Advices For Playing More Advanced Pieces?

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Posts: 1

Post by QuasiPerfomance »

Hello, I'm a new to Synthesia, which means I've only played it for two months or so, but I'm not new to piano. I have played for many years and these days I practise and play some of the more advanced classical pieces. I've actually found Synthesia to be a great addition to me learning them, since you get a direct feedback to how it should sound - something which is harder to catch on simple notes on paper (though I still prefer notes in certain cases).

So what I was wondering is if players like me, say those who play pieces that are on the level of Sonata Pathétique (Beethoven), could give me advices in regard to playing these types of pieces on Synthesia - like in practise midi-handling, configuration etc. Also if you have some favorite midis that you wouldn't mind sharing I'd be really happy :mrgreen:

PS: I'm sorry if this question might be on the wrong board or has been asked before :P
I wrote my name in haste. I know how to spell "performance" :)
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Post by Nicholas »

I hate to do the "bump" thing, but this is a great question that I would also love to see an answer to. Anyone? :D
Posts: 321

Post by Pianotehead »

Good idea to bump this thread, I see so many topics that don't make any sense to me or seem trivial, but are discussed back and forth, the same time a good question like this goes unanswered for weeks.

There are probably many ways to answer this, taking some online courses probably give you pieces according to your level. It may not be the pieces you like to play, so I often try to find easier versions of popular rock/pop/blues/jazz songs I'm fond of. I'm not a good sight reader, but I can usually see if a piece is beyond my capabilities by looking at the sheet music, for example if it has a lot of syncopation; mixing sixteenth notes with dotted eight notes, difficult chords, or just basic ones, or a lot of hand moves.

Andrew Furmanczyk has a piece list according to the Canadian system, giving an example of a repertoire for beginners and up to advanced players, according to the Royal Conservatory of Music grading system.

You can also ask at the Pianoworld forums, they are very friendly there and usually have lots of information on things like this. ... orums.html
Posts: 50

Post by Hexgame »

Only thing I can say is to play to learn, not learn to play.

If you don't have a teacher, it is up to you to create lessons which challenge you. Mastering scales helped me dramatically, I think there is even a scale lesson MIDI file in the MIDI section which has all basic scales as well as finger placement. Scales help with muscle memory, so finding notes on your piano will happen a lot faster with less mistakes.

Basically, if you want to learn more advanced pieces, knowing the basics helps a ton. Afterwards, using Synthesia's melody mode helps learning these pieces as it waits for you to hit the correct notes. Once I feel I am good enough with the song, I use the recital mode. And eventually, I just play it without Synthesia.
Posts: 187

Post by Electrode »

First off, I am so sorry I haven't had a chance to reply to this topic until now, and even then, this reply will likely be a fairly short one (compared to some of my other posts!) and I'll add more as I go along or as new questions arise. I've just done a Grade 7 exam from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music - there are 8 grades in total. For my Grade 7, I played the final movement of Mozart's K280 sonata (the 3rd movement, the Presto) as one of the three pieces I chose to play. In fact, I'm glad I saw this forum post now, since for Grade 8 I am seriously considering the Rondo from Beethoven's Pathétique sonata as one of my pieces! (In my piano lesson yesterday, my teacher had me sight read through the first page or so, and we broke it down together and talked about technique and how I might possibly think about expressing it if I choose to do it.)

Hexgame's advice is good. Play to learn, not learn to play. The little frustrations and triumphs on your journey as you learn a piece are much more valuable to you than simply being able to say "I can play this piece". Technique is developed by struggling hard, by trying to constantly push your boundaries and do things you currently can't do. It's not a nice thing to say, and it certainly doesn't feel good to go through it, but you get stronger as you keep going.

Unfortunately, as I get more advanced, I'm finding Synthesia much less useful as a learning tool, sadly. Most of my learning and practice is now done the traditional way with sheet music, as it is simply more versatile and allows you to change your methods extremely quickly to attack difficult sections efficiently, as each specific situation in a piece demands different ways of working. Synthesia is still useful in the (very) final stages of practicing a piece, once a piece is mastered and you are polishing for performance, or solidifying technique - but there are many things lacking in it for advanced use when it comes to actually building your knowledge of a piece of music from the ground up (i.e. in the most important, initial stages of learning).

In the past few days, I have completely learned and memorised Bach's 2-part Invention no. 4 in D minor (as part of a mental challenge to myself), and for that I had to do a lot of things to quickly absorb the piece. A lot of the traditional practice methods available to the pianist (which I did have to use here) are not feasible in a program such as Synthesia because they involve altering the music to allow your brain to absorb it in different ways. This is how quick progress is made. (I didn't use Synthesia at all to learn this piece, but now that I have it learned, I will be using Synthesia to refine and polish it up, for the reasons I have just explained.)

Let's outline a few of these traditional techniques. For example, breaking the piece down in measures (this can be done in Synthesia currently) is very useful. However, within that, there are certain tricks we can use which aren't available in Synthesia (or perhaps not yet). Some of the methods I use in learning my pieces (including the Bach piece I just talked about), are:
  • working RH only until comfortable, or you get tired, then LH only until you get to the same place with that hand, and then keep switching every 30 seconds or so until you can do it comfortably without tiring, then go HT on that one bar - this will not be possible in Synthesia until switching hands in-game is implemented
  • staccato in one hand, legato in the other - then switch etc. etc. every 30 seconds - this is possible in Synthesia if you don't mind completely ignoring scores and performance and the whole "game" aspect of Synthesia
  • altered rhythms; both hands swung/dotted; or one hand swung/dotted while the other hand plays straight rhythms - this is impossible in Synthesia without laboriously editing the MIDI file to accommodate this practice method
Unfortunately, one of the least useful ways to practice advanced pieces (especially for those that are long pieces) is to simply learn the RH for the whole piece, then the LH for the whole piece, and then try and put your hands together for the whole piece - but this is the way most people use Synthesia. This way of working is inefficient (and it gets more inefficient the longer and more difficult the piece) as it is essentially equivalent to learning three different pieces of music at once. (You may know the RH and LH at full speed separately, but when the time comes to coordinate them, it will feel as if you've never seen the piece before. That is immensely frustrating considering all the work you've already put in!) Ideally, you should be putting your hands together as soon as you have a bar perfect with your hands separately. Coordinate and build the piece up as you go along. Especially for advanced pieces where your hands are playing completely independent rhythms (for example near the end of the Pathétique Rondo where you have a 3-over-2 section, or in Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu where you have 4-over-3 pretty much throughout the beginning section and in the reprise), this is extremely valuable.

If you have any more questions, let me know.
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