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Sep 26 / Greg

Staccato vs legato exercise

Here is an exercise I have found to be very valuable and effective in developing finger strength, independence and co-ordination. The example looks notationally complicated because I have notated it to be performed on the whole tone scale position which is the most natural position for the hand to assume. The exercise can be performed on any 5-key parallel set, from C major hand position through to 5 note 7th chords. A parallel set is any group of keys that can be played simultaneously as a cluster or block with one hand. NB: It is not recommended that small or under-developed hands try to play this exercise using 7th chords as the strain on the hand is considerable when employing wide finger extensions.

Staccato vs Legato ExerciseClick Image To Enlarge

Two methods of practice are necessary. The first and most effective way which develops all of the above qualities is to play the keys represented by the whole notes with added arm weight to the key bed and while holding them down, play the keys represented by the black notes with a light point-of-sound finger staccato. “Point-of-sound” is pressing the key to the depth where the hammer is activated, a fraction of time and travel before you hear the sound. This point-of-sound staccato should sound very light and ‘dry’ like a plucked sound. The fingers should rest on the key and press very lightly and quickly then spring up off the key (but not too high). The result is a clear legato rising line of tones (the whole notes) and an equally clear line of contrasted descending staccato tones. You are training the hand to perform two completely contrasted actions at the same time.

This exercise must be played very slowly at first, with great concentration on the quality of the sounds produced and above all a complete relaxation of the forearm after each staccato note. This relaxation is of the utmost importance.

The second practice method is to play the whole note keys as above but playing the black note keys point-of-sound legato. This is much more difficult and close to impossible to master without previously practicing the first method.

While this is an example of one of the techniques I teach, having lessons is the only way to fully grasp and appreciate the actions and the methods by which they can be mastered.

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