Piano songs - Rondo Alla Turca

Gain the speed needed to play piano songs in tiny increments and gradually widen the range. Add dynamics so that technique on articulation can also be improved


Luckily, the melody to Rondo Alla Turca repeats a familiar pattern over the course of the composition - making learning it a less arduous task. Challenging nonetheless.

Originally an Italian word, ‘Rondo or its French equivalentRondeauis a musical form referring to a piece of music that repeats the main tune several times and often forms part of a longer piece [reference: Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press 2019].

The main tune to this rondo by Mozart are mostly semiquavers with instruction to keep the tempo at 126 crotchet beats a minute. Getting up to speed is tough enough, I am not even going to go into length about the fact that it is mostly played in staccato.

Whenever I am trying to learn a new song, I think of it as a new construction project. Planning is necessary because of all the different parts that have to be built and put together. Rhythm, tone, touch, tempo and speed are the different parts that have to be practised and later put together to build a whole song.

The method I use to gain speed is by practicing playing notes ‘quick’ and ‘slow’ or some prefer to say ‘long’ and ‘short’. Start playing ‘quick’, ‘quick’, ‘slow’ in cells of 4, extend it to cells of 8 later once you have the former properly executed as shown in Image 1.

IMAGE 1

Another variation of this exercise that shares the same objective of gaining speed is to play it ‘long’, ‘short’, ‘long’. Example shown in Image 2.

IMAGE 2

The two exercises train me to gain speed in small increments, after which I can widen the increment by playing a bar fast and the following one slow. Widening it further by playing 2 bars fast and 2 bars slow once I have picked up the pace. Example shown in Image 3.

IMAGE 3

Speed in playing piano songs
is gained incrementally


As you can see, I build speed in tiny portions, then enlarging the portion to a bar at a time. It is like laying one brick at a time to build a house, a piano song too is not rendered in high speed as a whole all at once. 

Work on projecting the artistic image is not neglected, I add dynamics in the exercise by playing 2 bars fast and soft (piano) followed by 2 bars slow and loud (forte). I know this is counterintuitive, normally in compositions it is the other way around as in fast and loud or slow and soft. I do it to explore my range of control in balancing the speed and quality of sound.

As I gain speed, I remember to use the thrust of the arms and the rotary movement of wrists and arms to pull the hands and fingers to move faster. Keeping in mind the structure of the joints of the wrists while I play. Working the joints which connect my arm to the wrists known as the Distal radioulnar joint which governs the up-down movements and sideways bending of the hands. Here is where the majority of motion take place.

Usually a composition has a theme and recognizable patterns that appear periodically throughout. If it is rondo the main theme will repeat itself in a predictable manner. Concentrating your efforts on the main theme expedite the mastery of the composition.

Gain speed in tiny increments and gradually widen the range at which you can play fast. Dynamics should be inserted in the practise of gaining speed to maintain the process of learning to absorb and project the artistic image of piano songs. Having an understanding about the structure of the wrist helps to improve your technique in the application of its rotary movement.

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