Easy Ear Training Interview

Easy Ear Training is one of the web’s finest resources dedicated to ear training. They recently asked to interview me for their wonderful site. They asked detailed questions about the ear training and general musicianship topics that will be most helpful to students and I did my best to answer in detail. Here is the link to the interview. Read more »

Mastering Your Craft Interview

Renowned coach, author and speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru asked to interview me on the subject of mastering your craft. We had plenty of fun recording this video interview live: Immediately before going live, we were discussing my hopeless perfectionism and giving ourselves permission not to be “perfect.” Sure enough, Murphy’s law kicked in as soon as we went live thanks to my messing up the settings. It was great to laugh about my mistake instead of indulging in the self-criticism that all too easily happens! Read more »

Interval Ear Training

Question: How can you learn to recognize intervals by ear? Albert’s reply: There are several methods of interval ear training. The most common is to associate common melodies to each interval. For example, “Happy Birthday” may be used to recognize an ascending major second, “Amazing Grace” an ascending perfect fourth, and so on. However, there is a major problem with this method: It works only for “naked” intervals, meaning intervals outside of a musical context. Read more »

Piano Practice

What do you imagine when practicing piano? Is it about losing yourself in the music in a state of perpetual inspiration‚Ķ or waiting for inspiration to strike? Flashbacks of nasty piano-teaching sadists bringing grown men to tears? Hours of hair-splitting, nail-biting drills? Or worst of all: not knowing what to do? Practicing piano is our single most important activity as pianists, yet the vast majority of piano students have barely the vaguest idea of how to practice. Read more »

Brahms 51 Exercises

Question: Any fingering suggestions for Exercise 1a and 1b? Mike (Dallas, Texas, USA) Albert’s reply: This exercise is designed to be played with a consistent fingering, even though it breaks the rule of avoiding the thumb on black keys. The reason is that it’s not a finger exercise per se but rather a rhythm exercise. Brahms’s purpose was to train the fingers to play 4 against 3, and there’s no need for the added difficulty of complicated fingerings. Read more »

Legato Octaves

Question: In bars 5-7 of the Capriccio in D minor by Brahms, the right hand is supposed to play legato octaves (the melody) while holding down a middle voice as well. How can you create this smooth legato effect at a presto energico tempo without the use of the pedal? Thanks for your advice in advance. Albert’s reply: You’re referring to the opening of Op. 116, No. 1: I’ve highlighted the relevant section in red. Read more »

Piano Exercises for Finger Independence

Question: Hello Albert, Firstly, many thanks for the positive feedback you have given me to my questions which is a tremendous help. My question today relates to technique, working the fingers in a proper way to enable them to become supple, strong, thus enabling the student to tackle difficult music passages. We know that practicing scales daily is one way, but what about alternative exercises for the hands and fingers? I was reading a book the other day which stated that as the hands and fingers are so intermeshed with muscles, tendons and ligaments that playing only scales is not the way to work the entire wrist, hand and fingers as most or many of the muscles, tendons and ligaments are not exercised at all, thus preventing the student from performing properly even though they could read the music well. Read more »

Making Mistakes in Practice

Learning a piece of music successfully requires avoiding mistakes in practice. How we practice is how we learn, and how we learn is how we perform. If we make mistakes in practice, we teach ourselves to make mistakes in performance. It’s a simple equation. What exactly is a mistake? Mistakes are more than just wrong notes. We may be dealing with mere semantics here, but it would be possible to call anything that is not exactly what you want a mistake. Read more »

The Most Important Rule of Piano Technique

There is a rule of piano technique that is sure to do more to advance your piano playing than any other. All amateur pianists I have ever witnessed break this rule every time they play, and doing so costs them their progress and creates frustration and self-doubt. How many times have we all heard “Think before you speak!” while growing up? This rule holds equally for piano playing: Think before you play. Read more »

A Chord

The A major triad, more commonly called the A major chord or simply the A chord for short, consists of the notes A, C-sharp and E. Here it is on the treble clef staff: Here is the A major chord on the bass clef staff: Here are both of the above chords on the piano: As a major triad, the A chord consists of a major third plus a minor third. Read more »