Category: Piano Performance

The importance of flexible wrists in piano playing

One common issue piano beginners have is maintaining flexible wrists during their piano playing. In fact, this issue can even be found in many experienced piano players. 

It’s easy to tell students to “relax the wrists”, but it seems difficult for them to do so, even when they really try to. I would point out that most of the time the problem arises not from the wrists but actually the forearms. 

Lots of piano players come to me and say that they get tired easily when they play, and when I point out if that’s their forearms that give up first, they are surprised to learn how I know exactly that’s their problem. 

Many piano students were not taught right from the start that they use the whole body to play the piano, no matter how easy the music is. They tense their bodies, their shoulders and arms, and solely focus on training their fingers to play accurately (the note pitches of) whatever pieces they’re given to practice on. 

Learning to use the whole arm to play one single note is the first piano technique exercise I give to my students, whether they are beginners or advanced players (if they have technical issues). In my Technique Transformation Piano Exercise Book, the single-note exercise is the first exercise I introduce to anyone who wants to transform their piano technique. The exercise is super simple – the purpose is to focus on the correct way of using arm weight (instead of forcing fingers hard into the keys). It’s important for any piano players to learn to feel how their bodies are acting during their playing, how to incorporate the different parts of their bodies and in particularly of their arms, even in simple exercise like this. 

Most piano players focus on the execution of the notes, and neglect the release of them. When I invite students to pay more attention to the release of notes and the relaxation of their bodies, they find it surprising that they were actually really tense without them recognizing it. Just like there are execution and release of notes, there are tension and relaxation of the bodies and arms during our piano playing. If we’re tense all the time, we get tired very easily. If you have tension issues in your playing (you can’t play fast notes or execute them clearly, or simply cannot play louder chords), tr to pay attention to your wrists and forearms, see if they are actually pretty tense. Try to make a point to relax them every time after you play a big chord or a fast passage (also notice if your shoulders are shrugged up-lower them down), and see how that feels after a passage or two. You might be surprised that relaxation is the key to better piano playing. 

Enrol in our Piano Technique Transformation Course for Performers (Part I)

Piano Technique Transformation Course

This course is designed to drastically transform your piano technique forever for the better. With the aid of videos and exercise book, you will be able to not only learn at your pace but also practice efficiently to improve your piano playing in a short period of time

Course includes:

My technique exercise book (pdf copy): “Technique Transformation Piano Exercise Book” (USD$25 value)

Section 1: Demonstration videos on various techniques with reference to Gyorgy Sandor’s “On Piano Playing” (USD$150 value);

Section 2: Demonstration videos on ALL exercises from technique book (30 exercises) (USD$250 value).

5 Tips to Prepare for Your Piano Diploma Exam (ATCL/dipABRSM)

Here are 5 tips to help you prepare for your piano diploma exam:

1. Read the Official Syllabus

Read the syllabus carefully: everything is written out very clearly in the syllabus provided by the music exam board you’re taking exam with, from the repertoire list, to time limit, writing format and word count. Go to the relevant link for your piano diploma:

ABRSM

Trinity College of Music

2. Choose a Well-balanced Program

It is advised to choose a program that includes pieces of not only from different musical periods but also varieties in musical styles and technical command. So think tempo contrast, different genres and structures (sonata/character piece/technical piece/fugue).

3. Show Your Strength and Hide Your Weakness

The recital program is for you to SHINE, to show your performance ability and musical understanding, rather than displaying your shortcomings in commanding a piece or two. Know your strength – usually your teacher (if you have one) would know quite well what that would be. Explore your ability and learn to perform pieces of higher level of difficulties is commendable, but knowing your limit is worth noting especially for exam purpose.

4. Combine Interest and Mastery in Your Exam Pieces

Choosing pieces you would like to learn is very important – but so is choosing pieces you CAN perform them technically and musically to the level of the diploma exam required. Do not choose pieces just because they are popular or technically demanding, but at the same time do not choose some music simply because they are obscure thinking the examiners have never heard and do not know how to mark them (think “new music”) – if that ever happens I suppose you as the candidate would not understand how to play it either! And don’t forget you have to talk about them if you’re taking any diploma exams with the ABRSM!

5. Understand the Difficulty when Preparing for a Diploma Exam

Preparing for a performance exam at a diploma level (whether ATCL/dipABRSM or higher) is a huge step up from grade 8 level – you have to not only learn how to play the piece but also really present the pieces at the performance level that a diploma requires. It’s a PERFORMANCE not just an exam.

Give time to prepare for it. Listen to a lot of performances, read a lot about the music, the history and the composer (you can find a lot of information online or at your local library). Find a great teacher to help you: even if it’s not regular lessons, take some lessons from a teacher or two to get advice and suggestions on your performance would really help you improve and be prepared for the exam.

Good luck to all of you who are preparing for your upcoming piano diploma. Enjoy the process and have fun with it!

More on My Online Piano Consultation Lessons

Teresa Wong

Trinity College London- Music Diploma Updates (Performance Diploma Syllabus)

News: Trinity College London- Music Diplomas (Performance Diploma Syllabus)

The new 2019 Trinity Performance Diplomas syllabus will be published on 18 October 2018.

The new syllabus features the majority of the pieces from the current 2009-2018 syllabus*, which means candidates can continue to prepare for their examination whichever date they choose. We have also added a wealth of new pieces that we know candidates will want to play and teachers want to teach. In addition the new syllabus features revised written programme requirements at ATCL and LTCL levels, and updated assessment criteria providing more detailed guidance on how exams are marked. Performance requirements, including own-choice options, will remain largely unchanged. Further details about syllabus changes will be released soon.

The 2009-2018 syllabus will be extended until 31 July 2019. The new syllabus will be used from 1 August 2019 onwards.

Please note that there will be no overlap between syllabuses, so all exams from 1 August 2019 onwards will follow the 2019 syllabus.

*A small number of existing pieces from the 2009-2018 syllabus are being removed.

 

Words of Encouragement for You

I just want to write a quick note for all of you out there, who might be feeling a bit down or frustrated because you didn’t have the better result than you expected in your lessons/exam/concert/teaching/building your studio. Please read this:

You didn’t fail.

You tried your best and it wasn’t the result you wanted.

You can try again. But before you take that lesson/exam/performance/the next project, think about what went wrong.

Looking into yourself is very important, but most people don’t want to do it. Because it’s hard. It can be embarrassing to see why you made that mistake.

And, you are only human.

What you can do now is to think how to move forward and be better next time around. And to reach that goal you need a much better planning this time.

Because most likely, what didn’t work last time will not work next time either. And if you are just going to do the same thing again, you are simply setting yourself up for error and mistake one more time. Who does that? Some people do. You don’t want to be one of them.

Now, get up and tell yourself, you are setting up for success this time. And you are going to do your best you know how for it – this requires very careful and detailed planning and execution of what your plan is.

Stick with your plan is very important, second to having a great plan. But even if you have a great plan, if you don’t do what you plan to do, nothing will work for you, so remember that.

Great reward comes from great effort with persistence and time. Nothing substantial is achieved within a very short period of time. Teaching and playing is building knowledge, that’s very similar to building wealth, no one can do it in one day or even a year. It’s constant work and struggle. I have had my fair share of work and struggle. I get frustrated myself sometimes. But every time I get beat up by life and I get back up faster and faster. Because I know deep inside me there’s no point wasting more time on anything even slightly negative and unproductive, that is not contributing to my growth and success.

So here I encourage you to just step back, relax, take a deep breath, and get back up on your feet. I know you can do this and you have that power within you to make this work.

Stay motivated,
Teresa Wong