21st-Century Piano Study

The 21st-century student, like students of yesterday, arrives at university or conservatory eager to be recognized, eager to express his or her individuality, and uncertain about his or her place in the music world. Also like students of yesterday, he or she likely arrives with substantial gaps in intellectual knowledge, physical competence and musical mastery. Read More »

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Almond and Orange

Too warm for a fire today, here in West L.A. Predicted high is 68; my “fireplace max” is 60. (OK, there have been days I’ve made a fire at a chilly 5:30 A.M., kept it going all morning for cozy practicing, and emerged at noon to find it 80 F outside.) Read More »

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A Moving Performance

As Franck’s Prélude, Choral and Fugue moves through passage after fortissimo passage, the piano is moving, too—away from me. I’m already leaning forward to keep my hands on the keys. Read More »

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Do Hands Talk to Ears?

A physicist student of mine was looking for a used grand. In six or eight weeks, we checked a number of instruments in stores and homes. At first she didn’t observe much, largely forgetting each piano by the time we reached the next. Then quite suddenly she started saying things like, "This one has sweeter treble than the last," or, "This action feels like molasses. The others felt freer." Read More »

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Ready or Not!

The Curmudgeon curmunicates. “When I was still posting to that teachers’ group, somebody asked, ‘Why are the ‘Pathétique’ and ‘Moonlight’ so hard to teach?’ And I answered, ‘Because so few students are ready to learn them!’ Read More »

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The Tool Chest of Piano Technique

In the old days, a workman applying for a job showed the foreman his tool chest, and the foreman judged the quality of his work by the quality and condition of his tools and the chest itself. Perhaps the most famous tool chest in U.S. history is that of 19th-century master carpenter H. O. Studley, who made pianos. Each tool is held in its unique holder, ready for use.

Like Mr. Studley, we pianists have our own tools: the piano techniques we’ve mastered and that our practicing keeps in perfect condition, ready for use on demand.

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The Critic’s Fallacy

The Critic’s Fallacy, also known as the Fallacy of the Web Discussion Group, is to think that because one does not participate in an activity, but only comments from afar, one therefore knows more than those who spend their guts on it.

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Backstage

Lying

If you go backstage after a concert, you compliment the performer. If this requires lying, you lie. If you can’t compliment honestly, and can’t lie, don’t go backstage. Read More »

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Tune and Tone

Pianists often speak of piano tone as a fixed quality of an instrument. “This piano has a harsh tone,” they say, as they might say “This piano’s a seven-foot grand.” But tone is affected by many factors: the “crown” of the soundboard, the quality and condition of the strings, the shape and texture of the hammers. And whether the instrument’s in tune. Read More »

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Something’s Scwewy Awound Heah!

You run into odd things in the performing arts, especially from non-performers. People thinking—

-Musicians are stupid. Read More »

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