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Piano Technique: A Bouncy Scale workout with forward arm rolls and supple wrist motions–Enjoy the romp! (Videos)

Scales can be a great workout routine if you let your arms loose, dip your pliant wrists and go with the flow. And it’s a great cardio. (No treadmill or weights required) Just apply principles of balance and buoyancy.

Here are snatches from an adult student’s lesson (Legato and staccato playing with slow motion replays)

C# NATURAL minor in parallel and contrary motion

First Aiden cat joins in:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

Join me for a Piano Cardio class.. See my class schedule at POWHOW

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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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Warm-up routines with an adult piano student (Video)

This pupil is into her fourth year of study and plays the Chopin Waltz in A minor, and Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” Here is a sample of our weekly warm-up routine using pentascales (five finger positions) in Major and minor, followed by a designated 4 octave scale built up from quarters, to 8ths, to triplets, to 16ths and 32nds (legato) She continues with a pair of Staccato 32nds Forte and then piano. (soft) These scales are played in parallel and contrary motion and I’ve recently introduced 10ths for D Major.

Arpeggios are also included in the warm-up but not featured in this video.

The sequence of scale study is a Circle of Fifths journey, with Major and relative minors assigned. With advanced students the warm-up is more comprehensive with scale playing in 3rds, 10ths, and 6ths; Diminished and Dominant 7th arpeggios practiced in parallel and contrary motion–as well as in 10ths– Broken four-note arpeggios are added to the romp.

Here’s the less complex warm-up with my adult student:

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The Complete Piano Work-out in 3 parts (Videos)

Most of my late intermediate and advanced students know the routine at lessons. The first twenty minutes are spent warming up in the Key they’ve been assigned the previous week. Once seated at the piano, they’re ready for a challenging kinetic whirl around the keyboard as scales and arpeggios dance through the cosmos in various rhythms and articulations. It beats an aerobic work-out at George Brown’s.

The wrists are pliant, and there’s a slight pull on the elbows as contrary motion between the hands nudges them out. They never hug the sides of the body at any time, and there’s always a relaxed space for the arms to swing back and forth enabling the elbows to “stretch” out. It “feels” like what the doctor ordered, pushing the physical envelope to its limit and getting the resultant health benefits. Perhaps a Cardio routine for pianists?

It’s more. You gradually groove into the keys before you do a swan dive into your repertoire with “free,” natural breaths to spare.

So let F Major play out in three parts, with a modest preliminary leading to a rigorous romp around the 88’s.

I.

II.

III.

RELATED:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/piano-technique-thumb-shifts-in-playing-scales-and-arpeggios-video/

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More ideas about Piano Technique and Mental Imagery (Playing into a Bowl of Molasses)

Continuing my practice of videotaping my Thursday evening lesson, I reviewed the footage and discovered some catch words that helped me clarify ideas about technique and fluency.

While it may sound a bit outlandish to think of the piano as a “bowl of molasses,” the image alone helped my adult student approach the keys with more of a delayed entry, avoiding a skimming the surface type of playing that never quite gets the player “grooved” or “connected into” the notes. I like the volume or density of molasses.

Listening to the end of a note, before playing the next through an E minor Arpeggio in tenths, imbues a consciousness about playing deep into the keys, sculpting, feeling the “jello” that Irina Gorin references. It’s fundamental to producing a beautiful singing tone.

Other images or catchwords that I used to aid fluidity of technique: “roll” into the scale; Don’t Anticipate–Be in the here and now; think Slowly through fast passages; feel the rolling turnaround at either end of the scale, “BREATHE.”

So molasses slows things down, and allows for some key depth exploration without a premature release to other notes. This applies to passages in slow, fast or moderate tempo.

Fast Melody

For the rippling strings of 32nds in Allegro that can be practiced in a scale framework, the principle of attentive listening from note to note should be framed as “fast melody.” Melodic contouring blends well with a bowl of molasses even though the latter would seem to drastically slow things down.

But for most piano students who tend to race over the keys losing their breath and composure, some key catchwords might neutralize the frenzy.

In this teaching segment, the student and I are playing the Dominant 7th Arpeggio B, D#, F#, A in contrary motion, Thumbs at B (an octave above middle B)

The next video extracted from the same lesson, draws on more catchwords to aid fluidity of technique: “roll” into the scale; Don’t Anticipate–Be in the here and now; think Slowly through fast passages; feel the rolling turnaround at either end of the scale, “BREATHE.”

Molasses also applies here, because it suggests density, and precludes the tracing paper, skimming on top of the keys touch and tone.

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Learning and Memorizing Clementi Sonatina in C, Op. 36, No. 1, Mvt. 1 (Video)

I begin by playing the Sonatina, first movement and then I map out the composition to advance thoughtful learning and memorization.

RELATED:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/memorization-at-the-piano-how-to-improve-your-skills/

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Piano Technique and Weight Control: Bringing out and balancing voices (Video) Teacher, Shirley Kirsten

When students do routine scales and arpeggios as warm-ups to their tour de force pieces, I like to spice things up a bit by playing around with voicing and weight control. (Yes, you heard me right) I’ll surprise them by asking for the Left hand notes to be fleshed out, while the Right ones are subdued. Initially, my request throws everyone for a loop, eliciting quizzical looks that could be freeze framed and imported to You Tube–a collage of raised eyebrows, and collective chagrin. The whole spectacle would definitely be worth a million hits past Nora the Cat pawing the keys of a Yamaha grand.

As a heads up helper and student stress reliever, I take a hard cover book and hold it palms up in my Left hand, while I have a flimsy soft covered one in my Right. While it’s a flip-side teaching model, the basic concept comes across: heavier in one hand and lighter in the other. (There’s no doubt that muscle memory kicks in)

In driving my points across, I might also allude to feeling an upper body fullness filtering down the arms, through the elbows, wrists, fingers, into the keys vs. an opposite, easing up sensation. (That’s where weight control comes in) In truth, most students can stand to gain a few pounds of pressure when weighing into the keys versus tickling the ivories).

Weight measuring at the piano is pivotal to voicing and students will observe me doing weight bearing maneuvers as living, breathing examples.

Sometimes I will do a push-up of sorts, finding my dead weight upper body core, and leveraging myself against the keyboard with embracing hands. That’s when the wooden key slip starts making a racket (tennis anyone?)

This basic gravitational connection to the instrument is the impetus for modified weigh-ins. No, not the type associated with boxing: Heavy weight, Light weight and Feather weight divisions? Sports analogies save the day when standard piano teaching lingo does not adequately serve me. Tennis again? with that power-packed serve requiring weight transfer from the back foot springing forward to the front with dead center gravity at play.

Bottom line, when you want to bring out the left hand in a scale, think “heavier” or deeper into the keys. But know that “deeper” may not be enough if concurrent, relaxed, dead weight is not the back-up. Connection into the keys whether light or heavy remains a constant while skimming the surface of keys is not an option.

The attached video demonstrates various weight applications used in drawing out voices using scales and arpeggios as the vehicle.

Here are some routines:

1) Play a four-octave scale in 16ths in parallel motion–Legato–smooth and connected Forte singing tone (Allegretto tempo, or in a slower frame if you choose)

Start by voicing deeper into the Right Hand. Use the dead weight application I mentioned. The left hand should feel “lighter” reduced to medium soft (mp) or soft (p), if possible.

2) Do the same, fleshing out the Left hand notes, subduing the Right. Keep the Forte singing tone in the bass, and go way down to piano. in the treble

3) Finally evenly balance the voices.

Steps one, two and three can enlist STACCATO for variety.

Students can also explore Contrary motion scales with thumbs at the starting note, going out for three octaves and returning to the beginning point.

Bring out the Left hand in one playing, then the Right in the next, or in reverse order.

Finally evenly balance the voices.

Do the same overall routine with a four octave arpeggio in Parallel motion, then play in contrary motion. You’ll be using legato and staccato approaches. Mix it up for variety.

***

So why take the trouble to turn your keyboard world upside down like those pilots who do aeronautical gymnastics?

Well, because to play the piano repertoire from Classical to Pop, requires “voicing.” All music requires a balance of voices in one form or another. Schumann, for example, often intentionally slips inner voices into his compositions, making the pianist take notice. Fleshing these out, reveals the full blossomed beauty of his works. Beethoven’s Adagio from the “Pathetique” Sonata begins with three voices and progresses at some places to four. The quartet scoring must have a resonating melody, a rolling alto, subdued tenor and framing bass. The player must decide what he must draw out in the course of a composition, and how the fabric of lines is woven. Such decisions about voicing are synthesized into a kinetic/aural/ and affective(emotional) frame.

Jazz pianists who are part of a larger or smaller ensemble, where blending and interaction of voices is intrinsic to a performance, may want to flesh out a theme that’s jumped from the treble into the bass or alto voice. So knowing what it takes to draw out a line is pivotal to a jam session or performance.

“Voicing” then, is universal to the piano repertoire in its various forms and media and should be cultivated artfully with an awareness of weight applications and sound images.

RELATED:
Thumb shifts in playing scales and arpeggios

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/piano-technique-thumb-shifts-in-playing-scales-and-arpeggios-video/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/sports-and-piano-technique-how-about-chunking-on-you-tube/