Archive for August, 2012


How To Get Your Fingers In Shape To Play The Piano

Monday, August 27th, 2012
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Getting Your Piano Fingers in Shape

Piano technique is often misunderstood by non-pianists as a skill people are born with or a skill that requires long fingers. It’s more about learning to use your hands and fingers comfortably and how to hit desired keys on the keyboard with your fingertips. The first step toward the goal of playing piano professionally is learning proper hand and finger placements. While there are many different ways to finger chords on a guitar, the piano is linear and requires a more strict way of learning chord fingerings.

Let the palms of your hands point down with the tips of your fingers on the keys, as if you were holding a ball in each hand. Let each thumb and fingertip rest on a separate key and work on not raising fingers after they strike keys. Concentrate on not banging on keys, but using enough force to create sounds.

One of the most understated methods to developing piano technique is simply to relax the hands and fingers, even when stretching fingers. Ultimately, you want playing to feel effortless. One way to make finger stretching feel effortless is to practice octaves with the thumb on a low note and your pinky on the high note. Use one of your other fingers to play a note in between. Apply this practice to both hands and concentrate on building strength in your weaker hand. Even though relaxing is important, beginning piano players must still learn to deal with a certain amount of discomfort as they train their muscles to move flexibly.

Practice stretching your fingers as far as they can go without causing pain or injury. It’s actually a good idea to relax the whole body, especially the arms and shoulders. A good way to warm up for piano is to shake your hands and arms until tension can no longer be felt. You can also use one hand to massage the fingers on the other hand. Think of each thumb and finger as having a number, with thumb being number one and your pinky being number five. This helps remind you that each finger serves its own purpose and also reduces the clumsiness beginners may initially feel.

Other piano techniques that can improve performance involve experimenting with various pianos and synthesizers, different time signatures, accents, tempos, inversions and songs that challenge your existing knowledge. A big difference between acoustic and electric piano is that you can learn to play notes faster, giving your fingers a chance to move freely.

Another important aspect of piano technique is memorization. Think of each finger as corresponding to a note on the keyboard even when you are nowhere near a piano. It’s a good idea to learn to play piano without watching your hands, so that you can read music while playing or singing for an audience. Imagine that each fingertip has its own brain and knows where to go without help from your eyes.

Developing piano technique does take hours of practice, which cannot be avoided if you want to become a great pianist. Practicing scales is very important in creating a sense of second nature ability that bridges music theory with the mechanics of musicianship. Learn to play major and minor arpeggios on each hand. Alternating between the thumb and first finger on scales and melodies can improve speed and rhythm. Playing piano regularly is essentially to maintain growth and smooth performance.

Please click here: How To Make Your Hands Do What Your Brain Tells Them To Do!

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One way to get some rhythm into your right hand

Friday, August 24th, 2012
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Here is how you can get some busy-ness and rhythmic sounds into your right hand while your left hand is doing it’s thing: Break up the chord notes UNDER the melody – sometimes from the top down and sometimes from the top up, and sometimes syncopated and sometimes steady. And sometimes just play the chord — in other words, use lots of variation so it was stay interesting to your listener.

Watch this short video to get the idea:

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Pronounce those piano keys clearly! Listen to this podcast on musical articulation

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
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Here is a rough transcription of the podcast if you want to follow along:

Hi, this is Duane and this is more good stuff you really ought to know. There are so many things in music as in any field that you really ought to know to make yourself a complete musician or piano player. Just as in the field of mechanics or the field of medicine or the field of basketball or whatever field you’re talking about, there is a zillion individual little subjects. And articulation is one of those subjects.

Articulation means in music or in piano playing the same thing as it does in speech, speaking distinctly or in music of course it means playing distinctly so that each note can be heard not all mashed together in other words. If I talk to you like this — it is one thing for you to understand what I’m saying. But if I speak to you like this distinctly so that you can hear every word and I make every word distinctly, then I am articulating. So in piano playing, if I articulate clearly, my playing is a lot cleaner than if I slur things together.

Now there’s a place for slurring, don’t misunderstand me and you can be artificially articulate and that’s not desirable but I’m talking about generally clean playing, okay, I’m sure you understand. You can go to see it on any subject, can’t you? And ride a hobby horse, right off the end of the world because you know you don’t think about anything else except that one thing. well I’m not arguing that at all, I’m just saying to play cleanly is a virtue to make it your life goal is not, okay? So just one of the many things you need to consider.

Let me play a little bit of Spinning Song, you probably know it, it’s a great classic. Now what if I want like this [piano playing] you that…is very much like [inaudible] [laughter]. It just, everything runs in together, okay? Now there’s, that tells you two things, one it tells you that you may be playing something too rapidly if you can, avoid doing that. If you find yourself doing that, then you need to slow down to a point where you can articulate clearly, okay? So that may define your tempo for you, and that’s good.

Tempos need to be defined according to the individual skill of the player. Some people are gifted with extremely quick reaction, I mean they’re like point guards in basketball, they’re the Magic Johnson, generally the quick fiery darts to the basket. And other people are slower and so they’re the power forwards or whatever, right? And I’m more of a power forward, I am not gifted with quick, you know quick reactions but that’s okay, you take what’s given to you and you make the best of it.

So let’s try Spinning Song together about like so. And when you get to the right hand, those four notes concentrate on playing them distinctly [piano playing] ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta not [piano playing] not [piano playing] but [piano playing]. Hear the difference? [Piano playing] and it helps to lift your fingers [piano playing] and so on and so forth, okay? Just one of the many good stuff you really ought to know. Thanks for being with me, we’ll see you next month.

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How To Play The Melody Of A Song In Seven Variations

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
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Most piano players play the melody (the tune) of a song just one way — usually with just the single-finger technique, or sometimes with the octave technique. But there are MANY different methods for playing the melody – watch this short video and then come up with your own variations:

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Jazz piano styles explained by Oscar Peterson

Monday, August 20th, 2012
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I came across this video on YouTube where the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson is interviewed by TV personality Dick Cavett and explains some of the jazz styles used by other great jazz piano players such as George Shearing, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Nat King Cole and so on.

He demonstrates the stride piano of Art Tatum showing that his left hand replaced the rhythm section of a combo – he played the bass line as well as provided the rhythm in his left hand, while his right hand played the melody and improvised on the tune.

Then he demonstrated the two-fingered percussiveness of Nat King Cole, and even sang a little bit at the urging of Cavett – he sounds remarkable like Nat, and said he doesn’t sing much because he sounds too much like him!

Then he played the full right-hand chord style of Erroll Garner and his orchestral style as well as his unique left hand style and playing the “delay-catch-up” tecnique of getting behind the beat then catching up.

The block chord style of George Shearing was next, demonstrating that shimmering overtone of sound that flows from that style.

And of course he played a bit in his own style – playing the improvised melody in both hands at the same time (amazing!).

I know you will enjoy and benefit from this short 7-minute piano lesson by the master, Oscar Peterson.

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