Piano songs - Canon in D

Play homophonic piano songs well by identifying the layers in the texture and practicing them separately on your way to conquering polyphonic music on the piano


Bass clef notes that are usually accompaniments to the melody in the treble clef were merely accessories to me, I did not consider them essentials. I could tell the name of a song by listening to the notes in the treble clef but not so when listening to the notes in the bass clef. While I do realize without the accompaniment a song is not complete, having to practice them felt like I was spending time on something of a lesser importance.

They were only exciting when I was learning piano songs in which there were occasions when the melody and accompaniment were reversed. As in, the left hand performed the melody playing notes in the bass clef, while the right hand played accompaniment with notes in the treble clef. They were few and far between and when they do make their rare appearance I attacked the phrases like a starving hyena.

Homophonic piano songs


As I matured as a pianist, I learned that although repetitive and linear in nature accompaniments are the significant half to the homophonic texture of a song. The other half being the melody. My piano teacher used to emphasize that the accompaniment should always be played softer than the melody. Okay, I get it, it is because the melody is the main, more important sound. Or so I thought. Actually, the production of a softer sound in the accompaniment vis-a-vis the melody is an act of layering the sounds that exist in a homophonic musical sound.

Quick recap of what a homophonic sound means - a sound with 2 voices in it; the harmony and the melody, in piano music the accompaniment is the harmony. 

Texture means that there are layers to the song. If it is homophonic there are 2 layers. When I was taught to play the accompaniment softer than the melody it was because the sound had to be heard as having 2 layers – one softer, another louder. Were they played equally loud or equally soft the different layers would have overlapped each other. Each voice’s uniqueness drowned by the other.

The piano was attractive to me because of its tonal range. Woodwind instruments were too shrill while my breath was never strong enough for brass instruments and the strings of the guitar hurt my fingers. Fortunate have I been to discover that it is the piano which can produce layered homophonic sounds because of the simple reason that is it played with 2 hands. One sound from each hand resulting in infinite combination of sounds that make music of abundant possibilities.

Texture and layers in piano songs


To play textured song with layers of unique voices, first identify each of the voices by studying the composition. It is not difficult to do when playing homophonic music on the piano because majority of the time they are already identified and segregated into the bass clef and treble clef. Being on the lookout for those special occasions when the melody and accompaniment are played reverse by the left hand and the right hand instead of vice versa is all the extra work you shall need to do.

By design they are meant to be different voices, it is best to practice the melody separately from the accompaniment one hand at a time. Only to play them together once you have become proficient enough playing each with one hand - after having absorbed the rhythm and expressing each voice’s mood and intent accurately.

A bonus one can expect from practicing this way, is gaining proficiency playing polyphonic music on the piano as well – that is performing two separate melodies that occur at the same time or the same melody started at staggered intervals.

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