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Questions and Answers

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L. A. M.—The trouble with your pupil, who plays from the printed fingering and not from the notes, is in the fact that the young mind can not do many things at once. It is well that young pupils think enough of fingering to make it stand for notes. After a piece goes fairly well, then let your pupil play it through, one hand at a time, speaking the letter names of the notes aloud. This plan will correct your difficulty, and follows the modern idea of “one thing at a time.” It would not do not to have the fingering printed, for the weaker fingers of children are so undeveloped that they would do all of the playing with two or three fingers.

S. H. A.—To map out a year’s course on the piano and reed-organ is not easy to do, because no two pupils are alike in their natural taste and abilities. For the piano, with beginners, Landon’s “Foundation Materials” is very useful, and for the other instrument, the same author’s “Reed-organ Method” is used by many teachers. In either book full materials are given for the work of a year or more. A little piano practice, perhaps even half, on the piano, is good for the reed-organ pupil. But for the piano pupil who is a beginner, but little organ practice is safe from the point of good touch. Advanced piano or organ pupils receive no harm, but, in many cases positive help, in practicing on the other instrument. The piano pupil will gain a true legato, learn how to hold notes of different lengths in the same hand, and gain practical help in many other ways, while the organ pupil will gain promptness of attack and celerity of finger action, valuable work in scale and arpeggio playing, and many other things of value to the organist by playing on the piano.

G. W. N.—Modern pianists are making so much of the study of the pedal that special works of instruction are written for it. Many of the beautiful effects that concert pianists produce are only possible through their artistic use of the pedal. Schmidt’s “Pedal Book” will give you the best available instruction without the presence of the living teacher. A knowledge of harmony is absolutely necessary for correct use of the pedal. Pupils of the easier and medium grades should not use the pedal until they have the piece well learned; then they should follow the printed pedal indications.

M. E. P.—“Rag-time” is essentially a simple syncopation. The faculty for it must be acquired, much like a taste for caviar. The negroes of the South employed it in the banjo accompaniments to their songs, but not until the “midways” of our recent expositions stimulated general appreciation of Oriental rhythms did “ragtime” find supporters throughout the country. There are several varieties of this rhythm, the most common being those in which the regular beats of the melody alternate with those of the accompaniment, and vice versa. There are various degrees of skill in this process of distortion, and occasional chromatic progressions in the bass add greatly to the weirdness, if not to the beauty, of rag-time.” Another of its peculiarities is that its best exponents are generally execrable musicians.

B. K. W.—I would not give the pieces of an album or book as they come. Not every piece in any book is best for any one pupil. As to grading, what is easy for one pupil is not always so for another. Teachers will do well to remember Edward Baxter Perry’s motto: ” Why is this piece any better than a thousand others, that I should use it in preference to any other one of the thousand?”

G. T. L.—You have no right to take a teacher’s time and effort for correcting mistakes that you would not make if you would only take the time and trouble to study them out for yourself. You are paying him for his time, not to do your work, but to teach you the art of music. If he must do work that you can as well do, why employ a teacher at all? It is his duty to teach you what is not self-evident, to point out possibilities of improvement, and show you how to bring about that improvement expeditiously and thoroughly; to help you discover the phrasing and the best expression.

R. K. F.—You can find the actual number of sets of reeds in a reed-organ by drawing similarly placed and named stops, and making an unbroken scale from end to end of the keyboard. There is in nearly all reed-organs two sets of stops to a single set of reeds, one set of stops bringing on the full power of the reeds and the other only a part of their power. Some of the stops bring on a set of reeds that are in unison with the voice, and others sets that are one or two octaves higher than the voice, and some stops bring on a set of reeds that are an octave lower than the voice. Then there may be sets of like pitch which have different and contrasted tone-quality. Never play a reed-organ without having tried it as above, so that you may know what pitch and tone-quality are indicated by the stops.

U. S.—1. Willie Pape, as he was known to the public, was born in Mobile, Ala., in 1850; commenced the study of music at five years of age, and when he was eleven was placed under the instruction of S. B. Mills in New York City. In 1862 he went to England, and remained abroad until 1875 as a concert-player. He is now Secretary of the Medical College of Alabama, at Mobile, and is devoted to his profession. He commenced composition at the age of fifteen, and averaged a piece every month. His pieces were very popular when they were written, but are in a style unsuited to modern pianism.

2. You will find a useful article on “Pupils’ Recitals” in The Etude for March, 1898. It makes no difference whether the pupils are advanced or beginners, attention to detail is necessary. People do not attend to hear music such as given in the concert-room, but to find out the kind of work the teacher is doing, and this can be displayed by young players as well as those more advanced.

F. R. W.—You write asking for an inexpensive way of making the touch of a piano heavier. This may be accomplished in two ways: 1. If you remove a key you will find that at about two inches from the inside end it is loaded with lead. You may add to the weight of the touch by inserting more lead until it is as heavy as you desire. Be sure you make them all evenly heavy; also be sure the lead fits tight. 2. A better way is to fit a rail over the keys just back of the name-board, and fasten a spring for each key to it, so that one end of the spring will rest in a little groove that should be cut in each key just in front of the action. The springs should be like those used in a reed-organ action, but need not be so strong. Arrange the rail so that it may be raised or lowered to make the touch lighter or heavier, as you may desire it. Making it adjustable is a very important matter, as practicing all the time on a heavy touch is sure to result in stiff and awkward motions, which make the acquirement of a good technic impossible.

H. M.—Six years is not too young to begin music lessons, but all depends upon the child. Finger exercises should be used, certainly, as muscular development must keep pace with mental. Be careful not to let the little hand become weary, and lighten the work by pieces that introduce good finger work.

H.—The seventh of a chord may ascend when the bass accompanies it in parallel thirds, as, for example, in the resolution of dominant seventh chord, second inversion, into the tonic, first inversion; in an ornamental resolution, as, for example, F, the seventh of the dominant in the key of C, may rise to G before falling to E, its note of resolution. In harmony, in five or more parts, it might chance that two sevenths appear in the chord; in such a case one may move upward; it may ascend chromatically, generally introducing a modulation into the dominant key; it may ascend when another voice falls to its note of resolution ; it may leap up and take the ninth.

M. E. J.—The following musicians, residents of Indiana, have earned some note as composers: C. H. Weegmann, Hubert J. Schonacker, Barclay Walker, Robert A. Newland, Paul Bahr, of Indianapolis, and Albert Küssner, of Terre Haute. Their writings have been mainly in the lighter forms, such as dance-music, popular songs, and easy teaching pieces. It would be of some value if State associations collected and filed such data as the above.

I. S.—A “plain movement” is one in which the diatonic chords—that is, chords natural to the scale—are used.

A. P.—1. “Coda” is an Italian word meaning literally a “tail.” In music it applies to something added after the theme or themes are finished. The object is to make a satisfactory wind-up to a composition. In modern music the coda plays a very important part. Beethoven was the first great writer to treat the coda as a special part of the form of large movements, and in his hands it often became the most interesting and important treatment of his themes, although he sometimes introduced entirely new material into his codas. Modern composers have followed closely in his steps, and but few works are without a coda of independent interest, variety in modulation, or new thematic treatment, in order to heighten the principal climax, which is usually reserved for the coda.

2. A minor or perfect interval may be diminished either by raising the lower or lowering the upper note. Thus, C, E-flat, may be diminished by raising C to C-sharp, or by lowering E-flat to E-double flat. As to which way the diminution is to be effected will depend on the key in which it is to occur. Thus, C-sharp, E-flat, may occur in G; C, E-double flat, in G-flat.

Sister D.—There is no harm in occasionally allowing a pupil to follow the melody, when counting, provided the counting does not become unsteady and sing-song; yet it is not advisable, as a rule, since it introduces an element that may distract the attention. The pupil may sing the time as it has learned the melody, and if the time was not correct at first, to sing the counts is to confirm the mistake. Only musical pupils have a tendency to do this, many not having sufficient ear to pick out the tune from the surrounding harmony. Following the melody with the voice is often an excellent means of inducing a “singing touch.”

T. J. L.—1. The terms reed organ, cabinet organ, and parlor organ all refer to the same instrument. In Europe they are called harmoniums.

2. Vol. ii of “Touch and Technic” naturally follows Mathews’ “Twenty Lessons to a Beginner,” but it is well to give some other studies in connection with it—such standard graded studies as vol. i or ii.

E. V. G.—Altered chords may or may not imply modulations. The major chords in the scale may be altered to augmented fifth chords without modulation; also the tonic and subdominant in the major key may be changed to minor chords without modulation. If the minor chords in the scale are changed to major, they generally imply a modulation to a related key; the same is the case with the diminished chord on the seventh of the scale when it is changed to major. No modulation is implied by the entrance of the augmented sixth chord or the Neapolitan sixth (major chord on lowered super- tonic). A safe guide is found in the following rule: A modulation is not established until a tonic chord foreign to the “related group” is struck.

 

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