Playing with Expression
Found in: Musicality, Pedaling, Technique
Brianna S., Arizona
I have a student who is playing all of the right notes for her songs, but is lacking in musical expression of those songs. For example, she plays a “lullaby” type song the same way she plays the blues. And it sounds really good on the blues, but not so much on the lullabys. How do you teach this to your students. I tried demonstrating both ways to her, really exaggerating the difference, but this has not seemed to help. Any other ideas?
This student also has trouble with tricky rhythms, such as Alma Mater, or Fluff Pie. I have tried having her play along with the audio recordings for this, but are there any other ideas out there? Playing with the audio helps a little, but not very much. She just doesn’t seem to “get” it, and I am not sure how to help her.
Ginny B., California
I have been dealing with these two issues a lot lately.
For starters Alma Blues Rhythm is a tricky rhythm for some students. I have the student review the rhythmic pattern and clap it out on their lap and in the air multiple times until I’m convinced they have it. I also sing “Here’s humpty dumpty” each time they play. Often they will play it perfectly at their lesson but then will revert back to the old rhythm during the week. So I ask the parent to keep right on top their practice so make sure they don’t revert back to the incorrect way.
For the musical expression part we discuss the qualities of lullaby asking the students how would they play this song to put a baby asleep. If they play it correctly (sweetly, softly, smoothly and slowly) I pretend to be asleep and start snoring. Somehow this makes an impression and they have it. For the blues I ask the student to press into the keys to the bottom of the pads. I ask them to play strong (the musical term is forte – pronounced fortay). Often they will play faster when I ask them to play stronger so I monitor them closely. Sometimes it takes several weeks of reminding but with the help of their coach at home they eventually get it.