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Fundamentals of Piano Practice by Chuan C. Chang

To my wife

Merry, and our daughters

Eileen and Sue-Lynn

The material of Chapter One originated from my notes on how the late Mlle. Yvonne Combe taught our daughters. Mlle. Combe was Debussy's disciple and helped transcribe his new compositions as he played them out on the piano. She performed that incredible Second Piano Concerto by Saint Saens with the composer conducting. Every audience that attended recitals by her students, especially when they played Debussy and Saint Saens, was mesmerized. This book had to be written: without it, her passing would have deprived this world of a priceless art.


Chapter Two: TUNING YOUR PIANO References

Second Edition, Feb. 10, 2006 Copyright 1991-2006, by Chuan C. Chang

This entire book can be downloaded free at:

Copyright 1994-2006; No part of this document shall be copied without including the name of the author: Chuan C. Chang, and this copyright statement.

This book provides free piano lessons, piano teaching material, and piano tuning instructions. You can learn piano up to 1000 times faster (!) compared to other methods (see Chapter One, IV.5). This is the first book ever written on how to practice at the piano. For hundreds of years, many teachers and other books taught you what techniques to acquire, but that is of little use unless you know how to acquire them quickly, as Mozart, Liszt, etc., did.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I was born in Taiwan in 1938, grew up in Japan (1945-1958), and then moved to the U.S. in 1958; received a BS degree in Physics from RPI in Troy, NY, and PhD in Physics from Cornell Univ. Started taking piano lessons in 1950. The basis for writing this book originated with an incident in 1978 when I took one of our 2 daughters to her piano lesson with Mlle. Yvonne Combe. Little did I know that it would change my life, a once in a lifetime experience. In a few years of lessons, our two daughters were progressing at unbelievable speed, which my wife and I attributed naturally (and mistakenly) to their intelligence. During this lesson, it became time to choose a new piece of music, so the teacher took out this frayed book with all the candidate pieces arranged according to difficulty. Mlle. Combe said, "Choose whatever you want!!!", and my daughter went all over the book, easy and difficult, looking for what she might like. I couldn't help interfering to ask "Shouldn't she stay within her level of difficulty?" The teacher smiled knowingly with my daughter and said "Difficulty isn't our problem, is it?" I was so embarrassed by my apparent ignorance and flabbergasted by the implications of what she said that I shut up the rest of the lesson and had long conversations with our daughters afterwards on this topic. Soon thereafter, I decided to take notes on how this teaching system worked. It took me about 15 years of further observations, comparisons, and research to realize that most teachers do not teach practice methods and to understand the reasons why.

I also taught myself to tune the piano by reading books because I did not have the money to pay a piano tuner. Since neither my wife nor I have perfect pitch, I must attribute our two daughters' accurate perfect pitch to the fact that our piano was always in tune since their birth.

Most recent revision dates:

Year 2004 Ch. One: I.20 & I.21, significant additions, Jan. 25; I.5, Scales and Arpeggios, significant additions, Jan. 25; I.10, significant additions, Jan. 26; I.20, new section on Bach’s Inventions, Feb. 5; I.5, I.7.d, small additions, Feb. 16; I.4.b, small additions, Mar. 3;

I.16.e, new section, Mar. 4; I.5, Scales and Arpeggios, small additions, Mar. 5; I.21, new section, "Psychology of Piano", Apr. 18; Changed my address from Colts Neck, NJ, to Odessa, Florida, Apr. 18;

Changed my address from Odessa, to Tampa, Florida, May 15; Testimonials: inserted testimonial (#2), Jun. 28; minor changes, Jul. 1; I.7, Exercises, major revisions, added section on speed, Jul. 1; References: Added important new references, Jul. 12; Preface: added notes on tuning and scientific methods, Jul. 15; I & I: split into 4 sections for easier downloading/printing, Jul. 19; First printing of entire 2nd Edition book!!!!!! Jul. 29; Preface: revised, because this section is so informative, Aug. 6; I, First Section (for download), major rewrite; the link for entire Chapter One, sections I & I has been eliminated, Aug. 1; I.15-18, major rewrite, added info on electronic pianos, Aug. 26, 30, & 31; I.6, Memorizing, major rewrite (mostly near the end), Sept. 23; Added instructions for printing this book using Kinko's, Sept. 24; I.2, new section "Outline Summary of Entire Method", Nov. 6; I.18, complete rewrite, Nov. 6; I.2, Improved layout of "outline", Nov. 9; I.1, added "Definition of Rhythm", Nov. 9; I, Third and Fourth download sections, significant rewrites, Nov. 21; Changed my address from Tampa, FL to Odessa, FL, Nov. 28.

Year 2005 Added link to Spanish translation, Apr. 15; I.5, extensive rewrite; added video of TO, TU, Sept. 19; I.5, added section on Chromatic Scale, Sept. 21; I.7, added photo of palm stretch exercise, Sept. 21; Start project to list teachers who can teach these methods, Oct. 9; References: added Combe's "biography" in review of Chang's book, fixed broken links, Oct. 13; Ch. Two, Section 2: minor revisions, Oct. 26; Ch. One, I.6, major rewrite, Dec. 13; I.8-10, significant rewrite, Dec. 19; I.2, significant rewrite, Dec.20; I.1-12, major rewrite, Dec. 23; I.6, minor touchup, Dec. 31.

Year 2006 I.14-15, major rewrite, Jan. 7; I.16.a-c, major rewrite, Jan. 8; Added "Abbreviations and Frequently Used Phrases" at beginning, Jan. 28; I.5, expanded explanation of minor scales, Jan. 28.

Request: to those who have found this material useful, please make an effort to let at least two people know about my web site, so that we can start a chain reaction of ever more people that will be informed of this site.

I am looking for volunteers to translate this book into any language. See "Notes for Translators" at the end of the "Table of Contents". Please email me at to discuss this matter.

This book is now available in German, Polish, Italian, French, and Spanish. I am very grateful to our German translator, Edgar Lins, for his many suggestions that have significantly improved the quality of this book.

How to use this book. This book is written in HTML and is intended to be printed out in sections for reading. You can also download the entire book in one file (HTML format), or as a PDF file. This (PDF) is the only version of this book with an index. After it is on your computer screen, you can either print it out or save it on your hard drive. In order to print subsections, print by page number; in PDF format, these page numbers appear in the contents section. In the HTML format, this book can be over 300 pages long, depending on your HTML settings (the page numbers will depend on the settings of your computer) so you will have to find the right pages by trial-and-error or by left-clicking the scrolling bar.

One way to print this book is to choose one of the PDF formats above, download it to a file in your computer and send the file electronically to DocStore and follow directions (e.g., request double side, regular white paper, collate, coil binding, clear front and black vinyl back covers, locate nearest Kinko's Store, etc.); cost is about $30/copy (8 cents/page) if you pick it up at Kinko's, less if you order more copies. Choose 10pt print or ask for a proof; larger print will produce a book over an inch thick and cost a lot more!

I can print it for you: send $25 (includes shipping 1st class) to: C. C. Chang, 16212 Turnbury Oak Dr, Odessa, FL 33556, or you can pay through Paypal by using my email address, See photos of the book cover and inside.

For learning piano, use this book as a supplementary textbook if you have a teacher. If you don't have a teacher, pick any piece of music you want to learn (that is within your technical skill level) and start practicing it using the methods described here; the methods are arranged roughly in the order in which you will need them as you start learning a new piece. In either case (with or without a teacher), read the entire book quickly the first time, starting with the Preface which gives you a quick overview. Skip any section that you think is not relevant or is too detailed; do not try to understand every concept or to remember anything -- read it like a science fiction novel, mainly for fun -- you just want to get acquainted with the book and get some idea of where certain topics are discussed. Finally, read as much of the Testimonial section as you find interesting. Then re-start from where you think the book gives material that you need; most people will need to read all of Chapter One, sections I and I. Then you can skip around to specific topics that apply to the composition you are learning. If you don't have a clear idea of what compositions to learn, this book cites many examples, from beginner material (Chapter One, I.18) to intermediate; therefore, in your first reading, look for where these examples/suggestions are.

Abbreviations and Frequently Used Phrases P.10


Trials, tribulations, and successes of pianists; helpful comments from teachers, and readers. See the emails and reviews from readers. (Jul. 1/2004) P.10


An overview of this book and its philosophy: what is in this book and why these practice methods work. (Aug. 6/2004) P.18

This chapter is so long that many people were having difficulties downloading and printing it; therefore, it has been divided into four sections for downloading. First Section, (Aug. 1/2004)

1. Objective P.27 2. What is Piano Technique? P.28 3. Technique and Music P.29 4. Basic Approach, Interpretation, Musical Training, Perfect Pitch P. 30


1. The Practice Routine P.31 2. Finger Positions P.3 3. Bench Height and Distance from Piano P.3 4. Starting a Piece: Listening and Analysis (Fur Elise) P.34 5. Practice the Most Difficult Sections First P.35 6. Shortening Difficult Passages: Segmental (Bar-by-Bar) Practice P.35 7. Hands Separate Practice: Acquiring Technique P.35 8. The Continuity Rule P.37 9. The Chord Attack P.37 10. Gravity Drop, Chord Practice, and Relaxation P.38 1. Parallel Sets P.40

Third Section, (Nov. 21/2004)

12. Learning and Memorizing P.42 13. Velocity, Choice of Practice Speed P.4 14. How to Relax P.4 15. Post Practice Improvement (PPI) P.46 16. Dangers of Slow Play - Pitfalls of the Intuitive Method P.48 17. Importance of Slow Play P.49 18. Fingering P.50 19. Accurate Tempo and the Metronome 51 20. Weak Left Hand; Using One Hand to Teach the Other 52 21. Building Endurance, Breathing 52

Fourth Section, (Nov. 21/2004)

2. Bad Habits: A Pianist's Worst Enemy P.5 23. Damper Pedal P.56 24. Soft Pedal, Timbre, and Normal Modes of Vibrating Strings P.57 25. Hands Together: Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu P.62 26. Summary P.67


1. Tone, Rhythm and Staccato P.67 a. What is Good Tone? P.67 b. What is Rhythm? (Beethoven's Tempest) P.70 c. Staccato P.72 2. Cycling (Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu) P.73 3. Trills & Tremolos P.7 a. Trills P.7 b. Tremolos (Beethoven's Pathetique, 1st Mvmnt) P.78 4. Hand, Body Motions for Technique P.79 a. Hand Motions P.79 b. Playing with Flat Fingers P.81 c. Body Motions P.89 5. Playing Fast: Scales, Arpeggios and Chromatic Scales (Jan. 28/2006) P.91

(Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu, Beethoven's Moonlight, 3rd Movement) a. Scales: Thumb Under, Thumb Over P.91 b. The TO Motion, Explanation and Video P.93 c. Practicing TO, Speed P.94 d. Scales: Origin, Nomenclature, and Fingerings P.98 e. Arpeggios (Chopin, Cartwheel Motion) P.100 f. Thrust and Pull, Beethoven's Moonlight, 3rd Movement P.101 g. Thumb: the Most Versatile Finger; Examples of Scale/Arpeggio Practice Routines P.105 h. Fast Chromatic Scales P.105 6. Memorizing (Dec. 31/2005) P.106 a. Why Memorize? P.106 b. Who can, What to, and When to, Memorize P.108 c. Memorizing and Maintenance P.109 d. Hand Memory P.110 e. Starting the Memorizing Process P.110 f. Reinforcing the Memory P.113 g. Practicing Cold P.113 h. Slow Play P.114 i. Mental Timing P.115 j. Establishing Permanent Memory -- Mental Play P.115

Music Memory P.115 Photographic Memory P.116 Keyboard Memory -- Mental Play P.117 Theory Memory P.119 k. Maintenance P.119 l. Sight Readers versus Memorizers: Learning Bach's Inventions P.120

Inventions #1, #8, #13 P.121 Quiet Hands P.125 Sinfonia #15 P.127 m. Human Memory Function P.127 n. How to Become a Good Memorizer P.129 o. Summary P.130 7. Exercises (Sept. 21/2005) P.130 a. Introduction: Intrinsic, Limbering, and Conditioning Exercises P.131 b. Parallel Set Exercises for Intrinsic Technical Development P.132 c. How To Use The Parallel Set Exercises P.140 d. Scales, Arpeggios, Finger Independence and Finger Lifting Exercises P.141 e. Playing (Wide) Chords, Palm Stretching Exercises P.143 f. Practicing Jumps P.144 g. Stretching and Other Exercises P.146 h. Problems with Hanon Exercises P.146 i. Practicing for Speed P.150

(Sections 8-10)(Dec. 19/2005)

8. Outlining (Beethoven's Sonata #1) P.153 9. Polishing a Piece - Eliminating Flubs P.155 10. Cold Hands, Illness, Injury, Ear Damage P.156

(Sections 1-12) (Dec. 23/2005)

1. Sight Reading P.162 12. Learning Relative Pitch and Perfect Pitch (Sight Singing) P.163 13. Videotaping and Recording Your Own Playing (Dec. 5/2001) P.169

(Sections 14-15) (Jan. 7/2006) 14. Preparing for Performances and Recitals P.171

Benefits and Pitfalls of Performances/Recitals P.171 Basics of Flawless Performances P.172 Practicing for Performances P.173 Practicing Musically P.173 Casual Performances P.174 Performance Preparation Routines P.175 During the Recital P.178 That Unfamiliar Piano P.179 After the Recital P.179

15. Origin and Control of Nervousness P.180

(Sections 16-18) (Jan. 8/2006) 16. Teaching P.183 a. Types of Teachers P.183 b. Teaching Youngsters, Parental Involvement P.183 c. Reading, Memorizing, Theory, Mental Play, Absolute Pitch P.185 d. Some Elements of Piano Lessons P.187 e. Why the Greatest Pianists Could Not Teach P.191 2. Uprights, Grands, & Electronics, Purchasing and Care P.192 a. Grands, Uprights, or Electronics? P.192 b. Electronic Pianos P.193 c. Uprights P.195 d. Grands P.196 e. Purchasing an Acoustic Piano P.197 f. Piano Care P.198 3. How to Start Learning Piano: Youngest Children to Old Adults (Nov. 6/2004) P.199 a. Do You Need a Teacher? P.200 b. Starter Books and Keyboards P.200 c. Beginners: Age 0 to 65+ P.201

(Sections 19-21, Nov. 6/2004)

4. The “Ideal” Practice Routine (Bach’s Teachings and Invention #4) P.203 a. Learning the Rules P.204 b. Routine for Learning a New Piece (Bach Inv. #4) P.205 c. "Normal” Practice Routines and Bach’s Teachings P.206 5. Bach: the Greatest Composer and Teacher (15 Inventions and their parallel sets) P.212 6. The Psychology of Piano P.214 7. Summary of Method (Dec. 20/2005) P.217

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