Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about why slower means louder on the piano. Now, you might think I’ve gone off the deep end! Obviously, composers write things that are slow, things that are fast, things that are loud, and things that are soft. How can I say that slow means loud?
The piano is a percussion instrument. Hammers hit strings, and the notes die away as soon as you play them. So, longer notes have to last longer. The only way for that to happen is to play them louder! If you were to play equal volume with one hand that’s playing faster than the other, the hand that has the faster notes will sound louder.
Accentuate the melody, especially if it’s slow.
Say you are playing a piece where the melody is very slow. You want to accentuate the melody tremendously for two reasons. First of all, the acoustics of the piano are such that longer notes have to be louder to balance with the other notes that are faster. Secondly, the melody is usually on top, and you want it to be louder anyway. You always want the melody to be louder. You want to play the melody substantially louder than the accompaniment in order to make it come through. Even though the right hand may be drastically louder than the left hand, it still can have a piano quality to the sound.
Use the weight of the arm so you get smooth volume from note to note.
If you just punctuate each note separately without using the weight of the arm to get a natural, beautiful legato, you get an ugly, harsh sound. It can sound lifeless! You will hear a bunch of separate notes, but no line. It’s such a challenge on the piano to form a phrase that has a rise and a fall that’s smooth, which is the analog of the breath of the singer or the bow of the string player. That’s where the weight of the arm comes in.
Higher notes on the piano have less sustain.
There’s one other reason why slow notes have to be articulated so much more than fast notes. The higher up you go, the problem is exacerbated! The higher notes on the piano don’t last very long at all. In the bass, the tone keeps going and going. But most of the time on the piano, you’re playing the melody in the treble and the accompaniment in the bass. The accompaniment usually has more notes than the melody. But the melody should be louder. The notes in the treble don’t last as long, so you have to play them much louder to create a pleasing balance of sound.
So, that is key for the acoustics of the piano! Slow notes have to be played louder than fast notes. That’s the way to achieve a good balance on the piano. Use the weight of the arm in slow melodies. Exaggerate the difference between melody and harmony when the melody is higher than the accompaniment or the notes are longer than the accompaniment, which is so often the case. Let me know how this works for you in the comments here at LivingPianos.com and YouTube! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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