Exercises to practice emphasising the melody line (part two of the voicing series)

This post first appeared in the November issue of The Piano Bench Magazine.


A few posts ago, I talked about how to identify and isolate a melody line, and I’d like to now expand a little bit on that by talking about how to then bring out that melody line once you’ve found it, something I only very briefly touched on.

A Basic Chord Exercise

To recap on what I said about learning to accent different fingers when the whole hand is playing different notes, I mentioned an exercise from Heinrich Neuhaus’ “The Art of Piano Playing”:

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Some pianistic wallpapers for your computer (give that screen some tlc)

I’ve set my wallpaper as a constantly revolving slide of images that I’ve created of people that I admire, and I find it incredible inspiring even just to see their faces, and be reminded of the people who have “made it”. So I thought why not make a few more and share them – perhaps you’ll be inspired too!

They all look relatively similar, so they switch subtly and inconspicuously. Here’s the list (just in alphabetical order):

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Musical foundations: the different music periods and how to identify them

Most piano pieces can be categorised into four different periods – no doubt many of you are familiar with them. They consist of the Baroque period, from about 1600 to 1750, the Classical period (early 1700s to early 1800s), the Romantic period (19th century) and the 20th Century to present. It’s important to have a firm grasp on the style of music produced in each era, and important composers in each period, especially for general knowledge sections of exams.Read More »

Piano sheets for learning how to sight read, with sheets from easy to advanced

I kinda suck at sightreading. I can play, but I can’t really sight read, so I’ve recently made it my goal to (try and) get better at sight reading – but I’ve realised that sight reading resources are kind of hard to find, so I’ve done the work and collected all the sight reading materials I could find.

I’ve sorted them from easy to intermediate to advanced, and I’ve got zip folders with all the easy sheets, intermediate sheets, advanced sheets if you want to download them all at once instead of going individually.Read More »

How to identify and isolate the melody line (+ how to voice a fugue)

One of the characteristics of the piano that makes it so wildly different from many other instruments is the fact that it is able to play more than one note at once. And so, when approaching music for the piano, one of the most important things to do, even before beginning to read the piece, is to isolate the melody line.

Think about it like this: at any one time in certain music, like the Chopin waltz below, there might be four or five notes being played at once. And yet, out of these four or five notes, we only remember one – the note that is a part of the melody. If asked to sing, for example, the middle note of a left hand chord, most people would not be able to do it – it gets lost among the accompaniment “canvas”. Read More »

The complete guide to dealing with tempo rubato

Rubato is a tricky beast to tame.

In many ways, it is a bit of an oxymoron. It must be planned, yet seem spontaneous. It must be subtle, yet noticeable. It must be clean, yet blurred. It must be unpredictable, but it must not be erratic.

It’s such a tricky beast to tame, I need 2400 words to tame it. Buckle in for a read.


So what does “tempo rubato” mean?

The dictionary says that rubato is:

the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace.

but that doesn’t really mean anything to me. Let’s go a bit further.

Rubato comes from the Italian word “rubato” (surprise!) which means robbed. This, in turn, comes from the Medieval Latin term “raubare” meaning “to rob” (again, surprise!). Together with “tempo”, we get “tempo rubato”, or robbed timeRead More »

How did Vladimir Horowitz get away with the flat finger technique?

If you read the last post, you’ll probably agree that curved fingers are generally touted as the way to go – but wait! Vladimir Horowitz, one of the greatest pianists of all time, played with flat fingers, and nobody’s telling him off? How did he get away with it?

Well, Horowitz’s technique was developed especially to account for his playing style, and his flat fingered technique was a stylistic choice. Click here to go to the previous post and explore the difference in tone and texture between playing with curved and flat fingers.Read More »