Recommended Books About Keyboard Technique
Note from Barbara Lister-Sink
An extraordinary number of books have been written on piano (keyboard) technique over the centuries. While the authors are intelligent, dedicated, insightful and often successful teachers and players, the written word, in general, tends to create yet more confusion. Contradictory opinions, excessively detailed scientific and anatomical descriptions and easily misinterpreted terminology often leave the reader frustrated and bewildered. Playing any keyboard can be one of the most complex coordinations known to human kind. It is an intensely physical experience that defies verbal description. One simply cannot describe the fragrance of a rose, or the sensations of well-coordinated playing. So we are left with a handful of books below that will inform and not as easily confuse, although there will still be contradictions from author to author. My apologies to dedicated authors whose worthy books are inadvertently omitted. –BL-S
Books About Keyboard Technique
- What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body, by Thomas Mark (GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago, 2003). This book and video are excellent for all musicians, but are most appropriate for serious student and adult keyboardists.
- Famous Pianists & Their Technique, by Reginald Gerig (Indiana University Press, 2007). An exhaustive, complete look at the history of keyboard technique– “schools,” methods, famous teachers, etc. Extremely well-written by a highly informed pianist who has dedicated his life to researching the world of piano (keyboard) technique. The last chapter discusses the most recent return to “enlightened technique,” i.e., integrated, whole-body coordinated, injury-preventive playing.
- A Symposium for Pianists and Teachers: Strategies to Develop the Mind and Body for Optimal Performance, (Heritage Music Press, Dayton, OH, 2002). Ten authoritative authors offer their expertise and unique viewpoints in a comprehensive look at piano playing. Body, mind, emotions and spirit are all addressed in great detail, chapter by chapter. From performance anxiety, through biomechanics, holistic health, sound pedagogy, mind control, practice methods, etc., etc., this compendium offers an unprecedented amount and depth of information. Viewpoints sometimes differ but all authors are united by their unswerving dedication to developing joyous, informed, and healthy pianists.
- Mastering Piano Technique, by Seymour Fink (Amadeus Press, 1992). A rational, comprehensive and systematic approach to developing healthy piano technique with special emphasis on free, natural movements and biomechanical laws. Filled with fascinating anatomical information and imaginative exercises.
- The Pianist’s Talent, by Harold Taylor (Kahn & Averill, 9 Harrington Rd., London, England, 1994). A small, insightful book on the application of the principles of the Alexander Technique in the playing of a number of the great piano prodigies, including Artur Rubinstein. Historic photos included.
Recommended DVDs and Videos
- The Art of Piano – Great Pianists of the 20th Century, (NVCArts). Extraordinary film and TV footage of extended live performances, from Ignace Jan Paderewski in 1936 to Claudio Arrau in 1970. Includes Horowitz, Rubinstein, Cortot, Gilels, Richter, Michelangeli, Dame Myra Hess, with commentary by 18 present-day pianists and conductors. A wonderful visual and aural documentation of legendary pianists. A great musical and technical teaching resource.
- Freeing the Caged Bird – Developing Well-Coordinated, Injury-Preventive Piano Technique with Barbara Lister-Sink, (WINGSOUND, P.O. Box 10912, Winston-Salem, NC 27108, 1996, 2005). A clear, direct look at piano technique from the ground up. Explores piano and body mechanisms, demonstrates potential harmful technical habits, outlines a step-by-step training program with numerous playing examples. Reviewed in Piano & Keyboard magazine as “brilliantly conceived and produced.” Vladimir Ashkenazy calls it “a monumental work!”
- The Anatomy of a Piano – How Your Grand Piano Works, With Piano Technician John Serkin, (SH Productions, Kansas City, 1991). A unique, excellent look at the mechanism of the piano from the viewpoint of a piano technician whose father, Rudolf Serkin, was one of the great pianists of the 20th century. Beautifully produced. Good for all students, teachers and parents.
Books About Whole Body Awareness and Biomechanics
- What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping & the Alexander Technique to Making Music, by Barbara and Benjamin Conable (Andover, 1998). A charming but powerfully informative book with humorous and helpful cartoon illustrations. Very easy to understand and readable for young musicians.
- Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health, by Thomas Hanna (Harper Collins Publishers, 1988). This gives specific, effective exercises for releasing chronic muscle tension throughout the body. It is especially helpful in understanding and relieving chronic muscle tension. This book is suitable only for teachers, performers and mature students.
- How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students, by Barbara Conable (Andover Press, 1995). This is one of the best books for self-instruction in Body-Mapping, as well as the Alexander Technique. Appropriate for mature students, teachers and performers.
- Dr. Pascarelli’s Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury, by Emil Pascarelli, M.D., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004.
- Playing (Less) Hurt: An Injury-Prevention Guide for Musicians, by Janet Horvath (Janet Horvath, 2002).
- The Athletic Musician, by Barbara Paull and Christine Harrison (Scarecrow Press, 1999).
- The Body Atlas, by Steve Parker (Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 1993). A big, beautifully illustrated guide to the human anatomy. Colorful drawings are large, clear and interesting. Explanations are simple and written in plain English. A powerful visual tool in building awareness of the “body map.” Suitable for all ages and levels, but especially enjoyable for children.
- The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, by Davis, Eshelman and McKay (New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 1995). The most comprehensive and practical guide to various relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Clearly written, well-formatted. A valuable resource for all performing and teaching musicians.
- The Musicians’ Survival Manual: A Guide to Preventing and Treating Injuries in Instrumentalists, by Richard Norris, M. D. (MMB Music, 1993).
- The Musician as Athlete: Alternative Approaches to Healthy Performance, by Dorothy Bishop and Jude Carlson (Kava Publications, 1992).
- Body Mind Mastery, by Dan Millman (New World Library, 1999). A clearly written book about integrating mind, body and spirit in athletics but could be used by all musicians. Addresses chronic tension build-up, mental practice, whole body awareness, stress reduction, relaxation techniques, avoiding injuries from a “natural athlete [musician]” viewpoint.