31 May 2017
Get to grips with your pedals, fingering and trills with young Steinway artist Sunny Li
Chinese piano sensation and emerging talent, Sunny Li, is beginning to make a name for herself in classical circles with the fluid and professional playing style which she has honed over a number of records including Sunny Li Piano and the recently released, A Night With Mendelssohn: Live Concert, which was recorded at the stunning St. James Church in Paddington.
As an advocate for getting more young people into classical music, Sunny has given us a list of some of her top tips when it comes to the finer aspects of playing the piano.
Posture is one thing that a lot of beginners can get a little slack on but Sunny notes that ‘adopting the right posture when you’re playing is the basis of everything you do when playing the piano’.
Make sure to:
- Relax your shoulders so that you have a natural feeling of gravity on them
- Avoid tensing your shoulders and keeping them rigid: this will make it much more difficult to play fast and your muscles will tire quickly
Using the pedal
Sunny says that ‘when it comes to using the pedal, you must take into account the piece that you are playing, as different time periods and styles require a different method; it’s all about the colouring and expression of the music.’
Sunny gave us a quick lowdown on what fits with what style, stating ‘Romantic music from the likes of Liszt, Brahms and Schumann require a lot a expression with the pedal to portray the emotion at play in the music, so you can be liberal with your feet.’
‘However, legends like Bach, Mozart and Haydn barely used the pedal at all, so when you’re attempting pieces from them, let your hands do the talking. This is much like the impressionists Debussy and Ravel who wouldn’t often change pedal, mainly for the sake of expression, like a modern painting.’
Sunny’s top pedal tip: ‘Think of it this way – the pedal is like the sauce when you are cooking – it brings it all together!’
‘Trills can be very hard to play perfectly evenly and they require a lot of practice to get right.’
‘One of the most important things to keep in mind is your hands: much like your shoulders, make sure they are relaxed, not tense, as once again, it will make it difficult to get the speed of the trill absolutely accurate.’
‘As well as this, I personally try to use the dexterity of my wrist a little bit more than just the fingers. This can make it a little easier transitioning from note to note.’
Sunny commented that ‘different pianists have different hand shapes and this is natural. What I would say is that as long as you are comfortable playing something the way that you are and this is what works, then don’t worry. Hands come in all shapes and sizes so figure out your own method and stick with it. However, saying this, beginners should go with the rules and what it says on the sheet music. When you get a little more advanced, you can begin to work out fingering for yourself.’
‘As for your hands, I sometimes find that beginners tend to either arch or bend their wrists a little too much, which can make it difficult. Try to keep them straight.’
Watch Sunny Li in action below...