Today we present the third issue of Piano Notebook: Piano au bord de l’eau.
But first of all, a brief note for those who don’t yet know what Piano Notebook is.
Piano Notebook is a project by Juan Cabeza and Marina Alcolea (myself) that compiles a growing series of publications related to piano teaching at elementary and intermediate levels. In these publications we bring our personal vision of pedagogy along with a good dose of creativity and exploration with the intention of providing a framework for the work of other teachers.
This collaboration with Juan is a source of inspiration for me. We share very similar interests and our aim is to have lessons that are much more creative and dynamic than traditional lessons.
So a natural consequence of teaching my students in this way has been to start writing music for them, thinking about their needs and difficulties.
Piano Notebook 3: Piano au bord de l’eau (Piano by the waterside)
Thus was born Piano au bord de l’eau (Piano by the waterside), 12 pieces for piano in impressionist style. A musical exploration of reflections, mirrors and symmetries in water.
Musical impressionism is a style that is not very accessible for beginners and intermediate pianists. This is due to the demanding difficulty of the repertoire works written in this style.
I wanted to bring this style closer to my students so that they can enjoy its sounds and nuances from the very beginning of their learning. To provide them with more stylistic richness and interpretative resources.
That is why this Notebook is a very useful tool for teachers who include the 20, 30 or 40 Piece Challenge in their teaching.
Many of the pieces are also ideal for teaching by rote. And as we know, rote learning in combination with correct reading development has countless benefits.
All the pieces in this Notebook are inspired by water. Some of them are also written in mirror symmetry or inverted symmetry.
Mirror symmetry is a way of playing in which the hands make symmetrically identical movements using the symmetrical configuration of the keyboard.
It is widely used as a practice technique at advanced levels of learning although it can be successfully introduced at any time.
So that is another aim of this Notebook: to provide an opportunity to introduce mirror symmetry to our students in a simple and enjoyable way.
In addition to the technical benefits that symmetrical movements bring, this symmetry challenges students to gain a new perspective through which they can improve their knowledge of the piano.
About mirror symmetry
We know that our hands are symmetrical.
The piano keyboard is also symmetrical although this may not be apparent to everyone as we are not used to seeing it that way. To understand it, we have to pay attention to the axis of symmetry.
The axis of symmetry passes through D and G#/Ab:
In relation to these axes, C and E are a mirror image of each other and D is a mirror image of itself.
F and B are also mirror images of each other and G and A as well. G#/Ab is a mirror image of itself.
C < > E
D < > D
F < > B
G < > A
G# < > Ab
Sharps and flats also change. Sharps are mirrored as flats and flats as sharps. For example, C# mirrors Eb, F# mirrors Bb, etc.
These correspondences are true for all axes of symmetry and in all octaves of the piano.
To change from one axis of symmetry to the other one hand needs to move to the upper or lower octave. I call this modulation of the symmetry axis or mirror modulation.
Mirror symmetry in piano technique
Symmetrical movements are the simplest and most natural movements we can perform. As our body is symmetrical, it has a deep intuitive intelligence to perform them.
It is therefore very beneficial to take advantage of this facility for symmetry in favor of technical development on the piano.
The method consists of practicing a difficult or troublesome passage by inverting it in the opposite hand. It can be done with hands together or by alternating them.
EXAMPLE: Chopin, Etude Op. 25 – No. 2
This serves to improve technique when one hand has a level of skill that the other does not yet match. The proprioceptive sensations of one hand guide the development of the other. In this way, both are developed in a balanced way.
Mirror symmetry also creates a very solid foundation for the development of movement. Symmetrical movements create a bridge that interconnects both hemispheres of the brain. This interconnectivity is the basis for new and more complex future coordination.
Repertoire suggestions for learning or listening
Other piano pieces in impressionist style for elementary and intermediate levels:
– Paula Dreyer – Current (Little Gems for Piano, Premier Level); first or second year.
– Paula Dreyer – Dream waves (Little Gems for Piano, Vol.1); first or second year.
– June Armnstrong – Sea World; elementary level.
– Chee-Hwa Tan – At the Seaside (A Child’s Garden of Verses); elementary level.
– William Gillock – Gold Fish; intermediate level.
– Jennifer Lin – Les Petites Images; late elementary level.
– Jennifer Lin – Les Petits Impresions; intermediate level.
– Jennifer Lin – By the Waterfall (Reflections); intermediate level.
– Catherine Rollin – Sous la Mer (Spotlight on Impressionist Style); intermediate level.
– Catherine Rollin – Water Lilies (Spotlight on Impressionist Style); intermediate level.
– Catherine Rollin – Water Lilies (Museum Masterpieces); intermediate level.
– Catherine Rollin – Bank of the Oise at Auvers (Museum Masterpieces); intermediate level.
– Christine Donkin – Earthrise (Imprints); intermediate level.
– Carol Klose (Garden Treasures) Water Lily Garden; intermediate level.
Other piano pieces written in mirror symmetry:
– Pablo Ablanedo – Suite of Mirrors; elementary level.
– Guy Reibel – Le Piano symétrique – 4 volumenes; late elementary/early intermediate level.
– Ben Crosland – Magic Mirror (Magic Beans!); intermediate level.
– Jose Luis Turina – A través del espejo (Siete piezas); advanced level.
– Vincent Persichetti – Little Mirror Book, op.139. I. Magnifying Mirror; II. Makeup Mirror; III. Magic Mirror; IV. Mirror Lake; V. Rearview Mirror; elementary/intermediate level.
– Vincent Persichetti – Mirror Etudes, op. 143; advanced level
– Vincent Persichetti – Piano Sonata No. 12 Op. 145 (Mirror Sonata); advanced level.