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Big movements in left hand - any tips?


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#1 EllieD

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 12:28

So I'm finding my way around piano music again after a 25 year pause ...

 

So far, I'm managing to get through a Grade 1 piece after approx. 1-2 hours' practice, Grade 2 after about 4 hours .... except this one piece from a Grade 1 anthology which has a lot of big movements in the left hand (it's a Schubert piece called Landler, and it's in G Major). Anyway, after 2 hours I'm still struggling to play it even at less than half speed without either mistakes, large pauses to get the left hand in position, or both.

 

I guess everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so maybe not everyone finds this so tough.

 

Any tips for moving on with this?

 

I find I'm looking down a lot at my left hand, and that it's impossible to get that right unless I do. Is that what more experienced pianists do too, or do people eventually get to such a level of proficiency that they never need to look? If I'm doing this, obviously I'm basically memorizing what the right hand has to do, rather than looking at the music, so I can focus on the left hand. Seems like I'm cheating if I do that.

 

Any tips, advice, helpful studies would be much appreciated.

 

I'm actually finding Mozart's D Minor Fantasy (from a Grade 6 book!) easier to learn than this wretched Schubert piece!! :lol:


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#2 dorfmouse

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 20:12

Graham Fitch is your man for how to practice virtually anything,
e.g. search for jumps on his site you get two helpful techniques which he calls Quick Cover and Springboard
http://www.practisin...tising-waltzes/

And he drills in the mantra SSS - slow, hands separate, small sections. Get the LH rock solid and feeling comfortable at slow speed and only then practice coordinating with the right in tiny bits. Sounds like you might have gone too fast too soon, then it's a nightmare to unlearn all the hesitations that have built up. (Bitter experience, sigh!)
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#3 SingingPython

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 20:31

Can I just say that memorising any part of anything is NEVER cheating :D


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#4 dorfmouse

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Posted 13 June 2017 - 21:19

Can I just say that memorising any part of anything is NEVER cheating :D


Agree! I don't know where this dogma of never looking at your hands comes from. (OK, for good sightreading). It's taken me years to get over the anxiety generated by a teacher with this attitude that I had for a relatively short period of time as a teenager. It got ridiculous when I was scared to tear my eyes off the notes even to do a page turn. I was also totally unable to memorise anything. Not that I'm brilliant now but I can, and it's so freeing.
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#5 EllieD

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 07:31

Thank you Dorfmouse! I'll have a look at those techniques. You are right though, I am forever one for diving in at the deep end! :lol: 

 

Good to know I don't need to worry about looking at my hands too. I will try not to as much as possible, as I am a better memorizer than I am sight reader so I want to try and improve the latter, but if I need to take a peek from time to time I won't be concerned!


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#6 linda.ff

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 15:14

It's not your hands you need to look at, it's the keyboard. Just look for the note you have to go to, and if you are using the music, mentally stick a pin in the place you were at, look for the note, as soon as the correct finger is coming down on that note, get back to where you knew you were on the page.

 

We don't look at our feet when we walk, do we? We look at the pavement just ahead of them.


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#7 EllieD

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Posted 14 June 2017 - 18:25

That's a brilliant tip, thank you! One of those things that sounds simple, and yet will make a big difference I think! :)  I will try that tomorrow.


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#8 Saxwarbler

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Posted 15 June 2017 - 10:16

I have the same issues. My teacher is of the 'try not to look down but it's OK if you can get away with it musically' school. Some really useful information here, especially that tip from linda.ff. Never mind a mental pin, I may just get into the habit of marking the music with a sticker or a highlighter pen. One tends to become a little blase about the importance of pencil marks after a while.


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#9 EllieD

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Posted 16 June 2017 - 15:38

Sounds like a good idea, Saxwarbler!

 

After four hours on the Schubert piece, and thanks to Linda.ff's advice I think, I have managed to play it through at half speed a couple of times now ...

 

I've been looking through all the books of Grade 1 and 2 music I have, and in them, there is only this Schubert piece and a Tchaikovsky piece that give scope to practice this technique. I'm wondering if there's a much easier book which teaches this, rather than having to dive into pieces that will take me ten hours to get on top of ... And if not, how hard could it be to write one!!  :)  I'm sure lots of people must find this tricky.


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#10 miner2049er

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Posted 13 July 2017 - 22:09

Regarding this thread, I thought the following short 4-minute video on YouTube "What Does a Pianist See? | Eye Tracking - Episode 1" might be of interest:

https://youtu.be/GVvY8KfXXgE
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#11 SingingPython

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 06:15

Really interesting!  Thank you for posting it!


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#12 EllieD

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 07:27

Yes, thank you!! Really interesting! :) 


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#13 EllieD

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 12:31

Just wanting to return to this topic for a moment ...

 

Given that the professional pianist in the video posted by miner2049er looked at what he was doing All The Time (!!!) on the piece that he had learned, and even looked down several times during the sightreading, how important is it really to learn pieces without looking at the keyboard?

 

I know some schools of thought are that you should never look, but I would really struggle if I felt that the one thing that was holding me back on a piece was that I kept missing a chord I was trying to land on, when a simple glance down would solve the problem.

 

So although I do try and read through new pieces without looking, I will always look rather than spend hours and hours trying to make my hand land somewhere that I can't see it going to.

 

Probably helps me in this in that I'm pretty good at memorizing,  to be honest, so that always is the easier option for me, and currently I'm always taking it.

 

I can imagine at some point in the future, there may be a piece I come across that has big jumps in both hands and I can't look at both ...

 

Am I really just being lazy, though, and will cutting a corner now make me come a cropper in the future?

 

Or is not looking a clever skill, but really not essential?

 

Even if you could guarantee landing correctly 19 times out of 20, that wouldn't be enough - you'd know, under pressure that the odds would worsen.

 

Be very interested in any thoughts.


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#14 polkadot

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 13:26

Ah, this must be the other thread that you mentioned in the other thread, if that makes sense!

The first piece I remember learning LH leaps without looking was Tchaikovsky's Italian Song.  After enough practice, I could do it automatically every time and found it easy.  So I'm reasonably confident that I can do the same with the Kabalevsky after more practice.  If LH chord movements are very repetitive, as they are in Italian Song and Novelette, it seems worthwhile to me to learn to do them automatically, but that might not be the case for everyone :)


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#15 sbhoa

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 14:34

I think that for most of us it is better to take that look.

I don't think that looking down is a complete no no but there are times when it really is a good idea to learn not to when reading at least.

In the early stages of learning when your hands are not moving around or only moving a little I think that it's good to be disciplined about not looking. If you need to look when you remain in a five finger position in both hands then you really don't understand how the music or the notes work in which case looking down isn't going to be that helpful. As you progress I think that finding notes at least within an octave without looking most of the time is basic keyboard geography. 

If a leap takes one hand close to the other you can use the non moving hand to help to find the place if that makes sense. 

If/when you do need to look while playing try to look with your eyes and not with your head as it will be easier to keep your place on the score if you need.

For me it's about efficiency. If you have to look up and down a lot it can impede fluency and it can take longer to learn something than it would if you had more awareness of keyboard geography.

If you are playing from memory look where you like.


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