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Questions & Answers

Notice.—We repeat again that to insure answers to queries the full name and address of the inquirer should be on the letter not for publication, but for private reply in case the query is not suitable for this column. We have inquiries from an “Anxious Parent” and “E.C.,” to which no reply can be given until we have the addresses.

H. P.—If there is no metronome-mark to a composition, you must be guided by the character of the piece and by the tempo direction, such as andante, moderato, allegro, vivace, etc., to the time-signature, to the principal rhythm. For example, in a piece marked andante, if the time be 3/4, and eighth notes predominate in the principal theme the general movement would be slower than than (sic) if the theme contained quarter notes principally. In marches in 4/4 time you will find considerable variation. Some will have dotted eighths and sixteenths as a part of the leading rhythm; others will contain principally quarter notes; still others, as some of Sousa’s, half notes. In the latter case the half note is really the unit of movement, in the others the quarter note. In a piece in 6/8 time marked andante, the term refers to the relative succession of the units of time-measurement; in this case the dotted quarter, which gets one beat, and not the eighth note, which receives but a part of a beat. The accents are generally the determining factor. Lussy’s work on “Musical Expression,” in the Novello “Primers,” has some useful information on this and kindred subjects.

G. B.—Some horn and trombone players have been able to produce several tones of different pitch at the same time. The reason lies in the fact that the vibrating column of air divides into segments owing to the shape of the lips, causing not only the sounding of a note corresponding to the full length of the air-column, but also to the separate segments. For fuller information in regard to this property of vibrating air- columns, consult a book on musical acoustics, such as the “Student’s Helmholtz.” Public and school libraries usually contain scientific books containing chapters on this subject.

M. P.—When the tenor and bass have the same note on the staff the pitch will be the same (that is, if both parts are written in the bass clef). If the tenor should be in the G clef, the actual sound will be an octave lower than would be the case if sung by a soprano, the difference being in the male and female voice; in such a case a tenor might have C, third space, treble clef, and the bass the first leger line above the bass staff, but both will sing the same pitch, the difference of  the octave being only to the eye.

M. A. S.—The natural minor scale is usually taught in theory because it gives the basis of the other minor scales, and because it is, historically speaking, the original minor scale. The harmonic minor is much used in modern music, the melodic minor occurring in melodies and in ornamental passages.

M. T. C.—1. A sharp, flat, or other accidental affects all notes of the same pitch (not the octave higher or lower) occurring later in the same measure. It has no effect in following measures except when the last note of one measure, if chromatically altered, is tied to a note of the same pitch in the following measure. Some writers say even if not tied over, but if no other note of different pitch intervenes, the effect of the accidental continues. The actual practice of composers is to write in a natural in a measure following a chromatic alteration as a matter of precaution.

The reason why two half-steps are used in the major scale arises from esthetic considerations. A scale composed of whole steps will offend that part of our nature which demands variety. Hence the agreeableness of the half-step in contrast. But we do not need so many of them, hence two half-steps and four whole steps. There are many scales known to music, the position and number of the half-steps varying greatly. Modern music has selected the form which has the half-steps between the third and fourth, and seventh and eight degrees as the most useful. This has been called the major scale because of the major or greater third between the first and third notes; the minor or smaller having but a step and a half between the first and third notes of its scale.

The first sharp falls on F because that note must be raised in the scale of G. So B must be flatted to correspond to the major scale pattern when commenced on F. Consult a work on theory of music or harmony on the relation of the tetrachords.

W. D. C.—1. When a measure is marked piano or forte, the effect lasts until a new direction is given; that is, if the composer has been careful to give full indications. While it usually does last, this rule must not be construed as to mean that it lasts without shading a little softer or louder.

2. A grouped marked as triplet, three eighths, should not be played as an eighth and two sixteenths.

3. The “Romantic School” includes music written to develop a mood or a picture, to bring out the expressional qualities of music rather than the merely musical possibilities of a theme; it is emotional rather than intellectual, based on melodic rather than thematic development. Compare the Schumann “Traümerei” with a Clementi sonatina or a Haydn sonata.

4. There is no clear explanation of the origin of the term “rag-time” as applied to the peculiar syncopated effects in music. Various persons claim to have been the first to use the term. The honor is a very doubtful one.

5. If the movement of a piece is too rapid to admit of a trill in thirty-seconds, it is permissible to use sixteenths.

6. You can simulate the effect of a strong accent on a reed organ by raising the hands briskly from the keys after the notes have sounded.

A. M. B.—1. It is largely the custom in this country to play the works of Bach, especially the fugues, at too high a rate of speed. By so doing much of the contrapuntal beauty is destroyed and the whole effect is blurred and unsatisfactory. The fugues should be played at a moderate tempo, with a full round tone and with a due regard for the leading of the voice- parts.

2. By one who has already developed a good technic and a thorough musical understanding, Bach may be studied without a master, but hard study and careful practice will be necessary and a study of theory, especially of counterpoint, is recommended.

In connection with these answers, the article by Emil Liebling, in the November Etude, should prove interesting and helpful.

S. M. P.—No matter whether a chair or stool be used in piano-practice, the wrist, in finger-work, should not be allowed to sag toward the elbow. It should always be held loosely, although invariably under perfect control. No hard-and-fast rule can be prescribed in this matter. Most concert-players use a chair, thus bringing the arm quite low and bringing the player close to the keyboard, when necessary. Greater ease and security are claimed for this. In the case of young children and others below the average height, the use of a chair, unless it be specially made and much higher than the ordinary, seems to be out of the question.

E. P. S.—1. By a double-jointed thumb is usually meant a thumb-joint the surrounding ligaments of which are more elastic than is usually the condition, or when the muscular development about that portion of the hand is uncertain.

To make the thumb-joint to curve outwardly is the most effective way to prevent or correct its bending in, and for that every single time the thumb is allowed to waver is hopelessly preventive. Hold the thumb bent, joint curving out, and maintain it so against some pressure brought to bear against it to straighten it for a muscular exercise.

2. Leaving out the word principles in your question, the most original characteristic of the Leschetizky school is, beyond doubt, the great originality of the personality of Leschetizky himself, which has made him formulate numberless little practical ways, sometimes different for every piece, by which his pupils’ playing could be made more vivid and still true to all canons of good art. Technically, perhaps, the most original point of his school is his insistence on having the finger press the key down as far as it will go in piano as well as forte passages, pressing the key down slower when it is to give out less volume and more suddenly when more tone is wanted. This holds good in rapid forte playing, its exception is in soft rapid playing.

In other words, our modern pianos should never be touched gingerly.


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