Category Archives: Music

Creative Juice #142

Standard
Creative Juice #142

A collection of creative genius.

How to Practice the Piano: Avoiding Play-Related Injuries

Standard
How to Practice the Piano: Avoiding Play-Related Injuries

When I was a little girl and just beginning piano lessons, my teacher spent what I considered an inordinate amount of time talking about posture and hand position. At eight years old, I was much more interested in making music than getting posture and position correct.

But when I retired from teaching and began seriously practicing piano again in my mid-sixties, I found that my hands ached during and after practice. I chalked it up to arthritis.

The repeated chords in the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata were particularly troublesome. I realized I was tensing my fingers and pounding the piano. But how else could I play that passage?

I was also revisiting the Schmitt exercises, and I found some that specifically dealt with eliminating tension by moving the hand from the wrist, keeping the arms still. Exercise 48 works with thirds and sixths, repeated and scales; exercise 51 works with repeated octaves and scales in octaves. I applied that technique to measures 25-29, 43-52, 121-125 and 138-147 of the Moonlight Sonata, third movement, and it helped.

Over 50% of professional pianists experience play-related injuries at some time in their careers.

 

Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff

I saw a list of famous pianists who suffered from injuries, and Sergei Rachmaninoff was mentioned, which I consider poetic justice. How many pianists were destroyed by the unplayable chords in his Prelude in c# minor? I have small hands. How do you play a full, wide chord without stretching your fingers to the breaking point?

I polled some of my pianist friends on Facebook, and their best suggestion was rolling the hand from left to right, letting go of the lowest note and keeping it sounding with the sostenuto pedal. That’s a new skill for me, and it will take lots of practice until I can do it well. I didn’t even know I had a sostenuto pedal until recently.

Realize that the editor’s fingering markings in your music might not work for you. I’d always assumed they were the only correct way to play the passage. However, it’s subjective. Experiment with different possibilities, especially on chords of less than five notes in either hand.

Playing piano with tension in the body (hands, arms, shoulders, back, butt, legs) causes damage. So does playing while slouching. If you’re having pain, that’s a sign that something is wrong. Stop. Playing through the pain can have long-term adverse effects.

Elizabeth Mueller Grace discusses the role of posture and alignment in preventing injuries:

Beth Grace works with a student to correct alignment errors.

Muscle memory is a boon to pianists, in that it enables us to memorize music; but it’s also a curse, because it makes bad habits in our practice are so very hard to unlearn.

Dorothy Taubman developed an approach to playing the piano that eliminates damage caused by improper alignment. She identified four errors that cause structural damage: twisting the hand, collapsing the wrist; overspreading the fingers; and overcurling the fingers.

An introduction to the Taubman Approach:

I would love to learn the Taubman Approach for playing dense, spread-out chords, but the only way is to take lessons from a Taubman-trained instructor, or to take the Taubman workshops yourself. Or you can stream Taubman Approach videos for $14.99 per month. I have not done any of these, but I’m thinking about them.

Sources and related reading:

https://majoringinmusic.com/preventing-resolving-piano-injury/

http://thepianoteacher.com.au/articles/the-taubman-approach-to-piano-technique/

http://www.pianocareer.com/piano-practice/how-to-deal-with-piano-practice-related-hand-injuries-and-muscle-pain/

http://pianomap.com/injuries/index.html (read all 7 sections)

http://pianomap.com/taubman.html

https://takelessons.com/blog/piano-guide-injury-prevention Scroll down to “Knowing When to Stop: Common Injuries and How to Avoid Them.”

http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/pianoinjury.htm

http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/bptaubman.htm

https://www.nytimes.com/1981/06/14/arts/when-a-pianist-s-fingers-fail-to-obey.html

https://www.richmanmusicschool.com/articles/pianists-pain-prevention-tips

https://medium.com/real-world-music-theory/how-to-play-large-chords-that-are-too-far-for-your-hand-8d6b72d5bc2b

Video of the Week # 201:​ Bucket Drums

Standard

Creative Juice #137

Standard
Creative Juice #137

Inspiration for your creative soul:

Z is for Ziggy Marley

Standard
Z is for Ziggy Marley

When I taught elementary general music, one of the songs in our series was Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, and it was often requested by my students. Here is Ziggy singing his dad’s song.

David Nesta “Ziggy” Marley (born 17 October 1968) is a Jamaican musician and leader of the band Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, and the son of reggae icons Bob Marley and Rita Marley.

In 1979, Ziggy and his siblings Sharon, Cedella and Stephen formed the Melody Makers – named after the British weekly pop/rock music newspaper, Melody Maker – and made their recording debut with “Children Playing in the Streets”. The track was written for them by their father, who had composed the song for them four years earlier and wanted to share this gift with children around the world. All royalties from the single were pledged to the United Nations, to aid its efforts during the International Year of the Child.

In 1984, Ziggy Marley got back into the studio with his siblings and English producer Steve Levine for what became the single, “Lying in Bed.” The following year, they released their debut LP, Play the Game Right. The album was produced by their mother, Rita Marley, and featured Aston and Carlton Barrett, who were originally the rhythm section for Bob Marley’s Wailers, on bass and drums, respectively.

Skipping forward to 1995, the group signed a record deal with Elektra and released “Free Like We Want 2 B” accompanied by the group’s own recording label “Ghetto Youths United”. The album charted at #170 on the Billboard 200 chart and #3 on the Top Reggae Albums chart. The single “Power to Move Ya” charted #13 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles.

In 1996 Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers released a song called “Love Power” for the Jim Henson soundtrack movie Muppet Treasure Island with the composers Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil. He also performed the song “Hey What a Wonderful Kind of Day” which was later released as the theme song to the Arthur TV Show on PBS.

Here’s a more recent version of “Hey What a Wonderful Kind of Day” with friends Jon Baptiste and Chance the Rapper:

In early 1997, the group performed at the tribute concert “Marley Magic Live” in Central Park, New York on the Summerstage. They also released their second best-of album “The Best of (1988-1993)”. Later that year, the group released their ninth album “Fallen Is Babylon“. In 1998, the second single “Everyone Wants to Be” charted at #16 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart. The album earned the group their third Grammy award.

The YouTube video below of “Everyone Wants to Be” has an annoying crackle. Another YouTube video was redubbed directly from the album, without the crackle, but after a while it doesn’t sync correctly. I’d say watch this one until the crackle starts.

In 1999, the group released their tenth studio album, “The Spirit of Music”. The album peaked at #1 on the Top Reggae Albums chart. The album spawned the singles “Higher Vibration”, “Jah Will Be Done”, and “One Good Spliff”.

Ziggy Marley’s debut solo album, Dragonfly was released on 15 April 2003. The album featured the single “True To Myself.”

Something more recent, Rebellion Rises, which came out in 2018:

AtoZ2019tenthAnnMuch of the text of this article was excerpted from Wikipedia.

Photograph of Ziggy Marley by John Mathew Smith, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

R is for Rhiannon Giddens

Standard

The March issue of Smithsonian magazine featured an article about banjo-playing singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, who researches the African roots of America’s musical heritage. Her face seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t recall where I’d seen her, so I searched YouTube. Her voice sounded familiar, too, but I couldn’t remember when I’d ever heard her.

I am now streaming her on Amazon Prime. Her voice is rich and versatile. Her songs remind me of the songs I grew up on, the protest songs, the folk music, like Joan Baez; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Simon and Garfunkel. Except hers are authentically African American.

In addition to banjo prowess, Giddens has mad fiddlin’ skills.

And here she is singing in Gaelic. (Hey, that’s Chris Thile on mandolin.)

I am so impressed with Rhiannon Giddens–her beautiful voice, the gorgeous songs she writes, and her musicology work. She is my latest musical obsession.

NaPoWriMo2019 #8

Standard

character-1797362_640

Liebestraum

When his grasp on her hand dragged on like a fermata,
She wrenched it free.
He kept bringing up the same objections,
An obligato argument.
Lately, every moment they spent together
Was marked by dissonance.
Their conversation limited to a pentatonic range of options,
Their words spoken pizzicato,
With an accelerando crescendoing to a fortissimo,
The neighbors wondering if they should call in a domestic disturbance.
Then an intermezzo when they spoke civilly to each other,
Their alternating leitmotifs reminding them of the way they used to be.
Once again their rondo began, always coming back to the same theme.
Could they admit their relationship was little more than a scherzo?
It was time to declare it fine.

©ARHuelsenbeck

napo2019button2