Impressionism for intermediates

Helen Boykin's 1947 impressionistic gem, Seafoam (Schirmer/Hal Leonard), has remained a student favorite for almost seventy years. I've taught this intermediate piece many times, but it is also a solo that profoundly motivated me when I was a young student. The majority of the piece relies on a bold left-hand melody, with the right hand repeating a...

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Pencil Practice 101

Recognizing chord symbols is one of the biggest obstacles faced by beginning improvisers learning to play from lead sheets. Just as foreign language students write conjugations to become better speakers, pianists can improve their chord fluency with pencil practice away from the piano. Writing chords by key Follow these steps together with your stu...

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Size is key

We expect so much in our lives to be tailor made to fit our individual sizes and needs. This morning, we got up, put on well-fitting clothes and shoes, and popped on our prescription glasses or contacts. We got into our cars and adjusted our seats, steering wheels, rear view mirrors, and seat belts. If you golf, you are fitted with p...

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To use, or not to use?

Peter Serkin uses it. So do Emmanuel Ax and Richard Goode. Sviatoslav Richter started using it. As a faculty member in 1980, Gilbert Kalish promoted a policy about it at Stony Brook University; it was ok to use it during degree recitals. Many top competitions prohibit its use. Its use has been discussed and debated at great length in recent ye...

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Wael Farouk and the Rachmaninoff piano oeuvre

Wael Farouk was born with extremely short hand ligaments. He can't make a fist, open a jar, or button his shirt, but he can play the complete solo piano works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, who is known for complex and demanding music. At thirty-two years of age, the youngest piano faculty member in Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Art...

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Piano Talk

For quite some time, I've found myself noting the vocabulary we use to describe our peculiar life-enterprise as pianists. We steal from everywhere, and each theft seems to convey some facet of our identity. Some of those identities might best be discarded; others serve to remind us vividly of music's broad affinities.  I was first struck,...

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I hope Tiffany still likes to jump in the mud

T​his issue's column features the writing of Tiffany Pon, piano student of my longtime friend and colleague, Mona Rejino. Mona teaches at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, and Tiffany has been her student from the time she was six years old until she graduated this year. Mona is a well-known composer, arranger, and author of countless method bo...

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The future of piano teaching - gamification in teaching

The future of piano teaching - gamification in teaching

PRESS PLAY ​Jane McGonigal, The Future of Piano Teaching author of Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and other books, is a video game designer. In a TED talk from 2012,1 Jane tells her inspirational, emotional story of getting a concussion that did not heal properly. This is what happened:  I was tol...

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Piano Pentathlon and Piano Hullabaloo: Celebrating the piano

Piano Pentathlon and Piano Hullabaloo: Celebrating the piano

​Many music organizations host annual festivals for student pianists each year where students play in a master class atmosphere, are critiqued, and are given suggestions for improvement. These learning opportunities can be extremely valuable, especially for those preparing auditions and recitals.  Yet, I have often wondered exactly what is "fe...

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How often should I raise tuition?

​In the last article, we discussed how to determine a reasonable tuition and make sure that your studio is profitable. Once you've determined this and set your plan in motion, however, you can unknowingly sabotage your plan if you do not also plan to raise your tuition regularly. In any business relationship, knowing what to expect and when to...

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Promoting interest in your class or studio

​We all have heard a teacher exclaim, "I can't make my students do anything. They have to want to do it on their own." The teacher's belief presumes music students are a set of individuals innately eager and curious to study music. I believe some students love music and naturally want to study it. Others, however, grow into music, and its offe...

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Beyond major and minor: A composer’s understanding of chords and scales

​Major and minor. Together these form a basic polarity in Western music. Major scales and chords are usually characterized as "happy," while minor ones are saddled with the label "sad." After composing, improvising, arranging, and teaching for more than forty years with these musical materials, I have come to a different way of understanding them. ...

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How do you avoid assigning repertoire that is too difficult too soon?

​Each spring, I adjudicate festivals and write comments, review auditions for a summer program that I co-direct, and judge precollegiate competitions. Sitting with other pianists on these panels, the conversation is often something like: "Wasn't it wonderful the way Student X played repertoire at his or her level with polish and fine preparati...

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Mobile technology is the new normal

Mobile technology is the new normal

​Editor's note: In the November/December 2014 issue, Clavier Companion launched a series of articles addressing the future of piano teaching. The following two articles are part of that series, which will continue in future issues. Think back to an earlier time in your life.  ​Did you turn a small knob to flip through the three major televisio...

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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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