Scott McBride Smith is the Cordelia Brown Murphy Professor of Piano Pedagogy at the University of Kansas. He is president of the International Institute for Young Musicians, co-author of the acclaimed piano pedagogy textbook The Well-Tempered Keyboard Teacher, and president-elect of the Music Teachers National Association.

An interview with Seymour Fink, master technician

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"But that's the way my professor showed  it to me!" Her eyes were open wide,  her voice a wail. I was talking to a young teacher whose student had just  played—poorly—in an international festival. In a subsequent masterclass I  tried to show her a more efficient, better sounding way to teach her students  to play chords. It...
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Hélène Grimaud: Reflections in the water

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The January 2016 release of Hélène Grimaud's recording Water (Deutsche Gramophone) was landmark in many ways, perhaps most significantly as a memento of a concert that took place in Wade Thompson Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory in New York in December 2014. tears become…streams become… was its name. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Time s cal...
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The art of practicing: Broad principles

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Have you ever thought that, from a young student's viewpoint, practicing is counterintuitive? Think about other skills you learned as a child: tying your shoes, for example. An adult shows you how to do it (I used the "Bunny Rabbit Ears" method with my nephews), you practice clumsily at first, then with increasing mastery, until finally there is no...
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The teaching legacy of Rosina Lhévinne

The teaching legacy of Rosina Lhévinne
Rosina Lhévinne found herself in an awkward position in the late 1940s. Later famous as the teacher of Van Cliburn and John Browning, among others, and as an outstanding pianist who made her debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1963 at the age of eighty-two, in 1946 she was "at a loose end." Her lifework until then had been to serve as the helpm...
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Teaching two-octave scales

I'm coming up on my fiftieth anniversary of teaching,  and I've learned some painful lessons. Here's one: playing two-octave scales isn't twice as hard as playing scales in one octave; it's ten times more difficult. Here's another: you can never assume students grasp a concept, no matter how well they can demonstrate it in practice—and how man...
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How do you introduce scales?

Richard Chronister, the founder of  Keyboard Companion , made an astute remark to me one time at lunch. "It may be a scale," he mused over a Cobb salad, "but is it technic?" We had been talking about the requirements of one of our state assessment programs, which, like many others, require the student to perform scales in the same keys as...
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Bodywork for pianists

What is good piano technique? Is it the ability to play fast scales? loud chords? hard pieces, that go on for a long time? Yes. All of these things. But they are part of a bigger whole. It's healthy, efficient, and pain-free movement at the piano that enables you to express the music in all the ways you need. What if you are one of many pianists wh...
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Is Teaching Really That Different in Asia?

"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" may have held some truth in 1889, when Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem The Ballad of East and West, but the phrase has little relevance in 2012. World-wide communication, increased travel, and global industry have made our planet avery small place. So it's...
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Edna Golandsky on Taubman technique

​It wasn't so long ago that people aged 50 were considered elderly, and those 65 or more downright old. In 1940, you probably wouldn't have reached the latter milestone anyway, since the average life expectancy for men was 60.8. You lived, you worked, you had as much fun as you could—and you died. There wasn't a lot you could do about it. I remembe...
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An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet

An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet has had a home in the U.S. for many years, first in New York, and, since 1998, in Los Angeles. French in his accent and his Gallic enthusiasm, he is really a citizen—and a musician—of the world. His programs and recordings incorporate the big Romantic monuments of the piano literature, but also excursions into jaz...
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Building a healthy technique: Ideas from Matthay

T he piano as we know it reached its full bloom in the late nineteenth century. Inventors have tinkered with the design in years since with varying degrees of success, but the acoustical grand piano we play today is largely the same piano on which the students of Liszt performed. Would it then be fair to say that piano technique, too, has not devel...
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What role does mental preparation play in piano technique?

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. Thomas J efferson , Third Pr esiden t of  th e United States Mental attitude, to use Jefferson's term, is crucial to learning the piano. I tell my students, if  you can h ear it, th en think it...
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How Do You Motivate Your Students to Practice Technique?

I am often touched by the sincere desire of music teachers to improve themselves and the lives of their students. It's ironic that so many large international corporations have only recently discovered the virtues of continuous improvement (one of the buzzwords of business in the '90s), for indeed we music teachers have known its benefits all along...
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What Do Students Think About the Technique They Are Practicing?

Kids really do say the darndest things, as they used to say on the Art Linkletter Show , and I knew I was in for a day of darned things as soon as I heard my sister's voice. "Will you baby-sit Robbie for me on Sunday," she asked, "or would you prefer that I go stark raving insane?  Somehow I felt that I was not being offered a real choice...
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Do You Have a Favorite Technical Regimen for Early-Level Students?

"Have you ever seen a piano teacher as tall as I am?," I asked a 4-year old prospective student at her audition last week. I've learned the wisdom of saying a few calming words to new students when I answer my front door, knowing that my 6'6" height can be intimidating to a small child. This particular little girl looked at me with wide eyes and cl...
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