Dracula and Injury avoidance…. is your technique a Pain in the Neck?

title drac

Is your piano practicing a PAIN IN THE NECK?

Is your piano practicing a PAIN IN THE NECK?

No Pain No Gain” is a motivating phrase to your average vampire. It’s just an occupational hazard that the pain is someone else’s problem. For a pianist, “No pain no Gain” should NOT BE an occupational hazard… EVER!

We all know that pain is never a good sign when we are practicing, right? Did you also know that it is possible to protect yourself from even the smelliest, strongest, and meanest vampires? You can outsmart them with a secret ingredient! GARLIC!

Here is the recipe:

drac img 3

G: Get your posture correct: get the pain out of your neck. (Every one knows Vampires are a pain in the neck!) Sitting too close too the piano will encourage raised arms and high tight shoulders… a deadly combination for tension headaches the rest of your life… ma ha ha ha ( insert evil laugh here)

Drac img 2

A: Arms out: If your arms are Straight out when you sit down at the piano, you will be assured that you will have plenty of room to play back and forth, and with room to drop using gravity and no tension which causes problems and injuries later.

let go drac blog copy

R: Relaxed and Right positioned Rists! 
(wrists ha ha)     If I've experienced one painful place more than another, 
(and fixed one more often than another) it's those tight or dropped wrists. Just keep 
them supple, bendable, and return them to a level keyboard position when in use. You 
will save your self tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arm pain, weird aches and other comments at Festivals from well meaning Judges. PROMISE!
L: Let go:   I always ask my students, “Why are you still holding on to the 
keys? “ after they have already played the notes. “Let your foot do the work for 
you”, I remind them. “You have a sustain pedal”. Or, maybe the notes don't need to be sustained at all... just LET GO and keep moving. Holding on to every thing in a stretched out tense position is an un-natural position for anyone's hand and can be pain 
producing after an hour or two of practice.
I: Ice Cream Cupcakes...... Yummy! What on earth does ice cream and cupcakes have to do with injury avoidance and vampires? Absolutely nothing. I do 
like to eat them when I take a break from practicing and feel like being lazy! I 
recommend chocolate with Reese's peanut butter mixed up inside. :) 

 C: The Curve of your arch in the hand is last, but not least. It is so 
important to maintain support throughout the hand. 1. All of the fingers round out to become the same length and therefor produce a nice even tone on the keys. 2. Rotation becomes much easier and you can play scales and fast chord patterns much easier, 
and use your forearm to do the work for you!

and vanquish yourself of PAIN, INJURY and 
VAMPIRES when you perform on the piano!

~Piano Mastermind.


A “Twist on Practicing Perfect”

A “Twist on Practicing Perfect” I think practicing is very much like a recipe. Add your ingredients in the wrong order and the entire dish is a disaster. For instance, what if you were to add too much of one ingredient and not enough of the other… like one of those German Pancakes that is supposed to be 10 inches tall? Have yours ever turned out an inch tall and much like a Frisbee? Mmmmm hmmmm. I thought so. Take heart,  I too have experience in this department.

I also have experience in the “perfect practicing” AND the “not-so-perfect-practicing department.”  Here are some guaranteed ways to keep your students practicing, succeeding and having fun while they do it the right way the first time!!

1. The Triple A list. I developed a way to incorporate older repertoire and still keep up on the new weekly assignments. Insist on a day off. That’s right…. a vacation day once a week from practicing. Your students will be shocked, and you will be one step ahead of them. Reward them PROFUSELY for completing this list WELL. The pieces performed must be memorized. They must be passed off previously by you. They must be played once a week because who knows when the whim for an on-demand performance will pop into your creative (and slightly devious) mind! You retain the right to ask for any piece on the list…. at any time. If they fail to perform, you may just have another devious impulse pop into your mind…. like throwing a one inch frisbee their way. I NEVER JOKE ABOUT FOOD DISASTERS.

DOWNLOAD THE Triple A List here.

2. The “crazy twister practice it right roll the dice” chart. Please don’t laugh at my artwork! I made this chart in ten minutes and it was honestly one of the best things I’ve come up with! Your student simply rolls the dice and whatever number they land on is how they will perform the new line they learned today. This chart requires some preparation…. dividing their music into sections ahead of time makes sure they succeed. You will need two dice. Then you are ready to “play” while they “play”! Snap… this job’s a game!

roll and play(Printing out this Jpeg will give you a full size game image.

Piano Mastermind http://www.poolepianostudio.com

“I want a Golden Goose Daddy”

Waiting for your Golden Goose

You may be asking yourself as a pianist, teacher or student…. what does waiting around for good technique, playing endless Hanon exercises and Chopin etudes have to do with Golden Geese? It’s really quite simple in my mind, just ask Willy Wonka


Golden Geese are special creatures. They require a lot of work, and you must wait around for them to mature…. only then will they start to lay their golden eggs for you!  But you must be willing to do the preparatory work, put in the hours, be patient and accept failures along the way.

When the parents or students are not educated about the amazing things golden geese can do after years of practice and showing up, bad things happen. Sometimes bad eggs happen.  Just ask Veruca……

Truth be told, there is nothing in the law of nature, nothing in the process of reaping and sowing that includes instant gratification. A long term investment is always what reaps the reward of the harvest. There is a waxing and waning period for every moon, and planting and growing season for flowers, and learning and knowing time for every knew skill.

Pianists are trained and taught, not entertained and bought.  We cannot master a thing with a new shortcut, without a sacrifice of significance on our behalf. It’s called balance. We cannot have what we don’t give…. which in this case would be discipline and wisdom.  A great student and pianist knows that hours of preparation and perspiration pay the price at any performance, and provide the confidence inside to perform at a peak level, anytime for anyone.

You just know that now is the time you are ready. It’s okay to “want it now” when you’ve paid in advance. Preparation is always worth it’s weight in gold.




How to play “Angels we have heard on high”

Oh Joy! My new 2015 Christmas C.d. is FINALLY done!

I am so pleased with how it turned out, and appreciate literally the hundreds of kind comments I have received from all of you. I forgot how much I missed composing and performing, and I plan to keep at it from now on. I hope you enjoy the music as much as I have, and that it really means something special to you…. the hours of love I poured into this project reminded me that nothing of worth comes quickly or easily yet is always worth the wait.

With much love and Holiday cheer!

~Piano Mastermind

Follow ME on Soundcloud…. Suzanne Elizabeth Poole

Are you all thumbs when it comes to scales?


When you play your scales, do you feel like you are all thumbs? Or is it comfortable and fluid, like smooth flowing water?  To find out if your fingering method works, take this simple quiz:

1 Do you finger your scales based on your phone number (not including the area code)?

2.  Do you use the caloric value from the package of Twinkies you just ate as your guide (352, then repeat)?

3. Do you look at Facebook first, find your number of friends and add that to your address to come up with a fingering pattern?

Caution!!!!! If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the above, you are probably experiencingScaliditory lazineck numberic-itis.  (Definition: You don’t get it.)

Hey … there is hope for you ! Scales might seem scary, but they are crucial to master if you ever want to play Fur Elise or Joy to the World!  Just about every piece of music is built on a scale fragment or an entire scale passage.

Let’s take a look at four important elements to consider:

SIGHT: Scales are built upon formulas, sort of like recipes.  The note pattern is simple…Tonic (the tonal center or key you begin upon), whole step up, whole step up, half step up, whole step up, whole step up, whole step up, half step up.

Sight also involves NOTICING the obvious fingering classes your scales are divided into.  In ‘About Scales… Food for Thought” …… the post I will add next;  a PDF is included with instructions on how to explain scales, what finger does what job and how to make them sound smooth and glide up the keys!

SOUND: How should scales be played? As musically as possible.  They are not cold math.  They are not simply an exercise, but rather a chance to perfect parts of a greater whole.  Scales are the foundational melodies of all Western music.  You will find scales throughout all the great Masterworks.  For example, Romance by Sibelius.  At the very climax of this beautiful romantic piece is an Ab scales the length of the piano in both hands… if done well it sets the stage for the finale of the piece.  Then the theme returns powerful in melody and in octaves.  Scales are exciting and can provide suspense and speed to any piece if done well.  If they are performed poorly, they leave the audience feeling somewhat disappointed in the performance.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Dozens of theories exist about correct hand placement, Yin, Yang, Rotation, correct fashion sense and other thoughts on psychic scale vibrations.  Seriously, it’s not rocket science. Keyboards are flat.  Your fingers and writsts operate in a circular motion. To compensate you form a “C: with the hand, use the wheel and axle principle by rolling the fingers as you twist the arm and ‘wala!’  Problem solved. Check back for more detail and a video next time.

MENTAL MASTERY: Practice smart no hard.  Better yet…. watch the “About Scales… are you all thumbs” video on http://www.youtube/pianomastermind1. Check out the playlists. You’ll see… your thumbs will thank you!

How to stay at P-E-A-K performance level! (Practice Made Perfect!)


You have finally finished that piece … the nightmare of your life, what’s been nagging you for the past two months, every waking hour of your day. Just when you thought you had it down, you walked up to impress your friends, sat down without a warmup…. began to play and BAM! Uh oh. How humiliating. You fell apart in public.

Don’t worry…. many pianists  experience a regression phase in which their pieces get worse or begin to fall apart. Mistakes appear from nowhere which leads to frustration and anxiety for the performer. This was not supposed to happen, right?

Actually, there is a reason it happens. Your brain gets bored. You need to wake it up again when you practice, so here are some tips which have helped many of my students to avoid these problems and keep pieces in tip top shape:

:PRACTICE: To continue practicing only your performance repertoire would not be wise. When boredom sets in it is time to learn new things and to remember why this particular piece of music fascinated you in the beginning.  Play your pieces with as much variation as you can and mostly in slow motion to retain the accuracy you have achieved.  Play other things too? Yes!!! Begin learning something else so you keep your mental skills sharp.

: EXPECTATIONS. You have already performed this piece. Make note of the successes and difficulties you experienced during the performance. Did you feel nervous? Did you have trouble focusing on the task at hand? Which parts of the piece surprised you? Did you feel like you conveyed the emotions and story of the piece effectively? Maybe some mental rehearsal time would benefit you for your upcoming event. Be prepared!

: ADAPT. Effective practicing (practicing Smart not Hard) doesn’t happen when you learn only to play your pieces at a certain tempo, on a certain piano the same way every time. Any number of variables such as time of day, change of sound in the performance room , change in piano touch, bench height, nerves, fatigue, and other unknown variables can have a strong influence on the way you perform this time. Practice NOT TO SOLIDIFY BUT TO BE FLEXIBLE… With tempo, mood, touch, height, time of day, lots of warm ups, no warm ups, an audience, no audience, a video camera, tempo changes, technique, instrument used, etc. Try to desensitize yourself to the unknown be anticipating and recreating those conditions ahead of time ….. You’ll be Glad you DID~!!!!!!!

: KNOWLEDGE. Is there ANY insight you gained from your last performance that could benefit the future ones? What would those items be? What comments did your teacher offer? The judge? Can you apply this knowledge in the remaining time you have to add a little more personality and final touches to your selections? If you said yes… then you CAN stay at your PEAK and succeed!



Welcome to new age pianists and thinkers….

Piano Mastermind will teach you to use sight, sound, energy efficiency and mental mastery in piano performance. Please feel free to leave comments on our PianoMastermind Facebook page, follow the Blog and request new articles on any topic… any time! If there is a song you would like to hear me play, just let me know. I’ll do my best to please! 

Enjoy… and welcome! We’re all friends here!