Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!

Guest post by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, editors of Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Our 5 anthologies contain the 100 pieces that pianists should learn to play. In the 5 companion Study Guides for each piece. Problems are IDENTIFIED and problems are SOLVED.                                                             

What Makes Our Books Unique

With all the great anthologies out there, why should you buy ours?

  1. ALTERNATIVE FINGERINGS:  Hands come in all shapes and sizes! Our fingerings often give two choices that will encourage students to try alternatives. We suggest they then cross out the fingering they will not use.       
  2. ADDITIONAL DYNAMICS ARE ADDED FOR:
    • VARIETY: Don’t you wish your student would play at different dynamic levels, rather than the same dynamic for every piece? Our edition gives different dynamic levels, just as any great artist does when performing.
    • SHAPING & PACING:  We have found that our students need help in shaping and pacing long crescendos and decrescendos.
    • BALANCE & VOICING: We bet your students, like ours, often need to be reminded that melodies need to be clearly heard over an accompaniment, or voiced clearly within a chord.
  3. ADDITIONAL PEDALING IS SUGGESTED: Anton Rubenstein said that “the pedal is the soul of the piano,” but how many of your students don’t give it a second or even a first thought? You can’t teach students to hear tasteful pedaling without first giving a good example. We clearly mark where to depress and release the pedal, when and where to use una corda, half pedal and other special pedaling effects. Many times it’s okay and even necessary to add subtle touches of pedal in Baroque and Classical pieces.
  4. TEMPO RANGE AND TEMPO CHANGE: We know you’ll agree that no one tempo is perfect for any piece to be played successfully!  For each piece we give a tempo range (for example quarter=100-120) rather than a specific tempo.  Many teachers have told us they love this feature. We’ve also indicated suggestions for rhythmic freedom that will enhance an artistic performance.
  5. ARTICULATION & ORNAMENTATION: Suggested articulations and realizations for ornaments are given to teach students historically accurate style and taste.

Each book contains 20 pieces from the four main style periods: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary. Additional suggestions for repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries are given for each level. Take a look at the Table of Contents and see the pieces that are in each book:

Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5

Why Study Guides for Each Book

Are you curious as to how to get your students to play Fur Elise musically AND in one tempo? Ever wonder how to teach those long trills in Mozart K.545, or how to play Clair de Lune like a professional?

During workshops and master classes, teachers often ask us questions about how we teach the pieces. Our Study Guides show teachers and students how to PREPARE, PRACTICE and POLISH the pieces in the companion repertoire books. 

Each piece that appears in Classics for the Developing Pianist appears in the Study Guide for that level. For each of the 100 pieces in the collection, we have detailed:

  • BACKGROUND:  Pianists enjoy knowing about the composer and about the character and mood of each piece. Lesson time is saved and pianists are given a sense of history, style, and general context.
  • FEATURES: This section provides a preview of the stylistic and musical elements that bring each piece to life.  Specifics such as texture, phrasing and compositional devices are highlighted to enhance the pianist’s interpretation and emotional projection.  
  • PRELIMINARY ACTIVITIES: Keep music learning fun and positive by anticipating mistakes before they happen. Pencil points provide suggestions for marking the score with ideas that anticipate rhythm and reading issues. Preparatory Exercises anticipate technical problems and suggest short, but useful warm-ups.
  • GENERAL PRACTICE POINTERS: While we suggest slow practice both hands separately (HS) an together (HS) these basic strategies only work when students know what to listen for and how to connect musical intensions with technical approaches. Practicing strong beats only, experimenting with alternate fingerings, and many other suggestions are included.                      
  • CREATIVE PRACTICE TECHNIQUES: Practice is only fun when students feel like they’ve quickly solved each specific problem in a piece. Strategies for fun and efficient practice include Blocking (BL), Groups Backward (GB), Groups Forward (GF),Two for One (2/1), Rhythm Patterns (RP). These are among the technics shown for isolating AND FIXING problem measures in each piece.
  • FINISHING TOUCHES: “What you see is often what you hear.” Students gain confidence in performing when we help them learn opening and closing gestures, lyrics and choreography for reinforcing the character of the music, and additional suggestions for use of rubato, voicing and dynamics are among the many suggestions given.

Watch 8-year-old Lilian Ji work on Part B of “Für Elise” with the help of our preparatory exercises:

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this new series we developed together. We’ve dedicated out lives to helping teachers and students around the world play with greater artistry and expression. Through this repertoire collections and the corresponding study guides, we hope to help you and your students as well!

Repertoire Books:

Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5

Study Guides:

Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Book 4 | Book 5

About the Editors: 

Phyllis Lehrer
Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield

Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer are award winning Piano Professors & Private Teachers who have taught graduate and undergraduate courses in Piano Pedagogy for over 30 years and have taught private students of all ages and levels for over 50 years!!  

Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir

Composer Michael John Trotta has prepared a cheat sheet full of vocal warm-ups to help you get your choir back in the swing of things and sounding better than ever.

Download Michael John Trotta’s Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet here:

more “Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir”

How to Start to Learn Guitar Solos

Guest post by Leo Nguyen, founder of Six String Tips

Playing guitar solos is one of the highest aspirations a guitar player can have. We’ve all heard amazing guitar solos that are so inspiring that they make us want to do whatever it takes to be able to play them, right?

You may be in a situation where you don’t know where to start or how to have a better understanding of how guitar solos work. Keep reading and you will find really cool concepts that will make a difference in how you approach them!

1. What are guitar solos anyway?

To begin with, we can say that guitar solos are instrumental parts, and as such they provide a great opportunity for the guitar to abandon the accompaniment role and be more of a leader.

Guitar solos fulfill a really important role in the song. (No… not to show off, man!) In any song with vocals, the song gets to certain points where a vocal break is needed, noot only from the singer/vocalist’s perspective (to rest), but also for the sake of song construction.

Imagine if you hear a song with no instrumental gaps: it would be terrible! But guitar solos can give those breaks, and keep the song interesting at the same time. That’s why we need to make sure they are well crafted.

There are a great number of different possibilities in solos, but something we know for sure is that guitar solos always need to be aligned with the style of the song.

What kinds of solos are there?

Melodies – Some solos are basically melodies: a melody already used in the song, or a new one, is presented in a highly expressive and embellished way.

Improvisation – There are cases where guitar solo sections are basically left to the interpretation of the player at a specific time. (This mostly happens in live situations.) 

more “How to Start to Learn Guitar Solos”

Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.

Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.

The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.

These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.

“This is the highest quality of academic scholarship, but it is not only that: this edition has enabled me to bring these sonatas to life in a way that has not been possible before – this is historical research in the service of living and breathing music!”

Viktoria Mullova, Violinist

Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:

The Editorial Approach

Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.

These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.

By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.

more “Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard”

First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up

Guest post by Michael Andros

I picked up the guitar at 14, played in a band for 14 years, then quit.

Years later I picked it up again and have been going strong ever since. But the road to guitar greatness is littered with those who gave up.

Hopefully, my experience helps you avoid becoming a casualty on the guitar “battlefield.”

Let’s look at a four-pronged strategy to defeat the biggest causes of quitting — pain, boredom, and discouragement. We will exploit “beginner’s blush,” focus on the mission, explode plateaus, and “learn how to learn.”

How to Exploit “Beginner’s Blush”

The idea here is to harness the almost irrational, dopamine-induced optimism to push through the painful process of earning your “guitar fingers.” 

more “First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up”

Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English

“There is no truth in theory – only in music!”

Frank Sikora

That’s Frank Sikora‘s creed.

Frank Sikora is also in charge of the theory department and the Master’s program in Jazz Composition & Arrangement at the University of the Arts Bern and is the author of a best-selling and widely acclaimed jazz theory book, Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre, that is now available in English: Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach.

While this coincidence might seem puzzling or even contradictory at first, it is exactly what lends Sikora’s approach the nuance and balance to successfully bridge the gap between theory and practice. In Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach, Sikora sets out to mold musicians who can adapt to anything, regardless of how novel and unexpected it may be. To achieve this, he establishes a close relationship between theory, the ear and our instrument, forging a dialogue between theory and spontaneity that helps musicians connect with music both intuitively and analytically.

more “Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English”

A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

Guest post by Curran Mahowald, a choral singer who participated in Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 in May 2020

Eric Whitacre

In the spring of 2020, Eric Whitacre assembled his sixth global virtual choir to premiere his new piece, “Sing Gently.” Following a series of virtual rehearsals led by Whitacre himself, 17,572 singers from 129 countries submitted videos of themselves singing their individual lines.

From there, a team of film editors and audio engineers from 59 Productions and Floating Earth assembled the individual submissions into one final virtual performance:

Here is what it was like to contribute my voice to that video.

more “A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir”

Tips on Practicing Music in the Time of COVID-19

dan-leeman-notestem
Dan Leeman

Guest post by Dan Leeman, a music educator and software consultant from Fargo, North Dakota. He taught middle school band and went on to found the Davies High School band program in 2011. Dan’s new site, notestem.com, combines his love of music, education, and technology. While the site is in its infancy, it will be home to music tools and resources that will be released in the coming months.

 

 

The impacts of Coronavirus and social distancing are being felt all around the world. Music teachers and students alike are wrestling with the effects on the music-making process, both logistically and emotionally.

One of the greatest opportunities during this phase of social distancing is to establish strong practice routines. Here are some tips to help make the most of your practice time. more “Tips on Practicing Music in the Time of COVID-19”

Sightreading. Solved.

FPALogo

Nancy and Randall Faber are pleased to announce the release of their newest digital support tool, the Piano Adventure Sightreading Coach. This innovative technology provides immediate feedback and assessment, making it the perfect companion to the Piano Adventures Sightreading books.

PianoAdventureSightreadingCoach

The Sightreading Coach “listens” to the student play along with the score, and instantly grades rhythm and pitch by highlighting incorrect notes and rhythms. Students can practice the exercise as often as they wish, and upload their best performance to the teacher in between lessons. Teachers can monitor student progress without using valuable lesson time, making at-home practice more accurate and efficient.

more “Sightreading. Solved.”

Bring the Ring!

By Sondra Tucker

I am not by any means a master gardener.  But every spring, I get excited when my local nursery begins to display their colorful annuals and perennials for sale. I shop for old favorites like geraniums and sweet-smelling marigolds, and add new varieties that are different and beautiful.  I fill my car with what I hope will be hardy plants that will grow and blossom, making my yard more beautiful, and I carefully plant, fertilize and water them throughout the summer.

Handbell choirs can be like that, too.  Each new season brings an opportunity to greet old friends and integrate new ringers into your ministry.  Providing the right mix of instruction, inspiration, and music can make your handbell ministry flourish and become an integral part of your church’s music ministry, both within your congregation and out in the community.

What are some essential steps to grow a handbell ministry? more “Bring the Ring!”