The Alternating Hands approach to playing piano begins with a
specific physical technique.
This technique is comprised of the following two characteristics:
Key strikes are made alternately between the left hand and the right hand.
In other words, a strike by the left hand is followed by a strike by
the right hand, which is followed by another strike by the left hand and so on.
A key strike is made up of single or simultaneous multiple notes struck by one hand.
Either the left or right hand can begin the sequence.
Key Strikes are spaced at regular time intervals, at a rate between approximately 6 and 11 strikes
per second. The accurate term for this is "isochronous", which describes
generic events which are equally spaced in time.
Combining (a) and (b), the basic technique can be described as "Isochronous,
This basic physical technique is not new - many piano
compositions contain passages which require
isochronous left/right playing, but with Alternating Hands this is more than just a passage or two - it
it is the fundamental way to play. Each piece is a virtually constant and regular stream of notes,
and it is this constancy that creates new textures and energy.
The Alternating Hands approach is not limited to a particular
musical style or genre. It can be applied to
many forms. This album presents a few of the possible directions which can be explored, including
Blue Grass, Indian, minimalist, boogie, and others more difficult to classify.
The most important issue, of course, is the musicality of the approach. What does it sound like ?
While articulating the sound and feeling of any music is difficult, and there is no substitute for actual
listening, the following four characteristics are an attempt to describe the core sound of
the Alternating Hands approach.
(1) The Piano Becomes a Percussion Instrument
By making the isochronous left/right technique of Alternating Hands the basic way to play, one of
the first things to become apparent is that the piano becomes primarily a percussion and rhythm instrument.
The piano is technically a percussion instrument because the sound is produced by hammers striking strings.
We generally experience the piano, however, as a tonal instrument - with its long sustain, beautiful tones, and
vast possibilities for harmonic and dynamic expression. While all piano music is necessarily a combination of tonal
and percussive aspects, Alternating Hands emphasizes the percussive nature of the instrument.
(2) The Musical Work is Shared Between the Hands
In most western music there are generally three basic elements: harmony, melody, and rhythm. Typically in
popular piano music the harmony and rhythm are assigned to the left hand while the melody is
assigned to the right. In Alternating Hands the harmony and rhythm are shared equally between
the two hands, while melodic lines can appear in either or both hands.
(3) The Piano Sounds Different
After a period of time listening to Alternating Hands, the ear adjusts to the sound of the
constant stream of notes. Overtones become more perceptible, particularly when the sustain
pedal is held down, and all of the strings not being struck still vibrate sympathetically. The internal workings
of the piano and the action of the hammers begin to be become audible. Sometimes the instrument gradually starts
to sounds un-piano like ; seemingly more like a hammer dulcimer, banjo, or even a sitar or steel sting guitar.
(4) The Sound Is Subtly Hypnotic
This is the most elusive and at the same time, perhaps the most engaging characteristic of Alternating Hands.
The regular stream of key-strikes, combined with the full and wonderful tonality of the piano creates a sort
of bed of sound which also has an ever-present energy propelling it forward. Often the music has
a "journey" quality about it, with changes occurring relatively slowly and gradually.
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