Piano songs - Canon in D

Quality of tone in piano songs is preserved by recognizing the base notes, pressing down to make contact with the bottom of keys and not land from a height


Tone production relies so much on how the pianist touches the keys. Factors influencing the touch should be delved into deeper. A weak touch of the keys produces a soft tone, and a strong touch produces a loud tone – a fundamental law of motion in physics far from an earth-shattering discovery, but it’s application in real time while playing the piano is worth looking into because it gives us a better understanding of tone production, hence making us better pianists.

KEY POINTS:

  • What? - Preserving tone
  • Why? - Produce clear, untarnished sound

  • How? - Recognize strong base notes. Make contact with bottom of key. Not to land from a height

Once I came across a sentence that said a piano key is not struck but pressed.

Although still a beginner at the time, I was already well into my piano lessons, so the statement rang so true to me.

Throughout the course of the lessons I had attended, never were keys hit with any force. Not even the slightest. Not once.

They were always touched delicately with grace.

What is the difference between striking and pressing a key? Striking a key is to land on it from a height. Bringing out unwanted noises such as extra percussions. It also causes the lost of control over chords and octaves.

Keys are not struck when playing piano songs


Pressing a key is to place a finger on a key, touching the surface first, then sinking the finger and the key to the bottom of the keybed. Feel the sensation of the wood under the key by making a little contact with the bottom of the key when doing so. Once the finger has reached the bottom, respond to it by switching off the effort. Do nothing, just release the effort while keeping the finger on the key sunk at the bottom.

Applied to chords it produces clear, untarnished tonal quality when their strong base notes are identified and focused upon. For example, in the chord of ACE, the strong base note is usually the top note, E. Make it so that the E is more pronounced than A and C when playing the chord. If you could not do this immediately, try playing E in moderate tone then play AC together silently. Bring them closer together until you can play ACE simultaneously but with only the E making a sound while AC stay silent. Later, insert a soft tone to AC. 

As a result, a chord of ACE in which the E has a more pronounced tone than AC is produced. Throughout the process of pressing each of the respective keys, instead of striking them from a height, remember to place a finger on a key, touching the surface first, then sink the finger and the key to the bottom of the keybed. Make contact with the bottom of the keys. Respond to it by switching off the effort and release.

Layering the sounds to
preserve tone in piano songs


To preserve the tonal quality in a phrase consisting of several chords when it is meant to be played forte or in a crescendo, not every note in the chords should be played loud. Instead, recognize the strong base notes, which is the top notes, play only them forte the rest less so thus layering the sounds. The opposite of which is to play every note in every chord loud which would result in a coarse tone. Another common mistake is not making contact with the bottom of the keys by not sinking them all the way down which would risk keys not making any sound.

In conclusion, be it single notes or multiple notes played together as chords, tonal quality is maintained by recognizing the strong base notes and making contact with the bottom of keys by sinking the fingers and keys all the way down and not land from a height.

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