Sometimes learning a piece in a foreign key can be intimidating. Even those keys that we are familiar with but barely play in have an intimidation factor. Fortunately, there are practice habits that you can develop to feel comfortable playing in all keys. Graham Fitch over at practisingthepiano.com has a few practice techniques that he recommends for “Feeling Comfortable in All Keys.”
There is limited value in exercises that are restricted to white notes, so the best exercises are either transposed into keys other than C major, or designed in such a way to cycle through each key (if you happen to like practising Hanon, and many pianists do, try transposing it!).
I really like the point that Graham makes here. As a pianist, many of the pieces you play will include the black keys. In fact, any piece in a key other than C major or A minor will almost always include the need to play the black keys. Choosing exercises that focus on these keys, or cycle through a variety of key signatures, will help to get those fingers moving more smoothly and comfortably in a foreign key. Your muscle memory will soon develop, and playing will become smoother and easier.
Advanced level pianists should be equally comfortable playing in any key. If you want to set yourself a challenge, take a piece you consider you know very well from memory and transpose (from memory) into a neighbouring key – slowly is fine. You might start with well-known melodies, and then add simple chordal accompaniments (use the national anthem, or Happy Birthday etc.).
Transposing pieces you know well is another great way to build your comfort level in different keys. Your fingers and mind will slowly get used to playing in a variety of keys, allowing you to broaden your skill-set and feel less intimidated in keys with many sharps or flats. So, what do you say? Let’s take that piece you have been working on forever and try transposing it into a different key. Who knows…you might even like playing it more this way.
Graham Fitch is a pianist, teacher, adjudicator, examiner, lecturer, writer and commentator. He blogs regularly at his site http://www.practisingthepiano.com, has produced a multimedia eBook series on piano playing and is the main contributor to the Practising the Piano Online Academy, an online resource for pianists and teachers. To read all of Graham’s tips on playing in various keys, please view the original article at: https://practisingthepiano.com/feeling-comfortable-keys/