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Instrumental Pedagogy Folio

Staccato playing on the piano


Staccato as an articulation is a very important aspect of piano playing on the piano and is

used very early on in lots of repertoire to create different touches, tone and effects. It is

commonly defined as being short, detached or lifted. Staccato is usually introduced at

beginner level and for an intermediate level student it will have been a familiar and present

technique in their repertoire. Staccato is mainly split into three areas: finger staccato, wrist

staccato and arm staccato. Each touch demands a different technique and way of using the

body so practising for good staccato takes time and patience to build the coordination of the

movements. Tension is also something to watch out for as a teacher when teaching staccato

as due to the short, detached connotations students can very easily tense up their body which

in turn makes it harder to execute the motions.

Learning Objectives:
Learning the differences between the three main types of staccato (finger, wrist, arm)

Learning to recognise and execute accurately the three main types of staccato in

different repertoire situations

Learning how to play the staccato with relative ease and no tension in the posture and

stance

Finger staccato
This kind of staccato produces a light, crisp sound which is usually suited for fast, swifter

passages of staccato playing.


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Teaching Approaches
Firstly, beginning with the finger resting lightly on the top of the key in a slightly

straightened position then plucking fingers backwards, the idea of taking the sound

and pulling the sound back. Or idea of grabbing the keys and doing a finger swipe.

The hand or arm shouldnt be moving during the process. Working in little sections,

building up muscle flexibility and power

Ex 1

Excerpt A

An exercise from John Thompsons Hanon Preliminary Exercises for Piano can be given to

students to illustrate a proper finger staccato technique. Using imagery in the title with The
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Machine Gun also helps to better associate and paint a picture in the students mind of the

type of sound required.

Excerpt B
Schumanns The Wild Rider, No. 8, is a good work for specifically working on finger

staccato.

Practice strategies

Treble (A section) opens with a punctuated theme against crisp chords in the bass,

while voices are inverted in the middle (B) section.

Interchanging between hands allows for practising right and left hand staccato.
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Sudden accents (sFzs) amidst slurred notes in a pervasive staccato landscape provide

a challenge, so students should be taught to learn in layers, with a slow tempo

framing for practice.

Wrist Staccato
This kind of staccato involves slightly creating a hinge with the wrist with no finger action

and the hand bouncing up and down. The touch produces a crisp, almost percussive staccato

and is usually used for playing chordal passage work or groups of two notes or more in a

detached manner.

Teaching Approaches

Developing a flexible forearm, upper arm and torso to cushion the wrist

Practising the basic movement away from the piano first beginning with the hand in

a natural position, moving upwards using the wrist, then downwards with forearm

static and wrist acting as hinge.

Practising initially with simple C major chords and then transferring to repertoire

Building up speed and ease

Excerpt B Czerny Study No. 4, The Art of Finger Dexterity


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Czernys Study No. 40, from The Art of Finger Dexterity is a good study for wrist staccato

with the use of chordal patterns in the right hand.

The passage can be modified slightly to be practiced in the above manner, with resting spots

to release tension and make sure the wrist is free. After practising the modified version with

tension release the student can go back to playing the original version of the study.

Practicing wrist staccato is best with passages that dont have a large stretch for the

hand.

Giving an accent on the first beat of the passage helps to direct the movement for

ease.

Important to free the wrist swiftly between each group to free the tension.

Speed will come naturally and from practice tension release will also allow the

muscles to relax and play longer sections without getting tired.

Excerpt C Le Retour Burgmuller Op. 100 No. 23


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This is a good work portraying use of wrist staccato in a rapid tempo situation. Due to speed

and repetition, it is easy to create tension in the wrist so again important to practise slowly

and build in areas to release the hand. Working in small sessions at a time will help to

practice in the movements.

Arm staccato

For this type of staccato the elbow acts as the hinge and makes more use of the weight of the

arm rather than the wrist action and this results in a staccato with depth of tone. This is the

least commonly used staccato type and used in situations where a loud sound is required

which a wrist action cannot produce. As the hinge is from the elbow for power, it is not as

fast as the smaller mechanisms so mainly used for octave or slower passages needing a full

sound.

Excerpt D: John Thompson Hanon Exercise The Freight Train


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Excerpt E:

Burgmuller The Storm Op. 109

This passage shows the use of a very loud, accented octave sound in the left hand for

maximum effect. Here forearm staccato can be effectively used to create the depth of sound

here which leads on to a climax and cadence point in the work.

Pedalling Technique

Pedalling on the piano is an important technique which the student will encounter during their

years of study. It is important on the piano due to influencing the whole sound picture, like

vibrato or bow technique on a stringed instrument or resonance in singing. Depending also on

what styles of repertoire students are exposed to, the pedalling style will also change. It is

important to teach students good pedalling technique early on as if not executed well or

understood can serve to blur and impede a students playing. Being taught early on gives the

advantage of it being something natural and instinctive when used, as well as promoting good

listening aural skills in making small adjustments.


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Learning Objectives

A good understanding of the basic functions of the two standard pedals most used in

piano playing i.e. Sustain pedal, Soft pedal (Una Corda)

Learning the differences between the three main pedalling techniques

(legato/syncopated pedal, Rhythmic/simultaneous pedal and preliminary pedal)

Able to confidently execute three different pedalling techniques in different repertoire

and appropriately for different stylistic situations

Learning to listen and develop good aural skills for pedalling in different styles

Able to adjust pedalling to suit the resonance of different pianos and performance

spaces.

Legato/Syncopated Pedal

Legato pedalling is usually the technique first taught where the sustain pedal is pressed down

after a note or chord has been played but before the keys have been released. This catches

the sound and connects it with the next one. This allows the connection of different notes and

harmonies and keeps them clear of dissonance. It is called legato pedalling because the pedal

is used to connect notes together and create the illusion of smooth playing. While it is also

called syncopated pedalling because the foot goes down as keys go up.

Ex 2
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Teaching approach exercise

This exercise can be used initially as practice for legato pedalling.

Depress pedal on 2nd beat of bar and bringing up exactly on downbeat of next new

chord.

Coordination opposites: Foot releases when the hand goes down, then pedal goes

down after the first beat

Excerpt F:

Chopins B minor Waltz, op 69 no. 2

Examples of pedalling and the idea of individual taste can be seen with the opening of this

waltz by Chopin where different concert pianists use different pedalling techniques. Here is

an example of the opening marked over with legato pedalling, with the pedal changing on the

first beats.

2 Rhythmic/Simultaneous Pedal

The sustain pedal is depressed at the same moment the keys are struck. This is great for

accenting a sharp attack or giving a big chord some extra resonance. In dance music (a waltz
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for example), using rhythmic pedalling on downbeats can help accent the rhythmic pulse of

the piece. By emphasizing the first beat of each bar (or another beat, dependent on genre),

rhythmic pedalling helps us to feel the rhythm of the piece better. Rhythmic pedalling occurs

a lot in Chopins music, where he writes rhythmic pedalling specifically on the score.

Excerpt G

Chopins B minor Waltz, op 69 no. 2

Here in Chopins Waltz can be seen pedalling is featured with rhythmic pedalling, where the

pedal goes down on the first beat and up on the third beat, the markings being marked by

Chopin himself.

Technical challenges

The most commonly used and firstly taught type of pedalling is syncopated pedalling,

therefore with Chopins music it may take some time to get used to the style of

rhythmic pedalling.

Difficult to coordinate at first with the foot going down with the first beat and up on

the third beat.


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Practice Strategies

Practising left hand only with the pedal

Over-emphasising the pedal when practising with the left hand, and feeling the

physical movement of when the pedal comes up and down

When confident bring in the right hand gradually

Excerpt H

Chopins Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2

Here in Chopins Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, is another example of the rhythmic pedalling where

the pedal is marked as going up after the last note of each group. This essentially creates a

small gap of silence between chords.

The Preliminary Pedal

The preliminary pedal is the easiest to execute and creates great tone colour. It is simply done

by pressing the pedal down before the first notes of a piece or section. This allows the piano

to be at its most resonant when the keys are struck and creates a full and deep sound.
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Teaching points and approach:

The art of pedalling is governed by the ear Heinrich Neuhaus

Activate and make student mindful of their hearing to allow for accuracy of the pedal

(clean/dirty pedal)

Practicing first without pedal. Mastering the piece to a certain degree: accuracy in

text, fingering, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, phrasing, sound quality and then add

in the pedal. Otherwise even for an intermediate student it is difficult to coordinate

everything and may result in practising wrong/not ideal pedalling.

Combining no pedal and pedalling practice

Octave Technique

Octave technique is most recognised as a virtuosic element in piano playing. From

intermediate progressing onto advanced piano repertoire they become much more frequent

and the correct way of executing octaves should be taught carefully to the student so they

develop good habits and an understanding of how to release tension. It is also dependent on

the students hand growth and size at the time for the teacher to decide whether it is

appropriate to give repertoire that uses a lot of octave technique.

Romantic composers such as Franz Liszt (1811-1886) used a lot of octave passages in their

works to create drama and excitement as well to bolden and outline melodic lines to engage

listeners. Combined with the sustaining pedal it can greatly increase the richness and sonority

of piano harmonies and sound. It is one of the important and effective skills in the piano

technique arsenal and can be used to portray many expressions and effects on the piano.
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Playing octaves is often seen as one of the more difficult aspects of piano playing technique

amongst intermediate to advanced repertoire.

Teachers need to be aware:

Octaves involve stretching to some degree (usually between the thumb and fourth or fifth

fingers), and students must be able to reach or stretch to the appropriate hand position fairly

effortlessly before attempting to play them.

Overplaying octaves can cause injury as well as tightness and pain in the hand and wrist. If

for any reason students feel uncomfortable or tight, octave passages should be stopped

immediately, allowing students to wait until their hand grows slightly larger.

Most young players can assume the necessary hand position eventually around the

intermediate level.

There are many different octave variations prevalent in piano music, fast and furious, or slow

and legato, and with a suitable approach and the correct physical movements, they can be played

effectively, even for those with smaller hands. As they form a vital role in piano music, they cannot

be ignored by piano teachers in their teaching and therefore it is important for students to learn and

to feel comfortable and relaxed while playing them.

Learning Objectives:

Students will develop correct hand position for playing octaves

Students will develop octave playing with relative ease and no tension in the wrist,

arms and be mindful of any strain

Students can execute different octaves technique in a variety of different repertoire

with relative ease, from slow melodic playing to more rapid, virtuosic passages
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Teaching points and approach

Have the students begin with awareness of the wrist and stretch out to the full octave

span. Hand should be relaxed apart from thumb and fifth finger

Practising initially with breaks between each octave, with a free and loose wrist

Thumb and finger should have a certain grip to avoid note splits or inaccuracies

Develop the students bridge position with knuckles slightly raised while arm and

wrist all very flexible and relaxed

Begin with scales of octaves or exercises containing octave passages, and once

flexibility and relative ease is achieved join the passages together.

Separate hand practice initially to develop each hand and observe better at one time.

Importance of consistent practice to establish and maintain flexibility over time

A passage from an exercise such as the following (from Czernys Study No. 49 Octaves

Bravura, Art of Finger Dexterity Op. 740):

Excerpt I

Can be practiced and broken up into small chunks to allow for release of the wrist and

tension.
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Octaves take considerably more strength and strain to play than normal passagework

therefore practising in a pattern of four will help to develop a consistent technique by resting

in between. Otherwise constant octave practising can lead to muscle pain and repetitive strain

injury. By resting, resistance and stamina is built up over time.

Practice strategies:

Often more advanced octave work involves long passages of octaves in a row. i.e.

more than three. Best to group and feel the octaves in one movement. Chunking

practice.

To develop very disciplined octaves, students can practice the outer single notes of

each octave. i.e. only playing the thumbs of the passages or the fifth finger only

starting with scale passages. Hand and wrist will get accustomed to the quick,

repetitive motion required for each note.

Practice with varying dynamics, articulation as well as voicing the top notes of the

octaves for melodic interest use in later repertoire

As students gain confidence with octave scales, octave skips can be introduced

through arpeggio figures


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Excerpt J

Burgmuller study No. 12 Op. 109 Le Reveil dans le Bois

This is a good study to give students as it is a study entirely based around octaves with a

mixture of broken octave chords culminating with an ending of full octave chords or both

hands. Teaching approaches would involve:

Knowing where the melodic lines are with the octaves and bringing out the fifth

finger.

Practising the octaves in groups, sections and taking breaks in between.

Shaping the octave melodies


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Excerpt K: Rondo Alla Turca, from Sonata K. 331 in A major (W.A. Mozart)

Mozarts Turkish March also features prominent use of octave figurations at a loud dynamic

and fast tempo. These would need to be practised separate hands as well as incorporating the

coordinating the left hand ornaments with the right hand. Difficulty lies in the fact that the

scalic patterns use white keys and black keys as well as leaps of a third. The student would

need to practice effectively in chunks and sections specifically for the right hand passages.
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Appendix Teaching Materials

Exercises:

Scales and Arpeggios in all keys


Czerny Studies 849 for fluidity, 399 for the left hand, 553 for octaves, 299 for developing
speed
Hanon studies, John Thompson Hanon exercises

Repertoire:
Burgmuller Studies Op. 100, 109
Schumann Kinderszenen Op. 15
Chopin Waltzes Op. 64
Kabelevsky Op. 39
Mozart - Rondo Alla Turca, from Sonata K. 331 in A major
Andante and Rondo Capriccioso Op. 14 Mendelssohn
Prelude in E flat minor No. 14 Op. 11 A. Scriabin
Allegro Barbaro, B. Bartk

Books
On Piano Playing by Gyorgy Sandor
Famous Pianists and their Technique by Gerig
The Pianists Guide to Pedalling by Joseph Banowetz

The Art of Piano Pedalling: Two Classic Guides by Anton Rubinstein

A History of Pianoforte Pedalling by David Rowland


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References

Burgmuller, F. (1903). Twenty-five easy and progressive studies for pianoforte: op. 100:
expressly composed for small hands.

Burgmuller, F. (1903). Eighteen Characteristic Studies for pianoforte: op. 109


Chopin, F. Waltzes Op. 64, 1849.

Czerny, C. (1893). The art of finger dexterity: fifty studies for the piano, op. 740. G.
Schirmer.

Hanon, C. L., & Thompson, J. (1956). Preliminary exercises for piano. Chappell &
Company.

Mozart, W. A., & Takada, N. Turkish march: Rondo alla turka. 1783. Asbury Park, N.J:
Studio 4 Music, 2005.

Schumann, R.. Album for the young, op. 68: for the piano.1838. Alfred Music Publishing,
2004.
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Bibliography

Banowetz, J. (1992). The pianist's guide to pedaling. Georgetown University Press.

Bresin, R., & Umberto Battel, G. (2000). Articulation strategies in expressive piano
performance analysis of legato, staccato, and repeated notes in performances of the andante
movement of mozarts sonata in g major (k 545). Journal of New Music Research, 29(3),
211-224.

Gerig, R. R. (1975). Famous pianists & their technique. RB Luce.

Rubinstein, A., & Carreo, T. (2013). The art of piano pedaling: Two classic guides. Courier
Corporation.

Rowland, D. (2004). A history of pianoforte pedalling. Cambridge University Press.

Repp, B. H. (1996). Pedal timing and tempo in expressive piano performance: A preliminary
investigation. Psychology of Music, 24(2), 199-221.

Sndor, G. (1981). On piano playing: Motion, sound and expression. Wadsworth.