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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 Instruction: Pastorale in D Major, K. 415 by Domenico Scarlatti, a stepwise approach

The Pastorale in D, included in Margery Halford’s Scarlatti, An Introduction to his Keyboard Works, poses significant musical challenges. In the technical realm, the composer has a tricky landscape of two-note legato figures as offbeats in the treble, and these are set against bass, dotted quarter rhythms. (This counterpoint is later inverted in the middle section)-Note that 12/8 meter is felt in 4.

Intertwined with this mosaic are a series of apoggiaturas, or non-harmonic tones that resolve into the bass chords through redundant two-note groupings. These passing harmonic clashes in duple 8ths are strongly “motivic” meaning they reflect the composer’s main idea in its smallest form.

In realizing these redundant figures, the pianist has to carefully lean on the dissonant note, and artfully resolve it. A supple wrist helps to shape down these slurs.

In my video instruction, I show ways to practice the Pastorale, starting with separate hands, isolating voices, blocking, and tracking harmonies. The application of a flexible wrist is naturally indispensable to this whole learning process, and playing with a singing tone should underlie all practicing.

LINKS:

LIVE webcam instruction at POWHOW

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

***

Scarlatti Sonata in G, K. 431 Tutorial

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/learning-a-new-piano-piece-quickly-and-thoroughly-videos/

Scarlatti Minuetto in C, L. 217 Tutorial:

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

Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Skype, teaching piano, video instruction, video performances, video supplementation of piano lessons, virtual piano lessons, virtual piano teaching, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, Yeti mic, Yeti microphone, you tube, you tube video, yout tube

Skyping piano lessons with an iMac, Logitech cam, and Yeti mic (videos)

Here’s my set-up for Skyped piano instruction.

A travel itinerary minus airport delays and x-ray scanners included stop-offs in Pennsylvania, Sydney, Australia; Portland Oregon, and London, England.

Lessons have been scheduled as needed.

A Power Point-less presentation offers more:

***

A Skype lesson-in-progress to Sydney fleshes out a bi-screen video landscape. (two Logitechs in synch)

I always suggest video supplements to real-time, virtual learning because they allow a closer examination of student problem areas with an eye toward remedies.

Video sharing is even better, where a pupil sends off an Unlisted or Private You Tube playing snippet, and I dash off a video response.

In a word, modern technology in various forms can be enlisted to meet the needs of students who require scheduling convenience amidst a busy work day, or who live in a rural area without easy access to a private teacher.

***

LINK: A Video supplement to a Skyped piano lesson

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/a-video-supplement-to-a-skyped-piano-lesson-instruction-for-minuet-in-g-minor-from-anna-magdalena-bachs-notebook/

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More and more “piano” students are going Digital. Is it a good idea?

It’s sad but true that a glut of former piano buyers who would have considered piano lessons for their children at age 7 or so, have made the choice to invest in a DIGITAL. (known as a DP)

Of further testimony to the culture’s relatively new fixation on electronic piano technology, are the 35,000 plus You Tube hits my DP overview has amassed, compared to a mainstream “acoustic” offering that snagged the spotlight because of my bench potato CAT.

The CAT and Chopin

Considering the above, which musical purveyance is more pleasing?

I’d say hands down that Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (below) would be better rendered on an acoustic than a Roland, etc. based on tone dimension and timbre alone. The “feel” of a real piano, also cannot be compared to any so-called mimicked “hammer-weighted” electronic keyboard, though many buyers have tried to trick their hands, not to mention EARS into believing so.

“Fur Elise” rendered on a Steinway (Compare to Roland/Yamaha samples)

So having voiced my bias against digitals, why would I have invested hours of time scoping them out at Guitar Center and Best Buy? No less, bringing a video camera along for the ride? (thanks to Guitar Center’s CEO, Jeremy Cole for the written permission, and to Matthew Wheeler at BB)

Well, reality is, that the purchasing trend is in this direction, and if I tabulated all the inquiries fielded for an opinion on which one to buy, it would stagger the reader’s imagination.

It’s a fact that shoppers are flocking to acquire DPs at every opportunity and they haven’t stopped for a moment to think of what they are sacrificing in this fever-driven pursuit.

***

Elaine Comparone, a well-known New York City-based concert performer injected a bit of social commentary about the wave of DP buying. It was after I had bemoaned the number of parents contacting me for piano lessons who had electronic keyboards. Some of their prize musical possessions amounted to 61, bell and whistle sounds, with a few “belches” thrown in for special effect.

Elaine’s thoughts were riveting:

“I think a lot of this is economic along with the pervasive effect of pop culture. Which of these kids, or parents for that matter, have ever seen or heard a real instrument on TV or live? Real music study has become a pastime for the wealthy elites where years ago it was a sine qua non of immigrant working class culture. But it behooves us to hang in there and pass along genuine musical values, which can exist in myriad musical forms. Blah blah…..”

I added to the mix that “real” pianos sold at dealerships were beyond the financial means of the average instrument buyer, though, ironically, struggling consumers might in a flash, slap down a credit card for a $4100 Roland equipped with EVERYTHING, like a snazzy new car with all imaginable options.

Try this DP out for size:

One Facebook correspondent owned a 9-foot Steinway grand, but had the luxury to invest in a pricey Digital console that would yield hours of pleasure with its fancy accouterments.

Initially plagued by making a choice between a LX10 Roland at $4,100 and a $2900 Yamaha CLP 440, she was biased toward the Roland based on its “accelerated action and weighted keys from bass to treble unlike the Yamaha.”

It could also simulate the so-called Steinway grand piano sound with a simple finger tap.

Other consumers, of more modest means, might have gone the less expensive route buying a portable or more modestly priced console like the Yamaha Arius going for about $1100 plus tax.

Still, when it came right down to it, teaching piano to a child or adult equipped with a “hammer-weighted” digital wouldn’t be same as working with an acoustic.

I Skyped a few piano lessons to rural Pennsylvania, where a DP flashed up on the screen. In time, after the first virtually transmitted instruction, it was tossed in favor of a twangy Haddorff 1941 console. To call the latter a saloon piano would have been an understatement, though its “feel” and “resonance” appealed to the owner.

I could relate.

The decay rate of any note on this “real” piano was astounding. It reverbed to the heavens despite its shortcomings attached to a poor maintenance history.

By coincidence, I had purchased my treasured Haddorff 1951, advertised on Craig’s List for $700, and it played circles around any digital in the tone and timbre department. (Though I will admit that its tuning needs were frequent, compared to tune-free electronic instruments)

Nonetheless, the above example alone, proves to me, that there are many worthy used pianos waiting to be purchased, and like mine, they may be located around the corner.

I’ve helped any number of students acquire pianos before the digital rage took hold and these purchases included Baldwin Acrosonics and Wurlitzers from the 50s, 60s and 70s era.

Just a decade ago most parents who contacted me for lessons had one of these acoustic pianos in their home. Today, the majority own a Casio, Yamaha, or a lesser known DP, and they have no idea that embarking upon instruction might require the real deal as far as some piano instructors are concerned. (myself included, though I’ve made adjustments for students who have little or no space for even a console or spinet piano)

***

But for piano study to be meaningful, it entails properly teaching the singing tone, touch, phrasing, nuance, “feel” which means a student needs to practice on a functional acoustic piano– one without sticking notes, missing notes or blanks, etc. In addition, the instrument needs to have tuning viability. (an able technician can examine the tuning pins, hammers, strings, etc. before a particular piano is acquired)

Many DP owners boast the critical lack of need and cost associated with tuning or regulation. (not to mention having climate-free concerns ) While these may be definite advantages, the trade-off in other areas of assessment is, in my opinion, not worth it. And I’m not talking about the hours of recreation and pleasure afforded by DPs. That’s FUN and great. My concern surrounds TEACHING and passing on a traditional legacy that has been time-honored for generations. (and that goes for mentoring “beginners.” There’s no reason for the training-wheels equivalent of a digital as predecessor to a real piano) One piano teacher’s website, for example, shows a row of 3-year olds wearing over-sized ear phones, hooked up to computer screens and attached digitals. She claims they are Mozarts in-the-making.

I’ve heard that song sung so often, that it’s become a dissonant reminder of the status quo.

But to inject some humor into this posting,

Evgeni Bozhanov, a distinguished Bulgarian pianist who competed in the last Cliburn International Piano Competition, was quoted as being unhappy with the complimentary Steinway grand donated to his host family in Fort Worth Texas as he prepared for his first-round musical appearance.

Pictured at a Yamaha Clavinova practicing a warhorse Rachmaninoff piano concerto, he was the poster boy for musical sobriety, shrugging off the arrogance of effete snob pianists who might discredit him. (Would that happen to be me?)

So on this disturbingly confusing note, I’ll conclude by sharing my voiced fears about the survival of the acoustic piano culture as channeled in a previous blog.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/is-the-piano-a-dying-breed/

RELATED:

My “new” old 1929 Baldwin grand–a tribute to a seasoned used piano. For me, no digital can come close to it.

***
Footnote to item about Evgeni Bozhanov, from Wilson Pruitt who blogged about the last Van Cliburn Piano Competition

http://varropieces.blogspot.com/2009/06/bozhanov.html

“Things we know about Bozhanov: … He doesn’t like Steinways, especially American-made Steinways, and definitely not the brand-new New York grand that was delivered to his host family’s house so he could practice. Instead, his host family bought a Yamaha Clavinova electronic piano for him to use for practice (while in Texas) … He travels with his own piano bench.” (which looks like one of those DP jobs)

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Abby Whiteside and playing beyond the fingers as a point of departure (Videos)

From WIKI:

Abby Whiteside (1881–1956) was an influential American piano teacher. She challenged the finger-centric approach of much classical piano teaching and instead advocated a holistic attitude in which the arm and torso are the conductors of a musical image conceived first in the mind and soul.

This quote is riveting:

“Why spend dull hours with Hanon when the arm can easily furnish all the power that is needed without specialized training? If we could only believe in nature’s way instead of in traditional concepts, so much wasted time, boredom, and ultimate frustration could be avoided.” Mastering the Chopin Etudes and Other Essays, p. 178

The Hanon reference evokes a teacher at the Oberlin Conservatory who assigned all his students the same package of taxing Schmitt five-finger exercises for the piano, op. 16 (c1922) Pupils were instructed to practice these on a daily basis for months, if not years, in pursuit of a BIG, enviable Technique.

Unfortunately, the paper thin walls of a NEW (at the time) Conservatory structure, allowed these time-warped exercises to filter into rooms from every angle, producing a sad choir of droning, pedantic interludes. (My own Schmitt-driven efforts were drowned out by students inhabiting cubicles above and beside me.)

Overdosed on Schmitt, I desperately sought a teacher change in my Freshman year, jumping from one studio to another, meeting up with the same fruitless prescribed regimen in vogue at the time. And most often it led nowhere, causing pain and injury by its rigid embrace of a fixed hand position.

Obviously, Abby Whiteside, sensed a need for REFORM, that predated the referenced scourge at Oberlin and other conservatories and made a whopping contribution in the teaching arena. But so did others, like Mildred Portney-Chase who became personally enlightened through her self-explorations, carefully logged in Just Being at the Piano, Berkeley Press.

A changed consciousness about piano playing, however, is often limited by the written word, so the physical presence of a teacher beside a student is the ideal. Still, in this day and age, the Internet imports Masterclasses where distinguished mentors impart wisdom about technique, phrasing and overall musicianship.

In this spirit, I often go You Tubing, like others surf the Malibu waves, expanding my consciousness.

Watching an artist flowing in and out of phrases with fluidity is for me, a prime learning experience.

By example here’s a video performance that I revisit, study and try to emulate as a remarkable fusion of the physical and musical aspects of playing: (with a permeating SINGING tone)

Irina Morozova–Chopin Mazurka, Op. 63, No. 3

And another for liquid phrasing and enlistment of rolling arms, undulating wrists: Yeol Eum Son plays George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” (Arr. Earl Wild)

George Li, 16, performs Liszt Consolation no. 3

Lang, Lang plays Liszt’s Liebestraum

Having an up front and personal teacher demonstrating the use of bigger energies in playing the piano, in lieu of fingers down reliance, is always a nice start. Enrichment of private lessons with concert attendance and selective You Tube excursions fills out the learning triad.

LINKS:

Morozova:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/ethereal-piano-playing-another-irina-with-an-i-in-the-middle-brings-heaven-to-earth/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/irina-morozova-pianist-shines-playing-gershwin-virtuoso-transcriptions-on-cd/

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Playing through Chopin’s B minor Waltz with its sighing motif (Video commentary)

Last night I sat myself down at my imperfectly regulated Steinway M grand and managed to sigh several times through torrents of phrases crafted by design and inspiration to tug at the heartstrings.

And in the video below, I journeyed in baby steps through this intensely emotional landscape pinpointing how I could flesh out the SIGHs that spill from recurrent tied notes in Chopin’s somber Waltz in B Minor, Op. 69, No.2. (The singing tone–molto cantabile-is intrinsic to this music)

It seemed natural to draw a comparison to the violin in the execution of such repetitive figures. If I had a bow in my hand I would delay entry into the string and follow through with a deliberate broadening of the tone. (I spent six years of my life studying violin noting its carryover to the keyboard)

No doubt it’s easier to draw a slow bow than to translate this effect to the piano, but a pianist can accomplish the same by entering a note from below using a dipping wrist.

The permeating tied notes that seek relief in a curve down, dissipating motion flow into a contrasting middle section in D Major, marked con anime, with animation. Here the notes are lifted and configured in groups of three leading to a longer note.

To realize the vibrancy and unique character of the dotted-quarters springing from the shorter eighths, still another delayed entry into these longer ones is suggested. But just as conspicuous is the circular motion of the phrases that move the composition along. To best flesh out these shapes, I enlist the right elbow to swing in and out in counter-clockwise movement.

In measures where there is a sudden note-wise build-up in passion and intensity (forte outpourings, along with a staccato, or PORTATO) I find that broadening these streams of notes thwarts a tendency to crowd them. And allied to this more relaxed, freedom of expression is a tasteful application of rubato.

A second interlude in the B minor Nocturne utilizes the Parallel B Major key, giving the composition a lift. But no sooner than our emotions are plied, we are pulled back to the somber opening theme with its elaboration that closes the composition in sighing despair.

I consider this Waltz a favorite of mine and dote upon Artur Rubenstein’s reading on You Tube. His performance has a disarming simplicity, framed in a relaxed tempo. In all, the master takes about 4 minutes to weave his poetry with the grace and beauty he’s known for.

LINK:

What Pianists can Learn from String Players

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/what-pianists-can-learn-from-string-players/

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Piano Technique: Chunking an A minor Arpeggio over Skype (Between CA and Australia) -VIDEO

The chunking technique of developing pianistic fluency filtered down to an adult student as he practiced his A minor arpeggio over Skype.

Mindful practicing required an awareness of common thumb points on each side of his “tunnel” fingers, C and E.

I had previously discussed the Bb Major arpeggio that did not have thumb through “tunnel” symmetry, while the F# Major arpeggio (played exclusively on black keys) had “mirror” tunnel fingers 3,2 and 2, 3 between the hands, (on A# and C#) making it feel somewhat easier to navigate than Bb.

“A” minor, on the other hand, came with common thumb points in the body of its arpeggio, though its tunnels weren’t exact mirrors of each other. The middle notes C and E were played with left hand finger numbers 4, 2, while the right hand used 2 and 3 on the same notes.

In chunking out the A minor arpeggio, a student would begin with thumb on A in the right hand, and 5 on A in the left and then play out the tunnel groupings or clusters with intervening thumbs.

In the following video, the above approach was enlisted to remedy problems related to accuracy. Thinking in grouping of notes will surely aid velocity and agility.


RELATED:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/piano-technique-tackling-the-bb-major-arpeggio-in-chunks-video/

Practicing the F# Major Arpeggio:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/piano-technique-braving-the-slippery-slope-of-black-keys-practicing-the-f-major-arpeggio-video/