Lesson 274

The Wild Horseman: Artistry

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Hello and welcome back. I'm Joseph Hoffman, and in this lesson we'll be discussing tips for playing "The Wild Horseman" with artistry. Remember, artistry means playing in an artistic, expressive, and interesting way. Artistry can make the difference between a boring shrug your shoulders kind of performance, and an exciting performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat. One of the most important aspects of artistry is figuring out the core emotion or mood of the piece. What would you say is the core mood of "The Wild Horseman"? What emotion words come to mind when you think of this piece? Let's write down some ideas in the score. Here are the three emotion words that I thought of for "The Wild Horseman." And you can choose different words, but to me I think of exciting, dangerous, urgent. You can come up with words that feel right to you, but I want you to write two or three emotion words at the top of your score, and pause the video if you want some time to do that, or you can add that in later, but these emotion words will guide us as we're figuring out how we want to play this. The right feeling. We're trying to create a story that feels exciting, dangerous, urgent, or whatever words you choose. Remember, music is all about telling a story, and a story is no fun if it doesn't have any emotion or feeling in it. Next let's talk about the phrasing. Sometimes we find phrase marks in the score, but in this particular case Schumann didn't give us phrases. Phrase markings, he did give us phrases, we just have to figure out the phrase mark all the way to here. This is kind of all one long phrase. Now he might not have put a phrase mark because sometimes a phrase mark implies playing it legato, and he did not want this legato. He wanted it all staccato, but we still want to think of these as phrases, because each phrase needs a climax. Now Schumann made it easy for us to find the climax by giving us these sforzando marks. And sometimes in my music I like to put a star where there's a climax. There's a climax here, sometimes a phrase can have more than one climax. I think there's another one here on this next sforzando. Now within each phrase, we want to know are the notes getting louder or softer? Well, let's look at the direction of the note. See how it the note goes up here, then back down, then it goes up again, then back down, then up again, and so it's almost like the phrase has this kind of shape, right? It's like a little climax, then another little climax, and then a bigger climax, and each one gets taller and taller. Sometimes a phrase just follows the shape of the notes. You can let them get louder and softer as they rise and fall. So I got a little louder here, then drop down, then a little louder there, then drop down, and then loudest right there on that climax. One principle I like to follow when I play is trying to make no two notes in a row ever sound the same. They're always getting louder, softer, louder, softer, loudest. Makes it so much more fun to listen to. Here's the boring way to play: Do you hear how I played every single one of those notes the same loudness? Now if you start a little softer, that gives you room to grow. And see how these notes are coming down, that might be a place to do a decrescendo. And then there's another accent right there, and then the notes can come down again. Last note of the phrase, I usually like to get a little bit softer. So now I'd like you to pause the video and practice just right hand alone. Maybe slow it down a little bit, and really focus on the shape of the notes. Let the notes get louder, a little louder, and then loudest, come down a little bit, loud again, then softer. See, you can tell a really exciting story if you think of the notes always doing something they're never just staying the same. You're turning up the volume, you're bringing the volume back down, and with that we go for this wild ride with the horseman. Pause the video and practice your phrasing with the right hand, keeping the volume always in motion, then press play to go on. Now once you finish that phrase, starting with this pickup note, pick up to measure five, we start a new phrase. This parallel phrase that ends right here. So once again you're going to do rise, rise a little more, and then accent. We can decrescendo a little there, then another accent. And then... Then repeat sign. Now remember, before I said that on a repeat it's nice to do something a little different with the dynamics. Because this song, this piece I should say, is going so quickly, I find that I don't need to change the dynamics. I'm not bored of mezzo forte yet. But if you want to, you could try something a little different on the repeat. Maybe you go to forte, maybe you drop it down to mezzo piano or piano to vary it. Schumann didn't tell us to change the dynamics on the repeat, but as a performer sometimes that's a fun thing to do. It's your choice. I'd like to remind you about the right technique for a good staccato touch. You want to think of a lift in your wrist as you play the staccato, and that helps the staccato to not sound too heavy and forced. You're thinking of almost plucking the sound out of the key. So it requires a flexible wrist. Hold your hand in the air and just kind of let it flop for a minute. Just flop it, and then let that floppiness help you with the staccatos. Try just the first five notes of the B section with your left hand, and see how you how relaxed you can keep your wrist. Give me a nice up wrist on each note. Now you try. Good, pause if you need more practice with that. Now let's try the first four notes. four notes of the right hand in the A section. Watch my wrist. Now your turn. Good, you want to keep your fingers close to the keys. Sometimes when I see students play staccato they like peck at the notes. Keep your fingers close and just use the wrist to make the staccatos. Now you try. Good, and remember to get a good sforzando, think of using gravity to drop. You're going to think of a just a nice fall. You don't have to use force or muscle, you're just using gravity. You're dropping. So the weight of your arm can help you get a good sforzado. Try measure two. Just the first two notes. Give a nice arm drop into those notes. Now you try. Good, now let's put that together. Up, up, up, down. Up, up, up, up, down, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up. I'm saying up to remind you that feeling of lifting up with your wrist. Now pause the video and I'd like you to play it that slowly and think up on all the staccatos and think down on this sforzando. Up, up, up, down, up, up, up, up, Pause to work on that feel of up, up, with the down on the sforzando, then press play to go on. You know that i love practicing with the metronome. I think it's just such a great tool. So I encourage you to find a comfortable speed for you. That was 108. My piano teacher when I was a kid would write four metronome speeds on my music each week. A kind of a slowish speed, maybe a medium slow, then a medium, and then maybe a medium fast. And then the next week she'd make them all a little bit faster and write me four new speeds. You can do something like that, you can choose the speed you're comfortable with, and give yourself the metronome challenge. Try to play with no missed notes and no pauses, and if you succeed, go a little bit faster. If you succeed again, go a little bit faster, and see how fast you can get it. But you're only allowed to move the metronome faster if you have no missed notes and no pauses. That's the metronome challenge. Now, should you play it with the metronome every time? Absolutely not. I don't want you to become married to the metronome. That could become a crutch or something you have to rely on. I want you to also be able to play without the metronome of course, so sometimes every day turn it off, and just see how you do without it. Your goal is to find a performance speed that is true to the piece, which is allegro con brio. That's the tempo indication of our piece. Allegro con brio means fast with energy. Now, your allegro may be different from my allegro. If that's the fastest speed that you feel comfortable playing, that's just fine. Maybe someone else will play it: And someone else will play it: Both are just fine. I want you to find your correct performance speed, which you'll know because it will feel comfortable to you. Yes it's supposed to go fast, but fast can mean different things to different people. Find a speed that you love playing that you can play artistically with great piano posture and with great expression and excitement. One last artistic element I'd like to talk about today is damper pedal. When you're playing staccato, damper pedal usually is a bad idea, because what happens when you hold down the damper pedal? It doesn't sound staccato right? It kind of cancels the ability to play staccato. So we would definitely not want to use damper petal here in measure one, but however with the sforzando we don't have staccato, and what the damper petal can do just for a moment if we put down the damper pedal, it can give us extra resonance and sound which can help that accent pop out even more. But we're going to hold it only down for this 1st beat and part of beat 2, and we're going to lift up so by the time we get to beat 3 our damper pedal is gone otherwise this won't sound staccato. Okay, so listen carefully as you try adding damper pedal to make sure you don't bleed over. You can't put it down too early, and you can't let go of it too late, otherwise it will take away the effect of the staccatos. Okay, so listen: See, adding that damper pedal there can give a little bit of extra sound and resonance on this sforzando. Now you may try that and find that you don't like the sound of that pedal, and that's fine. I'm saying that this is an optional artistic element that you can add, it would be appropriate to add. Part of being an artist is making certain choices as a performer. Like we talked about the choice should you change the dynamics when you do the repeat or not. should you add some damper petal or not. Now these choices need to be done in good taste, and that's why I'm here to help guide your taste, and I'm saying don't add damper pedal on the staccatos, but here hey that's up to you! If you like the sound, then go for it. That's an artistic choice that you get to make, and I would say anywhere else in the piece that has a sforzando and no staccato marking could be an appropriate place so I won't mark all of them just keep an eye out for other places that you could add damper pedal if you choose to. Great job today working on playing Robert Schumann's "Wilder Reiter" opus 68 number 8 with artistry. Once you have this piece mastered and up to your performance tempo, I encourage you to share a performance of "The Wild Horseman" with a friend or family member, or you can share a video of your performance with me online. Thanks as always for watching and learning with me, and happy practicing! Master Monkey! I've done all the training you've asked. What is left for me to become a ninja master? Yes, with breathing. Yes, compassion is power! Quick, yes! Strong, yes! One thing remains? What master? What's my final task to become a master? Endurance? Uh, what's that again? Wait! What's that supposed to mean? Sharky you know what to do? Endurance means doing something hard for a long time. Oh, what are we going to do for a long time? Coloring? No. Maybe do some crafts with pine cones or something? Nope. Well what then? It's something we're going to do all day. All day? All the way down the mountain. What?! It's my favorite thing to do. Wait a minute, is it... You guessed it! What? Running! Not again!