A piano song almost immortalized in one of the most successful movie franchises ever, is adorned by grace notes on several occasions, illuminating the phrases they appear in.
I had the pleasure of befriending a Korean engineer a few weeks ago. I have met and spoken to people from many other countries before because of the nature of my work, but he is the first one from Korea. I find myself excited even giddy at the encounter.
Han was here for a meeting and I was assigned to pick him up from the hotel and drive him to the meeting venue. I am not a driver - they asked me to do it because my house is near the hotel.
When I walked through the entrance, I was surprised to see a youthful and smartly dressed gentleman waiting in the hotel lobby - I was expecting an older middle aged man in a suit and tie. Instead he looked more like RAIN the singer than an industrial engineer.
With the personality to match too!
In the car, our conversation turned to K-Pop. He asked if it was true that Korean music was so popular around here.
A piano song written by a Korean composer – no, not Psy of Gangnam Style fame - may provide an answer as to how popular music from Korea has become. ‘River flows in you’ by Yiruma is a piano song that was set to be featured in the first Twilight movie.
Although the piano song did not make it into the movie, the whispers of its musical phrases are as sweet and romantic as the love between the Edward and the Bella – busted, I am a Twi-hard.
Start the song by tenderly touching the G with the tip of your fifth finger. Instead of striking the key, land softly on it, then quickly but ever so lightly play the A next to it with the fourth finger. These two notes are alternately played continuously three times in the first bar of the piano song.
Therein lies the difficulty. The 4th and 5th fingers are usually the weakest ones. When you have to play 454545, two common problems you would most probably experience are; the 4th finger is unable to be lifted high enough or the 5th finger is unable to strike the key firmly with ample force - both are because of lack in finger strength.
There are many piano exercises that can help to develop strength in the fifth and fourth finger. Works by Hanon and Czerny for instance were created for such purpose.
The next bar is very identical to the first except for the pair of peculiarly small notes that appear at the beginning of the bar. Why are they so small and how to play them?
These are called grace notes, they are ornaments that decorate the main melody, spicing up the musical phrase. Think of it as if a friend suddenly interjecting with a witty remark during a serious conversation, it lightens the mood as results.
Grace notes need to be played very fast. Use the thumb and index finger to swiftly strike the A and C in a blink of an eye. Connecting them without hesitation with the main melody is essential to create the desired upbeat mood of the phrase, so your fifth finger has to be on standby to drop on G as soon as the grace notes are rendered.
The accompanying left hand plays two different patterns of three-note quavers in the first and second bar of the song. You shall have to raise your left hand after completing the first one playing F#, C# and F# with fingers 5,2 and 1 to be able to properly position the left 5th finger on D and continue playing the accompaniment in the second bar.
In between the two patterns of accompaniment in the bass clef, there is the pair of grace notes in the treble clef – maintain silence in the left hand for a moment to let the grace notes shine, unobscured by any other sounds. Continue reading part 2 of 'River Flows In You'.