Technic Materials - Interesting options EE level students : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

While working in a piano music store I explored a variety of materials from both the past and present. I'd like to share a few that are "off the beaten track"; I find it's helpful to have a variety of materials to encourage my own "experimentation" in the laboratory of studio piano teaching!

1. Joan Last's FREEDOM TECHNIQUE Book 1 (Oxford University Press)

Expensive & only 12 pages, but it contains exercises that are "short & to the point". Unique features are exercises that involve crossing hands, clinging to keys while moving wrist up & down (to avoid stiffness), and travelling up & down the keys with fingers 123.

2. Louise Robyn's TECHNIC TALES Book 1 (Theodore Presser)

Horribly dated and "un-PC" drawings, but fascinating approach to technical development. Also contains "clinging and wrist flexing" exercises as in Last's book, with detailed ways to build a solid hand position a la the "3 Little Pigs" (the brick house is built with fingers 2345, and supply a stable,firm arch for the hand) More of a reference than a book to assign!

3. N. Jane Tan's FINGERS, PITCH, & PULSE (Willis)

All technic is presented with finger numbers ONLY, which is it's best feature. Includes solfege work and rhythm drills, and Keyboard Drills Time Charts for timing the student's ability to find specific keys up & down the keyboard. The emphasis is definitely on DRILLS, which need to be used wisely with each student. I find younger students love the "game" of being timed, and trying to "beat last week's time". Also more of a reference book, and a book to generate ideas on presenting technic.

4. John Thompson's THE HANON STUDIES Book 1 (Willis)

Sure, Hanon can be a dangerous thing to abuse, but here Thompson explains a variety of way to use the fingers, wrists, & forearms and may be helpful to beginning teachers. Especially helpful is the concept of "High Finger Legato" to help transfer students get rid of the "claw" hand position and develop finger strength and independence.

5. Clark's MUSICAL FINGERS Book 1 (now thru Warner Bros)

This book is probably the best when it comes to descriptions of how to use the body, what to feel, and what to listen for, with pictures included. Not appropiate to assign a beginner, but many of the 5-finger and hand over hand exercises can be taught by rote. Clark's PIANO ETUDES book 1 is made to compliment this book.


-- John Bisceglia (, March 22, 2001


I like Schaum's FingerPower series. It contains lots of commonly used patterns, and is easy to read so the kids can concentrate on what their fingers are doing. Different things can be done with each exercise, including different dynamics, articulations, and rhythms. These would be solfegeable (my new word) as well. I found most kids really liked these, becuase they whizzed thru the exercises without reading difficulties, and they liked to feel their fingers going fast. Beryl Rubinstein's 32 Exercises for the Young Pianist. I played these when I was young. Good for sixteenth notes and phrasing. These are short exercises. I've also found that a real hit with the kids is the "Special Exercise of the Week." I made up my own list of exercises for things the kids will eventually need to know, scales, broken octaves, trills, chords, legato, etc. And I broke each of these categories into very small steps and assigned one step for each week, depending on the level of the student. For instance, if it was scale prep month, the kids would on the first week, play up and down the keyboard hands separately using fingers 1212121212. The next week was 123123123, next week 123412341234, etc. They loved this. I didn't worry if they didn't get very far, and I didn't have them stay on the same exercise for more than a week. If they only got thru the 123's, they could just continue the next time it was scale prep month (whenever that happened to be). These exercises only took about a minute a day, and the kids usually did them because they were by rote, so they could make lots of sound all around the keyboard and move their fingers without concentrating on a book.

-- Julie2 (, March 23, 2001.

Peter Coraggio's comic book THE SPECTRUM OF EXPRESSIVE TOUCHES (The Art of Piano Performance comic book series through Kjos) is a nice way to get students interested in the VARIETY of sounds one can make at the piano and HOW to make them. (A great gift; only $2.95!)

Seymour Bernstein's MUSIC-PHYSI-CALITY (Hal Leonard) is handy when you want to send the student home with photos of hand shape, but the music examples contain accidentals, key signatures, and eighth-notes (best for transfers).

-- John Bisceglia (, March 26, 2001.

(1) Hands-down favorite: Faber Piano Adventures "Technique & Artistry" books. I like my students to learn certain gestures to play more expressively & at the same time avoid fatigue & possible injury. These books are great. BTW, the PA level 3B tech. bk. is being released this Spring.

(2) I also like the Schaum "Fingerpower" bks., the Burnam "Dozen a Day" bks. & the Thompson Hanon bk. 1 is great for phrasing & equal hand development (though the "high finger legato" thing can be easily misunderstood; a natural hand position with fingers not too curved is best). However, getting students to like the exercises enough to practice them is another matter entirely. The Faber books have pieces that are more appealing & that consequently motivate students to practice more.

-- Music Educator (, March 27, 2001.

The "high finger legato" is ONLY misunderstood if the teacher fails to present the concept correctly and follow it through at subsequent lessons! Of course students need to use a natural hand position without curving the fingers too much; proper use of the "HFL" can "uncurl" the "claw-like" fingers that result in some transfer students. If anything, I encourage a flatter finger initially with "claw" students to help them feel the finger swinging loosely and comfortably at the hand knuckle. All materials are only as effective as the teacher who uses them!

-- John Bisceglia (, March 27, 2001.

They're now releasing accomp. CDs for the Burnam "Dozen a Day" books. Since many of my students love to practice with CDs, I think this is great!

BTW, has anyone tried the "Technic is Fun" books (Warner Bros.)?

-- Music Educator (, April 26, 2001.

I've just bought the entire series of TECHNIC IS FUN through WB's recent sale. They are worth having around mainly because they contain nothing but original pieces by classical composers; no "finger exercises". I've also discovered some real gems (new to me, since my knowledge of the intermediate rep is still developing). All pieces have descriptive titles; most were not the composers.

Here's some of the MAJOR contributors to each level (at least 3 pieces):

ELEMENTARY A -- Bartok, Czerny, Kunz, Turk. ELEMENTARY B -- Berens, Czerny, Gurlitt, Kohler, Schytte. BOOK 1 -- (loaned out....oops!) BOOK 2 -- Burgmuller, Concone, Czerny, Gurlitt. BOOK 3 -- Burmuller, Heller, Czerny. BOOK 4 -- Bertini, Burgmuller, Gurlitt, Heller. BOOK 5 -- Burgmuller, Heller.

Here are some favorites from each level, to get an idea of the grading:

ELEM. A -- Beyer's Op.101, No.39 Bartok's No.6 from "1st Term" Turk's Minuet in G (No.6 from Anfangerstucke fur Klavier) ELEM. B -- Gurlitt's "The Fox Hunt" Le Couppey's "Bagpipe Dance" aka "Musette" BOOK 1 -- BOOK 2 -- Heller's Avalanche Streabbog's Distant Bells Burgmuller's Arabesque BOOK 3 -- C.P.E. Bach's Solfeggietto Grieg's Op.12, No.1 Burgmuller's Op.100, No.25, & 11. Heller's Op.47, No.3 BOOK 4 -- Brahm's Op.39, No. 15 (Waltz in A-flat) Durand's Chaconne Bach's Gavotte (French Suite #5) Book 5 -- Burgmuller's Op.109, No.10 (Snow Flurries; a recent fav!) Maykapar's Toccatina (Op.8, No.1) Schumann's Fantastic Dance (Op.124, No.5)

-- John Bisceglia (, April 26, 2001.

I took advantage of the deal, too. I was familiar with most of the pieces, but found some pleasant surprises (GRIN)!

-- Music Educator (, April 26, 2001.

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