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Bringing out the melody
#2475129 10/29/15 04:13 AM
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Bringing out the melody isn't too difficult when playing a two-part piece with one voice in each hand. But I often find it difficult when more voices are involved, particularly when the melody has to played together with an accompanying voice or a parts of a chord with the same hand. I find this equally challenging when playing baroque and romantic pieces.

How difficult it is depends on the piece, of course. The famous "Duetto" from Mendelsshon's Songs Without Words is one of the easier cases. This is because the notes of the melody almost never are played together (in time) with the accompanying voice in the same hand. Moreover the melody voices are mostly played with the strong first and second fingers.

Bach fugues I find much more challenging. I try different ways of bringing out the themes here, either by playing the melody louder than the other voice or using different phrasing, e.g. staccato vs. legato. But when two voices are to be played with the same hand, and the melody often has to be played mainly with the third or fourth finger, this isn't easy any longer.

Chopin etude Op. 10/3 is an example of a romantic piece with similar challenge. Not that I play this piece myself anymore - too difficult - but in this and other similar pieces it is really difficult to make the melody sing here and avoid playing the accompanying voices too loudly.

My question to you experts is the following: Except for practice, practice, practice, are there any tricks to bring out the melody when playing it together with accompanying voices with the same hand? Any good finger exercises?

Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475131 10/29/15 04:39 AM
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I'm not an expert, but if the melody is in the fifth finger you must tilt the hand toward the fifth finger.

Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475138 10/29/15 05:30 AM
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In the Chopin Etude the melody will naturally stand out because it is the top voice...as long as one is careful not to play the accompaniment loudly.

Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475183 10/29/15 09:08 AM
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I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I think it works best for me when I am listening carefully to the voices: which one is to be most prominent, which more decorative, which going along further in the background. For this I find passages where a voice moves between the hands to be telling, particularly in Bach's Sinfonias - it's the perfect challenge of the trouble of three voices vs two hands to keep them sounding distinct as an internal melody moves from one hand to the other!

...and unfortunately all I can say is that after learning the fingering well it just seems to come together when I'm fully focused and into the music, listening carefully to the play of melodies.

Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475190 10/29/15 09:34 AM
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Look up the score for Percy Grainger's "Irish Tune from County Derry". I think every finger has the melody at some point, buried in large chords. It's wonderful practice for this sort of thing. You really have to play each chord over and over until you get the voicing that you want - then put it all together. Very difficult at first.

Sam

Last edited by Sam S; 10/29/15 09:35 AM.
Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475191 10/29/15 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Ganddalf
Bringing out the melody isn't too difficult when playing a two-part piece with one voice in each hand. But I often find it difficult when more voices are involved, particularly when the melody has to played together with an accompanying voice or a parts of a chord with the same hand. I find this equally challenging when playing baroque and romantic pieces.

How difficult it is depends on the piece, of course. The famous "Duetto" from Mendelsshon's Songs Without Words is one of the easier cases. This is because the notes of the melody almost never are played together (in time) with the accompanying voice in the same hand. Moreover the melody voices are mostly played with the strong first and second fingers.

Bach fugues I find much more challenging. I try different ways of bringing out the themes here, either by playing the melody louder than the other voice or using different phrasing, e.g. staccato vs. legato. But when two voices are to be played with the same hand, and the melody often has to be played mainly with the third or fourth finger, this isn't easy any longer.

Chopin etude Op. 10/3 is an example of a romantic piece with similar challenge. Not that I play this piece myself anymore - too difficult - but in this and other similar pieces it is really difficult to make the melody sing here and avoid playing the accompanying voices too loudly.

My question to you experts is the following: Except for practice, practice, practice, are there any tricks to bring out the melody when playing it together with accompanying voices with the same hand? Any good finger exercises?


Graham Fitch discusses these very ideas in an excellent video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLWvfmZVOP4&index=13&list=PLR5ap-u8E6toh2-0mg2UnfT-cX76kLqKW

I always learn a lot from his videos.


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Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475194 10/29/15 09:49 AM
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If the melody is in the pinkie or thumb, angle your hand in that direction or make a slight motion in that direction so you have more weight on the melody finger. If the melody is in your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th fingers, slightly curl the melody finger. You can also add a "scratching" motion to the finger. This is going to take slow practice until you get it right. Also, try ghost practicing in which you play all notes silently except the melody finger.

(Thank you PW members for teaching me this many years ago.)


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475236 10/29/15 11:33 AM
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This is one of the hidden challenges in many chopin etudes, not just op 10 no 3. Voicing is a big challenge in almost all of them. This is why they get compared to the Bach WTC. There are many similarities between the two sets of works. You should think about the Chopin etudes as different voices in dialogue with each other.

I remember when I first was made aware of voicing. My teaching had me play a CDEFG cluster chord. Every time I played the chord I was supposed to bring out a melody note for Mary Had A Little Lamb. This is a great starting exercise for this. Experiment with arm and wrist placement, sorry that's the best I have. This technique is difficult to explain without demonstrating.


"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

J.S. Bach
Re: Bringing out the melody
Cheeto717 #2475265 10/29/15 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheeto717
I remember when I first was made aware of voicing. My teaching had me play a CDEFG cluster chord. Every time I played the chord I was supposed to bring out a melody note for Mary Had A Little Lamb.

That's a good one.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475266 10/29/15 01:06 PM
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In some cases really concentrating on legato fingering for the melodic line can help. Having the melodic note ring through a pedal change can help draw the ear towards it.

I'm not sure what the trick is. I don't think I ever had an AHA! moment. Good technique and a relaxed hand makes it easier to control how much weight you put on each finger. My first teacher was apparently a natural at it because her advice was absolutely no help at all ("just will that note to be louder...") At some point I was able to do it without thinking too much about it. As someone said up-thread, if you can slightly curl the finger you want to sing, that helps. If you can play the melodic note with a firm fingertip and flatten the other fingers a little that can help too.

At this point, to make the melody sing, as my first teacher said, I "just will it to happen" and it does.

I'm not sure about the Mary Had a Little Lamb exercise. I think that's pretty hard to do. Maybe really concentrate on your fingering and legato and holding the line through pedal changes. If nothing else that will force you to think about that one finger more than the other four.


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Brahms Op 76 #1, Op 118 #5
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Re: Bringing out the melody
TimV #2475285 10/29/15 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by TimV

I'm not sure about the Mary Had a Little Lamb exercise. I think that's pretty hard to do.

Maybe you should try that exercise too, then.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Bringing out the melody
phantomFive #2475294 10/29/15 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by TimV

I'm not sure about the Mary Had a Little Lamb exercise. I think that's pretty hard to do.

Maybe you should try that exercise too, then.
I think it's too hard for a first voicing exercise. It's also a bit out of place because one rarely has to voice 5 note chords other than maybe bringing out the top voice. More reasonable to play a 3 or 4 note chord and try to voice that different ways.

Re: Bringing out the melody
phantomFive #2475320 10/29/15 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by TimV

I'm not sure about the Mary Had a Little Lamb exercise. I think that's pretty hard to do.

Maybe you should try that exercise too, then.


Maybe try ghosting that exercise....



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Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475337 10/29/15 05:45 PM
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Maybe the five note chord exercise may be helpful to some extent. In practice, however, it may be difficult enough to bring out on out of two or three notes struck at the same time.

I find it particularly difficult if two notes are very close to each other, e.g. a second or third interval. And if the melody consists of a few long notes while the accompanying voice has many short notes I also think it is difficult.

A good example of a nasty place is in Mendelssohn Op.19/5, measures 53 - 57. The melody consists of punctuated halves while the second voice has eights. Therefore I have to play six accompanying notes for each melody note, and at whenever the second voice is played together with the melody the two notes are very close to each other. Eventually I found out that it was highly beneficial to skip the pedal in this place, but still I think that there is a potential to improve. And these measures are easy compared with Chopin 10/3. I'm not satisfied with what I get if I "just play" and rely on the fact that the top notes make the melody line.

Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475392 10/29/15 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Ganddalf
And if the melody consists of a few long notes while the accompanying voice has many short notes I also think it is difficult.


Yes, that's because piano notes decay -- fade away -- as you hold them. The new short ones have their initial loud strike which you have to hold down enough against the fading long note. It's the opposite on an organ, the notes swell.



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Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475415 10/29/15 10:43 PM
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Artur Schnabel would jokingly suggest playing with hands crossed so the stronger fingers are on the top and bottom.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475418 10/29/15 10:49 PM
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Ghosting

2- or 3-note chords in slow half notes where you alternately bring out a different note of the chord, first with sound/ghosting then with loud sound/soft sound

Melody legato while non-melody notes in same hand staccato

Reviewing known pieces where the melody is in one hand and accomp. in the other but the hands are pretty close together

(I love the Mary Had a Little Lamb exercise -- definitely not for a first voicing exercise, like with someone learning the Chopin little A major prelude, but great for someone at the point of learning their first Bach fugue.)

For repertoire: Learning the piece very slowly, only progressing to the next measure when the previous measure has very clear and consistent voicing


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Re: Bringing out the melody
hreichgott #2475438 10/30/15 12:48 AM
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A few things I do to try to bring out the melody better:

- Move notes between the hands to make it easier to voice and sustain the melody.

- If the melody is bunched with a bunch of other notes in the same hand (and the other hand isn't available to take additional notes), I find it helpful to try practicing it with two hands (one hand takes just the melody, and the other hand takes all the other notes from the hand with the melody). The goal is to simplify that hand and get an idea of how I want to musically balance it. After I get it to a point that I am satisfied, I try adding all of the notes back to one hand and practice it until I can play it as well as two hands. This is not an easy process, but I find it helps me get a better idea of the sound I want to achieve.

- Pedal change on melody notes. Frequently, this is just quarter or half pedal changes, as I don't want to lose the bass - I just want to thin the texture a bit. I've found this to be particularly effective when a melody is buried in the middle of a texture. It helps me feel that I can isolate the melody notes better when listening.

- On occasion, I'll rhythmically alter a melody note - either push it a little before or after all the other notes. I don't do this much, but I find I do it sometimes if the melody is buried in the middle of a five note chord in one hand. In a five note chord in one hand, I can easily voice the top or the bottom, but not easily the notes in between.

Re: Bringing out the melody
Ganddalf #2475810 10/31/15 09:14 AM
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For me, doing finger independence exercises and studies that emphasize holding of notes while playing others has helped a lot. I do the first two Dohnanyi exercises almost every day, and think they've made a big difference, but there is a ton of other material out there that is designed to develop finger independence. The first etude in Clementi's Gradus, for example. He must have thought it was especially important if he put it first, I think. IIRC, Liszt also put a holding exercise at the very beginning of his technical exercises.

I think it's easier to do the holding work before doing voicing exercises, although they are more or less complementary. At any rate, I think what is really going on with this kind of work is building the neurological paths and developing brain in ways that allow you to have the kind of control over each finger that makes it possible, eventually, to mentally "will" the voicing you want and have it happen. You can't do it without that underlying stuff being in place, and the finger independence exercises and etudes are probably the most efficient way to make it happen, it seems to me.



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