arioso 7, Piano Street,

Experimentation and refinement are the ingredients of music teaching and learning

One of the joys of teaching piano is to experience awakenings with our students as we experiment with phrasing, and refine original perceptions.

And while a piano teacher is considered a mentor to a student, he/she clearly realizes that roles are easily reversed when a pupil inspires further experimentation and clarification.

In exploring the Romantic genre, for instance, there are infinite ways to spin or sculpt phrases. After various trials among partners in piano study, an aesthetic decision is reached based upon considerations of harmonic motion (and its emotional ramifications); period performance practice and style including Rubato; connections sewn to the motif or germ cell of the composition; sequential awareness; and what is UNEXPECTED in the music, that needs a spotlight. (This last point is underscored in the opener of an embedded lesson-in-progress video where a progression to the Major Key in a Chopin selection is an affectively poignant surprise: see measure 89, Nocturne in F minor, Op. 55)

Chopin F minor Nocturne m. 85 to end 1

A good theoretical foundation is naturally helpful in the experimental phase of learning, but it’s only one of many ingredients that must harmoniously blend in a creative learning process.

As an example, a particularly vibrant interchange transpires over a cadenza-like passage in Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor. (69-70)

Chopin measure 69 and 70

Seeing a series of 16th notes in a solo outpouring for the right hand, the player must decide how to avoid a mechanical rendering.

Following a resounding Dominant 7th Chord, a scale-like descent ensues with some deviations from step-wise motion. These suggest waves or LOOPS that a supple wrist can realize, while Rotation assists with appoggiatura-like figures (skip up, step down).

The unraveling of these measures after thoughtful, exploratory renderings, leads to the Nocturne’s final section that comes with a cello-like solo in the bass and an eventual spin-off to accelerando.

It’s an enlightening journey worth taking with a student.

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