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Thread: How do you approach a complex piece of music

  1. #26

    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Piper Brendan Ring https://youtu.be/WJbIUbAZQVg

    For purposes of the topic, ya, the approach is different: as opposed to melodic and harmonic development and thematic works, the music is variations of figures over modal transitions with complex harmonic overtones - more abstract. I hear washes of tones, and colors - I pick up the modes, melodic figures, stanzas, structures, ..

    Quite different from western tradition.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Dec-01-2018 at 1:34am.

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  3. #27

    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I believe that Bach and some of the other amazing composers can be interpreted in many ways and it is also instructive to hear different musicians playing it even on different instruments.
    That's certainly true. There are some interesting and unusual Bach recordings that I love that might fall into this category. Bach's a summit composer, working at high altitudes. It takes effort to really listen to Bach but in the hands of rare performers it is a refined experience. Some of those performers can grab you and drag you off into these heights, but in the end Bach always demands - his music is never casual or background. It's obvious that he is demanding for a player but as a listener, he's a treasure chest of bounty when you make the effort. When I was 19, punk was spent, and I was exploring other sounds. I borrowed Beethovens 9th and Trevor Pinnock's recording on harpsichord of Bach's Goldbergs. I loved Beethoven but man I could not understand why anyone would go that far up their arse in the Goldbergs! I'm probably so far up there now I can't remember how it happened! Thank God. And Hilary Hahn, how about this to bring it up to date:



    I'm going to enjoy exploring her work.

  4. #28
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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    something to think about:
    there are quite a few different strategies suggested in the thread. There are also a few "I can't learn that way" responces. Keep in mind these are all strategies to use in conjunction with a regular practice regimen. FWIW it's much harder to make progress without any kind of plan to move forward; just playing stuff as you go along isn't going to make much improvement very fast. Any plan is going to be better than no plan. Starting off with "I can't" is the same as starting off with "I won't".
    Build a plan. Work the plan. Assess the results (with sufficient sample data points). Tweak the plan. Work the plan... You get the idea.
    In my years of playing I've found very few musicians in popular music have any kind of a practice regimen.

  5. #29

    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Monkey View Post
    Build a plan. Work the plan. Assess the results (with sufficient sample data points). Tweak the plan. Work the plan... You get the idea.
    That's a great summary and a good place to end a helpful discussion. I'd just like to thank everyone for chipping in with thoughts and ideas.

    For myself, BWV 1001 Presto will be a long journey of applied effort.

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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    I've never tried to memorize complex pieces on mandolin, but I suppose (when I get good enough to actually do it) that it will be like on piano - when I needed to memorize anything on piano, I played it through enough times that finally my fingers just took over and did it. That may not be helpful, but honestly, for me, repetition is key. And then when I started playing, I could just concentrate on making the music happen- phrasing, etc - because I could trust my fingers to play the notes. At least I hope to get to that point on mandolin eventually!

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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Ah, here is Grumiaux. The presto is at 11:28.




    Memorizing such a busy piece would require an awful lot of work for me. But if I tried I would start swith the harmony implied, and the way it's outlined in various segments of the piece. Hopefully I wouldn't be confused by a g minor piece notated with just one flat.

  8. #32
    Traveling Tracks Traveling Tracks's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music



    That's my latest....earlier this year.
    I'll jump in with my 2 cents.....read most of this thread, skimmed some of it for sake of time....but thought I'd reply as you referenced this piece I play.

    One of the key words some other poster used was "discipline" and it certainly requires it.
    Every day. Again, every day you need to touch on this piece until you feel you've got it. Then you can space it out. Every other day...etc.

    Playing Bach daily is like meditation. It's not work. Well maybe it is....but it makes you feel good. It's natural.
    Many, many professional violinists and cellists will tell you they play Bach daily. Not like it's a chore or some exercise but because it's some of the most beautiful, amazing music written for the instruments. It's demanding. It's challenging yet rewarding...like any great feat....like running 26.2 miles. You work on it for a long time to achieve the outcome. There's no shortcuts. There may be strategies and plans but you've got to put the time in.

    I'm not sure if anyone on here will have seen this movie....but in Surf culture there's a classic 80's movie called "North Shore"....it's about a young man who arrives in Hawaii and learns to surf the big waves. He finds a surf guru in the local, Chandler. Chandler tells Rick he will take him surfing and Rick grabs a surfboard but Chandler says you won't need that. Rick is confused. They spend many of their first surf lessons sitting on the beach watching the ocean....learning how the waves break......before Rick is even allowed to touch the surfboard he must learn about the movement of the ocean's waves in the tradition of the Hawaiian surfers.

    Applying that to learning the Bach g minor presto.....I would recommend that your first phase of learning does not involved touching your mandolin at all. Get the score. A good score like the Barenreiter (not some tabbed version).....and then choose three versions of the piece. Only three, so you can focus. And just sit with your score and listen. Over and over. Until you "learn" the piece. You should be able to "track" the music every note on the way from beginning to the end and be fully aware of what's going on in the piece before even picking up your mandolin.

    You can have the music "memorized" before you even pick up your mandolin. In learning this Bach presto, I never once "worked on" memorizing it. It will just be there if you "know it". I find memorizing Bach is super straightforward as there's always one right note and when you don't hit it, you know it.

    Hope that might help! It's the journey, not the destination. Enjoy.
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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Bravo! Beautifully played, Traveling Tracks, and your advice is spot on - if not for the OP or anyone else, it is spot on for me. The only time I encounter difficulty memorizing/learning a piece of music is when I fail to understand and feel the movement of the piece. I have to have that to the point that I can hear it in my head, in my memory.

    The analogy to the surf movie is an excellent one. "he must learn about the movement of the ocean's waves"

    In that movie, as well as in your advice, that part of the process is underscored, i.e. an exclamation point is placed on it, by statements like "don't touch a surfboard" or "don't touch the mandolin" until you have this understanding. For me, those are devices used to emphasize the "easy to miss, or to dismiss" underlying principles that occur in the student's mind. Literally, it doesn't matter whether you fumble around with the tool or not though, so long as you somehow come to understand the movement well enough to memorize it, hear it in your mind, anticipate each coming note or phrase. For me personally, that is what enables me to learn a piece. Once learned, you can spend a lifetime polishing technicalities of playing it expressively.
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  12. #34

    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Traveling Tracks View Post

    That's my latest....earlier this year.
    That's nicely played, well done. I've already listened to it a few times and I'm sure, along with a couple of other versions performed on the mandolin, I'll be listening/watching them repeatedly before I'm confident in playing it myself.

    every day you need to touch on this piece until you feel you've got it.

    Playing Bach daily is like meditation. It's not work. Well maybe it is...
    So, this at least, I am very much up for. The idea of playing Bach everyday sounds like a very good thing. I'm sort of there already as there are a couple of Menuett's and short pieces that I pretty much have under my fingers already. And, I can listen to Bach on almost any instrument quite endlessly. My mandolin skills may not be too great but my taste for Bach is enough to progress that.

    I would recommend that your first phase of learning does not involved touching your mandolin at all. Get the score. A good score like the Barenreiter (not some tabbed version).....and then choose three versions of the piece. Only three, so you can focus. And just sit with your score and listen. Over and over. Until you "learn" the piece. You should be able to "track" the music every note on the way from beginning to the end and be fully aware of what's going on in the piece before even picking up your mandolin.
    I suppose I'm a little past this - having the mandolin in my hand - BUT the principle is always applicable and I can't see why this cannot go hand in hand with playing. In truth these zenish - watch the waves break - approaches only suit a particular learning style. it's always in the end down to working out what works best for you. I could certainly learn from this suggestion but I know I need the parallel of the kinaesthetic feeling of the instrument to run alongside to really start to make sense of it all.

    The good news is that I am working with a Barenreiter score. Of course, playing the notes in the right order etc is merely the start point. It's quite obvious listening to any performance that it's all the subtleties of intonation and dynamics etc that make the score alive, musically. That's what I find fascinating and appreciate so much in others.

    Hope that might help! It's the journey, not the destination. Enjoy.
    Very much so. I appreciate your input. Really. As I've mentioned I've dabbled in learning Bach but this piece is for me a more serious effort and this thread and all the contributions here have been so helpful to me in thinking carefully about how I go into it and stay with it.

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  14. #35
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Traveling Tracks View Post
    It's the journey, not the destination. Enjoy.
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  15. #36

    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    I agree, Bach is a meditation, in the morning. I felt its preeminence.

    It's amazing - never really ever "thinking" about it since embedding - the sheer number of notes, patterns, themes...the brain remembers. I find it interesting - what evokes the brain (to recall, et al).

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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Pablo Casals, the great cellist who brought Bach's cello suites to light, once said:

    "For the past 80 years I have started each day in the same manner. It is not a mechanical routine, but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house.

    "But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day it is something new, fantastic and unbelievable. That is Bach, like nature, a miracle."

    A benediction on the house—what an amazing way to think of Bach.
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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul B View Post
    I get the first 4 bars down reasonably so and everything after that is just shoddy stumbling.
    Thanks for this thread, Paul, it's been the impetus for me to break through past the first 21 bars of Bach's Invention #4. I got stuck there a couple years ago, and although I sometimes play through those and enjoy them, I haven't been motivated to go back to the music and try to understand the next section. Reading of your question and the responses, and thinking through it, I've finally gone back to the music and am making progress.

    I know that for most of you that doesn't even qualify as a "complex piece" but it's exciting to me. I love it.
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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    I have a tutor/coach i meet with weekly via Skype. For a new piece I have my coach go over the piece and mark it up as to position and fingerings that would make more sense. Then i go through it as marked up and see what I have trouble with. My coach then assigns exercises from various books to strengthen me in those particular areas, like string jumping, shifting, playing in four flats, what ever the specific stumbling block is.

    In one case i was trying to learn Vivaldi Concerto in A minor RV356. My coach suggested I work on another piece Kuchler Op. 15, which is a bit easier but will help me gain the skills for the Vivaldi.

    My point is that a tutor or coach or instructor is extremely extremely valuable. There is so much music I could struggle with for a long time but for a few expert suggestions from my coach.
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  20. #40

    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Thanks for this thread, Paul, it's been the impetus for me to break through past the first 21 bars of Bach's Invention #4. I got stuck there a couple years ago, and although I sometimes play through those and enjoy them, I haven't been motivated to go back to the music and try to understand the next section. Reading of your question and the responses, and thinking through it, I've finally gone back to the music and am making progress.
    Yes I've loved this thread, reading it and going back over the ideas and thoughts shared. I'm grateful for all that people have contributed. I can't say I'm flying but I'm now in a steady groove with a solid approach and confident about how I'm going to chew my way through. Bach is special to me and finding a way in to his music means something, like Odysseus putting his feet back on Ithacus. It's true of course that a tutor is the ideal but it's not always an option.

    I'm pleased this thread is of benefit to others too.

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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    My coach then assigns exercises from various books to strengthen me in those particular areas, like string jumping, shifting, playing in four flats, what ever the specific stumbling block is.

    In one case i was trying to learn Vivaldi Concerto in A minor RV356. My coach suggested I work on another piece Kuchler Op. 15, which is a bit easier but will help me gain the skills for the Vivaldi.
    This^^^^! I have difficulty making myself practice scales and arpeggios (even though I know I should from years of piano,) but I will do what I need to do to work on a particular piece I want to learn. So if scales will help a section, I will do them. It really is a lot about discipline, discipline will help us get where we want to go.

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    Default Re: How do you approach a complex piece of music

    "How do you approach a complex piece of music"
    Memorize, then sing it while playing it.

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