The Art of BALANCE at the piano

Dear Piano Peeps:

One of the keyboard skills we need to develop is dynamic balance; and that is the ability to play one hand softer or louder than the other. This is a more advanced skill that requires some time and patience. I’ve made a Youtube video to demonstrate a series of 6 exercises you can do in all 12 keys to help you move towards increased finger control and dynamic balance.

You might want to bookmark this blog post so that you can come back to it each time you are ready to move on to the next exercise. Play each exercise in all 12 keys to give yourself sufficient practice and to develop more comfort with each 5-finger position. (I used 5-note pentascales here, but you can also extend these exercises to full scales.)

Please click here to watch the video

Here is a list of the six exercises you will see in the video:

1. Alternate right (loud) left (soft)… up and down the pentascale. Then switch to left (loud) right (soft). Practice this exercise in all 12 keys until you’ve got it.

2. Alternate right (loud) left (soft) right (loud) left (soft), then play the two notes together (right loud, left soft). Play this pattern (or add more repetitions if you need to) up and down the pentascale. Then switch hands so that you start your repetitions with left (loud) right (soft) etc. Practice this in all 12 keys until it begins to feel easy for you.

3. Play the 12 pentascales with hands simultaneously up and down twice with right hand playing loud sustained notes, and left hand playing soft staccato notes. Then switch to left hand playing loud sustained notes while the right hand plays soft staccato notes.

4. Play the 12 pentascales with hands together, both notes sustained. If this is too difficult, go back to exercise # 2 or #3 until you are ready for #4.

5. Play the pentascale loudly with right hand while the left hand plays a block or broken chord softly. Switch hands.

6. Begin to practice dynamic balance within each hand by playing the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the pentascale louder than the 2nd and 4th notes. Then switch to make the 2nd and 4th notes louder than the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes.

For more about bringing balance into our lives and our playing, please read my Autumn blog post.

Genius is eternal patience -Michelangelo

With love and music, Gaili

Author, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to SPARK the Mind, Heart and Soul

10 Replies to “The Art of BALANCE at the piano”

  1. These are excellent “divide and conquer” exercises to develop dynamic balance. Thank you! I am currently working on Pieczonka’s Tarantella, and having some arthritis that is closing my octave a bit, I am wondering if you have any suggestions about managing octaves without deleting one of the notes. Additionally, while I can play this at a pretty good clip, moving quickly from one register to another is difficult. It’s a lateral move, but must be accurately executed. If you have any suggestions, I would very much appreciate them. Thank you for all you do!

    1. If you prefer to play both notes then break up the octave by playing bottom-top as if the bottom note of the octave is a grace note. As an exercise, you might play the last section before the CODA of Mozart’s Sonata in A Major Movement 3. it starts with right hand playing A4-A5 B4-B5 C#4-C#5 in broken octaves. This 8-measure section can help both your left and right hands to stretch to the octaves and also get used to playing them broken. I hope that makes sense.

      To make big leaps on the piano, practice playing a couple notes at a time with your eyes closed. Closing your eyes helps the brain to understand how far it must go, without looking. Keep practicing with eyes closed and open so that you gain an intuition for how far to leap. This can’t be rushed, it just takes time and practice to get the leaps correct.

      Hope that helps!!

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