Alfred Brendel, blog metrics, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons, Piano Street, Piano World, piano worldwide, recording, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Mirrors and piano playing

As we age, we’re reluctant to look at our reflection in the mirror, but as we grow over time as musicians, the mirror of our playing in recorded “reflections” can foster quality adjustments in phrasing and interpretation.

If we nudge ourselves to step back and be “objective” about what we’re hearing, we may try to amend our next playing so it’s not a static, unaltered repeat of the last.

When I observe my own false starts, phrase imbalances, thumb pokes, and breath-short measures, I aim to improve these shortcomings by studying physical and musical dimensions that must be intertwined and synthesized.

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In a separate but related universe, Alfred Brendel, renowned pianist, puts a negative spin on the “finished” recording, while his comments upon careful scrutiny, support the self-educational value of making longitudinal student recordings. (While these exist in an “unfinished” form, being raw and home-based, they still have significant redeeming value)

In the following abridged paragraph of his newly released book, Music, Sense and Nonsense, the celebrated pianist bemoans the “impalement” by the public of renderings that permanently emblematize player. Yet amidst a string of professionally recorded efforts, Brendel appreciates an evolution of artistry that ripens over time– permeated by modified creative perceptions.

“But a recording is… simply the fixing of a moment.. so the artist should have the right to identify his work within a certain phase of his development… (And) it is only the continuous renewal of his vision – either in the form of evolution or of rediscovery – that can keep his music-making young.”

The last sentence fits perfectly into the paradigm of enlisting recordings to illuminate a particular developmental phase and to move it along to the next with sensitive adjustments and acquired awakenings. These flow through an artistically dynamic chain of youth-preserving efforts that should draw students toward recorded reflections of their playing, not away from them.

For piano teachers who evolve beside their students in a comparable growth process, home-created recordings can mirror efforts that are undergoing constant refinement without their needing “fixed” deadline arrivals, or contrived makeovers to mimic youth appeal that has no depth or substance. (i.e. fast and furious top-layer playing without thought, emotion or REFLECTION.)

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As a footnote to this discussion on the value of recordings in the learning environment, I offer a Student/Mentor mirrored-back lesson sample. (In teaching this Bach Invention repetitively, I will, no doubt, alter my ideas in consonance with an ever-changing process embedded in refined artistic illumination. The same metamorphoses will apply to the student.)

J.S.Bach Invention 13 in A minor:

LINK

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/24/music-sense-and-nonsense-alfred-brendel-collected-essays-lectures-review-alan-rusbridger

A flat Major scale, Ab Major scale, piano addcit, piano addict, piano blog, piano scales, Piano Street, piano technique, Piano World, scales, Shirley Kirsten, word press, you tube

The Anatomy of a Scale

If you want to pick your brain, ultra-analyzing a scale: finding symmetries, asymmetries, reciprocals, common tones with common fingers, upside down, inside-out relationships between the hands, and anything else that will solidify it, you might add an extra few senility-proof years to your life. Example: I can’t remember my neighbor’s first name, or my best friend in high school, but I can dissect all scales in the Circle of Fifths (Major and minor), taking them apart piece-by-piece and putting them back together in the holistic sense, guaranteeing their well-being in brisk tempo.

As an example, I offer my latest dissection of Ab Major, bestowed by a generous donor from the piano student population, whose interest in advancing  micro-exams of scales produced a mega-analysis beyond his wildest dreams. And in this essential post-mortem, after the scale was D.O.A. (dead on arrival), I posted a homework assignment for the catastrophe-prone pupil: Chart the 4-octave spree based on all the nit-picky relationships fleshed out in the attached video.

Once completed, he will diligently practice the scale, enlisting faith and determination, combining all the brain/brawn power necessary to resurrect it.

Ab Major:
Basic fingering, two octaves: (4 flats: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)

Ab Scale two octaves

Bonus Scale exam: F# minor (Natural form)

chuck Terpo, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano maintenance, Piano Street, Piano World

My Steinway M piano is back!

It took the awesome skills of a former Alabaman to resurrect my once beloved M from the dead.
Chuck Terpo Working 2

The keyboard had been an injury risk for months, plundered by too many technicians with pet regulation formulas and experimental impulses. After 6 months of rotating down weights and disappearing aftertouch, the black keys sat out of range above over-shallow white ones creating a two-tier instrument. To play this oddity required mega-compensation and massive denial–or at least a vivid imagination bordering on delusion.

To my astonishment, the first interloper, a RPT (Registered Piano Technician) from San Mateo slyly removed 22 or so lead weights from the keys and placed them in a bowl, hidden from view under a shade on my window sill. (I transferred them to a dinner plate)

lead weights

Within weeks of his departure I made the discovery and pieced together that my playing on air without any support beneath my fingers was not owing to an age-related, declining technique. Meanwhile the tech’s bizarre blaze of anger, bundled into his insistence that my hammers, doped with lacquer, needed a fabric softener treatment had mushroomed into a threat. If I refused the rinse cycle, he was out the door. (How many quarters please for the color free spin?)

To add insult to injury, one of the impostor’s cohorts (meaning the next in the parade of techs) implored me to “trust him” like some kind of snake oil salesman as he pitched a full scale key bed cutting– HALF punching surgery that was painless and promised a “modern day accelerated action.”

Bottom line, the hair-brained scheme left me with a “spring-loaded” action that by comparison made my hammer-weighted digital feel like a ton of bricks.

But just as my piano and me were about to be wiped off the map, I despairingly searched Craig’s List for a GRAND replacement, as if I had become resigned to the death of a spouse.

The timing had to be right because the Messiah came in the form of Chuck Terpo, a transplant from Birmingham Alabama to sunny California, circa 1977.

Popping up as the rebuilder of a For Sale Steinway M (located in San Rafael), he pitched his skills in an organized and convincing fashion. No Ego flashing or snake oil sales. I’d had enough of the former, through a charade of techs dismembering my piano piece by piece.

Chuck offered to come over and look into my deteriorated situation. He would embody the last thread of hope in my cycle of despair.

Terpo’s credentials bore out. He’d worked for Sherman Clay for years, tackling tough challenges in Steinway & Sons Concert and Artists loop: tuning, prepping and regulating for the big players in the concert circuit. That was just a chunk of Chuck’s impressive CV.

To cut a long story short, Terpo rose to the occasion and brought Steinway M back to me, WHOLE and HEALED.

So all I can say is Thank You, Chuck!

LINK:
http://www.chuckterpopianoservice.com

adult piano lessons, Bach, Bach Invention, Beethoven, Beethoven Bagatelles, Classical music blog, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano learning, piano lessons, piano pedagogy, Piano Street, piano teaching, Piano World, recorded piano lesson videos, Shirley Kirsten, summary piano videos

Piano Lesson summary videos cut to the chase

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 2.07.18 PM

I used to customarily record segments of lessons in progress that required sensitive editing before I uploaded them to you tube. It was not only a big job, but much of the video time was taken up with students lumbering through difficult passages, needing more settled post-lesson time to sift through teacher corrections, comments. Therefore with careful reflection, I decided to send my pupils a wrap-up of their lesson, (just me demonstrating) to flesh out pivotal practice routines that are meant to improve phrasing/shaping and over all fluidity. (Naturally, structural and theoretical explorations are central framings of the tutorial.)

For J.S. Bach Invention 1 in C, I found myself producing a few step-wise videos that covered sections of interest to the student as these played out over weeks. In a sample video, magnified views of the Subject and its inversion, augmentation, clarified my own approach to the learning process from the ground up, while it brought new personal awakenings. That’s when I realized that a post lesson tutorial was for my benefit as well as the student’s. (A mutual learning journey in progress!)

(Note correction of my playing parallel 6ths in a harmonic examination of Bach Invention 1–end of measure 10 to 11, but saying “10ths”–without doubt, one of my senior moments)

An Online student in North Carolina validated the importance of the wrap-up video.

“I love our lessons, but this added bonus of having you send summary videos is such a wonderful teaching tool. I for one, often sit at my piano with my computer backing sections up over and over.”

Likewise, many of my long distance piano students sit with their laptops perched by the piano, reviewing the main practicing goals derived from their lessons, and because of these video helpers, they make significant progress over the short and long term. The same applies to LIVE students who often forget some of the main points made during their lessons and need concrete reminders to improve quality practicing.

Here’s another recently Recorded Lesson summary that examines the Coda of the Beethoven Bagatelle in G minor, Op. 119 No. 1:

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In conclusion, recorded lesson overviews are of great value to piano students while they create an important challenge to the teacher who must crystallize and fine tune approaches to music learning.

Faust Harrison Pianos, Irving Faust, piano addict, Piano Street, Piano World, rebuilding Steinway grand pianos, rebuilt pianos, Sara Faust, Steinway grand piano

My visit to Faust Harrison Pianos in Manhattan, and White Plains, New York

Steinway A side view crop White Plains

During my recent NYC touchdown for the occasion of my mother’s memorial service, I found a weekend interval to make side trips to Faust Harrison Pianos’ remarkable showrooms and factory. Serendipitously drifting into an inviting space on Piano Row’s West 58th, just a block from Carnegie Hall, I was surrounded by Steinway grands that were impeccably rebuilt and immaculately refinished. It was a piano paradise from start to finish with generous opportunities to extract every musical morsel of pleasure from each instrument.

Irving and Sara Faust, co-founders of this expanding musical establishment that now has FOUR premier showrooms and an awesome state of the art White Plains factory, were my hosts on Sunday June 7th in Westchester, Faust Harrison Spread of pianoswhile Dmitri Shelest, Sales Associate, was a reliable guide and historian at the New York City location.

Inside W. 58 Faust Harrison signature

Faust Harrison specializes in rebuilding vintage Steinway grand pianos that are for sale in their Manhattan, White Plains, Huntington Station, New York; and Fairfield Connecticut locations, while the White Plains factory, accessible by Metro North departing from Times Square is the crowning glory.

Aside from feverishly forward-moving rebuilding operations, Faust Harrison sells brand new Yamaha, Mason & Hamlin, Hoffman, Schimmel, Bechstein and most recently, Fazioli pianos.

Taking up an offer to interview Sara and Irving on their home turf in White Plains that played out after my immersion in pianos at the NYC showroom, (June 6th) I was delighted to film the whole dream- fulfilling journey in pleasurable parcels.

Thank you Sara and Irving for a riveting visit!

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If indulging beautifully crafted pianos was not enough for a weekend East Coast spree, meeting up with a Facebook Friend who shared my passion for teaching via the Piano Pedagogy FB Group, was icing on the cake. (Gail Trattner Isenberg and I both shared NYC and Berkeley translocations)

Ironicially, she had reserved the Faust Harrison recital area of the showroom on Sunday, June 7th, for a beautiful display of her students’ musical gifts, and I was fortunate not only to meet my colleague for the first time IN PERSON, but to enjoy the fruits of her creative labors as I combed the White Plains super space.

Naturally, cameras were snapping at every opportunity, so I joined in, capturing memories of a unique outing that will be savored for years to come!

Gail and I, Faust Harrison

Gail students in recital hall side view crop

Faust Harrison Recital Hall with emblem

LINKS:

Faust Harrison Pianos Website

http://www.faustharrisonpianos.com

https://www.facebook.com/FaustHarrisonPianos

Sara’s statement of concern for elephants as it applies to the ivory trade

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Elephants–Pianos—Art.html?soid=1105585926462&aid=fo7YwxphWAE

adult piano instruction, iPhone, iPhone transmitted piano lesson, New York City, North Carolina, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons by Face Time, Piano Street, piano teaching, Piano World, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, wordpress, you tube

Piano Lesson from the Big Apple by iPhone!

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 7.27.10 AM

It’s one thing to fly from California to New York, taking in awesome views from the plane.Over NYC JFK But would I lay back and lapse into surrendering a week of piano instruction just because I had a NYC based family obligation? No way! As long as I had my iPhone as backup, I would try to teach my North Carolina student from my landing on West 97th.

My best friend, Laura, Oberlin alum and ex-Big Apple roommate had given me her West Side digs that came with a rebuilt Steinway B, so I could play away and teach a lesson or two.

Steinway B at Laura

Using the iPhone with its Face Time application was a first for me! Would the tiny mic properly amplify my voice, demonstrations, and could the internal speaker provide the right volume as the student played? It seemed there were many variables to worry about.

Well, not a problem! Everything worked with a couple of shutdowns since I didn’t have my router or hard wire cable which seemed the best hardware for Online lesson transmission.

Some adjustments, however, seemed to improve the iPhone cyberspace: I reduced my USB extensions and switched to cellular, not relying on the local Wi Fi provider. (Different rooms had varied reception, some better than others)

Overall, I think the undertaking was a success– well documented by my tripod mounted camcorder that captured the whole lesson on video.

Here are a few samples:

arioso 7, Piano Street, youtube.com

Experimentation and refinement are the ingredients of music teaching and learning

One of the joys of teaching piano is to experience awakenings with our students as we experiment with phrasing, and refine original perceptions.

And while a piano teacher is considered a mentor to a student, he/she clearly realizes that roles are easily reversed when a pupil inspires further experimentation and clarification.

In exploring the Romantic genre, for instance, there are infinite ways to spin or sculpt phrases. After various trials among partners in piano study, an aesthetic decision is reached based upon considerations of harmonic motion (and its emotional ramifications); period performance practice and style including Rubato; connections sewn to the motif or germ cell of the composition; sequential awareness; and what is UNEXPECTED in the music, that needs a spotlight. (This last point is underscored in the opener of an embedded lesson-in-progress video where a progression to the Major Key in a Chopin selection is an affectively poignant surprise: see measure 89, Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55)

Chopin F minor Nocturne m. 85 to end 1

A good theoretical foundation is naturally helpful in the experimental phase of learning, but it’s only one of many ingredients that must harmoniously blend in a creative learning process.

As an example, a particularly vibrant interchange transpires over a cadenza-like passage in Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor. (69-70)

Chopin measure 69 and 70

Seeing a series of 16th notes in a solo outpouring for the right hand, the player must decide how to avoid a mechanical rendering.

Following a resounding Dominant 7th Chord, a scale-like descent ensues with some deviations from step-wise motion. These suggest waves or LOOPS that a supple wrist can realize, while Rotation assists with appoggiatura-like figures (skip up, step down).

The unraveling of these measures after thoughtful, exploratory renderings, leads to the Nocturne’s final section that comes with a cello-like solo in the bass and an eventual spin-off to accelerando.

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It’s an enlightening journey worth taking with a student.