I often enjoy a splurge of self-produced technique videos to assist my teaching, and to clarify my latest insights. This week I examined Staccato playing, using weight transfer for dynamic variation, as I employed a legato “floating arm” as a model for snipping out a stream of well-connected, scale-wise detached notes. In this undertaking, I’d come to realize that finger strength has little to do with sculpting a beautiful staccato line.
In the horizontal spill of a step-by-step ascent and descent, the thumb which guides the hand, ideally advances (early), like a feather, under “tunnel” fingers, without any twisting motions of the wrist or elbow. Smooth transit of these sprightly notes should have an upward “ping,” not falling “down” with impact on hard turf. (Dynamics are ideally plied with varying degrees of weight transfer coming down the arm.)
With a desirable rebound or trampoline effect, pounding fingers are not an option, even at forte levels.
Finally, a wrist staccato is demonstrated that bundles groups of notes to create additional nuance and “shaping.”
A second video explores contrary motion scales, incorporating note transit in opposing motion, thinking horizontal in both legato and staccato rendering. (Again, with “floating arms.”)
Keeping the head relaxed, NOT moving it back and forth to track what each hand is doing along the scale route is another valuable prompt. And moving one’s body toward the last octave in a three octave contrary motion journey, reduces the size of the keyboard in the final 8-note spill that’s off the “radar screen.” Students can choose which side of the keyboard’s terminus, feels natural or comfortable in the way his/her body leans.
As the scale winds back around to the starting note, the head and body adjust to its original, central, more upright position.
Finally, weight transfer, the “floating arm,” and attentive listening are at the fore of beautiful scale playing in legato and staccato.
Four-note arpeggios through inversions form the finale of my Technique-driven trio. A self-devised, rhythmic prep routine promotes a relaxed, swinging arm with supple wrist movements through multiple octaves. At the peak note turnaround, a rotational motion provides a desirable “roundness” as wavy arms in counter-clockwise motion, and pliant wrists afford satisfying, seamless playing. As part of the preliminaries, I demonstrate blocking techniques that I’d included in my previous scale-related tutorials.