pianist, piano, piano addict.com, piano instruction by Skype, piano students, piano teaching, piano techique, pianos lessons, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld.com, pianoworldwide, staccato, staccato playing, teaching adult students, teaching scales, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

A Fear-less, Horizontal Approach to Staccato playing

Most piano students become DIS-connected when asked to play staccato. Their full blown trepidation wedded to DETACHMENT is so conspicuously on display during scale and arpeggio playing that a teacher must first devise mental cues to bring the student down to earth, in a comfortably secure traction with the keys.

It’s no surprise then, that LEGATO playing (smooth, note-to-note connection) may be the paradoxical entryway to staccato journeys across the 88s. In an octave-by-octave transit that essentially draws on a pianist’s ability to hug the keys, if not drag notes using touch-sensitive weight transfer, a resultant grooved, grounded, and gravitational centering will become the psychological and physical model for subsequent crisp releases. (It’s a natural transition that feeds relaxed and well-shaped staccato playing.)

In the following videos, two adult students respond positively to “horizontal” framings of their arpeggios and scales. They also make nice playing transfers from legato to well-contoured staccato.

Diminished 7th Arpeggio
(In slow and incrementally quicker tempos–Note that a slow-paced staccato rendering retains a horizontal dimension with teacher prompts.)

F#-minor Scale (Melodic form)

pianist, piano, piano lessons, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Steinway A grand piano, Steinway M grand piano, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

One grand piano in, and another out, but not forgotten

My tiny Berkeley apartment had been shrinking by increments with its herd of tight-squeezed grand pianos and digital keyboards. Count in a Baldwin grand acquired in April, 2015; a medium size Steinway grand (5’7″) bequeathed by my father after Oberlin graduation, and two side-by-side digital keyboards–YDP 105, and Yamaha Arius 141. The electronics were fun to play in the wee hours of the morning, with a snug pair of earphones to ensure privacy.

In truth, I had no real need to seal off my practicing from an appreciative audience of neighbors. Many admitted to eavesdropping–pressing their ears against my door, to savor a “free” concert of diverse timbres.

Why, then would I want to add a 6’2″ grand to my overflowing, “colorful” instrument collection?

I had no intention of allowing a tenuous keyboard situation to spiral out of control, until one Saturday, a neighbor’s baritone voice boomed through my door, announcing with urgency that “a Steinway A grand piano” was the centerpiece of a nearby Estate sale.

Instantly, I recognized the Letter “A,” like a dog sniffing out and pursuing a tantalizing beef bone– the impetus of which triggered a Pavlovian response.

I sprang out the door, running like a fiend to the McGee Street framed house only a block away, in hot pursuit of a prized instrument that I’d fantasized about since adolescence.

***

 

The ebony grand with lid open, was a 1911 model, making a stately appearance, and begging to be sampled. In a heartbeat, I was seated at the piano bench, running my fingers over its immaculate set of original ivories that afforded a fluid passage from phrase to phrase.

Steinway full view

Ivory keys

The piano sang like a nightingale and was smooth as silk to the touch. It sparked an impulse to possess it that barred a shred of doubt and common sense.

It was a mad love frenzy that sent me scrambling for my check book.

But first I’d dispatch a technician for a piano inspection.

His thorough assessment came within hours, and was so remarkably positive, that I sensed the man’s imminent, if not fantasized desire to rob the cradle of my future piano-playing pleasure.

I responded with a hasty offer aimed to thwart a bid by side-by-side salivating contenders. A few had huddled around me as I sampled the ‘A,’ with servings of Romantic era repertoire– the last offering was the first tableau from Schumann’s Scenes of Childhood. (Kinderszenen, “Of Foreign Lands and People.” )

As I inhabited my ethereal playing universe, a Chinese couple had edged close to the keyboard, breaking a spellbound immersion with a barrage of questions about the ‘A.’ They wanted to know if they should purchase it.

With a tiny, transparent sales slip chugging slowly out of a machine, I quickly sealed my ownership of ‘A’ and promptly contacted the piano movers .

While the logistics of containing THREE grands in a pod-size space were beyond my comprehension, I chose to let my fever pitch excitement abate before making a final decision about the fate of my PIANOS.

Somberly, I concluded that Steinway ‘M’ had to go with its modest, though resonant voice that matched its “medium” size and proportion.

My ads for an adoptive family spread far and wide in neighborhood Online listings. ‘M’ would either be placed in a temporary home with a suitable environment, or be sent to climate-controlled storage in a bumpy ride to Oakland. The latter seemed like a death sentence.

Israel Stein, my retired technician had e-mailed me a set of valuable recommendations that supported the well-being of my ‘M.’ These were borrowed and inserted in my posts.

“1. Keep it out of direct sunlight – always. (“only an hour or so per day” is just as damaging).
“2. Keep it away from open windows and doors (especially in the winter)
“3. Keep it away from heat sources (radiators, heat vents, space heaters, etc.)
“4. Keep it away from steam, vapor, and other excess moisture (in today’s “open” floor plans, pianos often get subjected to kitchen steam and vapor).

“Unfortunately,” he emphasized, “people too often placed pianos in accordance with their home decor needs, not considering what was good for the piano.”

My ardent pursuit of a caretaker took many twists and turns.

One eager prospect, was a song writer with admirable credentials. She and her composer husband who lived about 2 miles from Steinway ‘M,’ almost became its temporary parents, but for their open kitchen in close proximity to the grand. The gas heat, and vapor would swell the soundboard, ushering in a compensatory contraction. Their bedroom was at first a possibility for containment, but ‘M’ could not fit into the small space.

Other wooing adoptive applicants were ruled out by radiators, and very young children. Still, I was clinging to the hope that perhaps my neighbors down the walkway would agree to take my ‘M’ in exchange for piano lessons bestowed upon their chirpy 8-year old daughter who sang past my door each day. It was her dad who had first alerted me to Steinway ‘A.’

***

Through this whole, foster care-seeking process, I felt more than a shred of guilt for abandoning ‘M’ though I knew that it was time for ‘A’ to claim the rightful space that had been taken up by ‘M’ these many years.

To my great relief, my neighbors came through in the wee hours of the morning with a text that they would take ‘M’! And that’s how the piano shuffle began.

(‘A’ now sits snugly beside ‘B’ (Baldwin) in my music room, as ‘M’ is resting comfortably in her neighboring abode)

side by side piano best

 

Finally, piano lessons will soon start where ‘M’ resides, and I’ll keep my ties to a piano that will not be forgotten.

Little girl in front of M

LINK
http://www.mcpianomove.com/mccreas_piano_moving/McCreas.html

Alfred Brendel, blog metrics, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons, Piano Street, Piano World, piano worldwide, recording, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Mirrors and piano playing

As we age, we’re reluctant to look at our reflection in the mirror, but as we grow over time as musicians, the mirror of our playing in recorded “reflections” can foster quality adjustments in phrasing and interpretation.

If we nudge ourselves to step back and be “objective” about what we’re hearing, we may try to amend our next playing so it’s not a static, unaltered repeat of the last.

When I observe my own false starts, phrase imbalances, thumb pokes, and breath-short measures, I aim to improve these shortcomings by studying physical and musical dimensions that must be intertwined and synthesized.

***

In a separate but related universe, Alfred Brendel, renowned pianist, puts a negative spin on the “finished” recording, while his comments upon careful scrutiny, support the self-educational value of making longitudinal student recordings. (While these exist in an “unfinished” form, being raw and home-based, they still have significant redeeming value)

In the following abridged paragraph of his newly released book, Music, Sense and Nonsense, the celebrated pianist bemoans the “impalement” by the public of renderings that permanently emblematize player. Yet amidst a string of professionally recorded efforts, Brendel appreciates an evolution of artistry that ripens over time– permeated by modified creative perceptions.

“But a recording is… simply the fixing of a moment.. so the artist should have the right to identify his work within a certain phase of his development… (And) it is only the continuous renewal of his vision – either in the form of evolution or of rediscovery – that can keep his music-making young.”

The last sentence fits perfectly into the paradigm of enlisting recordings to illuminate a particular developmental phase and to move it along to the next with sensitive adjustments and acquired awakenings. These flow through an artistically dynamic chain of youth-preserving efforts that should draw students toward recorded reflections of their playing, not away from them.

For piano teachers who evolve beside their students in a comparable growth process, home-created recordings can mirror efforts that are undergoing constant refinement without their needing “fixed” deadline arrivals, or contrived makeovers to mimic youth appeal that has no depth or substance. (i.e. fast and furious top-layer playing without thought, emotion or REFLECTION.)

***
As a footnote to this discussion on the value of recordings in the learning environment, I offer a Student/Mentor mirrored-back lesson sample. (In teaching this Bach Invention repetitively, I will, no doubt, alter my ideas in consonance with an ever-changing process embedded in refined artistic illumination. The same metamorphoses will apply to the student.)

J.S.Bach Invention 13 in A minor:

LINK

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/24/music-sense-and-nonsense-alfred-brendel-collected-essays-lectures-review-alan-rusbridger

bassoon, cello, Friedrich Edelmann, pianist, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, Rebecca Rust, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Dining with musician friends at Bacheesos in Berkeley, CA

Friedrich and Rebecca crop

This was a happy reunion after many long months. The last I caught up with Friedrich Edelmann and Rebecca Rust they were returning from one of their European tours only to land one in Japan, playing for the Emperor and Empress. The happily married bassoon and cello duo, who sometimes add a pianist to the mix were in esteemed royal company.

The latest musical updates were imparted by Friedrich as Rebecca, Alana (a mutual companion) and I dove into our plates filled with salads, artichokes, salmon, seasoned chicken, pilaf, hummus, and infinite ambrosian delights:

“On our tour to Japan in July-August 2015 we played 15 concerts in Tokyo, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Kobe, Kyoto, Oita, Tsukuba and others. The concerts were organized and supported by Mercedes-Benz, Japan, by Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation, Nagoya, and by the German-Japan Society, Kobe.

“On July 13th we were invited privately to the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, playing for the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, and Empress Michiko also played on the piano together with Rebecca on the cello.”

Rebecca and Friedrich touring Japan

What a unique musical journey among many this couple has taken around the world.

I took my own sojourn to the house piano, a satisfying Kawai studio upright with a lovely resonant tone.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 7.42.12 PM

As an encore to this get together, note the riveting interview I’d convened with Friedrich that tied his 27-year Munich Philharmonic tenure to various adventures with piano soloists, Michelangeli and Barenboim.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/poignant-recollections-about-pianists-michelangeli-and-barenboim-from-the-munich-philharmonics-principal-bassoonist/

And finally, not to overlook a fine dining Bacheesos hostess who made our musician family reunion a memorable one.

Soraya

LINKS:

http://www.edelmann-rust.com

http://www.bacheesos.net

"The Endangered Piano Technician" by James Boyk, blogmetrics, blogmetrics.org, chuck Terpo, Classical music blog, pianist, piano, piano maintenance, piano technician, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Piano Maintenance: Resolving a weighty problem

Chuck at work (Crop)

Chuck Terpo, who continues to finely regulate my Steinway M grand, gave an encore performance yesterday, as he meticulously “lightened” some weighty bass notes. His nifty maneuvers on display in my iPhone generated video, revealed an analytic approach and smooth follow-through.

Watch Chuck methodically check the bass range, that was a bit too heavy for me by comparison to the balance of tenor, alto and treble registers.

Using the principle of the seesaw, the masterful tech applied a small lead weight to a particular juncture of the keys under evaluation, and made each one depress with less resistance.

The whole process, so riveting to observe, deserved exposure among teachers, students and piano lovers so here it is:

PLAYING RESULTS:

My evening piano lesson on forearm and finger staccato provided an easier “feel” terrain in the bass range.

LINKS:

http://www.chuckterpopianoservice.com

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/my-steinway-m-piano-is-back/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/08/01/my-piano-assessment-adventure-at-walnut-creeks-steinway-piano-gallery/

Elaine Comparone, J.S. Bach, Ornaments in the Baroque, piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, youtube.com

Baroque Ornaments, execution, style, context and taste: A Conversation with Elaine Comparone

IMG_2350-2

On a rainy Saturday morning in New York City, I packed my tripod, camcorder, battery chargers, and Henle Urtext edition of J.S. Bach's French Suite No. 5 in G, and headed for Elaine Comparone's gorgeous harpsichord and piano sanctuary on Manhattan's West side.IMG_2354-2 We'd planned to discuss ornaments in the Baroque using the springboard Sarabande, though wide-eyed and inspired Elaine wove in the Loure with a bedazzling reading framed by a Harvard Dictionary introduction.

A two-part exchange, in an impromptu spirit captured the essence of "improvisation" in the Baroque period, and found expression in harpsichord and piano renderings.

A big Thank You goes to Elaine Comparone for her illuminating words and profoundly beautiful music-making!

Loure rendered on the Piano

Updated rendering by Elaine Comparone on the harpsichord:

***

Elaine Comparone teaches harpsichord and piano on Manhattan’s West side with a Baroque period emphasis.

http://www.harpsichord.org

LINKS TO FORMER VISITS with ELAINE COMPARONE

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/my-side-by-side-harpsichordpiano-chat-with-elaine-comparone-in-her-nyc-sanctuary/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/aglow-with-creative-fire-my-nyc-visit-with-harpsichordist-elaine-comparone/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/a-visit-with-elaine-comparone-at-her-harpsichord-palace-in-new-york-city/

OTHER:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/the-harpsichord-has-a-new-lease-on-life-elaine-comparone-is-its-biggest-advocate/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/vibrant-music-making-at-rest-or-at-play/

Bach with Pluck on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Pluck-Vol-2/dp/B00000083N/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1370197321&sr=1-2&keywords=bach+with+pluck

J.S. Bach French Suite No. 5 in G, J.S. Bach French Suite no. 5 in G Major BWV 816, Jourhal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano instuction, piano learning, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano technique, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, teaching piano to adult students, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, youtube.com

Sequences and Phrase contouring in J. S. Bach’s French Suite No. 5, BWV 816

An adult student and I explored sequences in the Allemande opener of Bach’s French Suite in G as we parceled out the treble and bass lines. (Still another voice that danced from the alto to tenor range, was separately identified and practiced)

Bach French Suite p. 1

To craft beautiful phrases in the opening movement that limpidly flows in legato, the player has to understand how one set of measures relates to another, or how snatches of a particular idea, can be utilized in a “sequential” manner. Smaller parcels of a bigger idea can literally pile up as occurs in Part B, the more developed section of the Allemande.

As a refresher:

“In music, a sequence is the immediate restatement of a motif or longer melodic (or harmonic) passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice…At least two instances of a sequential pattern—including the original statement—are required to identify a sequence, and the pattern should be based on several melody notes or at least two successive harmonies (chords).” (WIKI)

I think the key word that underscores SEQUENCES is RELATIONSHIP. The player must be aware of the before and after in the course of music-making, fleshing out how one phrase relates to another that has a remarkable similarity or tie-in, and then he should devise ways of making musically sensitive connections. (Dynamic shifts are often utilized in the sequential universe)

J.S. Bach permeates his Allemande with Sequences. Threaded throughout the movement, their sensitive rendering is a big ingredient of expressive music-making and interpretation.

A lesson-in-progress focused on these very sequences and how to respond to them in a musical way.