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Finger Staccato

piano technique

Question: Hi Albert,

My question relates to staccato double notes played softly. Is finger staccato the best technique for this?

– Tony (England)

Albert’s reply: It’s not possible to prescribe a “one size fits all” touch. That said, in general staccato double notes are best performed not with finger staccato but from the wrist. In this case, the fingers are firm and all movement is from the wrist.

For the benefit of key-notes readers, double notes are two voices in close proximity (often thirds or sixths) with an identical, constant rhythm (e.g., all sixteenth notes) played by one hand. Double note passages are often technically extremely challenging – examples are Schumann’s Toccata, Chopin’s Etude in Thirds and Liszt’s Transcendental Etude Feux follets. (All of these pieces require legato double notes, although the Schumann Toccata is occasionally played staccato, to poor effect to my ears.)

To perform staccato double notes from the wrist, the wrist needs to remain flexible, without any unnecessary tension. It acts as a hinge. In this technique, the wrist is also a shock absorber, acting as a cushion each time the keys are struck. The hand bounces off the keys, using the wrist as a hinge.

Performed from the wrist in this manner, staccato double notes generally play themselves, with exactly the proper voicing, dynamics and articulation!

Finger staccato, in which the fingers are raised from the key, tends to be more suitable for passages in single notes. Wrist staccato can of course also be used for single notes – everything depends on the sound you wish to achieve. Touches are like paintbrushes, each one creating a different effect.

I’m afraid I can’t offer more detail without knowing the exact passage in question. Perhaps you could post a comment and let me know?

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