Thursday, January 29, 2009

Moody Day

While I was reading through the Piano Forum, saw this piece which was composed by one of the Piano Teacher in Texas titled "Moody Day". This piece is originally meant for a first year adult student in C minor.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Baroque Period (1600 to 1750)

The first period which I am exposed to is the Baroque period, which is suppose to be repertoire that were composed during the period between 1600 to 1750. For a more detailed historical background of repertoire created during this period can be found here:

To play music of this period, we need to take note of the following:-
1. As the instrument used in the past are instruments like Clavichord and Harpsichord, where when a key is held on, the note will die off very easily. Hence, the sustain pedal is seldom and in fact not used for pieces during the Baroque period.

2. The usual repertoire during this period are March, Menuet (which is usually 3/4 time), Gigue (form of dance which is usually 6/8 time and very common to have anacrusis), Chorale (church hymns usually sang by the choir, with right hand as Soprano), Toccata and so on.

3. Because of the limitation of the instruments during the Baroque period, repertoire usually have many ornaments added like "trills" to fill in the long hold of the notes. Also, the notes are usually played with a sticky feeling. Not very short, nor held very long. But still certain parts needs to be played in a legato manner.

4. Usually both hands are equally important as both hands are the melody. And it is usually repeated, with repeated parts on both the right hand and the left hand. Hence the balance between the left and right hands are important, as both hands are equally important. And every time the repeated parts are played using a different dynamics to enhance the different layer of the music to bring out the feeling.

5. When running trills, the trills take precedence and have to be louder than the other hand to make the trills stand out.

Periods of European art music

I am using the following book to learn about the different styles of music:-
Keys to Stylistic Mastery (28 Late Elementary to Early Intermediate Pieces from Five Style Periods) by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Dennis Alexander.

There are different periods of European art music per below. Details can be obtained from the link below:

Musical Era #1: Prehistoric
Musical Era #2: Ancient (before AD500)
Musical Era #3: Early (500 to 1760)
Medieval (500 to 1400)
Renaissance (1400 to 1600)
Musical Era #4: Common practice (1600 to 1900)
Baroque (1600 to 1760)
Classical (1730 to 1820)
Romantic (1815 to 1910)
Musical Era #5: Modern and contemporary (1900 to present)
Impressionist (1890 to 1940)
20th century (1900 to 2000)
Contemporary (1975 to present)

In the book which I used, the 5 periods which it covers are
(1) Baroque Period
(2) Classical Period
(3) Romantic Period
(4) Impressionist Period
(5) Contemporary Period

Pop Music in a simple way...

After playing quite a couple of Pop Music (mostly Chinese) works like pieces from JJ Lin, Stephanie Sun, Tanya Chua and Guang Liang (just to name a few). I notice the style of these music usually similar, with the melody being played with the right hand and the chords with the left hand.

Also all the Pop Music which I played have similar dynamics structure. The music will start with a simple introduction (usually with some traces of the chorus) which would be softer, and then slowly growing louder and being the loudest at the chorus. And most of the time, there would be a change in modulation, either by a semitone or a tone upwards in the last part of the chorus which marks the end of the song, with the last few bars at a slowly pace compared to the whole song and of coz back to "pp".

This is the reason why usually pop music can be accompanied by either a guitar or a keyboard and sometimes piano. The popular way to play a guitar is by playing the chords and the whole song can be completed by just changing from chords to chords. Many of the times, pop songs follows a chord progression patterns which is repeated over and over again throughout the whole song. The only variation from piece to piece is how you change the way you play the chords on the keyboard, which can help to spice up the song further.

Many of the times, you will hear some pianist telling you that they feel that Pop Music lack the creativity that Classical Music has. I heard that many times and I used to wonder why they say that. I guess it is mainly due to the fact that Pop Music usually follow a fixed kind of structure in terms of composing which in the end, kills the creativity. And hence the comments of Pop Music are boring.

But for me, I enjoy Pop Music and want to learn other forms of music as well to understand the differences and similarity and eventually to be able to compose different types of music.

What is a Minor Scale?

How does Minor Scales comes about? I posed the question to my Piano Teacher yesterday. And the answer (after some personal analysis) I got is:-

There are many different types of scales. The most basic kind of scale is the Major Scales, which we all know. But to add more colour to the tone of the music, additional scales are came out with. For classical music, minor scales are created with the intention of adding colours to the music. For jazz music, other forms of scales are created. There are also the chromatic scales and apreggios. All with the intention of allowing the pianist to practice so that it will help the pianists to be able to relate what they have learnt in their scales and the pieces that they play.

Some teachers will say "Minor Scales" for usually used for composing of sad music. Melodic Minor is usually used for composing the melody part of piece, which is the actual tune of the music (to put it loosely, for right hand). And Harmonic Minor is usually used for harmony or as an acompany to the music (to put it loosely, for left hand).

However, it is normal for music to transit from one type of scale to another type of scale. It is common to see pieces which are composed with no key signature to use C major for some parts of the piece and A minor with the accidentals in other parts of the same piece. Some pieces even changes their modulation from C major to G major (for example), where it all depends on how the composer wish to create the mood and the tone of the piece. Although, over the years, there are a set of "rules" which is what has been deduced and pen down, but music in itself is about creativity. So, it is still possible to compose music outside of these "rules" so long as it does not sound weird.

Practising and playing scales help pianists to learn proper fingerings, train techniques, build up finger muscles, which keys belongs to a scale (family) and also to ensure that foundations are strong so that future learning of more demanding pieces are not as difficult.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Music Grading Scale

Something which I find useful....oh, so I am doing Grade 3 Practical now? Must improve my dynamics & tempo!!!

Original Link:
(Sorry! Don't mean to copy, I just want to keep this useful info in my diary)

Pre-reading (BEGINNER):
Music for a beginning student with little or no musical training. Pre-reading material helps to strengthen the student’s familiarity with basic rhythm patterns and the keys on the piano. Basic rhythm patterns make use of whole, half, quarter notes and rests. Dynamics are introduced. Time signatures may or may not be introduced. The music may or may not be notated on a staff, but the notes are always labeled. Students are restricted to playing in easy to memorize 5-finger hand positions. C-position and Middle C-position are the two most popular hand positions reviewed in Pre-Reading material.

Students are still using very basic rhythm patterns, dynamics, and set hand positions. Music is written on a staff and students are expected to do some note-reading. Grade 1 repertoire consists of simple melodies and folk tunes with mostly stepwise motion and maybe some small skips. The intervals of a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th are introduced. The student might have to play simple harmonies or perform some pieces with the hands together. The time signatures of 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 are used.

Building on what they have learned in the previous two levels of study, students are introduced to the concept of keys and tonality. The keys of C Major and C Minor, G Major and G Minor, F Major, and A minor are popular keys of study. Music is still based in 5-finger positions, but students are expected to be able to quickly jump from one position to another, and there may be an extension of one or two notes outside a set position. Eighth notes, rests, and dotted rhythms are introduced. Jazz students are introduced to “swing” rhythms. Articulation marks (legato/slur, staccato, accents) are integrated. Accidentals are being used (sharps, flats, and natural signs).

Students work with the time signatures of 3/8 and 6/8. Cut time is utilized. Students are introduced to sixteenth notes and rests. There are large skips between notes, the intervals of 6ths, 7ths, and octaves are being regularly incorporated into music. The music may use some major and minor scale patterns, and students learn to cross fingers over and under one another in rapid passages. The repertoire is no longer set in simple five-finger positions. At this stage, the entire grand staff is being used, as well as some ledger line notes. Dynamics become more varied in nuance with the incorporation of pianissmo, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, fortissimo, crescendo and diminuendo markings.

The time signatures of 9/8 or 12/8 may be used. Common keys of study include C Major, G Major, D Major, A Major, E Major, F Major, B flat Major, E flat Major, A flat Major, and their relative minor keys. Some students may begin to incorporate modal playing. Jazz students are expected to know the 12 bar blues pattern and basic blues scale by heart. Students may see the dynamics of forte piano, ppp, fff, and sforzando appear for the first time in their music. Tuplet rhythms and short 16th note runs appear in music of this level. Some students may study simple Bach preludes, classical sonatinas, or two-part inventions at this level. The concept of subject and voice parts are introduced.

5/4, 7/4 and 3/2 time appear. There are changes in the time signature. Students will be using all of the major keys, most of the minor, and some modes. There are longer 16th note runs, some 32nd note runs, and grace notes. Other ornamentation may occur in the music, such as mordants and trills. Students are using the full range of their instrument.

My 2009 Musical Resolution

Trying not to be too ambitious and yet not setting a goal that is too easy to achieve. Challenging enough to make me practice every night...

My 2009 Musical Resolution is to pass with Merit or Distinction (possible?) for the Grade 3 Piano Practical, Theory & Sight Reading exams!

Then again, it depends on what my piano teacher says about my playing before she enroll me to the exams later this year. Coz she is spending some time to make sure I have my foundations right first before I start skipping Grades. As of now, I am in the midst of Grade 1 Theory & Sight Reading. And Grade 2 Practical.

All the best to myself and I enjoy every moment of piano learning !!!


As of 19 Feb 09:

I will not be able to achieve my resolution above coz my teacher prefers me to be very prepared for the exams, where she will drill & drill me before the exams! So, shall set a new resolution here...

My 2009 Revised Musical Resolution is to pass with Distinction for the Grade 2 Music Theory & Prepare to take Grade 2 Practical Exams in 2010!