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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)


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.


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 performance: The moment of creation can be deceiving and how we can learn from video playbacks

I was telling a musical friend about the discrepancy between what we think we’re hearing during our own performances and what bears out in a review of our self-made recordings. This is why teaching and learning opportunities abound in comparing one reading to another by way of video/audio replays.

It’s not only our own playing than can grow in this process, but our students can directly benefit by hearing/watching themselves after rendering a well-studied piece.

One of my pupils, Claudia, who participated in the yearly Baroque Festival held in the Central Valley (my former area of residence) spent the better part of her lessons a few weeks before the event, recording her Bach Invention 13 (A minor) and C minor Prelude BWV 847 in my studio. And not only did she become aware of phrases that needed refinement, but I learned enormously from our collective critique.

Here are some examples of how this process played out:

Claudia recorded the C Minor Prelude, and separately the A minor Invention:

We reviewed both videos, and this follow-up lesson attempted to improve phrasing in both works.

I recommend this process as a teaching tool, but also as an individual enrichment of our side-by-side, ever-growing musical journey.