Week 1: Status check! (also pick your piece!)

Hello and welcome to the WEEK ONE Main Thread for this challenge! 馃ぉ

 


Alright everyone - this is the thread where we'll all be posting our daily updates.     

Make sure you've read the rules before replying (<- click)

 

Twice a week between January 23 - 30 I hope to be reading your daily updates in this very thread right here!     

 

Here is this week's assignment!

 

1. Pick your piece!

 

2. If a new piece, post your sight-reading of it (never hurts to practice this valuable skill!) If it is an old piece, let's try and dust it off, and play through what we can, to evaluate its current condition. Let us know what your "piece status" is!

 

3. Optional: Tell us WHY you picked this piece that you love so much!

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    • Juan Carlos Olite
    • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
    • Juan_Carlos
    • 4 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    Hi piano friends! Here my first video of Beethoven op. 109 first movement.

    Why this piece? I simply fell in love with it the first time I listened to it. It is (Andr谩s Schiff dixit) the most poetic Beethoven Sonata. This first movement is like an improvisation, pure fantasy, without a proper beginning, "It comes from somewhere" (Schiff again). Are there bars or something like that? Or is it incredibly beautiful music that simply flows?

    For this challenge I only play this "Vivace, ma non troppo. Sempre legato". It's fairly enough with all the numberless details that it contains (Besides, I feel incapable to play the last movement, for now..., who knows...馃, perhaps in some years, thanks to all you can learn on Tonebase).

    Like 13
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Juan Carlos Olite Juan Carlos, your insights are golden!  I am adopting your philosophy now with the new piece I started on Saturday.  I just learned a few little fragments by memory and this time I am NOT rushing to play the whole piece immediately by relying on the score.  I LOVE this method and it makes me so happy!  In fact, I will make a small video this evening to show my learning process because this is COMPLETELY different than my usual way. 

       

      In fact, I think I never tried to memorize because i only played chamber music before starting Tonebase in 2021.

       

      Being a professor is such an advantage because you have given a great deal of thought to HOW people learn new information.  I can't thank you enough!

       

      Besitos,

      Gail

      Like 1
      • Michelle R
      • Michelle_Russell
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michael Juan Carlos Olite This discussion on memorization is wonderful. I've coached/taught for over 30 years, and have found over these years that many people seem to struggle with memorizing. Gymnasts/dancers must be able to memorize their routines, and for dancers to memorize them quickly (gymnasts tend to compete one set of routines for a year or more; dancers often learn many different routines/choreography at a time). My method of teaching students to memorize is similar to Juan Carlos' - the part/whole method. Learn the parts well, then put them all together into the whole. 

      One thing I finally recognized after about 8-10 years of coaching, is that each person has a preferred way of learning/memorizing. If you can identify your preferred way, you can customize your memorization. For example, I'm a kinesthetic learner (with aural as a secondary - visual is my least preferred way of learning). So once I've done something physically a few times, I usually have the pattern. One drawback with this is that if I need to start in the middle of the pattern, I can't always remember it. So, I also draw on aural learning, remembering the sounds (or the verbal instructions) at or for those moments, and tie them to a physical action. I must do the latter consciously, and this is where I actually do the work of memorizing - which is strikingly similar to the process which Juan Carlos described above. I find the process of memorization satisfying, and know that in the end it will allow me to play more freely.

      I also like to play with the music, which is more challenging if I don't have it memorized. For example, today I took a piece I knew from memory (granted, it was short!) - played parts slowly, on different parts of the keyboard, wondered about the harmonies, explored the rhythms. I spent 5 minutes just exploring two or three phrases, playing with them, closing my eyes while playing, using them in different ways, combining them, coming up with different ways to connect them, glorying in the beauty of the sounds. Memorization allows me to do this. 

       

      Oh, and Juan Carlos - one of the most memorable classes I took in college so many years ago was Philosophy of Mind. It was fascinating. 

      Like 3
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Vidhya Bashyam Gillian Gail Starr I am so glad that all these reflections and discussions have been of some use to encourage you to do something new in your piano practice. I am very happy of that 馃檪.

      Like 1
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle R Leslie Chong Derek McConville Thank you very much!

      Like
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle R I totally agree with your reflections, Michelle. One way or another, each person has to discover their preferred way of learning and memorization. For that it is important to experiment, at least for a reasonable period of time, different possibilities.

      Like
      • Michael
      • Art Historian, Musculoskeletal Radiologist, Former Harpsichordist
      • MichaelP
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle R Thanks for these very interesting thoughts about how learning involves an interplay of aural, kinaesthetic, and visual pathways. I鈥檝e marveled at how some dancers absorb lengthy, complex choreography in one viewing/trial. It would take me a lifetime to learn to foxtrot. With piano memorization, I wonder to what extent visual dependence on the written score (my plight) is replaced by visual guidance and cueing from watching the fingers on the keyboard, rather than from kinesthetic memory alone. What happens when a performer playing from memory is blindfolded?

      In thinking about the principal of dividing the music into small chunks, I speculate that for a formally trained musician the cognitive task is already partly accomplished (or 鈥渃hunked鈥) by having 鈥減rememorized鈥 the scales, intervals, harmonies etc. In the video introducing the piano level system Ben Laude mentions this, and provides insight into the predicament of adults learning more advanced works without having foundational skills.

      Everyone comes at the process of playing and learning from a different position. For me (having had only a minimum of piano instruction as a child), even though I can hear in memory a lengthy piece in detail without seeing the score, put me in front of the keyboard (without the score) and much of the time I won鈥檛 have a clue where to put my hand next. Often is seems that for any fairly advanced music I learn, many gestures have to be invented from the ground up. Even the basics of touch on the piano can be a stretch. I鈥檓 hoping that with persistence, someday I will be able to play more automatically without the constant flood of subvocal cueing to direct the basic movements; right now I鈥檓 always flying by the seat of my pants. The printed score is firmly embeded in my keyboard playing circuitry, and playing something with even moderate leaps demands visual facility in glancing between hands and score, and it鈥檚 hard to refocus and find my place each time. Overcoming this limitation and memorizing may be a monumental rewiring task.

      Like 2
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Derek McConville Juan Carlos Olite  Or, to simplify, M to the 5th power method? M-5? 
      We could make a nice logo for that!

      Like 2
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gail Starr Sounds perfect 馃槀

      Like 1
      • Michelle R
      • Michelle_Russell
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gail Starr I'd buy that t-shirt!! 馃檪

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      • Michelle R
      • Michelle_Russell
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michael I find the study of memory and learning to be fascinating (yes, I am unabashedly nerdy). In times past, people would memorize entire books, so I know our capacity for memory as humans is vast. But we have entered an age where almost everything we think we need to know is at our fingertips ("the world is in our pockets" - i.e. our phones). We also have to remember, though, that memorizing music for performance is a relatively modern concept. I think it was Clara Schumann who began this trend (someone can correct me if I'm wrong). Did musicians know their music well? For certain they did, but they also had a different type of musical education. Tonebase's Dr. Antonella di Giulo is a wonderful resource: https://app.tonebase.co/piano/live/player/antonella-digiulio-memorization-strategies-learning-habits.

      I do think having pre-loaded patterns makes memorizing easier (which is part of what Dr. Antonella discusses in one or more of her lectures). It is certainly that way in dance. Most movements are built upon other more basic movements. If you don't know the training, you don't see this. I remember when they changed the system for gymnastics routines from 4 levels to 10. I went to a conference and learned all routines on all events (for teaching purposes) in a weekend. That sounds like a lot, but it was movement pattern upon movement pattern, so the memorizing went fairly easily. Not having the patterns in your brain does indeed require you to learn from a beginning position. I wonder (for you and for me, too) if spending a set amount of time each day on these patterns would be helpful?

      I think memorizing is good for my brain health, and I do it partly for that reason. Also, my music reading abilities are well below my memorizing abilities, so I play to my strength! I think starting small, and playing around with maybe just a phrase or two is a good idea. See how you memorize. Don't be concerned if it doesn't come naturally to you! We have a wonderful harpsichordist/organist here on-island, who was the organist for a catherdral in Seattle for  many years, and when he retired and moved here he took over the musical society (singing group) until he began having health problems. Even with all those years and years of playing the same pieces over and over, he still pulls out the score when he plays. Thurmond has been to his studio a few times (to play the harpsichords - he has 3), and the last time we were there he played part of the French Suite for us on his largest instrument (double manual, with foot "pedals" - are they called pedals?). He pulled out the score! It didn't even occur to him to just sit down and play! 

      Can you play music beautifully with a score? Yes. So I guess a question to ask is why memorize? For me, though I am just beginning and may change my mind, it allows me a freedom. There is nothing in between the instrument and me. Thurmond, being young, memorizes easily (I've also required him to memorize as part of his studies, and now he voluntarily memorizes things like Shakespeare soliloquys). It seems to me that if memorization is part of your youth, those connections and pathways are built into the brain. If one hasn't memorized much over the course of a lifetime, beginning this habit will be challenging. But it is a habit! And our remarkable brain will adapt to it over the course of time. 

      Like 1
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Juan Carlos Olite YES!

      Like
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gillian I鈥檓 nibbling my first marshmallows today!  They are sweet and not too filling: I.E. I鈥檝e memorized about a page so far of my 12 page piece.

      Like 2
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michael Now that I have just started memorizing as I learn, I realize that I鈥檓 being pretty quantitative.  For example, I know the key my piece is in and there are 2.5 repetitions of a I-V pattern that veers off into a vi-iv for a bit twice, then we go back to I.

       

      I took an adult theory class on Saturdays at NEC in Boston many years ago, and I guess that stuff stuck!

      Like 3
      • Michael
      • Art Historian, Musculoskeletal Radiologist, Former Harpsichordist
      • MichaelP
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle R I鈥檓 totally enjoying this conversation! Thanks for the reference to di Giulio鈥檚 lecture, and for insights from your experience. I share your desire to memorize so that I can become one with the instrument and the music (to go skinny-dipping in a sea of music?).  I haven鈥檛 abandoned the concept, and I may attempt the M-5 technique. I鈥檓 still clinging to the possibility that if I work very studiously on a piece of music鈥攎aking interpretive decisions about every note, internalize it, recall it in aural memory, scrutinize every physical maneuver that is needed to deliver it鈥攁t some point ZUT! I鈥檒l be able to play it without the score. Sometimes that has happened for a page here or there, but I鈥檝e never added any strong intentionallity towards that outcome. Maybe that is all that will be needed.

      In working around my visual dependency, I may be up against 45 years of hard-wiring through training and professional activities that have likely placed me at the fringe of normal in terms of cultivating skills in visual observation and recollection鈥攕crutinizing and memorizing pictures all day. (Umm, I suspect many would say that is not the only way I鈥檓 at the fringe of normal.)

      Like 2
      • Michael
      • Art Historian, Musculoskeletal Radiologist, Former Harpsichordist
      • MichaelP
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gail Starr Brava! So it sounds like recognizing and being able to label the harmonic patterns has been helpful.

      Like 1
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michael Well...we'll see how much it helps!  I'll try to make a little practice video this evening.

      Like
      • Gillian
      • Gillian
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Well done! Gail Starr. I haven鈥檛 tried the Rach piece yet. But learnt a marshmallow from a simpler brand new piece Albeniz鈥 Capricho Catalan (in honour of our Spanish friend Juan Carlos Olite ), and a marshmallow from Daquin鈥檚 Le Coucou. They were surprisingly easy.  I had made it 鈥渄ifficult鈥 in my mind based on the belief that it is something beyond me. Cutting it down into marshmallow pieces makes it so much less intimidating. Will find out later today if I still remember these marshmallows from yesterday!

      Like 1
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gillian Marshmallows are delicious every day, so we'll just keep snacking until we get it right.  Or until someone in our house steals them to make 'smores!

      Like 4
      • Alice Lin
      • Alice_Lin
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Juan Carlos Olite what a moving permance!

      Like 1
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gillian Very good choices, Gillian! And don't forget the unique nature of these musical marshmallows: the more you taste them the more you remember them...

      Like 2
      • Gillian
      • Gillian
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Juan Carlos Olite Thanks! I love that your technique is to memorize as part of the initial learning process. I had always imagined that you learn a piece from the score and then memorize it afterwards. So I never ever got to the memorization part and was completely intimidated by the prospect of trying. This turns all that on its head, and makes it one process. Memorizing is simply part of the initial learning process. That is a huge difference for me, and takes away the fear and overwhelm associated with memorizing. Thank you for sharing your insights!!

      Like 1
      • Michael
      • Art Historian, Musculoskeletal Radiologist, Former Harpsichordist
      • MichaelP
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      About the marshmallow delayed gratification experiment:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment

      Like 3
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Gillian YES!  I am feeling the same using Juan Carlos' new approach.  It's kind of scary, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.

      Like 2
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 4 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michael I actually tried this on my kid when he was little and it was a huge flop because it turned out he hated marshmallows, LOL!馃槀

      Like 2
    • Juan Carlos Olite Excellent playing Juan, really an extraordinary performance! I also just read your comments on memorization. It was very insightful and will be very helpful. Thank you for sharing such pertinent and salient nuggets of advice.

      Like
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