"Tales of a Musical Journey", Irina Gorin, Irina Gorin piano studio, mind body connection, mindful piano practicing, mindful practicing, musical phrasing, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano playing and relaxation, piano teacher, piano teaching, piano technique, pianoaddict.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, singing tone legato, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, Teach Street, teaching piano, teaching piano scales, teaching piano to children, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Piano Technique: Producing a beautiful singing tone using jello as an image

The following teaching video produced by Irina Gorin, confirmed my belief that a singing tone springs from the imagination along with a consciousness about the physical means to achieve it. On both accounts, Gorin succeeded in the company of a six-year old piano student. The transformation of his C scale from a vertical, poked out set of notes to deeper, denser, singable playing was noticeable along with his improved wrist flexibility.

In my own teaching demonstrations, I’d embraced the idea that a pianist is sculpting phrases as he is molding clay. In a similar context, I enlisted the image of playing into a bowl of molasses or soft clay, as impetus to create “volume” or density in phrasing. (Here’s an adult student “feeling” her way through five notes)


Continuing my practice of videotaping my Thursday evening lesson, I reviewed past footage and discovered some catch words that helped me clarify ideas about technique and fluency.

While it may have sounded a bit outlandish to think of the piano as a “bowl of molasses,” the image alone helped my adult student approach the keys with more of a delayed entry, avoiding a skimming the surface type of playing that never quite got the player “grooved” or “connected into” the notes. I liked the volume or density of molasses, and now that I’ve discovered Irina Gorin’s “jello” metaphor, I can easily add it to my repertoire of images.

I’m shortly on my way to round up the red stick of “putty” she’d secured at a local Dollar Store. At least jello contained in a neat capsule would not leave the same mess behind as molasses.

So molasses or jello slow things down, and they allow for some key depth exploration without a premature release to other notes. This applies to passages in slow, fast or moderate tempo.

In the course of practicing an E minor Arpeggio, (E, G, B, E) in TENTHS (Right hand begins on G, finger no. 1) I reinforced the idea that listening attentively to the very end of a note before playing the next was an essential ingredient of beautiful phrasing and fluid playing, but at the very core of my imagination was the molasses or jello image.

Fast Melody

For the rippling strings of 32nds in Allegro that can be practiced in a scale framework, the principle of attentive listening from note to note should be framed as “fast melody.” Melodic contouring blends well with a bowl of molasses even though the latter would seem to drastically slow things down.

But for most piano students who tend to race over the keys losing their breath and composure, some key catchwords might neutralize the frenzy.

Rather than write on and on about the molasses, I am going to re-feature the segment in the piano lesson where this image was specifically retrieved and then applied to playing the Dominant 7th Arpeggio B, D#, F#, A in contrary motion, Thumbs at B (an octave above middle B)

In conclusion, imagination and physical exploration should be enlisted to achieve a desired singing tone and beautiful phrasing.


Footnote: The epitome of playing into a vast bowl of jello is here exemplified:

4 thoughts on “Piano Technique: Producing a beautiful singing tone using jello as an image”

  1. In Irina’s lesson I could hear SUCH a difference in tone when his wrists became more supple and he really played ‘through’ the note, as opposed to just striking it. Molasses and jello are brilliant illustrations and I am itching to run downstairs after this and see if I can hear a difference in my scales in imagining that for myself. Your arpeggios were also a thing of beauty, even for something so musically ‘simple’ 🙂

    As for Yeol-Eum Son, what incredibly expressive beauty in her playing. The slow, liquid ease of it was so clear and those notes really did sing! Thank you for the wonderful imagery.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.