Sunday, November 2, 2008

#54 Difficulty.

The difficulty of a particular piece is highly subjective, completely relative to each particular musician.

I insist, the piano is not a difficult instrument to play, as I wrote in a previous post.

After a while, a piece can only have two possible difficulties: easy or impossible. Which of these it is only depends on how you practice.

Think about it.


  1. Good advice and easily taken by students with teachers like yourself that 'break it down.' When things are broken down into manageable parts - then anything is possible. Even with sightreading. I tell my students about 'skeleton notes' which is three spaces up and three spaces down in both clefs are 'C' - then two ledger lines above and two ledger lines below the staff are also 'C's.' When the student learns these skeleton notes - then they can fill in the other notes systematically. Learning to sightread these first notes by going randomly back and forth between middle C - high C - high high C - low low C - low C and back to middle C - shows the student that they can become adept at reading anywhere generally without feeling intimidated.

  2. You can also break scales down by grouping notes together and 'smush playing.' Left hand scale for two octaves would be CDEFG *all notes played at once ABC (correct fingering) all notes played at once DEFG *ditto ABC *ditto

    Then, when the student goes to play each of the notes separately, it's so much easier. They can see the pattern.

  3. To carry this further into more advanced music - I'd say that breaking down the piece by learning about form in music is really essential. After all, how can you memorize if you haven't a framework for 'how to.'

    Once a student is very advanced - then you can get into more and more details that don't appear to the average 'eye.' For instance, I like to call it - 'consistency of thought.' Many things can be deduced about how a composer wanted something to be played by either going to the next spot where a section is played again (even in another key) and see if a few explanations can be had. These can relate to how to play ornaments and what was intended - to many other things. In the Chopin Polonaise-Fantasy - we have things written in (held notes/staccato notes, fingerings, etc) that may not be what the composer initially intended and maybe not even what was in the original urtext (even if one has a supposedly urtext version). It is extremely exciting to start 'reading a composer' and learning how to look between the lines for cues.

    Beethoven's Opus 10 #3 i'm certain has a portion that would have been MUCH different had Beethoven been able to play a larger keyboard. Octaves would have continued on - and nothing would be 'out of sorts.' As it stands, there is a portion that tells you that Beethoven was composing this piece at a smaller keyboard and just fudged it for whomever was going to be playing the piece - or to hurry up and get the piece to a publisher. If Beethoven had the piano we do today - i do not think he would hesitate on continuing up the octave patterns.