Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hand position Web Pages

One of the most important basics a piano teacher can impart to a student is proper hand position. I've always thought that it would be really great if I could send a collection of good and bad picture examples to my students for their use at home. Well, now we are all in luck -- I've found a couple web pages with some good pictorial content of hand positions.

This is crucially important for every student, but beginners especially need to pay close attention to hand position for the development of good habits. Good hand postion not only fosters ease and comfort at the keyboard but also keeps your hands and muscles healthy and free of unnecessary injury. In other words, BAD hand position = difficulty and strain at the keyboard. GOOD hand position = making your music easier to play. It takes careful work to get there, but less strain and difficulty is much more fun.

Take a look at these two pages with good picture content of proper hand position:

Piano hand positions at (this one also has a movie on hand position.)

Piano sitting and hand positions at

I'll put this post into a new category called "Piano Technique".

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Want to Comment?

Perhaps the most significantly unique feature of a blog is the comment capability. Users of this blog can sign in and leave comments for any individual post (as long as commenting is enabled for that post) and they will appear vertically below the post with the bottom comment being the most recent.

If you would like to comment but are not sure how the process works, you may be surprised at how easy it actually is. Here’s a short tutorial on how to provide comments for this blog:

1) First, if you have not already done so, you will need to sign up for a Google account. (If you have a Blogger account, you can just sign in with that to leave a comment. Go to number 4.) It is completely free. I do not allow completely anonymous comments, for hopefully obvious reasons. All you need is a current email address and a password. After you verify the account (Google will send you an email with a link inside for you to click), you will be taken to your Google Account Page.

2) You are ready to leave comments now if you wish. Your display name will be the ID part of your email address (the portion before the “@” sign). If this is ok with you, proceed down to number 4 below. If you need to maintain more privacy, you may sign in to Blogger (using your new Google account) and create a separate display name and profile for yourself. Go to number 3.

3) Once you sign into Blogger, you will be taken to your “Dashboard” page. Give yourself whatever display name you would like. Click “Continue”. (You do not need to create a blog, unless you want to of course!) Now, on the upper right-hand corner, you can click on “View” or “Edit Profile”. Click on “View” to see how your profile will be displayed to other users if they click on your display name. If what you see is not what you want displayed, you can go back and click on “Edit Profile” to change your profile’s appearance and/or your display name. You can elect to not share your profile for maximum privacy, or you can provide as much or as little additional information as you want.

4) Now once you have your display properties set, you are ready to leave comments. If you are on my site’s main home page (meaning you see lots of posts stacked vertically on the left), click in the white box at the bottom of the post where it says “X comments” (“X” will be a number 0 or greater). Or, if you are on the post page (meaning you see only one specific post), click on “Post a Comment”. A pop-up page will appear (sorry, this is how Blogger does comments, which is more than mildly annoying) and you may leave your comment by writing in the box and then signing in with your Google (or Blogger) account. You can preview and/or change your comment as many times as you like.

My only request is that comments should be family-friendly and profanity-free. I encourage minors (most of my students) to use this site, so responsibility dictates this. While I enjoy a heated discussion as much as the next person, users are forewarned that any comment with profane or obscene content will be removed immediately.

When you are ready to publish your comment, click on “Publish Your Comment” and presto! Your comment will then appear on the pop-up page as well as on the post page. But remember, once you click “publish”, your comment cannot be changed or even edited. If you need to change something, you will have to post another comment pointing out any corrections. 
Now that you are all set with your first comment here, you can leave comments on any other Blogger Blog using your account. Pretty nifty!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Evidence that Musical Training Increases Speech Sensitivity

This article summarizes some interesting findings of researchers at Northwestern University:

Research Finds Musical Training Can 'Tune' the Auditory System

It turns out that musical training not only affects one's ability to decipher "sound encoding" in music but also in language. In the study, musically trained subjects faired far better in recognizing tone-sounds in Mandarin than non-musicians. In certain languages such as Mandarin, "tones" (when pitch rises, falls, or stays the same during the utterance of a word) can render different meanings for the same word. The researchers agree that this new evidence has far-reaching implications for educators and brain researchers.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Joshua Nemith's Bio

     Pianist JOSHUA S. NEMITH has performed throughout the U.S. and abroad as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral keyboardist. Dr. Nemith was recently awarded the Principal Keyboard position of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in May of 2007. He is also the principal keyboardist with the IRIS chamber orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee, under the direction of conductor Michael Stern. He completed his doctorate in piano performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in June of 2004. Dr. Nemith has recorded new chamber and orchestral works with many groups, including the CCM Wind Symphony, New World Symphony, IRIS Chamber Orchestra, and the Dayton Philharmonic. Dr. Nemith performs regularly at professional venues in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas and has been the accompanist/organist at St. John’s Westminster Union Church in Cincinnati since 2002. He is an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin and the Eastman School of Music and has held fellowship positions with the New World Symphony and the Aspen Music Festival. His teachers include James Tocco, Nancy Garrett, Fernando Laires, and David Burge.
     In addition to his performance activities, Dr. Nemith has made music education an important part of his career. He has held several teaching appointments at UC-CCM where he has been an adjunct instructor in the Composition, Theory, and Musicology Division and the Keyboard Studies Division in recent years. He also maintains a private teaching studio at the Slater Music Academy in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky. In February of 2007 he created the “Cincinnati Pianist” weblog (, which is intended as an educational service for his students as well as a forum to foster online support and commentary for the musical arts. (Please see my resumé page for links to some of the institutions listed above.)
     Dr. Nemith is an occasional composer who enjoys writing when he is not preparing performances. He has written for piano, piano and voice, four-hands piano, flute and organ, two piccolos, tuba and trombone, and brass quintet; he has also produced electronic works.

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

New Blog Category: Benefits of Musical Training

These days there is more and more scientific research being devoted to the cognitive and intellectual development of humans. Not surprisingly, recent studies considering musical training and study (such as lessons and music classes) are revealing more and more substantial evidence for the benefits, direct and indirect, of participating in musical activities.

I've always wanted to know more about this topic than I currently do, so I think it would be perfect timing to try and compile some information on the subject here at the Cincinnati Pianist Blog.

Of course, there is an obvious "selfish" reason for me to do this here -- it could help to convince parents to begin and/or continue lessons for their child, with me as the teacher! But I also think that it is good for us to just be more aware of what we actually gain in the pursuit of musical study. I know that all parents want the best for their child's development as they grow, and I think that knowledge of the benefits reaped by musical training should help us better understand and appreciate the not-so-insignificant investment in private lessons.

To start, here are some links to brief articles on this subject from the recent past:

ScienceDaily report from 2004 on the "The First Solid Evidence That the Study of Music Promotes Intellectual Development" (this study involved keyboard students)

ScienceDaily report from 2006 on how music enhances "Intelligence, Mental Health, and the Immune System" (hmmm...could you practice more and not get sick? Well, maybe that's a stretch...but more practice wouldn't bother me!)

A longer report from 2002 on the benefits of music education for various kinds of success at the National Association for Music Education: "Music Education Facts and Figures"

As time goes on I am sure that more research will yield additional articles to include in this category. If anyone would like to suggest links to related articles they may have seen elsewhere on the web, please let me know via the comment function below or through email.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Video Performance: Keith Jarrett Plays "All The Things You Are"

Here's a great rendition of the jazz standard, "All the Things You Are", played by the legendary pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock. These three performers have played many times together in the classic jazz trio format (piano-bass-drums).

The entire performance is wonderful, but pay special attention to Keith's long introduction -- an unbelievable cascade of fast notes played with the utmost clarity and precision. You can hear every single note clearly yet sense how all those notes work together in larger gestures. This is a sure sign of some great fingerwork!

You'll probably notice something else interesting about Mr. Jarrett's performance -- sometimes he gets up from the bench and plays while standing! Well, Keith Jarrett is one of those world-class performers who absolutely loses himself in his performances. He really "gets into it" and if he's particularly inspired he may stand up, writhing/dancing about and even "singing" along with his own improvisations. That's right -- most of this performance is improvised. Almost everything in this piece (besides the main theme and the song's harmonic structure) is invented on the spot by the three musicians working together.

So...don't get too distracted by this kind of physical theatricality. (And please, any of my students out there shouldn't come into the next lesson thinking it's a good thing to stand up while playing. Hmmm....what have I gotten myself into here?) Some people do get bothered by this. But I think it's just his way of becoming completely absorbed in the act of spontaneous creation. After all, the music they make together is beautiful, and no two performances will ever be the same.

I hope to put some more of Keith Jarrett's performances on the blog in the future -- keep checking back as I add to the "Video" category.

Read the interesting interview with Jarrett in (from 2000). Wikipedia article on Jarrett here.

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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Nemith Studio Gets 100% Superiors

I'd like to send a hearty and sincere

to all of my students who participated in the OFMC Junior Festival earlier today: the Nemith studio is 13 for 13 in "Superior" ratings!

That's right; out of thirteen participants from my studio, everyone got a Superior rating. Many got the much-coveted Unanimous Superior rating, which means ALL the adjudicators were swept off their feet by your performances. Beautiful job, guys.

I'd like to take this chance to tell all of my students (and their families) how proud I am of today's accomplishments. Everybody prepared their music extremely well and I feel that this has been the best festival yet for the capable and talented members of the "Nemith Studio". Many of you played difficult compositions that required not only technical prowess but also artistic maturity. The musical growth of my students this year has been outstanding. Many thanks also need to go to all of my students' families for their support -- you had to put up with their festival pieces for quite some time!

Let's also hear it for your colleagues who played in the Honors Recital this afternoon in Bellarmine Chapel (they qualified by winning three consecutive superiors): Cory, Nathan, and Grace. You three sounded great. It was a very strong recital with lots of fabulous young pianists and you definitely deserved to be included. Way to go!

The picture below is of a trophy-totin' Nathan and his pleased teacher. It was taken just after the recital and awards ceremony.

Many people from my studio will be eligible for next year's Honors Recital, as well as the District Recital and even the State Convention in Colombus. Once I get my records house in order and double-check with the OFMC officials, I'll let everyone know individually and then post to the blog.

Once again, congrats on all of your success and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

(Tell Mom or Dad or both that Dr. Nemith is allowing you to take a day or two off from piano...)

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