How to Memorize Music: A Pianist’s Guide

Introduction Have you ever watched a great pianist perform a complicated piece from memory? Impressive, isn’t it? All those notes and details, perfectly remembered and then fantastically re-created in the moment. There’s something about a performance of memorized music that makes it feel somehow more authentic, more intimate and honest. To be sure, this is a subjective perception, as many of the greatest performers used sheet music when playing, but the appeal of a memorized performance certainly exists. The practice of memorizing music is different from the more standard modes of practice to learn music off the page. In some … Read more

6 Excellent Practicing Strategies Commonly Missed by Pianists

Introduction Why do we practice music? Your answer may be something to the effect of, “well, we practice so that we can play the music,” which is pretty much correct, but can be stated a little more succinctly: whether you’re planning to play in front of a blowout crowd at Carnegie Hall, a modest gathering of friends and family at a holiday gathering, or simply for yourself in the privacy of your own home, the goal is the same, we practice to perform.  Ok, but what exactly is practicing? Or, more importantly, how do we practice? What are we supposed … Read more

Practising Music Away from Your Instrument

It should go without saying that as music students, a sizeable amount of the time we spend thinking about and, well, practising music will be done at or with our instruments. After all, we’re practicing to be able to play, and it seems counterintuitive to practice playing without the “playing” part of the equation. To that end, we’ll spend many hours of many days of many years generating sound with our instruments, ever intent on shaping it to our desired musical vision. This is as it should be; no musician has ever achieved mastery with their instrument by not playing … Read more

The Women of Classical Piano: A Brief History and Overview

As musicians, our preoccupations in study and performance trend towards the compositional side of notoriety. When we think of the ‘greatest’ musicians, the names we tend to utter first are the composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev… This is not unreasonable, as without these masters of compositional craft we would not have their music. However, in consistently leaning on these gargantuan names, we tend to overlook the vast and storied history of the practitioners who have so brilliantly brought the works of these master creators to life. To be sure, many of these composers were … Read more

Discovering Keys: From Then to Now

It’s easy to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of studying music. Intervals, scales, chords, key signatures, chord progressions…once we dive into the deep pool of musical fundamentals, it can take some effort to recall that our ultimate objective is to create and play music. Indeed, it’s important to remember that the study of music as a formal, institutional affair will always be a biased sort of learning—we may treat our scales and chords and other wonderful musical basics as gospel, but they are derived from a fairly specific musical tradition, and not every practitioner of music will … Read more

Discovering Keys: Minor Keys

We’ve already covered a lot of ground in this article series on keys, however there is one important area that we’ve largely avoided in our studies thus far: minor keys. Please note: if you haven’t had a chance to check out our previous articles in this series, particularly our article on scales (What are Keys?: Learning Scales) and Parts I and II of our Discovering Keys articles, now would be a good time to check them out. Much of the information in this article will assume some familiarity with the material from those articles, so now is a good time … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 2

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys Part II In Part I of this article series, we illustrated how some of the most basic tools in our musical tool-box could be employed to achieve a functional, foundational understanding of the the concept of ‘keys’ in music. By reinforcing our knowledge of scales and chords and then distilling that knowledge for the purpose of understanding keys, we were able to able to reveal the infrastructure behind keys as a product of the common musical devices we know and use everyday. To further summarize: At the core of all keys … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 1

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys From the beginning of this series, we set out to achieve a succinct but comprehensive understanding of what keys are and how they can help us in our musical pursuits. We started by presenting a common musical scenario heavily dependent on keys for its construction and learning potential (in this case, a snippet from Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545). We then highlighted some of the most basic infrastructural components we find in music (chords and scales) for the sake of reinforcing the knowledge base we’ll need to … Read more

No Need to Give Up! Special Tips for Small-Handed Pianists [Part I]

“How can you play the piano with such tiny hands?!” I have been asked this many times in my life. Yes, I do have small hands; my maximum reach is just an octave. It’s not even a comfortable reach – I barely reach one octave. After years and years of trying different methods and techniques to reach more notes comfortably, I have come to the conclusion – I have to adjust the techniques according to my hand size. I have to find what works for ME, not simply following what is “believed” to be a good technique. The more challenging … Read more

What are Keys: Learning About Chords

What are Chords and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? It starts off by being just a thing you do, and why wouldn’t you? For piano or guitar—for pretty much any instrument on which you can easily play lots of notes at the same time, really. Whether you see it in the music you’re learning or try it out of pure curiosity, at some point you’re going to do it…. You’re going to play a chord. Chords have been a staple device in the music of the Western world for, well, a long time. Prior to the Baroque … Read more