Thursday, May 31, 2007

15 Ways To Add 10-minute Practice Blocks To Your Routine

The power of 10

A recent article on LifeDev about getting work done in 10-minute increments got me thinking--can we pianists utilize a quick 10-minute practice session to get things done as well? From the article:

Oh, but 10 minutes… now that’s a tasty number. Not only will ten get you started, you’ll probably be finished too, if you focus. And focus is practically required with 10 minutes. It’s a small, focused amount of time.

And if you’ve got five blocks of 10 minutes lying around in your day, that’s 50 minutes of highly-focused time. Compare that to a larger chunk of 50 minutes. That’s right, more time for procrastination. Small, focused, manageable bursts of productivity are much more effective than those flabby blocks of time.

How to make 10 minute practice blocks work

Here are some ideas I brainstormed on how it might be possible to integrate 10-minute windows into your practice and rehearsal day.

1. Warm up with technical exercises. Hanon, Dohnanyi, scales, arpeggios, chords, etc.
2. Warm up by jumping right to that passage that is making your life miserable.
3. Warm up by playing some piece or passage with the most beautiful sound you can summon. String players are known to do this. It works.
4. Sight read!
5. Review memorization for a piece or passage.
6. Review by ultra slow practicing a difficult passage.
7. Play a difficult passage in as many different ways interpretively as you can imagine.
8. Play a difficult passage with the left hand only.
9. Play a difficult passage with the right hand only.
10. Play a difficult passage in one hand with the other hand shadowing its part on your knee (a technique used by Kissin).
11. Visualize a passage, then play. Repeat.
12. Visualize a passage without doing any playing.
13. Play something in a completely different style from the rest of your repertoire. Known to restore sanity at difficult times of the year.
14. Play through repertoire related to what you're playing. For example, if you're playing Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata, play through the Andante Favori (the original second movement).
15. Do a cool-down. Slow technique, easy sight-reading, or a favorite passage are possibilities.

A few caveats

While I don't recommend practicing for only 10 minutes a day or for that matter in chunks of only 10 minutes, these types of power practice blocks can be very useful when used in conjunction with larger units, ie. 10 minutes + 1 hour + 45 minutes + 10 minutes. And do not under any circumstances use the absolute worst practice system ever, in which practice is only done during the commercials of a hockey game!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More YouTube Opera Bloopers

Here are some more bloopers from German television with miscues from Otello, Il Trovatore, Tosca and more. I seems like the same actors keep on popping up in these scenes. Note to all guards in Tosca productions: hold positions in the final scene and do not follow Tosca over the parapet.

Sign the Restore CBC Radio Two Petition

I just got a note on Facebook regarding a petition to restore the full range of classical programming previously available on CBC Radio Two. This spring, evening classical music (much of it live), the Arts Report, and Two New Hours were cancelled to make way for new programs. If you find these programming changes objectionable, please sign the Restore CBC Radio Two petition. Here is some of the petition's statement:

On March 19, 2007, CBC Radio 2 cancelled its excellent evening classical music programming, and the immensely informative Arts Report, and the award-winning Two New Hours. We consider that with these changes the management of our only national public broadcaster has compromised its tradition of providing stimulating and informed programming. We also believe that these changes are not consistent with the CBC mandate and the recent UNESCO treaty on cultural diversity.

The public voices of many dedicated and world-class Canadian writers, hosts, composers, producers and artists are being muted. If the changes are allowed to stand and the trend to continue, the CBC will have entirely squandered its unique capacity to represent the arts, with their inherent qualities of “complexity, depth and order”.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Aidan Gibbons-The Piano

Here's a YouTube video I originally mentioned last year. For those of you who haven't yet seen this fine short film by animator Aidan Gibbons with music by Yann Tiersen, enjoy!

Look inside this title
Yann Tiersen: Six pieces pour piano - Volume 1 - sheet music at
Yann Tiersen: Six pieces pour piano - Volume 1 (Rue des Cascades) Composed by Yann Tiersen. Songbook for solo piano. Series: Recueil 1 . 48 pages. Published by Editions Bourges (French import). (BU.EBR-500)
See more info...

3-Divas pics

This last weekend's 3-Divas was a huge success--both shows sold out and were very warmly received by the audience packed in at the Ernest Balmer studio. It also provided opportunities for everyone involved to stretch their boundaries and try out repertoire further afield than what they ordinarily do.

Here are some pictures from the weekend. The first three were taken by Patti Loach in rehearsal. The Ernest Balmer is a spectacular place to both rehearse and perform in, with a row of large windows lighting the room that was once a factory. This one is with me at the piano, Louis Simao on bass, and Trish, Tova, and Jean. Roger Travassos is on drums but obscured by the divas, although if you look closely you can see the tip of one of his sticks in action:

Wayne Strongman, managing artistic director in a picture taken from the same vicinity but with the curtains drawn:

This picture shows Tova singing with Mark Eisenman on piano:

And lastly the divas with pianist Patti Loach (second from left) backstage before one of the shows:

This afternoon it's back into the studio to start rehearsals for Tapestry's next project--a workshop of Sanctuary Song by Abigail Richardson and Marjorie Chan.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

9 Factors to help determine rates

As a followup to their Hourly Rate Calculator, Freelance Switch offers a list of 9 Factors to Consider When Determining Your Price. Here's an important one for both piano teachers and performers that is all too often overlooked:

7. Your Business Strategy
Your strategy or your angle will make a huge difference to how you price yourself. Think about the difference between Revlon and Chanel, the two could make the same perfume but you would never expect to pay the same for both. Figure out how you are pitching yourself and use that to help determine if you are cheap’n'cheerful, high end or somewhere in between.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Emmanuel Ax and Pablo Ziegler play Libertango on YouTube

For those of you who enjoyed the YouTube of Anderson & Roe playing the Piazzolla Libertango, here's another video, this time with Emmanuel Ax and Pablo Ziebler in a live Tokyo performance from 1997.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator

Freelance Switch has a very useful Hourly Rate Calculator to get a quick glance at what an ideal hourly rate might be given certain variables such as expenses, projected profit margin, hours worked, and hours billable.

Tapestry's 3-Divas this weekend

This weekend I will be performing with Patricia O'Callaghan in Tapestry New Opera's 3-Divas, an evening of cabaret works also featuring Jean Stilwell and Theresa Tova and pianists Patti Loach and Mark Eisenman.

Performances are May 26 and 27 at 8pm in the Ernest Baumer Studio in the Distillery District. Tickets are $20 advance/$25 door/$5 students.


Saturday's show is now sold out but tickets are still available for Sunday.

Update 5/25/07:

Both shows are now sold out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anderson & Roe play Piazzolla Libertango on YouTube

A few months ago, I posted about Greg Anderson's tricked-out video of his performance of the Ligeti Devil's Staircase etude. Greg returns to YouTube with fellow pianist Elizabeth Roe in this video of Astor Piazzolla's Libertango with more crazy camera angles and great at-the-keyboard choreography.

Link to the Anderson & Roe Home Page
Link to the Anderson & Roe blog: Where Soloists Fear To Tread

Look inside this title
Piazzolla for Cello - 3 Tangos for Cello and Piano - sheet music at
Piazzolla for Cello - 3 Tangos for Cello and Piano By Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), edited by Werner Thomas-Mifune (1941-). Instrumental solo book for cello solo and piano accompaniment. 30 pages. Published by Edition Kunzelmann. (PE.GM0596A)
See more info...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I am now able to reach a state of being at the piano from which I come away renewed and at peace with myself, having established a harmony of the mind, heart, and body. This does not diminish my performance in any way, either in style or in communicativeness. In fact, it is quite the opposite. the heightened awareness and the sense of harmony that I take away with me from the instrument benefit the people with whom I interact, and the other activities that occupy me. We bring to our music from our lives and take from our music to the rest of our living."

from Just Being at the Piano by Mildred Portney Chase

The Top 50 Classical Music RSS Feeds on Bloglines

Much has been said about Scott Spiegelberg's list of the top classical music blogs on Musical Perceptions (see #11 below). That list is based on Technorati ranking, which is based on inbound links from other blogs. That led me to ask if there was a way possible to rank blogs based on actual readership. Traffic stats can easily be manipulated to look great through repeated clicking. However, another measure that can gauge dedicated and regular readership (and one that is extremely important for genres such as tech blogs) is feed readership.

For this, I decided to consult Bloglines, which is one of the top two feed reading services and unlike its competitor Google Reader, shows subscription numbers. I then did a search for all of the top classical music blogs I know, as well as an internal search on Bloglines to see if I could find any new ones, which I did.

I have counted all the available feed stats for individual blogs, which may include .rss, .rss2, alt.rss, posts/default, and .xml feeds, in which case I have listed the numbers for all the feeds of an individual site and then added them together.

The List

1. Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise (97+222+158=477)
2. About Last Night (2+305=307)
3. Ionarts (4+78+13+1=96)
4. On An Overgrown Path (57+6+1+31=95)
5. NPR: Classical Music (93)
6. PostClassic (81)
7. Jessica Duchen's classical music blog (75)
7. Night After Night (56+9+10=75)
9. aworks (22+6+9+36=73)
10. Sandow (65+5=70)
11. Musical Perceptions (16+1+50=67)
12. The Standing Room (31+7+7+15=60)
13. Adaptistration (16+1+47)
14. Think Denk (5+52+1=58)
15. ANABlog (5+45+5+1=56)
16. Terminal Degree (55)
17. Sounds & Fury (5+5+41=51)
18. mad musings of me (6+39=45)
18. twang twang twang (21+18+6=45)
20. Sequenza 21 (34+10=44)
21. Dial "M" for Musicology (37+2+4=43)
21. The Iron Tongue of Midnight (2+37+1+3=43)
23. the well tempered blog (42)
24. Trrill (7+15+16=38)
25. Opera Chic (35+2=37)
25. On a Pacific Aisle (2+30+5=37)
27. the concert (2+33=35)
28. Deceptively Simple (26+2+6=34)
29. The Rambler (27+5=32)
30. Sound and Mind (23+7=30)
30. About: Classical Music (30)
32. in the wings (11+17+1=29)
33. A Sort of Notebook (26+2=28)
34. oboeinsight (26)
35. An Unamplified Voice (25)
36. listen. (21+3=24)
36. Today's Opera News (4+20=24)
36. Slipped Disc (21+3=24)
39. Cafe Aman (13+9+1=23)
40. Chicago Classical Music (22)
41. Sieglinde's Diaries (21)
42. Roger Bourland (13+2+2+3=20)
43. Renewable Music (16+3=19)
44. My Favorite Intermissions (2+16=18)
44. The Collaborative Piano Blog (18)
44. Catalysts & Connections (4+14=18)
47. parterre box presents La Cieca (17)
47. Classical Life (17)
49. wellsung (15+1=16)
50. Brian Dickie (11+3=14)

Honorable Mentions

Classical Music (Janelle Gelfand) (13)
SLSO Blog (8+4=12)
vilaine fille (3+1+7=11)
Eric Edberg (11)
Am Steg (4+2+2+1=9)
daily observations (8+1=9)
Musical Assumptions (8)
brian sacawa (8)
Hugh Sung (8)
Wolf Trap Opera (8)
A Singer's Life (6+1=7)
Soho the Dog (4+1=5)
Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog (1+4=5)
Loose Poodle (5)
Violin Diaries on (4)
meanwhile, here in france (3)
Fredosphere (3)


Only two blogs, Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise and Night After Night had more than 100 subscribers. Some blogs that I expected make the list, such as A Singer's Life and Violin Diaries, didn't have enough subscriptions to make it into the top 50. NPR: Classical Music and About: Classical Music are two blogs found through Bloglines that I didn't know about before. Therefore it is possible to have a high Technorati rating and low feed readership stats and vice versa.

I think the ultimate good of a list such as this one is not to compare blogs to see which is "better" or "more popular", but to have the blogs all listed side-by-side as suggestions for further reading.

Note: Please post a comment if you do a search on Bloglines and notice any classical music blogs that warrant inclusion on the list but weren't included!


I opened an account on Rojo yesterday. Rojo does indeed list subscriber numbers (although the site is verrrrry sloooooow), which for the vast majority on the list are no higher than the low double figures, except for Alex Ross, whose blog has a whopping 3751 subscribers!

I also keep track of where my subscriptions go with AddThis. My stats indicate that the majority of new feed subscribers for my site are using either Yahoo or Google Reader.

Update 8/13/07:

For those unfamiliar with what RSS feeds are or how they can greatly speed up your web experience, the Small Office Australia blog has a very useful Beginner's Guide to RSS that will help you get started with the world of RSS feeds.

Update 8/30/07

Bloglines has just released a new beta version of its feed reader, with plenty of new features and more to come. The classic version of Bloglines (which some feel had stagnated of late) will still be available for some time while new features are being tested on the beta version.

Monday, May 21, 2007

No. 50

The list of The Top 51 52 Classical Music Blogs on Musical Perceptions now seems to be a benchmark for the classical music blog niche. And what a surprise to see this humble blog make its first entrance on the list tied for 50th place.

The list is based on Technorati authority, which is simply a ranking of how many other blogs link back to each one. Not a perfect method, but simply one way of measuring popularity.

The hole in the system: two of the most popular classical music blogs didn't make the list, namely Hugh Sung and Kim Witman's Wolf Trap Opera. These two blogs have traffic stats that would put over half the blogs on the list to shame (including this one). But since they don't get the links that the others do, they didn't make it.

Is there another way to gauge what the top blogs are? I'll do some thinking, and may just come up with my own criteria and list not too long in the future...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I always make sure that the lid over the keyboard is open before I start to play." -Artur Schnabel, Australian pianist, [when] asked the secret of piano playing.

from Piano Humor and Trivia

Alexis Diamond on the opera creation process

Alexis Diamond wrote a fascinating article entitled "Making Contemporary Opera Work" in the Summer 2006 edition of Notations, the journal of the Ontario region of the Canadian Music Centre. A graduate of the 2003 Tapestry Composer/Librettist Laboratory, she then embarked upon a fellowship from the Canadian Opera Creation Program to study the opera creation process. An excerpt from Alexis' article:

What was so amazingly revealed through my research was a series of consistent themes, no matter the era, the opera, or the team.

I was immediately struck by the fact that so many of the operas written by those I interviewed treated historical subjects, events or figures – a fact which links these new works to the traditional repertoire. Obviously, the story of an opera has to be large enough in scope to sustain the largesse of the voices, the music and the staging, but also as Don Hannah, librettist of Facing South, said, the “large emotional content.” Keith Turnbull’s theory is that the historical dimension gives both partners an external, objective referent that grounds the idea and subsequent discussions of the work.

Free online scores at the Internet Music Score Library Project and 4 reasons I still prefer published scores

Looking for that elusive online score that might possibly be in the public domain? The Internet Music Score Library Project (thanks, Musical Perceptions) is a wiki that contains links to thousands of online scores in the public domain that can be quickly saved or printed. There's a ton of interesting stuff here, but I'll play the contrarian and make a case for the old-style published scores for the following reasons:

1. Sure, print out your free score. However, unless you print it out on acid-free paper, it won't last long because most printer-grade paper lasts only a few years before degrading. Also, if you accidentally recycle your printed out scores, you've lost not only the score, but your fingerings and other markings too.
2. Unless you're a paper-binding specialist, the binder you store your scores in won't be as reliable or attractive as a published score, and the three-hole-punched pages won't stay in as firmly as they do in a printed score.
3. Part of the process of becoming a performer or teacher involves building a large library of scores over time. This will be a resource you can draw from for the rest of your career. Well-bought scores such as Urtexts will last for the length of your career, have an easily found place on your shelf, and look professional on your shelf, much more than a stack of binders will.
4. Is the public domain score the best one for you? Remember, there are two parts to a score that involve copyright: the music itself and the publisher's plate on which it is printed. Often earlier scores aren't of the same quality as later ones that bear the fruit of much scholarship. Take the example of Beethoven piano sonatas--I would much rather use a proper Urtext edition than a much less accurate public domain edition (a late 19th century Breitkopf & Hartel?).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Opera Bloopers

A few months ago I linked to a few opera blooper videos on YouTube. People have recently been asking about them so here is one of the videos once again:

Note: I don't really think these bloopers are footage from real performances--you'll notice the same actors keep on coming back. Alas, they're probably staged for television but are every bit as funny.

Another great audio-only blooper: the legendary Messiah Organist on Crack.

(Via soundtrk)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Ring in a Day

This coming Monday May 21, CBC Radio 2 will be rebroadcasting the Canadian Opera Company's groundbreaking 2006 Wagner Ring Cycle recorded at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, all in one day. Bill Richardson will be the host for this event. Here's the day's schedule:

08:00 Start
08:10 Das Rheingold begins
10:50 Die Walkure begins
14:55 Siegfried begins
19:05 Götterdämmerung begins
23:30 Credits
23:35 Siegfried Idyll
24:00 End
Link to Ring in a Day
Link to Wagnerian resources and links

Note: if you're listening on the internet, the Radio 2 feed now operates on multiple time zones.

Richard Wagner: Wagner Operas, The Complete Vocal Scores - sheet music at Richard Wagner: Wagner Operas, The Complete Vocal Scores Composed by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). CD Sheet Music (2 CDs) for voice and piano. All levels. Printable and viewable for PC and Macintosh. Series: CD Sheet Music (Version 1). 5000 printable pages. Published by Theodore Presser Co. (PR.811100160)
See more info...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Introducing The Collaborative Piano Store

Since my decision to monetize around 6 weeks ago, it's been difficult decision just what formats would be the ideal ones on a niche site such as this. You may have noticed that the AdSense ads weren't totally optimized for this type of site ("Free piano lessons!!! No practicing!!!") Today I finally decided on the course to take--a store that would sell the type of products that collaborative pianists really need for the subjects they care about.

After many hours of building, I am pleased to announce the launch of The Collaborative Piano Store, a place where you can find a wide variety of books on subjects such as practicing, sight reading, piano pedagogy, anthologies, diction, poetry, opera guides, getting organized, as well as some fine audio equipment. The permanent link can be found near the top of the sidebar, just below the bookmark and feed subscription buttons. Enjoy!

International Phonetic Alphabet: Full Chart and Links

Here is a chart of the International Phonetic Alphabet (click to enlarge). The IPA is an invaluable tool for both singers and vocal coaches in that it provides a clear frame of reference when dealing with a large number of sounds--nearly all books on diction for singers use the IPA as their standard. Although the full chart lists the full range of consonants (pulmonic, non-pulmonic, and co-articulated), vowels, suprasegmentals, and diacritics, most singers and coaches will only need to know the pulmonic consonant and vowel charts.

Here are some useful links for further reading on this subject:

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rebecca Hass' new blog: The Resonant Life

In 2005, well-known mezzo soprano Rebecca Hass moved with her family to Victoria after living many years in Toronto. After working with Rebecca at Tapestry and playing the premiere of her one-woman show So You Want to Sing a Show Tune at the Heliconian Hall, I was greatly saddened to hear that she was leaving town. What she and her family were searching for:

...the pursuit of living a life more in line with their values around nature, the physical outdoor life, and the creative well that exists living in the middle of the ocean and the tree crusted mountains. Believing that if you leap you will grow wings they sold their house without job or home to move to. Wings they grew and they live tucked into a forests edge with views of water and mountains.

Toronto's loss was Victoria's gain, and this week Rebecca launched her new blog The Resonant Life, with Rebecca's unique views as a performer, voice teacher, writer, and life coach.

Of all the new classical music blogs popping up here and there, this is definitely one to watch...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dudley Moore as Britten/Pears on Youtube

This Youtube features pianist and comedian Dudley Moore doing a spoof of Peter Pears singing the work Benjamin Britten in "Little Miss Britten".

Resource Roundup: Avoiding burnout at the busiest time of the year

This is the time when everyone seems to be going nuts with the recital, audition, and exam crunch. Here are some ideas from the productivity blogosphere about how to stay fresh:

If you didn't think things were busy enough, Everyday Wonderland has a list of 5 Ideas for Stressful Living to make things even worse. I presume that if you don't heed this advice you can avoid undue gnashing of teeth when navigating the peak season... (Thanks, Valerie)


On the positive side, Slow Leadership has a list of 12 ways to prevent burnout. I like #11:

Keep a sense of humor. Your worries and fears are really funny, if you look at them from the outside. What’s the worst that could happen to you? You could die, but that would end all your worries for good. You could be fired, but if the job is driving you nuts that’s a benefit. Take a look around you. Who are the grimmest people you can see? The control-freaks, the over-achievers, the worry-warts, the pocket dictators. Who are the funniest to watch making idiots of themselves? The same list.


We are artists. We must develop and move forward even though we're often jumping through hoops for others. Freelance Switch has a post about Staying on top of your game that has some insight on how to maintain your edge and continue your development even when you're in the thick of it:

When you work in a job where you are surrounded by others, or when studying your trade at university, you will feed off other people and naturally push yourself to compete. However as a freelancer, often working alone, you can easily fall into a vacuum where your current level of expertise feels good enough. Give in to this and your service may lose value over time. Unless you have a burning internal urge you may find it helps to put yourself into situations that force you to stay on top.


Next, check out this list on Problogger of 5 ways to enhance your creativity, with ideas on how to keep the muse going. Also take a look at the 39 comments (so far) following the post with even move creativity hacks.


Finally, you might want to try some of the books in Julia Cameron's celebrated The Artist's Way series, and learn to build a creativity process from the ground up that works for you and can weather the peak season.

(Photo by alexindigo)

My New Appointment

I have just been elected head of the voice department at the RCM Community School for a two-year term starting this September. Many thanks to colleagues that voted for me in the departmental election and I look forward to the challenges ahead.

Because of my new duties, readers of this site may notice a marked increase in items of a vocal nature...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wendy to perform with Oakville Symphony this weekend

The Oakville Symphony's Gala Season Finale is this weekend at the Oakville Centre in a program of orchestral and operatic favorites featuring soprano Marian Sjolander, mezzo soprano Wendy Hatala Foley, and trumpeter Neil Balm. The Oakville Symphony Orchestra is led by Music Director Roberto De Clara.

Ticket info

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Accompanist Clones

The Crane School of Music has recently solved the problem of accompanist shortages in music schools: clone them! Here is a Youtube demonstrating their recent success with this new and exciting technology.

(Via People for the Ethical Treatment of Accompanists on Facebook)

Classical Music Hooligans at the Boston Pops

MSNBC reports that a fight broke out last night at a Boston Pops concert.

Link (be sure to watch the NBC news video w/classical music puns from the Today show cast)


Here's more footage of the same event, but from a different camera, this one catching the scream and Keith Lockhart's pausing of the orchestra, but no fight. (How many people are videotaping orchestra concerts these days? This is insane.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Erlkönig Hacks for the Schubertian Pianist

No other composer had such an auspicious Op. 1 as Franz Schubert--his Erlkönig literally stood the lieder tradition on its head. Legions of pianists have tried over the years to overcome its technical challenges, often to no avail.

Hugh Sung recently wrote an article on possible ways to lessen the strain on the right arm with some clever finger substitutions. In addition to listing the traditional 3-2-1 redistribution of the octaves, he figured out what Gerald Moore's solution was (via the embedded Youtube of DFD/GM performing the song). I agree with Hugh's two possible solutions, although I have only tried the more traditional 3-2-1 substitution.

I can't help thinking back to an Erlkönig class that Gwendolyn Koldofsky gave in the summer of 1989 at the Academy of the West. She prefaced her discussion by stating that she didn't know what all the fuss was about--Erlkönig was just another Schubert song! As shocking as that comment may seem in light of the E-King's technical demands, I believe Madame K was totally right in saying what she did. If you fear a song for a purely technical reason and set it apart from all others, you'll have more problems with it than if you were to just learn it, figure out a technical solution, and play the darned thing. And don't forget that the singer's main challenge is how to differentiate the multiple narrators and will need help from the piano in the tonal color department.

My take on all this? The key to playing this song well and a minimum of pain is in the warmup. Ideally, I like to take a full half-hour to warm up before actually playing the song up to tempo. Play the song cold and you're doomed to a tense right wrist and susceptible to possible injury.

Here are some possible warmup ideas:
  • Prior to even trying to play the song, do some sort of octave work in the preceding weeks. RCM Grade 10 octave scales in all keys will work, as well as slowly working through the first volume of the Kullak School of Octave Playing. Hanon exercises #51 and 53 are also useful.
  • On the day you need to play the song, set aside half an hour before the rehearsal, lesson, or recital to warm up specifically for Erlkönig.
  • Start by playing the song at tempo at the dynamic of piano to mezzo-piano, with regular eighth notes in the RH instead of triplet eighths. Keep the wrist as relaxed and loose as possible, with a larger up-down wrist motion than you normally would use.
  • Graduate to playing the full triplet figure as you warm up, but at slower tempos. Keep the wrist motion going.
  • When you're warmed up, speed up the tempo. You'll need less wrist motion than at slower tempos, but keep the essence of the wrist movements to minimize tension.
  • Finally, play the song. I generally move around more than usual playing this song since sitting completely still tends to get me a bit tense in the upper body.

This method works whether you do the 3-2-1 substitution, the Moore substitution, or play octaves all the way through.

My final advice: spend a lot of time on the words and really know the translation. Erlkönig is a Schubert lied, not an etude. Make sure what you do at the piano still fits into the story--it's only another Schubert song, with its characters, story, imagery, and language.

School of Octave Playing, Volume I - sheet music at School of Octave Playing, Volume I By Theodor Kullak. For Piano. Piano Collection. Kalmus Edition. 0. Masterwork. Book. 40 pages. Published by Alfred Publishing. (K03597)
See more info...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Recital with Laure Valiquette-Talbot this Friday

Here is the program for Laure Valiquette-Talbot's recital this Friday. I will be playing works by Neuling and Gougeon on the program.

Laure Valiquette-Talbot, horn

May 11th 2007, 7 PM room 305
The Royal Conservatory of Music, 90 Croatia Street

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Sextet op. 81b for 2 horns and string quartet (1794)

I- Allegro
II- Adagio
III- Rondo

Émilie Dupras-Langlais horn, Hanna Matthijsse violin,
Beckie Brown violin, Jane Levitt viola, Jonathan Glidden cello

Hermann Neuling (1897-1967)

Bagatelle for low horn and piano

Denis Gougeon (1951-

Six thèmes solaires: Jupiter for horn and piano(1990)

Christopher Foley, piano


Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Serenade for tenor, horn and strings op.31(1943) --arranged for piano


Cory Knight tenor, Brahm Goldhamer, piano

Update 5.9.07

Laure's invite on Facebook now lists this event with the name "Beethoven VS Britten"!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Accompanist/Collaborative Pianist groups on Facebook

For those of you in our noble field that haven't yet joined Facebook, here are some of the groups that you are missing:

  • Collaborative Pianists (31 members)
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Accompanists (791)
  • Accompanists Unite! (5)
  • Collaborative Pianists (AKA Accompanists) Rock! (16)
  • PETA - People for the Eating of Tasty Accompanists (24)
  • Salvation Army Accompanists Anonymous (18)
  • Appreciate Your Accompanist! (158)
  • Martin Katz Fan Club (4)
All membership numbers are accurate to May 6, 2007 and will probably grow as the Facebook community expands. Right now the largest and most visible group is PETA, with a lot of fascinating thought and dialogue going on.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hourly vs. Fixed Pricing

One of the most fundamental elements of a freelance collaborative pianist's career is their pricing model. Should you charge for every hour worked or per project? This is an important decision to make, and one that needs to be taken very early upon launching into a market. When playing for events such as student recitals, the wrong choice may mean either being taken advantage of or being perceived as overcharging. Mathias Meyer on Freelance Switch has just written an article on Hourly vs. Fixed Pricing for freelance professionals that should be required reading for all that tread this route.

As usual, comments are welcome.

Recital with Hilary Knox this Saturday

I will be performing with soprano Hilary Knox this Saturday, May 5 at 3pm in St. Anne's Anglican Church at 270 Gladstone Avenue in Toronto. Proceeds will go to The Gatehouse and daycare will also be available.

Here is the full program:

Dich, Theure halle (Tannhäuser) -- Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

At the River (1916) -- Charles Ives
Memories (1897)
The side Show (1921)

Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1949) -- Samuel Barber


Vissi D’arte, Vissi D’amore (from Tosca) -- Giacomo Puccini

Zueignung (op.10, no.1, 1882) -- Richard Strauss
Morgen (op.27, no.4, 1894)
Cäcilie (op.27, no.2, 1894)

Phidylè -- Henri Duparc
I’invitation au Voyage
Au Pays où se fait la guerre

Sole E Amore (1833) -- Giacomo Puccini
E L’Uccellino (1899)
Canto D’anime

Thursday, May 03, 2007

So this is what it's like in the Borg Collective

After several months of futile resistance, last night I finally gave up and joined Facebook. After previously been warned about the dangers of runaway social networking, I am proud to say I am completely addicted to the site, and have spent already too much time furiously friending my way through the Toronto arts community.

I must say that this type of community is much more polite than ones of yore. In the mid 90's I was a dedicated member of Cafe Utne (now renamed The New Cafe), a first-generation conferencing site where members could discuss various issues on several "conferences". The level of discourse was educated, but extremely rude with flames abounding--Cafe Utne (using a format similar to The Well) was known more for conflict than friending. After two years I gave up, never to return. Many years later, the social networking site has come back with a vengeance.

Anyway, my new addiction calls--time to get back to the Crackbook, find some more friends and write on walls.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Ninety-Six Note Octave

Jamie Thomson of Urban Flute Project recorded a short audio clip from the recent New Music Concerts presentation of The Ninety-Six Note Octave at the Music Gallery featuring Bruce Mather and Pierette Lepage on 16th-tone piano. Those of you who have never heard a microtonally pimped out tuned piano will definitely find this clip an ear-opener.