How to play a piano song – Venetian Boat Song

Venice, the ‘City of Water’ - a source of inspiration to poets, writers and musicians for centuries. The mere mention of its name conjures up an image of romance, music and adventure. There is little surprise that Felix Mendelssohn would invoke her name in one his composition.

To get around in Venice, one would have to ride a boat, a gondola or some sort of vehicle that floats on water. He may have found the experience so thrilling that he has left us a piano song as enchanting as the ‘Venetian Boat Song’.

As the title suggests, as soon as you begin to draw out the delicate sounds of the opening line, the sense as if your body is swaying in a boat floating above the water is felt.

As your hands and arms motions up and down the length of the piano keys, the melody mirrors the action of a boatman rowing a gondola.

A steady run of a string of quavers in the bass clef played with the left hand introduces the song, while the right hand remains idle for the first two bars.

Early on you shall notice how the dynamic changes from soft to even softer in the first line. These sort of dynamic changes play a dominant role in expressing the musical content of the piece.

Phrases that start softly escalate in intensity midway into forte then dissipate quietly as it approaches its ending.

Such are the instances of the various dynamic changes that occur in this piano song. It may have been intended that way to imitate the up and down movements of the waves as the gondola makes its way through the canals of Venice.

The most difficult part of this song for me is the trill in the 1st bar of line 7. I am a trill virgin. This was the first time I encountered a trill in a piano song and was asked to play it.

A good trill has a ringing sound to it. The lag between the 2 trilled notes are almost unnoticeable because they are played so fast after one another the ears only hears ringing.

How to accomplish a perfect trill that creates the said ringing sound?

The first trill in this piano song is played using the index finger and middle finger. Fingers number 2 and 3. Lower the two fingers towards the keys at the same time, but keep the middle finger just a little bit higher than the index finger.

There will be a delay between the sounds generated by the two fingers - the shorter the delay, the faster the trill.

The trill is a repetition of playing two notes with two fingers after one another at high speed and extended for a few seconds.

In the 7th line of this piano song it requires using the the index finger and middle finger, so the fingering is 2323232323. Your trills require diligent maintenance to keep it in good shape. It is best to practise trills everyday.

I live on an island. Sometimes I take the ferry to cross the small channel that separates it from the mainland. The ferry rocks the most when it is docking at the jetty when nearing the end of its journey.

Likewise, towards the end of this song the change in dynamic is at its most frenzied pace combined with trills in mid-passage. Only in the last bar does it calms down, trailing off into a soft whisper.

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