Jon Lee


Be outside the box


This lesson: D, d, A, a. We paused in the middle of the full 4-scale run to discuss a few observations.

I tend to flatten the joints of the fingers of the left hand, particularly when playing soft. They should be more firm, maintaining their curve, to ensure that the key reaches down to the bed and sounds.

The wrist was twisting a lot during the run up of the a minor scale. The line sounded uneven. Instead, keep the wrist in the same position. Doing so, the back arm and elbow end up pushing and pulling the forearm across the keys. Consider practicing the scale up and down with the left-hand only.

When it came to line phrasing and controlling the scales dynamically, it appeared there were just two extreme levels, fortissimo and pianissimo. Next lesson, bring the dynamic ends closer to the middle. Performing at extremes of dynamics would never really happen in real music, so have the crescendo and decrescendo be between mezzo-piano and mezzo-forte. Utilize patterns that could be contrapuntal, where one lags behind the other in terms of the volume.

When creating lines, a good length over which to execute it is two octaves. So, let the crescendo-decrescendo swell happen over two octaves, then use a different pattern. Characteristically think of performing it more like Chopin.

Next up: B, b, E, e.

Brahms #17

Practice drop-and-release with a sforzando-decrescendo on patterns 3 and 4. The forte forces the hand to do the drop-and-release. The triplet sixteenths should be lighter as they are played through in the pattern.

On the left hand the second and fifth finger on the left hand were lifting off the keybed while other fingers were playing the trill. Indicates tension happening in the hand. Focus on keeping them relaxed and natural.

Practice a swelling crescendo-decrescendo per repetition on patterns 5, 6, and 7. Could also do a less hectic version by doing the swell over two repetitions.

Next up: E, E, F, F.

Brahms #20

Use a faster tempo and think large beats. Make sure to lean towards the 1 of patterns 3, 4, and 8. For dynamics, it would be natural to want to crescendo to the top of the figuration.

Next up: E, F.

Scarlatti Kk. 435 and 430

In baroque music, the character of a piece remains for a longer period of time.

When considering articulation, avoid both hands being legato, which presents a different character. Instead, one hand could be legato and the other non-legato or staccato, or both can be non-legato. As a broad rule of thumb, always keep one of the hands in non-legato.

Similar to Mozart, lean on the long notes, and deemphasize the short ones.

Perform the repeats, but always think about ways to spice up the music the second time around.

Though not explicitly referenced, both sonatas hearken to Spanish dances, including the zapateado and jota.

Zapateado from Tres Piezas Españolas by Joaquin Rodrigo

Gran Jota de La Dolores

Gran Jota by Francisco Tárrega

K. 430

Needs a faster tempo. Create more character with the sixteenth-note figuration. It’s a trap to play it like a waltz, so make the 3–1 beats firm.


Some recommended recordings for listening to Scarlatti are below.

Horowitz, listen for touch




Hi! Have a comment, question, complaint, observation, or criticism about this post? Leave your comment below!