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#454942 - 01/07/05 01:47 PM Help a Brutha Out
kraniak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/04
Posts: 153
Loc: SW Florida
Hope you can help, here's the deal: I've been playing for decades, self-taught, just a handful of lessons over the years, mainly a jazz genre. My ear is very developed and I do a great deal of improvisation. What I need and want is to improve (no, greatly improve) my technical proficiency (I'm quite pathetic in this respect).

It was recommended that I get Hanon's Virtuoso book, which I have, and I've begun working on that. Since I don't sight read, it makes it slow-going to learn the exercises, nevertheless, I'm getting through them. I've also practiced scales till the cows came home but I just can't seem to get the speed and fluency that I want.

Here, on this forum, are monster players of all sorts. Can you lend a helpin' hand and give me the direction I'm looking for?

With great appreciation!

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#454943 - 01/07/05 01:58 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
have you tried to play HS instead of HT first? maybe you could consult Chang's book also on speed.

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#454944 - 01/07/05 02:05 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
The exercises in the Hanon book simply repeat the same 5 finger patterns over and over up and down the keyboard - at least at the beginning of the first book - so you don't need to sight read much.

As far as scales being even, you might be playing them too fast. Maybe you need to slow down, try different articulations, dynamics, even rhythms, etc. Maybe your the problem is your hand position, or the way you tranfer your thumbs. Maybe your wrist is too rigid. In short, there's a lot that could be happening, and it's hard to tell without watching you. Could you maybe get a few lessons?

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#454945 - 01/07/05 02:28 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
In terms of Hanon, don't try to swallow more than you than you can chew. I'd reccomend working on the first exercise for a while, very slowly and evenly at first, until you feel real comfortable with it. Look for patterns in the music, and you will find it to be very simple to memorize. After you've got the first one down, try to tackle the next few, and so on. It's a good idea to continue to practice all the exercises in order as you learn them, but don't try and rush through the book.

Personally, I never made it through the whole book, but I got up to No. 53 (all of them memorized at tempo). It took me almost three years to do that! Of course, it may not take you as long to get through it, but I promise you'll gain a lot more if you slow down and don't try to get the whole thing down so quickly.

Scales-wise, look at Hanon, Nos. 38-42. (Trying to learn all of those at once can be a pain, believe me \:\) - take them one at a time)

Schmidt preperatory exercises are similar to Hanon - Schmidt does more though in the same position. That is, those exercises don't move up and down the piano. Very repetative, so boring. But useful, nonetheless! \:\)
_________________________
Sam

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#454946 - 01/07/05 02:40 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Ted2 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 790
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
If you do a great deal of improvisation but are not satisfied with your physical technique then perhaps you could start bringing more complicated and varied figures into your improvisation. Maybe you are in the habit of repeating the same old chord positions and figures because they are easy. Instead of runs in single notes try runs in double notes and slowly develop the habit of using more of the keyboard and more fingers. Deliberately seek out new positions of chords which demand agility. Don't worry about sounding overly smart by playing a lot of notes.

Doing it this way might lessen the risk of regarding technique as a chore because you will be constantly using it to increase your keyboard vocabulary for improvisation. Go the orthodox way too, exercises and so on, but if improvisation is your main musical thrust then technique should work toward that end.
_________________________
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley

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#454947 - 01/07/05 04:52 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
In terms of Hanon, don't try to swallow more than you than you can chew.[/b]
HAHA...

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#454948 - 01/07/05 05:35 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Fan of the Bösendorfer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/04
Posts: 176
Loc: NYC
I agree with Phlebas once again. This is just the sort of thing a good teacher should be able to help you with--can you get a recommendation for someone in your area? (Of course, I'm prejudiced in favor of piano teachers, but that's what they're there for.)
_________________________
Sarah

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#454949 - 01/07/05 05:48 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
kraniak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/04
Posts: 153
Loc: SW Florida
Great suggestion, thanks to all. Your suggestions, however, beg the next question: How do you go about, short of using the Yellow Pages, finding a good teacher?

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#454950 - 01/07/05 07:58 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
kraniak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/04
Posts: 153
Loc: SW Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
have you tried to play HS instead of HT first? maybe you could consult Chang's book also on speed. [/b]
HS? HT? Sorry, I don't know what these are..

Also, could you elaborate on "Chang's book on speed"?

Thanks!

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#454951 - 01/07/05 08:01 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
"Fundamentals of Piano Practice, 2nd Edition", by Chuan C. Chang

It's available for free download at the author's website (above). It's a marvelous book, and will teach you all sorts of neat methods for improving your technique.

(HS = Hands Seperate - i.e. only one hand at a time)
(HT = Hands Together - i.e. both hands at the same time)

A few days ago there was a whole discussion on this forum about Chang's book: Click here.
_________________________
Sam

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#454952 - 01/07/05 08:18 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
there you go, pianojerome, thanks! i should have put the link there earlier. sorry!

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#454953 - 01/07/05 09:12 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
kraniak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/04
Posts: 153
Loc: SW Florida
Thanks to you both!

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#454954 - 01/07/05 09:57 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
kraniak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/04
Posts: 153
Loc: SW Florida
Just glancing through Changs and became intrigued with TO vs TU. Wow, I was always told must thumbs always pass under. Already, I'm seeing hope to break through the persistent speed walls I've been up against.

Thanks again

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#454955 - 01/08/05 12:31 AM Re: Help a Brutha Out
ShiroKuro Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3220
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Regarding Hanon, I also spent about 3 years on it, and now almost never play it. I always have an exercise or something that I start out with at the beginning of each practice session, currently it's Czerny. But my piano teacher often tells me I ought to go back to the Hanon exercises from time to time (which I never do because I greedily use up as much of my practice time on pieces as possible!!)

But when I was working in the Hanon regularly, I was always careful to make dedicated use of the variations at the beginning of the book. (There are 22, although this is the Japanese edition, I assume your book will be the same?) Are you using those as well? I think they are very important, and very helpful.

Also, at music stores here in Japan I often see a book called something like "the Jazz Hanon." Have you ever seen that? I didn't buy it, so I can't tell you anything about it, but it might be worth looking for. (And if you're curious, I can look it up on amazon.com/Japan and see who wrote it etc, which would tell us if it's available in English).
_________________________
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:
https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u




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#454956 - 01/08/05 05:35 AM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Fan of the Bösendorfer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/04
Posts: 176
Loc: NYC
 Quote:
Originally posted by kraniak:
Great suggestion, thanks to all. Your suggestions, however, beg the next question: How do you go about, short of using the Yellow Pages, finding a good teacher? [/b]
Well, I wouldn't use the Yellow Pages at all--I'd go to the Music Teachers' National Association website (which is probably something like www.mtna.org, but I'm surmising lol.) They have a directory of teachers organized by locale. Some teachers are certified through them, which means that they're serious about teaching! But certification is not the only way to find serious teachers. Another way you could find a teacher is to talk to the sheet music dealers in your area, or the music department at your local university. Let's see, you could also ask friends who play, or who have children who take lessons. Start there, and if you can't find someone, post again and I'll think some more. A lot of teachers teach a wide range of students--from young beginners to professionals. Some teachers "specialize" in adult beginners and refurbishers--this could be a wonderful adventure for you. Good luck!
_________________________
Sarah

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#454957 - 01/08/05 05:53 AM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Fan of the Bösendorfer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/04
Posts: 176
Loc: NYC
www.mtna.org is the address of the website, but I just tried to get there from the Forum and it didn't work. But I googled it and got there from google, so who knows. But that is the correct address, and you should be able to find a teacher through them. After you get a list of teachers, interview several of them until you find someone you like and who you feel will be helpful--your teacher should be able to help in very specific ways, and not make you feel like you should be able to do what s/he asks just because s/he asks. S/he should be able to tell you exactly what to do to get the results you want (within reason lol--you won't be McCoy Tyner, and neither will I, no matter how great a teacher I work with!)--have fun. I'm happy for you!
_________________________
Sarah

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#454958 - 01/08/05 05:58 AM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Spin Doctor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 262
Loc: Maryland, USA
Best way I've found so far to find a teacher is to visit local music stores, colleges and universities (ask around in the music department) and piano stores. These folks generally know the best local teachers for whatever it is you want to learn.

BTW Kraniac, what are you working on these days, jazz wise? I'm into Bill Evans stuff myself.


-----------
_________________________
"Some people's idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage."

-- Winston Churchill

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#454959 - 01/08/05 06:33 AM Re: Help a Brutha Out
kraniak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/04
Posts: 153
Loc: SW Florida
Spin,

Not really "working" on anything other than scales and Hanon, and soon to be some of the other recommendations found above. Maybe that's part of my problem. Perhaps I should pick something and work on it until it's solid, is that what you mean?

As far as influence to my playing, of late, I've been listening to a lot of Elian Elias (I love Brazilian music) and perhaps some Bossa Nova stuff.

Thanks for the recommendation.

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#454960 - 01/08/05 01:29 PM Re: Help a Brutha Out
Spin Doctor Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 262
Loc: Maryland, USA
Well, yes, I'd start playing music now. Some of the stuff you can work on till it's solid, but (if you're into jazz) you should be transcribing phrases too.

For example, find a phrase that you like that follows a II-V-I chord progression then transcribe it. Then play that phrase around the circle of fifths, playing the chord progressions in the left hand and the jazz phrase (or lick) in the right. The transcribing will help you ear and writing abilities and you can see how some one plays a set of notes over a chord. Playing it around the circle will get your chops together and teach you to improvise in different keys. Do this with about 4 thousand other phrases and you'll be on your way! Believe me, it ain't gonna happen overnight, but it will be worth it. Just take your time.

As far as learning scales, for jazz you might want to investigate the mixolydian bebop and dorian bebop scales. They are very important. These are just tips to get started. There are a lot of jazz theory books out there, so search the net and find a few that seem interesting. Then get a good teacher to help you figure it all out. I have a fairly large bookcase filled with jazz stuff I've accumulated over the years. The Jamey Abersold method books have a lot of good information in there too. BTW, I'm just a student of jazz (a hobby) not a professional, but I've been at it for about 15 or so years, off and on.

Speaking of Eliani Elias, I listened to a lot of her music in the 1980's but not so much these days. She can play some very cool lines, eh?

Also, technically, what do you feel you are having trouble with?

----
_________________________
"Some people's idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage."

-- Winston Churchill

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