arpeggios, Classical music blog, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano teaching, piano technique, scales, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

Piano Technique: Self-created Scale and Arpeggio Prep

Over months and years, I’ve devised various technique framed routines that happen to be bi-products of trial and error excursions over the keyboard. To the extent that I put myself under self-analysis following a stint of formal piano study, I was able to discard a lion’s share of the factory-generated, Conservatory-based litany that encapsulated certain fingers while others tapped away. (i.e. Schmitt exercise-based enslavement that had no relationship to the repertoire of pieces I was studying) In truth, the finger clamp down was a major obstacle to musical development and threatened physical injury.

Once emancipated from a “program” that herded piano majors into practice cubicles where they heard Schmitt reverberating through thin pre-fabricated walls, I set about to create a “natural” approach to piano playing that was built around the relaxed hand, wrist, and arm in synch with an unimpaired flow of breath.

In practicing scales and arpeggios, (in particular) rhythms like the dotted/8th–16th provided a wrist forward motion that had the whole arm behind it. The fingers, suspended at the end of the whole arm/wrist spectrum were not cut short at the terminus. They were fueled by energy coming down the arms through supple wrists.

Being too clinical or even “scientific” about what I discovered would have robbed my playground adventure of its spontaneity, leaving a bundle of muscle memories behind. Instead, I brought them HOME to share with students who responded in kind with a plethora of new ideas to bounce about.

Now for a sprinkle of routines:


The Relaxed Thumb

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