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#2194584 - 12/08/13 04:08 PM Studying Chopinís Ballade 1
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Iíd like to study Chopinís Ballade 1 over 2014 (and yes, this piece will be a huge stretch!) . Does anyone who has previously played or studied it have suggestions for how to approach it? How did you divide the piece up for learning? Which sections did you start with? Did you cycle through the sections or try to learn each one well before moving to the next? Did you memorize each section as you were first learning it? What was helpful practice-wise as you were learning it?

For me the piece will have to be memorized to play, which will take time as Iím generally not a very good memorizer. Iíd thought to start off my studying by memorizing the coda and the scherzando. I've read they are extra difficult, and once memorized, I could practice those sections alongside the other sections Iím learning throughout the year. The middle section with all the octaves also seems extremely daunting to me. but taking on such a hard section right away might be discouraging as far as learning the rest of the ballade.

Iíd appreciate any insights from those who have studied this piece.

Also, anyone want to join me with taking up this piece this coming year? smile

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#2194660 - 12/08/13 06:36 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
chopinoholic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Hi Valencia, I see that you already have the method covered. I'd certainly start with the most difficult sections. Once performing the piece, you don't fear those bits, but you will attack them with all your heart.
Make sure when memorizing, you also check the music every now and then. An early learned mistake is difficult to unlearn...
Also I'd devide the piece in sections by theme. Make sure you know all variations and how to interpret them. The form of a piece like this is extremely important.
I'm currently busy with no.4. Not there yet, but the end is near. When I'm satisfied, I'll make a recording... ( no turning back now, yikes ).
And then I'll be happy to begin with this ballade in 2014!

Regards Paul
_________________________
Paul


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#2194671 - 12/08/13 06:48 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
This was one of the last pieces my teacher gave me before I moved to the the other side of London with a job relocation. I had done up to around M125 back then, mid eighties, and have investigated other parts of it since then - but not all. I no longer work sequentially on big pieces like this.

I cannot start any of this before April, when the Tchaikovsky and Joplin recitals will be done, but may be able to pick it up again after that. I have little desire to work on any of the easier passages as I can learn those more quickly later on, nor do I want to start on the Presto until I've got an incentive to finish.

I might need to look at M45-66 again and then anything between M126 and M208. I've already detailed the sections with you elsewhere. They'll come up again, I'm sure.
_________________________
Richard

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#2194828 - 12/09/13 02:14 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1508
Loc: uk south
I'm definitely interested in this, Valencia. Possibly I'll start looking at it after the Mazurka recital. Can't be sure at this point if I'll have too much on my plate but Chopin always beckons...

It'd be good if someone with more experience - an advanced pianist - were to get involved in this...

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#2194857 - 12/09/13 04:15 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
chopinoholic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
I don't want to sound negative, but I would like to stress the hard work this (or either) ballade will demand. It can get really frustrating if things doesn't seem to work, no matter how hard you practice. If you start studying it and it appears to difficult, leave it for the time being.
It's not a piece for everyone to master.
_________________________
Paul


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#2194864 - 12/09/13 05:08 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 699
Loc: Norway
I could have been interested in studying this Ballade, but I'm almost 100% sure that it is too technically difficult for me. But I will follow your progress with interest.

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#2194878 - 12/09/13 06:12 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Ganddalf]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1508
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Ganddalf
I'm almost 100% sure that it is too technically difficult for me.


Me too but I'd like to have a crack at it. I doubt I'll see it through to the end.

Chopinoholic - any experienced Chopin players prepared to help shepherd us through this would be most welcome in the thread. As to 'mastery', I don't think any of the posters to ABF have such delusions. Getting through to the end of the piece, to the praise of family members - even if it leaves us bruised and bloodied - is all most of us are content to aim for.

It'll be interesting to see at what point the project expires.

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#2194951 - 12/09/13 10:57 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: dire tonic]
chopinoholic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Ganddalf
I'm almost 100% sure that it is too technically difficult for me.


Me too but I'd like to have a crack at it. I doubt I'll see it through to the end.

Chopinoholic - any experienced Chopin players prepared to help shepherd us through this would be most welcome in the thread. As to 'mastery', I don't think any of the posters to ABF have such delusions. Getting through to the end of the piece, to the praise of family members - even if it leaves us bruised and bloodied - is all most of us are content to aim for.

It'll be interesting to see at what point the project expires.


dire_tonic, ok I see what you mean. Well said. Maybe I was speaking to much from my point of view without considering others. When I start a piece, I want to be positive that I can play it convincingly in the end. But I'm not easily satisfied when it comes to my own playing. That can be very frustrating at times. crazy

I also think it would be a good idea to have an experienced player in this thread. I'm pretty experienced, but I'm feeling to insecure in giving pointers to other players...
_________________________
Paul


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#2194957 - 12/09/13 11:10 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/13
Posts: 206
I am currently working on this piece and would love to lend any help I can.

First, I've been keeping notes on sections I find challenging, or tips I've found in practicing using a website I made: http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1 -- you don't have to sign up to browse the comments, but you do have to sign up to respond to comments or add your own. You can sign up with this link: http://www.notablescores.com?key=ZubB8ix3P-hds3tKbql8iQ

Second, I've also been keeping some notes on my blog, http://musical.neuralfirings.com/ -- I started this blog precisely to keep track of my progress learning this piece. I talk about how I divide up the sections, and which sections I struggle with, etc. I also posted recordings of my practice sessions--from the first sight reading to fully memorized. The short of it is I started learning from the front of the piece onwards, while simultaneously tackling the coda and the waltz. I figured I'd progress a lot slower through the coda and the waltz, and the first half I'd progress faster.. so might as well do both in parallel so not to dampen my spirits when I reached a hard part.

Third, there are a ton of resources online! My favorite one is the editor of the Guardian's book, which documents his progress struggling with this piece for some 18 months. In addition, he writes about all the exciting stuff they covered over the course of the year (WikiLeaks, Arab Spring). There are excerpts and interviews with professional pianists on his website (http://alanrusbridger.com/playitagain) and the book is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Good luck!


Edited by neuralfirings (12/09/13 11:12 AM)
_________________________
Working on Chopin E Minor Concerto (2nd Mvt), Bach C Minor Fugue (WTC I), and others.

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#2194959 - 12/09/13 11:15 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/13
Posts: 206
As for difficulty, I've always figured even if I can't play the entire piece, I can probably slice the piece or simplify the harder parts for my own enjoyment. As an amateur, I don't see anything wrong with this.

My favorite part of this piece isn't even hard parts, it's this section:


If I couldn't tackle the more difficult piece, just making a small tune out of that section would make me happy on the piano.

I'm not saying Valencia should take this attitude, just offering a different perspective on how to enjoy the difficult pieces without them being discouraging.
_________________________
Working on Chopin E Minor Concerto (2nd Mvt), Bach C Minor Fugue (WTC I), and others.

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#2194962 - 12/09/13 11:27 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
While I agree that to play this piece you need to memorize it, I recommend against memorizing as you go. As chopinoholic mentioned, you can memorize incorrectly which can cause all sorts of problems. Best to be sure you can play it well with the score, then work on memorizing in bits.

Can you play through the piece start to finish under tempo? If not, it may not be a good time to tackle this. If so, then head straight to the harder sections and work those out first, while periodically (every 3 or 4 days) playing through the whole thing to see how you are progressing.
_________________________
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2194968 - 12/09/13 11:47 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/13
Posts: 206
Re: Valencia, what is your background and piano experience?

In the previous ABF recitals you say you're a restarter (like me!) after 25 years. Before you stopped playing, how many years have you played or what level did you play at?

If I have a better idea of your skill level, I can better tailor any future comments.
_________________________
Working on Chopin E Minor Concerto (2nd Mvt), Bach C Minor Fugue (WTC I), and others.

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#2195121 - 12/09/13 04:07 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Morodiene]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7777
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Can you play through the piece start to finish under tempo?

What is "under tempo?" Anybody can do it if it's enough under tempo.
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Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2195255 - 12/09/13 07:27 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Chopinoholicólove your screen name! Thanks for your posts. Iíd love it if you could join in with the Ballade in the new year. I should warn you though that I am not a very advanced player so you will probably leave me in the dust!

In fact everyone who has posted on this thread so far is much more advanced than I am. I hear all the concerns about the difficulties and potential discouragement. Iím not looking to master the piece. That is partly why I keep talking about studying it. Mostly I just want to experience thoroughly engaging with this piece and then Iíd like to be able to play it at least somewhat. Sam Rose learned this piece and he was a beginner (I know he has exceptional skills). But it took him awhile to learn and it seems to me he enjoys playing it and others enjoy his playing of it (I do!). That is really all Iím hoping for, even if I canít play it as well as he does.

Morodiene-Until youíd posted Iíd never tried to play through the score. So, I tried it today. Well, I got through it , though it took me quite awhile (however I did not attempt page 6 (the one with all the octaves) because I did not want to strain my hand from the get-go). There is much of the score I havenít looked at much before so some of it felt like sight reading. I think if I spent a little time getting familiar with each of the sections, the playing it through would go much better. This is an approach I didnít really think ofÖto first aim to play through the whole piece relatively fluently, so that from then on I can do that every few days during practice, and then to start the focus on the individual sections in more detail.

Richard and dire tonic, would love to be able to study along with you in learning this. For anyone else who wants to join in, it would be great. Ganddalf, glad you will follow the thread. Maybe at some point you will join in! Though I understand not wanting to take time away from other pieces you are preparing. Itís hard for me to imagine that technically you could not handle this piece, given what Iíve heard of your playing so far. I think you have higher expectations of your playing than I have of mine. This is perhaps in part because you can play so much better than me. My playing is not that great, therefore I donít expect much from myself, which strangely gives me the freedom to try just about anything. Sometimes I wish I had higher expectations of my playing. However, in the past when Iíve tried having such higher expectations, I failed to realize them, therefore Iíve just stopped bothering with them.

neuralfirings
-I was hoping you would post! Thanks for the link to the notable scores! I briefly checked your blog and it is very interesting! I love it that you posted the recordings of how you progressed with the piece. Iíll definitely be referring back to your blog. Your approach of learning the waltz and the coda alongside the rest of the piece is sort of what I was thinking. As for my previous piano experience, the problem is I could barely remember a thing when I came back a couple of years ago. I donít know my scales, Iíve forgotten all the theory, my technique is quite terrible. This is all very depressing. And then I donít know things likeÖpicking out the themes in this Ballade. What constitutes a theme? For example, in Paulís post above, I am not sure what the themes and their variations are. I mean, I can take a guess at a couple of them, but I am not sure.

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#2195277 - 12/09/13 08:06 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
hey neuralfirings, I just found the themes outlined on your blog....thanks! smile

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#2195397 - 12/10/13 02:35 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 699
Loc: Norway
Originally Posted By: Valencia
Ganddalf, glad you will follow the thread. Maybe at some point you will join in! Though I understand not wanting to take time away from other pieces you are preparing. Itís hard for me to imagine that technically you could not handle this piece, given what Iíve heard of your playing so far. I think you have higher expectations of your playing than I have of mine. This is perhaps in part because you can play so much better than me. My playing is not that great, therefore I donít expect much from myself, which strangely gives me the freedom to try just about anything. Sometimes I wish I had higher expectations of my playing. However, in the past when Iíve tried having such higher expectations, I failed to realize them, therefore Iíve just stopped bothering with them.


Valencia, I just hope that I didn't discourage you with my comments. That was not my intention. I'm convinced that this project will help you develop your skills and give you lots of pleasure. There are two reasons why I can't jump into this project myself. Firstly, I have very little opportunity to practice. If I could have three hours a week I would be very happy. Usually I get less than that.
Secondly I think this Ballade suits my technique very badly. If I was to choose one of Chopin's Ballades for myself to study the first one would be my last choice. But I really enjoy listening to it.

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#2195430 - 12/10/13 05:38 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
chopinoholic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: Valencia
Chopinoholicólove your screen name! Thanks for your posts. Iíd love it if you could join in with the Ballade in the new year. I should warn you though that I am not a very advanced player so you will probably leave me in the dust!


Thank you, I think it suits me. I really need to push myself playing other composers!
I will certainly enjoy this project and will do my best to do well.

A while ago I've found an interesting analysis on the Chopin ballades. It is a really thorough analysis and at least for me it's nice stuff to read.
Grundgestalt and diatonic/octatonic interaction in Chopin's ballades

Also the stuff neuralfirings posted is quite interesting. Good job by the way neuralfirings!


Edited by chopinoholic (12/11/13 01:44 AM)
_________________________
Paul


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#2195672 - 12/10/13 05:25 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
What is "under tempo?" Anybody can do it if it's enough under tempo.
Do try and keep up, Poly. We're trying to assess our ability to play the piece. If your playing from the score is so far below tempo that you can't make sense of the music or you have to stop too often you're probably not ready for this piece.

Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Best to be sure you can play it well with the score, then work on memorizing in bits.
I've no doubt this is the best approach when the reading skills are up there and the technique is ready for the piece.

My own reading skills are nowhere near ready for this material but I don't know how far away my playing skills are - I know it's a long way.

If I look at M163-166 of Beethoven's Moonlight sonata they look about the most frightening bars in the whole piece and I'd have to study each note as it occurs in order to know what to play but the playing itself is easy as pie and one of the easiest passages in the piece to get up to tempo.

Since Valencia passed over page 6 of this Ballade, M105-121 in my score, I looked at it specifically. The chords and octaves in the RH are easy enough save the trill in M119 (and M123 - both of which I'd be happy to ignore) and the LH is easy enough to play. Just reading the middle line of the page, M112-114, is a nightmare of sharps and naturals and full chords and four against three. There's no way I'd be able to play this page from the score in the foreseeable future but I isolated three and a half bars from the middle of M111 to the first chord of M115, and once I'd worked out the prevailing key signature in each bar individually and got the fingering sorted I got those measures memorised and fairly close to tempo in around ten to fifteen minutes.

I could probably memorise the RH (M105-124) in an evening because I know the piece well enough to almost play this passage by ear. This isn't such a difficult page once all the notes are memorised and the fingering sorted. It would probably be easier for me to read if the key sig. was changed to A major and the fingerings were more intuitive for me.

If I read this page too often I would ingrain the wrong fingering and probably misread accidentals and lengthen the learning process by months. I would probably learn this passage more efficiently by giving each measure its own two to five minute window before starting to join 'em up.

In fact I've just decided that's exactly how I'm going to go about it and I'll start right here in April. smile
_________________________
Richard

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#2195700 - 12/10/13 06:16 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7777
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: Polyphonist
What is "under tempo?" Anybody can do it if it's enough under tempo.
Do try and keep up, Poly. We're trying to assess our ability to play the piece. If your playing from the score is so far below tempo that you can't make sense of the music or you have to stop too often you're probably not ready for this piece.

Obviously that was my point.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2195799 - 12/10/13 09:36 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
chopinoholic-thanks for the link! Except that I couldn't get it to work. I see it is a book though...I'll have to look up some information on it. I suspect the material may be somewhat beyond my understanding as I don't understand the words in the title. smile

Richard-wow...you could memorize the RH of that section in an evening? It will likely take me weeks to learn that page. And even once it's memorized, my mind tends to fire slowly for a long time. Maybe I'll have to learn it a phrase at a time. Hopefully I'll be able to get a handle on it by April when you start this piece!

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#2195855 - 12/11/13 01:49 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
chopinoholic Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Valencia, I fixed the link, there was fault in the url!
_________________________
Paul


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#2195986 - 12/11/13 10:09 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/13
Posts: 206
There are some exceptions, but I actually find Chopin pieces easier to memorize. He writes for the piano, so the notes naturally falls into place. You just have to know how to look for them.

For example, this is a section seems daunting with all the naturals, sharps, and whatnot. But, if you look closely, it's just Chopin writing in A-major, but keeping the key signature of G minor (as zrtf mentioned already). If you think about it in A major key (F#, C#, G#) then you have far less accidentals to worry about:


---

Somebody said the following measures are tricky right? The first measure (M112) is A major with an added accidental of E# plus a little chromatic lead up (A#, B-nat, B#) to the second to last note C# (one accidental + chromatic lead up). The second measure (M113) is A major with an added accidental of D#, which is actually E major. So if you look at this measure as an E major measure, then there are no accidentals to worry about... on, there's an E#, sorry. One accidental here.


As for 4 vs. 3 rhythmic pattern, I tend to gloss over that. For me anyway (and it could be different for everybody), once my hands are comfortable with the fingering my mind concentrates on the downbeats and the hands just take care of the 4 vs. 3. I find thinking about them too much actually makes the rhythm worse. Also, this is romantic music, a little rubato here and there is fine too. smile

--

Then the scales at the end of this section. This gave me some trouble until I saw the pattern. Nearly all of the time, there is a pattern in Chopin's music. It's just a bit obscured by the accidentals.

I noted these things in Notable Scores (plug for my website!) but I'll paste them here:

The key to the following runs is to think of these as scales and subsequent minor (1-2 notes) modifications of the first scale. It's like Chopin is trying different modulation. Also, in each of these scales the first two notes I perceive as lead up. The first note E#, F##, and F## respectively are just a chromatic dip.

For example, I think this is the G# minor scale with an added D natural (one accidental + chromatic dip of E#)


G# minor scale, with an added a B# (only one accidental + chromatic dip of F##)


G# minor scale, but now we have E#, and F## (two accidentals + chromatic dip of F##)


---

If you think of it this way, this section is more manageable since there are less accidentals to worry about. In each of the sections above, there are at most 2 accidentals per measure if you transpose them into their relative keys.


Edited by neuralfirings (12/11/13 10:41 AM)
_________________________
Working on Chopin E Minor Concerto (2nd Mvt), Bach C Minor Fugue (WTC I), and others.

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#2196019 - 12/11/13 11:28 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: neuralfirings
Somebody said the following measures are tricky right?
Not quite. I said they looked tricky but weren't awkward to play. Once you "look carefully" and realise it's in A major there's really not much to it. I was saying that playing through it wouldn't be feasible for me because of my lesser reading skills compared to my playing skills.

I had already pointed out that it was in A major and easy enough to play and memorise - just not while playing from the score where I wouldn't have the luxury of time to "look carefully".

Valencia, there's really not much there to memorise in RH when you consider that I've had this piece swirling round my head for nearly thirty years. I wouldn't actually do it in an evening. I seldom do more than twenty or thirty minutes on one piece. I usually have five or six pieces to work on each day and seldom go as far as ninety minutes at the piano during the week.

And did you not memorise the Presto agitato, 11 pages, in a rather short time?
_________________________
Richard

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#2196029 - 12/11/13 11:46 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: neuralfirings]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7777
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: neuralfirings
The key to the following runs is to think of these as scales and subsequent minor (1-2 notes) modifications of the first scale. It's like Chopin is trying different modulation. Also, in each of these scales the first two notes I perceive as lead up. The first note E#, F##, and F## respectively are just a chromatic dip.

For example, I think this is the G# minor scale with an added D natural (one accidental + chromatic dip of E#)


G# minor scale, with an added a B# (only one accidental + chromatic dip of F##)


G# minor scale, but now we have E#, and F## (two accidentals + chromatic dip of F##)

Don't think about it this way. There are three scales: B major, C# melodic minor, and G# melodic minor, over harmonies of F#7, G#7, and C#/G# minor respectively.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2198129 - 12/15/13 06:06 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
I've spent a lot of time here this week and I'm very pleased with how well it's gone. My technique has certainly grown since I last looked seriously at this but my reading skills are unrecognisable from two years ago.

Most of the material up to M125 I've done before and I just need to spend some time on M48-55 before I start rememorising it. I'll probably start working M48-55 as a weekend technical exercise before April.

Come April I'll start working through the B section in order, M106-125, M125-137, M138-150 and M150-166. Since I'll be working on other pieces concurrently and I tend to change my pieces every week I'd expect to stay here for about three months memorising it and getting it fast enough to be presentable.

Starting July I plan to work backwards through the coda in five sections, M250-264, M238-250, M224-238, M216-224 and M208-216. The latter appears to be the hardest 4/8 bars but not impossible. M216-224 I got up to a reasonable lick in very short order, RH only, and M224-228 is just an extension of it. I'll allow myself another three months here because of the extra speed needed and the precision of those scale passages. They'll need to be worked up slowly from daily repetitions. There are a few such passages between M126 and M166.

I doubt I'll ever reach a presto here but less than a molto allegro defeats the purpose so I'll need to get this up to an allegro without getting sloppy before moving on.

That'll leave me the last quarter to work on the recap, M166-180, M180-193 and M194-208. I would hope to have recovered up to M105 on weekends throughout the year. I've played thus far from the score this week without much effort apart from M48-55.

Apart from isolated peaks the biggest difficulty I can see from here is the paucity of repetition and the sheer variety of technical requirements in so short a space. This means the process of joining the sections together should be delayed until the parts are well established in the fingers. Even if I manage to put these four major sections together in 2014 I doubt the whole piece will be playable in one go, apart from the occasional weekend, for a good way into 2015 without suffering some loss.
_________________________
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#2198173 - 12/15/13 07:14 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Thanks so much everyone for your contributions to this thread. I'm visiting family atm so less time to practice piano and respond here, but I promise I will properly get back to it soon.

No worries Ganddalf, you didn't discourage me! smile

neuralfirings, thanks so much for your post and i'll give this a try on that daunting page. i think I will start trying to memorize that one now. Your notable scores is very helpful for discussing the piece here! smile Today i reviewed a few bars of that page HS, LH and RH, and started trying to play those few bars HS without looking at the score.

Richard, it is true i memorized the beethoven movement relatively quickly for me! but that piece seemed different. Perhaps easier because of the repetitious patterns? In contrast, there was a song without words for the mendelssohn recital that took me months to memorize (85/1). For the ballade (and while I'm visiting family) I'm first trying to revive/finish my memory of the notes of the coda and the scherzando. (notes only, very slowly) Once I do this, I can at least practice them alongside the rest.

ok more later! smile

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#2205000 - 12/30/13 01:21 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Hi Everyone,

I havenít been able to do much focused practice on any of my pieces. My mother is in the hospital in a city away from here, and so everyday we travel there and back in order to see her. This leaves little time for piano.

For the Ballade, Iím still basically surveying the piece in preparation for studying it in 2014.

Several months ago Iíd started memorizing the coda (M208 on) and the scherzando (M126-165) but then I left them to practice other pieces. In the last couple of weeks Iíve been working on re-remembering these sections. I cannot play either of them smoothly even slowly yet and sometimes my memory works so hard to recall notes I swear my brain starts smoking.

This last week I worked a bit on M206-207 which is challenging.

Iíve tried playing through M166-193 (no memory and just notes which are no where near smooth)óso far this is one of my favorite parts to play. But I think memorizing the LH of this section will be difficult. (for meÖ..because I donít recognize the names of all the changes in the arpeggios).

This morning I looked at M36-43. This part is very difficult for me. How to memorize it? I will need to memorize it to be able to play it. Iíve also started memorizing M44-51.

My focus thus far is just getting familiar with the notes and sections. I havenít looked at dynamics or anything else. Everyone else working on this piece in this thread is more advanced than I am, and Iím trying to get myself to a place where I can work along here with others at least to some extent. Also, this kind of basic notes-focused practice is easier to do than focusing on the subtleties of some of my other pieces because my mum has not been well so the more detailed practicing of my other pieces has been hard to focus on. So when I have a chance to get to the piano, Iíve been working on the Ballade!

Hope everyone is well and look forward in the new year to studying this piece with all of you! smile

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#2205094 - 12/30/13 04:28 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
AZ_Astro Offline
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Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 479
Loc: Tempe, Arizona
Originally Posted By: Valencia
Iíd like to study Chopinís Ballade 1 over 2014

Also, anyone want to join me with taking up this piece this coming year? smile


Oh my. What a delightful challenge! It is way beyond my level but perhaps someday!?

Good luck! I saw YouTube video of the Guardian Editor who made it through this Ballade. It was very impressive and instructive and inspirational.


Edited by AZ_Astro (12/30/13 04:34 PM)
_________________________
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#2205205 - 12/30/13 06:58 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: AZ_Astro]
Calgary Mike Offline
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Registered: 04/20/10
Posts: 64
Loc: Calgary, Alberta
Alan Rusbridger also wrote about the year he spent learning the piece.

"Play It Again - An Amateur Against The Impossible"

http://www.amazon.ca/Play-It-Again-Amate...d=IHJ4XQN8FYQH7

Good luck Valencia et al.
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#2205527 - 12/31/13 04:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Calgary Mike]
lolatu Offline
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Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
Loc: UK
Count me in! I printed out the score a while back after seeing a documentary called "Chopin saved my life", which featured this piece. I love it but haven't spent much time on it because it sounds bloody difficult!

I'm not a beginner in terms of time - I had lessons when I was a kid, but have never been that confident, and am more of a long term dabbler. If you guys are beginners then I think you are biting off too much with this piece. It's quite advanced - not quite a Liszt etude, but beyond grade 8 and pieces like the Fantaisie Impromptu.
_________________________
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#2206213 - 01/01/14 06:12 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Sam Rose Offline
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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
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#2206313 - 01/01/14 12:04 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
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Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
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?
_________________________
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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: 2036
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.
_________________________
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#2206714 - 01/02/14 03:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: lolatu]
Sam Rose Offline
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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
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#2206938 - 01/02/14 02:28 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
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
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
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?
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#2207104 - 01/02/14 08:05 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Sam Rose Offline
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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
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#2207173 - 01/02/14 10:22 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Sam Rose]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1423
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
_________________________
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Bach, French Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
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#2207216 - 01/03/14 12:47 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: TwoSnowflakes]
jazzyprof Offline
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Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2646
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.
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#2207235 - 01/03/14 01:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Palmpirate Offline
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Registered: 01/31/13
Posts: 230
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
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
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
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
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.
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#2207708 - 01/03/14 07:27 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
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
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Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
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...



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#2207777 - 01/03/14 10:51 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1423
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 Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
Tchaikovsky, Mars: Chante de l'alouette Op. 37a No. 3

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#2207784 - 01/03/14 10:59 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: lolatu]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1423
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 Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
Tchaikovsky, Mars: Chante de l'alouette Op. 37a No. 3

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#2207810 - 01/03/14 11:49 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
hreichgott Offline
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Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1277
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)
_________________________
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Working on: Schumann/Kinderszenen
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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: 479
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)
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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: 2036
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.
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Collaboration - Concerto in C for Oboe and orchestra attributed to Haydn edited by Evelyn Rosewell and some duets


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#2207867 - 01/04/14 03:25 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: FarmGirl]
Polyphonist Offline
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7777
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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#2207897 - 01/04/14 06:59 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
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.
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#2207924 - 01/04/14 08:56 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
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.
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#2208009 - 01/04/14 12:00 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Polyphonist]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
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Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1423
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 Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
Tchaikovsky, Mars: Chante de l'alouette Op. 37a No. 3

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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: 2036
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 - Rachmaninoff Elegie Op 3 #1, Schumann Op 12 Warum, Grillen and a few short pieces by various composers
Collaboration - Concerto in C for Oboe and orchestra attributed to Haydn edited by Evelyn Rosewell and some duets


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#2208050 - 01/04/14 12:39 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
AZ_Astro Offline
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Registered: 09/19/12
Posts: 479
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.
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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: 1423
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 Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
Tchaikovsky, Mars: Chante de l'alouette Op. 37a No. 3

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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: 1423
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 Suite BWV 814 No. 3
Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. post. 66
Tchaikovsky, Mars: Chante de l'alouette Op. 37a No. 3

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#2208106 - 01/04/14 01:29 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Sam Rose]
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
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.
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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: 479
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)
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#2208305 - 01/04/14 08:09 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
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Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
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!
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#2208324 - 01/04/14 08:47 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: lolatu]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Thanks everyone for your contributions to this thread! smile

lolatu, I also am using the Mikuli edition. What do you think about starting at the beginning and then focusing on the sections that Richard has outlined above? I'm thinking in terms of discussion. I wouldn't mind going through the sections and talking about things that need focusing on.

I rather liked neuralfirings breakdown of the piece so, hopefully it is ok with neuralfirings if I post it here!

http://musical.neuralfirings.com/category/analysis/

1.Bars 1-7: Introduction
2.Bars 8-32: Theme I in G minor
3.Bars 33-35: Transition/Candenza
4.Bars 36-44: Theme I, at double speed
5.Bars 45-66: Transition/Modulation
6.Bars 67-81: Theme II in Eb major
7.Bars 82-93: Theme I, used as a transition section
8.Bars 94-105: Theme I in A minor
9.Bars 106-125 Theme II in A major, more grandiosly grand
10.Bars 126-137: Transition and foreshadowing the waltz
11.Bars 138-149: The Waltz in Eb major
12.Bars 150-165: Not sure what this is
13.Bars 166-169: Theme II in Eb major, more elegantly grand
14.Bars 170-193: Theme I used again as transition, descending down toÖ
15.Bars 194-205: Theme I in G minor, same as first time it was presented
16.Bars 206-207: Cadenza down to the infamous coda
17.Bars 208-241: Coda con crazy
18.Bars 242-248: Cadenza, chromatic runs up then down the piano
19.Bars 249-257: Cadenza, scales with Theme I snuck in
20.Bars 258-264: Final descending flourish to the end

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#2208325 - 01/04/14 08:49 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
INTRODUCTION: BARS 1-7.

Bars 1-7: the introduction of the piece. It is marked as ďCĒ or common time, which is like 4/4 time isnít it?

Bars 1-3 : The piece is initially marked ďLargoĒ which means in a very slow tempo (slower than adagio). Inside the first bar there is ďpesanteĒ which means heavy and ponderous. The first three bars are all in one phrase for both the RH and LH so to me this means to play them smoothly and legato. What is the best way to pedal these first three bars? My copy of the score does not show any pedal but I believe in the Play it Again book, the score showed a pedal mark up to the end of the second measure?

The passage is marked forte with a decrescendo throughout bar 3, though the piece is not marked piano until bar 4. So maybe not too softly in bar 3. Perahia says the G to the F# at the end of bar 3 is like a sigh. What might that mean in terms of playing it?

Bars 4 and 5 are also caught under one phrase so should be played smoothly. There are two triplets, one in bar 4 (A, G and Eflat) and one in bar 5 (Fnatural, Eflat and D). At the end of bar 5 there is a rest , and then a half rest beginning bar 6. I have ďstillĒ written over that section. I must have read that in PiA book.

Bar 6 and 7 show a decrescendo for the RH and a crescendo for the LH. There is also an interesting rolled chord in bar 7. Is it acceptable to play the Bflat in the RH after the rolled chord in the LH?

Wow lots of details just in the first 7 measures. None of which I can yet play. ( I havenít tried anything but the notes so far).

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#2208394 - 01/04/14 11:55 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
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So my own journey with this piece has taken a few steps back. I've been practicing on my digital piano (Yamaha P105, for lolatu) so far. I had a chance to play on my baby grand while visiting my parents over Christmas, and I have to say.. it was much harder to get the good tone on my acoustic piano. Eek! Unfortunately, I don't have an acoustic here to practice on so I'm not quite sure what to do about that.

I treat this piece as a marathon. When my friends run marathon, none of them expect to do it at a professional level. Half of them have really bad times, but they finished and they've accomplished something. They keep training and hopefully will hit a better time at the next marathon, but there's no shame in getting a bad time.

P.S. Re: Valencia
Feel free to post anything from my blog, just link back to the article, which you did.
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#2208396 - 01/05/14 12:04 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: Valencia
Bar 6 and 7 show a decrescendo for the RH.

I don't see a decrescendo for the RH.

Originally Posted By: Valencia
Is it acceptable to play the Bflat in the RH after the rolled chord in the LH?

Yes; the whole thing is rolled, but be careful not to lose the thread of the melody.
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#2208398 - 01/05/14 12:09 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
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Valencia, this is now I approached this introductory section. It's not to say this is the right way (I am not a professional or a teacher), but just to give you an idea of how I thought about each section and then how I implemented my interpretation. I also included the images of the bars to make it easier to follow. smile

---

Re: Bars 1-3 : The piece is initially marked ďLargoĒ which means in a very slow tempo (slower than adagio). Inside the first bar there is ďpesanteĒ which means heavy and ponderous. The first three bars are all in one phrase for both the RH and LH so to me this means to play them smoothly and legato. What is the best way to pedal these first three bars? My copy of the score does not show any pedal but I believe in the Play it Again book, the score showed a pedal mark up to the end of the second measure?



This section to me is like a booming voice (think: James Earl Jones) saying "once upon a time." So I wanted to something heavy and clear (but not too clear).

I foot-pedal each individual note in the first measure and finger pedal them (I'm holding down at most two notes per hand at a time), and towards the end of this section I keep my pedal down.

I find the pedal gives it a certain gravity that is good for the pesante-ness of this introductory section. But, too much pedaling in the beginning makes this section mirky, and I think this section is a very clear call to action. Thus, I foot pedal every note. However, I also like a little bit of sustain to add to the drama, hence the finger pedaling.

---

Re: Perahia says the G to the F# at the end of bar 3 is like a sigh. What might that mean in terms of playing it?



How I interpreted it is that the "sighs" shape the dynamics, so billowing crescendo (inhale) followed by a light decrescendo, sort of like a very gentle brushstroke.

---

Re: Bar 6 and 7 show a decrescendo for the RH and a crescendo for the LH. There is also an interesting rolled chord in bar 7. Is it acceptable to play the Bflat in the RH after the rolled chord in the LH?



I haven't thought of it that way. I play it with Bb in right hand and D in left hand at the same time. But hey, if you like it your way.. go for it. I do play the Eb with my right thumb though. I find it gives it more weight and it's such a pretty note.



Edited by neuralfirings (01/05/14 12:11 AM)
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#2208487 - 01/05/14 04:36 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: neuralfirings]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: neuralfirings
I haven't thought of it that way. I play it with Bb in right hand and D in left hand at the same time.

I can't see how that could be right. It makes much more sense to roll it.
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#2208520 - 01/05/14 07:04 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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M1: <bravado> I'm going to be brave and fight for my country! I lift the pedal on each C and again on the G for the sigh. The sigh, ah, <sentimentality> the country I haven't seen since...is it still there?

The four note drop to the sigh occurs six times in the scherzando with an intervening F.

M6: Chopin Institute score shows an accent on the C, Mikuli shows a decrescendo from C to G. Both show the crescendo.

M7: I play the Bb after a very quiet rolled chord almost as a four note chord.

Neural, is there a way of containing those images in a smaller box or leaving them as a link? If they mean I have to scroll to read the ends of each line of text I'm not going to be very active here.
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#2208708 - 01/05/14 02:46 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
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zrtrf90: Do you know how to write the UBB code to make smaller images? I have the opposite problem of you, whenever I read a post with a bunch of bar numbers (in M158.., then in M60..) my eyes glaze over because I tire of constantly referring to/from the score. I can do links though in the meanwhile.

re: M7: I play the Bb after a very quiet rolled chord almost as a four note chord. -- this is interesting!! I don't see the Bb as part of the chord at all, I see it more as part of the melody C-G-Bb...stuff happens and resolves to.. G in M9 (http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=7&end=9). And because so much happens between the Bb in M7 and the G in M9, I feel compelled to make it stand out even more than other melodic notes. It is kind of an amazing cliffhanger. This type of cliffhanger happens a lot in his transitions. Other examples:

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=32&end=36 -- A in M32 cliffhanger and resolves to the G in M36.

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=65&end=69 -- F in the left hand of M65 resolving to E in the right hand in M69.

By the way, I'm using the term "resolving" in a purely emotional sense.

Polyphonist: First, I think playing the right hand at the start in measure 7 (http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=7&end=7) connects the right hand melody (C-G-Bb) better. Second, the roll squiggles don't extend to the upper staff.



Edited by neuralfirings (01/05/14 02:46 PM)
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#2208864 - 01/05/14 06:04 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: neuralfirings]
dire tonic Offline
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Originally Posted By: neuralfirings
..whenever I read a post with a bunch of bar numbers (in M158.., then in M60..) my eyes glaze over because I tire of constantly referring to/from the score.


- me too.

Your images all look fine and centred to me, maybe Richard could adjust something in his browser?

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#2208883 - 01/05/14 06:35 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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The images are fine...but they cause the text to scroll off the end of the screen. I'll resort to the Print Topic option, which keeps the text and causes the images to scroll off screen! smile

In the meantime I'll save up for a 24" monitor at home (and a wider desk)! wink

Originally Posted By: neuralfirings
I don't see the Bb as part of the chord at all, I see it more as part of the melody C-G-Bb
The Bb IS part of the melody. If those three notes were played to 'fifty-three' the chord is like a slow 'thr' in 'three' and the Bb the 'ee'. smile
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#2209022 - 01/05/14 10:58 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
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Originally Posted By: Valencia

1.Bars 1-7: Introduction
2.Bars 8-32: Theme I in G minor
3.Bars 33-35: Transition/Candenza
4.Bars 36-44: Theme I, at double speed
5.Bars 45-66: Transition/Modulation
6.Bars 67-81: Theme II in Eb major
7.Bars 82-93: Theme I, used as a transition section
8.Bars 94-105: Theme I in A minor
9.Bars 106-125 Theme II in A major, more grandiosly grand
10.Bars 126-137: Transition and foreshadowing the waltz
11.Bars 138-149: The Waltz in Eb major
12.Bars 150-165: Not sure what this is
13.Bars 166-169: Theme II in Eb major, more elegantly grand
14.Bars 170-193: Theme I used again as transition, descending down toÖ
15.Bars 194-205: Theme I in G minor, same as first time it was presented
16.Bars 206-207: Cadenza down to the infamous coda
17.Bars 208-241: Coda con crazy
18.Bars 242-248: Cadenza, chromatic runs up then down the piano
19.Bars 249-257: Cadenza, scales with Theme I snuck in
20.Bars 258-264: Final descending flourish to the end


This is great! I've been through and labelled my score with these.

Some of the technical questions, like how to play the Bb, can be answered by listening to a recording (e.g. Zimerman). He plays it like it's part of the rolled chord.

Richard - try pressing 'Ctrl' and '-' keys in your browser should make everything smaller so it fits... then 'Ctrl' and '0' to get it back to normal size.
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#2209039 - 01/05/14 11:18 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: neuralfirings]
Polyphonist Offline
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Originally Posted By: neuralfirings
Polyphonist: First, I think playing the right hand at the start in measure 7 (http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=7&end=7) connects the right hand melody (C-G-Bb) better.

The problem is that the LH rolled chord doesn't sound like one chord anymore if you do that.
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#2209095 - 01/06/14 02:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bobpickle Offline

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(hope it's not too random)

If it hasn't been mentioned already, Graham Fitch's article on the first Ballade here has a link to Alfred Cortot's edition of the piece, which, like his edition of the etudes, includes exercises for various passages as well as tips for constructing additional ones which might come in handy. While Cortot was known for altering the music in places, his pedagogic advice was well-received.

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#2209181 - 01/06/14 07:44 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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lolatu, thank you so much for that. I had no idea Explorer had a zoom feature.

I should practise piano less and explore Explorer more! smile

I differ from the breakdown, apart from the odd bar here and there, at M166.

I see M166-180 as commensurate with 68-82 (and 106-125) and M180-194 with M82-93, which together form the second theme. I'd like to tie up M125-137 the same way but I can't.

Thanks, Bob. Yes, some of the preparatory exercises are spot on, especially the ones for shifting hands.
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#2209227 - 01/06/14 10:01 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
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What do you mean "I'd like to tie up M125-137 the same way but I can't."?

(link to bars: http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=125&end=137)
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#2209818 - 01/06/14 09:36 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Oh, all I meant was that in the three instances of the second theme, M68-82, M106-125 and M166-180 the middle occurrence wasn't followed by the same material. If M125-137 is based on M82-94 I'm missing it. That's all.

But you can go back to your images now! smile
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#2210200 - 01/07/14 01:01 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
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Ah! I see. The first and last statement of Theme II goes directly into statements of Theme I. However, the middle statement of Theme II is preceded by Theme I, and it goes into a little interlude. The waltz, the transitional sections. It's like a little intermission after all the drama.
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#2210231 - 01/07/14 01:28 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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That's about the gist of it but I don't see M36-43 as a contraction of Theme I, more a separate theme, like a second half of Theme II or a bridge/transitional theme of some kind.
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#2214197 - 01/13/14 09:27 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Sorry for the long hiatus from this thread. Iíve been away visiting family. Has anyone started their study of the Ballade yet?

Bobpickle, thanks for the link to the article! There are some good practice tips there for the waltz section. smile

Lolatu I listened to Zimerman. wow. there are lots of things he does differently compared to horowitz or rubinstein. I'll have to listen to his playing several more times and take some notes!

Thanks Richard and neuralfirings for your input on the intro. Neuralfirings, good description of the sighs. Iíll practice that throughout bars 8-20--perhaps exaggerating the crescendo and decrescendo, just to get the hang of it. Also Iíll keep a listen for those other cliffhangers, thanks for pointing them out!

Some initial thoughts on the next section:


THEME I IN G MINOR: BARS 8-32


Bar 8: the piece switches to 6/4 time and is now marked ďmoderatoĒ which means moderate tempo. My score shows the pedal to start on the D in the LH, and to let up on the last note of the bar which is an A. Then there are no pedal marks for the rest of this section which seems strange.

There is an accent on the C of the RH, and I have the last two notes of Bar 8 and the first note of bar 9 in the RH circled: Bb, A and G. Probably from Play it Again. Above it I have written ďimportant descent: a sigh/sadnessĒ. So this is a place to practice the crescendo and decrescendo.

Regarding the repeating notes in the LH and RH, I have a note to make the second note or chord a little weaker than the first, like a heartbeat.

In the RH of the section there is Theme 1: C, D, F#, Bb, A, G which as neuralfirings pointed out, comes back many times throughout the piece. Am I reading it right that the C is held through the D, F#, Bb and then released on the descending notes of A and G?

At bar 21 there is a change. This passage perhaps starts slower and then gains a little tempo over the next couple of bars. When I play this section with my LH, rather than changing fingers on the half note, Iíve been keeping my thumb anchored on it and then just pivoting over the top to strike the quarter note that follows with my second finger.

When a melody starts in the LH at bar 24 I have a note about bringing that out. This section seems to build to the trill in bar 25. Or maybe it builds to the start of bar 28?

The LH trill in bar 25 is on the F and Enatural. There is a crescendo marked under that trill. Does the trill start on the F to the E natural?

It will take me awhile to be able to play bars 21-25 or 26 so that I can give it a sense of building up. I may have to memorize it first.

Iím not sure yet what to say about bars 26-31. Except that this section seems to slow down and emphasizes something important. Just listening to Zimerman play and it sounds like the build up carries into it after the trill. (from 1:35 to about 1:45).

At bar 32 there is the cliffhanger noted by neuralfirings (the A in the RH with an accent over it). Then it moves into the transition section with the little notes.


BARS 33-35: TRANSITION/CANDENZA

Not sure what to say about this section except that Iíve been trying to learn the little notes. I had similar little notes in the Chopin Mazurka 17/4, only not so many of them. Found it tricky to get them sounding relaxed and improvised. Then of course there is the job of getting the LH to join them.

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#2215499 - 01/15/14 11:56 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
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I have memorized the intro and have played the next section a bit. It's hard to concentrate and not carry on playing into the next parts when I get the end of section 2! Truthfully, I've been working more on other pieces. I'm making special efforts to memorize some that I've been playing for a while, and it really helps in getting to know the music fluently. Will try to do the same with each section of the Ballade too.

Just keep listening to Zimerman - he's the best. BTW did you notice how in the video he swaps his piano stool near the end of the piece? Guy has talent.

In other news, I've just got hold of a new stand for my digital piano, which will enable me to practice longer, harder, faster... wobbles no more.
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#2217487 - 01/20/14 04:58 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
chopinoholic Offline
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So how are things going? I haven't started practising yet, but I always play through the whole piece and mark parts that I know will require more attention with a big circle and a comment with my crayon. Later on I will work on these spots more thorough.
I always play the whole piece before practising a certain part. I usually decide on the spot which part that is.

Quote:
Just keep listening to Zimerman - he's the best.

Although it is good to listen to other pianists, but I wouldn't just stick to one IMO. Maybe you end up copying him (Krystian Zimerman in this case) instead of creating your own interpretation.
This is just my opinion.
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#2218372 - 01/21/14 05:39 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted By: Chopinoholic
I always play the whole piece before practising a certain part.
This is dangerous for me. In my youth I was a faster learner but even now I can pick up a wrong note/fingering very quickly and find it difficult to overcome. For pieces I'm going to learn I tend to just read through a section, without playing, and investigate slowly, one hand at a time.
Originally Posted By: Chopinoholic
Although it is good to listen to other pianists, but I wouldn't just stick to one IMO. Maybe you end up copying...
I agree several pianists is better than one but copying has good and bad sides. True, it may stifle our own creativity, particularly with that particular piece, but it may also serve to improve technique if a virtuoso can bring out a phrase just so and you really have to work to match it. We all have our own uniqueness and copying tends towards the things that appeal most to us but seldom leads us down one path. It is still a valid learning tool in many of the arts. I still long for the day I can copy Rubinstein or Pogorelich and sound like them. smile
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#2218415 - 01/21/14 06:44 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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A few questions:

-Which fingers for the trill in bar 25?

-Anyone have suggestions for the RH fingering in order to maintain legato in:

bar 27, (the climb up from B natural, C, D and EbóI run out of fingers on the D))
bar 28 (the Eb to the D legato)ójust slide finger 5 off to the D?
bar 29 (G#, A, Bb, C)órun out of fingers on the Bb)
bar 30 (upper C to Bb)

Or it is ok to just rely on the pedal in these places for legato?

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#2218433 - 01/21/14 07:09 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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M25 trill: 1-2 (1-4 might be workable)
M27: use 4 on Eb
M28: yes, 5-5
M29: 3 on Bb, 5 on C
M30: 5 on C, 4 on Bb

You shouldn't need pedal to maintain the legato here.
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#2219757 - 01/23/14 11:05 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Lolatu, great news about the stand for your piano! You definitely canít have wobbles while trying to learn the ballade!

Chopinoholic, I think to start I will try to learn up to bar 65. I havenít yet really practiced 36-43, though I started a bit of that tonight. Iíd like to try to memorize that over the next week.

I frequently go over the little notes in bar 33. They still need a lot of work. Iím not sure how to time the LH with those.

I need to work on the notes and then the build up of bar 24 into the trill and beyond.

Iíve also started working through bars 44-65, especially the trapeze part. However, Iím still working on playing it through at a slow tempo.

Thanks Richard for these fingering suggestions! Very helpful!

One more question, for the first trapeze part of the piece, starting on M48, for the LH, how are people playing it? Mainly what fingers do you use to hit the D in the last quarter beat of that bar? Do you use 3, or do you use finger 5 and quickly switch off to 1 so that 5 is free to hit the G at the beginning of the next bar?

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#2219760 - 01/23/14 11:09 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Next sections.... smile

BARS 36-44: THEME 1 AT DOUBLE SPEED

neuralfirings, can you explain how this is theme one at double speed? Iím not sure I understand.

Bars 36-39: Iíve only just started practicing this section. It starts piano.

Bars 40-43: this section is marked agitato. It starts forte. Beats 2 and 5 have the emphasis (whereas they were not marked in bars 36 to 39). I have a note that says the LH comes out on beats 3 and 6.

This section builds up and leads into the crazy trapeze part in bars 48 to 53.

Well thatís a sparse analysis. Maybe Iíll have more thoughts after I practice it.



TRANSITION/MODULATION: BARS 45-66

This section marks the transition between Theme 1 in G minor (Bars 8 to 32) and Theme II in Eb Major (Bars 67-81). It is marked ďsempre piu mossoĒ which means always moving or with more motion. 44-48 seem to follow one pattern, and then there is a switch through bars 48 to 53. In the latter bars there is an accent on the LH chords in each measure. There is an octave change in the LH in M50, and in the RH in M51. It looks like the entire RH from 48-53 is under one phrase so much be played smoothly. This is an interesting trapeze section for the RH, which I believe PiA also noted.

M48 is marked forte. But then what happens in bars 52-55?

M56-65 is very beautiful and reminds me of stormy, treacherous waves in the ocean slowing down and coming to a calm. My score is marked crescendo on the way up of each RH run and diminuendo on the way down. I have a note to make the LH chords in 56/57, 60/61 and 64/65 prominent. But this whole section also comes to a calm by the end with a riten. by M66 and then the first pp of the piece in M68.

There is a calando above M63 which means dying away or gradually decreasing in tone and speed. And then smorz. above M64 which is short for ďsmorzandoĒ and means to gradually slow down and soften the notes until nothing is heard. A diminuendo that fades slow and is often accompanied by a very gradual ritardando. http://piano.about.com/od/termsrelatingtodynamics/g/GL_smorz.htm

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#2219781 - 01/24/14 12:12 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
neuralfirings Offline
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re: double speed, I don't really know what I saw originally. I think I heard or read it as double speed, and it made sense at the time.

Good luck on the trapeze section (http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=48&end=49). It's a doozy. I'm still working on it and I suspect will be for a while before it is up to tempo.

As for fingering, I basically follow the Mikuli editions fingering (the one on Notable Scores). I find that better suits the fingering to the shape of the left hand phrasing. Maybe others have better suggestions?

re: bars 52-55, if we're going with your stormy visuals.. then maybe this is like the tornado taking shape? It winds up faster and tighter and more and more tense, then the winds hit in the next section.
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#2220123 - 01/24/14 03:08 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Valencia
One more question, for the first trapeze part of the piece, starting on M48, for the LH, how are people playing it? Mainly what fingers do you use to hit the D in the last quarter beat of that bar? Do you use 3, or do you use finger 5 and quickly switch off to 1 so that 5 is free to hit the G at the beginning of the next bar?
My LH fingering for M48 onwards is 5-3-2-1 for the chord then 1-3-5-3-1, chord, 1-3-5. The second half starts on 5 with 4-3-2-1 for the chord then repeats the first pattern.

I see M36-67 as a bridge passage in two parts, the first increases to M48 (at which the piý mosso should have reached maximum mosso), the second decreases to M67 in three stages from M48-52, M52-56, and M56-67, this last being the soothing hand, rising and falling gently against the comforting gestures of the LH, calming the vexations of the hero at the fate of, perhaps, his beloved country. M56 should presage the dim. and rit. culminating in the calm of 67, out of which will emerge, perhaps, the sentimental reflections of childhood in that country.

The figure in M36 closes with a tied note whereas in the agitato it closes with a rest. I may have misinterpreted your LH "comes out" in beats 3 and 6 but I would prefer "comes off" with a soft staccato. Without this softening and abrupt finish the agitato loses its effect, I think, and the final LH notes would rise rather than fall.
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Richard

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#2224640 - 02/02/14 01:15 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
How is everyone doing with the Ballade?

Thanks neuralfirings and richard. Iíve memorized up to bar 65, but I'm still trying to get 36-43 Ėthat is, to get my fingers to remember which notes to hold down and which to lift up. (because these things are different in 36-39 compared to 40-43). Thanks for pointing out the tied note versus the rest Richard. I'd missed that in all the other details and now have to add that in to this section of practice!

There is *lots* to practice and work on in these first three pages. Do you think it is best to pause here and work in more detail, or continue on to get the next section memorized? (68-93). I have not really practiced this next section at all yet. Once I memorize a section, then I can really start to work on the musical aspects. The memorization is tough though and takes me significant time. Though Iíve learned up to bar 65, my memory is still slow to fire in many places. Thatís the kind of thing that it seems only repetition over time helps. (Unless someone else knows another approach for this problem?) I want to focus on the first 3 pages, but also know that the memorizing of the next part will be a lot of work and wonder if I should get started on it.

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#2224889 - 02/02/14 09:51 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
I won't be going back to this piece until around April, Valencia, when the Tchaikovsky is out of the way.

I would allow the new material to settle in before going further. If you don't do this, there's a higher chance that weaknesses in the passage will be left unattended as you focus more on the newer areas. I tend to get each learned passage to a point where it no longer needs daily repetition and I can keep it simmering on Saturdays and Sundays before going on to the next one.

If your memory is slow to fire in places keep the sections short enough that it isn't a problem. You don't want to memorise the pauses. I wouldn't have all 65 bars as one section for some considerable time.

My feeling is that the hard work ahead will be easier if the current section is no longer draining your reserves but only you and your journal can verify if that's the best way forward for you.

Learning this piece is going to be an adventure. My instinct is to learn all the sections as individual passages and put them together when they're all done and you can run one onto the other without dropping the tempo.
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Richard

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#2230642 - 02/12/14 09:07 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
I won't be going back to this piece until around April, Valencia, when the Tchaikovsky is out of the way.
I would allow the new material to settle in before going further. If you don't do this, there's a higher chance that weaknesses in the passage will be left unattended as you focus more on the newer areas. I tend to get each learned passage to a point where it no longer needs daily repetition and I can keep it simmering on Saturdays and Sundays before going on to the next one.
If your memory is slow to fire in places keep the sections short enough that it isn't a problem. You don't want to memorise the pauses. I wouldn't have all 65 bars as one section for some considerable time.
My feeling is that the hard work ahead will be easier if the current section is no longer draining your reserves but only you and your journal can verify if that's the best way forward for you.
Learning this piece is going to be an adventure. My instinct is to learn all the sections as individual passages and put them together when they're all done and you can run one onto the other without dropping the tempo.



Thanks Richard. I took your advice and am staying with the first 65 bars for awhile. I was worried about trying to get to bar 106 which you mentioned was probably where you would start in April after the Tchaikovsky recital. But I donít know if I can make it to there by that time. However I could always start there at that time and just leave 66-105 until later.

For bars 1-65, there are many things for me to work on. M36-43 are proving challenging to play fluently.

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=36&end=43

Though just playing things over and over is not the best way to practice, I donít know how else to drill in a section like this.

Iím still trying to get 24 to 32 fluent, and to keep the melody in the RH sounding strong throughout, especially in the places where fingers 4 and 5 of the RH are responsible for the melody. My playing is weak in those places.

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=24&end=32

The little notes in bar 33 are coming but still not near fast and light enough, and I stumble sometimes.

The tempo of 48-52 is of course still slow and I need to work on accuracy with the octave transition.

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=48&end=52

And then the arpeggios from 56 to 65 need to be faster and lighter.

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=56&end=65


I know this is something that could take time over months of practice, not just days or weeks, but even so like to feel a little more solid in these sections before I take on the next part of the piece.

So, lots to focus on in these first three pages. I am really enjoying my work on this piece so far. Frustration will come thoughÖit always doesÖ.haha.:)

The other part Iíve looked at is the scherzando, because my memory gives me trouble when I canít see a pattern or connection with the notes. So, Iíve been focusing on:

M130-137
http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=130&end=137

M146-149
http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=146&end=149

M150-153

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=150&end=153

These sections are very tricky memory-wise for me, and so Iím getting them going now so that I have several months for them to sink into my brain before I actually really practice that particular section.

How is everyone else doing with their practicing?

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#2230897 - 02/13/14 10:56 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Valencia
However I could always start there at that time and just leave 66-105 until later.
Yep, that's what I'll be doing! smile

Originally Posted By: Valencia
...just playing things over and over is not the best way to practice...
It's among the worst. Drilling doesn't allow the brain to sort out the mess while you sleep. The technique in M36-39 is the same except the last figure in M39. So just do M39 two or three times carefully each day until it's easy. Then do it once each day and M38 two or three times. Keep going until you've got back to M36. If you work forwards it's easy to go too far and reach the straw that breaks the camel's back. You can more easily stop when you reach familiar territory instead of ploughing on trying to extend ever further.

Repeat for M43 to M40, once through each bar you know and three times through the one you're adding.

Originally Posted By: Valencia
Iím still trying to get 24 to 32 fluent
Two phrases of two and half bars and two of two bars. Work each phrase and the first note of the next two or three times each. Let sleep do the rest. Play the melody notes normally with a bit of wrist assistance and keep the arm weight on those notes while you play all the other notes whisper quiet without any arm weight.

Originally Posted By: Valencia
The little notes in bar 33...
Have you established the finger groups? Work each group on its own a couple of times, plus the first note of the next. Again, it's best to work backwards. Speed will come when your fingers know where to go or you can play each group while you're thinking about the next so don't think about speed until then. Rhythms might be good here.

The other passages are the same kind of work, needing speed AND accuracy AND memorising. You might find it difficult doing this amount of memorising each day. When the other passages are memorised and you just need to build speed then memorise these other bits. Use a little time for memorising work, then use some for memorised passages that need accuracy. Then spend a little time on accurate passages that need a bit more speed. The end result should come much faster this way.
_________________________
Richard

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#2230914 - 02/13/14 11:30 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Ataru074 Online   content
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Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 391
Loc: Houston, TX
Took me months ( about 3 ) to get the Coda up to speed and memorized. than after working on a couple of more sections I decided to suspend the work because I was getting a little too fed up and I stopped enjoying the music.
I had to confess that I don't really love Chopin music, but I do strongly appreciate the leap in technique that his music facilitate.

that to say... if you can finish the coda, you can complete the ballade. not the other way around... and considering you'll get there quite "tired" it's better to start from the end and work it backwards in sections, so, while performing, the anxiety of encountering progressively difficult sections will be defeated by the fact that you have played it for a longer time... otherwise, IMHO, would be very frustrating to get to the last 3 pages after 6 month of works and have to spend another 3 months for 3 short ( actually, 1 and 1/5 ) hard page.

I'll pick up the ballade later on, I want to work on the Scherzo in b flat minor first. :-)
_________________________
===============================================
working on:
Brahms: Op 118
Mozart: Kv330
Beethoven: Op 14 #2
===============================================

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#2235686 - 02/21/14 06:51 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: Valencia
Iím still trying to get 24 to 32 fluent
Two phrases of two and half bars and two of two bars. Work each phrase and the first note of the next two or three times each. Let sleep do the rest. Play the melody notes normally with a bit of wrist assistance and keep the arm weight on those notes while you play all the other notes whisper quiet without any arm weight.

Originally Posted By: Valencia
The little notes in bar 33...
Have you established the finger groups? Work each group on its own a couple of times, plus the first note of the next. Again, it's best to work backwards. Speed will come when your fingers know where to go or you can play each group while you're thinking about the next so don't think about speed until then. Rhythms might be good here.


Thanks Richard. What do you mean by finger groups for the little notes in bar 33? This week I tried to practice starting from the high G: 54321, then 23, then 54321, then 23123, then 54321. I can play it slowly but I know if I go faster I will make mistakes and end up derailed.

Working backwards through the phrases is hard! I tried that a little this week but should practice more of it. 36-43 is getting into my fingers slowly but it will be some time yet.

As for getting the melody to ring out through bars 26-30, I almost injured my RH hand this week trying to play it so I need to relax and be more careful. Maybe I will practice the RH with the proper fingering but without the bottom notes until I have the melody solid.

Ataru074, thanks for sharing your experiences with the coda! That you could play the coda at tempo within 3 mo is pretty amazing to me! I don't expect to ever be able to play it at tempo. I agree that it is a tough section to be left with at the end of all the other practicing. That's why I like to start tackling the hardest parts of a piece early on so that I can practice them alongside the rest of the piece. I've practiced some of the coda a little (no serious practicing yet...just getting a sense of what is to come). Of course the tempo aspect will be very challenging and I don't actually expect to get it. But so far I am not afraid of the notes of that section, *except* the scales, which I am terrible at generally (as in, I am terrible at all scales). At this point I am more afraid of the middle of the piece. But this might change when I get to the coda and have to try to learn it well. Well actually, maybe the scales in the coda are scaring me quite a bit too. The two ascending ones, and then prior to that, the chromatic up and then the descent...:\

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#2236092 - 02/22/14 05:45 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Valencia
What do you mean by finger groups...
The groups are how you divide the passage for practising. They may either be rhythmic groups or they make be groups between changes of hand position.

You have noted:
54321
23
54321
23123
54321

I have the measure broken up as three groups of four and three groups of six to coordinate the LH better and I'd also practise alternately as six groups of two and six groups of three to try and manage the speed change more reliably.

I use different fingering (I can't use yours fast enough) but my groups are:
(1)4321
5341
5432
123543
131212
354321

Originally Posted By: Valencia
Working backwards through the phrases is hard!
Thinking hard, not playing hard so it makes concentration easier and thus you learn faster. Plus, you can't get bored if you're concentrating!

Originally Posted By: Valencia
...I almost injured my RH hand this week...
Gasp! What are you doing that risks injuring your RH???

Play the melody gently with arm weight. No accompaniment. When you're ready brush the other RH fingers against the keys but don't play them. Then add soft LH. Then play the other RH fingers but keep concentrating on soft melody and eke it out gently from the shoulder.

Get the fingers to work properly. The speed will come when they know themselves what's wanted of them, so to speak.

Originally Posted By: Valencia
...scales, which I am terrible at generally...
If you don't practise them then maybe you could start. If you do practise then maybe you could stop and instead practise pieces with scale passages in them e.g. Bach - Invention No. 4, Mozart - K. 545 or Schubert - Scherzo No. 2 in D flat. I don't do scales as much as I used to but I work my socks off trying to get the second half of Mozart's Allegro smooth and even. smile
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#2259930 - 04/10/14 07:09 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Thanks for this helpful reply Richard. For some reason I thought I'd responded to you but I guess that was only in my head! Sorry about that!

How is everyone coming along with the Ballade? Anyone still working on it? Or about to start?

I'm working away at it and am having a lot of fun. There are many aspects of the first three pages to bar 65 that will need time and continued practice. 52 to 65 are especially tricky for me. http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=52&end=65

That said, those octaves from 106 to 123 will need lots of work so I'm thinking to at least start on those and get them going. Was thinking to leave the transition section that comes right before it until later.

http://www.notablescores.com/pieces/1?start=106&end=106

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#2260109 - 04/11/14 07:01 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Valencia
For some reason I thought I'd responded to you but I guess that was only in my head!
I can't count the number of times I've hit 'Preview Reply', proofread the post and, satisfied it was OK, moved on without hitting 'Submit'.

Originally Posted By: Valencia
...52 to 65 are especially tricky for me
How well have you got 48/49 - the first four groups of three before the pattern repeats? I think this is key to the whole passage to M55.

My method of sorting this passage out is to work this basic pattern as four groups of three, then as four groups of four including the first (double) note of the next group, then two groups of six (the two inner groups, Bb+F#-A-D, with the octave descent cycled a few times and the outer groups, C+G-Bb-D, with the turn upwards cycled a few times) and finally as one group of twelve notes cycled a few times.

Each group of three would have to be played really fast a few times. It's only playing fast that the mechanics can be understood and the movement minimised. As the number of notes increase so the speed must come down and the final group of twelve will be quite slow by comparison but will increase over time toward the initial group-of-three burst speed.

The tricky bit here, for me, is the change from white-black-white in the outer groups to black-white-black for the inner groups. My middle finger wants to hit Ab instead of A natural. Getting the angle of the hand just right fixes it for me.

I wouldn't plan on extending to M55 or adding the LH until this basic operation was fast and fluent with just RH.
___________________________

As I mentioned earlier, my current plan is to start on the Presto in a couple of weeks (April 20). I'll see you there!
_________________________
Richard

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#2262649 - 04/16/14 03:15 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
chopinoholic Offline
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Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Started! laugh

Last night I started practicing the ballade. I'm planning to start with M122-M206.
Beginning really slow to give most attention to the fingering, Which is in my opinion extremely important to put the notes in the 'muscle memory'. This will help increasing the speed in the (hopefully) near future.

I'm really excited. I try and give progress comments every now and then.

How is it going with you guys?


Edited by chopinoholic (04/16/14 03:18 PM)
_________________________
Paul


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#2262660 - 04/16/14 03:55 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
Last night I started practising the ballade. I'm planning to start with...
Hmm?

Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
How is it going with you guys?
Starting next week at M208-216!

What prep. work have you done, Paul?

This is one of the last pieces my teacher gave me before I relocated back in '84. We went through it sequentially to around M105 and I had a few cursory attempts at it since then but nothing serious. (I played it once from sight when drink got the better of me in my youth in front a suitably and equally inebriated audience at an after-play-party following a successful amateur dramatic performance!) laugh

Valencia stirred my current passion for it and in the intervening years I've memorised the piece in my head and analysed it a good deal. I have some ideas about how I want it to sound.

There are various ways of dividing this up into manageable sections and we've examined some earlier in the thread but none of my mine would be as large as M122-206.

Do you have a more detailed plan and would you care to share it?
_________________________
Richard

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#2262945 - 04/17/14 07:22 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
chopinoholic Offline
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Registered: 05/02/13
Posts: 190
Loc: Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Hi Richard,

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
Last night I started practising the ballade. I'm planning to start with...
Hmm?

Weird sentence, I agree... crazy

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
How is it going with you guys?
Starting next week at M208-216!

That's some progression! Have you gone through everything up to this?

Originally Posted By: zrtf90
What prep. work have you done, Paul?


I know the piece pretty well. The prep work includes basically the same you guys have already done here. Divide the piece up in sections and identify technical difficulties before hand.

Originally Posted By: zrtf90

This is one of the last pieces my teacher gave me before I relocated back in '84. We went through it sequentially to around M105 and I had a few cursory attempts at it since then but nothing serious. (I played it once from sight when drink got the better of me in my youth in front a suitably and equally inebriated audience at an after-play-party following a successful amateur dramatic performance!) laugh

Valencia stirred my current passion for it and in the intervening years I've memorised the piece in my head and analysed it a good deal. I have some ideas about how I want it to sound.

There are various ways of dividing this up into manageable sections and we've examined some earlier in the thread but none of my mine would be as large as M122-206.

Do you have a more detailed plan and would you care to share it?


The plan is, learn the notes and the fingering. Usually when beginning a piece, I start at the beginning, but in this case I want to start with the part before the coda. Once I'm able to play this part at about two thirds of the pace, I'm going for the coda.

Every now and then I will go through the whole piece.

I have respect for you guys working the way you do, but that's not how I practice. I first want to play a large chunk, and picking out the hard parts as I go along.
Reading the notes has never been a major issue for me. Memorizing though, has been difficult always. Usually when I play a piece from the top of my head I rely on muscle memory mostly.
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Paul


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#2263480 - 04/18/14 11:29 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Hi Paul,

Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Starting next week at M208-216!

That's some progression! Have you gone through everything up to this?
No, I've done nothing worth the mention since 1984. I was going to start with M125, as I noted earlier in the thread, but in the interim I've reconsidered and will now start with the coda.

Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
Every now and then I will go through the whole piece.
That requires for me that I can play the whole piece. Simply reading the whole score away from the piano does more for me.

Originally Posted By: chopinoholic
Usually when I play a piece from the top of my head I rely on muscle memory mostly.
I'm learning not to trust muscle memory. I maintain very slow play to prevent reliance on it.

_____________________________

I'm off work today so I'm just preparing my sheets for Sunday. Here are some notes for the start of the coda.

M208-216
We move into cut time here but the accents occur on the back beat and have to be watched quite carefully up to M242 where they start to fall again in the more usual places.

I'm planning to use the four RH and three LH exercises recommended by Alfred Cortot here and also filling the rests in the actual score with the previous notes. The passage thus has no rests and it should be easy enough once the notes and chords are learnt to add the rests back and give the hand time to move quickly to the next chord. That should help build some speed.

I'll refrain from joining the hands here until I've got a good tempo going without struggling. Presto con fuoco will demand a relaxed and confident hand that knows what notes it's going to before it needs to get there. That'll need a few slow and accurate repetitions each day with a good deal of thinking through between them.

This is essentially four bars repeated and the repeat starts with a contrary octave leap in each hand. That'll take some careful preparation on its own. I'd better get the low C and Ab octave of M216 in as well if not the whole measure.
_________________________
Richard

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#2264227 - 04/19/14 06:17 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
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Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11
Hi Valencia. I too have set myself the goal of learning this piece over the course of 2014. My aim is to be able to perform it to family and friends during the Christmas break. I don't get much time for practice but I have an ability to memorise quite easily. Even still, this piece is going to stretch the memory particularly through the waltz section.

I have been reading quite a bit about the study of this piece and stumbled across your thread here. Fantastic that I have found a few here on the same journey. I have played and memorised Ballade 3 a few years back and the Scherzo. Have tackled most of the nocturnes and etudes, a few of the waltzes and preludes. Got my Associate diploma before turning 17 but then stopped having lessons for 8 years before resuming again for a few years with a new teacher. Then kids came along (two little girls) and so my time at the piano is limited. I have also stopped having lessons again about 2 years ago.

Nevertheless, I am in love with this work and progress is coming along nicely. I have it playing in my head most of the time and get quite emotionally invested in it. My wife thinks I have become very broody since taking up practice on it.

Basically, I am also treating the exercise as training for a marathon. I'll get there and whilst it might not be a very fast time, no one can take from me that I completed it. Hahahaha.

I started in ray March and with a bit of weekend practice I've now got the first 5 pages memorised. I've tackled and fingered over parts of the coda to satisfy myself that this section will not be insurmountable. I'm looking forward to the challenge and there are some really worthwhile commentaries on this section of the piece online - most of which have already been referred to in your thread.

Anyway, it's nice to have a training buddy!! I get to practice on a G2 Yamaha here at home. But lucky for me, when visiting the family home, I get the choice of four full concert grands!

Best of luck and thanks for the thread!

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#2264293 - 04/19/14 08:23 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
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Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Finally some company!! smile This will make working on the piece even more fun than it already is!

Thanks Richard! I can sometimes get through 48-52 without mistakes (and at a slow tempo), sometimes I hit a wrong note though. So far Iíve been focusing on making sure my hand can find where it needs to be so even if I make a mistake I can get back on track. As for where I usually make the mistakes I havenít been able to identify. I havenít much tried increasing the tempo of just the RH on its own for practice with the mechanics at higher speed. That is a good idea.

How is the coda coming along? I play it very slowly and still hesitate in places due to memory. How to ever get it going faster? I recorded myself playing it and it was even slower than I thought! Good grief. I need to work on expression, increasing the tempo, and those darn scales!

ChopinoholicóIíve had a preliminary look at some of the material you are working on. The scherzando or waltz is challenging memory wise for me and I donít know that Iíll ever be able to play it as quickly as it should be played. For memorizing it Iíve carried the score around with me and tried to visualize the notes of the trickiest sections while walking from here to there etcÖgoing about my day. Itís taking a lot of pounding it into my head to get any of it to stick. The other section Iíve looked at are the polyrhythms in 170, 171, and 172 and then 179.

Bigvalbio-Itís great to have you on board! You have a lot more experience than I do at piano so I look forward to some of your insights. Iíve memorized the first Ömaybe 4 pages. The fifth and the big octaves section in the middle of the piece I have yet to do. I like the marathon analogyóthat is a great way to think about it! It will be an achievement just to successfully get through it. Lucky you to have the chance to play on the Yamaha and concert grands!

One thing Iíve started doing is recording my playing. Immediately I realized that I have to tone down the heartbeat that follows each repetition of the theme at the beginning of the piece.

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#2264391 - 04/19/14 11:52 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
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Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11
I've been doing the same thing re: heart beat on main theme. Just got to keep them to a weak pulse!

Spent 3hrs this morning on the coda. It's no walk in the park!! But now have M238 to finish all done and committed to memory.

M208 to 235 is going to be a challenge but has some similarities to the closing in the 3rd ballade.

My brain goes limp for the Gminor melodic scale in thirds at M255. Just cannot play it at speed so that will take some practice.

But going well from 1to 126. Just got to tackle the middle waltz which I've been putting off. What an amazing piece.

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#2264911 - 04/21/14 10:59 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
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Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Bigvalbio
Spent 3hrs this morning on the coda.
Three hours on one piece? If you got three hours of progress out of that I tip my hat to you. That would be two and a half hours wasted for me!

M208-216
The Cortot exercises haven't lasted the distance. I've changed the first one to include the lower note as a ninth to get used to the hand shape for the first four chords. I'm including the LH chords to cover the rests but not including the bass notes (except when doing LH alone, of course). The end of the phrase is played as printed (but with just the LH chords, not the bass notes).

I've also stopped playing the first chord in M208 and starting the pattern on beat two.

It seems to be working. I'm not going any slower than I would with any other unfamiliar passage and don't foresee an issue. I'm going fast enough playing just four notes/chords at a time. In fact I may be able to start on M216 - 224 this week, too.

Notes/chords. Is there a technical term for a sound unit of one or more notes at a time? I'm playing chord, note, chord, chord in quick succession. Is that four notes as well as ten (if each chord has three notes in it)?

M216-224
Lots of subtle differences in LH here make the measures less repetitive than the RH alone might suggest. Not harder to play, of course, but tricky to remember correctly. The accents change a bit here and bring out the subtle melodies. It might be worth playing just the accented RH notes along with the LH to make these subtleties clear in the head before getting lost in the technical difficulties of the arpeggiation. In the repeat, the accents aren't all carried into the measures just before the crescendo, M228-229. I wonder if they're implied?

The final page is not too difficult and the last half page I've had for some time as perfect material (and famous enough) to hammer out when someone else answers the front door laugh

I've allowed myself the whole quarter for getting this presto but having played each bar a few times now I don't see that it's going to take so much after all. There are passages of similar difficulty in the Moonlight that I can now play faster than I can think of the notes so I don't see much more than careful practise required here. I did have a teacher for the Moonlight but I've developed more discipline now.
_________________________
Richard

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#2265423 - 04/22/14 05:44 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11
I have to fit as much practice in when I can so large blocks of time are not unusual for me at all. At the moment I am on holidays and kid free for some days. Yesterday I spent another 3 hours on the ballade and now have the first 6 pages and last 2 committed to memory and nearly at tempo.

A lot of hands separate practice yesterday and time spent memorising the LH from 106 to 124 (grandiose restatement of second theme). This has really improved the flow of this section as even at slow tempo I was searching for LH placement all the time. Memorising from 125 throughout the middle section is going to be difficult - it is quite chromatic.

Things will change soon once back at work. Then I will be lucky to get more than 30mins to myself and even then, an interruption every 10mins to play chopsticks with the kids.

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#2267710 - 04/27/14 11:57 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
Hi Everyone,

Wow Bigvalbio, that is amazing that you are through the coda already! Iím afraid it will take me a long time to get it up to tempo.

Richard, do you think you will be able to get the coda up to presto in less than 3 months? Iím pretty sure I wonít be able to do that.

Iíve injured my right thumb somehow, perhaps overpracticing the coda? Itís frustrating and I had to not use my thumb at the piano yesterday at all (and may have to do the same today. frown ). So, what I did was to practice the LH of the coda. One trouble spot is moving my hand accurately from the low G, Bb, and D up to the Bb-D-G chord. Seems my RH will have to take care of itself so I can keep my eyes on the LH during those jumps. But even LH only, itís a challenge to move my LH quickly from the lower notes up to that chord with accuracy.

Richard, Bigvalbio and anyone else, in RH measures 216 and 217, do you accent the first Ab and then the G in the octave lower, or do you accent the second Ab-Eb and then the F? Iíve been accenting the Ab, then the G and F in the lower register, but that is not how the score is marked. I started doing this based on Josh Wrightís tutorial on the coda but am not sure if I understood it correctly. Richard, Iíve been keeping the accents the same in the repeat even though they arenít marked in the score.

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#2267899 - 04/27/14 06:21 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Originally Posted By: Valencia
Richard, do you think you will be able to get the coda up to presto in less than 3 months?
I doubt I'll get it up to presto in my lifetime. I'm up to a brisk allegro, one handed, faster in RH than LH, and a leisurely but very rhythmic moderato hands together. Very Gershwin like. M217 - 238 look a little harder but I'm not going to be trying for speed, just accuracy and facility. The tempo can fall where it will.

FWIW, I never hit presto for the Moonlight, 3rd movement either. I'm at about 146 for the whole thing though I can go a little faster in some sections. The presto in the ballade is quite short. We live in hope.

I'm doing the LH slow enough that I can get the notes by feel rather than having to look. The recent Joplin bash has helped. I had to do the LH there without looking too but I've been doing that for years. I look ahead of time, when it's convenient, then just go.

Regarding injury and overpractising, there's no point doing more than will stick overnight. I don't improve much at the time so any obvious progress at the piano is enough to go to sleep on. More will not add much progress and may actually diminish it. Injury means there's something wrong with what you're doing. The piano can be played for hours without injury or overuse if your technique is correct. It's not like Greco-Roman wrestling. It may be worth saving up for one or two consultations with a teacher before you need a more expensive one with a surgeon.

Take it easy.
_________________________
Richard

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#2268293 - 04/28/14 05:52 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
M216-224
The accents fall on the melody, Valencia, and are all on single notes. The Chopin Institute edition has it right. The Mikuli edition is wrong. I am playing just the melody notes and whispering everything else for the first two runs in RH and HT. The whispering keeps everything light which will help when I'm ready to build speed.

M216: Ab G F# G'
M218: Ab G F# G'
M220: F Eb D C

I'm stopping here, M224, this week and will only be doing a couple of repeats each day of M208-224 the following week. I'll do M224 - 242 from May 11.
_________________________
Richard

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#2268312 - 04/28/14 06:27 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11
That's very helpful, Richard - thank you. I was also intending to accent as per Josh Wright's tutorial.

Valencia take it easy - as said above, if you are injuring yourself then something is wrong.

3rd movt of the moonlight is something I still play regularly and Presto is not a problem but I have a feeling already with the coda that I won't get there (presto) without sacrificing accuracy. I really want to do more with this piece than just showmanship and pyrotechnics which is always so tempting to do. Very easy to get caught up in the moment and get faster and louder and build in mistakes. There are a lot of subtleties to explore and colours to bring out. Think I'd rather be accused of playing it safe but have all the notes there than attacking at speed and fudging it to a degree.

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#2268977 - 04/30/14 04:50 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
Loc: UK
I'm still working on this. Sorry I didn't see these updates earlier. Is there a trick to seeing promptly when this thread has been updated? I only check this forum rarely.

Currently have the first 3 pages, sections 1-5 up to bar 66 memorized and can play them decently well by my standards. Sections 6 and 7, the meno mosso up to bar 93 don't seem too difficult, so working on memorizing those. Likewise, section 8, the theme 1 reprise, won't be a problem.

Section 9 (106-125) is more challenging. Currently working on it hands separately with the metronome. Have started analyzing the chords to help memorization (seems easier when it doesn't just look like random notes; also handy if you want to strum along on guitar smile ), which are, as far as I can fathom:

Code:
Bar  Chord
106  E7
107  A
108  B7
109  E
110  D   Bm7
111  E6  Amaj7
112  Bm  C#7
113  F#m B7
114  E7  (theme repeats) 
115  A
116  B7
117  E
118  Edim A#dim
119  Edim A#dim
120  Eaug G#7
121  Eaug G#7
122  C#m  G#m
123  C#m  G#m
124  E#dim (?)
125  E#dim

I do wish that this was written with an A major key signature. It seems daft keeping the Bb signature and having accidentals on every other note.

I have acquired a Kawai CA95 digital piano, which is what I'm practicing on. If anyone needs convincing of the merits of digitals, they should give one of these a try. My acoustic upright sounds and feels unplayably awful in comparison!
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2271036 - 05/04/14 04:20 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
Congratulations on picking the Kawai CA95, lolatu! I also find this a step up from most acoustic uprights and the versatility for practising is matchless. I have been overwhelmed by the difference so many of my pieces have gained since adopting the Bach/Lehman 1722 tuning that I might otherwise have passed over. Every so often I hit a harmony that just jumps out at me. It has become the default temperament for me. Chopin isn't the same in ET. I can't really hear the difference between these temperaments back to back but I can pick up a mood when I first turn on the piano. I now find equal temperament quite dull and won't be going back to it.

M216-219
I started the week going as far as M224 but finished just working on these four bars. The accent on the first Ab is at a different point on the repeat and it has thrown me. But as the week ended I had got much smoother and know where I am now with the music. This was a bit of a breakthrough for me and although I still haven't got the hands together here I don't foresee a problem now that I have my head round the melody. Laying the thumb over the C and D in M217 and 219 has eased the LH work.

I've continued to work on M208-216 and after overcoming a couple of hurdles I can feel it starting to really pick up now. My fingers were going to the C min of M210 instead of the G min, 2nd inv, of M209 and jumping at the repeat to the octave instead of the ninth (thumb on Bb instead of Ab) for the repeat in M212. Now I've got that sorted it's really picking up HT now and getting quite easy HS and the hands getting very loose.

I'll take it up M224 this coming week and get the hands together. I'll leave the repeat until I've hammered this lot home a bit more.
_________________________
Richard

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#2271279 - 05/05/14 06:04 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Sam Rose Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/11
Posts: 673
Loc: Los Angeles
I'm still struggling with the coda, the scales at the end, and the scherzando section. I'm due for another recording of the piece, since the last one I made was well over a year ago, but I don't think I should bother until I can do the whole piece at least an A- level of justice frown


Edited by Sam Rose (05/05/14 06:04 AM)
_________________________
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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#2271389 - 05/05/14 11:07 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: zrtf90]
lolatu Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: zrtf90
Congratulations on picking the Kawai CA95, lolatu! I also find this a step up from most acoustic uprights and the versatility for practising is matchless.

Thanks! Didn't know you had one too. It's a fine instrument. My main problem is that the soundboard has rather bad resonance issues playing F3 (the one just below middle C), if you hold down the pedal and play the key fairly loud, and especially if repeated. This occurs in the Ballade from bar 63 and through the menno mosso. Do you find this as well? I don't think there's a solution except using headphones!

Quote:
I have been overwhelmed by the difference so many of my pieces have gained since adopting the Bach/Lehman 1722 tuning that I might otherwise have passed over. Every so often I hit a harmony that just jumps out at me. It has become the default temperament for me. Chopin isn't the same in ET. I can't really hear the difference between these temperaments back to back but I can pick up a mood when I first turn on the piano. I now find equal temperament quite dull and won't be going back to it.

I haven't played with the temperaments. I searched around and there was a discussion on another site about someone playing Chopin's Preludes in "unequal temperament", but the consensus was that you couldn't really tell much of a difference, and if you could, it just sounded like a normal piano slightly out of tune! However, I do prefer the Jazz Grand sound to the Concert Grand, since it seems to have a less "perfect" sound and creates some dissonances that are pleasing to the ear. Maybe that's a similar thing.

@Sam Yes, do another recording. No-one expects perfection, especially in a "beginners" forum!
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2272492 - 05/07/14 06:31 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
I have no resonance issues other than when I leave some of my acoustic guitars uncased and propped against the mixer desk and playing in my "loud" setting (Concert Grand with one of the others in Dual mode and a Light touch curve).

I don't find the other three compete with the Concert Grand so I only use them in Dual mode with the Concert Grand though for the recent Joplin bash I used the Studio Grand with a bit of the Upright.
_________________________

There isn't much difference in the temperaments but only with a digital do I feel confident in the tuning. Meantone definitely sounds off (works okay with early music) but Werckmeister and Kirnberger are very playable. I occasionally pick up a nuance that, yes, on a strung instrument would pass by but on a digital, especially on headphones, is more noticeable and won't be a tuning issue. I get more of those 'glorious harmonies' with the Bach/Lehman than any of the others that I've tried.
__________________________

Sam, without trying to slight your talents, we're not going to be listening to enjoy the Ballade per se when we have Rubinstein and Zimmerman et al out there.

What we do want to know is how well someone without professional training and experience (i.e., someone like us) can improve in a year (despite your high starting point) and what are the least improved spots (and thus likely to be the hardest ones).
_________________________
Richard

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#2285064 - 06/03/14 08:04 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11
How's everyone going with their practice??

I have become literally obsessed. Sneaking in practice wherever I can. I've had some time off work lately too and the house to myself. Getting at least 30mins every night when the kids are having a bath as well. I've been using this time to dedicate to certain areas (mainly the coda of late) and progress is really coming along nicely. I'm going to return to my teacher for some guidance soon and have a lesson every fortnight.

Basically, I've got everything hands together save and except from bars 138 to 163 where I remain hands separate. The coda is quite strong and secure now at slow speed and the final g min scale in 3rds (which much to my chagrin, was alluding me before) is now fine using some old scale techniques I learned from my old flute teacher haha.

Very happy with progress. I really feel as though this piece is going to come within my grasp. Couldn't be happier at the moment. How's everyone se doing?

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#2285869 - 06/04/14 09:32 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
lolatu Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/13
Posts: 563
Loc: UK
I've made pretty good progress over the past month... have it all hands together and memorized up to bar 129. Still a few sections need to be brought up to speed. Haven't gone any further yet, but it looks like I'll be practicing the waltz section next.
_________________________
Kawai CA95 / Pianoteq Stage / Sony MDR-7506 / Steinberg UR22
In the loft: Roland FP3 / Tannoy Reveal Active / K&M 18810

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#2287435 - 06/08/14 05:50 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2458
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
I'm up to M242 now but having some issues. I've become familiar with the last page over the years and won't be doing much of it this time around. I'll just add it on when the tempo for the current two pages is more commensurate with it.

I'm sticking with this passage until the end of the month. Thereafter I'll just practise weekends often enough to keep it in memory and spend a week every so often building some tempo.

From July to September I'll be working on M106-166.

My issues include spanning the ninths at speed, not remembering the change from A to G in M228 vs M220 (also at speed) and the LH octaves so I have to remind myself I'm going into the crescendo when I'm without the score instead of looping from M216 again. Also accuracy is lost with the inner finger in the second half of measures 216 and 218 and similar. I've a nice steady tempo going HT from M208-242 and getting quite quick in four separate groups RH only but it's going to be a while before this is going to be as quick HT as I don't want to lose precision. It took a while for the accents to make themselves felt but once the passage came together in the head I could drop the score and it started moving forward at the keyboard. I would like to have done more but I've had other things taking my time of late and am glad to have done this much.

My main practise exercises, though I'm not yet managing all of these each day, are
(i) four block chords per bar from M216-M238 in two bar sections RH and HT, exaggerating the accents,
(ii) playing just the first note and touching the two chord notes without them sounding, RH and HT, also exaggerating the accents, and
(iii) working each half bar as fast as possible RH and HT, note-chord-note-chord-note.

It's tough but I can feel it coming together and there are hints as to how well I'll be able to do this in the distant future.
_________________________
Richard

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#2298386 - 07/03/14 09:07 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11

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#2313055 - 08/08/14 03:57 PM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Bigvalbio]
Valencia Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/11
Posts: 256
BigValBio this was great! Thanks for sharing! Wow, your fingers move with ease. I will view your first video in particular a few more times to get some ideas for practicing that section as itís coming along very slowly for me.

Sorry I havenít checked in on this thread for awhile. My mother is not well again and I travelled to stay with her for almost a month. Iím just back but will likely have to go and stay with her again soon as she is possibly facing a risky surgery! I did get in some practicing though while staying with her, however not much. I am still working on the ballade.

How is everyones practicing going? Iím not sure what to focus on at this point. The whole piece needs focusing, but how to go about it? Iíve pretty much memorized the whole piece now, however Iím a little shaky memory-wise right on the transition section before the coda. Other than that, I can play through the notes now!

Regarding flow, I donít play the restatement of the second theme well yet and that is probably the part that still needs the most work just from a Ďgetting the notes under the fingers and being able to play it throughí perspective. And I still have troubles accuracy-wise with the arpeggios right before the first statement of the second theme. (sorry donít have my score here to look at the bar numbers!). There are probably a few more places where I tend to stumble as well. Tempo is of course an issue but Iím not worrying about it now.

After that, the whole piece needs work. Iím just not quite sure what to do. The last few days I havenít practiced because I hurt my thumb so am letting my hands rest. Tomorrow I may get back to it again.

Hope everyone is doing well!

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#2313686 - 08/10/14 01:41 AM Re: Studying Chopinís Ballade 1 [Re: Valencia]
Bigvalbio Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 11
Sorry to hear that your mum isn't well and hope everything is ok and that she recovers.

Between a trip away o/s and my work load since getting back I've barely touched the piano. Essentially I have the first and last thirds of the piece at a playable level, good tempo and committed to memory. But as for the waltz / middle section I'm still hands separate and glued to the score.

Then it's all got to be put together!

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