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#383918 - 05/03/06 03:09 PM Black Note Etude
holystorm Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 6
Loc: London
I think this is one of Chopins greatest songs, but I want to know is it harder to play a song where 90% of the notes are on the black keys, opposed to the white keys?

Thanks.

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#383919 - 05/03/06 03:19 PM Re: Black Note Etude
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
It shouldn't be any harder. In fact, it should probably be easier than pieces where 50% are on black keys and 50% are on white keys.

All you have to do is raise your arm a little and lean forward a little (since the black keys are higher and farther away than the white keys) and that's it - then your wrist/hand positions and finger positions and everything are the same.
_________________________
Sam

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#383920 - 05/03/06 04:02 PM Re: Black Note Etude
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
holystorm,

Not wishing to single you out, as many others are guilty of the same, but Chopin's Op10 no5 is not a 'song!'[/b]

It is a piano 'piece.'

More specifically an 'étude' or 'study.'

Whoever performs it, plays it on a piano.

There is no vocalist.

Ain't nobody singin'.

It is not a song.

Hope that helps ;\)


- Michael B.

PS. As for the difficulty of this piece, black keys are narrower than white keys, so the target area for your digits is smaller. Then again, there are fewer of them on a piano keyboard, so you have fewer wrong ones to hit \:\) . This piece would be difficult whichever key it was written in: FWIW I reckon it is a tad easier for being in Gb major; I think it would be harder in G major, for example.
_________________________
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

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#383921 - 05/03/06 04:15 PM Re: Black Note Etude
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5065
Loc: Philadelphia
Never fear, holystorm, this is a commonly-argued subject that keeps coming up when certain people have nothing better to do. ;\) Here, allow me:

It is a song.

It is comprised of notes that make music.

It is a song for piano.

The piano sings it.

IT is the vocalist.

It is a song.
_________________________
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.

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#383922 - 05/03/06 04:28 PM Re: Black Note Etude
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
But a song is written specifically for a human voice, not a piano ;\)

And as for the 10/5, playing on the black keys only (although it does use white keys, heh) isn't in itself difficult, but some of the fingering problems that are created from this make it more difficult (but by using the same notes transposed a semitone down/up they would still be there)

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#383923 - 05/03/06 04:32 PM Re: Black Note Etude
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by holystorm:
I think this is one of Chopins greatest songs, but I want to know is it harder to play a song where 90% of the notes are on the black keys, opposed to the white keys?

Thanks. [/b]
I think the fact that it is exclusively on black keys make it somewhat easier because you have to think less about moving your hand in and out of the black key area.

Compare it to - say - the first movement of Kreisleriana. One of the difficulties of this piece is there's more of a mixture of black keys and white keys, the thumb occasionally has to play on black keys, and there is much more in and out of the black key area.

That being said, the Schumann may not be more difficult than the Chopin, I'm just making an observation on one of the challenges of the Schumann.

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#383924 - 05/03/06 04:48 PM Re: Black Note Etude
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
Derulux:
 Quote:
this is a commonly-argued subject that keeps coming up when certain people have nothing better to do. ;\)
Argument/pedantry for the sake of it? Mr Pot, please meet Mr Kettle \:D
 Quote:
It is a song.
[sticks fingers in ears]

La-la-la-la-la-la-la....[1]

Michael B.
[1] Now that's a song ;\) .
_________________________
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

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#383925 - 05/03/06 06:00 PM Re: Black Note Etude
sheepdip Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/08/05
Posts: 267
Loc: Oregon
I know this has come up many times before but I have never replied to one of them so I feel that I am entitled to at least one comment. It is NOT a song. ie. Webster...
1. The act or art of singing; as, he broke into song.

2. A piece of music sung or as if for singing.

I know there are greater problems in life than this but at the moment this is it.
_________________________
I'm a fool for Chopin. The biggest mistake in my life......Thinking that fishing was more fun than Bach when I was younger.

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#383926 - 05/03/06 06:57 PM Re: Black Note Etude
bach enthusiast Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 847
Loc: Tucson Arizona
Am I crazy, or did I read or hear that a well known pianist used to play, or sort of play this piece at recitals by rolling an orange across the black keys while playing the left hand part. If someone knows if this is true, can you confirm or disconfirm my recolection?
_________________________
JOHN

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#383927 - 05/03/06 07:29 PM Re: Black Note Etude
holystorm Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 6
Loc: London
What the hell? Is that even possible?

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#383928 - 05/03/06 07:33 PM Re: Black Note Etude
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Yeah, that was Nicolas Slonimsky.
_________________________
Sam

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#383929 - 05/03/06 07:45 PM Re: Black Note Etude
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
Never fear, holystorm, this is a commonly-argued subject that keeps coming up when certain people have nothing better to do. ;\) Here, allow me:

It is a song.

It is comprised of notes that make music.

It is a song for piano.

The piano sings it.

IT is the vocalist.

It is a song. [/b]


The piano does not sing. Singing implies use of vocal cords.
However contrary you want to be, you can't deny that.


Fail.

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#383930 - 05/03/06 07:50 PM Re: Black Note Etude
xyz2004slc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/05
Posts: 353
It is a song without words. I would rather it be a "song" because that implies a nice cantabile.

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#383931 - 05/03/06 07:52 PM Re: Black Note Etude
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Me too. I always try to correct friends or students when they refer to a piano piece as a 'song'. Does it matter? Probably not much but ...

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#383932 - 05/03/06 08:01 PM Re: Black Note Etude
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
 Quote:
Originally posted by xyz2004slc:
It is a song without words. I would rather it be a "song" because that implies a nice cantabile. [/b]
Black Keys etude is not a singing melody or cantabile of any sort.

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#383933 - 05/03/06 10:08 PM Re: Black Note Etude
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5065
Loc: Philadelphia
The piano does not sing. Singing implies use of vocal cords.
However contrary you want to be, you can't deny that.[/b]
Then explain why so many people refer to making a line "sing".... ;\)
_________________________
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.

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#383934 - 05/03/06 10:18 PM Re: Black Note Etude
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
The piano does not sing. Singing implies use of vocal cords.
However contrary you want to be, you can't deny that.[/b]
Then explain why so many people refer to making a line "sing".... ;\) [/b]
They are trying to communicate a method of melodic phrasing and touch.

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#383935 - 05/03/06 11:16 PM Re: Black Note Etude
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5065
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by valarking:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
The piano does not sing. Singing implies use of vocal cords.
However contrary you want to be, you can't deny that.[/b]
Then explain why so many people refer to making a line "sing".... ;\) [/b]
They are trying to communicate a method of melodic phrasing and touch. [/b]
Then it would certainly be a poor communicative effort, considering your first statement. ;\)
_________________________
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.

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#383936 - 05/03/06 11:33 PM Re: Black Note Etude
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
 Quote:
Originally posted by valarking:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
The piano does not sing. Singing implies use of vocal cords.
However contrary you want to be, you can't deny that.[/b]
Then explain why so many people refer to making a line "sing".... ;\) [/b]
They are trying to communicate a method of melodic phrasing and touch. [/b]
Then it would certainly be a poor communicative effort, considering your first statement. ;\) [/b]
It is, unless one knows how to interpret it for piano performance.

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#383937 - 05/04/06 01:40 AM Re: Black Note Etude
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
It is a usage that I never heard in ~30 years of involvement in music (both instrumental and indeed, as an accompanist, choral) whilst in my native England. In fact I have never encountered it since starting to read this forum some 6 months ago. I presumed therefore that it is either (i) a new coinage amongst the younger generation[1] or (ii) an Americanism. Or perhaps both. Seeing it used about the most 'unsonglike' Black Key étude from someone located in London was the last straw I suppose...

Personally I believe that it implies ignorance of musical forms, and is somehow dismissive, seemingly reducing any piece of music to being a mere 'song'[2]. Could one talk of Beethoven's 9th being one of his best 'songs'. It has a bit of singing it after all ;\) .

- Michael B.

[1] Waves walking stick, adjusts ear trumpet and pulls blanket more closely over knees.
[2] I am aware that various composers (real) 'songs' can be great pieces of music, but the usage of the word for non-vocal music, gives me this impression somehow.
_________________________
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

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#383938 - 05/04/06 02:34 AM Re: Black Note Etude
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5065
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by valarking:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
 Quote:
Originally posted by valarking:
quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
The piano does not sing. Singing implies use of vocal cords.
However contrary you want to be, you can't deny that.[/b]
Then explain why so many people refer to making a line "sing".... ;\) [/b]
They are trying to communicate a method of melodic phrasing and touch. [/b]
Then it would certainly be a poor communicative effort, considering your first statement. ;\) [/b]
It is, unless one knows how to interpret it for piano performance.
Ever try to translate something into a different language? (Ever read the label on a particular brand of Chinese condoms--Sixsex--that was translated into English? "Each condom is made of the highest quality natural latex of import, and subject to electronic inspection...and meets ISO4074 standards, it can provide you with pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.")

I suppose one's interpretation of another's language is rather important. This I cannot refute, but I think I can show by example that my statement still stands. A comment on making a piano "sing" when a piano cannot sing is absolutely useless. If you have to "interpret" what someone's actually trying to say, why not have them come right out and say it? (Or is it, perhaps, because this individual doesn't know how to say it, and "sing" is the only thing they can come up with?) Either way, it is still a poor communicative effort.

Proper and effective communication should clarify and simplify, not require translation, back-translation, or interpretive effort. I stand by my statement.
_________________________
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.

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#383939 - 05/04/06 03:28 AM Re: Black Note Etude
Mr. E Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 426
Another definition of sing:
a. To make melodious sounds
b. To give or have the effect of melody; lilt.

And thus, when we speak of a piano singing, this is more the definition we are referring to.

But alas, you've known what we meant all along, and only wish to argue for the sake of arguing. So have at it.

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#383940 - 05/04/06 03:56 AM Re: Black Note Etude
PoStTeNeBrAsLuX Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/05
Posts: 2618
Loc: Geneva, Switzerland
Mr. E,

I think we all know what the verb 'to sing' means, either in its primary literal meaning, or indeed its derived metaphorical ones, and how it applies to producing a 'singing' tone on a piano, etc. There is however quite a leap between that and calling the music thus produced a 'song.'

To my (English) mind, one cannot apply the term 'song' to a piece of instrumental music that features no vocals, without seeming ignorant of common usage of the English language. Hence why I would hesitate to point it out the error[1] if the poster were obviously not an English mother-tongue speaker.

Derulux:
 Quote:
Ever try to translate something into a different language?
[dons grandmother clothing and starts sucking eggs] Nah, in a country with four national languages, we don't seem to get much call for that around here :rolleyes:

- Michael B.

[1] And it is just that... yes, yes, we all know that languages develop and change over time, but in common English usage as it stands today, it's just wrong[/b]. The word has of course been used figuratively for piano music in special instances (such as by Herr Mendelssohn), but that still doesn't make any[/b] piano piece a 'song.'
_________________________
There are two rules to success in life: Rule #1. Don't tell people everything you know.

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#383941 - 05/04/06 09:43 AM Re: Black Note Etude
Mr. E Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 426
 Quote:
Originally posted by PoStTeNeBrAsLuX:
Mr. E,

I think we all know what the verb 'to sing' means, either in its primary literal meaning, or indeed its derived metaphorical ones, and how it applies to producing a 'singing' tone on a piano, etc. There is however quite a leap between that and calling the music thus produced a 'song.'

To my (English) mind, one cannot apply the term 'song' to a piece of instrumental music that features no vocals, without seeming ignorant of common usage of the English language. Hence why I would hesitate to point it out the error[1] if the poster were obviously not an English mother-tongue speaker.

[/b]
I absolutely agree with you. I'm sorry I was a bit unclear. I was referring to Derulux.

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#383942 - 05/04/06 09:59 AM Re: Black Note Etude
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Derulux does have a point. We say to 'sing' on the piano, which is of course impossible - but we are using it as a metaphor for something else. Nonetheless, what is this something else that we are referring to when we say 'sing'?

Perhaps what we mean is to make a lilting melodious line, as Mr. E wrote. Well, why not say that? It's much clearer than saying 'sing', unless 'sing' means more than just make a melodious line. This is Derulux's point.

It really does no good to tell someone to 'sing' at the piano, because what does that mean?

It would be more useful, I think, to tell the person to play a smooth legato, connecting each note to the next, connecting the dynamics so that there are no sudden leaps, apply a slight rubato, and be careful not to bang out any notes or make any notes too sharp, and THEN say, and think of how it sounds when you sing - you are aiming for this type of sound when you play. All of this is meant by 'sing', but how does the person know that if you don't explain it to them?

The explanation is necessary first, and then 'sing' can be used as a metaphor to tie everything together. Derulux's point is well-taken by me at least: 'sing' by itself is meaningless, and what gives it meaning is only when you actually explain in detail what you really mean.
_________________________
Sam

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#383943 - 05/04/06 11:06 AM Re: Black Note Etude
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
It would be more useful, I think, to tell the person to play a smooth legato, connecting each note to the next, connecting the dynamics so that there are no sudden leaps, apply a slight rubato, and be careful not to bang out any notes or make any notes too sharp, and THEN say, and think of how it sounds when you sing - you are aiming for this type of sound when you play. All of this is meant by 'sing', but how does the person know that if you don't explain it to them?[/b]
I prefer to use the term 'sing' at the piano not in any specific usage, but simply that you are expressing music so it sounds like it's coming from you, not from you to the piano - as afterall, singing doesn't always have to be how you described. (not that I don't equally agree with what you said ;\) )

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#383944 - 05/04/06 11:13 AM Re: Black Note Etude
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
See, so how would the person know that if you didn't tell him?

'Sing' is so ambiguous by itself – even more so because it is an impossible task with the piano – that if you don't explain, the person has absolutely no way of interpreting exactly what you mean.

Therefore, it is necessary first to explain what you mean - whatever you mean - and then use the word 'sing' as a metaphor.
_________________________
Sam

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#383945 - 05/04/06 11:40 AM Re: Black Note Etude
Shosti Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/06
Posts: 433
Loc: Boston
I think you're being too literal. The use of the word "singing" isn't going to confuse people just because pianos don't have vocal cords. I think to most people the metaphor is obvious-- we want to make the piano sound like a singer singing a song. Mendelssohn certainly thought so, calling his works with a vocal-style melody "songs without words." And if someone doesn't understand? Then you explain it to them. I think it's useful to have these analogies; trying to attain the ideal of making the piano sound like it's singing can inspire really musical playing, phrasing, etc.

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#383946 - 05/04/06 11:45 AM Re: Black Note Etude
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Yes, it is a good analogy, but then there is the obvious question, "OK, how do I make the piano sound like a singer singing a song?" (which has been asked here on this forum before)

Then you have to explain (and if I recall correctly, that thread that I am remembering went on for several pages).

The analogy is meaningless unless you explain, but you are right; coupled with a thorough explanation, it is a good analogy.
_________________________
Sam

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#383947 - 05/04/06 11:47 AM Re: Black Note Etude
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Shosti:
I think you're being too literal. The use of the word "singing" isn't going to confuse people just because pianos don't have vocal cords. I think to most people the metaphor is obvious-- we want to make the piano sound like a singer singing a song. [/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by Max W:
I prefer to use the term 'sing' at the piano not in any specific usage, but simply that you are expressing music so it sounds like it's coming from you, not from you to the piano[/b]
_________________________
Sam

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