Cleaning Up Your “Presto”

Neat Trick

You’ve been practicing a piece for several months and know every note.   You’ve brought it up to speed and even memorized it.  But there are still some sections … usually the faster ones … which are “murky”.  The notes aren’t clear and the finger articulation is not precise.  You go over those sections again and again, trying to clean them up.   To no avail.

This frustrating situation is familiar to most pianists, no matter what their level.   Many years ago, I remember desperately reviewing four stubborn measures from the Pathètique half an hour before I was due to perform at a competition in Montreal.  I was in tears as I wrestled with my recalcitrant fingers which simply refused to flow over those notes.

At that time I was unaware of a very easy and amazingly effective remedy for the problem of those uneven notes in “presto” passages.  It is simply to practice them in a deliberately  uneven rhythm with an accent on the first note.  While this might seem counter-productive, for some strange reason it works.

♥ BUT be sure you know the music very well.   This trick is not for learning the notes … you already know them … it’s for dexterity.   And the first couple of times, you may find it a little difficult.   But be sure to stress the first note of each beat or note group.

 

Here’s an example …

This lovely Toccata is usually played at quite a fast pace.  And it is a relentless four pages of cascading notes in the right hand.  So the “uneven” practice method is ideal for smoothing out the notes once you are familiar with them.

Paradisie Toccata Sample

Remember to accent the first note of each beat.   After one or two repetitions, the distorted beat will come automatically.  It takes very few repetitions for its magic to work.  And whenever a few bars seem to be messy,  just brush up with a couple of repeats.

It’s one of my best tricks.

Syncopated sample

♥ The Happy Piano Professor.

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