Piano songs - Canon in D

Producing tone in piano songs is a process with time an essential element. Learn to control the tone in good time and its strength with the use of supple wrists

There are degrees to the strength of a tone. As well as to its speed. Staring at the phrase shown in Image 1 below taken from Canon in D, I agonized about how loud I shall play it and how fast. In simpler times as a beginner I would have taken one look at the note to see if it was a quaver or a crotchet and played away. Now I find myself contemplating the tone and the time I would take to play the phrase. Even attempting to hear the whole song in my mind before I lay a finger on the keys of the piano.

Having grown somewhat as a piano student, I have learnt that the rendition of a piano song is a journey. It is a destination I am heading to, therefore must know the way and the time to get there in order to arrive in pristine condition.


Rhythm in piano songs

A musical phrase consists of rhythm, its movements majestic like the waves in an ocean. Swaying between fast and slow according to the notes value that make its tempo. My job as the piano student is to learn how to keep the rhythm played in a constant duration of time, for example Canon in D is to be played in 120 crotchet beats a minute.

Essentially, it means to keep the total sum of the fast and slow tempos constant. A bar or a phrase can be played faster than others, but they will have to be compensated by playing some other bars or phrases slower in order to keep the duration of the song constant. As a result, when the whole song is played to the end, the average pace remains 120 crotchet beats a minute.

Tonal process in piano songs

Judging the strength of a tone is a delicate endeavor. Going from forte and piano is straightforward, it gets a bit more perplexing shifting from piano to pianissimo. A soft tone such as a pianissimo is distinctive because the significant affect it has on the overall experience of the music despite its subdued nature.

Create such effect by playing a note with the level of sound that you want then make contact with the bottom of the key until you can feel sensation of the wood under the key. The reason being to mitigate the risk of not sounding because no contact was made with the keybed. Use the movement of the wrist to get the level of sound you were aiming for. The wrist has two ways of movement – up down, and side to side. Keep it at the same level as the arm with the arm parallel with the ground.

Control the strength with which you are dropping the hands to control the strength of tone by controlling the strength of the wrist’s up-down movement. Soft up-down movement of the wrist produces soft tone. It is apparent here that the piano is played with the wrists not the fingers.

Use another movement the wrist is capable of, which is; side to side also referred to as lateral movement to adjust the position of the hand. It must have as much freedom as possible because if the hand is fixed in one position strain will be felt in the wrist.

Furthermore, hands that are free to move up-down and side to side, aided by supple wrists result in free and loose piano playing that is also healthy as we do not wish for playing with piston fingers because it can lead to injury.

Tone production is a process thus appropriately named tonal process. Consisting the element of time. Therefore, the speed of the tone which directly influences the time a song is executed and the quality of tone; its strength as in pianissimo or forte determine the outcome of the song performed on the piano.

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