Yesterday, I had my first ever official piano lesson with the Reverend Franz Moeller. I chose Franz because I knew that he was prepared to get out and present recitals and I was keen to have a teacher that understood the repertoire from a performers point of view. We had a preliminary meeting last week so as we could meet each other, I could play and give him some idea of where I was at so as he could devise a pathway for me. Because I have tertiary level training on the classical guitar and understand and read music well already, I told him that I felt I needed reining in and assistance with honing an orthodox piano technique. He was straight on to it and I arrived for the first lesson this week to discover he had purchased 3 books for me to start work from. "The Joy of First Year Piano Technique", "The Children's Bach" and "Duvernoy's Elementary Studies Opus 176". We worked mainly on getting an even legato sound using the scale of C in both hands and varying dynamic levels. I found it very difficult to play softly and evenly and I think this is due to the slightly unorthodox way my hand sits at the keys. I say that because during my first practise session this morning, following yesterdays lesson, I am already making a change to my hand positions to get the thumb pointing more directly up towards the back of the key it happens to be on. This has enabled me to get more curl in the fingers, more control of the dynamics and follow through with the thumb more efficiently as Franz mentioned that I needed to do. Fantastic progress already!
I have obtained a lot of my scores from the fantastic Petrucci Music Library website and the other day I stumbled upon an iPad app named Padrucci that brings the library directly to your iPad foregoing the need to use a secondary application to store your scores. Brilliant! Not so brilliant at first actually, but now doing what it should; see my comments below!
I have also discovered a couple of useful videos recently too. The first being a series of 4 lessons with Seymour Bernstein based on his best selling book "With your own two hands". He goes deep into the mechanics of playing the piano both from the pianos point of view and the human playing it. One tip he suggested, that made an immediate difference to my playing, was to consciously relax the underside of the forearms as there is a natural inclination to tense this area particularly if the going is getting a little difficult. Most edifying!
The second channel I think might be worth your while checking out is Paul Barton's "Classical Piano in Thailand" of all places. This guy really knows his stuff and is a pretty handy player too. I first discovered him by accident really when I viewed his lesson on Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu.
After an interesting and quite lengthy historical explanation of the piece and his views on why Frederic refused to publish it he hops in to how to play it. This explanation included some very useful diagrams such as the following explaining how triplets in the left hand fit with semiquavers in the right hand which is an integral part of this Impromptu. Bloody good stuff and I will be checking out more of his videos.
The final part of this lengthy and feature filled post is that I had the unexpected opportunity to play a brand new Kawai Baby Grand and it was a pleasure and I would have liked to have spent a lot more time playing it. The lucky owner is an acquaintance of ours who runs the local newspaper with her husband. It looks like she and I will be sharing the same piano teacher starting in March and I will let you know more about that soon.