This is the first book ever written on how to practice at the piano! The revelation of this book is that there are highly efficient practice methods that can accelerate your learning rate, by up to 1,000 times if you have not yet learned the most efficient practice methods. What is surprising is that, although these methods were known since the earliest days of piano, they were seldom taught because only a few teachers knew about them and these knowledgeable teachers never bothered to write them down (or let others in on their secret). I realized in the 1960s that there was no good book on how to practice the piano. The best I could find, after a literature search, was Whiteside's book, which was an utter disappointment (see References section). As a graduate student at Cornell University, studying until 2 AM just to keep up with some of the brightest students from all over the world, I had little time to practice piano. I needed to know what the best practice methods were, especially because whatever I was using wasn't working although I had taken piano lessons diligently for 7 years in my youth. How concert pianists could play the way they did was an absolute mystery to me. Was it just a matter of sufficient effort, time, and talent, as most people seem to think? If the answer were "Yes", it would have been devastating for me because it meant that my talent level was so low that I was a hopeless case because I had put in sufficient effort and time, at least in my youth, practicing up to 8 hours a day on weekends. The answers came to me gradually in the 1970's when I noticed that our two daughters' piano teacher was teaching some surprisingly efficient methods of practice that were quite different from methods taught by the majority of piano teachers. Over a period of more than 10 years, I kept track of these efficient methods and came to the realization that the most important factor for learning to play the piano was the practice methods. Effort, time, and talent were merely secondary factors! In fact, "talent" is difficult to define and impossible to measure; talent might play some role in determining the winner of a Van Cliburn competition; however, for the majority of aspiring musicians "talent" is a nebulous word we use frequently but it has no definable meaning. In fact, proper practice methods can make practically anybody into a "talented" musician! I saw this happen all the time at the hundreds of student recitals and piano competitions that I have witnessed. Every dedicated student who found the right teacher became a "talented" musician. There is now mounting evidence, some discussed in this book, that genius or talent may be more created than born (see Olson) -- Mozart is possibly the most prominent example of the "Mozart Effect". Some have renamed this "The Beethoven Effect" which might be more appropriate because Mozart had some personality weaknesses, etc., that sometimes tainted his otherwise glorious music. Note that listening to music is only one component of the complex Mozart Effect. For pianists, making music comprises the larger component. Thus good practice methods will not only accelerate the learning rate but also help to develop the musical brain, especially for the young. The learning rate is accelerated, not merely speeded up (it's like the difference between an accelerating vehicle and one going at a constant speed). Therefore, in a matter of a few years, students without proper practice methods will fall hopelessly behind. This makes those students with good practice methods appear far more talented than they really are because they can learn in minutes or days what it takes the others months or years to learn. Thus the notion that "piano technique is finger strength and dexterity" may be mostly a figment of the imagination with no supporting evidence; technique is more brain/nerve development and improved music/memory ability. Practice methods can make the difference between a lifetime of futility, and a concert pianist in less than 10 years for young, dedicated students. Using the right practice methods, it takes just a few years for a diligent student at any age to start playing meaningful pieces from famous composers. The saddest truth of the past two centuries has been that, although most of these great practice methods were discovered and rediscovered thousands of times, they were never documented and each student either had to rediscover them by her/imself, or, if lucky, learn them from teachers who had some of these methods in their heads. The best example of this lack of documentation is the "teachings" of Franz Liszt. There are a dozen Franz Liszt societies and they have produced hundreds of publications. Numerous books have been written about Liszt (see Eigeldinger, in References), and thousands of teachers have claimed to teach the "Franz Liszt method", complete with documented teaching lineages. Yet there is not one publication that describes what that method is! One reason for this lack of documentation may be that good teaching methods are the basis for the livelihood of most teachers and are therefore a form of "trade secret". There are endless accounts of Liszt's accomplishments and technical prowess, yet there is not one reference on the details of how he got that way. There is some evidence in the literature that Liszt himself could not remember exactly what he did in his youth; this is understandable because he was probably experimenting and trying something different every day. Since piano pedagogy has succeeded in losing track of how the greatest pianist of all time initially acquired his basic technique, it is little wonder that we have not had anything close to what we might call a textbook on learning piano. Can you imagine learning math, physics, history, computer programming, or anything else without a textbook, and (if you are lucky) only your teacher's memory as a guide? Yet, when you go to your piano lesson, the teacher never gives you a textbook on piano practice. Consequently, every teacher has her/is own methods of teaching/practice, and each thinks that her/is method is better than anyone else's. Without textbooks and documentation, our civilization would not have advanced much beyond that of jungle tribes whose knowledge base had been passed on by word of mouth. That's basically where piano pedagogy has been for the last 200 years! There are many books on learning piano (see References), but none of them qualify as textbooks for practice methods, which is what students need. Many of these books tell you what skills you need (scales, arpeggios, trills, etc.) and the more advanced books describe the fingerings, hand positions, movements, etc., to play them, but none of them provide a systematic set of instructions on how to practice. Most beginner music books provide a few such instructions, but many of those instructions are wrong -- a good example is the amateurish advertisement on how to "become a virtuoso in 60 exercises" in the introduction to the Hanon series, written by none other than Hanon himself (see section III.7.h of Chapter One). If you were to take a survey of recommended piano practice methods from a large number of piano teachers who have not read this book, many of those methods would contradict each other, so that we know immediately that they can't all be correct. Not only that but, because there was no textbook, we had no idea about what comprises a reasonably complete set of instructions. In piano pedagogy, the most essential tool for the student -- a basic set of instructions on how to practice, had been basically non-existent until this book was written. I did not realize how revolutionary the methods of this book were until after I finished my first edition book. All I knew initially was that they were better than what I had been previously using. For years, I had been applying them with good, but not remarkable, results. I experienced my first awakening after I finished that book. That was when I really read my own book and followed the methods systematically, and experienced their incredible efficiency. So, what was the difference between just knowing the parts of the method and reading a book? In writing the book, I had to take the various parts and arrange them into an organized structure that served a specific purpose and that had no missing essential components. As a trained scientist, I knew that organizing the material into a logical structure was the only way to write a useful manual (see Chapter Three, Section 2). It is well known in science that most discoveries are made while writing the research reports, not when conducting the research. It was as if I had all the parts of a terrific car, but without a mechanic to assemble the car and tune it up, those parts weren't much good for transportation. Whatever the exact reasons were for the effectiveness of the book, I became convinced of its potential to revolutionize piano teaching (see "Testimonials" section) and decided to write this 2nd edition. The 1st edition wasn't even a bona fide book; it didn't have an index or a reference section. I had hurriedly written it in four months when I had a little free time between jobs. Clearly, I had to conduct a broader research in order to fill any gaps and do a thorough review of the literature; i.e., I had to satisfy the requirements for a truly scientific approach to piano practice (see Chapter Three). I also decided to write this book on my web site, so that it could be updated as my research progressed and whatever was written would be immediately available to the public. As we all know by now, an internet book has many other advantages; one of them is that you don't need an index because you can do a word search. As it turned out, this book is becoming a pioneering effort in providing free education over the internet. Why are these practice methods so revolutionary? For detailed answers, you will have to read this book and try them out. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to present a few overviews of how these miraculous results are achieved and to briefly explain why they work. Let me start by pointing out that I did not originate any of the basic ideas in this book. They were invented and re-invented umpteen times in the last 200 years by every successful pianist. The basic framework for the methods of this book was constructed using the teachings of Mlle. Yvonne Combe, the teacher of our two daughters who became accomplished pianists (they have won many first prizes in piano competitions and averaged over 10 recitals a year each for many years; both have perfect pitch, and now enjoy composing music). Other parts of this book were assembled from the literature and my research using the internet. My contributions are in gathering these ideas, organizing them into a structure, and providing some understanding of why they work. This understanding is critical for the success of the method. Piano has often been taught like religion: Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith that, if you followed procedures suggested by a "master" teacher, you will succeed; Hope that, "practice, practice, practice" will lead you to the rainbow, and Charity that your sacrifices and paying your dues will perform miracles. This book is different -- an idea is not acceptable unless the student understands why it works and to adapt it to her/is specific needs. Finding the correct understanding is not easy because you can't just pluck an explanation out of thin air (it will be wrong, and incorrect explanations are worse than none at all) -- you need enough expertise in that field of knowledge in order to arrive at the correct explanation. Providing a correct scientific explanation automatically filters out the wrong practice methods. This may explain why even experienced piano teachers, whose educations were narrowly concentrated in music, can have difficulty in providing the proper understanding and will frequently give wrong explanations for even correct practice methods. Giving an incorrect explanation for a correct method can do more harm than good because it not only confuses the student but also, an intelligent student would conclude that the method should not work. This is another quick way for the teacher to lose all credibility. In this regard, my career/educational background in industrial problem solving, materials science (metals, semiconductors, insulators), optics, acoustics, physics, electronics, chemistry, scientific reporting (I have published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in major scientific journals), etc., have been invaluable for producing this book. These diverse requirements might explain why nobody else was able to write this type of book. So, what are some of these magical ideas that are supposed to revolutionize piano teaching? Let's start with the fact that, when you watch famous pianists perform, they may be playing incredibly difficult things, but they always make them look easy. How do they do that? Fact is, they are easy for them! Therefore, many of the learning tricks discussed here are methods for making difficult things easy: not only easy, but often trivially simple. This is accomplished by practicing the two hands separately and by picking short sections to practice, sometimes down to only one or two notes. You can't make things any simpler than that! Accomplished pianists can also play incredibly fast -- how do we practice to be able to play fast? Simple! By using the "chord attack" -- this is a way of moving all the fingers simultaneously so that, for certain combinations of notes, they can be played infinitely fast, even for novice players. We certainly don't need any speed faster than infinity! See section II.11, Chapter One, on "parallel sets". Although I coined the phrase "parallel sets" for this application, it is just a fancy word for "chord" (here, I use "chord" loosely to mean more than one note played simultaneously). However, "chord" was not as good a choice as "parallel sets" because I needed a name more descriptive of how the fingers move (the connotation is that the fingers move in parallel) and among musicians, "chord" has a more narrowly defined meaning. Of course, it takes practice to be able to string fast parallel sets together to produce music but, at least, we now have a bio-physically sound procedure for developing the necessary muscle/nerve configurations for playing fast. In this book, I have elevated parallel set exercises to a very special level because they can be used both as a diagnostic tool to discover your technical weaknesses and as a way to solve those specific weaknesses. That is, parallel set exercises can provide almost instant solutions to a majority of technical deficiencies. Parallel set exercises are not finger exercises in the sense of Hanon or Czerny; instead, they are the single most powerful set of tools for rapid technique acquisition. In summary, the key to the success of the methods here is the use of ingenious "learning tricks" that are needed to solve specific problems. Even with the methods described here, you may need to practice difficult passages hundreds of times and, once in a while, up to 10,000 times before you can play the most difficult passages with ease. Now if you were to practice a Beethoven Sonata at, say, half speed (you are just learning it), it would take about an hour to play through. Therefore, repeating it 10,000 times would take 30 years, or half a lifetime, if you had, say, one hour per day to practice and practiced only this sonata 7 days a week. Clearly, this is not the way to learn the sonata, although many students use practice methods not too different from it. This book describes methods for identifying just the few notes that you need to practice and then playing them in a fraction of a second (for example, by using parallel set exercises), so that you can repeat them 10,000 times in just a few weeks (or even days for easier material), practicing them for only about 10 minutes per day, 5 days per week. Of course, these arguments are greatly over-simplified but when all the complex factors are included, the final conclusions remain basically the same: good practice methods can make the difference between a lifetime of frustration and wonderful rewards within a few months (see Testimonials section). This book discusses many more efficiency principles, such as practicing and memorizing at the same time. During practice, you have to repeat many times and repetition is the best way to memorize; therefore, it doesn't make sense not to memorize while practicing. In order to be able to memorize a large repertoire, you need to practice memorizing all the time, in exactly the same way that you need to practice every day in order to be technically proficient. Students who use the methods of this book memorize everything they learn, except for sight-reading material. This is why this book does not recommend exercises such as Hanon and Czerny, that are not meant to be memorized and performed; by the same token, the Chopin Etudes are recommended. Practicing something that wasn't meant to be performed is not only a waste of time but also degrades any sense of music you originally had. Once you memorize, you are empowered to do many other things that most people would expect only from "gifted musicians", such as playing the composition in your head, away from the piano, or even writing the entire composition down from memory. If you can play every note in the composition from memory, there is no reason why you can't write them all down! Such abilities are not for show or bragging rights, but are essential for performing without flubs or memory lapses and come almost as automatic byproducts of these methods, even for us ordinary folks with ordinary memory. Many students can play complete compositions but can't write them down -- such students have only partially memorized the composition in a manner that is inadequate for performances. Many pianists are frustrated by their inability to memorize. What they don't know is that, when learning new pieces, you tend to forget previously memorized material. This means that trying to maintain a large repertoire while learning new pieces is not a fruitful endeavor. This knowledge, together with the arsenal of methods for progressively implanting permanent memory discussed in this book, goes a long way towards eliminating the frustration and restoring confidence so that you can build up your repertoire. Since students who use inefficient practice methods must spend all their time learning new pieces, they can never develop a memorized repertoire and therefore encounter horrendous difficulties when they try to perform. They wonder why performing is such an impossible task while Mozart could just sit down and play. We will see that many “established fundamental techniques” are actually diabolical myths that can cause untold misery to the pianist. These include: the curled finger position, thumb under method of playing scales, finger exercises, sitting high on the chair, “no pain, no gain”, slowly ramping up your speed, and liberal use of the metronome. We not only expose these myths by explaining why they are harmful but also provide the correct alternatives, which are, respectively: flat finger positions, thumb over method, parallel sets, sitting lower on the chair, methods for completely avoiding fatigue, quick acceleration by understanding "speed walls" and identification of specific beneficial uses of the metronome. Another example of helpful knowledge is the use of gravity. The weight of the arm is important not only as a reference force for uniform and even playing (gravity is always constant), but also for testing your level of relaxation. On a more fundamental level, I provide the explanation of why the piano was designed with gravity as the reference force (Chapter One, section II.10). Relaxation is another example. When we perform difficult physical tasks, such as playing a challenging piano passage, our natural tendency is to tense up so that the entire body becomes one contracted mass of muscle. Trying to move the fingers independently and rapidly under such conditions is like trying to run a sprint with rubber bands wrapped around both legs. If you can relax all unnecessary muscles, and use only the required muscles for just those instants at which they are needed, you can move extremely fast, effortlessly, for long periods of time without fatigue. Another example is speed walls. What are speed walls, how many are there, what causes them, and how do you avoid or eliminate them? Answers: they are the results of your attempts to do the impossible (you erect speed walls yourself!), there are basically an infinite number of them, and you avoid them by using the correct practice methods. One way of avoiding speed walls is not to build them in the first place, by knowing their causes (stress, incorrect fingering or rhythm, lack of technique, practicing too fast, practicing hands together before you are ready, etc.). Another way is to come down in speed from infinite speed by using the parallel sets, instead of increasing the speed gradually. If you can start at speeds above the speed wall, you will find that there is no speed wall when you come down in speed. Most of this book deals with one important point -- namely, that the best piano practice methods are surprisingly counter-intuitive to all except a few of the brightest minds. This point is paramount in piano pedagogy because it is the main explanation for why the wrong practice methods tend to be used by students and to be taught by teachers. If they weren't so counter-intuitive, this book may not have been necessary. Consequently this book deals not only with what you should do but also with what you should not do. These negative sections are not for criticizing people who use the wrong methods but are an absolutely necessary part of the learning process. I have not yet found a satisfactory explanation for why intuitively logical methods of practice lead so frequently to disaster except that, perhaps, the tasks are so complex, and there are so many ways to accomplish them, that the probability of your hitting the right method is nearly zero if you randomly picked the simplest, obvious ones. Here are four examples: (1) Separating the hands for practice is counter-intuitive because you need to practice each hand, then both together, so that it looks like you have to practice three times instead of just once hands together. Why practice hands separately, which you will never use in the end? Approximately 80% of this book deals with why you need to practice hands separately. Hands separate practice is the only way to rapidly increase speed and control without getting into trouble. It allows you to work hard 100% of the time at any speed without fatigue, stress, or injury because the method is based on switching hands as soon as the working hand begins to tire. It is more important to time the resting hand than the working hand because the resting hand must not be allowed to cool off; when timed perfectly, the rested hand is still "warmed up" but not tired and can often do incredible things. Hands separate practice is the only way in which you can experiment to find the correct hand motions for speed and expression and it is the fastest way to learn how to relax. Trying to acquire technique hands together is the main cause of speed walls, bad habits, injury, and stress. Thus, it can be beneficial to practice hands separately at speeds even faster than final speed (in fact, this is a necessity) but practicing hands together too fast is almost always detrimental. The irony of hands separate practice is that the ultimate objective of all those years of hard work, practicing hands separately, is to enable you to acquire all essential techniques rapidly so that, eventually, you can play hands together quickly with a minimum of hands separate work (or even none at all!). (2) Practicing slowly hands together and gradually ramping up the speed is what we tend to do intuitively, but it turns out that that approach is one of the worst ways to practice because it wastes so much time and you are training the hands to execute motions that are different from what you need at the final speed. Some students compound the problem by using the metronome as a constant guide to ramp up the speed or to keep the rhythm. This is one of the worst abuses you can make of the metronome. Metronomes should be used only briefly to check your timing (speed and rhythm); if you over use it, you can run into all kinds of problems (another counter-intuitive fact), such as loss of your internal rhythm, loss of musicality, and even total confusion, not to mention bio-physical difficulties from over-exposure to rigid repetition (your brain will actually start to counteract the metronome click). Therefore, it is important to know how to use the metronome correctly and why. Knowing the optimum practice speed for all possible circumstances is a key component of the methods of this book. Technique for speed is acquired by discovering new hand motions, not by speeding up a slow motion; i.e., the hand motions for playing slowly and fast are different. This is why trying to speed up a slow motion leads to speed walls -- because you are trying to do the impossible. Speeding up a slow play is exactly like asking a horse to speed up a walk to the speed of a gallop -- it can't. A horse must change from walk to trot to canter and then to gallop. If you force a horse to walk at the speed of a canter, it will hit a speed wall and will most likely injure itself by kicking its own hoofs to shreds. This book discusses the most important hand motions; it is not possible to discuss all of them because of the incredible versatility of the human hand and brain; most beginning students are totally unaware of the miracles that their hands can perform. For example, in playing scales, you will have to learn the "glissando motion" and how to use the thumb which is the most versatile finger -- piano playing as we know it today would be absolutely impossible without the thumb. The numerous basic examples finger/hand motions described in this book will teach the students how to discover new hand motions by themselves. (3) In order to memorize well, and to be able to play fast, you must practice slowly, even after you can play the piece easily at speed. This is counter-intuitive because you always perform at speed, so why practice slowly and waste so much time? Since you perform at speed, you would think that practicing at speed will help you to memorize and perform it well. It turns out that playing fast can be detrimental to technique as well as to memory. Thus practicing the recital pieces at full speed on recital day will result in a poor performance. How often have you heard the refrain, "I played awfully during my lesson although I played so well this morning (or yesterday)!"? Therefore, although much of this book is oriented towards learning to play at the correct speed, it is the proper use of slow play that is critical in achieving the goals of strong memorization and performing without mistakes. However, practicing slowly is tricky because you should not practice slowly until you can play fast! Otherwise, you would have no idea if your slow play motion is right or wrong. This problem is solved by practicing hands separately for acquiring technique and for getting up to speed. Therefore, it is absolutely critical for the student to know when to practice slowly. (4) Most people feel uncomfortable trying to memorize something they can't play, so they instinctively learn a piece first, and then try to memorize it. It turns out that you can save a lot of time by memorizing first and then practicing from memory (we are talking about technically challenging music that is too difficult to sight read). Moreover, for reasons explained in this book, those who memorize after learning the piece never succeed in memorizing well. They will be haunted forever by memory problems. Therefore, good memorizing methods must be an integral part of any practice procedure; memorizing is a necessity, not a luxury. These four examples should give the reader some idea of what I mean by counter-intuitive practice methods. What is surprising is that the majority of good practice methods is counter-intuitive to most people. Fortunately, the geniuses who came before us could see beyond the intuitive barriers and have found better practice methods. Why does the fact, that the correct methods are counter-intuitive, lead to disaster? Even students who learned the correct methods (but were never taught what not to do) can drift back into intuitive methods simply because their brains keep telling them that they should use the intuitive methods (that's the definition of intuitive methods). This of course happens to teachers as well. Parents fall for it every time! Thus mere parental involvement can sometimes be counterproductive; the parents must also be informed. This is why this book makes every effort to identify and to point out the follies of the intuitive methods. Thus many teachers discourage parental involvement unless the parents can also attend the lessons. Left to their own devices, the majority of students, teachers, and parents will gravitate towards the intuitive (wrong) methods. This is the main reason why so many wrong methods are taught today, and why students need good teachers and proper textbooks. Piano teachers generally fall into three categories: (a) private teachers who can't teach, (b) private teachers that are very good, and (c) teachers at universities and conservatories. The last group is usually fairly good because they are in an environment in which they must communicate with one another. They are able to quickly identify the worst intuitive teaching methods and eliminate them. Unfortunately, most students at conservatories are already quite advanced and so the teachers do not need to teach basic practice methods; therefore a novice student may not get much help from such teachers. The (a) group teachers consists mainly of individuals that do not communicate well with other teachers and invariably use mostly intuitive methods; this explains why they can't teach. By choosing only teachers that have web sites, you can eliminate most of the poor teachers because these have at least learned to communicate. Groups (b) and (c) are fairly familiar with the correct practice methods, though very few know all of them because there has not been a standardized textbook; on the other hand, most of them know a lot of useful details that aren't in this book. There are precious few group (b) type teachers and the group (c) teachers generally accept only advanced students. The problem with this situation is that most students start with the group (a) teachers and never progress beyond novice or intermediate level and therefore never qualify for the group (c) teachers. Thus the majority of beginner students give up in frustration although practically all of them have the potential to become accomplished musicians. Moreover, this lack of progress feeds the general misconception that learning piano is a lifetime of fruitless efforts; consequently, students of poor teachers do not realize that they need a different teacher. All piano teachers should use a textbook that explains practice methods; this will free the teachers from having to teach the mechanics of practicing and allow them to concentrate on music where the teachers are most needed. The parents should also read the textbook because parents are most susceptible to the pitfalls of intuitive methods. There is an intimate relationship between music and mathematics. It is becoming clearer that music, in many aspects, is a form of mathematics, and the great composers explored and exploited this relationship. Most basic theories of music can be expressed using mathematical terms. Many basic rules of composition are simple exploitations of group theoretical concepts. Harmony follows the simplest of mathematical principles, and harmony gives rise to the chromatic scale, which is just a logarithmic equation. All the music scales are subsets of the chromatic scale, and chord progressions are the simplest relationships between these subsets. I discuss some concrete examples of the use of mathematics in some of the most famous compositions (section IV.4, Chapter One) and include all the topics for future music research (mathematical or otherwise) in Section IV of Chapter One. Of course, music is not math! Music is art, which is explained in section III.7.i, Chapter One. Math is simply a way of measuring something quantitatively; therefore, anything in music that can be quantified (such as time signature, thematic structure, etc.) can be treated mathematically. Thus, although math is not necessary to an artist, music and mathematics are inseparably intertwined and a knowledge of these relationships can often be useful (as demonstrated by every great composer), and will become more useful as mathematics progressively catches up to music and as artists learn to take advantage of mathematics. Too many pianists are ignorant of how the piano works and what it means to tune in the temperaments, or what it means to voice the piano. This is especially surprising because piano maintenance directly affects (1) the ability to make music and (2) technical development. There are many concert pianists who do not know the difference between equal and Well temperaments while some of the compositions they are playing (e.g. Bach) formally require the use of one or the other. When to use electronic pianos, when to change to a higher quality (grand) piano, and how to recognize quality in a piano are critical decisions in the career of any pianist. Therefore, this book contains a chapter on how to tune your own piano. As a scientist, I have agonized over how to define “science” and argued over this definition with other scientists and non-scientists. Because the scientific approach is so basic to this book, I have included a chapter on The Scientific Method in which I address common misconceptions regarding science. Science is not the theoretical world of the brightest geniuses; it is the most effective way to simplify our lives. Therefore, I discuss the basic ways in which science achieves this goal, in Chapter Three. We need geniuses to develop science; however, once developed, it is the masses that benefit from these advances. Music is an art. Art is a shortcut way of using the human brain to achieve concepts not achievable in any other way. The scientific approach to music only deals with the simpler levels of music that can be analytically treated: science supports art. You need both! It is wrong to assume that science will eventually replace art or, on the other extreme, that art is all you need for piano. Historical accounts suggest that Franz Liszt may have approached piano practice from a purely artist point of view. Because of his genius, he could use art as a shortcut way to achieve his technique. Having acquired it, however, he could not explain it to his students; he could only demonstrate (Fay, Jaynes). Today, we have a much better system! Because we need both art and science, and art is obviously the more important component, the objective of this book is to devote 10% of the practice time to acquiring technique analytically and 90% to making music. This practice time ratio actually maximizes your technique acquisition rate because you can truly exercise your musical fingers (rhythm, control, color, expression, speed, etc.) only by playing finished pieces (counter-intuitive?). Thus practicing difficult material all the time is not the fastest way to acquire technique; i.e., technique and musicality cannot be separated. This practice time ratio is the strongest argument for not trying to learn compositions that are too far above your skill level. In summary, this book represents an unique event in the history of piano pedagogy and is revolutionizing piano teaching. Surprisingly, there is little that is fundamentally new in this book. We owe most of the major concepts to Combe, Franz, Freddie, Ludwig, Wolfie, Bach, etc. Combe and Franz gave us HS, segmental practice and relaxation; Franz and Freddie gave us the TO method and freed us from Hanon and Czerny; Wolfie taught us memorization and mental play; Bach knew all about parallel sets, quiet hands, and the importance of musical practice, and they all showed us (especially Ludwig) the relationships between math and music. The enormous amount of time and effort that was wasted in the past, re-inventing the wheel and futilely repeating finger exercises with every generation of pianist, staggers the imagination. By making the knowledge in this book available to the student from day one of piano lessons, we are ushering in a new era in learning to play the piano. This book is obviously my personal gift to society. The translators have also contributed their precious time. Together, we are pioneering a web based approach for providing free education of the highest caliber, something that will hopefully become the wave of the future. There is no reason why education can't be free. Such a revolution might seem to put some teachers' jobs in jeopardy, but with improved learning methods, piano playing will become much more popular, creating a greater demand for teachers who can teach. Thus improved learning methods benefit everybody. It is clear that piano teachers can't just keep on teaching the same old way anymore -- they must now obtain a broader education in order to be able to teach today's better educated students. The economic impact of this improved learning method is enormous. This web site was started in the summer of 1999. Since then, I estimate that over 10,000 students have learned this method by year 2002. Let's assume that 10,000 serious piano students save 5 hours/week using these methods, that they practice 40 weeks/year, and that their time is worth about $5/hour; then the total yearly savings are: (5hrs/wk, per student)(40wks/yr)($5/hr)(10,000 students) = $10,000,000/yr, in 2002. This number will increase every year. $10M/yr is only the savings of the students, and we are just starting. Whenever adoption of scientific approaches produced such quantum leaps in efficiency, the field has historically flourished, seemingly without limit, and benefited everyone: in this case, mostly the students, parents, teachers, technicians (tuners), and piano manufacturers. You can't stop progress. Just as electronic pianos are already always in tune, acoustic pianos must soon become permanently in tune, for example, by using the thermal expansion coefficient of the strings to electronically tune the piano (see Self-Tuning Piano). Today, practically all home pianos are out of tune almost all the time because it starts to go out of tune the moment the tuner leaves your house or if the room temperature or humidity changes. That's a totally unacceptable situation. In future pianos, you will flick a switch and the piano will tune itself in seconds. When mass produced, the cost will be small compared to the price of a quality piano. You might think that this would put piano tuners out of work but that will not be the case because the number of pianos will increase, the self-tuning mechanism requires maintenance and, for pianos in such perfect tune, frequent hammer voicing and regulation (that are too often neglected today) will make a significant improvement in musical output. This higher level of maintenance will be demanded by the increasing number of advanced pianists. The music from such pianos will sound like what you hear in concert halls. You might suddenly realize that it was the piano, not you, that limited your technical development and musical output (worn hammers will do it every time!). Why do you think concert pianists are so fussy about their pianos? This book is not the end of the road -- it is just a beginning. Future research into practice methods will undoubtedly uncover improvements; that's the nature of the scientific approach. It guarantees that we will never again lose useful information, that we will always make forward progress, and that even the worst teacher will have access to the same information as the best one. We still do not understand the biological changes that accompany the acquisition of technique and how the human (especially the infant) brain develops musically. Understanding these will allow us to directly address them instead of having to repeat something 10,000 times. Since the time of Bach, piano pedagogy had been in a state of arrested development; we can now hope to transform piano from a dream that was mostly out of reach to an art that more people can enjoy.