Following on from last week’s post on the floating fermata, I would like to share another practice idea involving the planning of deliberate stops. Instead of an arbitrary length of time at the stop, it can be very helpful to insert a rest of determinate length. The benefit here is that we can think in units, an impulse that spans a measured number of beats. During the rest, we can plan ahead and refocus our mind and muscles before restarting. It is rather difficult to inhibit our natural tendency to want to play on, especially as we are being very exact about the stops. This process gives us enhanced technical control of the passage and will help us to avoid rushing in the finished product. It is also an excellent way to secure the memory (if the practice is done from memory!).

I have chosen as my example the two-voice fugue from the first movement of Bach’s Partita in C minor precisely because it is 62 bars of uninterrupted music where the terrain does not change and where there is no let-up. Here is a snippet from bar 13:

Good fingering is an absolute as far as I’m concerned, one that has been worked out, written in the score and adhered to every time we practise. Regular separate-hand practice is also obvious and indispensable, not only when we are learning the notes but to be returned to regularly thereafter. Assuming we are now ready to bring the playing up to speed, we might experiment imagining a change of time signature from 3/4 to 4/4 and practise with moveable rests, thus:




Here are some variations on this theme:

  • Vary the length of the rest – it might be two beats, or play a whole bar and insert a whole bar’s rest before carrying on.
  • Rather than confining ourselves to playing the music between the barlines, move the barlines in our imagination. Be able to play from the second beat to the end of the next first beat and then insert rests. Do this also from the third beat to the next second beat, and so on.
  • Play 2 bars, then take 2 bars rest. Then 4 bars, etc.

After, we might link the bars together by stopping on the first note over the bar line and, after repeating, begin our next section from the note we stopped on previously. This overlap is very helpful for the joins. Do this in groups of two bars, then four.

Taxing on the brain, and time-consuming? Yes, it is! There’s nothing easy about playing a Bach Partita…

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Practising the Piano eBook Series Part 4

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