Practise piano songs in the right emotional state to move your audience to appreciate life more, intensify their feelings and gain deeper understanding of the music
As a piano student I was taught to practise Hanon and Czerny exercises. They seemed to be effective material to develop finger strength and flexibility, while Czerny’s exercise came in handy in improving my sight reading. When compared to actual piano songs, I just could not help feeling as if they lacked the elegance, so I dropped them to the bottom of my priorities list.
Yet, they contain sets of exercises that are versatile. Practical in building the necessary technique required for piano playing. What a loss it is if I could not find a way to benefit from them.
Under the impression that Hanon exercises were specifically meant to improve finger technique, I concentrated my efforts on the fingers. It was not until much later during a conversation with another pianist friend, did I realize that the piano is not played with the fingers, but with the movement of the wrists - their rotation, with the circular movement and thrusts of the arms.
Strong fingers are needed, but how they are incorporated into a mechanism that produces good sound quality is by applying them together with the rotation of the wrists and movement of the arms.
Putting this knowledge into practise on one of the exercises found in Hanon’s, I used the lateral freedom the wrists possess to play the scale of A Minor. In addition, I raised it a semitone with each round of going up the scale chromatically until I have done it with every key signature possible.
As I did so, I also changed from playing it in crotchets to quavers to semiquavers and triplets. Quietly building up speed as I delved deeper into the exercise. To avoid exhaustion, and this is important especially when playing a long composition - remember to apply and release the effort. Releasing it when a finger has struck its key and reached the bottom of the keybed.
The major shortcoming of practising Hanon’s exercises is they are merely exercises. Non-existent are instructions on tone, tempo or articulation. As a result, my practise was without the nuance in tempo either tenuto or allegro. Absent were the subtle difference between a phrase played in pianissimo and piano. Above all, the exercises were devoid of any artistic contents therefore it was not possible for me to express myself through articulation. In relation, there was no learning about the artistic image of a song.
If I was practising with a real composition for example Rondo Alla Turca, the paradigm shifts. My emotional state is different, there is a sense of urgency to do justice to the composition, stay loyal to the composer and not murder his creation. My intuition too would be directed towards playing it properly so it would be easier grasp the quality of tone, tempo, touch and acceleration.
Image 1 is a fine example of the musical phrase that is rich in artistic content, taken from Rondo Alla Turca.
First, I decided on clear goals I wanted to accomplish from practising the phrase shown in Image 1. For example, playing in a given speed, in this case 126 crotchet beats in a minute. Or, playing the first note of bar 3 accented (fortepiano indicated). Remembering to subdue the sound by making it get softer as I go from bar 1 to the end of bar 2 (crescendo indicated). I kept on practising to meet these goals fully by correcting myself immediately when errors occur including those of the tiniest nuance.
Building upon the success of accomplishing each goal and accumulating them construct a ladder for me to climb towards the larger objective of projecting an artistic image through my piano playing that move the listener to appreciate life more, intensify his feelings and present greater depth to his understanding of music.