Music Practise. Meryl’s “Technical Bible.”

NOTE: I’ll be updating this with any new discoveries I make for my own pianistic progress. Pianists, especially piano students stress the importance of technique in pianism. That is why many a young student attends Music College. To refine their technique.


It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted, and this is attributed to my attention being divided elsewhere. Namely, my PhD. I, however have not abandoned the prospect of piano. Primarily, I have been working on refining ‘technique’, that is to better make the piano sing… regardless of repertoire, regardless of differing rhythm or key. How can I better serve the piano? How can I?

The piano must sing.

I am reading a fantastic book by Hungarian Pegagogue, Jozsef Gat. It is titled “The Technique Of Piano Playing.” My piano teacher gave me some of the pages—scanned in-fact, which was given from one of the piano teachers to a good amount of students at The Conservatorium. Being the nosy beaver that I am… I tracked down the original publication. These are some notes that I’ve taken, to better refine my technique, so that one day, I may make the piano sing.




The structure of the human organism (physiology and neurology) has not differed, therefore, there is no new way to play the piano. Since Chopin, Liszt, and Bach’s time… the manner of piano playing is still employed throughout all conservatoriums. Good Piano playing. Just as well, in companion to the physiological aspects of human, the piano-forte has not since changed in its construction since the 88-key variation by Steinway & Sons was released in the 1880s. It is therefore, affable to consider that there ought to be a parallels drawn between the aforementioned pianists (and more), in how they relate to their instruments.

As for the “piano-murders”, and the thumpers… non-non. You want to love the piano.

TOUCH:

Questions:
What are tone-colour concepts? :

Tone Colour Refers to the quality of sound, also known as “TIMBRE”.

What is Agogic elements within pianism?
Accents dude, accents.

What is the “Dolce Touch”?
Dolce Touch means “Sweet Touch”. The pianist sweetly ‘touching’ the keys.

What is vibrato in pianism? In context of applying a display of ‘force’.
One can physically bend the pitch by applying more pressure, or forcing the key downward. That is, keeping the hammer in contact with the string, not retracting it to its former raised position.

Do not associate the notion of “Tone colour” with the execution of touch upon the piano. The pianist makes use of many functions, physiologically speaking. Many a time, some functions… whether that be the wrist, pivot of the elbow, trunk and/or feet can be in contradiction to one another. Effecting ‘touch’, thus, effecting playing.

Tone colour refers to the quality of sound, within the harmonics series the ear is a peculiar thing… we’ve the lower overtones and upper overtones within each tone/note. Lower overtones produce a ‘softer’ note, whilst upper overtones produce ‘sharper’ notes… note that this is on the minute level. Within semi-tones. To the standard listener, a note may sound the same or register as the same note via a tuner device… however, the frequencies/oscillations will determine the ultimate quality of the sound. E.G. 440 HZ may register as an absolute A4, however 430 HZ still registers as an A4… albeit softer in its colour. The colour of tone is dependent entirely on the construction of the piano, and its very quality… that is, the physical materials used in unison to produce the sound. Quality of felt, and coating on the hammers for instance.

A longer time of contact, that is hammer to string will produce softer tone colours. Inversely, if contact time is shorter, tones will be sharper. Again, this has much to do with the piano’s construction.

By way of oscillograms, higher piano tones diminish more rapidly in comparison to lower piano tones. In essence the tone colour does not depend strictly on the pianist, but rather the construction of the piano.


SWING STROKE VERSUS PRESSING A KEY:

“The hammer cannot be brought up to the strings by a uniform motion and therefore a swinging motion has to be applied in order to give the hammer the require impetus” (23).

NOTE: The velocity of the hammer, to the string determines the dynamics/volume of the vibration.

The velocity of the hammer is dependent on the pianist’s striking of the key, attained at the escapement level.

The manner in-which the piano operates, mechanistically to produce sound has to, in simplistic terms do with the hammer striking the string. Not ‘touching’ the string, rather, ‘striking’. If one were to softly press a key downward in a soft and even manner, one will no-doubt touch the string of the piano to the hammer. No sound, however, will be produced (Mute Sustain). The feature of the hammer falling back immediately, after ‘striking’ a string is tantamount to the production of sound.

Sustaining a note, without use of the pedal is where one would press the key/depress it right into the board. If one listens closely to the piano, vibrato is generated. A display of force leads to “Vibrato”. One is forcing the key, if one presses the key down to the bed of the keyboard.

Pressing refers to a consistent, and constant application of ‘force’. One does not press piano keys to adequately play, doing so is an inefficient use of energy. The beginner’s mistake, also is to combine the two… that is, ‘swinging’ with ‘force’ after the previous.


This is known as ‘thumping’. The pianist who depresses the key all the way to the key bed, fails to see how the piano works. There is no need to exert unessacary energy to produce a sound from a piano, even if one is attempting play at a louder dynamic. In deploying the depression of the key, should the strike be executed correctly… the key needn’t sink in completely, rather, only half-way to the bed of the keys. The mechanism of the hammer, supports this. Even a slight tap will deploy the hammer on the string. Therefore, any additional movement or force from the finger is merely supplementary. Never force the sound out of the piano, by way of the keys. Never.

THE FACTORS OF SWING-STROKE:

  1. A firm basis: An elastic support; an actively swinging unit for executing the swinging motion, referred to as the “Active Unit.”
  2. A firm basis refers to the appropriate position of the body. That is, a good stool or bench and correct posture.
  3. In piano playing, the entire body works as an elastic support. The body is always in a state of elasticity, when afforded healthy tension. The rebound (springing back) of keys/shock produced is absorbed by a series of elastic joints. The subtle kickback is not noticeable, but indeed present.

    The same can be said for one striking a hammer onto a nail. One will not hold the hammer down after the blow, but rather, one will re-coil the hammer elastically by muscular action as well as force generated from hitting the hammer onto the nail initially. The same mechanism can be said of the piano hammers to the string. The ‘rebound’ or ‘kinetic force’ must be absorbed by the joints (of the entire body) in-order to execute the next stroke successfully.
  4. Yes, the entire body plays a role in absorbing this ‘rebound’ produced from the keys bouncing back. Therefore, the feet of the pianist plays a very active part in providing ‘elastic support’. NOTE: The feet do not play an ACTIVE role in playing a note, rather the feet act as support to the rest of the proceeding mechanisms of the body.

NOTE: Elasticity refers to physics. That is, the body possesses a healthy amount of tension, where the body can resist distorting influences I.E the motion of touch to the key.

EXERCISES/BREATHING TECHNIQUES:
Alexander Technique.


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