Piano Technique: balance and bearings on the black notes (Video)

One of my adult students confided that her five-finger warm-up in F# Major made her feel shaky and insecure. “It’s like I’m going to slip off the key when I play my 5th finger,” (pinky)–C# (Notes in F# Major penta-scale position are F# G# A# B C#)

Such a distress call like this one stimulates collective problem-solving. It gives the teacher and student an opportunity to learn from each other by trying various options.

In rapid 32nd staccato note playing, for example, many pupils experience the most slippage. And again it’s the smallest digit, 5, that has difficulty securing a comfortable CENTERING on C#..

The first playing of brisk staccato by the pupil, was at FORTE (BIG TONE) level; echoed at piano (soft) dynamic.

Through experimentation, the FOREARM staccato emerged as the best vehicle for a greater projection of sound, while the finger staccato, or actually a “SNIPPED” but well-shaped one, with a curve motion across five fingers adding a slight rotation to C# (finger 5) provided stability, accuracy, and a musically satisfying result.

In essence, a nicely shaped staccato, can spring from a well played legato (smooth and connected)–so that “shaping” the staccato, is a top priority. Sometimes the mental image of “snipping” works for the lighter staccato, while bigger staccato at FORTE level, needs the essential forearm-generated energy.

Regardless of loud or soft staccato playing, breathing into well-shaped phrases is a given.


In the embedded lesson-in-progress video, the student and I collectively explored various physical approaches to staccato within a “musical” context.

Bias Against Black Notes stopped me in my tracks

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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