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I'm having a fair crack at learning "Gretchen am Spinnrade" which is the Lizst arrangement of the famous Schubert Lieder work.

I would ask advice of any accomplished pianist that knows either the work, or any of Liszt's other arrangements of Schubert lieder - what's the trick to pulling off the melody? The ostinato semiquavers are not really a problem, but pulling off the melody in the same hand whilst keeping the running semiquavers going is proving to be a challenge. I am no Kissin or Yuja Wang, just a dude who enjoys tinkling the ivories.

Any technique suggestions or studies/exercises that might help would be much appreciated.

  • Maybe we think it's a problem of the hand and fingers. I think it is a problem of the brain hemispheres. I don't know the piece and without looking at it I understand that the right hand has to play the tune and semiquavers at once. I would try to practice only one of them (r.h.) and the other by the left hand - ignoring the job the l.h. would have - and then exchange them in purpose the synapses are prepared and laid in your brain ... – Albrecht Hügli Oct 18 at 10:09
  • Apparently you have not yet seen one of Liszt's arrangement, where he uses a third system, just to find a place for all notes. My uninformed guess, that this intended to be played with a third hand or the nose, clearly outs me as non-pianist. – guidot Oct 18 at 10:23
  • Yes, I have seen this - Ave Maria is one such transcription. I took a quick look at that and put it right back where I found it. – Mark Oct 18 at 10:38
  • I have tried various appendages in my vain attempts to play ave maria. I had most success with my nose, limited success elsewhere.... – Mark Oct 18 at 10:39
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This is just a question of technique really.

I assume that you have listened to the piece being played by an accomplished pianist so you know what it is supposed to sound like, yes? If not then do that (you'll find many on YouTube), so at least you know what to aim for and also the fact that it can be done.

So what is the issue: some notes (the melody) are being emphasised over the other notes in the same hand. And that is done by giving those notes more weight when playing them. Or in other words, and I'll say this quietly, they are being played louder.

As with so many things of this nature it comes down to practise. Start slowly, making sure you not only get the notes right but also that you are weighting the strikes differently to make the melody stand out.

It sounds difficult I know but this happens all over the place in the piano repertoire; Chopin's Fantaisie Impromtu (at the end, in the recapitulation) and Berceuse both require something similar as does Debussy's Ballade and they are just three that come straight to my mind. The Debussy in particular is much easier than the Liszt so it might something to look at.

But, as ever, it all comes down to practise. Good luck.

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