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Piano and Relaxation

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Here I am, after 4 intense days of practise: around 6 hours Saturday and Sunday, maybe 2 hours Monday and 4 hours Tuesday. Here's my share of experience.

Saturday 14/09

Before reading the method, I was already practising and playing the Mozart's Sonata K333 (1st mvt), the Schubert's Rondo of Sonata D959 and the Schubert's Impromptu op.142 n°1. I wanted to test the method described here. So I began with the Bach's Invention #8 as M. Chang said in his book: play HS, alternatively RH and LH (right hand and left hand), through little sections of about 3 measures each, and always without pedal. The most important thing to do here is to memorize while practising the sections. At the end of the piece, I knew both hands by memory. It was easy because when I was a kid, I had to work on this piece, so this was some kind of re-memorizing after years not playing it. I think that it tool me 10 minutes.

In every section, I played until reaching the final speed, because you have to master HS (hands separate) at speed in order to work HT (hands together) with a slower speed (70% of HS speed). I began to practise HT a little bit then I worked on the other pieces (the Mozart's sonata and the Schubert's rondo). Because I already worked them, but only HT, it felt like going backwards at first. But I realized that I missed a lot of chance to practise the difficult passages in order to master them, not just playing them roughly, with hesitations, making mistakes.

At the end of each piece, I tried to play at a slow speed to respect the Post Practise Improvement (PPI) rule. That's a real effort to do, because you work a long time on a piece, about 1 hour, and then when you want to switch pieces, you have to play at a slower speed the same thing. Maybe there's something to review here: planify better the practise session in order to anticipate this "slow moment".

After 6 hours (spread during the whole day), it's harrassing for the brain. I didn't sleep well, because my brain was so active.

Sunday 15/09

I played first HS. Yes, I forgot to do the Mental Play (MP) before playing: close your eyes, and play in your head the 2 hands, paying attention to the notes played, the fingering, and the tones. I don't respect the tones on the sheet music I got, because Bach didn't put tones on it originally. I prefer keeping the staccatos that I learnt with my teacher a while ago.

Then I practised HT, section by section, at 70% of real speed. When it was OK, I started to work HS at 150% speed. This is where you have to speed up your memory to anticipate the difficulties, the "flubs". It's not hard HS, it's hard HT. Then I could practise HT at 100% speed.

Then I started the Invention #1, same thing: play HS, in little sections, without pedal. The harder part is the LH with the quadruplets all along. Then I tried a bit HT at a slow pace. But I tried HT 70% speed without the score: it's really really confusing and you need a lot of concentration to do that. It took me a very long time to play correctly simple sections, and I asked myself: when you start to practise HT, should you read the score or should you play it by recalling the HS learnt by heart? On the first case, it's for me sight reading (and somewhat easy for me), on the second case, it's very hard and time consuming, and I don't know if it's really efficient.

Anyway, I came back to HT by sight reading: it's easier, but to memorize, you have to play a lot of time, and repeat, repeat. When I felt that I wasn't confortable (especially with the LH), I came back to HS.

Then finished the 2 pieces with a slow play in order to respect the PPI. Then did the same with the 2 other pieces.

Monday 16/09

Less time to practise, I played the Invention #8 HT at 100% speed, making mistakes because I didn't master some passages, and also because memory is failing me. Mental play is very important, I should practise it when I'm not in front of the piano. And also repeat some passages with different speeds, HS or HT, depending on the mood. This allows exploration of the segments with different points of view, testing different gestures and techniques. Remember, you must come rapidly to 100% speed in order to work at a slower speed without bad habits. If you begin at a slow pace and stick to it too long, you take the risk to have different gestures and habits that you can't allow while playing at fast speed. Instead of learning bad habits, quickly come to speed HS and acquire the correct gestures with relaxed hands, fingers and arms.

Also worked Invention #1 HT at 70% speed.

Tuesday 17/09

I practised the Inventions #8 (nearly mastered), and #1 HT at 100% speed. And I started to play HS the Invention #13. Then I switched to Mozart and Schubert.

All the way, my mind wanted to practise hard the RH, especially in the Rondo of Schubert where you have to torture a little your little finger in the passage E4F#5E5 G#4A5G#5 B4C#6B5 E5F#6E6. I began to feel hot in the little finger, and I should have stopped sooner... I ended with the invention #13 at a slow speed HS. I was very tired, and my mind was... blank, I felt I was playing automatically, without thinking. I knew I was pushing too much, but I continued until the end.

Wednesday 18/09

Tuesday evening, I felt I pushed too much. I felt already on Monday a pain in the last finger of the RH, and it raised little by little up to my shoulder and back.

And that's because I failed to respect one of the most important rule (among many others...) of the method: relaxation! It's one of the utmost rule not to forget while playing, because it's the key to endurance of practise, and also the key to break the speed wall when encountered.

Today, I still feel the pain, and I think I have some kind of tendonitis due to the hard work. Today, I forced myself not to play the piano, since I also work with a computer: the fingers have to work too, it doesn't help the healing.

It's so hard not to play the piano that I practised the LH of the Impromptu (with the score) and the Rondo of Schubert (by heart, play the RH in my head in the same time). With relaxation in mind this time, realizing each time I was too tense, and that I had to go slower in order to get my fingers more relaxed. It's very hard to think about that while practising, it's like meditation you know: your thoughts are coming, coming, and you forget that you have to watch them, not follow them.

So the lesson is to be very careful of relaxation: relaxed fingers, hand, arms. And also, stop once you feel that you're pushing too much, and feel some pain. I felt pain in the back too, it was too stiff because of the long practise sitted in front of the instrument.

 

Have you also encountered this problem? What are your solutions? Feel free to comment and discuss about that!

PS: I raised the font size of the website, it is too hard to read. What do you think of the new font size?

Soda.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 22:48
 

Fundamentals of Piano Practise

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Hello music fans,

Sorry for the inactivity, I've been working hard on some pieces I like very much. Here there are:

You can blame me for not continuing the Czerny studies, "Les heures du matin", but you know, great lazyness came on me, I realized that it would require a very long time to work on these pieces, and especially, they are not pieces you want to play for the pleasure, since they are studies - I don't deny the fact that they are nice pieces -.

Later on, I worked on the 2nd concerto for piano of Rachmaninov (again!), travelling through the three movements. By repeated action of working on them, it seemed not so impossibile compared to what I thought. But anyway, after weeks of practice, I was as usual stuck by some kind of technical wall. If you know well the 1st movement, think about the piano passage very fast on the first minutes - with complex harmonies in C minor - where it plays alone before the coming of the orchestra.

In parallel, I did some sight reading (love that) and I attended the coursera lesson by Jonathan Biss on "Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas". This is a very good course, I didn't know him as a pianist, and I discovered how deep he plays his music, showing it with his gestures and face expressions. He's not faking, I think he really feels what he plays, that's kind of.. contagious.

During his course, he talked about Bach, Mozart and Haydn, and it made me work on the Piano Sonata K 333. It's a beautiful theme, I really enjoy play it, and practising it.

When I was travelling by car, listening to "Radio Classique", I heard the D959 Piano Sonata by Schubert. Each time I hear a nice tune on the radio, I try to note what is it on a paper in order to listen again to it. And then I worked on it.

The impromptu in F minor by Schubert is not a really known piece, I stumbled on it because I wanted to play other Impromptus more famous. By sight reading on it, and working on it, I came to like it.

Now the point of this article: Stuck by this technical and speed wall, I searched on the net how I could practise to be better. I haven't had a teacher for a so long time (15 years?) I needed to get some method to work rigorously. Then I found this website. It changed my vision of practising the piano. It's changing my life now: this weekend, I practised the piano around 5 or 6 hours per day... I forced myself to stop, because I felt stiff.

Chuan C. Chang is the author of this free e-book of 270 pages, "Fundamentals of Piano Practise", a real jewel in the world of piano: he explains how to practise the piano by giving methods that works by experience, and he get to the details on why it works, and why other methods won't work well. He also tells us that good methods are counter-instinctive, and that it's the big reason that why a lot of students give up: naturally, we use instinctive methods, which are not good.

By reading his method, I became more and more convinced, and my goal is to practise the best I can. He gives us an example where he explains how we can work, on the Bach inventions 8, 1 and 13. That's why I've been practising them: I wanted to apply the method and see the results. They are little pieces, but complex enough to be not too simple.

I will give you my experience of some tips given, but there is one point I can insist on, because it's really important even if everybody knows it: practise hands separate.

Because of lazyness, I always practised hands together, and repeated many many times... WRONG! How can you acquire technique hands together when you can't play hands separate without mistakes? You must practise hands separate and be at ease before beginning hands together.

But if the section you're working on is easy to play hands together, skip the HS part.

And you, did you know this method? Have you practised it? Have you any experience of it to share? Feel free to give a comment!

I'll make some articles about my practise, and share with you my experience of this method.

Soda

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 21:34
 

Czerny Challenge - Les Heures du Matin - Episode 3

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Recording during 2 days and processing the 3rd.

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Op. 821 n°34
Key: E Major
Difficulty: 4/5
Comments: The staggered scales were hard for me to practice. I took a long time. Difficult to play both hands synchronized.

Op. 821 n°35
Key: E Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Classic arpeggios. With or without pedal, this is the question.

Op. 821 n°36
Key: E Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Trills on the last fingers of the right hand while playing other notes.

Op. 821 n°37
Key: A Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Regularity, and be careful not to get mixed up with the tricky patterns.

Op. 821 n°38
Key: A Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Nice piece, it's possible to play very fast. Too fast makes me skip some notes, what a pity.

Op. 821 n°39
Key: A Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Duos of notes in the left hand.

Op. 821 n°40
Key: A Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments:Classic scale at the beginning, but little tricky patterns after.

Op. 821 n°41
Key: D Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments:Duos of staccato notes at the right hand, down and up.

Op. 821 n°42
Key: D Major
Difficulty: 4/5
Comments:Very hard to keep the 2 hands synchronized. Nice piece.

Op. 821 n°43
Key: B Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments:Scales and scales. Still the problem of regularity

Op. 821 n°44
Key: B Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments:Regularity while playing fast.

Op. 821 n°45
Key: B Major
Difficulty: 4/5
Comments:Wow it's so hard to be regular! When I play I don't realize how I'm irregular.

Op. 821 n°46
Key: B Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Nice piece with scales and arpeggios. Regularity.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2013 19:56
 

Czerny Challenge - Les Heures du Matin - Episode 2

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This is the next episode of my Czerny personal challenge. I played today pieces n°19 to n°33. This was another pain in the ass to play them.

As a reminder, I don't mean to play well these studies. I know they are not good to hear because I make so many mistakes, I don't play regularly, it lacks of work. I do that to force myself to play them and to improve on the piano techniques. I'm ready to hear any constructive critics, advices for improving some special patterns, etc... Yes I'm not a professional pianist, I just play for the pleasure, and I hate exercices, that's why I suck on technique :p

This is the time to explain how I do the recording:

  • I put my webcam on my guitar which is next to my piano. Yes it's ridiculous, but my guitar is the best spot to put a webcam on, in order to see the most of the keyboard!
  • I use Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder to record the videos in .flv
  • For each piece that I already know, I start the recording, and I play from 5 to 20 times the piece. I make mistakes in all attempts, I just hope that there are one or two acceptable attempts to select.
  • When I'm tired, I stop and edit the videos with Avidemux, a great tool I discovered after VirtualDub which is a bit complex for me... This takes also a long time to select, save, append the files
  • Then I upload that on Youtube, write the annotations, the descriptions.

Here is the video:

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Op. 821 n°19
Key:
D Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Playing with the double notes in staccato mode is easier than in legato mode. However, regularity is still hard to obtain

Op. 821 n°20
Key:
D Major
Difficulty: 1/5
Comments: The main difficulty is to link the double notes at the left hand.

Op. 821 n°21
Key:
D Major
Difficulty: 1/5
Comments: Play the left hand with legato.

Op. 821 n°22
Key:
D Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Regularity, and also velocity. Sometimes my fingers get mixed up

Op. 821 n°23
Key:
Bb Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Regularity: the left hand begins, the right hand completes. Not so easy.

Op. 821 n°24
Key:
Bb Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Scales, I don't like scales. Playing the same thing with both hands requires to be synchronous...

Op. 821 n°25
Key:
Eb Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Regular Trill at right hand with fingering 4-5 while playing other notes. It hurts after some minutes of practice!

Op. 821 n°26
Key:
Eb Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Regular Trill at left hand with fingering 1-2. A tricky passage at the left hand when you have to maintain a quarter note while playing the others.

Op. 821 n°27
Key:
Eb Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Little notes mixed with rapid trills at right hand.

Op. 821 n°28
Key:
Eb Major
Difficulty: 3/5
Comments: Lots of conjoint notes at the left hand: it's hard to keep the regularity and not making mistakes... A real pain in the ass this one.

Op. 821 n°29
Key:
Ab Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: "Broderies" on double notes. It hurts when practicing a long time...

Op. 821 n°30
Key:
Ab Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Playing Ab scale with a third between the 2 hands. A bit hard at the beginning, especially because the left hand tends to be slower than the right hand.

Op. 821 n°31
Key:
Ab Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Arpeggios. Regularity.

Op. 821 n°32
Key:
C Major
Difficulty: 1/5
Comments: Nice melody. Regularity. One with the pedal, the other without the pedal

Op. 821 n°33
Key:
E Major
Difficulty: 2/5
Comments: Arpegiios. Regularity.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 22:43
 


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