Joe's Blog

IMITATING THE SOUND OF ANOTHER PIANIST IN REAL TIME

July 11, 2020

J.M  is having difficulty getting her F# Major Chopin Nocturne to sound the way she wants it to. She listens and re-listens to Rubinstein performing it but can’t seem to produce something that mimics his style, sound, or interpretation. 

Usually I encourage students to find their own sound and interpretation, and to not intentionally imitate others. However, in J.M.’s case, she is having difficulty finding her own unique musical voice. So this time we are making an exception and attempting to mimic the Rubinstein recording, but in a special way: 

Before playing the Nocturne, she puts on the Rubinstein recording and sits at the keyboard. Instead of playing together with the recording, she convinces herself that just by making vague hands and body, it is she herself who is producing the sounds. She is like a perfect mirror – we cannot tell the difference between the reflection and the thing being reflected.

She is a magician, and the subtle motions of her torso and arms are sufficient to make the piece happen. In fact they do make it happen, if for no other reason than because she is hearing the sounds at the same time as she makes her gestures. It should be irrelevant whether the sounds are coming from the speaker or from her piano.

 If she doesn’t feel like a magician, she can become a mime, acting in real time as if she is playing the piece. She can be Marcel Marceau, pretending to play the piece in front of an audience. With her movements and gestures she creates the mood of the piece, the subtle qualities and intricacies of Rubenstein’s sounds, its minute changes in loudness and tempo. Her gestures epitomize the way the music is flowing through time, from one moment to the next. 

 Or if she has ambitions of being a conductor, she can stand on an invisible podium and through minimal yet intentional gestures (more like Fritz Reiner and less like Leonard Bernstein) make the orchestra (which for some reason sounds like it is made up of just one piano) execute the Nocturne with great beauty and detail. 

 Whether magician, dancer, mime, or conductor, every now and then it is OK if randomly, unconsciously, your fingers start playing some of the notes during a measure.  If there is another person in the room they should not be able to tell that there are two sources of the sound – the recording and the student. That is how fine the blend is. The student should not be able to hear their sound distinct from the recording.

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