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Music for practicing harder keys...
#3011471 08/08/20 09:50 AM
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As I go through learning my scales I try to find musical pieces for each scale. Bach’s prelude in c-major, Petzold’s minuet, Pachabel’s Canon for d etc...

But I had some trouble finding anything I B-major that wasn’t real difficult. Finally settled for McCartney’s Penny Lane, but felt it was kind of a cop out.

But now I’m having problems finding anything for F#-major & C#-major. I also imagine I’ll have a problem for C-flat major.

Can anyone suggest stuff that is not beyond beginning intermediate?

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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011485 08/08/20 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by risusSardonicus
As I go through learning my scales I try to find musical pieces for each scale. Bach’s prelude in c-major, Petzold’s minuet, Pachabel’s Canon for d etc...

But I had some trouble finding anything I B-major that wasn’t real difficult. Finally settled for McCartney’s Penny Lane, but felt it was kind of a cop out.

But now I’m having problems finding anything for F#-major & C#-major. I also imagine I’ll have a problem for C-flat major.

Can anyone suggest stuff that is not beyond beginning intermediate?

Not in those keys .... LOL ...

Good Luck


Don

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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011490 08/08/20 10:53 AM
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If you look through any books on piano methods, you will see that compositions in keys with many sharps and flats are introduced quite "late" in any program. Similarly, piano exams don't introduce pieces with multiple accidentals in the key signature until fairly far along. The traditional method of teaching concentrates on only gradually adding new keys as reading, technique and interpretation are developed. There is good reason that you are having difficulty finding "easy" pieces in "hard" keys. Most compositions with four, five, six or seven accidentals in the key signature are more to highly advanced works.

Be content with building a firm foundation in some of the easier keys. There are hundreds if not thousands of pieces with key signatures that have no more than two or three accidentals in the key signature. Build up your reading, technique and interpretive skills on these and save the more difficult keys for a time when you technique can meet the demands of pieces in those keys.

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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011522 08/08/20 12:05 PM
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Have you seen Hummel's Preludes opus 67? Short pieces in all keys. cool


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011528 08/08/20 12:23 PM
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Victor Labenske's "Piano Miniatures" has 24 short solos in all major and minor keys, in a variety of styles. Most of them are only one page long or even shorter, only one is two pages. They are Grade 3-4 (ABRSM).

Here you can listen to one of the pieces, played by the composer himself:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_Y2FVAxH2g

I've recorded eleven of them so far.

There are similar collections by other composers: "Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style" by William Gillock and "24 Character Preludes" by Dennis Alexander, but those are rather for late-intermediate/early advanced level students.

Last edited by Greta99; 08/08/20 12:24 PM.
Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011584 08/08/20 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by risusSardonicus
As I go through learning my scales I try to find musical pieces for each scale. Bach’s prelude in c-major, Petzold’s minuet, Pachabel’s Canon for d etc...

But I had some trouble finding anything I B-major that wasn’t real difficult. Finally settled for McCartney’s Penny Lane, but felt it was kind of a cop out.

But now I’m having problems finding anything for F#-major & C#-major. I also imagine I’ll have a problem for C-flat major.

Can anyone suggest stuff that is not beyond beginning intermediate?

This is easy: Any piece written in F can be played in F#, pieces in C can be played in C# or Cb, just by changing the key signature in your head. Ditto for playing Bb pieces in B, Ab pieces in A, E pieces in Eb, G pieces in Gb, D pieces in Db, or vice versa, etc. I do this occasionally, just for variety and to hear a piece with a slightly different sound. Have fun with it!


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
MarianneØ #3011601 08/08/20 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by MarianneØ
Originally Posted by risusSardonicus
As I go through learning my scales I try to find musical pieces for each scale. Bach’s prelude in c-major, Petzold’s minuet, Pachabel’s Canon for d etc...

But I had some trouble finding anything I B-major that wasn’t real difficult. Finally settled for McCartney’s Penny Lane, but felt it was kind of a cop out.

But now I’m having problems finding anything for F#-major & C#-major. I also imagine I’ll have a problem for C-flat major.

Can anyone suggest stuff that is not beyond beginning intermediate?

This is easy: Any piece written in F can be played in F#, pieces in C can be played in C# or Cb, just by changing the key signature in your head. Ditto for playing Bb pieces in B, Ab pieces in A, E pieces in Eb, G pieces in Gb, D pieces in Db, or vice versa, etc. I do this occasionally, just for variety and to hear a piece with a slightly different sound. Have fun with it!

I wouldn't call transposing by a semitone "easy" by any means. For any but the most basic piece you would need a completely different fingering. You could probably transpose to a related key one or two sharps away without too much trouble but I'm not sure it's something I would recommend for someone who is "beginning intermediate".

Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
Qazsedcft #3011641 08/08/20 05:02 PM
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I wouldn't call transposing by a semitone "easy" by any means.
If I can do it, it is by definition easy. The positions of notes on staff lines do not change. Have you tried it?

Quote
For any but the most basic piece you would need a completely different fingering.
Of course. That is precisely the reason why a semitone shift is valuable for practice.

Quote
You could probably transpose to a related key one or two sharps away without too much trouble but I'm not sure it's something I would recommend for someone who is "beginning intermediate".
That requires moving the notes on the staff - something which I definitely have trouble with. Some people are able to "see" the staff lines in different positions, but my brain refuses to do so. It's probably some kind of age-related disability.


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011753 08/08/20 10:43 PM
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Try Robert Vandall’s Preludes. In honour of JS Bach he wrote 24 piano solos in all major and minor keys. The music, with CD, is available quite cheaply from Alfred Music etc.

They range from UK grades 2 - 7 and are nice to play.

You can find C# minor, B Major etc. but Db Major rather than C# Major.


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
Greta99 #3011768 08/09/20 12:17 AM
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Thank you, Greta, it seems that book is a perfect fit for what I need. Ordered it already.

Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011771 08/09/20 12:35 AM
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Thanks all and Greta. That book seems to be a solution to my dilemma.

Animisha I did check out the Hummel stuff and they are indeed pretty short pieces, but they look pretty intimidating.

Marianne that is an interesting idea I might try out sometime but I think it might be a bit above my head for now.

Terentius I will look into Vandall’s stuff, thank you.

In general, we all come to piano with certain goals in mind. I don’t believe I will ever achieve true proficiency, I’ve just started too late. So my goal is to feel comfortable at the keyboard and know my way around it. To that end I have a Mark Harrison book on pop piano and he emphasizes knowing all of your scales. So, I have set about drilling myself through them and learning what music I can in each key as I go.

I prefer to learn classical pieces because most of the better popular music I’ve heard seems to have borrowed from classical. Or at least jazz.

Also I am a firm believer in the idiosyncratic nature of the individual and what may be difficult for one person might seem natural to another. I recently learned that Chopin thought the key of b-major was the easiest key and would start his students in that key, while he thought C was the most difficult and would teach that last.

Maybe he was just being contrarian, I don’t know, but could it also be that standard teaching is geared to the difficulty of reading music? Then C, G, D would be the easiest while a key with many sharps or flats would be more difficult.

Irving Berlin who was self taught at piano played mainly the black keys, (key of B), because he found it came naturally.

Heck, I don’t know.

Have fun.

Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011775 08/09/20 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by risusSardonicus
[...]I recently learned that Chopin thought the key of b-major was the easiest key and would start his students in that key, while he thought C was the most difficult and would teach that last.

Maybe he was just being contrarian, I don’t know, but could it also be that standard teaching is geared to the difficulty of reading music? [...]

Chopin began the teaching of scales with the key of B major because it is the scale that most naturally fits the hand. The short finger (the thumb) is on B and E, and the longer fingers 2, 3, and then 2, 3, and 4 lie naturally on the black keys C-sharp, D-sharp, F-sharp, G-sharp and A-sharp. It's considerably easier to pass the thumb under the third finger when going from D-sharp to E than it is from E to F in C major or in other keys where a similar move needs to be made.

Regards,


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
BruceD #3011786 08/09/20 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Chopin began the teaching of scales with the key of B major because it is the scale that most naturally fits the hand. The short finger (the thumb) is on B and E, and the longer fingers 2, 3, and then 2, 3, and 4 lie naturally on the black keys C-sharp, D-sharp, F-sharp, G-sharp and A-sharp. It's considerably easier to pass the thumb under the third finger when going from D-sharp to E than it is from E to F in C major or in other keys where a similar move needs to be made.
But what is the point of learning a certain scale if you don't have any pieces in that key that you can play?


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
Animisha #3011804 08/09/20 05:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
But what is the point of learning a certain scale if you don't have any pieces in that key that you can play?

Chopin - Nocturnes, op. 32 No. 1, op. 62 № 1;
Brahms - Piano Trio No. 1, op. 8;
Mussorgsky - “Tuisky garden. from"Pictures at an Exhibition";
Alkan - Etude op. 35 # 11, "Posément";
Bach - Prelude & Fugue No. 23 in B major

Learning piano techniques is not based on the principle of "dogs are fed only before the hunt." It is necessary to develop a flexible, versatile pianistic apparatus, ready for different technical and musical situations; which includes - since the time of Bach - full possession of all major and minor keys. Imagine that you have to accompany a singer in the key B major that is convenient for her. What will you do ?

Last edited by Nahum; 08/09/20 05:51 AM.
Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
BruceD #3011805 08/09/20 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
Originally Posted by Animisha
But what is the point of learning a certain scale if you don't have any pieces in that key that you can play?

Chopin - Nocturnes, op. 32 No. 1, op. 62 № 1;
Brahms - Piano Trio No. 1, op. 8;
Mussorgsky - “Tuisky garden. from"Pictures at an Exhibition";
Alkan - Etude op. 35 # 11, "Posément";
Bach - Prelude & Fugue No. 23 in B major

Originally Posted by BruceD
Chopin began the teaching of scales with the key of B major because it is the scale that most naturally fits the hand.
Neither of these pieces can be played by a beginner who only has learned their very first scale!

Originally Posted by Nahum
It is necessary to develop a flexible, versatile pianistic apparatus, ready for different technical and musical situations; which includes - since the time of Bach - full possession of all major and minor keys.
Of course, eventually pianists should have full possession of all major and minor keys. But to let a beginner start with a key that they cannot use in a piece, I don't see the point.


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Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
Animisha #3011806 08/09/20 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Animisha
[
Of course, eventually pianists should have full possession of all major and minor keys. But to let a beginner start with a key that they cannot use in a piece, I don't see the point.
If you are not a teacher and have not studied the anatomy of the hands (and the profession obliges), you cannot know - it is still hidden from your eyes. Even more, "Chopin's formula" is built on 5 notes of the whole-tone scale, which a novice pianist can meet for the first time after four- five years (Microcosmos) .

Last edited by Nahum; 08/09/20 06:16 AM.
Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3011815 08/09/20 06:46 AM
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The point of learning the B major scale first (RH) and D-flat Major (LH) is to accustom the hand to the keyboard not to accustom the eye to the staff. Scales should not be played from the music, the notes should be known and played from knowledge/memory. The B Major scale puts the long fingers, 2, 3 and 4, on the short black keys and the short fingers, 1 and 5, on the longer white keys. Pivoting around the thumb is thus made easy mechanically, the fingers trained properly and the keyboard becomes more familiar.

Scale practise and reading music are two distinct things. All scales are practised from memory. Without the distraction of beats and varying dynamics and rhythms, scales facilitate hearing whether the notes are even in time and tone. When the ear can hear, the brain can accommodate. Thus, once the student has been playing for a year or two and has developed a certain amount of control in the fingers and acuteness in hearing, he can begin scale study and take advantage of this. Until then scales are just mechanical fudge, little better than Hanon and Czerny, and devoid of musical purpose.

As the right hands reduces the sharps (black keys) on its way backwards towards C Major and the left hand reduces the flats, the student is better able to play the mechanically difficult C Major scale, turning the thumb under without the facility of a black key. Because black keys are narrower the fingers tend to be more precise when learning black keys scales than white key scales.
___________________________

The John Thompson Modern Course for the Piano, First Grade Book, uses five-finger positions with only a few extensions but introduces transposition as soon as a new key signature is introduced. Many teachers criticise JT because it relies so heavily on five-finger positions and excessive fingering numbers but it does facilitate transposition which is also an excellent way of improving reading with the eyes more on the score than on the keyboard. The First Grade book includes music using up to four sharps or flats during the first year.

The students that find the course moves very quickly are those that neglect the transposition work that should slow down the course progression. I find the course an excellent supplement to more modern methods especially for the reading, transposition and musical exercises, mental skills, beyond just the mechanics of playing the pieces. (Actually I find more modern methods good supplements to JT).


Richard
Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3012031 08/09/20 05:25 PM
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This may be more work than you have in mind, but it's one thing I did early on and it helped, as I wanted to learn to read in all keys. Take an easy book at your level (for instance some easy Christmas carols in easy keys), enter them in a notation program of your choice, then transpose to all keys and print them out. You may have to do some work to straighten out the enharmonics but if you have any experience with your software that should be easy. There are other ways to do the same thing (e.g. if you have any pieces in midi) but you can use your imagination.

Re: Music for practicing harder keys...
risusSardonicus #3012169 08/10/20 05:42 AM
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Originally Posted by risusSardonicus
As I go through learning my scales I try to find musical pieces for each scale. Bach’s prelude in c-major, Petzold’s minuet, Pachabel’s Canon for d etc...

But I had some trouble finding anything I B-major that wasn’t real difficult. Finally settled for McCartney’s Penny Lane, but felt it was kind of a cop out.

But now I’m having problems finding anything for F#-major & C#-major. I also imagine I’ll have a problem for C-flat major.

Can anyone suggest stuff that is not beyond beginning intermediate?

There are no easy pieces in those keys, in fact there are only a handful of pieces written directly in C sharp or C flat. But as said by others yu can just take a simple piece in C and move by half tone to either C sharp or C flat. If the piece is a simple one (ie without modulation), all you need to do is to add a sharp or a flat to every note.

That said given the rarity of pieces in those keys, I see little value doing this at this stage.


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