When playing piano songs lift the hand and arm up high at the appropriate moments to display a bit of style in a performance adding more persona as a pianist
Due to the handicap of being a working adult with little time to practice, I concentrated on playing correctly giving close to no attention at all to style. Entering my age of piano playing renaissance these past few months, forgoing style would no longer do. But a word of caution to tread carefully one step at a time. The occasional droplet of style is a good enough start.
Such an opportunity presented itself when I was practicing the phrase in Image 1 below from Ballade Pour Adeline.
In the bass clef, accompaniment played with the left hand, the 2 phrases once executed offer ample time to lift the left hand high up in the air and slowly landing on the keys again to continue the play. The graceful gesture of lifting and lowering a hand and arm high deliberately in slow motion display a stylish performance on the piano, as if they were dancing to as well as making the music.
The action was made possible because there were pauses in the run of notes in the accompaniment freeing the left hand. Being the anxious piano student that I was, I used to make use of this free time to quickly place my hand in position to play the next note.
For example, after I finished playing the AEF in the bass clef shown in Image 1, the left hand is idle temporarily while the right hand executed the melody in the treble clef. There was enough time to insert gesture with the left hand. But fearing mistake and lacking confidence I quickly placed my hand on G, ready to play it but just waited there. Not very productive.
The adage of never putting style over substance is true. So, put it ‘under’…?
Well, ‘under’ can construed as later; as in I tried to include some style into my piano playing way later. After the substance had been duly sufficient. In other words, get better through lots of practice then play with style. This is why it took so long for me to finally have the luxury to even consider including hand and arm gestures in my play – the lack of time.
Allocating enough time to become proficient in playing just one song is a sine qua non. Accuracy, tone, articulation and technique all had to be executed beyond reasonably well, which consumed time before effort in playing with style can be made.
Peculiar how the mind could unfold, several years ago when I first learned this song playing the same phrase, the thought did not cross my mind to lift the left hand and arm high. By revisiting the song, I saw something I did not see before.
I attribute this to my clarity of mind, because I was taking my time learning it again. My mind was free of clutter such as the pressure of perfecting it on a deadline due to the demands of a teacher or examinations.
Besides removing the pressure, clarity of mind could also be obtained by setting goals that serve oneself internally. Such as exploring style in piano playing to enrich one’s own music making endeavors. Articulating a short bar in a specific way or expressing deep emotion on a particular phrase are noble goals too.
Lift the hand and arm high at appropriate moments in the midst of a piano rendition. Gesture as such add to the persona of the pianist in a performance. While style is superficial, backed by substance it provides optics in addition to the sound she makes. Something for the eyes to see and enjoy too.