Discover the importance of developing great piano technique in this article by James Barnett
When I was young, I heard a recording of Clair de Lune by Debussy and it ignited a tremendous passion in me: I simply had to learn this magical piece of music. I worked very hard, learnt all the notes and I could pretty much play the piece but it was inconsistent and sounded very different from the recording.
I was disappointed and frustrated; the famous opening thirds were not smooth and singing, rapid left-hand semiquavers lacked fluidity. Chords lacked voicing and melodic lines struggled to project above accompanying textures. There was a gulf between the music in my mind and what I heard. I couldn’t understand why but I now know it’s because of how my body was working with the piano. The technique I used was in need of adjustment.
The technical development that was not yet complete in my playing needs to be started in lesson one, embedded and cemented in the first few years of learning. Developing a good hand shape is the start of this foundation and for most people, it does not come naturally. Most tutor books describe the handshape to look like a bridge or as if you’re holding a ball.
When I started Clair de Lune, had my hand shape been more developed the left-hand semiquavers and legato thirds would have been more achievable. I would have been able to create a better balance between melodic lines and accompaniment. This is why developing a solid technique is so important. You’ve probably got a favourite piece of piano music that you aspire to play and if you’ve put that technical work in it’s much more likely to live up to your expectations when you eventually learn it.
About the Author
James Barnett is an experienced piano teacher and professional musician based in Sheffield. He has worked with many students of all learning abilities over the years, helping them to rapidly develop their piano playing ability. He offers piano lessons in Sheffield, as well as providing learning advice and piano resources to students as part of the mgrmusic.com teacher community.