During my brainstorming, the following themes came through: technique, ear/rhythm/sight-reading, and practice frequency. To be honest, those are the key themes every year, but these are areas I really want my students to shine in this year. So, I had to tweak the student challenges and incentives a bit.
Lately, I have been harping on my students about their wrist technique. Some are playing with locked wrists or excess hand tension, even with us working on it during their lessons. The bottom line is that we teachers can only help you so much in a lesson, the rest comes down to how you practice at home.
Here are a few videos by some of my esteemed colleagues on hand and wrist technique:
Irina Gorin and Wrist Relaxation Exercises:
I showed this to an intermediate student. He started to make some progress after viewing this. Irina has more useful videos on her YouTube Channel.
Josh Wright on Reducing Hand Tension
Although he still has some tension (those pesky octaves!), Josh does have some good points. Let's chalk it up to the fact that he's showing you a section that he is working on, so it's a work in progress.
Robert Estrin on Wrist Technique with Octaves:
Robert Estrin has a treasure chest of wonderful piano tutorials on his website. Every pianists should bookmark his site.
The Allan Fraser Institute's Lecture-Demonstration on Hand Tension and Proper Arm Weight Technique
Thanks to Brian Riker for sharing this one.
I promised my students that I would send them some clips to help them play with more relaxed wrists and a less hand tension.
Sometime during Christmas break, I will record some videos in which I deconstruct my piano technique. When I mentioned this to my students, they immediately asked if we could use the GoPro POV camera and the other cameras to film them as well. What a great way to analyze your basic piano technique!
I think I will start using an elastic band. Up to this point, I've either had my students put their hand on mine (or my forearm) to feel the arm weight and tension I use to play their trouble spots. Or, I'll hold their forearm and won't let go until I sense they have relaxed sufficiently.
We've been using imagery a lot too. That's something you might want to try if your teacher hasn't asked you to yet.
Last night, I asked a student to imagine that he was in a pool and he was dragging his arm back and forth in the water. Then, I asked him to imagine that his arms were made of air and that gravity was pulling his hand down towards the keys.