Piano songs - Ballade Pour Adeline

Play chords in piano songs better by building independence in the fifth finger and use it to layer the sounds, finger strengthening exercises are explained

Cringing at the sight of my hands’ awkward movement in my attempt to play the phrase shown in Image 1 below properly, I watched in horror as my fingers pitter-patter across the keyboard wondering what am I missing here that instead of delivering a soulful rendition of a beautifully composed musical phrase, the chords sound cluttered even noisy to an extent.

The culprit could be traced to my playing each note in the chords with equal strength. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a chord is made to sound more agreeable to the common ear by layering its sound - accomplished by making the upper notes in them to sound more pronounced compared to the other notes.

Layered sounds add elegance to piano songs

To correct my self, I needed to make certain I played the upper notes louder than the lower notes that make up each chord. By first placing the fingers in position above the notes, I played only the upper note strong, followed by pressing down silently on the remainder of the notes. I also did it the other way around as practice, by first pressing down silently on the lower notes then playing the upper note strong.

With each trial I would bring the two events closer together until the strongly played upper note and the silently played lower notes are played simultaneously. As a result, the upper note is the only one singing while the rest stay silent despite all the keys in the chords pressed. Add the sound later to the lower notes, and there I have a chord with a layered sound in which the upper note’s voice is more pronounced over the others.

Even though the phrase are of demisemiquavers, I practiced them at a much slower pace because my goal was to experience the intricacy of the composition. Practicing slow let air in between the notes allowing me time for thinking, therefore enabled me to unravel the fine details of the song writing.

Strong 5th finger for better
piano songs rendered

Chords with notes that had to be played with the fifth finger dreaded me. On their own, they were already a mind boggling puzzle to me, getting all of the notes to sound in synchrony always took a lot of practise, toss in my weak fifth into the fray the whole process turned into a nightmare.

Therefore, independence had to be built into the fifth finger. Using the actual chords in the phrase themselves to practise with, for example CE as shown in Image 1 below, beginning with the thumb on A, press the subsequent keys with each finger. The fifth finger should be on E while the third finger is on C. With these 2 fingers remain pressing the keys and rested at their bottom, play the keys around them one at a time.

Vary the combination by switching the pair such as pressing down on B with the index finger and D with the fourth finger and playing the keys around them one at a time – a tremendously beneficial exercise because the fourth finger too happens to be a weak one for most people.

It can be strengthened the other way around nonetheless, by pressing down on A with the thumb and C with the third finger and playing the keys around them one at a time. As a result, the problematic fifth finger is also put to work.

A strong and independent fifth finger paves the way towards playing chords that are even and balanced whereby the sounds from each note come-off as one. Bring it a step further by using the independence and strength acquired in the fifth finger to make the upper notes in the chords more pronounced thus layering the sounds to dazzle an audience with an arousing display of pianistic flair.

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