The Practice Project; Deconstructing Beethoven

Deconstruction is something that I find myself teaching more and more in lessons.

Deconstructing is the process of separating the various components of the music; a sort of elementary analysis. Although this video is showing how to deconstruct the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata (a deceptively complex piece), this technique can be easily applied to any piece of music. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that deconstructing is just as useful with beginners as it is to more advanced students. Although advanced students can (and should) be introduced to musical layers, voicing, linear progressions, harmonic sequences and cadences, beginners will also benefit from this type of thinking. Musical concepts are only as complex as the music allows them to be, and so simple music will restrict themselves to very simple structures and patterns.

So what is the point of all of this? On the face of it, it looks like teaching in this manner can only succeed in making more work for the student, not less. But, in reality, understanding the music is a shortcut to learning and memorising the notes, and understanding the dynamics, the performance directions, and ultimately the music itself.

After all, how do we as performers know how to balance the three parts in this sonata if we do not know how to play them and shape them individually?

How do we know the direction of the music if we do not know where the cadences lie, or where the music modulates?

How do we memorise it if we do not know which key we are playing in and which key we will be playing next?

How do we realise the relationships between the sections if we do not know precisely what is happening in each section?

How do we know how to colour the music if we do not understand what exactly what the music is doing at any point in time?

I have already posted a video demonstrating how improvisation can help in the learning process. Deconstructing Beethoven show clearly how a basic grasp of harmonic theory, analysis, and their practical applications are invaluable in practising.


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