Secrets of Balance on the Piano

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today, I’m going to give you some secrets of balance on the piano. What am I referring to about balance? Piano is one of the few instruments where you can play many different notes at the same time, and you’re able to bring out different notes within a chord or within a musical texture. This is one of the great things about the piano! 

You can bring out different notes within a chord.

This can be easily demonstrated by playing a simple C major chord. If you’re playing C, E, G, and C with your left hand, as well your right hand, there are many different ways of approaching the voicing. How is this possible? You can bring out every single note of the chord one by one playing exactly the same chord and bringing out different notes within the chord. This is how you can create whatever musical texture you are after. This is akin to a conductor creating a balance out of the orchestra getting just the sound they’re after. You can do the same thing at the piano. But there is one very important acoustical property you must be aware of on the piano. 

Balance is different playing loud compared to playing soft. 

Chopin’s C Minor Prelude starts off with massive chords that are marked fortissimo. Later it goes down to piano. At the very end it goes even softer to pianissimo. When playing the fortissimo part of this prelude, using all the energy equally on all the keys, the melody will come out loud and clear. But when playing the pianissimo section, which is almost the same chords, the melody will be lost when giving equal energy to all the notes. But by delineating the top notes by reaching with the 4th and 5th fingers, and leaning the weight of your hand to the right side, you can bring out the top notes creating a beautiful balance. So here’s the key: When playing loud, the top notes project well. But if you play the exact same chords quietly with equal balance, the melody is lost. So you want to bring out the melody notes when playing softly, delineating the melody compared to accompaniment. 

The softer you play, the more extreme the delineation of melody notes must be. That’s the secret!

So that is one secret of balancing on the piano. The softer the playing, the more extreme delineation you must have for melody compared to accompaniment. It’s just the acoustical property of the piano. I hope this helps you! 

Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.comYour Online Piano Resource.

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4 thoughts on “Secrets of Balance on the Piano”


 
 

  1. RE: YouTube Channel Topic Suggestion (Pedaling Jimbo’s Lullaby, Debussy)

    Thank you for your great piano content/help.

    Technically I am a self-taught piano student (except for some great YouTube content like yours).

    Heard Debussy’s Jimbo’s Lullaby, and was instantly mesmerized by the piano piece and decided to take it on. After lots of research on-line I never really found a satisfying direction to follow on pedaling this piece. Which essentially has little to no pedaling indicators, yet seems to cry-out for lots of pedaling.

    Could you please show us how to approach such a piece, when there is not much (any?) pedaling markings? Is it all by ear from listening to other pianists play it, or my own gut feelings or what? Are there indicators like when you see chords in certain situtations? When do you half-pedal vs. full pedal such a piece, etc.?

    Thank you so much. Really appreciate all your efforts Mr. Estrin.
    Dean

    1. That’s a really good question I may address in a future video. Pedaling is rarely indicated by the composer in scores. Many pedal markings are added by editors of music. It’s tough to indicate pedaling since it varies depending upon the piano, as well as the room acoustics. In a piece like this one by Debussy, half pedaling and other techniques may be employed in order to create the desired colors of sound.

  2. Is there any notation for bringing out notes within a chord like you did with the C major in both hands? Or is that strictly the performer’s interpretation?

    1. Sometimes the composer will double stem notes so some of them are marked to be held longer than others. Also, there can be tenuto markings over notes to be brought out. Or there can be accents on certain notes. Other times it is left up to the performer to discover the melodies and counter melodies in a composition.

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