Thursday, May 13, 2010

Technique pt 2 - expressive technique

What I want to talk about in this post is a technical area that is often overlooked - expressive technique. Expressive technique is about control, colour and balance. Shaping a melody so that it sings, creating the “illusion” of legato, the balance in volume between your left and right hand, balancing volumes within the fingers of one hand, etc. One extremely essential component of expressive technique is the sustain pedal. More on this later.

Here are a few examples of balance between the left and right hands. Both pieces demonstrate the pianist beautifully shaping a long flowing melodic line and accompanying the melody with a steady rhythmic chordal pulse. The right hand sings over the slightly softer left hand. This is where the pedal can be quite useful, helping smooth out the melodic line and giving it a legato feel.

When playing such a line try thinking of your right hand as another instrument, a flute, violin or a voice. Take note also of the left hand. All notes of each chord hit together in a consistently precise manner to produce an even tone.

There is an effortless simplicity to these performances. But be aware that these performances require great discipline and control. I hope you enjoy the videos I have chosen. There is a wealth of information here especially for the jazz pianist who is learning how to play ballads. The similarities between the two performances are really quite striking... proving that beautful music is beautiful music no matter what the style.

I will write more about expressive technique and pedal control in my next post.

1 comment:

  1. THanks for these videos Jeff. I've always been kind of jealous of classical pianists because they can plan all of their physical movements in a piece. I'm often limited in my improvising when I try to play something that I haven't prepared in advance. The more I study classical repertoire I think the more I really appreciate great improvisers like Herbie Hancock or Keith Jarrett and the more I understand the nature of practicing.