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Missing the Blacks Keys in E
#3037709 10/20/20 10:31 AM
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wolfpaw Offline OP
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Greetings -

Why can't I accurately strike the black keys? I'm playing the Allemande from the 6th French Suite in E. It's a straightforward piece except for the horrible key. By the end of the first page it's in B major and almost every key is black. There are fairly intricate passages for both hands, especially in the second half, and I just cannot hit the black keys securely or consistently. My fingers either strike the wrong note, the side of the note or only half of the note.

It's the first piece I've learned with four sharps [or flats] and although learning the notes has been okay actually playing them consistently has been harder than I thought.

Has anyone got any tips for increased accuracy? I can play the E major scale easily enough but jumping between the keys has proved to be much harder.

Thanks smile

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Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037718 10/20/20 11:21 AM
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There is no silver bullitt unhapilly ! You should practice that key on easier pieces and do sight reading to get used to the configuration of keys under your fingers. It is just a matter of practice.

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037724 10/20/20 11:43 AM
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Work on small sections. Work on those sections where you mess up, without playing the rest of it. Do so frequently, with breaks, coming back to it, and then start to "knit in" the before and after. If you have "practised in" the mistakes it will take a bit longer. An obvious thing I was once told but had missed was this: "Don't go somewhere until you know where you're going." In other words, know what you will be playing before you play it. This may mean: stop, picture the key, then go there. What we do is to move the hand and fingers while not knowing where we're going, and trying to figure it out while we're on our way. For me this also creates tension.

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037730 10/20/20 12:12 PM
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Are your wrists supple moving up and down as your hands move from white to black keys? Think of it as moving over hills and down into valleys. Have you played pieces in keys with 2 or 3 sharps or flats? Do you have a teacher who can comment on how your hands are moving over the keys?



Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
Sidokar #3037744 10/20/20 12:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
There is no silver bullitt unhapilly ! You should practice that key on easier pieces and do sight reading to get used to the configuration of keys under your fingers. It is just a matter of practice.

+1.

You might try learning (and practicing till you're sick of it) scales and arpeggios in Db and Gb. Get your fingers used to playing on the black keys.


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Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037763 10/20/20 01:47 PM
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That’s what always disappointed me about method books and typical lessons. They all start in the key of C and keep you there for up to two years and you’re lucky if you get something in F or G (one sharp).

I love keys like E flat and B. I love the feel of black keys. But it takes getting used to.


-Bill L. - former tuner-technician
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
WBLynch #3037775 10/20/20 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by WBLynch
That’s what always disappointed me about method books and typical lessons. They all start in the key of C and keep you there for up to two years and you’re lucky if you get something in F or G (one sharp).
All the reputable piano syllabi (RCM, ABRSM, AMEB) introduce the student to more and more black keys, level by level, grade by grade, year by year - and with them, the scales & arpeggios & chords of those keys, as well as pieces in those keys. Thus, the student gets used to manoeuvring his fingers around, in between, on top, below, in front, behind and inside those keys, and his/her fingers unerringly caress and stroke the right keys when he sees those notes on the score.

That's the way to develop the proprioceptive 'feel' for black keys. It's not just knowing their location, but also their depth. How often have we seen beginners trying to play the chord of, say, D major, and the F# sounds before the other notes? Don't even bother to get them to play an E flat major chord.

Keyboard feel isn't developed in a day (despite what ancient Romans might not tell you), and it requires lots and lots of practice and therefore, familiarity. Therefore, one starts with the key of C, then G and F majors, then D and B flat majors (and their relative minors), and so on, gradually introducing keys containing more and more black keys, until the 'black keys' become white.

Thus, one becomes a pianist.


"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."
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037903 10/21/20 05:11 AM
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It may be comforting to know, that after a while you will prefer keys with at least three sharps or flats, because they are more "ergonomic". It feels more comfortable and natural to the hand to have the short thumb on a white key and the long fingers on the black keys. This is one reason why a lot of "virtuoso" piano music is written in b major, d flat major or the minor keys that go along witht those: they are EASIER to play (after you have gotten used to it).

Last edited by ErfurtBob; 10/21/20 05:12 AM.
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037910 10/21/20 05:46 AM
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Thanks for the replies.

Funnily enough, when I learned the E major scale I was actually surprised at how nice it was to play in comparison to e.g. D major as the fingers sat so easily over the keys.

It's the lack of consistency that I find irritating. I can play a passage with no errors a few times and then mess up in different places when I play it later. It's not as though there's one single part that is causing an issue.

I'm going to go back to doing some slower, more mindful practice of the right hand especially combined with some arpeggios, etc. in black-heavy scales. I also think the suggestion of learning something easier in E major first is a good idea too as this Allemande wasn't perhaps the wisest place to start. I don't have a teacher so any technical issues are hard to pick up on. I find it hard to relax while playing [evil] Bach's music, both mentally and physically, so perhaps hand/wrist tension is also an issue in glancing off the black keys.

The lack of a teacher is a real problem that I've been aware of in the past. I had one years ago but I just think it's really difficult to plot your own progression without one particularly if you want to play the classical repertoire.

Thanks again anyway. I'll persevere with it and see how it goes!

Best wishes to all.

Last edited by wolfpaw; 10/21/20 05:47 AM.
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037922 10/21/20 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfpaw
Funnily enough, when I learned the E major scale I was actually surprised at how nice it was to play in comparison to e.g. D major as the fingers sat so easily over the keys.

It's the lack of consistency that I find irritating. I can play a passage with no errors a few times and then mess up in different places when I play it later. It's not as though there's one single part that is causing an issue.

I'm going to go back to doing some slower, more mindful practice of the right hand especially combined with some arpeggios, etc. in black-heavy scales. I also think the suggestion of learning something easier in E major first is a good idea too as this Allemande wasn't perhaps the wisest place to start. I don't have a teacher so any technical issues are hard to pick up on. I find it hard to relax while playing [evil] Bach's music, both mentally and physically, so perhaps hand/wrist tension is also an issue in glancing off the black keys.

The piece is rated rcm 10 (though it may be somehow over rated), so it is a difficult piece at tempo (all things relative). I dont know what is your level, since in the ABF there is a variety of people, but typically at an rcm 10 level, you would already be comfortable in pretty much all the usual keys, including this one. It depends what sort of Bach music you managed to play well in the past, but if you never played an E major piece and just learned that scale, that is telling me you would not have that many years of practice. In that case, the piece is maybe just too difficult at this stage.

Bach used E major quite infrequently (and also in general in baroque music), so i dont know any of his pieces that would be significantly easier than this one. There would be the invention 6, the prelude bwv937, one toccata, and of course the preludes and fugues from the wtc. All of these would be quite similar or more difficult than this one. Some other people may give you suggestions.

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3037940 10/21/20 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfpaw
Thanks for the replies.

Funnily enough, when I learned the E major scale I was actually surprised at how nice it was to play in comparison to e.g. D major as the fingers sat so easily over the keys.

It's the lack of consistency that I find irritating. I can play a passage with no errors a few times and then mess up in different places when I play it later. It's not as though there's one single part that is causing an issue.

I'm going to go back to doing some slower, more mindful practice of the right hand especially combined with some arpeggios, etc. in black-heavy scales. I also think the suggestion of learning something easier in E major first is a good idea too as this Allemande wasn't perhaps the wisest place to start. I don't have a teacher so any technical issues are hard to pick up on. I find it hard to relax while playing [evil] Bach's music, both mentally and physically, so perhaps hand/wrist tension is also an issue in glancing off the black keys.

The lack of a teacher is a real problem that I've been aware of in the past. I had one years ago but I just think it's really difficult to plot your own progression without one particularly if you want to play the classical repertoire.

Thanks again anyway. I'll persevere with it and see how it goes!

Best wishes to all.

It’s my favourite scale. I even started a 'Your favourite scale' thread in order to spread the love for it smile
My fingers just naturally drop on to the keys.

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038095 10/21/20 04:19 PM
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Thete are 2 exercices you can do which may help you. One is to take the parts where you mess up and play them eyes closed, one hand at a time and then together. That will force you to focus your attention on the feeling of your fingers on the keys.

The second exercice is to play one hand detached, than the other and then both detached. Playing mezzo staccato develops a better sense of where keys are and force you to be more precise. You can also do that on the scale to start with. That said it wont improve overnight, it is a long term plan !

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038117 10/21/20 06:35 PM
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E major scale is like a preschool class following the buddy system.

E (white key) is the teacher
F# G# are buddies
A B are buddies
C# D# are buddies.

With my early childhood mind, it is the easiest scale for me to "think of the shape."


Learner
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038125 10/21/20 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfpaw
The lack of a teacher is a real problem that I've been aware of in the past. I had one years ago but I just think it's really difficult to plot your own progression without one particularly if you want to play the classical repertoire.
From my experience of many adult re-starters in the last decade, it seems to me that if you haven't already reached something like ABRSM Grade 6 standard when you stopped lessons, it's very difficult to keep progressing by yourself afterwards, because there's still so much to learn in terms of technical & musical skills.

It's not a problem of course, if you're happy continuing to play pieces of that level (and there're many, many classical pieces of that level, not least one composed for Elise wink ), but if you aspire to harder stuff, problems set in and can become almost insurmountable.

I remember learning the whole suite by myself without undue difficulty (I was doing Grade 7 then) as a teenager. My piano teacher wasn't involved because it wasn't her idea, but was one of the set pieces for my 'O' Level Music exam (the keyboard piece; the other pieces were a symphony, a concerto, a vocal piece and a chamber piece), and I thought the best way to get into it properly was to learn to play it myself, rather than just studying it academically. I was already very familiar with all major & minor keys by then, so it was no big deal to get my fingers around all those black notes, as I could easily rattle off all major and minor scales & arpeggios without thinking about which notes to play, or which fingers to use.

In other words, I think the reason you're having so much difficulty is that your technical skills aren't quite up to tackle it, and you need to get used to playing many more easier pieces with three and four sharps or flats first. Incidentally, there is an easy and beautiful one in G flat: Schubert's 'Kupelweiser' Waltz, as realised by R. Strauss. If you prefer Baroque, how about learning Bach's Partita No.1, BWV 825: two flats only, but you learn to get your fingers around tricky corners of black & white notes with it, and it's also Bach's easiest and most melodically appealing suite for keyboard.


"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."
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038139 10/21/20 08:22 PM
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I suggest you play through all the scales on some sort of rotation.

Everyday I play a major scale and its relative minor, working through from C to C flat, then start the cycle again. This way I’m not phased by any number of sharps or flats in pieces.

Of course playing more difficult pieces is a seperate practice issue.


Modesty is a form of pride.
Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038446 10/22/20 08:23 PM
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I think I'm going to put the piece on the back burner for a little while. I'll have a look at some of the movements from the lovely Bb Partita but I might go back to some of the Inventions. I learned about five of them before and a couple of the Sinfonias but I only played the ones with one or two flats or sharps [or none]. Part of me is thinking it's a bit pointless without a teacher as I know there are a lot of things I'm either not doing correctly or not aware of at all.

Thank you again for all the responses.

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038495 10/23/20 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfpaw
I think I'm going to put the piece on the back burner for a little while. I'll have a look at some of the movements from the lovely Bb Partita but I might go back to some of the Inventions. I learned about five of them before and a couple of the Sinfonias but I only played the ones with one or two flats or sharps [or none]. Part of me is thinking it's a bit pointless without a teacher as I know there are a lot of things I'm either not doing correctly or not aware of at all.

Thank you again for all the responses.

The partita would be more or less at the level of some of his preludes and fugue of the wtc, if you play at that level. You can also find a few pieces in Rameau with 3 or 4 sharps. Look at the pieces de clavecin of 1724 on imslp. The 2nd gigue en rondeau is in E major, but it is rather difficult. You also have the double du 2eme rigaudon which is quite playable and short in E major. Musette en rondeau, very doable. In the nouvelles pieces de clavecin, you will also find 2 pieces in A major.

Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
keystring #3038529 10/23/20 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Work on small sections. Work on those sections where you mess up, without playing the rest of it. Do so frequently, with breaks, coming back to it, and then start to "knit in" the before and after. If you have "practised in" the mistakes it will take a bit longer. An obvious thing I was once told but had missed was this: "Don't go somewhere until you know where you're going." In other words, know what you will be playing before you play it. This may mean: stop, picture the key, then go there. What we do is to move the hand and fingers while not knowing where we're going, and trying to figure it out while we're on our way. For me this also creates tension.
Yes.

This is an important technique my teacher reviewed with me last year. Look where you're going, then go there, even if it requires a pause. Practice that measure, or even partial measure, with the jump over and over until you can integrate it into the music.


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Re: Missing the Blacks Keys in E
wolfpaw #3038605 10/23/20 11:30 AM
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They seem hard pieces for someone who is struggling with many sharps and flats in key signatures. Ifthis is a rcm level 10 so I think you'd need to be a diploma level pianist to self teach this successfully. I agree if you are intermediate you can self teach but usually slightly lower than you reached in lessons. If you pick hard pieces it's hard to progress. I self taught a few bach pieces but I think you don't get the depth as if you learnt in a lesson. I got some feedbacks online. I think the sinfonia 1/11 was a lot harder than the inventions I played about 5 to a reasonable level. Perhaps another composer is a good suggestion as I wouldn't think it's work playing too many of the inventions Rameau is a good suggestion I played one but bear in mind the notation was french - bizarre.

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