Play piano songs by recognizing the patterns in the arrangement of notes to execute tone, tempo and rhythm inducing a heart penetrating listening experience
A new approach was needed in the way I was learning to play piano songs. I sensed that my method of progressing in strict sequence note by note from the beginning was destroying my morale. The artistry involved in the composition of the songs I was trying to play escaped me. I had to change my method or else my intention to work on my craft would go to waste. Making sounds bereft of any artistry or deep understanding of its structure, cause and effect was not the kind of music making I desired to pursue.
Hence, I began making adjustment to my practice routine about a year ago. My technique was sound for I had been studying under an excellent teacher for almost a decade. I was confident I had a firm grip on the principles of piano playing with regards to the mechanical aspects such as hands and arms movement, fingering, pedaling and body posture.
What I was deficient in was the musicality such as range in tone production, control of tempo and articulating rhythm with emotion. For the past twelve months I have been working to improve these elements.
Although pangs of regret hit me from time to time, wishing I had concentrated more on them from the beginning, it was unlikely I would have been able to. I had to get the technique right first.
The renewed approach to learning a song required me to listen more to the sound I was making. Make corrections on tone to achieve the quality needed, tempo to flow at a pace that is flexible because I had to be able to respond to the dynamic changes.
In order to effect the proper mood of the song. So, I spent a lot of time even on a short phrase trying to perfect it. The old me would have been content getting the rhythm correct and move on to the next phrase. Back then my goal was to finish a song as quickly as I could so that I could start learning a new song. Which tragically resulted in the loss of artistry.
Instead of attempting to complete a phrase by playing it note by note, look at the phrase as a whole. The notes are connected. They function as a group not individually. Listen to the tone and tempo of a group of notes, adjust your touch, speed, and bodily movement to make your execution fit with the required rhythm.
The process is a peculiar one, you do it the first few times nothing goes right. But as you keep repeating it, the rhythm began to sound firmer and smoother with less mistakes in landing on the correct keys accurately. You grow more confident, enough to play faster. Pleased with the progress now you could experiment with the tone, sprinkling some dynamics into the phrase. Ending it with a diminuendo by softening the tone on the last three notes for example, as shown in Image 1 below.
Or even challenge yourself by exploring the possibilities in the tonal range of a phrase by increasing the tone gradually as you reach mid-phrase, as shown in Image 2 for example. Compare the listening experience to what you would hear if the phrase is performed in a dry as dust manner devoid of any variety in tone production.
Recognizing the patterns in the arrangement of notes in a group of notes that make up a phrase clarifies the conditions for executing it successfully. As shown in Image 3 for example, the presence of semiquavers closely tied together indicates a rhythm with a fast beating tempo. The descent of notes towards the end of the bar indicates it should be played soft. Take a glance at the phrase looking for signs that determine its musicality, then render it with artistry.