legato playing, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons by Face Time, piano lessons by Skype, piano technique

Piano Technique: Playing LEGATO can be a drag!

One of my favorite verbal prompts to students who have a choppy approach to scales and arpeggios, is: “drag” your fingers from note note–“feel” the weight transfer with imagined resistance. I often talk about flowing “vowels” not consonants through an arpeggio.

Other mental images are equally effective: Think of the piano as a bowl of honey or molasses as you play through it. Avoid a top layer, thin, transparent sound. I’m known to resoundingly nix any semblance of tracing paper. (There I go with mixed metaphors that nonetheless register when students are trying to achieve playing “density.”)

And of course, it helps to have a cooperative piano–one that has some resistance built in re: the down weight, after touch, let-off. I’ve been dealing with this very issue as my Steinway grand’s regulation is on HOLD. The punchings that were cut beneath the notes,Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 1.26.44 PM in conjunction with some other applications, created a piano with barely any friction or resistance to create a seamless legato, so I’ve retreated to the brand new Baldwin that has this capacity. Updates on Steinway M will be reported as they occur. I’m happy to report that first stage improvement is in progress and it’s going to be a long haul.

Back to producing a seamless legato on pianos that have at least minimum potential. As it played out, my long distance ONLINE Fresno student had to psyche out her Baldwin Acrosonic when a voicing issue intruded. An F# in the bass range sounded like a tin can bouncing off a kitchen counter,tin can bent so we had to deal with subduing the note through an F# minor arpeggio in contrary motion. The very process of avoiding an attack on the vulnerable F# invited attentive listening and a semblance of muscle memory.

Here’s a lesson segment that proved to be a real drag in the good sense:

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Piano Gym: Routines that build technique (Videos)

In the Olympiad era, bespectacled piano teachers and their students are assumed to be lockouts, pouring over eclectic music manuscripts in sheltered studios of higher learning. We’re viewed as eternal bench-warmers, leading sedentary lives; practicing archaic music for hours at a time in a monastic rhythm.

But these are missperceptions.

Most pianists are members of the piano gym club, training day in and day out to master complex motor movements and feats of coordination that rival the rigorous prep of elite Olympic athletes.

For example, try playing a perfectly smooth and sculpted A Major Scale in crisp soft staccato, without a note popping out among 64 ascending and descending in rapid speed.
Mental image assist: the “trampoline effect.”

Maybe it’s not the same as climbing a ski slope, and then heading downhill at 150 miles an hour, but just the same, tackling a scale or arpeggio at max tempo, can be more than a joy ride. It requires great physical and musical mastery. And that’s where you separate the men from the boys.

How about a hopping routine, with a zig/zag motion of the arms, that accelerates as the underlying beat is quickened.

In the Olympic spirit, I’ve showcased three lesson-in-progress snippets of an adult student notching up her technique in the space of 15 minutes. It’s a world’s record for her.

The enumerated challenges:

1) Playing fast, crisp staccato notes, 4 octaves up and down.

2) HOPPING in thirds, with a zig/zag motion of the arms.

3) Gliding through an A Major arpeggio before detaching the notes in brisk tempo.

LINKS:

From Chords to Gym and Back

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/from-chords-to-gym-and-back-you-tube-video/

Piano Push-ups and Dead Weight:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/doing-piano-push-ups-to-feel-connected-and-dead-weighted-into-the-keys-the-b-minor-arpeggio-is-my-cardio-activating-springboard-video/

Piano, Performance and Gym Routines…


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/piano-practicing-performance-and-gym-routines-always-reach-beyond-video-bach-invention-8-in-f/

Piano Workout Plus:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/piano-workout-plus-left-hand-development-tips-and-how-to-produce-a-woodpecker-staccato-videos/