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Fundamentals of Piano Practice Paperback – October 31, 2007
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More About the Author
I was born in Taiwan in 1938, grew up in Japan (1945-1958), started piano lessons in 1949, and moved to the U.S. in 1958; received a BS degree in Physics from RPI in Troy, NY, and PhD in Physics from Cornell Univ. in 1967. Worked in analytical research (electron spectroscopy) until 1998, mostly at Bell Labs. The writing of this book originated in an incident in 1978 when I took one of our two daughters to her piano lesson with Mlle. Yvonne Combe. Little did I know that it would change my life, a once in a lifetime experience. After a few years of lessons, our daughters were progressing at unbelievable speed, which my wife and I attributed (mistakenly) to their exceptional musical talent. During this lesson, the teacher took out a frayed book with all the lesson pieces arranged according to difficulty, for choosing a new piece to study. Mlle. Combe said, "Choose whatever you want!!!", and my daughter looked all over the book for what she might like. I couldn't help interfering to ask "Shouldn't she stay within her level of difficulty?" The teacher smiled knowingly with our daughter and answered "Difficulty isn't our problem, is it?" I was so impressed by the implications of what she said that I decided to investigate this teaching method. It took me about 15 years of research to realize that most teachers do not teach practice methods and another 10 years to gather the material for this book.
I taught myself to tune the piano by reading books because, as a married student living on a research stipend and my wife's baby-sitting income, I did not have the money to pay a piano tuner to keep my piano always in tune. Since neither my wife nor I had absolute pitch, I must attribute our daughters' accurate absolute pitch to the fact that our piano was in tune since their birth.
Top Customer Reviews
Read the Product Description above, carefully. That sums it up, and it is no idle boast.
As a self-taught pianist, I have read many books and articles on piano playing, including some of the greatest teachers and pianists. Though I have learned much from my studies, it was not until I read this book that I had the breakthrough that really opened up my abilities. Reading this book, one has the sense of taking a fantastic excursion to places yet unexplored, and coming away with a sense of astonishment that this is indeed the first treatise to really come to grips with the fundamentals of learning how to play the piano.
The proof of any self-help manual is in the result, and I can say loud and unequivocally that my playing has developed tremendously since I applied the techniques found here. I have taken on repertoire that I never would have attempted previously, and I am constantly amazed to watch myself, my hands, traverse the keyboard with such surety, even in demanding passages.
Before, too, I was hesitant to play in front of persons outside my own family. Through these methods, I have learned my pieces so well that I now have the confidence to play in front of complete strangers.
I could go on and on, but you don't need to be reading this review, you need to get and read this book. For me, it was the single greatest find in all my pianistic ramblings.
A plenitude of stars.
This book clearly shows what's wrong with the way many students and teachers approach piano practice and tells you how to do it efficiently and quickly. Some of the tips I found most helpful were (1) throw Hanon in the trash (2) practice hands apart more than you think you need to (3) whenever you are working on a tricky passage, play it over and over at whatever tempo is relaxed, but end by playing it once very, very slowly (4) start your practice by playing a difficult piece musically without a long warm-up on scales and exercises.
The author sometimes has an idiosyncratic way of looking at things. For example, he suggests that in order to learn to play an Alberti bass very fast you should just realize that playing all notes of the chord simultaeously is the same as playing the Alberti pattern infinitely fast -so all you need to do is slow down a bit from the infinitely fast tempo. Clever, but not really that helpful. In spite of little quirks like that, though, this book can really help.
That said, if you play the piano, definitely buy it - but be prepared for a lot of frustration in order to glean out the nuggets of gold contained in the book. Go through it and make copious notes and bookmarks, then organize the material yourself so you can use it effectively.
Example: There's a description of how to go at learning Beethoven's Fur Elise that has loads of excellent suggestions. However, it's not identified in either the Table of Contents or the Index. I had to spend many frustrating minutes leafing through all the pages to find it again after a space of 3 weeks.
Also the layout is visually boring and dense, like a typewritten manuscript. It's tedious to read, and the content is extremely verbose.
Review update: 9/18/09. I have now pretty much finished going through this book and reiterate that there's some really invaluable information and exercises in it. It's well worth the struggle to extract its value.
Piano technique and virtuosity are, by their very nature, rather mysterious: they seem to arise in 'geniuses' while being withheld and kept out of reach from the rest of the human race. Can that really be? Or is it actually just a matter of proper training and teaching? Dr. Chang held the first view until he saw his two daughters making extraordinary progress under French piano teacher Yvonne Combe, who had once long ago been Debussy's assistant. At first believing that his kids were just amazingly talented, he then turned his scientist's eye to take a closer look and reached the opposite conclusion: his daughters learned to play extremely well because they had been trained correctly by Yvonne Combe, the teacher whom he acknowledges on his book's title page.
Like all good scientific work, those real-world results and phenomena form the basis for Dr. Chang's book: starting from phenomena that seemed hard to understand at first, the extraordinary results brought about by a master teacher drew Dr. Chang's analytical eye - causing him to analyze exactly what was going on, then carefully setting down his observations, ideas and the techniques he observed in this book, and in an effort to help others accomplish the same things.
Dr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read free web version of this book, and I must say that it is exactly what I've been looking for. As an adult piano learner who picked it up half-heartedly at 19 for four years... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kathy Chung
waste of your time. a whole lot of self-conceited, self-promoting, ramble. THE AUTHOR claims it's "the best teaching aid available"...get real. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Steven Armstrong
Mr. Chang has written an amazing book on piano pedagogy. Yes, it is, in certain respects, not up to conventional editing standards, but it nonetheless excels in spite of... Read morePublished 17 months ago by subjectiveimpressions
When I ordered this book, I figured that I'd learn more efficient practice methods while practicing piano. Nothing more. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Eric Britt
I agree with other reviewers who have pointed out the many basic problems with writing, editing, and format/layout in this book. Read morePublished on February 2, 2014 by James M20
This book contains very few useful tips for a serious pianist. Those tips that are useful are simply repetition of age-old ideas that any pianist would have heard a thousand times... Read morePublished on December 27, 2013 by CIM Pianist
If you are like me and don't need a paper book in your hand, there are advantages to the free copy of this book in PDF format, like text search and hyperlinks. Read morePublished on November 11, 2013 by E. Bordon
I found this book very useful and the information given really works when applied. I had real difficulty with the 'mental play' method but I found it to be very effective when... Read morePublished on August 11, 2013 by Regino