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Rina, 5, moves right along in her piano studies (Videos)

Rina takes to piano like a duck in water.

Yesterday, she began her lesson with a five-finger romp through D Major and minor, adding chords to her repertoire.

Did I say “chords?”

It’s every child’s dream to play more than one voice at a time, to fully appreciate the piano as an orchestral instrument.

I know, because at six-years old I longed to hear my two-note melodies bathed in rich sonority.

Mrs. Vinagradov, my weekly duet partner, raised the level of our music-making by several notches, but I had no patience to delay gratification between lessons.

In those days, young piano students were imprisoned in tiny instructional boxes, gasping for any signs of cosmic harmony. They were so fixated on Middle C that to drift elsewhere was anxiety-provoking.

Personally, I was over-burdened with monophonic Diller-Quaille and Diller-Page songs, illustrated with pics of children in high-button shoes beside bicycles built for two. Those archaic pics were re-published for decades beside colorless melodies. They begged for polyphonic enrichment!

Why students were placed in a restricted, No Harmony Zone, was beyond comprehension.

But to the good, it ignited a revolution among teachers who had been closeted rebels.

***

In our more pedagogically enlightened day and age, a fledgling can reach for the stars, playing more than one note at a time without a meltdown.

As an example, Rina plays a two-voice Minuet and March that produce ear-pleasing harmony. They fuel her enthusiasm from week to week.

Here, she practices her five-finger D Major/d minor warmup which leads to building chords in six voices. What a revelation, like the first sunrise.

Can you believe how far she’s come in less than a year’s time?

Part 2, Rina’s first piano lesson:

Flash forward 11 months:

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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

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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

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Piano Technique: More wrist-forward rolling motion in Sonatina by Clementi Op. 36 no. 1 Vivace (Videos)

In two videos, I flesh out the need for a rolling forward wrist motion in playing the last movement of Clementi’s well-known Sonatina in C, vivace.

In addition, a 3/8 meter designation in rapid tempo requires the “feeling” of ONE impulse per measure not three. And this sense of ONENESS suggests CIRCLES of motion which are physically demonstrated in the instruction.

The supple or undulating wrist is pivotal to playing this Rondo movement with shape and contour, avoiding the pencil point, or Rosie the Riveter approach to notes. https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/

In this regard, I offer preliminaries to loosen up the wrist, and suggest rhythms that I enlist to develop streams of 16th notes.

There’s a slow motion frame inserted to graphically illustrate the rolling wrist motion that is so necessary to express this Classical era music with beauty and grace.

Note that behind tempo practicing, along with separate hands is always recommended.

Rondo movement in tempo:

RELATED LINK:

Avoiding Pencil Point Playing

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/

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Teaching Gillock’s delightfully appealing, Later Elementary Level music: “The Glass Slipper” (Video)

I have no reservation about the immense teaching value of William Gillock’s music from elementary through advanced levels. And while the titles in the first few volumes appeal to children, the pieces can be universally enjoyed by piano students of all ages.

In this spirit, I picked out “The Glass Slipper” from Accents on Gillock, Volume 2, Late Elementary, and savored its beauty as I fleshed out the learning challenges and how to meet them.

In the video instruction, I pointed to the melodically woven, slurred bass notes in groups of two and how to enlist a dipped wrist to wrist forward motion to realize their musical contour. Above these figures, in the treble, the students separately practices spongy wrist after-beat harmonic thirds.

The realization of an echo in measures 4 to 8, requires a lighter application of arm weight filtered through relaxed wrists into the fingers.

Balancing the voices between the hands, and following the crest of crescendo and its opposite, diminuendo becomes a continuous challenge in the outflow of gorgeously nuanced music.

As the student is bathed in beauty from start to finish, he’s more willing to meet the technical demands of this piece.

A middle section, provides a stark contrast to the page one offering, and takes off in an upward scale-wise direction. This is a whimsical portion of the interlude that strikingly sets it apart from what preceded.

The crescendo rolled from left into right hand peaks with an accented half-note that has a bass staccato played harmonic 2nd in between, gives the music a pleasing lift. A sequence of this scale figure up a step, intensifies it, before there’s a graceful transition back to the beginning theme.

The most wondrous cap to this composition is a longer scale-wise ascent to the final sustained tonic note, (with a touch of chromatics–half steps) A rolling motion underlies these passages.

A final soothing chord emanating from the melodic C wisps away, leaving behind a satisfying feeling of resolution. The sustain pedal enriches the closing cadence with warmth.

What an amazing piece of music to explore with a student on so many levels.

***

***

Another Gillock sampler, but for Intermediate students:

“Flamenco”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hbFhesmbo4

LINKS:

Blog: The Formative years of Piano Study and the basic building-blocks of learning

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/the-formative-years-of-piano-study-and-the-basic-building-blocks-of-learning-videos/

***
WILLIAM GILLOCK http://www.halleonard.com/biographyDisplay.do?id=240&subsiteid=1

“William Gillock (1917-1993), noted music educator and composer of piano music, was born in LaRussell, Missouri, where he learned to play the piano at an early age. After graduating from Central Methodist College, his musical career led him to long tenures in New Orleans, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas, where he was always in great demand as a teacher, clinician, and composer. Called the “Schubert of children’s composers” in tribute to his extraordinary melodic gift, Gillock composed numerous solos and ensembles for students of all levels. He was honored on multiple occasions by the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) with the Award of Merit for Service to American Music, and his music continues to be remarkably popular throughout the United States and throughout the world.”

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The Formative Years of Piano Study and the basic building-blocks of learning (Videos)

Just as a child needs a wholesome diet from birth through adolescence to insure healthy growth and development, a beginning piano student requires the equivalent in musical nourishment.

Cocoa Puff pieces that squeeze out whole grain servings of the classics will not in the long term cut the cake. (And I don’t rule out compositions by William Gillock that include, “Argentina,” “Stars for a Summer Night,” “Little Flower Girl of Paris,”) as well as Samuel Maykapar’s “In the Garden,” a particular favorite.

***

Starting a piano student at age 6 or 7, requires a thoughtful menu of goals. As I define them, they would include teaching a physical relationship to the instrument and how to produce a singing tone.

Under the heading of tone production, the following should be nurtured from day one:

1) A whole arm, relaxed infusion of energy

2) A supple, “spongy” wrist

3) Arc-like, “rainbow” movements in octave spreads, one note sampled at a time, enlisting each finger (right hand, then left hand)

If these sound like they’re lifted from Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey, then you’re correct.

Ideally, musical symbols and notation should flow into a course of study, though some teachers may postpone these based on age considerations.

Proponents of the Suzuki method set aside note reading for years at a time, copying the model of language assimilation–where a child doesn’t read or write for the first few years of life but instead, is taught by imitation through parental interactions.

Gorin spends a good amount of time dwelling on the physical dimension of playing, using prerecorded music of high caliber as children tap individual notes to Russian themes from the classical literature as well as folk music sources.

I tend to favor a mixture of more than one teaching philosophy, though I can’t embrace Suzuki’s ultra-long tabling of music reading.

***

If I enlist a more traditional method book approach, I will modify it to suit the needs of individual students. In the same vein, if I draw upon Irina Gorin’s material, I might tailor it to include earlier exposure to notational symbols–one example is where I insert a flat to flesh out the minor mode, sooner than expected.

But above and beyond contrasts in teaching styles and choice of materials that might be of Major or minor proportion (pun intended) I insist on giving my students a serving of good music at the very beginning of piano study.

Sometimes, a parent will try to upset the apple cart, and egg me on to substitute the pop stuff for classical. In this lobbying effort, a pitch for pop might please the dad or mom, but it runs counter to what’s in the best interests of the child.

In such a case scenario I provide a simple reply:

The basic building-blocks come first with no room for the musical equivalent of a junk food filled menu.

Under the heading of a nourishing learning program comes intertwined technique advancement.

About 6 to 9 months into piano study (and it varies from child to child), I introduce penta-scales or five-finger positions, borrowed from Edna-mae Burnam’s Dozen a Day. (These precede full blown 4-octave scale and arpeggio romps around the Circle of Fifths)

The student will play Major and companion (parallel minor) ascending and descending, step-wise progressions in “Walking and Running” sequence and he’ll engage his whole arm and supple wrist in the process. Arc-like motions are likewise encouraged to realize faster note values.

In the video examples below, I first demonstrate the technical routine myself, followed by a second bit of footage that showcases an 8-year old student warming up in the same way.

In the repertoire arena, one of my Bay area beginners in his second year of study, is working on “Melody” by Beyer; “Ponies” by Low, and a third selection, “Circle Dance,” that has imitative counterpoint. All compositions are contained in Faber’s Developing Artist Original Keyboard Classics. (preparatory piano literature)

Contents: Allegretto (Köhler) • Ancient Dance (Praetorious) • Circle Dance (Beyer) • Country Ride (Köhler) • Echoes (Köhler) • Five-Note Sonatina (Bolck) • The Hero’s March (Vogel) • In an Old Castle (Beyer) • Little March (Turk) • Melody (Beyer) • Ponies (Low) • Sonatina (Wilton).

In between lessons, this student practices “Melody” together with my prerecorded secondo TEACHER part (uploaded to You Tube) giving it a grander, ensemble proportion. (His folks have recently made the connection between a companion CD and the Teacher accompaniments)

Faber’s choice of pieces in this particular collection is admirable though I always hunt down supplements from other sources. These might include the Toronto Conservatory Celebration series, or individual albums of Kabalevsky’s music such as the Op. 39 Children’s Pieces. “Joke,” “Melody,” and “Funny Event,” for example, are first and second-year appropriate repertoire choices that have musical substance while advancing technique.

For the most part, I tend to steer clear of musical cliches, harmonic formulas, and insipid arrangements.

In summary, the formative years of piano study require substantial musical nourishment. Imbuing the singing tone, teaching the physical means to achieve it, and selecting quality pieces for students, are ingredients that support a solid musical foundation.

***

An extra treat: Ilyana, 8, practices “Argentina” by Gillock, a favorite composer.

Add “Flamenco,” a show-stopper:

RELATED LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/taking-piano-lessons-skimming-the-surface-or-getting-deeply-involved/

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Aikido and Piano are a good match for Sakura (Video) (Note the rolling forward wrist motion in Kabalevsky’s “Galop”)

Aikido
Main article: Aikido
Aikido shihōnage technique.

“Aikido (合氣道:あいきどう aikidō?) is a modern grappling-based Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei, 1883 – 1969). The art consists of “striking”, “throwing” and “joint locking” techniques and is known for its fluidity and blending with an attacker, rather than meeting “force with force”. Emphasis is upon joining with the rhythm and intent of the opponent in order to find the optimal position and timing with which to apply force. Aikidō is also known for emphasizing the spiritual and philosophical development of its students reflecting the religious background of its founder.

“Morihei Ueshiba developed aikido mainly from Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu incorporating training movements such as those for the yari (spear), jō (a short quarterstaff), and perhaps also juken (bayonet). Arguably the strongest influence is that of kenjutsu and in many ways, an aikidō practitioner moves as an empty handed swordsman.”

Sakura comes for her lesson when it’s already dark at 6:30 p.m. and she’s in full Aikido garb.

At 12, she speaks Japanese and German fluently. And it can get confusing at times when one or the other parent picks her up and chatters off in the native language. (Dad is from Germany, mom, from Japan)

I’m always awestruck when Sakura easily slips from one mode of communication to another without skipping a beat.

Both parents, University faculty, were determined to keep their cultures preserved as they raised three children and what a nice job they have done!

***

Sakura has taken piano lessons for two years now, and is one of my rare left-handed pupils. It doesn’t seem to factor into her playing, because I wouldn’t know of this predisposition if my eyes were open or closed.

Her pronounced dedication to practicing has an intensity that keeps propelling her forward, and she understands the importance of keeping the steady rhythm of learning alive and well.

In the repertoire arena, Sakura has studied the works of J.C. Bach, J.S. Bach, Kabalevsky, Clementi, and Mozart.

Recently, she performed Bach’s Prelude no. 1 in C from the Well-Tempered Clavier at her Middle School talent show. And through the grapevine I heard that it was with flying colors.

Yesterday, on a cold evening in Fresno, she played a sprightly “Galop” by Kabalevsky and demonstrated her mastery of the spring forward wrist. (Notice the rolling motion that drives the 16ths to the long note)

Bravo, Sakura! You’re a joy to teach!