Learn Piano & Focus On Melody

The ‘melody’ is the part of a tune or song that we remember when we listen to music. Essentially, a melody is a succession of notes forming a distinctive pattern.

Although melody is universal around the world, it varies widely! Think of the difference between the intensity of detail in an Indian raga and the austere lines of a Western ecclesiastical chant. Or the static, repetitive melodies of Japanese noh plays and the expansive, romantic lines of a Schubert song. There are just so many different variations!

To begin this lesson, try playing a C scale with both hands. Are your fingers finding it easier to move around the keys now?

TIP: Just like other body parts, fingers need to be warmed-up before being exercised to avoid straining. Particularly if it is a really cold day, move your fingers around and run them under warm water before you start. It is really difficult to play if your fingers are numb with cold!

The first exercise in this lesson is a light-hearted piece entitled ‘Hopscotch’. Although it looks tricky, it actually isn’t complicated at all. In fact this piece is rhythmically similar to an earlier one. Remember counting: 1 off 2 off 3 off 4 off? Well this is what you need to do here.

This second melody includes a lot of repeated patterns and echoes in the right and left hand. Echoes are common in all types of music, especially in jazz, where a ‘call and response’ pattern is often used. This dates back to the spirituals sung by slaves while working in the fields, where a leader would sing a phrase and the rest of the group would repeat it back.

This piece also has a contrapuntal melody at the end. Contrapuntal means that more than one melody is being played at the same time. Notice how the left hand could be a melody by itself and so could the right? This technique is especially prevalent in Baroque music.

The last piece for this lesson is entitled ‘Pas de deux’, a French term meaning a dance for two people. So in keeping with the title, keep it light and dance-like!

Glossary of Terms

Contrapuntal: A combination of two or more independent parts in one composition.

Ecclesiastical chant: the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds with a religious theme, either on a single pitch or with a simple melody involving a limited set of notes and often including a great deal of repetition.

Indian raga: A series of five or more notes upon which a melody is based. Ragas evoke particular moods in the listener and are often performed to resonate with a season or time of day.

Japanese Noh Plays: A major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century.

Pas de deux: A dance for two people.

Schubert, Franz Peter: An Austrian composer known for his romantic compositions for voice and piano (1797-1828).

Spirituals: Religious folk songs of African Americans, often conveying strong feelings and emotions.