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Piano

Learning to Love Arpeggios

I have no feel for the proportion of pieces in the piano repertoire that contain arpeggios, somewhere between ‘a significant number’ and ‘an awful lot’. As such, they’re absolutely necessary for any aspiring pianist to learn. But here’s the problem: within the framework of structured musical education, the early arpeggios are about as dry and rewarding as a dehydrated dog biscuit — the kind Laika would have been sent into space with if the Soviets had any intention of her not dying up there. Incidentally, shortly after a terrifying launch where her heart rate tripled and her breathing rate quadrupled, Laika died by overheating. Never leave a dog in a hot spaceship.

Because I found these early arpeggios absolutely joyless, I didn’t practice them. And because I didn’t practice them, I avoided all pieces with arpeggios in. Sometimes this is no bad thing — I was safe from what I presume to be everything ever written by Einaudi. Sadly, it also meant I couldn’t consider playing a lot of beautiful music.

I spent well over a year at this impasse until I was forced to confront arps in preparation for my upcoming Grade 5 exam. Unfortunately, every time I sat at the keyboard to have a go, the very moisture of my life force began to seep away, so I always did something else instead. Anything else.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a satisfactory ending, so I’ll reveal how I learned to love the arpeggio: I fished out some sheet music with arpeggios in — shut up, Ludivico, good pieces that I like — and just learned to play them. Then, I went back to the rudiments to find that briefly setting foot in the promised land had realigned my arp-neurons and I didn’t mind practising them anymore. I’ve happily chalked this up as a rare case of success through proceeding arse-about-face.