Liszt’s Studies helping the virtuoso mind

Playing Liszt’s studies develops the understanding of the basic elements of classical music, such as scales, intervals and harmonic progressions in many variations of rhythms, articulations and nuances. It seems to us that understanding the basic musical elements makes finally virtuosity possible. Virtuosity is a capacity to be alert and to react in movement without delay. The studies also develop a deep understanding of the topography of the keyboard. This in turn enhances the ability to read music well.

Liszt uses the power of harmony and transposition in every exercise. Whenever some element of technique is practiced, it is done in context of a harmonic progression or scale. In our applications transposition is present from the start. Even small songs can be harmonized and transposed in many keys.

Learning to play legato on the piano is one of the most important and difficult skills. Legato is holistic as an idea: a connection that happens between two or more notes that melt together. In his studies, Liszt starts introducing scales by combining two note slurs, using different pairs of fingers. He continues by combining three, four and finally five notes in one slur. Repetitions follow, and there the natural direction of finger movement becomes self-evident. In the middle of the scale preparations he goes through cadenzas and inversions of chords in all tonalities. This combines the idea of a scale always to a harmony. In the end scales open up as musical material, harmonies and intervals, not fingerings.

We want to stress that through playing these exercises a pianist is building up her musicianship, not just exercising her fingers. She is developing a direct contact between her conscious and unconscious mind and the instrument. As we all know, music goes from very deep, early and basic layers of our experience and existence to the highest achievements of human intelligence. What one achieves through playing these exercises is the priceless possibility of communication between music, player and listener. This communicative ability is the essence of true virtuosity. It also goes further than just piano playing: it fundamentally transforms the young person’s being in the world, experiencing it and communicating with it.


     pianotools          contents           videos          articles          links          contact