Piano Technique 201

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Authored by Stephany Tiernan, Christian Li


Course Code: OPIAN-305

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


This course will provide you with the opportunity to apply the various technical concepts you learned in Piano Technique 101 to relevant, real-world musical situations, and explore advanced concepts and practice techniques to further develop an expressive and powerful style. Through the exploration of a variety of contemporary styles and the understanding of the unique and specific musical and technical challenges inherent in each style, you will continue to cultivate a potent and dependable piano technique that will enable you to perform safely, efficiently, and musically.

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Each lesson will provide historical context to give you a better understanding of the social, political, and cultural milieu around various forms of music. Each lesson will also offer opportunities for practical application through improvisation. Improvisation, in addition to being integral to modern musical practice, is an opportunity for musicians to synthesize and integrate new technical concepts through exploration and experimentation.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Use technical principles to achieve musical aims relevant to a variety of musical situations
  • Apply advanced technical concepts directly to various styles of music
  • Identify the challenges, both musically and technically, inherent in each style of music
  • Develop specific practice techniques designed to strengthen skills in dynamic coloring, pedaling, phrasing, articulation, melodic shaping, rubato, fingerings, velocity, endurance, accents, percussive effects, etc.
  • Apply principles of technique in personal and improvised musical contexts
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Playing by Touch

  • Historical Perspective: ‘The Beginnings of Modern Technical Methods’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 1: Playing by Touch

Lesson 2: Dynamic Coloring and Pedaling

  • Historical Perspective: ‘The Leschetizky Influence’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 2: Dynamic Coloring and Pedaling

Lesson 3: Phrasing and Note Duration

  • Historical Perspective: ‘The Russian Nationalism’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 3: Phrasing and Note Duration

Lesson 4: Practicing Away from the Piano

  • Historical Perspective: ‘The French School’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 4: Practicing Away from the Piano

Lesson 5: Shaping a Melody and Rubato

  • Historical Perspective: ‘Breithaupt and Weight Technique’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 5: Shaping Your Melodies

Lesson 6: Choosing Fingering

  • Historical Perspective: ‘The English School: Matthay; His Pupils and Colleagues’
  • How to Practice
  • Musical Applications through Interpretation
  • Musical Applications through Improvisation
  • Assignment 6: Fingering

Lesson 7: Building Velocity

  • Historical Perspective: ‘Ortmann: Piano Technique Comes of Age’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 7: Building Velocity

Lesson 8: Endurance

  • Historical Perspective: ‘Contemporary Technical Thought’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 8: Endurance

Lesson 9: Accents

  • Historical Perspective: ‘The Perspectives of an Enlightened Piano Technique’
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 9: Accents

Lesson 10: Double 3rds and Staccato Octaves

  • Historical Perspective: Control, Technical Knowledge, and Movements
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 10: Double 3rds and Staccato Octaves

Lesson 11: Groove and Percussive Playing

  • Historical Perspective: Posture, Technical Development, and Piano Technical Thought
  • Technical Exercises
  • Musical Applications
  • Improvisation
  • Assignment 11: Groove and Percussive Playing

Lesson 12: Final Performance in One of Six Styles

  • Summary of Topics Learned
  • Choosing Repertoire
  • Practicing and Preparation
  • Tips for Recording Performances
  • Assignment 12: Culminating Experience


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Piano Technique 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.

Students should be able to:

  • Play a song showing hand independence
  • Read music using both treble and bass clefs
  • Play music from a chord symbol-notation format (lead sheet)



  • Students are required to record video for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • External webcam
  • Note: The camera view must be from above, recording the keys right side up. It is imperative that the videos show the student's fingerings. You may need certain accessories to accomplish this, such as a goose-neck camera holder, tripod, etc.


  • Piano or keyboard instrument with 88 weighted action keys equipped with a sustain pedal
    • If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a high-quality piano software instrument is also required.
    • If using a digital piano or keyboard workstation without built in speakers, an audio interface or amplifier is also required.


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required if not using MIDI and software instruments):
      • Keyboard connected directly to audio interface (recommended non-acoustic option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic piano option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external computer speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and microphone stand(s).

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Stephany Tiernan

Author & Instructor

Stephany Tiernan is a composer, pianist, author, teacher, educational leader, and Steinway Artist. She has been active in the presentation of new music since the 1970s and is chair emerita of the Piano department and a professor at Berklee College of Music. She has been teaching composition, analysis, and piano for more than 40 years and has influenced many of the successful composers and pianists of today. The author of a book and video on contemporary piano technique called Contemporary Technique: Coordinating Breath, Movement, and Sound (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard), Tiernan developed this technique as a continuation of the groundbreaking work of Madame Margaret Chaloff. This approach to piano technique has been used by thousands of pianists worldwide.

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Tiernan has performed much of the world’s greatest contemporary piano music in many of its prestigious halls. Performances have included music by Charles Ives, John Cage, Henry Cowell, and many others. Her piano compositions, including a piano quintet, are featured on her album, Hauntings: Scream of Consciousness. Dedicated to the art of improvisation, her collaborations with internationally acclaimed jazz pianist JoAnne Brackeen resulted in their widely acclaimed piano duet recording, Which Is Which, which eliminates the boundaries between classical and jazz piano playing. Read Less

Christian Li

Author & Instructor

Christian Li is a jazz pianist and composer based in New York City. He studied with renowned pianist Danilo Perez and has played with the likes of Sungazer, Shubh Saran, Dayna Stephens, Dave Liebman, Chris Cheek, and Rich Perry. Christian has performed around the world, including at such notable venues as the Newport Jazz Festival, the Panama Jazz Festival, Jazz En Comminges, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Blue Note, Birdland, and the Detroit Jazz Festival. Christian is an assistant professor of piano at the Berklee College of Music.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

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