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Piano Technique: Learning to Play Bach

Arioso7's Blog (Shirley Kirsten)

block head

Blocking techniques can help to solidify tricky passages in Bach’s A minor Invention (13), especially if intelligent decisions are made about landscaping broken chords with thumb shifts weaving through them. Examining measures 9 through 13 for example, I devised a blocking routine that helped me gain note security while contouring phrases with a supple wrist. In the practicing phrase I unraveled chord blocks as I followed my thumb’s journey through threads of arpeggiated figures.

Bach Invention 13 block m 9 on

Exploring harmonic rhythm/ modulations, etc. integrated with a “feel” for keyboard topography advances learning on tactile, cognitive and affective levels. Blocking groups of notes, unraveling them, and using rhythms such as the dotted-8th/16th figure advance accuracy and phrase-shaping.

All the aforementioned block/learning strategies have significantly assisted students who are studying this Invention.

Instruction:

Play through in tempo

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The Art of Fugue

The Art of Piano Performance

In order to analyze, appreciate and comprehend the musical form called fugue, one must first know the various elements that comprise a fugue.

Every fugue has its own individual characteristic, which display a full range of human emotions. From peacefulness and tranquility to anguish and despair. JS Bach used rhythms, motives as well as melodies and harmonic movement to capture all of these human emotions. Bach used the temperaments of the different keys to establish the mood of each prelude and fugue. These same tonalities are also clearly defined in his choral works as well. Bach was acutely aware of symbolism in art and religion and used it extensively in his works and was well aware of the subtle subliminal effect it has on the listener in addition to the harmonic progressions, melodic intervals, rhythmic motives and patterns.

Bach very adept in the understanding of numerical symbolism, used numerical codes…

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Your Piano Room Acoustics

Britannia Piano Auctions

The dimensions and layout of your piano room will undoubtedly have an effect on the overall sound. Have you ever listened to a piano that is too powerful for the room it is in?

Not only can it be deafeningly loud but it will often result in a poor quality of sound. As a rule of thumb larger pianos are built for larger rooms, this is because they possess qualities and characteristics that best present themselves in larger spaces. The mighty sound of a double octave run in the lower end of a concert grand would be lost in a typical houseroom as there is insufficient space for the sound to develop and resonate.

 

 

Remember large pianos are designed to move large quantities of air & produce comparably large sound waves. To do this they need to be housed in an appropriate sized room.

 

What Is The…

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Optimize Your Piano Practice Time

The Art of Piano Performance

Practice Tips for Developing a Solid Technique in Piano Performance

Practicing is both an art and a science. Every student of piano performance must remember that their achievement on the instrument will be the direct result of the amount of time and the quality of their practicing.

The art and science of practicing is not just time spent at the instrument but time spent listening to the music the student is working on, studying and understanding the harmonic analysis of the music as well as researching the time period and technical characteristics of the composer of the piece you are working on.

In addition to this, it is advisable for the student to prepare a weekly plan outlining the time spent on specific techniques, repertoire, sight-reading and review of old or previously learned repertoire.

Technique

The purpose of technique is to serve the pianist’s imagination and realize his/her interpretive ideas…

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Linking Music with Other Learning Areas

Learning Strategies for Musical Success

What’s in greatest demand today is not analysis but synthesis—seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole. —Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Life is interdisciplinary and multisensory. We learn through all the senses, and we embrace the richness of opportunity and experience that is befitting our multi-intelligent capacity. The richer the brain diet stimulated by the senses, the more complex the brain becomes. Learning material presented with pictures and sound provides an emotional attachment that makes it easier to remember and more enjoyable to learn. The most effective memory-building techniques are based on the principle of association, and the strongest associations are emotional. This is multisensory learning.

Our senses evolved to work together…which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once. —John Medina, Brain Rules

Subject compartmentalisation limits student…

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In Praise of Slow Practice

Melanie Spanswick

There are so many different ways of practising the piano and whilst it’s relatively easy to identify those that are ineffective or plain incorrect, it’s much harder to establish fail-safe methods which will work every time on every piece. Many believe slow practice is of little use and can be distracting or even damaging, but if worked at regularly and accurately, it promotes a much more thorough approach. In fact, practising at very slow speeds employing total concentration can transform a pianist’s playing.

The first obstacle to successful slow practice is encouraging students and young pianists to view it as a valuable process. Many think it is a good idea in theory, but when it comes to practice time, it’s far easier (and more pleasant too) to play as usual; up to speed with the usual hesitations or errors. It takes vast amounts of discipline to play at a fraction of the speed, which is  no easy feat, but…

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A few helpful tips to improve your piano fingering

Melanie Spanswick

Image from 'So you want to play the Piano?

Fingering is a crucial element in piano playing and surprisingly it’s often overlooked even at advanced levels. Many piano students have never adhered to any at all. Fingering is necessary because it helps a pianist remember which one of their four fingers or thumb (in each hand) is required to play a particular note or notes.  It is a really useful skill to cultivate as without it piano playing will become haphazard and uneven. It’s difficult to achieve any kind of consistency or fluency without sticking to the same finger patterns in a piano piece.

Some pieces will have all the fingering written in and others will need it annotated on the music or score. A good teacher will write all the necessary fingerings on the music so when you practice you will know exactly which finger goes where. This is vital for smooth fluent playing.  Initially, your piano books will show you how the fingers are…

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Analysis of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor

Memorising Music

This year, I’ve finally decided to learn Chopin’s mighty first ballade in G minor. I played his (slightly easier) third ballade in A-flat major a few years ago, and have wanted to take on this iconic beast for quite some time, though have been advised against learning such a well known piece for examinations. But now my LTCL diploma is safely out of the way, and the FTCL feels a long, long way away (if ever…), the time has finally come to tackle the first ballade. Entirely co-incidentally, Alan Rusbridger – editor of the Guardian and amateur pianist – recently published a book about learning the same piece, which of course I devoured with great gusto!

So, aside from the enormous technical challenges of the ballade (of which there are a great many!), what are the memorising issues?

Previously associated only with poetry and song, the term ballade was first applied…

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