C Major arpeggio, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano technique, The supple wrist in piano playing, the undulating wrist, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Two Adult Piano Students explore an undulating wrist motion (Videos)

In the first video, I introduce C Major, 4-note arpeggios rolling through positions or “inversions” in preparation for my lesson with an adult student in El Cerrito, California.

C E G C—E G C E—G C E G– C E G C, and then a turnaround and descent without repeating the highest note.

Excerpt from my student’s lesson (4-note arpeggios)

She had played preliminary blocked chords before unraveling them. In this sequence she was “rolling through” a series of “broken chords.” (trying to avoid accents on the first impulse of each 4-note grouping) The dipping wrist prevents unwanted emphases.


The next pupil followed by transferring her supple wrist motion to J.C. Bach’s Prelude in A minor, where she “chorded” or blocked out opening groups of arpeggiated figures. (fleshing out a melody that threaded through them)

The supple or undulating wrist prevented an attack upon the keys, and assisted with phrase-shaping and producing a singing tone.

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A Purr-fect sedative for a Cat

After a long day of teaching and house hunting, I settled down at my Steinway grand piano to play Burgmuller’s “Harmony of the Angels.”

An enchanting character piece in the Romantic genre, it’s the perfect sedative for humans, cats, dogs, even birds who skim the branches of my fertile fig tree for a treat each August.

Late last night Aiden soaked up the lush harp-like figures of this musical gem from his cushioned seat beside my upright piano. The cover is soft enough to lure him from his favored nesting place at the Haddorff console. Only when the piano room is insulated with heat, my furry feline will return to Haddy, the “singing nightingale” where he’ll cool his belly on its polished wood surface.

The morning after, the wandering minstrel finds a new home on the Steinway piano bench:

Music that calms

“Harmony of the Angels,” when played as a prelude to Rina’s early piano lessons, was the perfect accompaniment to her floating movements across the room. With her fluid arms and wrists moving gracefully in soft curves, she enjoyed an entree to the main course– a feast of melodies at the primer level, rendered with a beautiful singing tone.


For my adult students, this divine musical creation is a favorite that has drawn videos of lessons-in-progress.

From California to London, England, its undulating figures bathe players in rich sonority, if their wrists are “spongy” while arms melt phrases in wave-like motions.

In this videotaped instruction, an adult pupil and I explore an early layer of learning that focused on legato flowing hands, supple wrists, and relaxed arms. (Chord blocking was enlisted to acquire a “feel” for the keyboard landscape as the piece unfolded)


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The Old World playing, like fine wine, of Livia Rev, Hungarian pianist and teacher (see her teaching segments on the pliant wrist)

So now I am into documentaries about piano teachers/performers who leave an eternal imprint on their students and upon the world. Livia Rev is one such special person who belongs in the good company of Irena Orlov, Irina Gorin, and Rosina Lhevinne. Note the frames on Bela Bartok, and Ms. Lev’s connection to– a letter signed by Bartok to Livia. And some bravos about her teaching.

You don’t have to know Hungarian to appreciate the content of this moving profile.


I stumbled upon a you tube film about Livia two years ago: “Portrait of Lívia Rév pianist / teaching / 90th Birthday”– It showed her teaching a student in Hungarian, and in one riveting segment Lev takes her pupil’s hand and demonstrates the freedom of the supple wrist. She literally rotates the hand around, and then dips the wrist. These frames support the unconventional–they do not regale a frozen wrist or inflexible hand–Edna Golandsky, are you listening? (Taubman followers curiously rule out the “wrist break”) It’s counter-intuitive.

See the following pertinent segments in this short film that apply to piano technique and the wrist.

2:28 to 4:28 as Livia Rev is teaching

and 5:04 to 5:14 A big dip of the wrist in a technical display by the pianist, herself.

One can’t go against nature and refuse to “break” the wrist. I apologize for my over-emphasis.

About Livia at the website:


LIVIA REV (b 1916)
Hungarian Pianist

“Livia Rev is one of the pianistic marvels of our age. She was born 95 years ago in Budapest, Hungary. She was a child prodigy. She studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, at the Leipzig Conservatory, and at the Vienna Conservatory. She has performed the world over as a soloist with conductors of the stature of Sir Adrian Boult, André Cluytens, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Josef Krips, Rafael Kubelík, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Constantin Silvestri, and Walter Susskind, a veritable who’s who of the great conductors of the 20th Century. She teaches, gives master classes, and is still currently playing the piano.

“In her prime, Livia Rev was one of the world’s greatest interpreters of the music of Chopin. The recordings of the 24 Preludes Opus 28 are among the finest the writer has ever heard, and as he wrote these words, he was tempted to place them at the top of his list.”

Like the writer, I favored Livia’s Chopin as exemplified in this reading: Chopin Nocturne in F Major

Even more musical ambrosia is offered in these Chopin Preludes recorded in 1988 when Livia was 74:

If there are any fluent Hungarians out there, please render a translation for the impatiently waiting Internet audience.


Livia Rev’s Official Website. She currently resides in France.


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Piano Technique: Avoiding pencil point playing

One of the biggest challenges for piano students of all levels is to produce a lovely singing tone. And the most significant physical impediment to molto cantabile (very singable) playing is having a taut wrist. Without its being supple or flexible, the descent of the finger onto the key is the equivalent of landing stiffly with a pencil point attack. Sometimes, if taken to the extreme, in a faster tempo, the effect of a tight wrist is likened to Rosie the Riveter aiding the war effort.

To have a riveting tone, without evoking the sound of an electric drill searing nails into a B-24 bomber, I would instruct the student to first imagine the tone he would like to produce. He should not settle for less than his ideal, and singing will always help. The voice does not have to be perfect, but its having a free and relaxed breath aids the process. (The teacher should sing along as a role model)

During my first lessons with Lillian Freundlich, after years of piano study with another teacher, I was asked to play one note with a selected finger for half of my lesson. Listening attentively to its curve and wave, I developed the “feel” of “dropping” my finger into the key’s core, backed up by a relaxed arm, elbow and wrist. If I tightened up anywhere along the physical pathway, I knew the tonal cost immediately. Lillian would remind me of the desired sound ideal by dropping in a perfectly centered note with the grace of a ballerina.

Our note-to-note exchange, echoed back and forth sensitized me to a universe of beauty that was suddenly within my reach. It was like language and nuance passed from parent to child.

Once individual notes with each finger produced an appealing tone, the next step was learning the art of legato (smooth and connected) playing. A mental image of the piano being a large bowl of jello, encouraged a slower, deeper entry into the notes, aided by the resistance of a dense and voluminous medium. Weight transfer down the arm, through a supple wrist into the fingers, was pivotal to sustaining a singing tone. A relaxed center of gravity was at the core of the whole process.

Putting aside Rosie the Riveter, and a collection of pencils, playing the piano is being in touch with beauty, expanding tonal awareness, and knowing how to physically accomplish these ideals.

By example, here are performances of very young students who’ve been imbued with the singing tone from the very start of their piano lessons. Notice the grace and flow of their arms and wrists.

These results are a tribute to piano teacher, Irina Gorin and her mentoring in the Russian tradition. Currently, I use her extraordinary instruction, Tales of a Musical Journey with 4-year old student, Rina, whose lessons I’ve been tracking by video.

EARLY Period of Study

After 8 months of instruction:

Above all, generous time is spent imbuing the singing tone and how to physically produce it with no rush to enlist all five fingers. The process is deep, delving and rewarding. It applies to learning at any level of piano study.