Practise piano songs in high resolution to get an insight into their musicality as well as improve technical skills such as in the execution of chords
Practising in short sections, or my own preference very short sections - lesser than a bar at a pace that is very slow is referred to as high-resolution practice. I came upon the term while reading a music magazine in which the term high-resolution practice was used to describe how Rachmaninov was heard practising. To succinctly paraphrase it; he practised very slowly.
Much benefit are derived from high-resolution practice, especially with regards to gaining a deep insight into the musicality of a rendition such as the projection of a composition’s artistic image, articulation, expression, mood and intent – the artsy and intellectual stuff.
High-resolution practice has also helped me with improving the ‘physical stuff’ part of learning to play the piano, namely fingering and execution of chords.
Chords are 2 or more notes played simultaneously. When I was a beginner they were an intimidating presence, not so much the 2-notes but chords with 3 notes or more. The problems I used to face when playing chords were; uneven notes meaning the keys to the notes were not pressed together simultaneously, gummed up fingers especially with the fourth and fifth fingers and premature exhaustion in the fingers.
To overcome the problem with unevenly played notes in the chords, my teacher showed me how to first press one finger on one key then press the other keys. If I could do it evenly, then she would tell me to press all three keys together. Example in Image 1 below.
Depending on the combination of the notes in the chord, which finger first should be used to press on one key differed. As a direct result of the exercise, after several months as my fingers developed the agility and flexibility of those of a pianist that the chords began to bounce off the piano evenly. It was a slow process, done incrementally with one set of chord at a time, I did not realize it at the time but I was already undergoing high-resolution practice.
From time to time I still experience gummed up fingers when playing chords. Heck, my pinkie gets glued to the fourth finger even when playing single notes sometimes. Luckily the chords themselves offer good exercise material to build independence in the fingers so that they do not get gummed up. Select any chord with three or more notes, the more the better but for simplicity’s sake let us use the 3 note chord in Image 1 as an example, E, A, C shall do.
With the thumb on E, middle finger on A and the fifth finger on C press down on all three keys. Resting the thumb and middle finger each on E and A pressed all the way down to the bottom of the keybed, only play C repeatedly using the fifth finger.
Next with the middle finger resting on A and pressed all the way down to the bottom of the keybed, play only E and C repeatedly using the thumb and the fifth finger. They should be played alternately as single notes for maximum benefit although I think playing them together as a 2 note chord has positive value as well.
Another option is to rest the thumb on E, pressed all the way to the bottom of the keybed and only playing A and C repeatedly using the middle and the fifth finger. To get stronger independence in the fingers, when I was practising I thought playing them alternately as individual notes was more effective.
Such exercises build strength in the fingers for playing chords so that a finger can strike a key independent of the other fingers without getting gummed up. Of course with chords that have more notes in them you get to have more combinations to practise with.