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Piano Technique: Soft staccato scales with projection, springboard energy, resilience, and shape

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One of the biggest weaknesses that present in soft dynamic range staccato scales, is a lack of projection. Students often snuff out notes, play them in a whisper without a tenacious spring UP character, or a necessary rebound effect from note to note. Instead, they become inhibited and constrained. Yet even at the Forte level, their staccato rendered scales may lack definition, animation, adequate SPACING, and overall shape/direction.

In an attempt to remediate lackluster scales that transition from smooth and connected legato to staccato, particularly in the soft cosmos, I suggest mental images to frame the sound, while also demonstrating the springing UP character of these detached notes to create an ear-catching environment.

Two Sample Lesson Excerpts:

B minor

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C-sharp minor (Melodic form)

In the second example, the student also worked on intensification of the Melodic minor ascent (staccato), in contrast to a relaxed descent. (i.e. Naturalization of the C-sharp minor scale) Finally, she rendered the C-sharp minor Arpeggio, refining a Forte/Piano staccato transition in triplets.

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Additional:
A wrist generated approach to staccato, to relieve tension, and improve projection.

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Piano Technique: Avoiding thumpy thumbs!

One of the biggest challenges for pianists, particularly in the staccato playing scale cosmos, is to avoid a downward, pack-a-punch “thumpy thumb!

This unwanted lead weight-loaded attack often interrupts a buoyantly springy journey, transforming it into crowded pile-up of space-less notes.

Yet it seems inevitable that the shortest finger of each hand would overcompensate for its size by adding clout to its arrival, unless the player deliberately deals with its over-assertion.

During a recent lesson with an adult student, a staccato romp in E Major imbued the “UP”-lift of the thumb to counter its fall down flat persona.

And a mental image of the “bouncy” rebound effect, with an infusion of UPWARD energy was enough to put the thumb in its proper place along the scale route. But it also needed to be folded into a finger family-centered smooth transit, not HANGING OUT, determined to throw its weight around.

In the universe of forearm staccato, we worked on the UP-ward release of the thumb in a slow, exaggerated tempo that “untangled” the scale. Eventually, it allowed a well-spaced, well-breathed out journey that was unencumbered by tension and nervous acceleration.

Our key lesson prompts were: “rebound effect, UP, short, springy, well-spaced out notes, FRAMING RHYTHM, composure, centering, relaxed breathing.”

Applying the unobtrusive thumb to practicing Bach Invention 1 in C Major, BWV 772:

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A Teacher/Student fueled discovery about Staccato playing

I never cease to be amazed by a mutual discovery process that’s ongoing between me and my adult students. Without our learning partnership, we would not have periodic awakenings that feed our reciprocal musical development.

Case in point, is the attainment of Staccato refinement in its most crisp and animated form.

In the past month, after watching my pupils often stumble through their scales and arpeggios when they transitioned from playing legato to rendering short, crisp detached notes, I started to think about ways to remedy the problem.

Through finite observation, and experimentation in my personal learning lab, aka, my practice module, I came to the conclusion that having students snap each finger along the scale or arpeggio spectrum in slow tempo, would fine-tune their ears to what constituted a crisp note release. Naturally, the sensitive ear training phase was bound to a physical awareness of how these notes marched along in an appealingly animated manner.

From my perspective, it wasn’t purely a FINGER-driven staccato that fed a briskly played scale or arpeggio with a desired horizontal dimension, but the fingers at the end of a relaxed arm and supple wrist spectrum provided a necessary unity for fluid playing.

Naturally, a parceled layered learning approach that included a blocking phase, produced positive results.

In this particular video sample I used an Eb Major arpeggio framed in triplets to advance a well-contoured staccato. A lesson-in-progress with an adult student followed my tutorial.

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Piano Technique: Power forearm staccato/e minor scales AND arpeggios

A good workout at the gym is a great prelim to a power trip at the piano. Take the forearm staccato. A UK piano student in cyber space landed a crisp, definitive set of notes at forte level after a few trial runs. No doubt her fortitude and focus produced a big staccato, and its antithesis, a piano (soft) one.

E minor Arpeggios
A separate adult piano student in Kentucky