Conferences, Technique

OhioMTA 2012 Conference (5): A Strong & Versatile Technique Within Your Student’s Grasp, by Carol Leone

The next session I attended was Dr. Pete Jutras’ presentation, “The Future of Pedagogy.”  I heard him give this presentation about a year ago at the NCKP – click here to read my notes.

After that, Dr. Carol Leone talked about “A Strong and Versatile Technique Within Your Student’s Grasp.”  I loved the way she broke down different aspects of technique into such simple, understandable terms!

She began her presentation by reminding us that technique should always be approached in the context of discussing sound and expression.  Rather than asking, “Given the movements I make, which sounds would result?” instead we should ask, “Given a desired sound concept, how should I move?”  The sound is our goal, and the ear is our guide.  The opposite (over-analyzation of our movements) often results in discomfort and non-musical playing.

Next, Dr. Leone discussed the various movements made by each part of the body, and in some cases gave us some simple exercises we could use with our students. Here are just a few of the things she talked about:


  • Building the bridge – This is a coordination thing, not a strenghth thing.  Have students make a bird beak with their hand.
  • Avoiding finger “dents” — have students look for the “three bumps” of their knuckles.

Hands and Wrists

  • Hinge (from wrist) – use the full range of motion in slow tempos, and smaller movements in fast tempos.
  • Drop – useful for the two-note slur as well as longer groups of notes.
  • Lever – useful for controlling the speed of the key for soft playing.
  • Rotate – similar to rattling a doorknob; useful for using less fingers.

Arms, Elbows, Shoulders

  • Hammer – dropping from the elbow without an overly flexible wrist; useful for loud octaves.
  • Lever wrist – the elbow moves up and forward; useful for getting fast, loud sounds without a lot of weight.

Body Position

  • Arcs – all of our movements, include body motion, are actually arcs.
  • Alignment

Arm Movements

  • Lateral – the elbow pivot; used when moving from high to low ranges on the keyboard (or vice versa).  Slow movements will have more upward arc to them, and faster movements will be more direct.
  • Circles – a larteral movement plus a down-up element; useful for waltz bass and other accompaniments styles.  Notice that a clockwise circle will produce an accent on the low notes, and a counter-clockwise circle will produce an accent on the upper notes.
  • Scale technique – use a level, lateral motion to create a smooth sound.  Avoid a loud thumb drop or wrist drop.  The arm should lead, especially for fast tempos.

In closing, Dr. Leone discussed the results of overuse of muscles, tendons, and nerves.  She suggested that pianists should only practice 25-30 minutes consecutively, and then take a quick break (even just to get some water or something) to allow the hands/arms to rest.

I learned so much in this session, and am already finding myself more observant of my students’ technique as well as my own!

That pretty much wraps up my conference notes for the 2012 OhioMTA Conference!  There were a few other sessions I attended, as well as an absolutely phenomenal recital and masterclass given by Adam Golka.  Conferences are so informative and inspiring to attend — I hope you are all attending conferences in your area!  🙂

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