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 Post subject: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 1:03 am 
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I suppose I'm not the only one to have those days when I just can't play anything well.
Sometimes I feel miserable because everything I want to play seems out of reach, sometimes I can't produce the sound I want, sometimes I just have no will to work...

What do you do when it happens ? Is there some kind of magic trick to give you high morale and get you back in the saddle ? Often I feel helpless because the piano is so demanding, technically and musically. It is especially important for me to practice everyday now that I'm back "in piano school" with a teacher - up to now I could always manage to do what I was asked for the next week, but it's getting harder and harder to cope with "no piano days".

I used to play easy and well-known pieces, but nowadays it seldom gives me any comfort ; most of the time I will get frustrated either because it is not what I want to hear or because in my depressed state I will make careless mistakes. The other day I almost lashed out at a friend I play duets with because I was so :evil: :evil: with my playing.

I hope I'm on the good part of the forum, because I definitly feel that's one big technical hurdle to piano playing (or at least to mine !) right there ! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 4:26 am 
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Teddy wrote:
What do you do when it happens ? Is there some kind of magic trick to give you high morale and get you back in the saddle ?

I usually throw my hands up in the air and swear like a truck-driver. Not very lady-like, I know, but it makes me feel better. That, and I complain to anyone who happens to be home at the time. Then when they tell me to zip my lips, I go for a long run while listening to hard-rock music on my Ipod. All that clears my head and when I get back home I can sit down on my piano and get back to business. And really, I have had so many days when things go poorly (like today!), that I know things will be different next time. Also, just remember what Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day!"

Hang in there, Teddy. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:15 am 
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I think it's quite normal to have a day, or a couple of, where the enthousiasm falters, and you don't know what the heck you are doing it all for. I have that occasionally, too. Nothing to worry about, as long as it passes. The best is just to go with it and wait it out. It's like writers' block, you can sit there willing the inspiration to come, but it doesn't help. It must come of its own. Cursing and headbanging doesn't help either.

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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 1:38 pm 
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techneut wrote:
Cursing and headbanging doesn't help either.

Yes it does!

Seriously, Teddy - on bad days, I think that if you practice through your pieces in a slow and deliberate way, it is at least helping with the muscle memory so when you come back to the piano later, you will not have wasted too much time doing nothing.

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my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
my personal website: http://www.monicaalianello.com


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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 3:01 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Yes it does!

Let's just say that some people need that more than others.

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Nothing is always absolutely so -- Sturgeon's law
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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 3:21 pm 
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Glad (well in a way !) that I'm not the only one :)

The worse is that on those day I often want to listen to good piano music ; a friend of mine told me that she often has the third piano concerto by Rachmaninov looping in her head, and on those day, she's beyong frustrated because there's no way she can play it well, though she really wants to listen to herself play it.
And obviously, the more you listen to good piano music, the more you want to play... And the more you'll expect of what you play ! Then I don't hear what I want, and though I don't swear like a truck driver, I kind of twitch like an epileptic twig stuck on a piano bench. (careful he's gonna blow any minute now !)
I've noticed that the worse I play, the more I'll want to play large sections instead of just working on a few bars ; that's usually how I know a crisis is impending. Like I want to comfort myself by playing at lengths, "see it's not that bad".

It's funny you mention writer's block Techneut ; when that happens, I can just focus on the words, make a few "crutch" sentences, and it will start to flow from there (unless I'm emotionnally distressed because I can't play the piano !) On the piano, it seems so much more black and white - either you have it, or you don't.
Now that I think about it, I've never had that problem while playing for an audience or for my teacher ; it's only when I'm practicing... When I'm playing "seriously"' for someone, I'm always fired up and ready to waltz. Sad I can't really summon my personal audience anytime I wish...

Sorry for the whining, it does ease my mind though ! As a side note, I've been learning the E minor sonata by Stanchinsky, and it's absolutely beautiful - I think there's a good (and a bad) recording of it on Youtube. It's more like something Scriabin would have written early on, with its majestic and lyrical first theme - the second however is both playful and tender, and I can't quite find anything like it.


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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 5:36 pm 
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Teddy,

Sometimes it is good just to strike out in a new direction for a little while. Try just playing around at the piano. Improvise -- play some chords or a melody and see where it leads you -- there is no right or wrong here. Try a totally new style such as learning to play some jazz or rock or (egad) new age piano. Practice some keyboard harmony -- getting the voice leading correct. Practice sight-reading or sight-singing.

There are plenty of musical things you can do that helps to take the pressure off the learning plateau at the piano.

Scott

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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:08 pm 
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Quote:
I usually throw my hands up in the air and swear like a truck-driver. Not very lady-like, I know, but it makes me feel better. That, and I complain to anyone who happens to be home at the time.
Please Monica, can we see a video if that happens? :lol: I've broken my share of strings on such days. However, you're absolutely right about Scarlet, "Tomorrow is another day." This stems from a fable about a powerful Persian king who asks his council to have a ring made for him that will liven him up when he is unhappy, and vice versa when he is too happy or cocky, it will humble his senses down. After much deliberation, the wise men hand him a ring with the engraving "This too will pass." I think it has the intended effect. So, Teddy you might want to head over to the jewelers over the weekend...

Quote:
Sometimes it is good just to strike out in a new direction for a little while. Try just playing around at the piano. Improvise -- play some chords or a melody and see where it leads you.
Scott, I do that a lot. But again, there are times that my musical GPS is off and that doesn't go anywhere either.

Much of music relies on spontaneity and free will. I don't force the issue when things are not going smoothly at the piano. Don't get stuck in the same mundane routine of leading a busy life. It is so vital to create spaces in life in terms of time and silence. These are the most creative periods to reflect upon. Ever notice how creative geniuses we become when we're lying down, just before going to sleep, and you feel like you want to write down something profound that comes into your head?... So, go out of your way to create that essential time and silence regardless of what may be going on.

In addition, I'll also do something totally different and seemingly unrelated: landscape photography, get outdoors for nature's inspiration, tennis, biking, take a Sunday drive with the top down, plan a weekend getaway to Cape Cod, sailing in Nantucket Sound, try something new every month - restaurant, event, hobby, meet people, or simply go out with your friends (the funny ones). When the weather is bad, sometimes watching a great movie, music video, or documentary indoors will inspire my musical muses again with renewed interest, It's like night and day. These activities might seem unrelated, but actually stimulating other parts of the brain, helps to stimulate the dormant musical part of the brain. And after I've been doing these activities for a while, I begin to get withdrawal symptoms and start hearing the music again... That's when I want to return home to my piano (don't tell your friends that though)... :D

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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:58 am 
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88man wrote:
And after I've been doing these activities for a while, I begin to get withdrawal symptoms and start hearing the music again... That's when I want to return home to my piano (don't tell your friends that though)... :D

Very good points - same thing with me. It usually takes only one day away from home for me to start aching to play my piano. Vacations are great, and I'm probably weird, but the first thing I do when I get home is go to my piano. And when I do, I find that it sounds different, it feels different - it's like we have to get reacquainted again. But that's what is so neat - this learning the soul of your piano, how it breathes, how you press down on keys in certain ways, the pedal - how it melds the most gorgeous harmonies. That's what playing piano is all about - making music the way you like and hopefully with some practice, the way you want it to sound.

@George - videos - better not encourage me... :lol:

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"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
my personal website: http://www.monicaalianello.com


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 Post subject: Re: Those days you can't seem to play right...
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:40 am 
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To the original poster, it is very common to feel this way sometimes because you are right, the piano is demanding technically and musically. Some months you get a breakthrough, others you feel like you have reached a plateau.

The best advice Ive received has been this: There IS such a thing as over-practicing which can make the piece your working on almost sound "worse". The best thing you can do for a piece that you're frusturated with is to just simply not play it for a week. Take some time off from the piece. I have had to do this recently with Debussy's Pour le Piano Prelude. When you come back to the piece you will be surprised at the results! Work on sightreading, jazz/modern pieces, improvisation.

I understand where you are coming from and I take it you are like me and you are very hard on yourself. Its hard but, you just have to go with it and try not to be so critical of yourself. Also, you may be taking on too many pieces at once which I have done in the past. Scattering your precious hours of practice time on too many pieces makes it hard to focus on whats most important. So in conclusion, maybe take a day or two off, play some repertoire that you have mastered, work on some etudes/exercies. Best of luck!


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