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Where to start scales, tempo and use of pedal

Scales tempo pedal use

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#1 Howie

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 21:28

Hi

 

I have a few questions ahead of grade 6 which I am taking in the next exam period:

 

Does it matter where on the keyboard you start any given scale or arpeggio?

 

In the pieces, do you lose marks for using the sustain pedal to smooth over a tricky legato phrase if the piece does not require it?

 

Similarly, do you lose marks for playing a piece slower than the stated tempo  - or is it more about playing "musically"?

 

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated as I am teacher-less.

 

Many thanks!


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#2 SingingPython

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 21:44

I'm not really qualified to answer you accurately, but as a starter:  Scales and arpeggios - I think you should be fine if you start anywhere that allows you to play the required range comfortably.  Starting with LH in front of you and going all the way up might look a bit contorted :)

 

Use of pedal - This is a stylistic question I guess, and as far as I understand it it would be appropriate to use the pedal in a musical fashion for anything other than baroque music, regardless of whether it is marked.  I don't know when it really came in, or what the attitude to using it in early classical era music would be - that might be a useful procrastination research topic :)  My son did grade 8 piano last term and we've just had his mark sheet back.  In a Beethoven movement, comment is made that he should have been pedalling more than he was (or wasn't?).  Mind you he still got 27/30 for the piece so he did very well.

 

Stated tempo - sometimes a metronome marking doesn't seem the most musical tempo for a piece.  I'd pay more attention to written indications.  If you are contempating something markedly different to indications, look up several recordings if you can and see what range of speeds they are playing it at.  Then decide if your own musical interpretation seems in line with others!

 

I would think that playing too fast is more likely to cause problems than too slow, on the whole.


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#3 agricola

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 21:53

I have never had an examiner comment on scale starting positions, however for Grade 6 scales I would suggest you try to keep the scale centred on the keyboard as far as possible to avoid the hands being at very different angles when you reach the top.

 

Use of pedal is down to the individual, everyone plays with different tone levels, balance etc so use your own judgement over details.  However, to avoid the sort of comment SingingPython's son got it's a good idea to demonstrate that you can use the pedal effectively if the piece calls for it.

 

ABRSM tempos seem to me to be on the fast side: a piece usually can be played at a range of speeds (some with quite a wide range and others much narrower) but the chosen speed must reflect the spirit of the music.


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#4 EllieD

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 07:45

I'm playing Grade 6 pieces / doing Grade 6 scales too … so on the pieces, I too find a lot of the metronome markings impossibly (for my level) quick, but also, there's been a couple of pieces where I did manage to get some of it to speed but found that it sounded too quick … I wouldn't worry about speed for pieces. I'm aiming for about 80% usually on the quicker pieces, that's just my random guess.

 

Scales definitely doesn't matter, but I would say choose a starting position and then always stick to it so that in an exam you do not have to think where to start … last thing you need is the embarrassment of running out of keyboard!

 

A bit cross about SingingPython's son's examiner comment - pedalling is a matter of musical taste, and I too use the pedal less than many others do because I prefer it that way. No doubt the other pieces demonstrated pedalling ability anyway, I don't think Beethoven always needs so much pedal.

 

As for the specific question, I would try the piece with and without the pedal, and see which you prefer, bearing in mind that neither will be perfect (but then again, perfection doesn't exist.) Which piece is it, BTW, I may have looked at it with my teacher so may be able to give more specific advice if so?


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#5 Latin pianist

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 10:56

I don't think an examiner would comment on lack of pedal unless he thought more would improve the performance so I don't think feeling annoyed is appropriate.
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#6 Ligneo Fistula

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 13:41

Regarding where on the keyboard to start scales, the current syllabus states

Candidates are free to start at any octave, provided the required ranges are covered. For all ‘hands together’ requirements, the hands should be one octave apart, unless otherwise indicated.

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#7 sbhoa

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 18:16

A bit cross about SingingPython's son's examiner comment - pedalling is a matter of musical taste, and I too use the pedal less than many others do because I prefer it that way. No doubt the other pieces demonstrated pedalling ability anyway, I don't think Beethoven always needs so much pedal.

 

Yes, but it's still possible to be wrong when you are learning.

I have teachers who do respect my musical choices but there are times when I have to accept that my choices are wrong. 


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#8 EllieD

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 19:56

True, sbhoa, but I'm assuming there was his teacher's input as well in deciding when and where to use the pedal, hence my thoughts... but obviously the examiner must have liked the performance overall, 27/30 is very good!


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#9 Howie

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Posted 18 September 2018 - 20:42

Thanks very much all for the really useful replies. Very helpful.

 

The piece which has legato sections that I can't do without a bit of pedal is Cruella De Vil  e.g. bars 37 to 39 and possibly also 29 to 32.

 

So it's not a matter of "lack of pedal where it is required" but the other way around i.e. using the pedal to give effect to legato where it is not required.

 

Thanks again.

 

 


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#10 SingingPython

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 04:57

Sorry I didn't mean to divert the thread with my comment about my son's exam report!  My intention was to point out that pedal use is often appropriate without being specified in the printed music.  I'd happily use pedal wherever the musical effect is better with the pedal than without.  Being able to "catch" notes with the pedal to keep a line legato without creating additional sustain between adjacent notes is quite a skill, and well worth developing for what you are describing.  Rapid up and down again at the right moment should do it - try practising a slow 1 octave scale pedalling on every note perhaps.

 

I've looked up the relevant comment on my son's report - it was at the end of several positive remarks, a mention that the textures were "tending to be unsuitably dry, without use of the sustaining pedal". (Beethoven sonata movement)  And yes 27/30 was an excellent mark - he got a distinction with 28/27/26 on his pieces despite being unhappy with scales and sightreading on the day.  Regarding his teacher's input - well, my son was still 12 doing his exam, so there may well have been things his teacher wanted him to do that he continued to do the way he liked best himself ...  (and, my son is a big Bach fan, and also plays organ where he's got good instincts for finger work for articulation which is so different to piano pedalling)


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#11 EllieD

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 08:18

 

The piece which has legato sections that I can't do without a bit of pedal is Cruella De Vil  e.g. bars 37 to 39 and possibly also 29 to 32.

 

.

 

I didn't learn that piece, but have just looked at it and am 100% certain I would use pedal for bars 27-39 - there's legato phrasing in both hands, a climax to a crescendo - I think pedal would sound great there! There's a similar passage in bars 17-18 - does pedal work there? I assume the issue in Bars 29-32 is the jumps in the left hand? That would be a matter of taste, I think, I can definitely see that working well with the pedal too.

 

(BTW, am I being thick or is there a typo in bars 29 and 30, placing "4" over the D and G respectively? Surely 4 needs to go on the E and the A so the hand is in position to do the octave repeated notes that follow on the F's and Bb's? Sorry, as I say, I haven't played it but I have just tried those two bars and I can't see how the suggested fingering works at all based on that limited attempt.)

 

There's probably quite a lot in that piece that could be enhanced with the pedal. It's an arrangement, of course - have you listened to the original and various versions to see how you would prefer it to sound?

 

 

SingingPython - your son sounds very talented and very dedicated! I hope his piano playing continues to go well!


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#12 EllieD

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Posted 19 September 2018 - 12:50

PS, I'm just back from my local music shop, and I had a little look in the ABRSM teacher's guide. Basically, it said students should learn the piece without pedal (which it sounds like you've done), but then sensitive use of pedal will help with clarity of phrasing and joining chords. So I think that endorses your ideas! Good luck in the exam - which are your other pieces?


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#13 agricola

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 07:56

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

(BTW, am I being thick or is there a typo in bars 29 and 30, placing "4" over the D and G respectively? Surely 4 needs to go on the E and the A so the hand is in position to do the octave repeated notes that follow on the F's and Bb's? Sorry, as I say, I haven't played it but I have just tried those two bars and I can't see how the suggested fingering works at all based on that limited attempt.)

 

 

If you have a reasonably large span you can turn onto the octave with 4 and 1 and either do the tremolo with those fingers or change to 5 and 1.  However I agree with you that it seems unnecessarily complicated as you can easily turn and arrive with 5 and 1 on the octaves.


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#14 Howie

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 20:42

Thanks again.

 

My other pieces are "Invention in A minor" (which definitely doesn't require pedal use) and "Scherzo" in which I again struggle with the legato unless I use the pedal (which is not required at the points when I want to use it!).

 

I think there is a typo in the fingering for Cruella de Vil but I tend to use my own anyway and often depart from the suggested!

 

I am a bit of an anarchist which is why I persevere with the piano without a teacher (no disrespect to teachers!).


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#15 EllieD

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Posted 20 September 2018 - 21:14

I did Scherzo with my teacher - isn't it great! There's quite a few places where my teacher and I agreed that using the pedal, even though it isn't specifically written in, is appropriate, so definitely where there's the LH semiquaver passages, and I also added it in bar 21 for the two little asscending LH passages, which works really well through the crescendo.

 

It sounds like you've given a lot of thought to your pieces, and I think you've chosen three with nice contrasting styles. All the best for your exam! 


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