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Practice Procedures – part 2: Absolute Left and Absolute Right (Versus Relative Left and Right)

March 30, 2017

There are the left and right ends of the keyboard which are the fixed boundaries of the keyboard as whole.  But there are also equally important boundaries marking out the ‘space’ between the lowest note being currently played on the keyboard and the highest.  Unlike the first boundaries, which are forever fixed and immutable, the second set of boundaries may vary from moment to moment in terms of where they are on the keyboard.  But they are always felt as constant in our body’s and our mind’s sense of holding between the two hands a fixed range of pitches.
Psychologically and physically these temporary,  yet ‘absolute’, boundaries are as important, or more important where the ends of the physical keyboard are located.   At all moments as time passes in our performance of a piece, we should not loose the sense that we are holding in our hands a ‘block’ of pitches.  Whatever is the lowest pitch at a given moment in the piece has an ‘absolute value’.  The same for the highest current pitch.

To emphasize the difference between the two types of boundaries, let us say that we are playing a single chord, made up of: c3-g3-e4-c5*.  If we follow this with the chord b2-g3-g5-d5, in one sense it may be correct to say that the “lowest note has moved” from C to B, but it is just as important to feel that absolute lower boundary of the pitches, and all that that implies, retains its identity though now it is B, and that.  That C has lost its distinction as the lowest pitch.

B is now absolutely equal to the past C, in having the same absolute value and importance as lowest note.   When we move from c3 to b2, we do not have the sense of stretching the pitch space in which we are.  we do not feel that we have moved the lower boundary of the pitch space down a minor second.  It is like the ritual of succession between kings. (“C the third is dead, long live B the second”).

If we keep this in our mind and in our bodies at all times, it gives us, at every moment, two firm sides to a pitch space that we hold physically ‘between’ our hands.  And within which we feel as physically secure and oriented as whatever new notes become the absolute bottom and absolute top of the pitches.

* for this and other blog entries, c4 is middle C.  b3 is the note just below middle C.  c3 is the note one octave below middle C.  b4 the note almost an octave above middle c.  c5 the note one octave above middle C.  The suffix ‘s’ after a letter of the musical alphabet means sharp, ‘x’ means double sharp, ‘f’ means flat and ‘ff’ means double flat.   From this one should be able to extrapolate the meanings of all other symbols used to identify in abbreviation any note on the keyboard. 



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