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OT: Must you look to the board while playing?

Andre Lower

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Alright, for the pros and classic piano players out there this must sound rather silly, but I figure I'm not the only one around: Do you guys really need to look to your keyboard/hands while playing? On some songs I am capable o playing without ever looking at the board (considering I am usually singing too, I suppose this improves stage presence very much :D ), but on most cases my eyes are still "tethered" to what my hands are doing... I'd like to be able to do it without looking. Anybody has tips on how to acquire this skill without screwing precision/speed?
"I'm ready to sing to the world. If you back me up". (Lennon to his bandmates, in an inspired definition of what it's all about).
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The same way you get to Carnegie Hall - practice, practice, practice!


But while I can play with my eyes elsewhere, when I'm improvising seriously, I tend to look VERY closely at the keys, acgtually selecting notes visually rather than ayrally - don't know why, I've done this since I was 12 years old. As soon as the groove takes me, I fix my eyes on the area where I'm about to play, and go from there.


In the classics, you already KNOW what you're going to play next, so once it's in your head, hands and heart, you don't need to look. But when it's coming out of the depths of the subconcious, and out of the ether, I find that looking at the keyboard helps to cue my brain-even though sometimes, my eyes are wide shut...



It's all about the music. Really. I just keep telling myself that...

The Soundsmith

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Depends on what I'm doing. I can definitely play without looking, but I mostly "forget" that I can do that, and look.


Like Dasher, I tend to look more when soloing or improvising. And I, too, often use visual cues for my improvisations.


But here's a weird one -- when I'm transposing on the fly I find that I can play flawlessly if I don't look. But if I look I get all fumble-fingered and screw up. I totally don't understand this, but it's true.



Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.


My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/


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It totally depends on the style of music. The only time I allow myself to look elsewhere is in a rock rhythm section, where my part is easy and rhythmic. But since I usually have to play multiple parts, I can't help but looking down at the keys. In a jazz context, I almost always have to keep my eyes on the keyboard. Then, there are those rare moments of inspiration, where I just close my eyes and go... It *only* happens when I'm improvising, though. :)


I hate to see pictures of myself playing, precisely because I'm constantly looking down. When I can, I try to make up for that by moving quite a bit, using the (rare) dead moment to do little dances around my rig, etc...

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For me situation is similar like Marino's. I'am very visual type and quite easy to deconcentrate, so whenever I play something with longer keyboard passages I cannot help but look. Somtimes during improvisation I also close my eyes or show off during cheesy parts.


I get used to how I look during playing, although it was embaressing at first :rolleyes:

Fat But Fast
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It depends. Was the question a typo ... ? should one looked bored when playing? :cool:

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.


In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.


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I have a tendency to watch my left hand when playing octave bass lines. I need to get over that as it messes with my singing. I do practice playing without looking at the board.


In a Blues band, you really cannot afford to not be watching the leader for breaks, endings, etc. If you have your head down all the time you are going to screw up.


Practice with your eyes closed or in the dark. My wife has an annoying habit of finding me playing in the dark and coming and turning the light on!


Its good for your ears and learning hand shapes too because that is all you have to find the right notes.

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I'm a late bloomer with respect to keyboards. For the past year I've worked on being able to play without looking.


I'm starting to see the benefits and would recommend you put some "eyes off" into your practice routine. In addition to greater overall confidence, I'm finding that it's a lot more fun.


Sometimes I play with a group that has an excellent drummer and bassist. These guys have played together for 20 years and are extremely tight. They give each other lots of visual clues that let's them mix things up and move in and out of grooves. Now that I can watch them, I'm not missing their changes. It's also freeing me up to put licks in the right places.

Casio PX-5S, Korg Kronos 61, Omnisphere 2, Ableton Live, LaunchKey 25, 2M cables
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Yes and no... and sorta! :-)


I don't really look at the keys per se, I look for target keys to hit. For example:

If I'm playing ELP's "Pirates," and I'm in the fast section, (lyrics- "I want a soft touch/In the right place/I want to feel/Like a king tonight") that bounces between a C7(no 3rd) and an FSus4. So, when I'm playing it, I focus on the Bb note, so that my 4th finger, right hand nails it during the C, and the index finger nails it during the F but an octave lower. I'm not thinking Bb, it's just a target that I'm aiming for.


Using targets like this allows me to forget about fingering, because it's just a case of "this goes THERE" and I rely on finger memory to do the rest.


This generally only occurs during fast and/or complex pieces. Otherwise, I can be a million miles away and playing. I once remember having a conversation onstage with a rather comely wench offstage to my left during a song, the entire time I was trying to get a better look down her *very* tight and *very* low-cut blouse whilst playing "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." I don't think I looked at the boards at all during that song that particular night.


The "yes" answer is anytime I play Bach. I watch me hands alot, because he was so symmetrical in his music, it's a joy to watch my hands dance across the keys during a fugue or a trio.



Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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I play a lot with my eyes closed - a good way to practice, too. After awhile, you won't need to look, and your hands will develop the "muscle memory" to go to the right keys.

Composer/Performer at Roger Hooper Music

Product Trainer at CASIO



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Sometimes I play scales and arpeggios and tunes I know or have memorized, with eyes shut, or in a dark room. It is a good way to practice. Usually I do watch my hands, and photos of me playing are always painful to see. I look like I'm mad at the keyboard half the time. Maybe I could play in a pitch dark room all the time!
"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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