An adult piano student explores phrase shaping in Chopin’s A minor Waltz, Op. Posth.

I’m always warmed by lovely, contoured phrasing, especially when it’s produced by an adult student who’s reached a new level of aesthetic consciousness through especially attentive and consistent practicing.

This particular player has increased her sensitivity in shaping the Chopin A minor Waltz melody with curves, dips, loops, and tapering, while her left hand that lifts on every beat is not interrupting a pervasively horizontal note progression in the treble. (This is a challenge)

The patience she’s applied in her earliest efforts–parceling out the melody; fundamental bass; and after beat chords, before layering them in baby steps into an integrated mosaic, was no doubt the biggest factor in her leaps of progress.

As an example, she experiments and refines various measures through a spot practicing process. (behind tempo) that’s particularly valuable.

Recording these efforts and forwarding them along is always a practice-framing reminder.

A teacher and student can revisit earlier recorded renderings to appreciate gains a pupil has made.

Such a peek into the past can validate how far a student has come giving him/her affirmation while boosting self-confidence.

adult piano instruction,, piano blogging, Romantic era music

Ornaments, Romantic Style: Don’t be enslaved, but master them

There’s nothing more inhibiting to piano playing than being boxed in by ornaments–tied down by their inertia and lack of smooth resolution.

For certain, if you’re threatened by them, or anticipate the worst possible outcome, ENTRAPMENT, then it guarantees a hasty entry and debilitating departure.

Sadly, breath-LESS and anxiety-prone pianists often impede their journey, leaving embellishments crippled measure-by-measure to final cadence.

So how does a player avoid the vicious cycle of ornament-driven dysfunction and enslavement?

By learning flexibility and rotation, a pianist can MASTER these subjugated appendages while assuring their relaxed release.

In a lesson-in-progress with an adult, Chopin ornaments from the composer’s Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous were FREED in the space of 34 minutes edited down to 15 conforming with You Tube imposed time limits.

Chopin A minor Waltz p. 1

Chopin, Chopin Waltz in A minor no. 19, Frederic Chopin, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, word press, you tube

The polishing stage of learning can be dessert for a piano teacher and student

I relish time spent with a student who’s baby-stepped a musical journey with patience and self-acceptance. The polishing stage is icing on the cake, a dessert following the main course.

In this case, an adult pupil kept to a regimen of scales and arpeggios in A minor, as her tip-toe adventure into a Chopin Waltz landscape. (No. 19 in A minor) And she conscientiously parceled out voices: first the fundamental bass; then after beat chords; melody, and various combinations of the aforementioned in back tempo. This was not an espresso learning recipe, but a slow, meticulous ingestion over a lengthy period.

I haven’t counted the weeks she dedicated to this undertaking, but it was way more than a few, and the timeless effort, when you think about the joy of a new experience to savor, (if viewed this way) leads to more fulfillment in unfolded stages of learning.

Here is her end stage example, though brief:

It revealed an abandon in playing more than a series of notes, but instead, phrase-loving sequences.

It’s a given that this composition will grow and ripen, but it was clear that the pupil could feel gratified in the present, by the work she had invested.

Another snatch–where she practiced smoothing out an E Major arpeggiated section:



Students, of all ages, who approach their music in loving, kind, gentle steps always look back on this process with appreciation for what it has brought in playing pleasure. It’s worth the patience accorded as so many have said.

Chopin, Chopin Waltz in A minor no. 19, classissima,, Frederic Chopin, piano addict, piano technique, practicing arpeggios, you

Piano Technique: Are arpeggios “boring?” I don’t think so!

I belong to a myriad of LINKED IN, PIANO groups of all shapes and sizes. One, right now is applying the adjective, “BORING” to ARPEGGIOS. Another recently castigated SCALES!

Yet anyone who’s bounced around the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic keyboard literature, KNOWS that it’s permeated with scale passages and arpeggios.

That’s a no brainer!

In the last week, my review of Mozart’s Rondo in D, K. 311, produced so many scale passages it was dizzying.

And just today, a student found herself practicing a 3-octave E Major arpeggio lifted right out of the Chopin Waltz in A Minor, no. 19.

This heart-throbbing piece is so popular, that anyone thinking they can play it with pleasure, without practicing the E MAJOR arpeggio, to say the least, is in denial.

Rather than harp on why I disagree with a cadre of teachers, amateurs, professionals, who happen to love bashing arpeggios, I say watch this video and make up your mind.


Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons in Berkeley California, piano lessons in El Cerrito California, word press, word, wordpress,, you tube, you tube video, you, yout tube,

No Skimming the surface in piano warm-ups and a Chopin exchange with a sixth-grader

Lucy started piano about four years ago in El Cerrito, a short Bart ride from Berkeley, my current residence. A transfer student, she’d been immersed in Bastien primers and hand-outs of various patriotic pieces. Note-reading skills were minimal.

Over time, as our musical relationship unfolded, Lucy played scales, arpeggios, and through her patient efforts performed “Fur Elise,” beautifully. In the present, she’s working on Chopin’s A minor Waltz No. 19, Op. Posthumous side-by-side with Burgmuller’s “Inquietude.”

Here’s sample of our recent back and forth exchange of Romantic era spun phrases:

Snatches of her most recent lesson, reveal our technique-nurturing interplay, as we practiced E Major. (five finger-positions-and Arpeggio) Not posted were segments exploring an E Major four-octave scale in parallel and contrary motion. We did sandwich in a G chromatic scale for good measure.

Our work continues.

Five-finger positions and Hopping routines in thirds

G Chromatic Scale

E Major Arpeggio

Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19 Op. posthumous, classissima,, Frederic Chopin, piano instruction, piano lessons, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, teaching piano, Uncategorized, wordpress,, you tube

The joy of working on Chopin’s phrasing with an adult student (Waltz in A minor, No. 19, Op. Posth.) Videos

At this point in my teaching career, I have a studio of mostly adult students. (counting the ones “Skyping” in from the continent and elsewhere)

These are pupils who haven’t been forced to take lessons. They’re bundled with enthusiasm, determined to learn and follow-up with a conscientious practicing effort.

For any teacher this is a blessing.

Last night, in particular, was a feast.

A pupil and I were on a common wave-length, expressing the beauty of Chopin’s music.

PHRASING was the centerpiece of our reciprocal learning universe.


In the following video, I’ve extracted excerpts from our evening’s lesson that flesh out the creative, cognitive, affective and kinesthetic dimensions of teaching:

Part One:

Part Two:

P.S. Members of Facebook’s “Art of Piano Pedagogy” forum have been have been exploring the issue of students developing an individual approach or personality in re: pieces studied.

My feeling remains that we as teachers provide the tools a student needs to individualize expression as he grows and develops.