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Playing the Piano for Pleasure: The Classic Guide to Improving Skills Through Practice and Discipline Paperback – July 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Charles Cooke, now deceased, was a New Yorker reporter. During World War II he joined the Air Force. He then became the associate editor of Esquire and Holiday. He was an avid amateur pianist.

Michael Kimmelman is chief art critic of the New York Times. He is based in Berlin, writing the Abroad column for the Times on culture and society across Europe.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616082305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616082307
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 5.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Anne Mahoney on July 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
Cooke tells you how to practice, what to practice, and why. The book is aimed at the serious amateur, perhaps an adult returning to the piano after some years' absence. Cooke's suggestions have led me to the best reference on scale fingerings (by James Cooke, no relation to this author), Brahms's wonderful exercises (not for beginners), and various bits of repertory to play with. I've structured my practice sessions on Cooke's model for years. If you want to be a professional pianist this is still worth reading, but it's not really for you; find a teacher you trust and stick with that. If on the other hand you've got a day job and are playing the piano as a hobby, with perhaps occasional performances or whatever, this book actually is all you need, with or without taking formal lessons. Highly, highly recommended.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By M. Cosenza on June 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written by a professional writer (The New Yorker) who interviewed many of the great pianists in his day and an avid amateur pianist himself, the late Mr. Cooke's book speaks in volumes to the amateur pianist. During his interviews with some of the great pianists he learned and shares many wonderful concepts to use in our daily practice sessions. This book was out of print from an original printing in the 1940's. It should be a classic for every player, especially those who get frustrated with their playing and need hope of becoming a wonderful player themselves. I found this book to be an inspirational page turner, enjoy this gem, it's great!
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Wayne D. Johnson on March 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read "Playing the Piano for Pleasure" more than 45 years ago when I was a college piano major. It was recommended by my professor who affectionately referred to it as the "Cookbook." I have held onto my tattered paperback copy for all these years since it has evidently been out of print for a very long time. Needless to say, I was delighted to find that it is now available again, and for my Kindle as well! This book is a treasure for anyone who has been drawn into the joys of music-making at the piano. It was written for serious amateurs who love classical piano music, but it contains such practical and sage advice that now I recommend it to my own college students. The author's tips on how to practice effectively and efficiently make it worth the price alone since so many would-be pianists end up wasting a great deal of time and effort on pointless practice procedures and are never able to truly conquor a difficult piece. Every page of Mr. Cooke's book offers suggestions worth taking--except for his advice to occasionally take a break and smoke a cigarette! (Of course, one has to remember that this book first came out in 1960...) If one studies and follows the advice in this book along with help from a good teacher and practices piano regularly for only one hour each day, it is truly amazing what an enviable repertoire can be learned over the course of several years. Countless people all over the world have discovered that playing the piano is a rewarding, life-long pleasure and definitely one worth pursuing. I highly recommend this book for students, teachers, and performers for those who are serious about learning to play.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Tobias on June 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
Probably the best thing that I can say about this book is that it revolutionized my piano playing. There are many valuable tips in this book, but for me the heart of the book is his emphasis on building up a repertoire of pieces and keeping them under your fingers by methodically replaying them. To paraphrase a statement from the book, "the saddest statement is that I USED to play that piece." With Cook's insightful and logical approach you can both learn new pieces AND keep them in your active repertoire. Of the myriad of practical tips, to me the one that defines the book is his emphasis on picking pieces that are challenging, but doable for the serious amateur. The central idea, I think, is his emphasis on carefully identifying the most challenging sections of the piece you are working on and marking them off as "fractures" to be given special attention. By practicing over and over again at a slow tempo the fractures in your piece, you can 'own' pieces that are far more difficult technically than if you simply practice by playing whole pieces over and over. And his view is that by practicing only 1 hr/day EVERY day, you can make remarkable progress over time. The overall tone of the book is very warm, personal, humorous and enthusiastic. The author was a journalist by trade and an amateur pianist, so his tips have the ring of authenticity and practicality. Over the course of his career he interviewed many famous pianists of the mid-twentieth century and the myriad of tips he gleaned from them have all found their way into this book. His approach is quite flexible and adaptable on points such as how much emphasis (if any) to put on technical studies. The stories he tells, which revolve around his passionate quest to find a practice piano no matter where his job took him, are heartwarming. I own many excellent books on various aspects of piano playing, but this by far has been the most valuable to me. A real treasure trove of priceless pearls for amateur pianists!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By deepest on November 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is geared to amateur serious piano players with pretty good theory knowledge, who are playing for a while, although some tips will be useful even for beginners. One of these tips is hard passage(or how author calls it- fracture)practise. First play the whole piece, and mark the hard places with a few notes before and after to put it in the context. If the whole piece feels like hard places, then this piece is too hard for your level, and should be put away for later. Then author goes into the detail about how to practise fractures-he himself played them 25 times a day. Overall, he assumes, amateur will practise about 1 hour each day, and recommends to spend about 40 minutes playing pieces, 10 - improving technique, and 10 sight reading. 10 minutes might seem very little, but as author points out-it becomes 60 hours a year!
The book also gives suggestions for classical pieces to play(and you will see, that he loves Chopin...:))in groups of increasing difficulty.
There is a chapter about memorizing the piece, with suggestions for memory aids.Author recommends to mark all the aids on the score, so if you come to piece later, you can quickly remember them.
One chapter is devoted to technique -lots of examples and recommendations as to what exercises and books to use - some of them can still be bought. He doesn't recommend Czerny, because "we are looking for ways to warm, not chill, our music making."
There is a short chapter on sight reading -basically analyze the piece before playing it, and then just play anything you can find, while keeping the beat, even if notes are suffering a bit as a result.
Then he takes several classical pieces and study them in depth.
Read more ›
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