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In this lesson you will practise moving up the keyboard by step. A ‘step’ in music has a particular meaning which is easier to understand in relation to music notation. For now, however, you can think of a step as “movement from one key on the keyboard to a neighbouring key”. While this definition doesn’t explain precisely what a 'step' is in music, it will serve as an adequate definition for now. The patterns in this lesson are built on a short melodic motif that ascends by step. By playing the music in this lesson and the next lesson, “Descending by Step”, you should be able to build up a decent understanding of what moving by step means on the piano.
The music in this lesson is for Solo Cello, Solo Viola, Strings, and Piano. There is a long introduction in this piece in which you don’t play. While you might think that, since this is a course on piano playing, you should be playing all the time, I want you to experience something of what it is like playing in a larger ensemble, like an orchestra. It is also the case that sometimes the music just calls for some instruments to be silent. If I had included a piano part for you to play throughout this piece, your entry into the music would not have the same effect.
Step 1. Listen to the lesson music. There is a central theme here that appears in different forms throughout the piece. See if you can hear it and notice what is different each time it appears.
Step 2. Next, listen the the patterns you will play. There are several patterns here and some of them are very similar. What is important to notice is how the count changes throughout, sometimes requiring you to count three beats, sometimes four. There is even a bar towards the end with just one beat. Listen carefully to the percussion in this track several times to make sure you are counting correctly. You may find it helpful to write down the beats in whatever way makes sense to you. This will also help you remember the order of the different patterns.
Step 3. Now find the notes of the pattern on the keyboard and play along to the percussion accompaniment.
Step 4. This time the pattern is accompanied by a piano. It is especially important to count as you listen (and eventually play along) to this track. Without the percussion to mark out the beats for you, there are moments when keeping time will be entirely up to you. Counting is also something you just need to get used to doing as a pianist. All good musicians count as they play and with enough practice it will become an instinctive part of your playing.
Step 5. Play along now with the piano accompaniment.
Step 6. Now listen to the section of the lesson music in which you will play, minus the solo viola. Here, your part is joined with the string section and the other piano. Imagine your part as the lead solo in this version of the lesson music. What is it saying? What mood, or feeling, or story is it communicating? There is no correct answer here but this is a useful exercise to help you understand the music more deeply, which will ultimately affect how well you are able to play it.
Step 7. Play your part now along with this version of the lesson music. Try to bring out in your playing what you imagined in step 6.
Step 8. Finally, play along with the full version of the lesson music.