One of my piano students who is learning J.S. Bach's Little Prelude in E minor, BWV 941 wanted to explore the modulations permeating this soulful work to advance her understanding of phrasing. The Analysis: In a series of broken chords through 22 measures, the composer artfully departs from the home key of E minor to… Continue reading J.S. Bach, Harmonic Analysis and Phrasing
At my alma mater, Oberlin Conservatory, through a four year Theory course regimen, students were saturated with Antecedent and Consequent relationships. The pairing was readily explained as 4 measures of "Question" followed by 4 measures of "Answer." And lending support to such indoctrinated phrase SYMMETRY were harmonic underpinnings that bundled in a Half cadence of… Continue reading Phrase relationships: Questions and Answers
The application of weight that's channeled into the keys through relaxed arms and supple wrists is an important ingredient of musical playing. It supports a variety of colors in "voicing" myriads of notes, while it increases attentive listening skills. Central to the "voicing" process are decisions made about what lines need drawing out, and how… Continue reading Piano Technique: Weight transfer into the keys and voicing
Many students complain about getting stuck at junctures of scales, or in the midst of passagework in a variety of pieces. As mentor, having observed these glitches from an objective distance over cyber or through person-to-person contact at my studio, I've concluded that note-to-note "vertical" playing can snatch continuity from the mind down to the… Continue reading Piano Practicing: Phrasing in Groups of notes
A wellspring of inspiration poured forth in a Tweet posted by virtuoso cellist, Steven Isserlis whose vivid musical imagination fuses with his seamless technique. (We share common Oberlin Conservatory "roots" and an insatiable love for J.S.) It was no accident that while unearthing a perfect gem among a collection of Bach Little Preludes, I encountered… Continue reading How Bach should be played is Twitter-framed!
Lately, I've been imbuing lessons with the word "imagination" particularly as it has applied to short pictorial works by Enrique Granados. Yet, drawing on the imagination crosses historical periods of musical composition, not limited to 19th Century "expressive" Romanticism and well beyond. In this vein, J.S. Bach Preludes, Fugues, movements from the French and English… Continue reading Playing with Imagination!
In a May 2018 Living the Classical Life interview, the distinguished pianist, Emanuel Ax admitted that his "brain would be twice its size" had he played more Bach. "It is one of my great regrets that I did not play a lot, a lot, a lot" (three times reiterated) of this composer's music. "And of… Continue reading J.S. Bach and the Brain
One of the prevalent concerns of students, especially adults, surrounds the length of time they've invested in learning a particular composition. For some, an internalized goal of technical/musical "mastery" attaches a self-imposed deadline to completion. Boxed into this self-affixed learning time frame, is the end game of neatly shelving a composition as impetus to move… Continue reading The multi-step process of piano learning: but who’s counting?
For the past year I've devoted many daily hours to the study J.S. Bach's six French Suites while simultaneously keeping pace with my students' passage through diverse repertoire. The decision to take on this additional musical challenge apart from meeting my basic teacher obligations of being present at lessons; knowing the material assigned, and dispensing… Continue reading Our individual musical study grows our piano teaching
I'm the first to admit that not every learning journey through a particular composition will produce results we might have hoped for. After weeks or even months of methodical practicing in baby steps, we can find ourselves literally over a barrel, wading through ornaments, for example, that are crystal clear in slow tempo, but suffer… Continue reading Practicing Challenging Pieces: If we’re over a barrel, we can still learn something valuable