Updated: Aug 5
This week, we will explore sight reading a classical piano piece, "Das Ballet", or The Ballet.
It is a good classical repertoire for the beginning pianist with some experience of reading notes and hands together playing, who would like to try a little more challenge coordinating hands together playing.
This piece was composed by German pianist, teacher and composer, Daniel Gottlob Turk during the mid-18th century.
To give you an idea of difficulty level, this piece is categorized as a Level 1 (Grade 1) piece in music conservatory syllabuses.
Turk wrote many piano pieces for children, and his students during his lifetime. These little works, no longer than a page long, are charming character pieces. His pedagogical compositions for keyboard are comparable to those of C. P. E. Bach.
Many teachers, including myself, use these musical pieces extensively for quick studies, and sight reading excercises.
In this piece, you will explore the following concepts:
Reading in the key of D Major (2 sharps),
Articulating two-note phrases across the barline,
Reading of ledger line notes in the middle position, and
Balancing of the two hands
Before attempting to read the piece, I highly recommend working first on a couple of technique excercises by rote (no reading).
Watch the following video and learn the excercise by rote to work the specific technique required to execute this piece to its fullest potential.
If you are familiar with D Major scales, you may also do a warm-up scale practice, hands separate, 1 - 2 octaves at a comfortable tempo. You can use a metronome, but be sure to practice counting as well,"1+ 2+", in this case using 8th note rhythms.
For scales, I recommend a variation practice working a slightly detached touch, or staccato touch.
As always, practice working your dynamic phrasing, i.e. start soft then crescendo on ascending, decresendo on the descent.
While you listen to a performance of this piece, try to tap, clap or sway your body left and right to the base beat of this piece, which is in 2/4 time. I like to think of myself as the metronome when doing this step!
Before diving into the fine motor movement of our fingers, it is important to first experience the gross motor movements associated with the timing of sounds.
While it may feel silly to some, I assure you this is a foundational step that will greatly aid in learning to read any piece.
Some questions to ask yourself while listening to this piece:
How many times does the first theme repeat? When did it change?
What is the form of the piece?
How would you describe the movement of sounds to a ballerina dancing?
Reading & Practice Tips
Now that you are familiar with the rhythm and melody by ear, it's time to get into the specifics of reading the score.
If you have not explored reading pieces in D Major, with 2 sharps, I encourage you to pencil circle all the notes that have to be "sharpened" in pitch.
For example, in the first phrase, mm. 1 - 4, you will find that there are Fs in each hand that you'll need to be aware of.
Next, visually identify locations where notes are moving by melodic intervals of a 3rd or 4th, You can draw a short arrow showing the movement between those notes.