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: 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? 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 »

"Thinking Fingers" Piano Exercises

Question: Do you know of Guy Maier? If so do you know the piano exercises he and Bradshaw co-authored, “Thinking Fingers?” The authors advocate practicing these patterns in “impulses” instead of a constant stream of playing. Maier was appalled at the thought of students seated at the piano repeating over and over one five finger pattern after another in hopes of achieving “dexterity.” He called these students “pian-sits”… I think I’ve been one of those. Read more »

Accuracy on Black Keys

Question: As an adult (aged 54) student of the piano, I have encountered lots of difficulty achieving stability (and/or a firm grip) on black keys and have often wondered whether this is connected with age. This difficulty first became apparent when I started learning the G-flat and the E-flat minor arpeggios. I struggled for months to get them fast enough for my upcoming ABRSM Grade 7 exam (June 2012) and secure enough and attempted lots of “strategic” techniques suggested by my teacher (doubling notes, rhythmic variants; i. Read more »

Becoming a Confident Performer

Question: Hi, I am a pianist and also a student, and I wonder every day in my life, why don’t I “get there”? I mean, I play the pieces, I play recitals and concerts, but I don’t know, maybe because I know myself and I watch “the pianist” from inside not outside, other pianists seem to be a lot more sure of what they are doing, and out of 10 I give myself an 8. Read more »

Building an Advanced Piano Technique

Question: My technique goes just so far and then I get stuck. What can you offer in the way of determining fingerings, being able to move about the keyboard freely and easily with precision, release of excess tension, the invisible and visible motions and parts to playing the piano, ways to break a piece apart and put it back together for learning purposes, and a description of how it kinesthetically feels to play the piano at an advanced level? Read more »

Changing Fingerings

Question: When sight reading new music by professional piano players, are the fingering positions subject to interpretation or are the fingerings “set in stone”? Don (Hillsborough, New Jersey, USA) Albert’s reply: Editorial fingerings are essentially always to be understood merely as suggestions. The editor may (or in some cases may not!) be a professional pianist, and his (or her) fingerings were made for his hands. They were designed to work at the editor’s tempo, and not all fingerings are practical for faster (or sometimes slower) tempos. Read more »

Changing Hand Positions Without Looking

Question: I am trying to learn how to move from octave to octave without looking at my hands. For example, I begin with both hands on the keyboard with the thumb #1 finger of both hands on middle C. Looking at the sheet music, the right hand thumb is on the middle C, the number 5 finger on the next C one octave above middle C. The treble clef music notes have placed my fingers at this correct position on the keyboard. Read more »