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The elements of music and piano playing

Dec. 8, 2012
Posted in: Singing
Understanding the elements of music and their use in piano playing are of particular importance to a student taking piano lessons. The difference between just a single sound and a piece of music is that music has certain qualities, which are the elements of music.



If you listen to any piece of music, you will be able to hear different several characteristics like loudness, regular pulses, or what kind of instruments play the piece. These comprise part of the elements of music.


The beat is something which everybody knows about. Not only in music, but everywhere in life you can hear beats.  When we walk, we create beats, when we talk, we create beats, when our hearts work properly they will create beats.

In music, the combination of more than one beat and the speed of the notes against the beat is called rhythm.   Having a sense of rhythm is something that you can learn or train but also something that you should be naturally sensitive about. When you are in front of the piano, being able to play rhythmically has a lot to do with how well you can coordinate the movements of your hands together.


I’ve already mentioned the word rhythm, a combination of beats. Even if you play a very simple piece of music, you will have to decide of how fast or slow these beats should be played. This speed of the beat is called tempo. Usually this is indicated by the composer of beginning of the piece. But most of the time you, as a performer, would be the one taking the decision of what speed to take.  Being able to play in steady tempo without interrupting the rhythm is sometimes hard on the piano. Unlike other instruments, where music is written only on one clef, the piano music is written on both treble and bass clefs. Pianists are training to be able to read more than one line at a time. And transfer these two lines to the keyboard in the proper time.

Volume (also called dynamic)

Loudness and softness, the dynamic of music, is one of the main elements of every single piece of music.

When playing the piano, you control the volume with your fingers. That is why having control of your muscles and working on your motor skills is essential.

Pressing a key harder will give you loud dynamic, pressing a key softer will create soft sounds.

Being able to control the smoothness of these dynamic changes is something which requires a lot of patience and sensitivity about the sounds itself.  This is something I discussed in my previous blog what does it take to be a good musician.


A melody is a tune that catches your ears. It is a logical, understandable succession of different pitches that create the melody of a certain piece. The melody is musical information, combining couple of elements together. It will have a particular speed, patterns of rhythm,  differing volume, and pitch. It might be played by different instruments, or have more than one line of music in to it. Having some knowledge about the elements of music and their use in piano playing will be useful for you as a pianist to start experimenting and showing who you are as a person through the music you play.

While you cannot change the pitches of the melody, you can change the speed, the phrasing, and accent.  These will allow your personality to show through in your performance.

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