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Essentials of Pianism

Essentials of Pianism

Little by little I began to realize the essentials of effective piano playing were these: clear touch, intelligent phrasing, all varieties of tone, all the force the piano would stand, together with the greatest delicacy and the utmost speed. These things the artists possessed as a matter of course, but the ordinary student or teacher failed utterly to make like effects, or to play with sufficient clearness and force. What was the reason?

In due course I came under the supervision of various piano pedagogues. To the first I gave implicit obedience, endeavoring to do exactly as I was told. The next teacher said I must begin all over again, as I had been taught “all wrong.” I had never learned hand position nor independence of fingers—these must now be established. The following master told me finger independence must be secured in quite a different fashion from the manner in which I had been taught, which was “all wrong.” The next professor said I must bend the finger squarely from the second joint, and not round all three joints, as I had been doing. This so-called fault took several months to correct.

To the next I am indebted for good orthodox (if somewhat pedantic) ideas of fingering and phrasing, for which he was noted. The hobby of the next master was slow motions with soft touch. This course was calculated to take all the vim out of one’s fingers and all the brilliancy out of one’s playing in less than six months. To the next I owe a comprehension of the elastic touch, with devitalized muscles. This touch I practised so assiduously that my poor piano was ruined inside of a year, and had to be sent to the factory for a new keyboard. The next master insisted on great exactness of finger movements, on working up velocity with metronome, on fine tone shading and memorizing.

By: Dr. William Mason


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