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Posted By: Laurie R. Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/09/20 08:56 PM
Hello to everyone,

One of my advanced adult students sent me this question, and we decided that it would be interesting to see what suggestions you might have.

He writes, "I wanted to get some technique advice. I need to learn how to play lightly and softly and fast all at the same time. Is there something I can do to lighten up my touch? I keep hearing pianists play long soft fast sixteenth-note runs and I want to do that. How hard can that be?!?"

I replied, "I wish there was a magic spell that I could cast on you! No seriously, it sounds like an easy question, but there are many many things coming into play here. Maybe we should focus on some easy-ish pieces with lots of fast sixteenth-notes, and see what can happen. I think it’s a lot to do with (1) not hitting the keys too hard, (2) grouping in bunches of 4 or 8, (3) pushing the sound towards the climax of the phrase, (4) keeping the fingers, hands, arms, back very relaxed, and (5) using the movement of your arms and hands and fingers and elbows and wrists to help you. Should be easy 🤔".

I'm wondering what other suggestions you might have. And maybe some suggestions for repertoire that has helped your students with this.

Thanks for your help!
Posted By: malkin Re: Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/10/20 12:37 AM
Could he practice this in scales?
Posted By: rkzhao Re: Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/10/20 01:19 AM
Whenever I ask my wife this question, she just tells me I need to practice more Czerny. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Posted By: missbelle Re: Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/10/20 01:37 AM
staccato penta scales, then full scales, pretending that the keys are hot hot hot sand. You are tiptoeing back to the hotel, and must be quick and light on your feet!
Keop an up motion as you play, with gently curved fingers, no tension.
Slowly at first, then build speed.

Also, rkzhao's wife had good advise. Listen to the wife.
Posted By: AZNpiano Re: Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/10/20 02:12 AM
First, you have to get the piano's action regulated. You can't possibly play fast/soft/even passages on a piano that's out of regulation.

Second, make sure the piano is properly voiced. You can't play lightly on pianos whose hammers are hard as a rock.

A lot depends on the passage. Some of my suggestions come from the Taubman camp, so the terminology might be different:

1) Fingering: You must find the most comfortable fingering that minimizes hand shifts. An entire lesson can be spent on how to place the thumb in strategic places.

2) Grouping: The mistake would be to group the notes in 4 and 8, unless those are the natural groupings according to the fingering. Groups are always dictated by the fingering, not the rhythm.

3) Shaping: This will help shape the phrases, as well as smoothing out transitions.

4) Choreographing: Avoid too much "sudden" in and out motion, avoid jerky movements/motions. Sometimes this is not possible, so you might have to re-distribute the notes between hands or find an alternate fingering. Just this morning I had to do that in an awkward passage--I use the L.H. to play one note in the middle of a long R.H. passage because there were no logical alternatives.
Posted By: Nahum Re: Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/10/20 04:29 AM
This finger technique can be compared to the rapid trembling of the Hummingbird's wings .

Posted By: Laurie R. Re: Playing lightly and softly and fast - 09/30/20 03:59 PM
Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions.
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