P5 - B3

Tone quality, sound production and articulation

  • Play with a focused, clear tone:
    • using a dynamic range appropriate to the musical requirements, taking into account the acoustics
    • controlling changes in dynamics with confidence
    • defining the phrases and overall structure of the music through dynamic shaping and rhythmic flexibility
    • controlling the dynamic levels of each hand with confidence
    • controlling the tone quality when negotiating demanding movements around the keyboard
    • using a range of accent and emphasis appropriate to the style
    • exercising tonal control between the hands and within one hand in polyphonic textures
    • controlling the tonal balance within a chord or a succession of chords
  • Play with more variety of non-legato and legato articulation at a variety of tempi
  • Use a variety of pedal techniques,including half–pedalling and pedalling in advance
  • Adjust various aspects of playing technique according to the instrument and venue independently

Demonstrate Impressionist repertoire to allow for greater exploration of a range of pedalling techniques (vibrato pedalling and half-pedalling, use of the una corda) and for a more refined approach to tonal balance. Encourage learners to consider tonal subtleties, and the increasingly subtle relationship between notation and implied pedalling.

Learners should be encouraged to listen independently to a wide range of piano, orchestral and operatic repertoire at this stage, e.g. Debussy preludes and Suite Bergamasque; Ravel Sonatine; Grovlez L’Almanach aux Images; Brahms intermezzos; Chopin nocturnes, preludes and mazurkas.

Ask learners to prepare lyrical 19th- and 20th-century repertoire for developing cantabile control, tonal refinement and rubato.

Encourage learners to mould phrases of a sustained nature carefully and sensitively, paying particular attention to the challenge of control after long notes.

Use audio recordings to consider tone and pedalling in different acoustics.

Encourage learners to listen to Three Rondos on Folk Tunes and Mikrokosmos Volumes 5 and 6 by Bartok, and Études and Polkas by Martinu.

Ask learners to listen to, and prepare, 20th- and 21st-century pieces of a predominantly rhythmic nature, and to develop a range of accentuation, e.g. tenuto, varying degrees of staccato, strength of accent.

Encourage learners to discover various strategies for creating legato effects in passages where legato fingering may not be an option.

In most cases, the sustaining pedal will have an important but not exclusive role to play.

Show learners a range of practice strategies for dealing with fugal textures, e.g. practising with various combinations of voices, practising with exaggerated differences of tone and articulation.

After listening together to suitable examples, ask learners to consider how articulation and legato phrasing are approached on different instruments, and what these consciously applied expressive qualities contribute to the overall effect of the music, e.g. making a dance movement seem more animated or a melodic piece more song-like. Explore ways for learners to recreate what they have heard in these examples in their own playing.

Listening to other instruments’ means of expression can broaden learners’ musical awareness. Some instruments have a more natural capacity for legato, i.e. through playing several notes in one bow or breath, and non-legato, i.e. through changing bow or tonguing between notes. Internalising different phrasing characteristics through vocal imitation is a good place to start, followed by playing short passages by ear.

With learners, choose an item of repertoire in which articulations, slurs and phrase marks are specified in the text, e.g. a 20th- or 21st-century piece. Ask them to internalise and apply these expressive qualities from the start of the learning process, using the appropriate techniques.

Next, select together an item of repertoire in which articulations, slurs and phrase marks are not specified, e.g. a baroque dance. From the start of the learning process, ask learners to incorporate these expressive qualities, using their knowledge and understanding of musical style, etc., and combining the appropriate techniques with an awareness of phrasing and structure.

When performing on an unfamiliar piano and/or in a new venue, encourage learners to independently identify how to adjust their playing according to the instrument and acoustics.

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