“Practicing the Piano” Review in Clavier Companion

This book contains a collective wisdom of knowledge and creativity that will stand the test of time.

Practicing the Piano: How Students, Parents, and Teachers Can Make Practicing More Effective by Nancy O’Neill Breth

“The subtitle of Nancy O’Neill Breth’s book—”How Students, Parents, and Teachers Can Make Practicing More Effective”—is an attention grabber. Breth believes that each member of the “practice team” (student, teacher, and parent) has responsibilities crucial to the success and long-term development of the pianist; in fact, she devotes an entire chapter to “The Practice Triangle.” That chapter examines parental involvement; teaching steps; effective practicing; and successful methods for student-teacher-parent interaction at the lesson, at home, and through the years. Invaluable! This chapter in itself justifies buying this handbook.

“Moreover, Breth lists more than 150 practice tips and techniques to be used as is, or as a springboard for implementing individual teaching strategies. She states as well that her practice suggestions apply more to the mechanical aspect of piano playing than to interpretation. Her theory presumes that those who learn how to practice in an effective manner will then be free to discover and communicate the musicality of a piece.

“Each of the book’s subject headings is a workshop topic in itself. Throughout the text, the author reiterates the importance of repetition in the practice process, but not the repetition that comes from mindless playing of a piece until-by some small miracle-rote playing kicks in. Instead, her examples demonstrate ways to engage in physical training through drills for the mind as well as through the use of imaginative ideas that can make practice time interesting and even … fun!

“Breth’s tips apply to pianists of all ages and abilities. To whet your appetite, here is a sampling of the subjects covered:

  • First Steps at the Piano
  • Formulating Practice Strategies
  • Position and Mobility at the Keyboard
  • Another Kind of Comfort: Peace of Mind
  • Polishing a Piece
  • Memorizing Music
  • Finding Deeper Meaning

“The author has studied with a Who’s Who of master teachers, including Bela Nagy, Gyorgy Sebok, Josef Gingold, and others. But—and here is the part that I love the most—Breth lists her favorite teacher as her high school piano teacher, Margaret Saunders Ott. Breth says Ott introduced her to “a new world … and continued to encourage and inspire [her] for the next fifty years.” This book contains a collective wisdom of knowledge and creativity that will stand the test of time.”

—Susan See, Clavier Companion, March/April 2013

See Also Fiona Lau’s review


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