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Lesson 11: Easy Etudes and Variations

Congratulations on reaching this exciting stage in your musical journey! It’s time to bring together everything you’ve learned so far and start making music. Before we dive into this lesson, let’s quickly recap the skills you should be comfortable with if you’ve reached this point:

  1. Effective and Deliberate Practice: By now, you’ve learned not just what to practice, but how to practice. You know how to approach each new exercise, tackle mistakes constructively, and overcome challenges without unnecessary frustration. This skill in deliberate practice is crucial — it’s about being mindful and intentional in your practice sessions, ensuring that every minute spent at the piano is productive and geared towards improvement.
  2. Reading the A Minor Scale: You should be confident in reading and playing the first five notes of the A minor scale (A B C D E) with the right hand from the sheet music.
  3. Descending A Minor Scale: Similarly, you should be adept at reading and playing the first five notes downwards in the A minor scale (A G F E D) with the left hand.
  4. Rhythm Mastery: You’re now familiar with whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes and can play them accurately.
  5. Metronome Proficiency: Playing in time with a metronome should be a skill you’re comfortable with.
  6. Counting Aloud: You’ve developed the ability to count aloud while playing, which is crucial for maintaining rhythm.
  7. Fingering and Position: You’re keeping your fingers in the correct positions and following the suggested fingering for each exercise.
  8. Exercise Consistency: You’ve built confidence by going through more than 30 exercises, mastering them to the point of playing each correctly three times in a row.

We’ve achieved a lot together! With these skills in hand, this next step will feel like a breeze and, more importantly, a beautiful musical experience. Now, we truly have the tools to make music.

Approach to the 8 Etudes: Building Skills and Expressiveness

Level 1 (Basic) – Initial Playthrough: Start Simple. Begin by playing each Etude three times. This initial phase is about getting comfortable with the notes and the rhythm.

Level 2 (Solid) – Accuracy Focus: Strive for Precision. Now, concentrate on playing each Etude correctly. Aim for three successful plays without mistakes, but they don’t have to be consecutive. If you make an error, just try again until you achieve three accurate performances. It may look something like this:

Level 3 (Pro) – Consistency Challenge: Aim for Mastery. For a professional touch, play each Etude flawlessly three times in a row. This tests your consistency and mastery, ensuring you’re not just playing the notes but understanding and feeling them.

Note on the Video Title:

You might notice “Esplosivo Songs” at the beginning of the video. While Esplosivo suggests something strong and powerful, these beginner Etudes are more relaxing. However, they are stepping stones towards more dynamic and powerful blues Etudes and improvisations in the future. Each exercise in this curriculum is a building block for more advanced techniques.

Enjoy the journey and give each Etude your best effort and creativity!

Incorporating Musicality and Expression:

Mastering the technical aspects of piano and achieving accuracy in your playthroughs are crucial steps. However, as you progress, it's important to start bringing emotion and expressiveness into your music. If you're quite new to piano, this might seem challenging, but it's a valuable aspect to consider, especially when you find an exercise relatively easy and are looking for more depth.

Here are some tips to enhance the expressiveness of your Etudes:

  1. Play Softly: Gentle playing can lend a subtle and delicate touch to your music. It’s not always about volume; sometimes, softer tones can be more impactful.
  2. Smooth Connections: Aim for your notes to flow seamlessly into one another. This continuity makes your playing sound more polished and professional.
  3. Use the Sustain Pedal: If you're already familiar with the sustain pedal, use it to add richness and resonance to your playing. We'll delve more into pedal techniques in future lessons.
  4. Relax Your Shoulders: A relaxed posture contributes to a more natural and expressive performance. Tension in your body can translate to your playing, so staying relaxed is key.
  5. Correct Fingering: Adhering to the suggested fingerings not only makes playing easier but also ensures smoother transitions between notes.
  6. Ritardando: This term means gradually slowing down the tempo towards the end of a piece or section. It adds a dramatic and emotional effect, providing a sense of closure.
  7. Dynamic Play: Dynamics refer to the volume of the music. Crescendo (gradually getting louder) and diminuendo (gradually getting softer) are techniques that add emotional variation and intensity to your performance.

Remember, these expressive elements are not just about playing notes; they’re about telling a story and conveying feelings through music. Even as a beginner, experimenting with these aspects can greatly enhance your musical experience.