Piano songs playing tips - Fur Elise

Applying the weight of the arms to play piano songs without strain results in smooth and clear rendition freeing up oneself to explore one's creativity in articulation and expressiveness



Ebb and flow of piano songs

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It opens doors to a myriad of other opportunities to explore your talents, such as articulation. When I began learning to play the piano I was content with just being able to know how to play.  

Being an adult student who also needed to keep a job, my expectations were very low.  

To my surprise I was able to absorb the lessons with ease, so I began to have higher expectations. One aim was being able to articulate the piano songs as beautiful as I could – a bona fide musician. 

Articulation calls for a good understanding of the structure of music and its ebb and flow. For instance let’s take a look at the first bar of the excerpt below, Image 2 taken from Fur Elise.

IMAGE 2

In the bass clef the note E appears three times. Twice at a higher octave compared to the previous one. The melody then continues in the same pattern.

A wide length of space separates the notes, causing the need to open your hands wide and stretch the fingers to reach them. The strain afflicted on the muscles in the fingers and arms disturb the evenness in the ebb and flow of the musical phrase, thus wreaking havoc on the tone you wished to produce and ruining the articulation.


To reduce strain, the shoulders, forearms, wrists, hands and fingers have to be in a state of relaxation. The term ‘relax’ is confusing when it comes to talking about learning how to play the piano. How can you accomplish anything if you are relaxing? To answer that exact question its definition has to be redefined. ‘Relax’ does not mean to take a rest from doing something. It means not having to use excessive strenuous force to play a certain note or land a finger on a specific key. 

The solution is weight playing. Using the weight of the arms distributed to the fingers to play is a technique effective in reducing strain. Keep your wrists loose, hands close to the keyboard – instead of clumsily attempting to poke at the keys, coax the notes out of the piano with the weight of the arms, letting gravity do the work.


Lucid rendition of piano songs


The pianist is left to be tasked with controlling the flow of the tempo, keeping it moving in a smooth continuous stream. Stumbling midway disrupts its smoothness, a proactive action that can be taken is to count the beats, i.e 1 beat-count for a crotchet, 2 for a minim.

It inculcates the sense of timing in executing the notes precisely. As a consequence, evenly smoothening the flow of the tempo in the musical phrase.

“There are not more than 5 musical notes yet the combination of these 5 give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard” – The Art Of War, by Sun Tzu (544 – 496 B.C)

Although they are nothing more than the ordinary 7 notes, the first 2 bars of the LH accompaniment and RH melody in Image 3 taken from Fur Elise is a beautiful example of making use the full range of musical notes found in an octave, brilliantly arranged by Beethoven to create a unique listening experience.

IMAGE 3

What a shame it would be if such a gem of a musical phrase were to be squandered? Render it with clarity by coordinating the movements of the RH and LH well. Good coordination can be accomplished by playing the melody with the RH and ‘shadow’ it with the LH.  

Meaning to say, go through the motions of playing the accompaniment in the LH without actually touching the keys. As a result hand coordination between both hands are practiced, but you are able to evaluate the clarity of the sound production in the melody being played with the RH, thus able to make corrections accordingly.

Once you are satisfied with the outcome switch roles, play the accompaniment with the LH and ‘shadow’ it with the RH. A lucid rendition clear as crystal consequently follows, when melody and accompaniment are played together.

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