Today we’re going to look at something different – some music by Czerny for beginners (though don’t be fooled, if you’re just starting, some of these will still require some work). Below is a practice guide for each of the 10 pieces in the video.
A note: Some of these concepts have not been learned on the PianoTV episodes yet, but some of these can still be worth trying out. Concepts include things like 8th notes and 16th notes, and they won’t be explained in detail here – if you don’t know what they are, you can wait for the episodes where they’re discussed in depth, try them out here by listening to the sound, or do a quick google search for more information. When those posts are up, I will link to them here.
In lieu of a book, the exercises in this video can be found here: http://pianoexercises.org/exercises/czerny/ (the bottom one).
Exercise 1: Phrasing
This simple piece uses just five fingers in each hand, so you don’t need to extend your fingers beyond a 5-finger position. This allows you to really work on beautiful phrasing, the key feature to this tune. The entire piece is made up of 4-measure phrases, so keep the notes nice and connected within the phrases, and lift gently between them.
You can think of phrasing in terms of singing – if you were to sing this piece, you’d need to breathe (obviously), and the breaks in the phases are where those breaths would be. On the piano, we convey that with a gentle lift of the sound.
Make sure to pay attention to the dynamic markings for contrast and interest! Also notice that the time signature is in 2/4 – note what the flow of 2/4 feels like as you play through it.
Exercise 2: Crescendos and diminuendos
This one is also in a 5-finger hand position, and is now in the time signature of ¾. Listen to how the flow of ¾ differs from that of 2/4 as you play.
This little piece has very long, connected phrases, so keep it smooth. The challenge of this one is getting strong crescendos and diminuendos – the long triangles on the score which mean to gradually get louder, and softer. Notice how crescendos tend to correspond with notes that rise, and diminuendos correspond with notes that fall – this is a very natural effect, and is very common.
Be sure to observe the left hand rest in measure 16! The tendency is for the left hand to continue holding the ‘C’ – make sure it lifts for this measure.
Exercise 3: Harmonic intervals
Now after doing a piece in 2/4 and ¾, we arrive in 4/4, which is also symbolized by a C (common time). This piece is great practice in harmonic intervals (two notes played at the same time), so follow the finger number markings carefully and keep it as smooth as you can.
The left hand is very simple in this piece (just alternating Cs and Gs), which gives you plenty of mental space to focus on the right hand. Pay attention to where the right hand moves slightly out of the 5-finger position (measure 7 and 15), and follow the finger numbers accordingly.
Exercise 4: Accents and staccatos
Two different types of articulation appear in this piece – accents and staccatos. Staccatos require a quick release from the note (they look like a dot either above or below the note), and accents, which look like small triangles, require a louder emphasis on that note. Keep staccatos light, and watch that your accents are noticeable enough that they create a stronger sense of rhythm, but not so obvious that it just sounds like you’re attacking the piano.
The left hand pattern is mainly broken chords – you might notice the three notes of C chord (C, E, G) as well as a few notes of G7 chord (D, F, G). Once you’re comfortable with the pattern, it’s fairly simple to play – chords make for nice, simple accompaniment.
Exercise 5: Eighth notes
Eighth notes are nice and quick – twice as fast as quarter notes. Notice that every quarter note in the piece is played staccato.
The best way to learn this piece is to start at a slow tempo – once you’re comfortable with that, speed it up slowly, until you’re able to play the 8th notes evenly and securely at a fast tempo.
This entire piece sits in a 5-finger position, so it’s a great way to learn eighth notes without having to wander around the keys.
Exercise 6: Harmonic intervals, part 2
This one is like a slightly more amped up version of the third exercise – the harmonic intervals are played more rapidly (in quarter notes), and there’s plenty of dynamic (volume) variety. As mentioned with #3, work on keeping the harmonic intervals smooth (unless they’re marked staccato, of course), in both the right hand and the left hand, which has some harmonic interval action of its own.
Exercise 7: Bohemian Air
16th notes and full chords
Now it’s time to amp things up to the next level! First off, your left hand will wander well outside the bounds of a 5-finger position, and will begin playing full 3-note chords. Be careful with your note reading here! Observe the finger numbers for the left hand notes in order to pull this part off, especially in the slurred sections (measure 6, 8, 15-16), which requires a smooth motion in the left hand.
As if 8th notes weren’t fast enough, it’s time to try 16th notes, which are twice as fast as 8th notes (4x as fast as a quarter note!). Since there are three types of beats in the right hand (quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes), pay close attention to the rhythm to make sure you’re keeping it all steady.
Note that this is the first piece with a tempo mark on the beginning – “andante”, which means “walking speed”.
Exercise 8: Allegretto
Allegretto is a tempo marking which means “fairly fast”, so here’s where you can really fly with those 16th notes. Like in the previous tune, there is a mix of quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes here, so be very careful with your rhythm, and listen to the recording to get a sense of how it’ll sound. As with any fast piece, it’s best to start slow, and once you’ve mastered it at a slow tempo, speed it up incrementally.
This piece is written in parallel motion in a 5-finger position, which means the right and left hands play the same notes at the same time. At first, this can be a challenging technique, so don’t be concerned if your fingers initially try to rebel.
Sometimes in music, instead of a mark for crescendo or diminuendo, you’ll see an abbreviation of the word on the score, like how it says “cresc.” in this piece. The meaning is the same, it’s just a different way to mark it in.
Exercise 9: Allegro
Right hand movement
Allegro is a tempo marking with means “fast”, but happily it’s not too tough to play this one fast because of the absence of 8th and 16th notes.
The left hand does a broken chord pattern like exercise 4, except for the third line where there’s not much else except for staccato “G’s” – keep these light, and try to put a slight emphasis on the first beat of each measure to drive the rhythm. A difficult part of the piece occurs when the right hand plays smooth while the left plays staccato (third line) – really watch that your hands are acting independently, instead of just copying each other.
For the first time, the right hand makes a journey above high G, all the way to a high C in the last line. Follow the finger numbers carefully to do this with as much ease as possible.
Exercise 10: Allegretto
Right hand movement, part 2
Here’s a tune you’re probably familiar with – “twinkle twinkle”. The most important thing in this piece is to get used to stretching your hands differently – instead of the right hand using finger 1 for C, and finger 5 for G, this time you’ll use finger 4 on G to allow the pinkie to stretch to A. This can be a challenge at first, but make sure to master it because the further along we get, the less you’re going to be staying in any one hand position.