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Piano Chord Voicings

piano technique

Question: Hello Albert,

Often bringing out or emphasizing particular notes within a chord is required, as in e.g. Schubert’s Moment Musical, Op. 94 (D.780), No. 2, where the higher notes of the right hand octave chords have to be phrased.

Especially in octave chords or 4-note chords this can be quite demanding technically.

Are there any particular recommendations related to hand/finger positioning you could put forward?

Many thanks in advance.

– Luc (Belgium)

Albert’s reply: Two ways you can bring out a voice are through weight and direction. Applying arm weight only to one finger will bring out that voice.

Similarly, if you aim the hand in the direction of the note you wish to emphasize, that note will be accented compared to the others.

Often, pointing the hand in another direction will involve using different fingerings. This will automatically change the sound.

In the case of Schubert’s second Moment Musical, this isn’t practical since the soprano voice needs to be voiced, and it needs to be played legato:

In this case, I recommend practicing the top voice separately from the lower voices. Exaggerate the dynamic differences, playing the top voice forte and the bottom voices pianissimo.

The soprano should be legato at all times, but try practicing the inner voices staccato as well as pianissimo. Then start to combine the two: play and hold the top voice (forte) as you play the lower voices staccato.

Once this exercise becomes comfortable, it’s time to hold the lower voices along with the soprano. Any weight needs to be on the top voice, and the bottom voices should be as light as a feather.

A frequent difficulty in piano chord voicings is playing all the notes together. You can actually practice on a table, or on the closed piano fallboard (which covers the keys). When you play all the fingers together, you’ll hear a single sound as the fingers touch the wood. Once you’ve mastered this skill you can do the same while actually playing the keys.

After you master these exercises piano chord voicings should pose little problem for you!

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