Students Can Understand Technique (and Apply Technical Principles to Artistic Performance)

Technique—the word strikes terror in the hearts and minds of some students (and teachers)! Students often think that technique is boring and hard to understand. Teachers sometime think that assigning scales, arpeggios, and a few Hanon exercises are all that is required to teach technique. Many books with titles that contain the word “Technique” are simply little more than sight reading books with short exercises in them. But, technique does not have to remain a mystery to students. Short, simple technical principles (Technique Tools) can be introduced to students from the beginning without taking a huge amount of lesson time. These principles can then be applied to artistic performance at all levels.

Piano technique relates to three things:

  1. The way pianists use their body, arm, wrists, hands, and fingers at the keyboard.
  2. How pianists move freely around the keyboard.
  3. The sounds that pianists create at the keyboard.

The terms “relaxation” and “weight” are often tossed around during discussions of technique. The following exercises from Premier Piano Course, Technique 1A can be introduced quickly and done with students in the first lesson to make sure that they are on the right path with these concepts immediately. “Arm Weight” allows students to play with a more beautiful sound while “Relaxed Shoulders” aids with playing effortlessly. It is also important to play with “Strong Fingertips” to control the sound and play beautifully.

“Technique Tool 1” from page 3 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 1A

“Technique Tool 2” from page 3 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 1A

“Technique Tool 4” from page 6 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 1A

 The Technique books for Premier Piano Course are now complete through level 6. In the series of eight books (levels 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3, 4, 5, 6,) technical goals are achieved through appealing and descriptive exercises.

The seven Technique Tools that follow can be quickly introduced in lessons and practiced away from the keyboard:

“Technique Tool 6” from page 10 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 1A

“Technique Tool 9” from page 29 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 1A

“Technique Tool 3” from page 18 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 1B

“Technique Tool 2” from page 10 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 2A

“Technique Tool 3” from page 12 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 2A

“Technique Tool 1” from page 7 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 2B

“Technique Tool 3” from page 26 of Premier Piano Course, Technique 3

Other Technique Tools that use the keyboard are introduced throughout the series. They should always be introduced to the student during the lesson. Patterned exercises that follow each Technique Tool provide students with the necessary repetitions to make the technique feel natural.

Technique Tools are only important if they can be applied artistically in a musical setting. Several “Artistic Etudes” in each Technique book help students showcase their technique and focus on such artistic concepts as singing melody, expressive staccato and legato, tempo and expression, creating moods in music, playing with a dramatic sound, choosing the heart of the phrase, and form and expression.

“The Return”, Op. 100, No. 23
from Technique 6

“Masterwork Etudes” are also included beginning with Technique 2B. Written by important composers and teachers from the past, they provide training to play standard masterworks while reinforcing “Technique Tools”. “The Return,” Op. 100, No. 23 by Johann Burgmüller is an example from Technique 6. It uses several Technique Tools from previous books including staying close to the keys for repeated notes, voicing the melody with weight, opening the hand for arpeggios, and sustaining longer notes while playing shorter notes. View the score with my notes in red by clicking the image on the left. The Technique books in Premier Piano Course teach students the important Technique Tools and then help them apply the technical principles to artistic performance of music in all styles.

E. L. Lancaster
Premier Piano Course Co-Author
Senior Vice President, Keyboard Editor-in-Chief

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4 responses to “Students Can Understand Technique (and Apply Technical Principles to Artistic Performance)

  1. Dear Mr. Lancaster, Congratulations on the excellent presentation of the recent publication of Alfred’s Premier Piano Course Technique 6. Your tutorial visually incorporated the “9 Technique Tools” in a succinct format. In addition, it was important that you made the reference to the Masterwork Etudes, Book 6. However I regret that immediate aural gratification was omitted of the Burgmuller Opus 100. Perhaps the CD performed by Valery Lloyd Watts would have sparked the artistic and technical appreciation for our potential listeners and students!!

    Most respectfully,
    Dr. Christine

  2. What do the initials t.c. and u.c refer to in Burgmullers piano piece The Return? (measures 9,25,37and 17,33.)
    Technic tools are very helpful and well explained, thank you.

    • Hello Estelle,

      The u.c. is for una corda which means: one string (press the left pedal)
      The t.c. is for tre corda which means: three strings (stop depressing the left pedal and go back to normal playing).

      Thank you for your interest in this article!

      Thanks,
      Alfred Music

  3. Excellent technique teaching ideas with graphics that are easy for the students to follow.

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