Once a musical work has been selected (see my post for yesterday on selecting repertoire) the next step in the process of preparing it for performance is to analyze. The focus of the analysis should be constrained to what will be useful to the student, and to what interests the student in the work. Students should be aware of all the musical qualities the composer used, that they can be properly interpreted and performed. Included should be use of dynamics, tempo, articulation, phrasing, rhythm, and melodic contour.
I have been writing lately about the methods of Jaques-Dalcroze, and so I shall draw upon his writings again here. Jaques-Dalcroze wrote thirteen rules of nuance and phrasing. In as much as we are considering dynamics, tempo, articulation, phrasing, rhythm, pitch and melodic contour, they will serve our purpose well here, and provide a clear framework for students to follow for their analyses. The students should look for the condition described in each rule, and then apply the method of nuance or phrasing prescribed.
- All ascending melodies (with exceptions) must be sung with a crescendo and all descending melodies (with exceptions) must be sung with a diminuendo.
- Not all melodies are nuanced with the same intensity. When a passage contains very accented rhythms, the nuances of crescendo and decrescendo should be weaker than if the rhythm were less accented.
- If a note in an ascending line is prolonged, it should be part of the overall crescendo.
- When a note is repeated several times in a row, it must be accompanied by a crescendo.
- When a note is repeated several times in a row, preceding the original melody, the crescendo should be accompanied by a rallentando.
- Whenever a rhythmic and melodic group is repeated two times in a row, you must breathe between the two and perform the repetition with a different nuance than the first was performed.
- Any melodic reprise which is prepared must be accompanied by a rallentatndo.
- When a melody ends by a series of stepwise notes of the same duration, thse last notes should be slightly staccato. If these preceded the return of the melody, they should be accompanied by a rallentando.
- Whenever a link (“a link is a series of notes of the same duration”) leads to the reprise of a melody, where the first notes are twice as long, the rallentando of the last notes of the link must be large enough that these notes become twice their original length. Whenever a theme is reprised by a link made up of shorter notes than the theme itself, do not breathe until after the first or second notes of the theme.
- Whenever a ascending series of equal-duration notes is encountered amid notes of unequal values, these ascending notes must be strongly accented. Whenever a link leads to the reprise of a powerful theme, sing the link with a crescendo, even if the link is descending! (Exception to first rule of nuance.)
- Whenever a link leads to the reprise of a gentle theme, sing the link with a descrescendo, even if the link is ascending! (Exception to first rule of nuance.)
- Any series of notes isolated in measures containing silences that end a piece must be interpreted with a rallentando of the silences.
- When two notes of the same duration but different scale degrees are tied together, the notes are always performed STRONG-weak, even if the second note falls on a strong (or stronger) beat than the first. (This rule derives from the second rule of phrasing: that the last note of a phrase should be performed more softly.) When the second note falls on a stronger beat (a), it should be performed more softly. When the second note falls on a weaker beat (b), the first note should instead be performed louder with a natural relaxation into the second note.
Jaques-Dalcroze (1906). Les Gammes et Les Tonalites, Le Phrase et Les Nuances, volume 1, translated by Gregory Ristow.