Tag: Balance and Equilibrium

Changing the loudness of one note in a chord

By controlling the relative loudness of each note in a harmonic chord, we are doing what a composer does while writing a symphony, and decides which instruments should play which notes in a chord: more instruments on this note, fewer on that note.

More prominence or less prominence given to the extension of the chord into a higher octave. Rarely does the composer put the same number of players on each of the notes in a chord.

When we do this ‘orchestration’ at the piano, the cause, and the effect are more subtle. Yet the result does mimic orchestration. This is because if we play a particular note twice, once softly, and once loudly, though the primary difference in heard in terms of dynamics, there is a secondary change, which we can notice if we focus on it, in terms of the relative loudness each overtone of that note has as compared with the loudness of each of the other overtones.

Acoustically, this is what gives rise to what our brain interprets as a change of ‘timbre’, or ‘tone quality’, or instrumental quality: that which makes an oboe playing middle C at mezzo forte sound different than a violin playing middle C at the same loudness. This change of timbre is somewhat noticeable when listening to a single note, but when it is multiplied over the various notes of a chord, the difference in the overall timbre of the chord changes more noticeably. Even when we play all the notes of a chord with equal intensity, the result is not what we might anticipate. Each note in the chord is under the “spell” of the harmonic progression. If a note happens to be the ‘third’ of the chord, it will have a relative predominance of effect over the root and fifth. This explains why if we are, for example, in C major, and have a V chord going to a I chord, we can omit the fifth in the I chord. Even though we have left just the root(s) and third(s) there will be no doubt as to whether the chord is a I chord or a vi chord, since both C E G and A C E share the C and E in common.

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Practice Procedures: Part 11:  Keeping the Hand in Balance: Anchoring One Finger with Another

 

To keep a balance in the hand as a whole, it sometimes helps if the muscles within one finger act as the primary mover or instigator to pick up and move another finger.

For instance, the right hand plays the ascending figure b4 ds5 e5 and chooses to use the fingers 1 3 1.

The muscles within the third finger can act to anchor the lifting of the thumb from the b4, be the primary cause of the motion rightwards with the thumb, positioning the thumb over the e5, and letting the thumb down into the key dip of the e5.  During this transition the muscles in the third finger also act to maintain equilibrium in the hand in spite of the constant re-positioning of the thumb.

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Practice Procedures – part 2: Absolute Left and Absolute Right (Versus Relative Left and Right)

There are the left and right ends of the keyboard which are the fixed boundaries of the keyboard as whole.  But there are also equally important boundaries marking out the ‘space’ between the lowest note being currently played on the keyboard and the highest.  Unlike the first boundaries, which are forever fixed and immutable, the second set of boundaries may vary from moment to moment in terms of where they are on the keyboard.  But they are always felt as constant in our body’s and our mind’s sense of holding between the two hands a fixed range of pitches.
Psychologically and physically these temporary,  yet ‘absolute’, boundaries are as important, or more important where the ends of the physical keyboard are located.   At all moments as time passes in our performance of a piece, we should not loose the sense that we are holding in our hands a ‘block’ of pitches.  Whatever is the lowest pitch at a given moment in the piece has an ‘absolute value’.  The same for the highest current pitch.

To emphasize the difference between the two types of boundaries, let us say that we are playing a single chord, made up of: c3-g3-e4-c5*.  If we follow this with the chord b2-g3-g5-d5, in one sense it may be correct to say that the “lowest note has moved” from C to B, but it is just as important to feel that absolute lower boundary of the pitches, and all that that implies, retains its identity though now it is B, and that.  That C has lost its distinction as the lowest pitch.

B is now absolutely equal to the past C, in having the same absolute value and importance as lowest note.   When we move from c3 to b2, we do not have the sense of stretching the pitch space in which we are.  we do not feel that we have moved the lower boundary of the pitch space down a minor second.  It is like the ritual of succession between kings. (“C the third is dead, long live B the second”).

If we keep this in our mind and in our bodies at all times, it gives us, at every moment, two firm sides to a pitch space that we hold physically ‘between’ our hands.  And within which we feel as physically secure and oriented as whatever new notes become the absolute bottom and absolute top of the pitches.

* for this and other blog entries, c4 is middle C.  b3 is the note just below middle C.  c3 is the note one octave below middle C.  b4 the note almost an octave above middle c.  c5 the note one octave above middle C.  The suffix ‘s’ after a letter of the musical alphabet means sharp, ‘x’ means double sharp, ‘f’ means flat and ‘ff’ means double flat.   From this one should be able to extrapolate the meanings of all other symbols used to identify in abbreviation any note on the keyboard. 

 

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Practice Procedures – part 3:  Bouncing Ball Technique

A bouncing ball is a perfect example of one initial motion producing an ongoing series of actions.  We play a first note  (or chord) and then expend less and less energy to create a series of ensuing sounds.

Echo Effect:

Related to the Bouncing Ball Technique is the more general feeling in the body that only one initial physical action may be required to create a series of repeating events similar to the first.

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PLAYING WITHOUT ANY PAIN OR DISCOMFORT: part six

Second Experiment continued:

2E.

Once you can play two adjacent notes, using one of the two second fingers on each note, with the feeling of one melded hand, you can experiment with separating the second fingers further and further apart, without losing the sense that the fingers are still superimposed, the hands still linked, and no difference in sensation in one arm versus the other.

One can do c-d for a while then experiment with c-e for a while, c-f, etc..  Later one can try doing fewer and fewer iterations of each pair of notes before enlarging their mutual distance.  Eventually you can do only one iteration of each: c-c c-d c-e c-f . . . . as far as you can go and retain the original sensation of oneness.  Once you can do it in an organized pattern, one can experiment with a more random sequence of notes, wherein any change of horizontal distance is rendered unconscious and the inertial sense of  conjoint hands persists without even slight moments of alteration.

Whatever the objective distance is between the two second fingers, subjectively one still feels a tangible connection between them: a shunt, a cross piece, connecting rung if a ladder, that holds together the two vertical sides of the ladder.  So that activity is  never felt as happening in one hand or the other.  That even if you tried to notice a difference you could not ‘find’ it in your inner sensations of the muscles (a little self  hypnosis is useful here).* Even the ‘location’ of the sensation of playing, is in the  imaginary cross piece.  This cross piece always completes the circumference of the circle which originally without interruption and unbroken at any point along the circumference, and which should still be felt so.

*To help with the feeling of the connecting rod, place a pencil or other thing and long object over the two hands, and create the feeling the sounds are being made by the single vertical action of the pencil and not by the separate parts of the anatomy.

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