Breth Studio Pianists Take Their Technique to the Olympics

2012_12_02_1698Every year the Breth Studio holds a Piano Olympics. This is a technique exam, but more than that it is a celebration of students’ accomplishments in a comprehensive, demanding technique regimen. Alexander Peskanov evaluates students on all seven levels of the Russian Technical Regimen. The hard work that every student puts into Piano Olympics preparation, plus the masterful instruction from Mr. Peskanov, make this event both fun and inspiring for students and parents alike.

Alexander Peskanov grew up in Ukraine and came to the US for graduate study at The Juilliard School. He adapted the Russian technique regimen for use in American piano studios and he adjudicates Piano Olympics all over the country. The Breth Studio has hosted Mr. Peskanov every year since 1995. He comes from New York and spends the day evaluating students of all ages in levels 1 through 7 of the regimen.

Mr. Peskanov is a remarkably attentive, involved, and inspiring teacher. Students, parents and teachers alike come away with a whole new outlook on piano technique.

Some quotes from Alexander Peskanov at Breth Studio Piano Olympics:

Sound

“What am I listening for in your playing? I am listening for mastery of the sound. When you have that, you will have the ability to express your feelings through sound.”

“Put more thought into how your playing sounds. Use dynamics to make it sound more like music. When we play music, we phrase, giving each phrase a beginning, a climax and an end. It should be the same with scales. Make the scale like a phrase, like a sentence.”

“Play RH louder than LH. Don’t use the same sound in both hands, because then you can’t hear the difference between registers: the notes blend too much.”

Practice

“What is the purpose of the technical regimen? To learn how to practice, which means, to learn how to think about important things: counting the pulse, listening to every note, making beautiful music.”

“As you practice the regimen, you’re not just training your fingers, you’re also training your ears. Making music is really the objective. So when you practice, spend more time listening to the quality of your sound. Make comments to yourself like, ‘That was a good chord’ or ‘My tone is weak here.’ Listen to what you play, and react to what you hear.”

“If you always practice fast, you might start playing like a machine.”

“When you play slower you can hear what’s happening between the notes. Younger kids who can’t play fast yet often play more musically than older kids who play fast. That’s because the young ones are still listening to every note and to what happens between the notes.”

“Stay slow until you can hear every aspect of your playing; listen and phrase everything.  Only then should you speed up. If you practice this way you will actually learn at a much faster rate.”

Scales

“Play with better sound & articulation. Use a warmer tone—sink more into the keys. Listen for synchronicity, voicing, legato, dynamics, articulation.”

“Challenge yourself musically. Make a crescendo to the top, then diminuendo back down. Make the scale like a phrase, like a sentence.”

Block chords

“COUNT!”

“As soon as you play one chord, think about the next one. Move your eyes to the next position before you put your fingers there.”

“When you listen to block chords, think of eight different instruments, or eight different singers.”

“Distribute the sound well among the fingers, so that there are no holes in the sound. Then show the melody by bringing out the top notes of the chords. More advanced students: stress each of the four or five notes in one block chord”.

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