Notespinner

Thoughts on composing, teaching and performing music, by Fergus Black

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Dance Music

Students need help with their dancing. Being able to identify a waltz (oom-pah-pah), or a Sarabande (slow, in three, and 'sits down' on the second beat) from their distinctive rhythms and texture is useful in itself, but there is an added bonus.

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Schubert's An Silvia in English translation

You might be asking yourself why I would need to post a translation of a very famous song. Well, if you look this song up in an CD booklet or book of translations, almost all of them give the Shakespeare original. But that isn't right.

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YouTube piano resources

There was a while when I felt obliged to make recordings for students, to help them learn new pieces. But now, there is a wealth of professional material available through YouTube

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Get it Right!

I wrote some piano music recently, and had my students perform it in a concert. Gosh! I was much more enthusiastic about drawing their attention to the details of the score than I usually am.

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The unaccompanied traditional song

The ABRSM requires a traditional unaccompanied song at all grades. Here are some thoughts: more to follow, but for now: Narrative, Range, Difficulty - and where do you find folk songs anyway?

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Is the backing track too fast?

You want to practise for your exam. You take out the CD from the envelope at the back of the book, but horror of horrors, it goes at the speed of light, and you can't keep up.

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Teaching Young Beginners

There seems to be a view that 8 years old is a good age to begin piano lessons: by that age children have sufficient mental and physical capacity, etc. But is it true?

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High Speed Beginner Piano Tutor

This book for beginners at the piano is a breath of fresh air. It is fun, amusing, and unlike any other beginner tutor I know of.

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Fioriture in Chopin’s Nocturnes

Old editions have their uses. The old Novello edition of Chopin Nocturnes has a very helpful table of the fioriture (fast florid passages) in the Chopin Nocturnes, with an interpretation by Frank Merrick of how to play them.

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Piano Fingering

I constantly re-iterate "Pitch, Rhythm, Fingering" when students start to learn a new piece: it helps their learning. Pitch and Rhythm alone are not enough.

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Practising the piano on holiday

"I couldn't practise, because there wasn't a piano where we were on holiday." My response would be "And your point is?". I get mystified looks. If they had at least taken their sheet music, they would have been able to do something.

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Is counting natural?

Is counting natural? My experience tells me not! Many young children have to be taught to hear the pulse of music, and most of us have had to learn to keep a steady pulse. One needs to practise, sometimes, with a metronome.

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