Welcome the first in the two part series of how to play the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata. This lesson will cover how to control voicing in the famous 1st movement.

 

Learning to balance the hands is one of the most challenging aspects of learning to play the piano. It gets even harder when playing the Moonlight Sonata because you have two different parts in one hand and you want to play one part louder than the other – using only one hand. This is truly a challenge and will definitely take some practice to master.

 

I’m going to provide some techniques to help you practice this part of the Moonlight Sonata but this is intrinsic information when it comes to piano playing; you can use these techniques for all your music!

 

(If you are not familiar with the first movement of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata, you should be able to get the score on line.)

 

In this particular part you have two parts with the right hand – triplets on the bottom and a slow melody on top. The difficulty is compounded because the longer melody notes fade out while the accompaniment triplets keep repeating and are therefore naturally louder; so how do you balance the two?

 

If you try and play some notes louder than others you might not be able to achieve this at first. You might wonder how you would ever be able to practice something like that. There is a great technique to remedy this!

 

Instead of just practicing louder and softer with the right hand, practice with two completely different articulations. Play the melody legato and play the accompaniment part staccato (from the fingers); this will give you control.

 

By practicing in this extreme manner it will help to identify the feel of the melody compared to the accompaniment. Practice playing the accompaniment very lightly and play with just a touch of the fingers, not the wrist.

 

When you do play the piece as written – with the legato triplets on the bottom – feel that you are reaching for the melody notes on top and you will be able to control the sound from the fingers.

 

It is very important in your initial practice to not use the pedal; so you can accomplish the independence of your fingers from one-another and hear the voices clearly. The pedal is literally the last thing you add.

 

This is a technique you can use in all your music to bring out melodies. I’m very interested to hear any input or advice you might have regarding this technique. Thanks again for watching.

How to Play the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata – Part 1 (The 1st Movement)

Welcome the first in the two part series of how to pl … 继续阅读

You might have heard these terms used  in describing used pianos. But exactly what  is the difference between rebuilding a piano and simply reconditioning one? Is there a real distinction between the two? There definitely is.

Whether or not you will be looking at a rebuild or a reconditioning really depends upon the condition the piano is in. Generally the distinction of rebuilding is when the cast iron plate of the piano is removed. Removing the plate is a very big deal – it requires an engine hoist; as the plate weighs more than the rest of the piano combined. When removing the plate, the strings, pins and bolts are removed first. Then the plate is lifted out.

Rebuilding is necessary when the soundboard or pinblock are compromised. The reason removing a plate is so important is that it allows the technician to get to the belly of the piano. The soundboard can be refinished; it can be shimmed if necessary, and when the plate is put back in it can be placed precisely for ideal down bearing – the tension the strings exert on the bridge. You also have the option to reguild the plate to make it look like new. Really, removing the plate allows you to rework the inside of the piano giving new life to a piano with problems.

Another good reason to rebuild a piano is if the pinblock needs to be replaced. If the piano has been restrung a number of times it is important to replace the pinblock because larger pins are used every time you restring a piano and you reach a practical limit in pin size. Also, the pinblock can sometimes develop cracks which effects tuning stability.

If the soundboard and pinblock are in good shape, there is no benefit in rebuilding the piano. In fact, you can restring the piano, rework the bridges, and even rebuild the action, refinish the cabinet and re-bush the pedals all without technically rebuilding the piano. However, such a piano might be just as solid and potentially long lasting as a rebuilt piano. It all depends upon what each instrument needs in order to play on a high level for years to come.

What’s the Difference between Rebuilding and Reconditioning a Piano?

You might have heard these terms used  in describing used pi … 继续阅读

 

You may have heard this term before, but you might not know what it means. It is a very important thing to understand when you are looking at pianos.

 

Perhaps you have visited a piano store and seen lots of American names on pianos but few – if any – are what they appear to be. Many of them are undoubtedly stencil pianos.

 

The business of stencil pianos go way back. In fact, many of the leading piano companies used to have second lines of pianos called OEM pianos (Original Equipment Manufacturer) that they sold to piano stores. The stores would then put their own brand names on the pianos.

 

Today, stencil pianos have become a huge part of the piano industry. With only 2 major piano manufacturers left in the United States (Steinway and Mason & Hamlin) and 1 smaller company (Charles Walther) there are only about 2,000 pianos manufactured in the United States every year.

 

However, if you walk into a store you will probably see dozens of American piano manufacturer names on the pianos. These are almost all stencil pianos and they are mostly produced in China and Indonesia (and some in Korea). The pianos are bought from the manufacturer and a familiar name is put on the piano in order to make customers more comfortable.

 

For example: You might see the Baldwin name on a new piano in a store. However, when Gibson bought the Baldwin piano company a few years ago, they shut down the American piano plant. They then bought the Dongbei Piano factory in China. Ever since they have been importing these pianos from China and putting the Baldwin name on the front of them. So for about 1/5 of the cost of an actual American made Baldwin piano you can own a new Chinese “Baldwin” which looks pretty much the same.

 

However, even though the pianos might look the same, they are far from the same piano. These pianos manufactured in China and Indonesia are good choices if the piano is mostly for furniture or for the casual player. But they won’t hold up well with rigorous use and would rarely get passed down from generation to generation.

 

Many piano dealers will use certain techniques to market these stencil pianos and make them seem like there is something special about them. For example, Steinway has done an excellent job of marketing their stencil piano brands – Essex and Boston. Essex is a Chinese piano made by Pearl River and Boston is an OEM piano sold to Steinway but produced by Kawai. The Steinway piano name is so popular and well respected that people will pay thousands of dollars more to buy something with the Steinway name somewhere inside it as opposed to just buying the piano directly from the original manufacturer.

 

Keep in mind, many experts recommend buying an original manufacturer piano as opposed to a stencil or OEM piano. There are two main reasons for this: one, no manufacturer would ever sell a better product to a competitor than they sell themselves; two, when it comes to stencil pianos there is always a middleman, so you will be paying more than simply purchasing the piano from the original manufacturer.

 

Thanks for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about this video or any topic at all please contact us directly: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

What are Stencil Pianos?

You may have heard this term before, but you might no … 继续阅读What are Stencil Pianos?

 

Why are scales and arpeggios so important? Since the vast majority of Western music is based upon major/minor tonality, having a mastery of scales and arpeggios is like knowing your addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables in order to do math. Also, it provides an opportunity to focus purely on finger technique. It is an extraction of just that element of playing without the complexity of harmony, rhythm, phrasing and expression. Scales and arpeggios also provide an excellent warm-up for your practice.

 

What are scales and arpeggios? Scales are a series of 8 whole steps and half steps (and augmented seconds found in harmonic minor scales) in which the first and last notes are the same. Arpeggios are broken chords. Generally scales and arpeggios are practiced throughout a wide range of an instrument repeating the pattern from octave to octave both ascending and descending.

 

So, what is a good way to practice scales and arpeggios on the piano? First, you must learn the fingering for all the major and minor scales and arpeggios. Fortunately, Hanon 60 Exercises for the Virtuoso Pianist contains the standard fingering for all scales and arpeggios in 4 octaves (which is how you should play them). Unlike some instruments like violin and other string instruments, the fingering for scales and arpeggios is standard for the piano with almost no exceptions. (Mirror fingering is one such exception in which the thumb plays the same notes in each hand in all scales and arpeggios, but this utilized by a tiny fraction of pianists.)

 

If you have never studied any scales or arpeggios, it is best to master one scale, say C major or G major before going on to other scales. Fortunately the fingering pattern is the same for C, G, D, A and E major scales. So once you learn C major, you will get a lot of mileage out of your work! Essentially there are 2 fingerings to learn for each hand in both ascending and descending. While the hands each play the same fingering on the same notes going up and down the scale, you will need to focus on the fingers that cross. Going up in the right hand you have thumb crossings, coming down you have 3rd and 4th finger crossings. Because your hands are backwards from one another, the left hand has 3rd and 4th finger crossings going up and thumb crossings going down. Arpeggios only have one thumb crossing and one 3rd or 4th finger crossing in each hand. You may need to practice hands separately in order to get comfortable with the fingering.

 

It is important to practice scales and arpeggios slowly. There are several reasons for this:

 

  • It gives you an opportunity to study your hand positions and the shape of your fingers.
  • You can be precise in timing and intensity and make sure the hands are playing precisely together.
  • It develops strength by stretching as in dance or yoga exercises.
  • It develops strength in the upward motion of the fingers essential for consistency of length of notes.

You should practice scales and arpeggios with the metronome at all times. Begin by playing 1 note to the beat at 60 beats per minute. In the right hand going up (and the left hand going down) be sure to prepare the thumb by keeping it tucked under your hand so it is ready to play well in advance. Play with raised, rounded fingers and use ample finger power, not arm strength since there will not be sufficient time to utilize the arms once you increase the speed. After you have played the scale comfortably 4 times in a row at 1 note to the beat, increase the speed to 2 notes to the beat. Continue the same way. When you are comfortable and have played the scale at least 4 times in a row at 2 notes to the beat, you may try 4 notes to the beat. Be sure to lighten up and stay close to the keys since there isn’t time to raise the fingers at this speed. If you have any difficulty in achieving 4 notes to the beat, lower the metronome to a speed you are comfortable playing the scale many times until fluid. Then increase the metronome 1 notch at a time until you achieve 60 at 4 notes to the beat comfortably many times in a row.

 

Arpeggios can be practiced in the same manner. I suggest taking one scale per week going through the cycle of 5ths with sharps, then flats. Then learn the minor scales both harmonic and melodic. Then on to arpeggios, both major then minor. Once you have all of your major and minor scales and arpeggios learned, you can begin increasing the speed little by little. If you are trying to achieve a truly virtuoso technique, you should eventually have all of your scales mastered at 144 beats to the minute at 4 notes to the beat, and all of your arpeggios at 120 beats per minute at 4 notes to the beat or faster.

 

There are many other ways of practicing scales once you have achieved this. Some of them are:

 

  • Practice with different dynamics (one hand loud, one hand soft: crescendo to the top, decrescendo to the bottom: etc.)
  • Try different articulations, finger staccato (in one hand or both) 2 note or 4 note slurs, etc.
  • Rhythms: This is particularly useful with arpeggios. You can make one of the notes long, and the other notes fast.
  • Learn your scales and arpeggios in contrary motion.
  • Practice your scales in 10ths, 3rds, and 6ths.

There is a lifetime of work expressed in the last paragraph! Realize that any work you do on scales will be beneficial. I suggest making it a small part of your daily practice.

How to Practice Scales & Arpeggios

Why are scales and arpeggios so important? Since the … 继续阅读How to Practice Scales & A

We are currently looking for a piano for our church service use. We don’t have very high budget so we are currently looking at used pianos. We have come across the following model and it would be great if Bob could provide expert advice on which one is the better one:

  • Yamaha MC10A
  • Weinbach serial number 149862

Thank you Bob

 

Both Yamaha and Weinbach make good quality instruments. From the serial number, you can determine that the Weinbach was manufactured in the Czech Republic before it was acquired by Petrof. Since you don’t have the model number of the Weinbach, I will assume these are both similar style upright pianos. In that case, the better piano is the one that is in better condition. There are many factors that come into play.

You can determine how much use the pianos have had by looking at the grooves on the hammers. Deeper grooves mean the piano has had more use. The hammers also may have been filed. Look at how much felt is left particularly on the highest notes of the piano. Also, you can wiggle the keys back and forth. If there is a lot of play or worse yet clicking sounds, this indicates that the piano has been played substantially.

Another important factor is the environment the piano has been subjected to. An extremely dry or humid environment can damage a piano. Definitely look on the back of the piano at the soundboard for detached ribs, warping,or open cracks. (Tight, hairline cracks are not a concern.) Look for rust or corrosion on the strings. Yellowing of felt parts (hammers and dampers) also indicates parts that are more weather worn.

It is a mistake buying a piano you think will be fundamentally different after it has been serviced. Unless you have vast experience with pianos, you would be taking a tremendous risk. Ultimately, how the piano sounds and feels is paramount since this is probably what is most important to you.

Piano Questions: Which Piano Should I Buy?

We are currently looking for a piano for our church service … 继续阅读Piano Questions: Whic

 

Christina asks, how do you prepare for a concert? Do you play through your music on the day of the concert?

 

This question raises many issues of concern to all performers. Performing music requires many different types of preparation including:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional

The most important aspect of preparing to perform a concert is the work that is done weeks and months before the performance. This is essential to accomplish all 3 aspects listed above. Obviously a thorough knowledge of the score as well as technical fluency is required for a good performance. But equally important is the psychological preparation. If the first time you think about being out there in front of an audience is the moment of the performance, you will be ill prepared for the surge of adrenalin that surely would result. Take time days in advance of the performance to imagine the moment in great detail while being in a relaxed state so you can trigger that feeling when the actual performance comes.

 

Trying out your music the day of the program is a good idea particularly if the piano is one that you aren’t intimately familiar with. A good addition is to play some of your pieces slowly with the music with no pedal to reinforce the memory. Some people like to have special routines the day of a performance like taking a nap or a walk, avoiding caffeine, even eating bananas or taking beta blockers to help ease nerves. Other people like to go about their routines as normal. You should do what makes you feel good. The bottom line is to enjoy the performance. If you are engaged with the music, the audience will share the emotions of the performance!

How to Prepare for a Concert – Concert Pianist Preparation

Christina asks, how do you prepare for a concert? Do … 继续阅读How to

This video was produced exclusively for Pianoworld.com

Growing up people used to tell me to play the piano on the tips of my fingers. You might have been told to use rounded fingers, like your holding a ball; for many people this can be very uncomfortable. This is what we are going to talk about today.

When I was young I was told to play the piano with rounded fingers. I remember watching Vladimir Horowitz in concert and noticed that he seemed to play with flat fingers sometimes; I wondered how this could be. As a child I had very small, weak hands. When I would play the piano my fingers would collapse which is bad because I you can’t control the motion of fingers bent backwards. This is one of the reasons I was taught to play with rounded fingers. Eventually I realized that you don’t have to use any finger muscles to maintain an ideal position at the keyboard! I discovered the perfect piano position which can be maintained with absolutely zero effort. But how is this possible?

If you were to take your hand on a flat surface and let it drop naturally, you would notice that your fingers round naturally. But why is this so significant for the piano? If you put your hand flat on the piano you will notice that some fingers are longer than others; this presents a real problem. However, if you drop the hand and let it fall into its natural position, your fingers will all be in a straight line!

Another important revelation is how while white keys are full length black keys are only on the half closest to the fall board. It’s very important to keep your hand at the point at which black keys and white keys meet. Otherwise you will expend a lot of extra energy and motion going back and forth to hit all the keys.

By using the correct hand position in which you let your fingers fall naturally onto the keys with no effort, and placing your hand at the point at which black and white keys meet, you will utilize the minimal amount of effort to get the maximum amount of sound!

So yes, there is truth to the method of using rounded fingers but there is much more to it. Keeping your hand in a position which is uncomfortable or taxing to maintain will cause unnecessary strain and could damage your hands. Remember; let your hands fall naturally on the keyboard at the magic line at which black and white keys meet. Experiment with this and see how it helps you play in a more relaxed and efficient manner.

Thanks again for joining me and be sure to check out our future videos here at LivingPianos.com

PIANOWORLD EXCLUSIVE: Piano Playing Technique Secrets – Hand Positions

This video was produced exclusively for Pianoworld.com Growi … 继续阅读