The unique music and life of Satie
Among piano students, the most renowned composers that people choose to play in concerts, auditions, exams or just for pleasure are Frederic Chopin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig Van Beethoven, or the most advanced or piano tutors that already have certain pianistic level; we have Franz Liszt to show off the skills of the pianists that want to undertake the technical challenge that represents playing his pieces.
But have you heard of Satie?
Firstly, French composers are very well known, but usually, people recognise names as Claude Debussy or Maurice Ravel; but there was one among them that surely made a personal mark in the world of music, and this Erik Satie.
As Laura comments in her article, “Satie was most commonly known as a French composer who represented the first definite break with 19th-century French Romanticism. He stepped out of the norm to compose more experimental pieces, such as Trois Gnossiennes in 1890, which didn’t have bar lines or key signatures notated in the score.”
He became famous by the hand of John Cage, back in the 1960s when he was re-discovered by his original and unpredictable style of music, with a hint of absurdity that the composer Cage found irresistible to his style and vision of the music; in this way, the music of Satie became very popular, and it is hugely played worldwide thanks to the fact that it is a music that can be approached by any intermediate pianist, especially for his simple rhythms and beautiful and simple melodic lines.
He will definitively remain as the weird one among the composers, defying the musical Status Quo in Paris.
His most famous pieces will remain in the pianists’ hands forever, such the cases are Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes, which have even strange comments on the music sheet unrelated to the technical interpretation of the piece.
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Christmas Songs for Piano
Click in the link below to access to the full article and free Christmas songs’ scores:
Every year happens the same thing, Christmas comes, and we start to feel the “Christmasy” feeling all around us. Why? Well, if you step outside your home, I am pretty sure you will start listening to all the Christmas Carols and songs in every shop near you, so it is rather difficult not to feel impregnated with the Christmas feel.
For piano students comes in the form of wanting to practise and play the seasonal songs, and piano tutors should be aware that two months in advance, they should incorporate a piece in their repertoire, at least one for fun.
Lots of music has been written through the centuries to commemorate this important day for the Christian religion.
To start with, the most famous ones “Silent Night”, “Jingle Bells” and “We wish you a Merry Christmas”, who doesn’t know these songs? They have been around for many years, and they became famous in several countries, even continents!
Then we have the songs that were not originally composed for Christmas, such as “Walking in the Air” or “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.
On the Germanic side, we definitively can count on “O Christmas Tree”, a beloved folk song not related to Christmas. Still, it became associated with it in the middle of the 19th century.
Finally, on this specific list, we have “Joy to the World”, which was an adaptation from a Psalm written by Isaac Watts.
Then we have “Away in a Manger”, a famous Carol was written by Martin Luther from his “Luther’s Cradle Song” book; However, some historians believe he was not the composer; we can safely say that it has gained popularity through the years.
Finally, the most endearing Carol of all: “Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer”. This song refers to Santa Claus main reindeer Rudolph that uses his red note to light the way and fly and slay at night so Santa can deliver all the gifts.
The Story Before the Piano
Most probably, you are one of the many piano students who seek to know everything about the instrument you spent so much time with, playing pieces, practicing your scales, improvising or even composing new music.
The story of the Piano takes many centuries, even we can say dates from almost one thousand years. Almost everyone knows that the predecessor of the modern Piano is the harpsichord. This fact is known by all music and piano teachers alike.
Still, not everyone knows about the true origins of the Piano.
By understanding it, we will be able to appreciate even more the complexity and evolution necessary to bring this beautiful instrument to reality.
It began with the hammered Dulcimer in Medieval times. This instrument, surprisingly, is still performed today!
The Spinnet follows the line of the Dulcimer. This instrument was not very loud but had similar mechanics to the Piano, but was mainly used to compose music, not to perform it.
Lastly, we have the most famous of the predecessors: the harpsichord. This instrument earned fame and glory during the 1600s and was still used for many years during the 1700s after the Piano came to be.
It is said that there was one harpsichord in every Manor house or every Aristocrat household, and it was widespread to have musical gatherings around it.
When the Piano became famous, it slowly but surely won its position, and the harpsichord was left to be a historical instrument but stopped to be the instrument to have at people’s homes.
Today the Piano is a symbol of music; it is used to perform music from Classical to Pop, Rock, Blues, even Bebop!
It is one of the most versatile instruments that ever existed. For composers, it is convenient as it has 88 keys, which represent all the available sounds of an orchestra!
Tempo and Dynamic Markings: A useful guide for piano tutors
Guide on Tempo Markings
Guide on Dynamics
All piano students have come to the same issue in their training: at some point in their piano lessons, they encounter strange notations that are not just the notes or the values learned at the beginning of their practice: mf, ff, words like “adagio”, “presto”, we find them everywhere in music scores. But why?
Very simple, music is not just pitch and duration; we also have to consider how loud or soft we play the notes and how fast or slow the speed is.
For all the piano teachers out there, this article written by Anthony Elward comes in very handy to expedite the doubts their student may have.
Let us separate the terms first.
The dynamic markings refer to how soft or loud the notes should be played and all the gradients in between.
2. The speed is determined by the “tempo” (in Italian, it means literally “time”). Also, the character of the piece is shown at the beginning by words like “con fuoco” (with fire), “appassionato” (passionate) or “energico” (with energy). Notice that all the words are in the Italian language; this is just a tradition. Surprisingly, even today, composers worldwide use this language to describe the dynamics and tempo in their pieces.
The words to be learned are many and some quite difficult to pronounce for non-Latin speakers, but as long as they know their meaning and how to translate them into their performance, that is more than enough.
The most subjective terms are the piece’s character, but it gives us a rough idea of what the composer wants us to portray.
Also, we must take into account that before 1820, all the metronomic marks cannot be followed to the letter as the metronome had not been invented yet, that is the reason composers wrote markings as “Andante” (at a walking speed), or “Lento” (slow).