Joe's Blog

I’m back! Revving up your engine. Change of register within a theme. State “A” and state “B”

February 18, 2019

I haven’t blogged for a while.  It’s been a rough month health wise and mood-wise. But here I am again.  I’ve nothing too organized to write about today, so please indulge me is I am desultory in this blog entry.

#1 Revving up your engine for a moment before playing a difficult passage.

When confronted with a rapid passage that that moves in a series of notes of equal duration, let us say eighth notes in the right hand, covering several bars of 4/4 time, it is useful to rev up your engine (like a race car driver awaiting the flag to drop to start the race) and then overflow those four notes as the race begins and you cruise through the passage.  This ‘revving’ up can consist of playing the first four notes over and over again in a loop, until the thrust of your “jet engine” has increased to the amount when you can then let off the breaks and sail down the runway.

#2 Change of register within a theme statement

When a melody is transferred by the composer from one octave range to another, it is important that the pianist “carries” the sound of the note from one octave to the other.  Sorry to mix metaphors, but the listener has to be “led by the hand” from one range to the other, so that the new destination note sounds as alike as possible to the starting note, but for the accident of pitch range.  Usually changing the octave of a note causes a major change in the quality of a note.  But in this case we want to stress the sameness of the note despite its appearance in different ranges on the piano.

We want the listener to feel that it is the same sound that has taken off one outfit and put on a second, while still being able to recognize the person wearing the clothing.

#3 State “A” / State “B”

Solving technical hurdles, simplifying a passage,  If you are not already familiar with the idea of state A and B, see:

and also:

do a ‘search’ on the front page for “practice technique

With my students, I often use the terms “state A” and “state B” when referring, in the first case, to some altered way of playing or approaching a  difficult passage that sheds new insight on its meaning or which unlocks the technical difficulties involved in the passage. State B, which follows upon state A, is playing the passage again, but this time as written in the score (in its performance form).  The idea is that the insight gained in state A carries over into state B.

The important question is what to do after doing state A followed by state B.  Many students will do state A, realize the benefit of doing it as they then play state B, but if they play the passage a second or third time, simply in its state B form, the benefits from having done state A gradually wear off and the passage begins to resume the state it had been in originally.  When the student has completed the cycle state A – state B, she should resist the temptation to try the passage again in state B, almost as if to test whether the benefits previously gained are still showing in state B, or perhaps to try to improve the passage even more.  Unfortunately the benefit from state A though it normally carries over automatically into the first iteration of state B, by simply following state A closely in time, becomes lost and diluted if you simply replay the passage in state B, over and over, without going back in between to state A again.

Always go back to state A, before doing another try at state B, for state A stands to state B as a going back to the well, the fountain, the source of the inspiration and insight that enlightens the passage.

Thus concludes a series of scattered thoughts. Let me know what you think  or have questions about in the comments, and also tell me if you would like me to write about something specific next time. Some health stuff has burdened me, so the posts might be a little scattered. But stay tuned, I’m here.

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