piano lesson, piano technique

Scales and Arpeggios are front and center with their telltale history of avoidance

It’s inevitable that I’ll introduce a technique-heavy blog with a time worn story about an authoritarian piano teacher who fist-drummed beats to my very shaky C Major scale. (I was 7) The only perk paired with the metronome mandatory, 4-octave lesson opener, was my being able to pick the latest scale practiced. (Without a hint of Circle of Fifths framing)

Naturally, I took advantage of my aged teacher’s failing memory, and stayed squarely in the Key of C for months!


Anxiety-driven sharps and flats

In my formative years of study, black notes were my natural enemies because of notational complications that led to a slippery “playing” field. Without a finger-feeling sense of security on the raised black demons, I took great pains to avoid them.

Fear-driven antecedents were middle C fixated Primers like Diller-Quaille and John Thompson that reinforced a negative response to key signatures with sharp and flats. These ebony-raised critters would join forces in an “accidental” invasion of pieces too hard to tackle. And with sorely needed anxiety relief, I begged my teacher for an extension of the C Major scale into selected pieces.

A vicious cycle of personal intransigence wrapped in fear was broken when my God sent mentor, Lillian Freundlich desensitized me in baby steps, instilling a joy in the playground as music teacher with an integration of blacks and whites. A healthy romp through myriads of keys around the Circle of Fifths, became, in time, a signature focus of my learning/teaching and a wonderful landscape for transferring elements of singing tone production, supple wrist, arm weight leverage, voicing, dynamic contrast, etc. to the piano repertoire.


In this continuum from avoidance to celebration, a healthy technical exploration emerged.

In its honor, I’ve chosen romps through diminished 7th Arpeggios and Contrary motion Chromatic scales as featured extensions of enlightened student years. These provide kinesthetic and affective pleasure with an incremental, stepwise approach.

A feeling of being “centered” across a keyboard panorama of black and white notes includes “blocking” in the case of minor third stacked diminished roll-outs, and unblocking with a “wavy” contouring. These videos support an underlying “singing tone” as the core of musical expression, reinforced by a horizontal, non-robotic passage of note groupings. (whether in legato or staccato)





LINK: (A satirical journey through years of black note prejudice)


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