Today we’re going to look at a common piano technique, namely the two note slur. There’s a technique involved in executing the two-note slur (beyond just playing it smoothly), which is definitely worth having in your bag of tricks. The piece used today is from Bela Bartok’s collection “The First Term at the Piano”.
Bartok’s First Term at the Piano
SHEET MUSIC for Bartok’s “Country Song”, 12
-note that this links to the entire book – this piece is the 12th tune in the book.
Two note slur: Basics
I love using this piece, from “First Term at the Piano” as a learning piece for the two note slur, because it really shows you how it’s done. The second note of each two note slur is either a staccato, or is held for a shorter duration because of a rest.
The two note slur isn’t just about playing two notes that are smoothly connected. It’s about how you distribute the weight of the note. The first note is going to be heavier – a drop motion – and the second note will be light – a rising motion. Refer to the video to see it in action.
The drop-lift motion
Again, it isn’t just about playing two notes smooth, though that much is true. The first note is heavier, and the second note is lighter. More than that, the weight of the hand really sinks into that first note, and the second note of the slur is played with a lifting motion. Your hand should almost be subtly floating, or rotating. It’s a really elegant gesture.
To get the hang of it, try playing a C pentascale, something really simple, with two note slurs, like this:
G – F, F – E, E – D, etc. (Think drop-lift, drop-lift, drop-lift, etc.)
I don’t care who you are, you should feel fancy and graceful when you play it. Listen to the tone you create – even record yourself for more objectivity. You want to watch that you’re not going overboard and “hitting” the first note (demo).
Learning points on Bartok’s country song
Now back to Country Song. Thank you Bartok, for making this piece in a 5-finger position, so we only have to worry about getting the slurs right, without moving our hands everywhere.
Let’s look at our key signature – a B flat is telling us this is either in the key of F, or D minor – noticing the opening notes, it’s pretty clear we’re in the key of F because it’s outlining an F chord. Here’s the F major scale if you’d like to get acquainted with this key.
Also our Italian “moderato”, so you don’t need to rush this piece – there’s plenty of time to think about those two-note slurs.
Really try to master this two note slur, because the next piece we do will be more involved than this! Not to mention, it’ll come up so frequently with pieces you learn, so it’s a good skill to have in your bag of tricks.