“Simplicity is everything. After having exhausted all the difficulties…then simplicity emerges with all its charm, like art’s final seal.
Whoever wants to obtain this immediately will never achieve it; you can’t begin with the end.”—Chopin, quoted by his student Friederike Müller-Streicher Source: The Art of French Piano Music by Roy Howat (via rachellebutler)
The user Bernhard on Pianostreet always has insightful comments. I read this one today and the amount of truth that rings throughout it is astonishing. It is exceedingly simple too but until someone explicitly states it it seems a complete mystery.
"You can only start practising after you made two decisions: 1. Which passage are you going to practise? 2. What exactly and specifically do you want to have improved in that passage after you finish your practice session?
Repeating a passage seven times will help you with the first decision. It will define the passage size, from two notes to two pages (or even the whole piece).
Then you must choose amongst the myriad aspects of that passage the one you want to improve.
Practice is the same as improvement.
If you have not improved, you have not practised. If you sit at the piano for 8 hours and after 8 hours you are still playing badly, you cannot call those 8 hours practice. They are simply “piano activity”. The number of hours you spend practising is completely irrelevant. Only results count. So from now on, judge your practice by its results. If you are not getting the results you want, change the way you are practising. This of course assumes you had thought long and hard about what you want.
You must be really specific here. It is no good to say “ I want to play better”. You must be very specific: “I want to always hit that high C without ever missing it”. “ I want that 12 note run to be totally even both in rhythm as in tone.” “I want to memorise the first page of the piece”. You get the idea.
Then you must use your practice session to achieve your aims.
Personally I am not a great believer in slow practice. In very small dosages, I suggest slow motion practice which is a very different proposition.”
“Let’s look for a moment at how we deal with projecting emotions, as this is a tricky issue. An actor expressing grief is not actually feeling grief at that moment, but is in sympathy with the state of grieving and knows how to evoke the feelings. The ability to do this is the hallmark of an artist. Some pianists fully live the music in their face or in their body language, others remain still. Horowitz is a good example of the wizard who conjured up all sorts of furies while appearing to do absolutely nothing. Certainly nothing was visible from his movements or facial gestures. Don’t get overly involved – remember you’ve got a job to do.”—
More good advice from Graham Fitch.
My teacher calls this “boiling the water without putting your head in it.”
“The human voice has natural tendencies, and even natural limitations. In most cases, the wider the interval, the more time the voice needs to span it. I’m not saying they’re sliding up and down like sirens; but if two notes cover a decent distance in the voice’s natural range, the odds are greater that the distance includes a change in register, and requires more from the voice than a small, stepwise movement (proof: try it). The neat thing is that we, as humans who use our voices to communicate, understand this innately, and forgive it. So much so that this immeasurable time taken between a large interval finds its way into the unconscious imitation by almost every other instrument; it manifests itself into a more flexible version of rhythm. It becomes part of a musical phrase, an element that’s crucial to keeping the music organic rather than robotic. The catch is, it’s hard to write down.”—
Great post over at the Schmopera blog on how the nature of the voice can inform effective phrasing at the piano.
“"A great piece of music is beautiful regardless of how it is performed. Any prelude or fugue of Bach can be played at any tempo, with or without rhythmic nuances, and it will still be great music. That’s how music should be written, so that no-one, no matter how philistine, can ruin it." ”—Dmitri Shostakovich (via maddiebkhandige)
“Instead, he was saying that really successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day. But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals.”—http://jamesclear.com/stay-focused (via practiceapps)
“Despite its size, the piano has a remarkably colourful voice and a rich bass. In the treble there are string quartet sonorities which brought a wonderful vibrancy to the music and revealed strands of melody, sub-melody and accompaniment which are sometimes lost in the lush resonance of a modern grand piano.”—
Frances Wilson recently visited Elgar’s square piano and made a recording of the Enigma Variations with her friend Elspeth Wyllie.
You will basically need five types of practice:Performing your programme in glorious technicolour – for yourself and/or for others (see below). Record this occasionally, this will be excellent (if somewhat uncomfortable) feedback.
Running through your programme lightly (we do this with an air of emotional detachment, mezza voce, slightly under tempo, the louder dynamics suggested).
Spot practice (going over those places that did not withstand the pressures of the previous performance or play-through).
Maintenance practice to keep everything in tip-top shape (routine spit and polish using practice tools such as The Three S’s).
Silent practice away from the piano, reflecting on the score. (Do you really know where that crescendo begins? Have you perhaps forgotten about the sforzandos there?)
When they make a mistake they hack away at it until it finally yields, and simply move on. What they have actually practised is getting it wrong three or four times in a row and right on the fifth attempt. What, then, are the chances of getting it right the first time in the context of the flow of the piece?
“If you really feel for what is beautiful, if it truly gladdens you, then your mind becomes enlarged rather than narrowed. I always get upset when some praise only Beethoven, others only Palestrina and still others only Mozart or Bach. All four of them, I say, or none at all.”—Felix Mendelssohn (via kurtlac)
“I can no longer play the piano well enough to risk the execution of my Études…there are too many keys; I no longer have enough fingers; and suddenly I no longer know where the pedals are! It’s sad and perfectly distressing.”—
Claude Debussy, letter to Gabriel Fauré. April 1917.
"Je ne sais plus assez bien jouer du piano pour risquer l’exécution de mes Études…il y a trop de touches; je n’ai plus assez de doigts; et tout à coup je ne sais plus où sont les pédales! C’est triste et parfaitement angoissant."