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#947790 - 02/27/08 04:08 PM Seperate VS. Together!
ClassicalMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/05
Posts: 165
Loc: USA
Having read a few archived posts on whether or not to practice hands separate or together, the writer hopes this is not resurrecting a rather "beaten and dead horse".

Some prefer subscribing to practicing hands separate while others prefer practicing hands together. There is a school of thought that is worthy of proposition. The question of which to subscribe to i.e. separate or together may not be the real issue. The real challenge is determining when to practice separate or together. Furthermore, there are sections or bars of the piece that may require practicing separate while others require together as the need arises. Therefore, the issue is primarily subjective.

Some may have used either method with great success and don’t wish to fix what is not broken.

The writer wishes to state an element which some may need in addition to practicing slowly. This method means playing the piece at rubato tempo. It may mean playing the order of the notes without regard for tempo but with correct fingering. Once the order is well ingrained then like others have stated, gradually increase the speed. A metronome is best for this. Some may find that they’re well advanced in sight reading and have no need for this.

Is this well received? Is there any necessary element that may have been overlooked? Please comment.
_________________________
The thought of eternal efflorescence of music is a comforting one, and comes like a messenger of peace in the midst of universal disturbance--Roman Rolland, Musicians of Former Days

Vast untapped resources lie within.

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#947791 - 02/27/08 04:38 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11406
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
ClassicalMan:
I do think there are times when hands separate practice is necessary, and times when it is not beneficial. Same with slow practice. I use slow practice and then gradually increasing tempo with a metronome is a great way to bring a piece up to performance tempo.

Hands separate is not so easily defined, however. Most Beginner students do not require hands separate practice because they generally only play one note at a time, although there are exceptions to this "rule" if you can call it that. Intermediate students, however, start to play more complicated hands together stuff, and this is a good time for them to learn to practice hands separate, then put together once the separate hands are somewhat comfortable (but not to the point of memorized or up to performance tempo). If one waits too long to put hands together, then it is like learning a whole new piece for the student to put them together. If one puts hands together prior to bringing everything up to tempo, they have simplified the process a bit without having to relearn everything.

Then at some point, usually around Advanced levels, the student can go back to learning hands together right from the start. Here is where they can then use hands separate practice not as a means of learning the notes, but isolating difficult areas that may need extra attention that can only be given with hands separate practice. Again, the student should not learn the entire piece this way, but just use hands separate practice as a means of simplifying to do detail work. Once this is done, then the student should try to put hands together with the same results as hands separate. This is just my opinion on these things, and certainly there are exceptions that perhaps I've overlooked.
_________________________
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#947792 - 02/27/08 06:14 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
CM, I think perhaps we should break this question down a bit.

When an elementary student reads or practices a piece hands alone, it's usually because they cannot read the piece as a whole. This is completely different than that of a player who is reading hands alone to solve a specific problem, such as fingering, rhythm, phrasing, wrist motions, etc.

I prefer that my students not begin pieces which requires them to read hands alone, that is, the selection too difficult for them to read as a whole, at even the slowest of tempos. To me, that is forcing them to make too great of a leap.

Does this help any?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947793 - 02/27/08 10:00 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
ClassicalMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/05
Posts: 165
Loc: USA
That's why I believe the issue is subjective. It depends on what the situation calls for and what works best for one's personal experience. There shouldn't be hard and fast rules concerning whether one should resort to HS OR HT. That's been a major argument on here from looking at the archives on this topic. Musicians/Music teachers are trying to recommend their personal ways which may or may not be the ideal for other players.

Yes it does help.
_________________________
The thought of eternal efflorescence of music is a comforting one, and comes like a messenger of peace in the midst of universal disturbance--Roman Rolland, Musicians of Former Days

Vast untapped resources lie within.

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#947794 - 02/28/08 09:30 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Danny Niklas Offline
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Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I think hands separate is absolutely essential at whatever level for the sake of musical and sound control.

Imagine a choir.
People don't sing together.
Each groups of singers learn its own part and only that. So the individual parts that will eventually blend to form the piece are learned separately and only once they're perfect separately they're blend together.

Practicing hand together from the start reinforces the flaw of thinking "this not goes with this note" which creates unmusical playing and confusion.

The right hand part and the left hand part are indeed separate entities. They happen to sound well together but they exist on their own. Without hand separate is rather impossible to give each part its own independency, musical sense, interpretation and dynamic because the other hand or part will always try to mimic the other.

Hand separate is necessary becase at the very core of the piece it is not a whole piece made of notes that goes together but it is two or more horizontal musical lines that must mantain their independence while also harmiously combining. So at the very core of the piece left hand and right hand will always remain separate by their nature and any attempt to consider them unified will only sabotage the very nature of music and the piece.

In a way hands together is a misnomer. It implies a sort of codependency which doesn't exist.
Hands are coordinated yet they are completely independent. Each hand follwos its coordination and musical line and ignores what the other hand is doing. They play "at the same time" but not "together".

The only exception of course is when left hand and right hand form a singular melodic line and they never play together. (i.e. certain arpeggiato romantic pieces)

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#947795 - 02/28/08 09:35 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11406
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Danny:
So you recommend that everyone learn hands separately first, then put together? How many students have you taught? I don't mean that as a challenge or an insult, but it seems rather naive to assume that it will work well in all situations. As I said in my post, some students will struggle to put hands together and so they must learn a piece as a whole. Hands separate can be a useful tool, but not a great method of learning a piece as a rule.
_________________________
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#947796 - 02/28/08 09:43 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Danny:
So you recommend that everyone learn hands separately first, then put together? How many students have you taught? I don't mean that as a challenge or an insult, but it seems rather naive to assume that it will work well in all situations. As I said in my post, some students will struggle to put hands together and so they must learn a piece as a whole. Hands separate can be a useful tool, but not a great method of learning a piece as a rule. [/b]
I have taught several and yes I have witnessed the problem of struggling to put hands together. But I always warned them against "this note goes with this note". I explained to them it would have been a shortcut that creates a momentary sense of efficiency and skill but that will backfire later. Eventually they were able to put hands together maintaning the independency and never resorting to such "dangerous" trick.

Besides I know a great system to learn to play with both hands at the same time while maintaning their independency and the independency of the musical lines.

I'm all for tricks that work and make things simpler but I'm against tricks that improve things for few days and worse them for the rest of the time. One example in my athletic quarters is that of ketogenic diets. You lose so much water and glycogen that the initial weight loss seems amazing. The problem is that you start losing lean body mass at a higher rate and as soon as you get out of ketosis you're so raveously hunger that you regain all the weight plus some more. Only this time your body is made of an higher percentage of fat and a lower percentage of muscles. What I call a metabolic junk.

So I instead promote creating a consistent and small caloric deficiency that provides weight loss results in a longer longer time but without backfiring later and with the certainty that the lost weight won't come back so easily. In other words I'm for education and ri-education instead of shortcuts.

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#947797 - 02/28/08 11:47 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This an example of the psychological aspect
of piano playing that is so often overlooked.
I simply will not practice hands separate,
even though it apparently is beneficial
in some situations. Psychologically I cannot
do it. It goes against some inner grain
in me such that I won't do it under any
circumstances.

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#947798 - 02/28/08 12:11 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Akira Offline
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Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Do you believe that the need for HS is caused by poor or under developed sight reading skills?

It seems to me that this concept is trying to compensate for the brain not being able to process information fast enough. HS appears to break the process down to simpler components, allowing better focus (like trying to juggle two balls instead of four).

The alternative compensating solution would seem to be to slow down (with HT), thus allowing 'more' time for the brain to process the needed information.

Said another way, if one's sight reading skills doubled, tripled or quadrupled in ability, do you think the need for HS would no longer exist?

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#947799 - 02/28/08 12:18 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Danny, sorry, I cannot resist this.

Did you learn to bicycle using the left foot first and then the right foot, and then finally put them together? No?

Well, perhaps to make the situation more musical, we should examine the clarinetist. Do they learn hands separately? After all, some notes are played with the left hand and others with the right hand.

In the end, playing the piano is a hands together activity, so, IMHO, students are best served when they are taught to read the score as a whole, think of the music as a whole, and learn to read and play new music as a whole.

Our current methods are well developed to foster this approach, too. Not only do the methods develop hand and finger dexterity, complexities of reading are slowly, but progressively, folded into advancing lessons.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947800 - 02/28/08 12:35 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Danny, sorry, I cannot resist this.

Did you learn to bicycle using the left foot first and then the right foot, and then finally put them together? No?

Well, perhaps to make the situation more musical, we should examine the clarinetist. Do they learn hands separately? After all, some notes are played with the left hand and others with the right hand.
[/b]

Wrong examples.
Your examples are like my arpeggiatos pieces example in which the left hand and right hand play really together because they both play one melodic line.

Both the bycicle cycle and the clarinet playing are example of one kind of pattern, one forward line, one motion done by the hands together.

It's like the difference between taking a melon with the left hand and cutting it with the right hand versus cutting the melon holding the knife with both hands.

My example of the choir is more in tune.
The choir has a range big enough that each piece is composed by more musical lines interwined together but beautifully independent. One group of choristers doesn't learn what the other does. Each group has its own unique part and their work is to perform that unique part properly. Each hand is like one group of the choir. They don't play together they play at the same time but with different motion, coordination, dynamic and musical flow.

Students that think of music as a whole develop a musical perspective which is harmonically poor. They have huge problems in understanding the harmonic nature of music and in making sense quickly of composition concepts. They have problems harmonizing and giving enough independency to each musical line. When they listen concertos, classical pieces or even pop pieces they have problems reproducing the different musical lines and all they can think of is the melody because it is what stands out but they can't discriminate the bass line.

No piece is written as a whole. No composer writes one note on the right hand and one on the left hand and proceeds in this vertical manner. They instead write a good bass musical line and then try to pair it with a good melodic line in the right hand or viceversa. The score is not a whole. What we have is not one right hand note going with a left hand note but independent musical lines harmoniously blending together but maintaning their independency. There's no whole, only its illusion. The hands are coordinated but independent. They don't play together at all (which would mean they perform the same motions and play the same thing) but play different and independent parts, of a piece composed of more independent musical parts, at the same time.

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#947801 - 02/28/08 02:19 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Danny, just to pick nits, you can cycle my bicycle with either foot alone or both together. Ditto for my blockflute. But I get your drift.

However, your statement - "Students that think of music as a whole develop a musical perspective which is harmonically poor. They have huge problems in understanding the harmonic nature of music and in making sense quickly of composition concepts. They have problems harmonizing and giving enough independency to each musical line. When they listen concertos, classical pieces or even pop pieces they have problems reproducing the different musical lines and all they can think of is the melody because it is what stands out but they can't discriminate the bass line." - could use a bit of support. Has this been studied academically? I've never seen evidence of this in mine or others students. Quite the contrary, these students seem to grasp both whole and part far better.

Actually, following your reasoning to the extreme, students should really learn one finger at a time. After all, fingers are independent, and are controlled by the flexor muscles which are tied together near the elbow. It's only one joint more, the shoulder, where the two sets are jointed. \:D
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947802 - 02/28/08 04:02 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
ClassicalMan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/05
Posts: 165
Loc: USA
Mozart said that the first test of a player's capability was the test of his sight-reading ability. What he could not sight-read, he had to practice. That being said, understand that sight-reading occurs with HT. Practicing occurs with HT or HS.

I think many of us are missing my original post. We can't compare playing music to a choir or biking. That would be like saying in order to type one must learn the each hand seperate then put them together. It's more of a cordination technique.

There are some singing groups that are so well coordinated that they do not need to sing parts seperately then put them together. Of course that depends on the style and number of people in the choir/group.

Futhermore, HT or HS is a rule but not the law. It depends on one's experience, how advanced one's skill is and the nature of the piece.

Those whose practice technique is well developed may not need hands separate.

I tend to prefer HT by practicing it tortuosly slow. I think some folk are attempting to say that one method is advantageous over the other. I'm saying there's a compromise between the two schools of thought. HS OR HT is the rule but not the law!
_________________________
The thought of eternal efflorescence of music is a comforting one, and comes like a messenger of peace in the midst of universal disturbance--Roman Rolland, Musicians of Former Days

Vast untapped resources lie within.

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#947803 - 02/28/08 04:40 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
ClassicalMan, I see that you're relatively new here. I often use examples with tongue firmly in cheek. But in this case, I often use the bicycle example to get students and parents to see that piano playing is a two handed activity, even though we can make music using just one hand, and that in the long run, we're going to have to learn to play with both hands.

I don't know if there has been a difinitive study to determine if using one method is faster than the other. It strikes me as intuitively obvious that if a pianist can read music "two handed" then they've got a leg up on those who cannot.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947804 - 02/28/08 04:51 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
I insist that bicycle pedalling is a wrong example.
In pedalling the two feet are busy with doing the same action and achieving the same result.
As one feet goes up the other goes down and they work together to activate the same identical mechanism. There's a total interdependency.

Hands on the piano are not interdependent at all.
The right melody exist without the bassline and the bass exist without the right melody. The hands don't follow any kind of specular pattern where one hand does the opposite of the other and they don't work together to play the same thing but each of them play a different musical lines with different independent dynamic.

Each of them do their own thing and one hand doesn't need to know what the other is gonna do.
They're totally independent, coordinated but independent. While the bycicle example is an example of coordination in opposite interdependency, piano playing is an example of coordination in distinctive independency.
It's a huge difference.

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#947805 - 02/29/08 12:15 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Actually, following your reasoning to the extreme, students should really learn one finger at a time.
I hate to say this, but somewhere in this copious mass of posts some teacher somewhere said he sometimes teaches one finger at a time. ;\) :rolleyes: (being mischievous) It had something to do with Mary Had a Little Lamb and a boy who could not cope with the first few notes.

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#947806 - 02/29/08 04:53 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Ferdinand Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 936
Loc: California
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook
Actually, following your reasoning to the extreme, students should really learn one finger at a time. After all, fingers are independent, and are controlled by the flexor muscles which are tied together near the elbow. It's only one joint more, the shoulder, where the two sets are jointed. \:D
This was meant in fun but there is a valuable point here. Danny's reasoning seems to be partly about the physical independence of the hand motions, but mainly about the musical independence of their parts. So following the reasoning to the extreme doesn't lead us to practicing fingers separately.

Question for Danny: When you learn a 3-voice Bach fugue, where the hands often share one of the voices, do you practice hands separate or together? Or do you practice each voice separately?

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#947807 - 02/29/08 05:19 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
I agree with Danny.

In a bicycle etc. the two parts have the same job to do, they rotate the same way etc., it's the same thing you make with both feet.

In a piano, the left hand generally cares for bass and chords and the right hand generally is in charge of the melody. They are like two or three basic instrument which join in a mini orchestra to create a musical piece, their movements and challenges, their "behaviours on the keyboard" are basically different.

I'd put the piano nearer to a violin and cannot imagine that violinists do not exercise their left hand separately, because the two hands have different jobs (I know i'd do it if I were them anyway... ;\) ).

Personally I find it even easier to learn hands separately and join their work rather then learn to play them simultaneously.

To put it in a stupid way, it seems to me much easier to say to my left hand "now you do this" (follows repetition of a chord etc. ad nauseam); then to my right hand "now you do this" (same procedure with the melody) and then say to the two "and now please together" rather than try to drill both hands together "now whilst the right X finger is here the left X finger is there, then the left finger pauses whilst the right finger plays" etc..).

It also has the advantages, to me, that both hands have learned their job separately so it will easier to change their individual job without affecting the other hand: if I want more strenght on the left hand, say, I think after practicing with HS this will be easier to build in...
_________________________
"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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#947808 - 02/29/08 10:33 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Please give the bicycle analogy a rest. The purpose of an analogy is to help someone understand a concept, not to be an exact duplicate.

Betty's post, whch im srue we al chckled at:

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it,

shows really well how our brain actually solves the score reading process. My guess would be that those of us good at sight reading, read through this with great ease, while others may have struggled more. English as a second language readers may not have been able to read it at all.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947809 - 02/29/08 11:19 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
I'd put the piano nearer to a violin and cannot imagine that violinists do not exercise their left hand separately, because the two hands have different jobs (I know i'd do it if I were them anyway... ).
Same controversy, different forum, I'm afraid, although the "separate in the beginning" seems to be the one accepted these days. One wants to have unity of the two, and one wants to clearly understand what one is doing with either and then blend with that clarity intact. You also have interaction where one affects the other. Same with a wind instrument, I suppose - tonguing, breathing, various articulations. Singing: pronunciation, certain vowels, an explosive consonant as an expressive device - together or apart in which order and when? Is unity lost? Is such a thing as unity a separate entity that is threatened?

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#947810 - 03/01/08 01:56 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Ferdinand:
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook
Actually, following your reasoning to the extreme, students should really learn one finger at a time. After all, fingers are independent, and are controlled by the flexor muscles which are tied together near the elbow. It's only one joint more, the shoulder, where the two sets are jointed. \:D
This was meant in fun but there is a valuable point here. Danny's reasoning seems to be partly about the physical independence of the hand motions, but mainly about the musical independence of their parts. So following the reasoning to the extreme doesn't lead us to practicing fingers separately.
First of all there's no reason to follow a reasoning to the extreme. It's like saying that if something is good, the more is better and we know this to be untrue most of the times. No reasoning about musical lines would ever lead someone to practicing fingers separately.

If you focus on the choir concept you'll realize that just because each part is learned separately and indipendently it doesn't mean that each part should learn note by note or the lyric letter by letter.

Actually it's quite logical why the natural and unchangeable concept of hands independency doesn't lead to fingers separately.

Focusing on what each hand plays and how there's no kind of interdependency on the motions of the hands or their musical lines means not mantaining the naturel motion pattern for each hand, preventing the strong hand for leading the weak and preventing the unmusical playing that comes from the unnatural concept of "this note goes with this note" which is not how a piece is born and how a piece is structured.

But focusing on each finger would actually break the motion and the direction and would actually lead to the same "this note goes with this note" unnatural approach. After all there's no interdependency of any kind between the hands but there's between the fingers; they might play different notes but they actually play phrases belonging to the same music line.

Focusing on hands separate doesn't in any way change the motion of hands as they both do what they're supposed to: playing their part with efficiency and musicality without having one leading or distracting or reinforcing the other.

Focusing on fingers separate does change the motion and the direction by altering the fingering, the space between notes, the economy of the motion, the general coordination of the hand, wrist and arm, the moments of contraction, the sound and the musicality.

 Quote:
Question for Danny: When you learn a 3-voice Bach fugue, where the hands often share one of the voices, do you practice hands separate or together? Or do you practice each voice separately? [/b]
I always try to highlight each voice separately when they follow an independent pattern but as I said when the two hands share one musical line then there's no reason to practice hand separately because in such case there's indeed interdependency between the hands and it's okay to practice such interdependency.

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#947811 - 03/01/08 09:15 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
Is it possible that instead of a hard and fast rule, there might be such a thing as need and purpose? Right now I'm learning to play scales. In so doing I must use my thumb correctly and my hand must move into a new position efficiently so that I can play the notes smoothly and evenly, later on having the control that will allow me the musical expression I want.

In my self taught days some decades ago I did not play scales as such. What I did play in the form of runs (= scales) in music was a blurred mishmash of motions that sort of got me there. My playing was spontaneous and uneven. I literally didn't know what I was doing: hands before brain.

As I work through the scales now I am going sometimes HS, sometimes HT. In particular, I am drilling the motion that comes with the thumb and hand at the point of moving into the next position. As I do, sources of difficulty come to light, are replaced, and then it is a choreography like a dance movement, until those parts of the hand, as well as the whole, know no other way of doing.

Then when I come back into the scale HT, that motion has become automatic, the hands work in an integrated manner as a unit in partnership, but each hand "knows" what it needs to do. The mishmash is gone.

I have adopted a way of practicing in which I work on a thing separately and together in one sitting, the together being like a final summary. As the days go by the separate becomes less and less, because the automatism that I am aiming for is there. I would not want to adhere to a philosophy that was almost exclusively HS or HT. For one thing, even for the needs that I feel at the moment, there are times when over-concentration on the details can lead to paralysis, and letting go allows things to fall into place. At other times letting go to habit will simply mean perpetuating something that is inefficient and forever limiting.

Would that seem reasonable?

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#947812 - 03/01/08 11:23 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Very reasonable. I know not one teacher who insists on HT practice. HT sightreading, yes, HT at slow tempo practice, yes, but HT 100% of the time, no. While practicing, that is, while solving technical problems, I insist my students use both HT and HS practice, at slow, medium, and fast tempo.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947813 - 03/01/08 11:51 AM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
John, how much do you expect them to use their own discretion as to which to use when at which tempo, i.e. think for themselves, or does that depend on the stage they're at?

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#947814 - 03/01/08 01:40 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
FYI, my lessons are 50 - 55 min long, and after a technical warmup and perhaps a technical etude, we then spend about 30 min on one piece. The student plays it through first, then, after pointing the improvements they've made since I last heard it, we begin working on areas needing further refinement. I often will ask them what sections they feel they need the most help on, so that they start to listen to and to think about their playing. The lessons end with playing one or two pieces from their repertoire.

The purpose of structuring the lesson this way, and by the bye, I'm talking about 6th or 7th graders or older, for the most part, is so they can learn how to diagnose problems in a piece. As we go section by section, I often play an A and B example of the section, so they can contrast and compare. Students need to improve their aural skills, and this is one way to help them do so.

When the lesson is over, I remind them that at home, they need to practice exactly the way we have at the lesson. Warm up, then play through the first piece they want to work on, making mental notes of problems, then, as hard as it is, only play sections, working out the problems.

Students have a very difficult time playing at half tempo or slower. This week, I asked a 9th grader to play the section at half tempo, and instead of playing at mm = 120, she slowed all the way down to mm = 116! I had to set the tempo on my piano for her.

And finally, to answer your question, most of my students are mentally pretty sharp, so I expect a lot from them, including judgement while practicing. I let them know if they've let themselves and me down!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947815 - 03/01/08 02:38 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
Thank you, John. I'm writing as an adult student, and piano is my second instrument that I'm returning to. At the moment I'm interested in what happens between lesson, and practicing. It's not as clearcut as it first seems, and of course there are variations in teaching styles - competency won't be mentioned on the teacher's side, or attitude on the student's (two additional variables that I'll leave out of the picture).

At the extremes there is the student who does not follow a teacher's instructions, but picks and chooses, and invents his own way of doing things. That is not "thinking for yourself" or at least not effectively. It's painting yourself into a corner.

On the other hand there is slavish, passive, unthinking following. The instructions are the magic formula and if I do exactly what I'm told and in exaggerated replication, I will master playing the instrument. There is an element of magic to a teacher's instructions, and it is a formula (literally) to success. I understand that such a passive following is not welcomed by a good teacher. Music is a thinking activity: intelligent application of what we have learned.

So there can be the wrong kind of following, and also the wrong kind of independent active thinking, yet both following, and active thinking are needed.

From what you describe, first you are modeling an approach that eventually will become second nature when that student is a full musician: the warm-up, the approach to problems, their solution, and then resolving through practicing what has been determined needs practicing and how. But your student does not come up with the diagnosis himself, nor the exact approach. [Edit: later it seems the student does so, as well.] That is established during the lesson. (?)

So when your student practices for the week, she first does the warm-up as you instructed and as it wsa done in the lesson. Then your student pracitces the part you have indicatd, and isolates problem sections, which is your instruction, disciplining herself not to play the whole thing through. That is following.

Your student is also observing, finding where the problems are. That is active and independent (not slavish). The student is also finding solutions, working out the problems (oops - that seems to go against what I wrote earlier.) "Finding problems, working them out" is also "following instructions" even though there is independence in that. And I suppose in the next lesson both problem and solution are presented to you (or you can hear and see it in the playing).

The judgement they exercise in practicing is mitigated by what you have modeled and shown, and further, their solutions receive your feedback so that they acquire an extra skill - that of how to solve problems and attain goals. Do I have that right?

But now I come to the 9th grader who played at mm = 116 instead of 120. I went to the piano, set my metronome at those two speeds, and played a scale first with one note to the beat, and then two. (I'm just starting piano again so I'm working within my own limitations). There was barely a difference between 116 and 120 and briefly I wondered how this could be significant if this student should be thinking independently. But then I thought you must have had another goal in mind: something like being able to play at exactly the tempo indicated, or exactly half tempo, to be capable of doing so intentionally.

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#947816 - 03/01/08 03:16 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Yes, to your first question.

No, you're reading a bit too much into it. She was playing Forest Mummurs and needed to work on a section slowly. My point was that what the student thinks of as slow tempo is not what we teachers think of as slow tempo. I exaggerated a triffle to make a point. But getting her to think this way is part of her musical education.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947817 - 03/01/08 03:27 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
As student, the yes to my question is the most important.

What confused me initially about the second is that there seems to be barely any difference between 120 and 116, and yet you corrected her toward the faster of the two. There had to be something important to that.

So what is the difference between a teacher's slow tempo, and a student's?

I suppose that getting us to understand what you mean, instead of what we think you mean, is a task unto itself.

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#947818 - 03/01/08 03:57 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7300
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I asked her to play through the section at half tempo. Her idea of half tempo was fractionally slower. Most students cannot slow down significantly without external help. Yet, you should realize that it is practicing very slowly, but totally focused on every musical aspect, that allows your muscles to be trained correctly.

Let's say you've been working on Bach's Invention #4, and are playing it roughly at mm = 72. But there are pauses, slips, a few rough notes, etc. Your teacher asks you to play it once through at half tempo. That would mean beating 8th notes at 72 rather than quarter notes. "But teacher, that's way too slow," is the response. But it's not. It's really what you need while you condition your muscles to respond correctly.

Does that help any?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#947819 - 03/01/08 04:58 PM Re: Seperate VS. Together!
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11549
Loc: Canada
Yes, it does help. I think the incident got lost in the telling first time around.

I saw on a site somewhere, a comment by someone who practiced slowly but allowed her mind to wander because it was boring. She missed the whole point. Slow practicing is like box that you expand so that it can hold more content. You practice that content into the box, eventually you speed up and your playing is more "full" because it holds that content which is now automatic.

How does the following sit with you: I like to really get to know my concepts. If tempo is involved I play with it in half a dozen ways, exploring. I discover that if I am counting eighth notes at 120 I am going twice as slow as when I am counting quarter notes. Giving myself the freedom to play around with these things, turning them right side up and upside down seems to be the only way to really make them meaningful, so that when next a teacher explains something, a little light bulb connector goes on. Are people perhaps too intent on being correct, and too afraid to view things creatively? Or is creative viewing a danger zone if embarked upon too early?

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