1

I'd like to take Chopin's quote "My God! What a child! Nobody has ever understood me as this child has...It is not imitation, it is the same sentiment, an instinct that makes him play without thinking as if it could not have been any other way. He plays almost all my compositions without having heard me [play them], without being shown the smallest thing - not exactly like me [because he has his own cachet], but certainly not less well."

I've had music teachers tell me that when I play a piece, I have to tell a story, well how do I do it? These teachers teach me techniques like contrast. If you play a repeated line or something you have to play it piano if you played it forte and vice versa. And these things about wrist movements. But all that feels random, I can play the piece how many different ways but how do I play it like Carl? whom this quote is directed towards.

  • There are NO pianists alive to day who ever heard Chopin (or Liszt, Beethoven, Bach, etc, etc) play. Either you figure out for yourself "how the music should go", or you might be better giving up and finding a different hobby. Even if your own version is historically wildly incorrect, it might be musically interesting! You have discovered that just blindly following your teacher's instructions exactly doesn't lead anywhere - but neither does "blindly following instructions" for cooking, driving a car, or many other things in life! – user19146 Sep 23 '17 at 17:20
  • Just to give you an example: I'm personally convinced that Bach's Goldberg variations are actually an elaborate joke in which he poke fun at pretentions (but not very good!) composers and performers, compared with those who make good music by instinct not by book-learning. Some of the best bits are music that comes from the bierkeller, not the church. But Glenn Gould clearly didn't see it that way at all when he recorded it! – user19146 Sep 23 '17 at 17:27
  • By feel. It's about feeling. By "it" I mean "music". Practice until you don't have to think about it and then when you play it, feel about it. – Todd Wilcox Sep 24 '17 at 5:17
1

You can't really train to have an instinct. The word itself implies some degree of innate knowledge or subconscious level of operation. But that's just semantics.

I wouldn't read into the Chopin quote too much. We tend to ascribe much more meaning to the words of great people that we should. His words were surely just meant as praise for that pianist and not as advice for future musicians.

I've had music teachers tell me that when I play a piece, I have to tell a story, well how do I do it?

This is the part I'd focus on. And the answer is that you have to feel it. You have to know the piece well to start with. And you have to like the piece enough that it makes you feel something. Then you have to convey that through your playing so that hopefully somebody else feels it, too.

these teachers teach me techniques like contrast. if you play a repeated line or something you have to play it piano if you played it forte and vice versa. and these things about wrist movements

Right, those are just tools for playing expressively. First you need the technical ability to be expressive—to play dynamically or play fast or slow or whatever. Then you need to feel piece in your own way and put those tools to use.

I can play the piece how many different but how do I play it like Carl? whom this quote is directed towards

I wouldn't worry about that personally. But without a time machine we'll never know exactly how he played, right?

  • 1
    What if, after learning the piece, I feel nothing about it, or that I dread the piece, or that I believe it's a dry etude? – Dekkadeci Sep 23 '17 at 15:08
  • 3
    @Dekkadeci Either pick a different piece or resign yourself to the conclusion that your performance of it might not be very emotive. While there are exceptions especially when a paycheck is involved, my question would be: if you aren't enjoying it, why are you even doing it? – user37496 Sep 23 '17 at 15:37
  • I remember entire categories of piano pieces I needed to play for exams that I didn't really like (e.g. Royal Conservatory of Music List E pieces). – Dekkadeci Sep 24 '17 at 14:55
1

I think you're misunderstanding the quote:

[...] an instinct that makes him play without thinking as if it could not have been any other way

This does not imply a robotic ability of playing a piece the same ("correct") way every time (and indeed Chopin points out that this performer plays differently than he does).

Instead, it is the ability of playing a piece with a conviction and inner logic (what your teachers call "telling a story"), such that listeners are convinced that the performance they just witnessed is the one true way of playing a piece.

And a truly skilled performer, especially in Jazz, can go out the next set, play the piece in a completely different way, yet still with conviction and inner logic, and the audience is convinced again that this was the one true way (even if they were present at the earlier performance).

0

If I understand you correctly, I don't believe it's necessarily an attribute to be able to play only one way. Music is, or should be, organic, so will vary each time it's played. It would become boring if it didn't. But maybe I misunderstood your question.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.