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Pedaling Mozart (Andante, Sonata in C, K. 545) Video of lesson in progress

My students teach me so much about aesthetics, phrasing, pedaling and more. It’s because we’re actively engaged in a process of evaluating, experimenting and refining.

There’s no authority figure in the lesson environment to lay down absolutes, yet the teacher, who has benefited from his/her own explorations over time, should share epiphanies with a pupil.

A few of my adult students are learning Mozart Sonata, K. 545, and the middle movement, with its prominent singable lines of beauty, needs a “warming” pedal effect. At first, however, I recommend learning the Andante WITHOUT pedal with a time-honored separate hands approach. Even minus the sustain, fingers must sing in legato style from note to note. The pedal will NOT create the legato, or play the piece for the student. (In this regard, there’s a tendency to over-saturate the composer’s music with the right foot in the wrong way. Excuse my delight with our language and its serendipitous word plays.)

Since I’ve abbreviated the video footage of the piano lesson with Yukiko, who’s a conscientious, hard-working adult student, I can fill in what’s missing by saying that I endorse practicing measure to measure CHORDS in the Left Hand with a supple wrist (or another sub-division of this practicing mode, is isolating just the fundamental bass line particularly at the build to climax–measures 40-48); then studying the melody and its contour, with curves, loops, peaks and valleys; applying weight transfer to vary the dynamics and flesh out crescendi. Then I affirm playing CHORDS (not broken yet) with the undulating, interweaving treble line; paying attention to harmonic rhythm, key relationships, chord progressions, modulations, etc. as they influence the melodic line to make dips and heart-fluttering turns, etc.

One can’t always put precise words to what is ethereal and often illusive, so I’ll refer to the video as a more definite demonstration of my ideas. (The full length segment has more to offer, but because of time constraints, I edited it down)

The area of pedaling of course is subtle one. I certainly would not do as my very earliest mentors did: have me sit in her kitchen, awaiting my lesson, copying lines and lines of fingerings and PEDALING. I do believe that both require real time probing, testing and refining. Particularly in the arena of applying pedaling, the student should learn to develop a fine-tuned ear for what works, and what detracts. The mentor is there to nudge a bit in this or that direction, and to teach ways of learning that in the long run, encourage the student’s confidence in making individual artistic decisions.

P.S. I thank all my LIVE and ONLINE students for participating in these videotaped co-learning journeys along the way.


Videos of Yukiko, an adult piano student, refining her arpeggio technique

E Major:

F# minor in Contrary Motion:

And F# minor scale:

andante movement Mozart sonata in C K. 545, classical music,, Mozart, Mozart Sonata in C K. 545, piano, piano instruction, piano lessons, Uncategorized, wordpress,, you tube, you

The pianist as conductor, choreographer, and singer (Mozart Andante, Sonata in C Major, K. 545)

The famous, “drawing room” Sonata K. 545 in C Major, has a very singable middle movement that moves along in walking pace, marked Andante. Most piano students like to think of such a tempo designation as painfully slow, but that’s not the spirit Mozart intended. He was infatuated with melody but it didn’t need to be funereal to woo listeners into a divine musical universe.

To be sure, taking a moderate, breezy walk through a park, humming this second movement, strollers would be enchanted by a lyricism that is permeated by threads of heart-fluttering harmonic shifts.

Conductors and choreographers would likewise respond, expressing the poignancy of the harmonic rhythm in physical motion.

That’s why a natural inclination to “conduct” the Andante while singing it is a teaching option. It’s a lot simpler than being two people in one at the piano bench which is physically impossible. Yet the player can “orchestrate,” direct, prompt, and sing inside of himself, “feeling” the pull of melody and its underpinning harmony. He can taper phrases, heed the effect of chord combinations and resolutions and “dip” under them with a “choreography” that may not be fixed in time like a Balanchine ballet, but can still deftly “realize” the organic ins-and-outs of the music as it spins out. (operatically)

To breathe life into these assertions, I’ve uploaded two You Tube videos. In the first, I flesh out the shape of lines, the “feel” of motion, and the drift of harmony in Mozart’s Andante. (encompassing ways to “choreograph” phrases)

In the second I’m conducting a student who practices the middle movement and responds well to a physical and singable music framing.

Play Through:


El Cerrito and Berkeley Piano Studios
Lessons: Privately and by Skype