Talk on Piano Technique

What exactly is piano technique? Is its cultivation really necessary? Is technique exclusively concerned with mechanical control? Does technical training mean years of drudgery and patience? Can anyone obtain technical control provided they spend enough time practising? Does technique lead an independent existence from musicality and artistry and therefore function as an unpleasant if essential necessity?

Too many students still believe that piano technique is somehow divorced from artistic creativity. The subject is unfairly stereo-typed as something exclusively sporty and mechanical. It is assumed that speed, strength and accuracy are all that technique is about. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of the questions above can be swiftly answered in a couple of sentences herewith: Piano technique is about putting into practice everything that you wish to do. It is about fulfilling ambitions, hopes and desires. Technique makes dreams come true. It stands as a proverbial fairy figure from one of the brothers Grimes tales: When technique is convincingly set up it seems to tell us ' Your wish is my command'.

Clearly you need to know what your heart desires before calling on your technique for assistance, but once your objectives are clear, then their successful realisations at the piano depend entirely on how effective your 'technique' (fairy Godmother) is.

What follows is an adjusted and expanded version of some of the early articles written for 'International Piano' magazine, www.internationalpiano.com ,as a column entitled 'Masterclass' from 2001 to the present. This first book focuses on the essential foundations of piano playing. Beginning with considerations that enable a healthy posture and approach to develop at the instrument, it expands into a sequenced course of pianism that covers all the basic principles that are essential if a reliable technique is to be achieved.

The information presented is for everyone interested in piano playing. Because of this, it should be especially useful for teachers. The main information in each chapter is as relevant for beginners and intermediate players as for postgraduate students and professional concert pianists. It takes the spirit and approach of Epta (European Piano Teachers’ Association, www.epta-uk.org ) to heart in that it makes room for everyone who is interested in piano playing and teaching, at all levels. In this respect the approach may be rather different from that taken in other books on technique. We have technical exercises here that can easily be tackled by pre grade 1 players. What is interesting is that these have proved to be just as helpful to the most advanced pianists as to beginners. Similarly examples from the most challenging works in the repertoire are included. Because it is so easy to listen to all of the repertoire in the 21st century via the internet, inexperienced players can follow these extracts via performances on YouTube, Spotify etc. I believe that inspiration and enlightenment from the great masterpieces can help players at all levels. It seems wrong to exclude beginner pianists from opportunities for technical enlightenment from the most exciting music available. So no apology is included for saturating the text that follows with adventurous music, though of course young children may need to engage the attention of their parents at first in order to progress through the book, and beginner students of all ages would be well advised to work at the exercises and explanations in close association with their teachers.

As mentioned this first instalment of some twenty chapters deals with foundations and much of what is considered standard technique. Part two will be concerned with putting technique in practice and acquiring the skills-tools-facility- capability (i.e. the ' technique') to play faster, stronger, more beautifully, with greater stamina. Memorising, practising, fingering, phrasing and voicing amongst other topics will be considered here. Finally Part three will consider technique from a psychological basis. The technique of 'music in the mind' will mainly deal with how to control anxiety, remain focused, motivated, inspired, grow creatively and develop artistically. It will show how to consistently develop and expand techniques so that musical dreams and ambitions can truly become realities.

This book would not have been written without the unprompted commission from Julian Haylock back in 2000 to write articles on technique for 'International Piano Quarterly' as the magazine was then called. I remain indebted to the support of 'International Piano' and to Rhinegold Publishing, especially through help and encouragement from editors over the years including Chloe Cutts and, currently, Claire Jackson. This book is the first in the 'Piano Professional series'- a really exciting new collaboration between Faber and EPTA UK. 'Piano Professional' is the flagship magazine of EPTA UK and it is hoped that EPTA's values of supporting and encouraging piano teachers and their students will be given a new dimension via what will be an ever-expanding and diversely exciting series of books related to the piano and teaching in collaboration with Faber.

Carole Nash Hall
Chetham's School of Music
Long Millgate
United Kingdom
Type: Lecture
Date: Monday 25 August 2014
Start Time: 17.00
End Time: 18.00
Speaker/Performer: Murray McLachlan
Host Organisation: Chetham's International Summer School and Festival For Pianists
Contact Telephone: 0161 834 9644
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