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Tips and Advice on the WTC. (Read 2158 times)

Offline netzow

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Tips and Advice on the WTC.
« on: November 03, 2006, 02:31:47 AM »
I was given my first prelude and fuge by my teacher today. I am looking for advice on playing pieces from the WTC as well as Bach in general. I'm doing No. 2 in E flat from book one. Also if anyone had any suggestions as to which pieces from the WTC to do after this that would be appriciated. Thank you!

Sheet music to download and print: WTC 1 by Bach



Offline pianistimo

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #1 on: November 03, 2006, 03:31:34 AM »
your first?  or is this a test question and you have some answers yourself?

ok. as i see it - i'm fairly similar in thinking to peter williams (jstor's article writer of : 'js bach's well-tempered clavier - a new approach')  in it, he says that hans von buelow is correct in comparing the WTC with the OT of the bible.  he says that it serves musicians an exposition of musical laws.  'the 48 case studies show that law in operation and give enough precendents to satisfy any adventurous musician.  and, this law is not textbook abstraction but a kind of truth given to the talented by the Creator of all things, who expected the musician to use his/her talent to its full potential.'

he cites 'Jesu Juva' (Jesus.  help!) at the head of JS Bach's fair copy of the six organ sonatas - as no idle formula.

now, figuring out exactly what he wanted to convey is a good question for each of the preludes and fugues.  on the surface - we interpret them in terms of 21st century understanding.  but, if we were suddenly whisked back to the times that bach lived - we would realize that he probably filled in at church with many of them - and played some on the organ.  you hear ave maria in the first one.  i would look for technical mastery of some kind with each as well.  legato - staccato - being aware of voicing.   more later - my son is asking for soup after four extractions of wisdom teeth.

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #2 on: November 03, 2006, 03:58:13 AM »

Offline pies

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #3 on: November 03, 2006, 04:58:10 AM »
WTC? World Trade Center?

Offline ada

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #4 on: November 03, 2006, 05:03:32 AM »
comparing the WTC with the OT of the bible. 

pianistimo  :o what?

I come to this thread anticipating useful advice about playing BACH and I get the BIBLE?

I know Bach's music was inspired by religion ... but, really, that's a tenuous bloody link.

 See, this is ambush preaching. You're doing it again.


ps: my sympathies to anyone who's endured the horror of a wisdom tooth extraction.
Bach almost persuades me to be a Christian.
- Roger Fry, quoted in Virginia Woolf

Offline ada

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #5 on: November 03, 2006, 05:23:57 AM »
I made that comment in haste and it was probably a bit unfair, so I apologise and publicly retract it.

That link was very interesting. who is Iori Fujita? Is she a physicist?
Bach almost persuades me to be a Christian.
- Roger Fry, quoted in Virginia Woolf

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #6 on: November 03, 2006, 12:30:32 PM »
dear ada,

i'm not exactly sure who she is either, but i think she's on a good track.  when you get to the bottom of the page on the link - click 'previous page' - and she'll also explain 'the secret of temperament' - giving a listen to the 'equal' 'pure' and 'mixed.'

although i may have, distatefully to you, compared the WTC to the ot.  she, on the otherhand, makes it unavoidably a continuous link from past music history.  although i wouldn't fight with her - for my own opinion - i think the idea of 'western' music and temperament sort of goes together.  although poulenc and others did go back to gregorian chant (so she does have a point).  there are fewer composers who experimented with this - and tried to input them into tonal music.  basically by not using the tonal center as a 'center' and moving the center while keeping a key.  twould still be a key and not a mode (unless you fudged with the tuning of the piano).

another thing i happened to think was that i learned most all the ornamentation for bach from the first pages of the WTC of the schirmer edition.  BUT, with dolmetch online - you can type 'ornamentation' and get specific with naming each ornament.  even today, i have to look up the names of some because i forget.  very very good to MEMORIZE these.  put them on the wall behind your piano and just look at them for a year.  the term and the way each was played in the baroque era. 

also, pay attention to the little notes about editions and decide whether you care.  at least you made a decision.




Offline sharon_f

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #7 on: November 03, 2006, 12:46:10 PM »
I'm doing No. 2 in E flat from book one.

Isn't No. 2 in C minor?
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.
Albert Schweitzer

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #8 on: November 03, 2006, 12:46:42 PM »
I also have a question about WTC #1 in C.

I learned the prelude.  A friend suggested it might be an easy offertory piece for church, played fairly slowly.  My edition suggests MM 112 as tempo, which sounds too fast to my ears, but I just about have it up to that.  In church it sounds good about 60.  

But the fugue looks intimidatingly difficult.  Is there a good way to approach learning it?  Skeletonize it somehow, as I think Bernhard does with some of his students?  I'm not sure where to start.  

I think the Bach-Gonoud Ave Maria is just the same thing only in G instead of C.  
Tim

Offline netzow

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #9 on: November 03, 2006, 02:50:01 PM »
Isn't No. 2 in C minor?
Yes you are right , Sorry my bad.

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #10 on: November 03, 2006, 03:16:42 PM »
i knew something was wrong when i looked at the queston.  shame on me!  anyways, i concur with timothy42b about the tempo for the ave maria.  it does seem more 'cleanly' played at a slower tempo.  i heard someone on the radio play this fantastically , but didn't get their name. 

about the C major fugue - i'm going over to west chester uni probably this weekend to find a better fingering than the one i have.  it can get mind boggling in places - and, this is just the first fugue.  i've worked about four altogether - and most i can sightread - but to perform - you have to have all the fingering worked out.  also, to color pencil all the voices and the various things related to a fugal understanding of the work.  i found a good site awhile back that explained fugues really well.  have to look again.  analyzing them does help to understand - but has rarely helped me memorize.  usually playing it over and over and over with BOTH hands (once you take each voice apart at the beginning for understanding purposes) helps.

Offline dnephi

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #11 on: November 03, 2006, 07:50:21 PM »


I don't think that oe would necessarily connect with the Old Testament, because the Old Testament has some moments of incredible boredom.  Have you managed to read it?  There are some parts, like parts of numbers, for example, which even extremely hardcore people have trouble with.

You read King James Version?

Daniel
For us musicians, the music of Beethoven is the pillar of fire and cloud of mist which guided the Israelites through the desert.  (Roughly quoted, Franz Liszt.)

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #12 on: November 03, 2006, 08:02:31 PM »
i tend to like the 'new american standard bible' (thomas nelson publishers) because it comes in large print.  the reader's digest does too, now.  how about any of stephen hawkings books?  he should consider it , you know.  it's already hard enough to read.

i think he's cool.  maybe sort of full of too many ideas at once - and therefore somewhat like my son who's been mumbling a lot since he had four wisdom teeth removed - but in general i think the guy is neat.  certainly doesn't take anything forgranted - but then again - the God that made us is a big mistake to overlook.

i think all will work out well for him in the end, though.  he's had some incredible difficulties in his life - and always been so positive.  i think he's a good example for anyone with a 'handicap' as it certainly has never been a point he's dwelt upon for long.  who knows, he might be in charge of the handicapped access turned 'speedway' in heaven.

ps i've never been called a hardcore person in my life.  this is the first time.  well, as i see it - numbers has the story about balaam's ass.  and if that isn't enough.  balaam himself. 

Offline netzow

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #13 on: November 17, 2006, 05:01:21 AM »
NASV? I personally prefer the English Standard Version. I don't know what it is with fingering on music, it seems to be wrong a large portion of the time. That of course is just me i.e my hands my idea's of what fingering should be. I believe the Old testament thing came from bernhard. At least that's where I first saw it. He calls the WTC the Old testament, the Beethoven Sonata's  the New testemant and the Chopin Etudes Revelation. BTW interesting link pianistimo.

Offline lagin

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #14 on: November 19, 2006, 02:58:32 AM »
With Bach's fugues, my teacher and I always write all the fingerings in (yes, every note).  That way, we can pick up from any place without our fingers getting tangled.  Then we memorize each voice separately after highlighting them in different colors.  My teacher says their memorized when it becomes "boring" as is boringly easy to play them without the music.  (If you just highlight the middle one (s), it automatically separates the top and bottom).  Oh, we also highlight the subject/answer entries as well, so it's easy to find and bring out. 

After the ground work is done, and the voices memorized separately (with the finger you would use if you were playing the other voices at the same time - so the middle voices are often played with mainly thumbs and 2nd fingers!), then after that, with the music, we learn all the various voice combinations - 1 and 2, 1 and 3, 1 and 4 (if applicable), 2 and 3, ect.  The memory of the individual voices is to be still maintained while doing this. 

Then we write a number (aka. memory point) on every other bar.  Then we memorize it so, she can call a number, and I will start from that place without the music.  Ultimately, you can play the piece through by memory, and skip every other bar.  And if you lose your place you can pick up from every other bar, as well.  We make sure we can still play the voices separately from memory, and use the music to do voice pairs still, as well.  It's useless to do the first steps if you aren't going to maintain them.

Afterwards, we add shaping and such. 

1. highlight/finger numbers
2. voices separate - memorize (or at the very, very least, learn them like this with the music, but memorizing is better)
3. voice pairs with the music
4. all together with memory points
5. shaping

It's brutal, but it works well!  I didn't believe it until I tried it and saw/heard/experienced the difference.

Some benefits:

1. You don't need to be paranoid about losing your place, or only having muscle/finger memory.
2.  The first steps make memorizing it as a whole much easier.
3.  Your playing will sound so much more horizontal rather than vertical by familiarizing yourself thoroughly with the "lines" and their various combinations before putting it together.
4.  It makes the individual voices stick out more.  I actually learned 2 fugues just straight up like a regular pieces and did fine with them (thankfully never lost my place in performance, though every performance was an anxiety attack).  But this one I did memorized voices separately first (that's the most pain staking step because it's seems like it takes forever, but it's worth it and goes quicker after it's over), and I also practiced the voices in combinations.  Then I played the first page for my mom, who doesn't play piano, and she remarked that, that was a "different way of playing."  When I questioned her about it, she said she could hear all different voices playing together.  I'd played fugues for her before, but this is the first one that I did this way, and the first one that got that comment.  I hadn't even put any shaping into it yet, but was just playing the notes all the same volume/dynamic, and she still picked up on it.  That was actually my prelude (we did it the same way as it is "fugue like" in character. 
5.  a trained ear can pick up on these extras (especially helpful when playing in an audition or for an examiner)
6.  you really feel like you understand the work


And also, a good tip I was given when playing the voices in pairs - when you have the subject and other material (two lines), happening in the same hand, and you're trying to make the subject louder than the other half of your hand, practice "ghosting" the other notes (not actually pressing them down, but still aligning your fingers over them as if you were going to play them along with the other notes/subject).  That way, when you do add them quietly in, it will be so much easier to hear the subject, and so much easier to not play the other stuff too loud.  I didn't do this last time and got nailed on my exam.  They said the inner voice subjects were brought out, but not as much as they could be.  This time, I'm going to practice it ghosting so I don't lose marks!

Christians aren't perfect; just forgiven.

Offline netzow

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Re: Tips and Advice on the WTC.
«Reply #15 on: November 26, 2006, 01:52:19 AM »
With Bach's fugues, my teacher and I always write all the fingerings in (yes, every note).  That way, we can pick up from any place without our fingers getting tangled.  Then we memorize each voice separately after highlighting them in different colors.  My teacher says their memorized when it becomes "boring" as is boringly easy to play them without the music.  (If you just highlight the middle one (s), it automatically separates the top and bottom).  Oh, we also highlight the subject/answer entries as well, so it's easy to find and bring out. 

After the ground work is done, and the voices memorized separately (with the finger you would use if you were playing the other voices at the same time - so the middle voices are often played with mainly thumbs and 2nd fingers!), then after that, with the music, we learn all the various voice combinations - 1 and 2, 1 and 3, 1 and 4 (if applicable), 2 and 3, ect.  The memory of the individual voices is to be still maintained while doing this. 

Then we write a number (aka. memory point) on every other bar.  Then we memorize it so, she can call a number, and I will start from that place without the music.  Ultimately, you can play the piece through by memory, and skip every other bar.  And if you lose your place you can pick up from every other bar, as well.  We make sure we can still play the voices separately from memory, and use the music to do voice pairs still, as well.  It's useless to do the first steps if you aren't going to maintain them.

Afterwards, we add shaping and such. 

1. highlight/finger numbers
2. voices separate - memorize (or at the very, very least, learn them like this with the music, but memorizing is better)
3. voice pairs with the music
4. all together with memory points
5. shaping

It's brutal, but it works well!  I didn't believe it until I tried it and saw/heard/experienced the difference.

Some benefits:

1. You don't need to be paranoid about losing your place, or only having muscle/finger memory.
2.  The first steps make memorizing it as a whole much easier.
3.  Your playing will sound so much more horizontal rather than vertical by familiarizing yourself thoroughly with the "lines" and their various combinations before putting it together.
4.  It makes the individual voices stick out more.  I actually learned 2 fugues just straight up like a regular pieces and did fine with them (thankfully never lost my place in performance, though every performance was an anxiety attack).  But this one I did memorized voices separately first (that's the most pain staking step because it's seems like it takes forever, but it's worth it and goes quicker after it's over), and I also practiced the voices in combinations.  Then I played the first page for my mom, who doesn't play piano, and she remarked that, that was a "different way of playing."  When I questioned her about it, she said she could hear all different voices playing together.  I'd played fugues for her before, but this is the first one that I did this way, and the first one that got that comment.  I hadn't even put any shaping into it yet, but was just playing the notes all the same volume/dynamic, and she still picked up on it.  That was actually my prelude (we did it the same way as it is "fugue like" in character. 
5.  a trained ear can pick up on these extras (especially helpful when playing in an audition or for an examiner)
6.  you really feel like you understand the work


And also, a good tip I was given when playing the voices in pairs - when you have the subject and other material (two lines), happening in the same hand, and you're trying to make the subject louder than the other half of your hand, practice "ghosting" the other notes (not actually pressing them down, but still aligning your fingers over them as if you were going to play them along with the other notes/subject).  That way, when you do add them quietly in, it will be so much easier to hear the subject, and so much easier to not play the other stuff too loud.  I didn't do this last time and got nailed on my exam.  They said the inner voice subjects were brought out, but not as much as they could be.  This time, I'm going to practice it ghosting so I don't lose marks!



Thank you for sharing that information lagin. It is appreciated!