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Piano Technique Tips (updated monthly)
What are the important PIANO LESSON BASICS to remember?
***1. Practicing piano slowly- Most accurate work is created at slow speeds in "slow motion". This is
when the brain can process notes, rhythms, tone, relaxation, good posture, counting, and
accuracy with all simultaneously.
Slow practicing creates a "focused" picture of exactly what you are doing for your brain.
Fast runs create a "blurry" version of your song. When you try to retrieve it from memory
and play you get a blurry version back that is usually filled with all kinds of errors and mistakes.
***2. Create a "big" sound- Music is 50% tone and 50% rhythm. You must create enough power at
at the piano on each note for a rich, full tone. This is the most beautiful tone the piano can create
This is where musical expression is clearly heard, not with a weak "half tone". When attempting
this full tone, remember to keep your fingers curved. They will want to collapse.
***3. Create your own internal "clock"- Rhythmic precision is 50% of the music. Not all of us are born
with a precise sense of timing, but we have a brain that is more than capable of creating this precision.
Take an extra step to create this "clock". The mind is a very precise instrument.
***4. Curve your fingers- If you collapse your knuckles when playing, you must try to push the knuckles out
to a curved position. This is the starting "power" position in playing, and you will want to keep your
hand position in a consistently proper playing position. Do not let random habits of different finger shapes
creep into your precise technique.
Remember these helpful sayings:
***"Push your knuckles out when playing"
***"Play on the tips of your fingers"
There are times when a flat finger approach is needed, but at the beginner level the curved position is the
best starting place for success.
***5. Don't stop at each barline- See #1 Practice slowly... If you are stopping at each barline in playing, this is
a message to yourself that your brain is not processing all the information on the page in time, and you
are absolutely practicing too fast.
Think of your mind being always on "record". If you constantly record each stop at a barline, then continue,
these "stops" and "starts" are recorded to memory, so you are simply memorizing rhythmic mistakes. Your
habit will be to create these uneven rhythms each time you play your piece, and your listeners will certainly
not appreciate your "stop and go" performance. Listeners like to hear the steadiness of patterns, like the falling of rain, the chirping of a bird, the sound of an ocean wave. Listening to an erratic rhythm is like being in a car with
a beginner drive hitting the brakes every two seconds.
November 2005a car with a beginning driver who is jamming on the brakes every other second.
How do I increase my SIGHTREADING SKILLS ?
I have a few suggestions to improve sightreading...
***1. Develop a coordinated sense of looking 50% at the printed page
and 50% at the keyboard. There is much to observe and learn in
***2. Learn to look ahead in the score to process the group of notes about
one measure ahead. Look for patterns you've seen before and chord
"groups of notes" you recognize. Also look ahead to gauge the direction
the music line is heading to prepare the best fingering position for maximum
***3. Go slow enough in your reading to keep a steady rhythm by not stopping at
bar lines. It's never impressive to get all the notes right but chop up the
rhythm. Music is 50% rhythm.
***4. MOST IMPORTANTLY, memorize the pieces you practice into LONG TERM MEMORY.
Great readers may have natural coordination, but they also retrieve mentally
stored patterns, notes, rhythms, key feel, and quality work from prior memorized
pieces. Believe this most of all.
How do I GUARANTEE A GREAT PERFORMANCE when playing in front of people?
There are two answers to this question...
***1. You will naturally relax and perform better each new time you perform.
Remember to try to relax beforehand, take deep breaths, and warm up
sufficiently a few minutes before you perform.
***2. The more in-depth answer is: A performance should be successfully prepared
before the day of your performance. Here are some tips to preparation:
***A. RELAXATION built into your playing during practice will be there in your performance.
***B. ACCURACY in all areas is the perfect design that will render success in performance.
***C. The world's top pianists will tell you: SLOW practice allows for ACCURACY to be
stored or input into your brain for later retrieval. Or "your brain is always on record".
Why is RELAXATION important in playing the piano?
***1. A Natural technique is the ultimate piano technique. Those who play naturally and effortlessly have
a relaxed feel to their playing. Besides creating a natural feel to your playing, building in relaxation
to your practice session is important at the advanced AND beginner levels. Benefits to a relaxed
***2. Your body saves energy by not working as hard.
***3. The relaxed state helps to achieve a longer and more COMFORTABLE practice session.
***4. A relaxed body fosters more ease in creating motions that bring power for playing.
***5. Relaxation throughout your playing "mechanism" allows more accurate control for accuracy
as the brain commands the fingertips and other body parts. The accurate messages your
braining is sending your fingers, arms etc., are not disturbed or blocked by excessive tension.
***6. A relaxed upper body fosters better breathing while playing (deep low diaphragm "baby"
breathing) that send more oxygen to your brain constantly. This relaxed and high oxygen state
creates Alpha (memorization) waves in your brain important for memorization and overall
PLAYING SCALES SMOOTHLY
Playing smooth scales requires PRACTICE, of course, but there are other techniques to help even out your tone
and make your scales sound effortless. Here are a few...
***1. When tucking your thumb in a scale run, let the thumb gradually move into position while the fingers before it
are playing so the thumb doesn't wind up being late into position, which causes you to jerk your hand in an awkward
direction to try to get there on time.
***2. Point your fingers in the direction you are traveling in a scale run. The hand position you achieve allows fingers to use a natural "grasping" movement when playing each note of the run.
***3. Beware of individual fingers that may be stronger than the others (many times the thumb or middle finger)
that might create accents in your scale run you don't want. Think in terms of the overall philosophy of
"finger independence" in which all the fingers are equally weighted to give you the smoothest run possible.
***4. Overall in scales avoid awkward hand positions and unneccesary motions that don't contribute to the event. Power is required, but efficient power is the best kind. Use a mirror if you have to, observing from the side of the piano, because graceful looking playing usually includes near perfect technique.