Playing piano duets, or “four-hand piano,” is a fun way to share your love for playing music! Buddy up with another pianist and get ready to make some rich and full sounds. If you’ve never played with another pianist before, let these tips for playing piano duets be your guide.
Know Your Part
Before you sit down together, decide if you’ll be playing the high part (usually known as primo) or the bass part (known as secondo). You and your partner should spend some time practicing independently until you can each play your part of the piece fluently. Additionally, it’s best if you and your partner get sheet music in the same edition, as sometimes there can be variations in a piece from one printing to another.
Get together with your partner and start by taking turns playing your part for each other. Listening to each other helps you to learn the piece and know what to expect when you play together. If your part contains any long rests while your partner plays, listening will be especially important for you. If you are preparing for a performance, you might even want to learn to know your partner’s part as well, just in case they lose their place on stage.
For duets, it’s best to number every measure of the piece you are working on. Numbering every measure, as opposed to every fifth or tenth measure, will help you communicate more effectively if you or your partner has questions or issues about a particular phrase. It’s also a good idea to label different sections A, B, C, etc. for the same reason.
Make a Plan
Determine which player will be in charge of pressing the pedals down on your piano; normally this will be the secondo’s role, however depending on the piece and the players’ preferences, it might be easier for the primo to be in charge. Come to an agreement with your partner about what will work best for both of you so you can manage dynamic changes within the piece.
Next, look over the piece together with an eye out for dynamics and other notes on how passages should be played. Make sure you both understand the overall dynamics and flow of the piece so you can match each other’s technique. If one person is playing loud staccato notes while the other is playing in a soft legato, one part will drown the other out. Matching your partner and listening to each other is essential for making your duet work.
Put it Together
Now that you’ve done lots of great preparation to play, it’s time to put all the parts together! Until you and your partner are both comfortable playing your duet, it’s a good idea to count while you play or play with a metronome. Remember, it’s better to start slower and work up to the tempo of the piece – especially as you’re practicing piano duets.
We hope you enjoy many hours of playing music with a friend, family member, or partner. Playing duets is a wonderful way to improve your musicianship and add a bit of variety to your practice!
Photo by PJMixer