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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Allegro

Allegro is another dessert song and a popular favorite. Made memorable in the movie, "Music of the Heart," which starred Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn (for more information about the movie, click here), the song was composed by Dr. Suzuki and is usually included on every student recital. Here is a brief summary of the skills and opportunities presented by this song:


The notes of Allegro
Left Hand Skills
  • The song is in A major and uses the same close 2-3 finger pattern as the Twinkle Variations.
  • The song provides additional exercise work between the first and third fingers.
  • The song introduces the popping second finger in measures 2, 6, 11, and 14.
  • The song teaches the student to keep the left hand upright in correct position while playing on the E string.
  • The song challenges the student to coordinate between the left and right hands in measures 2, 6, and 14.
Right Hand Skills
    • Each part of the song begins with a down bow. Since each phrase also ends on a down bow, the student must use the "circle bow" skill first introduced in Song of the Wind. Note that the student has worked hard until now on various bowing direction skills:
      • The student learned how to start with a down bow in the Twinkle variations.
      • The student learned how to do down bow circles in Song of the Wind.
      • The student learned how to use an up bow to begin a new phrase after ending on an up bow in O Come Little Children.
    • Now the student "relearns" how to do down bow circles.
    • The song challenges the student to use the right and left hands together with an emphasis on "bow-driven" movement in measures 2, 6, and 14.
    • The song uses staccato notes, which I gradually lengthen over time as the child progresses in technique until the student can execute a full bow martelé.
    • The song contrasts the staccato/martelé bowing with legato bowing in the third phrase.
    Other Teaching Points
      • The song is in A-A-B-A form.
      • The song introduces some music vocabulary in Italian:
        • There is a fermata after the last note in phrase three.
        • There is a ritard and an a tempo.
        • The song title Allegro invites a discussion about tempos and how they are designated. For example, allegro is the Italian word for cheerful or happy. When I ask a student how fast or slow a person might walk when they were feeling cheerful or happy, the student usually tells me that the person would walk quickly. Then I explain that we use this word to indicate that we want a fast or brisk tempo, something lively and cheerful.
      • The song provides a great opportunity for students to learn leadership skills in an ensemble setting. I use the song to teach how to start an ensemble, how to lead a ritard, and how to begin anew in tempo after a ritard and fermata.
      How I Teach the Song
        • I teach the popping finger in measure 2:
          • The student sets the F# on the E string and super glues the finger in place for the next few notes.
          • The student plays the second finger G#.
          • The student plays the third finger high A while popping off the second finger at the same time.
          •  The student plays F#.
          • The student plays two E strings.
        • We repeat the popping finger segment several times.
          • This is a good "500 club" spot, so we start keeping trace on a special chart.
          • Some practice partners will roll their eyes at the suggestion of doing another 500 club spot so close on the heels of the jumping fingers 500 club spot in Song of the Wind, but the students usually like this if I offer up a good prize as an incentive. Usually a certificate is enough. I offer to let the child take home the certificate or to allow me to hang it up on the studio wall for everyone to see. So far, all my 500 club students have opted to let me hang the certificate on the studio wall.
          • Parents: please remember that your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) will set the tone for your practice sessions with your child. Why not head in the more positive direction?
        • We work on coordinating the left and right hands together. The popping finger spot is actually driven by the bow movement, although most students slow the bow down to accommodate the finger speed, which is ponderous initially. I play a game here with students to help them to learn how to focus on the "bow-driven" aspect of the fingering place.
          • I ask the student to play "hot dog, hot dog, Mississippi hot dog" on the E string.
          • Then I ask the student to play the popping finger place.
          • We repeat this alternation of open E string rhythm with the fingering until the student finally can play the Allegro fingering in the correct tempo.
        • The student usually figures out much of the song on their own once I give them a starting note. In most cases, the student has figured out the starting note for him- or herself.
        • The song includes the finger tangle spot from Aunt Rhody. For more information about the finger tangle, read the post here.
        • The song is rather repetitious, with the first, second, and fourth phrases being the same in general.
        • The third phrase includes the popping finger section but in an augmented form (for the nonmusician, augmented form means that the passage is slowed down in rhythm; in this case the rhythm is slowed down by half).
        • I introduce the fermata and ritard once the student has figured out the third phrase notes.
        Group Class Ideas
        • I use the song to teach ensemble skills. The down bow circles at the beginning of each phrase are great places to wait and see if students are paying attention to the leader.
        • At the fermata, I ask my students to freeze and not "move a muscle." Then as the leader slowly prepares the next down bow, the students copy that slow motion and get ready for the final phrase.
          • I used to threaten to charge someone $500 if they moved at the "freeze point." I had one parent who was playing guitar forget to wait, but that was an easy exemption, since the "freeze" command only applied to students.
          • Then one recital, a mom came forward to take a picture of her son as he played. He was on the end of the front row, and she closed in for a great close-up shot. Unfortunately, she snapped the flash at the "freeze point," and the flash startled the poor little kid into jumping right ahead into the last phrase. I could not charge the child for the parent's silly error.
          • And now, folks, perhaps you understand why your local symphony and ballet announce that there are to be NO PICTURES during a performance. It can be dangerous if you flash at a dancer, and it is very distracting to a musician to have a blinding light shone into the eyes while playing. Turn off the flash!
        Problems Later (or just later)
        • The popping finger stops popping off.
        • The student forgets the down bow circles.
        • The superglue finger needs more glue to keep it in place.
        • Students forget the ritard or the fermata.
        • The bowing gets pretty messy as the student works to increase the bow length.
        • Sometimes the student forgets the staccato or martelé bowing and plays everything legato.
        • The student forgets to set up the a tempo after the fermata in a way that will lead other students to join in the ensemble.
        We love to play Allegro. Students are very eager to learn this catchy tune. I use the song to end group recitals.

        Happy Teaching!

        2 comments:

        1. Ah, this post is so useful, and just in time too, as my son just got assigned this song at lesson yesterday and had refused to try it out in the studio during lesson, so the teacher just played it for him while he did some hide-and-seek around. He played it at home though.

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        2. i do piano lessons and my teacher would let me learn there. it is a very good song.

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