Musical solutions to technical problems

The concept of solving technical problems by applying musical solutions (dynamics, rubato, expression) is not new. Very often, focusing on a musical goal makes the technique challenges fade by comparison. But, how does one decide on the particular musical approach that will be the key to the technique in a passage?

One method is to determine the technical need, then build a musical concept around it. In this example (Bordeaux, Premier Solo), there is both a tendency to rush at the top of the figure, and a challenging fingering pattern E-flat, F-sharp, G, A-flat, G, E-flat:


Our solution is to take time at the top of the figure, around the A-flat. Musically, to make the A-flat the target (goal) of the phrase is effective, and a slight stretch (rubato) on the A-flat will not only sound expressive, it will counteract the tendency to rush and stumble through the pattern.

Often, modifying the articulation of a passage will both clear up a muddy technique as well as clarify the musical intent. In this passage from the first movement of Vivaldi’s concerto in a minor, F VIII no 7, we find that emphasizing a melodic pattern and playing the decorative notes lighter and fainter, helps to keep the fingers “organized” and improves the musical intelligibility of the phrase:


Bringing out the numbered notes helps to focus the technique into manageable patterns, and the resulting melody is musically interesting. In addition, articulating the numbered notes longer, and the unnumbered notes shorter, enhances the musicality of the passage while improving the reliability of the technique. Finally, phrasing each 1-2-3-1 pattern with a crescendo helps to build the passage to a climax on the downbeat of the sixth measure, then subsiding from that point to the end of the phrase is helpfully coherent.


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