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Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing Josef Lhvinne

Etude Magazine. November, 1923
Departments: Interviews , Pianists

Basic Principles in PianofortePlaying

Secured Exclusively for The Etude by Interview with the Famous Virtuoso Pianist
This Series Began in the Etude for October

Etude Magazine Cover

November, 1923

Selected content from the

November, 1923 issue of The
Etude Magazine:

Special Notices and


Basic Principles in Pianoforte

Playing Josef Lhvinne

World of Music

You are reading Basic

Principles in Pianoforte
Playing Josef Lhvinne from
the November, 1923 issue of
The Etude Magazine.
World of Music is the previous
story in The Etude
Special Notices and
Announcements is the next
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IN our first discussion of this subject we dwelt at considerable length upon the fact that
before the student even considers the matters of technic and touch, a good grounding in Search
real musicianship is necessary. I cannot leave this phase of the matter without pointing
out that a knowledge of the keys, the common chords, and the seventh chords, should be
as familiar to the student as his own name. This would not be mentioned were it not for
the fact that I have repeatedly had students come for instruction who have after great
effort prepared one, two, or at the most three show pieces, even pieces as far advanced Categories
as the Tschaikowsky or the Liszt Concerto, who barely knew what key they were playing Advertisements (24)
in. As for understanding the modulations and their bearing upon the interpretations of Cartoons (16)
such complicated and difficult master works, they have been blissfully ignorant. Childrens Page (25)
Composers (148)
Study of this kind is not only a great waste of the pupils time but also a disgusting waste
Editorials (205)
of the time of the advanced teacher, who realizes that he is not training a real musician
Etude Gallery (48)
but a kind of musical parrot whose playing must always be meaningless. Often these
Five Minute Talks With Girls
pupils have real talent and cannot be blamed. They simply have had no teacher in the (10)
early years with patience and sufficient will power to hold them back until they have Interviews (88)
been exhaustively drilled in scales and arpeggios. A smattering will not do. They must Letters (14)
know all the scales in all the keys, major and minor, and they must literally know them Miscellaneous (136)
backwards. They must know the interrelationship of the scales; for instance, why G# Musicology (172)
minor bears a harmonic relationship to cflat major. Obituaries (13)
Organ & Choir (129)
Instinctive Fingering
Photographs (13)
The scales should be known so well that the students fingers will fly to the right Pianists (104)
fingering of any part of any scale instinctively. The trouble with many students is that Prize Winning Essays (13)
they attempt difficult problems in what might be termed musical calculus or musical Puzzle Pictures (7)
trigonometry without even ever mastering the multiplication table. Scales are musical Q&A (105)
multiplication tables. One good way of fixing them in the mind is to start to play the Recital Programs (61)
scales upon the different tones of the key consecutively. Special Notices (55)
Student Life and Work (10)
Take the scale of E major, for instance. Play it first this way, starting with the keynote. Teaching (204)
Violin (91)
Vocalists (136)
Womans Work In Music (43)
World of Music (199)

Monthly Archives
November 1887 (20)
Next start with the second note of the scale with the second finger, thus: July 1891 (31)
August 1891 (16)
December 1891 (5)
July 1893 (12)
October 1894 (4)
April 1895 (24)
May 1895 (26)
October 1895 (33)
January 1897 (10)
Then with the third finger, thus : April 1897 (8)
May 1897 (6)
June 1897 (11)
July 1897 (11)
October 1897 (5)
December 1897 (18)
February 1898 (7)
March 1898 (8)
May 1898 (6)
July 1898 (45)
November 1898 (5)
Then with the fourth note with the thumb, thus : December 1898 (7)
June 1899 (11)
September 1899 (16)
October 1899 (5)
November 1899 (4)
January 1900 (8)
February 1900 (7)
March 1900 (64)
April 1900 (7)
Continue throughout the whole scale; and then play them in similar manner with the June 1900 (15)
right and the left hand together. Treat all the scales in the same manner. July 1900 (8)
January 1901 (10)
Most pupils look upon scales as a kind of musical gymnasium for developing the muscles.
February 1901 (9)
They do that, of course, and there are few technical exercises that are as good; but their
March 1901 (5)
great practical value is for training the hand in fingering so that the best fingering in any
April 1901 (22)
key becomes automatic. In this way they save an enormous amount of time in later years.
May 1901 (9)
They also greatly facilitate sight reading, because the hand seems to lean instinctively to
July 1901 (30)
the most logical fingering, to elect it without thinking. Take it for granted, you may have
September 1901 (12)
too little scale practice, but you can never have too much.
October 1901 (10)
The study of harmony is also a great time saver in piano playing. Know the chords and November 1901 (12)
know the fingering of all the arpeggios, which is really logical fingering of most of the December 1901 (49)
common chords. Dont pay a teacher a high fee later in your musical life to have him January 1902 (12)
point out something that you should have learned in the musical primary class. February 1902 (21)
April 1902 (11)
The Value of Ear Training May 1902 (53)
July 1902 (9)
Ear training is also of very great importance. Most students hear, but they do not listen.
August 1902 (10)
The finest students are those who have learned how to listen. This becomes an axiom
September 1902 (20)
with teachers of advanced pupils. The sense of aural harmony cannot be too definitely
October 1902 (6)
developed. The pupil who cannot identify chords, such as the common chords, and the
November 1902 (17)
seventh chords, by ear, stands about as much chance of entering the higher realms of
January 1903 (7)
music as the student who does not understand a word of Latin does of comprehending a
February 1903 (5)
page from Virgil when he hears it read to him.
March 1903 (3)
There is no way of dodging or sidestepping this knowledge. I am obliged to say a hundred April 1903 (6)
times a week, Listen to what you are playing. May 1903 (9)
August 1903 (7)
Absolute pitch is by no means absolutely necessary. I have it and have always had it. September 1903 (4)
Safonoff, my own master, did not. Rubinstein did. Sometimes it is a disadvantage. I October 1903 (9)
cannot think of any composition except in the key in which it was written. Sometimes November 1903 (3)
when a piano is a whole tone flat or a half tone sharp, I become fearfully confused, as it December 1903 (5)
does not seem that I am playing the right notes. I instinctively start to transpose the February 1904 (3)
sounds to where they belong and thus get mixed up. March 1904 (51)
April 1904 (21)
Essentials of a Good Touch
May 1904 (5)
The matter of touch is so allimportant that the remainder of this section will be June 1904 (6)
devoted to the subject. Even then, we cannot hope to cover more than a fraction of the July 1904 (6)
things that might be said. Have not whole books been written upon the subject? Indeed, August 1904 (5)
there is now in the different languages of the musical world, what might be called a September 1904 (9)
literature of touch. October 1904 (19)
December 1904 (4)
First of all, let us consider our playing members, the fingers, the hand, with its hinge at January 1905 (7)
the wrist to the arm, and finally the torsoall of which enter into the problem of touch. February 1905 (7)
With me, touch is a matter of elimination of nonessentials, so that the greatest artistic March 1905 (3)
ends may be achieved with the simplest means. This is a general principle that runs June 1905 (3)
through all the arts. Thus, in the manipulation of the fingers on the keys, I direct my July 1905 (4)
pupils to cut out any action upon the part of the fingers except at the metacarpal points. January 1906 (4)
February 1906 (11)
The metacarpal joints are the ones that connect the fingers to the hands. Of course
March 1906 (19)
there are exceptions, when the other joints of the fingers come into play. These we shall
July 1906 (58)
discuss later; but for the main part we shall progress far more rapidly if we will learn the
August 1906 (4)
great general principle of moving the fingers only at the joint where the finger is
October 1906 (4)
connected with the body of the hand. There was a time, I am told, when the great aim of
December 1906 (1)
the piano teacher was to insist that the hand be held as stiff and hard as a rock while the
August 1907 (11)
fingers rose to this position,in which all of the smaller joints were bent or crooked, and
December 1907 (1)
then the finger descended upon the key like a little sledge hammer. The effect was about
May 1908 (7)
as musical as though the pianist were pounding upon cobble stones. There was no
August 1908 (5)
elasticity, no richness of tone, nothing to contribute to the beauty of tone color of which
December 1908 (15)
the fine modern piano is so susceptible. Now, the finger arises in this position and the
January 1909 (8)
movement up and down is solely at the point marked :
February 1909 (6)
March 1909 (4)
April 1909 (12)
May 1909 (10)
June 1909 (5)
July 1909 (13)
August 1909 (11)
September 1909 (5)
October 1909 (2)
December 1909 (1)
January 1910 (19)
February 1910 (11)
March 1910 (11)
April 1910 (17)
May 1910 (8)
June 1910 (14)
July 1910 (5)
August 1910 (45)
September 1910 (11)
October 1910 (9)
November 1910 (13)
December 1910 (4)
Before proceeding farther we have to admit that touch is largely an individual matter January 1911 (1)
and that the nature of the players hand has a great deal more to do with it than most February 1911 (1)
people imagine. In days gone by there was an impression that a long, bony; fleshless March 1911 (8)
hand, with hard fingertips, was a good pianistic hand. It may be for execution of florid April 1911 (5)
passages and great velocity; but for the production of a good tone it can be extremely May 1911 (2)
bad. June 1911 (2)
Rubinstein had a fat, pudgy hand, with fingers so broad at the fingertips that he often July 1911 (7)
had difficulty in not striking two notes at one time. Indeed, as I have pointed out August 1911 (4)
hitherto, many of the socalled mistakes that he made were due to this condition. On the September 1911 (2)
other hand, his glorious tone was in no small measure due to this. Indeed, it may be said October 1911 (9)
that the thicker the cushions of flesh upon the fingertips, the wider the range of variety November 1911 (14)
of touch. Rubinstein, by means of an unearthly amount of work at the keyboard, was able December 1911 (1)
to overcome technical obstacles and get the benefit of the responsive cushion he had at January 1912 (6)
the ends of his fingers. This is merely a mechanical and acoustical principle. It is easy to February 1912 (4)
distinguish when one listens to a metal xylophone. If the bars of the xylophone are struck March 1912 (13)
with a hard metal rod, the tone is harsh and metallic. Let them be struck with a rod April 1912 (5)
with the end covered with soft felt and the tone is entirely different and beautifully May 1912 (6)
musical. You may not think this applies to the tone of the pianoforte; but a little June 1912 (1)
experimenting will soon show that it is the case. July 1912 (2)
August 1912 (1)
Amateurs with Naturally Fine Touch September 1912 (12)
November 1912 (1)
It thus happens that many amateurs, who know little about music itself, possess a touch January 1913 (11)
which is very beautiful merely because they have accidentally learned how to play with February 1913 (5)
right arm conditions and with the proper part of their fingertips; so that, instead of March 1913 (7)
delivering a bony blow to the ivory surface, they touch the keys with feltlike cushions of August 1913 (2)
human flesh and produce a really lovely tone without knowing how they do it. With proper October 1913 (5)
instruction along these lines, I shall hope to make clear in ensuing sections of this series November 1913 (6)
that it is possible for the person with an inferior touch to develop his tone amazingly. January 1914 (3)
Of course, a brittle touch is quite as necessary at times as the mellifluous singing tone. February 1914 (3)
Brilliancy is as important as bel canto in piano playing. One general principle, however, May 1914 (2)
is that of striking key bottom. Many students do not learn this. The piano key must go all June 1914 (7)
the way down in the production of a good tone. The habit of striking it half way accounts September 1914 (7)
for much white or colorless playing. Many students do this without knowing it. It is a habit October 1914 (11)
that quickly grows upon one. More than this, it contributes a kind of hesitancy and lack of January 1915 (4)
sureness to playing that is decidedly inartistic. The player never seems sure of himself. February 1915 (9)
March 1915 (2)
During your next few practice periods, analyze your own playing and note carefully April 1915 (3)
whether you are skimming over the surface of the keys. Unless you have had a very May 1915 (1)
thorough early training, you will probably discover that one note in every ten is slighted. September 1915 (1)
It may be just enough to give your whole playing an amateurish complexion. If you find November 1915 (27)
that this is the case, return to the practice of slow scales and then slow, simple pieces January 1916 (5)
with good melodies, and simple chords. Scores of students play chords with some of the May 1916 (5)
notes striking key bottom and others only half way down. The full effect of the harmony is August 1916 (6)
thus lost. Of course, you may not suspect that you do this; but do you really know? September 1916 (3)
October 1916 (4)
In the next section of this article we shall continue this discussion of beautiful tone November 1916 (2)
color, revealing what seems to be the real secret of a lovely singing tone. It is really quite May 1917 (2)
a simple matter when the underlying principle is correctly understood. Of course, if the June 1917 (2)
student has the privilege of studying it under a good teacher, it may be more rapidly July 1917 (1)
acquired; but there is no reason why the main essentials cannot be told in print. December 1917 (3)
February 1918 (8)
November 1918 (11)
Click here for Part III of this series. December 1918 (3)
October 1919 (16)
<< World of Music Special Notices and Announcements >> February 1920 (3)
April 1920 (5)
May 1920 (2)
Categories: Interviews, Pianists
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August 1920 (1)
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October 1920 (3)
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March 1921 (4)
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April 1922 (2)
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August 1923 (1)
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November 1923 (3)
December 1923 (4)
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June 1924 (1)
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February 1932 (3)
December 1933 (1)
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April 1935 (1)
November 1936 (5)
January 1938 (2)
February 1938 (1)

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