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Into the Hills with the Sound of Music –a Baldwin Acrosonic “acoustic” sings

The video attached to this writing validates the beauty of music-making on a well-maintained, though 1940s vintage era acoustic piano.

Baldwin Acrosonics were the Cadillacs of the spinet and console variety pianos. They had a noticeable innovation compared to their sister-size instruments. (A deeper sound chamber, especially noted in the consoles that measured 40″ or taller) Baldwin Acro’s standard 36″ spinet was still a resonating musical treasure, if properly cared for. The pianos were manufactured starting in 1936.

“Coined from the Greek word, “Akros,” meaning supreme, and the Latin, “sonus,” meaning tone, the trademark Acrosonics were famous for their tonal clarity, power, and *Full- Direct Blow action.” (Bluebook of Pianos.com)

*This action sits on top of the keys instead of being a drop action where the action connects to the key by a rod or some other “indirect” method.

***

An Acrosonic with fluted legs, sequestered in a gorgeous El Cerrito Hills home lived up to its singing nightingale reputation, in the good company of “Haddy” Haddorff, one of my pianos, now in the good care of a well-regarded Central Valley piano teacher. (Both instruments have an immaculate set of ivory keys)

images haddorff

The Hills Acrosonic, purchased at DC Pianos in Berkeley, is accompanied by a sturdy adjustable concert bench.

And while many of my students own digitals, if they can possibly locate an acoustic of this variety in excellent condition, I would say, Go for it!

Acrosonics are easily found on Craig’s List, though a piano teacher and technician should be taken along for an assessment.

Just listen to this one and make up your own mind.e bay hills acro

The occasion was a make-up lesson on site at my students’ home. (We were working on Chopin’s A minor Waltz, No. 19, Op. Posthumous)

More often I’m found in a separate El Cerrito Hills location that houses my Baldwin Hamilton 1929 grand, another vintage charmer.

piano room where I teach El Cerrito

Finally, look at these lovely representations of Baldwin Acrosonics, striking for their beauty, inside and out:

images Baldwin Acro

piano_22  Acro 2

"Did Somebody Say Fresno" compiled by Aviva Kirsten, Berkeley California, Berkeley piano studio, El Cerrito California, El Cerrito piano studio, Monterey Market in Berkeley California, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten

My new home in Berkeley, California

Boxed in my apartment from wall-to-wall following a U-Haul drive to Berkeley, I dug myself through endless cartons to freedom in the Promised Land. The transition coincided with Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, though Passover would have more amply marked my emancipation.

Enslaved to decades of unrelenting Central Valley heat, I experienced a quality of life compromised by air pollution and allergy that sent me scurrying to Craig’s list, S.F. Bay housing in raging pursuit of relocation.

As reference, I’d sniffed the refreshing East Bay air in my weekly jaunts to El Cerrito to teach piano. Such satisfying encounters spanning four years, reminded me that my return to the Valley was a dreaded re-exposure to the very elements that dogged me to the point of despair.

It was best to fast forward to the happiest day of my life, when I hired a young man to help me load a U-Haul in pursuit of my new digs on Hopkins in Berkeley. He then drove the distance in record time.

Thank you, Jeremy Norris!

Go NORTH, and don’t look back!

The arrival was historic, though slightly marred by a U-Haul drop-off in Richmond. The Berkeley City Council had denied gas-guzzling, air polluters a parking depot. It was the antithesis of Fresno’s welcome mat for hydro-carbon-spewing vehicles. Enough said!

In this personal rite of passage, I would not return to Fresno again, except to hear my former students play at the MTAC Fall Festival in October. They had been transferred to a fine teacher in my Old Fig Garden neighborhood. Our parting was with sweet sorrow.

***

Over three decades in the Valley, and scores of pupils later, I had to admit that I was blessed by performance and mentoring opportunities that were unique: playing for Valley Public Radio, presenting workshops, producing two CDs, practicing at all hours of the night while personally refrigerated in defense against stifling triplet digit temps. I made good use of indoor time by launching Skype lessons to Greece, England, Australia, and beyond. These journeys abroad were trailblazing!

My daughter Aviva had likewise found a niche for herself in Fresno. She created and edited a 6-part, Hollywood-generated archive, “Did Somebody Say Fresno?!” as Conan O’Brien caricatured our infamous city with bobble heads!

Like me, she was ready for her Fresno evacuation.

***

The Transition by photo and video

***

Readers will notice that my Steinway upright and singing nightingale, “Haddy” Haddorff are glaringly absent. “Haddy” is temporarily housed at a piano teacher friend’s house in Clovis, while the vertical is well-placed at my NEW Berkeley piano studio just six blocks from my apartment.

I’ll teach in Berkeley and El Cerrito studios, while re-launching Skyped instruction from home. (a winning trio!)

***

Now into my 5th day of Berkeley residence, lessons have resumed both here and on the continent. (1 p.m. to England, PDT)

Happy as a lark, I’m settled in and embarking up the magnificent Berkeley adventure just a sneeze away from the Monterey Market that will UP my anti-oxidant levels. What a great entree to the New Year!

***

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Online Piano Lessons by Webcam: Pros and Cons (Videos)

I’m not about to pitch web-cam driven piano instruction like a CD package promoter of Piano Playing in a Flash. Learning piano is not in the espresso lane. It takes time, patience, and practice.

The question is, can a student gain as much from Online piano study vs. “live” in-person lessons.

For decades I was a tradition-bound teacher with a touchy feely relationship to my instrument. My goal had always been to ignite passion about tone production and phrasing in the presence of my students. (Who would think, otherwise?)

My beloved NYC teacher Lillian Freundlich was my role model. She always sat beside me to monitor tensions that crept into my movements. Quite often she checked my elbows and wrists until I could experience my own sense of physical freedom and Oneness with the piano. Frequently, she sang over my playing in a mother-loving musical transfer that helped me shape phrases.

When I grew up to become a piano teacher, I carried on her legacy, hovering over my students, singing, conducting, and sometimes squeezing myself onto a tight-fitting bench to demonstrate a line or two.

Any other form of mentoring was culture alien.

It was like a hurricane it, when I sprang upon a You Tube of concert pianist, Jeffrey Biegel teaching a young adult student in Singapore. While thousands of miles separated the two, meaningful instruction transpired. Right before my eyes, in less than 30 minutes, the pupil’s phrasing had improved.

I was inspired enough to try out the Millennium piano teaching landscape, having an open mind.

One of my earliest Skyped lessons was transmitted to an adult student whom I’d taught “live” in El Cerrito, California. Since she would be missing a few sessions due to business obligations, a convenient make-up schedule was needed. The Online route seemed like an easy option.

The lesson flowed well and further make-ups ensued. Here’s one example:

Here’s a “live” lesson with the same student as a means of comparison:

The positives of SKYPING

1) I can strategically place my Logitech external webcam so it provides an up-close-and-personal keyboard view of my arms, hands and wrists. This camera placement allows me to demonstrate various phrases for the student.

Likewise, the student can angle her camera for an optimal view of her hands if she has good equipment. Some students rely on the computer’s internal camera which can work if the lap top is moved close enough to their instrument.

(A London-based student uses a SWIX external cam that provides an outstanding view of her hands and keyboard)

When I think about it, this big screen enhancement of our piano-related physiology, provides a minute-to-minute flow of music and ideas that doesn’t require my nudging a student off the bench for a demonstration.

With pupils I had coached from my second piano (a Steinway upright) the distance would be larger than by computer channels, though I could still walk over to the student if she were present.

(MUSIC READER, incidentally, is a program that allows the teacher to post the music a student is playing, and make notations of fingering, dynamics, etc. as the lesson is in progress. It’s another distance-bridger that supports Online lessons.)

2) From a faraway location, an Online pupil can videotape a “live” Skype lesson aiming the camera in the teacher’s direction. (Many students have done this, though I often send them a supplementary video during the week to flesh out the goals of our lesson)

Convenience of Scheduling

3) Online instruction affords flexibility in setting lesson times. For students wanting to sandwich in a lesson over a lunch break or on weekends, even Sundays, it’s mouse click away. No travel, no hassle.

In cities where access to private instruction is limited, web-caming provides an otherwise unavailable learning opportunity.

(In this regard, I’ve fielded inquiries from Vietnam and Malaysia, among other distant countries. Time differences, however, have to be considered.)

In rural areas of the US, the same access can be provided through Online instruction.

Disadvantages

1) Online transmission, no matter what source is used, is not completely free of interference, static, pauses, echoes. (Earphones don’t always solve these problems) In addition, the sound or tone of an acoustic piano is somewhat marred over Skype. Even using Go to Office, tone was somewhat improved though not yet perfected. (For better audio, I use a Yeti mic, instead of my Mac’s internal mic)

While on certain days or times, a complete lesson may flow smoothly without electronic impediment, there will more than likely be periods when both parties will have to sign off, and re-sign on to establish a better connection.

After a while, this is something both student and teacher accept as part of the current landscape, though improvements in technology are in progress.

2) Two pianos cannot not play at the same time, as there may be a time lag that affects synchronized efforts. (Forget duet playing as an option)

3) The etiquette of Skyping or web-caming is that the teacher and student speak or play separately. This requires mutual patience.

4) Singing over a playing is not advised, since it poses the same overlay of complications, though I can’t seem to stop my spontaneous vocalizing Online or offline.

SUPPLEMENTS to web-cam instruction

I find it advantageous to send videos to my Online private students during the week, (at no extra charge) that review the assignment and highlight practicing goals. These run about 15 minutes and are transmitted as UNLISTED or PRIVATE You Tubes.

In a few cases, pupils have sent me video updates of their practicing to which I shoot back a responsive one, or provide a written critique of what has improved and/or needs more focus.

Video sharing is enormously helpful and seems indispensable to Online instruction.

Theory instruction can also be a valued adjunct to private lessons. It can be scheduled mid-week, or at the end of the month to enrich piano study.

Group Webcam Lessons

This is a relatively a new universe of piano teaching. POWHOW features piano lesson sign-ups in a class or private one-to-one setting.

Currently I teach a tone production class that had its maiden voyage a few months ago.

In this setting, I have boxes to tap when checking the progress of individual students, a mind-boggling concept to entertain. Take a look:

On both sides there are mute buttons, and one that permits a student not to be seen by other class members.

Otherwise with individual piano students, there’s only one box to keep track of.

A Word about teaching children Online

I haven’t mentioned my experiences Skyping private lessons to children. This is an area where the verdict is not yet in.

My inclination is NOT to teach raw beginners Online. 5 to 10-year olds need close monitoring and the physical presence of a teacher at the inception of learning. The right chemistry and the quality of a personal/musical relationship with a youngster are paramount to the success of lessons.

In addition, duet playing which is a valuable teaching and ear-training activity in the early years, especially, is not feasible with current technology.

Older children, perhaps, who are at Intermediate or Advanced levels, with good attention spans, would be better candidates for Skyped instruction.

One parent in Oregon hired me to teach his 8-year old, and while these web-cam lessons were productive, it was my decision to ultimately refer her to a private teacher in her area.

Here is one of our SKYPED lessons. In this case, we had set up a video exchange for easy back and forth musical sharing.

***

When all is said and done, Online piano lessons are the wave of the future. Just as cell phones have replaced land lines, taking private and group lessons over the Internet, with improved transmission in the offing, will be considered second nature.

More Examples of Skyped lessons:

Setting up for a Skype lesson to London, England:

A Skyped Lesson to Sydney Australia (piano technique)

Skyping between California and Greece:

Logitech close-up views of the keyboard:

Once again, compare to LIVE lessons (East Bay, California–I’ve relocated to Berkeley!)

Chopin A minor Waltz, No. 19, Op. Posthumous:

Play Through:

RELATED: https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/piano-warm-ups-and-the-art-of-breathing-video/

LINK:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

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Piano Technique: Focusing on Rotation in arpeggios, and building up a scale (Videos)

These are two supplementary videos that I created for adult students between lessons. As previously mentioned, they clarify and reinforce the content of our class, and map out ways to practice.

I. ROTATION at the turnaround of a B minor Arpeggio

Exploring the curve at the very top of the figure with an energy boost to transition smoothly in the descent (legato and staccato playing in two dynamic ranges)

II. The roll-in, wrist forward motion when starting the arpeggio, or coming around in a sequence of playings

C Major Scale

I. Blocking (separate hands)–block out “tunnels” through which the thumb passes (D,E and then GAB with thumbs played softly in between)

II. Find common fingers and notes between the hands (such as 3’s on E and A) Same for common thumb points.

III. Scope out the “bridge” over the octave, B, C, D and note how the fingers of each hand are in “mirror” or reciprocal relationship with each other. (practice finding these “neighborhoods.”)

IV. Format the scale once internal relationships are explored (Practice legato to staccato)

Practice the scale with a singing-tone Mezzo Forte (and don’t forget curve around “rotation” at the top before the descent)

Two octaves, quarter notes
Two octaves, 8th notes, with wrist dips in pairs of notes
Three octaves, rolling triplets
Four octaves, 16ths (legato)
Four octaves 16ths staccato (Forte)–Staccato is “a snip away from legato.”
Four octaves 16ths staccato (piano)

LINK:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, acoustic piano, arioso 7, blog, blogger, blogging, blogging about piano, blogs about piano, children's music, El Cerrito, El Cerrito California, El Cerrito piano instruction, El Cerrito piano studio, emotion in music, fingering and phrasing at the piano, fingering and piano technique, five finger positions at the piano, five finger warm-ups, Irina Gorin, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Just Being at the Piano by Mildred Portney-Chase, legato playing at the piano, mental imagery, mindful piano practicing, mindful practicing, molto cantabile, MTAC, MTAC.org, New York City, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Oberlin, Oberlin Conservatory, pentascales, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano playing, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano studio in El Cerrito, piano study, piano teacher, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano world-wide, pianoaddict.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing five-finger positions, playing legato at the piano, playing piano, playing staccato, playing staccato at the piano, playing the piano, POWHOW, POWHOW instruction, POWHOW piano instruction, POWHOW.com, practicing a piece in 7 different emotions, practicing arpeggios, practicing piano, practicing piano with relaxation, publishers marketplace, publishersmarketplace, Rina, Rina 4 takes piano lessons, Rina takes piano lessons, rotation in piano playing, scales, shirley kirsten piano teacher in El Cerrito, Shirley Kirsten teaches classes at POWHOW, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Skype a piano lesson to Australia, Skype piano lessons, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, teaching piano to young children, teaching Rina piano, teachinig piano to young children, technique, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, youtube.com

Growing piano technique in baby steps: Rina, 5, advances to hands together five-finger positions (adding in 10ths)

Rina may not know the words “pentascales” and “tenths,” but she has the intelligence to notice when her fingers move up and down together, playing the same notes an “octave” apart. With a sound knowledge of the music alphabet in both directions, she has good cognitive reinforcement. (She also knows “running notes” or 8ths, “long sounds”–half notes, “short sounds”– quarters, and “half-note dot” is a dotted-half note.)

But note-name recognition and having a concept of rhythmic values are just part of the learning process. She needs to cultivate the singing tone wedded to limpid phrasing–a dimension of playing we’ve explored from day one embracing Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Music Journey philosophy.

In this regard, Rina is working on softening the impact of her thumbs, so she can nicely roll into her LEGATO five-finger positions and smoothly taper them. (LEGATO means smooth and connected, finger-to-finger)

She has progressed from having played each hand alone through five notes ascending and descending, in a “conversational” way, to synchronizing both hands at the same time in parallel motion.

She also creates an “echo” effect on a repeat and we make sure to include the parallel minor in her playings. (Black notes also belong to the keyboard family)

Next, I thought to introduce a bit of “magic.”

How about starting the Right Hand on E while the Left Hand remained on bass C. (still five notes up and down but spaced in 10ths)

Rina took to it like a duck in water especially with an enticing harmonic landscape.

Here are two snatches from her lesson, starting with the first (both hands playing same notes in legato)

In the second video, she plays in 10ths:

Our next piece is “Little March” by Daniel Gottlob Turk. This follows Minuet by Reinagle of which Rina is separately studying the bass part. In addition she’s rendering it in the “minor,” enlisting a “B flat.” (She performed the melody on our recent Spring Recital) The Reinagle piece came with its own new landmark: Rina played detached and legato notes in one selection.

I’ve prepared a video to assist mom with ear-training experiences for “Little March” during the week. Rina will be saturated with listening; doing hand signals for melodic shape; singing notes and then rhythms. (phrase one) This is the first stage of her learning process.

***

LINK:

Rina plays at the Spring Recital


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/rina-5-performs-at-our-spring-recital-after-8-months-of-piano-lessons-video/

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Part THREE: Guess what happened on the way to my El Cerrito Piano Studio? (Photos!)

There was no rooster greeting me for the past two weeks as I wound my way from Bart Del Norte into the El Cerrito Hills. The “cockadoodledoo” had been a welcome embellishment to my time-honored walk and I wondered what happened to the messenger.

Once I had ensnared some video through a wood fence opening of a modest house that revealed a mini-parade of hens and their male companions, I missed their audibly friendly alerts.

Packing for my Amtrak trip north from Fresno I’d almost forgotten my Sony Cybershot digital camera. But at the last minute I’d reminded myself that the wandering wild turkey I’d encountered 4 weeks ago on the steps of a split-level home, could surface again for a photo opportunity.

I’d be ready!

For all my rehearsals and preparation, there was not a trace of sauntering poultry within my El Cerrito walking radius, but resignation would not consume me.

I ignored the quiet of the home where the Rooster had incessantly crowed, and pointed my digital camera through an even bigger hole in the fence that was nearly heart-shaped.

And gasping with excitement, I found this:

Capricorn Love in full bloom:

Farmyard fare:

A great segue way to piano lessons!

LINKS:

Part ONE: Guess What Happened on the way to my El Cerrito Piano Studio?

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/guess-what-happened-on-the-way-to-my-el-cerrito-piano-studio-photos/

Part TWO: Guess What Happened on the way to my El Cerrito Piano Studio?

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/part-two-guess-what-happened-on-the-way-to-my-el-cerrito-piano-studio-video/

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Part Six Piano Instruction, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata No. 17, Op. 31 No. 2 and all FIVE teaching segments preceding

In order from Part One to Six:

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

LINKS:

Part ONE: Beethoven Tempest Sonata in D minor

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/practicing-tips-for-beethovens-tempest-sonata-op-31-no-2-part-one-video/

Part TWO Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/piano-instuction-part-two-beethovens-tempest-sonata-hand-cross-over-with-tremolo-in-the-middle-voice/

Part THREE Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/piano-instruction-part-three-beethoven-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2/

Part FOUR Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/piano-instruction-part-four-beethovens-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2-measures-55-93/

Part FIVE Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/piano-instruction-part-five-beethovens-tempest-sonata-op-31-no-2-measures-93-to-158-development-recitative-submerged-pedal/

PART SIX, referenced in You Tube format

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwQzBpWJWqs