It's been a fairly recent ambition of mine to learn and master the piece "Fantasie-Impromptu" by Chopin. I've just collected the book from the shop for ?4.50 - titled "SCHIRMER's LIBRARY OF MUSICAL CLASSICS - CHOPIN - Impromptus For the Piano".
Hints and tips I picked up so far: Sometimes, the fingering in a piece can look seem stupid, but it's generally always there to help you out. OK, the first real hint now; when playing both hands together, it's a good idea to play the bass-line as seperate chords. Now, that's easy to master if you're playing simple crotchets, but it's when you're pummeling allegro semiquavers - that things start to get difficult. I'm jumping ahead of myself, and trying to play the bass along with the treble in the 13th, 14th and 15th bars. But now, I also have a real incentive to practise further as I'm off to uni in the autumn to study music (plus computing)! The tricky part is the part just after the big chromatic scale drop at 50 seconds, but especially from 53 - 56 seconds (bar 37-40). Anyway, playing the piece after a year (occasionally inbetween) was an interesting experience. Finally, I'm not just limiting myself to this one piece - I'll be trying to improve my awful sight reading ('sight reading' is where you have to play a piece you've never seen before). But that's a great thing about practising on keyboard (or with a metronome) - I get to play a competition with myself trying to beat the record. For the past two to three weeks, I've been practising around 2-3 hours a days on it - longer than I ever have done before.
The only problem is; I don't know how well I'm going to play on a proper piano, since I've been using an electronic keyboard!
Thankfully, my piano teacher (Hi Christopher if you're reading this!) has been very helpful, giving me invaluable advice throughout all parts of the piece. Oh yeah, I'm also playing the Maple Leaf Rag which has come on in leaps and bounds since I last mentioned it.
As well as my own pieces, I'll also be accompanying a saxophonist (Hi Chris!) to play three further pieces. We've also been asked to submit photocopies of the piece, presumably so they can see where we mess up ;) Oh, and we had to design and write a programme too.
Here's someone who wants to jump straight from Fur Elise (a grade 4 piece) to Fantasie Impromptu! I know where you're coming from on this, cos I've been in your shoes before (although admittedly with slightly more modest aspirations than to play the fant.-imp.
Lost in Musical Hinterland - Another great blog by someone who also hopes to master the Fantasie Impromptu (read from: Saturday, December 31, 2005). The Piano Street team would like to say a special thank you to all piano fans around the world who like us on Facebook, where our page has recently passed 20,000 likes! QuoteActually I have a serious question on Finnissy and the New Complexity school as a whole.
There is order in all music, even bizzare sounding ones like Finnissy's English Country Tunes have pattern, and if you listen to it more enough you learn to anticipate particular sounds. Code:Rach 3 is a hell of a lot harder than anything Brahms wroteAnybody that tried to learn Brahms second piano concerto knows that this isn?t correct.
In regards to what has been said about the New Complexity school, well, if you have to search for months to figure out any sort of order or pattern beyond randomness, then in my opinion that's a severe failure of the music, not an attribute that makes it more impressive. Here it is again, archived, with added pictures, corrections, and with the date order beginning with the earliest entry.
Around the end of 2002, I passed grade 7 in piano, but my sight reading is still quite poor (maybe even grade 2, 3 or 4 standard!).
Yes, it's the horrible way you have to play 8 notes in the treble to every 6 notes in the bass - causing timing problems for people like me. Before, I can even attempt to play both together, I need to get both hands as fluent as possible. As expected, they did have problems, and trundled through the piece with all the grace of a certain computer operating system.

This will help to familiarise your fingers to the right notes without worrying about the timing.
Certain bars I had big problems with (like the seventh bar) seem to benefit from this way of practising.
At the moment, the second page is only a glimpse in my eye, and I still haven't reached anywhere near perfection on the first 10 bars. 20 minutes later, I find that I can play the bar at a speed that I could have only dreamt of before! This isn't quite fast enough if I want to play for real (which needs to be around 130bpm I imagine?), but hopefully, that'll come with practise.
Just occasionally, I can play the fifth bar at a great speed, and very accurately timed too. I somehow managed to get side-tracked (like I always do) with updating my site, lots of reading, exams, and even writing a small game. To get it right, I have to practise over, over and over again, more so than anywhere on the first two pages (and some of those parts were tricky). At the moment, I'm up to grade 7 in piano, but my sight reading is probably grade 3 standard (possibly up a couple of grades due to practise in the last two weeks though :D). I've also managed to play the second (slower C# major) part of the piece reasonably well too.
You'll find that mastering the last 10% of a difficult piece of music requires 90% of your time and perseverance. Of course, this wasn't the original reason why I started out playing the piece, but I might as well use it this opportunity.
That doesn't mean I'll escape though - just that I'll probably have to play it in front of the class later in the month! One technique I used was to play the whole thing at 60bpm, and gradually get faster until I reach the full 120-140 bpm speed required. Just one or two mistakes in the Impromptu, but I soon picked off again from where I left off. It's one thing to mess up my own pieces, but I'd hate to ruin someone else's performance, so along with my own pieces, I've been practising around 3 hours per day over the Christmas holiday! Well, let's just say it wasn't a complete disaster :) I actually was so nervous for the first piece (Maple Leaf Rag), that I developed extreme pins and needles as soon as I sat down to play. A lot has been said about the complexity of the work and I realize I am very ignorant and unknowledgeable about its exact nature. After listening to it maybe for a few months you will realise different parts of the music, larger chunks of the score become one body of sound instead of confused mess to our ears.
I understand the value of having to be patient in finding something in the music, but still. That would be interesting, to say the least!But who's to say that this hasn't arguably occurred already? The main reason for this venture though is to see how well I can eventually play, and to divulge the techniques and methods I used to most quickly learn the piece. I get it sort of right after numerous attempts though, and then dare myself to play the bass along with it. I've heard it is possible to practise both hands together, but for a piece of this complexity, I think hands seperately is best. After a little while, I find I can place my fingers on the correct notes, and can even get the nightmarish triplet style timing to a semi-reasonable level when playing for proper. I think it's because I'm so used to playing 'normal' arpegios, that the fingering is currently a bit difficult.
First off, I use a slow enough timing, so I can manage the bar at a speed which doesn't get my fingers in a twist. I also attempt the second page with the 'saddening' descending of notes (it's the part just before where the main tune repeats - I love it). It's hard because you have to go really fast, span a whole octave (bigger hands than mine would probably make this easier), and play some tricky notes all at the same time.
Though, okay, it did take around half an hour to get back to the quality of playing that I was at last year.

I still have problems on the seventh bar for example (the bar where the melody climbs very high). I've also been practising Scott Joplin's 'Maple Leaf rag', and have got quite good at that too.
The Grand piano they have is very nice; much nicer sounding and easier to play than the most of usual upright pianos I find.
Then again, what would I know ;-) Actually, the whole of that thread is well worth a read - it's very amusing! Overall, I'm fairly happy, though I know I could've better if I wasn't so nervous with the Maple Leaf Rag. We are very impatient creatures, we all want to understand things straight away, have everything quick and accessible. But to be honest, I have my doubts about whether I can truly master it, due to the inherent difficulties as I'll explain later.
I'll give it my best shot, but I'm already beginning to think that I'll never be able to get this quite right. The timing is still iffy, but I'm speeding up, and unbelievably, my success ratio for hitting the right notes is actually starting to improve.
In other words, you are playing 2 single chords in the bass to every 16 notes in the treble.
But at least now I have a full size keyboard to reach the upper notes, and occasional access to a proper piano so I can get the dynamics (quiet and loud) right. For the real thing though, I'll be playing in front of all the students, some tutors, and probably many members of the public too.
How do they choose exactly what each note will be, and how much would be lost by changing notes around?
When you take tonality out of music, which I don't have a problem with, I think you need to replace it with something else on musical lines, not just something mathematical. I wanted to see if I could play one of the hardest and most daunting pieces of music I could find.
It was meant to be playable, but since I create most of my music on computer, I love to add immense complexity, and stop at nothing to add tons of notes, chords, as well as near impossible finger 'jumping' and arpegios.
The click isn't as nice as the QT-3, but it's got accented beats, and the tempo stays the same even once it's switched off and on again. Otherwise you're turning staff paper into graph paper, and losing sight of the entire point of music as divergent from sciences and other forms of expression. Granted certain pianists will disagree on which aspect is most difficult, but none will disagree about the scale to which they are difficult. For example, one pianist might believe fingering is harder than octave leaps, and another might argue visa versa.
I could imagine at the keyboard we have worked out the hardest things to possibly do but I think it would be really interesting if some actual technique was developed for plucking strings of the piano with the fingers. I could imagine how insane it would be to see someone play something like Sorabji and pluck strings to create another sound at the same time. In terms of the most difficult piece, I am going to take a stance and argue that composers of the New Complexity school, and also Sorabji wrote the hardest music. Sorabji's music is not only monstrously difficult to play technically, but the pianist must have exceptional analytical ability to decipher the multi-stave, measureless thick writing of Sorabji, while possessing stamina tantamount to its technical demands.
Anyone with a stamina capable of enduring four hours of thick and intense piano playing has wordly talent.
Composers of the New Complexity school have a different style from Sorabjis (not as long and thick) but the technical demands are no less daunting. But this does not mean that Sorabji and Finnissy did not intend for their music to have musical difficulty.
Perhaps it is just that so few pianists are capable of coming near this music that the music behind the monstrous technical challenges is obscured.

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