Piano Technique Lecture Series


Introduction

I have come from an eclectic background as a pianist, with strong influences from the British School, with its emphasis on the craftsmanship of practice, the French School, with its insistence on the fingers, The Russian School (Neuhaus line), with its rich traditions of pianism, artistry and attention to creating an incredible sound. I also undertook an in-depth study of the Taubman Method from a student of Dorothy Taubman in New York, and I worked for a time with piano guru Peter Feuchtwanger in London on his various exercises. No description of my background would be complete without acknowledging the enormous debt I owe to Leon Fleisher, whose weekly classes for piano majors at Peabody during 1982 were among the highlights of my pianistic education.

My own approach to piano technique is therefore rich and varied with all these various influences, and rather than throwing one school out in favour of another, I have found it possible to use the best parts of all of them. Consequently I do not subscribe to the view that there is one correct way to play the piano, rather many different and equally valid ways depending on the physiology, mind and aesthetics of the individual.

In this video lecture series on technique, I will offer some very detailed instructions on how to achieve results at the piano, often suggesting alternative paths that also work. Naturally, I highlight ways of doing things that we aim to avoid. This is because movements that are against the natural workings of the human physiology will cause problems with coordination, which in turn lead to tension and later injury.

A Brief Introduction to Technique

The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure the body does not prevent the soul from expressing itself.
- La Meri (dancer)

The word "technique" has its roots in the Greek work "technikos" – of, or pertaining to art. Interpretation and technique are one and the same thing, since every sound we strive to produce has to be achieved by physical means.

I love William Westney’s definition of technique, which is "...making a physical commitment to each and every note" (The Perfect Wrong Note).

The are many different and conflicting opinions on piano technique, but surely each tradition of piano playing has its gold nuggets, and we can use them all if we can filter out those aspects that are no longer true or relevant to the 21st century pianist. Technique is individual; there is no one-size-fits-all panacea, indeed there are many different ways to play the piano.

The T word

Anxiety is mental tension, and mental tension will translate immediately into physical tension. If you are feeling insecure, not confident about your ability to interpret a particular piece of music, or nervous of other people’s reactions, this will inhibit freedom of movement, freedom of expression and cause tension in your body, resulting in unsatisfying feelings and frustration. You’ll be tempted to blame your technique, when performance anxiety is something different entirely.

Resources & links

  • Click here to view an overview of technical exercises and regimes on the Online Academy.
  • Click here to view Healthy Piano Playing on the Online Academy.
  • Practising the Piano Multimedia eBook Series - Part 2 (Mastering Piano Technique) - click here
  • The Art of Piano Fingering eBook by Penelope Roskell - click here to download if you already own it or click here to purchase and get 20% off!

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