Piano songs - Ballade Pour Adeline

Perform piano songs with dynamic contrast to breathe life into it by controlling the energy exerted from the upper body, keys pressed all the way to the bottom.

At the height of a performance be it on stage or performing for yourself, the piano playing is the result of what was practiced. A song performed in less than 3 minutes most probably took weeks of practice to perfect. By the time a listener hears a pianist perform, the rough edges of the work have been polished away. Rough edges such as in the dynamic contrast essential to proper articulation of the song. For example, as shown the phrase in Image 1 below.

The first time the word dynamic was thrown at me while I was still taking piano lessons, it confused me. Being an engineering student, we used the word a lot in describing the physical motion of objects, to hear it coming from an adorable, sweet piano teacher was astonishing even disorienting for a few seconds.

She would later show me what it meant by performing a musical phrase on the piano, I have learned that literally what it means is; varying loudness of sound; markings in a musical score that indicates the desired level of volume [reference: WordWeb version 3.71].

Dynamic contrast in piano songs

Dynamics carve a contoured beauty into the landscape of the music. Without it, the music is like a flat patch of dry land or a stagnant body of water absent of waves and devoid of current. Lifeless.

In Image 1, the markings give clear instructions to play with dynamics by gradually making the phrase sound louder, then gradually dissipating into a softer sound. The keyword here is gradual and the motive is to have the loudness and softness in sounds follow each other closely. The outcome being the contrast in the strength of the sounds and the lack of it is noticeable. Thus, producing the desirable dynamic contrast.

Much of it has to do with control. The goal is to increase the volume gradually, so start off soft. To do so, play the notes with the level of sound that you want, then make contact with the bottom of the keys.

Make adjustments accordingly if you are not soft enough, while remembering not to result in a hollow phrase with holes in it because you were too soft that the keys are not making any sound at all. Hollow notes can be prevented by feeling the sensation of the wood under the keys, hence the advice to press all the way down until making contact with the bottom.

Energy from the upper body
to play piano songs

As you move up the phrase, play deeply into the keys to increase the volume. Use the energy from the upper body pushing backwards, switch off the effort once you have pressed all the way down to the bottom of each key and quickly move to play the next one until reaching the last loudly played note. It is the note beneath the end tip of the dynamic marking lines.

By releasing the effort after a key is pressed, strain in the fingers is avoided resulting in loose and flexible piano playing. Besides, it also conserves energy so that you can continue playing for longer periods of time without tiring. Speaking of which, the source of the power producing a stronger sound is the energy from the upper body. Not momentum created by dropping the fingers from a height. Doing so surrenders control over the keys.

Volume of the sound made on the piano can be varied by controlling the energy exerted from the upper body through the arms, hands and finally distributed to the keys by the fingers. Pressing the keys all the way down to the bottom of the keybed is crucial in producing a firm soft sound as well as a solid rounded loud sound. Evolving gradually from one to the other produces dynamic contrast in the sound which breathes life into the music in a way that connects with listeners.

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