We’ve all been there. You’re cruising along in your piano music, when all of a sudden, you glance ahead and remember that a particularly difficult measure, phrase or line is coming up. Don’t stress! Read on as Philadelphia piano teacher Edward L. offers some tips for success…
I remember when I first started taking piano lessons – well, it was really the second time. My first attempt was not that successful, probably because I hadn’t yet realized it was my passion. Second time was the charm for me. I was already able to read music, which made learning new pieces easier for me, but my major problem still continues to be working on those problem spots. I believe this is typical for many musicians, whatever their level may be – but it’s something that needs proper attention. Once you solve technical and musical issues that may be holding you back, a piece can transform from boring notes into beautiful music.
Working on problem areas can be broken up into four steps:
1. Identify the measure or section that is currently an issue for you.
This may be a difficult rhythm, an awkward passage regarding fingering, or perhaps an area requiring attention to musical detail that isn’t necessarily the most challenging from a technical standpoint.
2. One at a time…
Working on one voice or line from a piece can help in many ways. This way, you’re able to listen closely and make sure your rhythm is accurate. You’re also able to make sure each note is correct and that your fingering is comfortable. Occasionally this step can be difficult when two voices intersect, but it’s important to make sure each individual voice is as comfortable as possible, so do take the time to work on passages with difficult intersecting voices.
3. Add something else…
Once each line is comfortable as a solo, begin to put things together. This step is perhaps the most helpful. Think of odd combinations: crossing your hands, playing inner-voices only, play left hand with right, and vice versa – all of these additions will improve your listening and allow you to completely internalize a piece.
Now it’s time to throw everything together, but we’re going to alter rhythms first. Doing this in smaller sections is best, so you don’t get too worn out. If a rhythm is four eighth notes, try making the first and third dotted, so that the second and fourth become sixteenth notes, etc. You can try many different rhythms; it’s all up to you at this point! Once you feel you’ve exhausted working with altered rhythms, it’s time to play as written. Hopefully, if you’ve kept focused through this entire process, it should feel very comfortable and be completely accurate.
Job well done!
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Edward L. teaches organ and piano lessons to students of all ages in Philadelphia, PA. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Music from Westminster Choir College, and is trained as a classical musician. Edward joined the TakeLessons team in January 2013. Learn more about Edward, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by JFXie