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Piano Practicing: Breathing into phrases and blocking out passages (Mozart Sonata, example)

I’ve picked the first two pages of Mozart’s Sonata in Bb Major, K. 281, last movement, Rondeau, Allegro to explore breathing and blocking techniques in the learning process. (These principles can be applied to practicing music from a variety of eras)

Starting a composition is often taken for granted. Sometimes students will land on a first note, for example, with the force a belly plop into a pool. Others will forget there are opening notes, (as the 4-16ths upbeat of Mozart Sonata K. 333 in Bb) They’ll breathe a sigh of relief, once they’ve managed to elude them, moving with alacrity to longer, spaced-out notes.)

Yet, this very “sigh of relief,” can be utilized as a relaxed stream of expressed air to usher in a pleasing opening note or notes.

Naturally, breathing into phrases with ease should be ongoing as a composition flows, so biofeedback becomes a vital practicing ingredient. (I recommend that students keep a journal of awakenings)

Blocking

Blocking out passages to obtain fluidity is a simultaneous part of the learning spectrum. Thinking in “groups” of notes, especially with fast passages, encourages “fast melody,” instead of chaotic crowds of notes without shape, meaning or contour. Knowing the geography of notes, therefore, is an organizer that helps smooth out phrases (Relaxed arms and supple wrists accompany)

The first video below spotlights the aforementioned practicing areas, adding an awareness of dynamic contrasts/ weight transfer, and the use of solfeggiated syllables (do, re, mi, etc) to follow and absorb voices. (Separate hand practice and voice parceling within a slow, behind tempo frame are recommended)


Play through
(still behind tempo)

Mozart k281 rondeau p 1

Mozart k 281 rondeau p 2

LINK

Chopin, Warm-ups and the Art of Breathing

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/piano-warm-ups-and-the-art-of-breathing-video/

Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19 Op. posthumous, classissima, classissima.com, Frederic Chopin, piano instruction, piano lessons, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano, Uncategorized, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube

The joy of working on Chopin’s phrasing with an adult student (Waltz in A minor, No. 19, Op. Posth.) Videos

At this point in my teaching career, I have a studio of mostly adult students. (counting the ones “Skyping” in from the continent and elsewhere)

These are pupils who haven’t been forced to take lessons. They’re bundled with enthusiasm, determined to learn and follow-up with a conscientious practicing effort.

For any teacher this is a blessing.

Last night, in particular, was a feast.

A pupil and I were on a common wave-length, expressing the beauty of Chopin’s music.

PHRASING was the centerpiece of our reciprocal learning universe.

***

In the following video, I’ve extracted excerpts from our evening’s lesson that flesh out the creative, cognitive, affective and kinesthetic dimensions of teaching:

Part One:

Part Two:

P.S. Members of Facebook’s “Art of Piano Pedagogy” forum have been have been exploring the issue of students developing an individual approach or personality in re: pieces studied.

My feeling remains that we as teachers provide the tools a student needs to individualize expression as he grows and develops.

"Splashing in the Brook" by Gillock, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano technique, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano, William Gillock, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Piano Technique: Turning a door knob helps a 9-year old piano student in her practicing (Videos)

I use various motions extracted from daily life to teach fluidity in piano playing. In this particular example lifted from a lesson-in-progress, Ilyana, 9, applies a door knob-turning gesture to smooth out a passage from William Gillock’s “Splashing in the Brook.”

It’s also helpful to enlist mental imagery to capture the mood of a composition. In this case, the composer has the piece’s character embedded in the title.

In the videos attached, I emphasize a “playful” scene and a “rippling” brook. The water image, in particular, softens the impact of the opening measures. A contrasting pair of FORTE measures, follows with a wave-like motion.

Extra-musical suggestions go a long way to improve technique and musicianship. They frame the music with something bigger than the narrow goal of playing the “right notes.”

In so many words, the joy a student derives from playing the piano comes from his imagination springing to life.

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Piano Technique: Rotation, Turnaround, and Curve around of scales, with application to repertoire (Videos)

Piano students, by and large, don’t relish playing scales. They would rather eat spinach than practice what they view as tedious, finger-trippers.

I have a different perspective.

For me, scales are my playground and workout space. They keep me in shape, fine tuning my ears to their internal undulations and curvy turnarounds. They translate from aural images, into buoyant, touchy-feely journeys across the keyboard with a tie-in to pieces I study.

Practicing them in a tradition-bound sequence around the Circle of Fifths, also provides a solid harmonic and theoretical foundation. They’re the underpinning of chords that form progressions which influence melodic contouring.

So even if students are turned off by the academic side of scale practice—needing to process the content of sharps and flats for each key, they can easily be redirected to a vibrant, athletically-charged arena, with sports metaphors woven in.

A pitcher on the mound, for instance, winds up for the pitch, preparing its delivery in a series of graceful synchronized movements.

The pianist will likewise roll into scales at the right moment, rippling his way to the top with a curvaceous turnaround that avoids an angular finger poke.

Most students will crowd the notes in the last octave, finding themselves tagged out before the scale makes it safely back home. Known as a choke, it’s often a sports commentator’s analysis of a faulty play on the baseball diamond or football field.

For piano students, who might be tackling C# Major with 7 sharps, white included, such a finger pile-up instigated by tension, can be blocked by a rotation that smooths out a stream of notes on the descent, making it feel like a breezy journey down the ski slope.

Finally, what better way to justify the time spent practicing scales, than to find a composition that’s pleasantly permeated by them. I’ve picked an Intermediate level piece that’s popular among students of all ages.

But first, tips on how to pace and curve around scales that form their own unique category by a symmetry of double and triple black keys. These are good springboards to practice melodic shaping and rotation. I’ve thrown in a slow motion replay in the spirit of athletic adventure.

Latour Sonatina in C Major

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Using piano repertoire as a springboard for a theory lesson: Major, minor and Diminished Chords (Videos)

One of my adult students is working on the gorgeous J.C. Bach Prelude in A minor which has a second page full of “Major,” “Minor” and “Diminished” chords. The sonorities progress in sequences, but they also have a secondary dominant relationship to resolving chords. The “harmonic rhythm” moves quickly.

While this particular pupil may not be ready to understand “functional” harmony or the “modulation” dimension of the broken chords as they occur in the B section, she could learn how to form “Major,” “minor” and “diminished” chords, and then appreciate their differences through ear-training exposure.

In this video, sent between lessons, I reviewed Major, minor and Diminished chords and their derivation from five-finger positions which she has been studying in the Major and Parallel minor. The fact that the chords (broken) moved in a sequence, or a pattern also helped her navigate this section.

The Secondary Dominant aspect had been briefly noted, but will be more deeply explored as the student’s scale work around the Circle of Fifths gives an opportunity to build chords on every degree of the scale, noting harmonic relationships, cadences, and modulations.

Teaching Video:

In part B, the music blossoms into a series of secondary Dominants against sobbing, sighing pairs of descending seconds, before it returns to a familiar revisit with part of the opening A section.

Sustaining a melodic line through recurring broken pattern chords is paramount to playing the Prelude poetically and musically. Varying dynamics and tapering phrases are woven into the artistic process.

Playing through entire prelude, first in chords, then as written in broken chord sequence.

RELATED:

Music Theory doesn’t have to be drudgery

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/music-theory-and-piano-study-video-it-doesnt-have-to-be-drudgery/

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Piano Lesson in progress: Beethoven “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31, No. 2 (shaping the opening phrases) Video

An adult student practiced the transition from the opening Largo broken chord, to grouping double 8th-notes in the Allegro, by blocking them, then unraveling the duple figures.

The Adagio that followed required phrasing with an ear toward shaping the line in a different temporal universe before a spill of note-pairs in a tension-building crescendo.

Video:

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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