Melody Playing

As we progress and learn new and sometimes more complicated pieces, we practice the piano and unintentionally ‘ignore the tune’. Music can often be made up of not just one melody. When you look at the phrasing in the right hand and left hand you can often see that a musical piece has multiple ‘songs’ within it. Faced with all this complication we get taken up with the technical challenges of learning a piece and omit to make the melodies sing out.

Chopin is reputed to have taken great pains to teach his pupils a legato, cantabile style, or playing that is singing, melodious, smooth, expressive and graceful. See the Style paragraph here.

The melody will usually be identified with phrase marks. Here are some tips to produce a good singing style:

  • Play the phrases of the piece on their own, without harmonies, and as expressively as possible.
  • Work out the ‘shape’ of each phrase. Could it start quietly, and with a little crescendi come to the loudest part of the phrase and then taper off with a diminuendo?
  • Listen to the melody. Play each note with a fully rounded tone so that each can be heard for its full value. Give all notes their full time.
  • Imagine someone singing the melody.
  • Do any parts of the melody repeat? If so consider playing the second softer than the first.