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 Post subject: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 11:28 pm 
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One of my dreams is to perform that sonata for clarinet and piano by Brahms properly. Finally I found a clarinet player (but he is sick now and I have to wait until he gets healthy again :evil: ). Anyway, I went to practicing it again (after years), and even though I play a bit better than at the first learning, it's still not easy to play. Even though my dream would be not realised on this opportunity, I want to learn it well for the next chance in the future.
The sonata has many challenging passages scattered through all the three movements and the passage on the attachment below is the first one from the first movement (bar 15-17). I have small hands and esp. short pinkies, so even the not that special stuffed chords like the marked C-Eb-C chords plague me. My problem: On that passage I can press the first C-Eb-C chord to some degree of clarity (I have the time to prepare it after pressing the previous Eb-C-Eb chord), but not the following chord (the same chord, just an octave lower) properly. That passage is a very important one, since it's the first passage where the piano appears alone and the first climax is prepared. It's very disheartning that I cannot do it justice.
Could someone give an advice how I should practice it?


Attachments:
brahms score snipped.PNG
brahms score snipped.PNG [ 49.12 KiB | Viewed 5026 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:07 am 
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Hi Hye-Jin,
You might try practicing those chords without the thumb, and alternating the voicing both of the 5th and 2nd fingers. One other thing is to try to practice with "false" octaves, by positioning the thumb for the chords but not playing it (only playing the 5th and 2nd fingers). Let me know if it helps. Good luck. Brahms' chamber music can be very challenging.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:27 am 
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This is a very challenging part indeed. It must found full and robust and yet lyrical and fluent, with no hint of strain. Brahms in a nutshell !

I'm not sure why this bar is harder for you than the preceding (it's the other way for me). Maybe it would help if you leave out the middle note of the first chord ? I know that even pro pianists sometimes leave out a note if they can get away with it.
Depending on how much pedal you use, you could also try taking the low C of the second chord with the LH.

I'll be interested how you get on with the last page of the sonata. Apart from being very hard, this is a nightmare of coordination.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:56 pm 
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Thank both of you, Eddy and Chris. And I apologize this too much delayed response... I read your very quick replies, but my baby didn't give me the time for writing my response and after that I've been on the first family trip by railway with my baby (I've been one day in Amsterdam, Chris :)).
@Eddy:
Yes, your practicing method seems to work well! Even though I still cannot press the chord very cleanly, I can press it much more comfortably. But you know.... after twenty-minutes practicing I got pain on my underarm (a bit above my wrist) and it continued a couple of days. During the practice I had no pain.
Applying your method I got a question concerning the position of fingers/hand on the keys. I found I tended to make my hand very low (at pressing such stuffed-octave-chords) and to locate my pinky on the bottom of the key (I made two pics and this is reffering to pic A). In this way I produce a clean sound but I guess this is wrong, isn't it? I cannot play real forte.
In another hand-position (pic B) I cannot press the chord not so clean, but I can put energy into my fingers.
Which position do you think is better?


Attachments:
A.JPG
A.JPG [ 34.48 KiB | Viewed 5007 times ]
B.JPG
B.JPG [ 36.01 KiB | Viewed 5007 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:44 pm 
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@Chris:
techneut wrote:
Maybe it would help if you leave out the middle note of the first chord ? I know that even pro pianists sometimes leave out a note if they can get away with it.
Depending on how much pedal you use, you could also try taking the low C of the second chord with the LH.

Thank you Chris for these suggestions. I thought of the second one, too, and it is reserved for the case, that there was no other way. But the first one never occurred to me before! (I just thought of leaving out the middle note if the second chord which sounds not that good.) But I'm not sure if it helps much.

Quote:
I'll be interested how you get on with the last page of the sonata. Apart from being very hard, this is a nightmare of coordination.

I'm interested, too :lol: Actually the whole third movement demands a high level of coordination. We played it just one time so far (at a very slow tempo), so I don't know yet. But as a very unexperienced chambermusic player I always wondered why a serious discoordination is possible (which I experienced with my former clarinetist), if both players perfectly know the score of their own and their partner. Am I mistaken?

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 5:40 pm 
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Hye-Jin,
Oh dear, it appears that you have very small hands, i.e., narrow across the "nuckles." I take it you can't play 9ths? Since you are full grown, it may be futile to try to "change" your anatomy now, but ... if you really wanted to try to tackle this, IMO the way to do it would be to begin a lengthy regimen of large stretch-demanding work, that hopefully over a years time would have given you a bit of increased reach and flexibility. In your case, I would prescribe (Rx) a lot of work (scales) with 9ths and full (5-note) fully-diminshed 7th chords (I. Phillip's Exercises for the Independence of the Fingers). Both of these will "open" your hand to what ever extent is maxibally possible. I feel for you. :(

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:32 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
Thank you Chris for these suggestions. I thought of the second one, too, and it is reserved for the case, that there was no other way. But the first one never occurred to me before! (I just thought of leaving out the middle note if the second chord which sounds not that good.) But I'm not sure if it helps much.
Now I see why block chords give you trouble, you can only just reach a bare octave, and anything in between multiples the difficulty. You'll probably have to leave some notes out to get it manageable.

hyenal wrote:
I'm interested, too :lol: Actually the whole third movement demands a high level of coordination. We played it just one time so far (at a very slow tempo), so I don't know yet. But as a very unexperienced chambermusic player I always wondered why a serious discoordination is possible (which I experienced with my former clarinetist), if both players perfectly know the score of their own and their partner. Am I mistaken?
Not sure, you have a point of sorts. Of course it will help when you know your part perfectly. To expect that it will then all slot together without any special effort is optimistic though. That will go a long way in Mozart and Beethoven, but not with all the rhythmic challenges Brahms throws at you. At least that is my experience. Not that I could play my part perfectly - I still can't.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:31 am 
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hyenal wrote:
Applying your method I got a question concerning the position of fingers/hand on the keys. I found I tended to make my hand very low (at pressing such stuffed-octave-chords) and to locate my pinky on the bottom of the key (I made two pics and this is referring to pic A). In this way I produce a clean sound but I guess this is wrong, isn't it? I cannot play real forte.
In another hand-position (pic B) I cannot press the chord not so clean, but I can put energy into my fingers.
Which position do you think is better?

Both positions look very uncomfortable! I think position B is the lesser evil--you want to be able to lean on the top note of the chord, and it isn't a disaster if you miss the lower note entirely. But better still would be to leave out a note, or take the bottom note or two notes with the left hand as suggested above.

Another option that hasn't been mentioned is to roll the chords. Nowadays it's unusual to play rolled chords where it isn't indicated by the composer, and people might accuse you of "romanticising" the piece--but a century ago it would have been common. And after all, it is a romantic piece! So if you break the chord, using the E flat as a "pivot point", it means that you can let go of the bottom note completely before you play the top note.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:43 am 
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I agree with those saying that you should sacrifice a note or two ... or three.
Looking at the circled chords,
for the first, drop the c played with the thumb
for the second, you may do the same or play the thumb note with the LH thumb
then the next octave in LH play only the top note with LH 5th.
See if that helps.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:17 pm 
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I see this thread now, Hye-Jin. :wink:

I don't know the music at all or how fast you are playing this part, but is it possible to play the bottom note of those RH chords with the LH? Maybe the pedal is down, and so you could do it without breaking anything. You just jump the LH hand up there for a second and then bring it back down where it belongs. I do things like that sometimes.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:53 pm 
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I would almost be tempted to drop the lower "C" and just play the 6ths, which would have more character than bare octaves. And, as Monica suggests, if you can get the lower "C" with the L.H. that would add the weight to the longer of the two chords.

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:27 pm 
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Thank you guys for your creative suggestions and compassion :) I think the best short-termed solution would be pressing the lower C with LH, which Chris for the first time suggested and Monica and Scott assented but I wanted to reserve as the last resort. (Eddy's and Alexander's suggestion find I also well-functioning.) Frankly speaking, I thought it would be a sort of cheating, but as the small size of my RH (btw my LH reaches 9ths, it is a bit larger than my RH) is officially approved now :lol: , I may throw that feeling away. Besides, it didn't work well before I opened this thread, because my digital piano is so sensitively responsive that my "cheating" was hearable. But my facility was much improved in the meantime and I can perform that well also on my digital piano (but I won't use my digital piano for a possible recording, of course).

Eddy wrote:
In your case, I would prescribe (Rx) a lot of work (scales) with 9ths and full (5-note) fully-diminshed 7th chords (I. Phillip's Exercises for the Independence of the Fingers). Both of these will "open" your hand to what ever extent is maxibally possible. I feel for you. :(

I would try your prescription willingly, Eddy. But where can I get the score? At least not on IMSLP. Or could you suggest a good printed edition? I know you mentioned these etudes several times and would like to give a look at it.
Chris wrote:
Now I see why block chords give you trouble, you can only just reach a bare octave, and anything in between multiples the difficulty. You'll probably have to leave some notes out to get it manageable.

I can press other chords on the snipped score. C-E flat-C is difficult to press, but for example C-E-C is easy. Maybe the short pinky is the reason.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:11 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
I would try your prescription willingly, Eddy. But where can I get the score? At least not on IMSLP. Or could you suggest a good printed edition? I know you mentioned these etudes several times and would like to give a look at it.

Well in the US it is published by G. Schirmer (but not in the gold cover, rather a gray with blue ink cover). However I must believe that it would be available in the usual French editions too. BTW, let me be clear that these are not studies, rather just exercises (sure to drive anyone listening to you absolutely crazy). If I had to pick one thing that did the most to advance the abilities of my hands, I think I would have to pick this. It's sort of "boot camp" for the hands. You'll only ever need book 1. If you every wanted to see what "Systematic and Exhaustive" mean, take a look at this.
hyenal wrote:
C-E flat-C is difficult to press, but for example C-E-C is easy. Maybe the short pinky is the reason.

I don't think so. The reason is the distance across your big (MCP joint) nuckles; that is, the width of your hand at that point.

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Last edited by musical-md on Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:31 pm 
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hyenal wrote:
Frankly speaking, I thought it would be a sort of cheating, but as the small size of my RH (btw my LH reaches 9ths, it is a bit larger than my RH) is officially approved now :lol: , I may throw that feeling away.


The requirement of classical music is to get the music out preferably with an eye towards the composer's intentions. The sound is the objective. Which hand or finger plays which note is not a part of the equation. A particular amount of force applied to a key will result in the same sound whether by the R.H., the L.H., the eraser end of a pencil, or a sledge hammer (thought the sledge hammer is more difficult to control).

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:17 am 
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Eddy wrote:
Well in the US it is published by G. Schirmer (but not in the gold cover, rather a gray with blue ink cover). However I must believe that it would be available in the usual French editions too. BTW, let me be clear that these are not studies, rather just exercises (sure to drive anyone listening to you absolutely crazy). If I had to pick one thing that did the most to advance the abilities of my hands, I think I would have to pick this. It's sort of "boot camp" for the hands. You'll only ever need book 1. If you every wanted to see what "Sytematic and Exhaustive" mean, take a look at this.

I don't speak French, so I cannot google about a french edition. Anyway I found the Schirmer edition on the web. Thank you for infos!
Quote:
I don't think so. The reason is the distance across your big (MCP joint) nuckles; that is, the width of your hand at that point.

Now I see what you meant by your post above. Man, I had a false thought about my hand size so far! I always blamed my short pinkies, which don't reach even the top nuckles of the 4th fingers.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:21 am 
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RSPIll wrote:
The requirement of classical music is to get the music out preferably with an eye towards the composer's intentions. The sound is the objective. Which hand or finger plays which note is not a part of the equation. A particular amount of force applied to a key will result in the same sound whether by the R.H., the L.H., the eraser end of a pencil, or a sledge hammer (thought the sledge hammer is more difficult to control).

Scott

Thank you for your kind commenting, Scott. You are right. I just wanted to make fundamental practicing to get a large chord properly before borrowing the thumb from LH :)

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:30 am 
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RSPIll wrote:
The requirement of classical music is to get the music out preferably with an eye towards the composer's intentions. The sound is the objective. Which hand or finger plays which note is not a part of the equation.

Absolutely :!: Unless something is expressly written as a technical exercise for one hand or another, it doesn't really matter which hand plays what. I find myself doing it more often, i.e. letting the hands help out each other, if it makes it easier or helps to improve the result. Recently I decided to play one of Mozart's many crossed-hand passages without crossing, it went just as well and was much less risky (I do believe Mozart sometimes did these things just to show off). There's never a good reason to make things more difficult than they should be (except again, when it's a technical exercise).

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:52 am 
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Chris wrote:
I find myself doing it more often, i.e. letting the hands help out each other, if it makes it easier or helps to improve the result.

And it's not just you/us, but also the famous pianists, I guess. As I learned Schumann's concerto, I always found the long descending passages which are described (at least on the Edition Peters) as being performed by LH alone very difficult (like one on the attached pic). But I saw on TV Argerich play those passages also with RH helping LH, I was very surprised. Before then I thought the famous pianists don't need change anything written in the score. But it also may be the case that the score Argerich used to learn that concerto dictates it, since I found later that it is written so on the Schirmer's edition.


Attachments:
schumann 54.PNG
schumann 54.PNG [ 14.35 KiB | Viewed 2475 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:23 pm 
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techneut wrote:
RSPIll wrote:
The requirement of classical music is to get the music out preferably with an eye towards the composer's intentions. The sound is the objective. Which hand or finger plays which note is not a part of the equation.

Absolutely :!: Unless something is expressly written as a technical exercise for one hand or another, it doesn't really matter which hand plays what. I find myself doing it more often, i.e. letting the hands help out each other, if it makes it easier or helps to improve the result. Recently I decided to play one of Mozart's many crossed-hand passages without crossing, it went just as well and was much less risky (I do believe Mozart sometimes did these things just to show off). There's never a good reason to make things more difficult than they should be (except again, when it's a technical exercise).


And we all just love technical exercises. :roll:

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:29 pm 
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I think part of the whole thing about L.H. vs. R.H. comes from our very early lessons. Ask any number of early level students what the bass clef tells us (trying to get them to say that the 4th line is "F") many will answer "left hand." Most of the early level music completely associates L.H. with bass clef and R.H. with treble clef.

Scott


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 4:51 pm 
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I come late to this topic, but from my very first lessons I learnt not to see f clef = LH and g clef = RH. Very often the way a score is written does not imply that the hands are distributed this or that way. My main concern is always to make sure the voices are not broken and that finger legato is assured. If this means dividing a voice between the hands, so be it. The aim is to play something well with the minimun risk of going wrong. At present I am practising a piece (4 parts) where at times one of the voices may go: LH LH RH LH RH RH LH and so on. All this to avoid as much as possible the use of the pedal.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:32 am 
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richard66 wrote:
At present I am practising a piece (4 parts) where at times one of the voices may go: LH LH RH LH RH RH LH and so on. All this to avoid as much as possible the use of the pedal.

This is a little dangerous! I used to do similar things frequently, but found that I tended to make too many mistakes in performance. Depending on the piece in question, it's often better to use a simpler fingering plus some discreet pedal.

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:17 pm 
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In fact I do not think I do it quite as much as written here! But yes, when I notice too many errors that always come though in the same places...

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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:30 pm 
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I'm actually curious not about your hand width, but the angle between fingers 1 and 5. Both the photos of your hand positions show almost a V-shaped angle made by your thumb and pinky (if you imagine imaginary lines running down the thumb and pinky and meeting in the middle of your hand). To get maximum reach, we want as close to a straight line as possible.

It's hard to tell only seeing the position from the top. Most of us have more reach if we round the hand by lifting the large knuckles slightly. In this position, spreading the fingers increases the angle of fingers 1 and 5 towards a straight line. Again, it's hard to tell from the photos, but I wonder if your hand may be flattened out, so that the large knuckles and palm are almost touching the keys? In that position, spreading the fingers actually causes them to reach up toward the ceiling, which doesn't help with horizontal reach on the keys. That means that with a flat hand, getting fingers 1 and 5 into a straight line is next to impossible. Then, people start pulling their hands toward themselves so that they are playing only the very tips of the keys. This does keep the palm off the keys but it reduces the options for sound quality (as well as the ability to hit black keys.)

In a rounder position the hand really has to be above the keys, not in front of them. You will be making a very long, low archway above the keys, instead of a V in front of them. You may find yourself hitting extra notes as you get used to that. But in the long run you'll develop a wider reach--and the whole white vs. black key issue won't be an issue at all since you'll be working much closer to the black keys.

Good luck! Enjoy the magnificent Brahms!


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 Post subject: Re: Help!! (Brahms op.120-2)
PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 11:27 pm 
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Hi, hreichgott! Thank you very much for your helpful comment. I didn't see it before, and realized that this was posted a long time ago... Sorry.
Yes, you are right. My hands were flat and I could not produce a full sound. I saw the problem, but didn't know how to solve it. So you believe repeated practice in a right hand position will bring me a success... I hope so :)
Thank you for your detailed reply again!

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