Sometimes you ask yourself, why am I practicing, why am I doing this? The answer is that no matter how you feel right now you still like the piano and like music – that feeling will stay with you for a lifetime. However, today you find it an uphill struggle to learn a new piece or just to sit and play.
The answer could be to put the new piece aside for a while and play some old favourites. They don’t need the same effort and you like them. Perhaps you’ve got your own private list of 3 or 4 that you can always turn to and enjoy. Taking part in this activity stills the mind and removes the stress of learning something new. And hey, you’re enjoying your music again!
Don’t give up. Just play something you like. The need to learn and practice a new piece will return soon.
Congratulations to Carys (Grade 1), John (Grade 1) and Emily (Grade 6) who passed their ABRSM Piano exams.
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.
1. Break the piece into sections. Mark the sections with a pencil and practice each section hands separately.
2. Pay attention to the finger numbers, it will help you to play fluently.
3. When you have practiced hands separately and feel comfortable, start playing hands together phrase by phrase.
4. Play the sections of the piece ‘andante’ (at a walking pace) and don’t try and play quickly.
5. Pay attention to any special markings such as staccato, and dynamics.
5. If you hit problems then reduce the speed by at least one third, or better still by one half.
6. When you have learnt the whole piece, keep playing it at a walking pace to consolidate learning.
7. If the piece is for an exam you should play it at a walking pace until a month before the exam, then gradually increase the tempo until you can comfortably play it at exam speed.
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