Reading while Practicing?

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markhedm
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Reading while Practicing?

Post by markhedm » Tue Aug 02, 2005 11:35 am

I am surprised that some of the great pianists actually read while practicing. I thought this method passed out of favor with the 19th century, but it appears from the quote below that Charles Rosen does it. And the reading material - Shakespeare, the Bible, Goethe! I was taught to focus on what I was practicing, but I wonder if there was a purpose to this, or was it just to save time?

Mark H.


http://rodcorp.typepad.com/rodcorp/2005 ... k_fra.html

Liszt was a flamboyant performer: one of the first to improve the recital as spectacle by turning his piano sideways, he'd played in green silk gloves, and later leave them for the swooning, jewelry-tossing ladies in the audience to fight over. He advised his students to read a book while practicing.

The advantage of reading a book while practicing for pure technique alone is that it enables us to forget the boredom of playing a passage over and over again, a dozen, or fifty or a hundred times until the body has absorbed it. Not all books, however, lend themselves equally well to this employment. Poetry interferes subtly with the rhythm of the music, and so does really admirable prose. The most useful, I have found for myself, are detective stories, sociology and literary criticism. However, any reading matter that distracts the mind without engaging the sense or the emotions too powerfully will work.
[From Piano Notes by Charles Rosen. This via Phil Gyford, thanks, who has his own working trick.]

Liszt apparently read Shakespeare and Goethe (among others) whilst practicing.

With this exercise, he went through all twenty-four keys and relative keys; he did the same for the arpeggiated octaves. ... He does all this for hours on end, while at the same time reading to avoid boredom. This is the time, as he exercises his fingers, that he meditates over his readings [...] He therefore insists that each finger should be exercised for a quarter of an hour daily by raising it very high and releasing it downwards, not on its tip, but instead upon the ball of the finger. This exercise might be done while reading in order not to become bored.
[Boissier's A Diary of Franz Liszt as Teacher 1831-32, trs Elyse Mach, p23]

Others: Henselt reportedly read the Bible while practising exercises, which he did for up to sixteen hours a day - when he got to the end, he would simply go back to the beginning and start all over again. Saint-Saens did his piano practice while reading the daily newspapers! Brahms. But this advice isn't supported by all teachers.

markhedm
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Post by markhedm » Tue Aug 02, 2005 11:55 am

http://www.sbgmusic.com/html/teacher/re ... rahms.html

As a teenager, Brahms worked playing the piano in dance halls until late at night to help his family. He also went to school, practiced, and wrote music. Since he knew the dance music very well, Brahms took books to read while he played. He liked to read adventure stories, romances, and poems. (If you take piano lessons, don’t try this at home! Brahms could only read books while he played because he had practiced very hard for a long time.)

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Aug 02, 2005 12:22 pm

Another tribute to the magic of muscle memory.
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BWV 1080
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Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Aug 02, 2005 12:25 pm

Thats because they did not have TV. Itzhak Perlman mentioned once he did most of his practicing watching cricket

markhedm
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Post by markhedm » Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:12 pm

I have heard the story that Mozart would write down his music during billiard games while waiting for the other person to play. I can imagine Mozart doing this, but not Bach or Beethoven.

Mark H.

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