With unhealthy air quality alerts and record breaking temps keeping many Californians indoors, my own piano practicing was strategically planned to offset unexpected environmental changes. (Unlike those residing in the hills who received a RED FLAG evacuation warning, I could, in the flats, cling to my Steinway in a closed door, sealed window space–Ugh!)
An early morning technique centered romp over the keys prevented a finger sticking p.m. trudge through scales and arpeggios amidst a compounding sustained heat wave though hand-washing and powdered palm dries, kept keyboard travel on an even keel.
Dominant 7th, four-note Arpeggios in Contrary motion streamed through my You Tube Channel at a hotter afternoon juncture, breathing life into the concept of relaxation and elasticity–with a broadened arch of the hand, extended fingers, and a note-grouping consciousness. (Note: These arpeggios enlist the root, third, fifth, and seventh degrees of a chord built on the Fifth note of a Major or minor scale.) Like all arpeggios, they’re unraveled as “broken chords.”
To forestall wrist and elbow twisting in the journey, I demonstrated chord blocks for each hand, with intervening featherlight thumb shifts in smooth lateral motion going up in the RH, and a reciprocal loop over thumbs/block to block progression in RH descent. In both directions, there could be no hand, wrist or elbow twisting.
Each hand was practiced separately in parallel motion with blocking techniques before contrary motion blocking and unraveling was undertaken.
BREATHING INTO EACH ARPEGGIO is always emphasized. Taking a relaxed inhale with a natural breathe out into the start of the arpeggio is a must.
In contrary motion, overall motions are synchronized while in parallel motion, they’re opposing: i.e. lateral float thumb shifts in the RH on the ascent, against loop over ascending shifts in the LH. Feeling the transit through chord blocks before arpeggios are unraveled allows the player a bigger note grouping awareness that prevents vertical–up-down/note-to-note playing.
Ideally, during contrary motion arpeggio renderings, the head should not bob back and forth, but instead, the player should lean toward the piano at the last octave, directing attention to either chosen hand. Ultimately, a playing should be based on the “feel” of larger groups of notes, even with the recommended leaning at the last octave toward a preferred hand. With muscle memory embedded into repetitions over time, a player might not have to look in either direction at the terminus and turnaround, but again “feel” his/her way back to the starting root.
In this video demonstration, I explore the following Dominant 7th arpeggios in contrary motion:
G, B, D, F (Thumbs meet at each G root junctures in both hands except for finger 5’s in both hands on the end turnaround G’s)
E, G#, B D (clustered with D, F#, A, C; A, C#, E, G) Practicing the first E-7 Arpeggio, encompasses two others. Thumbs meet at the root junctures between hands, though the last turnaround roots enlist finger 5 in both hands.
Eb, G, Bb, Db and Ab, C, Eb, Gb (Fingering is different here, starting with overlapping fingers 2 in both hands, while thumbs do NOT meet during this broken chord contrary motion unfolding)
In addition, the final octave at the terminus of these arpeggios, creates an asymmetry between the hands–LH, last four notes 3, 4, 1, 2 against RH 1, 2, 3, 4
How one leans in one direction or the other at this awkward place is modeled in the video. (I tend to lean toward the hand with the trickier shift which would be LH, 3, 4, 1, 2 )
F#, A#, C#, E (The most challenging of the group in terms of fingering and asymmetry)
Blocking is helpful though thumbs will not meet between the hands and the last octave poses a definitive asymmetry that I model in the video.
An earlier three-note Arpeggio/Contrary motion tutorial fleshed out a power driven, speed promoting journey. Nonetheless the use of blocks, motion awareness, group note thinking, stretched out fingers/elasticity, etc. hallmarks this approach that favors smooth, horizontal playing.