Piano songs - Canon in D

Phrases in piano songs with increasing volume are often mistakenly played at a faster tempo, remedy the error through conscious effort and finger control.


Still in the early phases of learning Canon in D, due to my immaturity in performing the song I noticed that when confronted with a phrase that decreases in volume I could not help myself playing it slow. Image 1 shows an example of such a phrase.

IMAGE 1

Certainly a mistake to play it this way because there are no instructions to alter the tempo in any way despite the change in volume. It is a common mistake committed more often than not by students beginning to learn to play the piano. Interestingly enough, it also occurs the other way around – mistakenly playing in a fast tempo when the volume increases and getting louder.

KEY POINTS:

  • What? - Mistake to slow the tempo when volume slows

  • Why? - Unintentional tendency
  • How? - Recognize patterns. Control fingers. Practise short cells

Interestingly enough, it also occurs the other way around – mistakenly playing in a fast tempo when the volume increases and getting louder.

Fortunately the reason for this mistake is merely lack of experience or shall we say immaturity on the part of the aspiring pianist, therefore can easily be fixed. It is not caused by inferior technical skills or absence of talent which would be a more challenging problem to overcome.

Being conscious of ones tendency to unintentionally slowing the tempo when there is a decrease in volume means the battle to fix it is half won. The other half is about accumulating enough practise hours.

Controlling tempo in piano songs


Once I gained this insight, I decided to first recognize the patterns in the score of the piano song I was trying to learn, looking for patterns in the arrangement of the notes where the volume decreased. I also recognized the tempo by seeing the notes value to be sure that the volume decrease was indeed not accompanied by a decrease in tempo. Made a mental note of their locations or better still jotted them down on the paper score itself. When it was time to play, I was able to control my tempo as I executed the portions of the song in question.

Tempo as in speed of play is about control of the fingers. Starting a phrase, I would knowingly play it out of tempo, then incrementally bring it up to its proper one or down if the requirement is for a decrease in tempo. I did this by playing the phrase as; quick, quick, slow or long, short, long in cells of 4 and later 8 notes. Doing so allowed me to get a feel for the pitch and intervals between the notes while sensing the upper limits and lower limits to the phrase’s tempo at the individual notes level. Example shown in Image 2 below.

IMAGE 2

Divide to conquer piano songs


For the same purpose but at a broader scope, later I proceeded to play a bar fast and the next bar slow repeatedly until the end of the phrase. If the phrase was a longer one, modified it to play 2 bars fast and 2 bars slow repeatedly until the end of the phrase. Doing so allowed me to get a feel for the upper limits and lower limits to the phrase’s tempo at the individual bars level.

Just like when I was overcoming the challenge of keeping the tempo constant when the volume decreases, I practised the exercises described in the paragraphs above hands separately at first. Then, practised both hands together in small sections. For example, in cells of 4 or 8 notes as explained earlier. I have found that practising one hand at a time bring clarity to my brain, making it much easier to comprehend the arrangement of the notes and the rhythm.

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