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Video supplements for piano students assist practicing

Whether giving piano lessons LIVE or by SKYPE, sending students video excerpts of their lessons-in-progress, or creating a short film that zeroes in on a particular technical challenge, is always helpful.

In the old days when I studied with Lillian Freundlich in NYC, a reel-to-reel tape recorder was the standard for memorializing lessons. No tripod or camcorder was in sight, so it was an interminable wait to the next lesson for clarification about trills, mordants, fingerings, etc.

In the Millennium it’s a different world, with Macs, Ipads, Smart Phones etc. as standard fare. Students will even mount their technology on the piano rack while practicing. (A ticking metronome is activated by iPhone)

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This past week, I tabled my camcorder beside the El Cerrito Baldwin grand, and collected footage of J.C. Bach’s Prelude in A minor played by an adult student.

DSC06172

Since the piece is composed of woven broken chords throughout, it was useful to have the pupil block out sonorities before unraveling them.

(The challenge most face in this undertaking, is keeping a supple wrist to avoid a hard crash on the keyboard, so various mental images along with physical demonstrations often soften the impact)

The first image enlisted was playing into a bowl of “jello,” followed by “molasses,” but in the last analysis, “quicksand” worked best.

For another pupil, I created a video segment as prep for his playing a C Major scale up and down in one octave. After having added in a snatch of triplets to 16ths as applied to the Mozart Minuet in F, K. 5, I sent it out as a portable assist for a diligent student who practices over his lunch break at work.

In summary, videos prepared by teachers plus resources found on You Tube enrich the practicing environment and help pupils progress from week to week.

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Piano Instruction: Mozart Minuet and Trio in G, K. 1 (Videos)

Composed when Mozart was just 5, this charming Minuet and Trio has a variety of rhythms and melodic shapes which pose a challenge to the player. The singing tone reigns in any rendering, and the shift of mood embedded in echo phrases as well as a transition to a Forte Trio require varying degrees of weight transfer down the arms into supple wrists. A passing minor section can’t go by without making it noticeable to the listener, and then the Minuet’s return at the conclusion must be realized with nobility.

The grouping of notes to create a Mozartean landscape is another challenge. In this particular edition there are specific slurs which seem to reflect the composer’s intent, though perhaps other publications might differ in matters of articulation.

Play through:

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Piano Instruction: Practicing the “windy” chromatic scale of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”

After a stream of graceful arpeggiated triplets, a “windy” sounding, descending chromatic scale leads artfully back to the opening theme that concludes “Fur Elise.”

The traditional chromatic fingering I’ve inserted in the score corresponds to the 1/2-step sequence beginning on Bb: Black/white, Black/white Black/White/White etc. 3, 1, 3, 1, 3, 2, 1 etc.

Video Instruction

Through a lesson-in-progress with an adult student, I fleshed out ways to phrase, shape, and smooth out these referenced measures permeated by rolling triplet figures.(79-85)

LINK:

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

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Learning a new piano piece quickly and thoroughly (Videos)

I challenged myself to quickly learn the shortest Scarlatti sonata on record (K. 431 in G) and share the principles of developing this piece to a level of fluidity with interested students. Perhaps it would help them navigate a new musical landscape.

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Looking over the two-page Scarlatti score, we notice a preponderance of broken-chord figures in the right hand and these offer the perfect opportunity for blocking before unraveling them. Naturally, having a bit of theory under our belt, helps give context to these progressions. It provides another way of “knowing” them, and this “cognitive” mapping deepens our learning process as long as it doesn’t become an exclusive END in itself.

Same for fingering-driven learning. (Remember the paint by finger number kits?)

The musical side of knowing has to underlie the creative process, regardless of rational “assists” we devise along the way. That’s why the cognitive and AFFECTIVE ways of understanding a new piece should fuse together from the start.

In the video instruction below, I offer guidance about fingering, harmonic outline, phrasing, shape, form, nuance and mood.

When these ingredients are in harmony and balance, then the playing outcome will be satisfying sooner than later.

Instruction:

Play through in tempo:

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/piano-instruction-domenico-scarlatti-minuetto-in-c-l-217-videos/


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

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Piano Instruction: Part FIVE, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31 no. 2 Measures 93 to 158 (Development, Recitative, submerged pedal)

This is a hauntingly beautiful section of the first movement.

After the composer has devoted so many preceding measures to the key of A minor, he decides to travel at quick intervals through a series of different keys. Such fast-paced modulations occur primarily with the return of the crossed-hands portion of the piece, beginning in F# minor at double forte level. (FF) (measure 99)

But before we get to this intensified point, Beethoven re-introduces a Largo, following the SECOND ENDING, which draws on the opening broken chord ROLL. The harmonies through which he passes are quite mystical. (especially when a D Major rolled-out chord is followed by a diminished one starting on B#) The third and final rolled chord in F# evokes the gates of heaven opening. At this point, the player must experience a divine revelation so he can communicate it convincingly to the listener.

The same mysticism blankets a Recitative, measures 144-148; and 155-158 with a submerged sustain pedal which is in itself, an innovative harmonic event in a Classical period sonata.

In fact, the “Tempest” is a ground-breaking composition just because the composer explores new tonal and harmonic regions while expanding beyond conservative form boundaries.

My video instruction elaborates upon this commentary:

LINKS:

Part ONE: Beethoven Tempest Sonata in D minor

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/practicing-tips-for-beethovens-tempest-sonata-op-31-no-2-part-one-video/

Part TWO Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/piano-instuction-part-two-beethovens-tempest-sonata-hand-cross-over-with-tremolo-in-the-middle-voice/

Part THREE Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/piano-instruction-part-three-beethoven-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2/

Part FOUR Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/piano-instruction-part-four-beethovens-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2-measures-55-93/

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Piano Instruction, Part FOUR, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2 (measures 55-93)

This tutorial references measure 55 to 93.

The composer settles into A minor through these measures and reinforces the A minor tonic to Neapolitan progression. (A minor to Bb Major chord) He elaborates, varies, and introduces a beautiful contrapuntal interplay of voices between treble and bass in measures 69-87. (All in A minor)

With a touch of majesty, Beethoven sneaks in a G7 chord that terminates the chromatic (half-step) movement in measure 69, leading to C Major, though not for long. A minor is promptly reinstated with a lovely dialog transpiring between treble and bass. (In counterpoint)

Not soon enough, the composer meanders back to the opening ROLLED chord which is the Dominant of D minor, the home key –and we are at the beginning again, with a REPEAT.

LINKS:

Part ONE: Beethoven Tempest Sonata in D minor

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/practicing-tips-for-beethovens-tempest-sonata-op-31-no-2-part-one-video/

Part TWO Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/piano-instuction-part-two-beethovens-tempest-sonata-hand-cross-over-with-tremolo-in-the-middle-voice/

Part THREE Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/piano-instruction-part-three-beethoven-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2/

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Practicing tips for Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31 No. 2, Part ONE: (Video)

Because I found myself rambling on and on about the first page, I decided to compartmentalize the instruction to make it easier to absorb.

And since I played the “Tempest” years ago, the surest route to my restoring the piece to a respectable performance level, was to practice it from the ground up in slow tempo.

As I re-approached this Sonata, I relied heavily on CLUMPING or CLUSTERING groups of notes.

The opening two measures that resonate with a peaceful broken chord in the Dominant, are followed by a rapid stream of melodic seconds in a tempestuous descent. (The duality of the motif is clear)

In the video, I demonstrate a wrist forward motion as I clump the seconds which embody non-harmonic upper neighbor tones that are passing dissonances.

Clumping these 2nds (appoggiaturas) and throwing the wrist forward for each group of two allows a bigger and more effective energy to mobilize the passage.

It also helps with developing a “feel” for the composer’s keyboard landscape before advancing tempo.

The Video Instruction further amplifies: Part 1

LINK

PART TWO, Instruction, Beethoven “Tempest” Sonata

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/piano-instuction-part-two-beethovens-tempest-sonata-hand-cross-over-with-tremolo-in-the-middle-voice/

Another Beethoven Sonata landscape:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/practicing-a-difficult-section-in-beethovens-sonata-pathetique-op-13-movement-1-video/