Piano songs - Rondo Alla Turka
(Turkish March)

Gain speed to play piano songs through rhythmic practice in small cells, expanded incrementally evolving into groups of 2 bars. Forget not to forge the artistic image of the song by including dynamics in the execution.


Mixing the legato phrases amongst the more dominant staccato phrases is a mind-blowing exercise is it not? Difficult as it may, I found the challenge stimulating because it forced my mind to stay engaged with the piano playing. Piano songs that I have become accustomed to learning no longer possess the sense of novelty causing my mind to wander off.

Trying to get up to speed to Rondo Alla Turca’s 120 quaver beats a minute so that I can correctly place the 3 quaver beats in a bar in time, has turned out to be a race of endurance of the mind as much as it is a competition against time.

Pre-hearing rhythm in piano songs


Victory is attainable by gaining speed through rhythmic practice. Playing the notes long, short, long short (a.k.a. slow, quick, slow, quick) ….alternating the durations of notes in cells of 2. This gets me acquainted with the rhythm, but cells of 2 do not have enough depth to help me build up speed.

Once I have become acquainted with the rhythm, I practiced in cells of 4 as in; long, short, short, short…long, short, short, short and so on. When the fingers are playing long and as they stay rested for a while before playing the next notes, they are not meant to be idle.

They are actually pre-hearing the upcoming rhythm, taking advantage of the momentary reprieve from intense movement for a short rest to gather energy - readying for launch into a high speed run through the subsequent keys.

Gaining speed to play piano songs


Speed is gained incrementally, in small portions as explained above, in cells of 2 then 4, followed by cells of 8 once you have acquired the momentum to keep speeding forward.

The concept applies just as well when expanded into bigger portions, as in playing the notes in one bar long, the next short, so on and so forth. Instinctively, the next step is to stretch it a little bit further by playing 2 bars long followed by 2 bars short.

Having come this far, the exercise can be elevated to whole new higher level. I am playing enough notes to bring dynamics into the frame. 2 bars played long and soft (piano), subsequently 2 bars played short and loud (forte). Although not natural, for training purposes, with the goal of acquiring better control it is fine to reverse them by playing 2 bars long and loud (forte) and, 2 bars short and soft (piano).

Untrained and ill prepared, playing fast (as in short, short, short…or quick, quick, quick…) is like opening a can of worms. All the unpleasantness such as stumbling, hesitations and playing the wrongs keys are exposed. Not to mention the forced errors on the finer nuances of a composition such as tone, rhythm and expression.

Hence the necessity to practice slow at first in small sections, execute every requirement accurately before speeding up. Even then, speed up incrementally in small cells as explained earlier.

Dangers in slow practice of piano songs


Practicing slow is only an ally up to a point. It can be your worst enemy if overdone. It is worth to note that I too had a tendency to linger too long practicing at a slow speed because it is comfortable. And when I am playing well, getting all the notes right makes me feel good about myself. Entering speed practice just spoils that. Fight this tendency. Remember that the ultimate goal is to gain speed together with the artistic elements of the music.

As the title suggests Turkish March is well…a march not a stroll. Therefore a faster pace in playing it is unavoidable. Gain speed through rhythmic practice in small cells, expanded incrementally evolving into groups of 2 bars. Forget not to forge the artistic image of the song by including dynamics in the execution.

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