What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

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Jonathan the 2nd
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What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 03 Apr 2012, 17:54

As a newbie to playing I am not really clear about what bad habits are. Apart from sitting the right distance away and elbows at the correct height relative to the keys I may need a few pointers. Oh , and curved fingers. I forgot that one. I know those are good habits in case you thought otherwise.

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by MarkGoodwinPianos » 03 Apr 2012, 18:52

Rushing the easy bits and playing slow through the hard bits. You'll soon find it impossible to play the whole piece at one steady speed if you do that.
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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 04 Apr 2012, 08:09

There are never a set number or exact list to go by for bad habits. Self-taught pianists generally can play OK, but their playing contains what I call VIRUSES! I think therefore a bad habit (as such) is say, a teacher showing a pupil the correct fingering for a scale, then the pupil returning one week later inventing their own fingering!!.... so many 'bad habits' are as a direct result of not practising properly. Also, some pupils I teach are known as 'beginning to enders' ...... this means that they dont practise in sections/ few bars at a time/ practising the ending only...... but instead, I hear a perfect 8 bars, and then not so perfect as the music progresses. The list is endless, but here are few of my 'pupil's bad habits' ....

1. Playing too LOUD
2. Playing too quickly
3. Incorrect fingering
4. Left hand accompaniment too loud
5. Ignoring details like slurs, staccato, dynamics, performance markings etc
6. Chewing gum!!
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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 04 Apr 2012, 15:35

I`m not doing too badly then. I play slowly at present to establish the geography of the keyboard. I don`t try music that might confuse me at this stage although my ears guide to with the Chopin pieces .Mostly the Bach 48 Preludes set me problems I can handle . In the first Bach Prelude I play each repeated section over and over till I have become familiar , then repeat the next one etc. I do that all the way through so you get a six times as long version. I may play a bit too quietly some times but I also try to vary the repeats for volume to see how it compares There is an element of play in what I do . I also memorise which black keys are in that key and find I can follow the music in any key now. A question here about accidentals. Chopin Mazurkas show sharp notes changing to flat notes in the next bar with a linking line joining them.ie the exact same note . Did Chopin have some one off habits when he wrote his music?

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 05 Apr 2012, 17:13

I haven't got my mazurkas (and etudes) at hand at the moment, someone has borrowed them - so you might have to send a piccy of the music if possible. I think the lines refer to 'enharmonic equivalents' during a key change (eg D flat major to C sharp minor) - not really a 'habit' of Chopin's as such, seen it on Rach's music aswell, and in some cases when double sharps & double flats are used. If you tell me which mazurka, I'll have a look on-line
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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 06 Apr 2012, 00:27

The Mazurka is Op 59 No 4 in A minor. Line 3 , bar 14 and 15.
14 is E ,A , G#linked to bar 15 starting with A flat etc. but no change of key signature.

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 06 Apr 2012, 15:36

Right then.... found it!!
I think Chopin only composed 3 mazurkas from the Op 59? ...... you say its No 4, but I think its No 1 !! .... and it fits your description at bars 14 & 15.

I didnt say a change of key signature - just said a change of key.... and this is what has happened here. The curved line is a TIE, so just treat the A flat as a G sharp. If you study Chopin's music, and do analysis (which is tricky) .... you will see he uses allsorts of devices in his melodies & harmony. This - the G sharp is known as a 'note of anticipation' - so we are expecting a final chord of A minor in bar 15 - following the dominant (chord V E Gsharp B) in bar 14. However, Chopin (as usual) - never lets the music settle for a minute, and we have here an abrupt modulation - and of course, and strong key change to E flat major - but only for bar 17.

The G sharp therefore becomes an enharmonic equivalent (or substitute) for A flat - so in bar 14, it forms the 3rd of the dominant chord (G sharp) - then in bar 15, it switches to the 7th note of Bb7 (new dominant 7th for E flat major) ...... then it changes key again, and again, and again...... and so on!!...... so usually after the first 8-12 bars of staying nicely in A minor - Chopin moves all the furniture around and changes key many times.

Dont forget, key changes do not need new key signatures - the accidentals switching to flats here imply a key change alone - and Chopin is one of the strongest composers at doing this. 'Modulation' is a technique to change key 'without pain' - so we feel the effect, but its so subtle - it sometimes goes un-noticed.

Is this the music you were referring to below (area circled) ??
Mazurka Op59no1.JPG
So... you may ask.... 'Why not just leave it as G sharp?'

Well, you can't - because the note G sharp is not theoretically correct any more with the underlying harmony, so Chopin keeps the same melody note, switches its 'identity' now to according to the key, and build up to E flat major - no matter how brief the modulation may be.

Clear as mud?

It takes quite a long time to understand these techniques used!!

Hope that helps

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 07 Apr 2012, 01:12

Thanks for an amazing explanation. I never knew that happened without a key signature change. It`s the right music. That modulation feels as if a cold or cool shadow passes over the music just briefly , if I can say it that way .

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 07 Apr 2012, 09:30

Modulation/ key change/ implied modulation/ passing & abrupt modulation are all separate specialised subjects used in melody & harmony writing. Chopin is way-up at the top of the list. You need to understand cadences first - this is the basis for all key changes. Simple harmony of triads/ primary chords etc start at Grade 4 theory. It is also best to start with Sonata Form to get a better understanding of modulation - this usually occurs more slowly during the exposition part, and eg. Mozart's sonatas are a text book example. Whilst Chopin is unique in his key structure, and although some of his key changes are outrageous, he seldom 'leaves the key of the music for long' .... it's always there, hinted in the background! Other devices he uses effectively are chromatic decorations (eg. bar 4, LH A flat), the use of secondary dominants (just ignore that, too technical for here) .... and here in this Mazurka, he 'hints' away at using the Neapolitan 6th chord.... again, very involved - and covered in Grade 7-8 theory.

I have 'knocked up' some simple harmonisations of chords & cadences 'around' the key of A minor - with the exception of C extract. Try these on the piano.

A extract: using conventional harmony based on chord I and V .... ending with a perfect cadence in A minor.

B extract: Still ending in A minor, but intervened with the classic 'Neapolitan 6th' chord (bII) preceding chord V...... just adds more flavour to the cadence.

C extract: Key change here to E flat major. I have exploited the bII further, and using a pivot chord, swung the key to E flat major.... this is what Chopin does, but he is more ruthless than me!!

This example of the N6 chord can also be found in Schubert's music (Impromptu in G flat)

The mazurkas are usually shorter works, so they contain that many more flavours. Whilst we hear a sort of cloudy day - moaning on in the background, Chopin's use of these key changes breaks the cloud into sunshine!

Everyone experiences it differently, and have their own way of expression. How you interpret the music is a different thing. Many pianists use these 'harmony exercises' and analysis procedures to help memorise the music.... it also works for me.
simple harmonisation.JPG
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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 12 Apr 2012, 17:38

Well I drew the chords on an envelope and heard the sounds. Quite a lot of drama in the third version. Once I got my fingers in the right place. If I did a 2 year music course I would just about manage those chords by the final week. I will need to develop a pruning system for short fingers .
Is there a name for the effect when you play a five note chord and then move one note lower and the overall sound rises? It must have a name.

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 12 Apr 2012, 22:14

Jonathan the 2nd wrote: Is there a name for the effect when you play a five note chord and then move one note lower and the overall sound rises? It must have a name.

A musical effect needs to be heard or possibly seen on manuscript - then commented on.

I could say - RH C E G B cdc LH alberti CGEG X 4 .... and you wouldnt have a clue what I am referring to! .... but if you hear & see the music, its the opening 2 bars of Mozart's K545 piano sonata...... therefore
Not sure what you mean - depends on context. Also, are the 5 notes played with one hand, or say, 3 in treble, 2 in bass? Also depends on the interval between notes. The general term used from one chord to the next is called a 'progression'. Also, certain chords building up to cadences are known as approach chords.
Example - in extract C; bII is the approach chord (approaching the cadence)
V7 - I are the cadence chords.

Musical effects of chords are created best by good use of contrary motion between parts, and also keeping the same note in the same part. Note, extract C - right hand, the last 3 chords all have B flat in the lower part - so if different chords share the same notes, best keeping them in the same part (eg Alto).

There is no name as such for certain music effects of changing chords - it depends on their structure, however the N6 chord tends to create a more stressful & melancholic effect.... but you need to study harmony to know how to write it!

To save you writing score on envelopes etc.... I have some very good software (used above) to put on score, and you can then translate your suggestions/ questions onto score & then email them to me (or whoever) .... PM (or better email) me if interested for some details & price - very reasonably priced, and I use it for teaching students.... but both sender & recipient must have same software.
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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 13 Apr 2012, 22:20

That question came from doodling on a piano years ago. It`s not music as such. One musical effect I am fond of is in the start of Don Giovanni. The first chord is played for a few seconds then joined by much lower notes. The original notes stop and leave the lowest notes as if looking into a massive dark chasm. That`s the opposite effect .Going down .
I would be lost with software but thanks anyway.

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 03 Dec 2012, 21:10

I still have a lazy left hand ( it just goes on strike ) although I am using the bass clef regularly enough. Knowing where the notes are will come. I tried playing all the right hand notes and sharing out the work between both hands yesterday .My short thumb likes to avoid too much stretching. I have to wear a cotton glove at night to hold the right thumb still . Thumb part is stitched to the palm . It is sensitive to bending outwards since an accident with a drain pipe. The pipe was blocked and as I unscrewed the clamp I had no idea that it was full of water . That`s very heavy and in a split second the pipe pushed my right hand back at shoulder height and rammed the hand backwards pressing the thumb backwards over my shoulder . The shoulder was so painful I never thought about the thumb at the time .

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Re: What are Bad Habits on a Piano ?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 23 Dec 2012, 13:41

I get the feeling that playing consecutive notes close together with the same finger or thumb may be a bad habit. It would happen mostly where the finger grouping has not been worked out sufficiently. Scales and scale fingering patterns do not seem to apply much to the randomness of compositions . Am I missing something ? (Sorry to use that horrible question . It`s one of my pet hates ). (Sorry --is another pet hate ).

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