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From the Ground Up

Series Introduction FREE

Learning a piece of music – building an interpretation of it – is in many ways like building a house. We have a blueprint – the score, which may be more or less detailed – but it takes skill, understanding, and imagination to transform this written document into a house,...


From the Ground Up

Index of Works FREE

Schumann - Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (from Kinderszenen) Bach - Little Prelude in F (from the Notebook for Wilhelm Friedrich Bach) Beethoven - Sonatina in G (first movement and second movement) Grieg -...


From the Ground Up

Glossary of Practise Methods FREE

These practise methods are used throughout the editions and walkthroughs in the From the Ground Up series, but can be applied in different ways to virtually any piece. Count and Conduct Counting aloud while playing is of course a time-honored practise technique. It requires a certain level...


*** (Album for the Young, No. 30)

Introduction FREE

Schumann’s Album for the Young contains some of the most popular pieces in the whole of the piano repertoire for children. One wonders how many young pianists across the globe are at this very moment practising the Soldier’s March, Knecht Ruprecht, or First Sorrow. These three pieces, along with several...


*** (Album for the Young, No. 30)

Overview and Complete Score

The key to a successful first reading of any piece of music lies in our ability to enter into the character and mood of the piece, using only our eyes and inner ear to guide us. The title, or in this case the mysterious lack of one, is our first...


Nocturne in E-flat

Introduction FREE

Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat from his set of Three Nocturnes, Op. 9, has long been a favorite of both pianists and audiences, and with good reason. The richly-ornamented melody, supported by exquisite harmonies in the left hand, perfectly captures the florid bel canto style of Italian opera, which Chopin...


Nocturne in E-flat

Walkthrough (1)

A good way to become familiar with the basic structure of a piece is to reduce it to a simple 2-voice outline. By reducing the melody and the bass to their most essential notes, we can more easily see, and hear, the subdivisions of the phrase, the ebb and flow...


Nocturne in E-flat

Walkthrough (2)

The left hand of this Nocturne, although it is “only” an accompaniment, is at least as challenging as the right hand, because of the constant leaping back and forth. Before we practise these pesky leaps, however, it is extremely useful to divide the left hand part between our two hands....


*** (Album for the Young, No. 30)

Phrase-by-Phrase Walkthrough (4)

1. Melody and Bass In this final phrase, the changing note figure appears in the bass for the first and only time. Its B-natural, following close upon the heels of the soprano’s B-flat creates a particularly poignant clash, known in music theory as a false relation...


*** (Album for the Young, No. 30)

Phrase-by-Phrase Walkthrough (1)

As you played through the piece, you no doubt noticed that there was quite a bit of repetition. In the score, each phrase is numbered, allowing us to see more easily the phrase repetitions: phrases 1 and 2 are repeated verbatim, then phrases 3-6 are given an exact repetition as...


*** (Album for the Young, No. 30)

Phrase-by-Phrase Walkthrough (2)

The second phrase is identical to the first, with the exception of the final cadence, which is more conclusive in the second phrase than in the first. An unusual feature of this cadence is that the dominant chord (the penultimate chord) falls on the strong beat and...


*** (Album for the Young, No. 30)

Phrase-by-Phrase Walkthrough (3)

1. Melody and Bass Notice that the fp on beat 4 is only in the left hand. On the other hand, the most dissonant intervals between the two hands (7ths and 9ths) occur on the downbeats. How do you reconcile these two seeming contradictions? 2....


Nocturne in E-flat

Walkthrough (3)

One passage remains to be discussed – the short cadenza three bars before the end. If you find that your fingers trip over each other in this repeated figure, a simple mental regrouping of the notes may help. Try imagining that the beat is on the C-natural rather than on...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Introduction FREE

Playing an extended double note passage, especially when fast, is one of the most technically difficult activities at the piano. It requires a high level of finger independence, super-fine coordination and collaboration of the fingers, arm and wrist. Common problems include seizing up through muscular tension and an inability to...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Modulating Pattern (1) FREE

Most of the exercises we find in various books of technical exercises give the full version of the exercise only for one or two keys before trailing off, ending with the instruction “etc”, or “continue through all keys”. The ability to carry on without any notation other than the very...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Preliminary Exercises for Double Notes (1)

Having read the previous article on the modulation patterns for double notes, you are probably keen to get going on the double note exercises themselves. By all means select from the various possible exercises I give you in the next chapter if you prefer, but I...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Exercise Patterns (1)

Before I get to the various double third exercises, let’s remind ourselves of the main technical requirements involved in playing double note patterns such as these. Alignment Warning! Double note exercises come with a health warning – remember to align the arm behind the pair of fingers...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Diatonic Scales in Double Notes (1)

Playing double notes is, mechanically speaking, one of the most difficult activities at the piano, and one that requires superfine coordination. The pair of fingers involved need to sound dead together and, in order to do this in a controlled way, they need to be played from the surface of...


Sostenuto in E flat

Introduction

The sole source for this piece is a manuscript in Chopin’s hand from the album of his friend Émile Gaillard, dated 20 July, 1840. It was discovered as recently as 1941, by the Director of the Paris Conservatoire, Dr. Jacques Chailley. Because the work has no title, Dr. Chailley suggested...


Sostenuto in E flat

Walkthrough (1)

Legato Cantabile Touch Cultivation of a beautiful singing tone is essential for Chopin’s music. Indeed, he insisted that his own students learn how to do this not by going to hear other pianists but by attending the opera and listening to the great singers of the day. How do...


Sostenuto in E flat

Walkthrough (2)

Here is my suggested plan for the opening eight-bar phrase. Hairpin crescendos and diminuendos should not be too exaggerated. The short squiggle indicates a very slight relaxing of the tempo. Tenutos indicate more weight, and the fermatas suggest magic moments where you can linger a little. Arrows suggest a movement...


Sostenuto in E flat

Walkthrough (3)

There is another awkward place in Sostenuto, where the RH has double notes (bars 14-15). This will require some careful organisation, and some thorough practice. Once you have settled on a fingering, write it in your score and stick to it. The given fingering is actually very...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Exercise Patterns (3)

Play detached before playing legato, checking wrist alignment on each pair of notes (forearm, wrist and hand in a straight line, with no twists or breaks). Know each voice completely independently by itself, making sure always to use the fingering you will end up using when you play both...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Preliminary Exercises for Double Notes (2)

And finally to the exercises themselves! Using a modulation pattern from the previous chapter, add the wrist choreography to the following exercise. Begin very slowly, and don’t attempt to go through the whole exercise in all keys yet as it does take quite a bit of...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Modulating Pattern (2)

When we transpose technical exercises without using the printed page, we are training both ear and brain. We need to hear, feel and think about what we are doing. But why not simplify matters and just play an exercise in C major? With each new key we experience a different...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Diatonic Scales in Double Notes (4)

Play detached before playing legato, checking wrist alignment on each pair of notes (forearm, wrist and hand in a straight line, with no twists or breaks). I suggest embedding the fingering patterns hands separately by slurring in groups, with a break...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Diatonic Scales in Double Notes (3)

It is possible to mix and match the two standard fingerings, playing some with one fingering and some with the other. Some rejigging is also possible to avoid the double pivot at the ends of the scales. If you want to explore some alternatives, you can do no better than...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Diatonic Scales in Double Notes (2)

The double thumb fingering reduces the number of finger groups per octave to two, and is generally a bit quicker and more convenient. The thumb needs to be able to move quickly and as seamlessly as possible from one note to the adjacent note once per octave. ...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Preliminary Exercises for Double Notes (3)

Sometimes the notation we see on the page conjures up certain associations. Semiquavers (16th notes) often feel like they should be fast, but of course the speed of any note depends on the chosen (or given) tempo. In the first stages of learning something new it can be helpful to...


Playing Double Notes at the Advanced Level

Exercise Patterns (2)

There are various different patterns for double note exercises. Here are a few examples of many possibilities. I suggest experimenting and finding one or two that work for you, then changing them from time to time so you don’t get bored. You will need to transpose these exercises through all...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Chapter 5 - Scales in Octaves

A scale in octaves is one in which one hand plays in octaves. If both hands play octaves together in unison, this is normally described as a scale in double octaves. The fingering for non-legato scales in octaves is very straightforward, as there are only two main fingerings. The first...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Chapter 6 - Scales in Double Thirds

A scale in double thirds is one in which each hand plays two notes simultaneously a third apart, the two hands being an octave apart. This should not be confused with a ‘scale in thirds’, in which each hand plays single notes, the hands playing a third apart (See ...


Arietta

Walkthrough (1)

Grieg wrote sixty-six Lyric Pieces, collected in ten opus numbers that were published over a thirty-four year period (1867 to 1901). They were immensely popular in their time, for they combine musical sophistication, poetic sensitivity, and a great variety of moods, while still remaining accessible to amateur pianists. Some of...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 1 FREE

Welcome to the Inspired Performance online course. I’m Charlotte Tomlinson and I’m a musician and performance coach based in the UK. I specialise in helping musicians move through debilitating performance nerves and the armour of physical tensions into a...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 1

Practice is essential. Every musician I’ve come across has said the same thing. It is generally considered crazy to wing it and to try to perform without adequate practice. There is nothing worse than walking on stage and seeing...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Chapter 1 - Major Scales FREE

A major scale is a series of notes linked together by the following intervals: tone   tone   semitone   tone   tone tone   semitone The arrangement of these intervals remains the same in every key. For purposes of fingering, the seven notes are grouped into two hand positions, one of three notes, the other of four, using the...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Expressive Fingerings (3)

A good understanding of the basic principles of fingering can greatly enhance our playing, and give us much more security and fluency. However, it is also fascinating to go beyond mere practical considerations to find fingerings which express clearly all the nuances of the music as well as our own...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Chapter 2 - Melodic Minor Scales

Both melodic and harmonic minor scales are derived from the ancient minor (Aeolian) mode which is made up of the following series of intervals: tone   semitone   tone   tone   semitone  tone   tone Example 9 Note that the notes of the C minor mode are the same as those of E♭ major scale, its...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Ergonomic Fingering for Scales and Arpeggios (1)

Introduction A thorough understanding of the principles of good fingering is a vital basis for good piano playing. Without comfortable, musically appropriate fingerings, we can waste hours of practice time trying to remedy a problem which could have been averted much earlier. Good fingerings give our muscles security, which increases...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Chapter 4 - Scales in Thirds, Tenths, Sixths and Contrary motion

These scales are all variations on the normal diatonic scale, so the fingering for each hand is the same as for unison scales. Detailed fingering charts, therefore, are not given, as the charts for major and minor scales can always be referred back to. As the two hands are not...


The Art of Piano Fingering

Chapter 3 - Harmonic Minor Scales

As in the case of the melodic minor scale, the harmonic minor scale is also derived from the ancient Aeolian mode. The harmonic minor scale, as its name suggests, is derived more from harmonic than from melodic usage. In harmonic writing, the seventh (‘leading’) note is usually raised to give...


The Art of Piano Fingering

General Principles for Choosing Fingerings (2)

Fingering is a vital element of piano playing: a good fingering gives us much greater security and can often make a technically difficult passage suddenly seem effortless. Musically speaking, it can also shape a phrase, balance chords, regulate the tone and rhythm, co-ordinate the hands, clarify the articulation, and project...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Double notes (5)

I will cover the subject of double notes in depth in further articles and resources dedicated to the subject. My preferred double note exercise for warm-up and for building technique is one that modulates through the keys, the pattern changing from major to minor to diminished, and then to the...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Finger Exercises (3)

The idea behind finger exercises is to make each finger as strong and as efficient as the others. Copious amounts of such exercises exist in virtually all method books and books of technical exercises. I neither particularly wish to add to these, nor to reinvent the wheel. If you choose...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Scales and Arpeggios (4)

I will cover scales and arpeggios in depth in separate sections, but I would like to make some suggestions here about their role in a regime of warm-up exercises. Some of the world’s great pianists do not feel warmed up unless they have gone through all the scales and arpeggios...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Stretching Exercises (2)

It is a very good idea to include stretching exercises, or extensions, in any exercise regimen. When selecting stretching exercises, be very careful of those that overdo the stretch between individual fingers, especially between the 4th and 5th fingers. This is one of the fastest ways to become injured. Therefore,...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Introduction (1) FREE

Introduction When I was a student, I was struck by the two camps I noticed among my peers. There were those who did finger exercises religiously each day, and those who didn’t. My teachers had given me specific exercises when necessary, and once these exercises had done their job I...


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Octaves (7)

It almost does not matter what sort of octave work is used in a general technical regime, as long as some is included. I recommend scales and/or arpeggios in octaves, using thumb and 5th finger, played in three different ways: Quasi-legato - hold each octave as long as possible....


Technical Exercises and Regimes

Chords (6)

My very favourite warm-up is to play chords in all inversions, major then minor, through all twelve keys. Do this hands together, two octaves apart. I like to play each chord using a staccato from the fingers, pulling the finger tips towards the palm of the hand without allowing the...


Arietta

Walkthrough (2)

Practice Notes Use the pedal and bring out the top notes of the chords slightly. The large span in the left hand in bars 6 and 8 can be rolled, or the top note left out. Follow the hairpin dynamic marks, which have been added to highlight the flow...


Arietta

Walkthrough (3)

We are now ready to weave all the strands of this beautiful tapestry together. Having worked individually on the inflection of the melody, the flow of tension and release in the harmony, and the smoothness of the accompaniment, you should not have any difficulty playing all these parts together with...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 2

Learning how to practise well is to learn a complex set of skills which can take years to build up. It needs to be done with intent and a strategy so I’m going to show you a basic template...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 3

Having a method for practising is essential for covering your bases, for knowing where you are and what you are doing. But don’t feel restricted by any one method or allow your practicing to become too rigid. There is...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 4

There are always times when musicians have to perform without the practice they may want or need. I’ve been a collaborative pianist, more commonly known as an accompanist, for most of my performing career, and have been in that...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 5

Knowing the difference between practising and performing is essential. What seems so secure in the practice room, can feel wobbly and insecure in front of any audience, even friends, and might even start unravelling. How many times have you...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 4

It’s really easy to forget about your practical needs when the bad nerves really get a hold. But it’s so important to look after yourself before you perform. How do you manage your energy on the day of the...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 3

The fight-flight-freeze response is a primal, instinctive response that kicks in when our body feels it is in extreme danger. On some level, conscious or unconscious, we are fearing for our life. It has been going on since the...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 5

So what about the Beta-Blocker debate? Is it good to take them to help with nerves or isn’t it? A lot of musicians do take them and yet, they’re still quite a taboo issue. Musicians rarely talk about the...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 2

If you suffer from performance anxiety as a musician, you’re not alone. Performance anxiety, or nerves, are an issue for a vast number of musicians. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to talk about good nerves and bad...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 2 FREE

When you get up on stage to perform, you want a certain amount of adrenalin flowing round your body to enhance your performance. It is very easy to slip from this positive, healthy approach into the fight-flight response. This...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 1 FREE

Welcome to the Manage your Performance Nerves 5-day online course. I’m Charlotte Tomlinson and I’m a musician and performance coach based in the UK. I specialise in helping musicians move through out-of-control performance nerves and all the...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 5 FREE

There are many elements to the whole area of preparation, both beforehand and on the day, that give you the best possible chance of having a healthy dose of adrenalin to support your performance. Let’s say you have a...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 3 FREE

Practice is essential and that’s something that all musicians would agree with. The times that I have been particularly nervous before a concert have mostly been when I haven’t had the music for long enough or I haven’t done...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 4 FREE

The Inner Critic is that voice in your head that sets out to sabotage both your practising and your performance. It tells you that you’re no good and that you can’t do it. If you have this voice wanting...


ABRSM Exam Resources

The Essential Guide to ABRSM Examinations FREE

This series contains resources and further links to other resources featuring the ABRSM syllabus and is designed for elementary level players, young musicians and their teachers. Some articles in this series will provide a step-by-step (or phrase-by-phrase) approach to learning a piece thoroughly and securely, building a solid foundation for...


Intermezzo in A Minor, Op. 76 No. 7

Walkthrough (1)

Brahms’s sets of miniatures are among the best-loved shorter works for the piano. The Intermezzo in A minor, op. 76 no. 7, is currently on the ABRSM Grade VIII syllabus, and will pose several challenges for those who wish to master it. This walkthrough and Annotated Study Edition has a...


Intermezzo in A Minor, Op. 76 No. 7

Walkthrough (2)

The time signature is alla breve; feel two beats in a bar, and not four! The eight-bar introduction and the coda (from bar 42) may be played a touch slower than the main body of the work (from bar 8). The alto line connects the...


Intermezzo in A Minor, Op. 76 No. 7

Walkthrough (3)

The spread will probably work best when played before the beat (the top RH G arriving with the LH E). Don’t worry about the mild dissonance created by catching the previous RH chord in the pedal, it is very temporary and not at all obtrusive....


Intermezzo in A Minor, Op. 76 No. 7

Walkthrough (4)

The bass A should be sustained throughout the bar. Bars 40 - 50 Play the RH carefully, holding onto the upper voice crotchets for their full duration. Short touches of pedal with the LH slurs will add resonance. Return...


ABRSM Exam Resources

Grade 2 C1 - The Piper of Dundee (Worksheet)

The Piper o’Dundee is a traditional Scottish folk song, arranged for the ABRSM Grade 2 syllabus by Richard Michael. Click here to download a printable worksheet for this piece (instructions follow below). Here is the folk song itself, together with the words and a very simple left...


ABRSM Exam Resources

Grade 1 C3 - Oh When the Saints (Worksheet)

Click here for a worksheet that will help you get started with this piece. Let’s begin with the tune by itself. You’ll notice there is an introduction where both hands play the same notes an octave apart (bars1-3). The tune itself starts with the left hand in...


Sonatina in G - Second Movement

Walkthrough (1)

The second movement (the first movement is available here) of this sonatina attributed to Beethoven is entitled Romanze (the German spelling of “Romance”). In music, the title was first used for vocal songs of a romantic, or amorous, nature. Starting in the 18th century, it began...


Sonatina in G - First Movement

Walkthrough (1)

This popular sonatina is commonly attributed to Beethoven, but was probably not composed by him. It seems to have been found among his papers after his death, and was first published around 1830. While this little work shows no sign of the mature Beethoven’s innovative, tempestuous personality, it is a...


Little Prelude in F

Walkthrough (1)

Like the famous first Prelude of The Well-Tempered Clavier, this lovely miniature is a harmonic prelude – an elaborated chord progression with no melody as such, though there are short melodic motives. It is therefore natural to begin our study of this piece by making a harmonic reduction. Reducing the...


Sonatina in G - First Movement

Walkthrough (4)

Here at last is Beethoven’s complete original score. All of our editorial markings have been removed, except for the fingering. Having worked through all the previous steps, you know have a thorough understanding of this piece, and that understanding will naturally come out in your playing of it. Practise Notes...


Sonatina in G - First Movement

Walkthrough (2)

In the next version, we add a bit more harmonic detail, most of which is in the left hand. Practise Notes Play at a regular, moderate tempo. Repeat any challenging spots until they are easy. Following the written fingering will help you to memorize the hand positions you will...


Sonatina in G - First Movement

Walkthrough (3)

In the next version, we restore the rhythmic figuration to the left hand. Practise Notes Be careful not to allow the increased rhythmic activity of the left hand to overpower the melody in the right hand. Keep the 8th notes (quavers) light. Things to Notice The difference...


Sonatina in G - Second Movement

Walkthrough (4) FREE

The Complete Score Here at last is the complete original score, divested of all editorial markings except fingering. You can go back to previous scores at any time to work on elements that still need practise. You can also use the reduced scores to help you memorize the piece. Try,...


Sonatina in G - Second Movement

Walkthrough (3)

In the next version, the left hand is restored, as written. The score is now complete, with the exception of the ornaments. Practise Notes The most difficult part to play hands together is the first four measures, where the right hand must play legato while the left hand...


Sonatina in G - Second Movement

Walkthrough (2)

In our next score, the right hand melody is given almost complete (only the grace notes have been removed). The left hand has been reduced to the essential bass line to make it easier to concentrate on the right hand, and to feel the influence of the bass line on...


Von fremden Ländern und Menschen

Walkthrough (1)

Introduction Schumann’s Scenes of Childhood are a tender evocation of the world of children – their games, dreams, fantasies, and fears. While most of these thirteen pieces fall within the technical ability of intermediate players (Schumann himself goes so far as to call them “Easy Piano Pieces” in his subtitle),...


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Introduction FREE

This walkthrough and accompanying Annotated Study Edition was kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Caroline Bailey. La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) is among Debussy’s best-loved works for the piano. It is the eighth piece from the first book of Préludes and...


Little Prelude in F

Walkthrough (3)

Having worked through each of these layers, you should not have much trouble putting everything together. If you encounter any difficulties, you can go back and play any of the preceding reductions. You can make the reductions directly from the full score, just for one phrase, or as needed. You...


Little Prelude in F

Walkthrough (2)

In the next reduction, we add a bit more detail, so that the music flows now in a regular quarter note (crotchet) motion. These are some things to listen for as you play: Feel the way the hands alternate in the first line – which hand is on the...


Von fremden Ländern und Menschen

Walkthrough (3)

The main difficulty with the right hand is keeping the melody on a separate plane from the accompaniment notes. The heavy thumb of the accompaniment can easily insinuate itself into the melody, giving a false impression of the tune: The A in measure 2, in particular, sounds...


Von fremden Ländern und Menschen

Walkthrough (2)

Harmony The next step is to reduce all three strands of the texture to solid chords. This is particularly helpful in assimilating the piece quickly, as it gives us not only the essential harmony, but all the corresponding hand positions as well. Play this reduction with pedal and good voicing...


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Walkthrough (1)

Very calm and gently expressive (sans rigeur = freely). Fill up the first long note with a subdivision that you imagine, such as the example given (or something else) to help connect it to the rest of the phrase. The wrist needs to be very...


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Walkthrough (2)

The next two bars need to be played clearly, avoiding smudges from the pedal. Although a little fiddly to begin with (sometimes fingers will need to go over or under other fingers), it is worth striving for an absolute finger legato in this bar. Thinking...


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Walkthrough (3)

Don’t voice the Cb chord too much to the top. Hold the pedal through to bar 31 (you will be tempted to change it on bar 30 but resist, or you will lose your bass). 19. Another moment where careful pedalling is essential. Here is...


The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Practice Worksheet

Begin by practising each of the four voices in turn, as legato as possible (S, A, T, B) before combining in pairs (RH alone = SA; LH alone = TB, but try SB and AT, for example) Then practise the following formulae, with each hand separately – no pedal...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Introduction FREE

Read Ahead is a complete sight-reading curriculum based on high-quality music, carefully graded and supplemented with a wide variety of exercises to help instill the habits essential for fluent reading. Level 1A contains pieces and suitable sight-reading material for students studying repertoire at the elementary level (Associated Board grades 1-2)....


Read Ahead - Level 1

App Instructions FREE

The following sight-reading practice routine is taken from the first Day of Read Ahead level 1A. It is intended to serve as an introduction to sight-reading with the Read Ahead app for iPad. Each day in Read Ahead begins with one or two warm-up exercises,...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Introduction FREE

Read Ahead is a complete sight-reading curriculum based on high-quality music, carefully graded and supplemented with a wide variety of exercises to help instill the habits essential for fluent reading. The Online Academy features the first section (Section A) of each level. For further material, the complete levels (Sections B...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Introduction FREE

Read Ahead is a complete sight-reading curriculum based on high-quality music, carefully graded and supplemented with a wide variety of exercises to help instill the habits essential for fluent reading. The Online Academy will feature the first section (Section A) of each level. For further material, the complete levels (Sections...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 12

Warm-up for Study in F Before playing Study in F on the opposite page, practice the fingering of these two passages. Memory Exercise ...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 8

Warm-up for Vivace In this exercise, a 2-bar outline is filled in in the next 2 bars. Keep the same tempo throughout. Vivace (James Hook) Imagine...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 4

Warm-up for Simple Tune Use the rests to move your left hand without looking down; repeat until comfortable. Memory Exercise Click here to download...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 6

Warm-up for Melody Practice this common chord progression without looking down. Warm-up for Waltz Practice this exercise slowly, feeling the common notes and intervals. ...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 7

Warm-up for Prelude Use the pedal in this exercise and enjoy the dissonances (suspensions) in measures 2 and 4. Prelude (Fritz Spindler) Think of the 8th...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 10

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Minuet (Alexander Reinagle) Find the changes of...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 2

Warm-up for Minuet Play this exercise slowly, feeling the intervals in your left hand without looking down. Warm-up for Study in C No. 2 Use the common...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 9

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Promenade Play this outline at a...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 11

Warm-up for Russian Theme Use the rests and common note to help you learn to shift your hand position without taking your eyes off the score. Warm-up for Study in E Minor ...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 5

Warm-up for Minuetto In this exercise, a 4-bar outline is filled in in the next 4 bars. Keep the same tempo throughout. Memory Exercise ...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 3

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Two Melodies Once again, use common...


Read Ahead - Level 2

Day 1

Warm-up for March This exercise shows an outline of Türk’s March, which you will sight-read today. Play it while counting aloud. Memory Exercise ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 12

Warm-up for Allegretto Play these chord progressions a few times. Warm-up for Off to the Meadows Notice the parallel motion, first in 10ths, then in 6ths. ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 1 FREE

Warm-up for Passepied in C In sight-reading, we rarely have time to work out a perfect fingering. One solution to this problem, especially in non-legato playing, is to finger in "packets" (in this case, one-measure groups), as shown in this excerpt. Practice playing...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 11

Warm-up for The Gentle Maiden In these three chord progressions, notice how the left hand of each measure becomes the right hand of the next. Memory...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 8

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Miniature Rondo Before you play Turk’s...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 5

Warm-up for Minuet in A Minor This exercise contains two sequences. Fill in the missing notes (marked with lines) by continuing the pattern of the first two measures. Warm-up for Spiritoso ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 7

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Andantino This exercise presents two 2-measure...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 2 FREE

Memory Exercise Click here for app instructions or click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Andante Play this sequence...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 10

Warm-up for French Air Practice this left hand passage a couple of times before playing Czerny’s French Air: Memory Exercise Click here to download...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 9

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Waltz by Hummel Use the rests...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 6

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Minuet in F (Leopold Mozart) Notice the familiar bass line at the end of each...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 3

Warm-up for Agitato In this exercise, a simple outline in half notes is then filled in with 8th notes. Keep the same tempo throughout. Note the movement of the left hand between the two staves (shown with lines). ...


Read Ahead - Level 3

Day 4

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Minuet in C The bass line in this exercise occurs frequently in...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 12

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Floating Down the Stream (Heinrich Wohlfahrt) Scan...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 9

Warm-up for Footsteps in the Dark In this variation, the piece above is transposed to G Major. Compare the difference in sound. Memory Exercise ...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 3

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. You Don’t Say? (Travis Hardaway) Try to...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 8

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Walking Together (Louis Köhler) In this piece...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 7

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Staccato and Legato (Cornelius Gurlitt) Take care...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 1 FREE

Warm-up: C and G Major Five-finger Positions Play these exercises without looking down at your hands: Memory Exercise Click here for app instructions or click...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 6

Warm-up for Follow Me This exercise uses a pattern found in the next piece. Follow Me (Louis Köhler) Try also to follow the phrasing and dynamic...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 2 FREE

Touch exercise: Warm-up for Which Way? The lines in the lower staff mean that the left hand copies the right hand. They help you to read shapes rather than individual notes. ...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 5

Memory Exercise Click here to download mobile app for Apple iOS or here for Android. Warm-up for Surge This exercise will help you...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 4

Warm-up for Taking Turns As before, the lines in the left hand indicate that it copies the right hand. Memory Exercise Click here to...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 11

Exercise in Parallel Sixths This exercise helps you to focus your attention on the lower staff. The right hand follows the left hand, moving in parallel motion a sixth higher. Exercise in Parallel Tenths...


Read Ahead - Level 1

Day 10

Warm-up for Happy Sixths This exercise introduces a new hand position. Notice that the hands are now a sixth apart rather than an octave. Memory Exercise...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

How to Find the Tempo When Sight-reading: FREE

How do we find an appropriate tempo for a piece of music we’ve never seen or heard before? Sometimes the title can help, particularly in dances (Minuet, Waltz, Gigue, etc.), but only if we have already played quite a number of pieces with those titles. The tempo markings above the...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

Successful Sight-Reading: FREE

"Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." - Alexander Graham Bell In most sight-reading exams, students are given a few moments (from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes) to look over a piece before playing it. How they prepare themselves in that short...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

The Joy of Sight-Reading FREE

Sight-reading an interesting piece of music is like meeting an interesting person. We enjoy the pleasure of a new encounter, sense perhaps a mutual affinity, and look forward to a deeper acquaintance. And just as a new acquaintance can introduce us to a whole new set of friends, so an...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

On Developing a Seeing Hand FREE

It goes without saying that to sight-read fluently and accurately, we must keep our eyes on the score. Looking down at our hands as we play breaks the continuity of reading, prevents us from looking ahead, and undermines concentration. Yet for many piano students, even some who have played for...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

Keeping it Simple: FREE

The fundamental requirement in sight-reading is to play in tempo and keep going. As we discussed in our previous article, the ability to keep going, come what may, is dependent on three factors: a strong sense of pulse, an acceptance that mistakes will happen, and especially a willingness and ability...


Teaching & Developing Sight-Reading Skills

Continuity in Sight-Reading: FREE

In previous articles, we discussed what to do before starting to sight-read a piece. Now we’re ready to talk about what happens while we sight-read. There are three things teachers commonly tell their students to do when they play a piece at sight: keep going without stopping, try not to...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (8)

This article provides a further example of how to improvise inspired by the form and musical features found in your current piece, using Chopin’s Mazurka Op.17 No.4 as the given example. A quick analysis of the Mazurka reveals the following form, or structure: ...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (7)

We're now going to look at how to improvising in Rondo (ABACA) form inspired by the title and musical features found in your current piece. Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dance No. 6 is the given example - here is the beginning: Notice,...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Contents FREE

Introduction Technique Practice Techniques Arpeggio Technique The Worksheet Exercises Worksheets Scales Group 1 Scales Group 2 Arpeggios Group 1 ...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Twelve Bar Blues (2)

There is another scale, besides the pentatonics, which developed alongside the Twelve-bar Blues, and sounds wonderful to improvise with: the Blues scale. Here is the C Blues scale: Comparing it to the major scale, you can see that the “blue” notes are the flattened 3rd (Eb), raised...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Twelve Bar Blues (1)

This video gives you a practical demonstration of ideas for improvising with the Twelve Bar Blues. The ideas are further explained and described in text and manuscript in the document below. Below that, under Further reading and resources, you can click on "printable scores" to print off the templates from...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (3)

Here is a home-made chord progression which uses chord iii. First, play it in block chords, as written: Now try it in ascending broken chords like this, completing the whole progression: I iii ii IV Then in descending chords like this: ...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (4)

The given examples are from Christian Petzold’s Minuet in G (formerly thought to be by J.S.Bach) and June Armstrong’s Sea Anemone. Here is the first half of Christian Petzold’s Minuet in G: First, as usual, work out your key. Then work...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (3)

Improvising with Chords I, IV and V(7), in broken chord progressions, inspired by your current piece Here is the Menuett for Nannerl, believed to be by Leopold Mozart (Nannerl and Wolfgang Amadeus’s father): First, work out the key, and play the...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (1)

Improvising over an Open 5th Chord, inspired by your current piece Open 5th chords provide a wonderful accompaniment for improvisation because they can accompany almost any improvisation without making that improvisation sound “wrong”. A good way to begin improvising is to draw inspiration from...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (2)

Improvising with Chords I and V7, inspired by your current piece Here is A Little Dance: The Key First, as usual, make sure you know the key by looking at the key signature, and the last bass note. - A Little...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (6)

This next article shows you how to improvise in Ternary (ABA) form using the title and imagery from your current piece as inspiration. Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing is the given example - here is the beginning: Notice that it is...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (4)

Chord VII is an interesting chord. Built on the 7th note of the scale, it’s a diminished chord in a major key (in C major: BDF). And in a minor key, it can be either diminished or major (in A minor, G#BD, or GBD). The Circle of Fifths progression is...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (5)

The given examples are from Tchaikovsky’s Old French Song (sometimes called “Romance”), and Burgmüller’s La Chevaleresque. Here is the opening section of Tchaikovsky’s Old French Song: First, as usual, work out the key and the three primary chords, I, IV and...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Beginning to Improvise FREE

Feel the beat – and just play the black notes! Here is a four phrase (eight-bar) template to help structure your first improvisation. Your left hand will just be playing open 5th chords on F# and C#, and your right hand will only be...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Understanding Chords, Grand Arpeggios and How to Harmonise FREE

This article provides a more in-depth explanation of the material in the video. However, after watching the video you might light to jump ahead to try some of the examples yourself. If so, then please click here to view the worksheets...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (2)

The next chord progression arose directly from the 1950s progression, and has just one different chord: chord ii replaces chord IV. It is known as the Doo-wop progression. Play it with the root position chords shown below, noticing the different sound: Now try it in this lively,...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (1)

This video gives you a practical demonstration of ideas for improvising with Secondary Chords. The ideas are further explained and described in text and manuscript in the document below. Below that, under Further reading and resources, you can click on "printable scores" to print off the templates from the document,...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Introduction

Pianists at the intermediate level should know all major and minor scales (one form of minor), and all major and minor arpeggios in root position. The ABRSM requires all scales and arpeggios over three octaves for Grade V and there are also some scales in contrary motion, as well as...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Technique

Let’s look at each area of technique in turn. Posture and whole-body choreography Three- and four octave scales and arpeggios cover a lot of the keyboard, and we need to have a sense of how our whole body is involved. Using our feet as anchors, we shift our centre of...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Practice Techniques

I highly recommend regular separate-hand practice for scales and arpeggios, the exercises in the manual are laid out to help you with this. Blocking Working hands separately, blocking practice is a great way to sense the long and short groups in scales. Do it from time to time, especially if...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Arpeggio Technique

Just as with scales, it is important to be precise about fingering in arpeggios. But it is not possible to give a universal fingering because hand size is a deciding factor. A general principle of arpeggio fingering is evenness of stretch between the fingers as far as is possible. Don’t...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Worksheets - Group 1 Arpeggios

Click here and scroll to "Arpeggios" to view instructions and video demonstrations for the exercises featured in these worksheets or click here for the full manual on playing scales and arpeggios at the intermediate level. Separate-hand practice 1. Pivot freely around...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Worksheets - Group 1 Scales

Click here to view instructions and video demonstrations for the exercises featured in these worksheets or click here for the full manual on playing scales and arpeggios at the intermediate level. Fingering chart (usable for all Group 1 scales): ...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

Worksheets - Group 2 Scales

Once the fingering for Group 1 scales has been firmly established, Group 2 scales will present far fewer problems. Some teachers prefer to teach Group 2 first, by rote with no reference to theory or key signatures (the theory can come later). There are two very good...


Intermediate Scales & Arpeggios

The Worksheet Exercises

The exercises you will find in the manual have been carefully devised for each scale and arpeggio. Return regularly to those that help you the most and practise them with care and attention. Here is a brief description of each one: 1 We...


Black Eyes

Introduction

Black Eyes (or Dark Eyes as it is often called) is probably the most famous Russian romance song. The lyrics were written by the Ukrainian poet Yevhen Hrebinka, and the melody relates to a piece called Valse Hommage by Florian Hermann. The words are translated as follows: ...


Black Eyes

Introduction Section (Bars 1 - 3)

In the introduction, I suggest a legato touch for the RH with the LH crotchets detached. Here are some preliminary exercises that will be helpful in order to manage the turn around the thumb E in the RH (bar 1): Firstly, play the C and E together...


Black Eyes

First Section (Bars 4-20)

The first thing to do is to sing the tune, making it as expressive as possible. If you like, you can play the underlying chords as you sing. Notice how expressive the Db sounds as it leans against the dominant 7th chord and then against the tonic...


Black Eyes

Second Section (Bars 21-36)

Before learning the notes, you can get a sense of the waltz feeling by playing the harmonic progression as in this example. Feel free to add octaves in the LH if you wish, and touches of pedal on the bass notes. Hands Separately We...


Black Eyes

Coda (Bar 44-52)

Now you get the chance to use the chromatic scale you’ve been practising for your scale requirements in one of your pieces! The LH features a three-octave descending scale from F to F, the RH supplying harmony once per bar. To help fit this passage together, here...


Black Eyes

Third Section (Bars 37-43)

Notice that the tempo at the molto appassionato is slower than the other sections in the piece. It needs to be played with lots of passion and freedom, taking plenty of time on the tenuto upbeats (tease us here!) and at the commas (which indicate a break)....


Tom Bowling

Introduction

Charles Dibdin was born in Southampton in 1745 and died in London in 1814. He wrote over 600 popular songs, which reflect pride behind British traditions (interestingly, he contributed to the development of the pantomime tradition). They were extremely popular in his day not only in England but...


Tom Bowling

Phrasing and Accent

Phrasing and Accent In music, because of the hierarchy of beats, the first beat of the bar is naturally stressed. Broadly speaking, long notes tend to receive more weight than short ones, and (in melodic lines) higher notes more emphasis than lower ones. Additionally, there are other types of accent,...


Tom Bowling

Miming

One of the challenges of Tom Bowling is controlling the RH where it divides into two parts (bars 3-4, 7, and 15-16). The so-called weaker fingers need to be able to project the tune while the strong thumb needs to play very lightly as it is called upon to add...


Tom Bowling

Pedal

As a general principle, we pianists make connections between sounds manually wherever possible in a legato context, joining by finger. Sometimes, finger substitutions help us to achieve an even better legato (such as the “3-5” in the LH of bar 17). We can also side from a black note to...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (4)

Bars 49 - 51 Build towards the final climax (bars 53-58). Bars 58 - 59 The 8-bar coda is full of beautiful moments, not least the magical fioritura groups in the RH. Fitting the hands together is not as...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Introduction FREE

This walkthrough and accompanying Annotated Study Edition was kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Rachel Woodhouse. Chopin wrote the Nocturne in C-sharp minor, op. posth. in 1830, but it was only published in 1870. He dedicated the work to his sister, Ludwika “as an exercise before beginning the...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (1)

Lento con gran espressione means ‘slowly, with grand expression’. The introduction needs to be played with gravitas – grandly and expansively. Marked piano, these introductory bars set the stage for the Nocturne, and need to contain the kernel of the dark, sad feelings the...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (1)

The introductory chords set the scene for the Nocturne to follow, and need to be played with attention to mood and atmosphere, tonal balance (voicing) and pedalling. A sense of timing is also vital. The top note of each chord in the progression forms a melodic...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (2)

In performance of this piece the trills should sound and feel free, but since trills are always made up of a finite number of notes it is a good idea to organise them rhythmically by practising a variety of different measured possibilities. Then, when you perform,...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (3)

The LH is so much more than just the accompaniment. In addition to providing the harmony, the broken chords also supply movement backwards and forwards (this ebb and flow is known as rubato), and the LH is integral to mood and colour. Make sure to shape...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Worksheet (4) - The Coda

Don’t be intimidated by the long groups of fast notes in the RH (otherwise known as fioritura). I hope I will be able to show you that they are not nearly as difficult to fit together with the LH as may first appear. There are two...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (2)

The last RH C# is the end of the phrase, and needs to be shaded off. Take great care to spread out the notes of the RH triplet evenly, creating a proper two-against-three cross rhythm between the hands. Many players fudge this spot! The two...


Nocturne in C-sharp Minor

Walkthrough (3)

Bars 24 - 26 Aim for finger legato in the upper voice, with light thumbs underneath. This exercise will help: There is yet another colour here, another key change (F# minor) and a change of mood; the sotto voce tells us to...


La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle)

Introduction

La donna è mobile (“woman is fickle”) is a tenor aria from Act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. After the premiere of the opera in 1851, this tune caught on immediately and became incredibly popular with the public. In more recent times the tune has been used as a...


La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle)

Touch and Articulation

We find legato and staccato touches, and two- three- and four-note slurs. Unmarked notes (bar 14, and 17-18) may be separated. Articulating the different touches clearly is challenging in this piece, because one hand is often called on to play differently from the other. Independence between the hands is such...


La donna è mobile (The woman is fickle)

Hands Together

The fun starts when we put the hands together and combine the staccato notes with the slurs between the hands. It’s not easy at first! Here are some useful preliminary exercises using a five-finger position. What are the benefits of beginning with a very basic exercise like this? It...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Introduction

This arrangement for piano by Clem Virgo is from the first part of the second movement of Mozart’s popular orchestral serenade, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), written in 1787. “Romanze” (romance) is a simple vocal-type of piece for voice or instruments, often with a...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Articulation

Long, uninterrupted legato lines did not come into musical expression until the Romantic period, although we see Beethoven and Schubert heading in that direction. In a slowish piece such as this, short staccatos and abrupt phrase and slur ends would sound choppy and out of place. Nonetheless, composers from the...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Spot the Difference

You have probably played those "Spot the Difference" games in magazines, where two versions of the same picture are shown side by side and you must find all the differences between them. It is quite fun and very useful to do this with musical phrases that are based on the...


Romanze from Eine kleine Nachtmusiek

Double Thirds

The RH double thirds (bars 2 and 3) pose a technical challenge. Since the melody line is on the top, the “weaker” outer fingers (4th and 5th) need to be stronger than the “strong” inner fingers (3rd, 2nd and thumb) as well as equally coordinated and agile. This is why...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

Introduction FREE

Introduction Friedrich Burgmüller (1806 – 1874) was a German pianist and composer who moved to Paris at the age of 26 and settled there. In addition to light salon music, he wrote three sets of études for young pianists. Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Études, Op. 100 have...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (5)

The character of the subject is in the spirit of a polonaise, lively yet restrained. I suggest a moderate tempo (the given tempo band represents an average) with light articulations. Whether you decide on my articulations or come up with your own be consistent throughout. I...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (7)

The fourth episode parallels the first (from bar 9). Fugue: Bars 29 - 31 Play the tonic pedal C octave firmly. If you prefer, you can make a diminuendo to the end (matching the upper voices to the gradual...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (1) FREE

The underlying harmonic progression gives a sense of how to shape the constant stream of semiquavers (16th notes). To discover the harmonic framework, play the first two notes in each half bar together thus: Give more weight to the first and third...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (2)

Grouping the semiquavers (16th notes) 1234 1234 emphasises the main beats in the most obvious and square way: Grouping them differently allows interesting patterns to emerge. It is more the way we feel or think the groupings than doing anything too obvious...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (3)

The bass line is interesting here: bringing out the marked notes by slightly overholding them gives a more musical result than accenting. The suggested articulation emphasises the change of pattern over the next two bars. Don’t overdo the accents; if you prefer, you can overhold...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (4)

This chord should come as something of a surprise. You may play a solid chord, or spread it from the bass up, or even arpeggiate it down and then back up if you wish: ...


The Well-Tempered Clavier – Part 1

Walkthrough - Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (6)

The subject reappears, now in the more open and heroic colours of E-Flat major. The second episode modulates back to C minor. There are many different ways to articulate the lower voices; playing sixteen successive quavers (eighth notes) the same way is not interesting. My...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

1. La Candeur (Openness) in C major

The quaver patterns require the cultivation of a legato cantabile touch and tonal gradation. Begin with the voice and sing the lines, shaping expressively and giving some space where the music breathes. Fingers need to be close to the keys, and the wrist flexible and mobile. As you glide through...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

2. L’Arabesque (Arabesque) in A minor

Allegro scherzando tells us to play fast and playfully. Keep the LH chords close to the keyboard, the fingertips firm and somewhat active, the wrist loose but relatively still. You’ll need to organise a good fingering for the LH chords (I give some tips on this in my video below)....


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

3. La Pastorale (Pastoral) in G major

This study features a simple melody in the RH against a chordal accompaniment in the LH. For the required legato cantabile touch, the fingers need to be in close contact with the keyboard, playing from the key surfaces. The wrist is free, loose and mobile. Play the grace notes very...


Burgmuller: 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, Op. 100

4. La Petite Réunion (The Little Party) in C major

The composer paints a jolly picture of a little party in this piece. We hear laughter in the bouncy thirds (RH bars 2, 10, etc.) and perhaps a note of disappointment (the A flats in bars 19 and 20) that the party is drawing to a close and it is...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Introduction (1)

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788) was the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. He was an influential and prolific composer who was writing at a time of transition between the baroque style and the classical style. His personal approach has come to be called...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Performance Aspects (3)

This video focusses on the performance aspects of CPE Bach's Solfegietto in C Minor: Resources & links Click here to download a PDF version of the score with each of the instances of the theme highlighted. ...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Practising Aspects (4)

This video looks at how to go about learning and practicing CPE Bach's Solfegietto in C Minor: Resources & links Click here to download a PDF version of the score with each of the instances of the theme...


Fantasy in D Minor K397

Walkthrough - Fantasy in D Minor K397

This video provides a section by section waltkthrough of Mozart's Fantasy in D Minor K397 (sometimes referred to as Fantasia): ...


Solfeggietto in C Minor

Walkthrough - Analysis (2)

This video provides an introductory analysis to CPE Bach's Solfegietto in C Minor: Resources & links Click here to download a PDF version of the score with each of the instances of the theme highlighted. ...


Two Short Pieces

Walkthrough - The Sun is Setting FREE

This video provides a walk-through of William Alwyn's The Sun is Setting which is a popular piece for intermediate pianists. Resources & links Click here to purchase sheet music for this piece (external link). ...


Two Short Pieces

Walkthrough - The Sea is Angry

This video provides a walk-through of William Alwyn's The Sea is Angry which is an excellent piece for intermediate pianists who want to play something that will expand their sound: Resources & links Click here to purchase...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

From hearing to phrasing to key and chords

Let's experiment some more. We'll begin with simple connections among a few pitches — C, B, and D will do to start. To be sure, the advantage of working with extremely simple things in the beginning is from them we get to draw very solid conclusions. Our sequence So,...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Permutations and shapes

Let's move on to another experiment with our { C B C D } sequence. Here we use those notes to generate twenty-four permutations. That is, we re-order those four notes in twenty-four different ways. The formula behind the number of possible permutations is 4! (four factorial or 4 x...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Overtone and undertone series

We often think about pitches as they're represented by the keys on a piano. But, that's only one way to think about the tones that we know and hear. For a different point of view, we can turn to the acoustical foundations upon which music in the Western art music...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Scale Guides

C Major G Major D Major F Major A Natural Minor D Natural Minor A Harmonic Minor D Harmonic Minor A Melodic...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Introduction (2)

Scales are made up of two groups per octave, beginning with the thumb. We find a short group (123) and a long group (1234). All scales in Grade 1 start at the beginning of a group (scales starting in the middle of a group are reserved for later grades). F...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

C Major Contrary Motion Scale

Notice that the finger numbers match between the hands. This means when you play the thumb in one hand, you also play the thumb in the other (the same goes for 2nd fingers, 3rd fingers and so on). If you struggle to play the scale hands together,...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

C Major Scale

Blocking 1 Each scale is made up of a short group (123) and a long group (1234). Here is an exercise to get your hand used to these patterns, RH ascending and LH descending. Hold the thumb while tapping the...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Broken Chord Guides

C Major G Major F Major A Minor D Minor ...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Introduction (1)

I decided to include some resources for scales in the Online Academy in addition to walk-throughs and worksheets for the ABRSM exam pieces , since it is easy to neglect them not only in lessons but also in day-to-day practice. The Online Academy Scale Guides are designed to be as...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

C Major Broken Chord

Begin by playing the three positions of the triad of C: root position, first inversion and second inversion. Watch your fingering! The first inversion uses the 2nd finger in the middle; the others use 3rd finger. Here is an exercise to help your hand...


ABRSM Grade 1 Scales & Broken Chords

Contents FREE

Introduction (1) Introduction (2) Exercises C Major Scale C Major Contrary Motion Scale C Major Broken Chord Guides and Worksheets Scales Broken chords ...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Metaphors

A good way to illustrate a new point of view on anything is to use metaphors. Let's try that out. We'll revisit the idea of tonic/dominant harmony and polarity through a few metaphors. Complements We know already: I and V7 are a yin and yang. Is there anything...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Back to the 18th and the 17th centuries

Our crash course begins somewhere around 1600 at the beginning of the 17th century. That coincides with the Baroque period which falls more or less into the years between 1600 and 1750. Classicism is usually assigned a beginning at or around 1750. Meanwhile, we can date a bridging style between...


A Crash Course in Music Theory

Welcome! FREE

Of course! You've arrived here because of your interest in music theory! What, how, why? Our course is designed help you develop your skills in theory and to have fun at the same time. It comes out of the box with broad, ambitious goals, a practical agenda, and a gentle...


Scales & Arpeggios - Basic Introduction

The Basics of Playing Scales

It seems to me that a thorough knowledge of scales and arpeggios is an absolute necessity for all serious students of the piano. Western music is built on the major/minor tonal system, and to attempt to study the instrument without scales (or basic theory) would be as nonsensical as learning...


Scales & Arpeggios - Basic Introduction

The Basics of Playing Arpeggios

Arpeggio playing relies on similar technical skills to scale playing, only an arpeggio is more demanding. A scale is built up of eight notes per octave (counting the key note twice), the arpeggio four (for major or minor). Thus, arm and whole-body movements are much quicker in an arpeggio. The...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Introduction FREE

In the Baroque Period composers did not mark very many performance details in the score, leaving many decisions about dynamics and articulation to the judgment and good taste of the performer. You will notice some slurs and some staccato notes from the composer, and we need to...


The Merry Farmer

Practice Suggestions

Left Hand: The melody is, of course, in the left hand. Project the line with a solid forte tone but don’t forget to give it shape. You will probably find the climax of the phrase is around the top F in bar 2. Try singing the melody, making up your...


The Merry Farmer

Introduction

Schumann’s piano music is a joy to play – it is full of inspiration, fantastic contrasts in mood and character as well as beautiful melodies and breathtakingly beautiful harmonies. He wrote Album for the Young for his three daughters in 1848. It contains 43 short pieces suitable for the beginner...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Practice Suggestions

The way you practise determines how you end up playing in your performance. If you practise with lots of mistakes, you’re not going to be at all secure when you perform. What counts as a mistake? Here are the basic ones: Wrong notes Wrong rhythms (including hesitations and unplanned...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 1

Start by choosing a slow tempo to work at. It will be easier to feel crotchet beats when you are practising slowly, rather than the minim beats you’ll want to feel when playing up to speed. Set your metronome to =60...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 4

Here is the last phrase. We’re going to work on it in exactly the same ways as we did before. 1 Here is the first part of the phrase in the right hand. Notice how the music journeys up from C to...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 2

Now you’re getting the idea of practising in small sections. Remember these points and you will learn deeply and securely: Clap and count aloud the rhythm of each hand before playing on the piano. Practise each hand alone three times correctly in a row before you put the hands...


Aria in F

Walkthrough - Phrase 3

The first half of our piece took the music to the dominant key of C (this is very common in a Baroque or Classical piece in two halves); the second half takes us back to the tonic key of F. We know as soon as we reach the Bb in...


Sonatina in G

Practice Suggestions (1) FREE

The way you practise determines how you end up playing in your performance. If you practise with lots of mistakes, you’re not going to be at all secure when you perform. What counts as a mistake? Here are the basic ones: Wrong notes Wrong rhythms (including hesitations and unplanned...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

The Three S's: Sections

This video is part of a series of overviews to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and concludes the introduction to the "Three Ss" (Slowly, Separately and Sections) with "Sections": ...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

Introduction FREE

This video is part of a series of introductions to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and shows how to approach analysing and learning a new piece: ...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

The Three S's: Slowly

This video is part of a series of overviews to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and introduces the "Three Ss" (Slowly, Separately and Sections), starting with "Slowly": ...


An Overview of the Practice Tools

The Three S's: Separately

This video is part of a series of overviews to Graham Fitch’s practice tools and continues with "Separately" from the "Three Ss" (Slowly, Separately and Sections): ...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (6)

I would like to share a process that will help you play any polyrhythm smoothly, accurately and without the need for conscious thought in performance – but it might take a little time to acquire the knack. Think back to when you learned to ride a bicycle; you probably wobbled...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (3)

Schumann: Sicilianisch from Album for the Young Any piece that alternates between simple and compound time (6/8 to 2/4, for example) is excellent preparation for two-against-three polyrhythms in subsequent pieces. One elementary piece that stands out is Schumann’s Sicilianisch from Album for the Young. The...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (4)

The first cross rhythm we have to deal with in piano playing is two-against-three, or duplet against triplet. One hand plays in beat divisions of two while the other hand plays against it in divisions of three (three notes in the time of two). As with any cross rhythm, we...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (5)

I highly recommend practising exercises with two-against-three in one hand, such as these from my ebook on technique (click here for more information): If we think of the hand as being made up of two teams (a team of three fingers versus a team of...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (1) FREE

A polyrhythm (sometimes referred to as a cross rhythm) is the effect produced when two conflicting rhythms are played together. The music requires one hand to divide the beat into two, for example, while the other hand has to divide the beat into three simultaneously. There are all sorts of...


Mastering Polyrhythms

Two Against Three (2)

Before we can hope to manage a polyrhythm, we need to be very adept at keeping a steady beat and subdividing it equally into twos and then threes. The fun starts when you go from one subdivision to the other – this has to be done completely smoothly and seamlessly....


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (6)

Mozart: Sonata in C, K545 To return to the Mozart K545 example, in the second phrase we can make a skeleton of the RH scale patterns by playing the lowest and highest notes of each scale only. This is valuable as an interim stage, since it is shows the simple...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (4)

Haydn: Sonata in C, Hob.XVI:35 In this Sonata by Haydn we can use blocking techniques to serve a technical end. Blocking in the following different ways helps us to organise the hand and learn the triplet patterns more thoroughly. Use those that help you, and leave out...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (2) FREE

Blocking is the most obvious way to group note patterns into solids. It helps us see and feel the bigger picture more easily. We can also use it for technical reasons by securing hand positions. Bach: Prelude in C Major (WTC Book 1) A very obvious and extremely neat...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (3)

Here is the opening of Mozart’s Sonata Facile, K545, where we might begin by blocking out the LH: Beethoven: Pathétique Sonata, Op. 13 In the second subject of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, Op. 13 (1st movement), blocking the LH chord shapes temporarily simplifies the requirements of...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (1) FREE

Music is made up of three main elements - melody, harmony and rhythm. Apart from grace notes (traditionally in smaller notation), there is little a composer can do to distinguish between background, foreground and middle ground of the composition, and it can be difficult to make a path through the...


Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (5)

The dictionary defines hull as the main body of a ship or other vessel, including the bottom, sides, and deck but not the masts, superstructure, rigging, engines, and other fittings. But what has this got to do with practising the piano? When playing slow movements, ornate music or pieces with...


Sonatina in G

Walkthrough (3)

REMEMBER: Practise BBB+1 hands separately as well as hands together. Phrase 1 Here is the BBB+1 for the first phrase. Observe fingerings as well as the repeat marks (three times is a good number to start forming muscular habits). You can practise BBB+1 slowly as...


Sonatina in G

Practice Suggestions (2)

Looping is a way of managing repetitions without interrupting the rhythmic flow – without actually stopping the pulse. When we repeat, we count the rests at the end of the phrase as well as any that we might find at the start. You’ll notice there are repeat signs in all...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (4)

Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903 We find a clear example of two-directional rolling in Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. In the Fantasia, Bach writes three sections in block chords with the direction arpeggio (bars 27-30, 34-42 and 45-49), leaving it to the performer to decide exactly what to...


Spread Chords

General Suggestions for Spreads in Baroque Music

To summarise the main points in this article, here are a few pointers: The speed of the spread reflects mood, tempo and character. The spread can be evenly paced, or include accelerando/ritardando shapings. Hold onto the notes of the arpeggio after you have played them, except for any...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (3)

In bar 39 of Bach’s Prelude in C Minor (Book 1), we may simply spread the chord upwards – many players do it this way. There is time to make a grander statement by rolling it down and then back up again (as I suggested in my...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (1)

Bach Italian Concerto, BWV 971 Let’s look at the opening chord of Bach’s Italian Concerto. Some players (harpsichordists and pianists) spread the opening LH chord, others don’t. What does this tell us? That there is no one right answer, and that the option to spread the chord lies with the...


Spread Chords

Introduction FREE

This is the first part of a series on spread chords, kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Orlando Murrin. Introduction to the series Spread (or rolled, ripped, broken or arpeggiated) chords are simply chords where we play one note after the other, rather than playing all the notes...


Spread Chords

Baroque Conventions of Notating Spread Chords

There were a number of different ways of notating spread chords in use in the Baroque. French composers included arpeggiation signs in their table of ornaments, and were specific about the direction of the spread. Here are the two signs for arpeggiation from D'Anglebert’s (1629-1691) table of ornaments...


Spread Chords

Spreading Chords in the Baroque Period FREE

There seems to be some confusion about managing spreads in Baroque music, probably because the way we read a printed score nowadays is rather different from the way a 17th or 18th century musician would have understood things. From Beethoven onwards, many more of the performance choices were removed from...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (2)

The opening of the Sinfonia in the second Partita continues to receive a variety of treatments concerning not only the chords, but also whether there should be consistent double dotting throughout (meaning the printed semiquaver after the crotchet rests is played as a demisemiquaver, to match that in the next...


Healthy Piano Playing

Sitting Posture

Our sitting posture at the piano not only affects our overall wellbeing, but it also has a profound effect on our arms, hands and fingers and on our ability to move freely around the piano. The more balanced our sitting posture, the more freedom we have in our arms and...


Healthy Piano Playing

Healthy Piano Playing - Introduction FREE

Piano playing is a deeply satisfying artistic activity, but it can also be very demanding physically on our arms and hands. Just as elite athletes understand and care for their bodies, so should pianists think carefully about their approach to playing and practising. A healthy piano technique not only avoids...


Healthy Piano Playing

Warming-Up

Most pianists agree that it is important to warm up before playing, but those who do regular warm-ups tend to differ greatly in their views on what an effective warm-up might be. Some place their hands in warm water, others play scales or other exercises and some do more general...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (1)

This walkthrough and accompanying Annotated Study Edition was kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Rachel Woodhouse. The texture is very delicate and transparent. Aim to make legato connections by hand and then use shallow touches of pedal for resonance and colour. The movement...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (4)

You might think of the next 11 bars as a pedal texture, experimenting with a long, partial pedal all the way to bar 71. Because this low A can be present throughout, the amount of tone you give it needs to be judged carefully....


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (1)

General: it is often not possible to achieve a true finger legato in notes under slurs. Joining by hand where possible is a good general rule for any passage to be played legato (it gives the best control of sound and phrasing); where it is awkward or...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 2nd Movement (1)

The tempo is restrained; feel three beats in each bar, and not too fast. Play the melody line legato; gently lift lower notes out of the keyboard for the mezzo staccato touch while lightly pedalling quaver beats. Experiment here – some players prefer a more...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (4)

In the absence of harmonic support from the bass it is challenging to create an effective ff here. As before, aim for brilliance in the top line and practise each RH line alone to ensure the RH is well coordinated. My fingering, which appears odd...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (2)

Flutter the pedal in this bar to thin out resonance gradually in the diminuendo. The Agité section needs very light, shallow pedalling to avoid it sounding muddy. Hold low F sharp basses as long as comfortable, and work towards a finger legato in the upper...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (2)

The RH is awkward here. Practise the top line alone with the fingering you will use in performance, and experiment with the following practice formulae. En dehors tells us to project the top melody line (violin 1). This line needs...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 2nd Movement (3)

Do not return to the tempo yet – this section is slightly slower. Ravel achieves yet another magical sound world here – allow the glassy top RH to ring out gently, bringing out clearly the canon in augmention in the top notes of the...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 1st Movement (3)

The octave Es (lower stave) are usually played by the LH (passing underneath the RH) but may be played using both hands (LH takes the lower note, RH the upper). The section from bar 31-34 is somewhat awkward; if playing according to the score layout,...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 2nd Movement (2)

Respect the value of the dotted crotchet chords over the next three bars by avoiding a change of pedal on the downbeat of bar 14. Make an adjustment if you really need to, but retain the bass F (the accented Fs are important; project...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (5)

Use light (shallow) pedals in this section, changing each bar. Bars 142 - 143 If it helps, take the lowest RH note on the last beat with the LH. Bars 159 - 161 ...


Sonatine

Walkthrough - 3rd Movement (3)

Practise the RH line until you are completely happy with how you want to shape and shade it. This section demands the utmost delicacy of touch (semiquavers are leggiero, as though staccato), combined with sensitivity of the right foot (shallow pedals for resonance with transparency)....


The Art of Pedalling

Pedalling According to Basses (8)

This video demonstrates how to pedal according to bass notes using examples from Chopin, Rachmaninov, Grieg, Debussy and Ravel: ...


The Art of Pedalling

The Sustaining Pedal (1 & 2) FREE

This video (in two parts) provides a brief history and introduction to the use of the sustaining pedal and is the first in a comprehensive series of videos focusing on the subject of piano pedalling: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Finger Pedalling (3)

This video introduces and demonstrates the technique of finger pedalling (or "overholding touch") which is indispensable to both players of baroque keyboard instruments and the modern pianist: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique and Function (4)

This video provides an overview of pedal technique and function as an introduction to subsequent videos which investigate specific pedalling techniques in more detail. ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique - Fractional Pedalling (7)

This video introduces the concept of different levels of pedalling and the technique of "flutter" or fractional pedalling using a "damper cam" to provide a close-up view of the damper action: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique - Direct Pedalling (5)

This video demonstrates direct pedalling (or "staccato pedalling") through examples including Mendelssohn's Rondo Capriccioso, Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude and "Minute" Waltz: ...


The Art of Pedalling

Pedal Technique - Legato Pedalling (6)

This video provides exercises for mastering legato pedalling and includes examples from Schumann's Kinderszenen and Liszt's La leggierezza: ...


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major – Walkthrough (4) FREE

Bars 37 and 39 require a new pedal on the last beat, as the dissonant E double flats in the tenor and alto parts resolve to the D flats. Exaggerate Schubert’s fp marking. Feel the LH C flat resolve to the B...


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major – Walkthrough (1) FREE

The A section looks like an etude for the RH – fast, relentless triplets spanning the upper registers of the keyboard. However, don’t play the figuration mechanically at any point. The opening, marked p, lends itself to a delicate leggiero played from the fingertips supported by...


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major - Walkthrough (2) FREE

Spring off the first-beat crotchet of bars 6, 7 and 8 and enjoy the syncopation as you land on the chord, where a touch of pedal adds resonance. Play more legato in f – deeper into the key, very lyrically, and always with melodic shaping....


Impromptus D899 (Op. 90)

Impromptu in E-Flat Major - Walkthrough (3) FREE

The music now becomes harmonically and melodically richer as Schubert moves into E flat minor, using a chord progression based on a full descending fifth sequence (the bass line is E flat - A flat - D flat - G flat - C flat -...


Separate Practice

The Practice Stepladder FREE

Learning a complex piece each hand alone before putting the hands together is a strategy favoured by the majority of piano teachers. While it is of course possible to practise a fugue hands separately, this misses the point. Rather than working hands separately, I advocate strands separately (playing each line...


Lyric Pieces, Op.54

Nocturne (1) FREE

Grieg wrote his famous Nocturne (Night Piece) in the summer of 1891 during his annual country retreat to the Norwegian mountains and fjords. Along with five other pieces, he included the Nocturne in Book V of his Lyric Pieces, Op. 54. In 1894, Anton Seidl, the conductor of the New...


Hanon

Jail-breaking Hanon (1)

The three books that make up The Virtuoso Pianist by Charles-Louis Hanon have been a mainstay with piano students since they were first published in 1872. It is interesting to note that Hanon had up until then been active as an organist and through his own publishing house...


Slow Practice

How and When to Use Slow Practice FREE

I have noticed some folk think they are beyond slow practice – that’s something only beginners do. Far from it! One of the twentieth century’s great pianists, Sergei Rachmaninov practised so slowly that even his colleagues didn’t recognise the piece. This was not music he was learning from scratch, but...