piano blogging

Playing the piano like a singer

The J.C. Bach Prelude in A minor begs for a fluid “singing” tone through its progression of rolled out broken chords that have a melodic thread fleshed out by finger 5. Rounding out these uppermost destination notes is a challenge because it’s easy to fall down hard on them with pencil point attacks instead of emulating a soprano, who will infuse a perfect breath into them.

As pianists, we can become singers, if we choose, planning an approach that bridges our distance from the strings.

That’s why singing and internalizing the shapes of phrases is an essential ingredient of practicing.
It crystallizes what we want to hear before we set our fingers to play.

Choreography of fingers, wrists and arms, therefore, must be an outflow of what we sing, which makes it a good departure point.

In the lesson below, the student and I worked in this universe of song and its expression at the keyboard with rolling and rotational movements that produced desirable phrase contouring.

JC Bach p1

JC Bach p. 2

2 thoughts on “Playing the piano like a singer”

  1. Hi Shirley, thanks so much for this informative blog. I’m a piano teacher in Washington state and am teaching this piece currently. Could you enlighten me about your harmonic analysis in m. 21 please? Why is it a diminished 7 chord and not 5 (dominant) chord? Thank you so much.


    1. Thanks for your note. Indeed given the Bass E, the vertical spread of notes=a Prmary Dom. 7th of A minor. When the students just block out the right hand in clusters as part of a layered learning process, they would hear only the diminished 7th.. G# B D… and I do recommend that step be taken.


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