Symmetry in Practice

In everyday language, symmetry refers to the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other or around an axis. There is a sense of harmoniousness and beauty in proportion and balance that is aesthetically pleasing to us, because it reflects nature. Symmetry can be an exact correspondence on either side of a dividing line, plane, centre or axis, or it can retain proportion and balance without being exact. A while back I wrote a blog post on an unusual way of practising that was used a lot more in the past than it appears to be today, the technique of symmetrical inversion. Since writing this, I have explored it a bit more and found a few extremely useful ways of applying it. More on this in a moment. By way of endorsement, virtuosos such as Leopold Godowsky believed very much in this way of practising, and Marc-Andre Hamelin also uses it.  Listen to Mr. Hamelin talking about and demonstrating symmetrical inversion practice here, from 3:57 to 6:00. Have you noticed that the piano keyboard is symmetrical from two places within the octave – the note D and the note A flat? Thus, if I play a D major scale ascending in my RH, using the conventional fingering 1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5, the exact mirror image can be reproduced in the LH – the same intervals, the same fingerings and finger distances, and the same pattern of black and white notes. Instead of D major, we get B flat major, starting and ending on the 3rd degree of the scale: Similarly, the scale of A flat major, RH ascending, gives us E major descending in the LH, starting on the 3rd degree of the scale: If I play the D major … Continue reading Symmetry in Practice