UWA Keyed Up! Day of Piano, & RSI

I went back to my alma mater today to watch UWA Head of Keyboard and Performance Studies, Graeme Gilling, give masterclass tuition in the second annual Keyed Up! Day of Piano.

Graeme Gilling with student

What a great resource this is for piano students and teachers in Perth. Graeme’s many years of experience as a performer and teacher were in evidence as he gave sage advice to students ranging in age from young children through to late teens (and perhaps 20 year olds?), playing pieces from the early grades through to about grade seven or eight and perhaps one from the AMusA.

Topics covered, usually with several students, included voicing, rhythm & beat in mazurkas, balance, articulation, shaping phrases, and playing as if you were singing. Graeme made the point, often completely missed by students and teachers alike, that the only difference between a loud sound and a soft one was the speed with which the key goes down. So true and so counter-intuitive! The difference seems to be beyond human perception and so many people incorrectly think it has something to do with a vague notion about ‘force’ or ‘weight.’

Mx Margaret Dylan Jones

Mx Margaret Dylan Jones, that’s me.

A point made several times was that all pianists need to be careful to avoid getting repetitive strain injury (RSI), a descriptive term for an overuse injury also known as occupational overuse syndrome. While playing with wrists in an unnatural position (such as low, with the hands bent up) is not the only problem it is certainly asking for trouble. I had RSI about five years ago, caused mainly from a faulty piano technique but with poor computer mouse use a contributing factor. Then I discovered a much better technique for piano playing and now I’m practically symptom-free.

I don’t often get down to ‘The Flatlands’ so it was a little nostalgic for me to be in the Callaway Auditorium again. Professor John Exton’s black hemispherical acoustic baffles (diffusors?), installed just before I began studying for my degree there in 1979, are still hanging from the ceiling (see pic below), which no doubt contribute to the venue having such good acoustics. These students were so lucky to play there on a wonderful full-size Steinway grand. What a sound! But I wonder if anyone has thought to check the baffles for dust & dead insects. If they get heavy will they one day come plummeting down?

Callaway Auditorium at the University of Western Australia

Callaway Auditorium at the University of Western Australia

This annual event is highly recommended for all students and teachers. Feel free to comment below.