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!

Things for which our voice can be used for in order to improve our playing

November 17, 2018

Pianists are blessed by having access to the most beautiful of instruments – no, not the piano – human voice.

Part One:

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The ear is the best detective when searching for irregularities in flow

November 16, 2018

Sometimes the fluency of a group of notes may seem somehow off to us, but we cannot detect just which note is the cause, so we just try to practice the entire group again and, if necessary, yet again.

A well trained ear, however, divorced from the kinesthetic sensations of moving the fingers,  may be able to pinpoint exactly the location of the difficulty: for example that the second note of a rapid group of four notes is not timed correctly (starts late or has a different duration than the first)) ; or that the third note of such a group is not connected to the fourth note as the second was to the third.   It is the ear that can detect such slight discrepancies, and can do so more directly than any through kinesthetic awareness of a change in the muscular sensations we experience executing the notes.   In fact, often our muscle awareness tells us that things are perfectly even when a deviation from evenness is apparent to the ear (just as sometimes our left hand physically feels as if it is playing just as fast as the right hand has just played, but in fact is playing slower).

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In the flow of time, the effect turns into the cause

November 15, 2018

How constantly do we need to be aware of what we are hearing while playing.

I find that I have a tendency for the following to occur when I am trying to pay attention to what I’m playing.  For instance if I am playing a string of four sixteenth notes, I seem to be able to pay close attention to how I connect note 1 to note 2 but then, without realizing it, I don’t become attentive again until I’m connecting note 3 to note 4.  It seems like my awareness, like my one of my nerves, needs a short period of rest before “firing” again.

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Advice for Teachers of Beginners – Reading the Notes

November 9, 2018

There is no a priori reason why a student who plays the piano with facility should have a parallel ease in reading their notes.

I once tutored a high school junior in trigonometry.  At first the process resembled peeling an onion.  For each math skill that depended on her knowing a previous and more basic skill, examination showed that she was not  comfortable with that simpler ability either.   When we finished stripping back these layers one by one, we ended up with her being, figuratively speaking, back in the second grade, and being confused by the multiplication table.  Thus, that is where we began: with the multiplication  table.   When she mastered that we went out one layer of the onion, and so on patiently until successfully building things back to trigonometry.

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A Well Shaped Phrase

November 6, 2018

Irving and I were working on the right hand in the second movement of the Bach Italian Concerto.

Botticelli’s paintings are praised for the sensuous lines which outline and reveal his shapes.  These shapes are more than simply visual, they can also be felt tangibly in imagined sensations of touch*.

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