Piano songs - Canon in D

Identify patterns in piano songs to prioritize where to practise, climactic phrases in which chords are present are recommended. Layer the them for texture


Having accumulated more hours of lessons throughout the years, by now I know enough that a song does not have to be learned in any particular sequence. In fact, I find it more satisfying to go straight to the climactic phrases and practise them first. Then seek out the phrases that build up to them. It is one way to stay engaged in practising a song. 

If you know what you are moving towards, your interest and motivation remain high as you make the journey. The climax is the prize which I would want to have for myself as quickly as I could. So, I practise them first to gain possession. Work on the rest of the song can be done as a second priority. It sounds terrible to describe a musical composition this way, but we have to be smart in our approach to learning to play piano songs. Like any projects professionals work on, they are prioritized according to urgency, importance and value.

Recognize patterns in piano songs


Recognize the patterns in the arrangement of notes so that you can prioritize them. A group of notes such as a string of semiquavers have traits dictating the rhythm produced. Namely the notes’ pitch, intervals between notes, keys signature and density of notes. Besides keys signature which is constant, these traits evolve as the song progresses.

KEY POINTS:

  • What? - Prioritizing
  • Why? - Productive, efficient practise
  • How? - Recognize patterns

The beginning of a song usually has low density of notes, small intervals between notes and pitch of notes that do not wander too far from one another. Climactic phrases are of the opposite. They have high density of notes, big interval between notes and pitch of notes widely dispersed. As shown in the example in Image 1 below.

Be on the look-out for such diversity and prioritize them accordingly. While I prefer to practise the climax first, as a beginner I would have prioritized easier phrases. Those with low density of notes that require simple fingering. Now that I think about it, piano songs for beginners do have low density of notes and simple fingering. Therefore, the need to prioritize applies to intermediate students and above.

Chords in climaxes of piano songs


Chords are almost always integral to climactic phrases. It is because of the dramatic impact they give to the listening experience. You could say they are the spine of the music, while single notes flanking them act as paddings.

KEY POINTS:

  • What? - Chords and slurs
  • Why? - Chords are spine of music. Slurs are paddings in between
  • How? - Linger on the prior note before the chord. Slur simulates updown movement of the bow of the violin

The dramatic impact of chords could be intensified by heightening the anticipation of their appearance.

Achieved by lingering on the single notes prior to the chords a little longer. Example shown in Image 2 below.

If the single notes happen to be 2-note slurs, the first note is pressed longer and stronger, followed by the second note pressed lighter and shorter.

They imitate the up-down movement of the bow of the violin.

Since chords are 2 or more keys pressed together simultaneously, not only does each key must be in harmony with each other, they should not negate one another. Meaning to say the sound made by any key in the chords should not drown out the sounds made by the other keys. Hence the layering of the sounds is essential.

Layering the sounds to create
texture in piano songs


Layering is to make the sound of 1 note more pronounced over the others. Executed well, multiple notes struck together is heard evenly. But, with 1 note, usually the top note is chosen, just slightly louder than the rest of the notes, enough not to drown them out.

Let us take the chord of ACE for example. The top note being E. Press only E to bring out its sound. Then press on AC together silently. Do this for a while as an exercise. Later, instead of silently try to press AC bringing out their sound but a very soft one. Ideally it should be softer than the E pressed before. Do this for a while as an exercise. Finally press all three notes, ACE together while maintaining the strength of the sound made by E and the softness of AC. As result, the chord sounds layered whereby E is more pronounced over AC.

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