I have been retired for one week now. But I’m not so sure it’s going to last!!! I belong to a FB group for piano teachers, and I read their posts with great interest, as I taught piano for so many years.

Recently, I saw a post in which a returning pianist without a teacher posted a video of herself playing a Chopin nocturne. I guess she was hoping for a free lesson from the online group. I was familiar with the nocturne, having played it myself and also having taught it a few times. After watching the video, I noted a few technical issues and wrong notes. But most of all, I was disappointed by her “wooden” presentation of the piece. There was no expression to her playing, and you could tell she was simply focused on remembering what came next and hitting the right notes as she went along (you may relate).

So I opened the comments, to see what the other teachers said. Many commented on the mistakes she made or her fingering. But the teacher with whom I was most impressed gave this advice. She could see the effort this would-be student had put into the piece and complimented her on that, but also commented on the same thing I noticed, the lack of expression. So she encouraged the woman to go back and “over-memorize.” 

I believe in fully memorizing the piece before trying to add musicality or feeling to the playing. You can't play with feeling when your brain is thinking about what to play next. You have to "over-memorize" the piece and this takes a few weeks of playing every day. Advanced pianists have developed super-human memorization ability and can play with feeling immediately. “

Hmmmm … that seems like advice I need to take to heart as well. How about you? Are you hitting all the right notes, but it still doesn’t sound the way it did when one of your dulcimer heroes played it? You probably just need to add more pizazz by expressing how you feel when you think about the tune. Over-memorize, so your brain is free to explore and express what the piece is saying to you.

Happy dulcimering,



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