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Shaping a melodic line through chord blocking (Schumann Little Etude no. 14)

To block out sonorities that spring from spun out, undulating broken chords, can provide a peak learning experience. In a baby-step advance, especially, where finding a melodic thread, may consist of a one-hand alone approach at first, the pleasure to follow, comes with cushions of harmony.

One of my adult students, just launched her journey through Robert Schumann’s “Little Etude.” (Album for the Young) Having a generous supply of patience, she traced the soprano voice, that resided in the first of second grouping notes (R.H.) rolled out in threes (6/8 time) As she sang and phrased the melody, she gained an understanding of the physical, affective and cognitive aspects of music-making. (We worked on fingering, the supple wrist, breathing, and whole arm energy, not to mention harmonic analysis)

In the videos below, I first play through Schumann’s work, then revisit the preparation that I passed on to my adult pupil at her lesson.

Chord Blocking is demonstrated below. It’s best, however, to discover the melody alone before taking this step. (SINGING is recommended while playing) Adding voices should follow, dividing right hand from left in this pursuit.

(The influence of harmonic rhythm or harmonic outflow on shaping a melody cannot be understated. Therefore, an awareness of functional chord relationships is an asset)


Schumann Little Etude, no. 14, p. one