Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad) Pianoteq
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
PianoSupplies.com (150)
Piano Accessories Music Related Gifts Piano Tuning Equipment Piano Moving Equipment
We now offer Gift Certificates in our online store!
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Piano
Quick Links to Useful Stuff
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano Accessories
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
Topic Options
#449681 - 12/07/07 12:36 PM Do you play the piano?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
I've fantasized at times about a microchip that could be inserted into the brain -- this chip would contain all of the neurological triggers needed to play any piece of music ever written.

So, having this chip in my brain, I could say: "Hmm, today I will play the Liszt Sonata" and then without even thinking, and without ever practicing, I'd just sit down and my fingers would automatically go to the right notes.

On the other hand, it seems that it wouldn't really be me playing... it would just be some foreign microchip controlling my fingers for me, telling them where and when to go, without the involvement of my own conscious effort.


Of course that's a fantasy... but it seems that we pianists strive for a similar effect every day when we talk about "muscle memory."

As we all know, "muscle memory" means that we could be completely unfocused on the music... daydreaming about something completely unrelated... and our fingers would automatically go to the right places. It's exactly the same as what I described before with the fantastical microchip. Playing from muscle memory, someone might ask me: "What notes did you just play in that last bar", and I would have no way of answering the question. I simply wouldn't know what notes I had just played, even though I had veritably played them..... or rather, my fingers had played them, as "I" was not involved in the process.

And we strive for this... to be able to have some magical memory control our fingers for us, so that we don't have to actually think about controlling our own fingers ourselves.

What are you thoughts on muscle memory vs. active mental involvement? Do they go together?

By active mental involvement, I mean actually knowing what every single note is -- knowing exactly where your fingers need to go, and perhaps even knowing why they go where they go at every moment thoughout the entire piece of music -- and not just knowing, but taking active involvement to move your fingers where you *know* they need to go.

So there's the question: Do *you* play the piano? Or do your fingers play it?
_________________________
Sam

Top
Ad 800 (Pearl River)
Pearl River World's Best Selling Piano
#449682 - 12/07/07 12:59 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
A very good question, pianojerome. The answer I give comes from personal experience, and perhaps only applies to me.
Because I'm not such a great sightreader, I simply HAVE to think of every note when starting to learn a piece.
Then, at some point muscle memory takes over, in the sense that I can allow it to take over if I want to (and usually do if time is an issue).
Then, it all comes back to thinking and precisely landing every note, but I can't get to this point without going through the muscle memory phase first. This is how it is with me and, say, the Tempest sonata, the first extended piece I learned in my life. I can perhaps play it purely from muscle memory, but I really mentally think every note when I go through it nowadays. To me this seems like the best sign that a piece is fully internalized, so to speak. I dare say I play it better today than at any other point in the past (hardly any wrong notes, etc.).
I know, it's weird.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

Top
#449683 - 12/07/07 01:08 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
playadom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/06
Posts: 1366
Loc: New Jersey
I would just HATE the idea of such a microchip.

I would be happy being stuck as the crappy pianist that I am now, not getting any better, and still enjoying the experience of learning a piece, than get a microchip and be famous.

I think that it would be just wrong and disgusting to just effortlessly whip off the music like that. I enjoy learning the pieces that I do because I actually get into the music. I dissect and analyze it, I think about it, I'm quite involved with it, and I love every moment of it!

IMO, the journey and experience of learning and becoming one with a piece is so much better than just autopiloting and listening to what comes out.
_________________________
Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.

Top
#449684 - 12/07/07 01:36 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18129
Loc: Victoria, BC
 Quote:
Originally posted by playadom:

I would be happy being stuck as the crappy pianist that I am now, not getting any better, and still enjoying the experience of learning a piece, than get a microchip and be famous.

I think that it would be just wrong and disgusting to just effortlessly whip off the music like that. I enjoy learning the pieces that I do because I actually get into the music. I dissect and analyze it, I think about it, I'm quite involved with it, and I love every moment of it!

IMO, the journey and experience of learning and becoming one with a piece is so much better than just autopiloting and listening to what comes out. [/b]
Decidedly! As the ads for the Cunard Line used to say : "Getting there is half the fun!" - or words to that effect.

I, too, would rather remain the mediocre pianist I am - with the perhaps benighted hope of getting better, some day - and live with the joy of learning, than be able to play on "autopilot". That said, I sometimes wish I could speed up the process of mastering repertoire, but I would never want to give up the learning experience and the satisfaction it provides.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

Top
#449685 - 12/07/07 02:09 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
C H O P I N Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/07
Posts: 310
Loc: England
agreed!
_________________________
"I Think Therefore I Am." - Rene Descartes

Top
#449686 - 12/07/07 02:20 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree that the whole microchip idea is pointless...might as well just listen to an mp3 or something. But I think pianojerome's point was that when we play with muscle memory, are we doing effectively the same thing?

I would have to say no, we are not. Muscle memory aids us, but it is not the end. Without muscle memory, we would have to think of every note as we play it, as if sightreading. Then how could one possibly think of being expressively? The muscle memory allows us to get beyond the individual notes so that we can then focus on expressing the written music. In this instance, every note is important and focused on, but not as "this is an A#" but as in "this is the leading tone" or in the big picture "this is the climax of the piece".

So in the microchip example, it would just be the end of getting all the right notes at the right time, whereas with muscle memory, it's about freeing up the mind to focus on what's really important: the meaning.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

Top
#449687 - 12/07/07 02:23 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
Janus K. Sachs Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/07
Posts: 1710
Loc: Betelgeuse, baby!
Well said, Morodiene. I think that explains why I go through the process in my last post.
_________________________
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.

Top
#449688 - 12/07/07 03:57 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
Bassio Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/24/03
Posts: 2480
Loc: Alexandria, Egypt
My muscle memory always get ahead of my active memorization, unfortunately.

This is least noticed with Bach esp. when I am studying the piece at the moment, but if I leave it for a while, the active memorization vanishes and I am left with the muscle memory again.

However, there is another type of memory that helps me .. and this is the 'musical memory' I remember the sound of the tune itself, and this helps my hand go to the right note.

I noticed this when playing Bach because I find myself able to 'sing' each separate voice in my head during playing and prior to hitting the notes, which makes me conscious of the sound the key I will press next will generate. As if Bach forces me to know his music by hard. This is less evident for me with other music.

Of course all these memories weld together in the subconscious .. etc.

 Quote:

So, having this chip in my brain, I could say: "Hmm, today I will play the Liszt Sonata" and then without even thinking, and without ever practicing, I'd just sit down and my fingers would automatically go to the right notes.
Reminds me of a dream I had, I was playing the Liszt sonata .. and I looked at my hands as they played and they seemed they hit the right notes .. very good faking .. very convincing!!
However, I could not comprehend what was happening \:D

Top
#449689 - 12/07/07 04:30 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
hopinmad Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 1001
Loc: Eryri/Manchester
NEVER EVER RELY ON MUSLCE MEMORY.


There should be no exceptions to knowing what every single note of a piece is; the piece should be known to you in your head, before any performance.

I strive to be able to play whichever pieces I actually play, to be able to playmthem in my head, as in to know where my fingers are going, and say, you should be able to write the entire piece perfectly on score without pausing to think what comes next (although it would still take a long time, I'm not recommending it by the way, just saying you should be able to).

To test this method what I have recently started to do is to study the score of Chopin's C# minor etude, to see the notes played in my head only, at night for about twenty minutes before I go to sleep. Doing this only I have learned the first page at the marked tempo.
I am planning to learn it all like this, in the end I hope to be able to play it through, having only played the notes for real, about ten times.
I'm not saying it will work, but it has for the first page.
_________________________
Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

Top
#449690 - 12/08/07 10:29 AM Re: Do you play the piano?
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
hopinmad:
Of course, every note should be known in your head. The sound of the piece is also memorized, but since we were talking about muscle memory in this thread, that is what I focused my attention on. So by what you've said, you do not know how a piece should feel when you play it? That is what muscle memory is: the tactile sense that you get from playing. The brain, as I said in my previous post, must be alert and focused on the piece as well, but the muscle memory allows us to have that in the background while in the foreground you can pay attention to other details in the music. If I am focusing on just getting all the right notes all the time, then I'm giving a boring performance. Getting all the notes is just the door, then you open it, there's a whole world on the other side to explore. \:\)
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

Top
#449691 - 12/08/07 10:54 AM Re: Do you play the piano?
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
Sam, the chip actually has started to be implemented in science. I saw in BBC a documantary about "the future", where the idea was to enhance memory with RAM slots or something close to that, which, according to the doc, didn't seem to far into the future. ;\)

Now, from personal experience, I find that when playing, I do keep in mind general guidance (e.g. a chord here, some dynamics there, bass notes, the melody and the pitches, etc), but mainly I do work in autopilot. Still I "feel" that I have constant control to influence what happens, and I do know my pieces "inside out" so I know what to expect next, and I expect ME to do it.
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

Top
#449692 - 12/08/07 02:58 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
Funny enough, I have had similar fantasies.
_________________________
Houston, Texas

Top
#449693 - 12/08/07 05:48 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
Ok. I'm just an adult beginner but this thread really caught my attention. I would be considered late intermediate.

I memorize easily. My aural memory/perception is good, my sightreading not so good. Once a piece is memorized I also find myself able to daydream my way through a piece - very bad.....

Once a piece is memorized I have difficulty disciplining myself to follow the score as I play. If the piece requires jumps it's worse. Sonatinas I find I can (and do) rely on the score to play through (I haven't moved on to Sonatas yet...) so here, because it takes longer to memorize, once memorized usually I can still play at tempo while readong....Am I making sense?

I am starting to feel that I need to be really analyzing the music that I play, as I play. Like.... OK ...Here I'm playing a dominant 7th chord, now we are resolving to a tonic.....etc, etc.

I've done foundation university-level theory and sat in on 1st year. I'm wondering when theory becomes really vital in your piano growth and something that you should study along with practical lessons...
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

Top
#449694 - 12/08/07 11:09 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7891
Muscle memory is fairly dangerous, since it really does allow you to drift off mentally while playing. On the other hand, it can be a lifesaver in situations were you're too stressed too stay focused on the music. I remember hearing Arthur Pizarro talking about preparing the Hammerklavier, I think it was, and saying that for starters you have to know it so well you could play it while in a coma, i.e., by muscle memory alone.

However, the only recital ever where I walked out at intermission in total disgust was one in which the pianist clearly played the entire first half of the recital relying purely on muscle memory. He was simply not present except physically. Interestingly, it was Bronfman, whose name came up in another thread recently, where he was praised for the phenomenal thoroughness of his knowledge of music he played. I guess I'm not very impressed with that kind of mechanical knowledge and ability if it isn't coupled with some spirit, or mind, or personality, or whatever you want to call it that makes a performance more than rote regurgitation, which is what muscle memory alone will give you.

wr

Top
#449695 - 12/09/07 05:15 PM Re: Do you play the piano?
hopinmad Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/07
Posts: 1001
Loc: Eryri/Manchester
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
hopinmad:
Of course, every note should be known in your head. The sound of the piece is also memorized, but since we were talking about muscle memory in this thread, that is what I focused my attention on. So by what you've said, you do not know how a piece should feel when you play it? That is what muscle memory is: the tactile sense that you get from playing. The brain, as I said in my previous post, must be alert and focused on the piece as well, but the muscle memory allows us to have that in the background while in the foreground you can pay attention to other details in the music. If I am focusing on just getting all the right notes all the time, then I'm giving a boring performance. Getting all the notes is just the door, then you open it, there's a whole world on the other side to explore. \:\) [/b]
I don't have an answer to this. Maybe though I could say that both are possible, to listen to oneself whilst concentrating on the notes?
I've always viewed learning of a piece as to learn all the notes, then to 'choose' an interpretation, as anything is possible to be done with the notes now one has complete technical mastery over them. Maybe then obne could still listen to oneself.
_________________________
Patience's the best teacher, and time the best critic. - F.F.Chopin

Top

Moderator:  Brendan, Kreisler 
What's Hot!!
8 Live Ragtime Piano Players on the Cape!
-------------------
HOW TO POST PICTURES on the Piano Forums
-------------------
Sharing is Caring!
About the Buttons
-------------------
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Knabe Pianos
Sheet Music
(PW is an affiliate)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
New Topics - Multiple Forums
This is punny
by Tango Vic
Yesterday at 11:58 PM
A brisk Fall day, a room to myself, and a large piano.
by TwoSnowflakes
Yesterday at 08:07 PM
Mixer for live-use
by Auver
Yesterday at 06:24 PM
Question on Kawai CA65 functions
by ColinDS
Yesterday at 04:30 PM
40 year old self-taught in love with Bach - What to do?
by pinkfloydhomer
Yesterday at 04:23 PM
Who's Online
62 registered (bennevis, 36251, Beemer, beeboss, angga888, 16 invisible), 1125 Guests and 14 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
76591 Members
42 Forums
158373 Topics
2325580 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
(ads by Google)

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
|
Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission