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!

“I don’t get this piece of 20th century music”

December 9, 2018

I sent my friend Roy a recording I made ages ago with the Polish violinist Hanna Lachert.   Among other things it contained the three “Myths” Karol Szymanowski*.  Part of his response was:  “What’s the structure of these pieces?  They seemed episodic, and I did not recognize the music as being in any traditional form.”

I responded:

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Ear Training, an introduction: the what, the why, the how

December 4, 2018

#1 Why do ear training?

Ask a student or performer if they listen as they play, and the answer which they give, without much pause to think, is generally “yes”.  Yet the ability to hear clearly while playing, and to understand what one is hearing, is the principal things that sets a good player apart from others.  The good player does not only have a good technique, but they have as strong an ability to listen completely and objectively to the sounds they are making.  In the hands of a master, technical matters are brought under the control of the ear.

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Sight Reading: Isolating Variables

November 28, 2018

In learning a new piece, the rate of progress is a function of a combination of variables.  Two of these, which are closely integrated, are level of ability to read the note symbols in the score, and the level of ability to translate what’s read in the score to the fingers in the hands.  If these two are not on par with each other, then the entire process of learning a new piece is thrown out balance.   Both  the student and the teacher may not be conscious of the exact source of the difficulties observed in the student’s progress on the piece.   Incidentally, it is probably doubtful if there are man pianists are equally adept at the visual comprehension of the score and the tactile realization of what they are comprehending.   I’d like to talk a bit about the latter part: translating the score into physical actions.

Here is an exercise that evaluates, as well as isolates, the student’s tactile responses to the keyboard versus visual placement of the hands.  It is based on how strongly developed a topological sense of the keyboard resides in the student’s imagination.  We want the hands to find the notes on the keyboard as quickly as the eye recognizes them in the score.

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Techniques in Opposition

November 26, 2018

E. and I were working on Variation 9 in the Brahms variations on a theme by Schumann (in F# Minor).  In this variation, at the beginning of each measure, the right hand has two sets of triplet sixteenths in the form of an ascending arpeggio.

We discussed two opposite ways of dealing with the evenness required of the arpeggio.

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A Thanksgiving Fantasy; Thank you to all my Followers

November 22, 2018

I had one lesson today in the early morning.  The ubiquitous “Irving” was over and played the Scriabin Etude in C-sharp minor (Op. 2, No. 1).

My mind was running at a very fast pace dreaming of turkeys with enormous thighs and having visions Japanese sweet potatoes drowning in Vermont maple syrup.  The result was that I gave, let us say, a ‘rambling’ lesson, one in which I let my imagination loose, which caused me to use a lot of mental imagery, flights of fancy and outre analogies.  It definitely wasn’t a very ‘literal’ or scientific lesson.  But it worked.

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