piano, piano blog, piano blog by Shirley Kirsten

Voice parceling in Schumann’s Kinderszenen, “Of Foreign Lands and People”

On first glance, most students will read down the page of Kinderszenen 1, Op. 15, enjoying a melodic flow, with only a passing interest in two additional voices. With this singular focus on the soprano line, the middle voice of relentless triplets can still inadvertently intrude upon the uppermost voice, as thumbs cross over from… Continue reading Voice parceling in Schumann’s Kinderszenen, “Of Foreign Lands and People”

piano lesson, piano technique

Piano Technique: Building scales to speed and fluency

I find myself reconnecting with my late teacher, Lillian Freundlich, when I borrow her approach to scale development. In this undertaking, she would always check my wrists and elbows through note groupings that were ignited by a basic roll-in energy. A scale could not start with a bang, but instead, it had a smooth, slope-like… Continue reading Piano Technique: Building scales to speed and fluency

piano, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano learning, piano lesson

J.S. Bach and the Brain

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

Bach French Suites, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, piano

Learning a new and challenging piece along with a student

It's easy for piano teachers to inhabit a comfortable space, teaching mainly repertoire that they've well learned, put away and brought back for review. It can perpetuate a stale process of retreading "old" pieces without posing a refreshing self-made challenge to learn a complex "new" work from the ground up side-by-side with a pupil. About… Continue reading Learning a new and challenging piece along with a student

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A musical journey through a Chopin Waltz in glowing terms

A particular composition that's explored during a piano lesson can afford a multifaceted examination of phrasing. In this beauty-seeking musical cosmos, no singular focus will necessarily supersede others. Instead, a panoply of framing cues or prompts can nourish well-shaped phrases and lines. As I uploaded a lesson video today, I found myself summarizing a journey… Continue reading A musical journey through a Chopin Waltz in glowing terms

Beethoven, Fur Elise, piano, piano lessons

Piano Technique: Creating an illusion of legato

It's a challenge to play scales, arpeggios, and passages lifted out of the mainstream Classical piano repertoire with a well-shaped and nicely spaced legato. (smooth and connected playing) But it can be more daunting to navigate particular sections of masterworks that have legato markings over chords, for instance, that carry a melodic thread that is… Continue reading Piano Technique: Creating an illusion of legato

piano, piano lessons

Phrase variation and imagination

During a lesson today beamed to Scotland, my student presented an invaluable opportunity to explore phrase variants in Burgmuller's "Tarentelle," Op. 100, No. 20, with particular attention to imaginatively rendered mood shifts. This charming character piece has an abundance of repeats built into its fabric, with keen dynamic and emotional contrasts. Should the player conscientiously… Continue reading Phrase variation and imagination