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Growing piano technique in baby steps: Rina, 5, advances to hands together five-finger positions (adding in 10ths)

Rina may not know the words “pentascales” and “tenths,” but she has the intelligence to notice when her fingers move up and down together, playing the same notes an “octave” apart. With a sound knowledge of the music alphabet in both directions, she has good cognitive reinforcement. (She also knows “running notes” or 8ths, “long sounds”–half notes, “short sounds”– quarters, and “half-note dot” is a dotted-half note.)

But note-name recognition and having a concept of rhythmic values are just part of the learning process. She needs to cultivate the singing tone wedded to limpid phrasing–a dimension of playing we’ve explored from day one embracing Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Music Journey philosophy.

In this regard, Rina is working on softening the impact of her thumbs, so she can nicely roll into her LEGATO five-finger positions and smoothly taper them. (LEGATO means smooth and connected, finger-to-finger)

She has progressed from having played each hand alone through five notes ascending and descending, in a “conversational” way, to synchronizing both hands at the same time in parallel motion.

She also creates an “echo” effect on a repeat and we make sure to include the parallel minor in her playings. (Black notes also belong to the keyboard family)

Next, I thought to introduce a bit of “magic.”

How about starting the Right Hand on E while the Left Hand remained on bass C. (still five notes up and down but spaced in 10ths)

Rina took to it like a duck in water especially with an enticing harmonic landscape.

Here are two snatches from her lesson, starting with the first (both hands playing same notes in legato)

In the second video, she plays in 10ths:

Our next piece is “Little March” by Daniel Gottlob Turk. This follows Minuet by Reinagle of which Rina is separately studying the bass part. In addition she’s rendering it in the “minor,” enlisting a “B flat.” (She performed the melody on our recent Spring Recital) The Reinagle piece came with its own new landmark: Rina played detached and legato notes in one selection.

I’ve prepared a video to assist mom with ear-training experiences for “Little March” during the week. Rina will be saturated with listening; doing hand signals for melodic shape; singing notes and then rhythms. (phrase one) This is the first stage of her learning process.

***

LINK:

Rina plays at the Spring Recital


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/rina-5-performs-at-our-spring-recital-after-8-months-of-piano-lessons-video/

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Piano Technique: Reeling off parallel thirds in staccato (with a trampoline effect)

The playground as music teacher applies:

My brood of students and I enjoy the romp through a set of parallel thirds within a five-finger position.

In our escapade, we usually dance through the Major and parallel minor tonalities.

Interplay, back and forth always helps. It allows the teacher to model physical ingredients of a buoyant staccato.

Arms and wrists should be relaxed, and suggested points of energy renewal are identified. Ilyana, 8, punctuated these with claps before she gave it a whirl.

The video reveals more:

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Burgmuller’s “The Return”–like a light opera, with interspersed drama (videos)

“The Return” from the composer’s Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces, Op. 100, is ear-catching. Like an Offenbach opera replete with an Overture, it delights in a set of lighthearted staccato chords that spill into a passionate MINOR sequenced interlude, setting the heart afire. Extinguished by the revisit of Eb Major punctuations, the music drifts off by authentic cadence, draped in Romantic era style.

More about this charmer and how to approach:

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Piano Technique: Two nifty warm-up routines, one loopy, the other for zig-zaggers

Claudia, 11, and I do a 20-minute warm-up before she tackles repertoire at her weekly lesson. Today I snatched two routines that might help others with the time-honored, upper arm roll, supple wrist, and elbow swing. Just my bias showing about technique and what I favor in its development.

I’ve presented this one before, but it’s worth a refresher:

Claudia and I “looped” through a 4-note, E Major, broken chord in inversions. But first we blocked out the chords as demonstrated in the first video. (blocking establishes a sense of “spacing” and “feel.”)

NOTE that R.H. fingering is above L.H. for each inversion:

E G# B E
1 2 3 5
5 3 2 1

G# B E G#
1 2 4 5
5 4 2 1

B E G# B
1 2 4 5
5 3 2 1

E G# B E
1 2 3 5
5 3 2 1

***

In this second video we played a set of E Major parallel thirds within a five-finger Major and minor position. (In parallel, then contrary motion.)

We started with quarters, then doubled to 8ths, and finally tripled to 16ths in a parallel zig zag motion of the arms–Contrary motion followed, with opposing arm zig zags.

I borrowed the fundamental “HOPPING” exercise from Dozen A Day Book I by Edna-Mae Burnam. (It’s important to TRANSPOSE the samples to get maximum technical benefit)

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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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The very first lesson with a new Intermediate or advanced piano student: thinking creatively on your feet

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a new adult piano student who had studied for a few years. Besides having this basic, preliminary information, I had no other tangible clues about her level of playing.

The suspense of not knowing what music she would bring was lifted when two contrasting era works were neatly deposited on the music rack.

The first, Minuet in D, HOB. IX: 20, No.1 was unfamiliar to me. The second composition, Children’s Piece, Op. 72 No. 1 by Mendelssohn was the same, but appearing to be of a more advanced level.

Nevertheless, as I glanced over both works, I mapped them out in a visual scan, knowing that I could adequately read through both. (“How to Improve Sight-reading at the Piano,” amplifies this encounter with a fresh piece of music)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/how-to-improve-sight-reading-at-the-piano/

The first lesson brought home how important sight-reading skills are, and their relevance to the very launch of a musical relationship with a new pupil.

In addition, having familiarity with the Performance practice of the Classical and Romantic periods, etc. allows a teacher to navigate “new” compositions, while assisting a student in the learning process from day one.

In the video below, I explored the Haydn Minuet from start to finish, in back tempo, illustrating execution of staccato during the Classical period, as well as ornamentation, and phrasing. (The Mendelssohn analysis will follow in a subsequent blog)

Following the first introductory lesson, I applied what I had examined in the tutorial to gain more refinement in my daily practicing.

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Piano Technique: Exploring contrasting emotions when practicing a piece (as Daniil Trifonov, pianist, recommended in his videotaped interview)

I put into “practice” one of Trifonov’s recommendations, as I mentored a second year piano student this evening.

We started the lesson by playing “happy” and then “angry” consecutive staccato thirds. (“Hopping” from Dozen a Day)

Eventually after completing our scale and other technical routines, we applied the emotion shifts to the opening of “Wild Rider” by Robert Schumann (from the composer’s “Album for the Young”) “Sad” and then “Happy.”

The video demonstrates:

I’m not entirely convinced of this approach as it pertains to mainstream piano repertoire. I think it’s more applicable to scales, arpeggios, octaves etc., that are metaphors for the literature, and feed into it.

To devote time to making a Bach Gigue, for example, sound sad, is for me, counter to the style or spirit of the composition.

Elaine Comparone who plays harpsichord, piano, and organ, agreed.

“It would seem to me that a piece, being a work of art, would possess an intrinsic meaning or feeling(imbued by the composer) that the player would then try to transmit to his/her listeners. It is up to the performer/interpreter to discover this meaning, not to superimpose an entirely arbitrary or perhaps contrary one.

“For instance, can you imagine, or would it make any sense to play the first movement of the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata, for instance, in a perky, playful mood? I’m not sure what Trifonov is getting at. Maybe he feels he can try a bunch of different approaches with the pieces he plays.

“The B-flat Schubert might allow for some variance of interpretation, but I can’t imagine anything more than varying shades of a certain feeling. Maybe that’s what he meant…

“I guess different interpreters can discover varying meanings in a piece. But I don’t see the point of attempting diametrically opposing interpretations on the same piece.”.

Irina Gorin, teacher and creator, Tales of a Musical Journey, however, asserts that she asks her students to play their pieces with two or three different emotions to broaden their depth of expression. As she’s quoted: it applies to “anything.”

All ideas are welcome.

LINKS:


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/daniil-trifonov-pianist-shares-his-artistry-and-imparts-musical-wisdom-in-a-post-concert-interview-in-fresno-california-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/bonus-post-concert-video-footage-daniil-trifonov-interview-fresno-california/