Joe’s Blog

Welcome to my blog!

A reminder that these blog entries are not ‘timely.’  They do not address issues that relate to the present news of the world.  They address perennial issues faced by most pianists when striving to excel in their playing.  I encourage you to search through the posts to find the ones that will yield the greatest benefit to you.

You can also use this list of all blog posts in order of keyword, which you can also sort by title.

You are also welcome to contact me to suggest a topic that you would like to see appear on the site, or ask questions or comment below each entry. Enjoy!

Arpeggios: a musical state that lies somewhere between melody and chord

May 22, 2018

Consider on the one hand playing the notes of a melody in a slow, leisurely fashion and, on the other hand, sounding all the notes of the same melody simultaneously, mush-ing the melody into a single chord or cluster.   In between these two extremes there are many intermediary possibilities, each one blending insensibly into the next, and forming thereby a continuous spectrum.

At one end of this spectrum, the notes of a melody go by so fast that, like a rapidly arpeggiated chord with the pedal held down, the effect barely departs from that of a simultaneous chord.  The previous sounds spontaneously congeal behind the most recent sound to start, like the ice trail of a jet airliner.  At the other end of the spectrum, the melody slows down so much, that each of its notes sound for so long that we lose even the awareness that we are in a melody.*  We lose track of the current note’s relation with the previous one, and we cease to anticipate that another note might show up after the current.**  In other words, we are locked in the frozen presence of the current note.  This would be like observing a glacier in order to detect its movement.

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Smooth scales

May 22, 2018

Is there a motion, that lies entirely in the hand, which transcends the particular order in which the fingers articulate the notes of a scale?

Every time we play a scale, sooner rather than later, we come up against the physical limitation of there being only five fingers in the hand.  Either a thumb will have to cross under some other fingers, or a finger other than the thumb has to cross over the thumb.

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We always hold between our hands an unchanging sense of a lowest and a highest note 

May 8, 2018

If we take a ‘vertical slice’ through any music score, chosen at any moment in the score, we will find various pitches being held by the hands.  Some will have just started sounding, others are in the process of being held after having started earlier.  Among this collection of notes, one will have the lowest pitch of the group and another the highest.

If we now advance, just a bit in the score, just one note further on, we can take a new vertical slice, and find that one note is the lowest in the new group and another the highest note.  There is a chance the group will be the same as before, but more likely there will be one or more changes in the pitches forming  the group.

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The largest possible ambit of motion

May 7, 2018

The muscular movements used in piano playing, in particular of the fingers which are at the extremities of the body, tend to be limited in scope and range.  However there is an advantage to exploring the full range of motion that is possible with every joint – be it a knuckle, a wrist, an elbow, a shoulder, or the body as a whole.

For purposes of illustration, consider the example of the third knuckle of the second finger.  We can ask what sort of mobility is available to this finger when the motion of the finger stems just from the flexibility in the third knuckle, unaided in any special way by the other two knuckles.

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Sound, Hearing, and the Brain

May 1, 2018

Spoiler Alert – this one is a bit dense and philosophical.

How do sound qualities arise?  And how do we hear music as pitch, tone color, harmony, and melody, when nothing like these things actually exist in nature?

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