February 2014 MTNA e-Journal

Untangling The Tangles: Making Musical Sense Of Bach’s First Duet (BWV 802)
By Sheryl Iott

Learning and performing Bach’s music presents many problems unique to contrapuntal processes. Contrapuntal music is uniquely difficult to memorize. If it becomes learned only in “finger memory” before it is memorized in “mental memory” it is very likely to trip you up later. Analysis provides much useful information in terms of short- and long-term melodic structures and voicing. If a performer understands the harmonic basis of the work and the way the subject statements, key areas and sequences function structurally, discrete, intricate gestures and chromaticism become less of a “problem” both in terms of accurate note-learning and in the ability to memorize securely. If we know where we are within the context of the phrase, and within the context of the piece as a whole, we are better able to generate musical direction and shape, and communicate the logic of the piece better to the listener. This article presents some of these strategies and details what contribution each may make to this process. [Read More]


Behind The Practice Room Door: A Case Study Of Second-Year Piano Majors
By Pamela D. Pike, NCTM

Practicing is arguably one of the most important activities that musicians undertake in preparation for performance and it may be the most important activity in which undergraduate music majors engage. While there is a growing body of research looking at precollege students’ practice habits and the effective, deliberate practice strategies of expert or advanced musicians, there is little data on musicians during their first two years of undergraduate music study, where they develop critical rehearsal skills. This case study sought to explore the practice techniques employed by four sophomore piano performance majors through observation of two practice sessions: an informal practice mid-way through the semester; and, a formal rehearsal in preparation for a performance evaluation. Although not generalizable, common themes included: rehearsal cycles of intense concentration followed by periods of novelty and distraction; and, seven broad practice strategies that were used to greater effect by several of the subjects. Implications include the need for performance faculty to help students: understand why certain practice techniques are effective; understand when to employ specific strategies; understand how to set and define practice objectives; and explore effective structuring of practice time. [Read More]