“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.”

Friday, May 3, 2013

Piano Technique Demystified: Insights into Problem Solving... Available NOW at Amazon

  An Excerpt from the Introduction

     When I was a young piano student the best advice offered me was to practice slowly, practice in rhythms and do this repeatedly. Never was it explained to me how slowly to practice or why. Nor was I told the point of practicing in rhythms. In fact, never was the concept of practicing explained to me at all. I learned a four-octave routine in which I could rattle off major and minor scales in octaves, sixths and tenths. But once I had it down, something in me rejected that route as a way of life. I realize now that my instinct saved me a great deal of time. Of course, like most anxious children who tend to be intimidated by authority, I was at a loss for words, particularly in the form of a question. I don’t recall ever asking a question, except once when I came across a mordent symbol for the first time.
     A certain facility came quickly and easily to me, which may explain why I escaped more rigorous incursions by teachers into my private musical world. Czerny studies were offered, though as I recall, not stressed with particular enthusiasm. From rather early on, ever more advanced repertoire passed through my hands and, exciting as that was for an eager musical mind, problems would abound and my instinct was to pass over, play through or otherwise ignore them. Somehow I made the music convincing enough to pass inspection, at least for a time, but I always felt at the mercy of the piano and its mysteries. There appeared more and more brick walls and by the time I reached collage, my forehead was quite sore.
     I was definitely not a prodigy. Facile sight-reading, physical dexterity and the emotional outpourings of the neurotic loner made up my skill set. When I practiced, and I use the term here loosely, technical passages sounded best on the first few readings. The more I repeated them the worse they got. Strange, no? You may be wondering how I handled this phenomenon. Simple, I practiced less and played more.
     Did you spot the clue I planted in the previous paragraph? If so, you may have a head start on the material in this book. If passages get worse on repetition, that is, if the mechanism tires and accuracy or speed become forfeit, then muscles are not working in an efficient, well-synchronized manner. Back up now to the first paragraph. When I got serious about perfecting a movement, and I was a very serious student, all I knew to do was repeat slowly and in various rhythms. All that this produced, sadly, was a working-in of technical vagaries, perhaps correct and useful or wrong and destructive. Fortunately, since my practicing consisted primarily of playing, I escaped injury.
     The advice given to me about practicing is akin to a doctor treating a patient without an examination. No doctor would prescribe all of his remedies to every patient for every ailment, regardless of the complaint. The advice is too general and vague. It comes from an approach that assumes muscles are muscles and if you build them technique will come. This is not true.
     A pharmacist friend of mine spent most of his career observing the inner workings of the pharmaceutical industry. He has developed a somewhat cynical attitude, justifiable I think, regarding the development of remedies. Many pills go through many trials and are often rejected for their intended purposes. What then to do with these pills? Obviously, invent a disease. I offer here some remedies, but if you don’t have the ailment, don’t invent one. Every pianist comes from a different technical background in which some, perhaps most, of the technique works just fine. My purpose here is to describe as well as words will allow what the body can do, what it wants to do and how to put it to use in the service of making music at the piano.
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