Piano songs - Canon in D

Make piano songs sing with sweetness through refined tone and well- adjusted tempo by building finger agility use of the wrists’ up down and lateral movement

The phrase shown in Image 1 below had me perplexed for several days. I wanted to make it sing with sweetness but had been unsuccessful in tracing its contoured beauty. My speed exceeded the appropriate tempo while tone sounded flat. 

It has long been a terrible habit of mine to play too fast relative to the correct tempo. Much to the chagrin of my piano teacher ever since our first lessons together. She tried to fix me by teaching me the ‘controlled stop’ method of gaining and decreasing speed. It involves playing long-short-long in cells of 4 and 8 notes. Example shown in Image 2 below.

Getting at the right tempo of piano songs

Later expanded to playing one bar fast and next bar slow, as shown in Image 3 below. With improved control the exercise was lengthened further by practicing 2 bars fast and 2 bars slow as shown in Image 4 for example.


  • What? - Speed and tempo

  • Why? - Sing with sweetness
  • How? - Agile fingers. Use wrists

As a result, by alternating fast and slow, beginning with cells of 4 notes, a bar and finally 2 bars - I was able explore the outer and inner limits of what was possible in speed when practicing a phrase.

Through repetition proficiency improved, and I could control my speed to match the required tempo in playing the phrase from Canon in D shown in Image 1.

Agile fingers are required to practice ‘controlled stop’ well. Therefore, with fingers of the left hand positioned over CDEFG, press and hold only the 4th finger on D and play the rest of the notes around it. With fingers of the right hand positioned over CDEFG, press and hold only the 2nd finger on D and play the rest of the notes around it.

Improved flexibility and agile fingers are gained if you could train yourself to press and hold the keys of EFG using fingers 123 and play C and D one at a time each using the 5th and 4th finger in the left hand. Copy the exercise in the right hand by pressing and holding down the keys of CDG with fingers 125 and play E and F one at a time each using the 3rd and 4th finger.

Discriminatingly refined tone of piano songs

Now that agile fingers could play at speed according to the tempo required, we could focus our attention on the quality of tone. Loud, soft and everything in between. The quality of tone produced is the result of how a key is touched. A light touch produces a soft tone and a strong touch produces a loud tone. The tip of the fingers makes the touch, but deft use of the wrists’ up-down and lateral movement equips you with the ability to do so with versatility - enriching the sound produced with broader and refined tonal quality. For example, being able to produce tone of more discriminating degrees between piano and pianissimo.

The wrist has 2 ways to move. Up down, and side to side also known as lateral movement. Light touch of the keys is made possible with use of the wrist’s up-down movement because it acts as a spring to absorb the impact of the contact between the fingers and keys of the piano. Also allowing the fingers to sink deep into the wood underneath keys and then to lift away from them delicately. As a result, an even soft tone is maintained.

Unlock the wrists to make full use of its lateral movement. Combined with the circular movement of the arms you should be able to reach keys better giving you the maneuverability lift off of keys at the last moment after the next keys have been pressed thus executing them in a binding legato.

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