insights to be gleaned from a careful listening.

In fact, I don't think anyone has argued that recordings are to be shunned as anathema. We're all part of a much larger musical world, after all. Why else would we throw bombs at each other over Lang Lang's sometimes outlandish interpretations, or Lisitsa's …. nope, not going there. grin
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#2169125 - 10/20/13 08:55 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Piano*Dad]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
"When" and "how" one listens to recordings may be quite important, though the effects may vary by individual. I try to do as much of the heavy lifting on my own, early in the process. And I try to do that for the very reasons many have mentioned in this thread. But without benefit of high level professional instruction, I realize that there are insights to be gleaned from a careful listening.


I must say that you make far more use of recordings in your learning of a new piece than I ever would, despite my outspoken advocacy of its benefits grin.

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#2169133 - 10/20/13 09:11 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Ah, irony!
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#2169177 - 10/20/13 10:49 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Morodiene]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Morodiene
For me, there are some recordings I have loved over the years - Brendel's rendition Waldstein, Entremont's version of Pour le Piano, for instance. Since I've listened to them so much, it is difficult for me to separate in my mind the recordings I've heard from my own mental vision of the piece. Not impossible to do, but harder.



This is an excellent point.

A few years ago I decided to learn a piece that I had heard someone else play exactly once, around fifty years earlier. And, amazingly enough, that one hearing from fifty years ago was still floating around in my head when I started to work on the piece, interfering with my own work on the piece, and making it harder to get to where I was going with it.

I would much rather have started from "blank slate", but, OTOH, if I hadn't heard it that time, I might not have been interested in learning it - I don't know.

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#2169178 - 10/20/13 10:54 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: BDB]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: BDB
Remember that eventually you may want to play something that has not been recorded. Listening to recordings should not be a crutch.


One of the more disturbing things that comes up when this issue is discussed here is exactly this - judging from their posts, apparently many people here cannot even conceive of that possibility. It is yet another symptom of the death of what used to be thought of as "classical music", IMO.

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#2169182 - 10/20/13 11:08 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Well, these days the likelihood that a new piece will stay totally unrecorded for a substantial length of time is rather low. That may be why many people don't worry too much about ploughing new soil without the aid (or crutch) of someone else's version. But I take your point.
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#2169184 - 10/20/13 11:14 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Piano*Dad]
Alan Lai Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Well, these days the likelihood that a new piece will stay totally unrecorded for a substantial length of time is rather low. That may be why many people don't worry too much about ploughing new soil without the aid (or crutch) of someone else's version. But I take your point.


There are plenty of newly composed piano music stay unrecorded.

Your statement is more accurate when you change the word "unrecorded" to "unperformed".

When you record something and distribute it in a mass scale, it has to have commercial value, profitability. Most record labels that are capable of mass distribution aren't interested in newly composed piano music.

For the records sake, even Nikolai Kapustin's music aren't all recorded.

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#2169186 - 10/20/13 11:15 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Pogorelich.]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.

But that wasn't my point. For sure, we will even subconsciously pick up various things after obsessive listening. Even small things, like a wrong rhythm, a crazy tempo, wrongly learned notes. Of course these things can be fixed, but sometimes it's very annoying and difficult.....


One does pick up stuff without knowing it. When I was a teenager, Samson Francois' recording of Ravel's G major concerto was on my turntable often. A bit later, in college, when I first got the score and learned the piece, I had little idea of how much of what I was doing was very much in line with his interpretation (I was aware of copying a few things, though, like the way he handled the trill at the end of the second movement). It was only many years later that I realized how strong and all-pervasive the influence of that recording had been on my playing.

In a way, that wasn't such a bad thing, because, being a rural kid from a fly-over state, I wasn't really sophisticated and experienced enough at that point to come up with very good interpretation on my own, I don't think. But still, I didn't listen to that recording for reference while I was actually working on the piece, either.

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#2169191 - 10/20/13 11:29 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
Orange Soda King Offline
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I don't think we can really get by without having heard a good part of the rep we learn, especially the older we get and the more rep we get exposed to. Also, in this day and age, hearing recordings are just a couple clicks away from your computer, smart phone, tablet, as well as the more traditional means of listening to recordings.

However, I don't think it's really beneficial to ones musicianship to listen to recordings to help them learn the music/learn how a piece goes, or figure out how to do more artistic stuff. And yes, it does affect your subconscious, especially with how you treat certain nuances. Michelangeli influenced my Bach-Busoni Chaconne for a long time. Gilels for my Ravel Toccata. Zimerman with my Ravel Concerto in G. Took a while to work it out.

However, I had heard these pieces a good deal well before I learned them, and I couldn't have anticipated that I'd learn them a couple years later, so in that case, it's probably unavoidable to a degree.

I do think it's a good idea to listen to a variety of great recordings of great pianists playing various things, especially the rep they were most noted for. More importantly, I recommend listening to non-piano rep (or chamber music/songs with piano).

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#2169193 - 10/20/13 11:31 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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I listen to recordings of music I'm working on quite routinely, but with a caveat - it's important to do it with the score to understand how what's on the page is different from what you're hearing. The fidelity of the recording destroys a lot of detail, as does the lack of scrupulousness on a part of many great pianists.

The one exception is that if I'm playing Chopin, I don't listen to any recordings at all. I play what I see, and the results are often dramatically different from the 'normal' interpretation, but they usually convince me.

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#2169196 - 10/20/13 11:34 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: pianoloverus]
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[...]I'd say that if one has to choose between a good teacher and recordings the teacher is always better. .


That's not the impression I got from what you wrote earlier in this thread :

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
"There is no significant difference between listening to a recording, or taking a lesson ..."


It appears that now you are saying there is a difference.
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#2169264 - 10/21/13 06:14 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Orange Soda King]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: Orange Soda King

I do think it's a good idea to listen to a variety of great recordings of great pianists playing various things, especially the rep they were most noted for. More importantly, I recommend listening to non-piano rep (or chamber music/songs with piano).

I learnt to play several Mozart piano sonatas before I'd heard any of his other music (and before I heard anyone else play them) - and I cringe when I listen to the results from those days. I had no idea how to 'sing' the slow movements. My new teacher at my new school recommended that I listen to a Mozart opera, or at least Mozart arias.

So, one afternoon, I went into the music room after school had finished, and looked through the LP collection there, found one of Mozart operatic arias, and put it on the turntable (students at school who were doing Music at 'O' or 'A' Level were allowed to use that room, and its record collection and music scores).
It changed my understanding of Mozart completely: I realized that I needed to sing and phrase a Mozart melody on the piano like an operatic singer, not like a pianist. (And I also fell in love with opera, which, until then, I'd never heard. And with classical vocal music. I joined the school Chapel Choir soon afterwards....).

Immediately afterwards, I went downstairs into one of the practice rooms, and played the Mozart Sonata I was then learning (K332) - filled with fresh new insight into the music. At my next lesson, my teacher was amazed at the transformation in my understanding, and my playing of the piece. And of course, from then on, whenever opera was on the radio, I'd make it my priority to listen to it - whether it was by Mozart or not.

I'm surprised that even with YouTube easily available to everyone today, there are still pianists playing Mozart who don't listen to his operatic music, concert arias or songs. And don't even know the tune of Dove sono.
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#2169274 - 10/21/13 07:14 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: BDB
Remember that eventually you may want to play something that has not been recorded. Listening to recordings should not be a crutch.


One of the more disturbing things that comes up when this issue is discussed here is exactly this - judging from their posts, apparently many people here cannot even conceive of that possibility. It is yet another symptom of the death of what used to be thought of as "classical music", IMO.
Not at all. To me that's like saying that since we now have automobiles no one can conceive of walking a mile if necessary.

The whole use of the word "crutch" in BDB's post sets the wrong tone I think. For many people(I think the huge or even overwhelming majority including the most advanced players)listening to a recording is one of the many ways to learn about music or about a specific piece. No different from taking lessons, and I bet you don't think doing that's a crutch. No different from reading an essay about a piece of music or looking at some excellent editor's ideas about a piece in their edition.

If one decides to play a piece where there's no recording or prior listening experience then one does what's necessary under those circumstances. I don't think that means one should avoid listening to a recording if one's available any more than one should avoid using a car if one has several miles to travel.

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#2169277 - 10/21/13 07:20 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: bennevis]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: bennevis

I'm surprised that even with YouTube easily available to everyone today, there are still pianists playing Mozart who don't listen to his operatic music, concert arias or songs. And don't even know the tune of Dove sono.


Why should they?

I mean, there are a large number of fine piano recordings available of almost any given piano piece of Mozart's, so why would a pianist feel any need at all to hear any of the vocal music, which is not even the same music?

Just because listening to his vocal music improved your understanding (from your POV), doesn't mean that anyone else would have a similar experience. They may already get that aspect of his music, simply from hearing good performances.

Or they may not agree that that sort of transference of vocal to keyboard even matters.

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#2169278 - 10/21/13 07:27 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: BruceD]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
[...]I'd say that if one has to choose between a good teacher and recordings the teacher is always better. .


That's not the impression I got from what you wrote earlier in this thread :

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
"There is no significant difference between listening to a recording, or taking a lesson ..."


It appears that now you are saying there is a difference.
In my second statement I was saying that taking lessons and listening to a recording are both valid ways of learning about music or about a specific piece one is study. In that way there is no significant difference. I think using an edition by a great editor also falls in that category. I was disagreeing with those that said listening to a recording was not valid.

Because listening to a recording requires the student to figure out everything by them self, I do think taking lessons from a good teacher is a more productive and easier way to learn about music. I had learned several Jarrett ballads before learning Be My Love. If I had been taking lessons from a good teacher they might have suggested beginning a phrase more emphatically long before I figured that out by listening to Jarrett's recording.

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#2169279 - 10/21/13 07:32 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jeffreyjones]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: jeffreyjones
I listen to recordings of music I'm working on quite routinely, but with a caveat - it's important to do it with the score to understand how what's on the page is different from what you're hearing. The fidelity of the recording destroys a lot of detail, as does the lack of scrupulousness on a part of many great pianists.

The one exception is that if I'm playing Chopin, I don't listen to any recordings at all. I play what I see, and the results are often dramatically different from the 'normal' interpretation, but they usually convince me.
Why do you choose to not listen for Chopin but listen for other composers?

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#2169280 - 10/21/13 07:33 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
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Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis

I'm surprised that even with YouTube easily available to everyone today, there are still pianists playing Mozart who don't listen to his operatic music, concert arias or songs. And don't even know the tune of Dove sono.


Why should they?

I mean, there are a large number of fine piano recordings available of almost any given piano piece of Mozart's, so why would a pianist feel any need at all to hear any of the vocal music, which is not even the same music?

Just because listening to his vocal music improved your understanding (from your POV), doesn't mean that anyone else would have a similar experience. They may already get that aspect of his music, simply from hearing good performances.

Or they may not agree that that sort of transference of vocal to keyboard even matters.

Really???

Speak to Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia, Alfred Brendel (or even Horowitz....) or any number of great Mozart pianists.
Whenever the subject of Mozart crops up in interviews with great pianists, they bring up the subject of his operas, and how important it is to to at least hear their arias sung by great singers to understand how operatic his instrumental music is. This is probably most evident in his piano concertos, but almost every Mozart slow movement in his piano sonatas is like an aria for piano.

And you don't think it's at all necessary??
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#2169287 - 10/21/13 07:51 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: bennevis]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: bennevis
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis

I'm surprised that even with YouTube easily available to everyone today, there are still pianists playing Mozart who don't listen to his operatic music, concert arias or songs. And don't even know the tune of Dove sono.


Why should they?

I mean, there are a large number of fine piano recordings available of almost any given piano piece of Mozart's, so why would a pianist feel any need at all to hear any of the vocal music, which is not even the same music?

Just because listening to his vocal music improved your understanding (from your POV), doesn't mean that anyone else would have a similar experience. They may already get that aspect of his music, simply from hearing good performances.

Or they may not agree that that sort of transference of vocal to keyboard even matters.

Really???

Speak to Mitsuko Uchida, Murray Perahia, Alfred Brendel (or even Horowitz....) or any number of great Mozart pianists.
Whenever the subject of Mozart crops up in interviews with great pianists, they bring up the subject of his operas, and how important it is to to at least hear their arias sung by great singers to understand how operatic his instrumental music is. This is probably most evident in his piano concertos, but almost every Mozart slow movement in his piano sonatas is like an aria for piano.

And you don't think it's at all necessary??


If it is necessary, it can't be very good piano music. Take your pick.

And yes, I'm quite aware that many excellent pianists reference his vocal music when they are talking about his piano music. If they have already done that, I shouldn't need to - all I should need is to hear them play.

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#2169393 - 10/21/13 10:44 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
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Originally Posted By: wr
[...]
And yes, I'm quite aware that many excellent pianists reference his [Mozart's] vocal music when they are talking about his piano music. If they have already done that, I shouldn't need to - all I should need is to hear them play.


It seems to me that you are missing the point!

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#2169446 - 10/21/13 11:53 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Pianoloverus, I'm just extremely confused why you think there is no significant difference between listening to a recording and a lesson. That is just not true. A recording would have never taught me how to produce a big, rich and effortless sound or how to practice specific passages etc etc etc.
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#2169473 - 10/21/13 12:24 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: bennevis

I'm surprised that even with YouTube easily available to everyone today, there are still pianists playing Mozart who don't listen to his operatic music, concert arias or songs. And don't even know the tune of Dove sono.


Why should they?

I mean, there are a large number of fine piano recordings available of almost any given piano piece of Mozart's, so why would a pianist feel any need at all to hear any of the vocal music, which is not even the same music?

Just because listening to his vocal music improved your understanding (from your POV), doesn't mean that anyone else would have a similar experience. They may already get that aspect of his music, simply from hearing good performances.

Or they may not agree that that sort of transference of vocal to keyboard even matters.


Could this be sarcasm at its best?
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#2169520 - 10/21/13 01:48 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Pogorelich.]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Pianoloverus, I'm just extremely confused why you think there is no significant difference between listening to a recording and a lesson. That is just not true. A recording would have never taught me how to produce a big, rich and effortless sound or how to practice specific passages etc etc etc.
There is no significant difference in the sense one can learn a great deal from each. That is how I have used "significant difference" throughout this thread. I even gave a very specific example from my own playing.


Edited by pianoloverus (10/21/13 01:51 PM)

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#2169544 - 10/21/13 02:32 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Well, I don't know. I certainly have learned a lot from orchestral recordings or watching concerts, but it's a very different kind of learning.

If I had the choice, I would much rather have a lesson with my teacher..
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#2169691 - 10/21/13 06:26 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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Okay, now the Aspy is going to weigh in.

First, my late teacher taught all of his students to listen to multiple recordings of every piece they were working on. He did this because, unlike Dr. Mark C., not every person has the Rachmaninoff luxury of being able to listen to a ton of great pianists in concert. (It really wasn't a luxury, it was the only way they had prior to recordings)

Second, when my teacher instructed us to listen to recordings, and also films of Rubinstein, Horowitz, and Arrau, he always said to look for any little trick of the trade they we could pick up from these great artists.

Accordingly, the first thing I noticed was that, as different as these gentleman were in terms of style, they all sat very still, and were very body-centered with little or not facial emotion. They were all zoned-in to their music.

If I had not been taught how to critically listen, and sometimes watch, I would have never picked up on the arpeggiation, et al, of the old recordings. This in turn led me to the discovery of the original style of 19th century performance, which I recently have been able to prove started in the 17th century, even before the classical period. (Mark C.!)

When I listen to Radu Lupu play the the Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2, I listen for what he does that I like that I could possible adapt to my performance. The complete performance of whatever I listen to, and now watch on You Tube, is very rarely the totality of my experience.

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#2169727 - 10/21/13 07:36 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Pogorelich.]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.


Could this be sarcasm at its best?


No, it's not sarcasm - I just haven't got that vocal fetish thing going that so many pianists do. Although I love listening to classical music that doesn't involve the piano, it's rarely going to be vocal music. I've got many hundreds of classical LPs and CDs, but I would guess that less than 1% of my collection is vocal. And of that, much is choral, not solo.

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#2169742 - 10/21/13 08:13 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
bennevis Offline
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Originally Posted By: wr
I just haven't got that vocal fetish thing going that so many pianists do. Although I love listening to classical music that doesn't involve the piano, it's rarely going to be vocal music. I've got many hundreds of classical LPs and CDs, but I would guess that less than 1% of my collection is vocal. And of that, much is choral, not solo.


I've got several fetishes, but vocal music isn't one of them wink .

For instance, Verdi operas are mostly a closed book to me. And Wagnerian Heldentenors shouting out inconsequentials, and sopranos screeching at indeterminate pitch with their wobbly vibratos do nothing for me - give me the 'bleeding chunks' or Maazel's "The Ring without Words" any time.

But the sublimity of Soave sia il vento, the nobility of O, Isis und Osiris, the beauty & simplicity of O mio babbino caro, the sincerity and latent tragedy of Un bel di, vedremo - in fact, the three Mozart/Da Ponte operas and Die Zauberflöte, and the big operas of Puccini are all essential parts of my musical diet, and give me certain aspects of music that aren't to be found in any piano music. Not to mention the Lieder of Schubert which encapsulates his humanity in all his glory (and how can anyone claim to know Schubert without having heard Winterreise and Die schöne Mullerin?), and the profundity of predominantly choral religious works like Palestrina's masses, Handel's Messiah, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and Mozart's, Verdi's and Fauré's Requiems. And so much else.

No doubt, my musical tastes are colored my my having spent some of my happiest music-making times singing as a chorister in my school choir. There is something about the human voice that transcends mere music-making....
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#2169831 - 10/22/13 12:31 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: wr]
Pogorelich. Offline
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Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.


Could this be sarcasm at its best?


No, it's not sarcasm - I just haven't got that vocal fetish thing going that so many pianists do. Although I love listening to classical music that doesn't involve the piano, it's rarely going to be vocal music. I've got many hundreds of classical LPs and CDs, but I would guess that less than 1% of my collection is vocal. And of that, much is choral, not solo.


I get what you're saying (although we can learn a great deal from singers...........), but I would really suggest if you are playing Mozart to listen to his operas.. different world than the art song, for sure =)
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#2169836 - 10/22/13 12:48 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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I can understand both sides here. If a painter wants to become good at landscapes, he could greatly benefit from actually going to beautiful places, but at the same time, he could learn everything he needs to by being educated and by studying the works of other painters. So, the real thing isn't a necessity but it could definitely benefit the painter to experience it.

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#2169862 - 10/22/13 02:15 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: JoelW]
BruceD Online   content
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
I can understand both sides here. If a painter wants to become good at landscapes, he could greatly benefit from actually going to beautiful places, but at the same time, he could learn everything he needs to by being educated and by studying the works of other painters. So, the real thing isn't a necessity but it could definitely benefit the painter to experience it.


I'll have to disagree with you on this analogy. A great artist painting a scene is not only copying what he sees at a given moment, he is absorbing into his artistic persona the mood, the atmosphere and even the sounds he hears as he paints. His painting is an amalgam of all that has touched his senses and the result is not a "photograph" of what he saw at a given moment in time but an impression of all that he saw, felt, lived and reacted to during the creative experience.

Studying and copying works of artists is removing oneself from the total experience and can only result in poorer art, accurately rendered, perhaps, but without feeling.

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#2169863 - 10/22/13 02:20 AM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Pogorelich.]
wr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.
Originally Posted By: wr
Originally Posted By: Pogorelich.


Could this be sarcasm at its best?


No, it's not sarcasm - I just haven't got that vocal fetish thing going that so many pianists do. Although I love listening to classical music that doesn't involve the piano, it's rarely going to be vocal music. I've got many hundreds of classical LPs and CDs, but I would guess that less than 1% of my collection is vocal. And of that, much is choral, not solo.


I get what you're saying (although we can learn a great deal from singers...........), but I would really suggest if you are playing Mozart to listen to his operas.. different world than the art song, for sure =)


Sorting though my memories, I realize I've seen two productions of The Magic Flute (the Bergman film and live at Santa Fe) and one of The Abduction from the Seraglio (a surprisingly good college production). I enjoyed them all. But I do need to see the others, I know, just because...

Long ago, I performed both of the piano quartets (and the orchestra reductions of a couple of the piano concertos) but basically, I leave Mozart to those who do it well, and that isn't me. For my required dosage smile of music of that era, I like playing Clementi.

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#2170041 - 10/22/13 12:34 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: BruceD]
JoelW Online   content
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Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: JoelW
I can understand both sides here. If a painter wants to become good at landscapes, he could greatly benefit from actually going to beautiful places, but at the same time, he could learn everything he needs to by being educated and by studying the works of other painters. So, the real thing isn't a necessity but it could definitely benefit the painter to experience it.


I'll have to disagree with you on this analogy. A great artist painting a scene is not only copying what he sees at a given moment, he is absorbing into his artistic persona the mood, the atmosphere and even the sounds he hears as he paints. His painting is an amalgam of all that has touched his senses and the result is not a "photograph" of what he saw at a given moment in time but an impression of all that he saw, felt, lived and reacted to during the creative experience.

Studying and copying works of artists is removing oneself from the total experience and can only result in poorer art, accurately rendered, perhaps, but without feeling.

Regards,


It is not up to you, BruceD, to decide what makes an artist's work great or not. Bob Ross's studio work is great art because when look at it, I feel like I'm there. I hear the animals in the woods, the creek flowing. I feel the freezing wind atop a snowy mountain. I sense the warmth inside the inconspicuous little cabin in the distance.

Are you telling me his studio work is less valid just because it's studio work? I guarantee you his work is more effective (to me) than some painters' outdoor work.

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#2170053 - 10/22/13 12:50 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: Alan Lai]
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Originally Posted By: Alan Lai
Listening to past performances of the new piece you are learning is certainly not a bad idea.

However, you have to develop the ability to read the score and form the sound in your brain. What will you do if nobody performed the new piece before?



well for one thing you'd have a lot more latitude with the interpretation because you'd have the freedom from any criticism!

being only slightly facetious here. but i think the anxiety of learning any new piece comes from, well all sorts of reasons, but one of them certainly is uncertainty. and uncertainty can come from hearing a so-called 'master' play a piece, when all you are is john doe. rachmaninoff might have had good intentions offering himself or others as an example but i can easily imagine someone having gone to hear rachmaninoff and quitting the piano and going into basketry. but it's hard to discover any absolutes about this sort of thing.

i mentioned in another thread how a teacher took me to task when I said that the way I chose music to play was from hearing it, mostly from recordings. she then brought out some sheet music turned to a random page, and asked me what I heard. the question put me on the spot because reading music, while not impossible for me, is something i do with an adagio speed. i wasn't even sure how to answer the question vocally - singing is not my forte. but nevertheless i understood her point. there aren't any absolute do's or don't's when it comes to something like this. but rather i think she was simply trying to show me the traditional approach. after all, recordings are "only" 100 years old. sheet music is much older. and i suppose it is fair to say that just because the technology is there doesn't mean it is an "advance" particularly when it comes to an art form.
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#2170060 - 10/22/13 12:59 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: pianoloverus]
toyboy Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

As many of you are aware(since I've mentioned it many times before), there is a huge pedagogy project going on now where literally thousands of typical student pieces are being recorded by outstanding university piano teachers so that students learning these pieces can listen to a good performance. I certainly think that for that level of student these recordings are an excellent idea.


i'm failing to understand why it's an excellent idea (or else i fail to understand the whole project). all something like this does is to say to students of the future, this is how an X number of University music professor/teachers during Y period of time, in the early part of the 21st century think how pieces A B G or Q should be played. Let alone the fact that this is how Piece M is played by Professor T. I would think that given the variability of interpretations, let alone personalities and abilities of each particular teacher, there could be as many different interpretations as there are people who are part of the project.

and aside from all that, is there really such a paucity of recordings "out there" that all these professors seem to feel the need to fill such a vaccum?

it all sounds very good-intentioned, but a rather self-serving if not pointless project to me.
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#2170069 - 10/22/13 01:21 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: toyboy]
pianoloverus Offline
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Originally Posted By: toyboy
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

As many of you are aware(since I've mentioned it many times before), there is a huge pedagogy project going on now where literally thousands of typical student pieces are being recorded by outstanding university piano teachers so that students learning these pieces can listen to a good performance. I certainly think that for that level of student these recordings are an excellent idea.


i'm failing to understand why it's an excellent idea (or else i fail to understand the whole project). all something like this does is to say to students of the future, this is how an X number of University music professor/teachers during Y period of time, in the early part of the 21st century think how pieces A B G or Q should be played. Let alone the fact that this is how Piece M is played by Professor T. I would think that given the variability of interpretations, let alone personalities and abilities of each particular teacher, there could be as many different interpretations as there are people who are part of the project.

and aside from all that, is there really such a paucity of recordings "out there" that all these professors seem to feel the need to fill such a vaccum?

it all sounds very good-intentioned, but a rather self-serving if not pointless project to me.
I think there is definitely a "paucity" of excellent performances of what I'd describe as these beginner to late intermediate pieces available either on recording or YouTube. In fact, the huge majority of them may have close zero performances by a professional level pianists available.

I'm not involved with this project(obviously, since I'm not a piano teacher and certainly not a professor of piano at a major university), but I'm reasonably sure I know why this project was undertaken. It's because the average student can benefit greatly from listening to these performances before, during, and after they are studying one of these pieces. What I think some of those who disagree with this idea overlook is that the huge majority of piano students(the 99% who are not super advanced about to enter a conservatory level)cannot just "do their homework" because they don't have such a complete skill set. So these recordings are what I would describe as helping them do their homework.

I don't see how the criticism that these performances represent only the thought of pianists at this point in history or the particular pianist playing these works is at all relevant to the pedagogical purpose. The performances are meant to give a good model performance of works that don't have many or perhaps even any good professional performances available because they are pieces that professionals would never perform in concert.

Some links about this project:
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=49476.0
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=49476.0
http://music.uiowa.edu/people/alan-huckleberry
http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/interv...edagogy-project


Edited by pianoloverus (10/22/13 01:46 PM)

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#2170072 - 10/22/13 01:26 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: JoelW]
BruceD Online   content
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: JoelW
I can understand both sides here. If a painter wants to become good at landscapes, he could greatly benefit from actually going to beautiful places, but at the same time, he could learn everything he needs to by being educated and by studying the works of other painters. So, the real thing isn't a necessity but it could definitely benefit the painter to experience it.


I'll have to disagree with you on this analogy. A great artist painting a scene is not only copying what he sees at a given moment, he is absorbing into his artistic persona the mood, the atmosphere and even the sounds he hears as he paints. His painting is an amalgam of all that has touched his senses and the result is not a "photograph" of what he saw at a given moment in time but an impression of all that he saw, felt, lived and reacted to during the creative experience.

Studying and copying works of artists is removing oneself from the total experience and can only result in poorer art, accurately rendered, perhaps, but without feeling.

Regards,


It is not up to you, BruceD, to decide what makes an artist's work great or not. Bob Ross's studio work is great art because when look at it, I feel like I'm there. I hear the animals in the woods, the creek flowing. I feel the freezing wind atop a snowy mountain. I sense the warmth inside the inconspicuous little cabin in the distance.

Are you telling me his studio work is less valid just because it's studio work? I guarantee you his work is more effective (to me) than some painters' outdoor work.


It is indeed up to me what makes great art - to me, since my reaction to any art form is (technique apart) subjective. Why can I not decide what is great art to me, while, at the same time, you say that you can decide what art is great art - to you?

Why are my opinions of, and reactions to, art less valid than yours?
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#2170082 - 10/22/13 01:40 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: BruceD]
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You're right. But I have no idea how you can call Bob Ross's work bad art.

EDIT: Actually, you aren't right. I looked at your post again and saw that you used the words "poorer art". No such thing. You simply may not like the fact that a studio painting didn't originate from a real world experience, but that doesn't affect what's conveyed to the observer. A Bob Ross painting might be more powerful to me than a Picasso for example.


Edited by JoelW (10/22/13 01:51 PM)

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#2170087 - 10/22/13 01:51 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: jazzyprof]
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If one has the ability of a concert pianist (technical, interpretation, etc etc), one is more likely to be successful in learning new pieces without listening to any recording. Otherwise, I think we will be better off to copy what great artists had done. We know that we cannot even copy 70% of what they did, so that our playing will, by default, sound different from the recording.

Imagine if one who does not have the talent and knowledge tries to interpret a piece from scratch by himself, it will be a disaster.

I understand the fun of figuring things by ourselves, but we need to be honest to ourselves regarding our ability.


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#2170093 - 10/22/13 02:14 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: pianoloverus]
toyboy Offline
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Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I don't see how the criticism that these performances represent only the thought of pianists at this point in history or the particular pianist playing these works is at all relevant to the pedagogical purpose. The performances are meant to give a good model performance of works that don't have many or perhaps even any good professional performances available because they are pieces that professionals would never perform in concert.


then mea culpa to me. i spoke without full knowledge of the extent of the project. (and still am!) if we're talking about recordings of Czerny, Hanon, etc, things more pedagogical, I can understand that a bit better. But from what you say, it sounds like a vast project to save lazy students...who are admitted for questionable reasons in the first place, maybe?
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#2170095 - 10/22/13 02:15 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: JoelW]
toyboy Offline
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
A Bob Ross painting might be more powerful to me than a Picasso for example.


just how conditional is that "might"? wink
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#2170099 - 10/22/13 02:22 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: JoelW]
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Originally Posted By: JoelW
You're right. But I have no idea how you can call Bob Ross's work bad art.

EDIT: Actually, you aren't right. I looked at your post again and saw that you used the words "poorer art". No such thing. You simply may not like the fact that a studio painting didn't originate from a real world experience, but that doesn't affect what's conveyed to the observer. A Bob Ross painting might be more powerful to me than a Picasso for example.


There, again, you are saying that your subjective reactions to art are valid and mine are not.
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#2170112 - 10/22/13 02:53 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: BruceD]
JoelW Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4820
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: JoelW
You're right. But I have no idea how you can call Bob Ross's work bad art.

EDIT: Actually, you aren't right. I looked at your post again and saw that you used the words "poorer art". No such thing. You simply may not like the fact that a studio painting didn't originate from a real world experience, but that doesn't affect what's conveyed to the observer. A Bob Ross painting might be more powerful to me than a Picasso for example.


There, again, you are saying that your subjective reactions to art are valid and mine are not.



No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that there is no such thing as "poorer art" the way you described.

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#2170136 - 10/22/13 03:25 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: toyboy]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19443
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: toyboy
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I don't see how the criticism that these performances represent only the thought of pianists at this point in history or the particular pianist playing these works is at all relevant to the pedagogical purpose. The performances are meant to give a good model performance of works that don't have many or perhaps even any good professional performances available because they are pieces that professionals would never perform in concert.


then mea culpa to me. i spoke without full knowledge of the extent of the project. (and still am!) if we're talking about recordings of Czerny, Hanon, etc, things more pedagogical, I can understand that a bit better. But from what you say, it sounds like a vast project to save lazy students...who are admitted for questionable reasons in the first place, maybe?
"Admitted" where? My understanding is this isn't for those admitted to a conservatory or even those admitted as a beginner or intermediate to a teaching studio of some high powered teacher: it's for the 99% who have low to moderately high ability, not a lot of time to practice, and who will probably grow impatient/frustrated if it takes them forever to learn a short piece.

I don't think it's necessarily a question of laziness but lack of experience. Listening to a performance of a piece they are learning can give them additional experience or another tool to learn the piece or learn the piece more accurately/faster than by themselves.

Have you ever heard a YouTube performance by an enthusiastic and motivated amateur that never the less fell so far short of what the piece should sound like one would think that the performer couldn't possibly have heard a high level performance of the piece?





Edited by pianoloverus (10/22/13 03:28 PM)

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#2170194 - 10/22/13 05:47 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: pianoloverus]
toyboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/08
Posts: 345
Loc: Vermont
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
"Admitted" where? My understanding is this isn't for those admitted to a conservatory or even those admitted as a beginner or intermediate to a teaching studio of some high powered teacher: it's for the 99% who have low to moderately high ability, not a lot of time to practice, and who will probably grow impatient/frustrated if it takes them forever to learn a short piece.


only was taking you at your word: "As many of you are aware(since I've mentioned it many times before), there is a huge pedagogy project going on now where literally thousands of typical student pieces are being recorded by outstanding university piano teachers so that students learning these pieces can listen to a good performance. I certainly think that for that level of student these recordings are an excellent idea."

It was the "so that students" part that made me think it was for students. Pardon my misinterpretation of the word "students".
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"Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense."
Gertrude Stein

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#2170232 - 10/22/13 07:13 PM Re: Why listening to recordings is good when learning a piece [Re: toyboy]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19443
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: toyboy

It was the "so that students" part that made me think it was for students.
It is for students.

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