"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, acoustic piano, arioso 7, blog, blogger, blogging, blogging about piano, blogs about piano, children's music, El Cerrito, El Cerrito California, El Cerrito piano instruction, El Cerrito piano studio, emotion in music, fingering and phrasing at the piano, fingering and piano technique, five finger positions at the piano, five finger warm-ups, Irina Gorin, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Just Being at the Piano by Mildred Portney-Chase, legato playing at the piano, mental imagery, mindful piano practicing, mindful practicing, molto cantabile, MTAC, MTAC.org, New York City, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Oberlin, Oberlin Conservatory, pentascales, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano playing, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano studio in El Cerrito, piano study, piano teacher, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano world-wide, pianoaddict.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing five-finger positions, playing legato at the piano, playing piano, playing staccato, playing staccato at the piano, playing the piano, POWHOW, POWHOW instruction, POWHOW piano instruction, POWHOW.com, practicing a piece in 7 different emotions, practicing arpeggios, practicing piano, practicing piano with relaxation, publishers marketplace, publishersmarketplace, Rina, Rina 4 takes piano lessons, Rina takes piano lessons, rotation in piano playing, scales, shirley kirsten piano teacher in El Cerrito, Shirley Kirsten teaches classes at POWHOW, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Skype a piano lesson to Australia, Skype piano lessons, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, teaching piano to young children, teaching Rina piano, teachinig piano to young children, technique, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, youtube.com

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: 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: Practicing dip/roll motions, and dead weight fat lady to skinny dipper for diminuendo (Videos)

I show my 13-year old student, Albertina how to dip/roll the last measures of Burgmuller’s frenzied Ballade, while applying weight control to taper a phrase. (diminuendo)

We’re on the final lap of preparation for Saturday’s Spring Recital!

ONLINE Webcam piano classes and Instructional schedule:

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

Play through:

arioso 7, authorsden, interpreting Mozart, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, Kinderszenen, legato playing at the piano, Mitsuko Uchida, Mozart piano Sonata in C K. 545, Mozart Sonata K. 545 Andante, music, music and heart, musical inspiration, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, talkclassical.com, teaching piano, technique, the art of piano playing, Uchida pianist, W.A. Mozart, whole body listening, whole body music listening, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, yout tube

In the Piano Universe: Two You Tube Treasures not to miss!

Every so often, I stumble upon an uploaded You Yube performance that grabs my ears. In this instance, it was a Mozart encore offered by pianist, Mitsuko Uchida, that led straight to a compelling videotaped interview with her. With my antennae up and ready for more sparkle to light up my day, I was amply rewarded.

I must admit that when I surveyed first movement readings of K. 545, the “Drawing Room” sonata, I was less intrigued by Uchida’s interpretation (employing a clipped staccato) than by what I found as an afterthought to a concert she had given at an unspecified location. (her short notes, were refined in a portato-like rendering through a soulful Andante)

First, to celebrate an artist, who does not feel obligated to reel off a show-stopping transcription as a tour de force ending to a concert, but instead chooses a slow movement to cap the evening….

I remember how satisfying it was to hear Horowitz bless his audience with Schumann’s “Reverie” as the ultimate conclusion to his recital. (He would precede this offering with virtuoso displays, but not leave the stage without making a peace with himself and his listeners)

And so, Uchida, in this spirit played the second movement of Mozart’s well-known Sonata in C, which by serendipitous opportunity, led to a prized interview that provided an intimate glimpse of her inner thoughts, ideas and philosophy.

Be inspired:

Interview (It’s in English)

RELATED:

Compare readings of Mozart K. 545, Allegro

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/comparing-performances-of-mozart-sonata-in-c-k-545-movement-1-allegro-tempo-alone-can-make-a-big-difference/
***

BIO from Uchida’s Official Website:

http://www.mitsukouchida.com”>http://www.mitsukouchida.com”>http://www.mitsukouchida.com

“…whatever she plays, you always sense that Uchida has thought through the reasons for everything she does, but always in the best interests of communicating what she feels is the emotional essence of the music. It’s a rare, and very precious gift.”
The Guardian

“Mitsuko Uchida is a performer who brings a deep insight into the music she plays through her own search for truth and beauty. She is renowned for her interpretations of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven, both in the concert hall and on CD, but she has also illuminated the music of Berg, Schoenberg, Webern and Boulez for a new generation of listeners. Her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra won four awards, including The Gramophone Award for Best Concerto. Amongst many current projects, Uchida has recently been recording a selection of Mozart’s Piano Concerti with the Cleveland Orchestra, directing from the piano. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote of their performances of K.466 and K.595 in April 2010, ‘Uchida turns in readings of such eloquence, one has no trouble understanding why they’re also being recorded for posterity’ and The Times wrote of the disc issued in October 2009, (K.491 and K.488), which won a Grammy award, ‘Did even the great Clara Haskil play Mozart’s piano music as wonderfully, as completely – with intelligence and instinct perfectly fused – as Mitsuko Uchida?’

“Highlights this season include performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Haitink, Vienna Philharmonic and Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra and Salonen, and the continuation of the Beethoven concerti cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis. Uchida will perform chamber music at the Mozartwoche festival in Salzburg, with the Hagen Quartet in a tour of Japan, and with Magdalena Kožená in Europe. She will give solo recitals in Tokyo, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, London, Chicago and New York.

“Mitsuko Uchida performs with the world’s finest orchestras and musicians. Some recent highlights have been her Artist-in-Residency at the Cleveland Orchestra, where she directed all the Mozart concerti from the keyboard over a number of seasons. She has also been the focus of a Carnegie Hall Perspectives series entitled ‘Mitsuko Uchida: Vienna Revisited’. She has featured in the Concertgebouw’s Carte Blanche series where she collaborated with Ian Bostridge, the Hagen Quartet, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as directing from the piano a performance of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Uchida has also been Artist-in-Residence at the Vienna Konzerthaus, and with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where she performed a series of chamber music concerts and a Beethoven Piano Concerti cycle with Sir Simon Rattle.

“Mitsuko Uchida records exclusively for Decca and her recordings include the complete Mozart piano sonatas and piano concerti; the complete Schubert piano sonatas; Debussy’s Etudes; the five Beethoven piano concerti with Kurt Sanderling; a CD of Mozart Sonatas for Violin and Piano with Mark Steinberg; Die Schöne Müllerin with Ian Bostridge for EMI; the final five Beethoven piano sonatas; and the 2008 recording of Berg’s Chamber Concerto with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez and Christian Tetzlaff. Uchida’s most recent releases are CD’s of Mozart’s concerti K.488 and K.491, and a second disc of K.466 and K.595, both with Uchida directing the Cleveland Orchestra from the piano; and an acclaimed disc of Schumann’s solo piano music, featuring the Davidsbündlertänze and the Fantasie.

“Mitsuko Uchida has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to aiding the development of young musicians and is a trustee of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. She is also Co-director, with Richard Goode, of the Marlboro Music Festival. In June 2009 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

December 2011

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Journey of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano masterclass, piano masterclasses, piano playing, piano playing and breathing, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, piano playing and the singing tone, piano practicing, piano student, piano study, piano teacher, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano technique, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, playing piano, practicing piano, practicing piano with relaxation, publishers marketplace, publishersmarketplace, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, supple wrist in piano playing, teaching piano, teaching piano to children, technique, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Irina Gorin, creator of Tales of a Musical Journey, shares her thoughts about braving a new piano teaching universe

From Irina Gorin:

“An expert is a person who makes all mistakes possible in a very specific field and learns from those mistakes. So I could probably consider myself getting close to being an expert in teaching children. But I hope there are many more mistakes and learning experiences ahead.”

This riveting quote set in motion a series of thoughtful answers to questions I posed to Irina Gorin, creator of Tales of a Musical Journey.

A master teacher with decades of experience, she’s been riding a crest of success with two self-published volumes that have earned acclaim from piano instructors around the world. Satisfied parents, too, are chiming in with their testimonials, forming a choir of praise. All are inspired by two volumes that introduce beginners as young as 4-years old to the “Magical Kingdom of Sounds.” Immersed in a fairy-tale universe, they encounter characters such as King Meter, Fairy Musicalina, Princess Melody, and Prince Rhythm who lead the way with enchantment and imagination.

A child’s progress will be nursed along in carefully conceived baby steps with a fundamental goal of teaching the singing tone and how to physically produce it. Learning in this environment with absorption of musical concepts comes quite naturally. I know, first-hand, because of my experience using Gorin’s Book I with Rina, who began piano lessons at age 4.

(P.S. My review of this material will be published in the Fall 2012 Convention issue of the California Music Teacher Magazine)

***

To widen our understanding of Irina’s motivation to pave a new pedagogical path for beginning piano students, she agreed to answer the following questions.

1) Tell us about your own training in Russia and how it influenced your approach to teaching?

I graduated from a music school, college and conservatory in the Ukraine. (It took more than 20 years of intensive training in total). Teaching was a favorite interest of mine from a very young age. And while performing never was my goal, I did well with those opportunities during my student years. In particular, I enjoyed accompanying and chamber music; playing duets and performing in ensembles. To this day I relish duet-playing with my students, and accompanying them when they study concertos.

I took intensive teaching courses (a total of 8 semesters) in college and conservatory and started working as a teacher at the age of 17. My first teaching experience was at college, where I observed my instructor mentoring the same student every week. The second lesson of the week I would teach this student on my own while my instructor would evaluate progress and move on to the next step in the learning process. In this way, I worked with the same pupil in coordination with my instructor for a total of 2 years, following the child’s progress from a late beginner level to early advanced.

In summary, living in the Ukraine afforded a vast opportunity to observe many master teachers in the lesson environment while it also exposed me to a variety of master classes, concerts, lectures, workshops, not to mention hundreds of books on piano pedagogy.

Eventually, I worked for years in a children’s music school beside 60 piano teachers who were of different ages, backgrounds and experiences. In this stimulating environment, there were joint recitals, discussions, and classes that continued to feed my growing interest in teaching.

2) What prompted you to create your own creative learning materials, given the vast array of popular method books out on the market?

As piano teachers, we always strive to help students make the most progress possible.

We want them to read notes fluently, develop good technical skills, perform confidently and expressively, and above all, we want them to enjoy playing piano and classical music.

These goals are realistic ones if we have the right tools to approach our students in the very early stages of piano study. One tool is a good method book that can size down the presentation of complicated musical ideas, and make them digestible, interesting, logically connected, as well as visually and musically attractive. At the same time, teacher satisfaction with the materials is a high priority.

For more than 30 years of teaching, I had been in search of such an ideal set of method books.

I should backtrack a bit by saying that in the Ukraine where I studied and taught, there were no method books at all. All the materials the teachers had were selected books with no pictures or words to the songs.

The typical first lesson would start like this:

This is the keyboard with white and black keys. Here are the notes ABCDEFG–so let’s play them. Then the teacher would take a student’s hand in her hand and play and name the notes in the middle octave. Following this introduction, the teacher and student played an easy tune on one note with finger # 3, then two notes, and moved on to songs with more fingers and more notes. (A creative teacher could vary this approach)

When I moved to USA in 1993, I was thrilled to discover method books such as as Alfred, Thompson, Bastien, Faber and Faber.

They had pictures; they had words to the songs, and moreover, CD’s with accompaniments. I was amazed by how easy it was to teach students starting with 5-finger positions. It seemed logical and convenient.

So I started teaching all my students with Faber and Faber’s Piano Adventures which soon became my favorite. For certain, these books made my work as a teacher less burdensome. (especially with my lack of an adequate English vocabulary)

But in a short time, I started seeing some big obstacles associated with these materials.

1. Students could not read or play music that was not in a 5-finger position.

With such patterns the five fingers are strictly fixed to certain notes in each position. Very quickly the students realize that they only need to pay attention to the fingerings so there’s no point in “reading” the notes because the same fingers are always “glued” to the same keys.

Sooner or later, however, the students and teachers will have to abandon these playing patterns, at a point when the pupil will suddenly realize that he has not acquired enough skills to read the notes. (The old trick of identifying the notes by fingering will not work when the student proceeds to learn the classical repertoire)

2. Another method-book related weakness was in the realm of technique, despite the existence of an entire album devoted it. Students who were exposed only to this material, had not developed a good hand position.

With fingers being constantly fixed in 5-finger positions for months and sometimes years at a time, young hands became immobile which led to a permanently strained, stiff and clumsy physical approach to playing–along with collapsing fingers and sterile tone.

3. While mentoring young children who had been submerged in these method books for too long, I had the challenge of teaching them to play expressively.

Students exposed to the five-finger positions, could care less about artistry, expression, and tone production.

In addition, the existing piano books did not explore feelings, or different approaches to tone production.

I must admit that part of the problem was tied to the prevalence of digital pianos, where touch could not affect tone.

Nevertheless, method books, likewise didn’t flesh out aspects of tone production. They emphasized loud and soft sounds (p and f) which hadn’t much to do with playing expressively.

So I was concerned with what had happened to feelings of sadness or happiness–being cheerful or gloomy. These were emotions children felt and understood by the age of 4.

4. Another difficulty with the standard method materials, was my having to use 4 or 5 different books in one short 30-minute lesson. These included SEPARATE Theory, Technique, Performance, Rhythm, Popular collections, etc.

Unfortunately, with the arsenal of method books required, many parents refused to buy the Theory, Technique or Performance book. They complained that it was too expensive, or that one or two books were enough. (By the way, I still can’t comprehend how technique and artistry can be separated out from the Lesson or Performance volumes)

As a result, as soon as students transitioned to the classical repertoire, they quit piano lessons, because the learning challenge became overwhelming!

It was devastating! I couldn’t return to the Russian teaching approach with its dry, visually unattractive materials. And besides the Russian selected books moved along too briskly. But I also couldn’t continue using American method books, having experienced unsuccessful results.

So that’s when I started thinking about creating my own method book using a combination of both Russian and American pedagogical approaches, bringing out the best in both.

My goal was to combine learning good technical habits with entertaining and fun musical material, using pictures, stories, and lyrics to the songs that would help students absorb complicated musical concepts. But I knew what a huge undertaking lay before me, and to that point I never had the time for it.

Two years ago, four siblings of my existing students asked to begin piano lessons and all of them were 4-years old. Because I had never taught such young children before (usually starting students at 6 or 7 years old) I couldn’t even imagine teaching them with the existing methods on the market.

So it seemed to be my calling, to make my dream come true.

I started writing several chapters for every lesson, and by the end of the school year I had written two books that make up Tales of a Musical Journey. I also created a supplemental kit for Book 1 and videotaped all my lessons with beginners. With the help of a media professional, I created a DVD with 3.5 hours of lesson excerpts that corresponded to each chapter of Book 1.

3) How are your materials uniquely different?

As pianists and teachers, we know that the main principle of acquiring technical skills is having freedom and flexibility in all the parts of our upper body: arms, fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders. Not a a single note can be played well on the piano if joints are stiff and muscles are tense.

Following the Russian pedagogic approach, I start teaching kids to play only one key at a time using finger #3, because this finger is in the middle of the hand, (the longest and the strongest), and when kids master the balancing of their hand by playing with this finger, it becomes much easier to use other fingers without tensing up unnecessary muscles.

Playing with only one finger also makes it easier to control and relax the shoulders, wrists, etc. which are extremely important in playing the piano.

In this endeavor, I focus on nurturing musical expression and creating a singing tone from the very beginning.

At the same time, a gradual process of learning notes ensures development of good sight-reading skills.

Intrinsic to my teaching, is using ONE book for technique, theory, etc. which saves lesson time and coordinates the materials so they are logically connected and well balanced.

4) I notice that you start children as young as 4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of teaching very young children before they can read or write?

I approach teaching 4-year old students in the same way as I do with the 6-7 or older beginners. Some kids develop earlier and are ready to start piano lessons at a young age (the same applies to reading or math readiness). And while some need to wait until they’re more mature, say by 6 or 8, for others, it might be never, for that matter.

If young students are ready and progress well, and if families are seriously involved in lessons with follow-up home practice, then those kids will have the advantage of reaching certain milestones sooner then other kids their age.

I personally love working with this young age group, but it can sometimes be very emotionally draining. In the end, however, the joys of teaching children outweigh any negatives, so that’s why I continue to seed beginners and develop them to their full potential. It’s a unique privilege I cannot refuse.

RELATED:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/when-great-piano-teaching-must-be-recognized/

Gorin’s You Tube Channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pianoteaching?ob=0&feature=results_main

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Piano Technique: Burgmuller’s Tarentelle, Op. 100-Fueling and shaping fast passages with a dipping, supple wrist (Videos)

Most piano students will have been assigned a Burgmuller selection or two during their formative years of study. And most likely, these would have been snatched from the composer’s Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces, Op. 100 that advance by steps in difficulty, though it can be argued that all contain unique technical challenges.

Composed in the Romantic style, this music is strikingly beautiful while it advances specific technique-related goals.

One of my favorites, “La Tarentelle” in a fast and furious tempo, has its origins steeped in fear.

From Wikipedia

“In the region of Taranto in Italy, the bite of a locally common type of wolf spider, named “tarantula” after the region[3], was popularly believed to be highly poisonous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as tarantism. The stated belief in the 16th and 17th centuries was that victims needed to engage in frenzied dancing to prevent death from tarantism using a very rhythmic and fast music. The particular type of dance and the music played became known as Tarantella.”

It’s no surprise that over time, many composers tried their hand at writing their own Tarantellas. (Italian form)

Rapid, frenzied passage work characterizes Burgmuller’s “Tarantelle,” which requires whole arm activity and supple wrists.

And while it may seem that the fingers are propelling the composer’s music along, they can easily tire if not fueled by a bigger physical energy.

Breathing long, relaxed breaths, being in the moment and thinking slowly through fast stretches of notes, keep the music flowing.

Rolling through three note group figures that are characteristic of 6/8 time, also helps to style and phrase streams of eighth notes. This is where a supple wrist allows an infusion of energy when most needed. For shaping lines, it’s indispensable.

(Notice a SLOW MOTION video-only replay that’s sandwiched into the Lesson video)

A defined section of punctuated quarter note chords found on page 2, shifts the mood and character of the composition giving it a robust, march-like character. At this point, it’s best to style, cajole, and phrase the notes in such a way, that draws listener interest.

Piano Lesson:

Playing Tarentelle in tempo:

RELATED:

La Chasse (The Chase) by Burgmuller


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/piano-technique-re-arranging-hands-for-speed-and-agility-in-burgmullers-la-chasse-the-chase-videos/

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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)