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Lesson Focus: Even Chromatic Scale and Sudden Dynamic Changes

Find the music for this one HERE.

This etude was odd to me. I’m not going to lie, it didn’t feel organic to learn and the end resulting performance didn’t feel like it had a lot of depth. That said, I think that training ourselves to produce clean technique and follow the printed dynamics no matter how much we may disagree with them is a virtuous skill. There isn’t a professional musician out there who has felt a kinship and deep understanding of every piece of music they have ever played. Sometimes the job is just to get the job done and this study fell into that category for me.

The main point of focus I had when learning this study was not to rush the chromatic scale. It is so easy to do. It is easy to just skate over them and then get tripped up when the repeated notes hold you accountable.

STEP 1: Practice the etude without the slurs.

This is the easiest way to gain clarity on just how even your chromatic scale is when compared to the repeated notes in the second half of every bar. Listen with intention as you move from the scale to the repeated note to see if you are fighting the tendency to rush the scale.

STEP 2: Add the slurs back in.

When you return the slurs to their rightful place over the chromatic scale observe carefully the difference between the evenness of both just as you did when you articulated everything. Go back and fourth between these two steps as often as you need to really ground the chromatic lines.

STEP 3: Dynamics

The dynamics of this study are difficult and require a keen sense of concentration and intention to execute. Keep in mind that dynamics are more than just a choice you make in a moment. They rely on your ability to change the mouth cavity, lower lip/jaw position and the angle of air. You cannot just simply add them in at the end because you need to coordinate the movements required to successfully move from one to the other.

Practice SLOWLY and thoughtfully to really ingrain all the coordination needed to bring the dynamics to life. Many of them don’t seem organic and I believe that was Andersen’s intention. This study demands significant control from the player and that is the value. Being able to do anything ask of you, no matter how you feel about it is a huge advantage in many musical situations.

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