Having a beautiful legato sound on a piano can be incredibly difficult because the piano is a percussion instrument!
Pianists are masterful Illusionists
Unlike the voice or violin, It's against the piano's nature to have a legato. So I often tell my students that pianists are masterful illusionists; we create the illusion of a legato with our touch, and more importantly, how we listen to the sound in our imagination and the sound we produce.
On the Physical Part of Creating a Beautiful Legato
This Quick Tip video below will guide you (or you student) through the physical part of piano playing. It will show you one way to experience and understand what weight transfer is and feels like.
After this, read below for the mental part of creating a beautiful legato!
How do we listen to create a beautiful legato?
1. It's all in the mind
The way we hear the notes connecting to each other is essential to developing a magical legato touch.
As pianists, with our notes and keys laid out before us like a buffet, we can become very lazy when it comes to truly listening. It’s just so easy to play a note and have it come out in tune (assuming you aren’t due for a tuning 😉)
Our instruments do not demand from us the level of deep listening in the same way string, wind, and vocal instruments do.
So we need to listen like they do if we’re going to become masterful illusionists.
So how do you do this?
First, when you imagine the sound of the music, aim for the clearest image of what you are trying to create.
Imagine the end of one note connecting, blending, or joining into the beginning of the next note. There is an idea or feeling of sustaining pitch in your mind/imagination as it connects from one note to another.
It can be absolutely beneficial to imagine another instrument playing the notes instead of your piano. Would the melodic line be played by a violin? A flute? A singer? If so, what quality or timbre would it be and how would they create a legato sound?
Even better, sing as you play! The voice can easily tell you how the notes want to connect and be phrase. It also helps you feel what it’s like to sustain the music.
More on this type of deep listening soon in another blog post!
2. Now Listen from the inside - to the outside- and back.
Once you know what your imagined legato sounds (I call this inside listening), try creating that sound on the piano.
Don forget to blend the way it feels to play a legato with the way you want it sound in your mind.
Listen to the sound that you making on your instrument (outside listening). Once you are done, ask yourself if the sound you created matches the sound that you imagined (back to inside listening).
If it matches, awesome!
If not, it’s like playing the game “spot the difference”. Compare what you hear in your mind to what you created and analyze what was different and reflect on how you get your playing to match the sound you heard in your mind.
Cultivating a delicious legato at the piano comes in stages. The deeper the connection you develop with your inner ear, your touch, and your ability to listen, the better and better your legato touch evolves.
This is just the first access point to forming your best legato touch. There will more blog articles to come as you develop your craft.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes! How else was the idea of legato presented to you?
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