It is not difficult to play legato thirds if you have a convenient finger for each key, but what if you are required to play a passage such as is shown in Figure 150?
True, your thumb will glide from F to G and later from G to F, but it will not be able to achieve a perfect legato; there will always be a slight break, and, because fingers as well as hands have a strong tendency to do similar things together, your second finger on the way up and your third finger on the way down are almost sure to break the legato line when your thumb does.
There is a way to overcome this—a way of “fooling the ear.” The thumb is lifted an instant before the second finger, ascending, and before the third finger, descending.
The upper voice preserves the legato and the ear is deceived and satisfied.
Lack of a finger is not the only cause of non-legato: repeated notes can never be legato because if there were no break between them they would not be repeated but sustained. Nevertheless, we frequently and illogically wish this reiteration to sound legato. If only one tone is involved, the pedal may be used, but if the note is one of a pair or a chord we can again “fool the ear” by connecting those tones which can be connected and minimizing the break between the repeated notes. Play Figure 152 through all keys, hands separately.
When chords must be played legato, at least one pair of notes should be connected. It is best if these are in the highest voice because the ear perceives more readily what happens in the soprano than what happens in the inner voices, but if only inner voices can be connected, the effect will still be one of legato.
To play Figure 153a legato, follow the steps shown at b, c, d, and e.
The Passacaille or Passacaglia is constructed on a constantly reiterated harmonic pattern, sometimes called a ground bass or ground. This composition also illustrates the use of sequences.
PASSACAILLE from SUITE VII
(Theme and four variations)
G. F. Handel
Embellishments, ornaments, or graces, as they are sometimes called, have been the subject of much scholarly research. These little musical frills were useful at a time when ornate decoration was highly esteemed and when keyboard instruments had relatively weak tone and poor sustaining power. They constitute an almost endlessly complex study which involves the nationality as well as the period of the composer.
The subject is further complicated by the fact that composers themselves were not consistent—changing or omitting embellishments in different manuscript copies of the same composition.
Most of the old ornaments are not in general use today. This is partly because of the changed nature of our keyboard instruments and musical tastes, but even more because modern composers try to write their compositions with the utmost precision of detail and are less inclined than their predecessors to entrust the addition of notes to the discretion of performers.
Although some editors are following the practice of modern composers and, in newer editions of the old masters, are writing out the notes of embellishments instead of using symbols, a few embellishments and their symbols are still to be encountered and these you should understand.
1. The short grace note is written as a miniature eighth note with a diagonal line through stem and flag,. In music of the Baroque and Classical periods it is played on the beat and given as little time as possible.
2. The long grace note, or appoggiatura, is also a miniature note struck on the beat, but it has no diagonal line cutting through it and is always of a specific time value which must be observed and which is drawn from the note which follows it.
In music from the Romantic period to the present, all grace notes are played before the beat, drawing their value from the note which precedes them. Practically all grace notes of these periods, whether so indicated or not, are presumed to be short because notes of longer duration have been written by the composers as an integral part of the music.
3. The mordent, sometimes called the pralltriller, (particularly in German texts) is symbolized by and signifies a principal note, an upper auxiliary, and a return to the principal note.
The inverted mordent (or mordent, according to the pralltriller faction) has the same symbol with a vertical line through it:; and signifies a principal note, a lower auxiliary, and a return to the principal note.
However confusing the terms may he, there is no ambiguity about the meaning of the symbols.
The upper or lower auxiliaries are presumed to be normal scale degrees, but when the lower scale degree is a whole tone lower, it is sometimes raised a half step. This is indicated by an accidental below the inverted mordent sign.
In some unedited publications of Baroque music, no accidentals are indicated in connection with inverted mordents: if the lower auxiliary is a whole tone lower than the principal note, the performer raises it or not at his discretion.
In the Baroque and Classical periods the first note of the mordent is played on the beat, and time for the two notes is taken from that beat (as shown in Figures 156 and 157). In music of later periods the two notes of the mordent are played in advance of the beat—time for these being taken from the preceding beat. The third note (repetition of the principal tone) is played on the beat.
A more modern way of writing the same thing would be:
Tradition would have the principal note struck each time by a different finger, hence the combinations of 132, 143, 243, 231 for mordents, and 321, 213, 312, for inverted mordents.
The purpose was to make certain that the repetition of the principal note would be heard, and not lost because of a sluggish key action or a lazy finger not releasing the key in time for it to “speak” again. With the splendid action of modern pianos and reasonable care in finger articulation, there is no need for this finger twisting, unless it results in some other advantage such as placing the hand in a more favorable position for the notes to follow.
4. The trill is an even alternation of two notes. As you learned earlier in Warmup XVI, this can mean any combination; but in piano music, a principal note with an upper auxiliary a half step or whole step higher is usually implied.
There is much debate as to whether the trill should start on the upper auxiliary, thereby trilling downward, or on the principal note (the one printed in the music), thereby trilling upward. Evidence would suggest that in the Baroque period at least, the custom was to start on the upper auxiliary. Moreover, it seems probable that such a trill was often measured— that is, expressed by a definite number of notes rather than by a rapid-as-possible alternation of two fingers on the two keys, or a full trill. (In a fast movement a measured trill might well represent the utmost speed of which the performer is capable.)
Most pianists employ a full trill starting on the principal note in music of the Classical period and later, because when composers of these periods wish a trill to start on the upper auxiliary they generally indicate it by placing a grace note before the principal note.
5. The two additional notes which are sometimes placed at the end of a trill are called an afterbeat.
During the Baroque and Classical priods the custom of appending an afterbeat to a trill was so widespread that many composers did not indicate it, leaving all to the discretion of the performer.
Since even purists disagree on the precise execution of embellishments, we may remind ourselves that:
- In former times much latitude was allowed the performer.
- A measured trill is more appropriate than a full trill to a simple piece of the Baroque period.
- Whether to start on the upper auxiliary or include an afterbeat can often be determined by the notes which precede and follow the trill. Try always for a smooth, flowing effect.
- We should be consistent: do not play a measured trill one place and a full trill another place in the same composition.
6. A gruppetto is a group of grace notes preceding a regular note. Whether to play the initial note on the beat or in advance of the beat again depends on the period and also the style of the composition. The gruppetto in Figure 164 gives a drum-roll effect and is best played ahead of the beat so that the maximum accent will fall on the C.
The gruppetto in Figure 165 could well be considered part of the melodic profile of the music, whatever the period, and so be played, unhurriedly, on the beat.
7. The symbol placed before a chord means that the chord is to be rolled or arpeggiated from the lowest tone up.
Some discussion centers around the question of whether the lowest chord note should be struck on the beat, or in advance of the beat so that the highest note can fall on the beat. The answer is that you must be guided by the music. If a strong accent is required, let the highest note fall on the beat. This is especially true when the arpeggiated chord is reenforcing the bass.
On the other hand, as with the gruppetto in Figure 165, beginning the chord on the beat can, in a lyric passage, cause the individual chord tones to seem almost part of the melodic line.
If the arpeggiation symbol spans both left-hand and right-hand chords and is unbroken, the combined notes are performed as one continuous harp-like chord—the right-hand notes following those of the left hand; if the symbol is broken, the lowest notes of each chord are struck simultaneously.
8. The only turn symbol which you are likely to encounter is although the reverse of this was also used in former times. The turn consists of a principal note, an upper auxiliary, the principle note again, a lower auxiliary, and the principal note again. The turn is performed differently in different circumstances. If the symbol stands directly over a note, the turn will start on the upper auxiliary and consume all of the note’s time value (unless the note is of considerable duration and in a slow tempo).
If the symbol stands between two notes, the turn will consume part of the time value of the first note; exactly how much depends on the value of the first note and the tempo of the movement.
When the turn stands between a dotted note and its rhythmical supplement the situation is quite different, because instead of embellishing the space between the two notes it is embellishing the space between the first note and its dot. The diagram in Figure 170 will make this clear.
There is no hard and fast rule as to which of these three turn realizations to use when or where. The tempo of the movement will be the first determining factor. Beyond that, try to play the turn in such a way as to make it seem an integral part of the melodic line.
If the principal note is white, the best fingering is usually:
As with the mordent, the upper and lower auxiliaries of the turn can be modified and such changes are indicated by accidentals placed over the turn symbol when the upper auxiliary is to be affected and under the symbol when the lower auxiliary is to be affected.
Daniel Gottlob Türk
If you accompany a group of singers who have no conductor it becomes your responsibility to let the singers know when to begin singing and on what pitch. An introduction can satisfy both requirements.
The introduction may be as brief as one chord, with the starting pitch in the soprano if the group is singing in unison. If the group is divided into parts, the starting pitch of each part may or may not be indicated, depending on the skill of the singers. Then an upward motion of the head and a nod serve as up beat and down beat to signal the attack.
Better than the single chord system is the short phrase introduction. For this, the pianist plays a phrase or fragment—preferably from the end of the song. If the song is a familiar one, the final note need not be the same as the starting note. In Silent Night, for example, you could use the last four measures or even the last two. The final note is do, but when the singers begin to sing they will all begin on sol.
Look over the songs you know and decide which portions of them would make the best introductions.
Two of the following songs are in minor mode. Decide which form of the minor each is in. You must also determine if there are key changes. When you work out the harmonies, experiment with secondary triads and sevenths but do not settle finally for anything which seems strained or inappropriate. When you have decided on a good harmonization, mark it in; then, play the song in all keys, using suitable accompaniments. You should also strum and use other secondo accompaniments while a piano mate plays the melody at the same time on another piano.
SAINT JAMES INFIRMARY
English Folk Song
THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC
Old Campmeeting Air
Accompanying a soloist is not the same as accompanying a group. Groups of singers tend to lag and, unless there is a conductor, you must provide leadership as well as support. This means that your beat must be strong and that you must press or crowd the tempo just a bit to counteract the slowdown of the singers. In general, you must play louder, too.
Accompanying a vocal soloist, on the contrary, demands the most sensitive ensemble playing. True, you give support, but you are a partner, not a leader, and you must seek to underscore and enhance the meaning of the song without drawing attention to the part you are playing.
Proper breathing is part of the vocalist’s art and a good singer is careful to breathe where the very slight break will serve to punctuate the music and make it more eloquent. To have its effect, the hiatus should be observed by the pianist, too, and the very best way to achieve this unity is to breathe with the singer at strategic places. (Two-piano teams use this same technique for perfect timing.)
Always watch the singer. When he is ready for you to begin to play he will give you a small signal, but even after this you must watch him, because you must sense ahead of time what he is going to do so that you can do the same thing at the same time. Every rhythmical or dynamic nuance of the singer must be paralleled in your playing. You must anticipate his intention, because if you follow him you will be too late.
Of course, when the soloist has a few measures rest, you become the soloist. You can sometimes play at a slightly higher dynamic level and impart more character to the passage than would be appropriate to the strictly accompanying role of the music.
At no time imagine that because attention is focused on the soloist, you can afford to be lax in the musical quality of your playing. Producing good tone, shaping phrases, tapering off final notes under slurs, bringing out contrapuntal lines, balancing parts, pedaling with discretion and clarity—these deserve as much attention in an accompaniment as in a solo.
Finally, remember that a beautifully sung song creates an atmosphere—an aura—which is not immediately dispelled when the sounds fade away. To take advantage of this afterglow and prolong the audience’s pleasure, the artful performer does not “let down” but holds his posture and facial expression, allowing reality to return gradually. But have you ever observed an audience, still under the enchantment of an evocative performance, abruptly and crudely aroused—the spell broken—by the accompanist’s snatching his hands away from the keyboard to reach up and close the music book or perhaps to rifle through the pages in search of the next song?
Do not be guilty of such bad taste—or indeed, bad showmanship.
Attributed to W. A. Mozart
English translation by M. S. M.
Improvising for activities is one of the most rewarding as well as useful of a pianist’s experiences. This type of playing can range from the primitive tomtom beat to accompany body motions of young children, to playing for “musical chairs,” to producing sophisticated rhythms and harmonies for modern dance.
As a start, arrange the classroom so that there is space in which to run—preferably in a large circle. One pianist sits at a piano where he can watch the rest of the class. The class decides on an “activity” which usually turns out to be running. This may be a fast run or a moderate jogging. In either case, the class should start running in the circle to establish the rhythm and speed, and only after that should the pianist begin playing in the rhythm which has been established. The most important consideration is to keep going, and rhythmically. A single line of notes could suffice as a start.
After a minute or two the pianist concludes his music with a cadence, or implied cadence, and another pianist takes over. A new activity is chosen—probably skipping—and the process is repeated.
The class will think of many activities suggested by gymnastics, games, dancing, reducing exercises, and the gaits of animals. Don’t be surprised if everyone comes in next day with aching muscles and red faces.
(with two variations)
- As different songs in minor mode are played for you, tell which form of the minor they are in.
- As a chord passage is played, identify augmented triads and diminished triads.
- Distinguish between VI’s and vi’s.
- As known diminished seventh chords are played and changed to V7 chords, identify which voice moved and to what key the V7 resolved.
- Listen as a classmate plays a series of legato thirds and raise your hand if you hear either an overlapping or a break in the legato. (Each member of the class should have a turn playing.)
- As a member of the class plays a series of legato chords, try to detect which voice or voices have the concealed breaks.
- As a classmate plays passages (two hands) which include short grace notes, tell whether the grace notes have been played on the beat or ahead of it.
- Repeat from a classmate’s (or your teacher’s) dictation melodic phrases in each of the minor forms.
- Dictate such melodic phrases yourself.
- Repeat from a classmate’s (or your teacher’s) dictation harmonic progressions which contain secondary triads and sevenths in minor keys.
- Dictate such chord progressions yourself.
- Play and harmonize When Johnny Comes Marching Home and We Three Kings by ear, and in all keys.
- If you are familiar with the melodies of I Wonder as I Wander, Country Gardens, Sorrento, and Waves of the Danube, you may play and harmonize them by ear, and in all keys.
- Define the following terms or symbols: tr embellishment; turn; mordent; pralltriller; inverted mordent; trill; gruppetto; short grace note; long grace note; ornament; grace; Baroque period; Classical period; Romantic period; principal note; upper auxiliary; lower auxiliary; measured trill; full trill; afterbeat; arpeggiated; rhythmical supplement; appoggiatura; passacaglia; ground; ground bass.
- How many major triads can be constructed in the harmonic minor scale? How many minor triads? How many augmented triads? How many diminished triads?
- Play Warmup XXII using triads in the pure, harmonic, and melodic forms of the minor.
- Play triads in root position up and down one octave in the harmonic form of A minor. Repeat in all other minor keys.
- Play triads in first inversion up and down one octave in the harmonic form of A minor. Repeat in all other minor keys.
- Play triads in second inversion up and down one octave in the harmonic form of A minor. Repeat in all other minor keys.
- In the same way, play seventh chords in root position, first inversion, second inversion, and third inversion, up and down one octave in the harmonic form of A minor. Repeat in all other minor keys.
- Bring to class three melodies in minor mode, play them and let the class decide in which mode they are.
- Prepare chord sequences (and write them out) containing major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads, to be played in class for chord identification by your classmates.
- Prepare and bring to class a series of “legato” chords. Try to play them so that your classmates cannot detect where the breaks in voices occur. This could be the same chord sequence specified under 9.
- Play all secondary triads and seventh chords in minor keys in arpeggio form. Do this in all three forms of the minor.
- Play mordents, inverted mordents, and turns on each degree of a scale.
- Build a diminished seventh chord on C, convert it to four different V7’s and resolve each to its appropriate tonic. Do the same on all other keys in the octave.
- Provide introductions to songs from a hymnal, community song book, or school song book. Let the class sing as you accompany.
- Harmonize songs in school music books.
- Sight-read regularly from hymn books, school song books, art song collections, easy to moderately difficult teaching materials, accompaniments to instrumental music, duets, four-hand arrangements of orchestral music, and choral literature, reading the open vocal score as well as the accompaniment.