piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano technique, Shirley Kirsten

Piano Technique: Remediating peak octave scale paralysis (Staccato)

Choking up is probably the best description of what often happens to final scale octaves and their turnaround. Students get anxious at the terminus, and tend to crowd notes as if they’re racing to the finish line, when in fact, they’re only half way through. So psychologically, it’s best if the peak octave is viewed as an expansion or broadening of the scale, with lots of natural, relaxed breathing to support it. (In addition, an extra infusion of energy is needed on the very top scale note to bring it down with a feeling a smoothness and paced note spacing.)

In Staccato, players become even more anxious because they feel a sense of “disconnection” to the notes when they can otherwise apply the same RELAXED framing to the peak as they did in LEGATO.

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How to Practice

There are many ways to remediate the final octave spill and turnaround (in staccato) which I include in two separate videos. One of these contains a Lesson segment with an adult student who inspired my deeper thought about the whole last octave landscape.

Lesson in Progress

Ways to Remediate last octave choking

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Big points:

Relaxed breathing last octave approach.
Spurt of energy on turnaround note; cupped hands for precision forearm staccato–ample arm weight should support the forearm staccato.

Lift arm weight (perhaps HALF weight) for forearm generated soft staccato.

GOOD consistent framing rhythm in all practicing, whether spot practicing last octave or rendering the whole scale.

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