Polishing Up Your Piano Technique in 3 Steps
Technical brilliance on the piano is seldom not associated with playing at a breathtakingly frenetic pace without a trace of the subtlest mistake.
To reach that level of accomplishment in technique and musicality takes years of practise. How do you practise?
Is hammering away a piece by Mozart 20 times a day going to improve your piano technique or perhaps practising the scales is a good idea? After all, practising scales is the most fundamental exercise we have been taught to repeat.
Please allow me to offer the three steps that I have found helpful in improving my piano technique.
Piano Technique Improvement Step #1 - Work on the chords
The key of C major is the easiest one to remember because it has no sharps or flats. Its tonic triad is C, E and G. Play these notes as one chord.
Use the thumb to play C, middle finger to play E, and the pinkie to play G. Can you hit all the three notes together? Do they land at the same time? Keep practising until you can hit them firmly and accurately.
Usually at first, it is normal if you can not hold the fingers in position to hit the notes in sync. The muscles in your fingers are not yet conditioned to play chords. Regular practise shall overcome this.
Drop your hand towards the keyboard with the fingers aimed at the notes assigned to them. Drop your hand slowly in the beginning, after you have made progress increase the speed at which you are playing the chord.
Play as fast as you can and note the speed at which your hands begin to start to stress, at this point slow down by reducing the frequency at which you are dropping your hand towards the keyboard.
While practising this exercise, observe the position and movements of the fingers, wrists and arms. Make adjustment where necessary for you to be able to play continuously without stress.
As you gain experience as a pianist you shall encounter passages that have six or more semiquavers or demisemisuavers and even the intimidating triplets. These are passages that have to be played fast.
By working on the chords as I have described here, you are instilling in yourself the ability to sparkle your way through such musical phrases at the required high velocity.
Piano Technique Improvement Step #2 - Memorize the piano piece
I often get scolded for memorizing the piano piece I am playing during lessons. I was told it weakens my sight reading ability. While this is certainly true, memorizing the piano piece can help to improve your playing technique, just remember to brush up on your sight reading as well.
For starters, it is always a good idea to know the music you are playing. Memorizing the melody and rhythm will give you a blueprint of the piano piece you are about to face. You can make notes of the changes in tempo, the presence of ornaments and location of pauses and rests in the piece.
To memorize the notes of the piece you are learning use the keyboard of the piano. While looking at the music sheet locate the keys on the keyboard.
Practise playing a bar or two without looking at the notes. Etch in your brain the fingering and motions of the arms and wrists while playing that portion of the music.
Climbers scaling Mount Everest will be escorted by Sherpas to guide them to the summit. Likewise, for a piano student to conquer a piano piece, the time signature is our Sherpa. It helps us to play with the correct tempo.
If the time signature is 4/4 you know you shall have to play four crotchet beats or its equivalent in a bar. Memorizing the time signature will help you reach the summit of piano playing and noticably improve your piano technique along the way.
Piano Technique Improvement Step #3 - Use your body
Everytime you move a finger to play a note, muscles from other parts of the body get involved as well. Muscles of the arms, shoulders and chest work in unison together to generate the music that you are producing with the touch of a finger.
Sway your body in the direction of the fingers’ movements. Use the whole body for playing the piano to lessen stress in your hands and arms.
Being able to play without stress by using our whole body is a crucial factor contributing towards the improvement our piano technique.
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