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Why do most people fail at comfortable piano playing?
In working with hundreds of piano students over two decades, I have been fascinated by piano technique. Why do some students seem to approach playing so naturally while others stumble at every turn?
The explanation lies in the movement patterns each student brings to the piano.
Some students are lucky to be physically gifted. But most are not. Even extremely talented and advanced students often have a range of bad habits.
How do I know this? Because many of them come to me asking for help! A substantial number of pianists who have come to me for technical advice - many of them with advanced degrees in music - have never been guided systematically through an understanding of their own physical habits!
If I have learned anything from teaching, it is that there are no shortcuts to real piano technique. To be successful and comfortable at the piano, we must learn the fundamental movement patterns that underlie great playing.
Whether you are just starting to play, or have played for many years, the key to a great technique is to build a solid foundation.
A Course for Beginners as Well as Long-Time Students
This course is designed to help you explore and refine your movement patterns at the piano regardless of your current level. If you are just starting lessons or self-study you will find it complements your progress perfectly, as you can work through each stage slowly to gain a deeper understanding of your own technique as you advance.
If you have studied for a short time or even many years, you can use the information here to examine your own playing habits from the ground up.
No matter where you are in your piano studies, you need a step-by-step method of thinking about your own movement patterns at the piano, and that is what I aim to provide you in Fundamentals of Piano Technique.
You get the same step-by-step discussion of technical principles that I offer my private students in a compact, logical, systematic presentation. Each lesson builds on the last to teach principles of movement, sound production, and thinking that can be used at any stage of learning the piano.
You also have the luxury of watching these videos as many times as you like and moving at the pace of your own comfort and goals, and without the artificial pressure of a piano lesson!
My Technical Approach
This approach to teaching technique was not always natural for me. In fact it took me many years of trial and error to arrive at.
I begin with the basics of posture, hand structure, and sound production. My goal in these first units is to give you a refined sense of how your body operates and a heightened sensitivity to the feel of the piano key.
Most students make a huge mistake by never building this sound foundation of posture, basic movements, and key sensitivity.
Only after you have mastered these fundamental movements and concepts, do we continue with more complex movements. These include rotation, two-note slurs (or "twosies" as I call them) and the wrist glide or "sweep".
Building on this, we examine the 5-finger pattern in depth. Including the use of fingers 3-4-5, which almost universally create weakness and tension! We discuss the scale and arpeggio, included the commonly misunderstood concepts of crossing the thumb under, horizontal movement, integration of larger movements, and many other crucial concepts!
The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is The Straight Line
The great pianist-pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus wrote about piano that "the greatest distance between two points is the straight line." The most rapid progress in music is when you know the right path to get you from point A to point B.
This is my goal in this course, to give you the surest path to piano technique.
As an adult piano student, I never thought I could overcome problems with tension that have caused me trouble for years. Matt's instruction has been nothing short of amazing. He has a calm gentle way of explaining even the most complicated topics, and I have accomplished more with him than I ever thought possible!
I started taking lessons with Matt as an adult beginner. If you are not already convinced by his credentials, you will find out very quickly that Matt truly knows his craft inside and out. Tremendous value for the lessons. I probably shouldn't say this, but I would gladly pay double the current price!
"There is absolutely no comparison between Matt McLaughlin and anyone else! He is, by far, the best and most dedicated teacher I've ever come across."
- Mary A, Student
I took lessons from Matt for 6 years and I could not be more thankful to have had him as a teacher. His attention to detail has helped me identify my weaknesses and systematically refine my technique. I would recommend Matt without hesitation to any student searching for a a higher level piano education or simply to explore music.
Matt's friendly demeanor was extremely refreshing, and he was very adept at picking up where my last (less advanced) teacher had left off and then pushing me on to new heights. He helped me to rekindle my love for the piano, and for that I will always be immensely grateful.
Four years later, I’m headed off to music school to pursue a degree in composition. Matt was a great help throughout the long and stressful college audition process, and I felt very prepared and confident. I can proudly say that, with Matt’s help, I completed successful auditions at major conservatories around the country. I owe a great deal to Matt for getting me to where I am today, and I would strongly recommend him without question to anyone with a love of music looking to study piano.
StartThe Natural Hand Position (3:25)
StartExpanding From the Palm (1:31)
StartHand and Wrist Position at the Keyboard (4:21)
StartQuiet Hand with Supple Forearm (0:47)
StartFinding an Active Hand Position (4:00)
StartA Note on Lifting vs. Rotation (2:11)
StartProper Alignment of Fingers and Arm (4:46)
StartFinger Alignment and Thumb Placement (2:59)
StartAn Exercise for Supported Hand Structure with Relaxed Forearm (5:29)
StartExamples and Applications (5:45)
StartUnit Assignment (5:24)
StartMovement From Different Joints (4:55)
StartRelaxing the Arm and Shoulder (2:17)
StartKey Descent and Letoff (2:02)
StartFinding a Neutral Hand Position (3:10)
StartDrop and Release in Slow Motion (2:23)
StartA Note on Releasing the Wrist (1:54)
StartStudent Example: Practicing the Silent Drop (2:47)
StartDrop and Release With Minimal Force (3:43)
StartSome Final Notes on the Drop (4:35)
StartExamples and Applications (3:18)
StartUnit Assignment (4:50)
Founder of the Greater Austin Music Academy, Matt McLaughlin is also active as a founding member and President of the Austin Piano Festival, Vice-President and Student Events Chair of the Austin District Music Teachers Association, and editor of the popular PianoBlog.com.
As a teacher, Matt is know for his extensive experience and expertise with students across the entire spectrum of levels and ages. His students have garnered top prizes in numerous competitions, have successfully auditioned at major conservatory programs, have appeared in multiple radio broadcasts and interviews, and have performed as soloists with ensembles such as the Austin Symphony Orchestra and the Austin Civic Orchestra.
Making his Concerto debut at the age of 15, Matt has over two decades of solo and collaborative performing experience. He holds a Bachelors degree in piano performance from James Madison University where he studied under Eric Ruple, and moved to Austin to study under the legendary pianist Anton Nel. As a member of Nel's studio completed a Master Degree in Music Theory at the University of Texas at Austin. Matt is also an alumnus of the Aspen School and Music Festival.