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Questions and Answers.

[Our subscribers are invited to send in questions for this department. Please write them on one side of the paper only, and not with other things on the same sheet. In Every Case the Writer’s Full Address must be Given, or the questions will receive no attention. In no case will the writer’s name be printed to the questions in The Etude. Questions that have no general interest will not receive attention.]

G. E. C.—The slow singing you complain about is doubtless due to the fact that you end your giving out of a hymn, or the playing of an introduction to your anthems, by an evident and long-drawn-out retardando. Such a retard destroys the sense of tempo in the singers, and none of them have any certainty of feeling when to begin and how fast to go; hence they drag and wait for one another.

J. G. A.—Ques.—I heard a fine city choir, recently, sing a hymn in three-four time, at what I found to be a very fast tempo, yet I did not feel it to be too fast. When I tried it with my choir in my home town, they complained about its unseemly speed, and so did many of the congregation; and to my certain knowledge I know that I did not take it as fast as that city choir did. What was the trouble with it?

Ans.—The trouble was with you or the choir master. The city choir sang with a well-marked accent on the heavy beat, and with a more evident unaccented softness on the soft or light parts of the measure. But your choir sang each beat about alike, and they felt greatly hurried, and so they were, for they were singing single notes, not notes in rhythmic groups. By the way, in this answer you have the remedy for dragging, lifeless, and “wooden” singing, and for much that comes short of fine choir and chorus effects.

 J. W.—No; staccato playing, when accompanying a hymn for congregational or for choir singing, is poor taste. It is not necessary for keeping up the rhythm, as you intimate, for, if you hold all but one or two of the notes, these moving and struck notes will give out the rhythm sufficiently clear. Staccato playing under such circumstances destroys all the dignity and grandeur of the hymn. You can learn to double the harmonies on the heavy beats of the measure, and this will give a strong accent. Also make the treble note preceding the accent a very little staccato.

A. M. C.—The perfect fourth (inversion of perfect fifth) is a consonant interval; but it has to be treated like a dissonant when it occurs between the bass and any upper part. It was customary at one time to call it a dissonant, but it is acoustically consonant; still the fact of its consonance does not preclude the necessity for a certain specified way of treating it from the musical standpoint.

X. Y. Z.—1. The natural minor scale ascends and descends in the same way. It was the requirement of harmony, which depends so largely on dominant chords, that necessitated the raising of the seventh; then the sixth was raised to avoid the awkward interval of the augmented second between sixth and seventh.

2. The diminished sixth does occur as a suspension. The augmented third and augmented seventh may be written, but as they never occur in any combination in actual use they are called “paper intervals.” 

3. The augmented second is the inversion of the diminished seventh. The diminished seventh occurs between the third and minor ninth of a chord; but there is no augmented ninth over the root in the available overtones of the fundamental. 

4. The major second, perfect fourth and perfect fifth, and major sixth, may be augmented by raising the upper note, but the major third and major seventh can not be augmented; therefore the books say: “Most major and perfect intervals may be augmented by raising the upper note.” 

5. Practically a degree can not be less than a half step, but theoretically it may. The modern meaning of enharmonic is the substitution of one letter with sharp for another with flat, as C sharp for D flat. In our tempered scale these sounds are identical, but they are not so acoustically.

U. B. W.—1. There are two kinds of three-quarter time. Simple three-quarter has but one accent, that on the first; it is generally rapid in tempo. The other is a compound of three units of two, and has three accents: the first is the strongest, the last the weakest. As examples of these two kinds of three-quarter time compare Chopin’s “First Waltz” and the slow movement of Beethoven’s “First Sonata.” One of the peculiarities of the rhythm of the polonaise is that the third beat is more accented than the second.

2. The sign symbol.jpg is always used to signify duple time. The same sign without the perpendicular stroke through it is never used for this purpose. The term “diminished,” when applied to intervals, signifies that the interval is less than minor, or perfect. Many writers use “imperfect” when treating of the diminished fifth. Strictly speaking, “imperfect” should be applied only to consonances—viz., the major and minor thirds and their inversions. They are called imperfect consonances, because they may be either major or minor. The fourth, fifth, and octave are called perfect, because any alteration of them produces a dissonance.

M. S.—When two chords are tied and yet have dots over or under them both chords are struck, but as legato as possible. When only the second of the two chords has a dot over or under it, the first chord is the stronger and the last is played softly but very legato, closely following the first chord.

 M. S.—The lifeless, wooden style of playing your pupil is guilty of is due to her making each note or chord of even power. Do not say accent to her, but make her unaccent every note but the heavy ones of each measure. Give her special lessons in unaccenting.

G. T. L.—The constant mistake in note lengths, and poor time resulting from this fault, is sufficient to make your pupil uninterested in music, for there can be no pleasure gotten from music that is out of time. Give her a course in “Landon’s Writing Book,” especially making her play the exercises after she has written them; first, however, make her tap them out with a pencil, or with her fingertips on a table.

L. G. W.—Doubtless, the reason why your pupil constantly stumbles is because he practices too fast—always goes at a pace that makes stumbling inevitable,—and never does slow and perfectly accurate work on the hard places. These latter should be gone over and over scores of times until they go correctly and at the right tempo as easily as do the less difficult parts of the piece. But if he plays so fast as to make mistakes, his mistakes will soon become an inherent part of his playing; he has learned the mistakes, and by the force of habit they become a part of his playing. Slow, severely correct practice, doing all hard passages in this manner until they are no longer difficult, is the only remedy.

W. C. P.—The reason that one gets pain in the back after practicing is that the back is not in a perfectly healthful condition. The movements made in piano playing are originated by nerves whose centers are in the spine. The action of these nerve centers is maintained by supplies of blood, and the blood gets access to the centers by traveling in vessels which pass between the bones of the spine. When the demand for blood becomes excessive, there comes to be a congestion or pressure of blood in these vessels which extends to the nerves of sensation in their vicinity and causes them to report something out of order, their report being transmitted to consciousness as pain. In the early stages this pain rapidly disappears if one rests; in later stages treatment is required. Two simple expedients are the application of heat,—moist heat preferred to dry, such as wet cloths at the point of pain; and a still more simple remedy is the support of the spine from the top, which may be effected by hanging by the hands from a horizontal bar and relaxing as far as possible all the muscles of the body excepting those that are holding the fingers on the bar. When the body hangs down the feet should not touch the floor, and the purpose of the treatment is to allow the bones of the spine to be drawn apart enough so that the vessels running between them may be relieved of the pressure, thus facilitating the flow of blood and relieving the congestion.

The rattling of keys in a piano is a matter that should be referred to the tuner. It may be due to the wearing of the holes into which the pins enter that keep the keys in position. As these pins are slightly oval, turning them a bit may obviate the difficulty; but there is no point along the action where rattling may not be occasioned by wear, and it is generally cheaper and better to have an expert tuner make the necessary corrections.

R. L. S.—1. The best musical magazine published for the violin we know of is The Strad, V. S. Flechter, 23 Union Square, New York.

2. We do not see how the friction keys can injure the tone of a violin, nor do we see that they are of any great advantage to one.

3. We do not examine manuscripts; those sent for publication are either accepted or rejected.

C. M. B.—The music in London, Paris, Berlin, and Leipzig is of the best, and the opportunities for studying under good teachers are numerous. In London the best piano teachers are to be found in the Guildhall School of Music; in Paris we might mention F. Planté and Louis Diemer; in Berlin, E. Rudorff, H. Barth, and Carl Heyman; in Leipzig, Martin Krause, Weidenbach, and Bruno Zwintscher. Of the two last-named cities, Berlin is now said to be the superior. The conservatories in these cities have the best teachers.

“Strings.”—We advise you to go through the entire book of Mansfield’s “Harmony.” If you haven’t time you better take it. The study of harmony will do more to make a better musician of one than you possibly imagine. Say to yourself not how far shall I go, but how far can I go.

M. C.—1. The first or the last chord of a piece generally indicates the key it is written in. If you can not determine from them, then you must judge from the general character of the harmony used throughout the entire piece. To do this will require some knowledge of harmony.

2. Gurlitt’s method is a very good one for beginners.

J M. J.—The existence of the melodic and mixed forms of the minor scale may be accounted for thus: Originally, the minor scale consisted of the natural intervals, ascending and descending; but this, because of the absence of a leading note, was considered unsatisfactory, hence the seventh was raised half a step. This left a step and a half between six and seven, and such an interval being at that time considered inadmissible, the sixth was also raised half a tone. But this scale was not so satisfactory descending, hence the original tones were restored. To-day, both the melodic and harmonic forms are used by composers.

O. L. R.—The chords you mention may be described as follows: Tonic (the keynote), is the chord formed on the first degree of the scale and is the most important chord. Dominant (the ruler), chord on fifth degree of the scale, counting up from the tonic. It is the next important chord. Sub-dominant, the chord on the fourth degree of scale, so-called because it is the same distance below the tonic as the dominant is above. Sub means under.

H. B.—The words of “The Last Rose of Summer” were written by Thomas Moore, and the tune is altered from an old Irish melody called “The Graves of Blarney,” which is probably a variation of a still older air, “The Young Man’s Dream,” composed in 1788-89, by R. A. Millikin, of Cork.

W. A.—1. Some one has said that rhythm is the meter of music. As far as the subject of music is concerned, the terms rhythm and meter may be said to be synonymous. Meter properly belongs to poetry and means the dividing of a poem into syllables and groups of syllables into lines.

Rhythm (musically) means (1) the recurrence of accents at equal intervals of time, and (2) the repetition of a group of sounds at equal intervals of time. 2. We would recommend you to study Mansfield’s “Harmony.” If you have gone through Jadassohn’s “Manual of Harmony” thoroughly, under a teacher as you say, we think you could go through Mansfield alone, and since it treats the subject so differently from Jadassohn you would derive much good from it.

O. R.—Cabaletta usually signifies the short, final, quick movement of an air. It means, literally, “a little horse;” so called from the rapid triplet accompaniment generally used with it.

“Ethiopian” has no musical meaning.

C. T.—1. By preluding you probably mean improvisation; that is, playing music conceived in the brain as you go along.

2. A composition such as you describe, where no set form is observed, would be called a caprice or impromptu, though many of the composers have assigned different names to like compositions. No music can be written without form. A good piece of music always has some clearly defined form, though it may not be one described in text-books. 

3. Yes, there is a market for such pieces, provided they are good.  

4, 5. You probably need a book on instrumentation, such as Prout, or “Composition,” by Stainer.

6. Pauer’s “Musical Forms” will give you full information concerning the form and construction of opera.


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