Adieu - Part 1/3

Section A (w/video)

If you haven't read the very important introduction article written specifically for you to absorb before you begin this piece, please do so here.  It will make your journey a lot easier!

Below is the video which accompanies this article.  Feel free to read or watch first but in the end, be sure to have ingested both at your own pace.  Note the timestamps in the description box, along with other goodies, for your viewing ease when returning to the video.  Likes, comments and subscriptions are most welcome.

We are using this score so download it, print it or load it up on your viewing device to be able to follow along.  If sight-reading is not your strong point, do not be put off.  I will teach the piece anyway and I have a special podcast dedicated to the sight-reading topic here.  We are in Ab, 3/4 time at a little more than 2 beats per second (which would be 120bpm; the piece is suggested at 138bpm).


I assume that the piece is now well and truly on your Internal Jukebox, as prescribed in the previous article, so we can very easily learn the single-note melody without worrying about the left hand accompaniment straight away.

What is going to shock you, however, is that, if you can read sheet music, you would do so well if you would use the score along with your Internal Piano to visualise the melody before you approach the piano.  When at the piano, if you don't have such a good ability to keep time (I have a video on that!), then use a metronome set at your natural limit, in 3/4 time with the bell to indicate beat 1 and push it until you can execute it at performance speed (138).  Of course, actual performance will fluctuate due to expressiveness but while mastering, a little more discipline is very beneficial.

At the piano, before worrying about fingering too much, to reinforce the melody line, a nice trick is to play the melody with the left hand (using whatever fingering comes naturally).  It doesn't need to be at performance speed because it's just a proof to you that you're not playing the melody from muscle memory, mindlessly, but that you truly know what the notes are.  And remember: the fingers can do what the mind can imagine them doing and cannot do what the mind cannot imagine them doing, so if you haven't spent time using your Internal Piano, you're doing yourself a disservice.

In bars 3, 5, 7, 8, 13 and 14, we are instructed to play a little quieter.  Please not that quieter does not mean slower, it means quieter, so press more gently, don't hesitate more as many seem to do!  Note how the pedal point at the beginning of each bar indicates the pulse as being on beat 1.  This may seem obvious but not every Waltz piece emphasises beat 1; some emphasise beat 6, some change.  We are lucky that this piece is constantly a strong downbeat (felt internally, implied when playing) on every beat 1 so that helps with pedalling; the foot becomes a kind of metronome.

The main difficult in this section is bar 12, where 5 notes are played during one beat.  This bar seems to be best tackled by, just this once, emphasising each individual beat: 1, 2, 3.  This helps your right hand play the bar for the three sub-sections it could be said to represent:  the 5 notes, the triplet (C, Eb, F) and the target note of Gb (which is shared by a rapid A but don't include that as part of the three sub-sections; it should be played as an afterthought because it's more related to the A of the next bar).  You may need a metronome to find your natural limit to play through this little difficulty but as you repeat it and feel it at and away from the piano, it will become second nature.  The left hand accompaniment makes things easier by playing the bass note to begin the first of the 3 sub-sections, the first chord at the beginning of the second sub-section and the second chord at the beginning of the third sub-section, so it's all balanced nicely (again, if you consider the A as an afterthought).

Try saying it to yourself while feeling the time signature.  12345 123 1 (and <-- the afterthought).  At the piano, master the second and third beats separately before blending the first beat with five notes.  This is also a good strategy.

The image to the right is the next three bars from the first page of the piece.  There are three notable differences:  the left hand accompaniment plays ever so slightly different chords sometimes (but those changes follow the right hand melody notes) / in the image, bar 8 (bar 26 in reality) has the melody doing a slightly different line, albeit very similar but it's noteworthy / and bar 16 in the image (bar 34 in reality) does that 3 sub-sections part but chromatically.  Don't be put off by it.  It's the same pattern, from A and the five notes as last time but this time, instead of of jumping to C, Eb, F then Gb, it chromatically runs from the A to the Gb.  Again, fortunately, the left hand accompaniment assists us by starting the bass and right hand melody at the same time, and the first chord being on the C, as it was last time (second of the 3 sub-sections), with the second chord being on the target Gb, as last time.  Thank you Chopin!

Due to the rapidity required here, unless you cheat and slow down (which it doesn't tell you to do - in fact, it tells you to get louder), you would do well to do some rapid chromatic run exercises, eyes closed, of course.  Just do them over an octave, from 4 to 10 notes, starting on both black and whites at random so that you can observe how your natural fingering shows itself in each new position.  This is a good technique to practise anyway because a lot of such piano music requires you to play relatively fast chromatic phrases, not to mention jazz improvisation, too.

Now that you've had a good look at the right hand and really internalised the shape, can play it even with one finger and the left hand, let's begin the left hand discussion by encouraging you to get accurate octave jumps.  This is so important because almost all left hand 'stuff' at the piano involves an octave and it happens a bit in our piece.

Practising octaves is part 'do it a lot and get use to it' and part 'you can speed up the process by focusing only on the main jumping finger'.  What?

The left hand's precision is not determined by what chord it must land on, or how many notes are in that chord (2 or three, in this piece).  It depends on the accuracy of the, more often than not, little finger making that octave jump perfectly; the fingers then fall into place, assuming you know the notes of the chord!  So spend a lot of your time, with a metronome, enduring octave jump precision, with your eyes closed as much as possible.  Learning to trust your body goes a long way to reducing conscious interference.

Primarily, to succeed in playing this piece, you need pretty good control over individual fingers because all five fingers are called upon.  Consider personalising a technical exercise in which the little finger bounces from one same note and every combination of the other four fingers (including thumb) play any suitable, nearby notes.  Do this as an endurance exercise, not speed.  You could even have the same two notes played by two different finger combinations.  Mix and match, close your eyes and it will help you a little with Chopinesque demands.

Finally, try to develop the mindset of having 10 fingers rather than two hands.  Playing the piano is about a full sound; no listener is wondering what your left hand and right hand are doing individually, they're listening to a wall of sound that you're creating so you would do well to be aware of that and experience it too.  It's nice to know 'what the left hand does' and 'what the right hand does', in fact, it's paramount but aim for a 'sound palette' rather than the more dry, mechanical 'my left does this, oh, and my right does this'.  No, this kind of thinking will show through in your playing.

Do not aim for a metronomic performance; they are useful for checking how well you can execute a passage and at what tempo but do not base your timing on external sources.  Steadiness in execution comes from within.  See this video for more.

Spend a lot of time away from the piano in mastering this piece and each of the three sections.  Use your internal piano to go over the melody line and chord shapes.  Use your internal manuscript (and the real one) to reinforce what the fingers must do.  After all, as I've said often, the fingers can only do what the mind can imagine them doing!

Feedback under the video would be appreciated and will encourage others so thank you in advance if you choose to do so.  And above all, enjoy and Play You!