Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 203, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Robert. And he writes:
Hi Vidas ... Robert here again from Vancouver Canada:
I'm at a point where I read well and have pretty good independence with hands and pedals.
I seem to have trouble with arpeggios though, left and right hand. Basically it's doing the fast transitions to other chords (in the progressions) which are often in inversions.
Any material you know of or from your own courses that really exercises a disciplined technique? Cost factor I'm fine with as this is something I'd really like to get " under my fingers " yet, so to speak.
I'm just playing this material way to slow.
Appreciate your or Ausras input! 😃
V: So Ausra, do you know of any courses or sources for information about learning to play arpeggios?
A: I’m sure there are plenty of sources, you know, how to play arpeggios well. But for, in order to do that you even don’t need any additional material. You could just do it on your own. Just pick up any key, for example D Major, and start playing D Major arpeggios.
V: But then you need to know the fingers.
A: Yes, you need to know fingering.
V: And usually the fingering is very naturally understandable if you have some experience with chords.
A: Yes. And you know, I’m sure you could find in a library, books that consist not only of arpeggios but basically in order to, you know, build up your technique. As kids at an early age we start to play scales, chords, arpeggios and chromatic scales.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A; In various manners. And these four things actually help build you, up your technique.
V: In addition to etudes, right?
A: Yes, yes.
V: Mmm, hmm. So one source to look at while waiting for our material—we haven’t prepared such a course yet—but since you are in need now, you could look at Hanon exercises. And in part two, at the end of part two, they have scales and arpeggios you know, keys. So that’s all you need probably, for now. And if, while you are in Hanon collection, check out the previous exercises. In part one too, they are very, very good. The aim for Hanon is it to get perfect technique over time while playing on the keyboards only one hour per day. Because in the fast tempo, you can sight read entire collection—there are three parts—in one hour. I don’t know who can do this because it’s really, really difficult, the third part, I mean, but virtuoso pianists can.
A: Sure. So, and for now, if you have trouble, you know getting right arpeggio passage in the piece that you are working on, make an exercise from that particular spot. And check if you are playing with the correct fingering. This is a very important thing. Then you will play it fast.
V: What to you mean Ausra, do an exercise based on your piece?
A: Well, take a spot that you cannot play well,
V: Uh, huh.
A: Where you are making mistakes, just a little excerpt of with it.
A: And play it many times. Especially in the slow tempo first, check your fingering if it is correct. Then you know, increase the tempo.
V: Like one or two measures, right?
A: Yes. Like one or two measures. Then you can have fun with it — you can transpose it too.
A: Into different keys.
V: Right! And then, of course by that time you even memorize this fragment.
A: Yes, and you know, especially what I do with arpeggios, you have to know on which note to lean. If it’s a short arpeggio then it’s enough to lean in one spot usually at the bottom of the note or on the top of the note, depending in which direction the arpeggio go. But if it’s longer arpeggio, last more than one, one, one measure, then you will do, will have to do another accent somewhere. So that’s what helps me.
V: Usually those longer arpeggios are based on one simple chord, like C Major tonic chord, and they just repeat the, the first scale degree one octave higher, two octaves higher, three octaves higher.
A: Yes. And even if you know, if you make text mistakes, maybe you don’t know what those chords are, those arpeggiated chords. And this is also a good way you know, to, to play piece better and to feel more secure with it, to know what theoretically what’s going on.
V: You mean that playing arpeggios will help you to understand music theory too.
A: Yes that’s right. That’s what I mean.
V: Prepare for harmonies.
V: Nice! Do you think that isolating those measures and playing them over and over again plus transposing them, probably from memory, would help you in improvisation?
A: Definitely, yes.
A: Because you would develop sort of muscle memory, by transposing excerpts like this, and at the beginning you might need to think very carefully and slowly about them. But in time, I think you will be able to not think so much about them and do it almost automatically.
V: You will develop sort of a bag of tricks, right?
V: That you could later use in your own improvisations. That’s of course, that will be in the style of other composers though, right? But that’s in principle the same technique that jazz players are doing. They listen to recordings over and over again and maybe now in the slow tempo and transcribe, the notes. They call them licks, those fragments. And they then memorize, transpose, and later reuse them in their own improvisations.
A: Yes, and you know, I think now in the 21st Century, they are too concerned about being original. Because look at the history of, of, of music. You know composers especially at the beginning of their career, they copied each other. They learn from each other. And it wasn’t considered a crime you know, to, to, to copy somebody, or something.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: So I think, why not, you know, take something that is good from those times, and do it nowadays, especially when we are talking about improvisation.
V: Mmm, hmm. It’s, it's like language, because music is communicating in some form of language, which is not text based but sound based. So if you have a version of language that other composers used, and you like it, there is no crime in, in communicating in this language yourself, right? Or part of that language. First you will shape and adapt that language for your own needs, right, as you develop. Because, because, look, you will not only copy one composer, you will probably mix ten or twenty composers together. Don’t you think Ausra, that this way you will become original?
V: This mix of, of ten or twenty.
A: Yes, it’s still will sound like you, not like somebody else.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: Maybe it will remind of somebody else but, but still it will be your thing.
V: Because other people who are doing the same thing, maybe they’re copying other composers in that twenty group. Maybe some of the are the same like you are doing, but not all of them, and the mix would be unique.
A: Yes, that’s true. So now going back to the course. First of all, you need to check your fingering, if it’s really comfortable and fitting the particular passage, playing a slow tempo, transpose it to the other key.
V: And do it over and over again.
V: Excellent! I think this will be helpful to people who want to expand their technique. And their creativity too.
V: Thank you guys for listening. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. This is really fun to helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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