I have four piano students in rehab who are grappling with metrical issues. They might start with a healthy quarter note in a five-finger position warm-up; manage proportioned 8th notes, but totally relapse playing 16ths. That's when their confidence sinks to new lows. It's just in time for the metronome, not used as a crutch,… Continue reading Adult student Rhythmic REHAB
I borrowed a few hours from my Haydn immersion to review a Beethoven Sonatina that is absolutely charming but very challenging. One would think that such a work labeled -mini, by its "-ina" suffix spelled an easier passage to the final cadence by comparison to a composition in SONATA form. Not so. For example, many… Continue reading Navigating a robust Beethoven Sonatina (not the one everybody plays)
As I foraged through old e-mail files, I stumbled upon my note to Oberlin alum, Robert Krulwich, WNYC RADIO LAB program moderator. http://www.radiolab.org/search/?q=robert+krulwich#q=robert krulwich He and his co-host had featured psychologist, Dr. Diane Deutsch's podcast on Perfect Pitch. One of her published papers, among others, provided a springboard for discussion: Tone Language Speakers Possess Absolute… Continue reading Perfect pitch? What’s the big deal?
I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked the same question by either parents, or people I meet on Amtrak. It’s about “piano fingers,” “hand size,” and the best physiological fit for the keyboard. Next in line are queries about tone deafness and “perfect pitch.”
The stereotypes are: A great pianist has God-given perfect pitch and long-tapered fingers. End of story.
Now if you log onto You Tube and sample lots of remarkable piano playing, you’ll quickly discover that short and stubby fingers can work musical magic.
Example, the late Alicia de Larrocha defied all physical stereotypes: She was pint-sized and with little fingers. (the pairing was perfect)
Given her bio-genetics and 4’9″ inch height, you can watch her rip through a fiery composition!
De Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance”
Try this out for size. Alicia playing Liszt’s “La Campanella”–
Talk about finger stretches that KILL!
I wish we could…
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One of my Oberlin Conservatory piano teachers regarded Vladimir Horowitz as a fire and ice player. He referred to the maestro as having the uncanny ability to turn out a hot performance with a cool demeanor. (The physical control, of course, was AMAZING!) Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75ZAOwgzoAE Same applies to Yuja Wang, pianist, who delivers a sizzling… Continue reading Piano Technique: A fire and ice approach to learning pieces at breakspeed tempo
I'm the proud mentor of seven COMMITTED adult piano students, three of whom were TAGGED with body stickers for doing GOOD time at their lessons yesterday. NOTE: None have been coerced by authorities to sign up. (i.e. Parents) Each is a VOLUNTARY admission. (LIVE or in Cyber) Ravi, a thirty-plus chess champion/financial analyst, is one… Continue reading My Gold Standard Adult Pupils!
Many students get finger-trapped playing the piano, hammering away at tricky passages with tight wrists and stiff, plunky fingers. The more glitches they encounter, the tenser they get, which sets up a vicious cycle. I always advise these harrowed pupils to think bigger than smaller movements, and let arms, especially drive their motions. In this… Continue reading Piano Technique: Playing BEYOND the fingers
I say yes to naysayers on various Internet forums. They would have you believe that playing a series of notes cannot be altered by a physical approach to the keys that includes a supple wrist. Their gospel is, it's all the same no matter who plays C, D, E, F, G. These concrete thinkers, insist… Continue reading Can we rise above the hammer mechanism of our beloved piano?
Woody Allen, now 77-years old, is dead serious in his latest film, Blue Jasmine, though his emblematic relief-giving humor plays off stereotypes about New Yorkers, the San Francisco landscape, class/cultural differences, and dysfunctional human relationships. According to a recent Wall Street Journal tribute to the iconic director, his 48th feature, "is based on a story… Continue reading Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is brilliant and unsettling
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…
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