Skeleton Practice

Deconstructing the Score (1)


Music is made up of three main elements - melody, harmony and rhythm. Apart from grace notes (traditionally in smaller notation), there is little a composer can do to distinguish between background, foreground and middle ground of the composition, and it can be difficult to make a path through the forest of notes and other information contained in a score as we begin work on a new piece. I have often thought that publishers of educational music might experiment by publishing some examples of scores using different colours and font sizes for accompaniments, melody lines, figuration and so on. The learner would then be able to see at a glance the hierarchy of the musical picture. We can do this in our imagination, of course, and skeleton practice helps us to digest the material more easily. We use it to aid perception.

We can also use skeleton practice during the refinement stage when there might be difficulties coordinating the two hands together, or when we want to bring a passage up to speed and imbue it with performance energy.

Learning New Pieces

When we begin work on a new piece, we might feel bewildered by all the information on the page. The score is dense with notes, fingerings, pedallings and other instructions and it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. Where do we begin? Starting from the beginning and attempting to process everything at once can often be frustrating, and we feel we are not getting to grips with the piece. With skeleton practice, we make inroads by selecting what to play and what, for the time being, to leave out. It is basically a way of making our own simplified versions that we use on our journey. This will help us reach our destination much faster, more securely and with greater satisfaction than wading through a dense undergrowth of unchartered territory.

This series of articles will describe how to deconstruct a score and use skeleton practice by way of a number of examples. New articles and examples will be added on an ongoing basis therefore please do watch this space!

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