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Focus in Practice – Practising the Piano

As a teacher, my chief aim is to assist my students in playing more freely and expressively. A big part of that process is helping them unlock their unique musical personality and equipping them with a solid technical foundation. There has been much discussion of late in the piano networks on technical matters, so I thought I would do my bit to put some of this into perspective.

I feel very fortunate to have had wonderful training as a pianist, fairly eclectic as I went along and culminating with intensive and long-term study with a representative of the very best of the modern Russian School. Someone asked me the other day what makes one school of piano playing better than another, and in what ways are they different? Interesting question! The piano is by now a fully evolved instrument, and the traditions of playing and teaching it are well established. Certain ways of manipulating the keyboard have been passed down because they seem to work across the board, while others have been thrown out as inefficient or injurious. There will always be differences between the national schools of playing – the French School is known for its fastidiousness to fine detail and its focus on the fingers, while the Russian School for its full, projected sound, its physical athleticism and ability to focus talent from a very young age. And yet there is really no such thing as “The Russian School”, since there are several lineages involved even here.

Yesterday I gave a day’s workshop on piano technique for Evoco in Belfast, under the auspices of the inspirational Sharon Mark-Teggart. Towards the end there was a Q&A session, and one diploma candidate asked whether it was more correct to play a particular Bach Gigue with curved or flat fingers. I immediately thought about two opposite keyboard players – the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska and pianist Vladimir Horowitz. Mme. Landowska played with exaggeratedly curved fingers and Maestro Horowitz with unfeasibly flat ones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw3FstKlse0

Any piano teacher faced with either situation would take steps to correct the hand position and yet who could possibly say these two great artists were in any way wrong? As I mentioned in last week’s post, a great pianist can come from any school of piano playing and there is no industry standard for hand positions. I think it is safe to say there are certain ways of doing things that are better than others, and certain movements and positions that will probably end up causing problems somewhere down the line. But as we will see in a bit, piano technique is not only a physical matter.

There was a time in the history of piano teaching when teachers were trying to find ways of tackling the more powerful pianos and the different styles of music being written. In the mid 1800s, Lebert and Stark (Stuttgart Conservatory) responded by taking Clementi’s ideas about active fingers and passive arms several stages further by introducing a mechanical device called a handrail with which their “hammer touch” was to be developed through endless finger exercises. Needless to say, crippling injuries were reported. It was during this time that we see a split between technical and musical work, so that it was possible (and prevalent) for the player to separate pure mechanics from musical thought and expression. It led to a group of piano students who had no real lively interest in music, but who were concerned solely with becoming showmen at the piano. I have a feeling this period in the history of piano playing is why some teachers today have a dread of any type of mechanical practice.

My last teacher, Nina Svetlanova, would often speak during my lessons of her own teachers and mentors. Apart from Heinrich Neuhaus another who stands out is Grigory Kogan, who wrote books entitled At The Gates of Mastery and A Pianist’s Work. It was Kogan who coined the term Psycho-Technical School to describe modern trends in the history of piano technique. Here are some salient points he raises:

  • Results come not because of the amount of time we spend practising but by the quality of the work, the involvement of the mind.
  • Thinking about the mechanics of movement interferes with performance. For example, it does not help me one bit if I am thinking about the position of my wrist in a given place in my piece or whether I am producing my staccato from my finger or my forearm, I just need to exactly know what sort of sound I am trying to achieve at that point, keeping the musical and artistic meaning in mind. By concentrating on the purpose of my motor activity (rather than the activity itself) my body will better produce the result, naturally and automatically (provided I have the chops in the first place).
  • Dull drilling is meaningless and futile – the technical difficulty might have nothing to do with the motor processes but rather a lack of clarity on the musical meaning or the purpose of the movements.
  • We connect musical imagination and muscular sensations with careful listening to the sounds we make.
  • The clearer our aims, the clearer our means of accomplishing them.
  • Mental practice away from the keyboard is an important part of the preparation for a new piece.

Kogan’s three basic principles are a fitting way to round off this post and it would serve us well always to keep them in mind:

1. We need to be able to hear the music inwardly in all its details.

Before we can expect any kind of result, we need to have a sense of how we want the piece to sound. The more vivid our artistic image, the more convinced we are by our conception of the work, the quicker and more directly we will reach our goal. This presupposes some ability to absorb and comprehend the contents of a musical score away from the piano. A magnificent cathedral starts off as a vision in the imagination of the architect who puts it down on paper in the form of sketches and then precise directions for the building thereof. From there, manual labourers set to work and erect the thing. 

2. We need to have a passionate and intense desire to realise the image we have.

When I was a student, one day I listened to a recording of Schumann’s Carnaval played by Rachmaninov. I was bowled over by the playing and felt compelled to learn the piece. So intense was my desire to play this piece that I decided to substitute this work for another that was on an upcoming recital programme – in two weeks’ time! Nowadays I wouldn’t do anything so foolhardy as to learn a big work like this in two weeks and then perform it, but this is the sort of daredevil thing you are allowed to do when you are young.

3. We need our full concentration on this task in everyday practising.

When we are totally absorbed in an activity that holds our interest, we don’t notice the passage of time. Sometimes practising is a joy, other times it is sheer hard work. Not every practice session is going to be fuelled by enthusiasm and drive, sometimes practising can feel flat and routine. In the end it is the commitment we make to just showing up and doing it whether we feel like it or not, whether we feel inspired by it or not.

I will leave you with the legendary recording of Rachmaninov playing Carnaval – I think this is a remarkable performance.

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If you enjoyed this blog post, then you may be interested in the following resources:

Practising the Piano eBook Series (New Revised Editions!)

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.

To celebrate the launch of revised editions of the series, we’re offering a further 20% off all products in our catalogue. To take advantage of this offer, please visit our catalogue and enter the following voucher code upon check-out: 2PXGQX6XX3A9.

Alternatively, you can click here to be taken directly to the checkout page for the complete series bundle with the voucher automatically applied.

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!

A number of articles are available without registration and you can also register for free to view an additional five articles (no credit card required). Click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here to visit the site, view free content and to subscribe.

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Bespoke Fingerings – Practising the Piano

In my student days I learned a Scriabin sonata using a library score. Quite why I did it this way I don’t remember (because I was actively building up my music library at that stage), but I borrowed the score from MSM library and used it as my working copy. Figuring out a systematic fingering has always been important to me so I added mine to the library copy, practised it in and performed the sonata before returning the score.

A few years later I decided I wanted to programme the work again, so I did what I should have done in the first place and I bought my own personal copy. The trouble was it came minus my fingering. When I began to re-familiarise myself with the work, I had forgotten my original fingerings and had to work them out from scratch. This struck me as rather a waste of time, and it became a problem when my old fingerings started to re-emerge from my muscle memory a few days into the process of practising new and different ones.

Now I was stuck with two fingerings – the old that had worked perfectly well for me, and the new I ended up discarding. The moral of the story: Write your fingerings in the score for posterity, it will save you lots of time!

Skrjabin Alexander.jpg
Alexander Scriabin

Muscle Memory

There is a school of thought that does not believe in organising and ingraining a set fingering – the hand will find its own way if your ear and brain know the notes so well that you can transpose them into any key at will. An ideal to aspire to – especially if you aim to escape from the tyranny of fickle easy come, easy go finger memory – but perhaps not very practical, unless you can devote loads of time and energy to this endeavour.

I much prefer to spend a bit of time on the process of organising a fingering that suits my hand right at the beginning stages of learning a new piece, with a pencil (usually in my mouth as I doodle) and an eraser very close by.

Here is my process:

  • Try the printed fingering (if present) and give it a mental mark out of 10 for comfort and security, based on what I might want to do with each phrase (articulation, touch, shaping, timings, etc.).
  • Set this deliberately aside and generate another possible fingering without prejudice, marking it again out of 10 on the same grounds. Jot down salient finger numbers lightly in the score (if I think I might not remember them).
  • As an exercise, generate as many different possible fingerings as I can.
  • Make a final decision based on all of the above and write it in.
  • Practise this in, leaving a small window of time to change my mind in case a new and better fingering leaps out at me.
  • After a day or so, commit to this fingering and stick to it every time I practise thereafter until it becomes automatic (meaning I can play without any conscious thought). This allows me to concentrate on other aspects of music making or performance, knowing and trusting that my fingers will go where they need to go without my having to think about it.

Printed Fingerings

The subject of fingering is a vast one and way outside the scope of this blog post (I’ll probably end up doing a series on it at some stage), so I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of this fingering system versus that, or the various philosophies of fingering (a fascinating subject in itself).

Serious students of the piano are taught to respond to and obey all the details in modern Urtext editions of the score since these are from the composer himself – unadulterated by editors and others intent on “improving” the original.

So everything we find on the printed pages of the best of Urtext editions is reliable, trustworthy and infallible, right?

Not quite.

There is one level of the score that is not Urtext, and that is the fingering.

In the Henle Urtext editions I have on my shelves, the fingerings are often given by Hans-Martin Theopold, or by Walther Lampe. In some ways, I wish there were no fingering in these editions at all. I mean no disrespect to Theopold or Lampe – I am sure they were fine musicians – but so often I find their fingering solutions just don’t work for the particular student I am teaching at the time. In a score of Bach, these editors’ fingerings are particularly unhelpful and misleading, since they generally don’t factor in how the choice of articulations (which are so often up to our own personal taste) influences the fingering we settle on.

Their mandate must have been an impossible one, though – come up with a fingering for the average hand, and we’re going to print this in the score of the immortal classics along with the composer’s text (stripped of all other editorial tampering) and present it on the same level (by which I mean in the same typeface). Quite a daring move, wouldn’t you say? I mean, millions of faithful and devoted piano students are going to believe implicitly that these fingerings are gospel truth in the same way the notes are. At first Theopold refused, saying “For fingerings are and remain something individual no matter what their quality”, but he later relented and produced 226 fingered editions in total. 

This is like going into a department store to buy a jacket – to find they only have one size. Forget male or female; small, medium or large – one size must fit all, no matter your age or physical proportions.

I admire the solution Willard Palmer and Alfred Music came up with to distinguish editorial suggestions from the original text, which was to print their stuff in grey. It works – really well. You can clearly see the composer’s information on one level and the realisation of ornaments, etc. on another. How about publishing houses putting their fingerings in grey? Or having multiple fingering options? Probably too costly and it wouldn’t be easy on the eye.

Composer’s Fingerings

What about fingerings passed down from the composer himself? Are we duty-bound to stick to these?

Absolutely not!

His hand will have been unique, just like yours and mine. There can be no standardisation of fingering, no matter whether it is from an editor, a teacher or from the composer himself. The only fingering is the one that works for you given your hand – its size, the length of one finger in proportion to the others, your span, physique, etc. – and what you want to do with the music.

How can I arrive at a fingering for myself? What are the fingering principles?

  • Keep the hand as closed as possible

Many problems with tension stem from retaining a stretched-out hand position after a position shift or attempting to stretch the fingers from a fixed hand position. This is particularly debilitating when the thumb remains flexed. I am a great believer in the attitude of a closed hand as default, any stretches happening at the last moment when the hand opens and then immediately closes again. This is based on the abiding principle that a stretched out hand is prone to tension, and that tension leads directly to lack of mobility. Even if we can somehow manage to play this way, it is aesthetically incorrect and beauty or richness of tone are unlikely to be present.

  • Avoid fixed five-finger positions and unnecessary stretches as much as possible

The work of the fingers is shared with the arm – keep aligned and keep mobile.

  • Don’t avoid 4th and 5th fingers

… or they’ll shrivel up and drop off.

  • Consult as many different printed fingerings as possible

When lesson time is short, rather than spend lots of time selecting fingering I often suggest using IMSLP. If the piece is out of copyright, there will usually be several different editions of a given work each with its own fingering. Try out one editor’s suggestions, then try another. Fiddle for a while until you come up with something that works for your hand. Don’t take anything at face value and feel free to come up with something that is entirely your own. And don’t discard otherwise “bad” editions when it comes to the fingering suggestions – we should never use Czerny’s Bach editions (because he “corrected” the text and added his own contributions) but some of his fingering is great.

Let’s look at two editorial LH fingerings for a passage from Brahms Intermezzo, op. 118 no. 1. The lower set of finger numbers is from Brahms himself (in italics) and the upper “2” from Hans-Martin Theopold. Should you choose the composer’s or the editor’s? Not necessarily either, although there aren’t too many options in this particular case.

Op 118 no 1
Henle edition of Brahms Klavierstücke (op. 118, no. 1, bar 24-28)

The composer’s fingering means the elbow can stay slightly raised at the end of the group, whereas Theopold’s brings the elbow back into the body on the implied “1” on the last note of each bar, and tends to make the ensuing jump feel bigger. While I prefer Brahms’, Theopold’s fingering is not wrong or bad – it comes down to personal preference.

Publications on Fingering

There are only few publications I know of about piano fingering.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach devoted several paragraphs to the subject of fingering in his book Versuch über die wahre Art, das Clavier zu spielen (Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments).

Tobias Matthay wrote a small book Principles of Fingering.

Penelope Roskell‘s The Art of Piano Fingering is a new approach to scales and arpeggios, and challenges the rules that have been passed down by tradition. Alternative fingerings are given in addition to standard ones, and there are plenty of examples from the repertoire too.

Rami Bar-Niv: The Art of Piano Fingering. The book teaches the craft of piano fingering using music examples, photos and diagrams, exercises, and injury-free techniques.

Jon Verbalis: Natural Fingering: A Topographical Approach to Pianism

In Part 3 of my ebook series, I explore scale and arpeggio playing in depth. Included are many ideas for practising, as well as rhythm charts,  practice charts, other interactive features and video demonstrations.

Preview or Buy Practising the Piano Part 3

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For more information, and the catalogue to purchase individual parts, click here.

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judi

Mental States in Performance – Practising the Piano

We all know the importance of early training in shaping a pianist, with correct musical and technical development right at the top of the list.

There is another vital ingredient in the mix that is sometimes overlooked, the responsibility of the teacher to nurture a healthy psychological outlook in the student. Lessons should always be positive experiences even when faults need to be corrected or discipline meted out. This is why teachers should balance positive feedback on the playing and the week’s work with constructive comments and instructions that are delivered in a manner that is always respectful and empowering – never shaming. It is also the teacher’s responsibility not to put their student in for competitions before they are ready, and to prepare them fully for all performances. This way the student develops a healthy self-esteem with regard to their playing – a positive mental attitude.

I am very pleased to announce that Part 4 of my e-book series, Practising the Piano has just rolled off the end of the production line and will be launched next week. I will tell you more about the contents of the publication in next week’s post but first I want to talk a little further about the importance of cultivating a positive mental attitude as a ploy to counter performance anxiety.

 

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Performance Nerves

In conjunction with writing and researching the book, I decided to run a short, informal and anonymous survey, Performance Anxiety Among Pianists. I was delighted by the response, well over 1,000 took the trouble to complete it and I have included some of the stats in my book.

It is no secret that many of the world’s greatest concert pianists have at some stage in their careers suffered from performance anxiety. Vladimir Horowitz was forced to retire from the concert stage for long periods because of debilitating nerves, and there are many wonderful pianists who turn to jelly as soon as they walk onto the stage. One of the most celebrated teachers of the 20th century, Adele Marcus, apparently vomited over the keyboard at the start of the Schumann concerto because of nerves and was unable to give the performance.

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to performance – getting out there and doing it regularly and routinely is what seasons a pianist. Take a break for a few months and it feels like you have somehow lost the knack of handling the adrenaline and of controlling your playing in front of an audience. I do much less playing now than I used to, and when I do play a recital I am aware that an awful lot of time in the practice room is devoted to bolstering up my memory and to knowing the music upside down, backwards and sideways. Anything to avoid that horrible feeling of insecurity on the stage.

It seems that the slightest distraction can put us off our stride in performance – coughing, mobile phones going off, someone walking around in the auditorium – but more usually it is what is going on in our own head. When we perform, we can be our own worst enemy.

I would like to share two personal experiences of performing that I hope will be empowering. I want to preface this by stressing the importance of being fully prepared pianistically, this is the number 1 priority. No amount of positive self-talk or inner game work is going to save the day without thorough preparation. With this in place, the difference between a successful performance and a sub-standard one is all in our head.

Royal College of Music - April 2007

A Lesson at the Royal College of Music

When we perform, we call on a different part of ourselves from when we practise or play for ourselves, because these are completely opposite activities. In performance we need a feeling of abandon and spontaneity, of creativity and going with the punches, whereas practising relies on thoughtful, analytic procedures where we constantly evaluate, repeating and refining our results until we are satisfied they are correct.

When I was an undergraduate student at the Royal College of Music in London, I experienced these two opposite states of mind in a lesson – in the first instance the careful practiser and secondly the carefree performer. My piano professor had assigned me Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse and had given me two weeks to learn it. Anxious to show him how much I had practised and how well I had prepared the piece, I was (unconsciously) reluctant to surrender control in my lesson. When I played it through to him it was full of errors caused by anxiety and tension, not by lack of time or effort in the practice room. As we all know, mental tension translates immediately into physical tension and I ended up playing with a different sense of my muscles – sluggish, restricted and uncooperative.

My teacher, being very wise, immediately asked me to play the piece again, this time trying to play as many wrong notes and to make as many mistakes as possible. This somewhat unusual permission was enough to flip a switch in my mind, and the difference between the two performances was chalk and cheese. I remember being startled by this, since the two play-throughs were back to back without any detailed instruction or in-between practice. It was the Jekyll-and-Hyde change of mindset that was solely responsible for the difference between a stiff, awkward, and therefore inaccurate and disappointing version, and a free, creative one that felt exhilarating and on target.

Here is Marcelle Meyer playing Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse.

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In the Green Room

Many years later I was in the green room waiting to go onstage and play a recital at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference. Sitting around waiting to go onstage is usually the most anxious part of a performance for me, when I entertain thoughts such as: “Why am I putting myself through this? Why didn’t I choose a proper job?”… and so on. The butterflies in my stomach were worse than usual because the audience was made up of professional pianists, professors of piano, piano teachers and piano students. What torture!

Just before I had to set foot on the stage I found I was able to alter my thoughts, and walked out confidently. So what had changed? Instead of fear and self doubt, I realised that they would all be experiencing exactly the same fears if any one of them were in my shoes. After all, who would want to play for a hall full of colleagues and peers? Also, they would be bound to be sympathetic to any shakes or nervousness. But the most important thought was: “They know this music and will immediately hear all the nuances I bring to it, so they will appreciate my playing all the more!”

In my mind, I had already won them over before I had even played a note. I walked out and played confidently, and really enjoyed myself.

Practising the Piano Part 4

In Part 4 of Practising the Piano, I explore various ways we can improve our positive self-talk and banish the critical inner voices that can undermine us so powerfully. I also offer in-depth information on how to develop performance skills in your studio as part of the practice process, and of course cover the important subject of memorisation.

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Click here to purchase a gift voucher for the publication – a perfect stocking filler for the holiday season.

I would like to share a personal story. Some years

ago I was in the green room

waiting to go onstage and play a recital of French

music at a piano pedagogy

conference in Australia. This is usually the most a

nxious part of a performance

for me, when I entertain thoughts such as: “Why am

I putting myself through

this? Why didn’t I choose a proper job?”… and so on

. The butterflies in my

stomach were worse than usual because the audience

was made up of

professional pianists, professor of piano, piano te

achers and piano students.

What torture! Just before I had to set foot on the

stage I found I was able to alter

my thoughts, and walked out confidently. So what ha

d changed? Instead of fear

and self doubt, I realised that they would all be e

xperiencing exactly the same

fears if any one of them were in my shoes. After al

l, who would want to play for a

hall full of colleagues and peers? Also, they would

be bound to be sympathetic to

any shakes or nervousness. But the most important t

hought was “they will

immediately hear all the nuances I bring to the mus

ic, and they will appreciate

these much more than a conventional audience.” In m

y mind, I had already won

them over before I had even played a not

I would like to share a personal story. Some years

ago I was in the green room

waiting to go onstage and play a recital of French

music at a piano pedagogy

conference in Australia. This is usually the most a

nxious part of a performance

for me, when I entertain thoughts such as: “Why am

I putting myself through

this? Why didn’t I choose a proper job?”… and so on

. The butterflies in my

stomach were worse than usual because the audience

was made up of

professional pianists, professor of piano, piano te

achers and piano students.

What torture! Just before I had to set foot on the

stage I found I was able to alter

my thoughts, and walked out confidently. So what ha

d changed? Instead of fear

and self doubt, I realised that they would all be e

xperiencing exactly the same

fears if any one of them were in my shoes. After al

l, who would want to play for a

hall full of colleagues and peers? Also, they would

be bound to be sympathetic to

any shakes or nervousness. But the most important t

hought was “they will

immediately hear all the nuances I bring to the mus

ic, and they will appreciate

these much more than a conventional audience.” In m

y mind, I had already won

them over before I had even played a not

 

 

judi

Practising the Piano Part 4

When I began writing my eBook Series Practising the Piano, I wanted to address the lack of information out there on the processes of practising. I was fortunate enough to have had teachers who understood this vital aspect of the pianist’s training and they taught me how to practise in no uncertain terms. Not everyone has this information, so I decided to pass it on.

It is in the spirit of being fully prepared for performance by a combination of talent and commitment honed by intelligent practice that I approach the subject of performance in Part 4 (the final part) of Practising the Piano. 

Do you avoid performing because you find it too stressful? It may surprise you to know that many of the world’s greatest pianists have often suffered from acute anxiety and nerves but have found ways to overcome them. Practising the Piano Part 4 provides a combination of rock-solid practising techniques, proven methods for memorising and psychological strategies used by elite sportsmen and women to enable you to realise your full potential on the day.

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What’s in it?

I have divided Part 4 of Practising the Piano into 3 volumes:

Volume 1 focusses on developing performance skills and on how to be as well prepared as possible so that you are able to deliver when you walk onto the stage or into your examination room. In this volume I explain five different ways to practise and how to set goals and deadlines in the run-up to a performance alongside providing further resources for generating more performance opportunities, and suggestions for managing a programme. Click here for a free preview (opens in a new window).

Volume 2 covers the complex subject of performance psychology and performance anxiety. This subject is still taboo, but some important pianists have come out and spoken about their own battles with nerves and how they have coped with them. Alongside results from my survey, Performance Anxiety among Pianists, I explore how mental skills training, visualisation, CBT, meditation and other techniques can assist in calming the critical inner voice thus enabling us to unleash our true creative selves when we perform. Click here for a free preview (opens in a new window).

Volume 3 is all about memorisation. There is nothing more terrifying than a memory slip on the stage and I firmly believe that the memorisation process should begin as soon as we start learning the notes. In this volume I investigate the different types of memory (muscular, aural, analytic, etc.) and offer 11 different tools for developing and strengthening the memory. The more of these tools you use during your practice, the more effectively you are insured against memory problems during performance. Click here for a free preview (opens in a new window).

Remember – if you are enjoying your performance, so will your audience. It really is that simple! I sincerely hope that Practising the Piano Part 4 will help you get to the place where you can fully enjoy delivering a confident performance that you can be proud of.

How to Get Your Copy

You can purchase Practising the Piano Part 4  (priced at £9.99) directly from my website. It is also available on Amazon Kindle and for pre-order on the Apple iBookstore (click here for the full series catalogue which contains links to the individual volumes on all platforms ).

The full series (Parts 1 to 4) can now be purchased for £35.99 (a discount of 20% off the individual part prices). If you already own one or more parts of Practising the Piano you can also take advantage of further discount bundles to complete your collection. These can be viewed on the series catalogue page here.

 

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Further information on the complete series is also available here and additional discount bundle combinations are available on the series catalogue here.

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On Practising and Performance – Practising the Piano

I have been writing this blog since March 2011, putting up weekly posts except over Christmas when I take a bit of time off. Before I sign off for the holidays, I would like to leave you with three old posts that I think describe the difference between the opposite states of practising and performing. If we can keep these differences in mind when we practise, we will reach our destination more quickly and efficiently.

Cavaliers and Roundheads: Developing Performance Skills

I wrote this post in May, 2012 in response to a BBC TV programme on the English Civil War. It struck me that we need to call on our inner Roundhead when we practise (puritanical, serious-minded, hard-working and religious) and the devil-may-care, spontaneous, reckless and flashy Cavalier when we perform. If we take our Cavalier into the practice room, we wouldn’t get any work done; if we take our Roundhead onto the stage with us when we perform, we will bore the pants off our audience.

To read this post,  click here.

Practice v Performance

There is a lovely quote from legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz which applies equally to us pianists, and indeed any other performer:

Practice like it means everything in the world to you. Perform like you don’t give a damn.

This is really another way of saying the same thing – find a way of developing a Jekyll-and-Hyde mindset between your practice room and the concert stage or examination room.

practice v performance

To read this post, click here.

Going into the Zone

There is a crucial stage in performance preparation when we need to get out of our comfort zone and begin to sense what it feels like to play a work or a programme in its entirety, and to practise doing this as a very deliberate practice strategy. It’s so easy to stop and correct ourselves when we go wrong. What do we tend to do – stop, fix it and move on. When we finally get to the end, we must not delude ourselves that we have played through our piece because in performance we may stop for absolutely nothing! We need to let go of wrong notes, small slips or misjudged chord balances or voicings as soon as we have made them, there is no opportunity for correcting them on the stage. I would go one step further – we need to silence our inner critic in such eventualities by acknowledging we are human, that no performance is perfect and that these things are actually a part of performance!

To read this post, click here.

Practising the Piano Part 4

Little did I imagine when I started writing my blog that it would interest so many people, or that it would lead to a series of e-books. As you may know, I have just launched Part 4 of my e-book series, Practising the Piano and I am delighted that I managed to finish it in time for Christmas. Practising the Piano Part 4 focusses on the art of performance, including how best to prepare yourself both mentally and in the practise room. Drawing upon powerful practise strategies, proven psychological and therapeutic techniques (used by elite sportsmen and women), it shows how to combat anxiety and to deliver performances that reflect your full potential. If you completed my survey Performance Anxiety Among Pianists, may I take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution. I have used results from this survey throughout Volume 2 (the volume that deals with psychology and performance anxiety), and it is very revealing that a large number of pianists of all ages and levels struggle with stage fright to some degree or other.

Click here to find out more or to get your copy!

Practising the Piano Online Academy

The Practising the Piano Online Academy is the ultimate online resource for mastering the piano. It features a constantly growing library of thousands of articles, videos and musical excerpts on topics including practising, piano technique and performing from leading experts. 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 almost 30% 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)
judi

Happy Holidays and Popular Posts of 2014

2014 saw continued growth for the Practising the Piano website along with the launch of two new Parts in the eBook series (Part 3 and Part 4) and a website overhaul midyear.  I’ll be taking a break over the Festive Season but thought I’d leave you with a listing of the most popular posts of 2014:

  1. Enjoying Ultra Slow Practice
  2. “But it Takes Me Ages to Learn a New Piece!”
  3. Resources for Studying Bach
  4. Piano Graffiti
  5. Top Ten Tips to Maximise Your Practice
  6. Efficient Practising for Busy People
  7. A Practical Theory Lesson
  8. The Myth of Perfection
  9. Tackling a Programme
  10. Making Scales Sound and Feel Good

As a further note, my post on Controlling Tone didn’t quite make this list as it was only published recently but it did generate the most views within the shortest time.

Please feel free to get in touch if there are any topics you would like to see me cover in future posts.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support to date and to wish you all the best for 2015!

judi

Structuring Your Practice – Practising the Piano

The New Year is a time for eliminating bad habits and forming new, constructive ones. Sometimes we need a bit of help doing this, so here are some ideas to help you at the piano.

1. Be Clear on Your Goals

Whether you are a young person taking lessons, an adult who plays for pleasure or a professional pianist making your living at it – you need structure. This structure might take the form of examination or recital deadlines, or the desire to learn and present new repertoire. Write your goals down as intentions:

This year, I will play a new recital programme three times.

 

In the Autumn, I will take my diploma. My programme will be…

 

In June 2015, I will record the first six Preludes and Fugues from Book 1 of ‘The 48’ and share them with my friends on Facebook.

 

Between now and December, I will study all of Prokoviev’s Visions fugitives with my teacher.

When you settle on a programme, write it down in the style of a concert programme you would give your audience. Put your name at the top and write down each piece in order. Remember to add all the details (such as movements names, opus numbers, full titles, and so on). Print it out and put it in a prominent place (the fridge door is good) so you’ll see it daily.

rubinstein

2. Setting Deadlines

Assuming we want to make sure the works that make up an entire programme peak together, let’s work backwards from the end point. For example, if my recital or exam date is March 1st, I will need to aim to be fully prepared three weeks before that. Prior to that, I’ll need to arrange three run-throughs in front of different people (peers, teacher, trusted friends, piano meet-up group, festival, etc.). Therefore, I would ideally be thinking about planning three preparatory run-through sessions in the beginning of February, at the very latest. Write these dates in your diary, as commitments.

If you are a teacher, give your students a yearly planner sheet with important dates so they can see at a glance what is expected of them and when. Put down the dates of your studio recitals, the date of the lesson when you expect all the scales to be ready for a scale test, the date of the lesson when you will hear a complete performance of Piece A, of all the pieces, the mock exam, and so on.

For information on how to apply Parkinson’s Law to your piano practice, follow this link to Part 4 of my eBook.

3. Concentration in the Practice Room

So much time and energy is wasted in the practice room if we do not have a clear sense of what is involved in the process of learning and refining a piece from scratch to performance. Players do not seem to have the patience to work slowly, in small sections and hands separately. This is not a chore: it has its own sort of interest, and can even be joyful. Nothing of any lasting value can be achieved without total concentration in the practice room, the conscious mind and the ear fully involved and engaged with what we are doing.

Playing through our errors day after day, hoping they will magically disappear, is a colossal waste of time. Stop and figure out what went wrong, and where, and take steps to correct this. It takes far fewer repetitions to store a correctly learned pattern of notes in the long-term memory, and way more repetitions if we need to unlearn mistakes.

The moral of the story is learn it correctly from the start.

4. Routine

I’m a great believer in making lists, or practice rotas, but flexible ones that take into account the realities of life and also that leave room for spontaneity. Rigid schedules are impractical and demotivating, since they are very hard to stick to. However we plan our work, we will absolutely need to get into a routine. A regular routine helps us to frame our work so that the act of practising becomes a habit. Sure, this takes discipline, but nothing worth achieving is possible without steely determination and self-sacrifice. Therefore, it is extremely helpful to set aside a regular time during the day for practice. This gives us direction and impetus.

Since no two people are the same, it is impossible to come up with an exact formula for the length of time needed for practice, or the best format to organise our work. Some people work best in the morning, others later in the day. It can also be effective to break up the practice into two or more sessions, and certainly little and often is better than doing it in one chunk if concentration is likely to wander or tiredness set in.

Unless the piece is short, or very familiar, we’re not likely to get through every section of the piece in any given practice session. Therefore, divide it up into manageable, logical sections for the purposes of practising. Take the score and mark in the different sections and come up with a weekly practice plan. Be creative here: perhaps in week 1, our time with section B will be devoted to memory work, whereas in section C we are aiming to increase speed, etc.

Many people don’t concentrate well on a single activity for more than 15 or 20 minutes. I have found that interleaving the items on the day’s practice agenda is much more effective than spending all the time you will devote to a given activity in a single block of time.

For more information on interleaving v. blocking practice, follow this link to my blog post.

5. Forming Habits

If you are daunted by the prospect of regular, routine practice, remember to start small. Set aside a small chunk of time daily and stick to this religiously. All you have to do is just to show up at the piano at your appointed time. It’s a bit like having a pet – you’ve got to feed and walk your dog whether you feel like it or not. Practice should be a similar commitment. Each week increase the amount of time you spend, and so on, until you are on a roll. It really does work that way!

If you need help and motivation sticking to a new habit, I can highly recommend habitforge.com. You get daily automated emails that will hold you accountable, and there’s even an on-line community if you want a bit of additional support. Alternatively, Time Magazine has published a very helpful article, 24 Great Free Apps and Tools to Help You Build Strong Habits

6. Being Creative with Your Practice

  • If you are an insomniac, rather than counting sheep why not head towards your digital piano and do some midnight practice? With headphones, of course.
  • Take photos of the difficult spots in your piece and set up a folder on your iPad so you can swipe through them. Practise these spots at the start of your regular practice time, in between practice activities and at the end of the session. In addition, go over them during odd moments outside of your regular practice time.
  • Practise them away from the piano too – when exercising or sitting on a train. Change the images on your folder each week, making sure to keep any spots you still struggle with.
  • Record a practice session and listen back critically. How focussed were you? How much time did you waste noodling?

For more on using visualisation as part of your practice, follow this link to Part 4 of my eBook.

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Practising the Piano eBook Series Part 4

I am delighted to announce that Part 4 of my eBook Series is now available. You can purchase Practising the Piano Part 4 (priced at £9.99) directly from my website. It is also available on Amazon Kindle and for pre-order on the Apple iBookstore (click here for the full series catalogue which contains links to the individual volumes on all platforms).

The full series (Parts 1 to 4) can now be purchased for £35.99 (a discount of 20% off the individual part prices). If you already own one or more parts of Practising the Piano you can also take advantage of further discount bundles to complete your collection. These can be viewed on the series catalogue page here.

If you would like a video introduction and more information on the contents of Part 4, please follow this link.

Buy Practising the Piano Part 4 Now

Click on the “Buy” button below to purchase Part 4 of Practising The Piano now:

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Or save a further 20% by purchasing all four parts of Practising the Piano together:

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Further information on the complete series is also available here and additional discount bundle combinations are available on the series catalogue here.

judi

Memory Tips: Analyse – Practising the Piano

We can trace the tradition of playing solo piano music from memory back to Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann. Before that, it was inappropriate to play without a score in front of you. Chopin even got angry at the prospect of a student playing one of his pieces from memory, since, according to the traditions of the day, it would have looked like it was not from Chopin’s pen at all but being improvised or embellished by the performer. Indeed Liszt, when he played his own works, used the score to show to his audience these were not improvisations but composed pieces.

Thanks to the many recordings freely available, today’s audiences are generally very familiar with the mainstream works. To add insult to injury, these recordings are often made under artificial conditions with retake after retake, each clip spliced together to make one “perfect” whole. This adds to the pressure in a live performance, since anything untoward is immediately noticeable. Pianist and writer Susan Tomes writes eloquently and persuasively about her own feelings and experiences on the subject of memorisation, and ends her article with this pertinent question:

Must musicians waste so much of their time and emotional energy on memorisation? If we’ve prepared the music thoroughly, does playing it from memory really add an extra dimension that is worth all the pain?

Pianist Gilbert Kalish has long played his entire solo repertoire using scores, even standard works. As a faculty member of the music department at Stony Brook University, Mr. Kalish helped change the degree requirements. For the past few decades, piano students have been able to play any work in their official recitals from memory or not. They needed to decide which resulted in the best, most confident performance.

There is no doubt that we end up knowing a work on much deeper levels once it is memorised, even if we decide we are going to use the score in performance. For this reason, I advocate spending some time on memory work and committing certain works to memory. Memory is like a muscle – use it and it gets stronger.

Memory Rule No. 1: If you are going to perform a piece from memory, start the memorisation process before you begin learning the notes – away from the piano!

Muscle Memory – Easy Come, Easy Go

The worst thing you can do if you’re after peace of mind on stage is to learn a work with the score until eventually you find you can play it without. Playing a piece over and over again eventually makes the muscular movements automatic, so that you don’t have to think about the notes or the fingers at all. While this method may suffice for amateurs who play for their own enjoyment at home, it is extremely unreliable for serious students or professional performers. Why? Firstly, muscular memory tends to be easy come, easy go. Under the stress of performance, muscles tighten and the mind plays tricks that can cause memory cues to break down, sometimes irretrievably and always to the detriment of self-confidence. One small slip can set off a chain reaction of mishaps that can lead to disaster – it doesn’t even have to start with a slip, it might be just a moment of doubt about what is coming next.

I am beginning a series of posts on memory techniques, presenting them one at a time. Today I am going to explore how analysing a piece away from the piano helps us to learn it on a much deeper level. When we analyse music, we attempt to understand better how the music itself works. There are many ways of analysing, but I would encourage you to do this in a way that is meaningful to you. Whatever you notice about the patterns, shapes and directions in the music is fine.

Please see Part 4 of my eBook Series (click here) for a list of resources.

Beethoven Appassionata Sonata

Beethoven op. 57

Analysis

Let’s jump in at the advanced level and imagine we are planning to learn and memorise the Appassionata Sonata of Beethoven. Tackling a work of this size and stature demands familiarity with many of Beethoven’s other sonatas, as well as his orchestral music. This assumes a basic musical literacy and an understanding of the place of this sonata in the context of musical history. In other words, it is not really possible to learn this type of piece in a vacuum. We won’t get very far without knowledge of sonata form (from having played or studied other sonatas) or without a working knowledge of harmony and theory. It’s not enough to have good fingers, loads of time to practise and to love the piece – we are going to need a bit of background.

One of the highlights of my year at Peabody in 1982 was Leon Fleisher’s weekly class for pianists – I learned as much if not more from listening to others play for him as I did from his comments to me. There was one particular class where we went round the room, each one of us stating a fact or an observation about the opening of this Beethoven Sonata (just the first 8 bars). Those who hadn’t studied the work in any great depth before would have been able to go up to the piano after the class and play this opening just from these accumulated observations.

Observations

  • The hands are in unison, two octaves apart.
  • The opening is pianissimo, mysterious and ominous in mood.
  • The time signature is 12/8 and the movement begins on the last beat of the bar.
  • The main motive is made up of the notes of the tonic (F minor chord), descending from the dominant note to the tonic note and then ascending two octaves.
  • On the last beat of the first phrase, parallel motion gives way to contrary motion (the LH rises to the third of the chord rather than descend the octave as the pattern would suggest).
  • The crotchet tied to the first of the semiquaver pair creates a rhythmical sharpness – Beethoven’s rhythmic precision will need to be carefully observed in performance.
  • Bars 3 and 4 are based on and around the dominant. The RH is an embellished rising and falling major 2nd; the LH plays solid triads in inversion.
  • The first chord in bar 4 is a crotchet followed by rests – Beethoven could have opted for a dotted crotchet but clearly wants the prompt release of the chord. Again, rhythmic precision is crucial.
  • Bars 5 to 8 replicate the first phrase on the flattened supertonic – the neapolitan harmony
  • And so on… (carry on an generate as many observations as you can)

Further reading

For more on memorisation, please see Part 4 of my multimedia eBook series (the third section is entirely devoted to memorisation) or the following links:

judi

Piano Classes, Workshops and Courses

I have had several requests to hold day workshops and classes on aspects of piano playing, so I decided to run a short market research survey to find out what sort of event people want, and what are the most suitable times and venues. If you would like to take a few minutes to complete this and join my mailing list, you’ll be the first to hear about these events.

Take the survey here

Masterclasses and Performance Classes

I actually don’t like the term “masterclass”. Such a class can often turn out as a platform and an ego trip for the teacher, the student having to submit to instruction and undergo some sort of public ordeal. My number one priority is to collaborate with and support the player on all levels so they come away feeling empowered, and not minimised. I will never impose my interpretation of a piece onto a student, but I will work with them to assist them in bringing the music to life in the way they see and feel it (aiming to illuminate things along the way).

At any one time, I have at least three or four in my studio who are working towards a diploma. In addition to regular lessons, a class is a very good way of trying out selections from your programme in front of a small audience of peers.

There are a few options for feedback, each player deciding in advance which sort they wish:

  1. Feedback from me – we will then work together for the allotted time on points of interpretation and technique, including suggestions for practice.
  2. Open feedback from peers.
  3. Safe circle feedback (see my previous post on this).
  4. No feedback at all.

I plan to run classes for the following categories of player:

  • Advanced players and diploma candidates
  • Young players (intermediate and advanced levels)
  • Adult amateurs
The Author, Steinway and Sons, London
The Author, Steinway and Sons, London

Practising Workshops

Performance-based Workshop

Over the past two summers at Jackdaws, I have run a weekend course for adults (mostly amateurs) with the focus on practising. It is a small group of about 10 players, each person having two or three opportunities to get up and play in front of the group over the course of the weekend. Performances do not have to be polished, or even complete, since my focus is on problem solving via effective practising. My next Jackdaws course (not yet on the website) will be October 9-11 this year, early booking advised.

Here are some testimonials I had from my last course:

I attended a weekend course given by Graham about a month ago on “Practising the Piano”. It was one of the best things I could have done to help me improve the way I practise and to remember to enjoy the process. We all learned, whether observing or playing and frankly it was difficult to write down all the information which flowed constantly from Graham. He ensured we were all involved, understood particular points and most of all made it fun and very enjoyable. I came away feeling inspired and very encouraged.

 

Graham Fitch is the piano tutor we all needed but never had or knew existed. He combines deep knowledge and understanding of all things pianistic, developed not just through his own innate musicality, experience and dedication but having imbibed so much from great figures from the past. He has an untiring love of communicating how to be a better pianist to his students not just with infectious enthusiasm but hard-nosed practical tool-based proven-to-work advice all wrapped up in unfailing politeness and patient encouragement. Taking on board properly even just one half of his advice (take a big notebook because the gems keep flowing) will make you the pianist you never dreamed you could be. What’s more the time will fly by. Who could ask for more?

 

Graham Fitch is an acknowledged piano practice ‘guru’ who can help you achieve so much more from your hours at the keyboard. Graham’s focus never flags and he is listening with precision and making quality input right up to the last minute of the day. His insights on some of the standard repertoire were amazing. Not only have I learnt to play the pieces I brought better but I am confident that Graham’s piano practice ‘tool kit’ will improve all my playing and above all do it quicker and more efficiently. I came away from his course with masses of notes – all really practical stuff – which I started to apply immediately I got back home.

Since there seems to be high demand for such a course, I am willing to deliver this in a day workshop format in London and elsewhere. The best day seems to be a Sunday, and I would suggest you select the time frame that works best for you in Q3 and Q4 of the survey. To keep it fun and civilised, tea, coffee and lunch breaks will be included.

I envisage most of the classes happening in London to begin with, but I am open to the idea of travelling if there is enough interest. Please contact me via the website if you are part of a group of players and know of a suitable venue (a small space with a good piano, or a private home).

Other Workshops

Presentations in lecture format don’t interest me nearly as much as working with people hands on. I prefer to give workshops that interact with my audience. This includes frequent Q&A and a performance class at the end, along the lines of the classes I give on The Piano Teachers’ Course (EPTA) UK.

Topics that might be covered include:

  • Developing piano technique
  • Aspects of style and performance practice (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary Periods)
  • ABRSM and/or Trinity syllabus (grades I-V; VI-VIII)
  • Exercises and studies
  • And so on (suggestions welcome)

Take the survey here

Practising Clinics

Another type of workshop I envisage is a practising clinic, similar to those I have run before at college level. I direct a small group of pianists (performers and teachers) gathered around the piano, finding creative and practical solutions to technical and learning problems generated from specific pieces presented by the group. This could be run as a one-off event, an ongoing event or a short course.

Short Courses

These would be similar to the workshops, but more in-depth and spread out over time.

  • 4 classes at the same time weekly (say two hours on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon)
  • 4 classes at the same time monthly (as above)
  • 6 classes at the same time bi-monthly (spread out over the year)

The subjects I have in mind include:

  • A course entirely focussed on practising, based on my eBook Series Practising the Piano. A handbook of materials would be provided.
  • Developing piano technique – covering beginning stages, intermediate and advanced levels (this course probably targeted at piano teachers).

Summer School

This is still in its idea stage. There are already piano summer courses out there (I am a regular tutor at the excellent Summer School for Pianists in Walsall) but I have in mind a short course with the focus on practising, along the lines of my Jackdaws course. It would need to be fun and social  -anyone with any bright ideas regarding a suitable venue, please get in touch!

Take the survey here

judi

Memory Tips: Using One Finger

When we learn to walk at the toddler stage of our development, we are gradually forming the neurological pathways that will make the activity automatic. Once we are able to walk, we don’t need to concentrate on the activity at all. If we focus on the muscles or the individual movements involved, we interfere with the process and can actually get in our own way. Even though piano playing involves very sophisticated fine motor control, it is essentially the same thing.

Some years ago, backstage before a concert, I needed to tie up a necktie for one of my young pupils. I had done this for myself thousands of times without thinking, but I was tying it up for someone else and, because I was standing in front of them, I was effectively putting on the tie back to front. This meant I was using a completely different series of muscular movements, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had forgotten the original instructions for tying the tie, all I could go on was an automated series of muscular movements. The only way I could manage the task was to stand behind and imagine I was tying it onto myself!

Muscle memory comes during routine practice as we learn a piece, but we need to take great care to build our house on solid bedrock (rather than shifting sands) by eliminating mistakes before they have had a chance to take root. It is very risky to learn a piece with the score and only memorise it afterwards. In last week’s post, I looked at how to prepare the ground for memorisation work by analysis – making discoveries about the music’s shape and patterns just by looking at the score away from the piano.

For best results, we memorise as we learn (and not afterwards) so we won’t be relying purely on our muscle memory. Why?

Muscle memory is a great ally when we are comfortable and relaxed (such as playing for ourselves at home) but it can be our worst enemy when adrenaline and nerves enter the picture during a performance. 

We have all found on at least one occasion that as soon as we remove ourselves from our comfortable and familiar surroundings, things can feel so totally different – as though we did not know the piece at all.

The solution is to take active steps to memorise and not merely hope we remember. When I begin a new piece that I will perform from memory, I always form a mental map of the whole work before studying a section at a time away from the piano, adding the muscles (i.e. the sequence of fingers) last. Here is an example from the last movement of Mozart’s Concerto in C minor, K491.

K491

Everyone analyses differently. Here’s what I see:

1. The big picture – reduce the RH line down to the basic outline and feel the harmonic functions.

K491_2

2. Notice the design of the semiquaver (16th note) figurations.

  • Bar 1: beats 1 and 3 ascend with a chromatic alteration; beats 2 and 4 descend diatonically.
  • Bar 2: after the sudden drop of an octave, there is an ascending scale spanning 2 octaves – the first octave is the pure melodic minor form, the second octave chromatically altered (with an extra B flat).
  • Bar 3: there are 2 turns followed by an ascending/descending pattern featuring a dip down and a skip up.

3. With the score, visualise the patterns of the notes on the keyboard. If you can, sing or solfege the line.

4. Visualise again, this time without looking at the score. Don’t worry about fingering at this stage – just see the patterns of notes accurately, hearing the music as vividly as you can. Do this slowly first, rewinding the tape when necessary, until you have a clear image.

For more on using visualisation techniques, follow this link to Part 4 of my eBook Series (click here)

3. When you feel ready, move to the piano but don’t take the score with you. Put the score on the other side of the room from the piano so you can’t possibly cheat. Play the line slowly using just one finger until every twist and turn of the music is known and mastered. I like to use the 3rd finger, but you can use the 2nd if you prefer. If you blank at any stage, close your eyes and recall your image of the note patterns – returning to the score if necessary. Slowly is fine – this does not have to be done at speed!

4. Omitting the bass line, play the contents of the RH stave divided up between two hands (again, slowly is fine). There are many ways of doing this, avoid doing it the same way too often (so you don’t begin to form muscle memory with any one of these different distributions). Here are some ideas:

  • 4 notes with the RH, then 4 notes with the LH
  • Repeat the other way round (4 notes with the LH, then 4 notes with the RH)
  • Alternate the hands in groups of 2, or 8 (or indeed groups of 3 or 5)
  • Alternate the hands in irregular groups
  • Play the white notes with one hand and the black notes with the other (and vice versa)

For a video demonstration of these steps, follow this link (click here)

5. Play the line using your LH and a fingering that makes sense (move the piano bench to the right so you’re not sitting awkwardly).

6. Play the line in octaves (one hand) or double octaves (both hands together).

7. Lastly, work out a fingering and practise it in.

8. I suggest returning to these steps daily for several days to cement the memorisation. Thereafter, use transposition to really test your memory.

For more on transposition as a tool for memorisation, follow this link (click here)

If you are learning counterpoint, you can apply these ideas by playing two lines together slowly with one finger in each hand. For me, this is an acid test of whether the music is in my ear and my brain or just in my muscles. If I can’t do it reasonably fluently, then I simply don’t know it well enough.

For my blog post on how I applied these methods to memorising the Goldberg Variations, follow this link (click here)

What about memorising chords or denser harmonic textures? I will offer some thoughts and suggestions on this next week.

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Practising the Piano eBook Series Part 4

I am delighted to announce that Part 4 of my eBook Series is now available. You can purchase Practising the Piano Part 4 (priced at £9.99) directly from my website. It is also available on Amazon Kindle and for pre-order on the Apple iBookstore (click here for the full series catalogue which contains links to the individual volumes on all platforms).

The full series (Parts 1 to 4) can now be purchased for £35.99 (a discount of 20% off the individual part prices). If you already own one or more parts of Practising the Piano you can also take advantage of further discount bundles to complete your collection. These can be viewed on the series catalogue page here.

If you would like a video introduction and more information on the contents of Part 4, please follow this link.

Buy Practising the Piano Part 4 Now

Click on the “Buy” button below to purchase Part 4 of Practising The Piano now:

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Or save a further 20% by purchasing all four parts of Practising the Piano together:

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Further information on the complete series is also available here and additional discount bundle combinations are available on the series catalogue here.