November 29, 2017 at 1:14 pm #14681
I agree on all points. In the end I will get where I need to go. I have the time now so I just need to put it to good use.
BTW, I finished my third music video this morning at about 3:00 AM. Funny how all of my music production ends up happening in the wee hours.
I’ll post to my YouTube channel shortly.
Keep making music!
KenNovember 30, 2017 at 7:20 am #14686
I just went through the whole discussion. Very interesting discussion indeed! It is great that when people share experiences and things about life situations, so many similarities can be found. It really supports and eases up something 🙂 . I will catch up and add my thoughts too.
Actually, when I was around fourteen, I started to get extremely anxious during performances. I had been successful in the competitions and performed a lot as a kid, but probably, it was because of puberty and something changed drastically. Performance became a nightmare. As I had just changed the city and teacher, it had also an impact – my piano teacher was extremely strict (kind hearted though) and she did not spare me. There were times I left with tears in my eyes from lessons. But I was so nervous, that the right pedal was literally shaking when I depressed it, just I was shaking.. It is quite funny now, when I look back, but it was far from funny back then.
But now, when I like performing, I try to take it just as an experience. I try to look myself from distance and take certain tasks that I want to fulfil on stage with awareness. Especially with important performances with responsibility – it is an experience about ‘how much I could stay in control, what could I learn etc.’ I believe every performance can teach something new and valuable.
Actually, when Marc-Andre Hamelin was performing in Tallinn, in an international piano festival, where many top pianists come, he said that he was extremely nervous before the concert. He knew that other pianists (and international stars) were also listening. Stephen Kovacevic had just given a recital last evening and he was in the hall too…
About playing guitar – even if someone plays and sings just a little, it is still pleasurable when at gatherings or at the bonfire someone can make music. But yes – adding guitar to piano, why not? Guitar learning has its own benefits for overall understanding of music (besides the skill of playing of course).
Ken, the issue of your wife not talking about playing piano – I remember I had a friend (a girl) who used to sing in the car as a kid. Just random stuff, even without a certain melody sometimes. And once when her father was angry about something, he told her to “stop disturbing everybody with that noise”. It left a scar for the entire life. I think that paying attention to how sensitive people often are is very important.
And Ken, I am very much looking forward to listening to your new creation!!!
Best to you!November 30, 2017 at 10:43 am #14716
I still owe you a reply to your last email. I have been remiss.
Thanks for your thoughts as always. I just uploaded the new video and posted it to the Meanderings thread here.
I have pretty much decided to try the guitar lessons. Like you said, it can’t hurt and I have to start using all these instruments I’ve put together over the last few decades that are currently cluttering my house. 🙂
Maybe if my wife sees me progressing with this local group she will want to get involved as well.
Again, thanks for putting this forum together. It is a great resource.
KenNovember 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm #14733
I like your perspective of making every performance an experience where you can learn form it — what can you improve for next time.
I suppose a good attitude would be to step up to the piano and admit to myself that there will be mistakes and I will not be able to control everything as much as I would like to. Then, after I have played my piece I should not overdramatize my shortcomings, but rather look back on the preformance and do a post mortem to help me improve for next time.
When you think of it, when you see your colleagues play their pieces you don’t think “that was awful”. No, we are happy for them for having had the strength to do what they just did. Even if they made a mistke or two, that is not what we retain of the performance. Like Beethoven said a few mistakes are ok, but to play without emotion in unforgivable (or something to that effect).
It’s really sad about your friend. I have a big heart when it comes to emotional pain.
DennisDecember 2, 2017 at 12:52 pm #14822
I agree with you very much that accepting the appearance of mistakes as a natural part of our life and actions is healthy.
What has been very helpful for my students and me is the ability to focus as much as possible on making music.
Lets take it that way, that our mind has a certain capacity of information it can process in a minute.
If all attention is on making music, there is no space left for thinking unnecessary and disturbing thoughts.
At the same time, the imagery and meaningfulness of the piece must be grown so much, that the piece can fill our conscious mind.
Here the certain tasks and goals we take while performing help a lot – they help to stick to the work that has been done with the piece instead of “general playing just as it comes on stage”.
As a kid I often went on stage and my ideal was to just ‘forget everything and be emotional’. Sometimes it gave me a special power and inspiration. At the same time it was terrifying because I did not know really what I was going to play and when I started to think about the ‘right notes’, the probability of playing wrong notes and stopping went up sharply. Huh! These times are over 🙂
Have you ever experienced “just let see what happens” vs “clear goals” on stage? (or anything similar)
Ken, it really seems to me that people have so much to share and so much beneficial to give each other through constructive and positive interaction.
December 3, 2017 at 2:34 pm #14867
- This reply was modified 2 years ago by Jaak Sikk.
I think until recently most of my energy was focused on playing the right notes with the right finger instead of concentrating on the music. As I think back on previous performances, my focus was more on not making mistakes instead of the music. I would play pianissimo and forte in different places, but that is only because I have practiced it that way. It was not because of emotion that I put in the music.
Is there not a famous quote about how things come to us when we are ready? I think I am at the point where this information is not just theorical data but something that I understand more deeply and can incorporate in my playing.
Your words and wisdom resonate with me. At my lesson last Friday I played The First Noel being very aware that my teacher would critique my playing. I did not play it well and she asked if I would play it a second time, but this time let myself relax. The second time I was more relaxed and my arms were no longer tense. I played it beautifully, in fact I had never played it so well. I was singing the melody in my head while I was playing and I was sight reading and looking ahead quite comfortably. I can honestly say that I was concentrating on the music. I almost forgot that my teacher was next to me.
This morning my wife was vaccuuming around the piano so I went to the basement to play on my keyboard. I played “Smile”. I was thinking of the words as I was playing and I was also singing in my head. I don’t remember playing that piece so well.
I am hoping that I have achieved another level in my piano playing. I was intentionally playing with a lot of emotion. I should have recorded myself. I will be disappointed if I am not able to play this way tomorrow.
I will check out one of your older videos where you addressed the issue of musical goals while you were learning the Chopin Ballade no. 1.
This morning I stumbled upon this Youtube TEDx video about putting emotion in classical music. The best part of the video for me is when he presents a short video to the audience. This young lady just nails it. Although this is to do with violin, the very same principles apply to piano.
Here is the link:
Communicating the emotion in classical music
DennisDecember 6, 2017 at 5:02 am #14909
Thank you for sharing this interesting and beneficial video! What he talks is for sure very important and essential in making music.
One of the most famous and successful teachers in the history of piano pedagogy, Heinrich Neuhaus has devoted the first part of his book “The Art of Piano Playing” solely on having a clear and emotional mental vision (artistic vision) of the piece. Playing without a vision is like talking without an idea. And emotion for sure is the prerequisite for creating visions. It probably looks something like this, when to go from more general to more specific.
1) Emotion + past experiences etc.
2) Clear and emotional vision in your imagination how you want the piece to sound
3) Practice- Finding the technique and body motion that enables the piece sound as you want. Here careful listening is the key. If you constantly use listening and trial-error method, you will find a right technique and way how to express yourself.
4) Practicing the whole, polishing, adding details, getting more knowledge.
As you evolve, the piece evolves with you.
I remember as a kid I was extremely emotional. Sometimes I went too far with it and because I was emotional, I lost clarity and control. I was too much based on general emotions instead of forming clear artistic visions of the piece that expressed the emotion I wanted to convey.
How is it going? Did you manage to enjoy the pieces that much again? Have you tried recording them now?
JaakDecember 7, 2017 at 8:02 am #14932
I think I am attaining a major step of my musical development. Your post put many questions in my mind, but before asking them I want to re-read Heinrich Neuhaus’ book, which I started last night.
I think this is one of my major shortcomings: when I start a new piece I do not analyze it very much beyond the notes. I realize that my priority seems to be learning the notes so I can play the piece as soon as possible. I must learn to take a step back, analyze the musical structure, listen to recordings and then… I am not entirely clear on what comes next. That is why I want to read Mr. Neuhaus’ book again, which is making a deeper impression this time.
I think what is happening is that I am beginning to understand more clearly what it is that I do not understand. So, let me work inside my own head for bit, then be prepared to be bombarded by many questions from me. 🙂
You are giving me so much energy, and I find this very stimulating.
Thanks for being there, Jaak !
DennisDecember 8, 2017 at 10:37 am #14936
That really sounds interesting and great. Certain shifts in understanding something and so called “gaining the next level” are really interesting.
I know exactly what you mean, that the main focus tends to be just learning and playing right notes. But the piece itself is really something else and much more meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is according to Juri Lotman (one of the founders of semiotics) created in a higher level language than just words, letters etc. In music, it is not just a row of notes but a much more fine and nuanced, individual expression.
And yes, the search for clarity first in ones mind about the “how would exactly sound my perfect version of playing it” and then finding right efficient ways for physical execution.. Actually, I was not a kid any more, when it all came to me. I guess many professional musicians find these things our earlier than I did. At the same time, many professional musicians also never really understand the meaning of it and the possible development what can be built on this knowledge.
Keep us tuned 😉
And please shoot questions too 🙂
JaakDecember 10, 2017 at 7:19 am #14963
I know this is a tardy response. I have been so busy these past few days doing really fun things. So much has happened.
There was a masterclass on Friday evening with my piano teacher and the students who will be playing at the Christmas recital. I always feel priviledged to be with a group of like-minded people in a room with a piano and surrounded by music. Then there was wine and juice before we all went home.
We had guests for a few days this past week — my in-laws from up north — a medical appointment in the “big city”. As we are sitting around the piano and I am playing a few pieces it really struck me that something is not right. I have been playing piano for many years and I still can’t play the piano in a way that we can have a sing-along. Other than playing a few chords I don’t know what to do to make it sound good.
So last Friday morning at my piano lesson I had a wonderful conversation with my teacher about how I feel sort of discouraged and frustrated that I can not play the piano without a note sheet in front of my nose or playing a memorized piece. When people come to the house they expect that we can have a nice party singing around the piano, but all I can do is play a few pieces.
Laurie (my teacher) indicated that it is really important for her to know I feel like this. She said this is happening because I am ready for this now that I have a solid musical foundation. As our masterclass was that everning at the music school, she said to arrive early so we can look over material to start looking into accompanying and improvising. (I take my lessons in her private home on a beautiful Petrof grand piano).
That evening I came home with a briefcase full of various books to look over. Over the Christmas break I will have time to go through the material and then provide Laurie a clearer idea of where I think I would like to go with my music. This will be very helpful for Laurie to provide guidance and establish a structured program to suit my needs and interest. So I am quite happy about all this.
I have been reading Henrich Neuhaus again. I understand the information much better this time. The piece that I have been playing the most to try this out is “Smile”. I play it differently now, but not as well as I did the other day. I was probably more rested and focused that day.
What I do not quite fully understand is the emotion + past experiences — and I have not finished reading the artistic image section of the book. When I play Smile, should I recall of a specific event that corresponds to the message of the song, or is the emotion I feel from the piece a result of the accumulated baggage in my subconscious. …hum, as I write this I think I am beginning to answer my own question. I have to think about this some more. Very interesting.
Another subject. This everning we (Ponticello Concerts) are presenting the movie “Note by Note — the making of Steinway L1037”. We obtained the rights to add French subtitles for this showing only. I did the translation which took quite a while but was very interesting. Our artistic director provided the system generated English transcription of the text which is very approximative, and then I translated the text and synchronized the subtitles to the images. That is a very interesting movie.
It was snowing all night here. There is a cold air mass settling over this area and it looks like we will have a white Christmas. Yeah !!
That is it for now.
All the best
DennisDecember 11, 2017 at 10:07 am #14990
Congratulations Dennis. Sounds like you are breaking into new levels of understanding with regard to your music.
KenDecember 11, 2017 at 10:27 am #14993
I used to say this mostly jokingly, but now I think it is the reality: one lifetime is not going to be enough!
I want to know and understand so many things, such as:
Music structure analysis
I took a harmony course at the university a few summers ago, but I didn’t really understand it… even though I passed the exam.
Back to work…
DennisDecember 13, 2017 at 4:41 pm #15006
I guess this accompaniment of people who sing is a really great idea. Playing with singers or other instruments helps to have a deeper connection with music. When you play with others, you can not just ‘play notes’ but a different understanding is needed.
To breathe together with other people with whom you make music and follow the same musical phrase you have to have a clear understanding of the piece in your mind. It is great when there is some rehearsing together first as well, where people can discuss how to form phrases and musical image – it helps to be more together while playing. While performing it is very common, that something goes differently from the plan in piece – then it needs flexibility to react fast and change according to other players. So accompanying is a fantastic way to learn about music and musical communication.
I think it is a very good idea, Dennis!
People sometimes ask me how can I manage with many different things at the same time. But for me the solutions is – whatever I do, i try to connect it with making music and teaching. When you draw parallels with music, teaching and everyday life situations, psychology related books, observing people etc. it is much easier to stay focused on you main thing even if you have to carry out other duties too. Everything can potentially teach something about music, it is very much a question of ‘what you see and how you link things’.
What are the main points you have found in the book by mr. Neuhaus?
The weather is now very cold?
Karl Gustav Jung has interesting theories about archetypes that are the substrate for acting and seeing the world the way we do? (relates to the subject of emotions, subconscious mind, conveying emotions into music).
Best wishes to you!
JaakDecember 13, 2017 at 8:32 pm #15008
Thank you very much for your support!
I enjoyed reading Mr. Neuhaus again. I read the first section twice: Artistic Image of Musical Composition.
The main idea that I kept from that section is how can we make good music when the artistic image of a piece is absent.
He also states that pieces should not leave our feelings and imagination unaffected. I also realize that I never tried to play a passage or a phrase with different emotions. I should be able to play in different ways. I mean I should be able to paly the same phrase in a sad way, in a happy way, in a solemn way, and so on.
Mr. Neuhaus also indicates that we should study a piece in detail, that we should take the composition apart:
– the components
– harmonic structure
– polyhonic structure
We should strive to understand the beauty in every detail as there is a sense, a logic and an expressiveness throughout the piece.
I think there are important things missing from my musical toolbag, such as a good understanding of harmony and of musical structure.
If I could learn how play the piano to accompany myself singing, I think it would help me a lot. I sing pretty good and I have sung in choirs through the years, and I know what it means to put emotion when I sing. Granted, the words are a good indication, but I have a good sense of singing in a way that reflects the text of the song as I sense it. I think playing the piano in a way that I follow my own voice would be a good way to develop a better technique to produce the emotions in music.
I think once in a while that it would be enjoyable to have nice little trio of musicians of my level. Can’t you just imagine: The Dennis Dooley Trio. 🙂
As part of my conservatory program I am playing Bach’s Little Prelude BWV 927. I have been playing it since September. I mentioned to Laurie last week that I am not seeing anything beyond the notes. I am trying hard to understand what it is I am supposed to see or hear that is so wonderful about this Bach Prelude. To me this is just a lot of notes that do not speak to me. This piece is getting as dry-as-dust. I didn’t really get an answer as we stated talking about other things. We did agree to put this piece aside and that I would no longer pursue the exam.
For the past couple of years I have been feeling quite critical about the Conservatory’s approach and I am more vocal about it lately. The emphasis (as I see it) is to pass an exam. The curriculum is geared toward technical and theoretical knowledge, which is important, but I have this empty feeling that I still can’t play the piano. I am becoming increasingly frutstrated that I am relying entirely on printed music to play. If I progress to more levels of the conservatory I will have more technical abilities such as playing scales with a 3 against 2, doing fancy finger works and playing more complicated pieces. But that is not knowing how to play the piano. That is knowing how to play those pieces, and I still will not be able to play anything that is not printed. Maybe I would see things differently if I was 12 years old. I do not want to wait till I am 80 before I can play.
Laurie provided about a dozen piano books on improvisation and jazz. Though most contain a lot of good information, they don’t say HOW to play it. Knowing how to create great sounding chords is nice, but they don’t explain how to make nice music using this information. Of all the books, there is one that stood out. It is a small book – 52 pages – that seems to be exactly what I need to get started. As I read the introduction, I recognize my situation perfectly. I don’t want to just play the piano, I want to be able to “function” at the piano.
The book is Functional Piano by J. Chalmers Doane.
Here is an excerpt of the introductory page:
Quote “Playing” the piano usually means performing a well-rehearsed piece of written music, while “functioning” at the keyboard requires the skills to handle unrehearsed, impromptu musical tasks such as sightreading, playing by ear and interpreting a “fake sheet”. Some of your goals as a student of functional piano will be to do the following:
1. To improve your sightreading in bass and treble clef
2. To play a melody by ear
3. To play harmony by ear
4. To harmonize melody by use of chords symbols, with an appropriate rhythm
5. To function in all keys
6. To be able to interpret from a “fake Sheet”
7. To improvise
8. To master enough “functional” skills to produce a good sound at the keyboard for simple accompanying.
End of Quote
This sounds exactly like what I am looking for. It assumes the student has a good theoretical background and has been playing the piano for some time. I am seeing Laurie on Friday and I am really looking forward to talk this over with her.
Someday when I am more functional I will look into Karl Gustav Jung.
This is turning into a book. I will end here.
I should try to use your method to organize my life. The Holiday season is so busy… too busy!
I will keep you posted on further developments.
DennisDecember 15, 2017 at 8:17 am #15034
Hi Dennis, I’m curious, have you had any joy or successes playing your own music?
Maybe even something like “variations on a theme”?
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