"I'm re-working the Chopin Preludes, and am currently on #3 in G major. Looks surprising easy, but I'm having trouble keeping my left hand sufficiently legato and quiet. Suggestions on how to keep this hand moving swiftly and quietly? I find that when I move at tempo, I either am too loud or I skip notes accidentally if I'm too soft."
Look: trying to gain the articulation's comfort in your playing, in my opinion - you should take into consideration such indisputable things as:
1. There is not possible to play "swiftly and quietly" without active help of the ears that must play the leading role in the whole process. As you noticed: "I either am too loud or I skip notes accidentally if I'm too soft".
This statement disclosed such an objective fact: you do not control your fingers' action...
So, you have to be sure, that the expected positive result cannot be achieved up to this moment when you improve the quality of co-operation between your Fantasy (Artistic Command Center) and your hands (your Operational Device: fingers, wrists, palms, shoulders, back).
2. "To hear itself" is very beautiful and a wise instruction, but unfortunately it is not enough clear to give any concrete bits of information that will help to activate the proper ears' functioning. The pianist has to be informed about the concrete object he/she could watch on.
Well, at start you have to find such fitting dynamic zone of the sound's volume that could be followed with a greater pleasure; you know - "The Luck could be found only between too much and too less"!
Let you try to put your fantasy into action then, and - having the sound's vibration at center of your attention - let you virtually try "to help" the sound's motion "go forward" within each one sound. The sounds should not remember the motionless points but rather the vividly developing lines. You must believe that theirs progress is fully dependent on your personal will! So: you have to be truly active!
Recapitulation: you cannot listen to your own playing as the concert listener does! It means - you cannot be like an "outsider" to your playing!
3. In such artistically advanced pieces (I suppose you would like to play Chopin's Prelude op.28 No 3 with its whole shining brilliance!) you must use all the accessible technical resources as:
- fingers' and palms' weight
- mobility of palms and wrists
- a helping function of arms, shoulders and back that simultaneously must work as a virtual bow, that integrates the action of the all parts of acting hand.
Recapitulation: the fingers cannot be used as "the one and sole" executors of the all, technical duties - NEVER!
Recapitulation: there is no possibility to complete any artistically advanced task having no image of "how to integrate" physical and mental parts of the pianist's technical armory. The "visualized" image of musical form, which should be create in pianist's fantasy, MUST act as factual leader of the whole action; there is no possibility to "hammer the notes into nerves at the ends of the fingers" - because "the ends of the fingers" cannot remember anything by themselves...!
Recapitulation: the strong hope of possibility to gain "swiftness and quietness" in playing by way of truly rude kind of practicing (as Germans say: "langsam und stark" - so "slowly and loudly") is - generally seen - one of the most sorrowful misunderstandings of piano technique at all. Recapitulation: the fingers cannot be used as "the one and sole" executors of the all, technical duties - NEVER!
Recapitulation: only fully integrated (mind & body) system might give a guaranty of success in the piano technical growth.
If you would like to follow this way of thinking about the piano (I only try to bring out the famous Chopin Method's idea), you can realize some kind of - maybe - truly interesting experiment. But before it could be started, I would like to pose some questions to you:
1. Do you can say: you are able to use the weight of the fingers and palm and them in your playing as a greatly helping bonus?
2. Do you can say: you imagine the each one sound as vividly developing line, which you actively watch by yourself when playing the piano?
3. Do you focus the energy of your fingers just vertically, strictly down to undefined point somewhere in depths of the keyboard?
4. Or - do you try to handle this energy on such way that you feel it as something that can be used, and used, and used again, again and again without any feeling of the physical fatigue?
5. Are you sure - you can say that in your playing the fingers just "convey" the hand's weight in such a way, that this "load" fluently moves through the keyboard's extent, being the hidden source of dynamic fingers' power?
6. Are you sure - you do not must hold yours hands in the air when playing, really?
7. Are you sure - you do not enforce the fingers using the power of higher (shoulder, forearm) parts of your hands as the main source of energy?
8. Do you can honestly say that your playing is Fully ENJOYABLE TO YOU, seeing it from its mechanical, i.e. - piano-technical side, too?
9. Do you, generally, can say - you are able to improve your piano-technique just trying to change yours thinking and hearing standards?
I will wait on your friendly answer! As I hope, going even very quietly, just trying to change your thinking habits - in a very short time you will be able to play not only Prelude G Major op. 28 much better then you can imagine today - but many other pieces, and not only of Chopin, as well.
As I hope, going even very quietly, so - just trying to change your thinking habits only - in a very short time you will be able to play not only Chopin's Prelude G Major op. 28 much better then you can imagine today, but many other pieces, and not only of Chopin, of course.