Saturday, November 10, 2012

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Hearing is Believing

When is an A-flat major chord in root position not an A-flat major chord? 

Answer:  When it has too many E-flats.

Before I knew anything I knew that some chords that looked right didn't sound right.  Rather than call anyone's attention to the apparent lack of taste on the part of the composer--no matter which one: Beethoven, Schumann--I simply altered the voicing to conform to my idea of what sounded good.

Needless to say this questionable practice can't be maintained indefinitely if one aspires to be taken seriously as a professional pianist.  What, then, is one to do?

Answer: Listen.  Respond to how it actually sounds whether agreeable or not.  Look for a context in which it might make acoustical sense:  repeated E-flats in surrounding sonorities, for example. 

Professional pianists have devised ways to deal with the situation, the most egregious being simply to bring out the melody suppressing everything else.