PIANO / COMPOSING / STUDIO / ARTIST AGENCY
Daniel Philipp Stotz
acoustic pianos vs. digital pianos
As playing piano for more than 50 years - here some arguments. Maybe it could help you if you want to buy a new piano. Many (about 15) years I was obliged to practise only on digital pianos but 2007 I had the great chance to get again a real grand piano - with the right room.
Still a very good thing is to RENT first a piano before buying. So you have time to decide. Also for children it is a good solution that you can see if the child has really interest in playing. But for serious practising I still recommend to rent or buy an acoustic piano. The touch response and dynamics are just never the same on digital pianos. And if you practise very hard many hours a day no digital piano will hold more than about 5 - 7 years (I killed already 2 of them). Of course it depends on your possibilities of money and room*. A very good alternative is to buy a renewed piano from a master like Black & White Piano. The price is much cheaper than a new piano but it is almost like new with new mechanics, new outfit etc. They ship also worldwide. *Most of the professional players today have both - acoustic piano for playing and digital for practising in the night. If digital so physical modelling is the better method than stupid sampling**. Listen to Roland´s V-piano! But of course any digital piano is better than no piano for practising! ** Samples are always worser than the orginal - the piano sound itself. Samples are dead sounds and always sounds the same. That is the reason why slow movements with few notes sounds so horrible on digital pianos or on software with samples. Physical modelling is in real time generating an artificial piano in every detail. A very complex and complicated method - here the sound comes to more live. But still it is not a real acoustic sound where you can feel the vibrations and have direct contact with the sound.
One of the renewed pianos of Black & White piano/Czech Republic
My favorite pianos are FAZIOLI pianos. They have a quiet different sound than Steinway pianos. Of course it is a matter of taste and it depends on what kind of music you play! Also Bösendorfer, Bechstein (my first grand piano), the new Burger & Jakobi, Kawai and Petrof pianos I like very much. They have a very deep sound with a lot of bass. Not so good for Bach, Mozart and early classic but for romantic music and Impressionism very powerfull. See also my video PETROF PI extended bass range.

Piano technique

Here I would like to share some special piano techniques, which you dont find so easily. It is not for beginners but it may help. I would like to strongly recommend one book about piano playing from Heinrich Neuhaus the teacher of Svjatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Radu Lupu and many other great piano players: "The Art of piano playing" (also in German "Die Kunst des Klavierspiels" and other languages). 1. The most important thing is this: technique cannot be separeted from music. Or better: the technique is the tool to express the music, it does not end in itself. The problem is that often I did the mistake to pratise scales or whatever without making music. But that was the wrong attitude. Much better is to practice scale within a piece to perfection. Then you have both at the same time: you MAKE music and practise scales. 2. Think about the expression of a piece. What should the music express? If I go to concerts I get  many times the feeling that the players dont know WHY they are playing. Just because they have the technical ability is not enough!** You have also to know the history of the time, the life of the composer, the political situation at that time... F.e. with Beethoven or Schubert it is very important to know about the political situation in Vienna the time 1800 and after. Napoleon Bonaparte was there and occupied the town! **Unfortunately on many competitions today often only these people win. They are able to play every most difficult etude and pieces without fault. But without any heart it is without any meaning for me. Of course you are right that it is necessary to train the pieces to perfection. That should be the goal. But better playing with heart and some mistakes than sounding like a machine, no? 3. Live experience:  How you want to play f.e. Chopin  or Schubert if you never experienced deep suffering and pain? How to play the marche funebre in the b-flat minor sonata if you never experienced the death of a very near person? It is impossible! Have a listen to the great Alfred Cortot for Chopin and Sir Alfred Brendel for Schubert. 4. Use arm weight. When you play use the arm weight not only the power of the fingers. It is much more effective. Use the fingers like to walk on the keyboard. F.e. Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 1 C-Major. In this etude you use the arm weight in combination with a special movement of the right wrist. I need to show it to you it is difficult to discribe. But one is fore sure: without the help of the arm weight this etude is impossible to play in tempo. 5. Cantabile. In many pieces the tones have to sing. That is not easy to do on the piano. So it is very good to listen to very good singers like Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Callas... and then some very good piano players where you may here that as well: Glenn Gould, Prof. Rodulf Kehrer, Alfred Cortot, Vladimir Horowitz, Vladyslav Sendecki... 6. Play chamber music. It is very useful to play chamber music as much as you can if you want to play piano seriously. This comes from the great piano master Claudio Arrau. It helps you to keep the tempo and at the same time very good for sight reading. Also it helps MUCH when you have to play with orchestra. Then you are used to listen to others and you are able to keep the tempo better. 7. Listen to a wide spectrum of music. For me in the last times the traditional folk music get more and more important. Listen to Rumanian, Hungarian, Czech, Moravian, Polish etc. folk music. That is fantastic music. Of course you will find in EVERY country some great original music. My special tip for Czech music is Leoš Janáček (1854 - 1928). He was one of the first who studied and transcribed folk song which he heard in small villages. His style is very unique: it is at the same time modern with influence of Debussy and Schumann but with the roots of traditional Czech and Moravian folk music. 8. Use the metronome wisely. The tenency is here also to over- or underdo. A metronome may also help for interpretation. F.e. Schumann wrote as tempo for the g-minor sonata (1. movement) "So schnell wie möglich" (as fast as possible) but then at the end two times: "noch schneller" (even more fast). This is of course impossible if you take it literally! But here the metronom may be of help. You can fix a possible tempo for the fastest position you can play for the end. Write down the tempo mark and then go to the beginning and turn back the metronome for a slower tempo. Write it down. In this way you can find out a good balance between the two possible speeds. This is in Schumann a good method because often he wants to get faster and faster till the end (f.e. in Carnaval finale). So you write down some metronome marks as guiding lines for the acceleration of the piece. 9. Record yourself (this advice comes also from Sir Alfred Brendel). It is the only way to be able 100 percent to listen to yourself. You may then also discover the wrong use of the pedal, wrong tempo changes etc... You dont need an expensive equipment. Some Wav-Recorder (f.e. Tascam, Korg, Yamaha, Zoom etc.) with built in microphones or some good USB-microphone (M-Audio, Audio Technica etc.) conected to the computer and a simple recording software will do. It would be good to keep some of these records and listen to it in some years again. Then you may also hear your progress. And of course: if possible record all your concerts or make videos! 10. Practise with awareness. It is better to practise 2 hours a day fully concentrated than 10 hours thinking all the time of something else. I did this mistake many years with not much success! Practising is a very individuel thing. Somebody needs more time the other less. But in any case dilligence is a very important point (see the book of Heinrich Neuhaus!). In any case it is very wise to have a good teacher and please pay him well.  I knew a very good piano player who was able to play almost everything immediately. His big hands were just made for piano playing. But he was quiet lazy and so it took a very long time to learn a piece (he practised much too little). That was a pity because with his talent he COULD learn many pieces of the big piano repertoire in the time of the piano studies. I guess now it is better with him... Professor Kehrer said to me that a professional player should practise at least 4 hours a day (to stay fit for concerts). But when he was young he practised 8 and more hours a day. 11. Arranging / clever splitting notes between the two hands. This technic is very useful to simplify difficult parts. I learned most of this from Prof. Rolf Plagge (now I think Salzburg) and Prof. Markus Schirmer (Graz). Let me show you some examples. Mozart concerto C-Major, KV 467, 1. movement, see PDF file:   Of course it is depending on the size of the hands, flexibility, but in this case it is very useful and for me it even sounds better WITH the arrangements, try it out yourself. Same concert, some bars later:  Here it is not so clear. If you have big hands maybe you dont need this. But for me it is very useful. In this concerto KV 467 there are quiet a lot of possibilites for arranging. With Prof. Rolf Plagge we worked also on La Campanella from Liszt. Here he showed me incredible arrangements. But the best would be to visit me or some of the teachers and get these instructions. The important thing about arrangements is to try out all IN TEMPO!  Because some of the arrangements may work in a medium tempo very well but in fast tempo you loose the control because of too much movements of the hands. Then it is better to play it again in the original way. Also arranging can be overdone! But anyway lets experiment! 12. Find out the main lines of both hands and play it seperately (make it easier, bigger overview). That you dont loose the main melody even if it is complicate (f.e. Rachmaninoff Etude op. 39/5, Liszt Mazeppa - the theme, Chopin Ballade no. 4 the Coda). 13. Practise blind - very useful not be dependend on the look to the keyboard. Specialy if you play from score it is most necessary to find the keys just from the touch feeling of the keyboard. Have a look to great piano players - they often play with closed eyes. 14. Stay humble! There are so many good players in the world so there is always a reason to practise and not to be satisfied with oneself.  Music should not be a competition but stands for ART! Daniel Philipp Stotz at your service…
photo from Tereza Jirousková at Litomyšl
 mobil phone 00420 / 776 817 258
 e-mail: Daniel.Stotz@seznam.cz