NCKP 2013 (5) – The Technique Behind Intermediate Repertoire, by Nancy Bachus

Wednesday – The Technique Behind Intermediate Repertoire: Laying the Groundwork, Nancy Bachus

Nancy Bachus covered a variety of technique concepts and how to teach them in her session.

Physical Aspects of Technique:
Position of the body – shoulders down and relaxed; Forearms level with the keyboard, Feet flat and planted.

Hands and fingers – natural curve, strong nail joint (Schnabel quote). Lay arm flat, bring the fingers back. Hang fingers on edge of wood before keyboard.

Hand needs an arch. It connects the fingers with the thumb.

Basic Keyboard Patterns —
90% of literature is 6 basic patterns:
Double notes

Elementary level foundation:
5 finger patterns in different rhythms

Have students play fast music early. Bad habits develop when students only play slow.
Without a technical foundation, students will not reach the intermediate level.

Arpeggios – balance hand on the thumb and cross the hand back and forth over the thumb. Rather than rotate, bring the whole forearm across.


Teach legato by fingering exchange exercises.
Overlapping legato for a beautiful singing line.

Chopin: “…feel the key rather than striking it.”

Wrist staccato – knocking motion while fingers stay close to keys.
Finger staccato – light finger flicking off the dust.

Two-note slur.
“Of all exercises, for stimulating, strengthening, and limbering the fingers, the most effective is the two-note slur.” Fran’s Liszt
Teach the release first. Fall no lower than level. Fall, transfer, fingertips pull and the wrist follows.
Then work on larger slur groups. Keep the weight in the fingertips to keep a consistent sound. All one gesture.

Independent hands
Practice scales with one hand detached twice as slow as legato opposite hand.

A two-note slur followed by a staccato should still be in one motion.
Larger slur groups.

Repeated Chords
It is like pebbles bouncing on the lake.

Repeated notes
Throw and bounce with the beat.
Changing fingering on repeated notes: closed fist is lead by pinky first. That is the same motion – it must be all one gesture. Play on the edge of the key.

Establishing Patterns
Frank Wilson (book) said all repetitive muscular motions become automatic-cerebellum takes over. Speed comes from the cerebellum.

Keep the weight on the important note versus trying to shift the weight while playing soft notes.

Pinky muscles – do not press and collapse hand.

“Divided” hand
When you want to voice the thumb, point the 3rd finger towards the thumb. When you want to voice the pinky, point your 3rd finger towards the pinky.
Gershwin – Three-Quarter Blues (nice piece for students)

Turning a doorknob. Requires a firm arch.

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