Sunday, May 17, 2015

Practice Tips for Waltz in Suzuki Book 2

      Almost half way through book 2, and we have been working on using the entire bow, playing at the tip, frog and then back at the middle. What will happen in Waltz by Johannes Brahms? Here are some practice tips as you work through it:

The Waltz is in the key of G Major, 1 sharp - F#. This means there is a low 2nd finger on the A and E string for most of the piece like #1, 3-4, but watch out for accidentals.

This piece is comprised of two sections, but I break it up in three parts. Part 1 is line 1 and 2. Part 2 is lines 3 and 4, ending with measure 15. Part 3 is line 4-5, starting with measure 16.

Counting Rhythm.
In Book 1 we encountered this combination of notes in Happy Farmer but with a hook bow. It is easy to rush the dotted-quarter note, so we need to count carefully that it is held for 1.5 beats. And since the notes are slurred, it is the left hand that will execute the rhythm, so we need to be firm and exact with our fingers.
This group of notes that repeats constantly throughout the piece is the following: dotted-quarter, eighth, eighth, eighth. The way that we count this group of notes is "1-2" for the dotted quarter,  "&-3-&" for the eighth notes.

Up until now we have had a few slurs crossing strings, but now we have it for the entire piece. Notice that for all the measure with slurs two notes are down-bow and two notes are up-bow, with the up-bow for less beats.

Ever since Book 1 we have been experimenting with playing piano, soft, and even in the Musette and Long, Long Ago we have some piano, but now the majority of the piece is played piano. The way to do this is to play at the middle of the bow and use a small amount of bow playing smoothly.

The Long Crescendo. 
In part 2 there is a poco crescendo, which starts from piano and grows all the way to forte. We learn to use more and more bow over the course of an entire line.

Grace Notes.
In book 1, Minuet No. 3 and the Gavotte we had grace notes to play. Now, we are going to play two grace notes in a row. These notes are played quickly before the 2nd beat in measures 3 and 18.

1. Practice the bow exercises with whole bow, tip and frog.

2. Practice the shifting exercises on page 29 with smooth slurs.

3. Count and clap the notes to work on the rhythm. Refer above for the counting on most of the measures. We want to have a steady tempo with notes that flow with the beat.

4. Play the piece with no slurs to be consistent in the rhythm, since it is easy to rush the eighth notes.

5. Next,  play all the slurs as hook bow, stopping between each note just like in Chorus from Judas Maccabeus and Hunter's Chorus. It is good to practice with gentle and soft hook bows so that we can already get used to the quiet and gentle feel of the piece.

6. Regarding the poco crescendo in the second line, one way for us to think about it is to use a little more bow every measure until we are using as much bow as possible for the forte.

7. In part 1, measure 3, there are two grace notes after the quarter note. These three notes are slurred followed by a two-note hook bow. Practice just the three-note slur, to get the grace to be quick flicks of the fingers. Next, play the three-note slur, then stop, prepare the two-note hook then play them. Do it this way at least 3 times every time you practice the piece.

8. Once the piece is comfortably played in 1st position we are ready to start adding 3rd position. Page 31 has some suggestions on where to add 3rd position. Get comfortable with these spots then expand and add more 3rd position.

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