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Piano Practicing: Breathing into phrases and blocking out passages (Mozart Sonata, example)

I’ve picked the first two pages of Mozart’s Sonata in Bb Major, K. 281, last movement, Rondeau, Allegro to explore breathing and blocking techniques in the learning process. (These principles can be applied to practicing music from a variety of eras)

Starting a composition is often taken for granted. Sometimes students will land on a first note, for example, with the force a belly plop into a pool. Others will forget there are opening notes, (as the 4-16ths upbeat of Mozart Sonata K. 333 in Bb) They’ll breathe a sigh of relief, once they’ve managed to elude them, moving with alacrity to longer, spaced-out notes.)

Yet, this very “sigh of relief,” can be utilized as a relaxed stream of expressed air to usher in a pleasing opening note or notes.

Naturally, breathing into phrases with ease should be ongoing as a composition flows, so biofeedback becomes a vital practicing ingredient. (I recommend that students keep a journal of awakenings)

Blocking

Blocking out passages to obtain fluidity is a simultaneous part of the learning spectrum. Thinking in “groups” of notes, especially with fast passages, encourages “fast melody,” instead of chaotic crowds of notes without shape, meaning or contour. Knowing the geography of notes, therefore, is an organizer that helps smooth out phrases (Relaxed arms and supple wrists accompany)

The first video below spotlights the aforementioned practicing areas, adding an awareness of dynamic contrasts/ weight transfer, and the use of solfeggiated syllables (do, re, mi, etc) to follow and absorb voices. (Separate hand practice and voice parceling within a slow, behind tempo frame are recommended)


Play through
(still behind tempo)

Mozart k281 rondeau p 1

Mozart k 281 rondeau p 2

LINK

Chopin, Warm-ups and the Art of Breathing

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/piano-warm-ups-and-the-art-of-breathing-video/

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Rina, 5, and a review of her staircase activity: The Playground as Piano Teacher (VIDEOS)

I updated the last blog-embedded video that previewed staircase activity planned for Rina’s next lesson. It explored the tricky last line of Reinagle’s Minuet which has a mix of rhythms and more complex melodic motion compared to the first three staves of music.

What I added to the footage, however, was my plan to insert a wooden flat for the parallel minor on the third step of the staircase. (This won’t be integrated into Rina’s playful stair-step romps until she is well-saturated with the piece as written) But it reflects my teaching philosophy that embraces black-note exposure sooner than later.

Toward the end of this video, you’ll see me placing a flat beside B.

***

Here’s a review of Rina prancing up and down the staircase at an earlier point in her musical development when she was 4.

She then returns to the piano following this activity.

By the end of the lesson, I’ve introduced her to the MINOR for the FIRST time with an inserted flat for “Frere Jacques.”

(Rina, now 6-months into piano study, is exploring finger-to-finger, legato movement.)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/piano-lesson-rina-5-learns-to-play-legato-across-five-fingers-from-c-to-g-and-back/

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/rina-5-shows-outstanding-progress-over-6-months-of-piano-lessons-videos/


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/teaching-piano-to-rina-5-with-a-supplementary-video-for-mom-that-outlines-our-lesson-plan-and-goals/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/rina-4-proves-that-the-best-teacher-is-the-playground-15-weeks-of-piano-lessons-completed-video/

From Legato to Staccato: Think Ping Pong Balls: (The playground metaphor once again)

arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/playing-scales-from-legato-to-staccato-think-ping-pong-balls/

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Practicing tips for Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31 No. 2, Part ONE: (Video)

Because I found myself rambling on and on about the first page, I decided to compartmentalize the instruction to make it easier to absorb.

And since I played the “Tempest” years ago, the surest route to my restoring the piece to a respectable performance level, was to practice it from the ground up in slow tempo.

As I re-approached this Sonata, I relied heavily on CLUMPING or CLUSTERING groups of notes.

The opening two measures that resonate with a peaceful broken chord in the Dominant, are followed by a rapid stream of melodic seconds in a tempestuous descent. (The duality of the motif is clear)

In the video, I demonstrate a wrist forward motion as I clump the seconds which embody non-harmonic upper neighbor tones that are passing dissonances.

Clumping these 2nds (appoggiaturas) and throwing the wrist forward for each group of two allows a bigger and more effective energy to mobilize the passage.

It also helps with developing a “feel” for the composer’s keyboard landscape before advancing tempo.

The Video Instruction further amplifies: Part 1

LINK

PART TWO, Instruction, Beethoven “Tempest” Sonata

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/piano-instuction-part-two-beethovens-tempest-sonata-hand-cross-over-with-tremolo-in-the-middle-voice/

Another Beethoven Sonata landscape:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/practicing-a-difficult-section-in-beethovens-sonata-pathetique-op-13-movement-1-video/

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Irina Morozova’s inspiring words flow through a lesson with an adult student (Beethoven’s Fur Elise-in-progress) Video

“From watching great pianists it is obvious that they incorporate quite different movements to achieve the same goals, because people do not play piano with fingers but rather with the mind and the ear. Again, it is the clear image of what kind of sound one wants to achieve, combined with the knowledge of how to get it….”

To frame a lesson with these ideas, helps to infuse it with the spiritual, analytical, and nonverbal elements of exchange.

Within this paradigm, one of my adult students continued her study of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” (C section, treble chord voicing with bass tremolo)

LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/pianist-irina-morozova-blends-a-satisfying-career-of-teaching-and-performing-videos/

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Piano Technique: Burgmuller’s Tarentelle, Op. 100-Fueling and shaping fast passages with a dipping, supple wrist (Videos)

Most piano students will have been assigned a Burgmuller selection or two during their formative years of study. And most likely, these would have been snatched from the composer’s Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces, Op. 100 that advance by steps in difficulty, though it can be argued that all contain unique technical challenges.

Composed in the Romantic style, this music is strikingly beautiful while it advances specific technique-related goals.

One of my favorites, “La Tarentelle” in a fast and furious tempo, has its origins steeped in fear.

From Wikipedia

“In the region of Taranto in Italy, the bite of a locally common type of wolf spider, named “tarantula” after the region[3], was popularly believed to be highly poisonous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as tarantism. The stated belief in the 16th and 17th centuries was that victims needed to engage in frenzied dancing to prevent death from tarantism using a very rhythmic and fast music. The particular type of dance and the music played became known as Tarantella.”

It’s no surprise that over time, many composers tried their hand at writing their own Tarantellas. (Italian form)

Rapid, frenzied passage work characterizes Burgmuller’s “Tarantelle,” which requires whole arm activity and supple wrists.

And while it may seem that the fingers are propelling the composer’s music along, they can easily tire if not fueled by a bigger physical energy.

Breathing long, relaxed breaths, being in the moment and thinking slowly through fast stretches of notes, keep the music flowing.

Rolling through three note group figures that are characteristic of 6/8 time, also helps to style and phrase streams of eighth notes. This is where a supple wrist allows an infusion of energy when most needed. For shaping lines, it’s indispensable.

(Notice a SLOW MOTION video-only replay that’s sandwiched into the Lesson video)

A defined section of punctuated quarter note chords found on page 2, shifts the mood and character of the composition giving it a robust, march-like character. At this point, it’s best to style, cajole, and phrase the notes in such a way, that draws listener interest.

Piano Lesson:

Playing Tarentelle in tempo:

RELATED:

La Chasse (The Chase) by Burgmuller


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/piano-technique-re-arranging-hands-for-speed-and-agility-in-burgmullers-la-chasse-the-chase-videos/

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Lesson planning for a 5-year old piano student–(Video)

Rina who’s into her sixth month of study, is ready to learn dotted-half notes. Up to now, she’s been saturated with black and white cardboard circles included within a packet along with Irina Gorin’s Tales of a Musical Journey instruction.

The black notes (quarters) are known as “short” sounds, and the white ones (Half-notes), “long-sounds”

In “Frere Jacques,” we say:

short short short short–
short short short short—
short short long-sound, short short long-sound

For running notes–8ths
in the next part of “Frere Jacques:”

“run-ning notes and short sounds
“run-ning notes and short sounds

short short long sound (Ding Ding Dong)
short short long sound (echo)

I’ve branched off a bit in my own creative directions, introducing Whole Notes that Rina plays through in the Left hand on Tonic C, and as mentioned, we’ve experienced “running notes” within “Frere Jacques” (“morning bells are –) All FLOATING on a page– no staff notation as yet.

(Rina knows the 7-letter music alphabet forward and in reverse, and can sing letter names)

(also played in the parallel minor using Eb)

Her mom has gone the distance during the week between lessons by creating arts and crafts projects- Rina has cut out cardboard WHOLE NOTES that she brings to her lesson (“Whole Note Hold Down” is how she’s learned its duration)

Today I found a lovely Minuet by Reinagle (Faber Elementary -Developing Artist–old, unrevised edition) to introduce the DOTTED-HALF Note. In this effort, I took one of the cardboard white circles and added a BLACK DOT beside it. After mounting it on a piece of white paper, I made copies for Rina to have today. (It’s a springboard for another arts and crafts activity that Rina can undertake with her mother)

***

In today’s lesson, we will be clapping dotted half notes, as “HALF NOTE DOT,” and we’ll spend most of the time feeling its rhythm/duration and singing.

Ideally, we should put the notes on white paper and float them OFF the staff since Rina is used to this now but I think she should have “exposure” to what the real score looks like with notes going up and down. (This does NOT pin us down to reading music so early in the child’s musical development)

Rina will learn the Minuet in Non-Legato form, separate hands.

But I will take the leap to let her play one consecutive finger after another. I feel that decisions like these arise from what the teacher intuitively feels is appropriate.

I believe that Rina has enough physical, coordination-related abilities to move ahead now. It will of course be a trial run to see what works. The exploration is subject to modification.

(Incidentally staircase climbing for spatial relationship understanding clearly applies here, since the Minuet encompasses five-notes up and down)

Here’s the video to help things along: (Part A of Minuet only as a start)

Rina will sing, clap, use hand signals, intone rhythmic syllables and then letter names.

Separately, she’ll study the Left Hand voice alone, which is so perfectly written with all the Dotted-Half notes.

The built-in Echo is also a nice follow-up to our work with “Frere Jacques.”

Hands together will wait for a while since we have a new frontier to explore.

In the offing–exploration of parallel minor along with additional key transpositions. These activities should start early in the learning process as part of ear-training experiences.



RELATED LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/rina-5-shows-outstanding-progress-over-6-months-of-piano-lessons-videos/

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Piano Technique: More wrist-forward rolling motion in Sonatina by Clementi Op. 36 no. 1 Vivace (Videos)

In two videos, I flesh out the need for a rolling forward wrist motion in playing the last movement of Clementi’s well-known Sonatina in C, vivace.

In addition, a 3/8 meter designation in rapid tempo requires the “feeling” of ONE impulse per measure not three. And this sense of ONENESS suggests CIRCLES of motion which are physically demonstrated in the instruction.

The supple or undulating wrist is pivotal to playing this Rondo movement with shape and contour, avoiding the pencil point, or Rosie the Riveter approach to notes. https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/

In this regard, I offer preliminaries to loosen up the wrist, and suggest rhythms that I enlist to develop streams of 16th notes.

There’s a slow motion frame inserted to graphically illustrate the rolling wrist motion that is so necessary to express this Classical era music with beauty and grace.

Note that behind tempo practicing, along with separate hands is always recommended.

Rondo movement in tempo:

RELATED LINK:

Avoiding Pencil Point Playing

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/