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#2103898 - 06/17/13 03:23 PM question about first movement of moonlight sonata
dcb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 189
Hi Everyone. I'm working on the first movement of moonlight sonata and want to hear if anyone has any helpful advice for how to bring the melody out in the piece. There are many parts where the right hand is playing an octave or close to an octave and you have to let the high note ring out louder than the low note.

I've been practicing this with some success but am wondering how others address this technical aspect. Is it wrong to just play the top note?

-Dave

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#2103923 - 06/17/13 04:00 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1166
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Hi DCB,

Yes, you have to play all the notes, not just the top ones.

How does your teacher tell you to practice the voicing?
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2103925 - 06/17/13 04:04 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
dcb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 189
My teacher didn't come up with the idea of not playing the bottom notes...that was my idea. He's been telling me to exaggerate the top note and make sure my hands are very relaxed and listen very carefully for the melody to stand out. It's been working pretty well, but I was thinking there may be some other interesting advice about such a commonly played piece.

Thanks.

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#2103933 - 06/17/13 04:14 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
More weight to the outside of the hand and a faster push to that side as well.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#2103937 - 06/17/13 04:19 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1166
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Yes, but does your teacher give you any idea about how to exaggerate the top note? It's not a technique that is easily written about.

Dorothy Taubman had a very interesting way of teaching voicing to her students. One of the things she used to say in master class was to play the top note with your finger, and the other notes with your arm. She also used to have her students play the top note separately, producing a full, ringing sound. Then she would have the student play the other notes separately with a quieter, more transparent sound. Once the two sounds could be produced consistently and successfully with their separate fingers, then she had the student play all the fingers together trying to produce their respective colors. If it didn't work right away, she would have the student alternate "separate" and "together" until the voicing was very pronounced.

Hope that helps!
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2104350 - 06/18/13 11:59 AM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
You've received some good advice here. Voicing is a matter of listening. When your mental ear can here the melody you wish to bring out, you've mastered step one. Weighting of the hand, ie, letting more weight fall on the melody fingers can help, if the melody is always played with outside fingers.

FWIW, I start voicing as soon as the student is playing with both hands. I usually use a singer on the stage to provide the student with a mental image. For example, you have a lead singer and 2 or 3 backup singers. How do you make sure your audience can hear the lead singer? No, you can't turn up their mic, you've got to do something else. Move the backup singers way back on the stage until they don't drown out the lead singer. And example like this usually works, but not always.

Good luck.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2104714 - 06/19/13 02:14 AM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5277
Loc: Orange County, CA
Try playing the R.H. 5th finger straight and somewhat stiff/rigid, so that there's a more efficient and direct transfer of weight into the key. If this causes any tension, then decrease the rigidity of the 5th finger. At this tempo, though, it really should not be a problem to play with a stiff 5th finger.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2104793 - 06/19/13 09:18 AM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10749
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I have my student play the melody note a comfortable mezzo forte to forte, while pretending to play the other notes. They need to put their fingers over the correct keys and press down, but not enough to actually produce sound in the lower notes. Once they do this a few times within a given phrase, then they are allowed to actually sound the lower notes, but the top note remains loud. Then we adjust from there based on how loud the overall dynamic marking of the phrase is. This generally works very well.


Edited by Morodiene (06/19/13 09:18 AM)
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2104807 - 06/19/13 10:02 AM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
dcb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 189
These are great suggestions...thank you so much!

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#2104884 - 06/19/13 01:22 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: laguna_greg]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
Yes, but does your teacher give you any idea about how to exaggerate the top note? It's not a technique that is easily written about.

Dorothy Taubman had a very interesting way of teaching voicing to her students. One of the things she used to say in master class was to play the top note with your finger, and the other notes with your arm. She also used to have her students play the top note separately, producing a full, ringing sound. Then she would have the student play the other notes separately with a quieter, more transparent sound. Once the two sounds could be produced consistently and successfully with their separate fingers, then she had the student play all the fingers together trying to produce their respective colors. If it didn't work right away, she would have the student alternate "separate" and "together" until the voicing was very pronounced.

Hope that helps!


How refreshing to hear someone quote Taubman. I thought I was the only one who heard her lectures—all of them many times—and participated in her master classes. (My teacher, after I finished my MS, was Golandsky.) I like the idea of finger vs arm when voicing to the outside of the hand. I've noticed a problem over the years, though, with students falling into the trap of disconnecting the melody note from the supporting chord. I like to use the imagery of the melody finger digging slightly deeper than the other fingers as if making indentations in wet sand. This, of course, is just another way of talking about distributing the weight.
_________________________
Concert Pianist, University Professor, Private Teacher in Los Angeles
Blog: http://www.pianoteacherlosangeles.com/

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#2104899 - 06/19/13 01:57 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 657
It's never wrong to simplify a piece if the result becomes more musical.

It's the requirement in the first movement of Moonlight to maintain different dynamic levels within the same hand that I consider this a very difficult piece. Quite simply, you must work pretty hard to learn how to do that.

It's a very important skill. The fingers that face the center of the keyboard are very strong. Fingers 4 and 5 are very weak. But those usually are the fingers playing your melody and your deep bass. These are the lines you generally want to emphasize.

Some things to try:

* rotate your right hand clockwise a bit. Now your pinky will tend to hit the keyboard a little deeper
* articulate actively with your pinky

These are just ways to approach the sound and the feel. As you start to hear it and feel it, you eventually can just start to think of stressing the finger in question and you'll be able to bring out the line. Be careful not to overdo the articulation, as you can do things mechanically there that aren't too good for your hands.
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2104919 - 06/19/13 02:52 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2173
Loc: Huntington Beach, CA
Think steel and butter. The melody finger is steel, the others are butter. Humm the melody in your head. And listen.
_________________________
Gary Schenk

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#2107622 - 06/25/13 03:50 AM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Beethoven Moonlight Sonata ... 1st movement in C# minor
(A copy can be found on IMSLP)

Must play ALL the notes ... any “souped up” version is a mockery
of the splendour of this Sonata ... the tricky bit occurs in
the RH treble (1st movt. ... last quarter of m5)
where Beethoven throws in an off-beat slick repeat of the E,

PS A lot of rot has been written about the fanciful name “Moonlight”...
according to my info the romantic name is “pure caprice”.

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#2108481 - 06/26/13 03:12 PM Re: question about first movement of moonlight sonata [Re: dcb]
Scordatura Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/12
Posts: 70
Loc: Suffolk, UK
Good to read such a diversity of solidly grounded advice from different perspectives.

For me, the key factor in this movement - and in all cases involving dynamically layered voicing - is being able to clearly audiate and precisely time every sound that I mean to be audible (held-down voices along with actually struck voices) in my mind in advance of playing it. Without that I simply don't experience the kinaesthetic sensation of control needed to achieve the layering consistently across a succession of audible events (ie played notes).

If you're unfamiliar with this article by Vladimir Horowitz, it's worth reading, being largely concerned with physical voicing-technique - and he has quite a lot to say about the fifth fingers.

One point of physical technique not so far mentioned - perhaps obvious but terribly easy to overlook: bear in mind that once the top voice has been sounded, the more powerful arm-weight and/or muscular fixation needed to strike the key at the required dynamic level is no longer needed to keep that key depressed and can be reduced to the minimum required for it. This reduction will reduce unwanted tension in the other fingers and allow increased control for all their key-striking while the top voice remains sustained. (The same principle applies to any other finger that's required to sustain its key while others strike.)

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