piano, piano technique, staccato

Piano Technique: Finding a secure nesting ground on Black Notes

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In our Circle of Fifths journey through the ARPEGGIO universe, the one KEY that stands out as the most dreaded among adult students, is F# Major. A slippery slope of skinny raised BLACK notes, it often feeds separation anxiety from the more spacious WHITE notes.

In the face of such traumatic avoidance of ratted black keys that can poison the piano learning environment, a mentor has the challenge of neutralizing fears by using mental prompts to nurture a SAFE HAVEN for flighty fingers.

But part and parcel of this remedial undertaking, is an examination of a student’s FROZEN encounter with the blacks that prevents a necessary FREEDOM of the arms, wrists and hands. This is where my personal FLOP, FLOP approach has the wrist hanging off the arms, SHAKING OUT the staccato notes. While I encourage a BIG, if not EXAGGERATED Full Arm/Supple Wrist follow-through GESTURE, it will be sized down by increments to encourage centering on the blacks without feeling SKITTISH or INHIBITED.

Ideally a LEGATO contouring should precede the Staccato playing because the former is likely to allow a student to SETTLE IN, before he detaches notes. However, in both LEGATO and STACCATO, a CONNECTION to the BLACKS, both PSYCHOLOGICAL and PHYSICAL, must remain.

In my LIVE and virtual studio, I always start with the premise that BLACK KEYS are welcoming to hands and fingers. They provide a secure nesting ground, NOT a high-wire challenge over a steep decline. With this mental SAFETY NET, the BLACK-KEY ARPEGGIO should be DE-Charged in ALL articulations.


P.S. A student’s response to this posting that’s shared far and wide.

“And I thought I was the only one that was having trouble with that arpeggio in F# major! I’m glad you did not tell me ahead of time that it was the most dreaded.

“It’s better now, but remains the most awkward feeling of them so far as I find myself halfway around the circle! Hard to believe it’s only halfway….seems like I have been to the moon and back and I’m only half way??? Oh well,the journey continues to delight, and occasionally frustrate, but not for long with you rescuing us from the slippery slopes!”

8 thoughts on “Piano Technique: Finding a secure nesting ground on Black Notes”

  1. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been doing a little research on this.
    And he actually ordered me lunch simply because I found it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the
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