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Thread: Any tips on playing Debussy?

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    Exclamation Any tips on playing Debussy?

    I have been playing piano for a while, and I would say I'm fairly good, I guess. I am currently trying to play "En Bateau" by Debussy for solo piano. Has anyone ever played this/does anyone have any suggestions? Are the arpeggios in the beginning all in the left hand? What about the 2 note chord in 3rds right after the 6 note arpeggios, are they in the left hand to? If so, how is that possible!?!?!? There are some parts in there that seem like any normal person's hands could not play what is written. Especially, for example, when you have a note that is held and then you have a run with the same hand. If anyone has any tips on this, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    I've played some Debussy but I'm not familiar with this work. Debussy was an accomplished pianist all right and most of his work is difficult, even pieces that look easy, like Danseuses de Delphes and Pas sur la Neige.

    The best way is to analyse the piece so it lies easily under both hands, arpeggios and all. The nearest I can suggest is like the arpeggios in the middle part of Clair de Lune (page 3). I first started playing these with just the left hand until someone explained that I'd find it easier to spread the first two between left and right hands, the third (in that phrase) with the left hand only.

    As for the thirds, I'm hampered by not knowing the work. Is your edition out of copyright? If so, can you scan and post an example?

    As for a "held note" against a run in the same hand, this was often Debussy's way of saying sustain it (by using the pedal). You'll find examples here and there - another is at the end of Filla aux Cheveux de Lin.
    Thanks.
    Last edited by Frasier; May-08-2007 at 22:31.

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    This work was actually written for piano duet, which i am currently playing, so i don't know the answer to your first question ''Are the arpeggios in the beginning all in the left hand'' but in the original duet version this is in the bottom part so i assume the arranger has put these arpeggios in the LH yes. In answer to your second question ''What about the 2 note chord in 3rds right after the 6 note arpeggios, are they in the left hand to? If so, how is that possible!?!?!? '' again, not knowing the score means that i can only guess at what the answer is (so i suppose im not a lot of help really!). I think that debussy writes with lush and thick harmony and therefore you can get away with a reasonable amount of pedal and so i suggest using dabs of the sustain pedal to get around this difficulty.

    This get's even harder when there is a second person living by your pedalling - believe me!

    Hope this has helped a bit

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    Senior Member BuddhaBandit's Avatar
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    I second what Thicks mentioned about pedaling. Pedaling is veeeeryyy important in Debussy's works, especially the slower, dreamier ones. Use the pedal a lot but also use it correctly.
    Take a look at the Bandit's blog, Americana Avenue.

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    one thing to bear in mind with debussy is that the 6th of his 12 studies for piano is a study for the 8 fingers---the fingers of both hands without the thumbs. you can often find in his works a distribution of the melody or chords so they fit both hands.

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    Senior Member Ravellian's Avatar
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    I'm not familiar with that particular piece, but I have studied some of Debussy, and I know that one of the most important things is to first learn how to play the rhythm straight- then add rubato as necessary. The rhythms are really funky in Debussy and it's tempting to gloss over some of the polyrhythms.. but it's very important to learn them as written first, and to be able to play them perfectly.

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