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#2140108 - 08/28/13 08:38 AM How much tempo variance can there be in a piece?
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
I have been working on Quanta Qualia by Patrick Hawes since PW Recital 29 played by Daren.

I can play the eighth note middle section only at 45 bpm. That speed is too slow for the first section of quarter notes. I can play the first section at about 60. I don't think I can ever get the middle section up to that speed. The chords and arpegiated left hand is quite difficult.

How much tempo variation can I get away with? If I get close to 52 on the middle section and keep the first part at 60, how would that be?

I would keep all of it slow, but the first section demands a little more movement and speed.

I love the piece and have practiced it since I first heard it in Recital 29.

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#2140120 - 08/28/13 09:05 AM Re: How much tempo variance can there be in a piece? [Re: joangolfing]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 13302
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I think it's always best to play a piece at a tempo you can actually play it at. What is the tempo marking (not metronome marking, but words like Allegro or Andante)?

If, for example, it is Allegro, which means quick and lively, then it should just sound quick and lively. You can do this at various metronome markings. I also think that one can play something too fast, and while it may sound exciting, you lose a lot of the nuances in the music - it's harder for the listener to hear the harmonies in some cases. So finding the right tempo for you is a balance between wanting to honor what the composer requests, what you are capable of technically, and what is musically appealing to you. And never performing beyond the tempo you can do well without injury.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#2140130 - 08/28/13 09:26 AM Re: How much tempo variance can there be in a piece? [Re: joangolfing]
Sam S Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/07
Posts: 1744
Loc: Georgia, USA
This is music, so there's not going to be a formula that says "10% difference is fine, but 12% is too much". Play it musically. If there is a tempo difference between sections that's probably fine if you convince us that it makes sense musically to do it that way, even if other performers play it at one tempo throughout.


#2140140 - 08/28/13 09:47 AM Re: How much tempo variance can there be in a piece? [Re: joangolfing]
wouter79 Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 4141
As Sam says, play it musically.

I think it's best to play the piece at the tempo that you like to HEAR it. Of course, if you can't play it at that speed, you either slow it down (but only if that still sounds musically ok), have to practice more (preferred solution) or if it's really impossible, hack a way to the right speed, eg by simplification. Or maybe then the piece is too difficult for you at this point.

#2140145 - 08/28/13 09:51 AM Re: How much tempo variance can there be in a piece? [Re: joangolfing]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 12714
Loc: Canada
Playing one part faster because it's easier, and another part slower because you can't play it faster, doesn't work well. If you have a musical reason, then it's fine. I'm learning how to do that right now with my Grieg piece, because that's how the greats like Richter, Andsnes etc. make it come alive. I had a struggle, though, because I didn't really understand it and in the beginning I'd lose the pulse and sections just sounded like someone bumbling through before learning to count. (wry face). Some variation makes music come alive.

#2140231 - 08/28/13 12:29 PM Re: How much tempo variance can there be in a piece? [Re: joangolfing]
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/06
Posts: 667
Loc: Iowa
The tempo set by Patrick Hawes was quarter note=78
The note he wrote next to that was, "With a sense of longing but not too slowly."
I have simplified the chords in the faster section, practiced small sections, and will continue to work on the piece. I may need to spend a few years on it like I do my Bach pieces, not expecting too much progress, but just keep working away on it.
I love all your comments and respect your musical knowledge. The ability to make music come alive is an exciting prospect.


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