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Popular Piano Lessons: Clair de Lune - A & B Section

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Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, or
otherwise known as Moonlight,
definitely ranks
as one of the most beautiful
pieces written for
piano, or really for any instrument.
It's one of the most requested pieces that
people have to listen to and to learn.
It is normally taught and considered to
be a very difficult piece, but hopefully,
going through these lessons you'll see
how easy it is to play once you break
everything down.
And that's not to say that there aren't
any significant challenges to learning
this, but I want to encourage you,
don't be afraid to dive in,
give it your best shot.
So I want to encourage you also that
before you start working on this,
make sure you have a strong
understanding of learning to
read notes in both the G and F-clefs.
Make sure you understand how accidentals
work, and how key signatures work.
And also be sure to understand
the basic fundamentals of pedaling,
because this piece relies very
heavily on pedaling all throughout.
So as long as you're comfortable with
reading your notes, key signatures,
accidentals, pedaling, you should be fine
and good to go to learn this masterpiece.
Let's start by taking
a look at the key signature for
this masterpiece.
Looking at the beginning of your piece,
you see a whole bunch of flats.
You'll also notice that
both the top staff line and
the bottom staff line use the G clef.
Please refer to the lesson that
talks about how to read G clefs,
earlier in this series.
We've got five flats and that simply means
every B, every E, every A, every D, every
G will automatically be changed to be
played slightly lower on these black keys.
Since there are so many of these flats and
there's only seven notes that we work with
in musical alphabet, best was that
I like to look at this is to simply
remember that there's only two
notes that will not have flats.
That will be F natural, C natural, F and
C are the only two notes that you don't
have to worry about changing to a flat.
The next thing we can look at is the time
signature and we see that indicated by
the two numbers 9 and then 8, the 9 on
top represents how many counts we use and
the 8 underneath represents
what we're counting with.
In this instance,
we're going to be counting 9 eighth notes.
We won't worry about the counting so much.
We'll be playing a little bit
more by ear in the beginning.
But as we get into the middle of the
piece, then it's gonna be more important
for us to keep track of exactly
how the counting works.
All right.
The other thing we're gonna take a look at
are some of the instructions that Mr.
Debussy has indicated.
For example,
at the top he says Andante tres expressif,
it's basically a very comfortable walking
tempo, not too fast, very expressive.
This is one of the most beautiful
pieces you'll ever hear or play.
The other indications are two P's,
which represents pianissimo, and
that's an Italian word for very soft.
The other interesting
indication is con sordina and
con sordina basically means we're
gonna be using the soft pedal.
That's an option,
if you'd like to use that.
Now, the soft pedal is actually
an option not every digital piano,
not every digital keyboard
will have that but
if you're lucky enough to have one, it
will usually be the pedal on the far left.
If you have a two pedal keyboard, again,
it will usually be the one on the left.
What the con sordina does is
basically mutes the piano,
it helps make it sound softer.
There's several ways pianos can do this.
If you're working with
an acoustic mechanical piano,
a grand piano will shift all
the hammers slightly to the right.
So that instead of playing say,
three strings or even two strings,
the three string hammer will now
shift over to play only two strings.
If the hammer is in a location where
the piano is playing two strings,
it'll shift over to play only one.
That's the action on a grand piano.
On an upright piano, sometimes you'll see
pianos that will actually drop a felt
cloth over the entire hammer bed so
that it's playing through the cloth
making it a softer muffled sound.
Obviously, if you're working with
a digital piano or an electronic keyboard,
you'll hear the electronic equivalent
of the sound being softer, muffled and
the basic idea is the left pedal is used
to help you play softer, if you want.
I actually, personally,
prefer not to use the soft pedal.
I really try to use it
only on very special,
rare occasions because with the soft
pedal you lose a little bit of clarity.
It actually sounds very muffled,
which can be beautiful but I like to keep
the clarity and only use the soft pedal in
special places but really, it's up to you.
Feel free to follow Mr.
Debussy's instructions if you like.
If not, it's no problem.
Anyway, let's go ahead and
make some beautiful music.
The key thing to remember about pedaling
is the fact that you
have to make sure your
pedal is not synchronized with your hands.
What do I mean by that?
Basically, as long as you hold
the pedal down, the sound will sustain.
When you would lift it up,
it's very critical.
If you lift it up too soon,
you'll disconnect the sound.
And if you push it down together with
your hands, you run the danger of
mixing in the sound of the previous
chord which will make a blurry sound.
So the way I typically teach pedaling
is to tell the people to think of up,
down, up, down.
Let me see if I can
illustrate how this works.
So the pedal comes down first.
Now I'm not gonna lift the pedal
until I play my hands on the keys.
And I'm gonna think up, down.
See how I did that?
Again from the previous measure [SOUND],
when I play this note, up, down.
So I lift the pedal when
my hand goes down and
the pedal comes down
immediately after playing.
So that ensures that I connect to
that note and then clear the sound.
And I've rely on my hand to hold it, to
catch the note again with my foot, okay?
If you can remember that simple principle,
you will be the master of pedaling
in any piece you play, okay?
So from the beginning with pedal,
push down the pedal down and here we go.
[SOUND] Since the pedal is down
I can just move my hand over and
the sounds connected.
Ready and up, down.
[SOUND] If you want to,
you can lift up the pedal again here.
Totally up to you,
here you must lift the pedal, up, down.
And then up, down.
I will change the pedal again for
that note as well.
Okay, now let's move on
to the rest of the notes.
Measure four, we've just finished.
Here, we need another hand reset, so
we're gonna move your left hand down.
We just played this E-flat with the pinky,
we're gonna play that same
note with the thumb now.
And then play E-flat and D-flat.
The right hand is holding onto the C, and
it's gonna move down to this G-flat,
[SOUND] okay?
One more time for measure four.
Okay, move your hand down and
take it with the right hand here.
And now move my third
finger here to the B-flat.
Now you'll notice that in the right hand,
we have kind of two different values.
The bottom note is a longer note.
It's a dotted half note and that's gonna
sustain while I play the notes in the top.
So it's almost like we have two voices.
Two people singing different
things in one hand.
And then we're gonna play the G-flat
again and it's gonna hold also.
So that's a great exercise.
Try to make sure you keep your thumb held
while the other fingers are playing.
It's gonna be a little bit
of a coordination exercise.
But well worth learning, okay?
For here's the beginning of measure five.
Or actually let's do the measure of
four because it's connecting through.
Moving over.
New hand position.
[SOUND] Now, the right hand,
the top of the right hand
plays while the thumb holds.
[SOUND] Okay, now we play everything here.
[SOUND] Hold the thumb here.
[SOUND] And now here, I'm gonna
scrunch my fourth finger, [SOUND] so
that I can be ready to play some
more notes underneath that.
Let's go onto measure six.
Now we play this,
[SOUND] D-flat left hand,
B-flat, [SOUND] and
E-flat on the right hand.
[SOUND] Second finger.
[SOUND] Again, we're gonna scrunch
the fourth finger to the A-flat here.
[SOUND] And replace this with a three,
you can see why.
So that it can help me connect
to the next set of notes.
F and E-flat.
C and A natural.
All right, review from measure five.
And take a look again.
Together, scrunch.
Scrunch, two,
three, see how that works?
All right, now with a little bit
of pedaling measure five and,
the pedal always comes
down after the note,
[SOUND] change your pedal here,
up, down, up, down.
[SOUND] Up, down, two, three.
Up, down.
So a lot of pedals.
Practice that.
Now we'll be moving on to
the next few measures.
Let's just review from measure
six before moving on to measure seven.
And then we play this together.
Now, the top of this will hold.
It's F is tied over as you can see.
New hand position,
we're gonna move from here.
From the C to a B flat.
A little bit lower but new hand
position we're using one and two and
the right hand is playing a D
flat that's gonna be held.
Hold the thumb here,
squish your hand to the third finger.
both of your thumbs are gonna be holding.
This will go onto a G flat.
Hold this top note.
And then we're gonna go
on to this next note.
See how that moves over?
Fourth scrunch.
Now, you have a couple of options here.
If you want to you can connect this to the
next two notes with your left hand using
a three and five or you can just move
your hand to a whole new position.
Really up to many different ways to do it.
For now, [SOUND] let's connect this here,
and we're gonna use a two and
a one the right hand,
for these top two notes.
And then the left hand,
since I have my pedal down
I'll just jump down to a two
on this A flat that's gonna tie into
the D flat of the next measure.
Let's quickly review some of that,
measure seven.
Here's measure seven again, the chord
before so we can get that tied connection.
All right?
Hand changes over, pedal.
I'd change the pedal here.
Change, when I say change,
that means up down, remember?
Now, we're gonna connect down to three and
five, up down.
Now, left hand's gonna
jump down to an A flat.
Hold that.
Now, we get to this
beautiful transition here,
the left hand whilst holding
the A flat will play the D flat here.
We have ledger lines leading
us to an A flat and an F here.
So you played this, A flat and F.
Now, the left hand, if you notice is going
to a treble clef back to the G clef,
so you're gonna read these notes as F and
A flat here.
F and A flat.
And if you read the rest of it,
the right hand's gonna leap
underneath that to this A flat and F.
So we have three sets of those.
D flat.
Now, the A flat set,
A flat set, A flat set.
You see how I move my arms very fluidly.
So the left hand here will go
over the right hand to play and
the left hand will go under
the right hand to get to that.
So you wanna practice that,
with the pedal down so it sounds good.
Try to move through that quickly,
but gently.
Now, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna
reposition my hand, the same note here
will be the same as the top note here.
And you need to reposition cuz
the next notes I need to connect to.
So one more time from here.
Five and three.
Now, this will hold.
Tie it over to the next measure.
Notice the left hand now jumps back
down to the F clef or bass clef.
Play theses two notes.
[SOUND] There's no way you
can physically hold this and
then go on to the next chord,
that's what the pedal's for.
So catch this with the pedal,
hold this, and
then you're gonna move to this chord here.
It's a very big chord.
[SOUND] See that chord?
One more time from here.
Five, three, hold this, up, down,
catch it, and then move to this chord.
E flat, B flat, G flat, D flat, B flat,
G flat, D flat.
And notice how these notes
are being held while the top
melody is being played with your
fourth and fifth finger there.
One more time for review.
You can hold the pedal through.
Good, we're gonna go on
to the next few measures in just a bit.
Now we're on measure 11.
Let's take a look at the right hand notes.
Now we're playing a series of
interesting octave passages.
So what you have is, on the outside notes,
you have D-flat, E-flat.
[SOUND] A-flat which is a little
bit longer than F natural octaves.
And there are also these
notes in the middle.
[SOUND] This A-flat in the middle here.
And this D-flat in the middle.
[SOUND] Okay.
Notice how the shape of the octave,
I'll use different fingers here
because I'm moving between these.
I'll use a two for
the A here, another two for
this one, now because this D-flat,
even though it's the same D-flat,
because it's closer to the Fs,
I'm gonna switch to a three here.
So try to practice it with that
switching fingering in the middle.
All right, let's take a look at
your left hand really quickly.
Now you have several
things going on at once.
You have this, which is being held.
Which you will catch with your pedal,
D-flat and F, okay?
Now, the next three sets of chords,
or not really chords,
of these intervals, they're actually
a part of this same grouping.
There's several options
that we can do here.
We can either use a three,
five or a four, five.
The whole idea is that you're
thinking of this, okay?
Cuz this is what connects,
all these notes are just different parts
of the same kind of chord broken out.
So if you're comfortable
jumping to a four or five,
then you can play the next sets of notes
with your hand basically in one position.
So it looks like this.
[SOUND] See how it's all fitting together?
If you're not comfortable with that,
you might want to jump to a three, five.
Reach to this.
And then if you want to switch to,
you wanna play this with a two, three,
you can, or a two, four,
whatever fits your hand.
The whole point of fingering is to
use fingers that feel comfortable.
Everybody's hands are different sizes,
different shapes, so
just because I use a particular fingering
doesn't mean that's the only way to do it.
I'm just gonna try to show
you several options, okay?
So once again from measure 11,
we're tying from the previous note
with this E-flat here and
we play together here [SOUND].
All together here [SOUND].
Hold for a bit.
[SOUND] Hold this top note,
see it's being tied.
Let's go to measure 12 now.
Again notice how these two notes are being
tied in here, bottom to the right hand and
the left hand's gonna jump to
this chord over here,
which is an octave D-flat, B-flat, G-flat.
So from here, G-flat and D-flat.
Jump to here.
Think of your thumb going
to this black key here.
[SOUND] As you play this,
let go of the four finger and
just hold the bottom two notes, okay.
Good, let's move on to measure 13.
This is measure 12,
moving to measure 13.
This is tied, so hold on to this before
doing anything else in the right hand.
[SOUND] We go to the left hand, A flat.
[SOUND] Now we have an interesting C,
and then a C flat.
What, wait a minute,
there's no black key here.
Where do you go for a C flat?
[SOUND] The C flat, we'll simply go to
the next available note to the left or
below the note indicated, if it's
a white key note going to a white key.
So since there's no black key here,
[SOUND] this is C flat.
So we're gonna go to here, all right?
Now, another critical
thing about accidentals is
that [SOUND] if a note is changed with
an accidental like the C flat is here,
that flat will stay active
until the end of the measure.
You can see the end of the measure
indicated by those vertical lines that cut
off the staff lines.
[SOUND] So for the next chord,
you have an F, D flat, and another C.
That C will still be flatted, okay?
So remember that rule, the accidental
stay active until the end of the measure.
Of course, the accidentals with the key
signature stay active throughout the whole
piece, unless you change that whole set.
So we don't have to worry about that.
[SOUND] C flat, and
then you're gonna do that.
So just keep in mind that this note,
[SOUND] which is the top of this sequence
[SOUND] will be the bottom
note of this sequence.
Let's switch to a three and
move to that, okay?
Let's take a look at your right
hand notes really quickly.
Right hand again, we have a similar
thing that we saw in measure 11.
We have [SOUND] octaves [SOUND] okay,
with some notes in the middle there.
Let's take a look at these.
D flat with an A flat in the middle,
[SOUND] E flat.
[SOUND] B flat with an [SOUND]
F in the middle, F natural.
[SOUND] That's tied.
[SOUND] Okay, let's put this all together,
nice and slow.
And [SOUND] C flat, left hand.
[SOUND] Altogether here.
[SOUND] And now, you're gonna be
jumping to an F with the right hand,
but your left hand is already there.
So you have to make sure you
get this out of the way.
[SOUND] Before playing this, [SOUND] okay?
Good, [SOUND] and
again you can hold the pedal down for
the whole measure if you'd like.
[SOUND] That's gonna be tied.
And we look at the next measure over here,
measure 14.
B flat, [SOUND] then we have this chord.
[SOUND] And again, I'm holding with
the pedal so I can catch that.
Tied over here.
B flat, [SOUND] F, [SOUND] B flat,
[SOUND] E flat, [SOUND] F, [SOUND] B flat,
[SOUND] E flat.
So it's the same chord in both hands.
[SOUND] Left hand's gonna be tied.
The bottom two notes are gonna
be tied in the right hand.
[SOUND] So you're just gonna play
this with the top notes here.
Then both hands while still holding their
bottom two notes, [SOUND] go to a D flat,
and then the right hand is
all alone to go to here.
[SOUND] Let's review measure 13 and
14 quickly.
[SOUND] Measure 12,
you were just holding on to this so
practice holding this D flat,
and then [SOUND] you can
move to the octaves.
[SOUND] Hold this top note,
left hand B flat.
[SOUND] Move over for the D flat.
And then you just play
this B flat by itself.
Good, let's go to the next section.