Clavier Companion - May/June 2015 - 36
by Trevor Barnard
et me share with you my perception,
born of a lifetime's experience, that
most student and amateur pianists are
right-handed players, and many professional ones are also. Normally speaking, it is not
The student can then be coaxed into crossing
hands and repeating the same scale pattern. In
order to reinforce the importance of avoiding
an over-rhythmic approach to scale passages, a
problem common among advanced students and
professional pianists, encourage the student to
emphasize notes other than the tonic, shaping the
scale like a musical phrase. As a preparatory step,
the student could be asked to sing the scale before
actually playing it. After all, the human voice is the
most expressive of all musical instruments, and
shaping a phrase in this way comes more naturally,
while at the same time developing a sense of pitch.
Example 2 shows the C major scale with tenuto
marks indicated as suggested, emphasizing notes
to assist in this process. If more than one octave is
played in the execution of a scale, the placement of
accents can be varied as each octave is played.
abnormal to be right-handed or left-handed. However,
while I have heard many "right-handed" pianists, I have
never encountered a "left-handed" one. Unfortunately,
a pianist who has an expressive right hand, yet whose
left hand is not musically involved, would seem to be the
norm. The ideal is to be ambidextrous.
When listening to many talented young players in international competitions, for example, I often hear an expressive right hand, yet the left hand is often either indistinct,
or fails to musically shape the actual notes, or both.
So, how can this be addressed? Since a pianist's development often starts at an early age, and progresses over
a number of years, I am sure teachers would agree that
ambidexterity should be introduced from the very outset. For example, in scale practice the emphasis could Example 2: C major scale with tenuto marks.
be regularly alternated between the hands instead of
allowing the right hand to dominate throughout. (Later
on, Bach Fugues are an excellent training ground.)
Another method is to practice scales "cross-handed"
instead of in the "normal" way. To avoid a mechanical,
over-rhythmic result, vary the accents throughout the
scale rather than always accenting the tonic note. In
Initially it is probably desirable to play scales at a
this way, shaping notes becomes natural from an early
moderate speed so as to get into the habit of austage.
At this point, I should like to show some illustrated
tomatic note-shaping. With increased confidence,
examples in support of my approach.
the student can begin to increase the speed and
First of all, here is a C major scale where the arrows
eventually achieve satisfaction in knowing that
indicate the changing of emphasis between the hands.
there need be no limit in pace when applying the
Let me quickly point out that the arrows do not have to
be exactly as marked, and that there is obviously room
So often a performer is a victim of measure line
for flexibility (see Example 1).
tyranny. This frequently results in excessive accenting of main beats at the expense of the musical
Example 1: C major scale in octaves.
A phrase which overlaps a measure line should be
smooth, and one should not bump the first note of
a new measure with an unnecessary accent. If there
is misgiving about compromising the meter, then a
short pause at the measure line itself can provide
stability until the player no longer feels it is necessary.