Two Terrific Piano Technique Improving Tips

Given the choice between Concerto des e’Toiles and A Comme Amour, which one would you jump at to learn first? Usually I would be given a new piano piece to learn after completing the one I was learning before. Surprisingly, this time my tutor gave me three piano songs at once. Though, I get to choose the sequence. 

I chose to learn Concerto Des ‘eToiles first. The opening phrase was what seduced me. Unlike the romantic pieces I have becomed accustomed to playing, it started off really fast and loud – it sounded more rock and roll than romantic to me, a welcomed difference for a change.

[1]- Piano Technique Improving Tip #1 – Accuracy

However, there in lies the challenge with regards to the piano technique involved – the semiquaver passages in the opening phrase when instructed to be played allegretto makes landing on the keys accurately more difficult.

You will have to stay with the hurried pace and still be able to locate the correct keys. Morever in the first three bars, following the string of semiquavers each phrase ends with chords. Hand needs to be lifted with extended arm movement quickly to land on the chords firmly, accenting them. 

A bit of too much excitement so early in the song for a romantic piece - If you find it troublesome like I did, practise the passage in shorter sections. There are four bars in it, but only three with the chords, so concentrating your attention bar by bar is a good way to move forward. The melody and rhythm in bars 1,2 and 4 are similar hence if you get the first one right the others are covered too.

A pair of common piano technique problems aspiring pianist face when confronted by extended passages of rapid flowing semiquavers are gummed up fingers and missing a note or two. In addition to practising in shorter segments, an effective remedy is to check the fingering you are using to play them. Stay with the fingering you have selected that is most comfortable for you consistently. Stick to the same combination every time. 

As a result of the repetition, the fingers gain more stabilty in their movements as they make their way through the passage. Another outcome resulting from the exercise is you begin to acquire an understanding of every note in the phrase and able to visualize your way through as well as execute it.

[2]- Piano Tecnique Improving Tip #2 -  Legato

As mentioned earlier, bar 4 is similar to bar 1 except for the absence of chords towards the end, instead a quaver rest takes it place to mark the end of that particular musical line. Still in bar 4, a pair of semiquavers A and B opens another passage to start a line of music with a very different voice. 

There is very little difficulties to play the melody from here onwards, all the way until the end of the passage in the thirteenth bar. 

What may prove to be a challenge is maintaining a real overlapping legato in both hands. The LH shall be accompanying the melody with a long phrase made up of semiquavers  - up to 16 notes in a bar until the end of the passage. The piano technique of controlling the evenness of touch, the question of voicing of the tones and maintaning legato during the whole time is crucial here.

By now, playing legato should be something that comes naturally to you and me without the need for reminding from anyone. But since I am still getting an earful from my tutor for forgetting to do so, let’s remind ourselves anyway.  

To draw out a perfect sounding legato played music, the pianist has to sink her fingers into the keybed, not releasing the key until the next note is played. For a short moment of a fraction of a second the two notes will sound as if they were played together and this results in an effectual binding legato.

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