Wednesday, May 15, 2013
The 3 Habits
A common error among learning pianists is their belief that finger strength is the key to flawless piano playing. The piano keys obviously don't need that much strength to be depressed, as a child can play it. However you need to develop good habits from the start that will ease your maneuvers around those keys.
First of all, practicing scales is by far the best way to develop finger efficiency. Start off with B major before C major, because B is much easier to play in the right hand than C, which isn't as easy as its seems (you know all white keys no black). Looks can be deceiving, though, and while B major has five sharps in its key signature, it is much easier to play properly because the distance the thumb moves under the hand after the 3rd note and to the 4th (in this case D# to E, a black to white key) is smaller than that moved by the thumb in C where you pass it under your hand from E to F (white to white). This maneuver is slightly difficult for beginners but with time their fingers will become much more flexible to play these scales properly.
Playing a scale is no big deal, the problem is in playing it PROPERLY. If you play it in that manner, and play it really fast, you should have no problem. Unfortunately many find it difficult and miss some notes on their way, and are left with exhausted fingers after such trials. The solution (and this one will need a huge amount of patience) to this is to play the scale very slowly every day until it feels natural for you to do so, then gradually speed up the tempo. You will have to make sure that only your fingers are moving, and that the thumb passes under your hand with minimum hand and wrist movement (preferably the hand should stay still while doing it). This can be very hard at first but with constant and regular practice it will feel very natural.
When it comes to arpeggios, they are chords just broken to be played note by note. For example, In C major triad (C-E-G-C), you will play the notes one at a time with three fingers then pass the thumb under the G and onto the next octave C if you're completing another cycle up there, or just stop at it with the fifth finger and go back. This looks hideously difficult but the trick here is to focus the weight of your entire hand on the finger-pad of the striking finger. Make sure to curl those fingers like you're holding a tennis ball or those knuckles might collapse and your fingers fall flat on the keyboard! Then comes the seventh chords, where they are basically triads with an added seventh interval, in the case of C it will be as follows: C-E-G-Bflat-C. A diminished seventh chord will look like this: C-Eflat-Gflat-A-C. Playing both types of chords as arpeggios on all keys along with basic triads will guarantee hassle free playing when it comes to difficult repertoire.
Ever wondered how people seem to get sheet music they never saw before and play it right away with not a single wrong note? That's because they are very good sight readers! Sight reading can be improved by looking through new material on a daily regular basis. 10 minutes a day is just fine for beginners. Intermediates should sight read whatever material they find at their level and Advanced players should be able to sight read a movement of a Mozart sonata without problems.
It is better to get books that have easy sight reading exercises in the first stages, such as Beyer or Czerny, they certainly sharpen your sight reading skills to phenomenal levels if you practice from their exercises regularly and diligently.
A famous musical proverb states that " The most valuable asset for a musician is his/her ears". And that doesn't refer to having good taste in music, you should be able to know the distances (known as intervals) between notes by your ear, and that's definitely no cakewalk. A pianist with very good aural skills can easily play a tune he just heard without the need to look at the sheet music.
What you are going to do is learn relative pitch through listening to and identifying the interval of two notes played after each other, identifying the scales played (whether major/natural minor/harmonic minor/melodic minor), and identifying chord types (Major/Minor/Diminished/Augmented to name a few). You will need to have a solid background in music theory before attempting to do this, so you don't have to focus on it now if you're just getting started. To get started, you can find free music theory lessons here