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Topic: Playing fast delicato passages  (Read 3897 times)

Offline RiskyP

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Playing fast delicato passages
on: August 27, 2003, 07:01:46 PM
I am having trouble playing scale passages delicato at fast speeds. I have enough speed now, but I find it impossible to play them delicato at these fast speeds!

How is it possible to play delicately when the fingers have to hit each key so suddenly in effort to get to the next?! This occurs very often in Chopin pieces so it must be common knowledge among pianists, teachers, students... please give me some insight.  

Offline pskim

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #1 on: August 27, 2003, 08:15:27 PM
What piece are you working on?  As for me, when I'm playing delicate fast passages, I play them with more of flat fingers rather than curved.  This will give you more of a softer attack at the keyboard because you are playing more with your finger-print part of your fingers than your tip.

Playing with curved fingers will give you more of a bright sound.  But when playing more flat fingered will give your more of a mellow and softer sound.  Playing with the soft pedal should give your more of the "soft bell tone" effect.  

I think a good exaple is when I played Chopin's Barcarolle.  The passage before the ending has this delicate and fast passage that you need to play with care.

Hope this helps you out.

Offline RiskyP

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #2 on: August 27, 2003, 09:35:10 PM
I created technical exercises from some passages in Chopin's Bolero in A Minor Op. 19 - I am not learning the entire piece though, it is way above my level.

Regardless, I would like to learn how to play these passages now for the sake of developing technique. I will try what you are suggesting... I am trying to play them similar to the way Horowitz did. There is a recording of horowitz playing the Chopin Mazurka in A minor Op. 17 No. 4 in which he plays the delicato part so perfectly. It seems he plays the notes somewhat stacatto to get this delicate effect.

I will try playing with flat fingers, but perhaps someone else knows another method to obtain this sound.  

@ pskim: How do you play your thumb then?! I can only play with the hard part of it.

Offline pskim

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #3 on: August 28, 2003, 01:09:05 AM
I forgot to mention this, try playing on top of the keys.  By this I mean don't play full tone, fully into the keys.  Try playing the passage like you are pressing the keys down only half way.

Offline tph

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #4 on: August 28, 2003, 05:40:08 AM
When I try to obtain a "jeu perle" at the keyboard, I find that it demands a lot of fingertip work.  I often practise scales staccato, keeping the relaxed forearms and wrists level laterally, and tapping with the fingertips.  Playing more non-legato articulates each note clearly, and guiding with the arm gives shape to the line.  I tend to keep my fingers curved, and tug ever so gently from the first joint while moving the arm - like sliding down a cobblestone hill on a felted crazy carpet (?!?) - and using the key rebound.

I don't know how this might apply to Chopin's Bolero, but hope this helps!

tph

Offline RiskyP

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #5 on: August 28, 2003, 07:38:11 PM
@ tph:

I tried what you suggested on a Steinway Grand. When I try to ever so gently put pressure on the keys, the hammers often don't even touch the strings. While your method makes perfect sense, I can't seem to reproduce it, because if I apply a little more pressure, the sound becomes too loud for delicato.

I may simply be a brute... but I am having trouble playing between the two scenarios of not applying enough pressure to generate a tone and applying too much pressure, which results in a harsh tone. A lot of these grand pianos have key resistance that makes it hard to play with your fingertips.

Another problem is, when I was learning scales, everyone told me to relax my arms so I did that. Consequently, my arm weight adds to the sound. I find it impossible to play with your fingertips without maintaining a constant force upward on the forearm so that it doesn't add to the sound. Although, as I said, since I am active in weight training, I might just be a bit too tense to acquire this technique.

Offline tph

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #6 on: August 29, 2003, 05:34:13 AM
Hey RiskyP,

For whatever help this added post is worth (and please keep in mind that I've never actually played this piece):

It's true that one might need to suspend or "dose" the arm weight contribution, and not allow constant complete weight "release" (different, I think, from "relaxation") of the arm behind each note or finger.  For example, in scales, I pace the rate of fall and amount of weight to coincide with points of release, like the top of a scale or with a change of direction.  To get that sensation, I liken "pouring" weight to pouring milk - it depends on how much you want.

As for getting the golden medium between too little and too much, consider slow practise where you "tap" each note in staccato (always with a firm fingertip), and can feel the hammer weight under each finger as you play the key.  (By Newton's 3rd Law, your own finger is metaphorically a tiny hammer too - point made for the imagery.)  The nature of the applied pressure is more due to muscular finger control than arm weight.  Perhaps, think of each finger "speaking" its note like words from your lips and tongue.

Taking a hint from pskim, I might suggest adding your "una corda" for that felted quality, which may also take the edge of the harshness of your Steinway (if your Steinway is excessively bright, or not well voiced).  And where applicable, light touches of transparent pedal for added "elan" and shape could help.

Best wishes!

tph

Offline RiskyP

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #7 on: August 29, 2003, 06:23:30 AM
Thank you, the post was very informative. I think it would be best if I got a teacher, but unfortunately this isn't currently possible. Thanks for playing the role.

On related note, I was wondering how it is possible to play the fast "sub-notes" of Chopin's Etude Op. 25 No. 1 so delicately while still bringing out the melody so softly... if the melody is to be played piano, then those accompanying notes should be played pp at the most right? This seems like an INCREDIBLY hard piece because of this, am I right?

Offline eddie92099

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #8 on: August 29, 2003, 05:31:48 PM
I found this brilliant technique in the book "Conversations with Arrau":
(in the converstation with Philip Lorenz, regarding the Appassionata sonata)

"To play the pianissimo passage effectively in measure 47, he suggests withholding the weight of the arm. In other words, raising the upper half of the arm so that the hand is automatically light. You simply raise the arm, but never from the hand, so that the fingers walk ever so lightly over the keys".

Ed

Offline Irock1ce

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #9 on: August 30, 2003, 03:55:28 AM
well im actually workin on chopin op.25 no.1 right now, i found that keeping my hands totally relaxed and keeping my fingers flat works very good to make the fast notes really soft....  and yeah.. i would say that because of the speed and delicateness of op.25 no.1 it is definitely one of the harder etudes to play... because of the speed.... (quarter note = 104 while all the notes are in 6-tuplets for a beat meaning about each 6-tuplet is 620+)
Member of Young Musicians program at University of California, Berkeley.

Offline tph

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #10 on: August 30, 2003, 06:01:44 AM
@ RiskyP: In case you didn't notice, I sent you a private message.

tph

Offline david

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Re: Playing fast delicato passages
Reply #11 on: August 30, 2003, 07:33:18 PM
I think there are differences between the fast passages in Chopin and Liszt's passages. It's a technical difference: Chopin needs a real legato in the "jeu perlè" but Liszt needs less legato and less weight .
I apologize my basic english. David.
 

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