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Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1)

Posted By: JanVan

Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 01/29/13 02:07 PM


I am currently practicing the first study (La Candeur) from Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100.

The score is in the public domain and freely available from imslp.org:

In the first 8 bars, the left hand plays simple chords which mostly last for a full bar.

My questions are about what is the best hand position for this and what are the exact motions (shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist, fingers) required to play these chords with a maximum of control and a minimum of effort.

1. Should the 3 fingers playing each chord be in contact with the key surfaces before the actual playing motion occurs?

2. Should the 3 fingers playing each chord be fixed (locked) in position in preparation for playing?

3. Does playing each chord is accomplished by pressing down the keys with the fixed fingers and using the arm's weight as energy source (like with a thrust originating from the shoulder)?

4. Or, on the contrary, should the keys be pressed down with individual finger motions?

5. How to achieve perfect synchronisation so that all notes are sounded exactly at the same time?

6. What exercises, based on the chords of the first 8 bars of the piece, would be recommended for practicing?

I have been reading a lot of different opinions on basic technique but since there are so many different approaches ranging from a purely finger approach to a full arm weight approach I would be grateful to get as much input as possible from experienced pianists and teachers to clear up the confusion and point me in the correct direction for practicing.

I do realize that there is probably not a single answer to all of this but I guess there must be some sort of concensus.

Thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 01/29/13 05:16 PM

I can't access the score of that piece, but with chord playing, you need to stiffen up all the fingers involved, and press straight down to get the notes to sound simultaneously, using your wrist or your whole forearm (pivoting at your elbow) depending on how powerful you want the sound. It's very important to get the positions of your fingers fixed right, depending on whether you're playing any black notes, otherwise the notes may not sound together.

You can practice chord playing in isolation, listening carefully to ensure all the notes sound at exactly the same time, and evenly, with different fingers. Practise with fingers in contact with the keys first. When you get the hang of it, you can land from a height.....
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 01/30/13 12:54 AM

I think the questions would be an example of trying to over analyze a fairly simple thing. Kind of like a young child asking his parents how to walk in 500 words or more. Most pianists just do what comes naturally for something like this and do reasonably well. Learning the proper movements of fingers, hands, and arms is important but should not be overly detailed IMO.
Posted By: pianomandb95

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 02/06/13 03:42 PM

Hi there,

I agree with pianoloverus, just do what feels natural and comfortable for you. I have just finished studying op. 100 with my teacher but there were a couple that we didn't touch on and, unfortunately, la candeur was one of them.

Playing the chords should feel comfortable and I would suggest fixing your hand position but loosening your fingertips (I found that this gave some of the duller LH sections more of a 'bounce') and using the weight from your forearm. If there are any arpeggiated chords, use a pivoting motion in your elbow, so that your wrist swings slightly in a clockwise motion. And yes, you should be touching the surface of the keys before you play the chord smile

As for practicing, do the left hand alone and just pay close attention to how it sounds, are you breaking the legato in any place, are there gaps in sounds, etc..

Just as a side note, make sure you are not playing it too fast. I noticed that Burgmuller chose some silly tempo markings in this opus, and most of them sound better when played slower than he indicated.

Best of luck, I hope I helped in some way!
Posted By: Forrest Halford

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 02/06/13 04:29 PM

Graham Fitch on playing chords. (hint: I really, really like Mr. Fitch's approach to technique)

Piano Lesson on How to Play Chords: The Basics

Piano Lesson on How to Play Chords - In Depth


Posted By: Forrest Halford

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 02/06/13 05:18 PM

And one more

Piano Lesson on Chord Voicing and Melody

Of course, his blog is a wealth of general practice ideas as well.

again, enjoy!

Posted By: UK Paul UK

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 02/06/13 11:31 PM

Im polishing this piece aswell as working on a couple of others.... arm weight and hand weight for ths piece are dependant on the dynamics for me... obvs dependant on tecnique i guess... but i generally will lift my hand and arm weight slightly for p, combining the two in increasing amounts to go to the louder sections... i feel 134 bpm is a nice pace for the piece... indicated 152 in the alfred book is deceiving as the included recording is 136 i think.... 152 is not going to help with phrasing and dynamics... i started at 80 bpm and am not far off with having this piece nailed.... final sction i am polishing is the f three part crescendo.... ending in sf (note is an a i think) and occurs twice in the middle of the piece.... in that section, aiming to legato the minims(top melody) in increasing waves really shapes the peak....

Will post a recording soon.... have certainly got more from the piece since being with my new tutor......

Lovely piece....

Have fun with it!
Posted By: JanVan

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 02/07/13 04:45 PM

Thanks for all the advice.

I have started working with the suggestions from the articles on chord playing by Graham Fitch, especially the 'tapping' exercice.

Something else I find helpful is alternating 2 successive chords, slowly and deliberately, gradually working from whole notes over half notes to one chord per beat. After finishing a cycle with chords 1 and 2, I move on to a cycle with chords 2 and 3, and so on until I finish the first 8 bars of the piece. It helps me practice going from one playing position to the next and work on the dynamics (which is quite a challenge).

I am looking forward to your recording, it's indeed a very sweet piece of music!
Posted By: slipperykeys

Re: Basic chord playing (Friedrich Burgmuller's Op. 100 No. 1) - 02/08/13 08:01 PM

Here's a link to view the piece.


My music teacher took me through the Schirmer opus 100 in the early 70's, in fact I still have it, great learning pieces, Tendre Fluer and L'Arabesque* still being particular faves, look them up, I am sure most members will like them.

My advice? Worth little, but don't over-obsess, don't take too much instruction.

Learn well, then "muck about" with it, to a style you like and live with that. I'm sure many will disagree with me, that's life.

You are learning the piano because you enjoy it?

*Forgot, "La Styrienne", a terrific bit of fun, didn't like the "horsey" stuff (La Chasse, La Chevaleresque) so much though. Still, all personal preferences.
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