In my teaching, I encourage the student to internalize the score being worked on as much as possible, before any serious technical work begins on a piece. This allows my students to know the structure of the piece, its harmonic language and pacing and the voices or "orchestral layering" that it entails. By doing so, once the technical work begins, the player has a much firmer grasp of the work. Not only does this shorten the duration for learning the piece, however difficult it might be, and enhance the student's ability to have more secure memorization of the score, it also helps the performer to have a deeper understanding and artistic ownership of the work to be played. In addition, I ask my students to know the philosophy and cultural context of the composer and work they are playing, and how it is applied in the particular piece they are working on. I stress they should also know many other works in other genres of that composer.
When a student asks me what should be the technical approach to solve a particular problem, we discuss first what is the musical goal that the technical work is designed to achieve. It is a paramount notion that technique must serve the music, and not the other way around.
I also bring to the lessons as much as I can from my extensive experience playing chamber music and orchestral concerti. I discuss with my students specific instruments' timing, bowing, and breathing. There is a lot a pianist can learn from emulating other instruments (techniques) that can enrich the textures produced on the keyboard.
I approach all of the above with a keen sense of the level of a particular student and paying close attention to both their musical and technical backgrounds as well as artistic sensibility.
On the more technical side, I emphasize the use of the upper arm, shoulders and back as they all contribute greatly to a rich palette of sound and prevent injuries. I work with students on being able to combine their arm and finger techniques for a desired musical result.
Following Anton Rubinstein's statement that "the pedal is the soul of the piano" I work extensively with students on different pedaling techniques and "Vibrato pedaling" techniques that are so different from one style to the other.
Another important concept I address with students is the interrelationship among technical issues. For example, it is important to realize that we cannot address rhythmical shaping without attending to the sound being produced and vice versa. No one technical element is ever separated from the others.
I ask my students to have realistic and specific goals for a particular practice session so they would better learn to self-evaluate their work and be able to become independent musicians. Oftentimes, students know very clearly what is wrong with their playing and I encourage them to constantly evaluate in a realistic way what they have achieved so far, so they can develop a balanced context of their progress.
I encourage my students to take a break or rest every 30 to 40 minutes to let the mind digest the work done, and let the body rest. I recommend gentle stretching exercises before and after practice sessions. For each 30 to 40 minute session, the player should focus on specific musical/technical goals for that segment. Listening effectively to each note and how they are grouped in phrases while practicing is the most important element to be used.
uriel-tsachor at uiowa dot edu