An adult student and I worked on relaxation techniques that applied to her warm-ups. We practiced preparation for starting notes of broken chords and scales. I recommended a slow and deep ingestion of air before the release of a stream, that has a perfect moment to create an opening sound or tone. Music and the… Continue reading Piano Warm-ups, Chopin, and the Art of Breathing (Videos)
Rina marches forward making great progress. For a child of 5, her gains are remarkable. By comparison, my early piano studies were unremarkable. When I embarked upon lessons at age 6, I lived in the Marble Hill Projects, (Bronx, New York) in a small apartment that had no piano. As a consequence, I had to… Continue reading Rina, 5, plays “Little March” by Turk–10 months of piano lessons–and a flashback to my childhood
Face the music! Most new Conservatory grads with fancy Bachelor of Music, Performance-Piano Degrees bound in leather must improvise when catapulted into the competitive job market. With only a tiny space on the world stage reserved for budding soloists, many aspiring concert pianists will teach privately, wait tables, babysit, or become high school choir accompanists.
In my case, upon Oberlin graduation, I spent nearly ten years working at the New York State Department of Labor, starting out as an Employment Interviewer in the Household Division. In my spare time, I schlepped around the city giving piano lessons.
My first students, Annie, 7 and Naomi, 5, who lived in an upscale apartment complex off Washington Square in the West Village, benefited from my idealism and determination to be uniquely creative.
Instead of relying on John Thompson’s pixie popular primer series with its middle C fixation, I decided to have my fledglings…
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Bb C D Eb F G A Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Last night I had a rap session with a student on the subject of his favorite scale. And it quickly dawned on me that this whole area of discussion, while definitely out of the mainstream and not a life or death issue, might be worth a survey.
Did I hear myself right?
If, for example, I asked myself what scale was the most difficult to teach, it would be a no brainer: Bb Major, resoundingly!!
In talking with myriads of pupils that have come through my studio over the years, the overwhelming consensus was that Bb Major had been a finger tripper, if not a confidence crusher.
But why? It only contains TWO FLats, Bb and Eb!
One student called it the “daddy long legs” scale because of its many strands, ins and outs…
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I've chosen Burgmuller's "Tender Flower" as the springboard to explore attentive listening and its relationship to phrasing. At the outset, the right moment to begin a piece is a challenge. The player has to experience the whole dimension of silence before a first note is played. That silence is not dead, but alive with cues… Continue reading Phrasing at the piano: Listening to the ends of notes as they flow into others
This seems like a timely subject to revisit.
It’s always nice to blog about a devoted cadre of piano students who show up each week prepared for their lessons, wanting to grow and develop in creative directions.
Such a pleasing landscape had been presented in REACHING BEYOND, a film tribute to Irena Orlov’s remarkably inspired piano teaching. Her students couldn’t wait to go on camera to bubble over what was given to them. Odes of affection resonated from the present and into the future. They revealed a lasting connection that even death could not defy.
At least a “life-time” relationship could be cradled, Orlov waxed poetically in an interview segment.
In a perfect world or Utopia, I might write this very ethereal script for my piano teaching colleagues all over the country who live in New York, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and wherever else they had set up their private studios bundled in idealism.
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The universal chant among my adult students is, “I can’t play those darn staccato scales and arpeggios. They’re impossible!” And the reason for all the moans and groans is, they feel DISCONNECTED, and not safely secure in the keys. It’s in part PSYCHOLOGICAL. If students can pull off a nice, swinging, well-shaped LEGATO, all they… Continue reading From Legato to Staccato: staying connected at the piano (Video)
To honor Connell York on this Father’s Day!
York had shown me burns on his arms that he’d sustained in Hiroshima following the US attack. The blisters sprang up rapidly on the afternoon he’d been dispatched to the scene.
I had always surmised that York’s deeply embedded scars were from piano strings “poppin'”on him. But one morning he told me the indelible piano tuner marks were intermingled with the effects of the A-bomb.
York dropped off a newspaper photo that showed him embracing his brother-in law, “Lonnie Rolen,” who returned from wartime Germany with shrapnel lodged in this lower spine. York’s commissioned officer stripes revealed in the snapshot were acquired when he was appointed as an army band leader. A cornetist, York recalled that he had made 18 jumps during parachute training maneuvers.
YORK was a member of the distinguished 11th Airborne, US Infantry, and brought back a doleful Japanese melody to the home front, a heart-warming memento of his military service. He remembered the song the children were singing on the very day he and his buddies came upon them in a rural village outside Tokyo. The war was…
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For over a year I was an apprentice to Connell York, 84-year old piano tuner. During our colorful journey on the piano-finding trail, a folksy narrative emerged that informs as it entertains. *** Scenes preview: 84-year old, piana' tuna,' Connell York holds a ten-dollar bill he retrieved in a deep-sea diving expedition under a grand… Continue reading Me, York and Our Great Piano Adventure!
Taking piano lessons should be a deep-level growth experience with a metaphorical tie-in to life. This means that pieces studied and technique applied should be interwoven to realize emotions of sadness, happiness, grieving, elation, disappointment and whatever comes to mind in the full panoply of human feelings. This is why hearing the word “fun” tossed… Continue reading Piano Study: Exploring the full gamut of emotions on the way to mastering a new piece (Videos)