Extended piano techniques, which mainly involve playing directly on the internal components of the piano, emerged early in the twentieth century, mainly in the United States. Henry Cowell (1897-1965) explored some of these techniques in short piano pieces such as The Tides of Manaunaun (1917; clusters) The Banshee (1925; glissando, pizzicato) and Sinister Resonance (1930; mute, harmonic). Several contemporary composers followed this path. Notably, George Crumb's (b. 1929) mature works combine conventional techniques with an unprecedented variety of extended techniques, including vocal and percussive effects.
Although extended techniques are no longer a novelty, most pianists are still unfamiliar with them. Extended piano works are rarely performed or taught. This situation is regrettable considering the quality of these compositions, and the great potential of extended techniques to expand the piano's coloristic resources. A Pedagogical Guide to Extended Piano Techniques is designed to help pianists learn this idiom and achieve fluency. Teachers may also find it useful in planning courses at the undergraduate college level.
Chapters 1 and 2 provide general information such as the development and classification of unconventional techniques, and the construction of the grand piano. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 form the core of the monograph. They contain practical exercises, composed by the author, presented in a progressive order and accompanied by detailed instructions explaining how to execute and practice each technique.
From a technical point of view, natural string piano techniques—pizzicatos, glissandos, mutes and harmonics—are the basis upon which most other extended techniques are founded. Therefore, this document focuses mainly on mastering these string techniques through the acquisition of two important skills: visual techniques and aural-motor coordination. The following topics are also discussed: use of foreign objects inside the piano, percussive technique, vocal effects, and strategies to integrate various techniques into a unified musical context. Prepared piano techniques are excluded because they do not require the acquisition of performance skills, which form the essence of this monograph.
Chapter 6 provides a suggested course schedule to organize the pianist's study and practice time, and offers practical advice for the preparation of performances involving extended piano techniques. It is hoped that this document will play a positive role in helping pianists gain the knowledge, ability, confidence and enthusiasm to explore and perform extended piano repertoire.