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Piano Instruction: Common student problems related to playing Clementi Sonatina, Op. 36, No. 3, Spiritoso (Video)

The student I’m currently teaching by Skype has received a number of supplemental videos from me that target problems universal to those learning Clementi Sonatina, Op. 36, No. 3.

In this video, geared for teachers as well as students, I define areas in the first movement, Spiritoso, that need particular focus for improvement:

As a preliminary, the Classical era Sonatina Form should be explored, fleshing out the EXPOSITION (first and second themes); DEVELOPMENT (devices used that relate to rhythm, and modulation to various keys) RECAPITULATION (return of Theme I and related material in the home key)

In summary:

1) The left hand broken chords that open the composition are usually played vertically and far too loud, detracting from the melody or THEME I (The same issue presents where Theme I is inverted in the Development section, and returns in the Recapitulation)

Remediation: Have the student first “block” out these two-note Left Hand figures with a “spongy” wrist, and then unblock, playing softly with a rocking motion, being attentive to the notes that move. (a flexible wrist is needed)

2) Piece lacks a steady, underlying, cohesive beat. Tempo changes are frequent.

Remediation: DON’T use a metronome. Instead instill a rhythmic consciousness by lifting beats as a conductor beside the student. Sing beats, so they have a phrase context. Subdivide counting using ANDS between beats as necessary.

3) Dynamic range is not wide enough throughout the composition, and Theme II needs a contrast and change in character. Underlying broken chords played in the bass under Theme 2 are too ponderous.

Remediation: Encourage Attentive listening for changes in dynamics; requires deeper in the key weight transfer to lighter application having a relaxed arm, wrist, and elbow. For the broken chord figures in the bass, block with a spongy wrist, and unblock with a rotation of the left hand.

4) Notes are played without awareness of a singing tone. Phrases lack shape.

Remediation: Sing phrases with student, and apply weight transfer to create swells of a line, as well as crescendo and diminuendo, enlisting a supple wrist.

5) Where music has measures of imitation, student overlooks.

Remediation: Focus on these and practice feeding the imitative lines between the hands, framing as a “conversation.”

6) Note values are not observed, giving short shrift to quarter notes, in particular while rests are ignored.

Remediation: Focus on measures where these figures need attention, and count beats aloud with student. Where quarter notes are dropped too early in relation to eighths running through them, single out those measures for extra practice.

7) Articulation and phrasing as noted by the composer are not observed (slurs, legato to staccato figures, etc)

Remediation: Remind student of the composer’s markings in the music and separately practice measures that need clarity.

8) Detached notes, such as those indicated with a staccato marking are clipped too short or come out sounding too heavy with unwanted accents.

Remediation: Work with student on lengthening these, keeping the wrist pliant to avoid crash landings on the keys.

9) Fingering is frequently not observed which impacts phrasing, articulation, etc.

Remediation: Single out measures that need fingering adjustments and practice behind tempo.

10) Trills bog down the flow of the composition, mostly played too slow, and in a tempo that is markedly different from the rest of the piece.

Remediation: Practice a measured trill and have the student focus on the steadiness of the bass notes through pertinent measures.


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