piano lesson, piano technique

Piano Technique: Building scales to speed and fluency

I find myself reconnecting with my late teacher, Lillian Freundlich, when I borrow her approach to scale development. In this undertaking, she would always check my wrists and elbows through note groupings that were ignited by a basic roll-in energy. A scale could not start with a bang, but instead, it had a smooth, slope-like entry with a self-driven energy.

In increments, the notes would be grouped with sub-arrivals that had suspended arms and supple wrists backing up hanging hands. The finger that absorbed the spill into itself, would need to feel centered, and able to swing in any direction–side to side, forward and back, without a hint of squeezing or grabbing. The result was one of pleasing balance and bundled energy that would ignite the next roll-in to a larger grouping, until a rounded peak destination was reached with a side-wise rotation feeding the descent. The final note would taper with a gentle wrist roll forward.

***

We memorialize our most influential and patient teachers, enlarging on bestowed knowledge, and expanding beyond limits. In my own development, I added blocking and rhythms to scale practice in an effort to increase tempo, preserve contour and keep the breath flowing from octave to octave.

In the attached video, which is essentially a tribute to my teacher, I reconstruct a step-wise approach to a B Major scale. I picked this one because of its internal symmetry of double and triple black sequences played with mirror fingers. The thumb being feather light, factors into smooth and efficacious transit by its capacity to roll swiftly through tunnels of black notes. In fact, the thumb, deprived of its Napoleonic urges, enjoys a delivery of energy funneled through floating arms and supple wrists so it can maneuver forward and back like all the other fingers–never being locked or constricted.

The Video illustrates:

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