September 10th, 2009
Oh yes, it’s this time of year again, back to basics practicing scales, chords, arpeggios. Over the summer, I am always trying to push for completed pages in the theory books and push practicing scales, chords, arpeggios: making sure the fingering is absolutely accurate, the fingers and hand positions are curved the correct way – no “breaking fingers”, but correctly and loosely curved finger position, lose wrist, natural arm weight, beautiful well defined sounds. Each note matters. Working on pulse with the metronome, all speeds. In other words, lots of work is being accomplished. We are also planning out the next year, starting new repertoire in slow motion, allowing a thorough and exacting learning process. Sure enough we always have a few overzealous young pianists who want to perform the new piece yesterday, before learning the rhythm, notes, fingering, arm motions, the phrasing, dynamics in each hand — and are “noodling” through a piece. Learning how to put your “talent aside” for a streamlined approach to learning a new piece is probably one of the hardest things to master for a budding young musician. I tell everyone: “no one is taking your talent away; you must program your fingers and muscles like a computer programmer creating a game to play; if you do not program a computer game correctly you will never be able to play it and it will bring about viruses messing up your computer. Just be patient; once a game is programmed correctly on the computer, it allows for many hours of enjoyment, the fun of playing the game you created. In piano, once your fingers, pulse and rhythm, notes, arm motions, wrist motions and mind are programmed correctly, you will be able to play your piece flawlessly. Fingering decisions need to be carefully made. Your memory and mind will hold up under any performance stress and circumstance, while if errors were programmed, they may very well show up in performance. Once your physical motions and memory, mind and visualization is programmed correctly, your talent then will be able to flow through your fingers flawlessly and with great enjoyment and expression. “
Learning to be comfortable playing all commonly used classical scales: Major, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor and Natural Minor for 4 octaves and arpeggios in root position, 1st and 2nd inversions, all speeds with perfect control, is quite a challenge but well worth it. All my students use my fingering charts and practice instructions and progress amazingly. The fingering patterns have been used for centuries and were developed to use the right and left brain functions in easy to control cross fingering patterns. Practicing the different scale patterns and spending time until each one becomes second nature should be a goal for each piano student no matter what age. If you are rehearsed in your scales / chords / arpeggios, your fingers and technique is lubricated and you can easily learn new pieces. Many chords are used over and over and once the relationship of tonality, notes of the scale and their relationship of Major and Minor is understood, memorizing classical pieces, in particular, is greatly facilitated.
All the practice suggestions and practice principles are well tested and work very well for every student, with a little practice. All my suggestions work beautifully for literally anyone practicing 20 – 45 minutes 5 days a week. Of course if you put in more time greater progress, better performances and larger repertoire will result.
But then music is for everyone, well rehearsed or not, busy life style or lots of leisure. Piano playing is here to always make us feel better on the inside, relieve our tensions and stress of daily life and enjoy the beautiful music and sounds that we are creating.
Sometimes, I wish I had had my fingering charts and teaching at the times when I grew up. but then, all my efforts and failures brought this about and I am very happy I could make my contribution to help others play beautiful music.