Articulation of phrases in piano songs, through the combination of good pedaling and softly played notes as in pianissimo could be made to sound magnificent. How it is done is explained in this article.
Often I have heard the importance of expressing my artistic intention when playing the piano. The listener should be able to feel what I was trying to say through my music. I do realize the significance of the artistic side of music making, but being a working adult just trying to grasp the mechanics alone has kept me fully occupied. Somehow I still managed to pass beyond the beginners’ stage and now the musicality of sound making using the piano, the artistic stuff intrigues me.
While the definition will surely vary depending on whom you ask, I would define the ‘musicality’ as projecting an artistic image of a phrase. Assemble each of them with one another we will end up with the artistic image of a complete song.
Many elements come into play to achieve it, in this article I wish to share my experience on using the sustaining pedal among the many other elements involved towards projecting the artistic image.
The sustaining pedal exists to connect notes together. When I press it, the damping mechanism of the strings in my piano is lifted. If not pressed, the damping mechanism prevents the strings of unstruck notes from vibrating.
By stepping on the sustaining pedal I caused all the strings in my piano to vibrate slightly when I play even a single note. The collateral vibration of the unstruck notes produces a sonorous quality in the sound the piano ultimately makes.
Image 1 below shows one of my favorite parts of Rondo All Turca. I like it because the acoustic effect added by my quick flip of the sustaining pedal made the outcome of my intention to play with dynamics more pronounced, specifically the softening of the tone.
This was made possible because the previously held notes were released, disconnecting them from the new notes. The new notes were then held as I infused dynamics by playing them softer resulting in the pronounced difference in tone to compared to the previous phrase.
It goes without saying that when attempting to generate a softer tone, less energy is disbursed in hitting the keys. We hold back some strength in the task, less powerful strikes. There is another element involved on the receiving end of it. That is the keys of the piano themselves.
To get a rounded firm sounding phrase that is at the same time soft, I would play the note with the level of the sound I desired. Then, make contact with the bottom of the key. Feel the sensation of the wood or whatever material there is underneath the keys. When I was a beginner I did not know that I needed to do this, often the result was instead of producing a soft sound I made no sound at all.
One way to project the artistic image of piano songs is the proper use of the sustaining pedal. Its mechanism affects the vibration of the strings in the piano. Putting it under the control of your feet gives you dominance over the strings’ vibration, therefore holding the control over the sonorous quality of the sound being produced. It provides you with one apparatus to project the artistic image of the song.
Great articulation can be achieved by blending the well-timed use of the sustaining pedal with softly played notes (pianissimo). Make contact with the bottom of the key after playing a note with level of sound you desire to get a firm soft sounding sound. No contact with the bottom of the key would likely result in a hollow sounding sound which completely defeat the purpose of playing with dynamics. Worst case, the note ends up not sounding at all.