Pianist to Pianist

A collection of pianistic, pedagogical, methodical, musical, artistic, and cultural contemplations, concepts, observations, and concerns, from pianist to pianist, pedagogue to pedagogue, musician to musician and from a curious and critical observer.

There is one crucial technical misconception: the supposed inferiority of the 4th finger. The truth is that only the lifting capabilities of the ring finger are limited due to the connection of the three outer finger extension tendons (extensor digitorum communis).

The muscles responsible for lowering the fingers (lumbricalis) are not connected in any way and therefore unrestricted. If the finger lies relaxed on the keys and is activated without continuous tension - i.e. relaxed immediately after contact - the up lift of the key provides half the effort to lift the finger.

Finger independence is obviously a critical component of piano playing and needs cultivation. But so is and does arm independence. Polyrhythmic arm drops are a very good first step. Brahms Paganini Variations are a very good destination. We sometimes play with 4 fingers, sometimes with 10,...

Mirror exercises are particularly helpful to develop the left hand. The right hand is usually better developed and more advanced with movement and gesture patterns than the left. See: 258 • Time in water.

The l.h. is usually less relaxed, less flexible, her fingers are somewhat less independent, and her thumb is less mobile compared to the r.h.. That can be overcome by practice with purpose - including:

Teaching the left hand with the right hand with mirror exercises: Any position, cluster, group, or passage can be mirrored with the other hand using the same fingering on the topographically same keys. Middle D serves as the mirror axis; place thumb of r. and l.h. on middle D and move outwards with the same fingering; not harmonically parallel but topographically mirrored.

I once witnessed, in Italy on a beautiful piazza at lunch with eight Italians, a heated debate about the proper parlance of ppp. One side suggested the traditional “piano-pianissimo”, but the other side insisted on the more colloquial “pianissimissimo”. It came to a very, very...

Father Wieck taught his daughter Clara small pieces by ear and repetition at the age of 4. That approach is echoed in the Suzuki School method. Later, age 6, she learned to read and write music. That should serve as example for the appropriate age range for the...

Maybe, as Duchamp and Picasso (not entirely without expressed sarcasm) responded to the demand of their time and culture with a toilet seat and two women with one nose, one should respond to the demand of our time - the fiscal engine of today's market...