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Learn To Play The Piano With Expression - Part 2


In part 1 of this two part article, we discussed that the correct use of the hands when playing the piano keyboard can produce a beautiful sound.

But before any accurate observations can be made of what the hand is doing, it is necessary that the eye should know what to look for, as it can see only that which it brings the power of seeing. "No man can learn what he has not the preparation for learning." The why and wherefore of every pianist's tone is, to a great extent, explained by his management of the hands. And in order to know how and what to observe, and how to reason from observation, it is necessary to remember that the work done by the hands while playing on the piano, is an application of one mechanism to another.

Therefore the hand itself and what is known as the "Action" of the piano, must both be separately studied before any conclusions can be arrived at, as to what may be expected of them when acting together.

It will perhaps be asked, Can the uniform employment of one method be kept from developing mannerism? Will it not hamper or check the outcome of the player's own conception of a composer's work? May each player adopt it, and at the same time freely express what he himself feels about the music? As an answering counter-question, let it be asked; ought one to expect to play as well on an incorrect system of using the hands and piano as on a correct one? Is there not a law of freedom in art? Is the painter fettered in the use of his sense of colour by being obliged to learn to draw? Ought an author to feel himself cramped from having to preserve grammatical sequence in his sentences? Does correctly expressed language hinder the flow of original ideas, or prevent them from being understood? Can a speaker who has little freedom in the language in which he is speaking, make himself as forcibly descriptive as if he had a perfect command of it? Can one work well with tools of the use of which he is partially ignorant?

It will from this be seen that the power to express anything lies in having under complete control the vehicle of expression, or in other words, the tools to be used. This control, however perfect it may become, will not be enough to provide the piano player with musical feeling to be expressed. Musical feeling, and its correct expression, will remain two distinctly separate and important possessions of the piano player, constant improvement of both must always be continued to avoid becoming one-sided. An intellectual understanding of mechanical principles will avail him little if he is not a musician in soul and alive to perceive sympathetically the innumerable shades of tone and varieties of tempo which go to make up a fine performance of any work. The power of being able to play in a beautiful expressive way that is immediately artistic must lie within the player, and can to only a small extent be taught; and if his own feelings do not to some degree suggest what ought to be done, no teaching will be able to supply the deficiency.

But while this inner musical feeling must be the resource to be drawn upon by the piano player, the means of drawing on this resource must be provided if it is to be of any positive value to him. Of what good is a store of provisions if the access to them is cut off?

The student may perhaps be highly gifted with both musical feeling, and also with a perfectly accurate way of expressing the same. But on the other hand, and much more probably, he may be one whose mechanical intuition is weak, who hears beautiful tone gladly, but is unable to discover for himself how to make his fingers produce a like tone, who has little faculty for noticing small though decisive outward signs in the playing of great artists, who is troubled with a nervous temperament which seems to do little else than cramp his playing-powers, and who is perhaps trying to persuade himself that the method on which he was taught must surely be the best one.

As this work discusses the question of How to express, and not what to express, it must be kept in mind that the mechanical side of piano-playing will claim most of our attention. But as it will throughout be argued that a true style can arise only out of a true use of knowing the conditions of the mechanism employed, it will therefore be considered not outside of the question if constant reference be made to the end of all piano-playing, namely, beauty of tone, to which end it must be carried before it can express emotion and become worthy of any place as art.


Submitted by:

Mike Shaw

Mike Shaw is an organist and keyboard player and owns music websites http://www.mikesmusicroom.co.uk and http://www.keyboardsheetmusic.co.uk





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