Hidrau, hydraulic piano bench, piano bench

Playing Musical Chairs with my new Hidrau, hydraulic piano bench

hydrau hydraulic

Welcome to a whirlwind round of musical chairs, with a good, healthy workout thrown in.

I never expected the Valencia, Spain import to challenge my athletic prowess. But for certain, I’d been primed for this bench press Olympiad having done my daily Gravitron, along with pull-ups and push-ups at the Downtown Berkeley Y. My daily training should have amply prepped me for the Hidrau descent with side bar assists that amazingly resisted every one of my ergonomic push-downs. Compared to assembler, Arrion Brown who weighed in at a muscular 210 lbs, to my measly 112, I was a puny push-over! Call it a 100 lb. difference! That’s how Ari had the necessary clout to get Hidrau to cooperate on the downslide. I might add that this male powerhouse happens to be a Jiu Jitsu champ which puts him in the winner’s circle when it comes to ENDURANCE.

I’ll let my homegrown video speak for itself.

Once I finish my next two nocturnal piano lessons, I’ll add Arrion’s nifty Hidrau assembly according to specs. Note that he’d successfully put the last Chinese Stagg Hydraulic together, though it squeaked its heart out, while Hidrau is a silent, squeak-less success, locked right now into one perfect height at my Steinway grand. If I need to lower it, I’ll scream for help and either 911 will send out a team of paramedics, or my neighbor, Art will heed my cries and get the darn bench back in balance.

Judge for yourself:

The Assembly

And now compare to the STAGG hydraulic that’s been retired as a computer accessory doing its job well with attendant noise that’s not a problem but would be a menace if stationed at my grand during a recording session!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/the-saga-of-my-stagg-hydraulic-piano-bench-videos/

UPDATE:
Video of REPLACEMENT Hidrau shipped to me, with a distributor message at its conclusion:

adult piano instruction, Face Time, Online piano lessons, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano teaching, Rhythmical practicing, Skype

“Counting Correctly, but Playing Un-rhythmically”

“The habit of counting correctly but playing unrhythmically develops easily in the beginning and is too often overlooked.” – Richard Chronister (A Piano Teacher’s Legacy, Ed. Edward Darling)

http://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Selected-Writings-Richard-Chronister/dp/0976116308

I love this quote, because many students count out beats quite methodically but without musical meaning. Their metrical repetitions serve little purpose if the goal of study is to communicate an art form that is embodied in rhythmic framing with threads of melody weaving through a “singing pulse.”

Dimitri Kabalevsky’s “Clowns” piece from the composer’s Op. 39 Album of Children’s pieces, is the perfect springboard for practicing (behind tempo) with an animated, “living, breathing,” framing pulse that ignites the very mood and affect of the composition right from the start.

In this regard, my Face Time student in London, in his second year of piano study, has made nice gains playing rhythmically and musically. Here he takes a baby step journey in his early exposure to “Clowns,” with a keen awareness of buoyant rhythmic energies that propel his practicing in a chosen, steady, embracing tempo.

Kabalevsky Clowns p. 1

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In this sample, the pupil practices a five-finger C# minor penta-scale in double tempo starting with 8th notes, to 16ths to 32nds..(ending with staccato, forte and piano)

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P.S. I always recommend that students enroll in a Jacques Dalcroze Eurhythmics Course. As it happened, my most influential teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory was Eurhythmics mentor, Inda Howland.

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/eurhythmics-a-whole-body-listening-experience-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/dalcroze-eurhythmics-on-display-at-the-san-francisco-conservatory-of-music/

adult piano instruction, adult piano lessons, arpeggios, blogmetrics, blogmetrics.org, imagination and piano technique, pianist, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano teaching, piano technique, playing scales, scales, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, smoothing out piano technique

Piano Technique: Playing scales without bumps or accents

Laura screem shot B minor scale

It’s common for piano students to divide their scales into well-boxed rhythmic compartments, emphasizing the fundamental beat that interrupts a smooth flowing legato (connecting from note to note). Sometimes players are unaware of their reinforced “beat” counting impulses and need occasional reminders of what’s communicated to the listener. (who happens to be the innocent bystander piano teacher) The most important “listener,” of course, is the player.

Unwanted accents or bumps usually occur when the thumbs, in particular fall down hard on the keyboard during shifts. In most cases, the thumb is not advanced early enough in its passage, or it’s not imagined as a “light” traveler through many octaves. I tend to think “feather” thumb when I play it, or prompt myself to feel the “up” instead of “down” when it arrives.

But the thumb isn’t the only nemesis in scale playing, especially where unwanted emphases disturb an octave by octave flow. Once the cycle of bumps is instigated by the first thumb poke in the opener, (1, 2, 3, 1) the ensuing octaves become infected by a military drum beat on every 5th note in the parade.

No doubt, in the old days, beat-whipping pedagogues insisted that students KEEP in STEP through myriads of octaves, but thankfully these churned out pedantic exercises with predictable accents, have flowed into an awareness of scales as curves and waves within a legato framing.

(This is not to discount the value of recurring accent practice when a completely different landscape is desired–for instance, where measures of a composition demand notational punctuations.)

But in this particular lesson sample, the student embodied the singing pulse after she had consciously eliminated unwanted scale-wide accents.

The other dimension of our exploration was making a smooth TURNAROUND in B minor right where finger 5 in the right hand at the peak, often makes an angular POKE instead of a “loopy” or rounded corner of the scale. Attentive listening, imagination, hearing it before playing it, fused with a physical awareness of the supple wrist to cushion the finger at the top, helped in smoothing out the scale from “roll in” beginning, to loop around and return to home note. The same applied to staccato playing where shape and contouring were equally desired. (Emphasizing a horizontal, breathed through rendering)

All these areas were explored in this short segment. (“Smoothing out B minor scales”)

LINK:

A related mentoring by Face Time transmission

documentary, Eberfest, Ethan Hawke, film, piano, Roger Ebert, Seymour Bernstein, Seymour: An Introduction

Happy Birthday, Seymour Bernstein!

I just sent the following message back East!

“Seymour, May this be the best year ever with continued celebration of your wondrous achievements as a pianist, teacher, composer, author, philosopher, and global musical ambassador.”

While gratitude is expressed far and wide for what Seymour Bernstein has advanced in the musical and interpersonal communication universe, he is the first to be humbled by the adulation he has received for his big screen presence in Seymour: An Introduction.

In this spirit, Seymour gave me permission to copy a set of e-mails that sprang from his recent appearance at the Eberfest that honors Roger Ebert and showcases selected films of unusual artistic merit.

ABOUT EBERTFEST
http://www.ebertfest.com/index.html

Founded in 1999 by the late Roger Ebert, University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival (Ebertfest) celebrates films that haven’t received the recognition they deserved during their original runs. The festival gives these films and their filmmakers a well-deserved second look.

Ebertfest takes place in Urbana-Champaign each April. Chaz Ebert, Roger’s beloved wife, business partner and fellow film-lover, is the festival host.

While Roger passed away in April 2013, his influence on the Festival continues. True to Roger’s vision, the twelve films screened during the five day event represent a cross-section of important cinematic works overlooked by audiences, critics and/or distributors. Some films come from lists of possible films that Roger drew up over the first 15 years of the festival. Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn select additional films based on Roger’s established criteria for an Ebertfest film. Both Chaz and Nate worked closely with Roger for fifteen years on programming the festival.

The Festival brings together the films’ producers, writers, actors and directors to help showcase their work. A filmmaker or scholar introduces the films, and screenings are followed by an in depth on-stage Q&A discussion among filmmakers, critics and the audience.

Ebertfest is a special event of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, and the festival, in conjunction with the College, hosts a number of on-campus academic panel discussions each year that feature filmmaker guests, scholars and students.

All the festival films screen in the 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre, a restored 1920s movie palace with state-of-the-art 35/70mm and digital projection. A portion of the Festival’s income goes toward on-going renovations at the theatre.

***

From Seymour:

“See below a note from Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert the world-famous film critic. After the death of her husband, Chaz created what is now considered to be one of the world’s major film festivals. The projection technician, James Bond (what a name) has to be a genius. I was simply in awe of the visual and aural aspects of the film in that magnificent auditorium. I told Chaz that I could not get over the sound of the piano. She took me into her arms where I sobbed for minutes on end. She was crying, too.

“Andrew Harvey was there, and so was Bill who came with me. As we entered the stage for the Q and A session, the entire audience of 1,500 rose in one gesture and roared their approval for a full 2 minutes. Two of the world’s most distinguished film critics were the moderators. After the Q and A, they rolled out a Steinway and I gave a masterclass right there and then to two fabulous students from the University. All told, this was the most rewarding screening I have attended.

“Open the attachment and see the photo of Chaz and me. I believe it tells all.”
Seymour

Chaz Ebert and Seymour

From: Chaz Ebert
To: Seymour Bernstein
Subject: Re: Deep gratitude

My Dear Seymour:

Having you close Ebertfest with your film and Masterclass and the music from the students brought together the whole week for me with grace and beauty. You were absolutely divine and I knew you would be from the first moment we spoke on the phone. Also, Andrew told me to prepare for the absolute beauty you would bring and he was right.

You did my heart good when you said you had never heard it like that before. One of the things we pride ourselves on at the festival is showing movies in a way that the filmmakers don’t get to see them these days of the multiplex theaters. We have this restored movie palace and hired James Bond to help us because he is the best! We all have a deep respect for the films and for the guests who come to the Festival. Thank you.

I want to make sure we get the Golden Thumb to you. Please send me your address so that we can get it out to you right away.

And please thank Bill for me. He was so kind. I would love to hear his music! And I hope he had a first class ticket too! Please let me know.

Big Hugs,
Chaz

From: Seymour Bernstein
To: Chaz Ebert
Subject: Deep gratitude

My dear Chaz,
Words cannot possibly express my emotional response to everything that occurred yesterday. I was so deeply touched by what you made possible for me, plus James Bond’s genius engineering that resulted in my seeing/hearing the documentary in a way I had never before experienced, simply cracked me up. The rest was as you remember: I sobbed in your arms. The audience response, receiving the “thumb” award, the Q and A session, and the master class were all highlights in my life.
And you are at the center of it all. Darling Chaz, my deepest thanks for everything.
Much love and admiration.
Seymour

***

Finally, how Chaz described Seymour: An Introduction in her blog prologue to its Festival inclusion:

Seymour at the piano

“The other documentary is the very charming “Seymour: An Introduction,” directed by Ethan Hawke. It introduces us to Seymour Bernstein, a classically trained pianist who struggled with how to honor his art when it conflicted with the anxiety in his life. It raises questions about the role and responsibility of the artist to himself, to the audience, and to his fellow travelers. Ethan started the project because he questioned whether his life and art had the authenticity he desired. He did a wonderful job coaxing the philosophy out of Seymour as Seymour demonstrated his gift for coaxing the best performances out of his students. Seymour Bernstein will be with us in person conducting a masterclass. Even in the movie, his music transported me. Rumi Scholar Andrew Harvey put Hawke and Bernstein together, and I am hoping he will join Seymour on stage after this beautiful closing film.”

LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

Dampp Chaser system, piano, piano maintenance, piano technician, pianos and climate control, Sam Bennett

Climate control and Pianos: A conversation with Sam Bennett (Piano Works in Duluth, GA)

I’m very concerned about my Southern USA students’ pianos that are subject to warbling unisons, or wavy, beating octaves. A case in point is my Kentucky Online pupil who owns a well-regarded Charles Walter upright that was tuned about 5 months ago. Yet it now has “beating” notes due to extreme vacillations of humidity in the area. In addition, the sound board that swells and contracts in response to summer moisture overload and winter dryness, is at structural risk.

Kentucky upright screens shot

Here’s a sample of what the piano recently sounded like:

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My beloved childhood Sohmer upright met its demise after decades of exposure to New York City weather extremes. I played it at my mother’s 100th birthday celebration this past October, and it was without doubt, ready for the scrap heap.

Sohmer upright

In my riveting phone conversation with Sam Bennett of Piano Works, Duluth, Georgia, I was fortunate to amass a wealth of information about how to sustain and maintain pianos in high humidity parts of the country, and what specific measures can be taken.

LINK: http://www.pianoworks.com

***

Russell Kassman, Purveyor of Fine Pianos in Berkeley, CA also chimed in with some valuable ideas on the subject.

R. Kassman

http://www.rkassman.com/

“Certainly, a simple hygrometer can be very useful in monitoring the conditions in a room.”

MY COMMENT: I own a hygrometer that reads the temperature and humidity here in my Berkeley apartment. So far the readings are stable as shown below.

hygrometer

Mr: Kassman: “The more stable the environment is (both in temperature and humidity), the more stable tuning will be. Pianos are living, breathing instruments and when it is humid, soundboards and rims expand, often causing pianos to go sharp; when it is dry, pianos often go flat. Heat makes metal (steel strings) expand, cold makes steel contract. These fluctuations cause great instability with unisons.

“While there is nothing wrong with a properly operated and installed “damp-chaser” system, I prefer to control the room temperature and humidity levels. We keep the shop at 42-47% humidity and 70-72 degrees. To do this consistently requires a delicate balancing act (and quite a bit of money to PGE): Our HVAC system (heating and air conditioning) is capable of removing humidity but not adding it. So, we have several humidifiers, strategically placed, to add moisture when necessary. However, a home user doesn’t have to go to this expense to add moisture: a simple (cheap) way is to purchase a “cool air vaporizer” from any Walgreens and run it when the needle of a hygrometer drops below 40%. Usually, running it once a week is more than sufficient to get the needle into the desirable percentage, but when the heat is on in a home, it may be necessary more often. To remove moisture, one just has to turn on the heat (in most homes today – not the old STEAM heat, which causes other problems).

“If one wants to purchase a self-contained automatic humidifier, such as ours, there are MANY on the market and I can’t say one if necessarily better than the other. Home Depot carries (online) a very nice selection of them, and their cost and size would be based on the size of the room it is conditioning.”

Alfred publications, Domenico Scarlatti, esercizi per gravicembalo, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Margery Halford, Margery Halford collection of Scarlatti's Keyboard Works, Margery Halford editor, piano blog, piano blogging, Scarlatti, Scarlatti Sonatas, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

Domenico Scarlatti’s music that’s within reach of the Intermediate level student

Scarlatti Halford better

Margery Halford via Alfred publications has compiled a nice assortment of Domenico Scarlatti’s Menuettos and Sonatas (essercizi) that’s a satisfying “Introduction” to the Baroque era composer’s music. (Scarlatti, An Introduction to his Keyboard Works)

In fact, I snatched at least five of these binary form sonatas for my two-part disc in 2007, combined with the more technically challenging ones I selected from Vladimir Horowitz’s treasured Scarlatti CD.

Horowitz championed Domenico Scarlatti’s works during a time when many concert pianists were not programming the composer’s body of works, so Domenico’s rebirth was a blessing to performers, teachers, and students who realized not only the beauty of his music but its relevance to developing technique and musicianship.

Scarlatti, in fact, is considered the forerunner of the virtuoso school of keyboard playing, and in these less complex examples from Halford’s collection, one can readily flesh out arpeggio and scale passages that easily transfer from Circle of Fifths Scale and Arpeggio study. (Note Scarlatti’s own translation of his Sonatas as Essercizi per Gravicembalo–or exercises)

The other day, I sent this particular gem to my students with the tag, “That’s why we study arpeggios!” Surely such an exemplary beauty cross-fertilizes and enriches their daily technical regimen.

In this second example from the Halford edition, more arpeggios and broken chords permeate, but there are a few selected arpeggio and scale-like passages that are worth examining for their focus on particular wrist forward motions that I will separately examine in my attached sample:

First, a play through:


Snatching measures from this sonata for technical study and fluency:

Scarlatti segment from Sonata in G

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A most recently learned delightful miniature:

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Here’s annother Halford selected gem (a Menuetto, once again) that was rendered on my formerly owned Baldwin Hamilton grand piano (known as the “blind date” beauty) To be sure, it had a brighter timbre which proves that each piano has its own unique character.

(I’m definitely enjoying my new Baldwin 165 model grand with its more mellow character)

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Not contained in Halford’s collection, but snatched from James Friskin’s edition, is the celebrated C Major Sonata L. 159 that my late teacher, Lillian Freundlich gave me to study decades ago when I first began lessons with her. (At the time, I was about 13, enrolled at the New York City High School of Performing Arts)

This certainly poses a challenge in the universe of trills, providing an ample practice opportunity for a student needing such focus.

LINK:
Scarlatti’s LIFE, CAREER, and MUSIC
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domenico_Scarlatti

birthdays, Happy Birthday, Irena Orlov, Murray Perahia, musician birthdays, Yevgeny Sudbin

Happy Birthday, Irena Orlov, Murray Perahia, and Yevgeny Sudbin!

Berkeley flowers

Today is a super-reblog day as April 19th rings in the Spring birthdays of three musical giants!

First to update a documentary that I originally critiqued about Irena Orlov.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/reaching-beyond-a-documentary-about-an-inspiring-piano-teacher/

And now the sequel:

Reaching Beyond: Seven Years Later

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwckybMRXlg&feature=em-uploademail

As for Murray and Yevgeny, their artistry has been spread far and wide through my many posts.

So just to say in the simplest way, that all of you immensely enrich our lives with each passing day!

In Gratitude, and with Love….

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/murray-perahia-pianist-is-in-a-league-of-his-own-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/yevgeny-sudbin-still-another-russian-pianist-topples-my-day/