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Fundamentals of Piano Practice Paperback – October 31, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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About the Author

Born in Taiwan, 1938; lived in Japan, 1945-1958; started piano lessons in 1949, then received a BS degree from RPI, Troy, NY (1962), and Ph. D. in Physics from Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY (1967), USA. Worked as analytical research scientist, 1967-1998, mainly in electron microscopy and spectroscopy, at the Bell Telephone companies in NJ. This book originated from observations on the piano methods of Mlle. Yvonne Combe, who taught our two daughters; while writing it, I discovered that piano pedagogy had never been researched, documented, and analyzed properly; therefore, this book is my attempt at correcting that deficiency. It is not a definitive finished product: it is just the beginning of a sea change in piano pedagogy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (October 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419678590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419678592
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig T. Niedzielski on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am very happy to see this book available on Amazon, so that I may publish my gratitude to its author.

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.
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Format: Paperback
This book radically improved my piano playing. I was a good amateur classical guitarist when younger, but did not take up the piano until age 40. I assumed it would be impossible to develop enough technique as an adult to play anything very interesting. I spent 8 years or so banging out Hanon exercises and scales and got nowhere at all musically. With much painful labor I could work through some of the easiest Hayden sonatas at 75% of proper tempo. This book taught me how to practice the piano musically and in about a year and a half all of the Mozart and Hayden sonatas are within range and I am able to play for teachers or friends without falling apart. I no longer creep through scores looking for approachable adagios; I go straight for presto and allegro con brio.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's a great deal of valuable information in this book - but oh for a really good editor. It is sometimes like a stream of consciousness, long paragraphs hung together without a coherent plan of organization.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Chang's book is not perfect - as he says, it's a work in progress - but it's a tremendous contribution that sheds major light on a series of related topics which, up til now, have remained as mysterious as the dark side of the moon to every other author, for a century or more.

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.
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