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An 8-Year old begins piano lessons!

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An exciting musical journey has begun! Liz, an 8-year old who prances by my apartment singing mellifluously, became my newest piano student last night. Her lesson opened with, “Welcome to a universe of the imagination,” an inspired framing that kept student and teacher riveted to 45 minutes of collaborative music-making. (The duet form was the perfect vehicle to grow the child’s earliest relationship to the piano.) It evoked memories of my Russian mentor who played harmonically rich Secondo parts, while at 6, I tinkered with three-note Diller Quaille melodies beside her.

“Ding Dong” was my signature piece, brought to life each week in a bed of blossoming sonorities that Mrs. Vinagradov provided. She’d mentored me in a tiny attic space of the quaint Kingsbridge Music School perched on a hill in the Bronx.


Yesterday’s FACEBOOK message that I’d posted hours before Liz’s lesson, was the harbinger of delights to come in a shared “new” environment of musical growth. It was also my reconnection with the world of children, who’d faded into the past as pupils since my teaching efforts were redirected toward adults.

“Exciting day!” I announced in the warm glow of social media friends!

“I’m starting a brand new beginner this evening–An 8-year old whose parents are safe-keeping my Steinway M grand. This will be a journey of imagination, expression, colors, emotion, natural, flowing connections to the keys, and intertwined relaxed breathing. I look forward to a mutually enriched learning adventure.”

In preparation for the maiden event, I’d browsed many teaching materials, finally settling upon Time to Begin, a Music Tree primer, that was originally created by Frances Clark. Ironically, I’d shelved a very early edition of the book that I’d used to teach one of my children at the tender age of 4, yet into the present many of the duets we’d played were included in the latest 2000 renewed copyright. (The cover and book lay-out had become more appealing, while the fundamental teaching philosophy remained intact.)

Clark, to her credit, did not embrace five-finger crutch learning, but taught students to rotate fingers around landmark notes (Treble G, Bass clef F, and Middle C), which promoted solid note-reading and other skills. It definitely earned my support for the MUSIC TREE series with its development over the years. (Note co-editors, Louise Goss and Sam Holland)

Right Side up Music Tree

Finally, as follow-up to Liz’s first lesson, I’ve posted three recorded segments that launch the “series” “LIZ’s Piano JOURNEY” that welcomes comments from teachers, students, and all piano lovers.

P.S. Camera angles will be adjusted and improved for forthcoming weekly videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

A CD with colorful accompaniments comes with the Primer

CD Time to Begin

CD reverse Time to Begin

Burgmuller, Burgmuller Harmony of the Angels, classissima,, Friedrich Burgmuller, hammer mechanism of the piano, Harmony of the Angels, Harmony of the Angels by Burgmuller, piano, piano instruction, piano lesson, piano tone production, wordpress,,

Can we rise above the hammer mechanism of our beloved piano?

I say yes to naysayers on various Internet forums. They would have you believe that playing a series of notes cannot be altered by a physical approach to the keys that includes a supple wrist. Their gospel is, it’s all the same no matter who plays C, D, E, F, G. These concrete thinkers, insist that you can take your pick starting anywhere on the keyboard and nothing really changes.

Essentially, they sermonize that the initiation of key depression ignites the hammers to STRIKE the strings which leads followers into the universe of PERCUSSION! (This launches a secondary argument about the nuts and bolts of pianoforte-making and playing)

Fortunately, the less religious persuaders concede that the use of sustain pedal makes one player sound differently from another– or that pokey finger plunkers can still manage a soft or loud sound through finger pressure alone, thereby escaping tonal conformity.

I say BAH HUMBUG to this crowd that pedals its audibly loud or soft-sell opinions in their Extremist effort to rip the HEARTS out of HAMMERS. (They insist HAMMERS like wooden puppets can’t “feel” or “express” emotions)

With all due respect, I declare that tone production is NOT the sum total of pedal plus loud and soft playing. It’s way more subtle than that: ATTENTIVE LISTENING, IMAGINATION, HARMONIC FLOW and a keenly nursed physical flexibility can and will individualize one player from another.

To wit, I enlisted Burgmuller’s Angels’ Voices for DIVINE INTERVENTION:

As a necessary preliminary, I adhered to the composer’s metronome marking, the quarter=152; then I demonstrated pokey finger entries into the keys with a relatively stiff wrist. (sustain pedal was used but without dynamics) Subsequently, I added dynamics with pokey fingers, before the final playing with a supple wrist and phrase sculpting. (My approach included delays into notes and resolutions by flow of harmony)

Video 1

Video 2-A play through of Angels’

Comparative You Tube performances set at the same metronome marking: (Yes of course, the pianos are different, but let’s consider the physical approach to the keys by each player)