Piano Masterclass Notes

This spring break was fun, I’m spending my time listening to awesome talented pianists for a few days. There’s an international piano competition happening at SMU, and they had 3 masterclasses we could attend. Being a piano nerd, I went to two of them and mentally took notes during each one. For those of you who don’t know, a masterclass is given my an expert musician who teaches a few students under the constraints of only 30 minutes a student. I enjoyed them and I’m inspired to practice more.

I thought about writing my notes in my personal journal, but perhaps there are people out there who could benefit from my takeaways. So here you go!

First class: by Carol Leone

  • When polishing pieces, take away more than add. This means bring out the melody, and tone down the supporting lines. You don’t want to drown out the melody line.
  • Don’t be afraid to play dramatic and loud. There was a fantastic player from South Korea who played a Liszt piece depicting heaven and hell. The advice for him was to not restrain himself from playing super loud. When the piece calls for it, go for it.
  • Melody is king
  • Use the pads of your fingers for melody, and the tips of your fingers for speedy passages.
  • Attach an emotion for each phrase.

Second class: Boaz Sharon

  • Don’t be afraid to agitate the audience with the sound. This piece in particular is supposed to sound agitating.
  • A crescendo is like a curve going up, it’s not a straight diagonal line. There should be momentum and tension behind it.
  • Exaggerate dynamics for Beethoven. Don’t play Beethoven politely like you would with Mozart or Haydn.
  • With Beethoven, look for contrasts. Pay attention to them and bring them out when playing in a concert hall especially.
  • Stick to the score as best as you can.
  • It’s not Beethoven’s style to be polite and pretty. 😛 I think that’s what I got from it.

A big takeaway form this class I got was the importance of rhythm. Rhythm really makes the mood of the piece. Timing is everything. Is it a dance piece? Should there be a delay in the sound somewhere? What beat should be emphasized?

Ok I’m heading out to dinner before we go to the semifinals later today. I’m looking forward to witnessing some great performances tonight.

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