In the past, I borrowed this book from the library and gleaned a lot of understanding about *how* I had learned to produce various tones on the piano. It was so exciting to put *words* to the sounds and techniques with which I was already familiar! Then I ran out of time and returned the book to the library without finishing the book..... *sigh*
Today, I finally began looking for a copy for myself because I am now teaching, and I would like very much to finish reading this amazing book. The portions of this book which I have already read were surprisingly helpful, and I'm hoping that at least portions of the rest of the text are half as insightful, if not more.
Yes, this incredible text helped provide specific, historical terminology to name and explain some of the various techniques which I had managed to duplicate, but which I was not full master over because I did not fully understand *how* I was doing *what* - I just knew that, with practice over the course of time, I could, through trial and error, finally produce the 'just right tone' that I was looking for when I was polishing a piece. Now I can simply listen to a line and determine if it needs more of a German touch, a French touch, and/or etc., and apply my will to apply the related technique. Then voila!, the desired tone comes ringing out of the piano!
Now, again, I have not read the book in its entirety, so I do not know if the text covers other techniques (*such as* the proper use of the elbow, and/or the most effective techniques in producing a smooth and flowing crescendo and/or decrescendo, and/or etc. - some of which I was taught by a piano teacher here or there, and some of which I discovered on my own). However, I'm not sure that any text will cover *everything!* (KWIM?)
But back to the example of French and German touch, in the case of 'subtle' tone differences produced specifically by the German and French touch, I can personally attest that those tonal differences, are not only real, but they relate specifically to the *overall* tendencies of German and French music. e.g. - a German clarinet produces a darker tone than a French clarinet. The difference in the tone of a French clarinet and a German clarinet is not highly notable to many non-clarinetists, but clarinetists not only know about the differences, but also have strong preferences about them. (personally, I am both a pianist and clarinetist; and personally, I prefer the German sound and wish that Americans typically used the German clarinet system; but, hey, my family background is German, though I'm from the U.S. myself, so I'm not surprised that I prefer the German sound overall - and yes, a clarinetist who is using a German clarinet can produce a brighter sound by altering his/her mouth-muscles and wind-support 'just so' as well; and vice versa).
Furthermore, it should not be surprising that German music is indeed darker in mood, thought, and intent. In the same way, it should not be surprising that French music is indeed brighter in mood, thought, and intent (and might I add, it is much happier....). Anyone who is familiar with German literature knows that it is darker in mood, thought and intent; and, likewise, French literature is brighter in mood, thought and intent. Of course those are generalities, but the French would be hard put to find as much written literature about the darkest sides of death as can be found in German literature (though that is only one example of the dark German approach and the relatively lighter side of French life, living, literature and music).
Though I have not finished reading Berman's text to date, I have read at least portions of this text which relate to the various tones produced by different 'touch'-techniques. My own *piano* playing illustrates quite clearly the *various* differences possible between the French and German sounds (as well as other 'touch' techniques). Though I am a slow reader at the keyboard (because my eyes do not converge, so spatial processing is not easy for me), I am gifted with touch/tone/mood/timbre on both the piano and clarinet. Since reading quickly cannot be my forte, I naturally gravitated towards polishing pieces as fully as a body could in order to find a niche in the musical world. Learning to really polish a piece in detail is most certainly a rewarding approach to piano playing in particular, though it is rewarding in the playing of the clarinet as well.
I can personally attest to the depth of satisfaction that comes from turning a phrase just so, and from taking a generally 'darker' line and brightening it up with a bit of French touch (and vice versa), all at the 'just right moment' and to the 'just right' degree.
As far as teaching 'touch' using the terminology in this text, as just one example, let me submit the following:
One day I was reading a book in the parlor at my church while a high school senior who enjoyed playing and composing was goofing around on the baby grand in the same room. His 'goofing around' expressed significant originality and balanced lines which showed a good deal of promise, but he had a tendency to undersupport his tone.
I asked him if he would be open to suggestion, and he openly said that yes he would be. I explained first of all the difference between German and French touch and suggested he begin by working with German touch. While he played on, I returned my focus to my book. After a while, I began to feel as though the air was leaving the room. I really felt a bit suffocated! Why? Because he was playing a light hearted American style with *nothing* but German touch. The tonality was much too dark, even on the lightest of notes - leaving the music lacking the ease and lightheartedness that it needed; so I spoke up again, suggesting that his playing now needed to be lightly modified. Overall, the German touch had done him a great deal of good, but he needed something......, and, since I had felt a bit suffocated, I suggested that he needed to let a little 'air' into his tone - not precisely the French touch, but 'air' just the same. He responded that he did not know quite what I meant. I simply responded that his ear was quite sensitive to music, and that if he went home and listened to some music which was at least in a similar style, he would hear when the 'air' was allowed into the music, and then he would figure out just what to do.
Sure enough, I turned my focus back to my book while he fiddled around at the keyboard. After just a short while, he hit upon just what I had suggested he needed to find (he didn't have to listen to anyone else play, he just needed to bring his own attention to the music he was playing in order to 'hear' the tonalities that were 'off' and 'heavy'. Then, once he heard what was wrong, he corrected the issue without any trouble - and I would presume that what he did was some modification of the French touch.)
At that point, I looked up again and said, "There it is! That's the air you needed! Now the music is not overly Germanic, and it has the nice American fluidity that it needs. I am much more comfortable listening to your playing before. When you were playing at first, the music was insecure, so I was uncomfortable; but now your playing is solid and the listener feels safer. Further, the excellent tone carries your ideas more effectively without the heaviness that *just* the German touch produced. Well done."
His response included the following, "Well, I figured that less was more, so I was holding back rather on purpose." I suggested that *with* the German touch, he could play even more quietly, therefore offering even 'less', but that he would do it in such a way that the listener did not need to wonder *if* he would play the note, and therefore, that sort of 'less' would be ***more*** (more of everything, more musical, more secure, and etc.).
I'm not sure what all conclusions he came to about the subject, but his playing never left me wondering *if* he was going to get a note played on time and/or at all ever again. Instead, his playing was more sensitive and more solidly expressive than when I first heard him playing in the parlor that one day. Yes, his 'less' was 'more', even in the lightest of lines.
He needed nothing else from me (at least, not for the style of music he was inclined to play - .... so I never offered advice again). However, sure enough, he moved on to study composition in college (and is doing quite well, I might add).
It is very satisfying having simply helped him along his own journey. If my having read Berman's text did nothing else for me, that alone would be enough....., but now that I have time to devote to reading this text in full, I'm hoping that there will be many more treasures to glean and share.