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!
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
My students know that I say what I do, while they do as I say, with the understanding that we are perhaps interchanging the whole music learning process on an egalitarian basis. Therefore, it's no surprise that I regularly thank them for "teaching" me what I might otherwise have overlooked in my daily practicing. For… Continue reading My early learning efforts (J.S. Bach) under the influence of Peter Feuchtwanger
I couldn't resist juxtaposing the importance of learning new and challenging music with an "eye" toward how we can best accomplish our short and long-term goals within our teaching milieu. (The EYE metaphor becomes CLEARER and dual serving as the posting progresses.) *** So many music teachers have a tight schedule of back-to-back students that… Continue reading Keeping up our skills as piano teachers, with an “eye” to taking on challenges
https://youtu.be/5otIFs_zdok Without doubt, the French Suites and other keyboard works of J.S. Bach require a multi-dimensional learning approach. It's not enough to enter the universe of the great Baroque master with a singular intent to absorb counterpoint, or parcel voices, sing them, juggle them, properly finger each hand, and in some cases divide one voice… Continue reading Exploring modulations, secondary dominants and sequences in a J.S. Bach keyboard learning journey
Jeannette Haien is rarely recognized for her role in Murray Perahia's musical development, though it's clear through her own words, (rekindled posthumously) that she must have had a profound effect on him. (She was Perahia's mentor from age 4 to 18.) Reminiscences I knew Murray as a classmate at the NYC High School of Performing… Continue reading Murray Perahia’s earliest piano teacher and her influence on him