Learn to play piano songs well with this book, it contains useful exercises for technique improvement
Alfred Publishing has come up with a series piano learning books comprising of nine books that were compiled into what is known as Alfred’s Basic Piano Library. The books are graded accordingly and students can purchase them individually. Here I would like to offer my thoughts on Lesson Book 2 of the series.
Lesson Book 2 has many precious piano exercises designed to build a beginner’s technical competence in playing piano songs. Such as passing Finger 1 (thumb) under Finger 2 (index finger) and passing Finger 1 under Finger 3 (middle finger).
What I find most pleasurable about the piano book is that even for such basic and elementary exercises such as these, it comes with piano songs that are a joy to play while also serving to improve technique.
Let me offer an example, to develop the technique of passing Finger 1 under Finger 2, it has us playing ‘Light and Blue’ by Willard A. Palmer. A very jazzy song played in a moderate blues tempo. Executing the song, the hand rotates as if it was turning a door knob while producing the buoyant rhythm. Your body shall naturally sway from right to left dancing along to the motions of the hand. Songs such as this is sure to keep an inexperienced beginner engaged in piano studies.
Strength and power in the fingers and accuracy are essential nescessities required to render a musical passage effectively on the piano. I have been lectured until she was blue in the face by my piano teacher to practise scales everyday for this very purpose.
To help her get the message across, she brought this piano book into class one day and showed me how to play the chromatic scale on page 34. The folk song on the following page that consists of a couple of bars with chromatic scales were a revelation to play – I discovered how a rather simple sequence of semitones could energize a phrase to create a wonderful melody, furthermore they build stamina in the fingers and sharpen the precision in striking a key.
I dread playing trills. ‘Venetian Boat Song’ by Mendelssohn and ‘Le Coucou’ by Daquin both have them. Though I eventually managed to play the piano songs well enough, it was only after weeks of intense practice just on the trills.
Practising Alfred’s Lesson Book 2 earlier would have eased the process a little bit. A chapter late in the piano book introduces students to the trill and has a priceless exercise left to us by the great Mozart himself.
The trill exercise was safeguarded by the maestro’s pupil Hummel, now passed down to the present generation of pianists to practise with. I think anybody can trill using fingers 2 and 3 with the right hand, but can you do it with fingers 4 and 5? How about with the left hand? The exercise is intended for the student to be able to trill with any finger variation using either hand.
Beside the technical exercises mentioned here, there are more wonderful songs in the piano book that allow you become familiar with the assortment of keys involved in piano playing, like the key of E minor or D major. While learning them it drills you to play scales and triads.
The book has benefited me greatly when I was a novice on the piano not just in improving technique but also in discovering the beauty of piano music, getting to know the history behind a composition and the storied life of its composer.