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Études, Exercises, Excel in Piano Technique

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Timothy Kwok

on 1 August 2013

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Transcript of Études, Exercises, Excel in Piano Technique

Études, Exercises,
Excel in Piano Technique

Writings on Keyboard/Piano Technique
Various writings on piano technique flourished in different countries since the late 19th century, representing
different schools of pianism...
My Top
Favourite Books about Piano Technique
French Piano School

Russian Piano School
Many Other Notable Études...
Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op.3
6 Concert Studies on Caprices by Paganini, Op. 10
Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13
Studies in the Form of Canons for Organ or Pedal Piano, Op. 56
Studies in the Form of Free Variations on a Theme by Beethoven, WoO 31
5 Studies, Anh. 1a/1 (arrangements of works by Chopin, Weber, and Bach)
“As a pedagogue, I must search for three objects—root, flower, and fruit; or for the poetical, the harmonic-melodic, and the technical content;
or for the gain offered to heart, ear, and hand.”
—Robert Schumann, On Music and Musicians

Structure of Lecture:
Nationalistic Piano Schools in the
The Development of Piano Technique in the
I.T. Era
New Trend:
Taubman Approach
by Dorothy Taubman

Part I
What is étude?
Étude VS Finger Exercise
Historical Development of Étude
Part II
Literature on Keyboard/Piano Techniques Through the Centuries
Different Schools in the 20th Century
Contemporary Development
Predecessors of Études...
Before 19th Century, the terms
were used loosely
‘studies’ in Francesco Durante’s Sonate per cembalo divisi in studii e divertimenti (1737)
Domenico Scarlatti’s 30 Essercizi per gravicembalo (1738)
J. S. Bach’s Clavier-Übung (1731–41)
What is étude?

French equivalent of "study" (German: Etüde, Studie; Italian: studio)
An instrumental piece, usually of some difficulty and most often for a stringed keyboard instrument, designed primarily to exploit and perfect a chosen facet of performing technique, but the better for having some musical interest (Oxford Music Online)
A study was at one time the same as an exercise (French: exercice; German: Übung; Italian: essercizio)
But exercise now usually implies a short figure or passage to be repeated ad lib, whether unaltered, on different degrees of the scale or in various keys
Pedagogical Pieces that
start with an "
in Diruta’s Il transilvano (1593)
(i.e. dances and airs) in Locke’s Melothesia (1673)
in François Couperin’s L’art de toucher le clavecin (1716)
in C.P.E. Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (1753)
in Türk’s Clavierschule (1789)
Frescobaldi’s Il primo libro di capricci,
francese, e
J. S. Bach’s
Das Wohltemperierte Klavier
, as well as

Piano and the 19th Century...
of piano as a domestic instrument

for instruction books with studies/exercises
Volumes of graded studies
Common characteristics:
technical usefulness outweighed their musical value
E.g.: J. B. Cramer (1804 and 1810)
Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum (1817–26)
Moscheles’s Studien op.70 (1825–6)
Karl Czerny (1791-1857)
"Music is my only joy,
my only occupation,
my daily duty,
my highest ideal."
Born: February 21, 1791, Vienna, Austria
Died: July 15, 1857, Vienna, Austria
Performer, composer, teacher
Beethoven's most celebrated pupil
Notable students: Franz Liszt, Theodor Leschetizky, Sigismond Thalberg, Stephen Heller, Theodor Kullak...
Czerny's Piano Technique:
could perform the Pathétique Sonata at the age of ten
capable of playing Beethoven's complete solo piano music from memory
premiered the ‘Emperor’ Concerto in 1812
"In the first lessons, Beethoven busied himself exclusively with the
in all the keys. He showed me things that were then unknown to most players: the
true position
of the hands
and the fingers, and the
use of thumb
. I learned the full value of these rules only in the later years. He was very particular about the
said Czerny.
On Czerny's Technical Pursuit and Teaching:
According to Liszt, Czerny insisted on "a
well-exercised touch
correct execution
in moderate time. He taught, in his usual systematic manner, artistic technique and correctness of rendering."
Czerny then adopted this policy of
rigorous codification of
technical difficulties.
Debate about Czerny's Studies
"It would be difficult to find a failure of imagination greater than that of Czerny."
(Robert Schumann, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik)
"Czerny's complete schools and treatises combine sound pedagogy with remarkable revelations about contemporary performing practices, and present a detailed picture of the musical culture of the day."
(Stephan Lindeman, Grove Music Online)
The later studies in Clementi's Gradus are of greater

musical interest
Moscheles’s Charakteristische Studien op. 95 (1836–7) are clearly intended as much

as for instruction
Newly developed genre: the
concert study
What is concert study?
Concert study...
attempts to
the utility of a
exercise with
invention equivalent to that of other genres in the concert repertory
between technical and musical aspects was completely
by the studies of
Born: February 22, 1810, Żelazowa Wola, Poland
Died: October 17, 1849, Paris, France

Composer, pianist
Combined a gift for
, an adventurous sense of
, an intuitive and inventive understanding of
design and a brilliant
piano technique
in composing piano music
"Hats off, gentlemen! A new genius! "
(Robert Schumann)
Études by Chopin...
Op. 10 (12 études)
Op. 25 (12 études)
Trois nouvelles études
Intended for
public performances
, as Chopin himself played them in concerts
Each one focuses on a
single technical problem
.g. Op. 25/6=3rds; Op.25/8=6ths; Op.25/10=8ve
Something about these études...
The technique required to play Chopin's étude was extremely
at that time
First performer who succeeded at mastering these études was
Franz Liszt
"I write unaware of what my pen is scribbling since at this very moment Liszt is playing my Etudes, transferring me beyond the range of sensible thoughts. I would like to steal from him the manner of performing my own compositions." (Frédérich Chopin)
Chopin's Op. 10 was dedicated to Liszt
Peers' Reactions:
Felix Mendelssohn,"Chopin played his new Etudes to the astonished residents of Leipzig with the
speed of lightning
Robert Schumann, "As regards the Etudes, I heard the majority played by Chopin himself, who performed them in 'an extremely
Chopinesque manner
'... Imagine an
aeolian harp
having all the tonalities, and an artist's hand combining them with all kinds of fantastic embellishments, but always an audible deeper tone in the bass and a softly flowing cantilena in the treble -- and you will have some idea of his playing. No wonder, then, that I was
by all those pieces which I heard him play."
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Born: October 22, 1811, Raiding, Austria
Died: July 31, 1886, Bayreuth, Germany
Pianist, composer, teacher
The greatest piano virtuoso of his time, known for his sensational technique and captivating concert personality
As a teacher, he made himself the most influential figure of the New German School
Liszt's Études...
12 Études d'exécution transcendante, S. 139
6 Grandes études de Paganini, S. 141
Three Concert Études, S. 144
Two Concert Étude , S. 145
"The instrument could encompass symphonic and vocal works, and imitate a wealth of colouristic and timbral effects. Modern piano technique owes much to Liszt’s pioneering developments. Pianists still turn to his music for its technical resources." (Alan Walker)
Importance of Liszt's Études...
"Studies in storm and dread… fit for ten or twelve players in the world!" (Robert Schumann)
Most representative of Liszt’s virtuoso years
Famous revision of S. 139 and S. 141 in 1851
The earlier versions offer telling proof of Liszt’s pre-eminence among the pianists of his time
Liszt's Pioneering Piano Techniques According to Alan Walker
Interlocking scales
"Liszt octaves"
Requirement of larger halls for full dramatic effect
Rapid note reiterations
Risky leaps
Unconventional expression marks
Six Études, Op .52
Thème Varié, Op. 97
Six Études, Op. 111
Six Études, Op 135
12 Études, L. 136
3 Études, Op. 18
12 Transcendental Études
Études-Tableaux, Op. 33 (9 studies)
Études-Tableaux, Op. 39 (9 studies)
Etude in C-sharp minor, No. 1 from Trois morceaux, Op. 2
12 Etudes, Op. 8
8 Etudes, Op. 42
Etude in E-flat major, No. 1 from Trois morceaux, Op. 49
Etude, No. 4 of Quatre morceaux, Op. 56
3 Etudes, Op. 65
Studies on Chopin's Études (53 arrangements)
Some Contemporary Études...
Quatre études de rythme
Études Australes (1974–75) for piano
Études Boreales (1978) for cello and/or piano
Book 1 (6 Études)
Book 2 (8 Études)
Book 3 (4 Études)
Etude Fantasy (1976) (5 Etudes)

Exercise implies a short figure or passage to be repeated ad lib.
"The distinction (between etude and exercise) is illustrated by
Schumann’s Studien op.3
(1832), which are preceded by short Übungen based on technical difficulties found in the studies themselves." (Grove Music Online)
About Keyboard Exercises...
Some Famous Exercises Among Piano Pedagogues...
Brahms: 51 Exercises, WoO 6
Hanon: Le Pianiste virtuosé en 60 Eexercises
Schmitt: Preparatory Exercises for acquiring the greatest possible independence and evenness of the fingers, Op. 16
Philipp: Exercises For Independence of Fingers
Pischna: 60 Progressive Exercises, Containing Studies on Trills, Scales, Chords, Passages and Arpeggios
Hanon's Le Pianiste Virtuosé
Meant to train the pianist in speed, precision, agility, and strength of all of the fingers and flexibility in the wrists
According to Rachmaninoff, conservatories in Russia required students to practice Hanon not only on C-key position, but transpose to all the possible key positions
Japanese leading pedagogue Motonari Iguci also shared very positive view on such a way to practice Hanon
American pedagogue Abby Whiteside, on the contrary, dismissed the very notion of finger independence, but insisted only a technique based on the use of the humerus can be effective
Schmitt's Preparatory Exercises, Op. 16
For acquiring the greatest possible independence and evenness of the fingers
Requires repetition of each exercise at least 10-20 times, from separate hand to both hands, from slow to fast, then to another key
Isidor Phillip's Exercises for Independence of the Fingers
Divided into
Dedicated to Ignacy Jan
Emphasized on
rhythmic exactitude
Insisted on practicing with the
, first slowly, then incrementally faster for all technical exercises
Conclusion of Part I
"I think all exercises can be of benefit if one uses them the right way
and one 'prescribes' correctly.
Without such consideration,
they are all but just
another piece of
monotonous boredom."
-- Mary Mei-Loc Wu
Early Discourses on
Keyboard Technique
François Couperin “L' art de toucher le clavecin”
Carl Philippe Emanuel Bach “Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments”
Some Early Discourses on Pianoforte Technique
Karl Czerny “Vollständige Theoretisch-Practische Pianoforte-Schule, Op. 500”
Frédérich Chopin “Projet de Méthode”
(Method of Methods)
Some Important Literature about Piano Technique (pre-1950):
Josef Hofmann “Piano Playing with Piano Questions Answered by Josef Hofmann” (1909)
Jeffrey Johnson, Ed. “Piano Mastery – The Harriette Brower Interviews” (1915-1926)
James Francis Cooke, Ed. “Great Pianists on Piano Playing” (1917)
Josef Lhévinne “Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing” (1924)
Alfred Cortot “Rational Principles of Pianoforte Technique” (1928)
Walter Gieseking & Karl Leimer “Piano Technique” (1932, 1938)
Tobias Matthay “The Visible And Invisible In Pianoforte Technique” (1947)
Some Important Literature about Piano Technique (post-1950):
Heinrich Neuhaus “The Art of Piano Playing” (1958)
Ruth Slenczynska “Music at Your Fingertips” (1961)
Otto Ortmann “The Physiological Mechanics of Piano Technique” (1962)
Reginald R. Gerig “Famous Pianists and Their Technique” (1976)
Dean Elder “Pianists at Play” (1989)
Motonari Iguci “Piano Technique” (1997)
Harold C. Schonberg “The Great Pianists” (1998)
Zhao Xiaosheng “The Dao of Playing the Piano” (2007)
Yuanpu Chiao “The Colors Between Black and White—Interviews with 55 Pianists” (2007)
Henry C. H. Shiu “Dancing Colours of the Black-and-White: The Art of Vladimir Horowitz” (2009)
Alfred Cortot “Rational Principles of Pianoforte Technique” (1928)
Inspiration for the Rational Principles is the
Age of the Enlightenment
and particularly the influence of
Jean-Philippe Rameau
of his earlier study editions of masterpieces by Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Weber
Cortot's Categories of Technical Problems:
Evenness (égalité), independence and mobility of the fingers
Passage of the thumb (scales/arpeggios)
Double notes and polyphonic playing
Finger stretches
Wrist technique
Josef Lhévinne
“Basic Principles in
Pianoforte Playing”
Written at the height of Mr Lhevinne's career
A clear statement of principles based on his lifelong experience in performance and teaching
Covers many useful topics such as sight-reading, rhythm, practice, using the pedal, legato
Heart of the guide is devoted to the attainment of a

, which marked the very essence of the great Russian School and Soviet tradition
Specific musical examples are presented as illustrations throughout

Josef Hofmann

“Piano Playing
Piano Questions
Answered” (1909)
Student of
Anton Rubinstein
, Josef Hofmann was a
master of technique

His comprehensive guidebook advocates a
balanced approach
to piano playing
Divided into
First part discusses practice methods, use of the pedal, playing pieces as written, and other rules
Second section answers frequently asked questions about body and hand positions, wrist and arm action, phrasing, and much more
Walter Gieseking
Karl Leimer
“Piano Technique”
(1932, 1938)
Collects two classic books:
The Shortest Way to Pianistic Perfection
, and
Rhythmics, Dynamics, Pedal and Other Problems of Piano Playing
Provides reference to the absolutely essential variety of touches required in piano technique
Speaks extensively on visualization
Perfect for pianists looking for a radical approach to finger and expression technique
"Practice with your head, not fingers; develop your inner hearing; study your scores mentally, not at the piano; cultivate your imagination of the sound-picture; visualize the physical act of playing, complementing the mental picture with a full-blooded image of the sound."

No. 3:
Henry C. H. Shiu
“Dancing Colours of the


The Art of Vladimir Horowitz” (2009)
No.。2: Dean Elder
“Pianists at Play”

No. 1

YuanPu Chiao
“The Colors Between
— Interviews with
55 Pianists”

French: jeu perlé, hands detached from arms
e.g. Marguerite Long
Russian: power of entire body, symphonic sound
e.g. Sergei Rachmaninoff
Full transcript