To be a good musician you are not required to play scales with virtuosity, or even to know standard scale fingering, as long as you are on such good terms with the scales themselves that you can play chords and melodies easily in every key. But to be a good pianist it is important for you to play scales and to master the standard fingering so that it becomes automatic. This is because so much keyboard music contains scale passages and because the practice of scales is one of the best ways in which to gain control of fingers.
Folklore would have it that the greater the number of sharps or flats in a key, the more difficult is that scale to play. Actually, the reverse is true: the more black keys in a scale, the easier it is to play. Any skilled pianist will tell you that the scale of C major is the most difficult of all.
Accordingly, we are going to begin with those scales which include all five black keys. These are the keys which have five or more sharps or flats—B major, F# major, C# major, and their enharmonic equivalents, C♭ major, G♭ major, D♭ major—and we shall call them Group I. In all these scales the group of three black keys will be played by the three middle fingers, and the two black keys will be played by the two fingers nearest the thumb—2 and 3. There will be only two white keys in each octave and these will be played by the thumb.
We will play the scale of C# major first, and we will play the black keys in clusters rather than individually. Thus, we will play C# and D# together.
After you have played this with each hand alone two or three times, play it hands together, up and down one octave. After that play two octaves. Be sure to give two counts to each impact. Now play the notes individually (you can probably do this hands together). Stopping for two counts on each tonic is good procedure for a while as it gives you a chance to think ahead, but give the other scale degrees only one count as you did when you played the scales in tetrachords.
Now you have played the scale of C#—seven sharps—with the greatest of ease.
The scale of F# major is just as easy. Only one tone is different—B instead of B#—and of course this time we will start with the group of three black keys played as a cluster. Proceed just as you did with the scale of C# major.
The scale of B major starts on a white key, so play the tonic with your thumbs and continue as you did in the other scales. When you are quite sure of the fingering pattern for B major you may make two changes—replacements which enable you to begin the scale with the fourth finger of your left hand and play the highest B with the fifth finger of your right hand. Doing this makes the fingering a bit more “pianistic,” but if it confuses you at all, continue using your thumb on B.
A simple rule will help you to remember the fingering for minor scales: major scales starting on white keys and their tonic minors will be fingered alike; major scales starting on black keys and their relative minors, provided they too start on black keys, will be fingered alike.
Only the scales of C# major and F# major have relative minors on black keys. Be very careful to preserve the fingering pattern in the various forms of the minor. When you feel quite sure of the fingering you may use another replacement: the right hand may begin both of these scales with the second finger instead of the third in the scale of D# minor, and the fourth in the scale of A# minor. But again, if this tends to confuse you, do not do it.
Since the scale of B major begins on a white key its tonic minor will be fingered in the same way.
Although the scales of F major and F minor do not include all of the black keys, they too are governed by the Group I fingering pattern so that both thumbs are played on F and C. The only replacement occurs when the highest F is played by the fourth finger (not thumb) of the right hand, and the lowest F is played by the fifth finger of the left hand.
Arranged by M. S. McLain
Pianists sometimes have occasion to provide for instrumentalists or group singers an accompaniment which does not include the melody. One of the most usual and useful of such accompaniments is strumming. The hands alternate for this, the left hand playing the root or some other chord tone as a single note or octave and the right hand supplying the harmony. This kind of accompaniment is capable of many variations. Figures 74 through 77 show four possibilities. The first two employ only the chord roots in the bass; the last two alternate the roots with the fifths.
Observe that the fifth of the dominant is the second degree of the scale (the supertonic), while the fifth of the subdominant is the tonic. Thus, the only scale degrees which you will be using in the bass are:
- which is the root of the tonic and the fifth of the subdominant.
- which is the fifth of the dominant.
- which is the root of the subdominant.
- which is the root of the dominant and fifth of the tonic.
This type of accompaniment is best adapted to melodies whose harmony remains the same throughout one or more measures. If, as in a cadence, the harmony does change on each beat, the hands may be temporarily played together in conformity with the harmony suggested by the melody.
We have designated as plain strumming that in which only the roots appear in the bass. Figure 74 and Figure 75 show how I, V7, and IV chords can be strummed in this way. When we alternate roots and fifths we become fancy. Figure 76 gives a I V7 I IV sequence, and Figure 77 the type of pattern you could find in many songs. On the last count of the next-to-the-last measure a V7 chord could be used in place of the tonic triad if the melody called for it.
Which pattern does the secondo part of Venerable Classic follow?
POLLY WOLLY DOODLE
LONG, LONG AGO
T. H. Bayly
Make duets of your earlier songs, strumming the secondo part.
Sometimes we find a change of key in the course of a melody. Little Minka has eight measures in A minor, then four measures in the relative major (C) followed by a return to A minor for four measures. You can harmonize it with block chords on the first count of each measure, and you can strum to it in duet style, plain or fancy, using either quarter or eighth notes.
Reviewing Warmup VI will help you with the minor-major-minor chord changes.
The device of alternating root and fifth in the lowest voice or bass of an accompaniment is not limited to strumming but may be used in accompaniments for the left hand alone. Which of the patterns in Figure 78 can you adapt to the new songs? The meters, note-values and sequence of harmonies may all be modified, of course, to suit the melody.
Which of your other songs would be improved by this more varied style of accompaniment? Examples of appropriate matings would be: b. with Lavender’s Blue; c. with Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?; g. with Silent Night.
As you learned in Chapter 6, when a chord tone other than the root is in the bass, the chord is said to be inverted. When the third of the chord is in the bass the chord is in its first inversion; when the fifth of the chord is in the bass the chord is in its second inversion.
When the chord is in root position (root in the bass) the triad is referred to as a five-three chord because the other tones are a fifth and a third above the bass. In accordance with this logic, the first inversion is referred to as a six-three chord because the upper tones are a sixth and a third above the bass, and the second inversion is a six-four chord because the upper tones form a sixth and a fourth above the bass.
When these same groupings of the chord tones occurred in the upper three voices we called them positions (Triads in Three Positions, Chapter 6) because it is possible for them all to occur over a stationary root in the bass. Thus, first, second, and third positions could all be different aspects of root position—or of first inversion—or of second inversion.
Identify the , , and chords in Figure 81. You will have no difficulty if you first locate the root of each chord as you learned to do in Chapter 6. Having located the root, you can easily identify the third and fifth.
When, in fancy strumming, you alternate the root and fifth of a chord with your left hand, you are playing alternate and chords.
Generally an unfigured bass note is assumed to be the root of the chord and the figures (5 and 3), being understood, are omitted. In the first inversion, the 3 of the is understood and so omitted. Only the second inversion is expressed by two figures,.
I chords are frequently used in cadences where they are called cadential six-fours. Let us go back to Chapter 6 and reexamine the first authentic cadence in Figure 62. There we had I V I with roots in the bass. If we now replace the first bass C with a G (fifth of the chord) we will have a I VI.
Play authentic cadences in all major and minor keys, substituting a cadential I for the first tonic chord.
Now let us consider complete cadences. The third chord, which has been a tonic triad in root (or fundamental) position, may now be converted to a I merely by leading the bass up a whole step from the subdominant to the dominant. The note may be repeated in the same octave as root of the dominant which follows, or it may move an octave lower—whichever sounds better or is more convenient. Just make sure to lead the bass one whole step up from IV to V, never a seventh down or an eleventh up.
Play complete cadences (as in Figure 84) in all major and minor keys, and with the upper voices in all positions. After you have played the cadences with block chords, play them with broken chords, and then strum them in ,, and time.
The I need not be preceded or followed by other harmonies; it can follow a I chord in root position and return to it as in Figure 86, or in the secondo part of Venerable Classic, or, if the left hand is accompanying a right-hand melody, as in Figure 87.
For the present you will not have occasion to use the chord as much as the chord, but there are two ways in which you will encounter it and use it. Both ways involve the first inversion of the IV chord—the IV6.
1. The third of the IV chord may substitute for the fifth of the IV chord in the bass line in fancy strumming. In the secondo part of Venerable Classic a IV6 is used in two places. Can you find them? By using the third of the IV chord the bass is able to achieve a smoother, less angular line than is possible when it is restricted to the root and the fifth of IV.
You will notice that the V7 in these examples is different from the V7 which you have been playing, although the notes which comprise it are the same. Actually it is the root position of the chord (fifth omitted) and follows a I more naturally than the position (an inversion) with which you are familiar.
In Chapter 9 we will consider seventh chords and their inversions in detail, so for the moment it will suffice to learn this progression and its V7 by rote.
You will also notice that in the I chord to which the V7 resolves, the fifth has been omitted. This is because of the strong tendency of the fourth degree of the scale to resolve downward to the mediant. To account for the three voices, the root is considered doubled by bass and tenor.
This gives us three new chord patterns—two incorporating the cadential I, and one bypassing it but using a IV6.
The first pattern can be used in the Theme from Freischütz, in Reuben, Reuben, and in Old MacDonald, which you may first play by ear, then write out and harmonize. Among the older songs it can be used in Silent Night; Sleep Baby, Sleep; Rosa; and Pop Goes the Weasel.
The second pattern can be used in Good Night, Ladies and The Arkansas Traveler. A number of earlier songs will be improved by this chord sequence. Among them are Yankee Doodle; Auld Lang Syne; Lavender’s Blue; Oh, Susannah; He’s a Jolly Good Fellow; Twinkle, Twinkle; and Theme from the Ninth Symphony.
The third pattern can be used in Yankee Doodle; Theme from the Ninth Symphony; Rousseau’s Lullaby; This Old Man.
GOOD NIGHT, LADIES
E. P. Christy
THEME FROM FREISCHÜTZ
Carl Maria von Weber
THE ARKANSAS TRAVELER
Here we must consider one more aspect of the V7 chord; not a new position this time but a new function. Instead of being used in a cadence it is used to usher in a new key– in this case, the key one half step higher. This is known as modulation, a subject we shall consider in greater detail a little later. At the moment let us simply learn this useful operation by rote. To modulate from C major to D♭ major, you will play:
As you can see in Figure 90, this magical modulatory V7 is merely the V7 of the new key, with the dominant of the new key (which is also the root of the V7) in the bass. But for the present it will be quicker and easier to remember how each voice progresses—the bass down a major third (four half steps), the tenor remaining in the same place, the alto moving up a whole step (spelled a diminished third to be consistent with the key of D♭), and the soprano moving up a half step.
Now modulate by half step through all keys, using this pattern. See if you can discover the pattern for modulating from major to minor, minor to minor, minor to major, remembering always that the V7 invariably will be the same, whatever the mode.
Our first use of this modulatory V7 will be in the second-ending measure of the Venerable Classic. The measure was left blank in the secondo part so that you could write in the V7 which will take you from C# major to D major. Write it as a dotted half-note chord.
So now, in the Venerable Classic, you have been introduced to strumming, to IV6 chords, and to modulatory V7’s. The secondo part has yet another feature to which your attention is called: in two measures unaccented passing-tones have been introduced in the accompaniment thus giving the bass a more melodic or contrapuntal character. Can you identify these passing tones?
Play the second half of the secondo part in all major keys to familiarize yourself with these features. If you wish to experiment with minor mode, try primo and secondo parts in both harmonic and melodic forms.
In transposing the primo part, you will find a solid knowledge of scales absolutely essential. Also, there are places where shortterm memorizing can be of help. For example, in the second half of the primo, the two voices of the melody move down diatonically in thirds from 1 and 3 to 3 and 5, then back to 1 and 3, and down again to 3 and 5. In such cases it is far easier (and therefore quicker) to remember where you came from and return there than to calculate all over again which notes are 1 and 3 and which are 3 and 5.
Our new warmup is a trill exercise. The cluster of whole notes at the beginning must be depressed silently and held for the duration of each new finger combination. Invert for left hand.
Warmup XVII is a stretching exercise. If your hands are large and limber you may not need it, but if your hands are small or the muscles are tight and keep you from spreading your fingers comfortably in extended hand positions, this will help. Play slowly and be sure to stop if or when your hand feels any strain. Invert for left hand.
Warmup XVIII is to help you gain control of dynamic levels. Watch the diminuendo carefully so as not to decrease too abruptly. This principle of graduated increase and decrease of volume may be applied to a number of other warmups as well as to songs and solos.
Grand pianos and some uprights have three pedals. The pedal at the right is the damper or legato pedal. It is often mistakenly called the “loud” pedal. This is incorrect because the pedal has nothing to do with loudness. When it is depressed it raises the dampers so that they do not touch the strings. This permits all the strings to vibrate freely, not only in response to the hammerstroke on individual strings, but in response to each other. These “open” or unstopped strings set up a resonance of overtones which, used with skill and discrimination, can enhance the pianist’s performance, but if used carelessly will produce not loudness but confusion.
The middle pedal on grand pianos also controls the dampers but with this difference: whereas the damper pedal lifts all the dampers at once, the middle or sostenuto pedal controls only one or a predetermined few dampers, depending on which keys are being held down at the instant the pedal is depressed. Thus, it is not only selective, but for as long as it is held down will continue to sustain those tones—and those alone—no matter what is played subsequently.
If there is a middle pedal on an upright piano, it is usually not a sostenuto pedal. Sometimes it is a “practice” pedal, which means that it removes the hammers from contact with the strings, making it possible to play soundlessly. Sometimes the pedal is there only for looks and has no function at all. And sometimes, especially in elderly instruments, whatever its original purpose, it long ago retired from active duty.
The pedal at the left is the soft pedal and, as its name implies, it decreases the volume of sound. In a grand piano this is accomplished by moving the entire action (the mechanical complex in which the hammers are fixed) to the right so that only two strings are struck by the hammers instead of three strings. In an upright piano, approximately the same result is obtained by moving the hammers closer to the strings or by interposing some substance between the hammers and the strings.
Both damper and soft pedals should be used for specific purposes and color effects. Learn to play legato without the damper pedal and piano without the soft pedal, then when you need extra help the pedals will be your valuable tools.
In Warmup IV (Chapter 3) you used the damper pedal so that you might enjoy the rich sonorities developing from triads played in each octave of the keyboard. However connectedly you might have played these triads you could never, with only your two hands, have compounded the same sonority. Therefore, to achieve this result the damper pedal was indispensable.
There are other special effects, among them legato skips and chords, which necessitate use of the damper pedal. One purpose for which it must not be used is “keeping time.” Good pedaling demands a high degree of coordination between foot, hands, and ear, and this can never be developed if the foot is restricted to timekeeping.
Two general principles which should guide you are:
- Change the pedal when the harmony changes.
- Release the pedal if you make a mistake.
There are two basic kinds of pedaling.
The first we call direct pedaling. Here the pedal and key are activated at the same time. This is what you did in the secondo part of Venerable Classic, and also in the Rhythm Drill in Chapter 4. This type of pedaling adds brilliance to the music and is used in some waltzes, marches, and other pieces where a pronounced rhythm is more important than a sustained melodic line. With direct pedaling it is impossible to play a series of chords legato (unless they are all of the same harmony) for the obvious reason that if the pedal is to be played with a chord it must be released in advance and so cause a hiatus between chords. This is the easiest kind of pedaling and the least used by good pianists.
The second kind is syncopated pedaling. This is more subtle, more difficult, and more frequently used. In the last three exercises of this chapter’s Rhythm Drill you were doing syncopated pedaling. This is for legato, singing melodies, and chord sequences. Here you must depress the pedal immediately after striking the note or chord and hold it down until after you have played the new harmony, when you will lift and depress the pedal again as rapidly as possible. Actually there is an overlapping of harmonies, but the up-down action of the foot (pedal change) is so rapid that the ear does not detect any blur and the effect is one of smoothness—the more so since by lifting and depressing the pedal after the key stroke, the overtone resonance resulting from simultaneous pedal and key action is eliminated.
Many considerations will influence your choice of pedaling—the period and the composer, for example, and current attitudes toward the period and the composer. There is a continuing controversy over the use of pedal in the keyboard music of J. S. Bach. On the one side it is asserted that because there were no modern pedals on the instruments for which he composed, none should be used today. On the other side it is argued that the spirit and intent of the music are not necessarily best served by slavish adherence to the mechanical limitations of the day. It is pointed out that many composers strained against these same limitations, and the question is raised as to whether, in the name of authenticity, their works should always be thus circumscribed.
It is an interesting debate and you must make your own decision. In any event, good taste would suggest using the pedal sparingly and with utmost clarity in music of the Baroque and Classical periods.
Of a quite different texture and period are those works which introduce the whole-tone scale. There are only two of these scales—on C and D♭ One of their peculiarities is that all of the tones of either one may be considered as a single harmony and combined in one pedal. In some contexts you might not want to do this, but in any event you must change pedal when one scale complex changes to the other.
Then there is the matter of piano register. If you are playing forte in the lower octaves, even though the harmony does not change you are likely to build up a reverberation which is unpleasant, so a judicious change of pedal is indicated. On the other hand, if you are playing a rapid pianissimo passage in the highest register, holding the pedal through changing harmonies often gives a shimmering effect and the theoretical dissonance is scarcely noticeable. In fact, the very highest strings have no dampers so what you do with the pedal affects them not at all.
As with notation, terminology, and many other aspects of music, pedaling is full of inconsistencies to which the professional pianist is accustomed but which are confusing to beginning pianists.
One of these is the matter of pedaling the first beat of a waltz bass and holding the pedal through almost three beats. You did this in Venerable Classic if you used pedal. The first beat was a quarter note, which was followed by two quarter rests (A), but the pedal has prolonged that quarter note to almost a dotted half (B). Having been urged to respect rests you now ask, “What is the rationale of this?” Well, there really isn’t any. The first note could have been written as a dotted half, and sometimes is. But to be strictly logical, a note on the second beat (C) should be a half note (or a double-dotted quarter) and sundry fill-in rests would be involved, (D) all of which looks fussy and confusing, so it has become a convention to write three quarters and a pedal indication. Like most conventions, this one serves a purpose but wilts a bit in the glare of logic.
Another practice which puzzles students is the use of pedal when the music is marked staccato. The explanation is that the use of a staccato touch—particularly the vigorous pizzicato type—produces a characteristic timbre which is not obscured by use of the pedal. A properly performed staccato would never be taken for legato even though the sounds are carried on by the pedal.
One more puzzle: should use of the pedal be geared to the left hand or the right hand? This depends on the function of each hand. Usually the two are coordinated so that no choice need be made. If in more intricate music this problem arises, think first of the melodic line regardless of the hand to which it is assigned. The pedal does not automatically belong with the bass or accompaniment. (One exception is in duets, when the secondo player has charge of pedaling.)
Pedaling traditionally is indicated by the abbreviation Ped. at the place to be pedaled, and an asterisk, *, where the pedal is to be released. More recently, the mark is gaining favor. This has the advantage of greater precision where intricate pedaling is required. In there can be no doubt where the rapid pedal change is to take place since this is an exact diagram of your foot action.
Use of the soft pedal is indicated by the words una corda where the pedal is to be depressed, and tre corde where it is to be released.
There are two virtuoso techniques which you may not wish to use, but might like to know about: the trill pedal in which the foot rapidly flutters the damper pedal up and down to reduce the volume and duration of sounds without the abruptness of a pedal release, and the half-pedal in which the damper pedal is depressed only halfway for special effects such as soft bell or chime-like music in the upper registers.
In using the pedal, keep your heel firmly on the floor and your toes pointed straight forward on the pedal. When the pedal is released it should be fully released; the slightest depression will cause a blur. On the other hand, never lift your foot higher than the pedal; always keep in contact. The reason for this is that if you let your foot lose contact the sound of the mechanism is apt to result from the pedal release, while your foot’s return to the pedal is more than likely to produce an audible tap.
Finally: it is better to use too little pedal than too much.
Before playing these sight-reading exercises, examine them carefully and ask yourself of each one:
- What key is it in, and do I know this signature?
- Does it change key, and if so, to what key?
- Is the motion scalewise or chordwise? (Pay particular attention to those groups of eighth notes which constitute broken chords.)
- Should my hands cover a five-finger position or an octave span? (Check your left hand as well as your right hand.)
- Are any harmonies other than the familiar ones employed?
- What tempo would be appropriate to the music?
When you have found answers to all these questions, try to hear the music in your mind’s ear. Then, play it at a tempo which seems appropriate, and keep going—even if you are obliged to leave out a note here and there the first time through. By the third time it should be perfect.
In Chapter 6 you were introduced to broken chords and other types of accompaniment which you may now use in improvising. Your vocabulary still will consist of I, IV, V, and V7 chords, their individual chord tones, unaccented passing tones, and chromatic lower neighbors—in major and minor (all forms) keys. The melody may exceed an octave by one or two notes at either end if such extension serves your purpose. Greater variety will be achieved through use of the new, more flexible accompaniments. Develop the model beginnings into balanced phrases, then originate your own beginnings and proceed as before.
The triads in three positions and the cadences which you had in Chapter 6 suggest another style of improvisation. Here the right hand combines melody and harmony while the left hand plays singlenote roots. In the model beginnings the three upper voices move freely from one position to another of the same harmony, skipping intermediate positions to conform to the melody. The first sightreading study in Chapter 6, and The Three Horns in this chapter are written in this style, although they employ more advanced harmonic resources than are presently available to you.
SONATINA, OP. 36, NO. 1
THE THREE HORNS
(for the left hand alone)
M. S. McLain
(in the key of G major)
Attributed to Henry Carey
THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
(in the key of A flat major)
J. S. Smith
- Having established the tonality of a given key by playing the scale up and down slowly, identify random scale degrees as they are played for you.
- Play a note on the piano in your voice range and sing:
a major third and a perfect fifth higher
a minor third and a perfect fifth higher
a minor third and a minor sixth higher
a major third and a major sixth higher
a perfect fourth and a major sixth higher
a perfect fourth and a minor sixth higher
a major third lower and a minor third higher
a minor third lower and a major third higher
a minor third lower and a perfect fourth higher
a major third lower and a perfect fourth higher
a perfect fourth lower and a major third higher
a perfect fourth lower and a minor third higher
a minor third and a perfect fifth lower
a major third and a perfect fifth lower
a minor third and a minor sixth lower
a major third and a major sixth lower
a perfect fourth and a minor sixth lower
a perfect fourth and a major sixth lower.
- Identify each of the chords you have just sung.
- As the teacher plays isolated four-part chords, listen to the bass part and identify each chord as being in root position, first inversion, or second inversion.
- Play The Old Gray Mare and Old MacDonald Had a Farm; then harmonize and strum to them.
- Define the following terms and symbols:
inversion; cadential six-four; strumming; passing tone; I; I6 V6; IV; direct pedaling; chromatic lower neighbor; damper pedal; soft pedal; syncopated pedaling; sostenuto pedal; una corda; Ped.; *; tre corde; fundamental position.
- Play first inversions of I, IV, and V in every major and minor key, hands separately.
- Play second inversions of I, IV, and V in every major and minor key, hands separately.
- Harmonize the new songs and the earlier songs to which reference was made in Chapter VII, in every major and minor key. Review them first with the familiar usage of I, IV, and V7, then experiment with the chords in other positions and patterns (you can include the V in these) and other styles of accompaniment, including strumming.
- Play Warmup XVI in different five-finger positions which will include black keys.
- What familiar songs not in the book could you harmonize with your present repertory of chords? Choose three and play them in class.