|1||Repetition of Difficult Passages||Coordination||Over learn difficult passages by repeating them at least ten times or more.|
|2||Sings with Practice||Vocalization||Sing the melody to help with top voicing (emphasizes melodic line)|
|3||Metronome Usage||Rhythmic Accuracy||Use a metronome to ensure rhythmic evenness and rhythmic accuracy.|
|4||Count Rhythmic Passages||Rhythmic Accuracy||Counting rhythms aloud can assist with rhythmic accuracy.|
|5||Perform Passages Slowly||Coordination||Practice each section slowly until you can play it perfectly. Only after, increase tempo|
|6||Hands Separate||Coordination||Practice hands separate prior to hands together will allow time for your fingers to learn the technique and prepare you for coordinated movements|
|7||Clap or Tap Rhythmic Pattern||Rhythmic Accuracy||Clapping or tapping the rhythm in isolation can help with rhythmic accuracy|
|8||Challenging Passages First||Coordination||Always address challenging passages in the piece first.|
|9||Rhythm /Articulation Variations||Rhythmic Accuracy||Practice challenging scales and exercises containing patterns by varying rhythmic and articulations involved.|
|10||Listen to Recordings||Other||Listening can provide information on interpretation and style.|
|11||Power of the Mind||Vocalization||Mentally, go through the piece and study it before performing. Vocalize formal structures.|
|12||Short Focused Practice||Other||Two short practice sessions are often more focused than one long session|
|13||Small Steps First||Other||Break the music into smaller sections to remedy trouble areas.|
|14||Analyze||Vocalization||Analyze the music by examining repeated patterns or phrases that are similar. Read notes aloud and read formal structures aloud.|
|15||Record Practice||Other||Keep written records and electronically record your practice to ensure accountability.|
|16||Aim High||Other||Set specific and appropriate goals for each practice session.|
|17||Mistakes? Not Me!||Other||Always stop when you know that you have made a mistake. Go back to the difficult section and practice until correct.|
|18||Mental Imagery||Other||Set specific and appropriate goals for each practice session.|
|19||Accompaniment||Other||Always stop when you know that you have made a mistake. Go back to the difficult section and practice until correct.|
|These strategies are based upon the Practice Strategy Inventory (Smith, 2005).|
Pianos should be kept on inside walls.
Fact: Pianos are much more sensitive to humidity than temperature. Since pianos are made of wood, it is not advisable to place pianos on top of heating vents where the sound board would be exposed to hot, dry air. It is also not advisable to put it in direct sunlight as this would cause the wood finish to fade. If the piano must be placed where in would be exposed to direct sunlight, an ebony or white polyester finish is preferable.
Pianos must be tuned when they are moved.
Fact: A good piano can hold its tune through a normal move. The following are only reasons why a good piano will go out of tune:
Strings stretch. Strings stretch throughout the life of the piano. New pianos have strings which have irregularities in its diameter. As the strings stretches, its diameter becomes more uniform, producing better tones. Thus, a new piano requires more tuning than an old one. Experts recommend four tunings for the first year and twice a year thereafter. Not tuning a piano this often will not cause damage to it; but it will delay the time the piano will reach its tonal potential. The older the strings, the less flexible they become.
Soundboards move. Soundboards have cellular matter between the grains and these makes it susceptible to changes in humidity. During summer, these areas take on humidity causing the board to swell. Since the board is crowned, additional tension is forced on the string causing its pitch to go up or to go “sharp.” In addition, the increased tension may cause the tuning pins to slip or the strings to sit on a new spot at the bridge pins. During winter, when the humidity is reduced, the board shrinks resulting in an out-of-tune piano. Air conditioning and furnace humidifiers will help but will not totally eliminate the effects of seasonal changes in humidity. Pianos in tropical areas that is always humid or in deserts that is always dry are more stable with regard to its tuning. Soundboards with tighter grain are also less susceptible to changes in humidity.
Tuning pins slips. If the wood holding the tuning pins (called “pin block” or wrest plank”) has dried out and is constricted, the tuning pins will not be able to hold the proper tension on the string causing the pitch to go flat either shortly or immediately after the tuning. This problem can only be corrected by replacing the pin block. Moving a piano with loose pins may cause it to go out of tune, but the problem was not caused by moving; it was caused by the defect in the piano itself.
Defective pianos can have tuning problems related to other causes than those mentioned above.
Not all pianos are handmade.
Fact: All pianos are handmade. There is no other way to build them. Specialists work on different parts of the piano during the manufacturing process. The skills required to cast plates, cure or finish wood, fashion hammers, assemble actions and other processes are quite distinct from each other. No one person could be good at all of them. The relevant issues are the amount of labor and skill of the technicians. A Steinway piano, for instance, requires about 3,000 hours of labor; Asian pianos take about half that number of hours, others less. Steinway and Sons uses a rigorous apprenticeship-journeyman system; others simply assign hourly laborers to do specific jobs.
Big companies which manufacture large quantities of piano make better pianos.
Fact: Quality and quantity are very different things. Steinway and Sons builds excellent pianos but in limited quantities. Big Chinese manufacturers build many pianos at modest prices; there are big corporations who rely primarily on name recognition and huge advertising budgets to sell pianos, while only producing mediocre instruments.
It is easy for manufacturers to blur the distinction between their best pianos, which are good enough to be used occasionally in concert halls, and their inexpensive models. When comparing pianos made by the big companies, it is critical to find out how up the ladder a particular model rests.
Small companies make better pianos.
Fact: Not necessarily true. It is hard to be small and successful in the piano business. Steinway and Sons is the singular example of success in building pianos in small quantities, but they have had over 150 years experience in the business.
One can get a ”good deal ” from a “ big sale.”
Fact: Many dealers and manufacturers conduct big “event” sales at universities, high schools, concert halls, churches, exhibition halls or hotels, with teams of high-powered sales people and truckloads of pianos. These events cost thousands of dollars to conduct and the costs can only be recovered from the buyers of these pianos. In fact, the prices paid by the buyers are not necessarily lower than the price they could negotiate by walking into the dealer’s store and talking to the owner.
No deal is ever a good deal if you are not happy with the piano over time. The best deal will be a purchase of a piano that you will come to love, even if it costs more than you expected to pay.
The true price of a piano is somewhere between the list price and 70% off.
Fact: Piano manufacturers do not publish Retail Price Lists, with the exception of some such as Steinway and Sons. Steinway has a New York Retail Price List, which is the price at which pianos are sold in their own store, the Steinway Hall, in New York. It also sets the glass ceiling price for all Steinway pianos being sold by their dealers.
It is only possible to sell pianos at 40% to 70% off if they have been drastically overpriced in the first place. Some manufacturers do overprice their products in an effort to make them seem more valuable. They know the piano will be sold at a discount and this inflates the perceived savings. When you look at the net price (discounted price), it will probably be just about the lowest price that budget pianos are normally advertised for in the market.
Steinway pianos, on the other hand, are priced fairly and are not discounted. When they are, it is usually in special cases such as sale of piano in churches and schools and the discounted price is only down to that of the New York Retail Price.
A studio upright is just as good as a small grand.
Fact: There are three fundamental differences between grand pianos and uprights which makes the former better pianos than uprights:
Shape. The grand piano is shaped the way it was designed by its inventor, Cristofori, about 300 years ago. The design of the soundboard is a variation of an obtuse oval similar to the shape of a violin or guitar. Such shape works well for tone production. Upright pianos are square and are designed to be practical and pretty. But square soundboards do not work as well for tone production.
Confinement. A grand piano is open on the top and bottom allowing the tone to resonate throughout the room. Upright pianos are confined in wooden boxes and are placed close to walls. They are designed to project the sound out the back and reflect it off the wall. But they are usually set too close to the wall to allow the sound to resonate.
Action. The action is everything between the key and hammer inclusive. A grand key is almost 30% longer than an upright key giving it a considerably better leverage and more dynamic range. Gravity works with a grand action, bringing the hammer and other parts to their resting positions quickly. Gravity works against an upright action so its action is not as responsive as that of a grand.
Grands are better. That is why only grand pianos are usually played on stages or seen on CD covers and not uprights.
Variation is a fundamental principle of musical composition, and a musical form based on that principle. To vary a musical idea means to change parts of it while keeping other parts constant—as in a folk song in which the second phrase has a new tune but has the same rhythm as that of the first.
Variations have been among the staples of the keyboard literature. There are four basic types where the piano repertoire is concerned:
Melodic Variation. In this form, the original tune varies in style and texture (ornamental turns, decorative scale passages, rhythmic, textural and tempo alterations, among many others) while the chief outline of the melody, the original harmonies and the overall form of the theme are preserved, although the mode (major/minor) may be altered. Almost all variation sets of the Classical Period are melodic variations, with Mozart’s perhaps the best known.
Harmonious Alliances. In this form, harmonic pattern of the theme is preserved while its melody, tempo, rhythm, texture (chords or intertwining melodic lines) and mode (major/minor) may change beyond recognition.
The most famous, and perhaps the greatest, example of this type is the Goldberg Variation by Johann Sebastian Bach. Lasting more than half an hour, the work is said to be a miracle of beauty, ingenuity, refined complexity and technical brilliance.
Passacaglia or Chaconne. This type consists of continuous variations on an ostinato (a phrase constantly repeated in any voice). The theme is not self-sufficient melody but either a constantly reiterated bass line, above which the upper parts may change, or a series of chords, whose harmonic sequence and unvarying rhythm is reiterated and unchanged throughout the composition. The most famous passacaglia for the piano is the set of 32 Variations in C Minor by Beethoven.
Fantasia Variation. In this type, only a part of the original theme (a single melodic phrase, a motto rhythm, or a structural form) is retained as a basis for variation, all other aspects and parts being subject to a very considerable transformation. It will often have recurring theme or fragment that serves as an agent of unity. It reached the peak of its development in the 19th century, particularly in the piano works of Schumann and Liszt.
Free forms are pieces developed by composers in improvisatory styles for keyboard instruments. These pieces are called preludes, fantasias, toccatas and fugue.
Prelude and Fantasia. The terms prelude and fantasy are basically interchangeable. A prelude is a movement which serves as a kind of introduction to another movement, generally a fugue. Formal preludes may also precede several movements, as in the suite or the partita. There are also self-contained preludes that precede nothing but each other such as in the preludes of Bach’s, Hummel, Chopin, Alkan, Rachmanimov, Debussy, Szymanowski and Scriabin.
Preludes originated with the tuning of instruments prior to a performance, and developed into an improvisatory preamble. Where the piano is concerned, it survived in an elaborate form in the fantasy or fantasia. Fantasia emphasize the rhapsodic, colourful and imaginative, subjective element, and the movement often ranges freely through a number of keys, and draws on different elements of style: aria, virtuoso keyboard writing, operatic-style recitative, etc.
Among the most notable examples of 19th century fantasia are Beethoven’s Fantasy in G minor, Op. 77, Fantasia in C minor and the two Sonatas alla Fantasia, Op. 27 (No. 2 being the famous Moonlight Sonata); Schubert’s four movement Wanderer Fantasy and Fantasy in F minor for piano duet, and Schumann’s Fantasia in C, Op. 17. The most common forms of 19th century fantasy, however, are the highly virtuosic reworking and elaborations of popular and operatic tunes, such as those of Liszt, Thalberg and Kalkbrenner.
Toccata is a musical composition for a keyboard instrument dating from the 16th century. It is closely related to the basic concept of prelude and fantasia. Its definitive characteristic is a degree of keyboard virtuosity; a display piece exploiting the skill of the keyboard player. It originally allowed for much improvisation. Generally it begins with full chords that give way to fast virtuoso or rhapsodic passages among which small fugato (fuguelike) sections are interspersed.
Important composers of toccatas include the Italian Girolamo Frescobaldi and the Germans Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach’s best-known toccata is the Toccata in D minor for organ. A 20th-century example is the Toccata, op. 2 (1912), by the Russian composer Sergey Prokofiev.
Fugue is a musical composition in which a melodic theme is systematically subjected to melodic imitation. The musical texture of a fugue, therefore, is contrapuntal, that is, based on interwoven melodies. Its most important stylistic feature is its treatment of thematic material by means of imitation. The fugue, however, does not necessarily conform in every detail to a fixed form. In the hands of its masters, the fugue depends on the rigorous contrapuntal exploitation of a single idea; thus, any given fugue will adhere essentially to the abstract formula but will deviate from it to some degree.
Of the fugue written expressly for the piano, the most famous are those by Beethoven’s sonatas Opp. 27 Nos 1, 106 and 110; and Diabelli and Eroica Variations); Schubert’s final section of the great Wanderer Fantasy; Mendelssohn’s Six Preludes and Fugues; Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H; Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel; Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue; and Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues.
Sonata is basically a musical composition for one or two instruments but it covers such a wide range of styles, techniques and forms that no single definition can possibly do it justice. During the 16th and 17th centuries the term sonata (from the Italian word, sonare, meaning, “to sound”) simply meant an instrumental “sound piece” as distinct from a vocal composition, cantata, (derived from cantare, meaning, “to sing”).
Since the mid-18th century, the term has generally been used in instrumental work in several movements, each of which follows certain standards of character and form: the first movement is usually in sonata form and in moderately fast tempo; the second movement may use one of several forms (sonata, theme or variations) and is in slow tempo; the third movement is also in one of several forms (usually a medium-paced minuet and trio or a scherzo) and in a fast tempo; and the fourth movement, often in sonata form or rondo, or a combination of both. In most three movement sonatas, the minuet or scherzo is left out.
A sonata form is divided in three sections: exposition, development and recapitulation. The first and the last are essentially the same, with one very important exception, while the second is substantially different. Few movements by great composers, however, conform to this pattern. Nevertheless, the pattern gives an idea of the general principles behind the sonata movement.
The piano sonata was not different in form and overall concept from the symphony, the concerto and the string quartet which are simply sonatas for orchestra, sonatas for soloist and orchestra and sonatas for four strings, respectively. These are all works cast in the sonata format but are composed for other combination of instruments.
The Classical period (c. 1750-1825) was the golden age of the ideal sonata in which the majority of piano works written were sonatas. Mozart has written 26 sonatas; Haydn, 62; Beethoven, 32; and Schubert, 21. During the 19th century, the classical sonata tradition was maintained by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Many composers, such as Chopin, however, tended to disregard large-scale musical relationships by writing short pieces with strikingly differentiated movements. Others, such as Liszt, did away with most of the traditional format; his Sonata in B Minor is a long work in one movement.
Twentieth–century composers followed a variety of paths in their sonatas. American Samuel Barber have written large virtuoso pieces in the 19th century tradition, Russian-born Igor Stravinsky have returned to the classic principles of restraint and formal clarity, but the format and character of their music have tended to be highly individualistic. The meaning of the term sonata is thus “slowly returning to its somewhat ambiguous definition as an instrumental piece that has been composed in the absence of predetermined characteristics.”
Concerto is a musical composition, typically in three movements (fast-slow-fast), for one or more solo instruments with orchestra. The basic principle in a concerto is that of contrast: of the one with the few (as in Mozart’s three concertos K. 413-415); of the few with the many, as in concerti grossi, where a smaller group of instruments is contrasted with a larger group (as in Bach’s Bradenburg Concertos); or of one kind of instrument with a band of a differing kind (any kind of wind or keyboard instrument with string orchestra). From the point of view of contrast alone, the piano concerto is ideal, since the piano differs more from all the instruments of the orchestra than any of them do from each other (with the exception of the harp and percussion). It was Mozart’s piano concertos that brought the piano concerto to a “peak of perfection.”
The concerto has straightforward structure and its scope for repetition is varied only or principally by contrasts of instrumental texture. The first movement consists of an opening by the orchestra in the home key, followed by a solo discourse on the same material, also in the home key. In the exposition, the orchestra, in an abbreviated form of the opening would then modulate to a closely related key. The central development section is dominated by the soloist, with the orchestra reduced to an accompaniment. Recapitulation consists of a slim-line version of the exposition, which then give way to a solo cadenza (traditionally improvised) before a final return to the opening material for a formal close.
The second movement often follows a similar procedure but in contrasting mood, key and tempo: not to slow; essentially lyrical, though with greater harmonic and structural freedom than in the first movement; and with the soloist still the dominant feature.
The finale, by contrast, is generally virtuosic and quick, though some composers close with a graceful dance in the style of an extended minuet.
Suite refers to any instrumental composition usually compose in one key and which consists of several movements. It was developed in the 16th century, in the Baroque era, as series of dance steps. Thus, pieces of dance rhythms are often grouped together into suites. The tunes are so arranged so as to present strong contrasts between slow and fast tempos and dignified and gray moods. The dance suites reached its perfection in the works by Johann Sebastian Bach. By the 18th and 19th centuries the suite gradually merged with and was eventually superseded by sonatas. Modern compositions called suites are primarily symphonic works characterized by considerable freedom of structure and tonality.
The following are basic movements of suites:
Allemande is a stately dance of German origin, it has a moderate tempo, that is, four beats to a bar. It is generally initiated by an introductory note (or “upbeat”) before the first accentuated note, producing the same rhythm as the word “begin.” Allemande became the standard opening movement of the Baroque suite. It was frequently used as such by Bach and Handel, whose suites are the earliest to have secured a place in the piano repertoire.
Bouree is a brisk French dance in duple metre, dating from the early 17th century and is one of the optional movements of the Baroque suite. Composers seldom make use of this movement in their works: it may be encountered occasionally in Bach’s, very seldom in Scarlatti’s and only once in case of Chopin’s.
Courante is a court dance popular during the 1600s and the 1700’s, it is a quick lively dance often complex in its rhythms. Courante is one of the standard movements of the Baroque suite. This musical form has two types: the Italian corrente, which is in fast triple meter, with continuous running figures in a melody-and-accompaniment texture; and the French courante, which is a more sophisticated version, characterized by greater contrapuntal weave and a teasing rhythmic ambiguity resulting from shifts of metre, usually between ¾ and 6/4. Bach use both forms, but mostly favours the French.
Gavotte is a dance which originated among the peasants in the region of France and became popular at the French court during the 7th century. In moderate tempo and duple metre, it often has a two-note upbeat figure rhythmically analogous to the word “tambourine.” Gavotte was one of the most popular optional numbers in the Baroque suite. Bach was fond of it and used it frequently in his keyboard works.
Gigue is a rapid and lively dance form which was originally derived from the 16th century Irish or English “jig.” In triple time, it frequently uses fugal techniques, dotted rhythms (uneven: long, short-long, short-long) and inversion, that is, the beginning of the second half being the opening tune upside down. Gigue is traditionally the final movement in Baroque suites. It concludes virtually all of Bach’s suites, his Fifth French Suite being the most popular.
Minuet is a French dance of peasant origins and was cultivated in the royal courts of Europe during the 17th century. Minuet can be seen as an ancestor of waltz, sharing with it the triple metre and moderate tempo. It became one of the most popular optional dances of the Baroque suites and is the only one to have survived the decline of the suite in the middle of the 19th century. Minuet was widely employed by all major composers of the 17th and 18th centuries in their instrumental music-it was widely used in the piano music of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. It encountered a brief revival in the works of Debussy (Suite bergamasques, 1890), Faure, Bartok, Schoenberg and Ravel (Minuet antique, 1895; Sonatine, 1905; Menuet sur le nom d’ Haydn, 1909).
Sarabande is a stately dance of Spanish origin in triple time, rich in harmonic embellishments and characterized by an accent or prolonged tone on the second beat of each bar. Originally a sung dance popular in Latin America and Spain (banned in 1583 for its suggestive movements), it became a slow processional dance by the time it reached the French court in the 17th century. As a stylized musical form, the Sarabande was a slow piece in France and Germany and faster in Italy, Spain and England. The Sarabande is typically the third movement of the Baroque suite and is present in all of Bach’s and Handell’s fully-pledged suites. After a hundred years or so of neglect, Sarabande staged a modest comeback in the late 19th and 20th centuries in the works of Brahmm, Debussy (Pour le Piano, Images, Hommage Rameau), Satie (Trois sarabandes), Busoni (Sarabande und Cortege, Op. 51), among others.
Romanticism is an artistic movement in music that favors the imagination and emotion over reason and logic, and promotes the individual and the subjective approach as opposed to the Classicism which emphasized the universal and the objective. The Romantic era in music stretch from 1820 to the early part of the 20th century. Where the piano is concerned, there was an abundance of works, especially in the realm of miniature, which were as much studies in feeling as they were musical artifacts.
The following is a survey of popular Romantic genres:
Ballade. An instrumental piece of music, usually for piano, which may or may not intend to suggest the telling of a story as in a ballad. Ballade has an element of rhythmic ritual. The term was first applied to piano music by Chopin, whose four works by that name are among his greatest and most famous works. Other best known ballades are Brahms’ Four Ballades, Op. 10. those by J. B. Cramer, Muzio Clemente and Ignaz Moscheles. It was Chopin and Liszt, however, Barcarolle A piece of instrumental music that imitates the traditional songs (barcarolle) of the Venetian gondoliers. Barcarolles are characterized by their gently lilting rhythm, representing the steady, lulling movements of the boat through the water. The most famous barcarolle is by Chopin’s, in F sharp (1845), considered to be his greatest achievement. Another famous barcarolle is from Offenbach’s opera, The tales of Hoffman. Other notable examples include those of Mendelssohn, Rubenstein, Fau?e, Novak, Glazunov, Balakirev and MacDowell.
Berceuse literally means a cradle song or lullaby. Berceuse is an instrumental piece of music in moderately relaxed compound duple meter. It was Chopin who provided the model for the pianistic berceuse in one of his most bewitching and ingenious miniatures, his Berceuse in D flat. Other piano berceuses are by Balakeriv, Godard and Debussy.
Etude is a keyboard study and is distinguished from the mere exercise by its musical intent. In the 19th century, the popularity of piano lead to the production of numerous studies for every level of amateur and aspiring professional, some of which are still in use today. Among the best studies were who raised the concept and reality of étude to previously unimagined heights.
Chopin’s 27 études are mostly studies in legato of one kind or another, aimed at making the piano ‘sing.’ Each is predominantly focused on a single technical problem and on a single idea. Liszt’s études also explore the extremes of emotions and mood, and contain some of the most technically challenging music ever written. His Paganini Etudes, the Etudes de Concert, and the Transcendental Etudes have secured a permanent place in the piano repertoire. Other similar works to have done likewise are Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Rachmaninov’s Etudes-tableaux, Brahmm’s ‘Variations on a Theme of Paganini’ (etudes in all but name) and Debussy’s set of twelve.
Impromtu. While the term suggests improvisation and spur of the moment, all the most notable works of the name are “highly organized and meticulously calculated.” Most have a ternary structure (A-B-A), with brilliant and graceful configurations and relatively fervent, even stormy middle part. Some of the most famous examples are Chopin’s four and Schubert’s eight. Other noteworthy examples are by Shumann, Bennet, Dvo?ák, Scriabin, Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Fauré.
Nocturne A short musical composition evoking the mood of night time; it has a quiet, contemplative feeling and suggests a dreamy mood. Nocturne evolved during the early 19th century. The Irish composer-pianist John Field is credited with inventing the nocturne, though pieces with the same description had been around before Field coined the name. Frederic Chopin was the most famous composer of nocturnes.
Novellete. A term used by Schumann as the title of his Op. 21, ostensibly of a narrative character (as in a literary novel) and consisting of several contrasting sections, envisaged as musical chapters.
Paraphrase This is generally a free and virtuosic arrangement, medley-style, of tunes, arias and ensembles from well-known operas or other sources. The best known examples are those by Liszt: most notably those based on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Verdi’s Aida and Rigoletto, Bellini’s Norma and the Totentanz for piano and orchestra.
Rhapsody is an instrumental fantasia, that is, a freeform that is often irregular in form, emotional in effect, and improvisational in nature. Rhapsody is often based on folk melody. Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies are notable examples.
Scherzo is a rapid, vigorous instrumental composition in triple time, usually the second or third movement in an extended work such as a sonata, symphony or string quartet. It is typically a lighthearted musical movement in a lively and often playful or humorous style. During the 17th century, the term scherzo was used as a title for light pieces with irregular form. In the second half of the 18th century, Haydn used the term to denote a much accelerated in the context of a sonata design. The modern scherzo was given its character by Beethoven who developed the form as a substitute for the minuet. Its tempo was quickened to the point where the chief unit of measurement is the duple-metre grouping of bars within phrase. Subsequent composers such as Chopin and Stravinsky, occasionally used the scherzo as an independent form. Other self-contained scherzos for the piano include two lilting examples by Schubert, one each by Mendelssohn and Brahms, and a couple of miniatures by Schumann and Alkan.
Blues is a type of music that developed during the late 19th century by African American performers. The piano blues is generally based on a 12-bar, unvarying harmonic sequence in duple time, with a melody favoring certain ‘flattened’ scale steps which have come to be known as ‘blue’ notes. The harmonic sequence of blues, while giving rise to elaborate elaborations, is based on the three most common chords of European music, the tonic (home key), dominant (a fifth above) and subdominant (a forth above).
Blues was originally characterized by deep sorrow, tempered by resilience and often humor too. Now, blues embraces a variety of styles, and a wide range of emotional conditions. The old blues form such as folk blues, country blues, classic blues and jump blues, continue to flourish today, along with the new variants like Chicago/urban blues, soul blues and rhythm and blues (R & B). Blues influenced the vast majority of popular music during the 20th century including jazz, rock, and gospel
Dance is as old as music itself. Most dance forms which have flourished in the realm of piano music have their origins in folk tradition. Some, like waltz, have become universal, but most have been closely identified with specific national characteristics.
Cakewalk is an improvised, sassy and highly syncopated dance for couples closely related to ragtime. It originated with the black American slaves during the 19th century who were imitating and exaggerating the strutting of whites at fancy dress balls. It was popularized in blackface minstrel shows and stage revues, and became a ballroom craze in America and England in the 1900s. The cakewalk found its way into European concert by way of the Golliwog’s Cakewalk in Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite of 1908.
Dumka is a Bohemian dance which originates in Ukraine and is characterized by sudden mood changes ranging from the deeply melancholy to the wildly exuberant. The most famous pianistic Dumky are those by Dvo?ák in his Piano Quintet and the so-called Dumky Trio, Op. 90.
Ecossaise is a quick, brisk dance in duple meter which was in vogue in the early 19th century. Beethoven wrote a celebrated set and so did Schubert.
Fandango is a Spanish dance in triple metre with moderate to quick tempo. It is traditionally dance by a pair to the accompaniment of castanets and guitar. Stylized piano fandangos include works by Granados (in Goyesca) and Falla (transcribed from The Three Cornered Hat).
Farrucas is a lively, exciting dance in duple metre. It was immortalized by Manuel de Falla in The Miller’s Dance from his ballet, The Three Cornered Hat, and has often been played in Falla’s own transcription for piano.
Furiant is a dance in triple metre and characterized by exhilarating cross-rhythms. Furiant is of Bohemian origin and is one of the most exciting dance types anywhere.
Jota. This dance type originates from the region of Aragon in the north of Spain. It has been memorialized in piano music by de Falla, and by Liszt in his Rhapsodie espagnole.
Landler is a precursor of Viennese waltz but has a somewhat slower pace than the latter. Pianistic examples include works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.
Mazurka is a traditional, highly improvisatory Polish dance for a circle of couples. It originated among the Mazurs of central Poland in the 1500s and then spread through Europe in the early 1800s as a ballroom dance for one, four, or eight couples. It is danced with many figures and stamping, heel-clicking steps, to music in moderate triple meter with a strongly accented beat. Chopin popularized and transformed Mazurka into an art form of greatest subtlety and range. His 50-odd mazurkas contain much of his most inspired music, with an immense range of emotions.
Polka is a lively and popular couple dance of Bohemian origin whose music is set in quick duple metre with distinctive rhythms. It became a ballroom craze in the mid-19th century, spreading throughout Europe and America in many versions. Many composers even vaguely associated with dance music produced polkas in large numbers, often with colourful titles like The Youth, Love and Folly Polka, The Aurora Borealis Polka, The Eclipse Polka, The Daydream Polka, etc.
Polonaise is the national dance of Poland and was originally a sung dance. Polonaise evolved into a courtly processional dance. The step is slow and gliding and has several figures. The music is in a stately triple metre characterized by insistent, rather martial rhythmic motto. As concert music, polonaises have been composed by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Schubert, Field and Schumann. It was Polish-born Chopin who infused the form with nationalism, “a blazing, patriotic tone-poem in which the fearsome, the tender and the grandiose combined to unique effect and lifted it into the highest realms of art.”
Ragtime is an American music genre played mainly for the piano that reached its greatest popularity during the first two decades of the 20th century during which time it also spread to Europe. The music is usually in duple metre and is characterized by syncopated melodies over a regularly accented bass. It is a sophisticated musical genre requiring considerable skill. It has its roots in minstrel-show plantation songs, cakewalks, banjo playing, and black folk music but was also influenced by the hymns, dances and marching bands of the whites. Among the outstanding ragtime composers were Scott Joplin, whose Maple Leaf Rag (1899) inaugurated ragtime as a national craze, Thomas Turpin, James Scott and Eubie Blake. It also attracted a number of well-known concert composers such as Satie, Stravinsky, Hindemith and Milhaud.
Tango is a modern and one of the most popular dance form of the 20th century which originates in Argentina. The dance is characterized by a great variety of long steps and frequent posturing; it is rather graceful and requires a large amount of space. Tango music is in 2/4 or 4/4 time, with a characteristic dotted rhythm which is “catchy, slinky and sexy.” Both the music and dance of the tango were influenced by the Cuban habañera.
Waltz is probably the most famous dance in the world which has attracted many composers since its meteoric rise in the early 19th century. It is a graceful couple dance in triple metre with a characteristic emphasis on the second beat. It originated from Austria and Southern Germany, spread across Europe and developed into many variations: Viennese waltz, with its elegant and rapid turns; the Boston, with its dipping, gliding motion and step; and the Creole waltz of South America, often danced with a stamping step and extra heel clicks. The list of composers who contributed most to the piano waltz includes Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and Ravel. There are also delightful, polished and masterly piano waltzes by Weber, Anton Rubinstein, Chabrier, Stravinsky, Godowsky, Glazunov and many others. Tchaikovsky incorporated waltz in his ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.
Have you experienced being enchanted with a melody of sound? Sound that can satiate your inner being and express your innermost thought? There are times in our lives that we wanted to look for a serene and a tranquil place where we can repose for a moment. A perfect place and time for a music to become more beautiful. When life is out of tune and you cannot find harmony with the people around you, music can assemble a pleasure to fill in the emptiness inside you. It is inconceivable how music soothe the hurting spirit and comfort the unhappy soul! What will be a life without the sound of music? Life will be a mistake without it. A very expressive quotation says, “Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.” It simply imply that music is forever.
Every decade, music has its own standard of arrangements, creativity, instrumentation, beat, and quality. Every individual has different music taste and most of the time the music of their choice reflects their own personality. I have known several young people who preferred rock and rap music, and it is interesting to note that their choice of music reflects their own character, something wild and spirit free individual. Some studies says that individual’s preference of music links to their experiences and feelings. Their liking to a certain kind of music mirror their innermost being and music expresses it for them.
It has been said that the gift of music is therapeutic. It sharpens the mind and body beautifully. My spirit desires music as celestial as the sound of piano! Though my early piano lesson leaves a scar in my heart I dream to enhance my own daughter’s development with the grace of piano. Many researches show that learning musical instrument can boost the mental development of a child.
A tour to childhood
When I was five years old, I never consider the beautiful piano sitting proudly in our living room as an instrument but rather an adversary. My unresolved anger as a child develop a different view of a piano. Looking at it in my early years makes me terribly sick. My childhood piano lesson started when my parent decided it. Just the time they decided to put an expensive piano in the living room and realized it’s useless without someone to play the instrument. And my childhood misery and resentment had begun. Who wouldn’t be? The piano takes away my freedom! I was given a hectic schedule of piano lesson. I was given orders to do this and do that with bribe of pleasure and threat of no liberty. I wonder at that time if my strict parent nor my fastidious piano teacher understands the streaking tears in my cheek when I wanted to be free to play as a child. I do not understand why they have to forced me understand the concept of music when my mind is all for my TV shows. I do not understand why my piano teacher would hit my knuckles with ruler if I forget to press the right key. I have learned my piano lesson with bitter memories.
The Right age to Learn Piano
There is no right age in learning to play piano. It is all about the desire and love to learn. You can learn at any age as long as the willingness and dedication is present. However, learning at early years has greater benefits and chance to be one of the great pianist who can rock the world with its celestial sound. The praised Shin’ichi Suzuki, the violinist who conceived the noted Suzuki method of music teaching had said, “If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.”
The time I conceived my daughter I have learned that piano lesson must start from the teaching of a mother. It must start from listening and motivation. If the mother is not music enthusiast individual, she can learn the passion of music with her child. That if she desires to produce a music inclined children. It doesn’t mean she has to learn the piano itself, but listening to fine and quality music with child from the day she was conceived, will make a difference.
This is what is missing on my childhood experience. They fail to introduce the beauty of music the way a five year old can understand it. No one explain to me why I have to learn to play except that it was stressed to me that someone should used the piano or else it will be damaged. Who cares? I can remember being point to older children in the neighborhood who can play piano excellently. I should be like her or him. I should be playing better than them, so I should practice more often. That is the motivation I can remember at that time which makes me more resentful.
Now as a mother, the time that my beautiful daughter reaches five year old, I see to it that her piano lesson can’t be hard like mine. To make my own daughter’s experience different from mine, I introduced her to the music world by listening instrumental and classical music. The love of music started from me down to my baby’s developing brain in the womb. As soon as she was born, I continually taken the advantage of her open “window of opportunity” which is mentioned in child development as prime time to develop skills. “Window of opportunity” is believed to starts opening before the baby is born and will close at different stages of child development. I did not fail to let my daughter know the beauty of music in our world. My personal involvement and positive environment teaches her to trust me. Her willingness to learn and love of music makes her piano lesson easier and appealing.
The glimpse of teen-age years
Since my piano lessons build up a bitter memory, I did not appreciate the sound of piano at all. True that I have learned some musical pieces and can play piano, but I fail to recognize the beauty of sounds and the meaning of music in my life. Whenever the opportunity comes that I am asked to play piano, I turned it down as much as I can. But another painful memories comes in my teen-age years when my mother voluntarily listed me in the program to accompany her favorite song leader in one of our church services. I commit to accompany the singing in the morning program after a severe argument with my mom.
The congregational singing was all lively and smooth, but my terror came when the song leader choose a difficult piece for opening song and upon seeing the page, I lost my confidence. I have tried my best to play it but I failed. The song leader stop in her singing and look at me as frustrated as I am. All eyes is on me in a moment and gives me several negative feelings. In my thought I started to imagine what other could think about me. Of course, I think all the negative and hurtful words I could ever imagine though those are just in my imagination. An old man who regularly plays piano replaces my post politely with an understanding smile. Though his behavior is warm and friendly, it did not suffice the humiliation I felt inside. At that moment no words can ever ease my hurting heart because playing piano did not boost my self esteem. I have no confidence in my playing itself so I did suffer inside.
My story did not end in the church but extended in our home when mom started blaming me of my own mishap. She said it happened because I fail to practice regularly and no appreciation of my skills. She also stresses that I do it purposely to defy her which is far from the truth. I remember the bitter argument we have that day. It crushed my being into pieces and leave a poignant heart and bitter memory. I am sure I make her very disappointed and hurt too.
Methods in learning piano
My regrets on those years of experience is I hold on to my resentment and I did not try some other method of learning that may further my learning and developed my self confidence. I should have chosen to learn by myself in my teen age years than rely on a piano teacher. At that time my learning is motivated by tests and music piece. I failed to see the joy in playing piano because I am focused to pass the given test or play the musical piece for the week.
I have learned that there are several methods in learning piano. The conventional way of learning piano is to send your child to a music school to learn or hire a piano teacher to for private tutorial. If you choose this method for your child, make sure that the teacher is well-equipped with knowledge not only on playing piano but also understanding your child’s attitude, learning capacity and skills. Make sure that the teacher can develop a pleasing relationship with your child as well as she can communicate with him/her on their own language.
Moreover, there are individuals as well who learned playing piano by ears. It is called “musical ear” an ability to listen to a melody of song and play it on the piano. It often consists of melody, chords and chord voicing. It is a way to play freely without thinking of right notes, sharps and rest. This skill can easily be enhanced and developed until the learner can learn how to play notes and cite read.
Also, as technology advances, learning piano can be learned online or dvd’s. With parent involvement the child can be guided to this kind of method. This is best to older children who can learn by themselves and has advanced skills in playing piano.
With several methods mentioned,it is still best to choose the best for your child depending on the learning speed and ability. If it is best for your child to be taught by a piano teacher be sure to pick the teacher who has the skills to communicate with your child in a way she can understand it. I tried different methods for my growing daughter. I started with private tutor and then guide her through self learning. But your child may have different way of learning. As a mother,you know what is best for your child.
Looking back at those years, I realized how important it is to find new methods to learn piano on my own comfort. I should have continue learning my own without my mother pushing me too hard. My resentment towards her stops me from learning that leads to my own humiliation. My resentment does not help my growth and learning at all.
A cruise to adulthood
Adulthood is different phase of life. In this phase, I have learned to understand my mother’s failure and ways. There are times that I realized my mother wishes me well but I am to young to understand her ways and she doesn’t know how to express her intention so as a little child can understand. In the end, I find my self thanking my mom for those times. It makes me a better person and an excellent mother on my own assessment.
Now as a mother, I am always inspired with the thought that my daughter will grow up talented and become a potential musician. But it doesn’t mean I am pushing her to become someone she doesn’t want to be in the future. What I can do is help her understand the beauty of music, help her appreciate the role of music in our lives and guide her to fathom the blissful world of music. I do not give pressure on her young age especially in her piano lesson. I see to it that she is learning the skill happily without taking away her freedom. And with help and encouragement she is learning with grace and speed. I work hand in hand with my daughter’s piano teacher and make myself available in times she needed me and my attention.