Piano songs - Rondo Alla Turca

Piano songs can be practised starting from anywhere, not necessarily in a fixed sequence from start to finish, attack the problems directly to learn them faster


By far Rondo Alla Turca has been the longest I have had to spend time on in practicing a song. More of it has to do with the fact that classical songs have always been more difficult for me compared to contemporary romantic songs. Is there a faster way to learn to play it?

Like a godsend the answer appeared to me while I was browsing through a magazine. In it, was an interview with a performing pianist in which he said he practices a song not from the beginning but backwards starting from the ending.

Starting from the end of
piano songs, really...?



He said, if a piano song is practiced from the ending, it stops from becoming this one enormous job that has to be completed from start to finish. I realized there is truth to what he said, I have a tendency to treat a composition like a sacred text to be handled with the utmost reverence. Imagine the kind of pressure such attitude entails. I would practice it from the beginning with great enthusiasm correcting every mistake and repeating each phrase to make it perfect.  

An unwanted result of this is I could play a song well in its beginnings but as I reach further into its middle parts and endings, things begin to fall apart. Too much effort and time were already spent on the beginnings of the song that I ran out of time and energy to apply the same sort of focus in the middle and endings. 

It is fine to commit sacrilege by practicing piano songs backwards, start anywhere for that matters. The goal is to become proficient in the least amount of time possible, so instead of adhering to a strict sequence from start to finish identify the toughest phrases and practice them first. Depart from the monotony of repeating the familiar phrases in every practice session. By practicing a section of a song today, a different one tomorrow then putting them together the song stays refreshing and I remain interested in learning it. 

Moreover, it gave me a sense of dominance over the song. Knowing that I decide where to play, which sections to concentrate most effort on increases my confidence. Implemented regularly across various sections of the song consequentially made me able to grasp the song’s theme, artistic image and texture in its entirety much sooner.

Attack the problems in
the piano songs first


And since the texture in Rondo Alla Turca is primarily homophonic, with the harmony consisting of chords for the most part, I thought it would be a wise strategy to focus my efforts on tackling them first. The most frequent problem piano students encounter when trying to play chords is gummed up fingers or the more technical term; sympathetic finger movement. 

Strained to land accurately on the correct keys with timed precision, the body is helpless in pressuring its own fingers because of the release of adrenaline – this cause it to recruit more muscles to strike the keys. When hitting the chord of ACE for example as shown in Image 1, sympathetic finger movement will kidnap the fourth finger forcing it to unintentionally hit a key in between. Ruining the play.

IMAGE 1

The remedy is to build independence in the fingers. Piano students are spoilt for choice on the kinds of exercises available. I find it more convenient to use the direct approach by using the chords themselves as exercise. 

With the chord of ACE for instance, resting at the bottom of keys I am not playing (in this case B and D, notes that are not in the chord), I would play A, C, E one at a time. Repeating it several times, then modifying the exercise a bit by only playing a couple of the notes. For example, the diagonal pair AE, lower pair AC and upper pair CE. It is a tremendously beneficial exercise that confronts the problem directly, developing the independence in the fingers to play a specific chord.

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