Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The journey continues..........

Started the John Thompson 3rd Grade book this evening and am a bit stunned at the rate of progress I have been making. My initial goal was to be playing 4th grade pieces within 12 months and I think I am well on track to achieve that.
I am using the same strategy I have used with my guitar students over the years, which is to work through new material, getting it to a reasonable level before moving on to something new rather than trying to perfect everything before doing so.
I then revisit that previously studied material after a period of time and it is always amazing how much easier it is to play.
Yesterday, I returned to the First Grade book and played through the whole lot in one session and it took me two weeks to get through it initially!
So I will continue that successful process with the 2nd Grade book also once I have gone some way into the 3rd grade book and consequently build up lots of repertoire, much of it that I can sight read which is my primary goal.
Another part of my teaching process is to also choose some more challenging pieces to memorise ready to perform when the opportunity arises. Interestingly, I have found it far easier to memorise piano music than I have guitar music.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Many years a go, I used to own the musicaI instrument store here in town before various events including my own mismanagement caused the whole operation to fall over but that is a story for another day.
In any case, the point of mentioning that is, we supplied books to many of the local piano teachers students and I remember one of the books that was particularly popular was the series by Chris Norton, Microstyles for keyboard.
The first of the series of four constituted one of 3 new books I bought yesterday along with John Thompson's Grade 3 tutor and the AMEB Series 13 4th grade publication. Yes, yes I know, I haven't finished John Thompson's Grade 2 tutor yet but......!!
Anyway the Microstyles books are wonderful with tremendous and reasonably accessible pieces written in wide variety of popular styles. I have listed the contents of Volume One here for your edification. In searching the internet for an image of the books cover to post, I note that all 4 books are now available in one volume and had I known that at the time I would have ordered it instead. If you want to add a bit of variety to your daily practise, do yourself a favour and check out Microstyles.

Cheeky - Rock 'n' Roll Style
Down South - Rock Ballad
Fax Blues - Ostinato
Heavy Work - Mancini Stomp
Hideaway - Rumba
In the Bag - Glenn Miller Style
Latin Nights - Bossa Nova
Martinet - Heavy Rock
Omnibus - Swing
On the Line - Half Time Rock
Oriental Flower - Slow Waltz
Short and Sweet - Boogie

Monday, July 20, 2009

For a moment...............

the other day, i think I might have really got in touch with the arm/wrist/finger action that Alan Fraser is talking about in his book "The Craft of Piano Playing".
As far as I can remember, as I haven't got the book by my side, he talks about feeling as if the fingers are effortless and just gliding above the keys with a direct connection all the way up to the shoulders.
It is worth checking this book out for Sonya Arden's wonderful drawings of the hands alone (a challenge for any artist).
I am going to have to order the DVD!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bach - a challenge for me on the piano!

On the guitar, I have always loved to play J S Bach's music most of all (and Barrios' too to be truthful), so naturally I have a tendency to gravitate to his music on this new journey with the piano.
Apart from continuing to work through my main tutor, John Thompson's second grade method and scale and arpeggios etc, I am also getting some more challenging pieces to memory.

That includes the Menuet in D Minor from the Anna Magdelena collection from the Series 12, second grade AMEB publication. This is a piece I can play easily on the guitar but damn it is a challenge at this point on the piano.
But, I am definitely progressing as there would have been no chance of playing this piece a month ago.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Josef Hofmann

And just in case Malwine Bree's book on the Leschetizky method was not enough for you, here is another digitised book of interest that can also be downloaded for free.

Theodore Leschetizky

The teacher of many of the great players of the 20th century, Theodore Leschetizky's name comes up frequently when one researches the topic of piano playing. Here is a link to a fully digitised copy of the original publication (that you can download for free) "The Groundwork of the Leschetizky Method" authored by one of Leschetizky's assistants, Malwine Bree, and fully approved by the Maestro describing his ideas in relation to piano playing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


I have been doing a lot of reading about the technical aspects of playing the piano and what some of the great pianist's have to say and do about it also. Today, during my regular morning practise session, I really felt that I am starting to understand and put in to practice some of what I have been reading about.
The key issues:
1. A well supported upright sitting position from which relaxation from the shoulders down through the arms and wrists and in to the hands can be achieved
2. Position of the hands on the keyboard, being much flatter with lower wrists than I when I first started this journey which seems to allow me to pass the thumb through under the fingers more easily resulting in more facility and ease in scales and arpeggios and produces a far better tone.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Finger numbering issue!

I am slowly overcoming it, but it is a little annoying as I find myself having to stop and think momentarily.
You see, being a classical guitarist, I am used to the fingering shown in the image above. You will note that the left hand is numbered with index finger number 1, the middle 2 etc etc.
The right hand is different again with letters allocated to the fingers.

Now for the piano, of course, both hands have numbers allocated to the fingers but they are different to what I have been used to for the last 30 years or so.
The thumb is number 1 and the index 2 etc etc.
It is probably not quite such an issue for the right hand as I have not associated that with numbers but for the left it is definitely an issue and amplified by the fact I am still becoming accustomed to reading the bass clef. I look forward to a time in the future where I am instinctively using the correct finger!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Piano Mastery - Talks with Master Pianists and Teachers

An innocuous looking little book but chock full of gems to guide us along the road to piano mastery for no cost to you at all.

A funk piano lesson with Jonathon Wilson

Too soon for me but might be something you can try out for yourself.
I was really impressed by the presentation and delivery of this series of lessons, being one of the jewels available, amongst all the charlatans trying to get money off beginner piano players on the internet!