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Thanks to a really nice response from my short video tutorial a week or so ago, I've started to put together a new YouTube lesson series to cover Claude Debussy's "Clair de lune". The first lesson here is an overview of the whole piece, and a preview of the some of the camera angles, digital score views, and computer simulated damper pedal views for multiple learning perspectives. This lesson series is designed for the beginning adult pianist in mind, so consider yourself warmly invited to participate even if you've never played the piano or read a note of music before! Please leave comments and questions if you need help with specific spots as we cover the piece - we can interleave those responses with the lesson series as needed.
We'll talk about the special rules governing the notes in this piece, and some possible reasons why Claude Debussy decided to use black keys instead of white ones, which would've been easier to play. You can download a PDF of the score as part of the Suite Bergamasque from IMSLP.org here: IMSLP.org
Thanks Hugh for these lessons, I'm sure many will find them very helpful and inspiring! For all those who ponder whether to give Debussy a go or not, I encourage you to try Clair de Lune is a very special piece somehow. It is pretty difficult, even though it may not sound so - but it gives a great amount of fun and pleasure. I must say I didn't particularly like this piece when I started it year ago, but now after playing it for some time I grew extremely fond of it. Not many other pieces gave me so much satisfaction as Clair de Lune did.
Having said all that, have fun! M.
Mateusz Papiernik My youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Maticomp "One man can make a difference" - Wilton Knight Kawai CN21 (digital), Henryk Yamayuri Kawai NX-40 (grand)
#1254725 - 08/23/0906:33 PMRe: Clair de lune from Scratch - YouTube Piano Lessons
Now we get started learning the very first notes of Debussy's "Clair de lune". Using the G clefs in both hands, we can easily map out where to find the notes, keeping in mind the special rules governed by the Key Signature that changes most of the notes to flats. We also learn about ties and how they're used to extend the length of notes. I also show how I'm using a special program to better illustrate how I'm using the damper pedal (far right) to control how notes are sustained and released.
Hugh, I really appreciate the time and effort you've put into these lessons, and I look forward to participating in this one. I must admit I'm surprised to hear you encouraging people who have "never played the piano or read a note of music before" to attempt a piece of this difficulty. I've been playing three years and believe this is going to be an ambitious project. Regardless, I look forward to following your lessons and adding this beautiful piece to my repertoire.
Hi Bluekeys - you raise some excellent points! This is indeed a challenging piece to play, but I believe three primary ingredients will help anyone - and I do mean, anyone, particularly beginners - learn and master this work: 1. Love 2. Focus 3. Fun
This little story might help explain how these ingredients can be applied to music pedagogy:
Many years ago, I met the most amazing, beautiful woman in the world, but there was a slight problem - she didn't speak English, and I didn't speak Korean! I had tried to learn the language as a teenager, but never got beyond a few rudimentary phrases, the alphabet, and basic grammar. I simply didn't have a strong enough motivation to learn, and quickly gave up after a number of half-hearted attempts. But when I met this woman, suddenly I had all the motivation in the world to not only learn Korean, but learn it as fast and as quickly as possible! (If you haven't guessed, that's my "love" ingredient I honestly had no idea where to start - it seemed so overwhelming a task, to try to master an entire language fast enough (I was afraid she'd lose interest in a guy she couldn't talk to!); I had some old grammar books, but they seemed so useless starting with basic "Hello" and "goodbye", number counting and useless vocabulary when what I really wanted to talk about was what I had seen at the beach, what my favorite foods were, the interesting concerts I heard/played....rather than get overwhelmed with cramming an entire language all at once, I purposely decided to limit my study to just 5 words a day. That's it. The 5 words would be ones with immediate application, some nouns, and at least one verb and one adjective mixed in. That was my "focus" ingredient. Limiting my focus made the gargantuan task much more manageable, a bite at a time. To help with the memorization, I started making a comic book - yes, that's right, a comic book, where I would take about the syllables of each word and draw visual association mnemonics. For example, I would draw a picture of a girl named "Jill", with her looking up at the "moon" with a question mark over her head - "jill-moon" is the Korean word for "question". Worked like a charm.
Long story short, we fell in love, got married, and to this day she is the love of my life! Hard to believe that once upon a time, my biggest dream was to just be able to have an actual conversation with this woman!
I'm hoping that for folks who really love this piece, that will be the "love" ingredient to motivate them to put in the time to study and learn. By using digital tools to "cut out" small slices of the music at a time and to apply bright colors and highlights, i'm hoping that the "focus" on small, bite-sized pieces of material will help folks see how easy it is to play pretty much anything once it's broken down small enough. Finally, the "fun" is really a mixture of all of the above, combined with the joy of seeing that you can actually make progress on just about anything if you take it a step at a time, no matter how large the mountain may seem in the beginning! Hopefully these lessons will continue to be fun for everyone interested in learning "Clair de lune" - I'm certainly having a ton of fun putting these together!
I almost forgot about one more element that will make a HUGE difference - feedback. Please let me know if I'm going too fast, or if I need to better explain certain aspects more clearly. "DarkAngel"'s left hand question was an excellent one that motivated me to explore putting these lessons together, so please don't be intimidated to ask! I may not be able to get to every single question, but i'll do my best to integrate them into the lesson videos as time allows.
In this lesson, we define what a "measure" actually is in music, talk briefly about the function of other lines that affect the musical "smoothness" (slurs), and discover a new symbol - the "natural" that temporarily takes away any special rules applied to a note from the key signature or any other previous lowering or rising symble (like flats and sharps).
If you've been following these lesson videos, you've seen how I use digital scores and a "snipping" tool to cut out small portions of the music for easier focus. In this lesson, I show a neat application of the snipping tool to make it easier to combine the end of one line with the beginning of the next. We also explore the use of the right damper pedal to connect moving hand positions, keeping the sound smooth and unbroken even when the hands need to jump.
Hugh, Thanks for the reply and the personal story to illustrate it.
The lessons look good so far, but I'm a little confused by the timing in measure 3. It looks like the 4 eighth notes covering the last 6 beats of the measure comprise 2 sets of 2 notes that span 3 beats each, but since the middle note (F) is tied, you actually have 3 notes (Db F Db) spanning 6 beats, where the first Db gets 1.5 beats, the F gets 3 beats, and the last Db gets 1.5 beats (plus another beat in measure 4). Is that correct? Any suggestions for counting and playing that smoothly?
Great question, Bluekeys! Technically, you have the right answer, but i'll work on a video response that should make the rhythm easier to understand. Please post more questions if you need help with anything else! Thanks!
Welcome, PaulMac! If at any time i'm going too fast or not being clear, please slow me down and post a question - i'll do my best to make everyone at any level feel welcome and comfortable with the pace of these lessons.
Hi Mark... - I think Bluekeys was referring to 8th notes that suddenly do a little "time warp" by making 2 fit into 3 (how's that for musical magic? LOL) I'll work on a quick video addendum to address that great question and about the role of rhythm and time signatures in general. My primary intent is indeed to keep things simple, but if interest is there and great questions get posted that give us an opportunity to explore the piece a bit deeper, then more power to all of us! Isn't that what a great teaching environment produces? Great questions and great community learning? (well, at least, that's what i'm aspiring toward...let me know if i'm close to the mark!
Hi Keyboardklutz - i have to confess, it can be easy for me to presume a lot and to forget that something easy for me is actually really hard for someone else. Thanks for the reminder, and please let me know if i jump the gun again!
Hi Keyboardklutz - LOL! i feel like my cover's been "blown"! hahaha! That Pianodisc version was a very personal interpretation; it's one thing when i perform as a soloist, another thing as a collaborative pianist, and yet another matter when i wear my "teacher" hat. As a teacher, i never want to impose my own interpretation on anyone else, so i was very conscious of that when taping the "overview" - i wanted to give a relatively straightforward approach as a "baseline" for students.
Wanna hear another funny story? When i started learning Korean, my (then) girlfriend spoke to me in a very standard, "Seoul" dialect - easy to understand, rather neutral in tone. After a year of exchanging letters and phone calls back and forth, i thought it was time to pay an extended visit to get to know her and her family better. My cousins live in Seoul, so i'd been relatively familiar with their pronounciation and dialect, but my girlfriend lived several hours south, so after flying into Seoul i had to take a train ride down to her hometown. When i arrived at her house, i met her sisters and their husbands and boyfriends - and i could not understand a WORD they were saying! They had the strangest slang and the weirdest pronounciation, almost sounding like they were shouting and fighting all the time - i thought i was in an entirely different country! I looked at my girlfriend, completely bewildered, and she sheepishly told me that she used the neutral Seoul dialect with me because she thought it would be easier for me to understand...
In retrospect, she was very wise to "start me off" with a neutral dialect. If i had dove into colloquial expressions, i would've become so frustrated and confused, it would've made the mountain of learning the language 10 times higher! At least, after having climbed a certain height and gained a level of basic mastery, picking up the southern "drawl" wasn't as bad as if i had tried to from the beginning.
Does that make sense? I think the same approach is almost necessary at least in the beginning stages. Later on, it's fun to talk about different interpretive options and personal approaches, but we have to remember to take baby steps before running that full marathon.
Thanks for sharing that video, by the way! The final production version should eventually sound MUCH better than the sound that was recorded with the camcorder microphone