“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.”

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Etude in Double Notes: Please Don't Isolate Fingers

     A student writes asking for advice about playing an etude that is clearly designed to teach the playing of double notes. Her approach at first was to employ only fingers, which is a mistake because the fingers do not act alone. Separating the fingers from the hand/arm alliance produces considerable strain, especially in speed.
Double-Note Etude

     Instead of thinking of individual intervals played with separate fingers, consider shaping the intervals in pairs. The thumb likes to play in the direction of in, toward the fall board but still at the outer edge of the key. So, the sixth feels slightly in and the third slightly out, toward the torso. These are very small gestures, a sort of moving in place, so to speak. 
     Some might argue that down and up motions are called for. This can work, but the inclination is to make down and up gestures too large.
     Having said all this, I ask why bother with this etude? If you want to play double notes look at passages in Beethoven's Appassionata or the Schumann Toccata. You don't need to play the entire work, just the salient measures. If those are too challenging, find passages in other repertoire to work on. Playing etudes like the above is a little like practicing X in order to do Y.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Chopin Nocturnes

I'm happy to announce the publication of my newest book:

Available now at CreateSpace E-store.

Playing Chopin successfully is a lot like being both singer and accompanist— sorry, collaborative pianist. Achieve a successful collaboration between the hands with imagination and an understanding of style, and colorful scenes galore emerge along the way. In this volume we consider the technical means by which a happy collaboration between the hands becomes second nature. In my experience, if there is an impediment to a successful performance of the Nocturnes, that impediment originates in the left hand. If the fingering and its technical logic are not well understood, the right-hand fioriture have no place to take root, and more often than not die on the vine. How do we negotiate an accompaniment pattern that seems to tease the hand into awkward stretches? How do we organize a melisma of twenty-seven notes against six? And how on earth do we interpret all those grace-notes attached to appoggiaturas and other pesky symbols? With over two hundred musical examples and references to selected video demonstrations, all of these questions and more are answered here as they occur in nineteen Nocturnes.