Lesson Focus: Understand and play the downbeat
Find the music for Caprice No. 2 HERE.
Firstly, let me say that this study series is meant to be cumulative. If you skipped number one that talked about using a metronome give it a quick read HERE. The metronome needs to be used to learn all 26 of these caprices, not just the first one.
This one is really beautiful and I enjoyed learning it very much! Playing this melody with a clear sense of the pulse is what creates the beautiful ethereal atmosphere rather than a study that just plods along. Let’s begin with the steps to understanding how to play with clear downbeats.
STEP 1: Understand the hierarchy of the big beats.
In ¾ time there are three quarter note beats per bar. It is very important to understand that not all beats are created equal. The strongest beat in the bar is the downbeat. Beats 2 and 3 are equal and they are less than the downbeat. The eighth notes in between the beats even less so.
STEP 2: Find examples where you can make it obvious
- Look throughout the study and find all the bars that start with two quarter notes. This is a really easy spot to practice playing the second quarter note much softer than the first. This helps propel the line forward through the rest instead of stalling out.
- Find all of the eighth note pick-ups in the study. Ensure that you are actually playing the pick up notes softer than the downbeat notes. This helps the listener grab on to the downbeat and provides lightness and motion through the pick up
STEP 3: Play the dynamics while keeping the rhythmic integrity
Practice playing the dynamics as marked while keeping true to the hierarchy of the beats. Dynamics are meant to represent shape and motion. They are not intended to obscure the sense of pulse in the music. It is a challenge to play both the dynamics and the pulse because there is a gray area in between playing dynamics in a literal way and playing dynamics in a way where they are communicated without making the piece sound heavy or plodding. Do your best to master this skill, it will transform your phrasing considerably and is well worth the attention.
My study tips video is especially helpful for understanding this concept as it really helps to hear some examples, check it out below.
Please ask questions or comment below. As I said in a previous post I am delighted to talk flute and would love to engage!
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