Managing Leaps: Selective Landing

I use a three-part process for measuring distances at the keyboard, to make sure all jumps are precise, secure and foolproof. We build in the precise measurements in our practising so that when we play, we don’t have to give them any thought. The secret at that stage is to let go, keep loose and allow the music to unfold. I’ll talk more about Quick Cover and Springboarding in future posts, today I would like to say a little about Selective Landing. Selective Landing When we have to move from one position and land on a chord, we might select those notes of the chord we wish to land on first, and then fill in the remainder afterwards. This is a particularly useful process when we wish to see (and feel) how an especially awkward chord is built up, or simply to negotiate a new hand position. We can effectively play the chord in stages. Note that you do not have to do this rhythmically, although you may! Let’s take a very short example from Schumann’s Fürchtenmachen from Kinderszenen, op. 15, as this has been known to cause a stumble or two. I am speaking of the last two bars of this extract: Having practised the LH alone using the Quick Cover and Springboarding techniques, we might want to put it hands together in ways like this. Here are but three of several possibilities: 1. 2. 3. You might also want to practise landing on the middle note of the chord each time, dropping in the outer two afterwards. There are various other permutations, and my advice is to have fun with it and see how many different ways you can find. If you struggle with this spot, […]

Once Upon a Time…

We have all heard student performances where the beginning was good – secure, well-known, confident – then after a page or two we notice a decline as skill levels start to dip. Thereafter, there is a gradual diminuendo of accomplishment for the rest of the piece, which often ends in a whimper. This happens, of course, because the pianist tends always to start practising from the beginning. My suggestion not to do this is hardly going to come as a blinding flash of revelation to anyone – it’s just plain good sense – but I have noticed people are reluctant to divide their pieces up into manageable, logical sections for the purposes of practising. I mentioned in a previous post how the great teacher Rosina Lhevinne would hear last movements before first movements, and codas before introductions. This is an excellent way of supporting students in not starting from the beginning. When giving an assignment, I give sections from the beginning, middle and end to be learned simultaneously. Unless the piece is short, or unless you are playing a run-through or have decided to play it through at half speed for the purposes of general maintenance, you’re not likely to get through every section of the piece in any given practice session. I think of an analogy with the farmer who might select one, or two or three of his fields to work in on a particular day. He may choose to work in a particular field for two or three days in a row, spending the bulk of the day there, but perhaps visit one or two others for a particular reason (which might not take that much time). He may be allowing another to lie fallow for […]