3 SECRETS TO PLAYING SLOW MUSIC
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store. Today, I have three secrets to playing slow music. When you hear instrumentalists, such as pianists, you notice that many have a lot of technical achievement. But when you hear a great artist play a slow movement, magic can happen. It can reach the inner depths of your soul. This is the sign of a great musician. How do you approach slow movements in order to get that quality, to get that beauty and be able to reach people on an emotional level? These are the secrets I’m going to give to you today.
Number one is: Make sure you take the right tempo.
A lot of people play slow movements too slowly. For example, if someone were to perform Debussy, Clair de Lune, you may hear it played very slowly. Now, it might be okay at the beginning, but by the time you get to the middle and compare the tempo they’re playing in the middle of the piece, often, they’re going faster because it gets ponderous after awhile at such a slow tempo.
Another clue for you when you’re taking a tempo that is too slow is that you will find that if there are repeats, you won’t want to take them. They don’t seem to work. So, if you have a piece of music and think, “Mozart didn’t mean all those repeats”. Yes, he did! And if they don’t work, it’s a clue that you are playing too slow a tempo. Another thing related to this is to:
Hold long notes long enough.
There’s nothing worse than robbing long notes. But it’s so easy to rob long notes because you’re just sitting there doing nothing! It’s easy to count to yourself and accelerate your counting in your head. You can lose the pulse.
A lot of performers play very slowly and rob the long notes, such as again, the beginning of Clair de Lune. To me, that is simply playing out of rhythm. But you’d be surprised how many performances you’ll find online of very renowned concert pianists playing this piece and robbing the long notes. Holding all the long notes for their full written value gives the music soul, doesn’t it? You’ve got to take the right tempo and you must hold the long notes long enough. What else is there? The other thing is to:
Think of the long note as the pulse.
This enables you to have a slow pulse with a faster tempo. An example is the second movement of the K. 332 Mozart Sonata in F major. First, you could play it thinking of each sixteenth note as the beat. The left hand has sixteenth notes, and each one of those can be punctuated as the beat. Then, instead of thinking each sixteenth note as the beat, try thinking each eighth note as the beat. It’s already going to be better. Rachmaninoff said,
“The bigger the phrase, the bigger the musician.”
Well, related to this is, the longer note that you feel as the pulse, the more freedom you have with your music. Now try feeling the quarter note as the pulse. This also gives you the benefit of being able to take a faster tempo but still having a relaxed feel to your music. Even with a slightly faster tempo, but with the quarter note as the pulse, it doesn’t feel hurried! Those are three secrets to being able to play slow music.
Make sure to hold long notes long enough, feel the long note as the beat, and choose the right tempo.
Don’t take slow pieces too slowly. If you do those three tips, it will enhance the performance of your slow music. I’d love to hear from all of you and give me your perspective. And if you haven’t subscribed to LivingPianosVideos’ YouTube channel, go for it! You’ll get all the fresh videos. We produce them for you every week.