Piano songs have beautiful hidden depths in the form of layered sounds of chords, learn to produce them with the deft use of the wrists and creativity.
After having built independence in the fingers, strong enough that the chords are coming off sounding adequately firm with the keys pressed evenly and simultaneously, I begin to wonder is that it? Aren’t there more to chords? Surely some artistic personality be present in them that make their existence in music so essential.
Apparently, there is. Chords are 2 or more notes played together at the same time, that much I know and so does everyone. It came as a surprise albeit a pleasant one to learn that although they are played together at the same time, the sounds of the notes in the chords can be layered to make them significantly more attractive to listen to. I must admit the result amazed me after witnessing it firsthand, I did not expect to discover such hidden depths in piano music from such an ordinary source.
Let us take the chord of F, A ,D as an example. The sound of each of the notes in the chord can be layered. Which begs the question, what does it mean to layer the sounds? Simply put, it means the sound of one of the notes is made to sound more pronounced than the others. The note at a higher pitch is the natural choice. Example shown in Image 1.
Place the hand with the fingers in position on the surface of the keys F,A,D. Play only D strong, afterwards play only F and A silently, that is play them without sound or if not, make it as soft as you can.
The task is to bring these two occurrences closer together until they happen at the same time. The outcome will be that when F,A,D are played together at the same time, only D will make a sound. Add a soft sound to the F and A later, and the outcome is a chord with a layered sound, in which the D is distinctly more pronounced over the rest of the notes.
Nowhere in the score does it mention the chord is capable of a feat so graceful – which is why I am so pleased with myself to have discovered it, reminded me of a quote from Miles Davis, “Don’t play what’s there play what’s not there”.
Layering the sounds of the chords is playing the piano beyond the obvious of what lies in plain sight. I have added creativity into the rendition and creativity is what makes art, merely repeating is not.
The sound of a single chord consisting of 3 and even 4 notes can be layered with practice according to the steps described in the paragraphs above. It is much more challenging when a whole bunch of chords fill the bars of a phrase.
To connect the chords smoothly, while also having each of their sounds layered, rely on the wrist movement. It is capable of moving in two ways; up-down and side-to-side. Place the hand with the fingers touching the surface of the keys, using the weight of the arms let them sink into the keys until reaching the bottom of the keybed. Use the wrist’s up-down movement to control how much strength is applied so that the upper notes can be made to sound more pronounced over the lower notes.
The wrist’s side-to-side movement is put to good use when making the jump from one chord to another landing a smooth connection between them. The arm will do its part in the leap going from a chord to the next with its broad circular motion when they are widely separated or a small thrust to the side when they are nearer. Combined with the wrist’s side-to-side adjustments when the hand reaches the keys, the fingers shall be able to produce a smoothly connected phrase of chords in which the upper notes are distinctly more pronounced.