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#944416 - 07/22/08 01:33 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Jeremy,

Your first post to the OP was as follows:
 Quote:
Practice all your exercises S-L-O-W-L-Y at 40 on the metronome (2 per click). Velocity will only come when you are completely in control. When playing slow, there will be a tendency to play with tension. Confront the tension immediately...breathe...ensure flexibility in wrist...pre-imagine, produce and evaluate sounds.

Show me an advanced student who is willing to play exercises at or below 40 for two months...and I'll show you a student who will go on to do amazing things at the piano.

Playing this slow gives you time to be thoroughly aware:
1) Start with arm-weight technique (transferring weight from fingertip to fingertip...imagine a line from your elbow joint right over your knuckles to the tip of your finger)
2) when using arm weight, legato is assured, now think more of clarity in tone. Be especially aware with your outside fingers 3-4-5
3) I am assuming that you are practicing chords too? IMHO Broken chords are the best bang for your buck (use finger 4-5 a lot more)
4) Play placing each finger in the EXACT CENTER of each note. Be picky. Brushing up against the side of an adjacent note is considered a fault.
5) play hands separately when you want to concentrate on tone. (most important)
6) Play hands together when you want to concentrate on evenness or work on balance techniques.

This was ultra-clear and it seemed little else needed to be said. It is possible that the elbow thing you wrote about in your post to me would pretty well happen through this? Btw, 40 bpm for me is FAST - about twice as fast as my beginning tempo when working on something new.

I asked about sounds to aim for when practicing scales. I find that when I aim for a sound and can refine it, this seems to go into the action in the hand. If there is a "spark" in the fingertips, it seems to be pulled by the envisioned sound. That's why I asked that question.

Meanwhile your elbow description to me has thrown me. My thumb has been resting on F ready to play for two notes, but at the very moment that I am about to play, you suggest I move my elbow out. That changes the angle of my hand, and then my thumb is no longer centred over that F, so I have to scramble to find it again. Then what was the point of bringing my thumb over two notes before? Or in your system, has the thumb not moved yet? There are just too many unknowns. Whereas the general description you gave to the others seems more like principles. I don't think I know how to use this. Am I misunderstanding something?

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#944417 - 07/22/08 01:36 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
AZNpiano Offline
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Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
I would like to distance myself from that joke. [/b]
You've obviously never spent time in a real staffroom! [/b]
:D

Real staff rooms (I'm talking about public high school or junior high) can get much, much worse than that. Try all-staff meetings. They will obliterate your sensibility.

Now, back on topic...
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#944418 - 07/22/08 01:37 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Here's 2 cents for you: Chopin would rather his students broke the legato than move awkwardly through arpeggios.
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#944419 - 07/22/08 01:45 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
I was merely describing a "major scale in sixths" on my terms. I do think in terms of modes, now that they have been re-added to our state's syllabus (I had to learn modes while in high school, then modes went "out of fashion" for a while, but as of 2007 they are back in our syllabus). I have zero background in jazz; all of my knowledge of modes comes from classical music. Modes are fantastic!
Thanks, AZN, that's what I wanted to know. Your state syllabus isn't related to the RCM which has been adopted in small measure under a different name in the U.S., is it? Our syllabus changed last year and I found out 2 weeks before the exam. I had to rush and by the new book, and had two weeks to learn all the modes, plus a host of new scales such as octatonic, blues, whole tone, all which would be up for analysis, plus a host of other things they had added.

As a result I've become fascinated with modes and the time period. Hey, I found out yesterday that in the Orthodox church modes, the microtones have been preserved. Since they used plainchant with no instrumental accompaniment, and especially without the tyrany of equal tempered keyboards, they could keep it. Would our ears be fine enough to hear it? Anyhow, fascinated by modes.

Also that somebody (famous \:o ) invented a keyboard with two rows of keys in order to have microtones i.e. quarter tones. If history had gone a bit differently, maybe that's what we would be playing today. ;\)

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#944420 - 07/22/08 01:45 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Sorry for the delay keystring

When using the thumb beside technique, the angle of the elbow allows the thumb to play towards the end of the key.

I usually do not pre-place the thumb on the key it will be switched onto. Rather, the thumb remains comfortably beside the index finger. The slight pulling motion of the elbow allows the thumb to land directly onto the outer portion of F. The third finger has previously played slightly further back on the key I don't want to say it is like walking backwards, but there is an element of that in the movement.
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#944421 - 07/22/08 01:50 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Here's 2 cents for you: Chopin would rather his students broke the legato than move awkwardly through arpeggios. [/b]
Many educators, including myself, agree. An illusion of legato us created when evenness is present in an arpeggio.

The real question is how to get the hand "set up" so it will play an arpeggio evenly. True legato is a secondary concern
_________________________
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#944422 - 07/22/08 01:54 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Thanks, pianoexcellence. So what happened accidentally is mix 'n match of two systems - water & oil. I suspected as much. Your general principles are still useful but I can only use one system. I suppose in a few years I'll be free to choose whatever is handiest.

I'm back on piano after being self-taught decades ago - about one year. I have some practicing principles because I have a few years of violin lessons behind me now. That's where I did all my stupid things (such as mix'n match indiscriminately as a beginner).

KS

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#944423 - 07/22/08 01:56 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Well.., yes and no. Here is Chopin on evenness:
 Quote:
No one will notice the inequality of sound in a very fast scale, as long as the notes are played in equal time - the goal isn't to learn to play everything with an equal sound.
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#944424 - 07/22/08 02:04 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
AZNpiano Offline
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Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
Your state syllabus isn't related to the RCM which has been adopted in small measure under a different name in the U.S., is it? [/b]
No, our syllabus is different. MTAC publishes its own syllabus and updates it once every few years. The 2007 edition had some massive changes, not so much in the theory department, but in the repertoire requirements (they upped it by a lot, which is a good thing).

Since I love theory, the re-introduction of modes couldn't be better; however, the test merely asks students to identify a given mode (multiple choice) rather than analyzing a piece of music and figuring out which mode is being used. Binary-choice and multiple-choice questions seem silly when analyzing music.

But I digress...
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#944425 - 07/22/08 02:09 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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The word I used:..."evenness"....encompasses both volume and time.

Of course, we were talking about arpeggios, and now we are talking about scales. Evenness in time is more important in scales because at the top, 34543 is used in the RH, which will often cause students to lurch or drag after being lulled with the easy use of their strong fingers. Similarly, the use of #4 on finger changes will cause time problems that the technician must be aware of.

I was talking about arpeggios.

You keep changing the subject on me
---tech to repertiore---
---arpeggios to scales---

If you change it to violin, I'm outta here.
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#944426 - 07/22/08 02:17 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
The word I used:..."evenness"....encompasses both volume and time.
[/b]
The words Chopin used is 'equal sound'. It only means volume. And he isn't just talking about scales. ' - the goal isn't to learn to play everything with an equal sound.'
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#944427 - 07/22/08 02:19 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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The sample exams went from creating modes to identifying them, but they were not part of piece analysis. The one that almost threw me was when a bunch of different chords were introduced, and then the one scale in which all of them would be found was to be identified. They had every kind of scale in the list of choices: major, minor, blues, whole tone, octatonic. The RCM changed its syllabus in the same time period.

(Back on topic, I guess)

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#944428 - 07/22/08 04:01 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
The word I used:..."evenness"....encompasses both volume and time.
[/b]
The words Chopin used is 'equal sound'. It only means volume. And he isn't just talking about scales. ' - the goal isn't to learn to play everything with an equal sound.' [/b]
Nobody said it was the final goal. A bit of pulse gives life and energy to a scale (there was a quote from a Bartok Student on this offered on a seperate thread)

We were of course talking about arpeggios, notably creating a pleasing sound over the 3rd or 4th interval thumb-switch movements (depending on fingering patterns chosen). You just keep moving from the small picture to the big picture. Well KBK...every big picture is made up of smaller parts. That is the way I approach music.

Perhaps you are against the separation of technique practice and repertoire practice. You are not the only one. It doesn't mean you are better or worse as a teacher.

It is however, a good intermediary goal to learn to play evenly so as to be in control. You don't always have to use the same technique for everything. A Technique of evenness allows one to be in control. Artistry allows one to decide when to abandon the evenness for an interpretive reason.
_________________________
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Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944429 - 07/22/08 04:06 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Harold Bauer couldn't see any use for 'evenness' either. When would you ever talk 'evenly'? Or sing? Evenness only exists in the mind and curriculum of piano teachers.
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#944430 - 07/22/08 04:16 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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We are arguing for the same final product. Perhaps we disagree on the best route to get there.

As an analogy let's use the topic of rubato.

You say: "playing with steady time is not always appropriate in a performance."

I say "agreed, but it's best to learn to play with a steady tempo first, then deviate from that for interpretive reasons"
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Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944431 - 07/22/08 04:21 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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No, there is no external steady tempo. There is the work and the magic of how that embodies a pulse. The artist needs to find the pulse within not add it like you'd stir a cake mix. Your approach, though very common, is totally unrealistic.
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#944432 - 07/22/08 04:27 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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"work and magic"?

I get paid to show people how music works. Magic is not a staple of what I do.

Although I am curious nonetheless \:\)
_________________________
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#944433 - 07/22/08 04:29 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Work as in piece of music. Magic as in mystery. I totally follow your reasoning (though I question if it really is rational). I added a line to my last post.
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#944434 - 07/22/08 06:16 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Jeremy, I just saw your earlier post addressed to me now - thx for that one too. Yes, I'm very cautious about invisibility on the Net too. You mentioned quarter inch: I might well be doing that.

I would agree about getting control first in order to be able to deviate from that control later. At least, that's what seems to work for me.

Another thing about pulse: Today I did some research on music history, and came upon period dancers performing Pavans etc. so that one had a sense of the dance, its character, the strong rhythm creating movement. I also heard instrumental music, some of which was lacking this rhythm. I suspect that understanding the music, getting under the skin of the dancer, will go far in creating that inner pulse.

I have just read about the courtier, who has a lot of energy but exercises restraint, so that there is a kind of tense vitality underneath one would imagine. Will knowing this not affect how we play it? However, these same courtiers spent hours and years learning how to bow, curtsy, stretch their leg out etc. which would be most unmusical and un-dance-like - but these were the tools to their craft. You just have to see amateurs dancing these dances, and the professional dancers. It is the same for us playing an instrument.

End of philosophizing.

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#944435 - 07/22/08 06:54 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Work as in piece of music. Magic as in mystery. I totally follow your reasoning (though I question if it really is rational). I added a line to my last post. [/b]
This talk of glorifying the magic and mystery of music makes me wonder if you are on the wrong forum This is the teachers forum.

I've always considered my job to be such that I de-mystify the more conceptual aspects of music.

A performer on the other hand is probably better off making it look mystical, magical, spiritual, etc.

Of course there is a living, breathing, unpredictable, irrational, unquenchable, spontaneous, spiritual, fully terrifying aspect to music. I don't pretend to have all the answers on that front, but I will demystify what I can, and let the student wrestle with the rest of it...after all, that constant struggle is what brings so much beauty and variety.

Technique holds the greatest keys to understanding these hard-to-understand concepts. Remember, this is a thread about scale practice.
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#944436 - 07/23/08 01:22 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
This talk of glorifying the magic and mystery of music makes me wonder if you are on the wrong forum This is the teachers forum.
[/b]
Well put. That does kinda say it all.
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#944437 - 07/23/08 03:42 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Though not quite. Here's a quote from L E J Brouwer for those who insist on an 'external' tempo:
 Quote:
Classical logic presupposed that independently of human thought there is a truth, part of which is expressible by means of sentences called 'true assertions', mainly assigning certain properties to certain objects or stating that objects possessing certain properties exist or that certain phenomena behave according to certain laws....As long as mathematics was considered as the science of space and time, it was a beloved field of activity of this classical logic, not only in the days when space and time were believed to exist independently of human experience, but still after they had been taken for innate forms of conscious exterior human experience. There continued to reign some conviction that a mathematical assertion is either false or true, whether we know it or not, and that after the extinction of humanity mathematical truths, just as laws of nature, will survive.
Brouwer's Cambridge Lectures on Intuitionism (1951) publ. Cambridge University Press, 1981.
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#944438 - 07/23/08 06:43 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Those of us who wish to teach or learn to control the use of timing in order to be able to better use it at will may or may not be imposing it externally in a rigidly mathematical manner. That is what your contention seems to be about. Before moving on to the practical world, an exploration:

It seems that you are opposing the act of applying dry mathematical measurement to music, in this case, measured tempo. Rather, you propose an intuitive sense of pulse. The analogy can be brought to pitch. Much talk is made of equal, pythagorean, just etc. temperament. As a violinist in the making I switch between several at will. One is involved in melodic passages, the other when harmonizing a second note to the first, and the third when needing to adjust to the unyielding equal temperament of a piano. This adjustment, however, is according to what the ear hears, however much others may measure it in cents, with numbers bearing a lot of decimal points. The opponents of being overly mathematical, proponents of following the "feel" of things, stem back to the ancient Greeks themselves - there is nothing new there. Tempo itself can be thought of as beats per minute, imposed by the relentless tick of a metronome. That is mathematically measured time, externally imposed.

Back in the real and practical world. The question was whether one should learn to be able to play something at a steady tempo without involuntary hiccups or involuntary and meaningless variances. Whether this is externally imposed and mathematical, or achieved in another fashion, is not the question.

As a student, yes, I need to acquire that control which is also awareness, and yes, I achieve it by practicing playing in a control manner, including aiming for even tempo. That does not mean "external mathematical", though I may draw on an external device such as a metronome to check, as a means of comparison. Since I seem to have a natural musical instinct, and was not taught and so also not inhibited musically, I already had plenty of "instinct". I played instruments and sometimes I moved the people who heard me for the 40 plus years that I had no instruction. This playing was crude and unrefined. I do not enjoy hearing old recordings. By gaining control and understanding of such things as tempo, volume, and pitch, I can refine my playing, and it has a new aesthetic or musical-emotional impact on listeners that I could not achieve before. The playing of music and hearing it have acquired a new pleasure, and within areas I never would have dreamed of.

I would not run out of fingers if I counted the number of times a metronome was used in numerous years of study with my teacher. Tempo and meter at times involved the "dum diddles", a stomp of a foot or tap of a pencil for one or two measures. There was an absolutely wild number with sudden stops and starts, going into a frenzied accelerando. I played second violin and so had the difficult job of achieving the split second timing based on what the first violinist was doing. I was not told of measured time: I was told of heart beats - a shared heart beats. That is your instinctive internal pulse, kbk.

I still need these controlled things, whether external or internal. These need to be exercised and acquired, the way baseball players throw balls at each other in predictable pattern, so that they can master the unpredictable nature of a real game, these skills sitting underneath. This is not theory gleaned from a mathematical theorist, but real life experience. There is a difference to my playing, and the response especialy of those who are musicians to that playing. I have not lost one shred of instinct orinternal impulse: I have only gained sensitivity.

To learn about things that we must learn from others, they must be named. Thus bodies of knowledge are built up, common measurements and axioms are derived, so that we can have names of things, and rough guideposts. There are those who confuse the names OF things, and the measurement OF measurable things, and axioms ABOUT things, for the thing itself. That is the rhealm of knowledge of facts, and not of understanding. I wish that anyone teaching me not only be replete with facts, but also have an understanding and sense of what is being taught - how else can I learn? The blind leading the ignorant? Therefore I would expect that the person teaching me within the rhealm of these names, axioms, and measurements, is also aiming to subtly lead me beyond them to the music itself, or to never lose sight of them.

These are all subtle things. We cannot surmise what any individual teacher is doing in the heart of hearts of his lessons, nor the students. They may be externally mathematical and stiff, so full of facts that there is no real music left, wildly instinctive and uncontrolled without knowledge - who knows how this teacher or that teaches?

I do know that I need more than magic, and also that the magic resides within me, within the music, and within the teacher who is also a musician, so that at times this magic can blend in the playing of music together. But for the time being I need these facts, axioms, measurements, control - I need the tools from this teacher. I need the parts that I can't get myself, and I will fight tooth and nail for those tools, or go elsewhere if someone wants me to just go by "feeling". You might as well try to be a physician, where the doctor tells you that you can glance at a patient, and by hearing the way he sighs and a certain look in his eyes, what ails him. Some old doctors can - it is the sum of vast quantities of knowledge, experience, and a kind of global visioning or instinct going beyond the whole which enables them to. But I, as a new physician, were I on that path, cannot instantly acquire what he has even if potentially I have the same instinct. I have to get at the nitty gritties.

I am in a stage of being relatively pedantic and strict with myself as a student. I am being deliberately accurate and careful in everything that I do, and someone watching me in my practice might even conclude that I am mechanical and overly careful. But I have not replaced instinct and feeling. When I emerge from this disciplined way of playing, I go back to the instinct and feeling, but the structure of what I have acquired sits underneath like a supporting skeleton. It's like being a gymnast with bones and good muscles. Gymnasts are full of grace.

If the question is mechanical, overly measured, metronomic playing, you have a point which I've seen others concerned with. But is that the question? Was it not just about being able to play evenly, and practicing that in scales?

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#944439 - 07/23/08 07:16 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
But is that the question? Was it not just about being able to play evenly, and practicing that in scales? [/b]
Yes, and Chopin's answer was no.
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#944440 - 07/23/08 08:20 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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We're talking about different things. nm

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#944441 - 07/23/08 10:37 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
ginger_vitys Offline
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Registered: 05/19/08
Posts: 58
Loc: Nashville TN
Gyro: "I'm not convinced of the value of scale
practice... scales take a lot
of energy to play well, which leaves less
energy..."

That's ridiculous. I daresay more supposed energy is lost in the tension inherent when scales and position change have *not been mastered and have not become 2nd nature*.

Fats Waller also didn't see the value in scales... until his mentors, James P. Johnson, and Willie "The Lion" Smith told him that practicing them was the only way to gain facility of movement across the keyboard. Well, he did practice his scales, and developed a most fluid, even legato style.

Moreover, Art Tatum was a master of scales... fully blind. One of his monikers was "The Flying Orchestra."
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#944442 - 07/24/08 12:03 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by ginger_vitys:
I daresay more supposed energy is lost in the tension inherent when scales and position change have *not been mastered and have not become 2nd nature*.

[/b]
My thoughts exactly
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#944443 - 07/24/08 12:25 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by ginger_vitys:
Fats Waller also didn't see the value in scales... until his mentors, James P. Johnson, and Willie "The Lion" Smith told him that practicing them was the only way to gain facility of movement across the keyboard. Well, he did practice his scales, and developed a most fluid, even legato style. [/b]
Charlie Parker too. But practicing scales is no guarantee of gaining 'facility' even in the playing of scales. Just like walking to work isn't necessarily going to turn you into a cat walk model.
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#944444 - 07/24/08 06:51 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4263
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
All the philosophising about music makes us giddy ... with little prospect of any worthwhile return ... potshot-ting in the dark tends to raise more questions than answers.

Music forms a structure as rigid in its
SHAPE, SIZE, RHYTHM AND DETAILING as Westminster Bridge ... our keyboard notation doesn't reflect this visual reality ... we have to rely on our ears to create an aural image.

Here's a sketch of the shape of music based on a diagrammatic comparison with the striding bridges over the Thames.

shape of music

Must have been a clear day when William Wordsworth penned

Upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the field, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will;
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

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#944445 - 07/24/08 07:06 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Yea, right. He obviously didn't visit the 'marks of weakness, marks of woe' part of London. And I'm potshot-ting in the dark?
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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