Sunday, May 3, 2009

Piano Practice Techniques that Everyone Can Use


One of the most important things that I can do as a piano teacher is teach both beginning and advanced piano students effective piano practice techniques. Of all the instruments, piano requires a great deal of coordination. Not only must the pianist be able to use both the right and left hands simultaneously, but the performer must use his or her right foot on the damper pedal. Even the left foot is used on the soft pedal in more advanced literature.

Pianists are constantly performing different motions with each hand. For example, one hand may be playing legato (connecting one note to the other) while the other hand is playing staccato (short). Often the performer will be performing different motions with different fingers of each hand, particularly in more advanced literature. A common problem is to be able to bring out the melodic line over the accompaniment no matter where that occurs in the music.

Here are some practice techniques that both beginning and advanced students can follow:


  1. Hands Alone Practice – One way to master the coordination needed to be able to do different motions with each hand is to devote some time to hands alone practice. It is amazing how much easier it is to perform a piece hands together after considerable time has been spent on hands alone practice. Also, hands alone practice on more complex pieces of music allows you to concentrate more fully on what each hand must do.



  2. Establish a Good Set of Fingering – Good fingering is very important to your success as a pianist. As you practice hands alone, establish comfortable fingering that you will use at all times. Experiment with different fingerings to see what works best for you. If you are taking lessons, your teacher should be able to help you with this. Remember that a good set of fingering can mean the difference between mastering that difficult run or passage.



  3. Work Slowly and Be Accurate – A common problem is that the student wants to play too fast. Remember that you must establish an accuracy of notes, rhythm, and fingering before you bring a piece up to speed. You will be able to maintain a proper speed when you know the piece extremely well.



  4. Do Spend Some Time on Rhythm and Counting – I always have my students count aloud. Besides establishing a rhythm pattern, I find that counting can help with concentration, and it also helps to maintain tempo (speed). Some teachers recommend use of a metronome. I personally don’t own a metronome as I prefer to establish an internal “body rhythm” where I feel the beat and rhythm of the music. Also, many pieces, particularly of the Romantic era, do not have a strictly regular rhythm. In other words, there are places in the music where you might speed up or slow down. You can’t do this with a metronome. With a metronome, you tend to get a mechanical feel to your music and sound like the pianist for a ballet class. Metronomes can also be tricky for beginners to use. Perhaps my prejudice against metronome use comes from my own frustrations as a student when I was made to use a metronome.



  5. Master One Small Step at a Time – This is actually a continuation of the hands alone practice above. After each hand is mastered, practice your pedaling. In most situations, pedaling follows what the left hand is doing. As you begin to place the two hands together, remember to work slowly for accuracy. Later add in your phrasing, dynamics, and shadings.



  6. Break the Piece Up into Practice Sections – This is one of the methods that really help students with mastering a more difficult piece. I will break the piece into one page at a time, a section at a time, a line at a time, and even one bar at a time. If a passage is difficult enough, I will even have the student do a ½ bar at a time. For example, there are 4 difficult measures in the J.S. Bach Invention #1in C Major. I find that students are able to master these 4 bars after hands alone practice and working small sections of this passage hands together.



  7. Practice Alberti Bass Left Hand Passages in Chords – Another very effective practice technique that I use with students is to have them practice broken chord passages such as Alberti bass passages in chords. This practice method is appropriate for any passage, right hand or left, consisting primarily of broken chords such as the Bach C Major Prelude from Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier. By practicing in chords, we teach the brain where the fingers must be placed and positioned. Try this practice technique and you will see quick results.



  8. Perfecting the Finished Product – Once you have learned the piece, a good way to keep it in top shape is to play it through each day. Take note of the passages that could use more practice. Devote some time to practicing these “hard” parts. Then go back and play the piece once again. You should see an improvement.

Let me know if you find these practice techniques helpful by leaving a comment on this blog. Your own practice suggestions will be welcome to our readers.

42 comments:

phyllis said...

How very interesting. My name is Phyllis Sdoia-Satz, and I am the director of Sdoia-Satz Music Institute in Miami, FL. We're also called The Husky Gang School.

I came upon your name by accident because I was googling Hedy Spielter. You see, I studied with her when she had the place on 79 Street in NYC, many years ago. Let's see, I was there from the age of 6 to 12 and a half -- Hedy Spielter School for Modern Piano Technique. Wow. What a long time ago.

Anyhow, since then I have had a performing career in classical music and have spent my life playing, teaching composing and writing books about music. (The Husky Gang series published by Warner Bros and Alfred.

Most recently, my husband (we've been married for 52 years)and I have written a book called Practicing Sucks, But It Doesn't Have To!! which is being published by Rowman and Littlefield and will be on the bookshelves August 28, 2009. (We actually have an exact date.) We have created a complete method of teaching which enables students to learn music faster, easier with more success and less frustration. The great part is, it works not just for learning music but learning anything requiring study, practice and repetition. Our next book will be on golf utilizing the same kind of ideas, that are in the book on piano practice. See our website www.sdoiasatz.com and my blog Practicing Sucks blog

Helene said...

Hi Phyllis - It's so nice to meet a Hedy Spielter student. My mother also studied with Ms. Spielter in the 79th Street studio. I studied at her Far Rockaway studio and later at the 72nd Street studio.

Nice to hear about your accomplishments especially bringing the joy of music to young students. Keep up the great work!

Joe said...

Have you tried this adverty that keeps poping up? 'rocket piano'

Any good?

Joe

Helene said...

Hi Joe - I have not personally tried this method but it has gotten very good reviews and is certainly affordable. It seems to give you a lot for the money.

However, if you are serious about your piano playing, you are best doing your research and finding a good teacher. Working with a teacher will insure that you learn good piano habits from the very beginning. A teacher can quickly correct fingering and notation errors and help you perform at your best.

Having to prepare for a weekly lesson is also a good motivator that will keep you on track. However, if cost and time are a factor, a course like Rocket Piano can teach you the basics of piano playing and help get you started on your goal of learning to play the piano.

Anonymous said...

This is good stuff, because sometimes I tend to want to play too fast. I'm trying to learn some of Chopin's Preludes and your practice techniques pumped me up with some more inspiration. I also have the Alberti Bass Pattern in a book, an now I'm going to use it. Thanks!

Helene said...

Thanks. I'm glad that my practice pointers were an inspiration. I will be adding some additional blog posts soon, so return here for some more tips.

The Chopin Preludes are wonderful pieces. They are short, but they pack an emotional punch.

wendie said...

You know- I still practice Doodles when I have a particularly difficult passage-
I'm in the evening division of Julliard- just loving studying the piano.
I often wonder what happened to all those wonderful prodigies.
I see "the boys" as Miss Spielter used to call them- Norman and Melvin- they are doing well with their piano competition for young pianists from all over the world.
Was she a wonderful teacher? (I wish I had been taught to sight read, and a little something about harmony)- Spielter gave me a technique that is solid- and the other students seem to think I was just born with marvelous hands. i know better. I wish I had a copy of her presentation in l954

Helene said...

Hi Wendie - I remember the Doodles very well. Miss Spielter really taught you how to practice. Remember her "supervised practice." I spent many hours practicing a beat and a note on some of the passages on the Beethoven C Minor Concerto. I still have my students practice difficult passages in little parts. Having a good technical foundation is very important.

When I started my studies with Nadia Reisenberg, she recommended the Tausig Daily Studies. But after a lesson or 2, Miss Reisenberg quickly realized that I knew how to work out a piece technically. We never spoke about exercises again. She would call it doing the kitchen work, and I remember her telling me that I knew how to work out a piece. I always thought about Miss Spielter when she would mention this.

You need more than just technique, though. I learned so much about interpretation and tone production from Miss Reisenberg and technique too. I observed her very carefully as she demonstrated. (I rely a lot on demonstration in my own teaching.) Nadia Reisenberg spoke a lot about economies of scale although she didn't call it that. Basically I was working too hard, making extra motions that rob you of speed and clarity when I first started with Miss Reisenber. After 6 years of study with Miss Reisenberg, she completely changed my playing. Hopefully I will write about some of these pointers in this blog.

BTW, look at the first comment on this blog post. Phyllis was also a Spielter student but some years before we studied.

Teach Yourself Piano said...

Coordination between both hands and feet is indeed one of the most difficult things for beginning pianists. For me, syncopated rhythms were, and still are, very challenging. I typically do a 30 minute warm-up on the piano with Hanon exercises before I practice my pieces of music. However, it seems to be taking longer to warm-up my old and creaky fingers these days. Anyway, these are all good points you've raised here. I especially agree with the fingering advice. I virtually ignored my fourth and fifth fingers when I began learning the piano due to their weakness. A big mistake of course, and one I've had to correct over time.

Helene said...

I find that students have various degrees of coordination problems although I believe that those who are truly determined can master these problems.

I once had a problem with 2 against 3 and 3 against 4, but I mastered this eventually. Because of my experience, I find that my students are able to do this quite naturally.

With pieces that have a lot going on with them as far as voicing and held notes, for example, Schumann's From Foreign Lands and People, mastering one hand at a time can help with coordination.

Anonymous said...

I also had the misfortune of studying with Hedy Spielter. She was not by any means all bad, but the poor woman suffered a head full of pianistic flapdoddle!! She could have benefitted from a real musical education.

A major obstacle to her teaching was the presence of her consort, Jules Epailly, a complete madman who knew nothing about music. After you learned your piece, you were treated to a free session of "touches" with Jules. What this consisted of was listening to him intone or croon his conception of the melody and you were supposed to imitate his vocal obligato. It was merely an activity provided for him by Hedy to make him feel productive.

In retrospect, I have little but misericorde for the poor ignorant people taken in by these 2 characters!!!

Helene said...

Dear Anonymous - I have found many of Miss Spielter's practice techniques quite helpful, but I have found that I have had to modify them in my own teaching. The worst problem is that you had the harsh atmosphere of the Rumanian gymnastics teachers as applied to the piano. Also, I learned phrasing, interpretaion, voicing, and musicianship much later on from other teachers, most notably Nadia Reisenberg. I have found that I am able to combine technique and musicianship from the very beginning. I agree with you on Mr. Epailly. Fortunately, I didn't see him that often. My mother must have intervened after I got yelled at. E-mail me about your experience if you like.

Anonymous said...

Helene:

You were lucky to go beyond Spielter's Teutonic, rigid teaching. Actually, she had some good points and her idea of playing "in" is, I believe, sound. But those stupid "doodles" never helped anybody!!!And she knew very little about music, although she could move a student from the Beyer book to the Hammerklavier, at least as far as notes, rests, and correct fingers.

Epailly ended up badly, as I understand it. People knew that he was a phoney. Upon Spielter's death, a mass exodus. The only people to remain was that eyesore, Grace and the sychopant, Budovsky. Epailly had quite a career, by the way, as a character actor and he should have stayed in show business!!

Both those Old World characters, Hedy and Jules, were ill-disguised anti-Semites. Hedy ultimeately alienated all of her students and not just the Jewish ones. Also, true to their time and origins, they both bathed but fortnightly.

I do however owe something to her--work out your fingers and put 'em in. You'd be surprised how many piano students just take whatever fingers are handy. I make a living just teaching the cm Prelude from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered; consistently fingered--a revelation to my students some of whom have studied (sometimes) years.

Cheers

Helene said...

Actually the point of the doodles was to build the bridge of the hand although I am able to teach my students to play cleanly without resorting to doodles. I believe that Miss Spielter's idea of creating exercises within the piece is a sound one and I have found it helpful with the students although I have modified them. I particularly like the beat and a note or bar and a note and back and forths. I learned musicianship after Miss Spielter's death. Basically with Miss Spielter, I was allowed to interpret the piece as I saw fit. I was 16 at the time.

The C minor Bach Prelude and Fugue was the 3rd piece that I did with Miss Spielter after the 2 Bach Inventions I studied with her after my mother took me to her when I was age 10. My mother had studied with her years before.

I remember Grace and Mr. Budovsky. I sometimes practiced in their rooms when they were at work. I initially studied at Miss Spielter's Far Rockaway studio but later went to Professional Children's School so that I could study at her Manhattan studio. We may have been students around the same time.

Yes, fingering is very important. That is often the difference between being able to achieve a difficult passage or not. I am a stickler for correct fingering but in a gentle way.

I never found Miss Spielter to be anti-semitic. I remember her telling my mother and I that she really respected the Jewish people. OTOH she became very close with my parents, who were both piano teachers, upon my mother's return.

best piano course said...

This is good stuff that you posted. I like it. I am now in my second year in playing piano and I think I am playing too fast.

Helene said...

Always begin by playing slowly for accuracy. Once you know the piece well, you can pick up the speed a bit.

Thomas said...

Helene,

I find your hints very useful indeed! I've always had a problem with rushing things, playing too fast hands separate and trying to play both hands too quickly. I'll keep your suggestions in mind next time I try to play something!

One thing made me curious though - you said you had problems with playing 2 against 3, but managed to master it. How did you do that? Do you have any practise hints for this? It seems to my the most difficult thing for me now, and sometimes it's really needed, so any help would be useful.

Anonymous said...

All comments about Hedy Spielter and her work are valuable and interesting to me. I remember reading of her insistance of use on the "silent" keyboard (Virgil Practice Clavier, or similar keyboard?). Jorg Demus endorsed her work very highly. But, alas, as I was studying with Mme. I.A.V.
at the time, I was afraid to apply anything to her teachings that Mme. did not advise.
PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT THE "DOODLES". How/what were they?

Lev V.

Helene said...

Dear Anonymous - I remember when Jorg Demus came to visit Miss Spielter at her New York studio. She introduced us young people to him, but we later got scolded for not greeting him effusively. (I'm sure that I said hello, but I was very shy and bashful in those days.) He spent some time with Miss Spielter learning her "method."

The doodles were exercises to build up the bridge of the hand. You applied doodles to passages where you had either a 1-5 or 1-4 skip. You stood up the first and fifth finger and raised fingers 2-3-4 (stretched them up) and then played (digging in to the keys) 1 and 5 back and forth a number of times. If you did the 1-4 doodle, you would hold down the 5th finger.

Basically I have simplified some of Miss Spielter's exercises and techniques with equally good results (see some of the comments above).

As to the dummy (silent) keyboards, basically people used them when you came to practice and there were no other pianos available. I hated to get stuck on the dummy, but fortunately it happened very rarely. I think that in modern times, dummy keyboards have been replaced by digital pianos which are a more rewarding practice experience for the student.

Helene said...

Dear Thomas - Sorry I took so long getting back to you.

One can figure out where to place each note in 2 against 3 and 3 against 4 passages, but the trick is to make it sound natural and not forced.

I would recommend practicing one beat at a time initially. Do the right hand several times followed by the left hand several times and then hands together. When you have this to your satisfaction, move on to the next part. After working one beat at a time, you can join 2 or more beats.

Chopin takes this one step further in many of his pieces (see the first nocturne as an example). You might have to play 11 against 3. You can decide where the notes go together, but it must flow naturally. Practice each hand of the run separately and then play hands together. Entire run should be played without accenting.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too remember Jorge Demus' short association with Spielter. First of all, it must be stated that Demus, although a fine musician, was not really a concert pianist, but an accompanist.( He recorded the Vier Ernst Gesange with Fischer-Dieskau). His concert at Town Hall during '60 was made up of very undemanding repertoire which he didn't play particularly well.

More importantly, he was certainly too insightful a musician to be taken in by SPielter's hocus-pocus. He simply needed a place to practice in NYC and probably a place where German was spoken.

I remember Spielter chortling about Demus' interest in her and her method. I doubt if anything pianistic ally meaningful was exchanged between them.

Poor Hedy went to her grave without creating one great artist which is, I think, a decisive commentary upon her limitations, not to say stupidity.

I do think, however, that her judgment about Simon Barrare, who she considered "the greatest pianist who ever lived" was revealing and not without basis. Barrare could knock the socks off anybody--even Bachaus--and he had remarkable dramatic judgment.

Ultimately, I must iterate, that she probably did more good than harm, although anybody with musical judgment should have left her tutelage by her/his mid-teens.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to learn more of Hedy's father, Hermann Speilter. He had an entry in an old edition of Grove's Encyclopedia and currently a very short one on Wikipedia.

It is mentioned that he came to the States in the 1880's but that would make no sense, insofar as Hedy's sensibility was certainly German. Unless it was the case that she was sent back to Germany for schooling.

I always wondered where she got the money for all those grand pianos in the 72nd Street apt. The 2 Steinways in the front rooms were pretty decent. She must have needed money or cashflow, though, otherwise she wouldn't have made the trek out to Far Rockaway every weekend to teach so many giftless students, sleeping in the armchair at night.

I met her brother once. I think his name was Willi. He seemed very nice. He himself was a composer with training in counterpoint and harmony. Seemed nothing like his sister, with her Germanic stubborness.

I imagine Hedy, with her crazy Method, was something of the black ewe of the family. IF you asked her why she didn't pursue a concert career herself, she would say that she broke her arm on a trans-Atlantic cruise sometime in the 20's. Probably pure rubbish, as were many of her fanciful stories.

She rightfully admired Myra Hess, saying that she could outplay 99% of all men. That was true. Of course, Hess' musicianship was far beyond the comprehension of Hedy.

Anonymous said...

In this continuing qualified tribute to Hedy Spielter, I observed on the Net a legal document from 1931 in which Hedy is the plaintiff and the North Hamburg Lloyd Steamship Company the defendant in which she evidently charged the company with neglect that ended up in injury. So that she may well have been telling the truth about her broken arm.

I remember once, upon learning that one of her elder female students, a Mrs. Nuslick, had died, she played, on the spot, the E flat Prelude from the 2nd Book of the Well-Tempered as a tribute. It was very moving.

I have been mostly bad-mouthing Hedy on this blog, but I wish to stress in fairness, that she lived music and, although many of her ideas were down-right wrong, music was her native language.

I still doubt however, that she was a Myra Hess. And such stolze Dumheit from a German who should have, in view of the events of the last century, made an effort to soften such unattractive national characteristics. Her brother seemed nothing like that and my uncle, who was German as well, was not either.

Helene said...

Dear Anonymous - You seem to have a lot of negative feelings about Miss Spielter. I have mostly positive feelings towards Miss Spielter although she could certainly be harsh at times, and she had absolutely no patience for anyone who wasn't a "musical genius."

As I continued my studies after the death of Miss Spielter with Morton Estrin while at Hofstra and as a graduate student after 6 years with Nadia Reisenberg, I became more aware of what I had missed. Somehow I missed all of that excellent intermediate and early advanced piano literature which I now teach such as the Schumann Scenes from Childhood, Chopin Waltzes and Mazurkas.

Somehow I jumped from a few Bach Preludes and Fugues to the Beethoven c minor Concerto. While this was good for building my technique, it also could be frustrating because I wasn't quite ready for this jump. I like to advance students more gradually so that their playing always sounds clean. Miss Spielter also did not instruct me on phrasing, tone production, or voicing which I teach my students early on. I learned about this much later.

Miss Spielter was very fond of my parents as they were piano teachers, and she hoped that they would carry on her method. My father would often take Miss Spielter to our home in Valley Stream on a Saturday night after my lesson at the Far Rockaway studio so she wouldn't have to sleep in that big chair.

I remember the two 9 foot grands that she had in NYC. I would often get to practice on the one in the middle room. The quality of the other pianos varied. Sheila, her star student, always had the one in the living room.

You really learned to practice at Miss Spielter's. Mr. Epailly made quite a few movies which may account for how they could afford those 2 nine foot Steinways. She may possibly have purchased them after winning the law suit.

Miss Spielter told me that she had broken her wrist and it had not healed properly, and that was the reason she did not play anymore.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, your experience with Spielter appears to be much more positive than mine. I left her under vexed and nasty circumstances;I didn't want to "work" any more with Mr. Epailly and had my mother relate my diaffection to her. Thereupon, she began to make anti-Semitic comments to me, how having any opinion at all would mark me as a "smart-aleck" Jew.

Epailly's interpretations were not merely subjective, they were down-right wrong!! He once crooned the opening of the Raindrop Prelude to me, giving the A flat the value of a quarter note. I pointed out that Chopin had clearly indicated A flat as having the value of a dotted half note. Of course he flew into a rage and even raised his fist to me.

You could be sure that Epailly was not allowed to "coach" Demus or indeed, any other adult, paying student.

I inveigh mostly against her silly "Method" and her cockermaimmy ideas about interpretation, particularly Beethoven. She thought that you had to accent the first beat of every bar in Allegro movements of Beethoven. The effect would have been that of a choo-choo train.

My parents were middle-European Jews, educated in German and steeped in German culture. They thought she was hoi-polloi,not at all cultivated. My mother particularly didn't like her.

I once met Grace , a devoted student of Spielter even after her death, on the street. She told me she had given a concert at Town Hall and said she had a recording of it. I was anxious to hear it and she obliged by giving one to me. The poor girl--who on Earth told her to play the Schumann Toccata? Lady!!If you can't reach a major ninth( not to say a tenth) then you don't play the Schumann Toccata. Evidently, Spielter's Method could not treat all technical problems.

In all, Spielter was a mixed basket of virtues and vices. I have said before that her methodical approach to working out a piece was rare to find in the US at that time. But many of her other pianistic and musical ideas were tainted by her rigidity and willfulness and deeply comprised by her terrible temper.

Still, an interesting personality emerging from a different time and a window onto a world which ultimately was stimulating to me.

Helene said...

Dear Anonymous - I think what saved me is that my mother had studied with Miss Spielter back in the 1930s. When my mother took me to Miss Spielter when I was 10, Miss Spielter was very proud of my mother for having become a piano teacher. Actually, my mother's teaching changed for the better after we returned to Miss Spielter. Unlike Miss Spielter, my mother had a way with people and kids and was much beloved by her students. Miss Spielter was hoping that my parents would become disciples of the Spielter Method and carry this on.

I tended to be a very dedicated student, so I adapted to the hours long practice sessions. I do remember being in fear of even stopping for a break of a minute or 2. You always expected to get yelled at.

I do remember the accenting on every beat, but I quickly learned otherwise by studying with Miss Reisenberg. She emphasized the importance of a clear and even melodic line. This could be achieved by raising the thumb as you played a run to keep it even.

I do remember listening to Grace practicing the Brahms D Minor Concerto. I sometimes got to practice in Grace's room while she was out and probably working.

I wonder whether we ever crossed paths at Far Rockaway or 72nd Street.

As to Mr. Epailly, I tried to avoid him as much as possible. I saw very little of him, after my mother had it out with Miss Spielter. I remember that he always smelled of cigars. Ugh!

I did gain confidence with Miss Spielter and felt that she really believed in my ability. You really did learn a piece when you studied using her practice techniques which gave you confidence in performance.

Anonymous said...

I doubt if you would have known me. We lived in Lawrence, Long Island, until '60 or so and then moved into Manhattan. I went to Spielter's Far Rockaway madhouse occassionally but found the cacophany to be very unpleasant--the different pianos playing different pieces.

When we moved to Manhattan I went to her 72nd street apt. until her death. It was an association that last about 6 years. I came perhaps twice a week in the evenings for at that time I had begun attending Ethical Culture and after '62, Columbia.

I remember Sheila, Grace, a woman named Giselle and Tyrone. And of course, Budovsky. I bumped into Budovsky on the street from time to time after Spielter passed away. The poor man, a lonely bachelor, probably died a virgin. Once he began to fulminate against me for bad-mouthing Epailly to Grace (who evidently reported it to him).

There seems no further reason to belabor Spielter and further trash her. My anger is mostly directed at her forcing Epailly upon the younger, more vulnerable students and her perverse, pig-headed approach to the piano and music. And, of course, the anti-Semiticism which was my first exposure to the Old World type and which I found to be, at that impressionable age, very disturbing.
Best to end with Charles Rosen's very graceful response to a presumptuous, impertinent young woman--"Yes, my dear, there are of course many ways to play the piano."

Helene said...

Dear Anonymous - I first started at the Far Rockaway studio when my mother brought me to Miss Spielter when I was 10 in 1957. I actually enjoyed listening to the different pieces being played. I remember Clarence playing the Beethoven C Major Concerto over and over. I also remember Miss Spielter shouting in very frequently "B-flat Stupid" to the less gifted students.

A few years later, I was enrolled in Professional Children's School so that I could go to Miss Spielter's 72nd Street studio every day after class. When school ended at 2 p.m., Tyrone, myself, and Morris would go to Miss Spielter's studio each day. Sheila was already there and practicing when we got there. I attended Professional Children's School for 8th and 9th grade. My parents were no longer able to afford private school, so I went back to the local high school when I in 10th grade. My parents arranged for me to leave school early so that I could go to the 72nd Street studio, but this wasn't to last long as Miss Spielter passed away a few months later.

If you came to Miss Spielter after 5:30 in the evening, you probably missed me as I had to catch the 6:04 LIRR train to Valley Stream.

I never encountered the anti-semitism that you speak of, and I'm sure that my parents would have noticed. However, she did often speak about the "stupid American parents,' but she considered my parents among the enlightened few which probably helped me.

Anonymous said...

Well, perhaps Hedy had less cause and more to gain from not giving expression to that aspect of her thought. I imagine she was greatly indignant at my resistance to and clear perception of Epailly's sham. Also, she wanted to maintain control of my thinking. Curiously simple-minded!!

Clearly she had enough control of herself in your parents' presence.

Brahms, an anti-semite to the core, had many Jewish friends and was du-und-du with Joachim. Prokofiev, also outspokenly anti-semitic, was closest with Oistrakh. It is trite to observe that we are ambivalent beings and brutal when it serves us and we can get away with it.

If Hedy's Method was so effective, I wonder why only a handful of her students could really play. Sheila I imagine was at it all day and she played very well indeed. But Grace was really quite inept in spite of all that "doodling" and jabbing.

studying piano said...

Practicing piano with a very effective technique is good way to master playing piano. The techniques in this article are so easy to follow and I agree that it is for everyone.

Helene said...

Thanks. I'm glad that you find these techniques helpful.

James Harding said...

Thank you for such a great post! This is the first time I've read your blog and it's very impressive!

I work with a ton of piano teachers and I'd like to point them to your blog.

Nicely done!

Helene said...

Thanks, James. I hope to add a new post very soon.

gowrish said...

hi,i am gowrish from india.i am vry much interested to learn classical piano in depth .can you please teach me piano.

Helene said...

Hi Gowrish

I'm afraid that I am too far away here in the United States. There must be some good piano teachers in India. Try contacting a university music department.

I was thinking about doing some coaching over the internet as I came across a voice teacher that was doing this. Something for me to look into for the future.

Suzanne said...

I should print out your practice suggestions and use them! I appreciate your ideas.

I am not taking lessons currently, but would like to start learning new songs and reviewing ones I already know. I also would like to learn more about chords, as I like to write songs, and put chords with them before trying to work out an accompaniment.

If I only have 30-60 minutes per day to practice, do you have a suggestion for how I should use the time? (Scales, chords, song review, new pieces, etc.) Should I just work on some of these things a time or two per week?

Thanks for any help you can give me!

Helene said...

Hi Suzanne - Glad to help! Much can be accomplished in 30 to 60 minutes per day. The most important thing about piano practice is consistency.

You can start your piano practice with a few scales and chords. You should be able to find books on scales, chords, and elementary theory. I would spend just a few minutes on scales and chords and then spend the balance of my time on pieces.

Learning new songs will improve your sightreading skills as well as keep up your interest.

Certainly, relearn your old repertoire. Try some of my practice techniques. Your old songs and pieces should come back quickly. Start with some hands alone practice. Then work slowly as you put the 2 hands back together. If the piece is difficult, work on just a few bars at a time until each section is mastered. You should be up to speed within a short time of practice.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the advice, Helene! Consistency is the thing I do need to work on! I am hoping I can practice at least 5 days per week, if I put my mind to it. So would you say to spend half of the remaining time (after the few minutes on scales and chords) on new pieces and the other half of the time on review of songs I have already learned? Is it okay to try the old pieces with hands together first, but if I make mistakes to stop and work on the sections that have trouble with hands separately? Do you think it's ever good to try sight reading with hands together first just to see where you're at, or with a new piece would you always start hands separately?

Helene said...

Hi Suzanne - There is really no right or wrong way to use these practice techniques. It also depends on the difficulty of the piece. Generally, hands alone practice, slow practice, and working small sections of a piece will be particularly helpful on more difficult selections. You be the judge. Good luck with your piano practice!

Bolochka said...

An important tip, which I did not see listed: PRACTICE THE SCALE, CHORDS AND ARPEGGIOS OF THE KEY THE PIECE IS WRITTEN IN!!! I cannot emphasize enough how effective this can be. It will take your reading and execution to a new level. Good luck everyone :)

Helene said...

Hi Bolochka - Good Idea! Practicing scales, chords and arpeggios in the key of the piece is an excellent warmup and helps improve technique. I do find that practicing the scale of the piece helps students with their sightreading of the piece.

violet said...

Thanks for your many good advice for practising piano!