JAN-FEB 2017 READ-ALONG: Josef Lhevinne’s “Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing”

fb-read-alongHello Blog Readers!

Wow!  It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but things sure have been busy on the live streaming end of things.  You could say that most of my “blogging” now has been in-person and LIVE.  There’s much more emotion and tone you just can’t put into writing.  I’ve truly enjoyed connecting with you in this way.

A new year is great time for goal-setting, new inspiration and a “re-start.”  What better way than with a project to get your wheels spinning in new directions for 2017.  Instead of our usual Play-Along, the gang over at the FB Play-Along group has voted on a Read-Along, the first ever in the blogisphere I think.  If you’re reading this after Jan. 10, 2017, no worries!  Jump in at any time during our schedule since the book is not sequential and you can always catch up later by watching the previous replays.  I’ll post the replays here on the blog about every 2 weeks.

FROM JANUARY 10  thru FEBRUARY 14 (approximately), we’ll all be reading “Basic Principles of Pianoforte Playing” by Josef Lhevinne.  Click HERE for all the info you need to get started.  There’s no official sign-up, but purchase a copy of the book soon if you don’t have one.

Basic Principles in Pianoforte PlayingYou can grab a copy HERE on Amazon if you like.  If your book arrives after we begin, no worries. You can still watch the 1st LIVE broadcast on Chapter 1 on Tuesday, January 10 (or the replay) and catch up on the chapter afterwards.

WATCH THIS video introduction of the Read-Along for all the specifics.


Click HERE to read all the info you need to get started.

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Saturday Morning Listening: Bartok’s Folk Melodies

Good morning!  A little listening for you to enjoy at your leisure this weekend.  Bartok collected folk songs from various regions of Eastern Europe – Hungarian, Slovakian, Rumanian, and Bulgarian.  The For Children, Vol. I, which we are playing currently, is based on Hungarian folk melodies.  Here’s are two works based on Rumanian and Bulgarian tunes.  Enjoy!

1.  Bartok’s Rumanian Folk Dances

This is a charming set of 6 dances for violin and piano that I had the pleasure of performing long ago. They are so full of character and verve and I recall the violinist and I had a fun time bringing them to life. They’re so easy on the ears, too!  Bartok wrote a version for  piano which I have taught often to students middle school age thru college.  You can pull a few from the set and create your own teaching suite.  I’ve never had a student not like these pieces.  Enjoy!

2.  Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm

This is Nos. 148-153 from Vol. 6 of Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, a set of 153 progressive piano pieces (1926-38).  The set is the most popular in Vol. 6 and works well for high school and college-level students.  Bartok combines Bulgarian rhythms in two, three, and four-note sets and weaves them in masterfully.  You could teach a few from the set, but it works so much more effectively as a set of six.  Lots of rhythmic appeal!


Saturday Morning Listening: Khachaturian Wrap-Up

Ok… I know it’s not morning, but I can say that I was inspired this morning to share this with you, right?  I’ve been meaning to tell all of you about this fascinating documentary on Khachaturian that I once caught on the Documentary Channel  late one Saturday night.  I found it riveting and stayed with it until the very end (not usual for me when it comes to some documentaries).

Khachaturian Documentary

Khachaturian Documentary

In this 83-minute film, the narrator speaks for the composer (kind of eerie) and later in the credits, it reads that the text actually came from Khachaturian’s own writings. Interesting!  It weaves a fascinating tale of Khachaturian’s life in the Soviet Union and how he dealt with the accusation from the Communist Central Committee as being an “anti-people” composer.   How can that be when his music is filled with Armenian folk tunes?  And later in the wake of the decree, you learn how he was ordered to return to Armenia for “re-education.”

This documentary plays more like a movie and contains some really interesting archival footage like Khachaturian’s actual funeral with Kabalevsky in attendance, shots of Prokofieff and Shostakovich, Khachaturian conducting his own music, and much more.  Khachaturian’s music cleverly illustrates the various scenes along the way. After watching it I had much sympathy for Khachaturian and the devastation he felt after being denounced by his own government.

Here’s an excerpt from YouTube of the opening…

It appears that most of the movie is on YouTube (Type “Aram Khachaturian Biography” in the Search box): .  Skip the bonus section with the blond playing the finale of Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto in a performance that amounts to a fashion show on tape.


* Don’t forget!  The Bartok “For Children, Vol. 1” Play-Along begins on Monday, Oct. 6.  Read all about it HERE.



Khachaturian “Adventures of Ivan” Piano Play-Along: Post Four (Nos. 7 and 8 Reaction) 

Well, this wraps up the Play Along for this brilliant set of pieces by Mr. Khachaturian.  I really enjoyed getting to know these better and I hope you did too.

Quick scan thoughts:

  • No. 7 “Ivan’s Hobby Horse” –  A persistent horse here on quite the journey with the consistent galloping ostinato effect throughout.  The two hands play closely together.  One of the trickiest of the set, in terms of rhythmic coordination.
  • No. 8 “A Tale of Strange Lands” – I love pieces that imply a narrative.  The key of A minor lends itself well to a mysterious telling.  The dotted rhythm is pervasive.

Thoughts while playing….

No. 7 –  “Ivan’s Hobby Horse”

Before playing a piece with a tricky ostinato figure like this one, one should have some experience in other pieces that contain ostinato effects.  It’s an effect we as pianists don’t play often in the standard repertoire and a good skill to have.  Playing a galloping figure like this one opposite of a rhythm that changes from quarters to eighths can be tricky at first.  I often have students break it down into small sections and teach each hand its behavior before trying them together.   EX: Here’s a video of how I might have a student practice m. 4 going into m. 5.

Measures 56-57 can catch you off-guard rhythmically because both hands switch gears at this point.  Here’s a short video of a hands-together practice segment.  Go more slowly as needed.

Quick Note: I found the LH ostinato easier to master at first (see m. 28 and continuing).  It would be easy for the LH to drown out the RH due to the close proximity of the hands at this point.  Careful!

Something I found very interesting…..

As I played through the piece many times, I kept trying to listen for a distinct tonal center.  I did sense a little preference toward “A” but nothing completely convincing.  What I did notice was that the piece seemed to flow along, shifting from one 7th chord harmony to another.  Try blocking out chord outlines as you play and tell me what you hear.  It’s an interesting overall tonal progression.

No. 8 –  “A Tale of Strange Lands”

I can predict that several of my students would love the exotic sounds of this piece.  As I played I imagined how wonderful this piece would sound if it were orchestrated.  I would ask students:  “What instruments would be playing here? and here?”  Alongside this questioning, I would ask about what would be happening in the “tale.”  I find that students really latch on to a piece when I keep it interesting.

For the LH fingering in the opening, I preferred a smoother option:  5-2-1-3-2-1 demonstrated in this video:

The pedaling I performed in the video was 2 pedal changes per bar. The score indicates pedal for the first half of measure and no pedal for the 2nd half which I found too contrasting (wet, then dry) so I kept it consistent with 2 pedals per bar, but I often only half-pedaled. Full pedals sounded a bit mushy.

I love the contrasting rhythms in this piece, especially the hemiola effect in mm. 55-58 demonstrated in this video:

Here’s a way to practice the repeated-note gesture for mm. 71-73 in the RH.  To secure a quick repeated motion in the hand, I often tell students to pretend that they are “shaking something out of their sleeve.”  The imagery of this motion really loosens up the arm for a quick, bouncy gesture.  Here’s a video demo:

Keep the thumb light as you repeat and lean toward the 5th finger for better voicing of the melody.  Quick Note:  I prefer a slightly slower tempo for this piece, maybe quarter note = 60 or so.  It made it sound less forthright and more mysterious.  You’ll hear a fast tempo in the video below.

Below are two video performances of both Nos. 7 and 8.  I really hoped you enjoyed our discovery and study of Khachaturian’s Adventures of Ivan!  Until next time……

Ivan’s Hobby Horse

A Tale of Strange Lands





Kabalevsky, Op. 39, Play-Along: Post Seven (Nos. 21 – 24 Reaction)

We’re coming down the homestretch now.  Don’t forget to post your final comments on these pieces or on any of the previous by July 31.  Would love to know which of the 24 are your favorites and/or new favs.  Those who post at least 3 times, either here or on the Facebook group page, go into the prize drawing on August 1.   Can’t wait to see who wins!

If you missed last week’s reaction post (the 6th one) on Nos. 17 thru 20, you can read it HERE.

Quick scan thoughts for Nos. 21 thru 24:

  • As a group these pieces are the most difficult in the set, with No. 24 rising to an intermediate level.
  • All are 24 mm. or longer.
  • More independence in the LH required especially as it performs a more contrapuntal role.
  • Syncopation is more prevalent.
  • A wide range of the keyboard is utilized throughout.
  • Continued complexity in opposing rhythms and articulations between the hands.

Thoughts while playing….

No. 21  – Improvisation 

Such a melancholic, misterioso piece and it does sound improvisatory with it’s wandering quality.  You could call it a modern 2-part invention of sorts and it’s a wonderful piece for teaching continuity and long line.  

2 interesting observations:

  1. On page 1 (mm. 1 thru 18) the RH plays on the “and” of beat 1 in most every measure and on page 2, the LH as well.
  2. The most intense part of the piece, at least in terms of volume and range, is in measure 11 (quite early in the piece), and yet in the following 33 measures it never reaches a dynamic higher than mp.

I especially enjoyed the hemiola effect Kabalevsky inserted here (mm. 15-16):


and the lovely and unexpected harmonic shift to the flat II chord here in m. 31 (E-flat major):


Here’s a tender performance by Jason Sifford of the Univ. of Iowa Piano Pedagogy Project:

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Kabalevsky, Op. 39, Play-Along: Post Five (Nos. 13 – 16 Reaction)

Ok.  A day late, but I just couldn’t resist an extra day of 4th of July vacay when the opportunity presented itself.  Hope your summer is going well.  Are you managing to play along?

If you missed last week’s reaction post (the 3rd one) on Nos. 9 thru 12, you can read it HERE.

Quick scan thoughts for Nos. 13 thru 16:

  • We’ve ventured into more pieces in triple time.
  • The melodies have become more expansive (larger intervals contained within)
  • Kabalevsky has continued his inclination towards parallel movement between the hands (nos. 14 and 15)
  • A keysignature of more than 2 sharps or flats has appeared (no. 14)
  • A piece in the Dorian mode has now appeared (no. 16)

Thoughts while playing….

No. 13  – Waltz  (I see “Dance” indicated in a different edition) 

I gave this to a student this summer as a special project and I must say that she is “in love” with this piece.  She just can’t say enough good things about it such as:

“I like the beginning” – (at the first lesson)

“I just love the RH” – (at the second lesson)

I think this broad and evocative RH melody offers instant appeal, especially when combined with the sad key of D minor.  I’ve had several students in the past decide to learn this piece upon hearing it just once.  And if you want to teach both distinctive phrase shaping and the waltz style, then this is a great go-to.

When first introducing this, my summer student didn’t notice that the LH was in the treble clef (that’s one thing I like about Kabalevsky; he mixes those clefs).  We navigated the LH at the first lesson by playing only the lowest note of each stacked interval.  We named each low note as she played continuously from measure to measure (EX:  “D – D- rest, D – D – rest, etc.”).  Once done, she better understood how the LH moved along .  Later she played the LH as written watching the lower notes move horizontally while detecting the harmonic interval above (3rd vs. 4th vs. 5th).

Here she demonstrates the detached LH with a forward wrist motion for lightness:

Here, with her RH, she is showing the arching of the hand as it rocks from one side the other while playing the broken intervals (mm. 16 to the end).

She mentioned afterwards that she forgot the diminuendo in this excerpt above. Good catch.


No. 14  – A Fable (seen before as “A Gay Little Story” in a much older edition.)

Similar to No. 20 in this set,  “Clowns,”  students love the major-minor shifts in this piece.  They discover that the dynamics follow the harmonies and then they spot the form of the piece instantly.  The student in the video below told me what convinced him to learn this piece:

“I liked all the movement, all the techniques involved, and the patterns.  It’s jumpy and happy, and I liked the A Major sound and how it felt under my fingers once I learned it, especially with the staccatos.”

It’s a wonderful piece for developing touches.  Later I asked him what was most difficult about learning this piece, he said:

“Getting the legato vs. staccato in mm. 3-4, combined with the drop-lifts of the wrist.”

After mastering this piece at a faster tempo, his tendency was to rush with all the fun he was having.  It’s quite the finger tickler at that point.  Here’s his medium-paced version:


No. 15 – Jumping  (I’ve seen this titled as “Galloping” and also “Leap Frog”)

Indeed this is jumpy.  It looks daunting to some students at first because of the  eighth rest- eighth note rhythmic idea (see RH, measure 1).  They forget that the eighth rest plus eighth note combination is the equivalent to 2 beamed eighth notes (of which I remind them).  I start out by saying that the LH in measure one is the hand that’s “jumping” (2-note slur followed by a staccato quarter note; I demo this) and then I tell them that the RH is “skipping” in m. 1 (due to its delayed start on the “and” of beat 1, which I also demo).

I have students learn the entire piece with both hands playing the straightforward rhythm of the 3 quarter notes per bar.   RH plays exactly with the LH in measure one, and then in measure 9, the LH would copy the RH, and so forth all the way to the end.  They can also match the wrist lifts by playing this way:

Here’s a demo:

After learning the piece with the LH and RH playing simultaneously on quarter notes and mastering the notes and fingering this way, it’s so easy for students to delay one hand by playing on the “and” of beat one.  I have my students count “1 – and, 1, 1” for each measure of the piece as they coordinate the rhythms of both hands.  Tapping the two rhythms together on the keyboard can also solidify the coordination.

They love the gymnastic effect of this piece once they get the hang of it.


No. 16 – A Sad Story  (also seen as “A Sad Tale” )

This is the follow-up to the happier story in No. 14, “A Fable.”  I think the two pieces would make a nice pairing.  The student could play No. 16 first and follow with No. 14.  Better yet, add No. 22 “Short Story” to the set and make it a trio!

I hear this piece in the key of “A” Dorian.  It seems to center itself on “A” as “home” and keeps returning to “A” even though it finally settles on “E” at the end.  It’s funny how the final “E” didn’t sound so incomplete to me.  My ear could accept it as a final note.

Now the question is:  which hand is really the melody?  The LH in the opening is marked cantabile with a louder dynamic which leads you to believe LH might be the melody though it’s not very lyrical. The RH has a nice sway to it which sounds cantabile as well.  Perhaps it’s truly 2-voice writing and both hands create compatible melodies.

Here’s Jason Sifford’s performance with the Univ. of Iowa Piano Pedagogy Recording Project. .  I like how he maintains an Andante tempo with just enough movement for a cantabile feel.

Look forward to your thoughts on this varied set for this week.  Have you taught any of these before? Any tips to share?

Play-Along Schedule:

  1. Introduction Post:  June 1
  2. Kabalevsky, Op. 39, Nos. 1 thru 4 reaction:  June 2
  3. Nos. 5 thru 8 reaction:  June 9
  4. Nos. 9 thru 12 reaction:  June 30
  5. Nos. 13 thru 16 reaction:  July 7
  6. Nos. 17 thru 20 reaction:  July 14
  7. Nos. 21 thru 24 reaction:  July 21






Register Now!

JOIN US on Friday, June  27, 2014 at RBC Music Company in San Antonio, TX! Download a print version of the brochure HERE. Payment by credit card or Paypal is available by contacting  Click Lodging above for hotel options.

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Look forward to seeing you there!  Stay tuned for our blog camp activities beginning on June 1 — easy to do, just subscribe to the blog to your right!



MusicEdConnect Giveaways Announced!

Hi everyone:

Once again, so glad you could all attend the 1st MusicEdConnect Webinar last week.  The feedback has been amazing and thank you again for attending my session “Discover the Magic of Teaching Young Beginners.”  I had a blast meeting so many teachers this way and inspiring newbies to try teaching 5-year olds.

DRUM ROLL please…..

The 1st GIVEAWAY winner is:  Isabel M.!   She will receive a glass-blown mini paperweight similar to this:IMG_0197IMG_0198        Isn’t this a perfect stone for “Stone on the Mountain?”  And I think the musical notes make them even more special.  As the student shapes his/her hand on the keyboard, I slip this glass stone underneath the hand and tell the student we’re checking to see if their hand really looks like a stone.  They love it and I love it when imagery comes to life.

I will share info on where to purchase these in a future blog post.

The 2nd GIVEAWAY winner is:  Renee S!   She will receive a complimentary set of books from the Faber Piano Adventures!

Isabel and Renee ~ Congratulations to you both.  I will be contacting you for your mailing addresses, but if you see this first, please email it to me at


P.S.  More to come about Nancy Faber’s piano keyboard mat shown during my Webinar.


Welcome to Piano Camp for Piano Teachers!

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If you’ve found this post, you have probably just watched my webinar “Discover the Magic of Teaching Young Beginners” at the inaugural online music teachers conference:  MusicEdConnect (  I hope you enjoyed it! or enjoyed your recording of it if you missed the LIVE session.

As promised, I have 2 GIVEAWAYS for all participants!  LEAVE A REPLY (see it above) and tell me what you thought of the session &/or what you thought of the conference.  Enter your reply by midnight, Saturday, Feb 8.   I’ll then do the drawing and will contact the winners by email.  Winners will be announced here!

Stay tuned for more from Piano Camp for Piano Teachers.  This is just the first day of our blog so pardon our appearance!  We’ll be adding more bells and whistles soon and look forward to serving piano teachers everywhere!

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