All musical instruments apply the principle that when an object strikes another, sound is produced. As I said above, however, a mere crash is unpleasant, and instruments have been devised not to produce disagreeable sounds. When something hits something else and the shock of the hit is nicely absorbed, musical tone is produced. The tone resonates with harmonics and gives people a comfortable feeling.
Let us consider percussion instruments. For example, drum heads are made of leather and thus have elasticity when struck with hard sticks. This is true both in Japan and in the West. Xylophones are played by a person who has been trained to hold the sticks softly so that the shock of playing the instrument is absorbed by the body. String instruments, too, absorb shock with the elasticity of the strings and the bow. The same is true for other instruments.
The question is, how do we deal with this shock when it comes to the piano? Piano keys can be depressed to a depth of about 1.2 cm. The moving of the key absorbs some of the shock. (The piano action is very intricately designed to be able to do this work.) The pianist absorbs shock using the elasticity of his or her entire body, and the fingers which actually touch the keys play an important role in this process. God created human hands to move in a very useful way. Hands are divided into two parts: the fingers and the palm.
We have four joints, counting the wrist joint. By using these, we can have soft, good fingers with which to avoid the shock of coming into contact with the piano keys. Thus we may produce a musical tone which resonates harmonically.
The piano has eighty-eight keys. Whenever we play any key, we must be sure to move the fingers softly and carefully. We must not hit, poke or strike. (This goes for playing chords as well as for single notes.) We must concentrate on each note and always use the fingers carefully. We must acquire a strong habit in our hands and bodies. Ability does not develop without repetition.
We must listen to our own tone carefully and always seek to produce the best, musical tone for our hands and bodies to naturally improve. We can well understand the natural use of the body if we watch a baby sit down at the piano. Babies always move naturally and effortlessly in the way I am describing.
Tone is the basic element of music. If we do not completely learn how to produce tone in our childhood, we become people who are uninterested in tone, and then we can allow ourselves to play piano with a terrible and noisy sound. People who play like this gradually begin to dislike playing the piano. But if we play carefully with soft fingers, making a resonant sound and avoiding a crashing noise, we can give our whole minds to the tone we are playing.
Because of the simple fact that a piano can produce sound very easily, it is possible for us, with a small shift of emphasis, to let children become poor pianists who cannot play musically.
Students, when you begin to study piano, you take a lesson in tone from your teacher each week. (Don't worry if you hear the same things repeated over and over!) Please become a person who can, after ten years, make the kind of musical tone to which you can give your whole mind and soul. If you acquire this ability, you can play pieces freely and enjoyably, and the people who hear you will be happy.
The most important thing is practice and how you practice. Repetition when you are practicing a golf shot means you practice slowly. This is the same thing in piano if you want to have good technique and tone.
If you really want to swing the golf club well and play the piano well, you have to be relaxed. If you're stiff, you'll hook the ball. If you're stiff when you play the piano, you'll make a banging sound.
Posture is important too. It you have good posture, you'll strike the key right or hit the ball on the "sweet spot". If you have bad posture or move your head too much, you won't strike the key or hit the ball right. So golf and piano mix. Playing golf helps my piano and playing piano helps my golf.
Jeffrey Edelman is nine years old and lives in South Lake, Texas. He studies piano with Cathy Williams-Hargrave and is an avid golfer.
To begin with, while listening a great deal to the recording, thoroughly learn the hands alone, and then combine the hands. At this point, you may begin to study how to play well.
First, the right hand.
Since the piece is in 6/8 time, each measure is comprised of two triplets. This is called compound duple time. Triple time can be represented by a right triangle with 1 being the vertical side, 2 being the horizontal base, and 3 representing the hypotenuse.
We use the first three notes in measure 1 to practice this right triangle correctly. The first note (A with the 2nd finger) is played down, with a heavy tone after getting ready from above. The next note (E with the thumb) is played in a light, small tone, moving the tip of the thumb just a bit without changing the hand position with which we ended the first note. The third note (A with the 2nd finger again) is up, and we play it with a light, bright tone. Now the right triangle is completed. Repeat this practice slowly and carefully 20-30 times a day.
Teach this in detail at each lesson. When we are able to play it quite well, practice measures 1-4 in the right hand slowly and carefully, playing the triple time in each triplet correctly in this way.
When playing staccato, do not hit the keyboard with stiff fingers, but produce a musical, staccato tone, always with good posture and in good balance, keeping the body and hands soft in order to absorb the shock of hitting the fingers against the keys.
Since children are not greedy, they do not try to improve all by themselves. Teachers and parents always must pay attention to them.
We slowly and carefully repeat F-C-F (2-5-2) in the left hand, measure 9, the same as we have done in the right hand, practicing triple time as represented by the right triangle.
Left-handed players can do this easily, but right-handers must do considerable practice here, taking much more time than in the right hand. Slow practice must be done in order to be able to play triple time, represented by the right triangle, correctly.
The first beat is played down. Since we exhale forcefully and have a heavy feeling on the first beat, the second beat is played very lightly and softly. The third beat is up, and the quality of tone is light, so inhale at this point. Check up on the student at each lesson to see if he or she has practiced this. If the student has not learned it yet, repeat the same thing carefully and kindly.
When the student can play the right triangle well, slowly practice the melody in measures 9-12 and 13-16 in accordance with the right triangle he or she has practiced in measure 9.
Next, measures 1-8 in the left hand. Since the piece is in compound duple time, there are two beats in a measure. Always the first beat is down and the second beat is up. There are eighth-note chords, which are played staccato. This is the accompaniment, and the piece is fast. Therefore, we first touch the keyboard with the fingertips. When we play, we move the fingertips slightly, making down and up staccato with a small motion.
Because the chords on the first beats in measures 2 & 3 are quarter notes, not staccato, we sing them out with a long downstroke. The following two eighth notes are played very light and short.
Tell students to memorize the following measures by themselves: Left hand measures 2, 3, 4, 8,12 and right hand measure 12. [Number these one through six and require students to be able to play them at random, in any order.] If the students can do this, they can practice the difficult places many times, and will improve before they know it. Memorize the fingering correctly and thoroughly at the beginning too.
After having prepared with the practice routines above, we put hands together. Sforzando is a strong accent. We express the feeling of the Wild Rider with the use of these sforzandi. It is important to note that, throughout the piece, sforzandi are marked only in the melody, not in the accompaniment.
For example, in measures 1-8 they are found only in the right hand, so be sure not to apply them to the left-hand chords. On the other hand, in measures 16-24, the sforzandi are in the left hand, not in the right-hand chords. This middle section, however, is marked forte, so let us play the right-hand chords rather loudly to further convey the strong spirit of the Wild Rider. [Just do not confuse this louder-than-usual accompaniment with the sforzando, which is only in the melody.] Because measures 1 - 4 constitute one phrase, play the fourth measure light and small (measure 8 is the same).
Practice the above thoroughly, over and over again, keeping the correct posture, holding the arms firmly, relaxing the shoulder, the palm and the fingers, (not holding the wrist with force), making the body natural, moving the fingertips from above the keys, producing good sound.
Even when a student polishes this piece for the first time, this is just a first step. If we teach patiently at each lesson, the technique will advance to a second and then a third stage.
I teach this piece for at least six months to every student at each lesson. Of course, the students also move on to the next pieces, but being able to play this piece well is of great advantage for the student's technique.
I was very sad to feel the loss of Suzuki Sensei's physical presence and the loneliness as I visited with Mrs. Suzuki at her home. But at the same time I experienced great happiness to meet my fellow teachers, many of whom I had not seen for many years. I felt that Suzuki Sensei had brought us all together again and was smiling upon us from up in heaven! I remembered that so many of us are diligently continuing his work here on earth.
Then, as I observed Dr. Kataoka's lessons of some very young children and could sense her undying faith in their potential and ability, I realized:
The Board of Directors of Piano Basics Foundation is pleased to announce that current members (i.e. those who paid their 1998 dues by April 1,1998) will receive a $25.00 tuition rebate for each Kataoka workshop they attend full-time this summer! We are very happy to be able to support our members ongoing training in Piano Basics with this program.
To claim your rebate, please pay your full-time workshop tuition IN FULL and then fill out and return the enclosed form after you have attended the workshop. A check for $25.00 per workshop will be sent to you from Piano Basics Foundation. Deadline for submitting this form is September 1, 1998.
Videos of the November, 1997 Matsumoto 10-Piano Concert have just arrived! Piano Basics Foundation is offering these at the same price we pay, $100.00 per video. Postage and handling will be paid by Piano Basics Foundation. To order please contact:
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First Online Edition: 15 August 1998
Last Revised: 4 March 2012