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#931443 - 02/29/08 12:58 PM Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
A teaching topic which has bothered me for some time, because I am personally deficient in teaching it, is velocity. Velocity, as defined in older English as the speed of playing.

For example. I have no trouble teaching students to play scales at mm = 120 to mm = 132, or the Czerny Etudes, Op 299, at a similar tempo. But for the life of me, I cannot seem to get students much past that barrier.

I would think that by the time students reach high school, if they are serious pianists, we should be able to play scales at mm = 160 or better, and mm = 196 by the time they head off for college.

Of course, I address the usual suspects, locked wrists, tense muscles, overuse of bicepts and tricepts for tone production (eg, not using the flexors more), etc.

I have broched this topic with master teachers and college/conservatory teachers, but generally get the shoulder shrug, indicating that students either do it or don't. This, to me, is unsatisfactory. I'd like all my students, average as well as highly talented, to be able to enjoy clean, high speed playing.

Your thoughts and any technics you're willing to share will be greatly appreciated.

John
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#931444 - 02/29/08 02:55 PM Re: Velocity
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:


I have broched this topic with master teachers and college/conservatory teachers, but generally get the shoulder shrug, indicating that students either do it or don't. This, to me, is unsatisfactory. I'd like all my students, average as well as highly talented, to be able to enjoy clean, high speed playing.

[/b]
As you know, I'm not a teacher, but here's my input (deposit $0.02 please).

I would talk to teachers like your self who have successfully gotten students into conservatories (maybe that's what you mean by "master teachers").

I find that conservatory teachers - who are used to refining once a student's technique is pretty much there without many problems - are good at getting students from Y to Z, but might not be able to address the problems that get students from A to F, or M or T. Those problems mioght be things like velocity, and how to practice overall, etc.

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#931445 - 03/01/08 12:25 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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The scales and arpeggios book by Francis Cooke (printed 1910?) has a systematic, physical and mental approach. He addresses speed in scales near the end of the scales section. He begins by creating "pillars", practising moving along those pillars, and then doing the note work in a series of exercises alnog a given path. He is very thorough in his instructions on both the physical and mental plane. A link to this book has just been provided this morning in a thread bearing the word "scales" in it. Might there be some useful approaches for teachers in it? It seems to be written for conservatory use, and is addressed to teachers, not students.

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#931446 - 03/01/08 01:29 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Thanks, I'm downloading it now.
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#931447 - 03/02/08 12:39 AM Re: Velocity
pianobuff Offline
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John,

I know what you are going through.

What I have conceived is that it is not how fast you can play a technical skill out of context, et, scales, school of velocity, and other studies, instead it is the feeling and energy of what should be perceived in the music.

I'm saying this with my own playing experience which I try and carry over to my students.

I don't have my students play Hanon or Czerny's School of Velocity. Maybe I should, but never have, mostly because there just isn't enough time and I rather focus on muscianship skills(technique) and their pieces.

They seem to do okay with work such as this.

My motto is only play as fast as you can accurately, but then once you can, increase tempo using a metronome and then without, if you make mistakes, it's okay, slow the tempo down and then try again at a faster tempo. Think lightly when playing fast passages.

A lot also has to do with the basic technical skill of the independence of fingers, I feel. If this is not happening, playing fast will not happen.
Also being balanced is important too, slow balanced practice over each key of the scale (or any passage) works wonders for playing fast. Oh... also touching the key before playing it.
Another technic to playing a passage fast is to play it backwards, slowly and balanced over each key a few times and then play as written.

None of my students are yet playing their scales faster than a mm of 80 per quarter note, but now that I've read your post, you've got me thinking, something to start working on!
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#931448 - 03/02/08 08:09 AM Re: Velocity
Morodiene Online   content
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If it is speed in pieces, perhaps they are not hearing it faster? Once they get the sound of it in their "ears" at a faster pace, then it will naturally speed up. I also try playing the piece with them & the metronome so they can learn to hear it faster.

As far as scales and things of that nature, have you tried working in small segments? Like 2 notes at a time as fast as possible, then 3, then 4, etc.
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#931449 - 03/02/08 09:24 AM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Morodiene, I think you're on to something with "hearing." Most intermediate student literature really doesn't require very fast tempi, so there seems to be little need to learn to play faster. But advanced literature certainly does.

I have been working with students on simple 5 finger patterns and the metronome to see if we cannot at least get this in synch, with an even tough, at high velocity. I'm having some limited success.

The real problem comes when they need to pass the thumb under or pass the hand over. Veda Kaplinsky once told me that she sometimes finds it necessary to have the student move the entire hand horizontally, rather than pivoting on the thumb. That is, not having the hand turn at all, just remain horizontal, but making quick, rapid horizontal motions. I've never been able to do that, but I thought the concept interesting.
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#931450 - 03/02/08 10:04 AM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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John, have you managed to look through Cooke's book? There are particular exercises for the thumb in the scale section, and again the arpeggio section. It seems to create a flexibility and isolates the motions. Being a student I am somewhat leery of them, and would be curious about your impression My subjective and uninformed impression is that this is helpful. Why is it that nothing ever seems to be said about the thumb, when it takes up so much of the hand, and contains something like 50% or more of nerve endings?

The impression I had is that if the thumb can do more of the moving, the hand needs do less of it (pivot).

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#931451 - 03/02/08 10:58 AM Re: Velocity
Betty Patnude Offline
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John,

Have you considered "Ben Ritmo" where you would count the entire measure as "1", and the next measure would be "2".

When I teach a long string of scale like notes with a singular note values, I use this idea, and the velocity is built in. The metronome would click on the first beat of each measure (adjust metronome) 1---2---3---4---5---6---7---8---. That is usually enough counting for a string of notes in a longer phrase.

And, I often make 4/4 become 8/8ths (ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti) said as quickly as possible to comply to the measure.

I don't know if this gets you exactly where you are wanting to go. The arm needs to be fleet in movement in the direction going and it helps to turn the hand at the wrist slightly in the direction of the movement

I'd have to be in that teaching situation to come up with more ideas to enhance velocity. And, it wouldn't be necessarily addressed all at once - it might take several things to help fix this problem.

Playing "Ben Ritmo" to me feels like taking "Giant Steps" rhythmically and very often melodically.

Have fun! One never lightens up by going more serious on us. Perhaps teach my gestures away from the keyboard?

Betty

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#931452 - 03/02/08 01:23 PM Re: Velocity
mdsdurango Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:

None of my students are yet playing their scales faster than a mm of 80 per quarter note, but now that I've read your post, you've got me thinking, something to start working on! [/b]
I'm a student who is trying to increase his scale speed and accuracy. I have a question on the above quote; is mm of 80 per quarter note equal to 320 mm per whole note? Or is that four quarter notes per beat of 80 mm?
I'm up to about four (quarter) notes per beat of the metronome when set at 120. I can not immagine ever being able to even double this speed, much less almost triple it.

Come to think of it; I can't figure out what "mm" stands for? Metronome meter? Measures (per) minute?



Mike
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#931453 - 03/02/08 01:58 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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Mi question is similar to Mike's for the sake of following the discussion. When you write of scales at mm 160 for the quarter note, what is the note value of each note of the scale? Eighth? Sixteenth? Quarter (unlikely)?

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#931454 - 03/02/08 02:19 PM Re: Velocity
Fraggle Offline
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Registered: 02/26/07
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I`ve noticed that when people say "I can play scales at 100bpm" they usually mean 16th notes at quarter=100.
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#931455 - 03/02/08 03:45 PM Re: Velocity
mdsdurango Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Fraggle:
I`ve noticed that when people say "I can play scales at 100bpm" they usually mean 16th notes at quarter=100. [/b]
Each beat of the metronome = one quarter note?
Four 16ths per quarter note = four notes per beat of the metronome?

If that's the case, I'm playing 16th notes at each beat set at 120.

What is considered really fast for scales?
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#931456 - 03/02/08 04:32 PM Re: Velocity
Ferdinand Offline
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Registered: 04/23/07
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Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by mdsdurango
Come to think of it; I can't figure out what "mm" stands for? Metronome meter? Measures (per) minute?
I believe "mm" originally stood for "Maelzel's metronome," Maelzel being the inventor. Sometimes people say "metronome mark." I don't think measures per minute is ever implied.

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#931457 - 03/02/08 04:43 PM Re: Velocity
Fraggle Offline
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I expect a concert artist would be capable of at least 180 but I don`t think that`s considered super-DUPER fast.
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#931458 - 03/02/08 04:52 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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The beats in Maelzel's metronome = Mm can be converted into beats per minute, and if you don't have a metronome handy, anything with a second hand can help you get an idea. But ultimately tempo in music has a sense and feeling to it which is common sense. Andante means "walking speed", while "grave" is extremely slow and funereal. The metronome is a handy way for composers to indicate what they mean by "fast" since they can't stand in front of you and show you with a wave of the hand. It is a handy thing to measure yourself against, so you can tell whether you are staying steady, and thus win control, but we ourselves were never meant to tick and tock as we play.

I'm still curious against what note value the tempos are being aimed.

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#931459 - 03/02/08 08:48 PM Re: Velocity
Minaku Offline
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John, thanks for starting the topic.

I find the best way to achieve an effortless, fast scale is to let the hand glide over the keys. Keep the wrist slightly elevated, with the weight fully on the fingertips, and move the arm in the direction you wish to go. The key is the overall motion of the body, not the fingers. The fingers should wiggle up and down as normal, but there should be no more effort than that. The quickness is created through the motion of the arm and body and the weight carried by the hand.

Momentum is something I love teaching my students, mostly because there are so many piano students who never quite achieve that pulsing energy that so many pieces require. I start off by doing scales without any movement, with a metronome marking. Then, during a lesson, I have them play a scale - and while they're doing it, I will pull or push one of their arms in the direction of the scale. Objects of larger mass always lead objects of smaller mass, and that's the concept I try to impress upon them. After they've gotten the hang of pushing and pulling, I teach them how to shift the weight properly over their hips, move the body ahead of the hands and arms, and then there is a magical moment when the hand is gliding, really gliding! and the student goes, "Ah! That's what it feels like!"

That smooth, gliding feeling is what makes me enjoy playing scales so much. It's funny because I think most people hate them.

Of course before all that I check to make sure the wrist isn't doing anything weird during a crossover or cross-under, and that the student isn't suffering from what I call "chicken wings".
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#931460 - 03/02/08 08:54 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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To clear the confusion, mm = X where X equals the number of beats per measure. MM = 80 means 80 beats per minute, and mm = 120 means 120 beats per minute.

Elementary students begin octave scales with one beat per quarter note, each tone being a quarter note. When they arrive at a late elementary stage, the are playing two octaves, with each note an eighth note, but the beat remains quarter notes. mm=80 is a good temp for an upper elementary student.

Intermediate level students should be playing 3 octaves of triplets, each triplet receiving a beat, and I like to have them reach for mm = 72 to 80.

As students advance through the intermediate levels, I like to get them to four octaves, where each beat contains 4 16th notes. We progress from mm = 60, which is quite a leap for many of them, to mm = 120.

That, of course, is my problem. Getting good clean scales at tempos faster than mm = 120. Concert artists can play scales cleaning at mm = 212. I don't know what conservatories are asking for these days, but I should think mm = 160 would be a minimum.

Betty, yes, I've had students practice scales one beat to the octave, if that's what you are suggesting.
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#931461 - 03/03/08 04:40 AM Re: Velocity
pianobuff Offline
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Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
 Quote:
Originally posted by mdsdurango:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:

None of my students are yet playing their scales faster than a mm of 80 per quarter note, but now that I've read your post, you've got me thinking, something to start working on! [/b]
I'm a student who is trying to increase his scale speed and accuracy. I have a question on the above quote; is mm of 80 per quarter note equal to 320 mm per whole note? Or is that four quarter notes per beat of 80 mm?
I'm up to about four (quarter) notes per beat of the metronome when set at 120. I can not immagine ever being able to even double this speed, much less almost triple it.

Come to think of it; I can't figure out what "mm" stands for? Metronome meter? Measures (per) minute?



Mike [/b]
Perhaps someone has already answered your question, so sorry if I'm being repetitive... haven't read the whole thread...

But mm stands Maezal's(sp?)metronome. I always think of it as metronome marking (mm). Maezl I think was the inventor.

As far as a mm of 80=quarter note, that is four sixteenth notes to the pulse or one click of the metronome per four notes, playing four octaves.
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#931462 - 03/03/08 06:20 AM Re: Velocity
Keith W Offline
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Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 131
Loc: MD
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:


The real problem comes when they need to pass the thumb under or pass the hand over. Veda Kaplinsky once told me that she sometimes finds it necessary to have the student move the entire hand horizontally, rather than pivoting on the thumb. That is, not having the hand turn at all, just remain horizontal, but making quick, rapid horizontal motions. I've never been able to do that, but I thought the concept interesting. [/b]
In Fundamentals of Piano Practice by Chang, he talks about thumb over/thumb under technique. I think other's call it by different names. He specifically talks about it as a change in technique necessary for high speed playing. My impression is that when Minaku talks about the hand gliding and the fingers wriggling, it's that same idea -- the entire pivoting process gets lost in a more general movement, which if you pulled it apart at low speeds would look like jumps, I think, but doesn't really work that way at high speed.

Disclaimer: I'm a beginner, so I'm just sharing thoughts, I can't even play scales fast! I just stumbled upon the thread while moseying about... This is making me think I might start playing more scales again!

Keith
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#931463 - 03/03/08 09:37 AM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Keith, thanks for the interesting reference.
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#931464 - 03/03/08 10:45 AM Re: Velocity
Betty Patnude Offline
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
John said:

"Betty, yes, I've had students practice scales one beat to the octave, if that's what you are suggesting.That was one beat per measure - please read that again."

John, you mentioned one beat per octave - how do you do that? There are 8 8th notes in one octave - if you do one octave ascending and descending that is 15 8th notes (considering no repeat on the top note)...same number 15 if you ascend to the 2nd octave. It doesn't feel logistcal to me I must have missed something in interpreting what you said.

Betty

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#931465 - 03/03/08 11:33 AM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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As I usually do when someone describes something, I tried it in an effort to understand: though I must admit to thinking in groups of 4, not 8, to a beat since I only began scales two weeks ago and did this only for the sake of understanding. In a four octave scale in C+ I started on C on the first beat, the next metronome beat for the next octave found me on D, then E, then F - the latter tetrachord brings one to B ... after which comes C, which neatly starts the descending scale of C+ on C again. It was a bit disconcerting at first to be emphasizing a different degree of the scale at the start of each scale.

The "pillars" for velocity work that Cooke sets out go up the octaves as C, D, E etc. and I wondered about that while glancing through the book. Same pattern.

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#931466 - 03/03/08 11:37 AM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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On another site, there is a treatise along with short video clips on the role of the thumb in particular, on the subject of scales. The idea of pivoting the hand, and minimizing that pivot, is addressed in particular. Is it permissible to link from one site to a resource on another site? I'm not clear on the netiquette of such matters.

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#931467 - 03/03/08 12:06 PM Re: Velocity
jazzyprof Offline
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Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Keystring, sure you can post the link to the other site. I'm curious to see these videos.
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#931468 - 03/03/08 01:18 PM Re: Velocity
KeysOnTheCeiling Offline
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Posts: 244
Im sorry but to improve myself I have a question, when you say scales at 196, do you mean at quarter notes?
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#931469 - 03/03/08 01:29 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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Look up a couple of posts. \:\) 16th notes, so 4X as fast for quarter notes. John and Pianobuff go into detail.

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#931470 - 03/03/08 06:40 PM Re: Velocity
mdsdurango Offline
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Registered: 01/01/04
Posts: 1755
Loc: Durango Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Concert artists can play scales cleaning at mm = 212. I don't know what conservatories are asking for these days, but I should think mm = 160 would be a minimum.
[/b]
Ouch!!!
Maybe in my next life?

That is fast!

Mike
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#931471 - 03/03/08 06:52 PM Re: Velocity
mdsdurango Offline
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Posts: 1755
Loc: Durango Colorado
 Quote:
Originally posted by KeysOnTheCeiling:
Im sorry but to improve myself I have a question, when you say scales at 196, do you mean at quarter notes? [/b]
If I have this right; You set your metronome at 196 and play four notes for each click.
Each click equals a quarter note.
Playing four notes to each click (quarter note)makes each note played a 16th note.
196 is extremely fast; 13.6 notes each second.
196(quarter notes per minute) X 4(= 16th notes) devided by 60 (seconds per minute).

I'm stretched at 120.

Mike
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#931472 - 03/03/08 07:02 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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When I read the posts by the two teachers, these things are offered in stages under supervision. I understand that the process takes years, beginning with quarter notes, then triplets, and finally the four notes to a click which also go to four octaves at that point. This latter stage is considered a "big leap" and is probably a carefully guided leap. While I am capable of the starting point of 80 bpm, I prefer to work slowly and get the mechanics of a single, then double, octave down right first. It's not a race.

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#931473 - 03/03/08 07:03 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Betty, sorry to delay my response; I've been up in Seattle all day.

There's something weird about the quote. That second part I didn't say!

Anyway, yes, I often practice 7 notes per click of the metronome. It's just that when the metronome is going so fast, I sometimes get off beat and don't recognize it.

With one octave per beat, you've reached the top of the scale on the 5th click, (4 octave scale); on the 9th click, you've finished. So if you want to play a scale at 208, set your metronome to 120, and let your fingers rip!
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#931474 - 03/03/08 07:09 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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Link to the article on scales, use of the thumb, issue of (not) twisting hand including some small files, in case it is pertinent or helpful. Link

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#931475 - 03/04/08 03:33 PM Re: Velocity
Betty Patnude Offline
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Registered: 06/11/07
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Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Velocity is slowing us down!

Think faster and the fingers will move!

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#931476 - 03/04/08 04:49 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Hi Betty - oh, I can play fast all right. I am just looking for effective tricks to help my students pick up tempi.
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#931477 - 03/04/08 08:53 PM Re: Velocity
Luthrin Offline
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Thanks for a very interesting thread, and I hope it's not considered too off topic if I ask a related question which was prompted by John's comments:

Does a grading of a piece mean that the player should be able to play it comfortably at the recommended tempo?

The reason I ask is that one piece I've always enjoyed warming up with is a study in C by Heller, Opus 46 No. 1. I believe this piece is considered ABRSM grade 5 standard. On my sheet music this is marked 'Allegro assai' with a quarter beat at 152, and I currently find it impossible to play it at this speed. I can play it cleanly at 112, pretty well at 120, but around 128 it begins to get sloppy and I start missing notes. It's not scales, but it's primarily sixteenth note runs up and down (alternating hands).

I currently haven't got a piano teacher (I'm about to restart lessons) and I have no way to assess my ability, but one of my ambitions is to play this piece at 152 and reach what might be considered intermediate standard. However, based on the tempi discussed on this thread I now wonder if grade 5 students would be more challenged by the Heller at full speed than I previously thought.

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#931478 - 03/04/08 09:30 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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That's a fun etude. My Peters Edition, #3562, edited by Ruthardt, suggests mm = 126. If you can play that cleanly, you're doing well indeed!

By the way, rotate or rock your wrists, if you are not doing so now, and it will help you with those figures. Also, practice it very slowly, and see which way you can roll your wrists to manage good tone, and then as you speed back up, make the motions smaller, but still keep them, and it should really help.

John
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#931479 - 03/05/08 01:32 AM Re: Velocity
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by CSharpCoder:


The reason I ask is that one piece I've always enjoyed warming up with is a study in C by Heller, Opus 46 No. 1. I believe this piece is considered ABRSM grade 5 standard. On my sheet music this is marked 'Allegro assai' with a quarter beat at 152, and I currently find it impossible to play it at this speed. [/b]
If you were taking the exam the only thing that would matter is whether you met the composer's intentions. If it feels 'quite fast' (allegro assai) you've achieved the correct tempo.

Heller is a fantastic composer.
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#931480 - 03/05/08 04:14 AM Re: Velocity
Luthrin Offline
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Thanks for the replies John and kk - very helpful.

I have the Augener's Edition #6188 (H. Scholtz).

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#931481 - 03/05/08 02:58 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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I used to struggle to play even scales in 16th notes at quarter-note=120.

I went to a different teacher and he taught me that velocity, accuracy, ease, and relaxation are actually by-products of correct posture and technique and not goals in themselves.

Now I can play even scales in 32nd notes at quarter-note=120.

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#931482 - 03/05/08 03:40 PM Re: Velocity
Ted2 Offline
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A superb trick to develop velocity in any passage at all, not just scales, was given to us by Brendan a few years ago. It can be applied to any difficult playing involving continuous similar movements. Instead of playing the whole thing slowly and carefully and gradually speeding it up, break the passage into any convenient small bits - bits which, in isolation, can be played without tension - and play the bits separated but up to speed. Often the "bits" might coincide with hand grips or positions but not necessarily. Then over time, usually a surprisingly short time, eliminate the "microsleeps" and join everything together.

I doubted this would work at first but having used it for a few years I know it does work. I don't know why it works. It also has unexpected and widespread implications in improvisation, but these are not pertinent to the present thread.
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#931483 - 03/05/08 04:00 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Thanks, Ted. Can you recall what the original topic was about? When I searched on velocity, I didn't find much.
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#931484 - 03/05/08 04:16 PM Re: Velocity
Ted2 Offline
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Gosh, that was a long time ago. It would be well into the archives by now. The thread topic wasn't to do with velocity as such. I recall some talk about its application to double notes, Chopin 25/6 and the like. There isn't much more to it than what I said. It's very simple and very general. Brendan didn't actually invent it; it has been a common method for many years. It just isn't talked about very often for some unfathomable reason. In any case, I'm only an amateur who hasn't had lessons for years. I'm sure Brendan will explain it much better if you ask him.
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#931485 - 03/05/08 07:37 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Thanks, Ted2. Appreciate the reference.

When I have some time, after returning from the Musikmesse in Germany, which makes me salivate every time I think about being there next week, I'll dig in and see if I can find it.
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#931486 - 03/05/08 11:39 PM Re: Velocity
Keith W Offline
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This idea of taking small bits and working at them (and specifically, the hardest bits, when there is variation) is amost central in Chang's Fundamentals book (free online). In my (limited) experience, it appears that if I try working on more than a measure or two at a time, my ability to improve declines quickly. It appears much more efficient to work out the pieces and then string them together. I haven't tried that for scales much, but it might be helpful...

The other thing Chang harps on repeatedly, is to work HS until you are up to/beyond speed, and THEN work HT. And/or, return to HS any time you want to really work at your technique/velocity. I can imagine that applying to scales also.

Keith
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#931487 - 03/05/08 11:44 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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See that's the thing-
Velocity is not something you work at. It's something that comes automatically with proper training and physicality.

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#931488 - 03/06/08 10:07 AM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Mr_Kitty - If you are playing scales at mm = 240, that must be close to a world's record! That's an impressive 16 notes each second. I wonder if anyone or any institution has kept accurately measured records on ultra-velocity performance.
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#931489 - 03/06/08 10:18 AM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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It's not a world record, John.
It's a level any pianist in any Russian conservatory reaches.
It's a level any of you could reach too if you did the right stuff.

Here's a video of mine. It's rather speedy I guess...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7HFR5D70oyw

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#931490 - 03/06/08 10:22 AM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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That's a nice tempo, mm = 92. A lot of performers go a bit faster, mm= 104. But you were talking about twice that speed!
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#931491 - 03/06/08 10:29 AM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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For scales...
Personally I wouldn't want that Etude to be any faster. People already complain it's too fast and lacks musicality.

I don't practice scales regularly. I practiced alot of scales one summer a couple of years back. But that isn't what got them to be so speedy.
As my technique advances, I become closer and closer to the key surface at all times.
The closer I get to the key surface, the faster and more even everything becomes.

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#931492 - 03/06/08 11:12 AM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Yes, my question was, does anyone have any tips for helping students improve velocity past what seems to be a natural barrier, mm = 120 or so. I hope no one read into that question that I don't play scales any faster than that! Please!

When you sugested you could play them at mm = 240, I was rather astounded. mm = 208 is about the upper limit I have heard from colleagues and artists. This is not to say they cannot play them faster, I just haven't heard it played faster. But then again, this isn't what I'm normally looking for when listening to an artist practice, either.

But again, I reiterate, this is not what I am looking for in my question.

And thank you to all who have posted ideas, suggestions and reference materials. They have been helpful.

John
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#931493 - 03/06/08 11:32 AM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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You have to isolate the problem.
If people cannot get their scales beyond mm-120, the problem lies in their thumb tuck-unders and finger 3 and 4 turn-overs.
Let us take C+. The most difficult scale by far to play quickly and evenly.
Going up in the RH, your student is probably using their 3rd finger on E as a pivot to get their hand from the first position to the next position. Coming down in the RH, he/she is probably doing the same thing using the thumb. They are pivoting the weight of their hand and/or arm on that tiny little thumb or 3rd finger.
This pivot motion is very large, clumsy, and inefficient.

This "technique" simply will not work at high speed. The results will most likely be uneven at the relatively slow tempo of 120.
Do you follow me here, John?

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#931494 - 03/06/08 12:03 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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I'm not familiar with the term C+. Is that C or C#? C#/Db is one of the 3 easy scales. C and Bb are the two most difficult, with F being close behind. In C#/Db, the 3rd finger is on Eb

I do not teach "pivot" motions, rather wrist leading (pointing in direction of travel), with a wrist drop on the thumb when it's called for.
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#931495 - 03/06/08 12:09 PM Re: Velocity
ocd Offline
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Mr. Kitty,

What would you suggest instead of pivoting?

oce
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#931496 - 03/06/08 12:15 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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Mr. Kitty, have you looked at the book by Cooke that was under discussion? Do the kinds of things he proposes, especially as preliminary exercises, address what you are talking about? C+ is short form for C major, correct? In the RCM book we have a choice of C+, C maj, or "C major" as terms. I have never seen is written as C+ outside of RCM, however.

The question I ended up asking myself is whether the hand pivots around the thumb, or the thumb pivots under the hand. Which moves, so to say?

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#931497 - 03/06/08 12:40 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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By C+ I meant the C major scale.
What you describe as a wrist drop is exactly what I'm talking about avoiding.
The wrist doesn't lead. The fingertip must lead.

Keystring- pivot and scale do not belong in the same sentence.

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#931498 - 03/06/08 01:29 PM Re: Velocity
Minaku Offline
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There is no pivot in the sense that you're going to be turning somewhere. The arm must push in the direction of the scale, the body needs to lean in the same direction, and the wrist should be held slightly high so that the fingers play right on the tip. The area on the thumb where you play is minimized this way.

How can we explain this without showing it? Mr. Kitty, maybe you should make a video.
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#931499 - 03/06/08 01:43 PM Re: Velocity
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
Keystring- pivot and scale do not belong in the same sentence.
I am sure I have seen it in the same sentence. I would not think so either. Well, in fact, I have seen it in demos - something I don't follow anyway: you don't know enough about the demonstrator.

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#931500 - 03/06/08 01:54 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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Minaku
the wrist does not need to be held slightly high in order for the fingers to play right on the tip.
The arm should never push in a scale. If the arm pushes, the fingers may not be able to keep up, resulting in an uneven and slow scale.

In playing scales, the fingers and thumb do all of the work. ALL OF THE WORK.
The arm glides gently along while the fingers lead.

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#931501 - 03/06/08 02:43 PM Re: Velocity
Minaku Offline
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In my experience, Mr. Kitty, it's much easier to get a larger-mass object, like my body or arm, direct the flow of energy than have my fingers crawl ahead like so many insect legs. Rather, I'd save my energy and take my body in the direction the scale is going. If it's a scale in one hand, then my arm is going to be going in that direction.

When I'm doing a scale in this fashion it really is the movement and the intention of the body that shapes the speed and the energy within the scale. I can't imagine having my hand lead my arm around the keyboard. It has to be the other way around. At any rate, I call the movement of the fingers in a scale like this "incidental" - that is, you're moving your arm in such a fashion that your finger is at the right place at the right time with a minimum of extension and effort. The fingers just focus on getting on and off those notes, and the arm carries the fingers where they need to go.
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#931502 - 03/06/08 02:57 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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The fingers never ever crawl ahead. When I play my knuckle bridge is always in a perfectly straight line with my elboy. I never bend my hand to one side or the other (sort of like waving goodbye). The fingers are never "ahead" or the hand or the arm.
The fingertip always leads, but not by any number of millimetres of sideways motion. The arm, and and wrist go with the fingertip always. It's all very difficult to explain in words.
What I'm trying to describe to you seems exactly like what you call "incidental" movement of the fingers.
The fingers focus on getting to the notes and the arm carries the fingers where they need to go.
I don't think of that as the arm leading the fingers. I see it as being the other way around. But the fingers are never out-of-line with the rest wrist and arm.
Do you get what I'm trying to say? I know I'm not expressing myself very clearly.
My apologies.
Words are so clumsy sometimes.

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#931503 - 03/06/08 03:16 PM Re: Velocity
Minaku Offline
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I just sat down and played through a few scales at a decent clip, and I can see how you describe it as the fingers leading the hand. When you look at it without thinking about where the energy is it definitely looks like your fingers are leading. But the wizard behind the show is definitely the arm. I suppose I approached it from the player's POV rather than the watcher's POV.

All in all I think we're talking about the same thing. I will say that before I knew how to do it, I watched a pianist for many months before I finally figured out what it was she was doing. Gaining this skill is, I think, relatively difficult, but once it's attained it feels so easy.
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#931504 - 03/06/08 03:41 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Back from shopping and discover that there is quite a bit of discussion while I was out.

Actually, all the best/advanced teachers I know, like Leon Fleischer, for example, or Veda Kaplinsky, use the concept of wrist leading. So I don't think that's my students' problem.

None-the-less, I find the discussion interesting.
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#931505 - 03/06/08 07:07 PM Re: Velocity
ftp Offline
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John,

Sorry if my question is off topic but I am curious why you did not mention arpeggios when discussing scales and velocity?

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#931506 - 03/06/08 07:12 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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fathertopianist

All of the points I have talked about apply to arpeggios as well as scales. They are the same thing from a physiological perspective. The only difference is that the notes are further apart.

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#931507 - 03/06/08 07:41 PM Re: Velocity
John v.d.Brook Offline
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I didn't mention arpeggios for two reasons - first, because I figured if I could find a way to help my students increase their velocity, it would apply to those as well, and secondly, right now, at the level they're at, I'd be happy if I could just get their scales faster.

I'm beginning to think it's just time and practice more than anything else.
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#931508 - 03/06/08 08:23 PM Re: Velocity
lalakeys Offline
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Sometimes my students and I use creative fingering approaches to scales, when velocity is important. For example, for a 2-octave D Major scale passage (this only works when there is no harmony or counter-melody), I would play the first 5 notes (DEF#GA) with my L.H. (54321), then the next 5 with my R.H. 12345 (BC#DEF#), then the last 5 with my L.H. (GABC#D). Voila--a super-fast, even scale with no tucking or crossing issues!

\:\)
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#931509 - 03/06/08 08:28 PM Re: Velocity
Mr_Kitty Offline
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interesting, lalakeys.
By far the fasted fingering for a C major scale is 12345123451234512345.
It doesn't work well for longer scales, but for 2 octaves it can produce glissando-speeds with incredible evenness!

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#931510 - 03/06/08 08:31 PM Re: Velocity
lalakeys Offline
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Actually, Mr. Kitty, I think the fastest fingering for a C Major scale would be a glissando.

I used D Major as my example because it includes black keys, which would make a glissando impossible (or at least very awkward/painful)!
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#931511 - 03/07/08 01:36 AM Re: Velocity
Ferdinand Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Kitty
The fingers never ever crawl ahead. When I play my knuckle bridge is always in a perfectly straight line with my elboy. I never bend my hand to one side or the other (sort of like waving goodbye). The fingers are never "ahead" or the hand or the arm.
Mr. Kitty, thanks for the detailed description of your scale technique.

To check whether I understand you about the knuckle bridge staying in a straight line with your elbow - if you are playing a RH descending scale starting at C two octaves above middle C, you start out with the bridge perpendicular to the length of the keys? And as you descend, and the forearm is no longer parallel to the key length, the angle of the knuckle bridge to the key length shrinks from a right angle to about 45 degrees when you get to an 8ve below middle C?

The opposite of the above would be to keep the knuckle bridge and key at a right angle, by bending the wrist to the right with respect to the forearm (which it sounds like you are NOT doing.)

Sorry about all the geometry, but that's the clearest way I could think of to phrase the question.

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