Whether I’m teaching in person or online, my unique approach to piano technique helps students release physical tension that has been limiting their physical freedom at the instrument. Combined with all the work on listening, rhythmic organization, and mental clarity, these lessons offer a comprehensive path to expressive power in performance.
This technical approach has also helped many pianists recover from practice-related injuries. No one should feel uncomfortable playing the piano. Experiencing physical energy moving freely through your body in relationship to the piano is joyful and life-giving. And that physical pleasure, combined with the visceral experience of taking in the sounds you love as you’re playing, brings vibrancy to the music you make.
You can learn to maximize power, fluidity, and sensitivity, by using your body according to basic principles of movement and touch. Here are some key aspects of my unique technical approach:
Getting Power from the Ground
Many pianists aren’t aware that they can use the basic athletic principle of getting power from the ground.
A baseball pitcher gets more power with his arm by bending his knees a little to feel a strong connection to the ground. Likewise, a pianist can get maximum arm power with minimum effort by sitting solidly upright on their sitting bones and then, instead of leaning their torso forward, using their fingertips to spring the arm forward and upward from the bottom of the keys.
This kind of movement feels great, because a lot of energy feeds back into your body from pushing against the bottom of the keys. It’s like springing from your feet when you walk. This physical pleasure goes a long way in maximizing your musical energy: You’re not just putting energy out, but you’re getting energy back as you play. So your playing becomes more alive.
Creating Flow by Sliding on the keys
In contrast to the springing movement I just described, which is initiated by the fingertips, I also teach arm movements that are initiated from the shoulder. One of these I call “sliding.” You let the arm release forward from the shoulder, and as you do so, your wrist releases forward and your fingers slide forward and back on the keys. Because the arm is naturally flowing forward and back, the music can flow freely also.
Releasing Tension by Putting Intensity Where It Belongs
A lot of excess physical effort happens from trying too hard to express yourself. We need expressive intensity, but we often put it in the wrong place. Instead of tightening the arms and hands and leaning forward to be expressive, pianists need to focus intensely on their inner feelings and on the intimate connection between the fingertips and the keys, and to keep the playing mechanism loose and free. When you focus more on hearing and enjoying the sounds you’re producing – on how those sounds affect you inside – your body will automatically become more still, and the music can flow more naturally and expressively than when you work harder at it.
Also, if you sing a bass or middle line in a phrase while playing the right hand, you hear the music more completely. You discover beauty you didn’t know was there, and you become more of an open channel for the music. Additionally, when you hear music more clearly this way, your brain sends clearer signals to your hands, so your coordination becomes more refined and effortless.
Putting It All Together
Every detail of body position and movement makes a difference. And in addition to being more aware of sounds and sensations while playing, knowing how to work with rhythmic impulses also contributes to playing more easily and expressively. It’s like putting a puzzle together – you put all the pieces in place to create something whole and brilliant. There’s nothing like the feeling of genuine mastery of your instrument.
Making it Personal
While teaching, I focus a lot on each student’s perceptions and ideas, so that we can collaborate to create an exciting learning experience for both of us. So instead of only giving you my ideas of how to improve your playing, I will also ask you questions to find out what you already understand and to encourage your own thought process.
Questions like, “How did that feel?” “How did it sound to you?” And even, “What do you think you could do to improve it?” We end up having a real creative dialogue in which I get to know you and can really support your natural learning process with my appreciation and input. Every lesson becomes a rich and fun experience.
–Amy Lam, pianist
–Christian Bonvin, pianist and teacher
–Laura Amoriello, Piano Faculty, Ithaca College
–Jad Bernardo, pianist and coach
“The first time I taught online I was amazed. It was incredible to be teaching in Borneo from my studio in New York and to be able to instantly see and feel where the student was holding tension in her body, and to help her play more easily. She sounded better quickly, and I was so grateful for this fantastic technology. I still can hardly believe that I’m able to help musicians all over the world.”
–Margaret Wronka Moeckel, pianist, alum of Manhattan School of Music
Specializing in piano technique has enabled me to help many pianists recover from their injuries. Read three case histories of accomplished pianists who were able to recover from their injuries and resume playing through their work with me.
Of course, it’s best to prevent an injury from happening in the first place. By training pianists step-by-step in using their hands, arms, and body comfortably and efficiently, I help them avoid excess tension and injury and fully express the music that’s inside of them.
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