An elegant fortissimo phrase in piano songs can be accomplished by layering the sounds. It is done by identifying the strong base notes and playing them loud, explained in detail in this article.
Since we already discussed how to get a pianissimo (soft) sound in the previous article, it would be a travesty not discussed the opposite end of the spectrum; playing fortissimo (loud). I am of the thinking that it is always easier to play loud than to play soft.
I used to say, it is because there is no need for me to ration the strength I use in order to play loud. I could just bang away at the piano and still get the sound I want. If it was a single note or a chord, it might work. However, that is not the case if the fortissimo is required on a phrase stretching over 2 bars.
Consider the phrase in Image 1 shown below. Taken from ‘Rondo Alla Turca’ also known as Turkish March how would one go about playing the phrase in fortissimo according to the clearly indicated instruction? Did the composer really wanted every note and chord in the phrase voiced loud? Is there a graceful way to express a phrase in fortissimo befitting of a composition loved by so many over centuries?
Based on my own playing experience and I am an amateur, I would go about playing fortissimo by first of all, keeping my fingers in contact with the keys. Not by banging down on them from a height – the negative effects of this action are the sound loses its quality and I lose control over the chords, octaves or whatever notes I was attempting to play despite acquiring the loud sound.
By keeping the fingers in contact with the keys, I am able to keep a rounded sound without losing its tonal quality while also having control over the notes I am striking, be it chords or octaves.
The next thing to remember when playing fortissimo is, when pressing the keys go all the way to the bottom of the keys. Once I reach it, without lifting the fingers away from the keys I would release the effort. This way energy is conserved, it is like taking an ‘unauthorized rest’. It sustains me to continue playing with undiminishing strength throughout the rest of the song.
How the keys are pressed matters too. I use my energy from the upper body and push them backwards as if I was pushing the piano through the wall. I do not need to do this with every note. Recognize the strong base note. Usually it is the top note of a phrase, play them fortissimo and less so in the middle notes.
So what I am doing is, I am layering the sounds in the phrase. Do the same with the next phrase that comes along – layer the sounds of the notes instead of playing each and every one loud. As a result I would have accomplished fortissimo sounding phrases that are focused and polished, instead of the noisy and blurry ones if I were to pounce on every key loudly.
The term ‘fortissimo’ gives an impression of brute force being employed. As explained above the techniques are delicate. They are mindful of the excessive use of force, instead making use of the inherent quality built-in within the piano and the pianist’s body itself. Keep the fingers in contact with the keys and press until you can feel the bottom. Then, release the effort. Here is when you can steal a rest. Identify the strong base notes, they are usually the top notes of a phrase and play them fortissimo, the rest of the phrase can be played less so. There is no need to strike every note loudly. An elegant fortissimo phrase can be accomplished by layering the sounds.