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Carlo Grantes Fundamentals of Practicing the Piano:

preparing to play securely and well


a short introduction to his Methodology

Notes for May 2013 Seminar Participants, prepared by Helen Heslop

version of 11 Dec. 2013.

Fundamentals of Piano Methodology (Rugginenti, Milan, 2013) is the English edition of


Prof. Grantes book Criteri primari di metodologia pianistica, volume 1 in a planned 4-
part series of books written mainly for conservatory students hoping to succeed in
competitions and/or launch careers as professional pianists. Criteri came out in Italian in
2012.

The present notes summarize the ideas in Fundamentals distilled by Maestro Grante from
his years of piano study in Italy, at the Juilliard School in the USA, at the Royal
Academy of Music in London and with the famed teacher Aliza Kezeradze, and from his
experience teaching promising young pianists in Italy and the UK. Maestro Grante has
made over 50 recordings and has given hundreds of concert performances in famous halls
of a huge variety of repertoire, including D. Scarlatti, Clementi; Chopin, Schumann;
Debussy and Ravel; Busoni, Godowsky and Sorabji; and contemporary composers
including Michael Finnissy and Roman Vlad. (see his discography and youTube clips on
hhpromotionslondon.com : pianists.) The present notes are a distillation of his principles
for the benefit of teachers, pupils and anyone committed to learning to play their music
artistically and securely in public.

Criteri / Fundamentals aims to convince gifted conservatory students and aspiring


concert pianists to commit themselves to a total regime of intense practicing, using 22
principles of piano study. (A further volume, Study Notes, is in preparation; it applies the
principles to the study of 6 well-known pieces from the virtuoso repertoire). The present
notes (and future small book) aim to distill the key ideas of Fundamentals in a briefer
format, highlighting the ideas we have found to be most useful to keen piano students and
high-level teachers. Such music-lovers are strongly motivated to learn how to learn faster
and better. They are passionately interested in improving their playing both artistically
and in terms of security, though they may not need to play long recital programmes from
memory, as would-be concert pianists must do. These notes correspondingly downplay
some of the memorization elements featured in Criteri / Fundamentals. They are
otherwise a faithful and not dumbed-down rendition of the method, with only that small
distinction in intent.

A total approach to learning music. Fundamentals opens with a chapter convincing us


that we need to take what neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists can tell us about
learning, attention and memory generally, and to apply their insights into the human mind
and body to the learning of pieces of piano music, especially those intended to be
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performed in public.

The most important idea in the early chapters of Fundamentals is that the mind and all
the senses have to be maximally focused, stimulated and engaged in order for the student
to optimize the time spent on study of the piano, that is, to improve steadily in qualitative
terms, rather than mess around on the instrument, tinkle the ivories or otherwise fail
to play better or more securely. Thinking about how to play the piece we wish to learn
should not compartmentalized into a separate part of our lives, but integrated as totally as
possible into all of our life itself. Grante quotes Ivo Pogorelich, husband of his teacher:
we must prepare so that the notes become us and we become the notes.

The key is to increase concentration and focus by increasing the number of ideas one
tries to bring to bear upon ones playing. Piano playing in general requires us to focus

1. intellectually, by calling upon what we recognize from our understandings of:


the structure of music i.e. rhythmic patterns, keys, chords, their colours and
inversions, cadences, scale and other linear or melodic patterns, contrapuntal
figures, chromaticisms, modes, non-western elements; noting how the piece
relates to historical movements and fashions in music, noting borrowings from
other musics and non-classical genres,

2. on the different types of data we get via our senses, and relating them to one
another:
visually, by studying the score as a 2-D text in black and white, admiring
how it looks on the page and paying attention to the patterns
aurally, by hearing what is in the score, ideally learning to hear inwardly
the melodic lines, chords and parts without using the keyboard; studying
the score while listening to recordings, and, very much stressed: singing
each part separately, first alone and then while playing the other parts.
kinaesthetically, by developing finger memory and a feel for
geography although finger memory by itself, without the engagement
and learning from all the above other senses, is notoriously
UNRELIABLE. Amateurs and young students, especially, are wont to rely
overly on finger memory and to pay the price of its unreliability in exams
and in other stressful situations. Grante's methodology shows how to
bolster and reinforce it (since it is very important) with additional
stratagems.

We aim to plan and to practice so as to learn how to create movements through space
(gestures) and musical sound experiences that are REPLICABLE not just physically
and aurally, but replicable and in congruence with our musical beliefs and tastes and what
we have thought about and wish to express with the piece.

How to practice? Fundamentals says one must plan to concentrate totally in a Practice
Session. Get in the right frame of mind before starting, define the number of minutes one
is devoting to it, ideally putting oneself in a flow state - in the zone, as they say in
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sports science. Try to be in a good mood even if the piece is lugubrious. Each bit of time
on the piano should be a fully engaged and committed Practice Session.

If ones mind wanders in any way, one is not practicing, but merely tinkling the ivories
or relaxing by messing about at the keyboard; there may be some pleasant sounds and a
tactile pleasure, and one may enjoy this experience, but it does not qualify as
practicing. Chethams teacher Kathryn Page says similar in her notes in Pianist
Magazine in 2013. Grante quotes Lhevinne: "Do not think you have been practicing if
you have played a single note with your mind on anything else."

A sub-notion here is that any automaticity in ones playing is a bad sign because,
ideally, one should have identified so many things that one wishes to do or achieve with
respect to a given passage, that one cannot help concentrating and becoming emotionally
engaged across multiple dimensions in order to try to incorporate all or many of the
aspects -- even though, with experience, some may become somewhat second nature.
These aspects interact synergistically with one another. They include:

the rhythm and any variations of it


the notes (pitches) and the tonalities they create
the fingering
the dynamics
the character of the melody
the character of the harmony; textures generally
the nature of the cadences
any rubato
the agogics
the phrasing
the overarching structure of the piece
the nature of any repetitions
the quality of touch one wishes to achieve in each passage
all aspects of pedalling
the balance between the hands, registral differentiation
the voicings of the chords
any contrapuntal voicings or bringing out of inner or outer lines
the emotional meaning of the music to you as a person and as a musician
any info one has about its emotional or other meaning to the composer
info about the reception of the piece by the composers contemporaries
discussions found in musicology and music criticism about how the piece
has been played historically
how critics now think it ought to be played.

All these aspects of a given piece are relevant and should be borne in mind as consciously
as possible while one is learning a new piece, mastering it, and when preparing for and
giving performances in public. Paying full attention to this multiplicity of factors keeps
ones mind from wandering and ones playing from slipping into automaticity, all the
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while that it reduces reliance on the unreliable kinaesthetic, tactile or finger memory.

Deliberate practice: requires this sort of multi-dimensional concentration, plus sufficient


repetition (practice makes perfect) to achieve a high level of myelination of ones
nerve fibres so as to ensure more reliable pre-determination of what one intends to do,
thereby increasing the accuracy of execution of each passage.

How to encourage the discouraged: Unsuccessful students are found usually to


completely misjudge the amount of repetition and concentration required to learn a
passage properly. They feel they are untalented or psychologically too anxious, self-
sabotaging or neurotic to play their pieces competently in public, when the problem is in
fact too little practice effort on their part, too few hours of truly deliberate practice, or
perhaps numerous hours sitting at the piano but with tepid, distracted, incomplete focus.

For Grante, it is not an ability or personality thing, though persistence in the face of
setbacks is a character trait more strongly observed in some. The message from Grantes
writings and experience as a teacher is very positive: all music students and non-
professional pianists can become much better players provided they take on board the
true degree of commitment required and provided that they practice in the right way.

Fundamentals notes a basic dichotomy found by researchers into education generally:


some students tend to be task oriented - their motivation is to master a given task,
learn from any mistakes, get feedback so as to fix problems, view teachers as resource-
persons and expert consultants. Such students, when learning music, problem-solve and
figure out using any means available how to play the passage or piece more competently.
Other students are what is called ego-oriented their desire for mastery is mainly
expressed as a desire to do better than the competition and enhance their social rank
they seek to impress their parents, teachers or peers, or win praise, prizes or status. Ego-
oriented students are found to have different motives for studying and display different
standards of excellence as compared to the task-oriented. The former mainly want to play
better than the next person rather than to improve their playing for its own sake.

Rank- or ego-orientation is associated with depression musicians with this orientation


become downcast and hate themselves if they do not do as well as hoped in competitions
or exams, or if they make mistakes in performance. Ego-oriented students are also more
likely while practicing or in lessons to engage in negative mental chatter, to the
detriment of focusing on the task itself and to working out what it will take for them to
overcome the obstacles to playing the piece well.

Both styles of motivation in learning can motivate great effort on the part of students,
however, and it is important to understand, foster and harness both of them. Crucially, the
two types of learner also tend to have different practice habits. Thus, becoming aware of
your underlying style of motivation can be used to up the effectiveness of your
practicing. Know thyself!

***
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When beginning a well-chosen (by which is meant a do-able if somewhat challenging)


new piece, Grante recommends using what is called declarative learning. Declarative
learning means you should articulate every detail of what you are doing in words: discuss
out loud or mentally to yourself the decisions you are making regarding fingering, talk
about the influences of the key that the piece is in, explain how the harmony and
cadences develop, what colour the chords have, say what the dynamic markings and
phrases are at every stage, pay attention to and articulate how the lines of music break
visually in your copy of the piece from one staff to the next, so you can help your eyes
follow from one line to another.

***

Grante has a lot to say in Fundamentals about memorization, as concert pianists


traditionally play from memory and therefore need to spend an inordinate amount of time
finding ways to prevent memory lapses. They spend a lot of time devising their own
memory strategies, identifying mnemonics (though he does not like mnemonics per se);
such performers may strive to identify triggers, hinge points, expressive cues, and links to
the multiple sensory and musical aspects of the piece that were singled out during
preparation. This is because performance must be the execution of a pre-programmed,
pre-planned experience since during the preparation period the performer has actually
experienced the performance and the particular music in all possible facets.

This is his emphasis on the fact that every aspect of learning a piece of music (or
anything else) involves all the various types of memory. Types of memory include:

semantic memory
procedural memory
visual memory
kinetic or kinaesthetic or muscle or finger memory
episodic memory
emotional memory
aural memory

A key idea in Fundamentals is that all learning involves memory and memorization. We
call up / invoke what our minds already know (that is, what we remember) about all the
aspects of written music when we begin to study a new piece we see and hear and feel
patterns in it, notice how it affects our emotions and how it relates to our knowledge of
music as a whole.

We then note and distinguish and begin to remember the aspects of the piece that are new
or distinctive. The new piece is new, but even so, it will have some aspects that we can
understand readily, even if others are less familiar or obvious. How much we recognize
and understand depends on our musical knowledge and background. A good teacher will
have good empathy into what the student does indeed already know and can bring to the
new piece, in order to focus on the best ways to present and help the student master the
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new aspects.

Grante stresses that there is NO POINT learning first and memorizing later as a sort
of afterthought, or attractive icing on the cake of being able to play the piece at all.
Memory, as shown above, is a component of all learning, as it underpins how we know
what is new, and how we relate the new to what we already know (that is, what we
already understand and remember). The various types of memory come into play in piano
playing from the first hour spent with a new score.

NB Maestro Grantes stress on the importance of using memory productively is


completely distinct from any objective of playing long recital programmes entirely from
memory, without the score.

Keep time at all times, counting out loud as we do so. Counting requires us to pay
attention and to take action within a temporal framework. The effectiveness of counting
specifically in order to prevent loss of focus (to improve concentration) is one of its most
important benefits. Many other teachers have stressed this, including Lesley Shrigley-
Jones.

The speed at which we practice while keeping proper rhythm is crucial for effective
learning. This means PRACTICE MUST BE SLOW, MOST OF THE TIME. Attention
(focus) should be both top down, intellectual, and bottom up, derived from the
sensation of touching the keys. Both need to be kept within the pieces rhythmic
framework.

The chunk: it is a crucial point of judgment to choose the right sort of chunk and to
choose it well. Children and novices often go astray at this basic initial stage. The chunk
must not be very big! The goal is to come to be able to repeat any chunk at will (out of
context). This also aids recovery from slips, as one has the ability to jump ahead to a
well-known, secure, following chunk, thereby preserving continuity.

Once fingering has been worked out, via first readings with separate hands, one can work
intensively on the chunk. It must be mastered at a slow speed, with uncompromising
adherence to the chosen fingering. By mastery Grante means being able to play the
chunk at least 7 times in a row without the slightest error or infelicity, be it rhythmic,
fingering-wise, note-wise, or of any other sort. One practises the chunk until is it learned
correctly in this sense.

If one cannot repeat the passage 7 times in a row correctly, either the chunk is too long,
or the speed (horizontal density) is too fast, given the complexity of the notes, melody,
chords, harmonies or any other aspect. If that is the case, one then either breaks the
passage down into smaller chunks or studies it at a slower speed, and tries again.

The piece is gradually stitched together from these mastered chunks, first hands
separately, then hands together. Each chunk is overlapped into the next and tested, then
extended further, and so on. The slightest deviation from the chosen fingering or the
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slightest uncertainty over the notes or the slightest rhythmic error or unevenness must be
noticed and fixed during this early stage, before playing any faster or linking the given
chunk to its neighbour.

From other literature on excellence in other fields, e.g. the works of Daniel Coyle, cited
by Grante, one might bring in here the notion of the Daily Achievable Perfection. Coyle,
who is a pioneer in applying insights from elite sport to elite musicianship, suggests
aiming to get one thing right, however small, each day or at each Practice Session. A
chunk is an ideal thing to get right in this way. One really really learns a tiny chunk, and
then it is secure and ready to be linked to other parts of the piece.

Grante in Fundamentals takes as given that learners know what a Practice Session is, but
such basics bear repeating. A Practice Session is most definitely NOT a few minutes
stolen from the rest of ones day to tinkle a few ivories or mess around at the piano.
Rather it is a dedicated block of time devoted to a specific, pre-planned musical task,
such as mastering the fingering and notes (visually, aurally, kinaesthetically,
intellectually and music-theory wise) of a given chunk, or of a given scale, or time
devoted to a given task or careful play-through.

Many successful musicians keep practice diaries in which they write down what they aim
to achieve in each session and rate their success in doing so. Ideally one has a regular
time or times to practice every day (concert pianists like Shura Cherkassky, on the advice
of his teacher Josef Hofmann, practiced 4 hours a day, without fail, every day of his 70-
year long performing career.) One tries to begin each Practice Session in a good mood, in
the zone (another sports term), feeling relaxed, committed and full of curiosity about
what one is about to study.

According to the cognitive science and management website Pomodoro, the average
attention span of full concentration of the typical adult is rarely longer than 25 minutes.
The Pomodorians suggest a short break after each 25-minute period or a switch to a new
task for adults. Childrens attention spans are commensurately shorter. They sell a red
tomato-shaped timer that dings after the chosen number of minutes. Other timers work
just as well they do not have to be red!

How much repetition is required to learn a piece of music, or a chunk of it?


Grante quotes various maestri of the past who say that if one finds e.g. that 7 perfect
repetitions in a row are what it may require to get a chunk right in the sense of e.g. notes
and fingering, one may have made a start, but one should not for a second dream that this
is enough. A good rule of thumb is that one has done fewer than a third of the total reps
that will be required in order to make the chunk secure in all situations, on all pianos, in
all performance situations, wherever one may need to recall the passage in order to play it
in accordance with ones (previously worked out) internal ideal concept of the piece.

Many illustrious teachers have recommended the chocolates method or its more adult
variants to motivate the pupil to keep at it and not give up until s/he has achieved a useful
number of successful reps of a given chunk. Counters used in this stratagem have
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included: buttons, chocolates (see Artur Rubinsteins memoirs) such as Smarties /


M&Ms, ceramic coffee beans, coloured marbles, and pencil marks in groups of 5, or
however many, on a piece of paper. However one counts ones chosen number of
successful repetitions in a row, it is valuable to count them.

Fundamentals presents a piano methodology summarised as 22 principles. Several of


these may be singled out as especially useful.

Principle No. 3
During the productive practice phase, the player moves from the state of "flow" to
the state of "committed practice". Committed practice can be strenuous. This
phase of learning a piece normally takes up many more hours than the typical
novice or young pupil may suppose.

Here, first one should always practice with clear goals (expectations and rules that are
understandable and goals that are achievable, goals that are well aligned with the skills
and abilities of the player).

Engaging in tasks that may be too easy (e.g."reading through" without paying careful
attention) is unproductive, as they increase the probability that the student will race ahead
with inadequate resources (e.g. play too fast, too soon), which is counterproductive.

In committed practice one aims to challenge ones resources and abilities in order to
stimulate a compensatory response. This results in a higher level of ability and greater
command over the task at hand. One thus plays as well as prior knowledge and
experience allow, with durable end-results.

Principle No. 7
The chain of cause-effect events reinforced and consolidated by committed
practice is the following:

Visual stimulus - auditory stimulus - anticipation of motor act - motor act resulting
in actual sound - auditory perception and evaluation of the actual sound.

That is, one does NOT allow the eyes to stimulate the fingers. One does not proceed
from what the eyes see on the score to something happening in the fingers. Rather, one
first has to HEAR inwardly what the eyes see (this means that one has to learn to be able
to sing each part of it). Then one PLANS the shape of the hand and what the fingers are
going to be called upon to do as they move through space to and on the keyboard (the
gesture), then one plays (executes the motor act), and then one listens carefully to
evaluate the sound produced, comparing it to ones pre-planned intention with respect to
the desired sound.

Grante likes Busonis concept of technical phrasing and also Changs concept of
parallel sets: each set in the Chang sense is basically a new hand position, as
determined by the position of e.g. the thumb. Thus, in Chang each thumb-under may
mark the beginning of a new set and a new hand position that has to be learned as a
shape that moves through space. That is, each set corresponds to a basic gesture that
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has its own pre-planned, conscious phrasing, chord-weight, hidden interval glissando or
other expressive musical effect of which other gestures, encompassing more notes, are
made of.

When the sets are figured out, and the technical phrasing is chosen, one begins the stage
of Overlearning, a massive number of repetitions of the passage, at this level of
musicality.

Beginners and struggling intermediates often get discouraged with their rates of progress,
and conclude wrongly that they are not very musical, when what they really need to do is
to spend much more time and effort on Overlearning, so that their inner abilities may be
brought to fruition.

Grante identifies 4 stages of Methodological Learning of a piece of music according to


the Methodology expounded in Criteri / Fundamentals. They are:

1. Studying the score away from the instrument. This should proceed chunk by chunk,
attempting to hear every nuance. Do this while listening to recordings, if available, and
follow them repeatedly, with score in hand. In addition, Grante recommends George
Wedge's century-old method, Advanced Ear-Training and Sight-Singing, recently
reprinted by Nabu Press and downloadable free on the web, to develop ones harmonic
and melodic ear. He also recommends the softwares Auralia and Practica Musica. The
student is urged to pay attention (in sequence) to:

Tempo markings and indications of character (starting with the title of the piece)
Metre
Key
Melodic contours and articulation (NB these should never be separated into
independent elements)
Rhythmic figurations, with their metrical emphasis and articulation
Absolute pitches, combined with their horizontal dynamics and articulation

2. Virtual Practice. This is visualized practice, the silent, mental, virtual


execution of ones music, as developed by e.g. Franois Richard, author of Music in Your
Head. If you really know (sic) the score and the fingering, etc., you should be able to
close your eyes and play the passage in the air or on a hard surface (Grante finds the
former more effective), with all the correct intervals, correct shape of the hand
(gesture), correct fingering and so on, while inwardly hearing the quality of sounds that
you would have produced had you been playing on a real piano.

3. Work at the keyboard. The manual chunk. The important thing is that there be a
very strong correspondence between the chunk and the form of the hand before touching
a key. Planning ahead in this way is essential! Connecting expressive elements with
precise and deliberate gestures actually strengthens technical command, Grante
maintains, especially when phraseology, slurs, accents, articulation, etc., are themselves
performed gesturally (conceived as movements of the hand through space).
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Practice at a very slow tempo, on a very short portion (chunk) of music, all the while
exaggerating technical-expressive details (finger articulation and wrist choreography,
focusing on the grip of the key, physically pre-planning or pre-determining what one
is about to do). Such practicing is not designed merely to achieve a more comfortable
feel, to surpass the first phase of reading or to obtain some executive mastery, but to
internalize, crystallize, and sculpt the actual execution of the movement.

An important word of caution from the maestro: one must never rush the results of hasty
practice into too-early performance. Students, amateurs with day jobs, and exam-takers
live under multiple time constraints. The implication of this reality is that they must make
proper allowance for these constraints.

One stratagem, recommended by virtually all expert teachers and academic specialists in
piano performance, involves scheduling multiple, frequent trial runs, before ever-more-
serious and critical audiences, until the student can replicate what he or she has decided
to do with the piece at any time, before any listener and on any instrument.

The not-altogether facetious rule of thumb for testing ones ability to perform music in
public is that one plays ones pieces first to ones teddy-bear, then to ones goldfish, then
to a recording device, then to ones dog or cat, then to some hard-of-hearing listeners,
friendly friends or uncritical relatives, then while busking on the side of a road, then in a
piano bar, and only after having succeeded with such well-disposed, easy-to-please or
otherwise-distracted listeners does one perform before more critical audiences of peers,
teachers, parents, and so on, moving inexorably up the scale of formality, pressure and
musicological discernment to the most serious, formidable and important audiences one
may have to play for: examiners, adjudicators, competition judges, music critics and the
concert-going, blog-writing public. The implication of this scaling-up of the planned
series of trial performances is that students need to plan to know their music well, far
ahead of the important public performance dates, in order to achieve security and
musical, intended playing on the day. One becomes so used to performing ones
programme that only the music counts, not the audience one is playing it to.

Like an actor, an interpreter of music must train his/her emotional and conceptual
communication skills, while simultaneously intensifying what s/he is feeling in order to
perfect the recitation, according to Carlo Grante. Like an actor, a musician must submit
his/her psyche, body, intellect and emotions to a rigorous workout. Know thyself and thy
music!

- Deconstruct the piano writing into primary elements (actually play them as
virtual orchestral parts) and always study one part at a time before one attempts to
play the music as written.

- First, always study hands separately.

- Always sing mentally every note that is played.


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- Dont let the hands move automatically. A hand movement is always a gesture,
the ultimate act of something first mentally ideated, visualized, and thought out,
and only then executed.

- Memorize a suitable gestural choreography for each sonic detail; this task is
made easier if it is suggested by the musical physiology of the piece:
accentuations, fermatas, Luft cues (technical "breaths"), leaps, dynamics, etc.

- Always focus on the task with analytical awareness, placing each note in a sonic
mental grid according to its function, be it tonal, rhythmic, passing note, etc.

- Be sure to memorize while learning, NEVER afterwards. The goal is not to be


familiar with or used to playing the music, but to know it. (This does not
imply, however, that one aims invariably to perform without the score.)

- Plan ahead. Ask yourself what you are about to play in words. This is an
indispensable way to verify what you are doing: articulate to yourself the note-
pitches, intervals, dynamics, sequences, modulations, fingering, etc. Narrate what
is happening in the music.

- Always write in fingerings, not solely as a reminder of the right finger for a
particular note but for the purpose of reinforcing the correspondence between
fingers and notes each time the score is looked at.

- Always practice with the score, except when testing your memory with a
scoreless performance. This may seem counter-intuitive to the would-be virtuoso
pianists addressed in Fundamentals, but it is not.

- Practice a portion of music at a time with delayed continuity: play first in the
mind, then on the keyboard. This method is highly effective.

- Count out loud. This is extremely effective, not only for rhythmic accuracy and
stability, but for improved mental clarity, concentration and awareness of what
one is playing.

- Always maintain full control when playing a piece or a portion of it. This
includes never playing at a speed faster than one can actually manage correctly.
Trying out a piece too soon is highly counter-productive: one must always
create solid foundations, then build solidly on them, then move on the next level,
and so on.

The Rule of 7. Aiming to achieve 7 flawless repetitions in a row does much more,
according to Grante, than indicate how many iterations may be enough -- in fact 7 is
never anywhere nearly sufficient for learning a passage of piano music completely
securely, beautifully and well. It rather points up something of a quite different nature.
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These flawless repetitions, one after the other, are meant to create replicability of a
certain quality of execution, before any more reps are done.

When practicing, one aims to gradually get closer at the chosen tempo for the
repetition of a passage to an ideal, crystallized intended quality of performance.

One gradually intensifies ones image of such a performance, in all its sensory, cognitive
and emotional detail, in a vivid and synergistic way. One imposes a perfectionism on
oneself, requiring mastery of all the ultimate elements, but at the practice speed.

This early insistence on the highest standards leads to solid and durable learning,
according to Grante. (This is why the Methodology will harder to convey to pupils who
are only tepidly interested in improving their playing; such students may be incredulous
to hear that such commitment is necessary. Many current teaching approaches and online
lesson-givers jolly beginners and intermediate players into thinking that the piano is
relatively fun and easy to learn. However, whatever the degree of the students
commitment, the maestros experience suggests that the Methodology can work for
everyone. With pupils who dont yet know if they really care this much, the Methodology
can be further stripped down in time and intensity, and still permit steady improvement.

4. Verification: re-writing (re-composing) the score on paper

This is a wonderful exploratory and compositional process, according to Grante. The


interpreter re-composes from memory the piece s/he is playing. This reveals and
demonstrates, note by note, the students predominant mode of learning. If we are able to
play a piece by heart, or even if we do not aspire to do this, but wish nevertheless to
perform it well and securely with the score, why do we have so much difficulty rewriting
it the same way? The student must face the truth about his/her knowledge of the piece;
s/he gains insight into personal modes of learning and study habits, which tend to favour
one mode (often, unfortunately, kinetic) over the others, including the internal singing of
each note of multi-part music, which, as we have seen, is often neglected. Three main
difficulties tend to emerge when one tries to re-compose the score on paper:

a. One can remember how the music sounds, but not which notes make those
sounds. This reveals gaps in ones knowledge of music theory.

b. One can remember the tactile and kinesthetic action but not its sound. This
shows up inadequacies in prior ear (aural) training.

c. One has to run to the keyboard to verify a fuzzy recollection of everything.

Rewriting the composition from memory, away from the piano and omitting no
expressive detail, is an effective if radical method for consolidating the knowledge of the
music one is learning. Obviously, however, a performance unfolds in real time, while its
re-composition does not.
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It is useful to learn to recognize, from mere listening, melodic and harmonic functions
and their position in the tonal grid of each piece. In this regard, many experts believe that
solmization with "movable Do" provides a more effective training than the one using a
"fixed Do", and that this solfege-ladder, which is slowly spreading around the world
in music teaching, should be taught to and used by all students.

The solfege-ladder gives to each of the twelve sounds of an octave a name-code based on
its position in the home key, rather than its absolute pitch. It has proved particularly
useful to try to hear and recognize the scale degrees of any melody as they are sounded.
This works best after practicing singing solfege using the numbers corresponding to the
degree of the scale (i.e. using number-name solfege) and not just the names of the notes
(the letter-names or note-names like C, D, or E). George Wedge's ear-training method,
developed in the 1920s, is today unsurpassed in its effectiveness of educating a
contextual musical ear, both melodically and harmonically.

One cannot expect to pursue music as a profession without being able to recognize, in a
symphonic or chamber work, or for that matter in a work involving any ensemble or
instrument, from listening to it without the score, at least a progression of an elementary
type, like I-vi-iii-IV-ii-V, in all triad and seventh chord inversions, as well as to identify
modulations to related keys. The ever increasing popularity of the study of Ear-Training,
which is a subject matter of crucial importance, has led to the creation of new computer
software, such as the formidable Auralia and Practica Musica.

Some useful tests - here in ascending order of difficulty - which the pianist can use to
monitor and stimulate the effectiveness of the state of his/her contextual ear, after
memorization of a given piece, are:

1. playing the piece from memory at an exceedingly slow tempo


2. playing it from memory, hands separately
3. as above, mimicking the performance with one hand (playing "virtually",
on a flat surface or a silent keyboard) and playing the piano with the other
4. hands together, playing from memory with one hand transposed to another
octave
5. playing from memory a passage using a new fingering
6. playing from memory a passage using only one finger. Here the kinetic
associations given by the hand position at the keyboard are missing, which
stimulates a better knowledge of intervallic distances
7. playing from memory in a different key
8. playing from memory with hands crossed but each hand playing what is
originally assigned to it in the score
9. playing from memory, with one hand playing the other hands music
10. as above, hands together (very difficult)
11. as above, in other keys (extremely difficult)

In the latter types of tests, if the student cannot do them, he or she may realize that s/he
knows the kinetic sequence of piano keys better than the actual notes, and may have only
14

a vague idea of the notes melodic and harmonic functions. Here the drills of
transposition from memory are merciless tests.

How successfully we can invert the hands is a first true verification of the state of
knowledge of a piece because, in this exercise, performance memory of a pianist's hand
movements does not benefit from associations developed in playing with the other
hand, which may often not know each detail exactly per se.

Art and technique are inseparable. This is one of Grantes most dearly-held principles.

***

Brief exposition of some applications of Carlo Grantes Methodology to


piano practice

Fundamentals ends with a chapter setting out the benefits and costs of selected practice
methods and stratagems.

1. Intensive repetition of a portion of music


The pianist works on every single element and on the entire section, patiently, without
giving in to the urge to rush or to the impulse to pass on to something else. The
contextual study of two different things, such as comparing two passages or two portions
of music, can stimulate focus and attention here. This approach satisfies the
Methodological principle that builds on the insight that non-complex multi-tasking
enhances alertness.

1.a. The juxtaposition of two sections must, however, be carried out precisely and for
methodological reasons, not as a distraction or for variety always on the assumption
that we strive for concrete results and with a view to learning to play musically, securely
and well. Multi-tasking does not really exist according to the neuroscientists - if anything,
it is an alternation of attention among several things. However if the elements are not
simultaneous, or do not overlap in areas of perceptual domain, such "multi-tasking" is not
distractive.

2. Gestural emphasis of phraseological and accentuative elements of the piece


Applying Eysencks principle of "distinctiveness" to piano practice, gestural emphasis of
musically remarkable elements relevant to expression helps not only to focus the pianists
attention but to retain them in memory. This is because, other things equal, distinctive or
unique impressions of objects, sounds or movements are more readily remembered.

Gestural emphasis also binds together the forces of synergy among sensory, affective
(emotional) and cognitive modalities; it promotes synesthesia and creates useful cues for
performance. Chaffin and Imreh stress the utility of this approach in their book
Practicing Perfection. (see bibliography)
15

Principle No. 17
Technical pre-determination:
Practicing with "postponed key attack", lingering in the air while mentalizing and
preparing the technical act, is highly effective in promoting confidence, security and
clarity of execution.

3. Slow, loud and "cantabile" practice


Slowing down the tempo dilutes the density of musical material. Committing to a psycho-
physical investment in the music enhances attention. This focus is intensified by using
forte dynamics and by singing and emotionally integrating with each key-sound. By
doing this, the pianist achieves a better state of pre-determination and a better balance
between opportunities (challenges) and his/her ability, achieving better control over
his/her playing and doing so without polluting the sound image or compromising with an
approximate, erroneous, or un-rhythmic technical rendition.

Principle No. 18
The old method of practicing "slow and forte," formerly dismissed as mere muscle
calisthenics, is an effective way of producing strong and prolonged impressions of each
element in the mind, on account of the more intense (forte) and longer-lasting (more
slowly played) stimuli. That is, it promotes learning.

It is useful to bear in mind here that in the case of piano, "external cues" that may be
reinforced during slow and forte practice that are of an intrinsic, interior type refer to
those relating to the musical language of the composer, to the compositional structure of
the piece or to the instrument. Cues of an extrinsic, exterior type relate to the practice
environment, the students home piano, the teachers environment. Linking to these can
be harmful and create a sense of unease in performances, which nearly always are given
in unfamiliar settings.

Practice methods that apply these ideas:

1. The use of Fermatas (Points of Stasis) An important stratagem used by pianists for
practice purposes is to insert stasis points or fermatas in the passage being studied. These
may be inserted either on a given note itself (1), instructing the player to hold and extend
it, or (2) before a given note ("in the air"). The methods express two different principles
within the logic of using "delayed continuity" to clarify what one is doing and thereby to
hasten learning.

A first approach treats the fermata as an opportunity to pause over a note (or chord) in
order to relax, physically and mentally; the pianist then moves on to another point of
stasis; the pattern of stopping and starting again may be rhythmically regular or not. At
each stasis the player has the chance mentally to anticipate what s/he needs to play up
until the next stasis, thus applying the principle of "delayed continuity." The points of
stasis between the series of repetitions can be spaced away from each other in
16

geometrical progression (e.g. stopping every two notes, then every four, eight, and so on),
gradually increasing the difficulty of the task. (This is a variant of the Accumulator
see below).

If the points of stasis are metrically superimposed on strong beats and strong subdivisions
of the beat, there is good internal consistency and a derived structural significance for
each stopping point.

This last principle is unfortunately violated in study involving rhythmic variation, when
the points of stasis may fall on weak subdivisions. This produces syncopated notes that
are inconsistent with the deep structure of the composition - although the purpose of these
exercises, of course, is to improve the pianists motor coordination.

Practicing with points of stasis on strong beats and subdivisions of beats gives optimal
results when the player anticipates mentally during the fermata the next segment to be
played, at the same time as he/she tries to benefit from the most complete muscle
relaxation possible. In this way one creates "stations" of reference points that make useful
mental anchors in performance. The result of this type of exercise, if conducted in
accordance with a true state of relaxation at the points of stasis, is palpable and gives a
heightened, long-lasting improvement of psycho-physical coordination, because it links
an action of movement (a short series of notes) to a mental anchor that is in turn hooked
onto a structural point in the metric geometry of the piece.

(B) The exercise of stopping before the initial note or chord of a section, or of a string of
notes (at least two), belongs to a somewhat different practice logic, since the moment of
stasis is not on the note but before it. Rather than a fermata on the note, one makes an ad
lib. stasis on the Luft that precedes it. In certain schools of pianism, the stasis is made by
literally hanging "in the air", encouraging the performer to take an aerial snapshot of the
geometry of the keyboard and to make a better mental pre-determination (applying in full
the principle of "delayed continuity ") than is possible when making a stasis on the first
note.

Principle No. 20
Pre-determination in the execution of an action:
The method of "delayed continuity" involves making a stasis during which one performs
a passage mentally before actually playing it. This is highly effective in promoting mental
clarity, accurate mind-mapping and pre-determination of the motions and expression
needed in the playing.

2. The use of Rhythmic Variation; the Accumulator


Many pianists, especially at the primary and intermediate stages of training, rely on a
type of practicing of passages or sections of their music that involves the use of the
stratagem of Rhythmic Variation. They may even employ a systematic protocol or
sequence of these variations, which may allow them to reach a certain skill of execution
from the first practice session on a new piece. One temporarily displaces the accent
placed on a given note of a chunk or passage, allowing each note or chord in turn to have
17

its own temporary stasis or stopping point, which is a relaxation state. The pianist may
apply this technique to a short sequence of fast notes involving each group of notes of the
passage.

As such, this type of practice is ideal for getting rid of unwanted muscular tension. In
order to achieve this, each stasis must involve complete relaxation of the relevant muscles
for its entire duration i.e. when practicing, the stasis must be as long as necessary so
that the fermata can create a moment in which tensions are eliminated and the mind can
think ahead to the next notes to play.

The Accumulator is a device in this vein that has been favoured by many teachers; we
give credit for the sobriquet to Marta Encinas, though she says it has an ancient lineage. It
involves adding additional notes to the passage or chunk or scale being practiced, a note
at a time: n1+n2, n1+n2+n3, of course while sticking to the chosen fingering, chosen
tempo, chosen rhythmic variation, chosen articulation, etc. The Accumulator can be
practiced hands separately and, much later, hands together. Any dynamic or rhythmic
pattern can be built up in this way, so it may be viewed as the most basic practice
stratagem within both Fermatas and Rhythmic Variation. One builds up the length of the
chunk or sequence gradually, achieving the self-chosen number of flawless repetitions in
a row before adding the next note or increasing the tempo. An infinite variety of
sequences ending with Fermatas (stasis points), an infinite variety of rhythms and of
patterns of accentuation can be practiced with the Accumulator.

There are downsides to these stratagems, however. Like antibiotics, the effect of the
Rhythmic Variation is "eliminativist": if applied well, it destroys unwanted hotbeds of
residual tension and hesitation. Also like antibiotics, if this kind of interrupting of the
flow of the music becomes a systemic, baseline practice rather than a temporary or
corrective exercise, it can destroy the students sense of the metric hierarchy (since the
points of stasis accentuate both strong and weak subdivisions of the beat) informing not
only the structure of the piece, but the pianists entire mental-structural metric grid that
study of the piece has generated in their vision of the score.

These stratagems may improve security and accuracy and fluency, but one must beware
of effects on the subtlety of ones playing. If Rhythmic-Variations exercises are carried
out with the accents on long notes, we cannot hope to generate playing that has
crystallized nuances, dynamic shadings or subtle accents. There is even the risk that these
nuances may be made to conflict with one another and the range of expression flattened.
This is the objection that some schools of pianism have against the Rhythmic-Variations
method, though others (e.g. Fanny Waterman) rely on it heavily.

As this is a practice stratagem designed to increase ease of execution of tasks involved in


playing a given passage accurately and securely, it is trusted and privileged by young
players seeking to do well on exams, by adult returners, and by serious piano students
who keenly wish to play better but seek quick fixes owing to time constraints. A side
benefit of the Rhythmic Variation approach is that it encourages maintenance of an
inertial type of attention while paradoxically fostering a disengaged and distracted
18

attitude in the player. The rhythmic variety that is integral to this approach accords with
the principle that the great psychologist William James worked out from his famous "dot
test", whereby an object engages our attention because its very simplicity bores us into
searching out ever newer angles to view it from.

As to the side effect of inhibiting metric articulation, (precisely on account of its


homogenizing effect), this practice protocol is not recommended for harpsichord or
fortepiano players.

It is almost certainly useless in the study of pieces characterized by high entropy and
complex articulative detail such as Mozarts Sonata K. 281 (a work featured in Maestro
Grantes forthcoming book Study Notes on Masterpieces of the Piano Repertoire). Nor it
is of value for mastering pieces which exhibit vast polyphonic, polydynamic entropy with
an "anti-pattern" element to it, such as many of Godowskys Etudes on Chopin's Etudes,
or for much piano music not constructed around the typical patterns of keyboard
vocabulary born in the Classical and Romantic eras.

Much music by e.g. Liszt and Mendelssohn does however lend itself to this type of
practicing, by virtue of the nature (viz. the metrical and instrumental patterns) of the
writing.

In sum, when appropriate, practicing using Points of Stasis (Fermatas) and Rhythmic
Variation can have a strong positive effect on sequential finger memory, even though we
need to be aware that finger memory is largely unconscious, not very reliable and
requires constant refreshing even at the stage of pre-performance preparation. Still, these
methods have a positive effect on musical memory and can be very helpful. It is most
helpful to rely on two subcomponents of the method:

1. Place the points of stasis on the longer notes, which provides an important
stimulus to learning and remembering them.

2. Use a diversity of note-groupings, which stimulates and smoothes the sequence


of muscular contractions and relaxations. This is effectively the Accumulator,
recommended by many teachers for increasing facility, accuracy and security.

Many pianists apply the method of Rhythmic Variants as a latter phase of a learning
procedure. They put more emphasis on other stratagems to counter unwanted tension in
their playing, or focus specifically on cognitive and muscle stimuli. Carlo Grante
recommends the use of this stratagem but reform the method rather than adopting it in
its entirety, since it risks yielding playing of inferior quality to what is needed for
performance at the highest standard. He uses the method but stresses the need for precise
and careful application so that it never lulls the student into mental inertia.

Summary: If properly done, practicing using Rhythmic Variation favours learning


and memorization of passages of piano music, thanks to the way the attention and
memory are stimulated by constantly varying (displacing) the accents, rhythms, and
19

points of stasis.

3. Counting out loud


This practice stratagem favours the pre-determination of each element in the time frame.
Having to put everything that one plays in that "place in time" stressed by Matthay forces
the pianist to manage each sound event also in terms of technical command and psycho-
physical coordination. The first skill to be put to the test, in fact, is the coordination
between the vocalization of the time signature (as the player says the numbers) and the
technical gesture of the hands, which is guided and influenced by the voice in a specific
time frame. This reinforces cleanness and pre-determination of each of the gestures sub-
movements. Although it may seem a humiliating request to "keep the tempo by
counting", that is a huge misconception. The method is actually more effective for mental
pre-determination and technical discipline than for rhythmic control.

Practicing while counting the metre out loud, subdividing it if necessary, depending on
speed of execution, is highly effective in promoting mental clarity about the work being
studied. It fosters the ability to pre-determine ones performance in real time and
promotes mental and physical acuity.

4. Practicing random sections: mental mapping of a piece


Sequential memorization occurs quite naturally in everyday life, allowing us to remember
one thing by connecting it with the previous one in a sequence (be it temporal, spatial,
visual, etc.). Each performer develops this way of associating elements in a temporal
unravelling of the music, because of the unidirectional movement of it. The sequential
nature of memory can be imagined as being like a string of Christmas lights; if we want
to be sure that the string will light up (at least in sets available until recently), each
individual tiny light has to be working. The analogy applied to music suggests that we
can minimize errors and improve quality generally if we practice our pieces in sections
and micro-sections, taking them out of the musical structure of the piece at random,
disregarding the consecutive temporal order of the passages and focusing in on each sub-
section by itself. We improve each little light individually.

Practicing sections at random is very useful. Because it breaks up the music and inhibits
retrospective and prospective connections to other parts of the structure, the student gets
to know the beginning of every section thoroughly and precisely, gets a clearer
understanding of the section and at the same time sees the piece as a whole from a new
perspective.

A useful study (done by every professional pianist) is to focus on each section separately,
bearing in mind its structural role and place in the piece's architecture. This is most
notably useful in studying a classical sonata, whose shape often has a strong structural
determinism. In this case, without necessarily succumbing to academic taxonomies,
knowing where we are in the formal unfolding of the music, but at the same time (in fact,
thanks to this) knowing what that particular spot represents, being able to extrapolate it at
will, has the dual effect of creating a lucid knowledge of the particular section and a
deeper understanding of its role within the piece.
20

Practicing individual sections can be done while paying attention to the graphic form or
look of the score, for example memorizing from the beginning of a staff line (or
memorizing the beginning and the end of it). This helps one visualize a challenging score.
In this case, it is obvious that the type of learning that is most stressed is the visual, but
we can safely take for granted that in the mutual inference and multi-channel perception
of sensory modes involved in learning to play piano music, we should not try to separate
an item or parameter from all the others.

The more one matures in life and in art, the more one is convinced that why things are
done (by anyone, for that matter) is more important than how. One comes to realize that
the how is the means to achieve the why. Understanding the why of a section, why the
music is written the way it is at a specific time and place, is crucial if one wishes to
achieve performance mastery. Performance excellence must always be the expression of
fundamental principles, not slave to an ad hoc need to negotiate technical or expressive
demands. Practicing each section individually, keeping in perspective its relation to the
piece as a whole, is in many ways a kind of proprioceptive (look this word up!) education
applied to the particular passage being studied.

Principle No. 22
Mental mapping of the sections of a piece is a prerequisite for control during
performance. The pianist must have a clear mental image and knowledge of the
beginning of every motive or section, knowing it not only in relationship to the sequential
sections that precede it, but as a separate portion of the piece.

4. Practicing at increasing tempos


This method appeals to many, not least due to its potential to create disengagement and
an anti-anxiety state of mind. It requires putting aside all haste and impulsiveness and
creeping up the ladder of progressively higher speeds designated by notches on the
metronome (now superseded by digital numbers and electronic beeps). Some
considerations are important for the optimization of this practice method, which has its
pros and cons. It must be said that for purely cognitive reasons we tend to overestimate
the depth and durability of newly acquired information and also to believe that we
possess new skills - in this instance due to our having practiced a given passage on
account of the sense of security provided by ones short term memory of a recent
stimulus (the so-called recency effect) and the apparent safety resulting from the
repetition of a series of technical gestures.

In truth, durable and reliable acquisition of a skill may require more than a series of
iterations and the mistake we easily fall into is feeling able to play at a speed (which for
the moment seems doable) that lies above our real ability, or feeling able to play a section
of the music that is longer than the current assimilation of what is being studied allows.

Especially in the case of music that is being studied for the first time, we should not be in
a hurry to dial up the frequency of metronome's beeps. It is advisable to up the speed over
21

several practice sessions. One way to make this method effective is to increase the speed
of execution only after being able to repeat the passage perfectly a certain number of
times (from a minimum of 7 upwards). This is sometimes a frustrating type of practice, as
we are forced to reset the counter of repetitions at the first error and start all over again.
This practice builds up control over execution. However such control must not lead to the
introduction of an overly careful or prudent technique (e.g. tentatively touching or
covering every key before playing it) that would undermine proper preparation. Would
we really prefer Gilels with a "prudent" technique instead of his courageous, heroic way
of attacking each note, projecting it to the world with all its cantabile power?

5. Practicing "staccato" or with varied articulation


Staccato practice of a passage, abstracting completely from the kind of articulation and
touch desired in actual performance, has the effect of evoking an intense cognitive and
muscular response. Cognitively, it is certain that separating the sound of a note in relation
to another, thanks to the rest and the staccato touch, even if not properly of a musical
kind, produces a pause in the sound and individualizes that note compared to others. This
feeling or idea of separation is the result of a type of Gestalt perception. Each note is
surrounded by a silence that allows a quick mental framing of the particular sound. So, an
increased density of attention is generated, with good effects on learning.

Secondly, when we study a passage using strong finger-staccato, we employ detailed


rapid negative articulation. This practice jibes with one of the fundamental principles of
plyometric training; it is known to produce reliable acquisition and strong improvement
of technical movements. In some schools, practicing staccato with emphasized negative
articulation (as Liszt apparently suggested) is held to be the basis of the development of
an agile and finely-tuned digital prowess.

In a thorough study of the generative processes of the language of music, composer Fred
Lerdahl and linguist Ray Jackendoff combine Gestalt psychology with music to work out
a set of axioms, rules of formation and groupings that the mind uses in musical
perception. One of their Grouping Preference Rules, the GPRa rule (Proximity rule)
identifies the caesura of articulation between sounds, other conditions equal (rhythm,
pitch, timbre, etc.), as generating perception of separation and detection of individual
notes or groups of notes. According to this innate property of human perception, it is
easier to individualize (i.e. focus on) an accented note than a slurred one. This is a main
reason, acknowledged by many pianists, for the effectiveness of staccato practice,
regardless of the purely technical benefits mentioned before. Conversely, practicing with
strong commitment to the key-bed a passage that is supposed to be performed staccato,
i.e. altering the original articulation, is useful because it stimulates increased interaction
with the key itself.

By virtue of their Grouping Principle GPR 2a, invoked by detaching a note, when it is
slurred to another, that note is also grouped to it. Therefore, practicing a passage while
varying slurs and staccato notes helps one maintain focus and deconstructs the
consecutive elements mentally and physically. Hand and mind are subjected to an
22

additional workout. In applying this "pluralistic" approach to practice, Chopin's Etude op.
10 No. 10 is of quintessential utility, though of course in performance the player must
comply fully with the articulation instructions of the composer.

The final chapters Fundamentals of Piano Methodology contain two valuable tables, as
follows:

Table 1: Characteristics of the 3 Main Approaches to Technique

In those books, Grante analyses three main approaches in detail, historically and in their
relationship to his Methodology.

Efficacy of specific Physio-kinetic Psycho- Psycho-technical


approach to: approach physiological- approach
gesturalapproach
1. TECHNICAL Very good, if the Very good, if the Depending on the
SOLIDITY AND system and ritual music one plays has complexity of the
SECURITY technical been properly piece and the state
preparation is integrated into the of contextual focus
observed in the players psycho- of the performer.
manner and time physical sphere and There is a less
prescribed by its crystallized meticulous
"protocol". Subject gesturally through technical
to failure due to meticulous study preparation, done
stage fright. For and prior try-outs. with the aim of
this reason, the It can be even facilitating piano-
most reliable pieces exceptional in cases playing and
are those that fit of high inspiration. smoothing technical
typical instrumental It allows a solid difficulties inherent
personality of the reliability in works in the instrumental
performer. Less of varied writing.
reliable in newly complexity; the
learned pieces. pianist's technique
is supported by the
goal of sound
projection, which
optimizes the
mechanical training
in performance.

2.MNEMONIC Not always reliable, Great, not subject Exceptional. The


RETENTION liable to failure in to major failure if performer
cases of excessive the repertoire was "recreates" a real-
variety of repertoire learned, time compositional
23

and cases of internalized and process, with good


volume of integrated into the command of the
repertoire pianist's own language, the
exceeding what the consciousness and structure, the
pianist is used to in artistic, technical grammatical and
the prior and expressive aesthetic
educational phase. sphere. The parameters of the
Memorization often technical piece. The actual
occurs after preparation is learning of the
technical facility is linked to the piece is, in fact, via
acquired, at an process of musical its memorization,
advanced stage of memorization and with the latter being
preparation, so it is not only of a the first stage, not a
remains largely manual kind. late one.
estranged from the
rest of the process,
the last effect of a
habitual execution,
not its primary
contextual function.

3.RESISTANCE TO Good, if the Excellent, if the Generally excellent.


STAGE FRIGHT / players piece has pianist has had the Liable to
PERFORMANCE been successfully opportunity to breakdown and loss
ANXIETY tested on the piano prepare and try the of self-esteem in
and at the place of programme out case of insufficient
execution and if it according to the preparation, due to
does not have a principle of lack of performance
large entropy of "programmed experience of the
musical-linguistic experience", piece, since the
elements (harmonic making it part of preparation is
complexity, his/her own life and mainly based on
polyphonic, length, of his/her need for understanding the
variety of artistic composition and its
instrumental externalization. details rather than
elements). If not, Public its commitment to
the resistance is performance, memory thanks to
low, unless one has although not repeated physical
a long performing entirely free from practice.
experience of the anxiety, is managed
particular piece. as a moment of
Resistance to stage catharsis in a
fright is very low in personal epic, in
that case because of which the
inadequate performer enters a
technical phase of self-
24

preparation. representation, of
which the technique
and the instrument
are the final goal.

Table 2: Analytical Approaches to the Piano Lesson: "advisory


teaching" lessons vs. "training" lessons?
Piano teaching can be usefully divided into two distinct types according to Grante:
advisory-teaching and training-teaching. Grantes Methodology strongly supports
teachers giving of and the pupils seeking of the second type of piano lesson. By
contrast, master-classes fall firmly into the first category. In training-teaching lessons the
student has to pay attention, be trained and absorb musical ideas in the presence of the
teacher, not sit back, observe and promise to try to go and copy this at home. The
teacher foresees and pre-emptively prevents problems in the students playing rather than
letting them get started and then trying to advise the student how to overcome them. By
doing so, everything that is learned is also "fixed" more permanently in the mind and
hand of the student, contributing also to his/her overall improvement.

1. WHAT TO TEACH?

Teaching sessions Advisory teaching: Training teaching:


programme principle
Time frame and scheduling Spontaneously established It is predetermined by the
of sessions: depending on the student's teacher on the basis of an
needs, to compensate for educational itinerary that
his/her lack of information aims at building a solid
and to correct errors structure, in which each
element is linked to
another, previously
instructed and internalized

Effect on the musician's Increase of knowledge of Acquisition of knowledge


preparation: elements that are and skills linked to
instrumental to one's gradually assimilated and
progress; solidity and organically verified
durability of preparation abilities, in a way that
are not guaranteed by the guarantees their synergic
teaching session and permanent effects.
25

2. EFFECT on Musicians PROGRESS:

Teaching sessions Advisory teaching Training teaching


programme principle:
Verification of learned Each teaching session Each teaching session
elements and skills: verifies the effects of the makes a first verification of
preceding one, correcting its effects, with preventive
prior mistakes. correction of errors.

Effect on the musician's Progressive increase of Progressive increase of


preparation: skills and specific skills and specific
preparation. No preventive preparation programmed in
check of the student's work the particular session. Its
due to a lack of pre- real-time pre-verification
verification of its effects. traces the student's
progress until the following
session.

3. FREQUENCY OF TEACHING SESSIONS:

Teaching sessions Advisory teaching Training teaching


programme principle
Frequency of teaching Mutually established on the Sessions in close
sessions basis of teacher's and succession, determined by
student's availability or the estimated preparation
according to a course time for the assimilation of
syllabus. all elements pre-verified
during the lesson.
Ideally there should be 2
training lessons a week,
and on non-lesson days, the
pupil should practice with
a practice buddy. Also
ideally, the pupil should
perform once a week in
some fashion, with the
videos or recordings shared
with e.g. a Facebook
audience if a live audience
is not available.

End of: Carlo Grantes Fundamentals of Learning the Piano: preparing to play securely and well a
26

short introduction to his Methodology

Seminar Notes by Helen Heslop 07885 428 864


helenbossheslop@ntlworld.com hhpromotionslondon.com

*****

FOOTNOTES (abridged)

The solfege-ladder has 17 note-names, based on their position in the scale and their
chromatic alteration:
Do (C) - Di (C#) - Ra (Db) - Re (D) - Ri (D#) - Me (Eb) - E (E) - Fa (F) - Fi (F#) - Se (Gb)
So (G), Si (G#) Le (Ab) - A (A) - Li (A#) - Te (Bb) - Ti (B). Each of these represents the degree
of the note within a given scale, not its absolute pitch. This highlights therefore its contextual
harmonic function - just as we use Roman numerals to refer to the harmonic function (also a
notion relative to a given scale or key) of a bass note or a chord.

George Wedge's Advanced Ear-Training and Sight-Singing as applied to the study of


harmony (Schirmer, New York, 1922) is the most effective ear-training method. It applies both
fixed Do (using traditional letter-names for notes) and movable Do (using numbers as scale
degrees).
Wedge's method is the most effective for the development of a contextual harmonic ear,
and involves chordal dictation and singing of arpeggios. Just as with the singing of absolute
intervals (like a major 6th) and intervals within the context of a key (like the major 6th formed by
the 2nd and 7th degree of a major key), one detects harmonic functions (a 7th chord in first
invertion on ii, the 2nd degree of a minor key), recognizing not only the chord's harmonic "colour"
(in jazz it would be called a "6-chord"), but also its function of Subdominant with added 6th or 7th
chord on ii, as well as its "direction" (its propensity towards the Dominant harmony).

The recency effect stimulates the memory retention of the most recent elements or
stimuli, inversely proportional to the time elapsed between them and their memory.

In plyometric training one makes a gesture, both in its positive and negative path (as if
one were to replicate a gesture in reverse motion), such as a leap up after a fall, with the dual
effect of a surprising development of power and greater learning of the particular technical
movements.

Lerdahl and Jackendorff, authors of the important book, A Generative Theory of Tonal
Music, MIT Press, 1996.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: v. Carlo Grante, Fundamentals of Piano Methodology,


Rugginenti, 2013, free to seminar participants; available from the publisher, on Amazon and on
Kindle.