6 reasons why piano players should also learn the harpsichord



1. Rely on your fingers to create sound. It's easy to put the pedal on and let everything be softly mingled on the piano. But good players know that the pedal is only a support for what the fingers can do. It is known of piano teachers to encourage their students to practice without pedal. That is because the fingers and hearing can learn better when the sound is clear. Harpsichord is the best playground for that. Either it works or it doesn't. There is no hiding possible.

2. More differentiated hearing. Harpsichord CAN make dynamics, mind you. Yes it can. The difference between a "loud" and "soft" sound is very small. So small that one enters a new world, in which it takes a little bit of time to get used to, but once one is inside, one starts hearing differences. And this makes for a richer hearing.

3. A more versatile touch. A harpsichord key weighs a tenth of the weight of a piano key. So, in return, the effort it takes to play one harpsichord key is next to nothing. On the piano I was used to put the arm’s and body’s weight behind the key and actually leave it there. It’s less on the harpsichord, different. This is one of the top things I am learning, still now. The first time I played on a historic instrument, my body wasn't used to having no key resistance. I was shaking all over because all the tension had to stay inside my body. So I have transitioned (also thanks to Resonance Training) to giving just as much as the key needs. I find this useful for all keyboard players.

4. Figured bass playing. In my piano studies, I had to learn some figured bass. The way I was taught back then didn’t make this wonderful art justice. I got through exams and scored a nice mark. But I didn’t learn anything. A few years ago, when I decided to play the harpsichord, I had to find new sources for figured bass, teaching it mainly to myself. I took a few lessons now and then. When I remember the first time I came to a rehearsal and my music consisted of only The. Bass. Line., I have to laugh and cringe at the same time. I was so scared! And now I love it. And the more I play it, the more sense it all makes.

5. Play a scale with your thumb. There is a harpsichord trick, which consists in dividing the thumb into two parts: one is the tip of the thumb, one is the first thumb joint (looking from the tip). By crawling on the keyboard like a snail, I can play whatever comes (even scales with upper keys). Yay for more fingers in one hand!

6. Play trills with 4-3. If I have learned one thing from harpsichord, it’s to finally solve the „trill issue“ I had as a piano player. On the harpsichord, moreover, because there is no pedal, and because of the way we produce sound, we have to hold the keys down. Meaning, we have less fingers to trill. And on top of having less fingers to trill we trill more often on the harpsichord, being baroque music and all that. Now, it's a liberation. Trills work wonderfully on the piano. I will share my personal tricks with you all soon. That's also to do with Resonance Training.


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