piano tips


It's really important to keep muscles for playing balanced and in good shape. After playing now for 54 years, I'm realizing how important it is to be aware of keeping the balance considerations while practicing that can be found in techniques such as the Alexander Technique. Tilting the head forward even a few degrees can put a huge strain on the neck, and it's very easy to forget to balance the neck if you're straining at all to see the music. Take frequent breaks to stretch and put the spine back into perfect alignment before sitting down to practice again.


Never, never, never, never, never give up!!!


The older I get, the more I realize how much music is out there that I feel somewhat daunted by while practicing. And I'm referring to styles, not to literature. Yes, it's true that I've been practicing Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto since I was 21 and have not mastered it yet, but I know that's only because I haven't put the time into it and one of these days I'll get it done. But something that fascinates me but also intimidates me a LOT is the thought of going off the page in a true sense of improvisation. Musicians tend to either improvise or read music, very few do both. But with my current trend of playing moving more towards trying to raise awareness of the benefits of music in therapy, I'm realizing how valuable a skill of truly being able to improvise would be.

I've done some small work in the past on improvisation to be able to work with simple tunes for children, but am now looking at how do do the more long term and complex work. For me, a solution seems to be at hand...working on transcripts of jazz masters where the notes are completely written out (albeit with the occasional mistake!) and also starting in on some of the works of Nikolai Kapustin, an amazing Ukrainian jazz composer and musician. His works are scored jazz in somewhat of a classical formation and should be perfect to get the "harmonic feel" in the hands to work with.

I think there's a solution out there to be tried for whatever level you're on and whatever your goals are, you just have to be willing to jump in and try out something a bit different!


As a pianist, I've been so fortunate to have had excellent teachers who have been able to guide my unbalanced body movements into a knowledge of letting the muscles work for me rather than against me. We are definitely not built to play the piano as human beings, it's that simple. We have to learn how to let all five fingers (yes, it's a thumb but we call it a finger!) try to balance out a load that just wasn't meant to happen, but with some wonderful knowledge of how the body works, we've been able to accomplish that. I periodically refresh myself looking at the Well-Balanced Pianist website to see the page discussing Dorothy Taubman's techniques in detail. For anyone who would like to see this as well, here's the link!

Website link


A random thought occurred to me today, I wondered if Abraham Lincoln ever played the piano? Upon researching it, it looks like neither he nor Mary ever really played the piano. But there was one in the White House while they were in residence that both Willie and Tad played. The piano was displayed in Chicago at the Chicago History Museum as part of the celebration of Lincoln's 200th birthday. It sure looks massive!