The next session was given by the fabulous Marvin Blickenstaff:
Performance Practice Made Easy: Rules of Thumb for the Piano Student
As teachers, we are always interested in fostering independence in our students — perhaps most importantly in the aspect of interpretation (making music musical and artistic). This is an elusive thing to teach. It’s about getting beyond the notes. It’s taking the dots on the page and transforming them into something that can change our lives.
Mr. Blickenstaff then told us about the Repertoire Classes he holds each week with his private students. Students must announce their piece, the composer, and give some kind of explanation as to why the composer wrote the piece. The students listening must take notes on what the performing student said, and also write down how the piece made them feel.
After the performance of the piece, Mr. Blickenstaff gives the performing student feedback on the piece, and teaches some Rules of Thumb regarding interpretation. All of the students keep notes of these Rules of Thumb that are encountered in the pieces performed.
Rules of Thumb are valuable because it helps bring about the transfer of information from one situation to another. It helps students become independent in making musical decisions.
Mr. Blickenstaff then went through some pieces with us using an overhead projector, pointing out some Rules of Thumb as we went.
Our notes were titled, “Rules of Thumb for the Pianist,” and there were a number of subtitles in our notes, such as “Curved Lines,” “The Dynamics of a Phrase,” and “The Dynamics of Rhythm,” for a few examples. The handout Mr. Blickenstaff gave us provided many, many Rules of Thumb for us to consider. I will include only a selection of them below, just to give you an idea:
Under the subtitle, “Curved Lines:”
- Phrases end with a breath.
- The last note of a phrase is the quietest.
- The peak is often found on the long note of a phrase.
- Never play two notes ina row at the same level.
- Two-note slurs are always louder then softer.
- In a two-measure phrase, the emphasis is uaually the downbeat of the second measure.
- Short note values crescendo to long note values. Short note values are what make the music go!
- The I chord in second inversion is the moment of greatest harmonic tension.
- Ritarando at the end of large sections in order to show the form.
- 10ths take longer than 6ths.