Reasons for playing technical exercises

Questions and discussion on technical, teaching and performance matters
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Arjuna
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Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by Arjuna » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:46 am

Over the last few years I have slowing become disenchanted with technical exercises to the point where I have lost all faith in them. Can anybody suggest reasons for playing technical exercises? and, is there anything you can gain from them that you can't from a more carefully chosen, and thoughtfully studied, repertoire?

N.B. I don't think of scales and arpeggios as technical exercises. For me, they are more theoretical than technical.

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janterje
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Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by janterje » Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:47 pm

I have gone the other way. Before, I used to think technical exercices were a waste of time, and that studying the difficulty in the pieces I was currently playing was far more valuable. Now I see them as extremely valuable.

Let me explain what I mean by technical exercices. I don't mean playing through the Hanon, Liszt, Czerny etc. I mean to practice a technique. For instance scales. Everybody needs to master scales. You will never master scales (or very rarely) if you only play them as they show up in different musical contexts. To study the technique of scales (for instance, never thumb under, lateral movement of the wrist, a slight rotation of the hand), and to incorporate the result of that study into kinetic memory is where the value is. After I, quite recently, started to use this with my pupils, they have shown remarkable technical progress (I have only done scales so far though). After a couple of months of slow practice (major keys mostly), they are now in moderate tempo with all major keys and the three minor keys. They have now a generally good mastery of scales, and know where the difficulty lies (why F major is a lot harder to play evenly than D major). So the last part is that they must do all the modal keys, admittedly for more theoretical reasons than for practical at this point.

I believe technical exercices are crucial to master the tools you need. If you don't do them, every time you run into a piece full of scales, you will spend a lot more time on them unless they are pretty identical to how you have encountered them before. Remove this obstacle, and I think you will learn pieces a lot faster.

Just to clarify, if you mindlessly play scales as the appear on a piece of paper (or screen), you don't do a technical exercice. You just play a REALLY boring string of notes. Use your head, look and your fingers, hand, wrist, arm etc, and THINK. I am still appaled that (supposedly ) intelligent music pupils need to have WRITTEN OUT scales in order to practice them.

My 2 cents. And for the record, while I am a classical musician by education, I almost only work with rhythmic music now. So my pupils play all kinds of music except classical. However, you need good scales if you're gonna play in Oscar Peterson style!

/janterje

kh0815

Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by kh0815 » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:35 am

What a pleasure to meet Janterje here again with his first post - a very cordial welcome! In the old PPh he "founded" the Exercises & Etudes thread.

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Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by fredbucket » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:43 am

kh0815 wrote: In the old PPh he "founded" the Exercises & Etudes thread.
Yes, but despite that he is still very welcome here :)

Regards
Fred

kh0815

Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by kh0815 » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:54 am

Not despite but because - and with whatever!

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janterje
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Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by janterje » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:06 am

Thanks guys! :). And still off topic: I am flattered and amused that I'm offered the title PP Hall of Fame, haha. :D

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Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by fredbucket » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:22 am

janterje wrote:Thanks guys! :). And still off topic: I am flattered and amused that I'm offered the title PP Hall of Fame, haha. :D
It was the least we could do.

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Fred

Scordatura

Re: Reasons for playing technical exercises

Post by Scordatura » Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:45 am

Admittedly a very old topic, this, but I just came across this short paper that may be of interest:
http://www.music.sc.edu/ea/keyboard/PPF ... References

For me, the most productive technical exercises are of the kind recommended 300 years ago by Francois Couperin - ones based solely on some difficult patch or note pattern I come across within a work I'm studying. Generally my procedure consists of nothing more than transposing the difficulty into a variety of different keys and practising each version up to the same level of control. Practising whole pieces in different keys is also wonderfully beneficial technically, and really tests your aural memory of the music like nothing else.

As for formal technical exercises, I don't begin to experience their intended effect unless I apply exactly the same standards of musicianship and concern for tone-production that I apply to any repertoire pieces I work on. My working rules are always the same: "Make haste slowly" (Liszt), "Sound no note without a musical intention preceding it" (Schnabel) and "Work to find the correct dose for each note" (Horowitz). For me, velocity studies entail practising to think the notes at (or above) the pace I want my fingers to move. If I can do that, my execution steadily improves with each attempt; if I can't, it at once starts getting worse and worse.

Scordatura

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