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Advanced Piano Coaching Online

7. EXAMPLE: How do my lessons take place on the internet?

Here is a very simple example: Beethoven, the “simple” Sonata in G major, opus 49 n° 2

You will find on this page the excerpts of our correspondence and - above all - my advice and comments on the videos sent by my student Alexis, 27 years old. He had contacted me to express his dissatisfaction with his precedent pianistic training.

ALEXIS - 5 June, 2013
[after several weeks of basic work]
I have the impression that my new playing positions have made me lose many of my spatial references at the keyboard, and what follows is playing filled with errors and really incorrect. One would say that I am sight-reading again the same piece. But next to that, all the small pains that I felt in the arms and hands after practicing a long time have completely gone away, and it is the same for the great pain I felt in my back. I can, now, stay 4 hours at the piano without feeling the need for a rest. I think therefore that this situation is normal and that I must simply become more and more accustomed to my new reference points.

AW - 5 June, 2013
I appreciate your diligence, but it is not reasonable to work for 4 hours non-stop. It is not a question of remaining seated on the piano bench, but maintaining the level of attention, alert at all times to control the smallest details. It is necessary to take small breaks at least every 30 to 45 minutes. Practicing music is above all a considerable effort for the brain. To overload it is counter-productive, because by lack of concentration you risk making mistakes and memorizing them.

AW - 12 June, 2013
[we begin learning the Sonata in G Major, opus 49, n° 2 by Beethoven]

Here are the first two pages of your score with my fingering.

About the fingering

It should be standard, as schematic as is possible, i.e. one must use the same fingers for identical or similar groups of notes. Evidently, one must be reasonable -- fingering should above all be easy and comfortable. Sometimes it is therefore preferable to use rather the irregular fingering, but easier. The most often as we work, we are forced to make a compromise: we must choose between two (or more) possibilities, which each has at the same time certain advantages and disadvantages. In this type of case, we choose the fingering that is the most “profitable,” the one easiest to memorize, both for the brain and the muscles. This is very personal - each of us must choose for himself.

In principle, once the final version established, one must never change a fingering. But there are exceptions - if in a passage the a fingering doesn’t work for you, let me know. To be continued…

AW - 12 June, 2013
● Position: push the bench farther away and sit in the middle and not over 90% of it
● The back is much better
● measures 1 and 5 : bravo for the movements in the body
● measures 9-10: It is now necessary for you to learn a new technique - to raise [the hand] at the end of each slur. Look at the diagrams, photos as well as my video - the essential thing is the circular movement of the wrist, but this is a fairly complex process bringing into action at the same time the movements of the back and even the head.

ALEXIS - 4 July, 2013
My practicing is still completely unproductive, both at the level of the fingerings, which are impossible to memorize because they are not natural for me, as well as the playing itself, that I can no longer seem to control. Since for the time being I feel no pleasure practicing and playing, I close my piano for a while.

AW - 7 July, 2013
I completely understand your worries because I have known these symptoms for a long time now. Since you began to play you have been accustomed to a certain manner of playing with a certain fingering. Even though your habits are not correct, they are suitable enough to make music for your own pleasure.

But I cannot teach you with a lesser method and accept that you conserve your past errors. I remind you that you contacted me in order to improve your technique! A radical change brings frustrations, which are completely normal. A new pair of shoes, even of the best fabrication, will be more or less uncomfortable on wearing them at first. Imagine how much time (and practice) will be necessary to erase 20 years of bad habits and to replace them with good ones?

[During the summer vacation, Alexis worked on other pieces. At the end of August, I gave him exercises that will be useful to overcome his principle (for the moment) technical problem - to correctly taper off the ends of phrases. These exercises will prepare him to return to the Beethoven Sonata.]

Exercises
For raising the hand at the end of each slur
For regular triplets

 

AW - 12 September, 2013
The exercises, that’s perfect! It is time now to apply them. You are going to take up the Beethoven Sonata again - examples in the score included.
● 9 - there is no [staccato] dot at the end of the phrase, so you must raise the hand with
a less abrupt movement
● 15 - here you must play full quarter notes ending the triplets, but the gesture remains the
same.

AW - 4 October, 2013
Be very careful! The errors that you have corrected are returning!
● a small list, a reminder of corrections that are still needed [...]

ALEXIS - 4 October, 2013
I spent all my time concentrating on the metronome to make these 3 recordings [at three different tempi], which was an error on my part, for as a result, I didn’t pay attention to the sound and I knew from the start that I wouldn’t have the time to do so for the 3 tempi. I should have only made one recording and [done so] more correctly. What’s more, when I played without the metronome, I felt my rhythm become irregular again, without being able to stabilize it, which meant I only paid attention to the metronome.

AW - 6 October, 2013
In passing, I would like to familiarize you with the levels of the theory of learning. An efficient learning process includes the 4 following steps:
1. Presentation (i.e. the theoretical understanding of the problem)
2. Exercises (one tries to do something correctly)
3. Application (one deepens the preceding step by applying it to the concrete context of the piece)
4. Automatic (developing good reflexes by repeating hundreds of times ONLY the good versions).

In your case (I mean in the last video) what was missing was the 4th step, which is why the results of your practice did not stay in place.

In any case, remember that one has always said “Repetitio est mater studiorum.” But BE CAREFUL: if you diligently repeat an INCORRECT thing, it lodges itself in your brain as well as your reflexes and then it is very difficult to get rid of it.

AW - 27 October, 2013
Alexis, I am proud of you! Very good work. And I don’t speak lightly, you can believe it Only one small criticism: you are still glued to the score. It is imperative to leave these first two pages (=no longer play them), because the gap with of the piece has become too big.

ALEXIS - 28 October, 2013
I am really very glad to have obtained this result, I felt that it began to change in the first part of the piece, good things began to take shape, more sureness in my playing. Truly, thank you so very much.

***

Of course, these are only excerpts of several e-mails chosen among a few dozen.

 

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