Robert Estrin - piano expert

How Do You Achieve Smoothly Connected Chords on the Piano?

practical tips for smooth chord playing

In this video, Robert tackles chords. In particular, how to connect repeated chords smoothly.

Released on March 9, 2022

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Robert Estrin. This is livingpianos.com, your online piano resource. Today the question is, how do you achieve smoothly connected chords on the piano? This could be extremely difficult, particularly when it's repeated chords of the same chord because the whole mechanical nature of the piano is such that for a note to replay, the damper comes in contact with the strings. So it's virtually impossible to completely connect a repeated note on the piano.

You can use the pedal, but even then, because of the percussive nature of the piano's tone, it never really sounds connected. And the more connected you can play with your hands, the smoother the sound will come out of the instrument, regardless of whether you're using the pedal or not. To demonstrate this, I'm going to use a little Burgmüller study, Pastorale, which has repeated chords.

I'm going to go ahead and play you the whole piece first, just so you hear what piece we're talking about. Then I go back and show you what I'm doing and show you where I'm using pedal, where I'm not using pedal. I'll do it without the pedal so you can hear the underlying technique utilized. So here's the Burgmüller Pastorale.

A beautiful little piece, isn't it? So to practice without the pedal, to try to get those cords connected, is essential. And I'll explain why in a minute. But first, how to achieve such a thing. Here is with no pedal. Listen to how connected it's possible to play those left hand, repeated chords.

You hear how connected those chords are? It's easy to play them like this. To make them sound like this is really much, much more difficult than you might imagine. The secret is keep your fingers in contact with the keys the entire time. If you don't, that's the sound you're going to get. But if you keep your fingers right on the keys, and most importantly, be sure that the keys come all the way up before they go back down again, because if the key is down even a fraction of an inch, it may or may not play. A piano is not meant to make keys play when they won't return all the way to the top. It's not a technique you can always rely upon. So by keeping your fingers right on the surface of the keys...

Now, the reason why this is so important in this piece, even when you're using the pedal, is that first chord of each group has to be capturing the pedal. But you don't want to capture the previous harmonies. If you pedal too early, you'll get this sound. You'll have the C in there. So you have a very brief amount of time to capture the G major chord on the pedal. It has to be after it is played, after the C is gone, the previous C in the right hand. So by playing it as long as possible, it gives you the maximum amount of time to grab that cord on the pedal.

See it is possible. So this is what you want to work towards and all the chords playing very close to the keys. Now in the second section, I don't use pedal and I teach to play it. And then you just have the left hand thumb repeating, in the same manner, just staying close to the keys.

And finally you have repeated notes where you can change fingers. When you change fingers on repeated notes, it's so much easier to make them smoothly connected because as one finger is going down, another finger's coming up, whereas if you use the same finger, here's what it would sound like using the same fingers on the repeated notes.

It's really hard to play one finger and make them really, really connected. When you change fingers on repeated notes, you get this smooth sound. We don't have that luxury when you're playing chords, because there's only so many fingers you have on your hand. And if you're playing three notes, you have to use the same fingers. So remember the secret to playing repeated chords is keep your fingers on the keys, in contact with the keys. Be sure come up completely before depressing the chords down again. And that should help you to achieve a smoothness in repeated chords in Pastorale or any other music you're playing.

Again, I'm Robert Estrin here at livingpianos.com, your online piano resource. Lot's more content coming your way, so subscribe so you don't miss anything. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Robert Estrin on March 10, 2022 @7:26 am PST
You can play chords beyond your reach by breaking them quickly and capturing the notes on the pedal. Many concert pianists with smaller hands use this technique: https://livingpianos.com/are-my-hands-too-small-to-play-the-piano/
Michelle on March 9, 2022 @9:31 am PST
Do you have any tips for those of us who physically cannot reach all the notes in a chord eg. 10ths?
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