American Music Teacher Feb-Mar 2007

The Craft of Piano Playing: A New Approach to Piano Technique with Alan Fraser

Maple Grove Music Productions (2 Milan Koma Ave., 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia), 2006. 90 min.

Piano Technique DVD offers an effective complement to The Craft of Piano Playing book.

The new DVD, The Craft of Piano Playing: A New Approach to Piano Technique, definitely complements Alan Fraser’s 2003 book of the same title. If you are already familiar with his book, then you will want this DVD to benefit from the audio-visual dimension and demonstration of his ideas. If you don’t own this book, this DVD may intrigue your curiosity enough to want to read it. However, not all exercises, or “applications” from the book are presented on the DVD—perhaps another DVD is in the works. Conveniently, the DVD menu indi­cates which applications can be found in the book.

Theme of ‘skeletal’ piano technique interwoven throughout

Fraser introduces his philosophy of achieving an orches­tral sound by pre­senting aspects of the finger and arm weight schools, some of which have been misunderstood, and how they contribute to a “comprehensive technique” and are “pieces of the puzzle.” Through analyzing the innat structure and function of the hand, he shows how the appropriate lining up of the hand bones allows a transfer of energy to the keyboard. This theme is interwoven into each of the eight chapters of which he spends most time on skeletal alignment and arches of the hand in Chapter 1 and octaves and chords in Chapter 4.  Other chapters specifically approach legato, the thumb, the arm, rotation, maximum finger movement in scales, and finally – of a less technical and more musical nature – rhythm, phrasing and dynamics. In each of these chapters, he often physically demonstrates his points both at and away from the piano in an effective, and often, humorous manner.

A piano technique DVD for all levels of piano playing

As found in the book, his musical examples are all advanced repertoire. It may have been useful to see him work­ing with students more often, as well as varying levels of literature. However, his creative analogies and clear instruc­tions, along with the opportunity to see these demonstrated visually, do make it worthy to follow along at the keyboard while viewing the DVD – with caution, as always. Although this seen applicable to advanced pianists, teachers of advanced pianists and pedagogues, development of piano technique starts at the beginning of piano instruction. Any teacher or pianist inquisitive about developing a good, healthy technique should explore all thoughtful insights and resources—including this one. If you would like to view a demo of the DVD, go to http://craftofpiano.com/dvd.html.

Reviewed by Cynthia Benson, Bowling Green, Ohio

Review of The Craft of Piano Playing DVD in American Music Teacher, Feb-March 2007 (pdf)