To hit a key accurately when playing piano songs especially when making leaps from one key to another, a sense for the distance and range between the keys is needed, use of the black keys as markers is helpful
Sooner or later you are going to have to play more keys further away from middle C. In the first few months of beginning my piano lessons I found it exciting when a key outside the octave of middle C made an appearance. It felt like I have made a new discovery. The novelty of it caused my heart to pound faster. An adult man going agog over a few bars of music score. Such childish enthusiasm was what kept me glued to the piano, practicing and never skipping lessons for years.
It has been a while since I felt the same sensation of novelty until recently when I progressed to the phrase from Canon in D shown in Image 1 below.
The leap in the right hand upwards from left to right towards the keys at a higher octave aroused my interest. For one, the shift in pitch of the sound emanating from the piano was like hearing a new voice come up on stage to sing, inspiring shock and awe. Then, there was the challenge of landing accurately on the keys when making a big leap.
Missing a key here and there was the least of my problems, a distorted tempo was of a bigger concern. The wider the intervals separating the notes, the higher the chances of me getting the tempo distorted because I tended to separate them.
So, make the leap a quick one to not separate the notes between the leap for too long. Quick enough to connect the notes properly but not in haste and panicky that quality of tone is compromised. You do not want to accidentally pound on a key too hard in your haste to make the leap quick. In situations such as these I find the slogan “Keep calm and carry on” most comforting. Make the leap calmly and carry on with playing the phrase to keep its tonal quality as well as its tempo intact.
Making a big leap from one key to another, that are widely separated is challenging because of the difficulty in landing accurately on the keys. In the absence of accuracy wrong notes are played, tempo gets distorted, rhythm corrupted and tonal quality lost.
To land on a key accurately when making a big leap, get a feel for the distance your arms and hands need to travel to arrive at the correct key. I used to do it by counting how many individual white keys there are between the key I am leaping from to the key I was to land on. While this was helpful, I have found that instead of relying on the individual white keys, using the locations of the blacks as reference points is more effective.
In an octave of notes, there are 7 black keys. Conveniently, a group of 3 black keys are positioned close together slightly distant from another group of 4 black keys. They act as good markers for guiding you towards your target keys when making a big leap. For example, I am going from middle C to B located two octaves higher, I can spot the last black key in the group of 4 black keys as the marker to guide me to the B, which is immediately next to it.
The reason this method is so effective is because on a keyboard dominated by white keys the black keys stand out.
Variations in pitch of the phrases that exist in piano songs enrich the music by adding layers to the voices they produce. The wider the pitch vary the more distant you shall have to cover to reach certain keys on the piano, therefore accuracy in landing on the correct key in adequate time is important. Accuracy maintains a phrase’s tempo, rhythm and tonal quality. Make use of the black key’s outstanding presence to guide you towards landing on your target keys accurately.