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#944356 - 07/17/08 08:46 AM How do I get the most out of practicing scales
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
I was never taught the scales and only lately memorized the them because a friend persuaded me of their value. So, what is a good practice regimen for scales? Currently I play them hands together and in octaves. (I practice between 2-3 hours a day, try to do more, and play at about some a grade 8 level but know almost no theory.)
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#944357 - 07/17/08 09:49 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11685
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Which scales are you doing? Generally at this level, I'd say play 4 octaves of every scale (say, all major keys) chromatically. So you'd start doing C major, then C# major, etc. until you get back to C major again. Also, don't forget arpeggios, which you can do in the same fashion. You can also do this with minor scales, though I'd recommend choosing one mode to do all of them in (natural, harmonic, or melodic). You can also practice chromatic scales, whole tone scales (but there are only 2 whole tone scales).
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private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#944358 - 07/17/08 10:27 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
I read the title of this thread quickly and thought it said "How do I get out of practicing scales?"

What does that say about me?

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#944359 - 07/17/08 11:01 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
What I am about to say will not make sense at first.

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.


Above all...be patient. Focus only on one of the 6 at a time. With every new concept, follow a patient pattern of exaggerating, de-emphasizing, and internalizing. Your concentration will best thrive in the land of the possible. When you have enough time spent on these 6 concepts, write back, and I'll post 6 more.

You will go up and down in ability over the weeks and months. It is like dollar-cost averaging. You put in your $500 each month, and sometimes it goes up an sometimes it goes down. Over the long term, it goes up.

(Although I've stopped looking at my portfolio lately... I can't bear to see how my wealth is evaporating)
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944360 - 07/17/08 11:21 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
i enjoy practicing them with a metronome in 3/3 time for a change
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accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#944361 - 07/17/08 11:28 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 apple*:
i enjoy practicing them with a metronome in 3/3 time for a change [/b]
Me too...and 2 on 3 is good too. Just remember to start two octaves apart if you are playing 3 in the left hand.
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944362 - 07/17/08 11:32 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11646
Loc: Canada
Pardon - 3/3 time?

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#944363 - 07/17/08 11:35 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
rada Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/07/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: pagosa springs,co
I practice my scales in 8th notes, triplets and 16ths ,..four octaves...I apply the same rhythms to the arpeggios and also practice RH/LH scales in octaves and chromatics....I use a metronome but am going to take the advice given and practice more slowly.

There's nothing like playing the piano.

rada

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#944364 - 07/17/08 11:35 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 keystring:
Pardon - 3/3 time? [/b]
She means tripelets I think...
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944365 - 07/17/08 11:44 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11646
Loc: Canada
Maybe triplets in both hands.

Jeremy, you and John were discussing something about things your respective students do not pay attention to in terms of the sound that is actually produced (listening factor?) Over here you have mentioned goals of tone for separate hands, balance (between left & right?) and evenness (HS and HT) and I guess legato as things to aim for listening-wise. Are there others?

With piano as my second instrument I do not have regular systematic lessons. I've been following the approach of Francis Cooke. He begins with the slow metronome. There are exercises for using the thumb before even starting on scales, and a "radiating" scale where you are crossing over playing the first 2, 3, 4 notes going either direction bringing that movement into the hand. Then each scale goes parallel, contrary, and in thirds and sixths (for opposing hands) both parallel and contrary. The order of scales is roughly circle of fifths since he puts them in the order of the black key groupings that govern fingering. I've gleaned that, but nothing about "quality" such as tone.

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#944366 - 07/17/08 11:50 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 rada:

There's nothing like playing the piano.

rada [/b]
You said it. When you play in complete control, and the sounds that come out of the piano are the sounds that you imagined it is like:

Fresh powder for a skier
Mountain Roads for a sports car
A calm lake for a water skier
A spotless home for a homemaker.

Unlike many other instruments...playing the piano feels very good physically.
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944367 - 07/17/08 11:55 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
Keystring,

I'd keep using the Cook exercises but

1) Use arm-weight
2) Focus on clarity
3) lead with your elbow (elbows out) on the thumb changes. This allows your thumb to operate on an advantageous plane with a "thumb-beside" movement (difficult to explain over a forum), and evens out the akward up-down-ish movement that is necessary to complete a true "thumb under" movement.
4) Play slow
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944368 - 07/17/08 03:54 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I'm not convinced of the value of scale
practice. At one time I used to practice
all of them, maj. and the 3 types of min.,
in all keys. But currently I only
do C maj. and only a few repetitions.

I see several problems with extensive
scale practice. First, scales take a lot
of energy to play well, which leaves less
energy for your repertoire and other work,
and repertoire work is the most important
thing for an amateur classical player.
Next, I've come to believe that too much
scale practice might actually be bad
for you, because in real music your
fingers and ears--out of habit from extensive
scale playing--will tend to reach for the
next scale tone, but you don't run across
scales that much in real music, so what your
finger and ear reaches for will be a wrong
note.

Also, I don't see the fundamental benefit
of scales for training the ear for the
different keys. This is best learned on
the job, so to speak. Mindless scale playing
in order to gain understanding and
familiarity with all the keys is only going to
train you to reach for wrong notes, in my
view. I've come to see scales as primarily
a physical exercise in crossing fingers,
which is an important technique in playing.
And since the finger crossing motion is
similar in all scales, the argument could
be made that you could get by with playing
only one, and since C maj. is the most
difficult, it would make sense to practice
it only.

And I've come to believe that the playing
of scales in diatonic (not chromatic)
intervals of thirds, fourths, fifths,
sixths, and sevenths is much more beneficial
technically and should be done at the
expense of regular scales.

Also, I've found that the sight-reading of
material much above your level--for
example, say, 1-3 pages of a big Romantic
Era concerto movement--is very
beneficial, but this needs to be done
at the start of the practice session when
you're still fresh in order to benefit from
it, and so scale work at the start of
practice needs to be minimized in order that
you don't exhaust yourself early.

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#944369 - 07/17/08 07:38 PM 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 Gyro:
I'm not convinced of the value of scale
practice. At one time I used to practice
all of them, maj. and the 3 types of min.,
in all keys. But currently I only
do C maj. and only a few repetitions.

I see several problems with extensive
scale practice. First, scales take a lot
of energy to play well, which leaves less
energy for your repertoire and other work,
and repertoire work is the most important
thing for an amateur classical player.
Next, I've come to believe that too much
scale practice might actually be bad
for you, because in real music your
fingers and ears--out of habit from extensive
scale playing--will tend to reach for the
next scale tone, but you don't run across
scales that much in real music, so what your
finger and ear reaches for will be a wrong
note.

Also, I don't see the fundamental benefit
of scales for training the ear for the
different keys. This is best learned on
the job, so to speak. Mindless scale playing
in order to gain understanding and
familiarity with all the keys is only going to
train you to reach for wrong notes, in my
view. I've come to see scales as primarily
a physical exercise in crossing fingers,
which is an important technique in playing.
And since the finger crossing motion is
similar in all scales, the argument could
be made that you could get by with playing
only one, and since C maj. is the most
difficult, it would make sense to practice
it only.

And I've come to believe that the playing
of scales in diatonic (not chromatic)
intervals of thirds, fourths, fifths,
sixths, and sevenths is much more beneficial
technically and should be done at the
expense of regular scales.

Also, I've found that the sight-reading of
material much above your level--for
example, say, 1-3 pages of a big Romantic
Era concerto movement--is very
beneficial, but this needs to be done
at the start of the practice session when
you're still fresh in order to benefit from
it, and so scale work at the start of
practice needs to be minimized in order that
you don't exhaust yourself early. [/b]
1) If scales are taking a lot of physical energy, then there is a good chance that you have tension in your playing. Many students tense their extensor muscles unknowingly while playing scales. Anyone who finds it physically exhausting needs to break down the movement, confront their tension, and rebuild their scale playing free of tension. You, Gyro have made a very good argument FOR PRACTICING SCALES.

2) Is repertoire the most important thing for an amateur pianist? Maybe for a recreational pianist. The original poster is clearly trying to take their playing to the next level.

3) I do not share your experience that scale playing causes one to reach for the wrong note. If anything, Scales Chords, and arpeggios provide a visual framework for each key. When in the confines of a key, Scales, especially formula patterns help the pianist develop a sixth sense for the shapes that are felt in keys. For students that have trouble in fugues, the first step is mastering the formula pattern.

4) Mindless scale playing will do much worse things than merely lead you to the wrong notes

5) I come closest to agreeing with your "C major is the only necessary scale" comment. That is something worth considering from a technique standpoint, but not from a keyboard harmony standpoint.

6) Sight reading very difficult music is great for when you don't care about rhythm in sight reading. Not caring about rhythm in sight reading is like not caring when your paycheck envelope comes to you empty. It misses the whole point.

7) Please explain what you mean by "scales in diatonic intervals" I'm curious...it sounds neat.


Gyro...I enjoy your contrarian views on this forum, they make me think.
_________________________
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

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#944370 - 07/18/08 01:24 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5454
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoexcellence:
7) Please explain what you mean by "scales in diatonic intervals" I'm curious...it sounds neat. [/b]
I think he's trying to describe hands playing different scales simultaneously. For example, R.H. plays C major scale while L.H. plays phrygian mode starting on E. Hands stay a 6th apart the entire time.

There may be some value to this type of scale practice (there is an example of this at the end of Chopin's Ballade No. 1), but the problem is there are so many different permutations of keys and intervals.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#944371 - 07/18/08 01:44 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Pianoexcellence, my current practice routine
consists of a brief warmup with scales,
arpeggios, intervalic scales, and a short
jazz arrangement that I keep ready in
case I'd ever be called on to play something.
The emphasis is on brevity, because the
next thing is sight-reading of a few
pages of a big Romantic Era concerto movement,
which takes a huge amount of energy and requires
that I still be fresh when playing it.

It's then right into repertoire. The first
piece of which is the Chopin A min. mazurka,
the difficult one with the r.h. triplets.
I play it one time through only. This is
a concert pianist-level piece--one of the
most difficult pieces in the repertoire
to play well, in my opinion--but I'm not
a concert pianist-level player, and one time
through is all I can manage without frying
my nerves and burning myself out. And
it's not simply a case of me being "too
tense" when I play; you can't simply relax
and expect to play something difficult like
this if you're an amateur of below average
ability.

It's then into the major piece in my
repertoire work, a big-time Romantic
Era concerto movement, one of the most
difficult in the repertoire, in my opinion.
I play it through one time only, as fast
as I can; I've now got it up to about 3/4
speed or better--unbelievable for an inept,
run-of-the-mill amateur like myself. One
time through is all I can manage without
burning myself out. After that one time
through I'm nearly spent and have precious
little left for the rest of practice. Thus,
I can't even do extra work on the most
difficult sections of it; one time through
at maximum speed is all that I can do with
it--I'm relying on one repetition per day
like this over time to work it up to speed.

The next piece is the first of the Trois
Nouvelles Etudes. At this point I'm
tired and I'll do one page of it, one time
through only. I've been working on this
for more than ten years, and I now have
it more or less up to speed and memorized,
but it's still a work in progress. Then
the next piece is the Butterfly Etude,
one page, time through only.

At this point I may play the first of the
Trois Nouvelle Etudes all the way through
from memory, one time only; I have no
energy for anything more than that.

Now I'm ready to call it quits,
and anything further is of a supplementary
nature, because I can only just barely
plod through anything now. Currently I
do one page of the Chopin No. 3 Ballade,
a piece that I've worked on in the past
and have familiarity with, and the op. 30
no. 2 mazurka, all the way through one time
only. Then I might do some brief jazz
work.

That's the end of practice, and I can
barely move now. I'm working on concert
pianist-level repertoire, without concert
pianist-level talent or training (I have below
average talent and I had low-quality instruction
as a child), and so I've taken myself to the
limits of my physical capabilities without
actually frying my nerves and completely burning
myself out. Sometimes I have to skip the
next day's practice because I'm too beaten
up by the previous day's work.

Thus, for an amateur like myself energy
expenditure is critical, and scales have
low priority in my practice routine; I
keep them to a bare minimum in order to
save the energy for repertoire work. This
is not a case of me being "too tense" when
playing so that I use up too much energy
in "the tension." You can't work on difficult
pieces like this, with below average ability,
by simply relaxing your hands on the keys.
You've got to work long and hard on them.
When you've got them all polished up and
memorized, then you can "relax" when
playing them, because you've done the
hard work necessary to build mammoth
amount of (piano-type) strength to play
them "relaxed."

Diatonic (not chromatic) intervallic scales
I consider to be the single most beneficial
technical exercise at the keyboard. The
journals and biographies of Beethoven
and Chopin seem to suggest that they played
them regularly--this apparently was the
fundamental technical exercise at the
keyboard in the old days. When playing
diatonic interval scales, you use only
the notes contained in the scale. So
C maj. in diatonic thirds is: CE DF
EG FA GB AC BD CE. A chromatic-type
scale in thirds starting with CE would
use non-scale tones: CE C#E# DF# D#G, etc.
I consider chromatic interval scales
as a trendy modern device of little technical
merit.

When playing diatonic interval scales,
you play CE with the r.h., like a two-note
chord, at the same time that you play CE
with the l.h. an octave lower. Then
DF with the r.h. and DF with the l.h.,
etc. So you're playing a series of two-
note chords with both hands in a scale-like
fashion.

C maj. in diatonic fourths is: CF DG, etc.
Diatonic fifths: CG DA, etc. Sixths:
CA DB, etc. Sevenths: CB DC, etc.
Sixths and sevenths are especially beneficial
because the large stretch forces you to
employ fingers 4 and 5 to a large extent,
fingers that, together with the thumb,
are the weakest in the hand and need
more work, but are rarely given a meaningful
workout in the usual technical studies.

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#944372 - 07/18/08 01:54 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11646
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
For example, R.H. plays C major scale while L.H. plays phrygian mode starting on E. Hands stay a 6th apart the entire time.
AZN, I'm always trying to learn. I know what you mean by Phrygian mode, that when you play from E to E on the white keys the resulting intervals gives you a Phrygian mode scale. Is this also an alternate way of describing this kind of interval between two same scales, which I've known as being a sixth apart? Is "sixth apart" incorrect when there are separate hands, or just another way of saying it?

Were it to be the alternate, right hand starting on C and left hand starting on A, in your system would you call that Aeolean in the left, Ionian in the right, instead of a third apart in separate hands?

Sorry for being OT. You've piqued my interest.

KS

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#944373 - 07/19/08 03:52 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Matt H Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/07
Posts: 170
Loc: Indiana
pianoexcellence,

I've been trying out your suggestions. It's a lot harder than it sounds. Playing evenly in tempo at 40 bpm is difficult. Hard for me to really internalize a beat that slow. I'm playing quarter notes. Is that what you are recommending? You said 2 per click. Does that mean eighth notes at 40?

Can you explain what you mean by "clarity"? My interpretation is that you mean to be sure to bring both hands down at the same time.

Thanks.

Matt

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#944374 - 07/21/08 09:17 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Thank you all and particularly Pianoexcellence. I started your program this morning.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#944375 - 07/22/08 06:12 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2893
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
I'm not convinced of the value of scale
practice. [/b]
All of my students who practice scales and play them well are able to make a much better job of their repertoire. In all my years of teaching I have never known this not to be the case.

If I were to sum up how to get the best out of scale practice it would be to listen carefully as you practice them.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#944376 - 07/22/08 06:25 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Gyro:
I'm not convinced of the value of scale
practice. [/b]
All of my students who practice scales and play them well are able to make a much better job of their repertoire. In all my years of teaching I have never known this not to be the case.

If I were to sum up how to get the best out of scale practice it would be to listen carefully as you practice them. [/b]
Great advice. I might also add that it would be helpful to play all the scales, not just C Major ;\) and to learn the arpeggios and chord cadences in their various inversions at the same time.

Something that helped me too beyond careful listening was going from one to four octaves while accenting each, the second, the third or the fourth note. Also, playing the chord cadences while emphasizing certain notes (voicing the chords)

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#944377 - 07/22/08 09:15 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11685
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Scales are extremely important for several reasons:

1) They help with being able to play in any key

2) They assist with dexterity and evenness when encountering scales within a piece

3) They help with learning proper fingering, or figuring out fingering alternatives that are efficient

4) They help with understanding the harmonic structure upon which our tonal system is based by understanding the sale degrees and their function (if even on a subconscious level)

5) They assist with harmonic analysis, especially in regards to determining minor keys by having played harmonic and melodic minor scales and knowing the rules of creating them

I'm sure there are more benefits than I've listed here, but these should be more than enough reason to do them. Also, I do recommend chord cadences and arpeggios with scales as part of a routine.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#944378 - 07/22/08 09:22 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 pianoexcellence:

3) lead with your elbow (elbows out) on the thumb changes.
Never stick your elbows out! You lead with your fingertips ALWAYS.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#944379 - 07/22/08 09:27 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 keystring:
 Quote:
For example, R.H. plays C major scale while L.H. plays phrygian mode starting on E. Hands stay a 6th apart the entire time.
AZN, Is "sixth apart" incorrect when there are separate hands, or just another way of saying it?
[/b]
They are called scales in thirds and scales in sixths and are a requirement for the higher grade exams.
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#944380 - 07/22/08 09:27 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Two different schools of technique - one school teaches the arm leads the hand, in effect, pulling the hand across the keyboard. Elbows would be slightly out in this case.

KBK, my first teacher taught me the fingers leading, elbows remaining at side, technique. As a teacher, I've had to learn both.
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#944381 - 07/22/08 09:32 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Aha John, but what do you teach?
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#944382 - 07/22/08 09:41 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
For example, R.H. plays C major scale while L.H. plays phrygian mode starting on E. Hands stay a 6th apart the entire time.
AZN, Is "sixth apart" incorrect when there are separate hands, or just another way of saying it?
[/b]
They are called scales in thirds and scales in sixths and are a requirement for the higher grade exams. [/b]
I, too, know them as scales in thirds and scales and sixths. There must have been a reason, or different perspective, in calling one hand Phrygian (with the other being Ionian, of course). They are, in fact, that as well. If there is a shifted perspective (modal thinking? jazz thinking? other?) it would be interesting to have that insight.

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#944383 - 07/22/08 09:53 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Elbows: the part that confused me was that the elbows were supposed to fix an up-down motion of the hand. I don't have such a motion, and I don't know how one would end up with such a motion that would require fixing.

What I have extrapolated is that if one were to have a relatively immobile thumb, the hand would have to tip the thumb into position - instead the elbow could twist the thumb into position by giving the hand a small pivot.

John: I'm extrapolating again - Assuming the thumb is doing what it should, one could feel the motion of the hand moving over as beginning in the hand with the forearm and elbow moving with it. Or one could feel that the arm transports the hand into the new position, carrying along the hand. Would this be the gist of these two schools?

Pianoexcellence, I have not thanked you for your advice. I had asked what sound one might be after and similar things - the metaphor about skiing and water skiing etc. which you posted to Rada was of that ilk. Generally speaking I avoid physical advice on playing, especially if a teacher cannot see me, and feel most comfortable dealing with such things in the live presence of a teacher. Even if it is good advice there is no guarantee that I will interpret it correctly, nor is there anyone to see and then correct me.

While exploring your idea I did discover things in my hand I found disturbing, having recorded it via webcam and could even make a significant correction. At least I became aware of a few things - so thank you.

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#944384 - 07/22/08 09:53 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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A major scale in sixths is just that, regardless of what you may be thinking at the time.
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#944385 - 07/22/08 09:59 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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What I learned about playing a scale is this:

C major: Hand spans 5 notes. Fingers resting on keys. RH: As soon as 2 is played, thumb shoots over to F under the 4th finger, moving from deepest joint by the hand. Thumb plays F, and a millisecond *afterward* the hand moves in position so that the 5 fingers are spanning F to C. In a sense, the thumb has opened from its "under" position, or the hand is moving from across that same joint. The fingers settle into position and 2 plays a millisecond later, then the other fingers. The moment that 2 has played, the thumb scoots the greater distance of a 4th, over the C. Flexibility in the thumb is needed.

When I was taught this, I was told that there is a feeling to the hand as though the thumb were almost perpetually underneath. Unfortunately it was not in person.

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#944386 - 07/22/08 10:03 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
A major scale in sixths is just that, regardless of what you may be thinking at the time. [/b]
I am interested in what AZN was thinking, and that is why I asked *him* that question that question, of what *he* (not you or I) was thinking. One can indeed perceive it as two modes being played side by side - in what context might a person be perceiving it that way?

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#944387 - 07/22/08 10:27 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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No, you can't perceive it as two modes at once. Isn't *he* a *she*?
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#944388 - 07/22/08 11:03 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Keyboard Klutz...

First of all, I agree with John that "slightly out" is a better description than "out".

Second of all...I cannot believe that you would say things like "never" or "always reach with fingers". I have really enjoyed your posts on this forum, but those "always" and "never" close a lot of doors for a pianists.

If we are discussing a primary technique for playing in general, then it is a different story. We can agree to respectfully disagree.

There is a time and place for both techniques in repertoire. In fact, repertoire will call for many techniques other than the two we are calling into question.

If you read my post, you will see that I am talking about merely one technique to be used in scale practice. When using arm weight for scales, leading with the elbow is a good supplement to the movement.

The idea is that this movement and feeling will be mastered within the safety of a technical pattern, then another can be explored...very likely your "reach with fingers" technique.

Try to shape a phrase in a delicate brahms intermezzo without using arm-weight and blended movement (leading with upper and lower arm).... or try to play a fugue with clarity without using your fingery reaching technique.

Both can be done, but both could be done more effectively through using more appropriate techniques.

We can sit and go back and forth...lead with elbow...reach with fingers.

In the end, it is like debating what is better to have...a sedan or an SUV. It really depends on what you want to do at the moment you are driving. So it's good to have both in your garage.
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#944389 - 07/22/08 11:21 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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I'm afraid I have no use for either car or garage. The sensation of tone production is at the finger tips. That's where your consciousness resides. The body, elbows and all, takes care of itself. Sorry if find this sounds intransigent; it's supposed to be. By the way, I was born in BC. My grandad's buried in Prince George. How about that!

Steve, B Mus, DipABRSM, PGCE, BUM
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#944390 - 07/22/08 11:37 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Prince George huh?

When are you going to move back to the land of mosquitos?

Actually, it's beautiful up there.

I have to say that I have found most of your posts (over the years) to be authoritative. I don't yet fully agree with your "arms will take care of themselves" comment. I am certainly willing to go spend a little time trying it out.

After all, years ago I opposed my teacher when she told me to lead with my elbow...then fell in love with the technique when it really worked when used appropriately

Then I opposed my Next teacher who told me to play with a "spark in my fingertips", then became convinced when I played with more energy and clarity than ever before.

I'll give it a shot.

I just happen to want a 10 car garage.
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#944391 - 07/22/08 11:42 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
cruiser Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:

Steve, B Mus, DipABRSM, PGCE, BUM [/b]
...I love it!

Guess I'd better start practicing the scales too :rolleyes: , especially after reading pianoexcellence's excellent first post in this excellent thread! \:\)

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#944392 - 07/22/08 11:53 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Well, how gentlemanly of you pianoex to consider trying my suggestions. Here is Thomas B. Knott from Pianoforte Fingering (1928 - when my dad was born, also BC):
 Quote:
The sole object of 'fingering' is to obtain the best possible performance in the easiest manner. The ultimate object must always be the SOUND [sic] through the requisite key. In degree, as there is consciousness of physical means during a performance, by so much will a performance fall short of the best.
I like the 'spark' analogy. It conjures up the magic of the whole thing. I saw it with my own teacher.
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#944393 - 07/22/08 12:17 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
btb Offline
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Hi klutz ...
Couldn’t agree with you more about distancing yourself from the unhappy analogy of gas-guzzling US vehicles ... but then, who would want to own a motor car in London? (EII perhaps)

Talking of which ... I thought you might like to share a giggle with our top cartoonist Zapiro in celebrating the magic of Nelson Mandela ... here’s Z’s swing at the Buckingham Palace
passing parade ...

mandela

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#944394 - 07/22/08 12:20 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Too true. I don't think anyone's lining up for a photo op with her!
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#944395 - 07/22/08 12:35 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
John v.d.Brook Offline
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KBK - wow, this thread suddenly exploded.

You asked what I teach. What I do is watch my students very intensely to see how their body works and then work with them to achieve clean sound and velocity. Most of the time, we end up with the arm leading, but not always. And as their body grows, techniques change/adapt.
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#944396 - 07/22/08 12:43 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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Calm down John! The good thing about finger tips is they don't grow! I just heard - Batman's been arrested! Now that's an explosion. And already there's a cover up!
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#944397 - 07/22/08 12:44 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Just an analogy everyone...BTB ;\)

For the record I only have one car and one motorcycle.

...and I drive a fuel sipping Mazda 3 hatch. No Toyota Sequoia here. (the gas guzzler of choice in my area)
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#944398 - 07/22/08 12:45 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Double Post
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#944399 - 07/22/08 12:49 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Elise_B Offline
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I know this is almost inappropriate but indulge me..
I love it when piano teachers debate their "dogma" or as my teacher calls it his "religion"... It is all so scientific !!!

Back to my hole.. practicing away.. not scales today though..

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#944400 - 07/22/08 12:50 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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My sense was of John jumping, Steven Segal-like off some moving, exploding vehicle. Cripes!

edit: thanks to pianoex (double post, my arse) my sense is now nonsense. Oh well...
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#944401 - 07/22/08 12:52 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Elise_B:
I know this is almost inappropriate but indulge me..
I love it when piano teachers debate their "dogma" or as my teacher calls it his "religion"... It is all so scientific !!!

Back to my hole.. practicing away.. not scales today though.. [/b]
Feel free. This staffroom's walls fell down ages ago.
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#944402 - 07/22/08 12:54 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Elise_B Offline
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I did raise my hand!!

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#944403 - 07/22/08 12:54 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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KBK quotes Knott :

"by degree to which there is conciousness of physical means in performance, by so much will the performance fall short..."

AAHHHHGGGH...

We are talking about Technique, not performance. I don't think that anyone would say that the best thing to do in performance is to be concious of technique. I fully agree with that quote.

Nice "straw man" argument, as though I am saying to my students "when you go to perform...make sure you lead with your elbow and transfer weight, and this and that..."

That is why we practice technique. We are concious in technical practice. Each idea is exaggerated, de-emphasized, and internalized. You want to have a clear mind when you perform? Make sure your techniques are internalized.
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#944404 - 07/22/08 12:56 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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As long as we have our eye on the same ball.
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#944405 - 07/22/08 12:58 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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I really think we do. Either way, it is a fun exercise to put it into words.

It's been scenic jaunt through the semantic jungle.
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#944406 - 07/22/08 01:03 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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I must say, even at the risk of a tumble, that there are anatomical ways that allow the performer to let go and ways that don't.
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#944407 - 07/22/08 01:04 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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"double post my arse"

you caught me.

I re-read what John said and found what I had misunderstood him and you.
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#944408 - 07/22/08 01:12 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Elise_B:
I did raise my hand!! [/b]
Reminds me of a staffroom joke: Little girl wets herself in class. Teacher asks 'Why didn't you put your hand up' Little girl 'I did but it ran through my fingers!'
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#944409 - 07/22/08 01:13 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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never mind

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#944410 - 07/22/08 01:14 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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I would like to distance myself from that joke.
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#944411 - 07/22/08 01:16 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 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!
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#944412 - 07/22/08 01:22 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Keystring,

Here is the problem with the internet. I cannot see what you are doing as you play at home. If you have no up-down motion on finger changes, and your sound is even and clear, then you are probably doing it right.

people may imagine a demonstrative elbow-shove based on my instruction (on that one technique). That is not the case. If you were to watch me play, usually, elbows are out 1.5-2" from my side, with a slight 1/4" nudge on the finger changes. That is not written in stone, it is written in sand. It will change.


Elise B,

You are right, Dogma is a good word to describe the way technique is sometimes taught. I do not think that there are any "infallible" techniques.
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#944413 - 07/22/08 01:27 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
AZNpiano Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
A major scale in sixths is just that, regardless of what you may be thinking at the time. [/b]
I am interested in what AZN was thinking, and that is why I asked *him* that question that question, of what *he* (not you or I) was thinking. One can indeed perceive it as two modes being played side by side - in what context might a person be perceiving it that way? [/b]
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! \:\)

As for scales, I hate them (but I don't tell my students that). Must be the horrible experience from my awful teacher in middle school. I would never practice scales, unless they are written in the piece I'm working on. The only scales I assign my students are the ones listed in the state syllabus that they have to play for exams. I'd rather spend my time working on the repertoire.

If there are "schools" of scale-playing, then I guess I belong to the "lead by elbow" school.
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#944414 - 07/22/08 01:27 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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KBK

It's true.

I worked in a church for a while before starting my studio.

That kind of humor was frowned upon in the church, and now it's just my wife in the house...so my lunchroom experiences are very different from yours.
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#944415 - 07/22/08 01:33 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
As for scales, I hate them (but I don't tell my students that). Must be the horrible experience from my awful teacher in middle school. I would never practice scales, unless they are written in the piece I'm working on. The only scales I assign my students are the ones listed in the state syllabus that they have to play for exams. I'd rather spend my time working on the repertoire. [/b]
I'm with you there and I do tell my students. But the crucial question? *he* or *she*?
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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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 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
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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
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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
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 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
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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
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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
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 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
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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
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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
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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
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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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#944429 - 07/22/08 04:06 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
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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
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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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#944431 - 07/22/08 04:21 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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 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
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 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
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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
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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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#944446 - 07/24/08 07:04 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
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Frycek, everything crystal clear now ?
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#944447 - 07/24/08 07:22 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Page one makes sense.

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#944448 - 07/24/08 07:59 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
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. [/b]
I'm not sure what you are getting at!!??

I think we are all functioning on a certain level of assumption that just playing scales over and over means nothing...after all the title of this thread is: "getting the most out of practicing scales".

I think we all agree with you there.
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#944449 - 07/25/08 01:36 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
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Reviewing the previous 3 pages the title would appear to be "getting the most out of practicing arpeggios". So, back on topic:
To paraphrase Chopin: Don't do them evenly. There is no point as nothing in music even. It's like studying to be a cat walk model when all you need to do is walk to work each day! Why not take up ornithology while your at it?

If the question were: 'How to play scales musically?' we might have got somewhere.
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#944450 - 07/25/08 04:10 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
btb Offline
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It’s nest-building time in my garden so the klutz ornithology caper is most apt ... here’s a sketch of 5 of the wee birdies that visit my feeding tray ... because size counts for much in the avian pecking order ... the fruit for the Grey Lourie is spiked well away from the bread and seed-eaters (doves and weavers).

wee birdies

In my school we don’t play boring scales ... we find examples in the works of master composers ... which puts the importance of understanding the strategic inter-relation of the consonant and dissonant notes in the scale (not to mention those juicy "outsiders").

IMHO far more is registered in playing the universally respected inventions of the keyboard Greats ... for myself I like to get the hands warm (it’s leaning on early Spring here) with a quick trundle through the piano intro to Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto... lots of scales, arpeggios and trills to quicken the fingers.

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#944451 - 07/25/08 04:16 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by btb:
wee birdies [/b]
Much better than your bridge drawings. Maybe you should have been a naturalist?
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#944452 - 07/28/08 02:34 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
theJourney Offline
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The turning point for me once upon a time which led to me finally treating scales seriously and with dedication was a teacher who got through to me with this:

"working on technique (including scales, broken chords, arpeggios, and (technical) exercises aimed at specifics such as Bach Inventions, Brahms 51, Czerny, Clementi, Cramer, etc.) are to skilled musicians what running laps, or lifting weights, or practicing a swing or physical condition training are to athletes."

It is hard to imagine a successful athlete not putting in the effort, next to the direct playing of his game or competing in his sport, to get his or her body into condition and to really have spent/spend the time with full awareness on the fundamentals.

This also helped instill me with the realization that playing the piano well (=being able to apply the right physical movements to create the desired sound which is experienced subjectively as "nice tone" and which creates an appropriate emotional reaction in the listener) is fundamentally a physical act requiring physical control.

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#944453 - 07/28/08 06:33 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
"working on technique (including scales, broken chords, arpeggios, and (technical) exercises aimed at specifics such as Bach Inventions, Brahms 51, Czerny, Clementi, Cramer, etc.) are to skilled musicians what running laps, or lifting weights, or practicing a swing or physical condition training are to athletes."

This also helped instill me with the realization that playing the piano well (=being able to apply the right physical movements to create the desired sound which is experienced subjectively as "nice tone" and which creates an appropriate emotional reaction in the listener) is fundamentally a physical act requiring physical control. [/b]
They don't of neccessity go together. If you're set on conquering the 'great romantic repertoire', you have a point but for some of us life's just too short.
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#944454 - 07/28/08 07:24 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Is it possible to have the name of the book you are quoting, kbk, so that it can be read in complete context?

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#944455 - 07/28/08 07:54 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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#944456 - 07/28/08 08:00 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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You have been quoting from Chopin's own words. The link you provided appears to involve anecdotes by his students and acquaintances. Is it the same book you have been quoting? I have become interested in this book that you quote frequently, which is why I asked its name - also assuming others would be equally interested.

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#944457 - 07/28/08 08:44 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
theJourney Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
They don't of neccessity go together. If you're set on conquering the 'great romantic repertoire', you have a point but for some of us life's just too short. [/b]
:p I think you are mistaking me for someone else!

Not necessarily go together. Yes, ok.

If we had the data however, I would guess there are more accomplished classical pianists who have studied and can play their scales well then those who have not or cannot. I would also guess that those who jump into repertoire over their head without building a base technique will have risked developing more bad habits including holding excess tension, not applying natural movements, spending 3 years learning the same great romantic concerto, not to mention potentially acquiring their technique more slowly.

Some of my favorite quotes come from Sandor:

"Practicing must be purposeful, not automatic and mechanical, and it must be consciously controlled by the mind.

"The purpose of practice is to establish the right habits"

"Musicianship and technique are inseperable. However, technique precedes art."

"In order to develop a good technique, the student and performer must learn and master the basic motion patterns--that is, he must make them an innate part of his physical movements. The practicing of technique is nothing other than the process of assimilating motion patterns through repetition. Once our motion habits have been correctly and firmly acquired, a need to practice technique no longer exists. All we need to do is apply these motion patterns to our repertory."

(All quotes from "On Piano Playing: motion, sound & expression" by Gyorgy Sandor)

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#944458 - 07/28/08 11:30 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
pianoexcellence Offline
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Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
The Journey,

I definitely agree on Sandor. His book was highly influential to me...more so than Liemer or Whiteside.

You entire post is straightforward and makes a lot of sense.

Well put
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#944459 - 07/28/08 12:36 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
-Frycek Offline
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Registered: 08/06/05
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
You have been quoting from Chopin's own words. The link you provided appears to involve anecdotes by his students and acquaintances. Is it the same book you have been quoting? I have become interested in this book that you quote frequently, which is why I asked its name - also assuming others would be equally interested. [/b]
The bit about the impossibility of achieving(and the lack of necessity) for absolute evenness of tone and the statement that each finger has its own color is from Chopin's unfinished Method for the piano. He willed the manuscript to Alkan. If I'm not mistaken it's reproduced in the Chopin as Seen by his Pupils book.
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#944460 - 07/28/08 12:46 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keystring Online   content
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Thank you, Frycek.
KS

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#944461 - 07/28/08 02:04 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:

"Musicianship and technique are inseperable. However, technique precedes art."
from "On Piano Playing: motion, sound & expression" by Gyorgy Sandor) [/b]
I don't agree. His attitude is symptomatic of a western industrial way of thinking. Much of it goes back to Collingwood and the search for an artist vs craftsman paradigm. I have never learnt any 'basic motion patterns' outside of pieces. Neither have I ever had to teach them outside of music. Can't you see it has Henry Ford written all over it?
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#944462 - 07/28/08 02:30 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:
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:

"Musicianship and technique are inseperable. However, technique precedes art."
from "On Piano Playing: motion, sound & expression" by Gyorgy Sandor) [/b]
I don't agree. His attitude is symptomatic of a western industrial way of thinking. Much of it goes back to Collingwood and the search for an artist vs craftsman paradigm. I have never learnt any 'basic motion patterns' outside of pieces. Neither have I ever had to teach them outside of music. Can't you see it has Henry Ford written all over it? [/b]
Go take a tennis or golf lesson
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#944463 - 07/28/08 03:14 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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I've had golf lessons and...?
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#944464 - 07/28/08 07:41 PM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:

"Musicianship and technique are inseperable. However, technique precedes art."
from "On Piano Playing: motion, sound & expression" by Gyorgy Sandor) [/b]
I don't agree. His attitude is symptomatic of a western industrial way of thinking. Much of it goes back to Collingwood and the search for an artist vs craftsman paradigm. I have never learnt any 'basic motion patterns' outside of pieces. Neither have I ever had to teach them outside of music. Can't you see it has Henry Ford written all over it? [/b]
Wow, I'm agreeing with KBK again. That's twice in one day! Scary
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#944465 - 07/29/08 02:53 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
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I would so appreciate hearing a youtube performance of several of KBK and Morodiene's students who are "making art" (by playing the piano) without first "having technique".

You two must be doing something quite amazing with these kids!

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#944466 - 07/29/08 05:31 AM Re: How do I get the most out of practicing scales
keyboardklutz Offline
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You're a bit inscrutable there TJ. What are you looking for? Don't worry Morodienne - the truth is scary.
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