Looking down at our hands as we play breaks the continuity of reading, prevents us from looking ahead, and undermines concentration. Yet for many piano students, even some who have played for years, it is a frequent temptation.
“It’s tendonitis,” the doctor said, cradling my left arm. “Playing a lot of tennis?”
For several years after I reclaimed my passion for the piano, I struggled with the concept of tempo rubato.
When I joined the concert pianist Simone Dinnerstein in her home studio, I asked questions not as a classical music critic or a piano pedagogue.
Fellow Stumblers: I suspect there are no quick answers to sight-reading classical piano music and perhaps also no magical moment where sight-reading just happens (though I sometimes dream there is). I do know that it does gradually get better.
During my first year of adult piano lessons, my piano teacher Stephen had the temerity to suggest that I study the score away from the piano.
My grandfather, Harold, who lived to 91, could navigate routes through Pittsburgh even after he became legally blind. Harold advocated finesse behind the wheel.
Last summer, when I clicked through photographs for my website, I noticed something amiss on the shots of my hands at the piano. The pinky of my right hand, rather than cupping over the keys, jutted straight out, flexed with an unnatural tension.
Sometimes gripping something one wants out of life is an effective strategy. But in the case of Chopin’s C-sharp minor Nocturne, my determination resulted in a tensed hand, preventing me from playing these piano trills without sufficient fluidity or speed.