Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Drop-Lift Technique In Piano [with update]

This post first published in November of 2011.

"The Drop-Lift Technique in Piano":

I think most of you know, that in the written music score, two notes that are the same that are connected by a curved line is called a tie. That curved line connecting those notes means that you play those two notes as one note, holding it for the timed value of the two notes.
This is called a "tie" where the low G# is held for the length of two measures
But many of you may not know that a curved line  [called slur] connecting two notes that are not the same [like the example below of E and D] means that you play the two seperate notes connected in a legato like fashion, and it also means the second note is to be played softer than the first, resulting in a loud-soft sound.

The "slur line" here means the drop-lift technique will be used where the D will be played softer than the E

In piano, this technique is called drop-lift.  When a pianist sees two different notes connected by a curved line, it means he/she will drop down on the first note and lift up in a rolling fashion on the second note [with the result that the second note will be played much softer than the first note].

When you have a curved line [slur line] over many different notes it means you play those notes in a legato technique-by holding one note and not releasing that note until you begin to play the second note; but when there are only two different notes connected by a slur line you must also not just play them legato but also use the drop lift technique to play the second note softer than the first.

This technique is many times written at the end of a phrase in a classical music piece.  You may not think this means much, but this technique really adds to the beauty of the piece. Along with rubato and ornaments [such as trills, and turns], the drop-lift technique [as it is called for the piano] helps make classical music sound beautiful. 

That contrasting dynamic sound between two notes is really pleasing to the ear.  Sometimes the contrast is subtle and sometimes it is pronounced.

This loud-soft technique of two different connected notes is also true for the other instruments of the orchestra.  I don't know what the technique is called for the different instruments or even if there is a name associated with the technique in instruments other than the piano.  I only know that in piano this is called drop-lift.

You can see demonstration of this technique in the following video of the first movement of Beethoven's dramatic Piano Concerto #3 in C-minor as played by virtuoso pianist Mitsuko Uchida.  There is more than one example of the drop lift technique and the loud soft technique used by the orchestra-but I will note one by each that you can see and hear.  The pianist will use the drop lift technique in measures 4:13-14, and the orchestra will use the loud soft technique in measures 5:31-32 and 5:33-34. Without having seen the sheet music, I know in both instances they were scored with the slur line over the two different notes.

Please turn  up the volume to watch for the drop lift technique and listen to this beautiful piano concerto by Beethoven.
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Update: Oct.22, 2016:  I have learned from a professional musician that the second note is not always played softer than the first.  If you will check out the comment section you will see my friend, Jim Denton, a virtuoso cellist, who has been a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra for many years took the time to make this correction [which I am extremely grateful]:  "The second note of two slurred notes is not always softer, regardless of whether it's a pianist playing them or a different instrumentalist. Those slurred notes my be located somewhere in the phrase where a crescendo is called for, either because it is "felt" or outright written in the music underneath the staff, due to what comes both before those notes as well as what comes afterward."

Thanks for the correction big Jim!

L.V. Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3 in C-minor, Movement 1, allegro con brio:



Now to see more examples of the drop-lift technique, please turn up the volume and enjoy Robert Schumann's beautiful piano concerto in A minor [movements 2 & 3].  In the following video, note the drop-lift technique from 106-1:07 by the pianist, Dang Thai Son, followed immediately by the tutti [orchestra's] loud-soft, loud-soft technique from 1:08-1:12].  

Also, as explained in a recent Tales classical musical article, see if you notice the pronounced rubato in this Romantic era piece. 

Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Movements 2 and 3, Intermezzo - [5:34] Allegro vivace:



8 comments:

bradley said...

That was very cool!! School now dismissed for week

Big Mike said...

Be ready to take notes next week. :)

stephenbeckman said...

You guys are funny! Great one Mike!!

Big Mike said...

Abbott and Costello? Oh, wait,
you're too young to know them. LOL!

stephenbeckman said...

Abbot's on first, who's Costello? He's on second

Big Mike said...

Who's on first? :-))

Jim said...

The second note of two slurred notes is not always softer, regardless of whether it's a pianist playing them or a different instrumentalist. Those slurred notes my be located somewhere in the phrase where a crescendo is called for, either because it is "felt" or outright written in the music underneath the staff, due to what comes both before those notes as well as what comes afterward.

Big Mike said...

Thanks for your correction big Jim. I am going by what my daughter's Russian classical music teacher told her [I had to be at all the lessons to take notes]. But you would know a lot better than me, but I was just reporting what she said. [Oh, her name is Yelena Kurinets and taught the 5 Browns, if you have heard of them.] Thanks for the info James!