More Beautiful Sounding Octaves: for the Medium-Size Hand
When I play octaves, there is a tendency, at least in my-sized hand, to have the pinkie and the thumb move towards each other when contact the keys. But it is worth sometimes practicing in way so that the tip of the pinkie as well as that of the thumb should move in a line along the longitude of their key. This requires my attention, because the hand is already spread for the octave, and the first and fifth fingers moving slightly towards each other happens naturally. Especially for the thumb it is a more natural movement. So, just once in a while, practice octaves so that those fingers move in a plane so that they go directly and horizontally towards the body in an extension of the longitude of their keys.
The muscles needed to move the thumb and pinkie in this direction move in these constrained directions require first, in the case of the right pinkie, an extreme flexion of the third knuckle, down and aimed to the right as it moves in the direction of the body, aided also somewhat by a flexion in the right side of the wrist. In the case of the right thumb it should practice its motion by slowly tracing over an imaginary straight line extending beyond the lip the key aimed towards the body. The third knuckle, where it attaches to the wrist, is prominent in keeping the thumb congruent with this line. As the motion is made the thumb is always compensating for the desire to move outwards and away from the second finger.
Melodies in octaves – balance of sound between the octaves
Summary: How to ‘de-muddify’ notes in octaves
For me, one of the most difficult sonic tasks at the piano is to balance two notes if they are exactly one octave apart. If a melody sounds in two octaves at once, it is usually at this distance of one octave. In spite of all my attempts, the resulting sound is not a clear blending, but contains elements of diffuseness and mutual interference. I never have considered this sound acceptable.
Interestingly, this problem disappears if I separate the two notes by exactly two octaves. The way the overtones of the two notes combine in this case creates a pristine and crystalline acoustical effect, noticeably different than the muddiness of the single octave. For organists it is the same as the difference of combining the principal 8 foot and 2 foot stops as against the 8 and 4 foot stops.
There are three things that I can do to help clarify the sound in the cases where the composer does have a melody in notes one octave apart. How to de-muddify:
1. Have the duration of the notes in the lower octave be slightly shorter than those in the upper octave. This will overcome the natural tendency for lower pitches to seem to move more slowly than higher pitches. There will be a barely detectable silence in the sound from the lower octave at end of each of its notes, before the next notes of the melody begin simultaneously.
2. I can play around with the relative loudness of the two notes. Depending on the musical context, there will be cases when the lower notes can be slightly louder than the upper, and other cases when the opposite seems best. This is like “orchestrating” the given passage.
3. Consider the note an octave higher as being simply the first overtone of the lower note. In this way we can hear the upper note as being already contained in the lower note.