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Piano Teaching

Articles | Resources | Pedagogical Horror Stories | Suggested Reading

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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.”

Raymond Thiberge

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Pedagogical Horror Stories

Please send any accounts of piano teaching methods which may have been physically harmful to this address
I would love to hear from you

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Reginald R. Gerig: "Famous Pianists and Their Technique": R.B.Luce: ISBN 0-88331-212-3
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 to repertoire

Piano playing

Reginald R. Gerig: "Famous Pianists and Their Technique": R.B.Luce: ISBN 0-88331-212-3
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 fascinating 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


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
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©Copyright Richard Beauchamp May, 2000
This page revised 18/12/2012
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