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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What Are Piano Runs and Fills

What Are Piano Runs and Fills

Runs and fills can really add interest to your music, especially when youre improvising, where runs and fills are an essential part of the song.

While it may appear that professional pianists just whip up runs and fills out of thin air, they are actually selected ahead of the time and rehearsed. How can practiced runs and fills be improvisation? Well, the answer is that the piece was improvised at one time whether it was in the rehearsal hall, on stage or in the home is irrelevant.

There are endless techniques, from incorporating key pieces of the melody into a fill to adding in a two hand run or full octave run to fill an otherwise empty measure or two in the song. You can also color a right hand chord with left hand embellishments, such as a scale run thats an octave lower or simply adding a deeper accent note. For example, a lower C note to complement a full C chord an octave or two higher.

A favorite of performers is to do a run, whether its a two hand run, open octave run or a waterfall run, which sounds exactly like its name implies. The famous pianists, the real showmen of piano playing use this technique, including Eddy Duchin and Liberace. The flourish of the hands walking up or down the keyboard looks and sounds great.

There are numerous ways to add melody as a fill, pulling out the key expressions of the melody or the sub melodies to add interest to the music. You can also use counters, creating contrasts to the melody and even incorporate melodies from other songs. This is a great way to fill up an empty measure or two.

There are many other fill techniques, including using scales and turnarounds. You can mix and match them to create the intro to a song or an ending as well as using them throughout the song itself.

Jazz and blues musicians use a variety of runs and fills that give their songs a distinctive sound, including playing a blues scale up and down the keyboard, adding in some slides or even crunching notes. Of course, these can be used in pop or rock songs as well, adding just a touch of blues or a jazzy feel to the song.

Runs and fillers offer the pianist the chance to explore and experiment. Obviously, the more techniques you know, the more you can expand on the runs and fills. For example, you can fill up the empty spaces with 8th or 16th note runs, scale fragments, chords, broken chords or any combination.

Learning how to fill your pieces with runs and fills will really take your piano performance to the next level and it can be endless fun learning new techniques that add spice, flair or drama to your songs, making them richer, deeper and more enjoyable to play and hear.

When youre learning to use runs and fills, be sure to learn several approaches for each song. You dont want to repeat the same ones over again. Instead, you want to mix them up to keep the music surprising and lively. Plus, you can switch them out them on the fly as you gain experience, knowing that a particular run or fill can be added at any point in the song, since music, especially popular music, is pretty modular.

The true test is how the runs and fills fit into your music. If they fit the characteristics of the song, arent played too often and enhance the flavor of the piece, then youre good to go.

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