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Topic: Why?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    Why?

    Why do I always do my best piano playing when no one can hear it?

    Today I played a couple of pieces on the piano so well that I could hardly believe it was me. But no one else heard. Tomorrow, I will be back to my own level again wondering why this nearly always happens when no one else can hear!

    Am I alone in this phenomenon? I think not, but I wonder about it.

    Richard

  2. #2

    Re: Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by rwayland View Post
    Why do I always do my best piano playing when no one can hear it?

    Today I played a couple of pieces on the piano so well that I could hardly believe it was me. But no one else heard. Tomorrow, I will be back to my own level again wondering why this nearly always happens when no one else can hear!

    Am I alone in this phenomenon? I think not, but I wonder about it.

    Richard
    What an interesting post, Richard - And I'm betting more than a few people can relate to this syndrome you've described. I know I can.

    Before I had any synths, piano was my instrument. Then, back in early '80's, I started adding "keyboards" to my home recordings. A bit later I started using MIDI keyboards and hardware sequencers. And then much later, I made the transition from MIDI modules to software and recording on a computer. And during that big arch of developments, the piano slipped away from me. Now I haven't had a piano for many years.

    And more to the point, as I got more involved with using synths/samplers/MIDI, my piano chops deteriorated. I adapted to a mostly right-hand-only playing, my left hand being kept busy with controls like mod wheels and pitch bend wheels. Now, for quite some time, I only need to play very short sections of a piece at a time as I put together my music.

    Hand-in-hand with that progression came the inability to actually play piano well enough to either want people to hear me play, or to be able to be at all entertaining if that kind of situation even came up.

    Coupled with all of that, I developed a real "performance phobia." Even during the period when I was still actually able to play the piano with some degree of musicality, I felt intense anxiety if someone wanted me to play something on the piano. Now, for years, I can't even have somebody in the same room as I work with my MIDI keyboards - even with my earphones on!

    But once in awhile, I'll find myself, contentedly playing only for myself, and doing better than I usually think I can, just as in your post. I attribute that to a healthy wave of ego-less, un-self conscious peace that seems to come and go without my bidding.

    QUESTION - If it's possible for you to turn on your computer and record yourself in free time, almost forgetting that you have a recording going, wouldn't you be able to capture some of these times of good, free playing? If so, it could be rather gratifying to hear that playback, especially on days when you may feel stuck and uninspired.

    My un-edited thoughts on that. As I said, I wouldn't be surprised if others say "Yes, that happens to me too" in response to what you've said.

    Randy

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Why?

    Hi Richard and Randy,

    Great question Richard! Yes, I agree with both of you; and my road to where I am today with music is not unlike Randy's.

    At this stage of my musical life, my best performances are always serendipitous and generally out of ear-shot!

    I started at 17 on guitar and progressed to the point where I was playing in various bands and even did some contracting work as a substitute guitar/bass guitar player picking up work in clubs. I practiced all the time and loved playing and performing. I continued to play (and perform) when I went in the Navy for four years, also picking up some piano, saxes, clarinets, and later on after I got out, flutes. After I left the service and started a career in design engineering, the performing became less and less.

    But there was something else brewing during all this: I had always enjoyed and loved arranging music ... to this day, I consider myself more of an arranger than a composer per se ... I started by doing it rather informally; mostly head arrangements: OK, you play this on piano, you play this on bass, you play this on trumpet, etc. but was always doing it from my playing-guitar-in-a-group days. In the Navy, I had time to start studying from arranging books and this really became my life-long niche in music ... arranging and orchestrating.

    In the mid-80's, my first synth w/ a built-in sequencer (the wonderful Ensoniq ESQ-1 ... 8 channels/8 note polyphony (that's a total of only 8 notes for ALL channels at once!!) finally gave me the palate to create and work-out arrangements without live musicians. And that pretty much signalled the end of my performing days ... at least for rooms full of people. And there are times when I really miss it ... BUT ... having the ability to have virtual players play my original arrangements and compositions ... priceless!

    Today, I am a musician without chops ... all my musical energies go into the writing/arranging aspects of music ... but there is a part of me that, someday, would still like to restring my guitar, re-cork my reeds and flutes, maybe get a nice piano for the living room and play again ... maybe, just maybe, someday I'll do that ...

    Frank

  4. #4

  5. #5

    Re: Why?

    For about half the price of the rather (IMHO) iffy Moog device, one could have an M-Audio oxygen 88.

    Hook it up to the Garritan Steinway, and Bob, as they say, is your uncle.

    Just a thought!
    SysExJohn.

  6. #6

    Re: Why?

    an M-Audio oxygen 88 is just a midi controller and is nothing like the Moog piano bar
    and unlike all the terrible things said about it... it does work.... iffy yes,

    much cheaper than selling your real piano and buying a Yamaha diskclavier piano

    Dan

  7. #7

    Re: Why?

    Maybe not exactly the same, but John Adams feels generally the same way (around 1:40 into the video)

    Michael Obermeyer, Jr.
    youtube channel
    soundclick page

  8. #8

    Re: Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by rwayland View Post
    Why do I always do my best piano playing when no one can hear it?

    Richard
    When you are playing at a lower level of accomplishment, do you think that you tend to concentrate on small technical details? I am prone to do this, for instance, concentrating on individual finger movements to ensure I get all the notes in. The reason I do this is, I think, because I've conditioned myself to believe that the difficulty in piano technique is centered in the fingers since they are the most active body part during playing. But recently I discovered that some of my pieces come off much better when I pay more attention to broader movements in my arms, shoulders, back and torso. It turns out that my finger technique is much better than I realized. But those broader movements are more noticeable to people watching and listening, so, even thought I don't tend to play for listeners all that much, if I did, I would be prone to forget those broader attention getting movements and fall back into concentrating on the fingers in order to give a good performance. So playing for others puts me in a different headspace than the one I am in when I'm playing alone. Your problem may not be this type of 'stage-frighty'-ness but do you also experience this type of headspace transition as you bop back and forth between various levels of accomplishment?

  9. #9

    Re: Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by rwayland View Post
    Why do I always do my best piano playing when no one can hear it?
    This brings up the old, unanswerable question
    "if a tree in a forest falls, and there's no one their to hear it fall, does it make any sound?"

    Question: If no one can hear it, how do you know it's your best piano playing?
    Do you only think it's your best piano playing because no one can hear it?

    Is it all a figment of your imagination?
    Is everything a figment of my imagination?
    Do I only think that I'm sitting here typing and that real people answer, or am I talking to a machine?

    Where is everyone?

    Hello? .................................................. ................ Anybody?

    Oh well.

  10. #10
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
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    Re: Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mabry View Post
    When you are playing at a lower level of accomplishment, do you think that you tend to concentrate on small technical details? I am prone to do this, for instance, concentrating on individual finger movements to ensure I get all the notes in. The reason I do this is, I think, because I've conditioned myself to believe that the difficulty in piano technique is centered in the fingers since they are the most active body part during playing. But recently I discovered that some of my pieces come off much better when I pay more attention to broader movements in my arms, shoulders, back and torso. It turns out that my finger technique is much better than I realized. But those broader movements are more noticeable to people watching and listening, so, even thought I don't tend to play for listeners all that much, if I did, I would be prone to forget those broader attention getting movements and fall back into concentrating on the fingers in order to give a good performance. So playing for others puts me in a different headspace than the one I am in when I'm playing alone. Your problem may not be this type of 'stage-frighty'-ness but do you also experience this type of headspace transition as you bop back and forth between various levels of accomplishment?

    Well, your comments are quite astute, and deserving of resonse, but first I must ponder them while have another coffee.

    Richard

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