Articulation means to bring the musical elements in piano songs together and connect them. It can be done by recognizing patterns in the arrangement of notes.
When I hear people talk about articulation in piano playing I have always wondered what were they referring to? Do they mean playing with emotion? Does it refer to how the sound emanating from the piano were expressed?
Despite having a vague understanding of the term, I resigned to think to myself that the term meant playing with emotion to include tonal shift and control. As a beginner learning to play the piano I was more focused on the mechanics such as hitting the keys accurately and reading notes correctly. Articulation was a talent I did not have the luxury to work on.
Content at being able to play a few simple songs on the piano my expectations were not high initially. It was never my intention to one day perform at Carnegie Hall, therefore articulation was never a high priority of mine. Regardless I managed to advance in my piano studies and have been able to play decently enough.
Until I realized there was only so much you can do to improve technique by working on the mechanics of piano playing. In contrast the challenges posed in becoming proficient in the artistic side of piano playing such as articulation, expression, tone production and control are as infinite as the universe. Every composition presents a new musical puzzle needing to be solved.
Take rhythm for example, facing the written score of a composition all I had were weird symbols staring back at me. How does one go about deciphering the symbols into coherent sounds? Or the more appropriate question; translating a combination of notes (symbols) into a pre-determined rhythm. Rhythm that is heard, guided only by a bunch of symbols on a piece of paper. It is a puzzle ripe for solving by students of the piano.
Rhythm could be figured out and properly executed after one has a firm grasp of music theory, which explains how each symbol is interpreted into its equivalent sound on the piano. The point I am trying to make is there is a method in articulating rhythm in a manner that breathes life into it, for the simple reason that music has a soul an inanimate object it is not.
One of those method is by recognizing patterns in the arrangement of notes that make the rhythm. For example it could be a string of semiquavers such as the phrase shown in Image 1 below taken from Canon in D. Relative to the phrase shown in Image 2, the phrase from Image 1 would be played at a faster tempo. Requiring firm and quick touch of the keys by the fingers.
Nearing the end of the rhythm, tone could be adjusted making it softer to mark its conclusion. Then start the next rhythm not loud but still more pronounced volume-wise compared to the previous rhythm. As a result, a contrasting sound in tone and tempo is noticed. As such the articulation done by manipulating tone and tempo that enriches the listening experience.
The shape or manner in which things come together and a connection is made = articulation [reference WordWeb 4.0]. Thus the rhythm was articulated by bringing tone and tempo to come together making a connection between the musical notes.
It began by first identifying unique patterns in the arrangement of notes occupying a phrase. Practising each pattern in short sections until tone and tempo come together, then connecting them to articulate a phrase. Control of tone and tempo are also skills that require development because they affect the effectiveness to articulate a phrase significantly.