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#2206213 - 01/01/14 06:12 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Sam Rose Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 673
Loc: Los Angeles
This piece is almost making me want to quit piano right now. Take it really slowly, or prepare for some major frustration. Alternatively, lower your expectations. I'm trying to do that, because I want to play this like a pro, and it's apparent to me now that that will not be happening any time soon, if at all frown

Happy new year to all of you smile
_________________________
Playing since age 21 (September 2010) and loving it more every day.
"You can play better than BachMach2." - Mark_C
Currently Butchering:
Chopin Ballade no 1 in G minor Op.23
My Piano Diary: http://www.youtube.com/sirsardonic
‚ô™ > $

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#2206313 - 01/01/14 12:04 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 486
Loc: UK
Uh... Sam Rose, I just watched your video of this on YouTube, and you did a great job! I mean, it's not a pro performance obviously, but it's amazing just to get all the notes in the right order at the right time, if you'd only been playing 2 and a half years! This is great and inspirational, and I would be very happy to play it that well. Looks like you have a very nice piano to practice on though. Do other family members play?
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2206327 - 01/01/14 12:30 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 1993
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
Lolatu, Valencia and Richard,

Good luck to you all. I think the piece is well worth of your efforts. One of my studio mates in college has been playing the piece for 18 months to date and it is sounding better and better. At the same time I noticed that her other pieces started sounding better too. Apparently what you learn through the piece is transferrable to other pieces too.

I would love to someday join you but now am not even close to trying the piece. I would like to play smaller Chopin pieces and classical composers works for now. I may try A flat major Ballade or Fantasie Impromptu in two years before attempting the piece. So it will be 3-5 years away. I look forward to listening to your recording.
_________________________
Solo - Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Schubert Sonata D960 Andante sostenute (9/7/14), Bach f minor Fugue WTC Bk1, Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Chopin Trois Nouvelles Etudes #1



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#2206714 - 01/02/14 03:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: lolatu]
Sam Rose Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 673
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: lolatu
Uh... Sam Rose, I just watched your video of this on YouTube, and you did a great job! I mean, it's not a pro performance obviously, but it's amazing just to get all the notes in the right order at the right time, if you'd only been playing 2 and a half years! This is great and inspirational, and I would be very happy to play it that well. Looks like you have a very nice piano to practice on though. Do other family members play?



Thanks, but it is NOT good enough. One day...

About the piano, nobody else plays. I started playing in September 2010 on a friend's keyboard when I was living in New York, and since then I've bought and sold about 10 different used pianos in Los Angeles (Yamaha U1, Young Chang upright, Yamaha G2, 2 Yamaha C3s, Mason & Hamlin B, Kawai RX-2, Baldwin R, Yamaha spinet, Yamaha console, and maybe some others I've forgotten). The C3 I have in the video is my favorite. It's a 1992 model, and was not played at all by the first owner, so it's basically brand new. And it's capable of MUCH more than I am, which is just the way I like it smile

Now if only I could REALLY learn to play it. Maybe I should go back to a crappy upright so that I can blame the piano instead of my own ineptitude?
_________________________
Playing since age 21 (September 2010) and loving it more every day.
"You can play better than BachMach2." - Mark_C
Currently Butchering:
Chopin Ballade no 1 in G minor Op.23
My Piano Diary: http://www.youtube.com/sirsardonic
‚ô™ > $

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#2206938 - 01/02/14 02:28 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 250
lolatu, great to have you on board! Iím not a beginner in terms of time either, as I took lessons 25 years ago (or more?!). But I do not play that well. I should probably follow FarmGirl and wait to learn it as it is above my current level. But I feel compelled to try it now. Who knows what will happen in a few years? Maybe my arthritis will make it so that I cannot play it at all. And even if not, I figure if I learn it now I will have the rest of my piano playing years to work on the piece and improve it.

FarmGirl, Calgary Mike and AZ Astro, thanks for your posts and encouragement! Iíve read up about Alan Rusbridger and he had one of the busiest years of his working life and still managed to learn the Ballade on only a short bit of practice each day.

Sam Rose, Iím sorry to hear you are feeling discouraged with this piece! FWIW, I thought you played the piece very well and would be thrilled to be able to play it as you did. Of course you wonít be able to play it yet like the pros. You havenít been playing it that long! What are you struggling with right now in terms of your playing with this piece? I think playing it like the pros takes a lot of years of experience. You will get there. Have you tried playing sections along with recordings of some interpretations that you like? I did that with my mazurka for the recent chopin mazurka recital. I had no clue about how to do rubato and so tried playing along with some youtube recordings and it was really helpful because I never would have thought to do some things, even from listening to different recordings. It took playing along with others to grasp much of what was going on in the piece. So I think with more experience, the types of options the pros take in interpretation and touch will become available. Anyway, would love to hear more about what you are frustrated with with this piece. Maybe we can come up with some options for practice in this thread!

So everyone, what do you think about where to start for January? I am still visiting my mum who is ill, but I can do a bit of practice here. Maybe start from the beginning? I thought neuralfirings had a helpful breakdown on the blog. Can we repost it here?

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#2207066 - 01/02/14 06:29 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
My plans haven't changed, Valencia, so I'll be starting on M106 in April. If you want to have done M1-105 by then I'd start by getting familiar with M48-55.

How do you normally approach a piece? I understand you're not strong on analysis so what do you do to prepare yourself to learn a piece? And have you done any of that for this piece yet?
_________________________
Richard

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#2207104 - 01/02/14 08:05 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Sam Rose Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 673
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Valencia


Sam Rose, Iím sorry to hear you are feeling discouraged with this piece! FWIW, I thought you played the piece very well and would be thrilled to be able to play it as you did. Of course you wonít be able to play it yet like the pros. You havenít been playing it that long! What are you struggling with right now in terms of your playing with this piece? I think playing it like the pros takes a lot of years of experience. You will get there. Have you tried playing sections along with recordings of some interpretations that you like? I did that with my mazurka for the recent chopin mazurka recital. I had no clue about how to do rubato and so tried playing along with some youtube recordings and it was really helpful because I never would have thought to do some things, even from listening to different recordings. It took playing along with others to grasp much of what was going on in the piece. So I think with more experience, the types of options the pros take in interpretation and touch will become available. Anyway, would love to hear more about what you are frustrated with with this piece. Maybe we can come up with some options for practice in this thread!


I know how I want it to sound, but my technique inhibits my musicality. Basically, I learned some of these sections when I had been playing piano for 6 months, and I rushed the tempo far too quickly, and pedaled too much. Some of the runs, ESPECIALLY the Scherzando section and what surrounds it, are just terrible. I can't reach every note without some leaping, and you can HEAR those leaps so distinctly, which ruins the music. I also overpedal. It's just a wreck all around, and I don't know how much patience I have to get it just right.
_________________________
Playing since age 21 (September 2010) and loving it more every day.
"You can play better than BachMach2." - Mark_C
Currently Butchering:
Chopin Ballade no 1 in G minor Op.23
My Piano Diary: http://www.youtube.com/sirsardonic
‚ô™ > $

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#2207173 - 01/02/14 10:22 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Sam Rose]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1315
Originally Posted By: Sam Rose


I know how I want it to sound, but my technique inhibits my musicality. Basically, I learned some of these sections when I had been playing piano for 6 months, and I rushed the tempo far too quickly, and pedaled too much. Some of the runs, ESPECIALLY the Scherzando section and what surrounds it, are just terrible. I can't reach every note without some leaping, and you can HEAR those leaps so distinctly, which ruins the music. I also overpedal. It's just a wreck all around, and I don't know how much patience I have to get it just right.


This is precisely why I have no interest in even trying this piece right now. I think it's easy to underestimate the technical difficulty when you're not yet terribly advanced so it looks like a massive note playing challenge--difficult but manageable with enough patience. But then you know enough to know what you don't know and realize that it simply can't be played until there's a technical facility under there that will render it playable in any kind of musical sense, and simply knowing enough to push the right buttons at the right time with a bit of expression is just not even in the right galaxy. But often, just understanding the difference between button pushing with a bit of expression and true advanced playing is a learning process in and of itself.

It seems as if there's this weird window in everybody's piano learning trajectory in which people entertain the thought of learning pieces like this one: those who are no longer beginners, have had a taste of playing sufficiently well and know they're not utterly unsuited to music and may in fact have some talent in it, but aren't really advanced enough yet to fully appreciate how vast the chasm is between the technical skills of an early intermediate player and those who have reached the highest levels of advanced playing.

For me, I'm often utterly struck by just how far I have to go. It seems the better I get, the further down the road virtuosity appears to be.

It's like struggling to climb a mountain in a dense forest. The forest ends and you think you've reached the peak only to find out you were simply still in the foothills and the mountain is yet ahead. Your eyes start to pan up and up and up and you get that sensation that the scope of things is just wholly different than you thought it was.

Of course, there's nothing to do then but keep climbing, but while there are plenty of pieces that are "playable" by mid intermediate on up (and they just simply sound better by those who play better) there are some (not a ton, but certainly some) that are off the grid in terms of difficulty level. The Ballades, in my view, are four of them. Gaspard, Rach 3 concerto, inter alia. That's just how it is.

Almost every part of the g minor Ballade requires a touch and control I won't have for a lot of years, and this technique is required even to make this sound tolerable. In other words, I know quite firmly that I lack the technique to play the piece as a musical whole with even minimal competence, almost no matter what I do or how hard I work at my current technical skill level. It would be a Bad Idea to attempt it when the only way in which I will feel I am making adequate progress is to be wrong and have failed to understand the piece at all.

I applaud Sam's effort. I really am impressed! But I also know what he's saying about really understanding the depth of the challenge now and I suspect the reason he feels the way he does now is that he really appreciates that in a fundamental way that he may not have before. I could be wrong, but that's my sense.

Which is good, I think. It actually shows technical progress to have come to the realization of how profoundly out of one's league one may be for now.

That's not to say there's never a time to attempt it. At the rate he is going, I have no doubt one day (and possibly quite soon) this piece will be in his grasp as a reasonable stretch piece, and I hope also to be ready for it one day. But for now I totally get what he's saying about hearing what a wreck it is now and doubting the patience to fix it at this particular technical level. I more than get that--I respect that, and think it actually shows someone further advanced than someone who thinks it's a surmountable challenge who isn't already clearly at least an early advanced pianist. I have no problem with stretching, but not beyond the snap point of the rope.

For example, neuralfirings reached a much higher advanced level before quitting. I think this piece is a perfect challenge at this point in time for her. Is her recording somewhat rough in places? Sure, but also you can hear how solid the underlying technique is even after a lot of time not playing.

That ain't me. And that's true even if your average non-musician would be plenty impressed by my playing. I know what's missing, and that's just how it is for now.

Anyhoo, I am kind of just talking out loud. I really don't know if the original poster has a "highest prior attained level" like neuralfirings or not. And I don't want to rain on anybody's parade. But with so much out there that is both challenging, beautiful and more likely to get you to the skills necessary to play the Ballade faster than the Ballade itself, I just can't really wrap my head around a scenario that makes attempting the Ballade reasonable by anybody other than a truly early advanced pianist.

Best case scenario, you play it downtempo, lacking the finesse necessary to take it to speed, and end up with a final product that is rough and unmusical due to insurmountable elements of it, and then you to have to unlearn it when you have the technical chops to tackle it properly.

I can't tell you how many pieces I wish I hadn't played badly as a kid. Half the battle is unlearning them, frankly.

Ugh what a downer I sound like. But I'm actually pretty optimistic in general--both of myself and Sam and neuralfirings and anybody who is working hard and has good solid progress. I really feel like one day I will be ready for this piece. 2014 is not that year.

Good luck. I really, really mean it. For you and anybody else trying. We all have to be inspired and I can't say it's wrong to be inspired by something as lovely as the g minor ballade.

We should all be so blessed to play it! smile
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2207216 - 01/03/14 12:47 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jazzyprof Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2635
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Very wise post, Two Snowflakes. The combination "adult beginner" and "studying Chopin's Ballade" always sounded to me like an oxymoron.
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#2207235 - 01/03/14 01:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Palmpirate Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/31/13
Posts: 226
Loc: B.C.Canada
San Rose, if you can do that after just 2 years, all I can say is WOW. Every year will make a difference and you will have plenty of them! I am struggling with Nocturne op27 no2 which I love and after 6 month realize it's going to take me a while, and that's starting at 63 yeas young. But if WE don't try to play this stuff, it's just black and white blobs on a page and others will be none the wiser. It's a passion and you have to acknowledge it for your own self satisfaction if nothing else. Keep going , you know it's worth it. There's lots more of us out here doing the very same thing, giving life to those notes because we love them.
_________________________

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#2207578 - 01/03/14 04:04 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 250
Palmpirate, good luck with the 27/2 Nocturne! I agree about playing for passion and because we love the notes. Even if it takes awhile, it is worth it to keep on practicing these pieces.

Sam Rose, Iíll have a look at the scherzando for the places that are hard to impossible to play without a leap. Maybe we can practice some of those sections together and talk about pedalling in this thread.

Richard, Iíve only given a preliminary look at M48-55 but it does seem like a good place to focus. Maybe we could start a discussion about the details and the challenges of this section and then what comes before it as well. I think Iíll have some trouble memorizing the bars prior to that (34-43).

For how I take up a piece, usually to start I like to survey the piece to get a sense of all the parts of it. I listen to others playing it, and try to divide the piece up into sections for learning. Most recently, Iíve started tackling some of the most difficult sections first, sometimes along with an easier section of the piece. The parts that will need memorizing to play I will also start working on as soon as possible.

Two Snowflakes and jazzyprof, thanks for your thoughts and encouragement! TwoSnowflakes, you are probably right that this is a window in my piano journey where I am inspired to try such pieces. Iíd better move quickly before it closes! smile

I agree that playing the notes is only a small part of a piece. For example, I felt completely unskilled and inexperienced when I took on the Chopin Mazurka 17/4 for the recital. Such a seemingly simple piece (perhaps one of the Ďeasierí mazurkas?) yet so difficult for me to play musically. I worked very hard just to get individual measures or half measures sounding musical. At many points during my months of practice I thought I should drop out of the recital because I wasnít able to play the piece well enough. I donít think I really succeeded in playing it by the standards of many. It could be said by a listener that I was only ďpushing buttons with a little bit of expressionĒ (though I didnít purposely try to play it that way, I tried to do much more with it than that). My performance was also totally not in the galaxy compared to how it can be played by Horowitz or Rubinstein. But does that mean I shouldnít have tried to play the Mazurka? My experience with it tells me no. I donít regret studying it. Also, I got some very encouraging feedback from the listeners of the recital that surprised me. Perhaps then a performance doesnít have to be of the highest calibre, or even that good for it to be enjoyable to others or for it to be worth studying for the pianist? I know people will differ in their thoughts about this, and that not everyone can enjoy (performing or listening to) a very non-perfect performance.

Also, maybe some people are ok with a very non-perfect, less experienced performance of a mazurka, but not the Ballade?

I would really like to be able to play this piece for my mum. Her father was a pianist, and died in the 1930s when my mum was 8 yrs old. Some of her only memories of her father are of him playing the piano late into the night while everyone else in the family was in bed. When I let her listen to Valentina Lisitsa playing winter wind or ocean etude, she says that sounds like the kind of music her father used to play. I like to think my grandfather might have played the Ballade, and so Iíd like to be able to play it for my mum. I donít know why I am stuck on this piece in that regard.

Iím also looking forward to studying this piece with others on this forum. This kind of collaborative study is another thing that makes taking up this piece at this time very worthwhile for me.

Those are some of my thoughts. Iím very sure I will get frustrated like Sam Rose, since that happens to me with many less complex pieces that Iím working on. I bet there may even come a point where I feel like giving up. But rather than turn away from the piece, I would like to learn to work through those instances and keep going. YikesÖ..weíll see if I can do that with this piece!

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#2207639 - 01/03/14 05:35 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
M34-35 closes off the main theme.

M36-39(40) is a four bar sequence repeated in M40-43(44) with slight variation.

M44-45 is repeated in M46-47.

M48-52 is a three group descending sequence followed by a rising group all repeated four times. I think it might be better to practise this section in groups of six notes rather than three at a cost of some speed loss. Maybe groups of three for HS.

M52-55 is a slight change and again a simple pattern to finish.

I wouldn't have thought any of this was difficult to remember. The problem I had was getting any tempo into M48-52 without affecting the accuracy of the octave drop and the turn for the repeat, the groups of three in the RH against eighths in LH and that blasted four note chord all under the piu mosso marking.
_________________________
Richard

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#2207708 - 01/03/14 07:27 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 250
Thanks Richard, now that you've outlined the section it doesn't look as difficult. It is quite repetitive. I also found this short page about the above portion, which I plan to look over with the score in hand:

http://www.notefornotes.com/notes/freder...deric+chopin/19

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#2207765 - 01/03/14 10:21 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 486
Loc: UK
@FarmGirl Thanks for your well-wishes!

@Sam Why have you gone through so many pianos? You say on your YouTube page you can't afford lessons - have you spent all your money on transporting and tuning pianos? smile

Regarding your frustrations - I don't quite know what you were expecting. No adult beginner is ever going to have the technique of the top virtuosi, who all started when they were 5 or 6 and have never done anything else, and certainly not after 2 or 3 years of playing. I think you need to break your fixation on this piece, get a teacher, and study a whole load of other pieces (maybe some of Chopin's etudes?). Studying one piece for too long is going to be a case of diminishing returns in how much you improve your skills. And I presume you want to become a good pianist, not just someone who can play one piece?

@Snowflakes It sounds like we have differing objectives on what we want to get out of playing the piano. You aim to play pieces with perfect musicality, and regard the learning as a necessary struggle. Whereas I'm in it for the struggle! If I wanted to climb a mountain it would be because I like the forest. I might never get to the top but it's the journey that's important to me. So I might get stuck in the foothills of the Ballade, but I'll have fun doing it. After all, no-one else really cares whether I get to the top or not; it's a mountain that's been climbed many times before, and even if I do succeed, there are always going to be better versions to which people will prefer to listen.

@Neuralfirings Just wondering what kind of digital piano the recording on your blog is from?

@All - anyone got any suggesstions on which edition of the score is best? I looked at some on IMSLP and intially printed the Klindworth one, which seems OK. Quite condensed at 10 pages. The Mikuli one looks good too - more spread out over 14 pages. None of them seem to have measure numbers in them so I guess we have to count them ourselves...



_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2207777 - 01/03/14 10:51 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1315
Originally Posted By: Valencia

Two Snowflakes and jazzyprof, thanks for your thoughts and encouragement! TwoSnowflakes, you are probably right that this is a window in my piano journey where I am inspired to try such pieces. Iíd better move quickly before it closes! smile

I agree that playing the notes is only a small part of a piece. For example, I felt completely unskilled and inexperienced when I took on the Chopin Mazurka 17/4 for the recital. Such a seemingly simple piece (perhaps one of the Ďeasierí mazurkas?) yet so difficult for me to play musically. I worked very hard just to get individual measures or half measures sounding musical. At many points during my months of practice I thought I should drop out of the recital because I wasnít able to play the piece well enough. I donít think I really succeeded in playing it by the standards of many. It could be said by a listener that I was only ďpushing buttons with a little bit of expressionĒ (though I didnít purposely try to play it that way, I tried to do much more with it than that). My performance was also totally not in the galaxy compared to how it can be played by Horowitz or Rubinstein. But does that mean I shouldnít have tried to play the Mazurka? My experience with it tells me no. I donít regret studying it. Also, I got some very encouraging feedback from the listeners of the recital that surprised me. Perhaps then a performance doesnít have to be of the highest calibre, or even that good for it to be enjoyable to others or for it to be worth studying for the pianist? I know people will differ in their thoughts about this, and that not everyone can enjoy (performing or listening to) a very non-perfect performance.

Also, maybe some people are ok with a very non-perfect, less experienced performance of a mazurka, but not the Ballade?


Well, that's my point--the mazurka is something that is achievable by an intermediate pianist and used to get better. The Ballade is just so unbelievably hard that you are going to struggle to do anything but just push the buttons. The Mazurka may not sound professional, but the whole point is that you play more and more and it gets better and better. The piece can be assimilated somewhat quickly and then you work on expression, phrasing, touch and technique. Your best will not be professional, but over time, because you are learning as you go, it will get where you want it to be.

Do not get me wrong--I want to play the Ballade. I really feel like I will get to a point to play it FASTER using repertoire more within my reach to study and learn the right touch and technique on.

My Mazurkas do not sound like Rubinstein or Horowitz either!

But one day I hope they do! smile
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2207784 - 01/03/14 10:59 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: lolatu]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1315
Originally Posted By: lolatu


@Snowflakes It sounds like we have differing objectives on what we want to get out of playing the piano. You aim to play pieces with perfect musicality, and regard the learning as a necessary struggle. Whereas I'm in it for the struggle! If I wanted to climb a mountain it would be because I like the forest. I might never get to the top but it's the journey that's important to me. So I might get stuck in the foothills of the Ballade, but I'll have fun doing it. After all, no-one else really cares whether I get to the top or not; it's a mountain that's been climbed many times before, and even if I do succeed, there are always going to be better versions to which people will prefer to listen.




On the contrary. I love a struggle. I would not be studying the piano if I did not. But even if I never want the amount of struggle I feel to get better, I want my skills to be rising, too.

In other words, I want to continue to struggle at the maximum amount I can struggle and still find satisfaction in it, but have my underlying skill level be improving little by little as well.

Otherwise it's not so much a struggle as a wheel-spinning endeavor. Or, worse, a "banging one's head against the wall" type of thing.

So do not misinterpret me. I am absolutely welcoming the struggle--the satisfaction of the journey itself, but reason I feel that way is that over time, I am actually going somewhere on my journey, like all journeys do.

I have no fixed idea of how much progress I want to see to keep the struggle purposeful to me, but I can tell you that NO progress would not be worth the struggle.

If I were aiming for perfection or were simply fixated on the end of the journey, I would not be playing, either. I can guarantee you there are already recordings of every piece I like played better than I will ever reasonably play it. If the end result and perfection were the only reason to play, I'd stop now.
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2207810 - 01/03/14 11:49 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1103
Loc: western MA, USA
I'd like to chime in with TwoSnowflakes here, both applauding people who have taken on a challenge on purpose, and advertising the value of playing pieces that one can play well. There is so much gorgeous music at the early advanced level, and it's music that you could easily hear in a concert.

To be honest I've developed an aversion to hearing or playing most of the big loud Rachmaninoff and Liszt pieces due to hearing too many people crash through them badly, but thinking they sound awesome because the pieces are fast and loud and have a lot of notes.

Here are some early advanced pieces that I've heard concert performers play recently (of course, those performances were quite remarkable)
Beethoven, Bagatelles Op. 33 and 126
Haydn, sonatas
Ravel, Menuet from Sonatine
Handel, Suite in F

That's first-rate music! So rewarding to play really well, accessible to early advanced students, and with lots under the surface to explore again and again as we improve.


Edited by hreichgott (01/03/14 11:50 PM)
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sometimes a bagatelle is just a bagatelle. Beethoven Op. 33
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
Loving Faurť/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
Always a fan of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2207844 - 01/04/14 02:00 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
AZ_Astro Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 463
Loc: Tempe, Arizona
When I started playing piano two years and one month ago there were two pieces that I just HAD TO PLAY. Since I was a beginner, they obviously were way beyond my nascent technical ability. And yet, here I am now, two years later, and I can play them both, plus a few other pieces. They were the springboard to my learning.

This Chopin Ballade is truly worthy of your time. Even if you never play it to your own satisfaction, there will be many rewards.

I am reminded of something someone wrote here in PianoWorld. Learning piano "Is a journey, not a destination." That frame of mind might help.

If I were approaching the Ballade, I definitely would be looking at it from a Hands Separate perspective. Isn't anybody using that approach?



Edited by AZ_Astro (01/04/14 02:01 AM)
_________________________
Kawai KG-5. Korg SP-250. Software pianos: Ivory II, Ravenscroft, Galaxy Vintage D, Alicia's Keys, et al.


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#2207854 - 01/04/14 02:42 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: hreichgott]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 1993
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
I'd like to chime in with TwoSnowflakes here, both applauding people who have taken on a challenge on purpose, and advertising the value of playing pieces that one can play well. There is so much gorgeous music at the early advanced level, and it's music that you could easily hear in a concert.

To be honest I've developed an aversion to hearing or playing most of the big loud Rachmaninoff and Liszt pieces due to hearing too many people crash through them badly, but thinking they sound awesome because the pieces are fast and loud and have a lot of notes.

Here are some early advanced pieces that I've heard concert performers play recently (of course, those performances were quite remarkable)
Beethoven, Bagatelles Op. 33 and 126
Haydn, sonatas
Ravel, Menuet from Sonatine
Handel, Suite in F

That's first-rate music! So rewarding to play really well, accessible to early advanced students, and with lots under the surface to explore again and again as we improve.


I just wanted to say I am with you. I also wanted to clarify my position.
While I would admire people who would embark on a huge journey such as this, that's not something I would do. I would like to enjoy the journey. Some struggles are always expected but I would not like to kill myself over it. I would not last more than 3 months if i have to practice 3 hours everyday for the same piece. I would go insane.

I won't attempt the piece until I am ready, meaning that I (and my teacher) feel comfortable that I can bring it to performance level in 1 year or so. I know I am not ready now. Technically, I am barely playing 3 against 4! Musically, I am not there either (how am i gonna put together those pages of different musical ideas, poly melodies etc into a coherent musical story that makes senseÖ it hurts my brain). Besides, there are many other pieces I would like to learn. Ravel's Sonatine is one of them, Mozart's Fantasy.. and my dream piece Schubert Wanderer (someday!).

BTW, I think this whole thing is because it is Chopin. His music seems to stir strong feelings. Many of my friends, advanced or early students, yearn to play Chopin pieces. Especially the g minor Ballade! It's beautiful, how can I blame them wanting to do it. On the other hand, i have never heard people say that I GOTTA play this Mozart's piece before I die! It's unrelated but I became fond of Mozart music after I got older - did not think much of it when I was younger.
_________________________
Solo - Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Schubert Sonata D960 Andante sostenute (9/7/14), Bach f minor Fugue WTC Bk1, Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Chopin Trois Nouvelles Etudes #1



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#2207867 - 01/04/14 03:25 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: FarmGirl]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7648
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
It's unrelated but I became fond of Mozart music after I got older - did not think much of it when I was younger.

It's very typical to begin by loving all things Liszt, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff, and later mature into appreciating the greater masters Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, which one previously thought to be boring and dull, and not worth listening to. grin
_________________________
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Polyphonist

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#2207897 - 01/04/14 06:59 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Hmm, lots to read and think about here...

For the score, lolatu, I recommend the Mikuli or Chopin Institute for layout. I prefer the Mikuli for fingering as it mostly concurs with mine but I always develop my own first and compare it later.

With major pieces or those I'm planning on performing for recitals I scan my own library (all the major works of all the major piano composers and some) plus IMSLP and use MS Paint to lay out the score on as many separate pages as I break the piece into and often one phrase per line, get rid of all fingerings, expand measures that are too cramped for easy reading, eliminate duplicate passages etc. It suits my way of working; one or two short passages, no more than twenty mins/day and mostly less, until all the phrases in a section are memorised individually.

I don't think I'll get the Ballade to a point where I'm happy to perform it. I will get most of it to a point where I'm blissful playing it. I play three Beethoven sonatas complete, none of them to tempo throughout, but I enjoy listening to professional recordings so much more as I can appreciate nuances from learning the music slowly that I would never have picked up from listening alone, even following the score closely. It's to increase my listening pleasure that I'm tackling this Ballade. And yes, FarmGirl, this Ballade is stirring stuff and quite unique in the literature. Next stop, Liszt's Benediction de Dieu. smile (I already play several passages from the B minor Sonata with no hope of finishing.)

My teacher assigned me this piece in the eighties but I stopped lessons shortly afterwards for logistical reasons and have done little with it since. Valencia has lit the fire for it in recent months and I'm relishing the opportunity to tackle it now without a teacher but with collaborative effort. I won't be able to start practising until April due to other commitments but until then I can still get involved with analysis, planning and problem solving.
_________________________
Richard

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#2207924 - 01/04/14 08:56 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: AZ Astro
If I were approaching the Ballade, I definitely would be looking at it from a Hands Separate perspective. Isn't anybody using that approach?
Missed this earlier - I use HS regularly. Because I memorise all my pieces I start by memorising the difficult passages first so that I can practise them away from the piano.

I used to learn Bach by learning each hand separately all the way through first though no longer do. But I still learn each phrase of each piece HS and HT. I memorise from the score and practise only from memory. Memorising is easier working HS as is working out phrasing and often fingering. Even when I've put hands together I still use HS for working on speed and other technical issues. Playing one hand alone is also a strong test of memory in long known pieces that might otherwise give way to finger memory.

I find it far quicker to learn and memorise one hand at a time and have all the technical issues solved before putting hands together but I still have hands together from day one. Just more HS than HT in the early stages and more HT than HS in the later stages.

All tempo increases come from HS work.

Every piece in my repertoire, some of which I've been playing for over thirty years, I still practise HS for speed, clarity and accuracy.
_________________________
Richard

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#2208009 - 01/04/14 12:00 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Polyphonist]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1315
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
It's unrelated but I became fond of Mozart music after I got older - did not think much of it when I was younger.

It's very typical to begin by loving all things Liszt, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff, and later mature into appreciating the greater masters Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, which one previously thought to be boring and dull, and not worth listening to. grin


I liked Horowitz from the first note I ever heard him play.

But I fell in LOVE with Horowitz when he opened his 1984 Moscow recital with...Scarlatti. Just a wonderful delicate sonata. For all his ability to crash through a Rach prelude and of course it's incredibly exciting when those octaves come off like lightning bolts in his Chopin, seeing how beautiful and pristine he can play something like Scarlatti is its own marvel.

If I had to point to a particular moment that piano installed itself permanently in my heart, that would not be a bad candidate.

At any rate, I actually have great fear of Scarlatti, Haydn, Bach, and of course Mozart more than I do of Chopin and Rachmaninoff. That wide open sound and perfect structure is so maddeningly difficult to play well.

My teacher, who often believes me ready for pieces I do not think I am ready for, recently assigned me that old standby Clementi Sonata in c major simply as a tool to work on how to make the sound good, because hitting the right notes was not an issue, certainly. It was hard. She wouldn't even let the tempo come up past half speed for several weeks.

When we went back to the Rachmaninoff she said, "welcome back to your pedal and all those notes to hide behind!"

She wants me to play in her recital next month and while it'll be seven kids and me, I'm way more inclined to "hide" in the Rachmaninoff than the Clementi. Even if the Clementi is far more standard fare in the kiddie living-room style recital.

Problem is, at a certain point Rachmaninoff and Chopin get unbelievably difficult, too. Here are two composers who wrote for the modern piano in all its resonant glory. They wrote in a way capture all its modern possibilities, and all the amazing tones from the get-go.

So for me, my recital candidates are well between Bach's Goldberg variations and Chopin's ballade!

And one day I will be good enough to branch out to both! And then bring on Gaspard de la Nuit! Hammerklavier! Transcendental Etudes!

Just give me a good ten years! And in ten years these pieces will still be there... That's the beauty of it all.

And also told my husband that when this happens, when I'm good enough to study these pieces in earnest, I'm getting that Grotrian, so make some room for it! smile
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2208038 - 01/04/14 12:32 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 1993
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
[And also told my husband that when this happens, when I'm good enough to study these pieces in earnest, I'm getting that Grotrian, so make some room for it! smile [/quote]

What a nice husband!
_________________________
Solo - Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, Schubert Sonata D960 Andante sostenute (9/7/14), Bach f minor Fugue WTC Bk1, Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Chopin Trois Nouvelles Etudes #1



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#2208050 - 01/04/14 12:39 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
AZ_Astro Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 463
Loc: Tempe, Arizona
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Because I memorise all my pieces I start by memorising the difficult passages first so that I can practise them away from the piano.

I find it far quicker to learn and memorise one hand at a time and have all the technical issues solved before putting hands together but I still have hands together from day one. Just more HS than HT in the early stages and more HT than HS in the later stages.

All tempo increases come from HS work.

Every piece in my repertoire, some of which I've been playing for over thirty years, I still practise HS for speed, clarity and accuracy.



Wow. Thanks for that clarification. I learned my Joplin piece HS and after about 1 month I had the piece memorized, and only then began to slowly put them together. I still use HS but the percentage of time spent on HT is increasing steadily.

Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes


I liked Horowitz from the first note I ever heard him play.


An interesting comment because I had the opposite reaction with regard to Horowitz but was quite swept away by Arthur Rubinstein from the beginning. It has to do with the phrasing, I think. I think if I gave Horowitz a fair shake and listened to, say, 10 of his works together, I'd probably change my mind. But I find Rubinstein's pieces to be pretty universally compelling.
_________________________
Kawai KG-5. Korg SP-250. Software pianos: Ivory II, Ravenscroft, Galaxy Vintage D, Alicia's Keys, et al.


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#2208064 - 01/04/14 12:50 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: AZ_Astro]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1315
Originally Posted By: AZ_Astro

Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes


I liked Horowitz from the first note I ever heard him play.


An interesting comment because I had the opposite reaction with regard to Horowitz but was quite swept away by Arthur Rubinstein from the beginning. It has to do with the phrasing, I think. I think if I gave Horowitz a fair shake and listened to, say, 10 of his works together, I'd probably change my mind. But I find Rubinstein's pieces to be pretty universally compelling.



Ha, it's funny you mention that because at this particular time in my life, I'm also more of a Rubinstein fan than Horowitz. I know if I want to hear a certain piece and both Rubinstein and Horowitz have recorded it, if I have to choose between those two, I gravitate towards the Rubinstein right now.

But there is no doubt that my formative piano sound was Horowitz. My mother loved him and I, consequently, was always exposed to him.

The result is that I will always love Horowitz, even if I objectively prefer recordings by others of things he plays.

But there are several (but not many) pieces where I simply can't hear it any other way.

The Scarlatti is one of them. And yes, I'm quite aware there are artists more generally known to be experts in Scarlatti era works than Horowitz. smile
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2208071 - 01/04/14 12:53 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: FarmGirl]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1315
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
Originally Posted By: TwoSnowflakes
And also told my husband that when this happens, when I'm good enough to study these pieces in earnest, I'm getting that Grotrian, so make some room for it! smile


What a nice husband!


LOL! He is. But not because of that. The job of tolerating with a smile all my practicing in the meantime is a lot more laudable of thing to do than simply agreeing to let me purchase a high end piano when the time comes!
_________________________
Currently:
Bach, French Suites, No. 3 BWV 814
Brahms, Op. 118 No. 2 Intermezzo A major
Chopin, Mazurka Op. 67 No.4
With the pedal I love to meddle; When Paderewski comes this way... -Irving Berlin

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#2208106 - 01/04/14 01:29 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Sam Rose]
jazzwee Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Originally Posted By: Sam Rose
Originally Posted By: Valencia


Sam Rose, Iím sorry to hear you are feeling discouraged with this piece! FWIW, I thought you played the piece very well and would be thrilled to be able to play it as you did. Of course you wonít be able to play it yet like the pros. You havenít been playing it that long! What are you struggling with right now in terms of your playing with this piece? I think playing it like the pros takes a lot of years of experience. You will get there. Have you tried playing sections along with recordings of some interpretations that you like? I did that with my mazurka for the recent chopin mazurka recital. I had no clue about how to do rubato and so tried playing along with some youtube recordings and it was really helpful because I never would have thought to do some things, even from listening to different recordings. It took playing along with others to grasp much of what was going on in the piece. So I think with more experience, the types of options the pros take in interpretation and touch will become available. Anyway, would love to hear more about what you are frustrated with with this piece. Maybe we can come up with some options for practice in this thread!


I know how I want it to sound, but my technique inhibits my musicality. Basically, I learned some of these sections when I had been playing piano for 6 months, and I rushed the tempo far too quickly, and pedaled too much. Some of the runs, ESPECIALLY the Scherzando section and what surrounds it, are just terrible. I can't reach every note without some leaping, and you can HEAR those leaps so distinctly, which ruins the music. I also overpedal. It's just a wreck all around, and I don't know how much patience I have to get it just right.


Sam, I applaud you here. You played this in front on me awhile back and I could hear this exactly. BUT you must be headed for some real progress because now YOU can hear it.

As I've always said, you have to improve your hearing to be able to improve your playing. The frustration of finding something to fix is a never ending goal. But each time you tackle it, you make a solid improvement.

Unfortunately, everything takes time. It's easier to make improvements in early stages because some natural instincts allow you to skip issues others encounter.

But you are headed for some amazing levels here. Anyone that can acknowledge and hear their deficiencies are bound to improve big time. Anyone that thinks they sound good will likely not improve.

So the frustration is expected and common. I experience it everyday and I spent each practice session looking for faults.
_________________________
Hamburg Steinway O, Nord Electro 4 HP
My Blog

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#2208157 - 01/04/14 02:44 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
AZ_Astro Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 463
Loc: Tempe, Arizona

I know what you mean about the formative piano sound and its influence. It's always with you. My mother played piano nicely and I grew up listening to her at night when I went to bed. I cherish those memories now.

A Grotrian - wow - would be stellar.


Edited by AZ_Astro (01/04/14 02:45 PM)
_________________________
Kawai KG-5. Korg SP-250. Software pianos: Ivory II, Ravenscroft, Galaxy Vintage D, Alicia's Keys, et al.


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#2208305 - 01/04/14 08:09 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 486
Loc: UK
Useful tips Richard. Never thought of using MS Paint. Agree that Mikuli score seems best of the bunch, so I'm using that from now on.

Did a sight-reading playthrough last night. Definitely going to be challenging, but didn't make me want to slit my wrists like when I tried La Campanella or Hungarian Rhapsody No 2!
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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