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 wri ...