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!

A faster way to progress when learning a piece

October 22, 2019

R.M.’s second lesson on the “Black Key” etude.

When you first read the notes of a new piece, don’t take any notes for “granted”. Don’t make assumptions about that note’s relationship with the note before it. Don’t look for patterns, especially ones that you may then be tempted to think repeat, when often in fact they don’t.

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Evening out the touch among the various fingers of the same hand

October 13, 2019

At the heart of Western music in particular there lies a curiously tight bond between two things that might at first seem separable: pitches and rhythm.

There are times when it is useful in our playing to not take this forced wedding for granted. That in spite of the strength of the bond between the  two of them, there is a momentary advantage in performance to project the rhythm so that it shines through the notes, almost in spite of the notes, and there are times to coax the rhythm into the background so that it does not distract from the order of the pitches.

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Tonal balance in chords

October 12, 2019

What ways are there to determine whether the notes of a chord you just played were balanced with each other.


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Truffaut’s “Day for Night” transmogrified into “Slow for Fast”

October 12, 2019

When there is a series of rapid notes, or sudden embellishments or grace notes, that suddenly occur within a passage of relatively much slower notes, then the switch to the faster notes from the slower ones sometimes makes it harder to maintain control over each individual finger’s control over each of the faster notes.

The solution lies in slowness rather than in the perfection of speed.  Each fast note must be allowed to express itself fully, in a way that does not allow  them to be guillotined out of existence by the next fast note. The “Menuet” from Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin” begins with two grace  notes (d5 e5) followed immediately by a series of expressive quarter notes. Slow or fast, every note deserves to use time in a way that allows them to  fully express themselves. There must be a suggestion in a fast note of how that note would evolve in time if it were not truncated in duration but  continued to sound for a second or more. In the Ravel I would suggest laying the two grace notes as quarter notes which are then followed by more  quarter notes. Then, when playing the grace notes normally, do your best to still feel them happening slowly. even though on the clock of the outside world, they register as fast; as long as in your interior world they are still slow. As long as in the first moment of the sound you are thinking ahead to what the note will sound like a second later if you allowed it to resonate.  If you do this, you will find that much of the expressive and tonal qualities you attained when playing the grace notes literally as quarter notes ‘persists’ into the faster rendition of those notes.  Much of the qualities (and physical control) of the slow version will permeate into the faster version, without your trying to do anything special.

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Playing Priority Number One: Evenness

September 20, 2019

A.B.’s lesson on 8/22/19

First, an example of a playing goal that depends in turn on evenness of sound.

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