Free Practising & Technique eBook

We’re delighted to announce our collaboration with Casio Music UK to make various resources on practising available to pianists and piano teachers alongside their Grand Hybrid Teacher Network. Initiatives arising from this partnership include a workshop on the Practice Tools in central London and an eBook titled Practising the Piano – An Introduction to Practice Strategies and Piano Technique.

Based on excerpts of popular content from our Practising the Piano multimedia eBook series, the eBook is available for free download and features the following topics:

  • Building firm foundations when learning pieces
  • Using quarantining to tackle trouble spots
  • Organising a practice session for the best results
  • The feedback loop
  • A brief history of piano technique
  • Selected walk throughs from our Online Academy series on Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Études 

The eBook also introduces the reader to Casio’s Grand Hybrid Teacher Network, ensuring all that download the material have an opportunity to join a piano teacher community offering rich teaching resources, FREE workshops and special offers.

Click here to download ‘Practising the Piano – An Introduction to Practice Strategies and Piano Technique’ from the Casio Grand Hybrid Teacher Network site.

Links & resources

  • Practising the Piano multimedia eBook series – click here for more information
  • Practice Tools Lecture Series – click here to view the series index
  • Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Études – click here to view the series index
  • Casio’s Grand Hybrid Teacher Network – click here for more information

Pedal in Bach: Yes or No?

The subject of pedal in the music of Bach always arouses keen debate. Ought pianists to steer clear of it and control everything by the fingers, or is it possible to use a bit of pedal?

If I play Bach on a small piano in a furnished drawing room with a thick carpet, I might well need touches of pedal to help my sound. If I play the same work on a concert grand in a large church with a lot of acoustic reverberation, the building itself would add a certain amount of resonance without my having to do anything. There would be a lustrous halo around my sound, and I might not need to touch the pedal at all. If the acoustical resonance was excessive, I would probably find myself slowing down the tempo and sharpening up my articulation a bit too, to preserve clarity. Nothing is cast in stone, we always need to adapt depending on our surroundings.

Some pianists (who should know better) state that the harpsichord does not have dampers. Of course it does, or finger pedalling would not be possible (more about this in a moment). It is true that none of Bach’s keyboard instruments had a sustaining device, but piano sound without pedal tends to be dry and boring. Short shallow dabs of pedal can add welcome colour and resonance, but of course this has to be done well or we risk ruining the music.

This helpful video gives a basic overview of the harpsichord action.

Finger Pedalling

Foreign to many pianists, the technique of holding onto notes beyond their written duration is an integral part of harpsichord and fortepiano technique. Before you lurch for your pedal, consider whether you can add resonance by hand. I have written about this subject before; I can also direct you to this video I made for Pianist Magazine.

The Sustaining Pedal

When I played for András Schiff in the early 1980’s he did not complain about my use of pedal in Bach, so I suppose I must have been doing it unobtrusively enough for it not to bother him. Later, Schiff went through a period of not using the pedal in his own playing, which worked extremely well for him. I see he has come back to using it again. I think there is an important point to make here. Schiff is one of our greatest pianists and musicians, playing (magnificently) the very best pianos in the very best concert halls in the world. Most of us would find it extremely difficult to engage an audience if we avoided the pedal. The maestro wrote a short essay on the subject in May, 2012, published on the Vancouver Recital Society’s blog. It makes fascinating reading. In case you missed his monumental performance of the entire Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, from last year’s Proms, here is a sample.

Murray Perahia became obsessed with Bach’s music when an injury put his career on hold for a while. “It took me many years to find my voice in Bach,” he admits. It is crucial “not to imitate a harpsichord, to play freely and yet not romantically, because that’s not part of the spirit of the music. If tonal colouring can enlighten the music, it should be used so that the listener gets what’s underneath the notes when he’s listening to a piece. You can use a certain amount of pedalling – not overdone – because that’s part of the piano.” In this video of a live performance of the fourth French Suite, we can clearly see his foot connecting with the pedal (wait for the subtitles to disappear) and on the repeat we get a good view of the dampers in action.

Celebrated Bach pianist, Angela Hewitt, has reached a similar conclusion:

The secret is to figure it out with the fingers first – is to do all the articulation, all legato, whatever you want to do, do it all with the fingers first and then bring in the pedal if there’s something you really can’t join and want to have joined. That’s the secret, I think, to use it only when required. How beautiful it can sound without pedal in the B flat minor. It’s very difficult to do and takes great, great control. 

In a drier hall, I would use a little bit more pedal, but never to blur a passage. For instance, at the end of Book One, the big B minor fugue, I might use it on every sixteenth note. I would pedal each note to give it a bit more resonance.

Angela Hewitt

I notice a general tendency among students when they play Bach, a certain reluctance to play the music expressively and to take ownership of it. It is as though they are scared to do it wrongly, so they present it somewhat drily, devoid of dynamics, colour, inspiration – and love. Rather than embracing the music and making it their own, it is as though the music existed under a glass case in some hallowed museum. You can look but you can’t touch!

There are those who believe that Bach should not be played with such dynamic variation because this was not possible on the harpsichord. However, several of Bach’s keyboard concertos were transcribed for violin and for oboe; the composer himself transcribed these compositions so they could be played not just on the harpsichord but also on instruments capable of adjusting dynamics and lyrical phrasing. That should make it obvious that he would be happy if his keyboard music were played on a keyboard capable of more lyrical and dynamic expression as well. It’s incredibly shortsighted and unimaginative to believe that this is not the case – and Bach himself was hardly shortsighted and unimaginative!

Mark Ainley

When it comes to pedal my advice is to use it sparingly and lightly (pedalling shallowly so that the dampers barely leave the strings). If we avoid using pedal to make legato connections, and take care not to blur the ornaments, discreet pedalling will add some welcome resonance and improve our sound. I do most of my practising of Bach’s music deliberately without pedal and then avail myself of it in performance.

The trick is to think of the pedal like seasoning in cooking – vital in bringing out and blending the flavours of the food. However, we wouldn’t want to take our first mouthful and exclaim: “Ah, salt!”.


Some years ago I wrote a series of four fairly detailed blog posts under the umbrella title The Baroque Urtext Score. They cover various aspects of style and performance practice that I hope are helpful for the pianist who may be confused as to what’s possible, and what’s permissible.

The Baroque Urtext Score: A User’s Guide (click here)

The Baroque Urtext Score: Dynamics (click here)

The Baroque Urtext Score: Articulation (click here)

The Baroque Urtext Score: Tempo and Rhythm (click here)


On Technical Exercises – Practising the Piano

In the nineteenth century there was a widespread belief that hours a day spent practising finger exercises would lead to mastery of the instrument, and many method books were published, filled with exercises and studies. The prevailing opinion was that you needed to separate the study of technique from the study of music – by practising endless drill, you would be able to play the repertoire more easily. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way.

Hours spent on exercises and boring studies leads to playing that is fixated on mechanics, to the detriment of artistry or musical merit. It can also lead to a lack of coordination, pain and injury. Not only is this kind of mechanical practice largely a waste of time, it can actually do more harm than good.

The word technique comes from the Greek word technikos, meaning “of, or pertaining to art; artistic, skilful”. This should highlight to us the close connection between the technical, and the musical or interpretative. Interpretation and technique are one and the same, since every sound that we strive to produce has to be achieved by physical means. Many modern piano pedagogues discourage their students from separating purely technical work from music for this very reason. And yet, we do need to understand how to meet the demands of the music we play. Is a thorough training in the mechanics or gymnastics of piano playing essential, or can we develop our technique solely through the music?

Read about Samuil Feinberg’s ideas on what constitutes an exercise

Although practising repetitive mechanical exercises is out of favour amongst many teachers at the moment, I believe that it is very possible, and sometimes preferable, to study a particular aspect of the mechanics of playing by using an exercise. Exercises serve three main purposes:

  • to warm us up
  • to build and maintain technique
  • to tackle trouble spots in our pieces 

The same types of exercises might be used for any of these goals, but the focus and intention would differ. No matter the type of exercise, our work with them must be done consciously, with a specific goal in mind. We need to concentrate fully on the sound we are producing and the feelings and sensations in our hands, arms and body. The number of repetitions does not need to be excessive. Two or three repetitions with the full involvement of the mind and the ear will usually suffice, and this is infinitely preferable to mechanical repetitions with the mind somewhere else. The single most important thing to remember about exercises is not which ones you do or how many you do, but how you do them.

Hanon, for example, which has for more than a century carried with it the stigma of boredom, can be exceedingly rewarding when approached both musically and with a variety of choreographic movements.

Seymour Bernstein

Celebrated British virtuoso, Peter Donohoe, is also a keen Hanon devotee.

I was unwilling, but I was persuaded to do Czerny. And more specifically, or more relevantly actually, I was persuaded to do Hanon. And the reason that’s become very relevant is because I do it now. And I recommend other people do it now as well. And I know plenty of my colleagues who would say that was the opposite of what we should do; that it was some kind of anti-musical experience that you don’t need to do. And I don’t agree with them because I have definitely felt many improvements in what I do from playing those exercises.

Peter Donohoe

When it comes to beginners, many piano methods of the past perpetuated the tradition of the fixed hand spanning a five-finger position (usually middle C). Each finger is supposed to lift up in a curved position, independently of the other fingers which rest either on their key surfaces or on the key beds (depending on which method or which exercise you are following). Nowadays this seems prehistoric – modern trends in piano pedagogy tend not to isolate fingers (fingers 2, 3, 4 and 5 lift together as a unit), but the weight of tradition makes it hard to rethink methodology from the past that was delivered by illustrious, respected and successful teachers who in turn received it from their teachers. 

One such exercise comes from the Bartók-Reschofsky Piano Method, published in 1913. Apparently, it was Sándor Reschofsky who was responsible for the technical exercises. He had come from the grand Hungarian tradition, and from 1946 to 1958 he taught piano at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. 

In this preliminary exercise, the notes in the circles are touched by the fingers but not depressed. At the rest sign, you are supposed to lift the finger in readiness (the fingers on the keyboard are not supposed to move). The raised finger then approaches the keyboard firmly, and always from a distance. 

Bartók-Reschofsky Piano Method

Even though I was given exercises like this by my early teachers, I do not assign them to my students and find I cannot recommend them. Much of my work lies in undoing the unhelpful effects of isolating fingers from the hand and from the arm, instead finding ways of movement that are coordinated and holistic rather than tense and awkward. However, and I think this is important to state, many great pianists have come from this tradition and there are bound to be teachers who use such exercises who get great results from their students.

In my new video lecture series on technique on the Online Academy, I offer this introductory video in which I discuss and demonstrate this Bartók-Reschofsky exercise:

I came across this fascinating interview with the young Martha Argerich, where she discusses the subject of scales and technical exercises. Apart from a few days as a teenager, the great virtuoso has never practised scales and works on technical skills directly from the music itself.

If you study in a book of exercises considering only a certain aspect of the difficulty you won’t necessarily be able to achieve this in the piece. Because it is settled in differently. Quite often if you train thirds you won’t necessarily be able to play the thirds Chopin Étude. If you train octaves, you’re not necessarily going to be able to play the octaves in this or that piece. I always have technical problems for sure, but technique is not a separate matter. You cannot say I possess my technical skills and that’s it. I think each piece involves a specific and quite personal difficulty. In my case I always felt it like this. Some people say you have tremendous technical skills so everything is easy for you, but when I begin to study something it’s difficult for me also!

Martha Argerich

On the flip side, Josef Lhévinne (no less of a virtuoso by all accounts) seems to have been a stickler for scales.

Scales, it seems to me, are the basis of the development of a perfect technic. I always have been a firm believer in them. I am aware that some seem to think that they are not necessary, but anyone who has sat beside pupils and watched the almost magical effect that the right kind of scale drill produces upon pupils at a certain stage of advance could not fail to be convinced

Josef Lhévinne

The subject of whether scales, Hanon and other finger exercises are good or bad for pianists has been polemical for decades. The debate is set to continue, and while it does let’s aim to be polite and respectful to those whose opinions might differ from our own.

The Practice Piano Technique Lecture Series which includes further videos is available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber.

Further information & resources

  • The Piano Technique Lecture Series (click here to view the series index)
  • Practising the Piano multimedia eBook series – Part 2: Mastering Piano Technique (click here for more information)

The Practice Tools Workshop – Practising the Piano

This past Saturday, I embarked on a brand new venture – an interactive workshop on The Practice Tools, using technology to maximum advantage.

Sponsored by Casio Music UK, we hired a large conference room at the Victoria Park Plaza Hotel in London, which was set up with 15 Casio CDP-S100 digital pianos – and a Grand Hybrid GP-500 on the stage. Delegates were easily able to get to this central location and arrived not only from the UK but also from Europe to take part in the day.

We met at 9:30 for welcome tea and coffee and started with an introduction to Casio’s range of pianos by Chris Stanbury, and then moved on to our introductory session – a demonstration of how to use The Feedback Loop as the basis for all we do in piano practice. 

There followed four sessions, aimed at the intermediate to advanced player as well as piano teachers. Each 60-minute session was divided up into three segments – a presentation from me on a particular topic, a breakout session where each delegate was able to plug their headphones (provided by Casio) into their own piano and try out the practice techniques I had just demonstrated, then a Q&A session where people could ask questions or give feedback. I provided practice worksheets for each topic, but the practice during the breakout session was not restricted to the repertoire extracts I had suggested – people brought their own music and practised what they wanted.

There were many benefits to this format. 

  • People got to try out very specific practice tools immediately after an explanation and demonstration, so that they could experiment with them while they were still fresh in the memory
  • Questions and further explanation or demonstration could be offered immediately, so there was no confusion
  • Nobody needed to play in front of the group unless they chose to, so there was no performance anxiety or nerves whatever associated with the workshop

The first session was all about slow practice, how to use ultra-slow practice speeds to hear and feel every single atom and molecule of the phrase so that nothing slips by our radar. Practising slowly is really quite challenging, and the mind and ear need to be fully engaged to derive the benefit. The second session was all about various ways to bring a piece up to speed (when not to use slow practice) with a special focus on up-to-speed chaining (using The Feedback Loop to correct errors and to refine and finesse). I had the feeling this was an especially important session for those who had struggled with fluency and coordination when playing at fast tempos.

After an elegant lunch, when we were able to chat and socialise a bit, we had a session on controlled stops – how to use the Floating Fermata in our practice to plan ahead and digest the music in our heads before laying our hands on the keyboard. 

The final session was all about managing repetition in practice. I demonstrated many different ideas to the group who seemed very keen to try some of these out in the breakout session.

After tea, we ended with a 60-minute wrap-up where we gathered around a piano and had a mini-masterclass on aspects of practice as well as technique. By that time, everyone seemed well and truly nourished and probably slept very well that night!

We are planning more workshops along these lines, not only in London but also in other main UK cities. If you would like to hear about this, make sure you are on my mailing list and you will receive notification well in advance of general publicity.

Further information & resources

Some of the practice techniques we covered in the workshop can be found in the free Grand Hybrid taster e-book and in our video lecture series on the Practice Tools (click here to view the series index)

For news of more workshops, offers and resources it’s worth joining Casio’s Piano Teacher Network.


Pedalling Chopin’s B minor Prelude

Chopin’s 24 Préludes, op. 28 were composed at a difficult time in the composer’s life. It was the winter of 1838-9, and Chopin and his lover George Sand had decided to visit Majorca for a romantic holiday. He had contracted tuberculosis and, for fear of contamination, none of the local inhabitants would allow them to stay. So they ended up in the abandoned monastery in Valldemossa – miles from anywhere.

To make matters worse, Chopin’s piano was held up by customs so he had to rent another, a small upright known as a pianino built by Bauza, a local. To say it was not up to the job would be an understatement, but this unpretentious little instrument ended up with a fascinating history and was later owned by the great Polish harpsichordist, Wanda Landowska. Paul Kildea has written an entertaining and informative book about this piano – Chopin’s Piano – A Journey Through Romanticism 

While the Préludes make a magnificent set when heard all together, several of them are manageable by intermediate players. Number 6 in B minor is currently on ABRSM’s Grade 6 exam syllabus, and while at first glance it appears relatively straightforward, it is actually far from easy.

The cello-like melody in the left hand needs to be played with projection, shape and an understanding of legato cantabile touch, and because the player’s attention is likely to be focussed on the left hand it is all too easy to neglect the tolling bell we hear in the repeated right hand B’s. The quaver pairs need a lot of control and careful listening if we are to stress the first and lighten the second as marked.

Pedalling is another issue in this Prélude. Are we to take literally Chopin’s blurry pedal mark at the end, and do we only pedal where he has indicated? Pedalling in Chopin’s piano music is problematic, since notating pedal can never really be that precise. I have attempted to shed some light on the pedalling in this short video extract, I hope it is of some help to you!

For my full video walkthrough of Chopin’s Prélude in B minor on the Online Academy, follow this link. This video also forms part of our collection of resources on the ABRSM syllabus which can be viewed here.

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If you enjoyed this article then please click here if you’d like to sign-up to our mailing list to receive future articles, content updates and special offers. You may also be interested in the following resources:

Practising the Piano eBook Series 

There are surprisingly few books that deal with the art of practising. This multimedia eBook series contains hundreds of videos, audio clips, music examples and downloadable worksheets to show you exactly what need to do in order to get the most out of your practice time. Click here for more information.

Practising the Piano Online Academy

Building on my blog posts and eBook series, the Online Academy takes my work to the next level with a comprehensive library of lessons, masterclasses and resources combined with insights from other leading experts. Aimed at piano teachers and pianists, it will transform the way you approach playing or teaching the piano!

Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or on one of the options below to subscribe:

  • Monthly subscription – Subscribe for £13.99 a month to get full, unlimited access to all Online Academy articles and updates (click here to sign-up for this option)
  • Annual subscription – Save on the monthly subscription with an annual subscription for £119.99 per year and get free eBooks and editions worth over £70! (click here to sign-up for this option)

On Tempo Relationships – Practising the Piano

I was working with someone on Schubert’s B flat Impromptu last week, a set of variations on the so-called “Rosamunde” theme. Variation form always poses a tempo challenge to the performer – how to adapt the basic tempo we have chosen for the theme as the variations unfold. 

The edition my student was using was by the one by Howard Ferguson, from the ABRSM’s Signature Series. Ferguson is a musician and scholar for whom I have a lot of respect, so I was very interested to find in the preface some tempo suggestions that are “in no way authoritative, but may prove helpful if only as points of departure”. 

Schubert marks the theme Andante – most important, of course, to notice the all breve time signature, so that’s two beats in a bar (on no account must it feel like four). I’ve just been on YouTube to sample the tempo from a few recordings, here are the first five that came up in the search:

Lisitsa – c. 35

Pires – c. 35

Brendel – c. 40

Schiff – c. 45

Zimerman – c. 46

It was difficult to find a fixed pulse for the Horowitz recording I found. He brings his own inimitable Romantic approach to the work that has a magic all it’s own.

Howard Ferguson gives his suggestions in crotchet beats (strangely), and a tempo of 80 for the theme (40 for the minim beat). This increase to 88 (44) for the Variation 1, the slight increase making sense in light of the forward-flowing semiquaver movement that always reminds me of the sort of music Schubert writes when describing brooks or streams of water. Variation 2 pushes the pulse still further, at 96 (48), before a new, slower tempo of 60 (30) for the sombre Variation 3 in the tonic minor. Ferguson goes on to recommend a tempo of 84 (42) for Variations 4 and 5, and 54 (27) for the closing più lento. 

I wish I had time to go through each of the YouTube recordings I sampled to find out what becomes of the initial tempo, but you can be sure of two things. Firstly, it will change from variation to variation and secondly, each pianist will have come up with his or her own proportions that will be personal to that artist (on that particular occasion). 

Glenn Gould had a theory about tempo relationships in a large-scale work, based on the principle of a flexible tactus that should be traceable throughout. Here is a short extract from a 1982 radio interview with Tim Page, in which he explains his theory.

GG: I’ve come to feel over the years that a musical work, however long it may be, ought to have basically—I was going to say ‘one tempo’ but that’s the wrong word—one pulse rate, one constant rhythmic reference point. Now obviously there couldn’t be anything more deadly dull than to exploit one beat that goes on and on and on indefinitely —that’s what drives me up the wall about rock, you know, and . . . about minimalism . . .

TP: Oh-ho! I think we should argue that one another time. 

GG: Yeah, probably so. Anyway, I would never argue in favor of an inflexible music pulse, you know, that just destroys any music. But you can take a basic pulse and divide or multiply it, not necessarily on a scale of two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, but often with far less obvious divisions, I think, and make the result of those divisions or multiplications act as a subsidiary pulse for a particular movement or section of a movement . . .

GG: So in the case of the Goldberg, there is in fact one pulse, which—with a few very minor modifications—mostly modifications which I think take their cue from ritards at the end of the preceding variation, something like that—one pulse that runs all the way throughout. 

When it comes to preludes and fugues from the 48, I always try to find a tempo relationship between the prelude and the fugue that feels natural. This not only helps the performer to create an organic whole, but it also reassures the listener that they are hearing one work, rather than two pieces tacked together (this listening response will be felt even if it is not conscious). For some, it feels very appropriate that the tempo should stay more or less the same, even if the way the tempo moves is different. For example, the F minor from Book 1 works well this way, but it doesn’t have to! I can also imagine a more flowing tempo for the Prelude (surely an allemande), then something more stately for the Fugue.

In a Bach suite, I aim for an uninterrupted arch from the beginning to the end, not stopping the flow between each dance movement. One movement links to the next, carrying the listener along on a single thread. 


A Useful Research Tool – Practising the Piano

I was working with someone on the Appassionata Sonata of Beethoven this week. The rhythmic organisation of the trill in bar 3 was not clear to me, so I asked to hear this bar slowly. Slowing the trill down proved a bit of a challenge, so I came up with a solution along the lines suggested by Artur Schnabel in his landmark edition.

The principle here is that since a trill has a finite number of notes, it greatly assists performer and listener if these notes can be accounted for metrically. Here is Schnabel’s first recommendation:

He goes on to give an alternative, but more difficult version:

So which to choose, and are there other possibilities? I often find myself advising students to practise two or three strict versions of trills (if possible) in order that a freer version might emerge spontaneously in performance.

And speaking of performances, we can easily research the vast number of different recordings available on YouTube using a simple tool hidden within the settings. This feature enables us to slow the speed down so that fast surface detail becomes clear and audible – at three-quarters, half or a quarter speed. The slower the setting, the lower the sound quality and of course the musical meaning is almost entirely lost. But how useful to discover how other pianists organise details such as this trill! I have made a short video to show you how to do it.

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If you enjoyed this article then please click here if you’d like to sign-up to our mailing list to receive future articles, content updates and special offers. You may also be interested in the following resources:

Practising the Piano eBook Series 

There are surprisingly few books that deal with the art of practising. This multimedia eBook series contains hundreds of videos, audio clips, music examples and downloadable worksheets to show you exactly what need to do in order to get the most out of your practice time. Click here for more information.

Practising the Piano Online Academy

Building on my blog posts and eBook series, the Online Academy takes my work to the next level with a comprehensive library of lessons, masterclasses and resources combined with insights from other leading experts. Aimed at piano teachers and pianists, it will transform the way you approach playing or teaching the piano!

Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or on one of the options below to subscribe:

  • Monthly subscription – Subscribe for £13.99 a month to get full, unlimited access to all Online Academy articles and updates (click here to sign-up for this option)
  • Annual subscription – Save on the monthly subscription with an annual subscription for £119.99 per year and get free eBooks and editions worth over £70! (click here to sign-up for this option)

Write it Out! – Practising the Piano

I first published this post way back in June, 2013, and it has been buried in the archives ever since. I decided to update it and republish after the subject of copying out music by hand came up in a recent lesson. You can do this from the score or from memory.

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Back in the 90s when I used to commute from London to New York each month to see students there, I was thinking of a profitable way of filling in the flying time. During that period, I was preparing for my first few performances of The Goldberg Variations and decided to do something I had heard Rosalyn Tureck speak about – write out the piece from memory in manuscript. Naturally, this took many hours over the course of some months, but I succeeded in doing it and it was a real eye-opener. Did I know the music absolutely, or was I relying on fingers slyly drumming on my tray table to prod me when I hit a blank? In all honesty, I probably did recourse to some mile-high finger twiddling but my aim was to draw on my ear and my brain, which I managed to do by and large but certainly not perfectly. It was an exercise that proved far from easy, but I am extremely glad I did it. It gave me extra confidence that I ended up knowing the piece deeply from memory.

This was going to extremes, I fully recognise (frankly, life is too short). However, I often do find myself writing out a small section (it might be a bar or two, or a phrase) that does not seem to succumb to the rigours of routine practising. Students often say “I always go wrong there!”, but if you always go wrong there, then knowing this fact is a surely a gift as the problem should beget a solution. Write that bit out, I suggest. It doesn’t even have to be from memory – just copy those few bars out. I would suggest old-fashioned pencil and paper for this – have manuscript paper sitting on the top of the piano, and devote a few minutes to this exercise.  If you’ve run out of paper, here is a site you can print off free downloadable manuscript paper.


I invite you to try an experiment. Take a piece you consider you know very well, maybe something you have played regularly. Write out the first phrase from memory. Put the score way out of sight so you’ll not be tempted to peek. This is such an acid test that you may even find you baulk at the time signature, or the tempo indication, let alone the notes in the first bar.

Slips and Errors

In diagnosing your own mistakes, ask yourself if it really is a technical problem that causes you to stumble or an error in perception. In other words, do you really know what is going on in the bar in question without a shadow of doubt, or are you glossing over that LH bit? Are you absolutely certain which fingers should go where? How long is that bass note, exactly? If you’re not sure, there are a few ways to find out. Playing each hand alone at quarter speed is often a good way to find out, but if you’re up for a challenge – try writing it out!


Introducing Our YouTube Video Channel

Over the past few months we’ve been making a number of our videos from the Online Academy available on our YouTube channel. This channel now features a growing collection of over forty full length videos, excerpts and previews.

The following example is one of the most popular videos on the channel so far which uses Bruch’s Moderato from Sechs Klavierstücke (Op. 12, No. 4 – ABRSM Grade 6) to demonstrate an approach to mastering the challenges presented by jumps:

Other videos provide walk throughs of works featured on exam syllabi e.g. No. 2 from Mendelssohn’s Kinderstücke (Op. 72) and Byrd’s Coranto. Pedalling is also a popular theme with examples including a demonstration of finger pedalling using Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses, an introduction to fractional pedalling and suggestions for how to pedal Chopin’s sombre Prélude in B minor.

Please click here to view our channel and subscribe for updates regarding new videos. You may also be interested in subscribing to our email mailing list to receive updates regarding blog posts, new content and special offers.