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Questions and Answers

Ques.—1. When a pupil can play Cramer's Studies fairly well, is it advisable to begin the study of Mozart's Sonatas and the easier compositions of the other great masters ? Norfolk.
 
Ans.—Cramer's Studies are much more technical than æsthetical, and the usage of the better class of teachers of the present is to let the training of the musical taste and the study of music from an æsthetical point of view go hand in hand with technical work. Before taking up classical music, it is generally better to have played something from Heller, the easier compositions of Schumann, and some of the best, easy to moderately difficult things by our modern composers. But in answering your question, Yes. A pupil who can play Cramer can play the sonatas of Mozart. Moreover, only the finer and most easily understood movements should be selected, as it is a waste of time to go through the whole volume. If the student's time is limited, and he is unable to go on with an extended course of study, it is better to select the favorite movements from all the great masters rather than to take their works complete. There are from ten to fifteen of the Mazourkas of Chopin that are extremely pleasing, and of great value to the conscientious student, and, by the way, these works are altogether too much neglected. But whatever is given, let it be easily within the pupil's ability, both technically and æsthetically, for if classical music is to be well played, the mind must be fully at liberty to give thorough attention to the expression rather than the technic. C. W. L.
 
Ques.—1. Should phrasing be taught to reed organ pupils?
2. Should phrasing be taught to all piano pupils as soon as they can read notes ?
3. What is meant by rhythmic scales ?
Young Teacher.
 
Ans.—1. There is a great deal of mystification upon this subject of phrasing. One definition of it might be, that the music is to be played effectively. Phrases in music correspond to sentences in reading, and are to be separated very similarly. It would not be considered very good reading if the reader allowed his voice to be perfectly monotonous and made no pause whatever, running the sentences together, and continuing in one wearisome, unbroken monotone to the end of the piece, and only stopping when the end was reached, giving in this rendering every important word but the same stress of voice that was suited to the unimportant. This is true of too much playing. Every phrase has its climax, and the player should crescendo till the climax is reached, this being the loudest point in the phrase, after which there should be diminuendo to the close. Phrases are to be separated the same as sentences in speech, therefore the reed-organ pupil should phrase as much as play in time, or play the notes that are before him.
 
2. This has been answered in the above.
 
3. Rhythmic scales are those in which the pupil counts and accents given notes. A new work, soon to be issued from this office, by William Mason, is entirely devoted to this subject. Scales treated in this form become filled with new life, and are fascinating to the pupil, inducing him to do thorough scale practice. Pupils who practice scales in their rhythmic forms cease to consider them dry and uninteresting. C. W. L.
 
Ques.—Will The Etude give me some information as to the use of the soft pedal? Do the expression marks, "piano" and "pianissimo," indicate its use. e. s. l.
 
Ans.—The use of the soft pedal has nothing to do, primarily, with power. In nearly all instances where this is marked, it is because there is a different tone quality required by the composer, and he calls for its use for much the same reasons as when in orchestral music he passes the theme from one class of instruments to another, because he wishes a different effect in the tone color. Still, the fact remains that, with the soft pedal, the music is softer than when it is not used. But the comparison holds true, since there is a vast difference in power between the different classes of orchestral instruments. When the soft pedal is desired by the composer, he puts in the mark, " Una Corda." In early pianos the action was shifted to one side, so that the hammer struck but one string, hence, the term. In modern grand pianos the action is still shifted to one side, but the hammer strikes two strings. In upright pianos there are various devices to make the hammers lose much of their force, and strike softly, varying the tone color. The more common device is to introduce a slip of soft felt between the hammer and the strings, thus reducing the power materially, and changing the tone color as much as the power. In the square piano there is a slip of felt introduced with a like effect. In all cases its use should be very limited. In the best editions of the greatest and most difficult music it is always indicated by the composer. In music of the common grades as to difficulty and content, it is seldom desirable to use this pedal.
 
As a direct answer to your question, when the composer wants a different tone color with, at the same time, softness, he puts in the expression marks, "Una Corda." The use of this pedal is not to be encouraged when the composer has not indicated its necessity. C. W. L.
 
Ques. 1.—Will The Etude oblige a subscriber by answering the following: It is not possible for me to enjoy the instruction of a good teacher. I wish to know more about phrasing. What work will best teach me how to phrase successfully, and play with effective expression?
 
2. In The Musician, by Prentice, is it intended that the pupil shall memorize each piece? If not, how are they to be studied?
 
3. Will the little pocket metronome answer as well for practical work as the more expensive instrument?
Mansfield.
 
Ans. 1.—There are two ways of learning phrasing, and both should be combined for the best results. Such editions of Heller, as the Thirty Studies, recently issued from this office, have their phrasing clearly marked, and the letter-press descriptions and lessons give much needed help. To study phrasing from a practical standpoint, take such music as you may have, and play passages repeatedly, emphasizing what seem to you the more intense chords, or the notes seeming to have the most content, and make slight pauses at the places you think the phrases end, not forgetting to begin the phrase with a moderately strong emphasis. In nearly all cases you will be able to decide as to the real phrasing. It may be well to say that the phrases are not always of uniform length, not even in any one composition. There is no cut-and-dried rule that can be applied, nor would standard authorities, in editing a piece, give the same phrasing throughout. There would be as various renderings as of different elocutionists delivering the same poem. Volume I of W. S. B. Mathews' "How to Understand Music," will give you much help. Any of the standard works upon Musical Form will help you in the theoretical part of the subject. After a careful study of a piece, have the courage of your convictions and play it as seems right to you.
 
2. A great deal of attention is being paid to memorizing music. Some teachers go to extremes in one direction and others in the opposite. The medium course is best. Such compositions as are of special musical worth, and are pleasing to the pupil, should be memorized. Perhaps this will apply to one-third of all he learns. A student who memorizes easily, will commit nearly all he studies. One who finds it difficult will, naturally, memorize fewer pieces.
 
In an experience of twenty years, I have never yet found a pupil who could not memorize music to some extent, although scores have assured me it was impossible for them to do so. This subject will be fully treated in an article in some future issue. The pieces that the pupil does not memorize should be thoroughly analyzed, and a clear idea of their construction fixed in his mind. This tends to an intelligent rendition and expression, and gets the pupil in the habit of "playing into a piece, rather than over it."
 
3. The principal use of the metronome is to give the rate of tempo. The pocket metronome is fully as accurate for this purpose as a more costly instrument, but the latter gives a distinct tick tack by which the pupil can time his music while practicing. It is a great boon to such pupils as are defective in time, or have a weak feeling for rhythm; also, in helping a pupil to pass from one subject to another in a composition where the number of notes to a count is particularly changed. After all, it is but a rhythmic crutch, and in the end the pupil must be able to go alone without these external helps. This theme has been thoroughly treated in the issues of the past year. C. W. L.

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