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Part V: Technique Counts for Everything
Table 13-2 Dynamic Markings
Abbreviation Name How the Note Sounds
PPP Pianississimo Almost inaudible
PP Pianissimo Very quiet
P Piano Soft
mp Mezzo piano Not too soft
mf Mezzo forte Kinda loud
f Forte Loud
J? Fortissimo Very loud
/>/>/> JJJ Fortississimo Ridiculously loud
Bird beaks: Gradual shifts in Volume
Two dynamic symbols that you encounter quite often are those that tell you to gradually play louder or gradually play softer. To me, these symbols look like bird beaks. A bird gets louder as it opens its beak; softer as it closes its beak. So, with this marvelous Audubon analogy, check out Figure 13-11 and see if you can tell what the chicken scratchings mean.
To gradually play louder is a crescendo; to gradually play softer is a diminuendo. Composers opposed to using the bird beak symbols in their music write out these long Italian words or use abbreviations like cresc. and dim. But you and I know that they’re just avoiding drawing diagonal lines.
Chapter 13: Dressing Up Your Music
Whether they appear as a word, abbreviation, or symbol, these instructions are almost always preceded and followed by dynamic markings that tell you to play from volume A gradually to volume B. Maybe the composer wants you to gradually go from very soft (pp) to very loud (ff), or perhaps the music indicates a subtle change from mezzo piano (mp) to mezzo forte (mf). Whatever the case, it’s up to you to decide exactly how to play these volume changes.
Sometimes the composer asks you to play louder and then softer, sort of an up-and-down effect. Many musicians and beauticians call this marking (shown in Figure 13-12) a hairpin because of how it looks. But I must admit that after umpteen years of reading music, 1 still can’t see the resemblance. Maybe you can.
Get loud, —= get soft.
Why even bother with volume? Why not just play everything really loudly so everyone can hear? This approach works fairly well for some heavy metal guitar anthems, but with piano music the subtle degrees of volume show off your ability to display emotion in your playing. Sure, you may not make anyone cry with a crescendo, but at least the mood is enhanced by your efforts. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
In This Chapter
p Accompanying your right hand with patterns for your left hand p Beginning and ending a masterpiece p Wowing your friends
m My ant to make even a simple song like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” into a wW showstopper? This is the chapter for you. After reading this chapter, you can apply a handful of tricks and techniques to just about any song you encounter in your piano career. Whether it’s a good intro or finale, a cool accompaniment pattern, or just a nice little riff thrown in, the tricks I show you in this chapter help you spice up your music.
If, after you read this chapter, you still feel like you need even more playing tools and tips, I have a suggestion for you: Write to IDG Books Worldwide and urge them to publish MORE Piano For Dummies. I’ll be, er, you’ll be glad you did.
Great Left-Hand Accompaniment Patterns
One of the most important tools to put in your bag of tricks is a good supply of left-hand accompaniment patterns. Any time you’re faced with playing straight chords, or even playing melodies from a fake book, you’re left to your own resources to supply an interesting-sounding bass line. (See Chapter 19 for more on fake books.)
Fret not. Look no further. Put away the antacid tablets. I’m here to help. This section gives you nine excellent and professional-sounding left-hand patterns that you can apply to just about any song you come across. Each of these patterns is versatile and user-friendly. Plus, I present each pattern in the two most common meters, 4/4 and 3/4.
Part V: Technique Counts for Everything
It’s important to practice these patterns again and again to master the right notes and the way each pattern feels under your fingers. After a while, though, you can ignore the printed music and just try to feel the pattern: the distance between the intervals, the shape of the chord, the rhythm, and so on. This way, you can easily apply the pattern to any key, any chord, and any scale.
Fixed and broken chords
The easiest left-hand accompaniment is playing chords, whether you play them as straight chords or arpeggios. (Read Chapter 12 for more on chords; Chapter 9 tells you more about arpeggios.)
Start with the basic chords and find inversions that work well for you without requiring your left hand to move all over the keyboard. (Chapter 12 tells you all about inversions.) Also, you should experiment with various rhythmic patterns. For example, try playing quarter-note chords instead of whole-note chords. Or try a dotted quarter-eighth note pattern.
In Figure 14-l(Track 65), the left hand plays a simple chord progression but with several different rhythmic patterns. Play along and decide which rhythmic pattern works, sounds, and feels best to you.