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Piano Technique: Braving the slippery slope of black keys, practicing the F# Major Arpeggio (VIDEO)

Why all the prejudice against black notes? I, for one, avoided them like the plague for years. And my teachers were enablers, keeping me and other students contentedly in C Major to avoid widespread unrest. Their benign neglect of the blacks, in the the end, came at great cost. We teetered on the edge when a sharp or flat crept into the score, and never expected to make peace with them.


Decades later I find myself miraculously liberated from the tight grip such keyboard apartheid had on my hands and psyche. It’s because I realized that if I remained regressed in a white note universe, I would deprive myself of a vast literature of heavenly piano music.


In the video below, I elevate the F# Major arpeggio to a status it deserves by practicing it in “chunks.”

Since the thumbs meet in the course of playing this particular arpeggio, the “tunnel” fingers through which they pass are reciprocals or mirrors. This allows the brain to more easily digest the concept of the same fingers being in an inverse relationship, while thumbs play on either side. So blocking out these middle notes imbues a consciousness of “spacing,” geographic “feel,” and advances muscle memory.

F# A# C# F# A# C# F#
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 etc
5 3 2 1 3 2 1

Chunking each hand alone with thumbs in between is demonstrated in the video.

Chunking, hands together is next explored.

Picking a rhythmic framework to advance fluency, shaping, and tempo building is the culmination of all the GROUPING or chunking activity.

The Routine: Start with a singing tone legato and play deep into the keys.

Practice Quarter quarter notes (sub-dividing the beat) for three octaves
Then Eighth notes for three octaves
Followed by Tripets for three octaves
Then Triplet 16ths for FOUR octaves
Progressing to:
Triplet 32nds for FOUR octaves
Triplet 32nds staccato Forte, FOUR octaves
Triplet 32nds, staccato piano, FOUR octaves

If 32nds are bit of a stretch, then make 16ths your peak, but remember to end with a pair of arpeggios in staccato (F/p)

Know that staccato is only a snip away from legato, so let your relaxed and buoyant arms keep swinging away just the same. And never lose your psycho-physiological connection to the notes.



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