“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

ON LEAPS (With Video Demonstration)

A student came to a lesson and said, “Look how far I can stretch my hand.” I thought, ouch, are we doing yoga?

Then he said, “I measured it; I can reach a 10th.”

Oh no, I thought, it’s a competition.

Well, here is a student new to my studio, a rather advanced pianist already, who suffers from a fairly common malady. Somewhere in his early studies he developed the notion that stretching is better than moving, when in fact the opposite is true. It is more efficient and healthier to move than it is to stretch. I know this may seem counter intuitive to some, but stay with me. I don’t mean that the hand can’t be open, it can, and flexible, of course. But anytime the hand is opened to an extreme, danger lurks in the effort. (We select fingering to avoid a stretch, but that’s another topic.)

Let me explain. If our objective is to learn how to play the piano using the body according to its design, then we must exclude efforts that act against it. (Of course, there are many accomplished and successful musicians who play the piano using various technical points of view, or more likely, no point of view at all. We wish them all the best.) Well, what are some efforts that act against the hand’s design? Opening it so wide that it feels tense is one. Lifting the fingers individually away from the hand, especially the fourth finger, which has tissue on top that prevents it from lifting away, is another. 

So, here’s a useful question to ask, “What does the hand want to do? “ It wants to be in a relatively closed position. Try this: Drop your arm to the side and let it hang freely. Notice how the hand feels. This is what it wants to feel. Can we achieve this feeling in the act of playing the piano? The simple answer is yes, as long as we don’t fall victim to suggestions in the notation that seem to be saying “stretch, pull.” (More about “notation bound” in another blog.)

So how do we play the piano without acting against the hand, without turning it into a gnarled claw, veins bulging with tension?

I’m glad you asked.

One way to use the hand according to its design is to learn how to negotiate leaps. Other issues are at work, too, underlying tools that also contribute to efficient hand use. But for now let’s consider how to leap. By my definition, a leap takes place whenever the hand moves from one five-finger position to another without a thumb crossing, a shift if you like (as in string playing). It doesn’t matter whether the leap is to the very next note, i.e., if you want to play stepwise with the same finger, or if you want to leap several octaves.
Here is the rule: THE NOTE BEFORE THE LEAP GETS US THE DISTANCE. That is, the last note in the group of notes before a leap takes us to the first note of the new group. It’s that simple. (Well, almost.) Anxious about making a leap, pianists very often neglect to finish playing the last note of a group; they tend to skip over it. This is a pity, sometimes even tragic, because that last note is the all-important springboard for negotiating the distance to the first note of the next group. So don’t be in too big a hurry. 
It is just as futile to cling to that last note, losing the advantage of its thrusting power. With a well worked-in and coordinated combination of springing, forearm rotation and walking arm, leaping great distances feels like going next door. So don’t be afraid to jump.

Okay, I know I sprang some new terms on you. But I promise that leaping is a simple and safe movement, all of which will become clear when you view the demonstration video above.

A word of caution: Notice where you want to land before you leap.

No comments:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Full Stick, Short Stick or No Stick: The Piano in Chamber Ensemble

An unhappy amateur string player writes:

"So many pianists love to play with strings, but have little awareness of appropriate voicing. Young professional groups have the same problem, using a full stick that overpowers the sound."

I feel (hear) his pain. There is nothing worse than playing one's heart out only to have it trod upon by inconsiderate colleagues. Every player wants his/her lovely inflections to be heard and responded to musically. I think the operative word here is consideration, which is about listening to one another and not about the length of the piano stick. I write as a professional collaborative pianist and amateur string player.

The piano sounds muted if the lid is closed. This would be similar to the string players putting on their mutes, and no one wants to play like that. The short stick can be a solution if the piano is particularly bright and the room is small. But the raised lid is not so much about volume as it is about quality of sound. And here is where the importance of listening comes into play. Very often in amateur groups, the pianist can feel so overwhelmed with the difficulties of his part that there is a disconnect between the ear and the hands. The obvious solution here is that the pianist learn his part. 

But let's say the pianist is in control of the notes and is free to listen. He should be able to hear his colleagues, especially the leading voice(s), just slightly above what he is playing, keeping in mind that the music rack blocks much of what he hears of himself. If he hears his colleagues free and clear, well above what he is playing, then he is too soft and not playing as a full partner. And, of course, if he doesn't hear them at all, he is too loud.

The string player points out: "Chamber Music has traditionally been played on small instruments in intimate settings. After all, pianos originated in the quiet voices of seventeenth and eighteenth century harpsichords and clavichords."

Any pianist can obliterate any string player sonically. This is a given. It is, however, misleading to equate modern instruments with those of the 18th century. Early keyboard instruments were indeed more demure, but so were their string colleagues. Whether the development of these instruments into their modern counterparts was proportional I can't really say, although I suspect the piano made greater strides with its concert hall sizes and the introduction of metal harps. I have to say, though, that's it's a rare situation to find a concert grand housed in a private setting. So size isn't very often an issue. 

Let's make a very general assessment of the repertoire. In the classical period strings began as an obligato addition to the piano part, sometimes only doubling the piano. This is particularly prevalent in many Haydn trios and all but a hand full of Mozart violin sonatas. In the Mozart piano quartets, the piano part is very concerto like. With Beethoven, even already in Op. 1, we begin to get a more equal division of labor. And in the 19th century, finally, we get sonorities of strings vs piano in passionate struggle (I'm thinking of Brahms). Chamber music has traditionally been played in parlors, in intimate settings, yet the music itself has evolved into anything but intimate.

Finally, a word about the practical nature of the setup. The cellists, of which I am one, complain the loudest. He is usually placed right in the bend of the piano, where he is pummeled with sound. What he hears next to him, though, is not what a listener several feet away hears. It's natural for musicians to play to the room and not to the person sitting next to him. The cellist feels the need to either play forcefully all the time or make threatening grimaces at the poor pianist, when it may not really be his fault. So I always suggest, if feasible, that the strings find positions somewhat away from the piano. Or, alternatively, rethink the nature of projection and play for each other instead of for the room. In concert halls I have heard all periods of music played superbly with appropriate balance, yes, using a concert grand with the stick on full extension.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

To Czerny Or Not to Czerny

On Czerny Vs Chopin Etudes

A student asks which Czerny studies he should select in preparation for Chopin Etudes. This student has already played all movements of the Moonlight sonata.

My Response: The Chopin etudes are concert pieces, and in that regard somewhat misnamed. Chopin, I'm quite sure, wasn't thinking pedagogically, about building a technique. Having said that, however, one can learn a great deal studying them, just as we learn technique studying any piece. 

I think Czerny and studies of that ilk are largely a waste of time. They have in their genesis the notion that repetition builds strength and endurance, a notion long since discredited by pianists who've given it any thought. We don't build strength in larger muscles so much as we train muscles for refined coordination. So, I'd rather he use his time working out technique in the Chopin, even if he doesn't get them up to top tempo first time around. Revolutionary is a good place to start. I also like F major from Op. 10 for the right hand. 

For an "etude" on the two-note slur, have a look at the Tempest sonata of Beethoven.

For more on the value of exercises, please see my previous post.

Monday, June 4, 2012

On the Value of Exercises

A pianist writes: "I have been told by some pianists that Hanon's "The Virtuoso Pianist, In Sixty Exercises" is a waste of time....it's stupid and nonsense. One pianist even asked me, "Do you think Tchaikovsky or Mozart played these? Throw the book away."

On the other hand, a piano student studying for her phd in piano performance told me that she plays them every day and that she believes it helps her playing?

What is the general consensus on this? I believe if it works for you then by all means play it. However if that's the case then should all teachers teach all their students Hanon?"

My response: What do you mean by works for you? When playing something (an exercise) that is supposed to prepare you for something else (a piece of music), I think it's important to ask yourself why? What is the purpose of this particular exercise? 

Unfortunately, Mr. Hanon only gives metronome indications and says to repeat the exercises. He doesn't really tell us how to play the exercises, except to lift the fingers high(!). He tells us that they will produce agility, strength(!), independence and evenness. 

The mindset from which this point of view stems has largely been replaced over the years, although some still cling doggedly to it, i.e., that it takes physical strength to play the piano. It does not. (A small child can do it.) We gain power not by lifting the fingers away from the hand, which is something they weren't designed to do efficiently, but rather with the discreet participation of the forearm. Hanon's supposition is that by lifting the fingers they will become strong and independent, but we don't train like weight lifters train, by building muscle mass. Rather, we train for refined coordination. The fingers never will be independent of each other, nor need they be; they can, however, be made to sound that way.

In short, "you can play whatever you want, dear," to quote my teacher, but once you know how to play the exercises correctly, i.e., with the participation of the forearm, there is no longer any reason to play them. In fact, there's no point in playing them at all because the technical issues can be addressed in music.

As for the Phd candidate, that routine may serve several purposes: provide a comforting and mindless routine, a delay tactic for avoiding the real work to come or some other obsessive/compulsive purpose. In graduate school I knew a wonderful pianist who drilled scales for hours. Her scales were indeed perfection and she played the 4th Beethoven concerto like an angel. But the same compulsion that drove her to drill those scales, and they were beautiful, drove her into some sort of breakdown and when I last heard she had given up the piano entirely and joined a protective order of some sort. Admittedly, that is an extreme case and this particular pianist was apparently troubled. Playing Hanon won't necessarily cause so severe a reaction and probably won't case any particular harm, unless the idea of lifting fingers is taken to extremes.

Later in the post someone writes:

"Any system, method, or approach is only as good as the teacher and the student practicing. The success probably goes beyond the method. I think that if something is repetitive, and if the person practicing it is wrongly guided or self-guides, there might be harm because a wrong motion done repeatedly will hurt. At the same time, if a right motion is well-guided, then you have a well-practiced set of right motions that will serve you well."

My Response:

You are right. But just as the success goes beyond the method, so too do the failures. By failures I mean conceptual misunderstandings. Perhaps this is what you mean by practicing "wrongly." But it's more than practicing wrongly. (Please don't think I'm just being argumentative here. I'm genuinely concerned about this issue.)

The concept inherent in exercises in general is that repetition of note patterns will create strong fingers or independent fingers or that these patterns will occur in the same way in music. These ideas date from the 1880's and have their origins in the experience of keyboard players who were steeped in harpsichord techniques. I believe Czerny and Hanon and the others were probably sincere, although I don't completely discount the notion that money was to be made off of the burgeoning piano market. When Hanon, for example, was popular and adopted by so many institutions, Matthay had not yet written about the use of the forearm. Keyboard players thought primarily about lifting fingers, despite Schumann's unfortunate experience. (Google Landowska's photo of her claw-like hands.)

If you discard Hanon's "instructions," as I believe all pianists should, the exercises can be used to show how patterns can be grouped together for technical ease, how to shape. But I learned these techniques in a Mozart sonata (K. 333). If you don't believe in lifting the fingers away from the hand (as he instructs) or training for strength and therefore using repetition for endurance (wrong concepts), then I implore you to ask yourself what specifically you hope to gain by practicing Hanon.

Let me be clear: I don't think the exercises themselves are "dangerous" and carcinogenic (LOL) but the underlying concepts that students take away are not in sync with a system of playing that uses the body efficiently, the way it was designed to be used. Students invariably take away the idea that repetition of patterns is the key to success, when the "working-in" of specific, local and correct physical movements is the key to success. By "local" I mean "what do the finger, hand, arm do in this spot to get easily and efficiently from here to there?" This, of course, requires knowledge of the working mechanism (but one doesn't have to be a doctor).

It is possible to play the piano with great success using many different points of view, or from no point of view at all. I choose to use a specific physical approach that allows my hands to be used according to their design. The fingers are strong and sound independent if the forearm is allowed to play its part, and there is nothing wrong with the 4th finger, just in case anyone was wondering.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Voices of the Past

Click on the Listen button above to hear some great piano playing by legendary pianists. We need to look back occasionally and notice where we've come from and appreciate that heritage. I've just posted some vintage Moritz Rosenthal, who studied with Mikuli (Chopin's student) and with Liszt. Sometimes we forget, I think, in this anonymous and automated world of ours, how affectionately personal these pianists could be.

Beethoven Sonata Op. 57

Watch for a post on the Appassionata called "A Few of My Favorite Solutions," in which I plan to point out potential problems and offer ways to solve them. Some of the applicable principles will have to do with forearm rotation, grouping and ties to the notation. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Sight Reading

There is really no such thing as "sight reading." Sight reading consists of learning to recognize already familiar patterns that are put together in different ways, very much like the way letters are put together to form words. This sounds like evasion, I know, but if you consider the topic with this idea in mind, you will conclude that the best way to learn to sight read well is to do it on a regular basis.

I know this is how I developed my reading skills. From my first piano book, The Adult at the Piano, I was armed with the ability to associate note-heads with keys of the piano and I was off and running through any literature I could get my hands on. And incidentally, being a fluent sight-reader will open many doors, sometimes lucrative ones.

There are sight reading exercises available that approach the topic in this way, gradually increasing the types of figures that are combined. But I've concluded that that approach is too dry and a-musical. It's best to have available some pieces that are several levels easier than what one can actually play.

Some procedures:

1. Scan the piece before playing, noticing the composer's directions and any oddities, i.e., accidentals, tempo changes, etc.

2.  Think of a tempo that should work for the quickest passages.

3.  Set that tempo and don't stop for anything. If you have trouble, go to the next beat or next measure, but keep the pulse going. Teacher/student duets are great for this and there are many such collections: Diabelli Op. 149 & Op. 163; Four Centuries of Piano Duet Music by Cameron McGraw in four volumes and graded for difficulty. These are not transcriptions, but rather original pieces for piano duet.

4.  Make a conscious decision from the start to try to notice all musical directions in the score: dynamics, articulation, etc.

5.  Keep eyes on the music; not on the hands.

6.  Always look ahead in the score, not at what has just been played.

7.  No mental judgements while playing. A post mortem afterwards, if you must.

8.  Keep in mind that the objective is to make music, not just rattle off notes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Practicing (Again)

A student writes: "So I play every single day, at least 3 hours and some of the time feel like I am in control of my playing completely, while other days I feel like I never played piano. "

Well, everyone has a bad day. But what this student describes probably has as much to do with focus at that particular moment as with preparation. 

But I suspect the quality of his practicing is deficient in some way. This is a valid subject to bring up with a teacher. How should I practice? What should I do with a given passage?

Briefly: For me, most practicing is under tempo and in small segments. In this way details are more easily absorbed. I begin with the most problematic spots; I almost never begin at the first measure (unless that's a problem spot). Then, there is another type of practicing called "performance" practicing, in which I play through without stopping and then take stock of how it sounded and how it felt.

A lesson, for me, is not necessarily a performance in which the student plays through a piece. I would rather the student show me the places where he/she has trouble, rather than try to hide problems (as one does in a performance). We can then work on the problems together.

Ideally, the working-out process protects us from making errors. If we first decide on technical solutions (fingerings, shapes, what the hand needs) and then work these solutions in gradually from slow to fast (not slower than you need or faster than you can), then the learning process is always positive. I point out that a learning process is always taking place whether it's right or wrong. So, it behooves us to practice thoughtfully and with deliberation. Avoid rote playing at all costs.

(See my post On Practicing elsewhere in the blog.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Pressure of the Practice-Room Peer

It's Not A Competition

A student traveling abroad wrote to me of his experience at Steinway, where he had rented a practice room. My student is fairly new to formal piano study, though he has worked on his own for many months. He has the advantage of being able to learn repertoire very quickly and is able to play quite creditably several of the WTC, all movements of the Moonlight Sonata and a few of the Chopin Nocturnes, all from a very secure memory. (I find this ability to be remarkable.)

He found himself in a room next to a much more experienced pianist who was practicing a modern, very complicated-sounding piece, which had an intimidating effect on my student. He apparently began to feel inadequate, even to the point of not being able to remember the pieces he had come to practice. 

So let me say this: Comparisons with other pianists are both inevitable and futile. It can turn you into a ghost. Try to avoid listening to other pianists playing your repertoire (I know!). If you do listen to recordings, listen to more than one performance of the same piece in order to prove to yourself there can be differences in approaches. This will give you permission to be your own pianist. Go to live performances when possible, as these are more human and can be very instructive. When I was working on the Liszt sonata, I had the opportunity to hear Emil Gilels play it in Los Angeles. It was a piece he had recorded and was known for. Well, it was a wonderful performance in many ways, but not at all pristine. Over the years, I've had many such experiences hearing the great and famous appear in public as human beings. Finally, try to limit your comparisons to yourself of today with yourself of before. Revel in your progress and this will give you courage. We have to evaluate our performances in order to make progress, so take note of your needs (notice I don't say weaknesses). Be kind to yourself in the process.

My student says he left early because he just couldn't concentrate; this practice peer had ruined the whole thing. And when he snuck a peek into the neighboring room he saw a young Asian man, dancing wildly at the keyboard, and looking everywhere BUT the keys. "Seriously I don't know how his fingers found the notes, he was moving so much." My student had the impression that this other pianist could play any repertoire with ease and his own efforts, my student's, seemed to pale in comparison.

The pressure of practice-room peers! This is something most music students in conservatories have to deal with. But since my student hadn't been in a formal music school, he had no experience of this. It takes getting used to. I remember the practice room days when there would be a constant awareness that someone could hear what I was doing. Sometimes, it was difficult to resist the urge to perform, instead of practice, which are of course two different activities.

What really is at issue is the ability to focus and concentrate on what you have before you. It takes a fair amount of discipline sometimes not to be drawn into someone else's work. But this is, after all, what we have to learn to do for successful public performance. And it is not a reasonable assumption that this other pianist would be able to do your work better or even as well as you. But even that is of no consequence. Your practicing is only about you. Patience with the self is a necessity for improvement. I advised my student to try it again.

Side note: It's not necessary to look at the keys at all in order to play with accuracy. We have among us exemplary pianists who are without sight.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chopin's Birthday: Mystery and Confusion

I read recently several posts offering birthday greetings to Chopin. At first I felt really guilty that the date had come and gone and I had forgotten to notice, not that I had noticed in the past, but it occurred to me that the act of noticing can be a way of participating in the composer's legacy.  But then there it was in black and white, or rather back-lit on my computer screen, the following: "I love Fred but he is rather overrated." 

I really don't understand this. What is overrated? Surely not the B minor sonata or the set of ballades, which were completely original at the time; surely not the collection of noctures, an  imaginative development of John Field's opera in the same vein. Well, okay, don't get me started. Chopin wrote music that was startlingly original, music that advanced the level of piano playing and created new ways of thinking about sonority. It seemed at the time (almost) to come from nowhere and there was no Chopin school to follow, so he remains unique to this day. I think Schumann was right in his initial review of Chopin's debut: "Hats off, gentlemen, a genius."

Even those who call his work high-class salon music are mistaken. There is considerable depth to be found in those shimmering sonorities if you just listen past the surface.

There ensued much discussion on the topic of offering birthday greetings to a dead person. I believe the word inane was used. 
Well, of course, if that were all there is to it, it would be just so much silliness. The act of remembering, though, is what is at issue and that is for the living. The music is very much alive and a part of our collective consciousness. To pause and reflect on this and the work of a great artist is how we grow, how we live.

The following is from an article I found at the Chopin Society Uk and helps to explain, if not resolve, the mystery of Chopin's birth:

"The mystery of Chopin's birthday

The Manor of Zelazowa Wola

Fryderyk Chopin was born at Zelazowa Wola in Mazovia, in the Warsaw region of Poland. 

His father Nicholas had been born in France in 1771 in Marainville, a village in Lorraine – a area which at that time was ruled over by the Polish King Stanislas Leszczynski.

Nicholas, of humble origin, but very able and intelligent, had accompanied the Polish agent of his village to Warsaw in 1792, and from then on identified totally with Poland, preferring to speak Polish rather than French.

In 1802 Nicholas Chopin was engaged by Count Skarbek to be tutor to his four children at his estate of Zelazowa Zola, and in 1806 he married a poor relation of the family, Justyna Krzyzanowska, then living with the Skarbeks and acting as their housekeeper. The couple had a daughter in 1807 and then moved out of the main house into a thatched cottage close by, where their only son was born on possibly the 22nd of February and possibly the 1st of March 1810.

The child was named Fryderyk after Fryderyk Skarbek, the Count’s eldest son, who was to be godfather. Actually they had to wait some time to receive the 18-year old Count’s consent, as he was studying in Paris, and when the christening eventually took place on the 23rd April at the parish church of Saint-Rock in Brochów, a proxy stood in for young Fryderyk Skarbek. The date of the birth was duly entered as the 22nd of February in the baptismal register. (It is interesting to note that Chopin’s godfather was to become a distinguished economist, historian and writer, and that he and Chopin became good friends in later life).

Despite the date in the parish register, Chopin’s family always celebrated his birthday on the 1st of March.

To complicate things further, Jane Stirling – his Scottish pupil and benefactor – said that Chopin had told her she was the only one who knew his real birth date. She wrote it down, put it in a box, and this box was apparently placed in Chopin’s grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Some sense can be made of this. In the nineteenth century people were much more vague about actual birthdays than we are today, and in a Catholic country such as Poland the name day would have been just as important, if not more so. However, in Britain it is the birthday which counts, and one can imagine Jane Stirling asking her beloved Master when his birthday was, so she could give him a present. He may have told her, adding that she was not to tell anyone else, as he did not want a lot of fuss.

Whether the writing in Jane’s box would even be legible now is dubious, so even if it is the real date we may never know the truth.

The Chopin Society celebrates the 22nd of February, as our Founder, Lucie Swiatek, favoured that date, though generally the 1st of March is more frequently regarded as correct."

I am absolved of guilt. Since the day is in question, it matters little if I observed the correct one. What matters is that I remember, which I do as I play and teach his music.

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Competition

It's Not a Competition:

At J. conservatory, the students of Mme. L. always won the concerto competition. It was expected; it was the norm. The student contestants expected it. Mme expected it. The entire school expected it. Yet, all of the teachers entered their students, pressing them into this futile exercise. X., a friend of mine who studied with Mr. F., prepared the concerto du jour, Mozart Coronation, to the exclusion of virtually all of his other repertoire. He was an obsessive/compulsive personality, as it seems many of the students were in those days (probably still are) and prepared as if his life depended on it. He told me he didn't want to disappoint Mr. F, but I know from other conversations that his unsupportive parents figured in the mix. His mother once visited his room near the school and pronounced it the product of a sick mind. Well, X. told me, maybe this time a different teacher would produce the winning performer. Wouldn't that be an upheaval. Maybe Mr. F. would get the respect he deserves.

The piano faculty assembled, along with Maestro J.M. and his conducting staff. The students congregated in the corridors, where they waited for their time to audition. Some, of course, would be in the practice rooms up to the last possible minute; X. was one of these. As a graduate student, I was somewhat above the fray. I'd lived enough to know that life didn't depend on only one performance, or on any one event, unless that event included being run over by a bus.

X. appeared on the scene just seconds before his appointed time. I was there to listen from outside, as he had asked, and gave him by best thumbs-up smile. He played like an angel. They let him play the entire concerto through, including the cadenzas, which I took to be a good sign. I waited by the stage entrance to congratulate him but when the door opened X. ran right past me muttering "I missed a note, I missed a note" over and over all the way to the men's room, where he vomited violently. X. played like an artist, suffered terribly and the winning contestant did not come from the studio of Mr F. that year. X. was last seen on a Kibbutz in Israel. In this case, the jury lived up to its pretrial publicity.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Producing Synchronized Chords

A student wrote to me complaining of "wobbly" chords. He meant that in accompaniment passages of repeated chordal figures he often broke the chords
unintentionally. His solution was to rigidify his fingers, lifting the unneeded fingers away from his hand, in order to force the correct fingers to play simultaneously. This is no solution at all, but rather a prescription for disaster.

In order to accommodate different finger lengths, it is better to allow the hand to be slightly flatter and avoid gripping or locking the hand into a fixed position in order to force all the fingers to be the same lengths. No matter how hard you try, I promise you that the fingers will always be different lengths. By flatter I mean that the hand should maintain its normal curvature, not curled into a claw.

The manner of depressing the key, then, is downward, of course, but also slightly in the direction of out toward the torso. It is as if the intention is to move outward, but at the point of key contact there is a tread on the end of the finger that prevents an extreme slide outward. It is not necessary to leave the surface of the key. In fact, it is in most cases better after depressing the key to ride it back up just beyond the point of sound in order to repeat it. This has the effect of allowing the participation of the forearm, ever so slightly, in order to control the downward weight. It is a mistake to think of this as either just a finger movement or a wrist movement.

Try this in various combinations of white and black keys.

Happy chording!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Off Topic: Photography

Well, gentle reader, if you'll allow a digression here is an example of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. This is a new passion of mine, something to get me out of the piano studio once in awhile, which we solitary practicers must do in order to maintain our sanity.

HDR is a process of combining images taken at several exposures from very over-exposed to very under-exposed. It is a way to capture (and interpret) more of what the eye sees; cameras resist extreme value contrasts, flattening out most images.

Eventually, I hope to post in a separate site a gallery of photos, some of which will be of interest to lovers of pianos and their auras.

This is a view of the desert garden at the Huntington. Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you have interest in learning more about this process, click on the "Lost in Customs" button and you will be taken to an information site containing free tutorials.