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I'm not too sure how popular Clementi's sonatinas are (Op 36: http://imslp.org/wiki/6_Piano_Sonatinas,Op.36(Clementi,_Muzio)) but they are all over the Canadian RCM books.

As my previous questions have alluded to, I'm struggling with playing through Bach's 2 part inventions, specifically Invention 1 in C major, although the general difficulty remains no matter which one I try. I can slog my way through the invention at less than half speed, and am still making many mistakes. (I know that means I should slow down, and I do. That's not the point of the question :-) )

However, I can open up almost any of the Clementi sonatinas and play it much faster than the Bach invention and more or less from sight - I have only really thoroughly studied the F major and C major, but I've tried them all so it's not technically sight reading.

I know that Bach's inventions require the skill of hand independence and finger independence, but, looking at the Clementi pieces, don't they need the same thing?

Clearly I have a set of technical skills that makes the Clementi pieces fit within my skill set, and clearly I lack a set of technical skills that makes the Bach pieces fit outside of my skill set. I feel that if I can identify which skills I do have and which I'm lacking, I can better focus my practicing. In particular, I'd like to look for pieces that allow me to leverage my current skill set in order to maintain my interest, but which also have passages that challenge my lack of skill in order to get better. My problem is that I don't seem to be able to distinguish which technical skills are required for which pieces, and therefore I can't really focus my practice.

  • Do you use a metronome ? The key in Bach pieces, when learning them first, is to concentrate on playing both melodies on tempo, mechanically. Since they are two different melodies / voices, I confirm that Bach's pieces are much more difficult in this aspect, so I assume it's perfectly normal for you. – Blue_Elephant May 4 '17 at 15:10
  • I don't usually use a metronome, no, but my actual timing is not an issue per se. What I'm really struggling with is that I just can't seem to make the Bach pieces sound like music. They sound instead like just a bunch of notes that happen to be played together in time. When I listen to recordings of the pieces, they sound, obviously, musical and well played. I'm confused as to why my playing doesn't sound even close to music (to my ears) – Michael Stachowsky May 4 '17 at 16:01
  • So, is your question more about musical or technical difficulty (I understood your question as being the latter) ? – Blue_Elephant May 5 '17 at 9:50
  • Perhaps both? I hadn't considered a difference. Basically, I can't get them to sound right. However, I feel that's because I am having so much trouble actually paying them that I can't spare any mental effort for musicality. I think that's why, anyway... – Michael Stachowsky May 5 '17 at 11:53
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There is a lot more technical difficulty in the Bach than in those Clementi pieces. You need far more independence of character in what you are playing in each hand for the Bach whereas in the Clementi the hands are working together for much of the time.

Nothing wrong with the Clementi - good pieces for developing tone and touch at speed but they are comparatively straightforward when compared to the counterpoint in the Bach.

Keep going - practice: it will get easier.

  • I noticed there is a lot more technical difficulties in the Bach, for sure. But what are they? Melodic independence has been suggested (and I hadn't thought of it at all, so thanks @Andrew Conkling). Anything else, or is it just "they are harder pieces"? – Michael Stachowsky May 4 '17 at 16:02
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    Basically the Clementi is using the left hand as an accompaniment to the right hand melody. Rhythmically the two hands keep reasonably well together. Also these pieces are fairly simple harmonically. In the Bach you have to do with the left hand basically the same sort of thing as the right hand. Sounds easy but actually it usually isn't. In the earlier learning stages most pianists are better with their right hands, although I'm not sure why that is. – JimM May 4 '17 at 22:39
  • So do you imagine a bunch of studies for the left hand would help? I've heard that one should study what they want to play, but I guess that can be interpreted different ways – Michael Stachowsky May 4 '17 at 23:35
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    Left hand studies are fine but there may be other things that help more. If you think that your left hand is simply not as good then yes, try some left hand studies. But if your problem is the independent nature of the two hands then you need to work more on techniques for that, which is why I recommended the contrary motion scales in answer to your other post. – JimM May 5 '17 at 10:22
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The Clementi sonatinas feature only one melody overall (usually in the right hand), and the Bach pieces are more or less independent melodies (written to go together, of course), so aside from hand independence you would need melodic independence to play them together. That happens in your mind as much as in your hands.

For context though, I too can play the Clementi sonatinas reasonably well from sight and cannot play the Bach, so while I speak from experience it may not be more than your own. :)

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