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Deep Basic #4: Prepare.

by Bruce Siegel on July 21st, 2010

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the core essentials of piano playing.

When I’m teaching, it often seems that every other word out of my mouth is about preparation. Though the specifics vary, the message always comes down to this:

Be ready for the next note well in advance, touching the key, with your body poised to get the sound you want.

There’s a lot packed into that sentence, so let’s break it down:

Be ready for the next note: Preparation depends largely on smart fingering. Anytime you can finger a note so that you have another finger already in position to play the next note, that’s a victory. And when you create a series of little triumphs like that, one right after another, you’ll find you’ve gone a long way towards making the piece easier to play.
Think of good fingering as lubrication—it keeps you gliding with ease through otherwise difficult passages.

Touching the key: When you’re in contact with a note well before playing it, you’re less likely to hit a wrong note, and you’ll have more control over the sound.

Your body poised: Preparation is not only about your fingers—remember to keep an eye on your wrist, too, in particular. For example, depending on the sound you’re after, you may want your wrist to be high so you can drop into the key, or lower so you can rise as you play, or angled to one side so you can use what we call rotation.

Well in advance: I saved this for last because it’s the heart of the matter. The sooner you’re perfectly positioned over the next note or chord, ready to play, the more you can relax, and the better your chance of getting exactly the sound you want.

So be there, waiting.

(This video demonstrates preparation as it relates to big leaps. But the basics are the same, whether you’re traveling three steps or three octaves.)

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