Piano Studies for Technical Development

Sheet Music Review

Pianists and teachers tend to have a variety of views about the value of “studies”, some strongly advocating daily practice of finger exercises, others suggesting they have little value away from the context of specific repertoire, in which case bespoke studies developed around tricky passages are preferable.

Personally I’ve always taken a middle path here. As I wrote in my recent article The Three Treasures of Musical Learning,

“All aspects of playing need consideration, not merely finger independence, tone control, and fluency – important though these obviously are for pianists. Scales, arpeggios, exercises and studies can all be helpful, but must be executed with an understanding of why they matter, and what is being developed.”

I’ve never found it difficult to understand or explain the benefits of the enjoyable little exercises in the Dozen A Day books, and my students almost always find the Burgmüller Op.100 both musically engaging and inspiring to play (my recording of them is free to listen to here).

But I’ve never been a huge fan of Hanon, Czerny, et al, and have tended to agree with my teacher’s teacher, Ernö Dohnányi, who wrote (with irony, in the introduction to his own book of finger exercises!) –

“In music schools, piano tuition suffers mostly from far too much exercise material given for the purely technical development of the pupils, the many hours of practice spent on these not being in proportion to the results obtained. Musicality is hereby badly neglected and consequently shows many weak points.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that when Gayle Kowalchyk and E.L. Lancaster’s two books of Piano Studies for Technical Development landed on my desk for review, my initial gut reaction was to excuse them from the short-list for consideration. Until … I took a closer look.

Let’s find out why I changed my mind …

Continue reading Piano Studies for Technical Development

The Three Treasures of Musical Learning

Pathways for Teaching

We all have a “teaching philosophy”, whether we realise it or not. Mine strongly advocates holistic, personalised, life-centred education, and my model of The Three Treasures of Musical Learning is a key component which complements these values.

In this article I will explain what the Three Treasures are, and offer some tips on how reflecting on them can help us develop as effective teachers.

Continue reading The Three Treasures of Musical Learning

A Dozen A Day: All Year Round

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

As piano teachers or pianists, I am sure that you – like I – have ventured “with much love” through the pages of Edna-Mae Burnam’s A Dozen A Day.

These books continue to be standard issue in my own teaching, and indeed my students even ask for the next in the series (without prompting).

When I saw that A Dozen A Day All Year Round was available – published by The Willis Music Company and distributed by Music Sales, retailing with a UK price of £19.99 – I was keen to review it.

I haven’t been disappointed…

Continue reading A Dozen A Day: All Year Round