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#2701997 - 01/04/18 04:44 AM legato  
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From what I understand you can play repeates chords legato. An example would be Pastorale (Burgmüller). The G chord is repeated but great pianist actually play it legato although it's difficult.
When you have a single note being repeated there is a need for changing fingers in order to play legato.
So the question is: why can you play a chord (three notes) legato but a single note require changing of fingers for legato.
What are your thoughts?

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#2701998 - 01/04/18 04:57 AM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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You can play single note legato with one finger, it's just a little bit more difficult to do than changing of fingers.

#2702002 - 01/04/18 05:12 AM Re: legato [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev]  
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
You can play single note legato with one finger, it's just a little bit more difficult to do than changing of fingers.


I don't believe you can play a single repeated note, or the same repeated chord, legato with any combination of fingers. The hammer has to fall and hit the note again.

#2702003 - 01/04/18 05:20 AM Re: legato [Re: kevinb]  
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
You can play single note legato with one finger, it's just a little bit more difficult to do than changing of fingers.


I don't believe you can play a single repeated note, or the same repeated chord, legato with any combination of fingers. The hammer has to fall and hit the note again.


Hi Kevin
I think that you can have the sound of connectedness needed for legato even though the hammers do need to strike the keys again. The way my teacher instructed to do this is by keeping the fingers on the keys and pressing the note again. I hope this makes sense what I’m saying, but what you don’t want to do is remove your hand completely from the keys and restrike with a separation in movements.


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#2702009 - 01/04/18 05:59 AM Re: legato [Re: dogperson]  
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Originally Posted by dogperson
I think that you can have the sound of connectedness needed for legato even though the hammers do need to strike the keys again. The way my teacher instructed to do this is by keeping the fingers on the keys and pressing the note again.


Fair enough -- I guess what you or your teacher means is to keep the key depressed sufficiently to prevent the damper falling. I can see how that would produce a better illusion of legato than allowing the damper to come down.

In the end, however, genuine legato of the kind that can be achieved on a flute or a violin is impossible on the piano, because of the percussive nature of the sound generation. Even with the damper up, the sound intensity dies away very quickly after the hammer strikes. There isn't a huge amount you can do with finger action to change this basic physical limitation. Just my $0.02, of course.

#2702061 - 01/04/18 10:53 AM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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Here's something to try: Play a key rather loud, and slowly let it back up until the damper just starts to contact the strings. Press down again. Does the note play again? It depends on how well the particular piano is regulated.

Hold several keys down -- a chord -- while you repeat another. Sympathetic vibration will keep a little of the sound going between repetitions.

And of course you can also just pedal it..... ;-)


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#2702559 - 01/06/18 04:06 AM Re: legato [Re: JohnSprung]  
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Here's something to try: Play a key rather loud, and slowly let it back up until the damper just starts to contact the strings. Press down again. Does the note play again? It depends on how well the particular piano is regulated.


On my acoustic piano -- which is very old and hasn't had a lot of maintenance -- it's exceptionally difficult to play the same note twice without the string being damped. I don't think it's something I could really learn to exploit, to improve the illusion of legato on single notes.

My digital piano, however, does it rather well. I only just discovered that when I tried it in response to your post. I guess I've had the acoustic piano a long time, and the digital only a few months, so I just assumed that the digital would play the same way as the acoustic.

So I'm curious now, whether better-quality, or better-maintained, acoustic pianos would allow better control of the string damper than mine does. I shall try this when I next get an opportunity to play on better pianos.

Still, my concern is that if one developed a playing technique that depended on the fine details of a piano's regulation, things could go badly wrong when playing a different piano.

Or do all quality pianos behave the same in this respect? To be honest, I don't play enough different pianos to have given it a lot of thought.

#2702574 - 01/06/18 05:57 AM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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It's due to the repetition mechanism of the piano action and, yes, all good accoustic pianos have it. My teacher recommended trying to feel that mechanism when playing Chopin to improve legato and signing tone.

I don't think it's a bad idea to depend on the features of a good piano for technique. You can learn on an accoustic and still have a very good technique when playing on a crappy synth-action keyboard even though the keyboard doesn't have all the nuances of the real piano. Doing it the other way is bound to produce very bad technique.


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#2702709 - 01/06/18 05:40 PM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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In a sense, legato repeated notes are only truly possible if the pedal is down -- the damper doesn't touch the string between notes.
But we all learn to play legato repeated notes with no pedal first. You allow the key to come up to the top for the barest blink of an eye, then play the note again. With kids I have them imagine glue on their fingers to get them to do similarly to what dogperson describes. It is an illusion, sure, but if you do it right it's so close to a true legato that it's hard to tell the difference. (And the sound waves are still bouncing around the room during that very brief period of time that the key is up, so the sound doesn't truly stop.)
This works the same way whether you are playing chords or single notes, and the same way whether you keep the same finger or change fingers.

(It is possible to do what JohnSprung suggests, where you only let the key come up to the point where your piano's hammer is ready to play again, but that point is different on every piano -- it would require completely re-learning your legato technique every time you went to play on a different piano.)

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#2702769 - 01/06/18 10:50 PM Re: legato [Re: hreichgott]  
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
With kids I have them imagine glue on their fingers to get them to do similarly to what dogperson describes.


...and you wait patiently until the film dries and then you oh so carefully pull the membrane from each of your fingers and get that perfect transparent fingerprint...

Sorry, was just having a moment there.


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#2702790 - 01/07/18 02:49 AM Re: legato [Re: hreichgott]  
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
(It is possible to do what JohnSprung suggests, where you only let the key come up to the point where your piano's hammer is ready to play again, but that point is different on every piano -- it would require completely re-learning your legato technique every time you went to play on a different piano.)


That's my worry. When I play piano in public settings, it's usually in "village hall" environments. I count myself lucky if all the keys sound a note. I certainly wouldn't want to have to find a one millimetre point in the travel of each key where it's possible to resound the note without the hammer falling.

#2702796 - 01/07/18 03:49 AM Re: legato [Re: kevinb]  
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
You can play single note legato with one finger, it's just a little bit more difficult to do than changing of fingers.


I don't believe you can play a single repeated note, or the same repeated chord, legato with any combination of fingers. The hammer has to fall and hit the note again.

You are correct.

The idea that you can connect anything repeated on the piano is magic thinking.

The best you can do is to narrow the gap as much as possible between when the dampers stop the vibration and when it starts again, with the next striking of the hammer.

Change of fingers for one repeated note is not for legato. It is for speed.

There is nothing I can think of that causes unnecessary tension quicker in developing players than trying to connect things, with the fingers, that no top pianist would ever do.


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#2702798 - 01/07/18 04:17 AM Re: legato [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
You can play single note legato with one finger, it's just a little bit more difficult to do than changing of fingers.


I don't believe you can play a single repeated note, or the same repeated chord, legato with any combination of fingers. The hammer has to fall and hit the note again.

You are correct.

The idea that you can connect anything repeated on the piano is magic thinking.

The best you can do is to narrow the gap as much as possible between when the dampers stop the vibration and when it starts again, with the next striking of the hammer.

Change of fingers for one repeated note is not for legato. It is for speed.

There is nothing I can think of that causes unnecessary tension quicker in developing players than trying to connect things, with the fingers, that no top pianist would ever do.

That is so true! The problem is that so many adults start playing the piano and listen to recordings and try to play in the way that they think the pianist is playing. If one is lucky one gets a teacher who will demystify all those things and show you how much in piano playing is make believe rather than literally doing everything as written.

#2702802 - 01/07/18 05:02 AM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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Double escapement already mentioned?

Last edited by Nahum; 01/07/18 05:07 AM.
#2702807 - 01/07/18 06:11 AM Re: legato [Re: Nahum]  
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Double escapement already mentioned?

Yes, and there seems to be disagreement regarding it.

Originally Posted by hreichgott

(It is possible to do what JohnSprung suggests, where you only let the key come up to the point where your piano's hammer is ready to play again, but that point is different on every piano -- it would require completely re-learning your legato technique every time you went to play on a different piano.)

Every piano also has different key weights, a different half-pedal point, a different decay time, a different dynamic range, etc. Not to mention differences due to room accoustics. Does it mean you have to "completely re-learn your technique" when you switch pianos? You have to adjust for sure but I disagree that you have to re-learn anything.

I'm sure many of us played on a bad upright where it's hard to even do a proper trill because the keys don't come up fast enough. Would you dismiss trilling as an essential technique because of this possible limitation?


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#2702809 - 01/07/18 06:43 AM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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Judicious use of the double escapement enables a pianist to play really sotto voce (- and good digitals also simulate the same thing reliably) as well as legato on the same note without pedal, by re-striking the same key before it has returned beyond the point of damper release (i.e. before the 'notch' feel).

But it's only possible on a piano you're very familiar with and when playing slow music, and it requires great control (as it's very easy to get 'silent notes': you actually have to play 'louder' to achieve the effect). However, when used appropriately, it can be very effective.


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#2702812 - 01/07/18 07:12 AM Re: legato [Re: Qazsedcft]  
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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I'm sure many of us played on a bad upright where it's hard to even do a proper trill because the keys don't come up fast enough. Would you dismiss trilling as an essential technique because of this possible limitation?


I guess it depends on what work you're willing to do, to become reasonably competent on the kinds of pianos you're likely to play. I once played as an accompanist on an upright piano, that went completely silent when the soft pedal was depressed. That was a nasty experience, but I guess that doesn't mean that I should never use that pedal again.

On the other hand, if use of the soft pedal was likely to take me weeks and weeks of diligent practice, I'm not sure I'd want to invest that time, given my experiences. I've played on pianos where some of the keys don't sound at all, but I'm doubt I would want to avoid learning to play music that uses those keys.

It's really a matter of the environment you work in, and the time you're willing to commit. For me, there's absolutely no mileage in spending hours learning to do something that is only possible on top-quality instruments, because I'm rarely called on to play on one.

#2702813 - 01/07/18 07:17 AM Re: legato [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
The best you can do is to narrow the gap as much as possible between when the dampers stop the vibration and when it starts again, with the next striking of the hammer.

Change of fingers for one repeated note is not for legato. It is for speed.


That's my understanding, also.

But...

Quite a lot of the music I have shows fingering that changes on successive, repeated notes, even in slow passages. Even semibreves. Sometimes that's because it's necessary to get the hand ready for a later note; but it's hard to understand why an editor might write fingering 2-3-2 (for example) on repeated semibreves, unless he thought there was some benefit to this change of fingering.

My view is that it isn't reasonably practicable to try to improve the illusion of legato by very fussy and technical finger changes, but I think that some music editors believe it is.

#2702821 - 01/07/18 08:51 AM Re: legato [Re: kevinb]  
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Quite a lot of the music I have shows fingering that changes on successive, repeated notes, even in slow passages. Even semibreves. Sometimes that's because it's necessary to get the hand ready for a later note; but it's hard to understand why an editor might write fingering 2-3-2 (for example) on repeated semibreves, unless he thought there was some benefit to this change of fingering.

My view is that it isn't reasonably practicable to try to improve the illusion of legato by very fussy and technical finger changes, but I think that some music editors believe it is.

That's a different matter. The reason for finger changes is not necessarily for legato but for the difference in tone you get with different fingers.


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#2702822 - 01/07/18 08:55 AM Re: legato [Re: Qazsedcft]  
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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
That's a different matter. The reason for finger changes is not necessarily for legato but for the difference in tone you get with different fingers.


Why? Does the hammer hit the string differently?

#2702857 - 01/07/18 11:05 AM Re: legato [Re: kevinb]  
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
That's a different matter. The reason for finger changes is not necessarily for legato but for the difference in tone you get with different fingers.


Why? Does the hammer hit the string differently?

Physically, no, the only thing you can affect is the speed and acceleration of the hammers. But you're not a robot. Humans don't control the sound by calculating how much acceleration of the arm and the hand and the finger is necessary for each note. We do it by imagining the effect we want to produce and then moving our hands as naturally as possible to produce that effect. Changing fingers is sometimes the most natural way to do that.


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#2702868 - 01/07/18 11:54 AM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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Teachers often teach student to change fingers whenever there are repeated notes, to get them used to doing so in slow music, before they have to do it in fast music, when it's the only way to repeat notes quickly.

If you are advanced, of course, you change fingers only if there is a reason to, or you like the effect better.

This great pianist doesn't change fingers on the repeated note theme in the slow movement (starting at 7:00):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-V4bGocFwnE


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#2702878 - 01/07/18 12:39 PM Re: legato [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
You are correct.

The idea that you can connect anything repeated on the piano is magic thinking.

The best you can do is to narrow the gap as much as possible between when the dampers stop the vibration and when it starts again, with the next striking of the hammer.

Change of fingers for one repeated note is not for legato. It is for speed.

There is nothing I can think of that causes unnecessary tension quicker in developing players than trying to connect things, with the fingers, that no top pianist would ever do.

The last line in this post is especially important. It was also the point in the video that Tubbie linked to a week or so ago (Mortensen?), and I'm not sure that the point there was gotten.

As per Mortenson, and also what I have learned, the piano is much an instrument of illusion, and the pianist is an illusionist. The point is not to literally create a given effect, but to give the impression of such an effect upon the audience. In this instance, if you strive to literally created legato by connecting all the notes - for adjacent notes you have a slight overlap of sound, one blending into the next in "true legato", if you strive to do this you can introduce a lot of tension (Gary's point above). You also limit what you might be able to do. True legato on repeated notes and chords can only be achieved through pedal. The impression of legato through some of the devices described here, such as the timing of release and repeat along the escapement path of a well set up good piano, that can be done. But is it necessary?

I was once newly in a choir where we would be performing Brahms. Our choirmaster knew the church had a huge echo. He had us sing a given passage very staccato. It sounded horrid in our non-acoustic practice room. He explained that it would sound perfect in the church, because the echo would create just the right blend of sound. In the church our staccato singing created a legato effect.

I used to get tension in my hand because my movements literally reflected how I heard the music. I.e., if a note lasted 4 beats, I "held down" that note for 4 beats, just like I wouldn't let go of a sung note - except that in piano you do have to let go. Your actions don't literally match the intended sound in such instances. It still feels weird to me at times.

#2702887 - 01/07/18 01:24 PM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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Yes, a lot of playing is an illusion, and that includes holding down the the notes where you’re still using the pedal. I don’t see any reason for this to create tension, as you can keep your hands on the keys maintainIng the illusion that you are pressing the note But playing with no pressure and therefore no tension. If you’re playing for an audience, this illusion is important, particularly on the end notes of the piece: The pedal should be released at the same time as the hands are released.


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#2702899 - 01/07/18 01:59 PM Re: legato [Re: kevinb]  
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Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Gary D.
The best you can do is to narrow the gap as much as possible between when the dampers stop the vibration and when it starts again, with the next striking of the hammer.

Change of fingers for one repeated note is not for legato. It is for speed.


That's my understanding, also.

But...

Quite a lot of the music I have shows fingering that changes on successive, repeated notes, even in slow passages. Even semibreves. Sometimes that's because it's necessary to get the hand ready for a later note; but it's hard to understand why an editor might write fingering 2-3-2 (for example) on repeated semibreves, unless he thought there was some benefit to this change of fingering.

My view is that it isn't reasonably practicable to try to improve the illusion of legato by very fussy and technical finger changes, but I think that some music editors believe it is.

Changing fingers on every note that is repeated, regardless of speed, has nothing to do with the way the piano works. It is a sort of belief system, and you see it front and center with certain editors. For instance, you will see three repeated notes, rather slow, shown changing fingers, then those same notes will be repeated in octaves, nothing else different, quite obviously not with changing fingers on the octaves. And remember small hands can't even physical play many octaves even with finger 4.

A perfect example of this idea of always changing fingers is in Fuer Elise, the C section, where you have repeated notes almost for a page. In most editions you will see changing fingering shown, something like 321 321. A student will think that changing fingers there is better, smoother, more even.

Watch the left hand here:

https://youtu.be/n7JcSyZMBvA?t=2m8s

The repeated As in the LH. Changing fingers? No. She is lightly tapping the repeated notes with the same finger, just as any beginner would do, or any child. Why? Because just riding the key is easiest to control with one finger, and changing fingers makes the notes harder to keep at exactly the same volume, or gently increase and decrease.

Is it the pedal?

No, because you can control it better, slowly without pedal too.

Great composers and pianists are not immune to magic thinking. You have to keep an open mind and try things both ways. For myself I find that using the same finger for repeated notes is always easiest and most natural with the same finger unless I am moving, which is an entirely different thing. You will see this reflected visually when watching to players, but you won't see it reflected in popular editions, which tend to endlessly repeat what has been done, for only that reason.

Last edited by Gary D.; 01/07/18 02:00 PM.

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#2702901 - 01/07/18 02:07 PM Re: legato [Re: dogperson]  
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Originally Posted by dogperson
.... If you’re playing for an audience, this illusion is important, particularly on the end notes of the piece: The pedal should be released at the same time as the hands are released.

Or thereabouts. And especially at the end, because you don't want to destroy the illusion for the audience. But you yourself, as the student, need to know of the early release, that it is possible, that it may be needed in some instances, otherwise you yourself are caught up by the illusion as a reality, and get trapped. You have to take that freedom and use it, while at the same time apply a sleight of hand to keep the audience under your spell.

#2702903 - 01/07/18 02:10 PM Re: legato [Re: dogperson]  
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Yes, a lot of playing is an illusion, and that includes holding down the the notes where you’re still using the pedal. I don’t see any reason for this to create tension, as you can keep your hands on the keys maintainIng the illusion that you are pressing the note But playing with no pressure and therefore no tension. If you’re playing for an audience, this illusion is important, particularly on the end notes of the piece: The pedal should be released at the same time as the hands are released.

That's fine at the close of a piece, but too often students are told to hold down notes - including when other notes are being played with the fingers of the same hand - when it's totally unnecessary because the pedal is depressed for the duration. Or having to do near-impossible finger switching to achieve continuity of melodic line at fast speeds when they're already doing legato pedalling.

For example, in this piece, the pianist does finger switching at first, then abandons it, quite rightly:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd6BVTCM-YA


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#2702934 - 01/07/18 03:59 PM Re: legato [Re: Gary D.]  
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Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by kevinb
Originally Posted by Gary D.
The best you can do is to narrow the gap as much as possible between when the dampers stop the vibration and when it starts again, with the next striking of the hammer.

Change of fingers for one repeated note is not for legato. It is for speed.


That's my understanding, also.

But...

Quite a lot of the music I have shows fingering that changes on successive, repeated notes, even in slow passages. Even semibreves. Sometimes that's because it's necessary to get the hand ready for a later note; but it's hard to understand why an editor might write fingering 2-3-2 (for example) on repeated semibreves, unless he thought there was some benefit to this change of fingering.

My view is that it isn't reasonably practicable to try to improve the illusion of legato by very fussy and technical finger changes, but I think that some music editors believe it is.

Changing fingers on every note that is repeated, regardless of speed, has nothing to do with the way the piano works. It is a sort of belief system, and you see it front and center with certain editors. For instance, you will see three repeated notes, rather slow, shown changing fingers, then those same notes will be repeated in octaves, nothing else different, quite obviously not with changing fingers on the octaves. And remember small hands can't even physical play many octaves even with finger 4.

A perfect example of this idea of always changing fingers is in Fuer Elise, the C section, where you have repeated notes almost for a page. In most editions you will see changing fingering shown, something like 321 321. A student will think that changing fingers there is better, smoother, more even.

Watch the left hand here:

https://youtu.be/n7JcSyZMBvA?t=2m8s

The repeated As in the LH. Changing fingers? No. She is lightly tapping the repeated notes with the same finger, just as any beginner would do, or any child. Why? Because just riding the key is easiest to control with one finger, and changing fingers makes the notes harder to keep at exactly the same volume, or gently increase and decrease.

Is it the pedal?

No, because you can control it better, slowly without pedal too.

Great composers and pianists are not immune to magic thinking. You have to keep an open mind and try things both ways. For myself I find that using the same finger for repeated notes is always easiest and most natural with the same finger unless I am moving, which is an entirely different thing. You will see this reflected visually when watching to players, but you won't see it reflected in popular editions, which tend to endlessly repeat what has been done, for only that reason.


Not that I am really qualified to talk about it amongst the illustrious teachers here, just some thoughts I have.

I sometimes feel that changing fingering can be a worthwhile thing to do, in terms of making subtle changes in voicing on repeated notes ... for deliberate effect, it somehow feels ( to me ) more natural to switch fingers in some scenarios where you may not want successive notes to sound exactly the same. This is a good example, end of bar 2 and 4 where, I play it as indicated in the score.

[Linked Image]


I am not saying it as a hard rule, but in this case it helps me to naturally alter the voice/sound/timing in a subtle way that somehow feels more natural to me when I switch (but perhaps I am just being weird smile ).

I have watched different pianists play this piece, Lisitsa has a rendition of that entire album for the young on her channel and she always sticks to the same finger in this piece, but other don't. I feel equally comfortable doing it with the same fingers or switching over in this case, but the effect is subtly different. If I want to create the same effect with the same finger I have to be deliberate about it, with a switch it just ... happens.

Interestingly, the album for the young by Tchaikovsky is full of those kind of situations where this arises, and finger switching is commonly indicated in the edition I use anyway ( not that I follow it to the letter, and I experimented with both.) depending on the situation and the sound/effect one is after and what feels like the most natural thing to do.

Am I making any sense ?

Last edited by Alexander Borro; 01/07/18 04:18 PM.

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#2702942 - 01/07/18 04:35 PM Re: legato [Re: Qazsedcft]  
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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by kevinb
Quite a lot of the music I have shows fingering that changes on successive, repeated notes, even in slow passages. Even semibreves. Sometimes that's because it's necessary to get the hand ready for a later note; but it's hard to understand why an editor might write fingering 2-3-2 (for example) on repeated semibreves, unless he thought there was some benefit to this change of fingering.

My view is that it isn't reasonably practicable to try to improve the illusion of legato by very fussy and technical finger changes, but I think that some music editors believe it is.

That's a different matter. The reason for finger changes is not necessarily for legato but for the difference in tone you get with different fingers.


Sorry, I had not absorbed the entire thread and missed that when I posted, so much for replying in a rush, but yes, it's what I am getting at, with a specific example, but as you say, somewhat off-topic in relation to the main topic here.


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#2702943 - 01/07/18 04:48 PM Re: legato [Re: iamanders]  
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I cannot think of a single piano work where one would want to create an extreme legato sound on a single note or chord and not do this with the pedal. I have never seen a discussion of how to or the need to create a legato sound on a single note without using the pedal.

Can some give a specific example of where one would want this effect? My thinking is that the question posed in the opening post is an unnecessary one.

If one needs a somewhat connected sound between two of the same notes one just times the key rise so one will immediately depress it and keeps one's finger close to the key. I don't think the idea of using the repetition mechanism and not letting the note rise completely as someone suggested is needed. The purpose of repetition mechanism is to allow faster repetition than one could do before this mechanism was introduced.

I see two main reasons for changing fingers on the same note but both are optional:

1.Most people find it technically easier to play repeated notes this way especially when the tempo is fast and.or the the number of repeated notes is large. Very few pianists would play the repeated notes in a fast Scarlatti Sonata with the same finger although I have seen it done this way on a harpsichord.

2. It can be a question of voicing. In the Tchaikovsky piece mentioned earlier, the editor may have chosen the 2,1 fingering in measure 2 so that the second note would have the automatic accent from the thumb. But notice that in measure 4 the editor uses 1,2 probably because the next note is below the repeated notes.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/07/18 05:36 PM.
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