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#2233483 - 02/18/14 12:55 AM Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Hi everyone, I used to take piano lessons as a kid/young teenager for about 5 or 6 years. My mom insisted I shouldn't give up, but for whatever reason when I became a teenager I was just 'too cool' for the piano. I am now 23 and have since realized the piano is too cool for me. I just started messing around a month ago, but couldn't be any happier I have started playing, and I think this time its going to stick for life.

Anyways, I always wanted to play these Joplin rags as a kid. My teachers would not let me play them though, I also was really small back then and since then have grown amazing long and slender piano fingers. I did learn the simplified entertainer but it was very disappointing, the real deal just sounds so much more full.

Anyways, I bought the sheet music for it and surprisingly picked it up fairly quick. I had all 4 sections memorized in a week. I have since been working on filling in the gaps and working on the pedaling, dynamics, overall sound, and tempo. This is where I have questions.

At first I thought it sounded good, but after listening to others play it, I realized I was botching it up and way too over zealous with the pedal. Just today I started backing off and wow, it already sounds so much better. I'm looking to get as much advice about where and when to pedal and which sections or bars to avoid it. Also, I am trying not to play it "my way" as I was famous for doing as a kid. I want to stay true to the way Joplin intended it to be play. This also made me realize I don't need to play it as fast as others, I think I can actually play it smoothly with very minimal mistakes at his tempo, but I'm not really sure what BPM on the metronome that would be.

Last week I started caring a lot more about the dynamics, and it really adds a lot of character to the song. I was getting kind of sick of it, but I am loving now that im not just playing the right notes, but it actually sounds and FEELS good. There isn't too many changes, and I have memorized all the fortes, pianos, accents, crescendos, and diminuendos. Only problem I feel is I want to add my own touches here and there (mainly from listening to others play it), but I'm not sure if this is going to degrade the piece. Any advice here?


With maple leaf rag, I have been taking it slow due to still working on cleaning up the entertainer, and spending a lot of time practicing reading music, scales, arpeggios, and triads. I learned the first page the other night pretty easy and can play it at a verrrry slow practice tempo with 2 hands. Tonight I learned the 2nd section left and right, I can play both pretty easy separately, but when I went to put it together it just didn't click. One of my strong points has always been being able to hear something and play what I've heard, even off beat notes and syncopation's like in Joplins rags. This is the firs time i've really struggled to put 2 hands together in my life. I know the answer is I just need more practice, but just looking for any input on how I can learn to put the two hands together for this section, because I know the next section is going to be extremely hard.

Sorry for writing a book, but I just wanted to give the details and hopefully get some great insight.

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#2233495 - 02/18/14 01:36 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
My best advice? Post a recording for critique. Would be far more helpful than trying to type out everything you think you're doing. wink
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#2233512 - 02/18/14 02:55 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Derulux]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By: Derulux
My best advice? Post a recording for critique. Would be far more helpful than trying to type out everything you think you're doing. wink


Great idea, I'll figure out how to do that tomorrow and make it work.

Do you have any insight on what tempo/BPM this song SHOULD be played at?


Edited by Dan2581 (02/18/14 02:57 AM)

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#2233556 - 02/18/14 06:08 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
TheodorN Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/16/10
Posts: 1194
Loc: Helsingborg, Sweden
A MIDI of The Entertainer I have, has it at 60 bpm, another of Maple Leaf Rag wants it played at 98 bpm. Most of the notes of both pieces are eight and sixteenth notes, so the numbers are a bit misleading. It's still quite fast.

Answering for both of the pieces, since you didn't specify for which one you were asking. Good luck.
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#2233581 - 02/18/14 07:52 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
fizikisto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 528
Loc: Hernando, MS
Just for fun, here's a piano roll recording of the Maple Leaf Rag, performed by Joplin himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E5iehuiYdQ&list=PL2BF5A477B6CEEEC2
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#2233663 - 02/18/14 10:54 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
PtJaa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Czech Republic
- IMHO some of the best renderings of Scott Joplin rags were made by Joshua Rifkin. He didn't play it very fast either. Here are both Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag.

- You don't need to buy sheet music for Scot Joplin Rags, it's public domain now and you can download and print it e.g. here.

- There were many threads on Maple Leaf Rag on PW. Just enter "Maple Leaf Rag" into the search window. For example, the best tempo is discussed here .

- If you were able to memorise the Entertainer in 1 week, you are very quick (at least compared to me). Good for you.

- When I returned to piano ~18 months ago, I started with ragtimes too :-) I learned both Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag. I don't consider myself an advanced player, but I will add my beginner $0.02 of experience anyway: (but I didn't try to learn them true to the original version)

I think that you can add your "own touches here and there". But it really depends on what you want to achieve.

Some people don't use pedal in MLR at all, though I personally liked some pedal in the 3. section. I found it important to make up for the missing pedal by other means to keep the feeling of the rhythm strong: To support rhythm, I employed dynamics with consideration for rhythm in both hands and even some swing in the rhythm in some parts of the song.

I personally find Entertainer more difficult than MLR, as it contains strong melody line that, at least for me, was more difficult to make properly 'sing', in a musical way. I employed pedal in all parts of the Entertainer, though my teacher disagreed with this approach.
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#2233721 - 02/18/14 12:33 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Originally Posted By: Derulux
My best advice? Post a recording for critique. Would be far more helpful than trying to type out everything you think you're doing. wink


Great idea, I'll figure out how to do that tomorrow and make it work.

Do you have any insight on what tempo/BPM this song SHOULD be played at?

It should be played where it's played. Rags aren't as strict as classical music; there's an improvisational feel to them. You've got to find the groove that works for your hands and your way of playing them. wink

Originally Posted By: fizikisto
Just for fun, here's a piano roll recording of the Maple Leaf Rag, performed by Joplin himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E5iehuiYdQ&list=PL2BF5A477B6CEEEC2

There's been a lot of conjecture about whether this was Joplin or not. I think the overall conclusion is that it was not him: In his last year of life, his piano playing suffered greatly, and it is unlikely he would have been able to record this due to his ongoing and worsening illness.

I don't know what to think about that, but there was a whole discussion about it in this forum somewhere. I just forget which thread.. frown
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#2233772 - 02/18/14 02:10 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Derulux]
billhilton Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 10
Loc: Wales
Just a quick note on pedal: IIRC, Joplin didn't include any pedal indications in his scores, and my understanding of ragtime has always been that as a style is uses minimal pedal, if any at all (perhaps because the bar-room pianos it evolved on had terrible pedal mechs).

Anyway, if I were you I'd lay off the pedal totally for a while (I know it's tempting in the big ascending run in Maple Leaf...) and concentrate on a precise, clear sound. One of the problems with the sustain pedal is that it allows you to fudge your way around tricky bits - if you stop using it for a while it forces you to address the problems.


Edited by billhilton (02/18/14 02:11 PM)
Edit Reason: typo
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#2233780 - 02/18/14 02:22 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Ill try making a recording again tonight. My hands are freezing cold in this house and just because I'm trying to record it i'm over thinking it and making way to many mistakes to even worry about the overall sound of the piece.

Its amazing the difference in playing alone and then adding even 1 other person in the room.

Edit: Also been listening to Joshua Rifkins recordings a lot, my god its so beautiful. Sucks to know i'll never play these pieces THAT well. Thats exactly the tempo I'm shooting for with both pieces, I just wish I had the same grace as him haha.


Edited by Dan2581 (02/18/14 02:41 PM)

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#2233799 - 02/18/14 03:14 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3543
Here yuo can find many recordings of the pianoworld ABF performers

http://recitals.pianoworld.com/wiki/index.php/Category:Joplin


This was my take at maple leaf (few years ago). You may also get some ideas for dynamics from it

http://recitals.pianoworld.com/recital_files/Recital_23/07.%20wouter79%20-%20Maple%20Leaf%20Rag.mp3

I don't use pedal except to get a few accents and to get the stride first two notes slurred

For Entertainer I played a simplified version (I was then playing just 1 year) but I think it still captures how I like it. Also without pedal

http://recitals.pianoworld.com/recital_files/Recital_21/02.%20wouter79%20-%20the%20entertainer.mp3
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#2233831 - 02/18/14 04:32 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: wouter79]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By: wouter79
Here yuo can find many recordings of the pianoworld ABF performers

http://recitals.pianoworld.com/wiki/index.php/Category:Joplin


This was my take at maple leaf (few years ago). You may also get some ideas for dynamics from it

http://recitals.pianoworld.com/recital_files/Recital_23/07.%20wouter79%20-%20Maple%20Leaf%20Rag.mp3

I don't use pedal except to get a few accents and to get the stride first two notes slurred

For Entertainer I played a simplified version (I was then playing just 1 year) but I think it still captures how I like it. Also without pedal

http://recitals.pianoworld.com/recital_files/Recital_21/02.%20wouter79%20-%20the%20entertainer.mp3


Hey thanks for sharing that! I really liked your maple leaf rag!!! I'm just barely getting into maple leaf rag, and plan on barely touching the pedal.

The entertainer is where I'm kind of stuck on the pedaling. Another reason I'm having a hard time and making a lot of mistakes today is because I am reforming my use of the pedal throughout the song, so a lot of my attention is focused on my right foot. I also am trying to hard to be perfect like I'm going to be ripped on for making mistakes, but I'm just going to suck it up and give it my best shot. I've tried so many times my phone battery died so I'm going back at it when I get some battery life lol...

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#2233836 - 02/18/14 04:38 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Ill try making a recording again tonight. My hands are freezing cold in this house and just because I'm trying to record it i'm over thinking it and making way to many mistakes to even worry about the overall sound of the piece.

Its amazing the difference in playing alone and then adding even 1 other person in the room.

Edit: Also been listening to Joshua Rifkins recordings a lot, my god its so beautiful. Sucks to know i'll never play these pieces THAT well. Thats exactly the tempo I'm shooting for with both pieces, I just wish I had the same grace as him haha.

Sounds good. I, for one, would prefer to see all the mistakes. If I'm looking at technique, there's no better place to start than missed notes. wink

Also, I'll chime in on the "pedal" conversation with two thoughts: first, use the pedal. Otherwise a stride bass sounds very staccato. Second, don't compare modern pianos to old beat up bar pianos from the turn of the 20th century, and also in the same breath expect to create the same sound by performing the piece the same way. Won't ever happen. wink
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#2233840 - 02/18/14 04:45 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 765
Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Anyways, I always wanted to play these Joplin rags as a kid. My teachers would not let me play them though, I also was really small back then and since then have grown amazing long and slender piano fingers. I did learn the simplified entertainer but it was very disappointing, the real deal just sounds so much more full.


"That real ragtime of the higher class is rather difficult to play is a painful truth which most pianists have discovered. Syncopations are no indication of light or trashy music, and to shy bricks at 'hateful ragtime' no longer passes for musical culture."

Originally Posted By: Dan2581
At first I thought it sounded good, but after listening to others play it, I realized I was botching it up and way too over zealous with the pedal. Just today I started backing off and wow, it already sounds so much better. I'm looking to get as much advice about where and when to pedal and which sections or bars to avoid it.


In my informed opinion, for a Stark rag, where you see pedal, it's indicative of the explicit wish of the composer. Where you DON'T see pedal, you're expected to use default pedaling which can be summarized basically as "Use the pedal to allow the bass to sustain well, except where doing so might cause the treble to get very muddy due to chromatic movement". YMMV.

Originally Posted By: Dan2581
This also made me realize I don't need to play it as fast as others, I think I can actually play it smoothly with very minimal mistakes at his tempo, but I'm not really sure what BPM on the metronome that would be.


Welcome to the club. Tempo markings are deliberately vague, IMO. Playing ragtime for people to dance to? Up tempo. House concert? Slower tempo. Despite the admonitions against playing ragtime fast, the tempo markings are very aggressive? "Slow march tempo" sounds slow, until you realize how fast a march is. 72 BPM for "Eugenia" in 2/4 is brisk. ~100 BPM for "Sugar Cane" in 2/4 is insane. But Joshua Rifkin plays Joplin at a very slow pace and the result is beautiful and who's gonna argue with him?

Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Only problem I feel is I want to add my own touches here and there (mainly from listening to others play it), but I'm not sure if this is going to degrade the piece. Any advice here?


It can add or detract. Some performers will embellish to a point where listeners will argue that it detracts but other listeners will love the rag all the more. There almost certainly was an improvisation tradition around ragtime, which became more pronounced as the ragtime era progressed. Joplin reportedly didn't improvise much; other performers did.


Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Tonight I learned the 2nd section left and right, I can play both pretty easy separately, but when I went to put it together it just didn't click. One of my strong points has always been being able to hear something and play what I've heard, even off beat notes and syncopation's like in Joplins rags. This is the firs time i've really struggled to put 2 hands together in my life. I know the answer is I just need more practice, but just looking for any input on how I can learn to put the two hands together for this section, because I know the next section is going to be extremely hard.


Your left hand is marking time extremely regularly. Your right hand, in that section, is stressing the descending octaves. You'll get the trick pretty quick if you persist slowly.
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#2233844 - 02/18/14 04:57 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3543
I recommend practicing maple leaf without pedal till you have it all down at tempo, and then add a tad of pedal at a few places. The pedaling is sparse and very simple, so no need to use it already with practicing.
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#2233868 - 02/18/14 05:44 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Ok finally got a recording. Really bummed though, because the combination of using my iPhone to record, uploading the file to my computer (compressing it), and further compressing it uploading it to youtube, and the out of tune piano really takes away from the sound. Whatever though, nothings perfect you guys should get the idea.

I'm just glad I can go back to practicing alone now without worrying about playing it perfect! :P

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0CwAxF2mCE&feature=youtu.be

Does anyone know of a better way to record? I have a laptop as well, but I wasn't sure which device would have the better microphone, they are both incredibly small and not meant to record music.


Edited by Dan2581 (02/18/14 05:45 PM)

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#2233993 - 02/19/14 12:26 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
I use a pretty crappy audio workup, myself, so I can't answer that one. But there is a technician forum around, and I'm sure someone there might be able to answer the question much better. (Not to mention there are some serious sound gurus who float around the other forums..)

As for the video, can you give us an angle where we can see your fingertips through your elbows? From the side is fine, but it's hard to "see" a mistake if we can't "see" the mechanism that caused it. wink
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#2234009 - 02/19/14 01:10 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Derulux]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By: Derulux
I use a pretty crappy audio workup, myself, so I can't answer that one. But there is a technician forum around, and I'm sure someone there might be able to answer the question much better. (Not to mention there are some serious sound gurus who float around the other forums..)

As for the video, can you give us an angle where we can see your fingertips through your elbows? From the side is fine, but it's hard to "see" a mistake if we can't "see" the mechanism that caused it. wink


Tomorrow I'm going to figure out a better setup. I used to have a video camera that is probably equipped with a decent mic compared to a cell phone. I was watching the video again and god it sounds horrible, it doesn't even really pick up on the dynamics. It sounds flat and dry the whole way through, and so awfully out of tune.

I spent some time working on it tonight and wow, I improved it a lot. Mistake wise and overall sound it was really sounding good. I wanted to record it again and post it here because it was pretty dramatic improvement, but after listening to the phone recording again it just doesn't do it justice. Too muffled and compressed. So if I can dig out a video camera I know where the tripod is, then it will be much better quality.

I was actually very happy with the way I was playing it earlier, I would have been comfortable performing it that way, maybe a tad faster though. Even my dad happen to walk by and notice it sounding a lot better and he stopped to listen, and he really gets annoyed when I play the piano. (he doesn't understand you have to practice the same thing over and over again to play it well lol). My mom said it sounds like a whole new song, so I was pretty convinced I wasnt just telling myself it sounded better. Not sure why it all came together, but something just clicked. I'm excited to sleep on it tonight, that way it should be locked in by tomorrow.

Hopefully I find the camera and can get a decent recording up, with little to no mistakes!


Edited by Dan2581 (02/19/14 01:12 AM)

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#2234031 - 02/19/14 02:36 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Sometimes, just understanding that you're going to perform it makes you focus on certain things you were previously glossing over. I'm glad the process is helping you to improve yourself! smile

As far as I'm concerned, the quality of the audio doesn't make a difference. I understand bad audio recordings and can work with that. I would just need a better visual angle. Yes, there's a musical aspect to what you're playing, but the sound coming out of the instrument is a by-product of the movements you make to produce that sound. So, if I hear something that sounds musically off, I want to check how you moved in and out of that note/passage. If I say, "Accent this note," or, "Make that softer," or, "Even out the sound here," but your hand/arm isn't in the right place to produce that kind of sound, there will be a severe disconnect in any advice I might give.
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#2234054 - 02/19/14 04:38 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 986
Loc: Italy
Dan, I don't think that sounded bad at all. I like the relaxed, steady pace of the bass and the tone of the piano fits this kind of music well, although I'm sure it's much better "in person". Looking forward to your next recordings.
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#2234057 - 02/19/14 04:49 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1283
Loc: uk south
I'm impressed by your steady confident playing, I'd expect you to be able to turn that into a highly polished job! I find it hard, without practice, to play that octave melody run including the 3rd interval (C,D,D#,E,C,D,E) without bodging it. Either your hands are bigger than mine or you've a natural gift. The good news for determined ragtimers, I guess (I never learnt Joplin before), is that that shape seems to crop up in the writing almost constantly so we get plenty of practice over time. Just like the LH jumps - we develop a knack but it takes a bit of work.

If you want to drive yourself absolutely nuts why not pick up one of the few remaining rags for the recital on Mar 15th? If you want to spare your folks going absolutely nuts get a digital piano to practise on.

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#2234204 - 02/19/14 11:52 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Quote:
The good news for determined ragtimers, I guess (I never learnt Joplin before), is that that shape seems to crop up in the writing almost constantly

This is good news? grin
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#2234649 - 02/20/14 02:52 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Derulux]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1283
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Quote:
The good news for determined ragtimers, I guess (I never learnt Joplin before), is that that shape seems to crop up in the writing almost constantly

This is good news? grin

Sometimes I see hurdles as opportunities...a moment of madness - no cause for alarm, I always snap out of it!

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#2234656 - 02/20/14 03:11 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3543
Originally Posted By: Dan2581


I'm just glad I can go back to practicing alone now without worrying about playing it perfect! :P

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0CwAxF2mCE&feature=youtu.be


Sounds good!

But still a bit more pedal than I prefer. From the video I think your right hand could play much more legato. You are now completely relying on the pedal to make a RH staccato movement into a legato sound. If you really play the RH legato that gives you much more freedom for pedaling.
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#2235133 - 02/20/14 08:42 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: wouter79]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By: wouter79
Originally Posted By: Dan2581


I'm just glad I can go back to practicing alone now without worrying about playing it perfect! :P

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0CwAxF2mCE&feature=youtu.be


Sounds good!

But still a bit more pedal than I prefer. From the video I think your right hand could play much more legato. You are now completely relying on the pedal to make a RH staccato movement into a legato sound. If you really play the RH legato that gives you much more freedom for pedaling.


Great advice! Thanks, i'll work on that!

Ok so yesterday I pulled out our ancient analog video camera, because I figured it had a decent mic on it. I also have hardware to capture video from old devices such as this, and spent ALL DAY yesterday trying to get the hardware to work with windows 7 (software for it is 10 years old...). Anyways good news is I got it all to work, here is a much better recording you can critique for me. I'm still making mistakes and its not where I want it to be, but I'm a lot happier with this recording. Dynamics are still slightly muffled, but its much better.

Take note, I totally blanked and forgot after the A section what comes next lol, you hear me chuckle then start playing the B section, that pause is not intentional lol. Also, I apologize due to the nature of this ancient equipment, there are a few distortions in the video/audio from transferring it to the computer.

Let me know what you guys think, be harsh!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEUEO7PVHHw&feature=youtu.be

Forgot to mention, maple leaf is coming along nicely! getting comfy with the A section and figuring out 2 hands in the b section.


Edited by Dan2581 (02/20/14 09:45 PM)

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#2235141 - 02/20/14 08:50 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
briansaddleback Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 220
Loc: Irvine CA
Keep practicing and get these two pieces memorized and playable at any children's venue. It will always be a hit with them. Joplin is good for this kind of stuff.
_________________________

Cloches a travers les feuilles
Minstrels

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#2235165 - 02/20/14 09:31 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: briansaddleback]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By: briansaddleback
Keep practicing and get these two pieces memorized and playable at any children's venue. It will always be a hit with them. Joplin is good for this kind of stuff.


Are you suggesting I load my piano on the back of an ice cream truck and put it on repeat for the kids? :P

Haha just kidding, but thanks for the reply/encouragement!

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#2235216 - 02/20/14 11:56 PM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 765
Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Let me know what you guys think, be harsh!


I would never be harsh. Not the least because I'm going to get my comeuppance from Derulux and wouter and brian when I try my luck at "Rose Leaf Rag" in the upcoming Joplin recital.

Here are my impressions:

* I love that you are focusing on control. You -must- keep doing that! Somewhere here, someone has a Chopin quote that's akin to "Every difficulty slurred over in practice becomes a ghost to haunt your performance". So true.

* Your tempo is a little slow--I think you should aim for about 15% faster, but if you sacrifice your cleanliness, you're going the wrong direction. So get the notes super comfortable and solid and slowly crank the tempo, and, if you start missing, then work on control in those sections. Slow, then tempo!

* Your articulation is a little tubby. By tubby, I mean that your bass chords and lower treble notes are having a tendency to sacrifice the brilliant melody. THIS TAKES FOREVER TO WORK ON. On my scores, for my teacher, I basically write "cannot have too much melody" because that's my teacher's taste. It means doing difficult stuff with the weak fingers of your right hand and it takes time to start to figure that out. (And I get dinged on this EVERY piece I do for my teach.)

* Back on the melody thing, the melody is a little 'flat'. One of the tricks of ragtime is that some of the joy comes from accenting the melody notes that occur on the offbeats... your bass hand is a rock and your right hand is dancing around it. A stressed offbeat in the melody just makes you want to feel the next downbeat in the bass.

Do not take this as any form of condemnation! I've been focusing on this genre with instruction for about 2 1/2 years and was playing around on my own for probably a decade before that, not productively, and playing for a couple decades before that, also not productively.

You seem to be going about this exactly the right way and you appear to have a very nice feel for the music. Please keep doing what you're doing!

EDIT: Wanted to add, you are really rocking those running octaves plus thirds in the A section. That's no easy feat.

EDITEDIT: Also really admire your calm stride bass. Keep that up. One of my favorite YouTube ragtime pianists is Monty Suffern and he does this 'long throw' stride bass that is resonant and... composed and calm. You're on that track.

EDITEDITEDIT: Wanted to add some Monty Suffern, playing the modern rag, "Roberto Clemente" by David Thomas Roberts--watch his long bass throws there. Just sharing something I've enjoyed.



Edited by Whizbang (02/21/14 12:26 AM)
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2235231 - 02/21/14 12:51 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Whizbang]
Dan2581 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/24/14
Posts: 20
Originally Posted By: Whizbang
Originally Posted By: Dan2581
Let me know what you guys think, be harsh!


I would never be harsh. Not the least because I'm going to get my comeuppance from Derulux and wouter and brian when I try my luck at "Rose Leaf Rag" in the upcoming Joplin recital.

Here are my impressions:

* I love that you are focusing on control. You -must- keep doing that! Somewhere here, someone has a Chopin quote that's akin to "Every difficulty slurred over in practice becomes a ghost to haunt your performance". So true.

* Your tempo is a little slow--I think you should aim for about 15% faster, but if you sacrifice your cleanliness, you're going the wrong direction. So get the notes super comfortable and solid and slowly crank the tempo, and, if you start missing, then work on control in those sections. Slow, then tempo!

* Your articulation is a little tubby. By tubby, I mean that your bass chords and lower treble notes are having a tendency to sacrifice the brilliant melody. THIS TAKES FOREVER TO WORK ON. On my scores, for my teacher, I basically write "cannot have too much melody" because that's my teacher's taste. It means doing difficult stuff with the weak fingers of your right hand and it takes time to start to figure that out. (And I get dinged on this EVERY piece I do for my teach.)

* Back on the melody thing, the melody is a little 'flat'. One of the tricks of ragtime is that some of the joy comes from accenting the melody notes that occur on the offbeats... your bass hand is a rock and your right hand is dancing around it. A stressed offbeat in the melody just makes you want to feel the next downbeat in the bass.

Do not take this as any form of condemnation! I've been focusing on this genre with instruction for about 2 1/2 years and was playing around on my own for probably a decade before that, not productively, and playing for a couple decades before that, also not productively.

You seem to be going about this exactly the right way and you appear to have a very nice feel for the music. Please keep doing what you're doing!

EDIT: Wanted to add, you are really rocking those running octaves plus thirds in the A section. That's no easy feat.

EDITEDIT: Also really admire your calm stride bass. Keep that up. One of my favorite YouTube ragtime pianists is Monty Suffern and he does this 'long throw' stride bass that is resonant and... composed and calm. You're on that track.

EDITEDITEDIT: Wanted to add some Monty Suffern, playing the modern rag, "Roberto Clemente" by David Thomas Roberts--watch his long bass throws there. Just sharing something I've enjoyed.



Wow! Great analysis! Thank you so much for going into such detail, and you couldn't be more right!

Starting with tempo, your exactly right. As soon as I bump it up that 15%, I start getting messy. For now that tempo is working for me, but it seems to get better every week. Really aiming to play it at the same pace as Joshua Rifkin's recording.

Also you hit the nail on the head about the bass notes, which ties DIRECTLY into my flat melody. I feel the same exact way about this. I'm pretty sure I know exactly what I'm doing too. Throughout the entire song, I have my eyes and 80% of my focus locked on my left hand. If I don't look and think hard about what my left hand is doing, I miss the notes due to the strides. My right hand does its thing pretty accurate, but really doesn't bring out the melody...at all. I am going to practice more right hand solo to really bring out the melody, and on top of that left hand solo to practice accuracy without constantly having to watch it.

Don't worry, your analysis is exactly the kind of critique I am aiming for and my whole goal of taking recordings. I am very biased trying to judge myself, and having other people do that for me is exactly what I need. Especially due to my lack of experience.


When I picked up piano again, I finally realized my alien-esque hands were a blessing lol, my biggest issue is sometimes I have the ability to stretch TOO FAR and play well beyond 1 octave. It really comes in hand for the octaves and 3rds.

Lastly, I just watched that video. What a great piece and so well played, those bass strides are simply amazing. One thing I noticed is how well composed the melody is, while he is nailing the bass at the same time. Really makes it sound wonderful.

Well, I have my work cut out for me. Have a lesson tomorrow which I'm excited about and I'm excited to hear my teachers analysis as well. If anyone else has some input, please chime in!!!

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#2235233 - 02/21/14 01:00 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
briansaddleback Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 220
Loc: Irvine CA
You got to pay a tutor's fee for the above advice!
I'm certainly going to take advantage of the advice as well. I have a problem w voicing /melody as well. Amidst a variety of other issues. I never thought about stressing the accent on off notes in right hand.
_________________________

Cloches a travers les feuilles
Minstrels

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#2235245 - 02/21/14 01:39 AM Re: Need Help With Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer [Re: Dan2581]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5321
Loc: Philadelphia
Excellent.. outstanding video angle. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this...

Quote:
Ok so yesterday I pulled out our ancient analog video camera, because I figured it had a decent mic on it. I also have hardware to capture video from old devices such as this, and spent ALL DAY yesterday trying to get the hardware to work with windows 7 (software for it is 10 years old...). Anyways good news is I got it all to work, here is a much better recording you can critique for me. I'm still making mistakes and its not where I want it to be, but I'm a lot happier with this recording. Dynamics are still slightly muffled, but its much better.

I don't know what your budget looks like, but older FlipHD cameras are point-and-click, some are less than $100, and it's a quick mp4 download. I'd hate for it to take you a day every time you want to record a video, but I really do appreciate the amount of time this took and how dedicated you are to this process!

Because of that, I've decided to be a little long-winded in my reply. After taking so much time -- and at my initial request -- I feel I owe you at least that much, to reply in kind. First, I will discuss technique things. Then, I will discuss musical things. I put it in that order, because some of the musical things are results of technical things. I will also comment running-commentary style, meaning I'm typing as I'm looking at it, with no knowledge of what comes next (on the first of at least 3-4 run-throughs).

Technique
I'd like to start by asking a question. It could be symptomatic of the angle I'm viewing at, but do you lean a little to the left when you play? I ask, because your left wrist appears quite lower than your right, and when I look at elbow angle, it actually looks like your left elbow might be lower than your right. This, in and of itself, is just an observation, but it could lead to other issues (long-term back/shoulder/neck problems, muscle cramping, fatigue, etc) besides just wrist height.

What I notice right away is that you have a decent grasp of some technical ideas, but almost no grasp of some others. Your in/out, for example, is readily visible, meaning you move into and out of the black key area fairly well. I think, sometimes, you may move farther than you need to, but at least the movement is there. Some other concepts aren't. Your hands are very stiff, "holding" or "gripping" chord positions. I used to do this when I first started because I was afraid I'd forget where the keys were when changing. Is there a fear of missing? If so, conquer it by learning the "movement" not the "position". This will considerably loosen you up.

I'm going to break into paragraphs to make it easier to read and provide smaller chunks of information, but this is all similar. When you move your hands and play notes/chords, there is a very obvious lack of shaping. Your hand/arm/fingers maintain the same height and orientation, as you "bom-bom-bom-bom-bom" through the notes. There's no sense of "line" in your playing (physically), and that can lead to a lot of technical and musical problems. You almost seem to shape a little around 2:10ish, when you play the single-note RH line in the B-section. However, the shape is wrong -- your wrist drops, and your fingers stiffen/extend awkwardly, indicating you're probably out of position/alignment when playing those notes. (There are other factors that cause this sort of thing, and your fingers don't have the classic 'standing straight up' symptom, but I'm not going to get into individual note/finger mechanics unless something screams at me, or you tell me you feel extreme fatigue, stress, or pain. There's more than one way to skin that cat, and lots of people have different ideas about it. But the bigger stuff is all very similar.)

One of the biggest technical issues I see is wrist height. From what I can see at this angle, they appear way too low. I can't really tell accurately how high they are off the keys (or your elbows, for that matter), but I can see the bend in your wrist that indicates your wrist is significantly below your fingers. It's more apparent in your left hand, but your right hand has moments, usually when playing individual notes.

If you want a really good example of what being out of position looks, feels, and sounds like, check out 3:35. Was it a flub? Sure, probably. But it's a good example that exaggerates the feeling and look of it. A lot of missed notes result from this on a much smaller (sometimes nearly imperceptible) scale. See how you really had to swing your hand out to get there?

There are times when I think your wrist might be twisting (left/right bend), but I can't really tell. Two examples I'll mention: the scale at 3:50. It looks like you get your elbow out far enough here, but it's hard to see. But where I DO see it is a few seconds later at 3:58. Watch your pink pull your wrist out to reach Bb. You don't need to reach.. reposition the hand sooner by moving more, and you can play it more naturally. (This is just one example I'll mention -- look for it when you're playing.) I might not have seen it if your pinky didn't stick straight out, but that was a dead giveaway.

If you want a wrist height example, look at 4:19, and then look at 4:20. I'd say there's a good 2.5-3" difference in height there...


Music
This will be shorter than technique because I know you're still working on it, but I wanted to give at least some direction since you had asked for it. I'll briefly mention tempo, and won't say another word about it. smile

The first thing I'd like to talk about is pedal. There really are two very different ways to play this piece. One is a slow bar crawl, really connected notes, and pretty much the sound you got out of the piano for your A section. Most people don't play it this way, preferring a little faster, more detached, and flashier way of playing the piece. But the slow drag with pedal is valid, if very different from what we've all grown accustomed to hearing.

I play this piece the flashy way. Very un-Joplin, though I am trying to slow it down. Usually, I do a better job slowing this one down when I'm improving and not playing it straight, but I thought I'd throw in that I, too, struggle with tempo on the other side of the card.

If you want to play it a little more detached, go for it. There are lots of neat places to add staccato, and it gives the piece a very different flavor. In the A-section, try it on the E-natural (3rd note, RH melody, and every other time it repeats in that form). When the RH takes the response in the A-section (octave higher, chord + 3rds), play the first two legato, then the next 3 staccato, then accent the next one (held), staccato, legato, legato. (This is just one of many ways to flavor the line. I could give you at least five others off the top of my head, so don't hold to any one idea. Mess around with it. Really feel the beat.)

In the LH, be mindful of moving lines. Yes, there is a boom-chick boom-chick aspect to it because of the stride bass, but when it breaks, there are moving lines (often chromatic). Bring them out a little more before the response in the RH chimes back in.

Listen to your last two sections (C and D). Listen to the way you play it. You throw in your own staccatos in some really good places there. Sometimes this happens because you've let off the pedal a little so it can come out. Sometimes, the pedal's still there and you get a slight accent but the note is held. Distinctive sound, fun sound, ragtime sound.

Dynamics -- listen for them. You can play the entire piece at one dynamic if you choose. Old bar pianos pretty much only had one dynamic, so sometimes that is the "norm". But you can also vary them greatly to specific effect. One thing, though.. no matter which way you go, watch out for "flat" dynamics or harsh key strikes. Listen to 5:05 and 5:21 (the repeated EG). Very harsh, almost slap of the keys. Totally different than the rest of the section. Bring out the line there, that the whole thing is a pick-up to the line, and not just a few slapped notes in-between the line. In other words, don't use it as a break in the music, but rather a delay. The line keeps going, delayed, as you pick-up back into it.

Whizbang had a really great comment about touch and sound in ragtime, so I'll re-quote it:
Quote:
* Back on the melody thing, the melody is a little 'flat'. One of the tricks of ragtime is that some of the joy comes from accenting the melody notes that occur on the offbeats... your bass hand is a rock and your right hand is dancing around it. A stressed offbeat in the melody just makes you want to feel the next downbeat in the bass.

You can't go wrong with this advice. smile

And I'll throw this one out there -- let go of the last note. You strike it as if it's meant to be very staccato, but then you sustain with the pedal far too long. It's a quarter note. Play a quarter note (or less). Ragtime style usually ends on a "note", not on a "hold". That's one stylistic convention I would highly recommend following. Some rules you can bend, others break, but this isn't really one of those "rules". wink

Thanks again for taking the time and putting in the effort to share this. I enjoyed it, and really like talking about it.. if anything is unclear, or you need me to elaborate on something, or you just plain want to talk more about it, please let me know. smile

---------------------------------------------------------------

Quote:
I would never be harsh. Not the least because I'm going to get my comeuppance from Derulux and wouter and brian when I try my luck at "Rose Leaf Rag" in the upcoming Joplin recital.

I'm really looking forward to hearing it -- no pressure! But seriously, my recordings are always horrible sound quality, so I do very few. I just happen to love Joplin, so I threw in. If anyone's going to be the "star" of this performance, it had better be you -- again, no pressure. grin

Quote:
EDITEDITEDIT: Wanted to add some Monty Suffern, playing the modern rag, "Roberto Clemente" by David Thomas Roberts--watch his long bass throws there. Just sharing something I've enjoyed.

Great rag, great pianist. Sometimes I wish I had picked a rag that is a little more relaxed than the one I chose, because I love pieces like this, but at the end of the day, they were all taken. wink
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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