Thursday, September 3, 2015

Voice those chords!

When playing anything with multiple voices in a chordal fashion, voicing is almost always an issue. A helpful image I like to give my students is to visualize holding and supporting a basketball with two hands out in front of you.  3-4-5 have more grip or support of the ball on the bottom and the thumbs which are higher up on the ball should be more relaxed and floating.

Picture above with a more relaxed expression :0).  This visualization will help achieve the right angle of the hands on the keyboard directing sound towards the outer voices for greater effect.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Visual Productivity-Pull out the abacus!

This week, I got a bit excited about abacuses.  Let me explain...

One of the reasons practicing remains difficult for students to gage is the lack of daily project completion/assignment confirmation for students.  Think about this - at school, kids routinely hand in daily assignments and get checks for completion or some sort of letter grade.  For piano, my proposal is for the student to use an abacus as a physical and visual measure of daily productivity.  There is an appropriate abacus for every level of student and engagement!

My youngest student, loves the rainbow abacus (second from the left).  She squeals in excitement in order to "move the beads!" For this student, the different lines and colors are great for breaking down the sections.  Say one is working on a 4 line, 16 bar piece. A single row could be a line, or even half a line (2 measures), right hand, left hand, or hands together.  By moving the beads, he or she stays on track and has both visual and physical confirmation of completion.  The top red line could be for linking two sections/lines together successfully or even playing through the whole piece. I swear that using this method may beat giving out stickers!

For the intermediate or advanced student (see 1st or 3rd abacus), each row can be applied towards running through a larger section; ie. an entire exposition, and the rows could be used to keep track of progress through several days or a week even or less if broken into smaller sections and used for different pieces. There really is no wrong way to use an abacus.

Have fun practicing and organizing everyone!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Today is the first official day of the school year (post Labor Day) in the city and for many parents, along with purchasing school supplies, make sure your child has the appropriate metronome handy!

Metronomes have gone through little change through the years.  I am forever buying new ones just because a metronome not in use does absolutely no good and the updated Seiko metronomes have a volume wheel that makes a whole lot of difference!

The updated SQ50 (red wheel, far right), finally gives us volume control of the beeping sound without having to pay a fortune and resort to draining our iphone/ipad battery with a metronome app. The blue version, left side, carries a louder beep (2 different pitches) which is good for young kids and the one in the middle, though credit card size, has a higher pitch beep if you're into that short of thing. Finally, a metronome I can be happy turning on and playing along with!

What is the metronome for besides the obvious, keeping steady?  The metronome helps us diagnose the weaker areas of our playing so we can work for greater control.  It helps us iron out our kinks!  On a higher level, it fine tunes our listening and phrasing.  On a more basic level, it organizes our practice time more efficiently.

Happy practicing!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Awareness-how does one actually get around?

When it comes down to it, there are really only 5 ways of getting around the piano keyboard no matter how intricate or expressive the passage; most of what actually is dependent upon the actual dexterity/flexibility of the palm. Knowledge of the actual process makes for more coherency in the playing, allowing one to concentrate rather, on the artistic purpose of the passage. 1. Contraction (shrinking of the hand smaller than actual finger interval span) 2. Expansion/reaching (opposite of contraction) 3. Jumping/skipping/hopping 4. Crossing over and under 5. Finger substitution (switching fingers when repeating a note shifts the hand's position)

Our Studio has relocated across the Park!

Last week was a big week! Our studio relocated across the park, and the first of the two pianos have arrived! The Steinway B has been put on the truck. It is due for a long drive...will keep you posted.
Meanwhile, the little one has already arrived.
and went in for a tune up on Superbowl Sunday.
And yes, congrats to our Superbowl champs! Go Ravens!!