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The best way to play "Fur Elise" and "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. (Read 7335 times)

Offline vladimirdounin

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Preamble from November 18, 2006:

In July 2005 I informed members of this forum that I am using some very simple signs and numbers to indicate: which note in the score should be played louder (stressed), and which note should be softened.

I am using unknown to the majority of musicians yet  “micro-dynamics alphabet”. It consists (interesting coincidence) of 7 letters or (notes, if this name is better).
Exactly like 7 notes of our scale and 7 colors of the rainbow.
These letters – notes are : -3’, -2’, -1’, 0’, +1’, +2’, +3’.
I print them: +1’,+2’,+3’ above and -1’, -2’, -3’ below each note that I want to explain to my student (how exactly it should be played).

PLEASE, NOTE: I do it only AFTER my student heard from me a few versions of the same section played by me live, and TOOK HIS/HER (not my) DECISION: which version he/she loves most. Each of them has the full right to modify anything in my performance (and in notation of this version, of course). I only lead them to THEIR IDEAL by the shortest and most reliable way. Do not tell anybody to me, that I am forcing my students to play MY way! I do not want to hear this statement again and again.


These letters are completely enough to describe ANY events of ANY  line of notes (melody, tenor, bass – no matter).

0’ is Normal, Regular Note for given section of music. This means that 0’ in ff, mP or pp section are absolutely different according to indications of dynamics. However, gradations between 0’ and +1’, or 0” and -1’ are still the same, just one degree.
1’ = One Degree of Difference in Notes Intensity is THE SMALLEST DIFFERENCE THAT WE CAN FEEL.

Why only 7 degrees, not 23 or 56 then? The reason is that I never heard from any DECENT pianist bigger difference than these 7 degrees. Beyond these 7 will be the music that is “not for gentlemen” but for wild people.   

I and all my students, including very beginners, can tell this about any note in the score, even looking at the score very first time, without playing. It is possible, because all the “stresses” and “softenings” of the notes are not accidental or arbitrary. They are determined by the logic of musical line (horizontal and vertical) in accordance with some very simple and logical rules.

This technique gives wonderful results instantly. The most difficult students immediately start to play beautifully and get reports about their “exceptional musicality” , etc. Because EVERYONE can play as the best professionals do (the piece he/she is able to play, of course), if  he/she knows: what exactly these professionals do, how exactly they play these notes?

I was expecting that in this way I will receive a very important for any musician opportunity: to exchange our thoughts and opinions regarding our beloved art. I was expecting that many musicians of the planet will open their “professional secrets” and all of us will benefit from this new knowledge about our “kitchen”: how exactly do we “cook” our music?

  However, many of my opponents just stated something like that I am not a human but just a machine, if I know “temperature” of each note. ("Temperature" - this  is another, shorter name of Fine Indication Of Relative Note Intensity. Please, do not confuse  with “dynamics”: "dynamics" is about “total volume” of all notes played at the given time).

Now I have made some recordings in MP3 format. I invite all my supporters and opponents to listen to my “Fur Elise”, "My Way"  and “Russian – Japanese – Canadian folk song” in "Audition Room".
I do not think that they are perfect, of course,  but everyone can judge, if I really do play like machine or not.

If somebody will be interested – I can post here “temperature” – Fine Indication Of each Note Relative Intensity for this popular piece. Everyone will be able to play this song exactly the same way or better (my students always play better than myself, because I can correct them, and they do not correct me. Do it, please, I will appreciate!)

I invite my opponents to post their interpretation of “Fur Elise”. In this way it will be clearer: whose conception is more “machine like”.

With my best wishes,

Vladimir Dounin.

November 18. 2006





My performing and teaching work is based on accurate indication of Note Strength. Without playing, just at the first time looking at any score any my student or choir member (my other work – chorus master at opera) can say about each note whether one should be played louder or softer in relation to the previous and the following note, and by how much.

It is extremely important knowledge because the right or wrong stressing and softening of notes is the only difference between the best and the worst pianist in the world. All of us play the same notes on the same beat, and speed (in spite of mass obsession) eventually does not matter (listen to Horowitz).

We just follow some simple and easy “Dynamics Rules” and it saves a lot of time and energy. In ONE lesson time I can teach anybody to play the piece (s/he is able to play, of course) as the best professionals play. All the students of any level receive inevitably excellent marks (“for exceptional musicality”) at any exam or competition, as soon as they have learned 25-30 basic rules. Quite often mere following these rules improves technique dramatically (this happened recently to my student in 2nd Scherzo by Chopin, she amazed adjudicators with “ultra fine finger work” in the C# minor episode, at the beginning she could not play the 2nd voice at all). A majority of these rules are well known and followed by all good musicians, but the problem is that the rules have never been published altogether in one book, and they are still scattered in many sources. Therefore it is very important and useful to exchange our knowledge with other musicians.   

I am gathering and testing these rules for more than 40 years (test considered “passed” if nobody can show me the music, where this rule is not applicable). Unfortunately, after I moved to America, I can not find here anybody with whom I can discuss my concerns regarding dynamics, phrasing, articulation etc. People around me say that they have never heard about any musical rules and laws, instead, they just “self-express themselves in the way they want and feel” (could you imagine – they do it in the music of Bach or Mozart?). Judging from my experience as an adjudicator, this “self-expression” instead of knowledge of basics of music is a real problem for teaching nowadays. Sometimes I even hear the proud words: “I think in phrases in music and I teach to think in phrases. I do not care what they are made of”. Would you like to learn English from a teacher who knows only phrases without understanding of words? Will you learn phrasebook instead of dictionary? Music is just one of human’s languages, rules are the same.

 The Scientific Acoustic Research Laboratory of Moscow Conservatory does not work at this time, and I do not know which Western software can be used to display or print (in Disklavier 124 degrees scale) Note Strength of each particular note. This is a very effective and convenient way to discover “artistic secrets” of your favourite pianists, if visual information about timing and strength of each note in their recording is available. (Fortunately, almost everything in Piano Repertoire is recorded today digitally by “Disklavier” and the best performers, so we have a lot to choose from).

I will be very glad to hear from or about somebody who knows “what musical phrases are made of” and wants to share or exchange with me useful rules or can suggest the best ways to perform. I will appreciate the information regarding software as well.

Today my concern is in the very first bars of “For Elise” by Beethoven. Which notes of the melody E-D#-E-D#-E-B-D-C-A   C-E-A-B  E-G#-B-C should be stressed, played stronger than regular ones (you can mark them with “+” or ”++ “or “+++” depending on Note Strength), which should be softened (mark can be “-“, “- - “ , or “---“)  and which notes are just regular (not stressed, not softened – no mark needed or mark “0” can be used).

For example, E+,  D# , E+++, D#--, E+, B---, D+, C-, A+++ ( I hope that nobody plays like this, of course. It is just an ugly example).

Another my concern is in the very first bars of “Moonlight sonata” by Beethoven.
Which notes of the melody G# G#G#   G#G#G#   A G#F# B E       should be stressed, played stronger than regular ones?
(Stressed notes can be marked with “+” or ”++ “or “+++”, the more pluses – the louder).

Which ones should be softened (marks can be “-“, “- - “ , or “---“) ?

Which notes are just regular (not stressed, not softened – no mark needed or mark “0” can be used)? The differences between # and ##, between - and -- , between  0 and #   equal 1 degree. (One degree is THE SMALLEST difference in volume between two notes that we can hear).

For example, G#, G#--, G#++ ,      G#+, G#, G+++    A,  G#++,  F#++, B, E+++ ( I hope that nobody plays like this, of course).

I will appreciate any opinion expressed.  Vladimir.




piano sheet music of Für Elise

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