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Heart of the Piano Podcast
91 minutes | Nov 27, 2022
E34: We discuss the 4 most important psychological skills you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical
My friend Cheryl is back to chat about and get a deeper understanding of the practical ways in which we can become truly great pianists by bringing the psychological skills I've demonstrated in recent episodes into our learning and practising Show Notes [3:15] A reminder of the 4 skills: Look for what there is to love in every moment Magic wand practice Cultivate the felt sense of always good enough Every few minutes, change the focus of your musical awareness [17:25] A deeper look at skill 1 with Cheryl Rather than just trying to love the bits you don't like so much, see this skill as like an infinite well to explore in every single moment [21:10] A deeper look at skill 2 with Cheryl Magic wand practice as a compass heading After recording this podcast, when I got home, I suddenly made massive improvements on my Rachmaninov Sonata by actually applying 'magic wand' practice, rather than just aim to make everything feel as easy as possible- it really does make a profound difference! Flow states need an optimum level of challenge for an activity to have that effortless flow experience Imagining effortless 'magical' playing is literally the absolute opposite of the psychological state of 'choking' under pressure [30:05] A deeper look at skill 3 with Cheryl Important to realise felt sense of good enough in the body- possible to catch it there before it moves to the mind! Very obvious that we play worse when we don't feel good enough State of feeling not good enough= narrow focus, neck forwards, shoulders up & forwards, tension, etc Conversely, state of feeling good enough= more awareness of music & phrasing etc, relaxation Important to practise 'good enough' from very first moment of learning new piece- rather than feeling of not good enough until we can play it note perfect up to speed. It's too late by then!! [43:35] A deeper look at skill 4 with Cheryl Left brain hemisphere: binary, black & white, glued to individual unrelated details, either notes are correct or not correct. Attention sucked in a compulsive way into details Right brain hemisphere: organic flow of narrative where everything flows into everything else. Responsible for choosing what we pay attention to This skill is basically meditation/ mindfulness- challenging at first, a lifetime of improving! Every time we realise out awareness is not where we'd like it and direct it to where we want it- this is the magic moment when the brain 'learns' and rewires itself [49:45] Getting past the challenges Can be challenging & threatening to the ego at first if felt as something we're not good at Motivating ourselves to practice these things similar to motivating ourselves to meditate- very similar states, undeniable benefits, but often tricky to turn away from dopamine goal-oriented striving & effort which is addictive- instead be wholesome! Getting past society's expectations Self Determination Theory & intrinsic/ extrinsic motivation Balancing extrinsic motivation away from the instrument with letting go of the ego/ striving while practising The science of receiving advice, and the particular danger of getting stuck in 'I suck' when having lessons! Notes: Many thanks to Forsyth's Music Shop in Manchester for letting me use one of their teaching/practice rooms to record this podcast episode: https://www.forsyths.co.uk I thoroughly recommend them for all your sheet music/ piano/ digital piano/ loads of other instruments(!) needs Links for the podcast episodes for the individual 4 skills: E26: The #1 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical E29: The #2 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical E31: The #3 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical E32: The #4 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to ...
74 minutes | Nov 8, 2022
E33: Comprehensive Review of Pop Performer! by ABRSM
An epic review (with music audio clips) of ABRSM's hotly anticipated foray into pop music! I'm holding ABRSM to a high standard so I'm quite critical, but I do also look for what there is to enjoy in these books. Listen to this episode to find out if you should buy them for yourself or recommend them for your students! A brief bulletpoint summary of my review: 2 books: Book 1, ABRSM Initial Grade to Grade 3 (20 songs) Book 2, ABRSM Grades 4 & 5 (16 songs) The songs have been arranged in more of a 'classical' style than a 'pop' style. The classical style is very 'horizontal'- ie little emphasis on chords and vertical thickness with more emphasis on simple counterpoint. This means the songs can sound quite clunky and IMO are not the best way to arrange pop music that sounds good at the lower grades. The Rockschool syllabus and exams from the examination board RSL Awards are a much better choice for people interested in learning and playing the pop style- but: Each Rockschool grade book only has around 6 pieces Most Rockshool arrangements are made to be played with a lavish backing track, with only 2 songs per book as solo piano arrangements. This makes each book expensive with limited choice if the purpose is to learn a graded solo piano arrangement of a pop song. However, these pop arrangements could be useful for students ultimately wanting to mostly develop classical skills with some fun 'good enough' superficial pop arrangements on the way for variety Obviously, these books are very useful for students looking for pop arrangements at specific grades to use in exams, or looking for a curated collection of arrangements that start easy and become progressively more challenging When arranging pop music for beginners and any level below grade 8, there is always the challenge that notating the melodies in pop music usually makes the rhythms very challenging to read. This means they are challenging to play, or they need to be simplified down which doesn't sound great The ABRSM arrangements are very short, which IMO would make them disappointing to perform. But then you get a lot of pieces in each book It's really important to choose songs which will work well arranged for solo piano, and I'm not always convinced the right choices were made It's very commendable for ABRSM to branch into pop music, making piano accessible to more people, and representing a a more diverse group of music creators than typical classical composers! Copyright for pop music can be very expensive and problematic, so it's great to see ABRSM team up with Hal Leonard and produce content which is typically more expensive to produce The world of pop music is heavily image-led, so I'm critical about the lack of images, graphic design or photography in these books Who is this book for? If kids/teenagers, then there are too many old irrelevant songs here with an off putting lack of images/photos. If for adults, there are too many contemporary pop songs From [28:55]- a breakdown of pieces from Book 1 with audio clips From [50:30]- a breakdown of pieces from Book 2 with audio clips The audio that accompanies these books is very easy to access from the Hal Leonard website, and there's a handy online player on the website that allows you to loop within each song and change the speed which can be useful for practising Notes: All audio clips of arrangements from the ABRSM books are from the Hal Leonard website which you have access to when you buy the book All audio clips of arrangements from the Rockschool syllabus are from the recordings you have access to when you buy the books My review of the Rockschool Rock/Pop Syllabus: https://heartofthepiano.com/e19-rockschool-rock-pop-piano-syllabus-review/ The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
35 minutes | Sep 18, 2022
E32: The #4 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical
This fourth skill is immensely practical, maybe some of you might think it's a stretch to call it a 'psychological skill', but I notice that it's totally normal for most of my students to have issues with putting this into practice as- like in meditation- we have to practise choosing where to place our awareness in any given moment Show Notes [0:45] The #4 skill: to begin with, every 5-10 minutes as you practise, change the focus of your awareness. Never just focus only on 'the correct notes' [4:00] There are infinite ways in which we can creatively use our awareness and focus while practising and performing. I demonstrate some examples of where I can place my focus & awareness while playing. Our awareness can be like a torch/ flashlight with a broad beam, or a tight narrow beam [6:00] Demonstrating focusing on the sound of the instrument and tone-colour, or using different instruments in our imagination [12:20] Imagining and immersing yourself in what you think the piece is about [13:50] Moving awareness to the balance of the different parts [16:55] Staying aware of the sound of all the notes especially as the sound decays- this is one of the most important things to practise at the piano [22:15] Playing with phrasing and shaping [23:10] The one most essential thing to practise resting awareness on in every single practice session- the felt sense of musical tension/release. Some of the barriers that make it difficult for us to feel this tension/release [28:00] Advice for using focus/awareness in the early stages of learning a new piece [30:00] Another essential place to practise resting awareness in- interoception (internal physical sensations) in the body, such as fingers, hands, wrists, arms, etc Notes: The previous podcast where we talked about how a feeling of 'not good enough' can take over our ability to have healthy awareness/focus: https://heartofthepiano.com/e31-the-3-psychological-skill-you-need-to-practise-at-the-piano-to-be-deeply-musical/ The piece of music I'm using to demonstrate with throughout this episode: Ilyinsky- Berceuse (No. 7 from Noure et Anitra, Op. 13) My YouTube tutorial on this piece: https://youtu.be/IWLWk0-XhCI and my YouTube performance of the piece: https://youtu.be/ck2NaKWnHbo The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s I have availability for online students at the moment- if you're interested, do get in touch using the contact page at http://HeartOfThePiano.com
47 minutes | Sep 17, 2022
E31: The #3 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical
The third in a series looking at the most essential mental habits to practise at the piano that will give you the quickest and most profound progress. These are the things I refer to constantly when I'm teaching, and covers aspects of musicianship that almost all teachers consider unteachable- considered to be innate qualities in talented students. But I can show you how to develop this natural musicianship. I think we can all struggle with this third skill at times, and it's for this reason that we really need to work on it as much as possible, and will make a massive difference to the quality of your playing and performing Show Notes [0:45] Exploring some of our most common psychological challenges as musicians: fear of not being good enough, self-criticism, fear of negative judgement, etc. Exploring how they feel in the body. How they affect our playing and practice [6:45] Comparing ourselves to other people, and giving away our power to other people so they can make us feel inadequate [8:30] The #3 skill: practising the felt physical sensations and mental attitude that everything we do is fundamentally good enough. It's not enough to just think this in words, we need to feel it in our bodies [13:15] Usually first step to mastering a psychological issue that is giving us problems is to develop a curiosity & acceptance towards it, rather than immediately trying to push it away or repress it. Recognising that we all share feelings of 'not good enough'- it's normal! [18:15] A useful exercise for dealing with our inner critic telling us we're not good enough [22:40] Explore why we are making music. Surely the deepest reason for music-making is for the feeling of connection. Good musicianship has the drive for connection at its core. But this quality in our playing can be disrupted by the strong psychological need to feel competent. Good technique is much easier to cultivate when its function is to serve the feeling of connection [29:20] Practising a feeling of 'good enough' helps us to develop a healthy focus on musical connection rather than a compulsive and unmusical over-emphasis on proving our competence and self-worth. Paradoxically, it then becomes much easier to address technical deficiencies and challenges and reach more of our potential [30:20] Why 'good enough' is not the same as a lazy casual 'yeah, whatever, that'll do' [31:30] 'Good enough' as an antidote to the harmful effects of perfectionism [33:45] We have to feel rebellious to cultivate a feeling of 'good enough' [34:35] To practise this skill in a practical way, start with mindful intention- write it down on a post-it note, and stick it on the piano in front of you! [35:25] Making music is the birthright of every human being- but Western culture can send the message that making music is only for 'good musicians' [36:55] A brief taster of Kristen Neff's academic work on self-compassion and how her work includes solid strategies and skills for developing the feeling of 'good enough'. To be continued in future podcast episodes... Notes: The podcast episode where me & Cheryl discuss Self-Determination Theory, and the opposite pull between the psychological needs of connection vs. competency: https://heartofthepiano.com/e28-self-determination-theory-for-pianists-how-it-can-unlock-improve-your-musicality-and-help-you-deal-with-performance-anxiety/ My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/HeartofthePiano Kristen Neff's website on self-compassion that I read passages from in this episode: https://self-compassion.org/why-self-compassion-is-healthier-than-self-esteem/ and Kristen Neff's excellent books: https://self-compassion.org/store/ The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s I have availability for online students at the moment- if you're interested,
63 minutes | Sep 5, 2022
E30: Review of Nikki Iles & Friends, Jazz Pieces For Piano
A must-listen review (with music audio clips) of 3 books of jazz piano sheet music from Nikki Iles & Friends published by ABRSM covering from initial grade up to grade 8 and beyond. A detailed look at highlights and 'weak' pieces with audio clips from each book starts at 36:30 A brief bulletpoint summary of my review: 3 books: Book 1- Intermediate (Grades 4-6) Book 2- Intermediate to Advanced (Grades 6-8) Easy to Intermediate (Grades initial-3) Writing/ arranging in a jazz style for students at levels below grade 8 is a challenging & specialised skill. Nikki Iles is especially good at this for students at the intermediate-advanced level (grades 5-8) IMO Nikki is not quite so stunning (including her friends!) at the easier end, which is where people like Christopher Norton shine. Because of the challenge & specialised skill of arranging jazz for beginners, Nikki’s friends’ contributions work much better in the advanced book In Books 1 & 2 (grades 4-8)- fantastic idea to have curated pieces from other jazz composers- Nikki always very good at pastiches (which is great for pedagogical pieces), but this means sometimes it’s difficult to hear her ‘voice’ and identity as a composer/arranger- so it's nice to hear pieces from performers such as Zoe Rahman where you can really hear her unique voice. The idea to curate proper jazz composers is a good way to avoid just having a load of pedagogical pay-cheque jazz/blues cliches which is all too common in the higher ABRSM grades when including jazz list C pieces Almost all the pieces are a bit too short for my taste!! But maybe useful as brief enjoyable diversions for ‘serious’ students rather than performance pieces Some of the marketing for these books say they’re a great source for alternative 4th choice grade pieces for the performance exams- if so it would have been so useful to actually say what grades these pieces would be categorised as (apart from the ones actually in the alternative lists) Not fan of CD format in books 1 & 2- can be a lot of hassle to find a CD player after years of not using CDs! Nice idea to have downloadable mp3s for the Easy to Intermediate book, but in reality can be unnecessarily tricky & frustrating to download from the ABRSM website. A lot of articulations, dynamics, rhythms & other markings very different in the recorded versions to what's on the page A huge amount of misprints- I'll list the ones I've spotted below the main part of this review. ABRSM are very bad at updating misprints on their website Not a fan of the editing- especially in Book 2. Again, I'll list some of these below Some strange rhythmic notations that I would notate differently Lots of bad enharmonic spellings- presumably to make music easier to read, but has opposite effect with wrongly spelled harmonies Inconsistent use of courtesy accidentals that make it harder to read Unclear on differences between accents & tenutos- I don’t hear a difference in recordings. And actually tenutos are frequently played slightly ahead of the beat which is the opposite of what I would normally do with them Easy to Intermediate (22 pieces): feels very ‘pedagogical ABRSM’- ie often a bit uninspired & stodgy. A lot of emphasis on ‘world music’- ie African, Scottish, Caribbean, Yiddish folk song. Is this to hit some kind of GCSE tickbox? Feels like we're being hit over the head with ‘educational’ material So much of this book is just clearly not jazz, so not what the book is promising Would much rather these were all Nikki's compositions or arrangements Book 1- Intermediate (16 pieces): some criticisms but on the whole difficult to really dislike the book, top recommendation, useful for all teachers and anybody interested in jazz at this level Book 2- Intermediate to Advanced (13 pieces- 10 of which are in my list of highlights!): very strong collection, a winner! I would absolutely buy this & recommend- but a hu...
33 minutes | Aug 15, 2022
E29: The #2 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical
The second in a series looking at the most essential mental habits to practise at the piano that will give you the quickest and most profound progress. These are the things I refer to constantly when I'm teaching, and covers aspects of musicianship that almost all teachers consider unteachable- considered to be innate qualities in talented students. But I can show you how to develop this natural musicianship. When my students practise regularly using this second skill, their musicality is transformed, and they learn new pieces so much more easily! Show Notes [3:05] Adult students generally have a giant sense of effort & striving. How most students tend to learn & practise a new piece- and why this is not going to be effective [6:35] Details about the #2 skill- feeling deeply in the body- imagining that somebody has cast a magic spell, and you can suddenly play with absolutely no effort. Deeply immerse yourself in this experience in your imagination. Playful, with no intellectual analysis! [10:50] IMO good technique is the laziest way to get the sound that you want [12:30] How the magic spell technique gives people a much better idea of what & how they need to practise. Some demonstrations and examples using a Bortkiewicz piano piece of practice techniques that come from the goal of aiming towards the effortlessness I would feel if under a magic spell including shifting accents, & sometimes learning a fast piece up to speed right from the beginning [23:50] The balance between analytic technical practice, and the psychology of effortless flow [26:25] When imagining we are playing under a magic spell- letting our bodies naturally move & really feel enjoyment of the experience, rather than just immobile like a bored lump. Curiosity of how everything feels- interoception. Notes: Many thanks to the C. Bechstein Centre in Manchester for letting me use one of their soundproofed teaching/practice rooms to record this podcast episode: https://www.bechstein.co.uk The demonstration music played on the piano during the episode is the Etude op. 15, No. 9 in F# minor by Bortkiewicz The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
88 minutes | Jun 25, 2022
E28: Self-Determination Theory For Pianists- how it can unlock & improve your musicality, and help you deal with performance anxiety
A lively and passionate discussion where we introduce the ideas and research behind Self-Determination Theory, which could help you make giant leaps with your music. Some core topics covered in this episode include intrinsic & extrinsic motivation, autonomy, how rewards actually make us perform worse, ego & needing approval from others and ourselves, and how we can practise & cultivate intrinsic motivation in our own piano journey. Show Notes [2:55] Brief intro to Self-Determination Theory (SDT) 3 Basic Psychological Needs: Autonomy, Competency, & Relatedness Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation What is Autonomy? Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation School, parents, society, etc can undermine intrinsic motivation by use of rewards But some factors that promote autonomy will increase intrinsic motivation [17:55] Continuum of extrinsic-instrinsic motivation: External regulation (reward, punishment) Introjection (ego, approval from self & others) Identification Integration [27:00] Teacher's role is to show students how to love the music more [33:30] How to move towards intrinsic motivation: -improve mindfulness (mindfulness is linked to autonomy in studies)- including practising non-attachment -increase our sense of competence by letting go of perfectionism, and reducing comparison with others. Cultivate a felt sense of 'always good enough' -Remind ourselves why we play music- IMO the purest most helpful reason is to connect with the music, and other people through the music -Resist unhelpful cultural baggage- especially in classical music -Recognise introjection while practising/performing- and practise not reacting or identifying with it [52:30]- How I connect with the music when I'm playing [54:35] Competency vs relatedness: Am I mainly being driven by a need to feel competent or am I bring driven by a desire to connect? Being aware of this & moving to connection really helps me to perform well under pressure [56:30] How to be a good student when you have a teacher [59:10] Importance of a growth mindset (feeling competent enough) [1:09:05] Zen and beginner's mind [1:10:15] Related academic fields and psychological skills: Renee Brown on vulnerability and Kristen Neff on Self-compassion 1:16:55 We can see intrinsic motivation in its purest form when we watch children playing. When we lose this sense of playfulness as adults, we lose the performance benefits of intrinsic motivation & autonomy Notes: The core academic textbook: Self-Determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness- https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GF0ODQAAQBAJ The YouTube video showing a talk by one of the authors Richard M.Ryan- an excellent introduction to the subject: https://youtu.be/iUgNbWkcnHs A second YouTube video by the same speaker that goes into a little more depth in the field of education: https://youtu.be/1VBywz1c4cs The highly influential book The Inner Game of Music: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xdMuBgAAQBAJ Brené Brown- an academic who has popularised her work on vulnerability: https://brenebrown.com/ And Kristin Neff- an academic who has popularised her work on self-compassion: https://self-compassion.org/ Dan Pink's TED talk: https://youtu.be/rrkrvAUbU9Y where he sums up some of the ideas in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us- https://www.danpink.com/books/drive/ Some earlier Heart of the Piano Podcast episodes with guided meditations to use at the piano: https://heartofthepiano.com/guided-piano-meditation-introduction-to-meditating-at-the-piano/ https://heartofthepiano.com/guided-piano-meditation-further-down-the-road/ https://heartofthepiano.com/guided-piano-meditation-listening-and-posture/ The Master and His Emissary- an excellent book about the brain hemispheres and how Western Culture makes our brains...
70 minutes | Jun 9, 2022
E27: ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2023 & 2024- Review
Can ABRSM bounce back from their last syllabus I was highly critical of? Listen to this episode for a comprehensive review of the new set of books, including audio clips of many of the new pieces. I also discuss some of the recent controversial issues regarding their operational and business challenges A brief bulletpoint summary of my review: Blown away, superb selection of pieces this time around Good balance between pedagogical rigour, and being fun to play Interesting creative & diverse choice of pieces However, there is the wider issue of current levels of trust in ABRSM's operations & standards Listen to the episode for a breakdown of each grade with audio clips (starts at 42:52) Improvements from last syllabus: A return to form- less feeling of pieces being made easier & dumbing down this time round. Rigorous standard on the whole (but benchmarking a little wide for my taste with a few much easier options as well as challenging & ambitious pieces in each grade) Excellent representation of BIPOC & women. Many non-white and women composers featured in the books themselves this time as well as in the alternative lists. Not virtue-signalling- but normalising Very welcome to see more authentic jazz at the higher grades rather than just the usual Christopher Norton et al Much improved engraving with no issues for me this time around Teaching notes book much better this time- more authoritative & trustworthy with their opinions Audio digital downloads excellent on the whole Even bigger choice of alternative pieces Criticisms of the syllabus: Grade 8 book still has only 9 pieces like the last syllabus I've never been a fan of ABRSM fingerings I've never liked ABRSM ornamentation suggestions at the higher grades All the alternative pieces from the last syllabus are still exactly the same here in the new syllabus- but this may be positive for teachers who don't need to go out & buy a whole load of new books! List A/B/C changed in last syllabus for the worse- no change this year. Differences between categories now so blurred I don't understand the point Notes: My previous review of the ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2021-2022: https://heartofthepiano.com/e17-why-im-moving-my-students-from-abrsm-to-trinity-reviews-of-their-new-2021-piano-syllabuses/ I've made performance videos of some of the pieces here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0sZ0MK31wvICriKIqjYfMEGtTpQgK2bw with tutorial videos here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0sZ0MK31wvL51bH1Wvk_UbYNnu5zg4Sy Just one of the many social media posts to do with the online booking problems at the beginning of May 2022: https://www.facebook.com/abrsmmusic/posts/10159802952370210 The leaked internal email from ABRSM examiners to the chief executive: https://slippedisc.com/2022/05/examiners-declare-no-confidence-in-abrsm-systems An update on the situation at ABRSM after the leaked email: https://slippedisc.com/2022/05/chaos-keeps-on-spreading-at-abrsm/ Financial details for ABRSM 2020-2021: https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-search/-/charity-details/292182 About the on-demand Performance Grade exams: https://gb.abrsm.org/en/about-us/news/articles/?abrsm[newsId]=93074 The YouTube video with a performance of J. P. Johnson playing Over the Bars: https://youtu.be/I1kw2JjkxzM See my YouTube tutorial on the Tempo di minuetto by Martínez in Grade 7 to see examples of ABRSM ornamentation suggestions that I disagree with: https://youtu.be/sQHrnb3sHds In the piece Billie's Song by Valerie Capers (grade 4): bar 7c in the right hand needs the flat to apply to the D, not the E, so the first chord of the right hand should be Db, E and A, spelling out a C13b9 chord I listened to several existing versions to confirm this Absolutely not a fan of this way of writing swing rhythms in David Blackwell- Railroad Blues (grade 2):
56 minutes | May 5, 2022
E26: The #1 psychological skill you need to practise at the piano to be deeply musical
The first in a series looking at the most essential mental habits to practise at the piano that will give you the quickest and most profound progress. These are the things I refer to constantly when I'm teaching, and covers aspects of musicianship that almost all teachers consider unteachable- considered to be innate qualities in talented students. But I can show you how to develop this natural musicianship. The first skill covered in this episode is by far the most important- I'm always reminding my students that it needs to be practised in every single moment of music-making! Listen to this episode to see if this is a skill you're already working on! Show Notes [3:00] What is the #1 most important thing to always be prioritising in every single moment when practising? [7:18] Look for what there is to love! [8:25] How to look for what there is to love [12:05] The most common problems my students have with developing this skill. Looking at psychological need for competency vs. relatedness (Self Determination Theory) [19:32] Not practising developing this skill! [23:12] Love is musicality [24:30] Looking for what there is to love really is a skill that can be practised. Similarities with metta bhavana meditation [29:45] Don't fall into trap that your feelings towards the music are fixed. Practising this skill can prevent common burn-out from working hard with a lot of repetition & pressure on a piece we previously loved! [30:50] Looking for what there is to love should not use a purely intellectual approach. I demonstrate examples. It might help to imagine times when you felt love for a person, where did you feel that in your body? This can be hard for men from Northern European cultures [35:10] Importance of interoception. Interoception of the chest. How we can feel musical tension & release in the body. Emotions are in the body [42:01] It's cheating to just focus on what you don't hate about the music! [43:30] This is a skill with many layers, we can always go deeper, no matter how much love we are already playing with! [47:01] You can also look for what there is to love in your playing- this is a useful antidote for perfectionism and nerves [47:45] Keep exploring different nuances in the music & your playing so you can dig deeper for what there is to love. Don't get locked into playing passages exactly the same every single time [49:38] Looking for what there is to love makes it much easier to be motivated to practise! Playing with love means we can accept ourselves as we are, but also care for the music and work in a healthy way for it Notes: Many thanks to the C. Bechstein Centre in Manchester for letting me use one of their soundproofed teaching/practice rooms to record this podcast episode: https://www.bechstein.co.uk My apologies for my husky breathless voice in this episode- I had just recovered from a nasty bout of coronavirus, and I hadn't realised I probably should have let my lungs heal a bit more before recording a podcast! The demonstration music played on the piano during the episode is from the ABRSM 2021-2022 Piano Grade 1 book: 'A Toy: No. 193 from Fitzwilliam Virginal Book', composer unknown My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/HeartofthePiano The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
95 minutes | Apr 30, 2022
E25: Interview with Matt Herskowitz- phenomenal classical and jazz virtuoso pianist with deep soul
Matt Herskowitz is quite simply one of the most skilful, versatile, and soulful pianists on the planet. Matt shines in many genres, but it's his outstanding work jazzing up classical music in particular that was the reason I absolutely had to chat with him for the podcast! I include many generous audio clips of Matt's playing during the interview to give you a taste of what I love about his playing Show Notes [3:04] Matt's classical background and education- Curtis Institute of Music, Julliard with teacher Joseph Kalichstein, further progress with Russian teacher Vladimir Viardo [22:00] Winning piano competitions, and recording the Glazunov 2nd Piano Concerto [28:42] Matt's jazz background [33:35] Combining classical and jazz. Success with Bach A La Jazz for the soundtrack of The Triplets of Belleville. Bach Reimagined with flautist Andrea Griminelli. Bach XXI with violinist Philippe Quint [43:02] Long-term collaboration in various genres with violinist Lara St. John [54:04] Working on Chopin Etudes [1:03:29] Matt's arrangement of the slow movement from the Ravel Piano Concerto in G [1:06:36] On Jacques Loussier and Claude Bolling [1:14:46] Future plans. Gershwin's World video with Paul Merkelo (Principal trumpet with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal). A history of North American jazz & folk music with Lara St. John Audio Clips [1:45] Chopin Etude in C# minor, op. 10 no. 4, "The Torrent", arr. Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/cgMnwFZB3hc [22:27] Glazunov Piano Concerto no. 2 in B Major, Musici De Montréal, Yuli Turovsky, Matt Herskowitz: https://soundcloud.com/matt-herskowitz/glazunov-piano-concerto-no-2-in-b-major [36:26] Bach A La Jazz from the soundtrack of The Triplets of Belleville- Bach arr. Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/ughto1R5U2I [40:35] Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 Aria, Bach arr. Matt Herskowitz from Bach XXI with violinist Philippe Quint: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSPLj8ocykw [44:14] Kolo- trad, Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/iBwWfc-VAYY [46:13] Nagilara- trad, Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz, arr. Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/PDnJjiFiq1I [47:44] Franck Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano- II. Allegro, Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/y1_eqQGYeBQ [50:19] Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47, "Kreutzer"- III. Presto, Lara St. John & Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/NrxGrqFNGug [57:30] Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 1, "Boogie-Woogie", arr. Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/IbBVriCAyWc [1:03:50] Ravel Piano Concerto In G: Adagio Assai, arr. Matt Herskowitz: from the album Mirror Image [1:15:36] Gershwin's Summertime mixed with Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht- Paul Merkelo & Matt Herskowitz, arr. Matt Herskowitz [1:20:16] Ravel Piano Concerto In G: Adagio Assai- Paul Merkelo & Matt Herskowitz, arr. Matt Herskowitz [1:23:25] Chopin Raindrop Prelude (Op. 28 No. 15) arr. Bob Rose [1:29:14] Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue (with improvisations)- Matt Herskowitz, arr. Matt Herskowitz: https://youtu.be/rbY-VgYtrwg Links: Matt's website: www.MattHerskowitzPiano.com Matt's YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/matthersk Matt's concert of jazzed-up Chopin Etudes on Medici: https://www.medici.tv/jazz/concert-chopin-version-jazz-avec-matt-herskowitz-salle-bourgie-montreal Matt's sheet music of jazz arrangements: https://www.mattherskowitzpiano.com/shop Joey DeFrancesco- the jazz organist referred to playing the jazz vespers (yes I do really like his playing!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joey_DeFrancesco Brad Mehldau- After Bach: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Bach Herbie Hancock- Ravel Piano Concerto In G: Adagio Assai: https://youtu.be/VYwXQAZkoiY J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations/Loussier Trio: https://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-4344/ Claude Bolling: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Bolling Piano Caméléons- Matt Herskowitz & John Roney jazzing ...
72 minutes | Apr 25, 2022
E24: Brain Lateralisation Episode 3- Hands-on coaching at the piano
A practical masterclass demonstrating how an understanding of the two brain hemispheres can help us deal with performance anxiety, and help us identify and deal with obstacles to our natural musicianship when learning and practising a new piece. Show Notes [3:05] Learning hands separately or together? [7:40] Psychological strategies for dealing with performance anxiety, and finding an optimal state of mind before we start to practice or perform [30:15] Strategies for coming out of narrow focus when practising/ learning [44:30] The important habit of always imagining a visual grid of where the beats are when reading sheet music [50:10] The importance of not looking at keys at the precise moment when we play those notes [55:10] More strategies for coming out of narrow focus [1:05:30] 'Blocking' notes as a strategy for getting notes under the fingers quickly. Importance of feeling/interoception when doing this Further Notes: Many thanks to the C. Bechstein Centre in Manchester for letting us use one of their teaching/practice rooms to record this podcast episode: https://www.bechstein.co.uk The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
67 minutes | Apr 25, 2022
E23: Brain Lateralisation Episode 2- How to start applying these concepts to our piano playing
A further introduction into how an understanding of the two brain hemispheres can help us with aspects of musicianship that are normally considered 'unteachable'! Show Notes [2:30] Summing up important concepts from the last episode [6:35] The neuroscience of the hemispheres is still in a (sometimes controversial) process of discovery- what may be most useful for musicians is to explore the two distinct ways of perceiving the world as laid out by Iain McGilchrist, and explore their practical usefulness [15:50] How can we begin to use these ideas in a practical way? [16:45] Self awareness and choice of type of focus while performing [21:30] Confidence is linked to wide-focus [22:20] Dealing with distractions- a consequence of narrow focus. Different types of meditation. Seeing but not focusing on fingers or keys- instead relying more on a visuospatial sense of where everything is in 3 dimensional space. Sight-reading & right-brained focus. One of main sticking points & frustrations in students is left brain stubbornly not letting go & trying to carry out tasks better suited for right brain things itself [36:10] Experiment with sensations & awareness [38:20] Hemispheres and language. Left hemisphere= main language centre, but right hemisphere= prosody- emotional content of way things are said Right hemisphere- metaphor- connected to the body. Embodied cognition- all language is metaphoric. Left Hemisphere- binary categories [45:45] Words are labels to categories. Right hemisphere= raw experience, no labels. Left hemisphere sorts experience from the right hemisphere, sorts into categories & labels. Right hemisphere= prosody, prosody= music. All obvious perhaps that right hemisphere is best for music, but students often justifying why *need* to be in left hemisphere state [49:15] The perception of being observed & judged usually causes strong left hemisphere activation [53:20] Left hemisphere= tool usage. Counterproductive for music-making. Language= a tool to manipulate understanding of the world [56:50] Left hemisphere responsible for grasping & gripping tightly, holding on to tools & objects. Left hemisphere dominance often reflected by use of words which talks about owning, grasping, holding, etc Left hemisphere is intensely practical! Book References: The Master and His Emissary- Dr Iain McGilchrist The Inner Game of Music- Barry Green Further Notes: The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
68 minutes | Apr 25, 2022
E22: Brain Lateralisation Episode 1- Techniques For Deep Musicality
An introduction into how an understanding of the two brain hemispheres can help us with aspects of musicianship that are normally considered 'unteachable'! Show Notes [6:30] The story of how I came to understand the fundamental difference between the two brain hemispheres. The difference between analytic & holistic processing. Narrow focus & broad focus [10:35] The evolutionary explanation for divided brains [14:15] Right hemisphere gives the raw experience from the senses. Left hemisphere understands & predicts, is concerned with manipulating the world for survival, and splits all aspects of experience into mental categories [16:35] What it feels like to be predominantly right or left hemisphere dominant when playing an instrument [25:55] Right hemisphere deals with social interaction, good for perceiving interconnected relationships & seeing the big picture, getting a 'feel' for things [28:47] Dominant left hemisphere state triggered by threats to the ego/ sense of being competent [34:10] Iain McGilchrist's descrption of the 'winner takes all' model of the two brain hemispheres. The dominant hemisphere inhibits the opposite side- right hemisphere a little less so. Iain McGilchrist argues that the right hemisphere is the best 'master' [38:45] Very hard to recognise when we're in a left hemisphere dominant state and let go of control to the right hemisphere when needed. Left hemisphere totally closed to anything new or that contradicts held beliefs. Right hemisphere is receptive & deals with things that are new [43:40] We can practise developing the skill to move towards right hemisphere states when we need it- this is arguably 90% goal of Buddhism, meditation, mindfulness, etc [48:25] Emotions and brain hemispheres [53:40] Does the social perception of 'classical music' push people into a counterproductive left hemisphere dominant state? As opposed to jazz for example... Book References: The Master and His Emissary- Dr Iain McGilchrist The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat- Oliver Sacks Further Notes: The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
73 minutes | Oct 22, 2021
E21: Leeds International Piano Competition (‘The Leeds’) 2021 Review
Not only just a review of the 2021 Leeds International Piano Competition, but also a wider examination of the issues brought up by competition in music, the role of music in communities, interviews with some of my favourite competitors including the winner Alim Beisembayev, audio clips from the unofficially linked Leeds Pub Piano Competition event, discussion with the competitors about how they deal with the nerves and pressures of competitions, and much more! Notes: Thank you to the pianists who gave me their valuable time for interviews: Alim Beisembayev Ariel Lanyi Yuzhang Li Elizaveta Kliuchereva Priscilla Navarro Thanks to creative producers Dave Cartwright & Sam Berrill for giving me their valuable time for the interview after the competition, and thanks to Clare Teal for the interview in the interval of the Leeds Pub Piano Competition Thanks and apologies if I interviewed you and there wasn't room in this podcast episode to include it- and I will try to upload the full interviews with the pianists in the coming weeks Thank you to the competition organisers and staff for their generosity, time and help! Intro-outro music for this episode is Alim Beisembayev playing Beethoven Sonata Op .111 in the second round Links: The website of the Leeds International Piano Competition: https://www.leedspiano.com/ Medici TV's webpage for their coverage of all the events from The Leeds where you can catch up with all the performances: https://leedspiano.medici.tv/en/ Medici's YouTube channel where you can also watch all the performances and coverage: https://www.youtube.com/user/medicitv Transcript: Here's the script I wrote myself to read from which I mostly managed to keep to, although I did go a bit 'off script' at times! Hello and welcome to the heart of the piano podcast where we are exploring the world of piano. In this episode, I’ll be bringing you my experience of the 2021 Leeds International Piano Competition, known informally as ‘The Leeds’, and exploring some of the wider issues that competition in music brings up. Some of my favourite pianists have been finalists of The Leeds in past years, and in fact the competition was one of the main factors in launching the careers of famous names such as: Murray Perahia, Radu Lupu, Andras Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida, Dmitri Alexeev, Ilya Itin, Artur Pizarro, Kathryn Stott, Noriko Ogawa, Louis Lortie, Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, and many more household names in the world of classical pianists. It seems to come as a huge shock to most people in Leeds that there is a regular local event happening every 3 years that is regarded as one of the most important events in the international world of professional piano- but don’t just take my word for it- during the competition I asked some of the competitors why they had entered The Leeds- this is what Alim Beisembayev said who went on to become the winner: Clip And Elizaveta Kliuchereva who was in the semifinals: Clip And Ariel Lanyi who was the 3rd prize winner: Clip And semifinalist Priscilla Navarro: Clip A topic that’s bound to come up in a review of a major music competition is about the controversy of whether musicians should take part in competitions and about whether we should take them seriously. There are plenty of people who very rigidly think that competitions for musicians are a very bad thing to be avoided. I personally think they can be a useful challenge for musicians, as long as the challenge is how to be deeply musical under pressure rather than get caught up in being too serious about competition and ego- this is a skill all professional musicians need to learn at some point or another! Ultimately, we can’t really say that one amazing musician is better than another one- and personal subjective taste is going to vary enormously. I enjoyed chatting to people sitting near to me at every stage of the competiti...
58 minutes | Oct 4, 2021
E20: LCM (London College of Music) 2021 Piano Syllabus- Review
After a long wait, LCM have published a brand new piano syllabus- which covers exams from Pre-Preparatory level to Grade 8. Find out how it compares to ABRSM, Trinity, and Rockschool Classical's recent new syllabuses. A written summary of this review is available here: https://heartofthepiano.com/summary-of-podcast-review-lcm-london-college-of-music-2021-piano-syllabus/ Show Notes Who are LCM/ London College of Music? [0:50] The previous 2018-2020 LCM Piano Syllabus [2:15] Some general impressions of the new syllabus: [5:15] Longer larger-scale pieces, longer exams than other examination boards Bold extrovert pieces often with many character and mood shifts within a piece Excellent finds of relatively obscure high quality music New List A,B & C categories similar to ABRSM's new lists but often unclear logic to the categorisation Who is this new syllabus for? [11:45] Difficulty level on the high side- could be rigorous path for traditional classical music (defining contemporary classical within the tradition) Rigorous & comprehensive scales (or studies) Concern- weak benchmarking- big difference in difficulty levels within each grade. But also a concern about being harder to pass than other boards- not only scales/studies, but also that most pieces are much longer, therefore the longer exam needs more focus and stamina Huge emphasis on women composers, therefore of particular interest to female students The different exam options available with LCM [19:50] Grades, Recital Grades, Leisure Play and Performance Awards, with Covid-friendly online options available for the first three as well. Huge alternative list for pieces [25:30] but many unlikely to be used as obscure & hard to listen to, or to check out the sheet music Would like to see more variety of styles in some grade books [28:00] Problematic editing and typesetting [30:00] Editing too minimal, would like to see at least some suggestions & notes. No courtesy accidentals where desperately needed Some very unhelpful visual distribution of rhythms Pre, Step 1 & Step 2 comes across as a 'Melanie Spanswick and Friends' method book [33:35] I'd personally prefer to use a different method book The problem of lack of non 'white European/American' composers in the books, especially given LCM's strong mission to represent more women composers as role models [37:10] Also tone-deafness to race issues when they do come up in the books- ie the use of 'gypsy' and issues with representation of Jewish identity Conclusion [50:45] For most students, I prefer Trinity: value for money, variety of pieces, rigorous enough, good benchmarking, motivational LCM has edge for 'serious' traditional (including contemporary) classical music (serious doesn't mean boring! Pieces are full of emotional expression and colour). Talented classical disciplined students will really benefit from this syllabus Final comparision between the different boards: ABRSM, Trinity, Rockschool Classical, and LCM Notes: When I was quoting the figure of only 2 non-white Europeans represented in the Grades 5-8 books, I meant to say non-white Europeans or Americans Oops, I think I was mis-remembering this article when I said Gershwin married a Jewish woman- the article says he actually never married because he apparently wanted a Jewish wife- https://www.jweekly.com/2007/09/06/definitive-book-on-gershwin-should-come-with-comfy-chair/ The old LCM syllabus is valid until the end of the Summer 2022 exam session Links: LCM's piano syllabus website: https://lcme.uwl.ac.uk/exams/piano/piano The Heart of the Piano review of the 2021 ABRSM and Trinity syllabuses: https://heartofthepiano.com/e17-why-im-moving-my-students-from-abrsm-to-trinity-reviews-of-their-new-2021-piano-syllabuses/ The Heart of the Piano review of the 2021 Rockschool Classical syllab...
56 minutes | Jul 14, 2021
E19: Rockschool Rock/Pop Piano Syllabus- Review
Listen to see why I'm so enthusiastic about Rockschool's Rock/Pop Piano grades for piano! Following on from my previous review, I also give more information for those considering the new Rockschool Classical grades. Show Notes Excellent for fixing common rhythmic weaknesses in classical students [3:05] The difference between the graded exams and the performance certificates [4:30] The improvisation section was poorly implemented in classical syllabus- makes much more sense in the Rock/Pop syllabus [8:40] More on the unsuitability of Rockschool for face-to-face classical exams (in the UK) [10:25] A bit of a digression- why I would personally encourage my students to go for face-to-face exams in general rather than prerecorded online exams [12:30] Flaws in Rockschool's prerecorded online graded exam option [18:10] Benefits of Rockschool's format of pieces with backing tracks [20:00] Rockschool pieces are much more challenging than classical pieces at the same grade [23:10] A good fit for students not that interested in classical or jazz [25:20] About the excellent Online Learning Platform- free for teachers [29:30] A look at the highlights and impressions of each individual grade- in order from Debut to Grade 8 [36:55] The graded exams can provide a good foundation for jazz [49:40] Could be useful for traditional classical teachers to make their own way through the books to become more familiar and comfortable with rock/pop/jazz genres and improvisation [51:20] Notes: I uploaded a video of me playing one of the grade 7 pieces to YouTube (I added the guitar solo as well- obviously this isn't part of the normal piano exam!): https://youtu.be/pI-yiJDhDjc The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
56 minutes | Jun 16, 2021
E18: Rockschool New Classical Piano Syllabus 2021- Review
Rockschool has recently released an exciting new set of classical piano grades! Listen to this review to find out their strengths and weaknesses, including my strong misgivings. Show Notes Identity crisis [2:50] No mention of balanced programme [5:50] Difficult to assess across different styles with no requirement for balanced programme [6:40] Excellent representation of women and BIPOC [9:46] Lack of consistency across grades in terms of styles & difficulty levels [12:30] Comparison with ABRSM and Trinity [14:50] Issue of lack of flexibility when assessing dynamics, tempos & articulations [16:35] Good typesetting- but not always great editing, and glaring mistakes [19:40] Simplified arrangements- controversial, uncredited, and not labelled as simplified [21:45] Individual grades: Grade 8 [27:30] Debut grade [29:45] Grade 1 [32:15] Grade 5 [34:40] Grade 7 [37:55] Grade 6 [38:45] Grade 4 [40:45] Grade 3 [41:15] Grade 2 [42:40] Comparison of cost of books between Rockschool and Trinity [44:40] Exam options- grades and performance certificates [47:20] Concerns about Rockschool Centres for classical piano exams (in the UK) [48:20] About free choice options [52:40] Notes: Check out the following review of the Rockschool Rock/Pop syllabus for more information relevant to the classical syllabus which couldn't fit in this review: https://heartofthepiano.com/e19-rockschool-rock-pop-piano-syllabus-review/ The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s
48 minutes | Sep 25, 2020
E17: Why I’m moving my students from ABRSM to Trinity- reviews of their new 2021 piano syllabuses
The Heart of the Piano Podcast is back with a review of the new piano syllabuses from ABRSM and Trinity, which take you from an Initial Grade to Grade 8. Listen to the podcast to discover some reasons why me and many other piano teachers are now defecting from ABRSM to Trinity! A brief summary of my review: ABRSM- Grade 8 seems much easier technically, but much harder musically than in previous years. Grade 8 book has less pieces than previous years, down to almost half the number of pages. Change of List A/B/C means its possible to avoid core Baroque/Classical pieces. Poor engraving means rhythms are often very difficult to read. Never been a fan of ABRSM's heavy handed editing in higher grades- especially of Baroque music. Not a fan of ABRSM's fingering and ornamentation suggestions. Less scales than before, many books to buy, some of these books now very insubstantial and poor value for money. Many books now less value for money- not just scales but also Grade 8 and the Teaching Notes book which is again down to almost half the amount of pages as previous years. New Initial Grade to match Trinity's. New online-only performance exam- no scales, sight reading or aural tests. Intended to be equal in value to the normal practical exam. Not a fan of this for many reasons, and feel it cheapens the ABRSM 'brand' with a loss of prestige and high standards. The debacle around the poorly implemented new online only Grade 5 Theory exam has sowed the seeds of extreme distrust amongst many music teachers, deepening the impression of a company overly driven by profit & PR rather than delivering core values to teachers and students and listening to their needs. Trinity- Excellent value for money- every grade book has 12 pieces up from the previous 9. The extended edition book includes all the scales for that grade and also provides access to a pdf with an extra 9 pieces from previous years than are included in the new syllabus. Only 2 scale books are needed to cover the whole range as opposed to having to buy one book per grade for ABRSM. Excellent selection of pieces- not only fun, rewarding and engaging, but also very well chosen in terms of developing technical skills at the appropriate levels. I like the idea to include one piece in every grade from a young composers' competition. Students encouraged to play their own (appropriate) composition as a grade piece. Excellently conceived tests of musicality which include the option to improvise. No singing required in aural tests. Every grade has a choice of technical exercises to develop various aspects of technique. An impression of a company that prioritises delivering value for money and cares about the holistic musical development of students rather than just making a good profit. Not entirely convinced that students are made to deliver a balanced programme, and that core skills in Baroque and Classical music are tested- but then this is no longer a part of the new ABRSM structure now! Higher grades are more like Urtext editions- leaving students (and teachers) free to decide how to interpret the composer's markings. Engraving easier to read than ABRSM, but fingerings are too small. Maybe because of using Sibelius default settings and fonts? The recordings made specially for this syllabus are generally more musical than the equivalent recordings made by ABRSM for their syllabus. I like that Trinity have made Spotify playlists as well that feature higher quality performances. Show Notes: An example of some truly atrocious music engraving from ABRSM- this one example comes from bar 2 of the Haydn in the Grade 8 book. Look at how counter-intuitively the right hand rhythm doesn't fit with the left hand rhythm... Apparently, this is the company that ABRSM chose to administer their new online Grade 5 Theory exams: https://www.sitejabber.
71 minutes | Dec 15, 2019
E16: Interview with Karl Lutchmayer- British-Indian Concert Pianist, Steinway Artist, Academic, and Rock Keyboardist!
An absorbing, enlightening and entertaining conversation with Karl Luthmayer- musical raconteur, international concert pianist, academic, rock star keyboardist & theremin player in a prog-rock band! As well as chatting about Karl's career and piano playing, we discuss his fascinating research on facial expressiveness in piano performers, the history and aesthetics of piano concert arrangements, the explosion of interest in Western classical music in India, concert etiquette and reaching new audiences. Show Notes Some background about Karl's career and interests [1:15] On the growth of classical piano in India [7:40] Karl's research- facial gestures in pianists and how this has changed over history. How findings from this research can help us to perform and memorise [17:20] Karl's other current research project- piano concert arrangements, how these were more common before our age of 'authenticity', and attitudes towards the original score. Also concert etiquette and re imagining the concert experience [31.15] Narcissism and music-making [55:40] About Karl's Busoni Festival [1:04:20] Links: Karl's website: http://www.karllutchmayer.com/ The interview with Karl that appeared a couple of days before we recorded this podcast episode and is referred to a few times: https://crosseyedpianist.com/2019/11/14/meet-the-artist-karl-lutchmayer-pianist/ A clip from one of Karl's conversational concerts: https://youtu.be/sfS1APe5Ino A paper which has a useful summation of Jane Davidson's pioneering research on visual expressiveness in music performers and the effect on audiences: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0305735612449896 The research paper that demonstrated how experts' judements of music competition performances changed radically with and without being able to watch the video as well as hear the performances: https://www.pnas.org/content/110/36/14580 A video of my arrangement of the Chopin Nocturne Op.55 No.1 in F Minor that Karl somehow heard about and is discussed here in this episode: https://youtu.be/7NnsB_ieJqY The fantastic CD 'Got a Minute? - Paraphrases on Chopin's "Minute Waltz" and Other Works': https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/BI%201083 and on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3dfFGzFetWceTHNDIKqYrs?si=DCUaoFbTT4yZJ3Bn61ox9w More Spotify links to various albums of transcriptions referred to in this podcast discussion: Volodos Rachmaninov transcriptions: https://open.spotify.com/album/1CXuE7ZolszyV3fbLezusT?si=nxXVZawQRh6qyei4_N0ZyQ and https://open.spotify.com/album/5xkEiNcoOn0Y4kWdi9UqbL?si=bQsJkT7TQ3KF9Lzf58iQvg Unfortunately Earl Wild's album of Rachmaninov song transcriptions is not on Spotify, but there are a couple of albums recorded by other pianists of these genius arrangements. Nowhere near as good unfortunately as the real thing. The original is definitely one of my desert island discs: https://open.spotify.com/album/1rudoPWy56B321lzAjBmTD?si=gla6kdfkThGZaQCuOucG8g A controversial CD of Rachmaninov reproduced from piano rolls- how accurate and representative are these? Who knows! But there are some stunning versions of Rachmaninov's arrangements- particularly for me the Liebeslied- nobody plays it better than this recording! https://open.spotify.com/album/39O5Qp8wG4P32ebUqqLGv7?si=bdGM1FSOQwOSnH0YKcYnOQ One of the best recordings of the Bach/Busoni Chaconne, here with a performance of Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's 7th Symphony- a real treat! The old LP cover was absolutely hilarious, but I can't seem to find an image of it anywhere on the internet- if anyone has it, do send a photo! https://open.spotify.com/album/281x07NB0TtYmp9Jmy8Qzv?si=OiP1zePlQhCN8iQMWyLp1Q Volodos' live album which has his version of Liszt's Dante Sonata: https://open.spotify.com/album/3TsXBqjYS4SgtK7g7xPAHd?si=Ux3oinodTRGlyxO9QOnhrg Horowitz's Pictures at an Exhibition: https://open.spotify.
80 minutes | Nov 22, 2019
E15: Narcissism- the Master Key to Understand How to Unlock Musicality and Performance?
An exciting and profound new episode that could transform the way you practice, learn and perform. It's a long episode, but worth listening through to the end for important tips on deep musicality, easy (well... easier!) learning, and performing with less nerves. Show Notes What is narcissism? (including a brief foray into individualist vs. collectivist cultures that perhaps I should have left until later in the episode!). [2:30] A tentative definition of 'spirituality' as the opposite of narcissism, and its relevance to piano playing. [9:00] Why do we play, learn and practice the piano? Why is this important? Validating and proving ourselves. Being 'good enough'. Practising states of mind at the piano. [15:00] The practice of looking for what there is to love in every moment of music-making. Similarity to loving kindness meditation (Metta Bhavana). My belief that the best musicians all do this instinctively, and this is what makes them great. Learning to love reduces tension and makes learning easier, quicker, and more long-lasting- among other benefits. [26:30] The benefits of self-compassion to combat narcissism, self-doubt, and fragile self-esteem [42:30] The pros and cons of music exams. [46:35] Self-esteem & narcissism vs. beginner's mind. [51:20] The magical easy & quick way to become good? Letting go of narcissism by looking at the positive values of 'laziness' as opposed to striving. [1:00:40] How self-criticism vs. self-compassion affect our nervous systems. [1:05:10] Unhelpful self-consciousness and how to deal with it. [1:06:20] Narcissism and the fear of vulnerability. [1:11:00] Links: One of many academic research papers summing up the links between loving-kindness meditation and neurological & behavioural effects:- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3176989/ An academic paper on the role dopamine has in forming long-term memories:- https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/fulltext/S1364-6613(10)00186-5 One of the key books on cultural narcissism in the West:- https://www.amazon.com/Culture-Narcissism-American-Diminishing-Expectations/dp/0393307387 A particularly useful and relevant chapter from a superb book on the study of self-esteem that I found after recording the podcast! Every person learning a musical instrument should read this to become enlightened about the dangers and pitfalls of pursuing self-esteem:- https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=r0gahbOYsU4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA274&dq=self+esteem+benefits#v=onepage&q=self%20esteem%20benefits This is an excellent podcast with clear and well-explained information about zen meditation- https://zenstudiespodcast.com/meditation-category-page/ A very salient academic article by one of the most important researchers and best writer on self-compassion as opposed to self-esteem, here she makes the direct link between narcissism and self-esteem. Every musician and person learning an instrument needs to read this, and other articles/books by her (Kristin D. Neff):- https://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/SC.SE_.Well-being.pdf A must-listen podcast episode with Kristin Neff as guest explaining more about the pitfalls of self-esteem & the practical benefits of self-compassion:- https://www.therapistuncensored.com/self-compassion-dr-kristin-neff/ The best book I've read on Buddhism, which really gets behind a lot of misconceptions and does a great job of examining some of the paradoxes at the heart of the path. This book is mainly about the felt perception of time which I believe is a very useful thing to be aware of as a musician:- https://www.windhorsepublications.com/product/free-time-from-clock-watching-to-free-flowing-a-buddhist-guide-paperback/ Unfortunately the free access to this online summit on narcissism has now ended, but I found many of these videos to be incredibly useful and enlightening:- https://www.soundstrue.
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