Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chromatic Scales

Playing the chromatic scale facilitates the use of a contracted hand position and therefore is useful in developing broad technical ability. Additionally it helps in learning to read sharps and flats. By reading the chromatic scale and practicing it ahead of time, students will be helped when they come across songs in the first year literature containing little chromatic passages.

Chromatic exercises can be created by the piano teacher starting with just a few notes. Each time it is repeated, a higher note is added. In this way the student learns to play up and down with equal ability.

A helpful book in learning chromatic scales is A Dozen A Day, Preparatory Book and Book One.

For more information about piano lessons, contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Double Notes Legato Technique

Although first year students won't need much drill on double notes, a few passages containing legato thirds are found in some of the music studied at early grades.

Similar problems happen between playing single legato notes and playing double legato notes; that is, connecting the fingers without blurring. It takes time and patience to apply the legato touch correctly to two notes. The student's tendency is to disconnect the tones. Double note exercises should be devised by the teacher to give the student experience playing them prior to use in first year and second year pieces.

Second and third-year piano students may find that simplified Chopin etudes and piano technique are good pieces to practice legato phrasing and legato thirds.

A good resource for short exercises is the Dozen A Day book series.

For more information about piano lessons Millington area, please contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Turning Thumb Over or Crossing Over Thumb

Fingering Technic

In early piano fingering systems the thumb was rarely used as a pivot over which the fingers could pass either up or down the scale. The basic principles of modern fingering first became known through C.P.E. Bach. Carl Czerny created an original method of finger exercises in The Art of Finger Dexterity. One of the principal aims of good fingering is to avoid unnecessary hand movement.

Scale playing requires agility in turning the thumb under or crossing another finger over the thumb. There are a lot of opinions regarding the best time to begin teaching scales. Gat states "If the pupil has already mastered small pentachord pieces to the point of sight-reading them he may begin to practice scales."

As for myself, I begin teaching the one octave C major scale with hands separate well before the student learns pentachords. Although the beginner student may not yet be ready to read scales and arpeggios, once he shows some control over playing white and black keys, he can be shown how to turn the thumb under properly.

Although the actual study of scales may be delayed, a beginner can be exposed to scale preparation within the first 6 months to a year of lessons. The thumb should be turned under smoothly without twisting the hand and arm out of shape. When the student first begins to turn the thumb under, hey may start by turning under the second finger. The next step is to turn the thumb under 3, and finally turn under 4. Turning the thumb under 3 and 4 is especially helpful, because this will prepare the student for scale playing.

Crossing a finger over the thumb is just as important as turning the thumb under. The crossing should be made as smoothly as possible, without poking the elbow far out to compensate. The hand should remain quiet at all times when crossing under or over the thumb.

For more information about piano instruction Basking Ridge area, please contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Down-Up Wrist Motion for Phrasing

Slurs and phrases produced on the piano are dependent on the correct motions of the hand, wrist and arm. The mechanics of producing slurred groups can be taught to first year students when they have sufficient control to produce the proper motions. Constant practice in correct phrasing technique will dramatically impact their ability later to perform classical works from such great composers as Mozart.

Piano instruction can demonstrate the motions used in playing a two-note slur to the student. Show him what it looks like to drop on the key with a slightly lower wrist motion and release the key with a higher wrist motion. Several terms may be used to describe this process:
  1. down-up wrist
  2. drop-release
  3. drop-roll (rolling inwards toward the piano and lifting at the same time)
The lifting of the wrist is the same at the end of a two-note slur or any phrase. When a longer phrase mark is used, it is helpful to relate the group of notes under the phrase sign to a vocal line. If sung, a breath would be taken on the last note of the phrase. At the piano, the hand lifts, the legato line is broken, and the "breath" is accomplished.

Numerous exercises for slurring can be created by the teacher. The first note of the slur should be slightly louder and the last note should be slightly softer. The student may be told to "float off" on the last sound from the slur ending to the first note of the next slur.

Many first year solos have multiple touches--staccato, legato, and slurred groups. Have the student say aloud the hand motions used. Say "up" for staccato, "down" for long notes or phrases, and "off" for phrase endings.

Great photos of phrasing motion can be found in John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano First Grade book and John Thompson's Junior Hannon book.

For more information about piano lessons in the Basking Ridge area, please contact Barbara Ehrlich Piano Studio.