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Piano Technique: Rina turns 5 and plays two-note Legato slurs (slow motion, soundless replays)

The Good News: Rina just celebrated her big FIFTH birthday, and bestowed a lovely portrait of herself draped in a smile over her precious piano. Thank You for the beautifully framed photo!



Today, technology failed me once again, but this time I outsmarted the devilish, on/off again iMac movie program.

So what if Yeti Mic decided to go silent for this footage. I could still use the video frames to demonstrate the forward roll, two-note slur of C to D, played in every octave from middle C up and back. (using fingers 1 to 2, beginning with the Right Hand)

Rina and her parents could watch, gaining a physical understanding of what was taught at today’s lesson.

I thought about Anne Sullivan and the challenges she braved teaching Hellen Keller.

By comparison, mentoring in silence, (on replay) would be a breeze.

To begin the editing process, I HIGHLIGHTED frames where I demonstrated the legato slurs, and then tapped SLOW MOTION 50%. A slower rendering would send Rina’s folks and other viewers scampering off for a McDonald’s Big Breakfast.

I then retained a slow motion replay for frames where I guided Rina’s hands and fingers over the keys. (These examples would help mom practice with her daughter during the week)

The first video, however, in real time, added a few additional teaching maneuvers (still giving viewers the silent treatment)

I encouraged Rina to first relax her arms by imagining they were hanging over a clothesline. This mental image seemed to help her let go of elbows, wrists…and any related tension.

You can clearly observe the positive results in this first video.

I also reinforced the rhythmic value of each note, by pointing to a WHITE CARDBOARD CIRCLE on the piano rack. (C and D were each designated as “LONG SOUNDS,” or notes that were to be held for TWO COUNTS each–otherwise known as Half Notes)

The second upload, incorporated the slow motion effect, and eliminated some of the footage from the first video.

As for playing through the slurs in consecutive octaves across the keyboard, Rina tended to anticipate the forward motion on the second note D, impeding a smooth roll where the wrist naturally springs forward–but NOT with a jerk.

To remedy this problem, I will enlist other forms of mental imagery to slow down her entry into D-perhaps invoking the JELLO keyboard model, or molasses, honey, etc.

The lesson continued with Left Hand two-note slur sequences, fingers 1 to 2, C to B, down from middle C and back up. (not featured in the footage)

Earlier in today’s instruction we had practiced rainbow motions for each note of the music alphabet, played in octave spans– alternating fingers of each hand.


Rina played “Frere Jacques” in C Major/minor–two hands (LH intoning WHOLE NOTES with melody in RH) and displayed good physical coordination.

She effectively produced three echoes in this piece, increasing her dynamic range.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” followed, played Right Hand alone in Major, and then minor.

Separately, Rina practiced WHOLE notes on C in the LH, counting through them with me.

During the week mom will play the melody as Rina practices her Whole notes. (WHOLE NOTE HOLD DOWN… or 1-2-3-4)

Then the two partners will reverse parts. (I’m not recommending hands together TWINKLE practice as yet)


Rina is moving along at a nice pace, making excellent progress. Her attention span is remarkably improved since she first began piano lessons at age 4. I’m using many ideas that Irina Gorin embraces in her excellent instruction, Tales of a Musical Journey.

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Blog favorite revival time.. THE MORNING AFTER YOU TUBING (with added color)

The day after I post a video is the crucial make or break juncture to delete or not to….
And all too often, an upload bites the dust with a private funeral of sorts, that leaves no remains.

But with my new iMac 21 having joined the family, video trashing has gone public. Through paper thin walls the neighbors can hear the crackle of my computer’s trash disposal which can be embarrassing. Most would wonder how the neighborhood piano teacher could produce so much garbage, spilling over the top, no less?

Bring on the mega-dumpsters!! Or find a landfill for sore eyes somewhere in the boonies outskirts, without a trace of detection.


Strangely, I’m in my Bach phase for reasons unknown. A musical flight of fancy can turn in any direction. Since performances of a composition will change as new ideas filter in, one might as well try them out on the You Tube stage, picking the brain and soul about what needs to happen the next time around.

The best barometer of a performance no matter when it pops up, is, as mentioned, whether the morning after you can still live with it. Worse case scenario, you will want to delete it without further ado. Or you may think you like it, only to let many mornings after go by, before you want to tear your hair out for having put it up in the first place. You wonder how many people managed to tolerate a particular phrase that you realized fell flat.

The best news is if you go cold turkey and shake off the addiction of watching the particular You Tube performance for at least 3 weeks. That means when you finally revisit the playing, having a safe distance from it, and still like it, then it’s a fait accomplis, –meaning it will stay posted until you have different creative ideas to offer at another time.

The process in never-ending. And that’s good!

Looking back on one of my earlier blogs, I had confronted head on, the issue of full-fledged You Tube Addiction. And ironically I tied in the Morning-After-Posting-Syndrome: MAPS

Here’s how it played out:

“Now I’m hooked! Looking feverishly at night for an excuse to turn on the camcorder and record something, anything I can find on the music rack or buried deep inside the piano bench. I won’t get through Sunday without that video cam staring me down, daring me to complete anything without a major meltdown. I see the red warning light on the cam, telling me I forgot to change the cassette. I’ll never finish my Bach Invention 8 in the few seconds I have left.

“Is this a bad dream or am I suffering full blown You Tube withdrawal symptoms? Where’s the 24-hour support group to contact at this ungodly hour?

“Are there others combing the shelves of their homes, digging up albums to prop up on their music rack so they can tweak the tripod, and charge up the battery for the zillionth time?

“It’s too quiet around here. All I can decipher through the weighted silence of my bedroom, is my cat’s jingling collar bell that lets me know where he is.

“When I You Tube, ‘Aiden,’ my gorgeous, affectionate male feline, is off limits in the recording area. But lately I’ve been thinking, if he learned to climb onto the keyboard, dance across it in a coquettish way, he might get more than a 1,000 “hits” in one day! Or better yet, I should train him to “play” the piano like Nora, the Cat of You Tube fame. No, that’s not where it’s at for You Tube fans. Aiden needs to learn how to flush the toilet or use it, himself. Now, we’re talking!

“No, I don’t need my pet hooked on the Internet. That will make two compulsively compromised inhabitants of this home.

“I think I’ll check my websites. Or shouldn’t I? That’s another burgeoning addiction. How many do I have now? I can hardly keep track of the hyperlinks to Digg, Twitter, Twitter meme, Etsy, OLX, that originate at Teach Street, Facebook, CD Baby, My Space, Amazon, Amazon Artist Store, Authors Den, and now Word Press. Oops I forgot Linked In, which may or may not connect up with Xing. Did I get them all right? Oops, I have to keep up with Craig’s List postings that are about to expire, and My Space has a Fusion unfriendly site where I always forget my password. Now I’m up to 9 letters that are so hard to remember, I’ll end up changing them in a day or two if I don’t lose my sanity before I next log in.

“Meanwhile, I should case out one of my sites that allows me free postings if I keep writing articles that award me ‘points.’ Uh oh, I forgot my password so I can’t get in. Where’s that shriveled up piece of paper with the gazillion passwords? Believe it or not, I’ve had worse tragedies in my life. Last month, during a web driven overhaul, my Teach Street.com credits disappeared along with my teacher reviews, bio entries, and YOU TUBE links! I must have sent twenty emails to the site manager that were crying out for help! Which reminds me, what about my you tube tags? They keep vanishing so I have to compulsively re-enter them. And if I don’t enter the aspect ratio code correctly, my videos will come up beside Narco, X Files, and Internet love sites. This is driving me mad!

“Okay, it’s nearly 3 a.m. and I can’t silence the You Tube gremlins who are telling me to sign in and upload, NOW!!

“But I’m going to tough it out and go cold turkey. (Ah, so that’s how I handled the problem back then… redux)

“..the only way to put these demons in their place once and for all!”

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Chopin Waltz in Ab Major, Op. 69 No. 1–considerations of mics, recording conditions, and tempo, with performance comparisons

First, I have to admit that my prized Yeti mic suffered yet another break-down. “Break” is to be emphasized. I tripped over the wire on the way to Haddy Haddorff, and the sensitive connector from iMac’s USB port to the mic itself was altered. Yeti wouldn’t register on “Preferences” as an external no matter how I tweaked that little metal doo-dad that plugs into its host. The more I twisted, turned, cajoled, and said any number of prayers, the less anything registered with the powers that be.

So I didn’t want to abandon my recording session in any case, and decided to wing it with iMac’s own built-in job. Ugh! I had awful experiences that preceded this one, so I wasn’t expecting an overnight miracle or transformation.

Just the same, I figured, I’d swoon over the Waltz and hope some Romantic flavor seeped through one way or another. And then I reminded myself of those old, scratchy recordings where Arthur Schnabel played divine Beethoven, or Cortot lectured about Chopin with those hard-to-decipher playing samples. Still, people listened.

What about Grieg performing his “Butterfly” piece under less than perfect conditions, or any number of keyboard legends leaving bare traces of themselves on audio?

So what. While I was far from legendary, I could leave behind a less than perfect mic-ing of the Chopin Ab Waltz.


Well, since composing the previous apologia, I remedied the mic, and subbed in this video:

Next consideration: Tempo. So did I care what so and so pianist did with the Waltz in the way of pacing it? I certainly wanted a good example of tasteful rubato, and hunted down a few readings with that in mind. Stephen Hough was the first that popped up on my screen. (radar screen, perhaps) He was flashing back to the past, I think, coming toward the piano with a 40’s era hat. Everything was in black and white evoking an earlier time, but nowhere near the period that Chopin lived.

It was a creative mood painting.

I liked most of what he did in the way of interpretation, dynamics, give and take, but I couldn’t envision myself playing the Ab Waltz quite that fast all the way through, though his reading was very well styled. Would it fit me in the same way? There were sections that seemed a bit too casual, but still valid. He plied the phrases nicely. In all, I like parts of the whole, but the whole had parts I wished were more lingering.

My next stop was Leonard Pennario and his reading which I instantly doted upon. The only question I had related to the tempo change on page two. Suddenly everything took off, though I didn’t notice directions in the score to that effect. Perhaps I had been under the wrong impression all along about that specific section?

Pennario’s interpretation, overall, was my preference as compared to Hough’s. (I did note, however, that both pianists had apparently used different editions because there were some note changes between scores)

Regardless, I felt that Pennario registered a contemplative Chopin with a nice, fluid rubato. His tone was gorgeous, and he well paced the composition playing it significantly slower than Hough.

Finally came Artur Rubenstein, and as expected, I knew that I would embrace his performance. It seemed plaintively beautiful, effortlessly delivered, as if the music were allowed to play itself.

Similarly, I didn’t find any abrupt tempo shifts between sections, though, like Pennario and Hough he quickened the pace on page two, but less conspicuously.

Regardless of whether I favored one of these performances over another, a salient feature of all was the personality and conviction that came through. If nothing else, an individual and creative expression among pianists would be something to emulate.

To summarize, this You Tube outing proved to be a thoroughly valuable learning experience

For certain, tomorrow I’ll try to round up a decent mic and do my best to realize what the composer intended. Best case scenario, it should be without the handicap of a built-in sound system that could compromise a pianist’s playing in an any time or era.

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Playing piano and getting into the spirit (Video with Aiden cat joining in)

It’s holiday time, and we’re all eating with gusto. In honor of Thanksgiving, we completely let go, pardoning ourselves of any rigid diet that would preclude an all out splurge.

So now, enter the piano, as a feast of delights waiting for the player to partake without a hint of holding back. It seems like climbing a mountain.

Agreed that you must learn the notes carefully at first and parcel out the fingering, etc. It takes patience. A famous piano teacher, Irena Orlov, from the Levine School of Music in D.C. recommends that students master one measure per day, particularly when faced with technically challenging pieces. Just imagine how well a pupil would know the Mozart Rondo Allegretto K. 545 after just 76 days! Not an impossible task, considering that a baby needs more than a year to learn to walk.

It’s all relative….

Tonight I was shuffling between my Haddorff console and Steinway grand piano, deciding which instrument would best suit the Mozart I had previously mentioned, and then again, Aiden was bench hopping so I allowed it because of the holidays. I reasoned, why not include him in a recording session in between turkey treat nibbles. He needn’t be shooed into the bedroom in solitary confinement every time I attempted to capture some music on my Imac.

Sad to say, by lifting restrictions on his comings and goings, he killed two especially good readings of the Rondo. In one he managed to squiggle off the piano bench, meandering his way to the window sill where he orchestrated his usual racket. (When iMac is capturing an EVENT he knows just when to paw the shutters to bring any and all music to a grinding halt) Naturally, as soon as I sense his general direction, my playing begins to deteriorate. A glaring case of anticipatory anxiety.

Irena Orlov would have interjected in her Russian accent, but dorogaya moya, Дорогая моя (“my dear”) you hev to learn to concentrate.. and maybe you need to think one measure at a time.”

Redux: Aiden did it again, but on the third warning, he abandoned his monkey business and jumped off the piano bench and settled into his favorite chair. (off camera)

What has all this to do with playing piano and getting into the spirit?

The basic lesson to be learned is that you must find a place within yourself where music totally absorbs you and allows no room for distraction.

What other reason is there to take up the piano in the first place if not to be immersed in a spiritual process.


Tonight after I had gorged myself silly on turkey, homemade stuffing, and pumpkin pie, I wobbled over to the piano, and reclaimed my right to channel Mozart without a hitch. Aiden was hanging around being otherwise quiet until…

That’s in the past now, because the Mozart Rondo made it to You Tube while two other playings were “moved to the trash.”


Link to Documentary about Irena Orlov: