Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums Over 2.5 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!
I'm referring to the technique of playing one note in a chord louder, not to the choice of notes. (Why oh why does voicing have to have two different meanings?). I'm running into the need for this more frequently in my music. (I'm looking at you, Themed Recitals!)
I find I need to be able to do this in either hand.
I looked hard for this during the Mendelssohn recital, a lot of the SWWs needed it. I think I saw it described as 'divided hand' - perhaps there are other googleables. To be honest I didn't get anything I could use from what I read.
It's hard enough when you need to accent the pinky or the thumb where at least you're able to bias the wrist to apply pressure to the upper or lower note by leaning one way or the other (I don't say this is easy!). But what to do with a middle note. Is that ever required? I'm not sure.
I've tried, with limited success, to lead with the note that needs the extra force, to play it slightly early. Then, if you can get that produce a louder note as required, try and reduce the time gap.
Loc: Virginia, USA
Identify the melody clearly in your head. Sounds kind of obvious but I find it hard to listen to the melody. Heck, singing it while playing works well too - just ask Glenn Gould!
Exaggerate. Try to play the melody really forte and the rest piano. Once you have that, playing with the actual voicing you want will be easier.
Play the melody on it's own but *with* the fingering you will use for it. Now play the rest without the melody. Actually, I can never get that hang of that bit but perhaps you'll find it works.
Often it's the right pinky that carries the melody so you might need to work to get that strong. Luckily, given all the things I did wrong being self taught and noodling for years, the one thing I did get was a strong right pinky for the melody. But not everyone has that.
Let's say it's a 3 note chord and you want to bring out the thumb (RH). Try playing the chord by letting the upper two fingers (say 3 and 5) merely sit on the keys without depressing them. Then see if you can depress them just slightly. A stage further and you should get your result.
I just tried this and it seems to work but unreliably at the moment.
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Probably not quite what you're describing or necessarily looking for, but this other, new Graham Fitch article just got posted on voicing and maybe you could get something useful out of it: The Pot-Bellied Monster
From 5:31 on in the following video, Josh Wright also gives practice suggestions on the topic you might try. The suggestions are similar to Andy's.
There have been some recent threads on this topic. I suggest doing a search for them. I know I've posted in a couple. When you find them, read through them and try what's listed. If none of it works for you, please do come back here and tell us what's not working. I, for one, would be happy to continue the conversation from there.
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Loc: Leicester, UK
A reliable way I've found to voice a note in a chord (to practice the technique, that is) is what Graham Fitch, I think, calls "tap-tap."
The method is play the note that you'd like to emphasize (and hold it). Then play whatever other notes need to be played at a softer dynamic as appropriate. And then play them a few more times. That's why the name "tap-tap." So first you play the note that you'd like to bring out. Then you simultaneously "tap" the other notes a few times. "Tapping them means to play them but at a very reduced dynamic. Your hand will start to feel how to put it all together ...
A great practice piece for this is the First (C major) Prelude in Shostakovich's book of Preludes and Fugues. The 371 Bach Chorales are also good for this. Because the Chorales are in 4 voices, you can choose any of the voices (bass, tenor, alto, or soprano) that you'd like to emphasize, play that voice and then apply "tap-tap" to the rest.
Really, anything at all where you can play the voice that needs to be brought out and then tap-tap the rest is good practice material. You could take a 4-note chord, for example, from top to bottom, C, G, D, and A. Then practice bringing each note out. Play the C in the bass and tap-tap the other notes. Play the G in the tenor and tap-tap the other notes, etc.
I just went through learning really how to do this in the Grieg Op 71 no 7.
My teacher had me play the inner notes minus the melody note throughout the whole piece concentrating on getting a unison in the chord and being able to play very softly and quietly. I discovered how relaxed my hands had to be to play the inner chord this way. The trouble I was having playing everything too loud was that I confussed tension with the strength needed in my little finger playing the melody. And with tension in my hand, the inner chord came crashing in sounding horrible.
The key is a very relaxed hand. And go very slowly at first. Concentrate on making the inner chord notes "just so" the way you did playing them without the melody at all. Then, don't worry about any p or pp markings of the melody. Play with enough weight in the outside of your hand to bring the melody forward.
Not sure that I explained this well enough. The real eye opener for me was playing the inner chords really relaxed and quietely without the melody. When I felt how relaxed my hands needed to be, then I tried to keep that relaxation even when playing the melody line.
As I've said in a few posts, these Grieg pieces look simple. But they are deceptively quite difficult!!!! Good luck!!!!
Loc: Leicester, UK
Just to put some detail into the conversation. The "tap-tap" method will probably give you the fastest feedback in terms of the physical sensation from your hand and the aural sensation of how a voiced chord can sound. And practicing this within the 4-voice framework of Bach chorales gives you a magnficent test space where you can work on bringing out bass, tenor, alto or soprano voices or bass and soprano or tenor and soprano ... or really any combination you want. And you can apply tap-tap to whatever repertoire you're playing as well.
The method dynamobt describes is also excellent. And absolutely, the key that dynambobt mentions is RELAXATION.
Bach Inventions and Sinfonias and Fugues are also really good for working out these kinds of skills because they call for lines to be emphasized in the foreground and others to put into the background. In the Sinfonias and Fugues of course you often have to do it within one hand ...