Music in your head

Mental practice, how to memorize piano music

by François L. Richard

Born in New York City, François Richard was raised in Paris, France, where he started studying the piano at a young age. He now lives in the United States, where he works as an airline pilot. Prior to working for the airline, he worked as an instructor pilot and, due to his passion of transmitting complicated information in the simplest way and the success of his students, was awarded the “Gold Seal” by the Federal Aviation Administration. Helped by the most famous pedagogues and artists, he conducted fifteen years of extensive research on piano memorization and mental practice. Because of the lack of formal training, generally given on this very important subject, he wants to share this precious knowledge with us in a fun and simple way.

Music in your head is published by FLR Music Resources, Fort Worth, Texas 76147 Book concept, title and text content Copyright © 2009, 2010, 2011 by FLR Music Resources. Third Edition: May 2011, Second Edition: February 2011 First printing: June 2009 All editions of musical pieces contained herein are Copyright © 2011 FLR Music Resources. Any duplication or reproduction of any part of this book in any form, by any means is strictly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publisher. ISBN 978-1-61584-093-9

On French television, the amazing French virtuoso Hélène Grimaud was interviewed—nothing abnormal so far, but suddenly, something striking happened. The anchor declared that only recently had the worldrenowned pianist purchased a piano! The virtuoso explained that she had a little upright piano before, which she almost never used, because she always favored mental practice. “When you have a clear image of what you want to do with a piece, you almost don’t need instrumental slavery! And above all the convenient aspect of it, like practicing in airplanes or hotel rooms where international artists spend a lot of time, it is good to have a clear mental picture of what we want to do with the work, because every artistic creation starts first in the imaginary.” In another interview—this one on the radio—a famous pianist declared he likes to rehearse Mozart’s concertos while riding his bicycle in Switzerland! It started in France in the nineteen century. A famous virtuoso by the name of Marie Jaell—a very good friend of Franz Liszt—started to discover the virtues of mental practice in piano performance. She also recommended working only two hours a day, whereas the bulk of her colleagues were spending their days “teaching the pieces to the piano,” yet her virtuosity was well beyond every pianist at the time, according to Camille Saint Saens. As Hélène Grimaud so exactly expressed, every artistic creation first starts in the imagination. Too many pianists today want to make a career, but they just play without having a clear concept of what they want to do with the piece. There is no conductor in that orchestra, no architect for that building; we get what their fingers will give, not what will be given by their creative mind. With mental practice, you are going to hear your ideal interpretation in your head—practicing it until you make the piece yours. Many pianists are in every piano competition, but you need to stand out. The jury and the public are waiting for something more than the simple execution of the score. As Gustav Malher once said, “the printed score is everything you need to know about the music, except the essential.” Not only interpretation, but also technique starts in the mind. If you have a technical difficulty, it is often because you didn’t think it through in the proper way. Reviewing the difficulty very slowly, with eyes closed and visualizing your fingers and hand movements on the keys, you will improve your technique tremendously. Sometimes you will discover that something as small as a little slant of your hand is the solution! Paganini, the famous violinist whose virtuosity was so great, was rumored to be associated with the Devil. On concert days, he was observed to stay for hours, laying on his bed, keeping his eyes open, mentally representing all the movements to make during the performance. I experienced it myself with Chopin études and treadmills! My name is François Richard. I’m an airline pilot and I started studying piano in Paris, France. My aviation career requires me to go on four- or five-day trips without a piano, so I practice piano music mentally. When I come home, I play the new piece on the piano, while the score is still in my luggage! Completing my piano training in Paris, I’ve also done fifteen years of extensive research, with the help of the most famous virtuosos and pedagogues on the subject of piano memorization and mental practice. I have the luck to live in “Piano City” America—Fort Worth Texas, which stages the famous international Van Cliburn competition every couple of years. I would like to thank Tamás Ungár, who hosts Piano Texas at Texas Christian University (TCU) every year. Piano Texas enables me to enter the concert pianist world by watching all those master classes, attending conferences, and discussing piano with all those international artists. Most of them are passionate, very accessible and friendly and more than happy to share with us the “secrets of the trade.” Pianists can access four piano memories: visual, tactile, analytical, and aural. The mental practice that we are going to learn here uses all four memories. Therefore, when following the steps it is infallible. It also produces a lot of pleasure and exuberance to be able to rehearse music in your head, almost anywhere, and, you will understand by the way you conceive your playing that you have achieved something in common with the famous masters.
Foreword: Music in Your Head


for a better understanding of music. All information in bold letters like this is general and often important information and rules that apply not only to the specific piece. but start by playing the Chopin. You will attend a little master class. we will finish with some general considerations. but for all piano memorization and mental practice. Then.” followed by a very important aspect of piano memorization: the vocal approach and relative pitch. if you are quite a beginner.S. to read and learn the entire method.In this book you are going to be introduced to the method with “Jardins sous la pluie” by Claude Debussy. They are “key words”! 4 Foreword: Music in Your Head . followed by a study of a four-voice fugue by J. We will then discover the “secret of memorizing piano music. I would suggest that. Finally. we are going to talk about chords and their progressions. I want to show you that this method works even with the most complicated music. followed by a little Chopin waltz. Bach.

S.Contents 3 Foreword 7 Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy 14 Secret of Memorizing Piano Music 15 The Silent Keyboard Practice 15 Do I Really Know It? 16 The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch 21 Master Class 21 I Used To Play It! 22 Fugue in C Major by J. Bach 25 Chord Progressions with The Circle of Fifths 28 Checklist Or Working Like A Famous Pianist 29 Minute Waltz by Frédéric Chopin 32 General Considerations Music in your head: Table of Contents 5 .


associations. visualize every key. In addition. or concert programs. in order to help us understand and memorize more easily. 2&. Your music should be expressive even on the first day. even playing it by memory. very important to respect the dynamics. Here Debussy wants PP . we are going to repeat that description every time we rehearse the piece. We will come back to the subject of relative pitch later. to discover once you left the piano that you have no clue what the left or even the right hand was playing! Completing a precise oral description is one of the best ways to give you that awareness of the score. we should also hear the pitch of every note we are playing. At the end. it is time to play it on the piano. It is more work. We start by memorizing the left hand. Our media is sound. It is also. not an impression of it. It will be something like this: we are in E minor. which is the “meaningful repetition” part of the learning process. or anything that “makes sense” for us. which is indispensable for our conscious memory. and the tonic is repeated twice. we are going to analyze and make an oral description of the passage we are working on. In this piece. You want to know the piece in details.” The more we investigate a piece. Take your time. Why an “oral” description? This seems ridiculous! First let’s review the definition in the dictionary of the adjective conscious: “knowing or noticing. the melody will be played by the left hand. you must be able to play the entire piece—left hand alone and then right hand alone—by memory. While doing this. but don’t play it yet on the piano! We do this until we can play it on our lap without hesitations. we will do a little “detective work” and go for the search of patterns. but the rewards more than justify this technique. ending with a jump on the dominant V before going back to I. and the more we know about music and theory.chapter 1 Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy We are going to start with the first two measures. We count the beat aloud: 1&. It then goes up and down in consecutive scale tones. you have already memorized half of it! Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy 7 . If we get stuck. This is one of the best methods to prevent memory lapses.) It is important to do this very slowly. the better. (It is very important to hear the notes. Afterwards. To fix it in our conscious memory. You see. We now play the left hand slowly on the piano after writing down the most convenient fingering. because they constitute the first melody.” How many times have you studied a passage on the piano. It is also good to know that. starting on F is the car il dormira bientôt of the little French children’s song “Do-do L’Enfant do. we should visualize the keyboard and our fingers on each key. most memorization problems come from notes that were incorrectly heard. it’s okay to check the score. via the internet. ALWAYS MEMORIZE EACH HAND SEPARATELY. You want to establish the same musical sensations. Now we close our eyes and try to play it silently by memory on our lap. books. aware. Do you hear every note? Now.

but don’t play it yet on the piano! Repeat this process. Now we close our eyes and try to play it silently from memory on our lap. We want it to be secured in our mind’s eyes and ears. and play it in your head all night long—just kidding! But because we do it with our eyes closed.. to make his son learn two measures of J. We slowly play the right hand alone on the piano. I’ve memorized entire scores this way! One of the most important concepts in memorizing music is working with little chunks at a time.. The famous Walter Gieseking had a stormy relationship with his wife because he was constantly rehearsing in his head. We must see each key and hear each tone. and is repeated until the last beat of the second measure. exactly one octave above the left hand. on the back of an elephant.. It then goes down as an arpeggio and ends on the same note as the left hand! In addition. in airplanes—but please don’t do it when your loved ones are talking to you.S. the middle note is a third above the bottom note of the right hand. We see that the tonic repeats itself seven times. Ready? Now it is time to play it on the piano.” Close your eyes and play both hands very slowly on your lap. they notice that foot beat or that finger playing. You see. go to bed. It is also a repeated set of events.” We see that the right hand also starts on the tonic.. we can also repeat it with our eyes open by visualizing in our mind our fingers on each key and hearing each pitch. and we all know the results! We climb a mountain one step at a time. You see.. Bach every day. The father of the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma started at a very early age. We do this until it is secure in our memory.Now. at school. in meetings. “it’s all good.. you will see that you are increasingly going to rehearse your music in the most unexpected places: on bicycles. If we can’t. you know that—in a typical work session—most of your time is reserved for the review of material you’ve already learned. we verify with the score. we notice that.. So for now.. for the entire eight beats. If we are not sure. for the essential meaningful repetition part of the learning process and a smaller part to learn new material. We do our little detective work by investigating a little bit the score. until you can surely play that part on your knee— visualize every key and hear every note. characteristics or features”. Although it is better to do so eyes closed. we will not look in the dictionary anymore!): “A design of regular shapes and lines. Women are smart. it’s time to learn the right hand. on treadmills. and the middle note is a third above. with your eyes closed. you already know the right hand! Here comes the big feat: hands together! Don’t be scared. each beat ends on the same note as the left hand. Now it is time to play it on the piano. you memorized both hands! Now you can rest. We visualize our fingers playing every key and hear every pitch. This constitutes a very nice pattern. but you are still allowed—in fact strongly recommended —to rehearse on a chair before going to bed or in bed before your sleep. If you are a good student. we are going to close the book and I will see you back tomorrow! 8 Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy . at churches. we check the music. also the elements of a pattern “repeat in a predictable manner. But first I would like us to review the definition in the dictionary of the word pattern (I promise..

But now we are going to sit in front of the score and review all the little details again because. The ones who study all night long. the little playing—eyes closed. Maybe this is the reason why there are so many doctors. eyes closed on your knees in order to enable the conscious mind to easily rehearse all the information you know about the piece. I live near a medical school. the better. we close our eyes. eyes closed. And. and dentists at amateur piano competitions! A little daily physical activity is also strongly recommended to help promote blood circulation and alertness in the brain! First. something understood was automatically memorized. This procedure should be repeated every day. as we say. a crescendo. If we get stuck. like the pretty girl figure skating. But first we need to hear our music in our heads. we do a better job working slowly. during this stage. Then. We verify with the score and repeat our little analysis orally. but it is very important to avoid repetitions of a passage on the piano until we can first play it easily. You don’t want to rely mainly on your tactile memory because tactile memory is going to let you down. and repeat the analysis. like real concert pianists. Those who become doctors use like us. when you fall on the ice. therefore have a lot of med-students for neighbors. and then goes to I. When we play on our knees. 1. verify with the score. you’re going to hate it! In some ways. One doctor told me the secret: for her. We sit in front of the piano. Even when working on the dynamics and expression. You can really—even practicing slowly—hear in your mind’s ears an accentuation. we check the score and try again on our lap. we are going to review what we learned yesterday. tension and release. 2. conscious and analytical memory. Nevertheless. 3. We always divide our work into small units. are generally those who don’t make it (they are zombies during the day. or units of two or four measures. and they can’t easily retain information). not only for memory and technique! Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy 9 . We almost need a “physical” feeling for the dynamics. on our knees. Maybe some of you have already rehearsed the music a couple of times in your heads. then play it by memory on the piano. surgeons. You should think about your ideal version and practice transferring the music in your head to the piano. jumps to V. on the tonic. eyes closed and then on the piano. On stage. back at the piano! I hope you got a good night of sleep. practice (good practice) makes perfect. it is very important to always keep practicing your piece or the passage you’re working on at least once a day. As we saw in the preface. They physically feel with their inner voice that flow of the music coming out of their souls. and hear each tone. We play it by memory on the piano. we visualize each key. because sleeping eight hours is essential for a good memory. it is okay to play it once on the piano. using rote memory without giving themselves enough sleep. Music is a constant flow of accentuations. great artists often have a sort of moaning coming from inside. and we play the left hand by memory on our lap. hands together—first on our knees.Second day. It starts in E minor. Memory is first a mind process. every artistic creation starts first in the imagination. the less you play it on the piano. which is likely if reviewing something just learned yesterday. As usual. First. very slowly. we study phrase by phrase. crescendos and diminuendos. their brains are not alert enough. If you don’t remember the melody. We repeat the same procedure for the right hand. or a diminuendo—try it! Slow practice guaranties fast results. I can tell very fast who is going to succeed or flunk their first year. it is very important to hear it how you want it to be played. goes up and down stepwise. on your knee.

we almost memorized the entire score! J. You see. A little piano work as usual—playing the left hand alone on the piano—close your eyes. but. you will see that—if you repeat this process. and also the two quarter notes with the accent on the D. Even if we memorize a couple of measures a day. a second descendant E-D is followed in measures 4 and 5 by a second ascendant C-D. eyes closed. Why the next three measures? Because they form a good unit that is easy to memorize and. we memorize measure by measure. eyes closed. after a quick look.K. until we are sure. “shrinking” into Bb-D. A little detective work shows that every beat ends on the note it started and. 2. The right hand motif also “shrinks” from the first to the second half of the measure from B-C to Bb-D. until perfect. Then we close our eyes and play it on our knee until we’re sure. The G on the right hand is repeated every beat. We notice that “wide” position E-C in comparison of F-B in measure 6. Now. Using the same process. hear each pitch. a couple of measures a day—you will soon easily master the 10 pages! 10 Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy . The left hand motif creates a mirror or inversion: In the third measure. B-G is repeated every beat. Measure 4 and 5. We start by memorizing measure 3. see each key. We see our fingers on each key and hear the accent on the D. and play it from memory on the piano. on the right hand. using the same process as usual. Repeat the same process with the right hand. we see some patterns. We then play it on the piano. We see that the repeating G is like a pivot surrounded by B-C. play the left hand on your knee. Then both hands on the piano by memory. We play it slowly on the piano. (just kidding). are the same. When we can do this with no hesitations—seeing each key. we play it by memory on the piano. we play it on our knee. then both hands on your knees. After a little detective work. the left hand position E-C is two seconds “wider” on both sides then the F-B that follows in measure 6. we see relationships in the motifs: 1. We close our eyes again and play both hands from memory on our laps. We do the same for the right hand. Now we play the left hand slowly on the piano.Now we are going to learn the next three measures. hearing each pitch—we play it on the piano. as we see.

Music is mostly like a Swiss clock: there are always some patterns. things that repeat. Still following me? For the second half of the measure. You can also use a pencil to mark them down on the score to help you remember them. It seems complicated. The right hand this time plays a seventh going down and up with a third below the upper note in the middle Bb. always think about them. followed by an A on the right hand. a ninth above the C. I’m going to let you continue the good work on your own. The four measures starting at 16: They are easier to understand when looking at the relationship between both hands. and the pattern repeats itself over and over for the next four measures! Here we see the importance of the “vertical” relationship for helping us understand and memorize. while you play. a note one step below the lower note of the right hand. I start my detective work like I would a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. This is also very important for rhythmic reasons as we will see with our four-voice fugue by J.Now that you know the process. Notice that the Eb of the left hand is a ninth below the F of the right hand. In the next measure. but I advise you to look at the colors on the score above to see the relationships. going down an octave with the third F played below the upper note of the octave. with a sharp pencil and an eraser. Bach in chapter six. the left hand goes down half a tone. going for the hunt! Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy 11 . the left hand then goes to C. The best way to memorize is to understand the pattern! It is an upward movement starting with A on the left hand.S. You have to put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and grab your magnifying glass and go for the hunt! Once you find some patterns. But we are nevertheless going to look at some “special” passages. and the left hand plays D. which is a minor third below the Eb while the right hand plays the D. it goes down and up.

But the left hand by itself—other than an ascending chromatic progression: E. G.Ab and jumps a major third to C. The next two measures–same thing: chromatic movement F# . D—doesn’t make a lot of sense at first glance. in search of a pattern. Db becoming F. The right hand is easy to get. It’s Debussy’s chromatic world. B.Below is another example of the importance of looking for the “vertical” relationship.F# .G and jumps a major third to B. which are the same notes! This pattern is much easier to remember when we play. Ab.G . C. 12 Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy . it’s going up. It is much easier to look at the “vertical” relationship: the base notes are the second notes of the right hand—except the first beats of the second measures of those upward movements. which you have memorized in a split second. starting with a chromatic movement F .

The “cluster notes” We start with the left hand and we see that the major second Gb-Ab stretches itself and shrinks back by a chromatic step each time. 2&. we play it on the piano—et voilá! Chapter 1: Jardins Sous La Pluie by Claude Debussy 13 . with broken augmented chords going up to A-C#—and yes. We repeat very slowly. and so on and so forth. that sound is unstable! Again. We count the beat. 1&. 2&. The upper note Bb is one ninth above the Ab of the left hand. This regular. We then play it once on the piano. Eb-B… We hear each pitch. 2&. going upward—Gb-Ab.. on our knee. Are you stuck? Feel free to check the score—it’s free! We repeat this until. less so. hear each pitch. When we can do this. with our eyes closed. as usual.. F-A. see each key. one octave higher than the left. shape is a nice pattern. Right hand: Start with F#-Bb. 2&… We then play it. We play the first measure slowly on the piano with the correct fingering because there is nothing that can better sabotage a performance than a changed or unsecure fingering. We close our eyes. then it goes down a major third and starts a chromatic ascension. The bottom note is the same as the left hand. we can play it on our knee without any hesitation. very slowly. repeat on our knee. It is “enharmonic”—the same note but not the same name. we play it slowly on the piano. we see each key starting at the bottom. We see the keys E-Bb. but it’s a F# instead of a Gb. Hands together very slowly on our knees. then on the piano when we know it on our knee. is easy. we count the beat. We count the beat out loud: 1&. here symmetrical.

so your practice is a waste of time. but by the velocity of the attack. I tuned the piano for the recital of Mr. the memorization process is going to take much longer. used to tell his students that to achieve the greatest virtuosity “votre main sera légère et sans raideur. up to speed on the piano. step on the brakes! It’s painstaking. Well. I recommend before the “hands together” part. The amount of pressure required to activate a key is only measured in grams. Once you have mastered a passage in your memory. Just pull back on the reigns. All the famous pianists I see every day play with a light hand. 60 grams not kilograms or pounds! I can assure you. very slowly and you will quickly realize that it was induced by your brain who didn’t have a clear image of the notes your fingers had to play! The legendary virtuoso Josef Hofmann goes even further. I did it again! Why do I give away all those secrets? By the way. working that passage hands separately. but also for technique and virtuosity. which is when the problems start.) Here to remove any misconceptions. If you go too fast. You can contact me for the appropriate location. who was rumored to be Franz Liszt reincarnation. with eyes closed. We know that we can’t rely on our fingers to memorize. You don’t have time to grasp all the details. The other night. your fingers are going to make the motions but your conscious mind will be absent. the young pianist was me! 14 Chapter 2: Secret of Memorizing Piano Music . The Steinway technician who used to tune all those wonderful instruments at the recitals of the most famous pianists in the world said “young man your hands must be light. Pollini. The key is to think about every detail. one can get a very brilliant sound without banging on my poor pianos. We are like wild horses—we want to gallop. and used to say. I’d like to specify an important point.” their hands must be light with no stiffness. and I can assure you that his hands are light. Are your hands light when you play? An elephant will never become a gazelle. a young man was banging on a poor Steinway trying to show how brilliant his playing was. Working hands separately is a requirement not only for memory. you would say that it is not really a secret.” One of the greatest virtuosos of all times. the legendary Georges Cziffra. Discipline is required: If you do not hear each pitch and see each key you’re playing when practicing on your knees. but really the failure to do one OR the other will induce a lot of frustrations! THE ONLY WAY TO DO THAT IS BY PRACTICING VERY SLOWLY.chapter 2 Secret of Memorizing Piano Music Attention! Practice very slowly: the slower the better. to complete your technique and virtuosity. (You will be very pleased with me and will want to erect a statue to immortalize my glory. when practicing up to speed when you have difficulties with a fast or intricate passage. “a run should be completely prepared mentally before it is tried on the piano. but the results more than justify the effort. so why practice with an elephant? Also. just “mental practice it” hands separately.” Oops. Sometimes we forget to practice very slowly. The Tale of the gazelle and the elephant Thirty years ago at Steinway Hall in Paris. the sound is produced not so much by the weight.

When ready. Very slow. not a nervous habit. Last but not least.chapter 3 The Silent Keyboard Practice It is playing on the surface of the keys without depressing them. Chapter 3: The Silent Keyboard Practice 15 . chapter 4 Do I Really Know It? I sit on a comfortable chair. then hands together. you play it by memory depressing the keys this time. and can also be used in conjunction with our normal mental practice. When practicing a piece this way. You repeat this silently until perfect. tactile and key memory. Why is it a very effective way to practice? Because without sounds to distract. thorough practice away from the keyboard – hands separately and together – is the very best way to insure against forgetting. to insure you’re using your conscious mind. Without the sounds to distract. you can’t use silent keyboard practice. hands together? Again slow. Of course as needed. He found out right away the solution. You will also have your conscious and investigative mind totally alert when wearing your Sherlock Holmes hat for your analytical memory. intelligent mental practice. Of course. you can check the score or play it again to hear the sounds. right hand alone. One morning Glenn Gould was struggling with a very difficult passage until the maid came in the room with the vacuum cleaner. it also challenges and builds your visual. This very powerful way of memorizing piano music is an alternative. How to practice it? You take one or two measures. your active mind is entirely focused on a conscious. you can rehearse at odd hours without being accused of terrorism. Now. you have no other choice than practicing your aural memory. while hearing every pitch: left hand alone. You play first the right or the left hand on the piano. you play it again without looking at neither the score nor depressing the keys but of course: using your inner ear to hear each sound. Without hearing the music in your head with your inner ear. Can I play the entire piece in my mind very slowly. You do the same with the other hand. while seeing and feeling my fingers playing the keys of every note of the piece. you will also solve technical difficulties.

We don’t need to all do like Glenn Gould. we must be able to sing it. When we play music. we should do the same with everything we play. requiring a thirty-year loan and eight years to complete. In short. making him renowned for his phenomenal memory for the most intricate music like Bach fugues or Berg or Webern—but created challenges for the recording engineers! Our aim is to sing inwardly when we play. they always sing or grunt. There are costly methods you can buy on the internet to learn relative pitch. Little Star. I saw a young lady (she was not a doctor!) playing a Beethoven Sonata. One day at an amateur competition. There was no more music. S. When we see famous musicians rehearsing or giving master classes. it means you don’t know it! One day I was playing the Rachmaninoff. Another well known and similar exercise is to be able to play by memory the melodic line of the entire piece with one finger or a pencil! The correlation of the music we hear in our head and the motions of our fingers on the keyboard to reproduce it are key. Twinkle. Being able to sing a piece in our minds means that we have it in our conscious memory.” well. at least to get pitch accuracy. We want some vocal cord activity with our inner voice. whose mother told him to sing everything that he played. and to know how each interval sounds. but came to a part that I wasn’t sure about my accuracy with the left hand—90% of memory slips come from the left hand! But I knew the chords and I knew the melody perfectly because I sing the notes of every piece that I play. We know how to hum or sing the national anthem or “Twinkle.chapter 5 The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch When we play. we know where we are in the piece and we can continue. If you have a memory lapse. but suddenly and sadly. and if you can’t sing it. prelude in G minor. You relied too much on your automatism—or finger memory. it stopped. we must know and hear the piece in our head so that if we hit a wrong note or anything happens that can distract us. Her fingers forgot. we must hear in our heads—in our mind’s inner ear—the next notes we are going to play. it is because you incorrectly heard that part (or maybe never really heard it at all!). instead. Knowing that an ascending perfect fourth is the first two notes of “Here Comes the Bride” and a major sixth is the first two notes of the famous song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra or a perfect ascending octave is the first two notes of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” will fix it in your mind forever. But you can also work the traditional way. 16 Chapter 5: The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch . J. It helps tremendously—if not what we call fluent relative pitch. and she didn’t have the music in her head. So I continued and nobody knew that I was “a great saboteur!” Aural memory is the guard rail for continuity. Your brain doesn’t really know what you are supposed to play. Bach did not buy CDs on the internet. he used “elbow grease”—or ear grease? The best way to know and recognize intervals is to associate them with the first two notes of a popular song or very familiar melody.

American in Paris Major seven up: Superman. Summertime Perfect fourth up: Here Comes the Bride. Love Story (third and fourth notes) Minor sixth down: Love Story Major sixth up: My Way (F. Greensleeves Minor third down: Hey Jude. Maria (West Side Story) Tritone down: Blue Seven (Sonny Rollins) Perfect fifth up: Twinkle. Silent Night. Ceora Major seven down: Hee Haw (Grand Canyon Suite). Also Sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss) Perfect fifth down: Feelings. NBC. singing them and verifying with the piano. Sinatra). O Little Town of Bethlehem Major second up: Happy Birthday. My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean Major sixth down: Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen Minor seven up: There’s a Place for Us (West Side Story). Choose the melody most familiar to you. Fantasy Island. Big Ben. Misty Major third up: Oh When the Saints. Take your pick. Amazing Grace Perfect fourth down: Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. or minor second inversion Perfect octave: Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I recommend memorizing it. Fantasy Impromptu (F. for the differences like a major or a minor third. Chopin) Minor sixth up: Morning of the Carnaval. listen carefully when you sing. Frosty the Snowman. Deck the Halls Minor third up: Brahm’s Lullaby. Mozart’s C Sonata Major third down: Beethoven Fifth Symphony. Little Star. Frère Jacques Major second down: Auld Lang Syne. Let It Snow 1 half tone 2 half tones 3 half tones 4 half tones 5 half tones 6 half tones 7 half tones 8 half tones 9 half tones 10 half tones 11 half tones 12 half tones Chapter 5: The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch 17 .Here is a list to help you. If you are unfamiliar with a melody. Also. Star Spangled Banner. Für Elise. Oh Christmas Tree. drilling every day. Hancock). I’ve Been Working on the Railroad Tritone up: The Simpsons. The Flintstones. Twilight Zone Minor seven down: Watermelon Man (H. Minor second up: Jaws. writing it on your favorite search engine on the internet will let you hear it. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Charade. Stormy Weather Minor second down: Joy to the World. Twinkle.

having your “little repertoire” while adding a new one each day. we should do this slowly and think about our intervals.” to have them well fixed in our minds through “meaningful repetition. You will hear that this song starts on the dominant. We start with the alphabet (only twelve letters in this one!). ------------------8’ lower for male voices--- Now. you start on a F. Almost right away and more and more. then down a perfect fifth.. By doing this. you will recognize intervals while listening to music and will soon become a real musician not just a repetitive key pusher! 18 Chapter 5: The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch . We already know how to sing them because they are the first two notes of our familiar songs! We start with one per day and review it a couple of times during the day. The more familiar the song gets. go up a major third. to really recognize and hear the intervals. When we start to get better and we finish one song in a specific key. we hum or sing them randomly. so on and so forth. In addition.” You remember when you started to read? It was not very easy.. Your voice is your best personal instrument.. E. which we now recognize. say today we are going to be in D major. When the Saints” and so on and so forth. we should either repeat it or play it on different registers of the piano. you can do a different key every day. the secret is: a little bit every day.. ear training works the best if we practice a little bit every day. you don’t even think about the alphabet anymore.We are now going to do a little warm-up exercise. let’s practice a five minutes daily exercise with familiar melodies. the more you have time to listen and recognize the intervals. for example “Happy Birthday” followed by C-E while thinking “Oh. We start with the major second—C-D—while thinking. Do some other songs. Say we start in C major. After we’ve completed the entire scale up and down. which I use when I’m “on the road”. We must hum or sing those simple melodies while finding the intervals and checking them on the piano to verify. the pitches become fuzzy and we think we know them. on the piano! Like everything else. slowly while thinking about those intervals. A. Every. tomorrow in A. B. Use what is called the multi-key approach: transpose it in at least five or six keys. Then you read and read.. we sing and recognize the intervals. then G and D. you will also facilitate—little by little—scale step identification. and now we are going to start “reading simple sentences. Sometimes in a song. It should be the same for your ears. so on and so forth. and you were not fluent. listen to how the dominant or the third degree of the scale sounds in relation to the tonic. Only singing the interval can put us back on track! Of course. while thinking about it’s “popular song.. that’s all it’s going to take to be soon able to play everything you hear. or practice a combination of those three exercises! It is also strongly recommended to review the previous songs every day. We hum or sing each interval several times. It’s like learning how to read. For example. but we realize that it is not true. but it should be kept in tune! I carry a little pitch pipe.” and we can verify it with the piano. and now you are fluent—no more hesitations. There should be some vocal cord activity for better accuracy. Now look at your watch: five minutes a day. like the pieces we play. and so on and so forth. there were some hesitations.

one key word my friends: SLOW. Row Your Boat Shubert. but feel free to add some more—it could be that melody or a couple of notes from the last music you just heard on a CD or on the radio! Look at your watch and go for five minutes. Summertime Swing Low. But at the beginning. You will recognize those intervals more and more quickly and be able to go faster and faster. Sweet Chariot Taps Trumpet Tune Trumpet Voluntary TV Advertisements and Jingles Twelve Days of Christmas Twinkle.Below is a list. you are going to become fluent. Twinkle. When the Saints Pont d’Avignon Pop! Goes the Weasel Ride of the Valkyries Row. Little Star We Three Kings of Orient Are Wedding March (Mendelssohn) We Wish You a Merry Christmas When Johnny Comes Marching Home When You Wish Upon a Star Yankee Doodle Chapter 5: The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch 19 . Row. Eroica Theme Big Ben Bizet’s. Klein Nacht Musik Oh! Susannah O Christmas Tree O Holly Night O Little Town of Bethlehem National Anthems Ode to Joy On Top of Old Smoky Oh. If you are unfamiliar with a melody. just write it down on your favorite web browser on the internet! Adeste Fidele/ O’ Come All Ye Faithfull A la Claire Fontaine Alouette Amazing Grace America Anchors Aweigh Auld Lang Syne Battle Hymn of the Republic Bear Over the Mountain Brahm’s. the Trout She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain Silent Night Somewhere Over the Rainbow Star Spangled Banner Star Wars Theme Gershwin’s. Largo from New World Symphony For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow Frère Jacques God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen God Saves the Queen Greensleeves Happy Birthday Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Here Comes the Bride Hey Jude Holly and the Ivy Home on the Range House of the Rising Sun Il Etait un Petit Navire I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas I’ve Been Working on the Railroad I’ve Got Rhythm I Saw Three Ships Jesus. like learning a new language (the language of music in this case). Carmen Chariots of Fire Christ was Born on Christmas Day Clementine Coventry Carol Deck the Halls Dixie Dvorak. Little by little. Lullaby Beethoven’s.S. Joy of Man’s Desiring (J. Bach) Jingle Bells Joy to the World La Donna è Mobile La Marseillaise Let it Be Love Me Tender Maman les Petits Bateaux Mary Had a Little Lamb Merrily we Roll Along March of the Kings (Bizet) Mozart’s.

we are learning the first two measures of “Jardins sous la pluie”. Say. I use the fixed do system.” 20 Chapter 5: The Vocal Approach and Relative Pitch . at least sing the “melody”.or four-measure phrase. they will be covered with your inner ear. You are going to sing or hum the left then the right hand part after playing it on the piano while recognizing its intervals. next time you learn a piece on the piano. It helps especially with modern works. There is a very good reason why solfege is a requirement for any serious music school. indestructible territory. Evgeny Kissin. I like singing the names of the notes (do re mi…) like the lyrics of a song. the first notes are no problem because they are stepwise motions. the analytical part and the mental practice. Solfege will help by singing and giving you a unique experience with your music by physically feeling the intervals and the intonations. repeating like that the name of the notes only ads another serious and conscious backup to your memory! Now you are differentiating yourself from the majority of student pianists who. Say that today you are learning a two. Even though it is good but not always obvious to sing the other parts.Now. no matter if it’s sharp or flat. you repeat this little exercise every day. but also will give you a tremendous aid in your musical memory. you will think the music in terms of the intervals you are going to recognize. for lack of studying solfege. the “guard rail”. From now on. that perfect fourth is the first two notes of “Here Comes the Bride”! When practicing this little solfege exercise. Now you are sure. Oh. the leading voice. Some musicians judging solfege too mechanical prefer while of course using the intonations. The same applies for the following descending perfect fifth. you are practising a daily solfege exercise. You will in addition to instantly understanding and memorizing that passage often discover how inaccurately you heard that part. Learn this: Do C Re D Mi E Fa F Sol G La A Si B When you sing a note. It has the advantage of no matter what scale you are in. singing vowels or something like “da-da-da”. While learning and rehearsing phrase by phrase. where the tonality or the lack thereof could be ambiguous. But then it jumps to a perfect fourth which we now recognize. it will always be sung natural. Of course. yes. When you learn or review your two or four measure phrases. Hélène Grimaud. but also perform with confidence because before you didn’t know how to recognize all those intervals—they didn’t “speak” to you. These exercises help you not only memorize easily. you are placing yourself in safe. Solfege is more fun when practiced with Brahms or Mozart rather than Cramer or Henry Lemoine! Memory wise. do not know intervals and are unable to play “Mary had a Little Lamb” or “Pop! Goes the Weasel” by ear! Believe me. now you know. humming out loud. adding your newly learned phrases. Myself. and Andras Schiff all know how to play “Pop! Goes the weasel. a C will always be a Do and a D will always be a re. Being a real musician and or memorizing a score involve multiple aspects. Example: a D# will be sung: Re or a Bb a Si. Also by doing this. improving your relative pitch tremendously. we will practice our piano music in a different way.

who is also a famous soloist and pedagogue. and your voice comes directly from it. How captivating a pianist are you? Do you hear the wind in “Jardins sous la pluie”? How will you express it? chapter 7 I Used To Play It! If you own a nice painting. it was not the same music! A young artist was playing Mozart in a pretty plain way. of Chopin’s music in that piece came out. but for her it was not “devil sounding” enough—it was too tame. I witnessed another young artist playing a Chopin ballade like a music box: boring! But the master.chapter 6 Master Class When you attend master classes. let it fade away into oblivion after all the efforts you spent to acquire it? In order to prevent this unfortunate event to happen. a masterpiece like a Rembrandt or a Corot. they seem to sing all the time (their voices though.” When you sing. and pedagogue played while singing the parts. became alive and that “boring” sonata magically was transformed into a beautiful masterpiece. and asked him to do the same. The master said. almost the craziness. asked him to sing the passage in three different ways. don’t always sound like those of the little birds!). The magic started. but she sung the passage.” Another day. or see famous musicians rehearsing. It is ten pages long. She was sitting at the other piano. The young artist was playing Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz pretty well. like birds. Chopin said to Mme. fade away with the sun and the rain? So why would you do the same with a Debussy or a Mozart. I was at the master class of a very famous Julliard professor whose students are famous for winning the first prizes of most international competitions. The master. “You must sing if you wish to play. the torments. “especially for the young artists in the audience. showing him the intonations. Rubio. Just mental practice and play at the piano five pages today. If done on a regular basis this will take no time at all. five pages tomorrow. watch videos. you will notice a similitude. the intonations come naturally. Music comes from your soul. would you leave it outside on your patio. and you will keep your masterpieces in you! Chapter 6: Master Class 21 . a famous international performer. Jardins Sous La Pluie is one of those very beautiful and exciting masterpieces you don’t want to lose. singing the melody is the best way to understand your music. and it is easier to first express them with your voice—that’s why the famous pianists always sing! A captivating speaker uses intonation. just on a recurrent and regular schedule review your “assets”. Suddenly all those Mozart phrases made sense.

We also think about our little analysis while we play. But. which leads to the dominant G (now the new tonic of the modulation)—a “short Mordent” around F# then a major third down to D (dominant of G major. it’s a four-voice fugue. If we are not sure. you will be able to memorize everything! Just to show you that you are not wasting your time with me. We are not using finger memory here! We play so slowly that we are only using conscious memory.S. descending stepwise down to A.S. we don’t play it on the piano yet until we can play those three measures on our knee. Like the successful people. But of course. Haste makes waste. and we don’t want to waste our time. due to the intensity of the information we have to memorize. and there is a lot going on at the same time. Now we recognize the sound of those ascending fourths as well as the descending fifth from A to D separating them. We see our fingers on every key. two consecutive fourths up. It would be easy for me to let you get by with easy pieces and declare “mission accomplished. it is not what we call a “national sport”. 22 Chapter 8: Bach. climbs stepwise to the dominant G. I like to see the expressions on their faces. Bach Why are we going to study this? Because. depending on how much time we can practice. because all hand or finger movements of a fifth or more induce memory lapses! We close our eyes and play it very slowly on our knee. goes stepwise a third down. it is more difficult to musically divide them into two or four measure phrases because there are always some other voices continuing in the background with notes that we should hold. with eyes closed. So it is better to divide more in “workload” criteria—say two measures or a line a day. we don’t want to skip any detail.” it is difficult. Here. A-F#. pause on the dominant. and write down the appropriate fingering. Also. you know that an insecure fingering is going to sabotage your work. If you don’t have a good method to memorize. It should be done now. without any hesitation. Three measures is a “little chunk” that is easy to memorize. it is good to only do a little bit every day. Bach. it’s almost impossible. That’s why it should be painstakingly slow. when I tell people that I didn’t watch TV last night but instead studied a four-voice fugue from J.” But if you can memorize this fugue (and you will!). the new key). It’s like a test. we climb the mountain one step at a time! We play the left hand slowly. we have to do all this.” The “subject” of the fugue. like Kennedy’s “man on the moon. It is especially hard to memorize. We are going to start by memorizing the first line. We start our little detective work with the “magnifying glass. melodic pattern. we want to work the most efficient way. especially here. We have to put a “special note” for the interval in measure 3. and now goes down by successions of four notes. starts on the tonic C. and we hear every pitch. It then jumps a sixth to F#.chapter 8 Fugue in C Major by J. Remember. we can of course check the score. Fugue in C Major . With fugues.

and every note he makes is beautiful (the secret of the famous pianists). Now we close our eyes and play it extremely slowly on our knees. If we do it slow enough. we should not have any problems. while thinking about our little detective work. Fugue in C Major 23 . you review it on a chair or a couch. It is strongly advised that. We will also learn two more measures or even the entire line if we can.S. like every day. the most likely reason is that there is an error somewhere. If you have the sensation of déjà vu. You need to notice this because it follows a long “irregular” note. It also helps tremendously—if time permits and depending on your deadlines—to review it after waking up in the morning while your mind is still fresh.” If you know each hand separately very well and you encounter a difficulty playing hands together. The reason is not that he makes himself fall asleep! He is listening to himself. When we can do this without hesitation. while thinking about the little details. Now we play the right hand slowly and write down the correct fingering. which is why it is important to put our “special notes. It is very important that we finish at the first notes of the next measure: “the chain link. still listening and thinking about all the details. hear each pitch. Now. that in the third measure. It is now transposed on a nearby key. put a special note about when to play that “mordent. The “real answer”: nothing has changed from the subject. we will start with our review work that I described in “Jardins sous la pluie” in Chapter 1 (it is in the paragraph just below the one with the little moon). if you have time. Once we master that line very slowly. with eyes closed. giving us enough time to see every key and hear every pitch. It doesn’t fall into that J. but the most frequent error will be in the rhythm. with eyes closed on our knees very slowly until “in place”. we can play it on the piano.” If we need to. in addition to our counting. slowly on the piano. We see each key. Check the accuracy of each hand. playing it on your knees. Andras Schiff often plays with eyes closed. It is good to take note though.” We notice that the answer starts on the second E from the second four notes in a descending series of the left hand. since the third measure is more intricate. you’re right—it’s the same as the one-anda-half previous measures! We play it very slowly on our knee. G major. And that’s it for today. We are looking for the “vertical relationships.” A little detective work: The “answer” of the fugue starts on the dominant. we play once with both hands very slowly on the piano. with eyes closed on our knees. The next day. with eyes closed. the D of the two consecutive fourths—B-E A-D—of the right hand is played with the first F# of the “short Mordent” of the left hand. Bach “beat.Ready? We play it now. Is every note you make beautiful? He also loses himself in his magnificent music and goes some places we all wish we could go. Chapter 8: Bach.” which makes us want to tap the time with our feet while listening to his music—or at least we have to. before you go to bed. we can repeat it or even a single beat several times. we play it slowly on the piano.

my left hand? Can I sing their part with accuracy? Do I really hands separately. We of course are going to use our “inner voice” to hear every pitch. look horizontally. for some reason. Because it is quite dense. but nevertheless. Every time you will play it. You don’t want a blurry picture! You need this time. Fugue in C Major . strictly following the steps described above and. Like measure four. beat by beat. soprano ascending stepwise four notes are the “inversion” of the descending stepwise four notes of measure two. can you sing in your head the subject of the fugue in three different ways? Which one do you prefer and which one will be yours? What about the other parts? Now that you have the method. again and again until mastered totally and completely. Sometimes if you are not sure of a note. we also have to pay particular attention at the vertical relationship with rhythmic irregularities. Measure six illustrates this very well. mindless repetition that will let you down during a performance. Then the same hands together. We are of course not talking about brute. As we saw previously. however. look before and you will see that it belongs to a melody that you are not aware of playing! Some people mark every entry and learn every voice separately. every key and hear every pitch while thinking about our little analysis. that the key for a more complicated work like a fugue. such as. I’ll let you continue the good work on your own. intelligent mind activity through mental practice repetition. because. since we play them together and already learn hands separately. repeating it hundreds of times using only our finger memory—Instead we want a conscious. with eyes closed. with eyes closed. hands separately. By the way. We want to play that line slowly on our knees. be careful! Some parts are going to be inaccurately heard in your mind’s ear. you will discover a little detail. It emphasizes again. we have to know this very important fact: NOTHING IS AS VALUABLE AS REPETITION. but. If you have a problem memorizing more specifically hands together. I think just being aware of them will suffice. especially when rehearsing hands together. In some pieces—as needed depending on the complexity of some parts—it’s sometimes good to repeat. ask yourself this simple question: do I really know perfectly my right hand. giving us time to notice and think about all those little details and have them fixed in our conscious memory. is that you want to give to your mind the time to get a clear picture of every note. I suggest studying measure by measure. I would go even further on this matter.Measures 4 and 5 offer no particular difficulty if we do our work seriously—I mean. master each of them perfectly with no hesitations on my knees seeing each note and hearing each pitch? You will see that most of the time the answer was no! 24 Chapter 8: Bach. they sound strange to you or you just neglected them. ending on the first notes of the next one. short notes after a long one. We have to make a “special note” that the left hand D is played with the right hand F-A and G-F going to E (left hand) starts on B (right hand)! We can either repeat it 98 times and maybe still make mistakes if Aunt Lucy is entering the room or just repeat it very slowly once or twice. first and foremost. to get a clear snap-shot of every note which is played together. Only singing them during your rehearsals will put you back on track. do it extremely slowly giving us time to see. a little information that will help you know the score a little better. If you have a problem vertically.

Now. Sixth chord: add the note two half tones above the fifth.” we can predict quite a fair amount of how the chords progress in music. Chapter 9: Chord Progressions with the Circle of Fifths 25 . the basic major chord is said to have a “big solid” sound. Diminished and augmented chords—because every note is at the same distance from each other and sound like they are in equilibrium as we don’t really hear what the root is—are said to have an “unstable sound. the sixth and seventh chords are said to be comfortable and rested sounds. The aim of this little daily exercise is to familiarize yourself with them and—most importantly—to work on your relative pitch so you know how they sound. Normally. Minor sixth: do the same with a minor chord. stack of minor thirds (reversible chord. If you have to memorize a formula. Diminished chord: take a minor chord but flat also the fifth. makes it much easier to memorize.” In order to get the composer’s idea and better understand the score. one of the characteristics of a pattern is that it’s elements repeat in a predictable manner. The root here is C. every note is spaced the same all the way to the octave!) Seventh chord: add the note two half tones below the root. in order to better understand and memorize music. four half tones higher. than just seeing a jumble of unrelated notes. or at least understand how music is built with chords and their progressions. on which music is built. this is the one! Here it goes: the root +4 half tones+3 half tones. always seeking for some patterns. we now are going to see how all those chords are organized and how they progress in our music with the famous “circle of fifths. one after the other. we are going to review our chords and learn some basic recipes on how to build any chord from any note on the keyboard! First and foremost is our basic major chord—the one on which every chord is built. The minor chord is often associated with sadness. with the “circle of fifths. all the other types of chords while really listening and then singing them arpeggio style. The chords and their progressions or harmony is the “foundation”. like the one of a house. and three half tones higher is G. Pick any note on the keyboard: a randomly selected root +4 half tones+3 half tones. reading and thinking about the score in groups of notes makes it easier to understand and therefore. First. “modern and unresolved sound. Augmented chord: take a basic major chord and sharp the fifth. R+4+3—memorize this formula! Minor chord: flat the third. Minor seventh: do the same with a minor chord! Major seventh: add the note half a tone below the root. we get E. We are going to see that. let’s do a little daily practice. to have knowledge of harmony. Then build and play.chapter 9 Chord Progressions with the Circle of Fifths It is also very important. Also.” As we previously saw. The major seventh is said to have a more. Diminished sixth: add the note three half tones above the fifth of the diminished chord.” On the contrary.

For some examples let’s have a look at the famous theme from Franz Schubert’s unfinished symphony. you see that counterclockwise it resolves in fourths. you are in G major. from there. with 12 hours. you are in D. D7 to G! When we do our ear training work. it starts on the tonic. But then it makes a jump to E and from there comes back “home. and each has one more sharp.” step by step. it is very good practice to harmonize one once a day when we find the melody by ear. it goes to another chord and then comes back. and then comes home step by step. something as short as a television jingle that you have in your head. every stop is a fifth above the preceding one.When we look at it. Get used to finding and hearing chord progressions. and so on and so forth. which preludes the fugue we are studying. and when we go clockwise. going “home” stopping on E. On top we see C. which resolves going back to the tonic G. it looks like a clock.S. It starts on the tonic G. five or six notes or maybe fewer. We start with the immediate neighbor in the circle. This can of course be done artistically with nice broken chords. with a basic I-V-I progression. Nothing really surprising so far—it is a I-V-I chord progression. Start composing. When you look at the circle. to G. goes back one step to D7 (dominant7). It starts on the tonic C. And that is how the major keys are built: 1 #. which you should memorize (perhaps start with one side at a time). On the other side. going counterclockwise from C. Mostly. each stop has one more flat. resolving back to the tonic. 26 Chapter 9: Chord Progressions with the Circle of Fifths . Another example. resolving towards the tonic. 2 #. Bach used the circle of fifths in his prelude in C major. You can also do this with melodies of your own. We say it RESOLVES towards the tonic. we now are going to see how J. What is the most interesting for us is that it shows how the chords progress in music. goes a couple of steps backwards on the circle. Am. Find the notes as an ear training exercise. then harmonize them on the piano. and then we experiment further down the circle.

the more you know about the music you are studying. the more you understand it. in Bach’s prelude. isn’t it? Don’t you have the impression of already understanding—therefore. but they always follow some kind of pattern. every piece has different chord progressions that you should discover to better understand the composer’s idea. For example. C-D-A-D-F. To recognize the chords in order to write them down on your music. identification of the real bass or “the root” of the chord will clear them up. you should make stacks of thirds. second measure. Chapter 9: Chord Progressions with the Circle of Fifths 27 . the easier it is to memorize it.It’s a nice feeling to predict which chord is going to come next. you get D-F-A-C: Dm7—voilá! If there are any ambiguities. They are not always so obvious. Again. when you stack them in thirds. knowing—a very important part of the piece? Of course.

controlled” automatism! • We repeat the procedure. like Claude Debussy used to do at the bottom page of his Preludes. I would like to make a little comment about why. • Practice by rehearsing on the piano this passage hands separately and hands together. very little chunks at the time. The main reason is enabling us. we are as the Leimer/Gieseking method suggests. Don’t waste time with your automatism postponing it to a later date.” • Sing at least the melody while recognizing the intervals. We call this a “conscious. right hand and hands together. Having the material we are working on memorized. why not use the procedures used by professionals preparing a new piece? When we study a passage. to really listen to oneself and correct any little inequality or flaws in our playing. as Franz Liszt who liked to say that nobody in the audience listened more to his playing than himself. If you judge your time spent at the piano important. • We are happy with the results and we dance around in the house. for this phrase every day. enable us for a better audition to even close our eyes and really listen to the piano and make the little adjustments to our automatism. your servitor have to confess of having learned entire scores in foreign countries away from a piano just doing the mental practice sometimes skipping step one or two! The master from whom I’ve learned mental practice even qualifies analytical memory as a crutch! But I think that in this domain.chapter 10 Checklist Or Working Like A Famous Pianist To be organized and efficient in aviation in the “no messing around world” we use checklists. in order to dose properly and make the movements of your hands. It could be “wind in the hair of the exotic/half nude girl sitting on the beach” but it could also very much be. • Mental practice left hand. a musical phrase maybe two or four measures. the weight of your arms and the attack of each note automatic.” The rules are always there to be broken. You want it NOW to sound like the ideal version you have in your head. The main rule is: to use what works the best for you. you already know the score! So you are going to repeat until satisfaction while attentively listening to yourself. just take your pick! Myself. “sound of dental apparatus while root canal. All the tools are now there in front of you. flexibility of your wrists. Now. everything helps even a crutch! 28 Chapter 10: Checklist Or Working Like A Famous Pianist . I would like to say that this “checklist” is just a suggestion. when you play in public. right at the beginning memorizing systematically everything we want to perform at performance level. here are the steps of the checklist! • Oral description and write down on the score the name of the chords and the “little discoveries. Now.

Chapter 11: Minute Waltz by Frédéric Chopin 29 . This is the entire phrase. Chopin repeats this chord progression four times on this page— nice chord pattern! The more notes that repeat that we can find. the first four measures. you will be able to master this in no time! Now that you understand chords and their progressions. and from there it goes stepwise to F after repeating twice on C. But I call it this because it should take you one minute to memorize the left hand and one minute to memorize the right one! Ready? Top chrono! Just kidding! It’s not a race here. page 27. We close our eyes and play it on our knee very slowly. When we can do this with no hesitations. which sometimes makes more sense when we see “the big picture”—like the story of the blind and the elephant. What looks like a jumble of notes soon becomes clear and simple. the better. But really. see each key. If we’re stuck. The first two measure motif repeats itself four times on this page: nice melodic pattern! But I suggest—especially if you are not used to memorizing—to start memorizing measure by measure. We start with the first line. making it easy to memorize. First we start by learning the left hand. we are always seeking a greater comprehension of the score. while thinking about our little analysis. as illustrated by the colored notes. resolving itself by going step by step around the circle to C. slowly on our knee.chapter 11 Minute Waltz by Frédéric Chopin Its real name is not “Minute Waltz. no problem. with our eyes closed. We see that it begins with the A chord. it makes like a little pattern: three notes up. Now we play it slowly on the piano. resolving itself towards C! Every day we are going to repeat our little analysis aloud. I would suggest that you order Valse kk IVb. We see each finger on each key and hear every pitch. jumps to A (another fifth!) then it goes symmetrically three notes down and descends to E with a little appoggiatura around E. It starts on E. if you use our method. and those chords with their common notes. we study the right hand. it is very good practice to “X-ray” your music to differentiate the stable notes of the chords from the restless passing ones. and we know that haste makes waste. step by step in the circle. jumps a fourth (Here Comes the Bride!) to A. Then. and we look for the common ones between each chord. we hear each pitch. while thinking again about our analysis. while thinking about those bases jumping fourth by fouth. #11 in A minor. It tremendously simplifies the score to reveal “the frame of the house”: the structure from the ornamentation. we can check the score. And we see that between A and D is A → D and G is F → G and C is G The base jumps in fourths. we play it on the piano. It jumps down a fifth to B (be careful of all jumps of a fifth or more because you don’t want to forget them! I recommend writing a little exclamation mark with your pencil in front of them). Then we close our eyes and repeat it. Again. We play it slowly on the piano after having written down the proper fingering.” If you want to learn the very nice Chopin legacy. Now. but don’t play it yet on the piano until we can play it with no hesitations on our knee.

Minute Waltz Frédéric Chopin 30 Chapter 11: Minute Waltz by Frédéric Chopin .

we are not going to finish this lesson without talking about some very important points in the next chapter. 19. you play it slowly enough not to get stuck. both hands on our knees.We now play it very slowly. I’ll help you this time—I’m like that! Measure 5 the base starts one 8’ higher. measure 17. resolving on Am. it’s piece of cake. but I just want to show you here that—with a good analysis and knowledge of chord progressions—when we understand the system. If you do get stuck. again. with eyes closed. In measure 7. a little “scale motif ” is followed by” little turns” around the chord with restless notes not of the chords and those which belong. an arpeggio this time followed by the same “little turns” around the chord until the end of that part. I’ll let you continue on your own. you know that it is very important to not play it yet on the piano until that line is mastered totally on your knees. We just memorized half of Chopin’s “Valse” in no time! Now that you know how to work. I let you get your magnifying glass and your Sherlock Holmes hat and hunt for the differences with the first four measures! Well. but. You see. For the second four-measure phrase. Chopin swaps E7 to Am all throughout. leading tone to C! The third four-measure phrase is exactly the same as the first one. with the same melodic pattern. But. the second G7 chord swaps the B for D and the last note of the right hand is now B. For the right hand. We want to look harmonically and see a chord pattern. The next phrase starts this time on C. you have almost memorized the first part in no time! We should memorize only two or four measures a day. Chapter 11: Minute Waltz by Frédéric Chopin 31 . The little part beginning measure 17 is just as easy. and 20. dominant of the little modulation. feel free to check the score. pausing on the root at the last beat for measures: 18. Normally. In measure 21. Measure 15 is also different with kind of appoggiatura around G.

there will be a point where you will know the piece like you know your name. plus some strategic considerations: “here comes the sixth the jump to A—this is the first scale down—the thumb is on the C. If they give me room 623 to remember.) The more you can talk about the piece. over and over. for some specific points. Observe the vertical relationships. to have it in my mind forever! (The next night.chapter 12 General Considerations First.” Don’t procrastinate and let that happen! Just take your magnifying glass and do a thorough oral description—look for the neglected information. differences? • Parallels? • Melodic. Sing it to remove any ambiguity and play it on your knees. A lot of professional pianists use a “little script” in their head which they repeat while playing. normally the staff at the front desk help me out. I could either repeat “623” five hundred times and maybe still forget or just think once that six equals two times three. so on and so forth. Some people mark them down on the score. I will still go to room 623. while we play. the better—the more you practice a piece. we look as we saw in the previous examples. when we pull out our magnifying glass and start our little analysis. the second one it’s on the B. Those are the ones the most likely. Of course. You might be nervous to perform because you know that a passage is insecure. while thinking about the note or the neglected information until you have mastered it totally! 32 Chapter 12: General Considerations . As a pilot. scale or chord patterns? • Inversions? • Repeating notes (tonic. Analytical memory is very important for some pedagogues—it is said to be the most reliable. this should be done in the background. The little script is the oral description or analysis supplemented by our “little discovered associations and patterns”—as previously showed in the examples. the more little discoveries you are going to look for and are going to make. Since you are going to repeat them orally every day. It could be something as small as one beat. if lack of the “oral description” which are going to give you memory lapses. which could “derail the entire train. in a different city and a different hotel. I often stay overnight in hotels. Here are some general guidelines: Key signature and modulations Scale degrees Are there: • Any repeating patterns? • Similarities. while your inner voice is singing loud in the foreground! Be very careful not to neglect small details in the “easy parts” as they don’t produce a big effect on your mind. with eyes closed. dominant?) What direction is the music going—up or down? Does it goes stepwise or does it skip? How many voices are there? Mark the entry of a new one. in order to help us make a precise oral description of what we are studying and therefore have it set in our conscious mind.

say your wife tells you that she filed for divorce. in the case of memory lapse. ringing cell phones. makes it easy for us to start anywhere in the score. he only talked about the memory lapse. you are sitting on your couch. as a master at a master class. I have no problems—without the score—resuming from there. before an important performance. then resume a little bit ahead in the score. it is better to “drill” a lot of starting places ahead of where you are in the score. like coughs in the audience. Now do the same with the right hand. being able like this to rehearse your music in your head during any dead moment of the day! Nothing is a valuable as meaningful repetition! During a performance. it is good to play in front of friends or—even better—at a friend’s house on a different piano—or try anything that can make you nervous. Of course. very slowly: Bingo! You see it is easy and you start to realize the tremendous advantage you have over other pianists. of the first two measures of say. repeating on our knees every day.The way. but when I talked to the pianist about it. we practice. running on a treadmill or sitting on a chair across from someone who doesn’t stop talking and you find this conversation/monologue a little bit boring. which I was totally unaware of! In order to “master this art. Also by playing. mark with your pencil the passages which you dislike. For example. or a fly which finds your nose very pretty and stubbornly thinks it’s the best place to be during your performance. Do you really take advantage of this wonderful tool which is mental practice? It is as easy to hear and see piano keys in your head as it is to think for example. One day. Some pianists are real masters at that. Say. You may realize while doing this that some spots need more attention with your memorization (maybe those fifth or above jumps again!). when I was watching a piano competition. see your fingers of your left hand playing slowly each key. for better assurance. there was a very nice Scarlatti piece. stopping and then resuming at the next number. You stop. It works too! Let’s try hands together. then. You see it works. you will very quickly get results which please you. have a friend sneak behind you and suddenly make a loud noise. my professor sits at another one with the score. if you listen to the recordings while following the score and. filming or recording yourself. Chapter 12: General Considerations 33 .” just write down numbers at some strategic parts of the piece. Practice by starting at those different numbers. You play. Now with your eyes open. working line by line or phrase by phrase. how ugly your neighbor’s garden gnome is! Let’s try: Say you are standing up. close your eyes and start playing on your knees from those different numbers. But. always use every resource available to help themselves. but. Recording oneself was recommended by a famous international virtuoso during a master class at TCU. You may not like what you hear at first. Successful people. Even a tape recorder and a microphone will do. Jardins Sous La Pluie while hearing each pitch. and after he plays a passage to show me how it should be done. I sit at one piano. To better prepare for them. They now have very nice digital pianos on which it is easy to record yourself. it is very important to do so in the form of mental practice repetition. a lot of nuisances can take a toll on your concentration.

that is the reason why playing a piece on different registers of the piano is also a very good memory check. Please do a nice job and only concentrate your attention on your music. the memory will stop. why not commit ourselves like Yo-Yo Ma at memorizing every day two or four measures? You will before you know it become a superior musician. with no thought or direction—maybe trying to memorize! Does it sound familiar? This student is not you anymore because now you know how to memorize. conquering our mountain one step at a time. remember that your inner voice is the fuel of your music memory. and it is always interesting to play a Bach fugue on the organ or piano and choir. or Debussy on an exotic instrument since he was so fond of them! It’s also like a little memory challenge because your ears are not used to hearing such sounds. and make every note beautiful. the more we do anything. Andras Schiff and many others—these “piano magicians”. playing the entire piece first with your left hand then right hand or playing it very slowly or being able to sing or hum the entire piece. Happy music! I sincerely hope that I contributed to giving you the wings that will fly you through a wonderful musical journey. so you get distracted. hear it sung by human voices. With no more voice. The joys of really owning a masterpiece more than compensate for it. maybe closing your eyes and making every note beautiful. digital pianos have several different instruments. When we play at some friend’s house. it helps that we play on a different piano because it pressures you to only think about and listen to your music. play while listening to yourself. Don’t let that singing stop! All of this seems like a lot of work. Therefore. like playing the entire piece on a table or our knees. while experiencing the acoustics of that different instrument. The more proficient and the easier it becomes. you must realize that your audience has only one goal and focus: to be moved by your music. so of course we can do all that! If we can’t. As for every other activity. The problem is that this is the normal way we work! Our basic routine is what is supposed to be the most challenging. Other than new and awkward hand spacing. you close your eyes. don’t forget that we do just a little bit every day. all these well-known “memory checks” which are going to sound familiar. it means we’re not ready yet! Many student pianists practice by aimlessly repeating and repeating the score on the piano. Your new assignment: Ask yourself while playing each note “Am I happy with how this note sounds? Are my intonations in this phrase correct? Does it sound like the ideal version I have in my head?” In relation to what we just said and to fight nervousness during a performance. We only use conscious intelligent work through mental practice. Again.Also. while pretending it’s the piano. maybe. the better. like them. Your new way to practice is like Hélène Grimaud. 34 Chapter 12: General Considerations . an expert memorizer and end-up with a great repertoire! Last but not least. not at the cake you are going to have for desert. but.

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How much does one piano lesson cost? Successful people are those who work the most efficiently. Understand music by discovering it’s structure. Take “The lesson of your life” with the most famous pianists and pedagogues—forty years of piano practice and fifteen years of extensive research on piano memorization. Build any chord from any note on the keyboard. Reduce the time spent in front of the piano trying to learn. Rehearse your music anywhere. Get relative pitch using the fastest. For the price of a lesson you will be able to: • • • • • • • • Feel confident when performing in public. a lesson given by the most famous pianists and pedagogues written by François Richard in an easy-to-understand “for dummies” -style format. without a piano! . fun and traditional way. Take full advantage of your piano lessons. Play the piano everywhere without needing the score.

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