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Seeking Authenticity: An interview with Valentina Lisitsa

Valentina Lisitsa is a formidable pianist with dazzling technique and an ever-growing fan base. A self-made luminary, she was arguably the first classical musician to catapult herself from relative obscurity to superstardom using social media alone. At forty-three, the Ukrainian-American virtuoso now boasts 300,000 subscribers to her YouTube channe...
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So you have been asked to play the organ: A guide for pianists

It is likely that, sometime during a pianist's career, he or she will be asked to play the organ for a wedding, funeral, or a Sunday service. This can be daunting for pianists who have little or no organ experience. Looking at the organ, pianists might scratch their heads and wonder how to use the multiple keyboards (including the pedals) and how t...
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Learning & Teaching: Improving coordination

Piano technique: Improving coordination  When we consider what makes a pianist good or even great, we usually think of her mastery of the basic aspects of piano playing: correct attention to the music itself, its dynamics and phrasing, individual expression that hears and can evoke the music and the silence between the notes, and command  ...
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Tone production: Doing the right things for the right reasons

Tone production: Doing the right things for the right reasons
As a sophomore in college, I performed in a master class given by a former Van Cliburn Competition medalist. At one point, I was asked to play certain chords so that my fingers moved toward the fallboard as they depressed the keys, and this was supposed to change the timbre of these loud chords without actually changing their volume (providing a "r...
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How do you teach technique to beginning piano students?

How do you teach technique to beginning piano students?
Beginning piano technique: Back to basics "He's just trying it out, so he doesn't need an expert teacher. We'll just go to the most inexpensive teacher we can find until we know he likes it." How many times have we bristled at this kind of statement? We know that the first experience with any new endeavor is the most important, the most lasting. Be...
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Solutions to common technical problems

Solutions to common technical problems
We all agree that the best solution to problems is to prevent them before they even begin. However, even with our best intentions, problems sometimes arise. ​Collapsed knuckle bridge ​ Teacher places hands on the student's hands, molding, shaping, and modeling. Start beginning students with a cluster. Descriptive language: "feel the cave," "What co...
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What jazz contributes to the classical pianist

There is a long tradition of teaching quality classical piano in Canada. There are also a myriad of support systems to teach theory and written scores in a variety of contemporary styles. Then there's jazz. Some teachers like it and some don't. Others don't feel knowledgeable enough to include it in their studios. For many teachers it is a big unkn...
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Art song and pedaling

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I love art songs, and I've recently returned to practicing art song accompaniments on the piano. It's been good for me; I get to practice music I like without the usual piano exercises or repertoire. Moreover, I get to rethink, reconsider, and reaffirm my philosophy regarding piano playing—especially as it pertains to the accompaniment of song. Alt...
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The Teaching Legacy of Rosina Lhévinne - Part II

The year 2016 marks the seventieth anniversary of Rosina Lhévinne's first masterclass. Although Mme. Lhévinne may have started her masterclasses in Los Angeles feeling uncertain and inexperienced, she quickly became one of the top masterclass teachers in the world. She was able to impart the fundamentals of 'Russian School' technique—beautiful tone...
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Survival of the fittest: A reevaluation of traditional scale and arpeggio fingerings

Fingering holds a foundational place in fine piano technique. In the words of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, "More is lost through poor fingering than can be replaced by all conceivable artistry and good taste." 1  For many pianists, traditional fingerings for scales and arpeggios are chiseled in stone. Codified in C.P.E. Bach's  Essay on the...
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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 ...
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The role of rote teaching in the development of reading, technique, and artistry

Rote teaching is the systematic introduction of musical and artistic concepts that are best introduced by modeling rather than from the notated score. Music is an aural art and thus transcends notation. Rote teaching is not (a) training students to copy the teacher without any thought or understanding, or (b) the creation of students who will forev...
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Finding the "soul" of your foot: The nuances of pedaling

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When I was a young piano student, I  reveled in the joy of hearing two  clashing harmonies blur together under one pedal. In my teenage years, much like my peers, I loved to pedal emotionally, often liberally and with fervor as the beauty and passionate music of the great Romantic composers transported me. But, I never dared touch the ped...
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Alan Fraser discusses piano technique

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It must have been something in the air, in the early years of the last century. From Australia to Israel, independent thinkers were looking for solutions to make living physically in the modern world easier. What does it take to live comfortably and pain-free? How can we function more efficiently— and effectively?  The theories of one of ...
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Preparation, Presentation, and Reinforcement: Triads and Inversions

  Many teachers are absolute sticklers for proper fingering in triads and inversions. I am one of these teachers. Witnessing an incorrect fingering creates an unreasonable anxiety, quite possibly out of proportion with the fingering infraction. Knowing this about myself, and less selfishly, knowing the importance of establishing "friendly habi...
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Teacher "Talk and Tell" Vs. Student "Discover and Do"

During my fourteen years as an instructor of piano pedagogy at the collegiate level, one aspect of my work was to observe the teaching of interns enrolled in the course and then follow-up with one-on-one conferences in which the lesson happenings were discussed. I recall that one of the major issues which was addressed in nearly every post-lesson c...
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Healthy technique for beginning students

Technique is such a broad term— thousands of pianists with different physical approaches to the instrument play well and (hopefully!) without injuries. But often when we discuss injury-free techniques, we are talking about advanced pianists playing extremely demanding repertoire. Very few of us, however, will ever teach students at this level —a gr...
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Edna Golandsky on Taubman technique

​It wasn't so long ago that people aged 50 were considered elderly, and those 65 or more downright old. In 1940, you probably wouldn't have reached the latter milestone anyway, since the average life expectancy for men was 60.8. You lived, you worked, you had as much fun as you could—and you died. There wasn't a lot you could do about it. I remembe...
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The trapeziectomy diaries: Part two

The trapeziometacarpal joint, also called the "trapezium," is at the base of the thumb. Osteoarthritis, a well-known condition suffered by many adults, affects the trapezium in some people. Sufferers experience pain, stiffness, and weakness in the thumb joint. This is particularly troublesome when the sufferer is a pianist.  Luckily, there are...
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The trapeziectomy diaries: Recovering from arthritis

​Jill Dew is one of my favorite people. You can't help but love her charisma and her enthusiasm. She is a superb singer and vocal coach who loves her students. She also loves playing the piano, sometimes in tearful wonder of the instrument and her accomplishments. Then she was robbed. Robbed by the effects of arthritis. Jill is not naive—arthritis ...
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