Off the beaten path repertoire

#offthebeatenpathrepertoire Off the beaten path repertoire

Lera Auerbach, Images from Childhood

Lowell Liebermann, Album for the Young

Chick Corea, Children’s Songs

Ernesto Nazareth, Tango Brasilero

I also want to encourage you to explore the second part of the Schumann’s Album for the Young that was written not for the children but for the young adults. There are many beautiful pieces there. While relatively easy in terms of the number of notes per square inch, they carry full spectrum of emotions way beyond the Wild Rider and Happy Farmer (don’t take me wrong these two are lovely pieces).

Focused and relaxed


From my preaching to a pre-teen student.

Focused and relaxed. Works only when these two are working together. If you tell yourself: I am going to get it – you are focused but tense. When you are relaxed, enjoying my studio décor – you are not focused, your attention is on my wall, not on your goal.

Only when you are focused on your task and relaxed physically, only then it is going to work.

A Year of Covid

A year of Covid. 

What have I learned?
A lot of technology that otherwise I would not even touch. 

I have learned a new model of teaching that will be helpful in the future as a supportive version, in case of 

  1. bad weather, 
  2. a broke down car; 
  3. a parent is sick and cannot drive; 
  4. a student needs a quick help before the competition; 
  5. I am traveling; 
  6. etc. 

In all such cases all the lessons can be done online! We know we CAN because we have done it for a year! 

A masterclass for the remote location where I cannot physically be when the masterclass is needed. 

A webinar for a group of teachers who are all over the globe. 

And on, and on.

Will I replace a face-to-face lesson with online teaching? NO! NO!! NO!!! 

Will I use it as a supplement? Yes.

This is what I learned.

#intonation #intoning

From the recent lesson with an intermediate level student. No pictures. 

Please note I am not talking about the intonation as a pitch placement, or the intonation as a recognizable melodic unit (B. Asafyev). I am speaking about the expressiveness of intoning, or inflection.

The student and I discussed how to intone the melodic line. Intoning is an organic part of Russian pedagogy. My Western colleagues tend to use different word(s) but obviously we all mean tasteful expressiveness. Intoning depends on many elements such as the melodic intervals and their various widths; metrical position of the notes in the measure; the possible harmonic undertones even if the harmony is not directly present as in the polyphony; the general direction of a phrase; and much more. So, here we are analyzing the possible intoning of Bach’s Two-part Invention in C Major and Chopin’s Mazurka op. 7 No. 2. 

Chopin has written many nuances to help us understand how to intone. Bach wrote nothing. And yet, as we look closely, we can’t help but notice a remarkable similarity regarding the intoning. In both, we will follow all the subtle signals mentioned above. 

We are not surprised with this correlation. We know Chopin played Bach every day. It is just that Chopin spelled his intentions out and Bach did not. At the end of the lesson, we conclude that studying Chopin’s Mazurka helps us to better understand Bach’s intentions. 

And here I see Bach smiling gently: “Look at her. Here is another one who thinks she understands my intentions. Do you like my music? Just play it then!” I do, I do! 

(PS I hope no one will take this musing as a recommendation to play Bach’s Invention like Chopin’s Mazurka)


Long note! Enigma of the piano sound. Talked about it with a young student. Listen! What does the sound do? 

He is amazed: The sound goes away! 

Me: That’s right. What if we push and squeeze – will that help?
He tries very hard: No! Does not help.

So, we decided not to do it. 

Now, let’s listen to how it fades. Oh, it takes long time…… Yes, gone. 

Can your ears ask you left hand to listen to that fading sound in the melody?

The ears have asked the left hand to listen politely to the melody’s long sound going away. The hand obliged. Guess what happened? 

 You guessed right! The balance improved! Now the melody can sing!

Oh, we will speak about the long note again many, many, many times.


An adult student, a young professional, studied cello seriously through her childhood, a beginner piano student. We spoke about the beauty of the long note. Being a cellist, it was fascinating for her to recognize that while on the cello she could sustain a long note and even make crescendo, on the piano the only thing she could do was to listen to how it fades. And once her ears have become drawn to the long note, everything in her playing changed: the balance, the phrase shaping, the flow – the long note taught her everything she needed to know.


A bright teenager working on a Haydn Sonata E flat major Hob. XVI-49. Much improved since last week. Nevertheless, she is too busy “doing” things. Lacking enthusiasm. I demonstrated the opening twice in the same tempo: first like a young person, second like a middle age one. She recognized her playing in my middle age demonstration. (By the way, she is fourteen). I asked: Do you want me to play in the same tempo but like an old person? She replied: No, no need, I got it. And she did!


Brahms, Sonata F minor. A talented professional pianist. Although we are online, the communication is very direct.

First movement. Please do not say everything at once. There is so much ahead of us, let us build it up. How often I refer to Rachmaninov’s point! That powerful culmination where all the elements meet! Don’ miss the point, do not give it away too soon. (Oh, it is so tempting, I know.) 

What a joy this is to communicate with a sophisticated and mature musician. 

Second movement. We agreed simplicity is a difficult and elusive challenge.

So much looking forward to the rest of the Sonata next time.



A transferred 9 yo. Started in May. All the lessons have been online thus far. Reviewing fundamentals. A new assignment for next lesson, relatively easy, all the tasks are familiar. After the preliminary analysis, the conversation goes this way:

I say “You know, I am a good teacher only if the student can do the familiar things without me. If I have to take care of the things we have already covered thoroughly, this means the student cannot do it without me, and therefore I am not a good teacher.”

He nods.

Together, we take the inventory: the rhythm, the notes; ¾ makes us think about waltz, so the character is graceful; melody and accompaniment should be balanced, right? Right. 

I say “Well, you will take care of all of these tasks because you know how, and after you play, you will give me a grade for my teaching, OK?”

He: “What???”

 I: “I am a good teacher only if you play well. So, you play and give me your grade for my teaching, OK?”

He: “ Hmmm… OK…”

Well, my friends, let’s wait for the next lesson and see what my grade is going to be. Please remember, I had been a straight A student my entire life, so I am kinda nervous…


Musical terminology party. We are reviewing musical terms, using them in the sentences such as “I was late for a school bus and running accelerando.” Then we decided to define each other in musical terms. I thought I would get maestoso serioso. But no! I got allegretto gracioso



A transferred young student. Reviewing fundamentals. Shoulders need a lot of attention. Asking him about the mood of the peace. Through a chain of Socrates questions, we arrive to the description “dreamy”. We both like the word. I ask:” Think dreamy and play.” He did. I ask: “How were your shoulders?” He thinks intently and after a pause, replies” I honestly think they were good.” He is right! The shoulders were good. So, my next question: “How did this happen? We did not talk about the shoulders, (believe me, previously, we DID talk about the shoulders a lot, but they are stubborn – SG); instead, we talked about dreamy mood, and all of a sudden, your shoulders are good. How could this be?“ 

He thinks……. and then “May be the shoulders were dreamy, too?” I thought he was right. Dreamy shoulders. I like it.