The following quotations from Raymond Thiberge are from the book, “The Pianist’s Talent” by Harold Taylor:
“I became increasingly disturbed by the following problem: Why were the results obtained by certain conscientious and hard-working students so mediocre in comparison with the effort expended?”
“Being deprived of sight, I had to place my hands on the arms of my mentors in order to comprehend the procedures of which they were giving examples. To my great astonishment, my hands revealed to me that their technical procedures were actually in disagreement with the principles which they professed!”
“The superiority of the virtuosi stems less from their exceptional faculties than from the extremely simple and natural means which they have discovered of using them.”
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- Curved Fingers — and Tension,
By Richard Beauchamp
This article was first published in CLASSICAL PIANO Magazine - March/April 1997 and has been slightly adapted for inclusion here.
- Slur Technique, By Richard Beauchamp
This is an important aspect of piano technique which is often overlooked but which is a key to the solving of many other technical difficulties
- Glenn Gould and Finger Tapping, By Richard Beauchamp
Was Glenn Gould's finger tapping merely an eccentricity — or a useful aid to developing a fluent finger technique?
- Pedalling, By Richard Beauchamp
- Sight Reading, By Richard Beauchamp
Hints on developing this essential aspect of playing
- Rotation in Scale Playing, By Richard Beauchamp
This shows a way of developing one of the many elements needed for fluent scale playing
Examples of passages which may cause problems due to tendon linkages or absences, By Richard Beauchamp (2002)
Stress in Piano Playing, By Richard Beauchamp (1999)
Notes of a talk for a BAPAM conference in Edinburgh
- aimed at physiotherapists and doctors
The Beast with Five Fingers,
Video examples of piano playing techniques. You will need a browser which can display flash files
Random Ideas about Piano Playing and Teaching, By Richard Beauchamp
Please send your own thoughts on piano teaching and playing to
- Practice Maxims — Download this pdf
- Comments from Ernest Empson Ernest Empson was a great teacher and I am grateful to have been his pupil. I wrote down far too little of what he said — but here’s what there is:
- Letter from Dinu Lipatti to a student This must be amongst the most beautiful, helpful and modest pieces of advice about practicing, interpretation and performance, ever given
- Some thoughts on music competitions,
by Richard Beauchamp
- “What studying musicians tells us about motor control of the hand” — PDF by Alan H D Watson, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
This is a fascinating paper, published in 2006, which outlines some of the most recent thinking about motor control, coordination and musicians' hand dystonia. Clicking on the link will open a PDF file
- The Ergonomics of Piano Playing, by Richard Beauchamp
Slide show presented at BPAMT International Conference in 2001
Download this file for your own use
A Look at the Muscles which Control the Fingers - PowerPoint Show - By Richard Beauchamp
Showing the effect of interteninous connections on finger independence
Thanks to PRIMAL for their great pictures
Human Anatomy Dissection 23 (part 1 of 2) Forearm and Hand
Human Anatomy Dissection 23 (part 2 of 2) Forearm and Hand
Excellently clear videos showing the basic muscle groups of the forearm and hand. The entire series is accessible from here.
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A scale, arpeggio and broken chord syllabus
Covers all the keys in 10 stages, developing logically according to coordination patterns.
Gives only the basic forms without variants of 3rds, 6ths, contrary motion, dynamics etc.
Double third scales - PDF
Fingerings for all the major and harmonic minor scales in double thirds
Double sixth scales - PDF
Fingerings for all the major and minor (melodic and harmonic) scales in double sixths
Copied from Moszkowski’s wonderful École des Doubles-Notes. This copy was used by my teacher, Ernest Empson, while he was studying in Berlin with Godowsky, and has the date June 12, 1907
- Triplet Broken Chords - PDF
A rather neglected broken chord formula which is very useful to have ‘in your fingers.’ They are also effective as part of a warm-up
Four Concise Exercises - PDF by Richard Beauchamp
Four brief exercises which incorporate, in a nutshell, most of the essential movements and muscle coordinations necessary for aquiring a good finger technique.
Practice them with care, especially those involving the 3rd and 4th fingers, avoid tension, and aim for comfort before speed. It is better not to practise these all in one sitting, but one at a time at different points during the day
You will need Adobe Reader to download this file
- Flexibility Exercises - PDF
Apologies for hand writing and for strange numbering sequence. These were written back in the mists of time. I have found the exercises to be very beneficial over the years, but please read the warning carefully
- Piano Career.com
This is Ilinca Vartic's brilliant website about piano playing. My advice: read everything on the site and watch all the video tutorials. It's packed with wisdom
- Suggestions for practising - PDF
- Research Guide for Piano Pedagogy From Winthrop University
Sheet music, theory, style, history of the piano, pedagogy, repertoire, prevention of injury and the online catalogue of the Dacus Library
- A Passion For Jazz
History of Jazz music origins, styles and musicians featuring photo gallery, timeline,
festivals, webcasts, piano chords, scales, online lessons and music teacher locator
This is a brilliant website for those who know nothing about Schenkerian analysis, for those who have some knowledge but are still
puzzled and also for those who know a great deal but would like to know more — Highly recommended
Really part of the above website - but well worth a separate mention. This is an excellent introduction to harmonic theory and analysis
‘TonalityGUIDE.com is a free resource for Level I university music students. It has been developed to accompany tutorials in 'Musical Techniques' at Liverpool Hope University College. TonalityGUIDE is partly funded by a PALATINE development award (the UK funding body for innovation in higher education).’
- Colin Ashworth's Web Site
This is sadly all that remains of Colin's excellent website as he felt that some of it was outdated. Still well worth visiting for his sight singing page
- Useful stuff
Try this online metronome metronomeonline.com — or this more advanced one advanced.bestmetronome.com
Cut-out boxes for randomising scale and arpeggio practice, sol-fa charts, aural training, music paper etc.
There is a new section for sharing fingerings for awkward passages
You will also find some cut out scale and arpeggio boxes for cellists
Pedagogical Horror Stories
- Click here to read accounts of piano teaching as it once was - and sometimes still is!
Please send any accounts of piano teaching methods which may have been physically harmful to
I would love to hear from you
- Reginald R. Gerig: "Famous Pianists and Their Technique": R.B.Luce:
- A compendium of contemporary writings ourlining the history of piano technique -
possibly the best of its kind
- Harold C. Shonberg: "The Great Pianists":
Gollancz: ISBN 0-575-00418-5
- More of the same, only more gossipy - excellent photos of pianists
- Dean Elder: "Pianists at play":
The Instrumentalist Co., 1418 Lake St, Evanston, Illinois (No ISBN No.)
- Lavish and large - Excellent interviews and practice regimes - Recommended by Harold Schonberg
- Elyse Mach: "Great Pianists Speak for Themselves"
(two volumes bound as one): Dover: ISBN 0-486-26695-8
- Interviews with 25 pianists - minimum interruption from the interviewer - good portraits
- Amy Fay: "Music Study in Germany":
Dover: ISBN 0-486-26562-5
- A collection of letters to her family in America, written between 1869 and 1875
This must contain some of the best accounts available of the teaching of, Kullak, Tausig, Liszt and Deppe
- Louis Kentner:
"The Piano" (Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides): Macdonald: ISBN 0356-047148
- A good brief guide, covering many topics from the making of the instrument
- Reginald R. Gerig: "Famous Pianists and Their Technique": R.B.Luce:
- A compendium of contemporary writings ourlining the history of piano technique - possibly the best of its kind
- Otto Ortmann:
"The Physiological Mechanics of Piano Technique" (1930): Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co Ltd (London): E.P.Dutton & Co (New York) -
Now out of print
- Solid gold. If you can find a copy, don't exchange it for anything.
It can still be found through Amazon's second hand book service
- Arnold Schultz:
"The Riddle of the Pianist's Finger and its Relationship to a Touch Scheme" (1936): Published 1949 by Fischer, New York. Library of Congress No MT221 .S246 1949.
Out of print as far as I can ascertain
- This is an important and insightful contribution to piano pedagogy. Schultz seems to have been the first to work out how finger coordination actually works.
Sadly his writing style is convoluted and confusing to read. However your pedagogical library could not be considered complete without it.
I found a copy on Amazon's second hand book service for GBP267.62 — and that was paperback!
- Harold Taylor:
"The Pianist's Talent": Kahn & Averill, London: ISBN 0900707526
- A facinating account of the enlightened empirical approach of the blind piano teacher, Raymond Thiberge (see quotation at the top of this page).
Taylor convincingly aligns Thiberge's principles with those of the Alexander Technique
- Heinrich Neuhaus: "The Art of Piano Playing":
Barrie and Jenkins: ISBN 0-214-65364-1
- The Bible! - Don't be without it
- Walter Gieseking and Karl Leimer: "The Shortest Way to Pianistic Perfection":
Dover: ISBN 0-486-22867-3
- The classic book about the art of listening. Required reading for students who dont!
- Pedro de Alcantara: "Indirect Procedures":
Oxford: ISBN 0-19-816569-2
- An extremely enlightened book, showing the application of Alexander Technique to musical performance.
To quote Sir Colin Davis: "There is much wisdom here in this book, along with some great quotations, many photographs,
and exhaustive analyses of the aims and applications of Alexander's discoveries."
Visit Pedro de Alcantara's website
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- C.P.E.Bach: "Essay on the True Art Of Playing Keyboard Instruments": Eulenburg Books, London: ISBN 0-903873-01
- A book every musician should own, not only for information on espression, style and ornamentation,
but also for its exhaustive section on figured bass accompaniment and improvisation
- Robert Donington:
"The Interpretation of Early Music": W. W. Norton & Company: ISBN 039396003X
- Perhaps the best book available on this subject - revised by the author in 1992. Donnington is a scholar who does not provide easy answers
Read contemporary accounts and decide for yourself on how to interpret them
- Arnold Dolmetsch: "The Interpretation of the Music of the XVII
and XVIII Centuries": Novello: (No ISBN No.)
- Written in 1916 and revised by Carl Dolmetsch in 1946,
this is still valid, and a rich source of contemporary writings
- Konrad Wolff: "Schnabel's Interpretation of Piano Music": Faber: ISBN 0-571-10029-5
- Full of fascinating insights into the subtleties of phrase structuring etc.
Shnabel was a pupil of Leschetizky, and teacher of Edwin Fischer (who taught Brendel) - all part of a line of great
teacher/performers who are outstanding for their depth of musical insight and integrity
- Tobias Matthay: "Musical Interpretation": Ayer Co Pub: ISBN 0836951913
- A brilliant book, full of insights about colouring and phrasing, by a much misunderstood and misquoted pioneer
of piano pedagogy. Matthay was clearly an exceptional teacher
©Copyright Richard Beauchamp May, 2000
This page revised 18/12/2012