“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Pianist's Guide to Practical Scales and Arpeggios

Scales and Arpeggios from
 the Repertoire

     A student asks about boosting speed in the study of scales and arpeggios as they appear in repertoire, which is the subject of this volume. As always, my advice is to play no slower than needed and not faster than you can. This means that at each tempo, from slow to fast, the technique always feels easy. 
     This begs the question, how does one achieve ease? Well, the first step is to solve the physical problem(s), decide what is needed for speed and work that in slowly. Yes, this is possible with knowledge of how the playing mechanism works. (See Piano Technique Demystified: Insights into Problem Solving.)  
     Here are some questions to ask yourself: What fingering will allow me to group notes to keep them under my hand without extreme stretches? How do I use the last note of one group to get to the first note of the next group? Is there a shape to the passage, under or over, in or out? What is the angle of my forearm relative to the keyboard, meaning, if I am approaching a thumb crossing, do I have my thumb behind each finger as it plays on the way to the thumb? Working up to top tempo is an excellent use of the metronome, especially when working in sections. I do not recommend using the metronome for playing through an entire work.

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