Alan Belkin’s General Principles of Piano Technique

I feel a little guilty about my negative comments on FOPP yesterday, but for anyone that has doubts about what I had to say, here is another free, on-line guide to playing the piano, so that you can see what a useful, accurate and trustworthy article looks like.

It is not so well known as Chuang’s book, but it ought to be, even if it is not prefaced with dozens of suspiciously similar-sounding, sycophantic tributes.

To begin with it is short. That is because it is carefully thought through, each point is expressed clearly and succincly, and he does not waste your time with half-baked theories and excursions into irrelevancies.

Next, the information is trustworthy. It has all been tried and tested by the author Alan Belkin. He states that he is no virtuso. Perhaps that is true, but he is unduly modest. He is an outstandingly good pianist.

And he does not suggest that you should tune your own piano!

Here is a short extract, to give you the flavour of it:

“It is important to distinguish descriptions of how piano playing feels to the pianist, from what a pianist is actually doing. Even great pianists’ descriptions of what they are doing may be grossly inaccurate from a scientific point of view. For example, often one reads about aiming for “complete relaxation”. As a scientific description, this is nonsense: Complete muscular relaxation only happens after death! Piano playing requires muscle tone, and even muscular effort. What is being described here is how a good pianist looks and feels: uninhibited, without excess tension. A talent for playing the piano is not the same as a talent for teaching, or even for accurate observation. Within anthologies of discussions and interviews with great pianists, the differences between what they say about technique are at times almost comical. One pianist swears by five hours of scales per day; another says scales are useless. One pianist says technique is all about relaxation, another says he stays fit and muscled like an acrobat. And even among good teachers, pedagogically useful images may not be scientifically accurate. Keeping this distinction (scientific description versus felt sensation) in mind helps to see past this confusion.”

And here is where you can find the complete article:

General Principles of Piano Technique, by Alan Belkin


2 responses to “Alan Belkin’s General Principles of Piano Technique

  1. I wouldn’t feel guilty, it most definitely needed saying.

    On a separate note, I wouldn’t mind posting some links to your blog if that’s alright with you? It should be of interest to students.

    All the best.


    • Dear Chris,

      Thanks for your comment on WorldOfPiano. I think your comment is related to my previous article “Fundamentals of Piano Practice”. I am flattered that you think it worth posting links to some of my articles and have no objection.

      best wishes