November 2011 MTNA e-Journal

Bach’s Goldberg Variations Demystified
By Cory Hall
Bach's "Goldberg Variations" have traditionally been thought of, by teachers and performers alike, as a vehicle for transcendent virtuosity like Chopin and Liszt etudes. As a result, intermediate-level students are usually shunned from even attempting them. Bach, however, composed his great compendium as a series of exercises that need not be performed in entirety. The "all or nothing" mentality of the virtuoso elite today was entirely different from Bach's "equal opportunity" didactic intentions. Bach did indeed conceive of the variations in a large-scale symmetrical arch form that can only be realized in a complete performance; however, study of Bach's organization via variation pairs and groups unified by common tempos shows he also intended them to be practiced and enjoyed by less advanced students. This article explores Bach's unique temporal organization of the variations suggested by his placement of fermatas, explains their pedagogical value and provides a useful chart categorizing the variations from less to more difficult. Read More


Handedness In Piano Playing Biological Principles Of Education
By Linda Minasian
Biological Principles of Education suggests new pedagogical approaches according to the learning styles of right-brained students and results from several years of research, experimentation and behavioral studies. The purpose of the research was, first, to understand the fascinating brain function of left-handed students to help them achieve the best results in their studies, without imposing the same teaching and learning techniques used for right-handed students.  Whereas concepts should be presented by visual directions to the former, verbal directions are preferred by the latter group. Second, years of experimentation were reinforced by behavioral studies to take advantage of common strengths present in right-brained students; namely, the ability to see the whole concept at once, or their sense of perfectionism, or that repetitions and drills may work wonders for a right-handed student, but they may not necessarily be the best choice for the left-handed student. What makes pedagogy a challenging field is the differences between children. What makes it fascinating is the ability to custom design our teaching strategies. What makes it scientific is the knowledge and understanding of behavioral and learning styles for each student. This article discusses how being left-handed can affect a child’s ability to learn to play the piano. Read More