My method of teaching score reading, score playing and score analysis I created and developed basing on my 10- years experience of teaching score reading, score playing and score analysis at the music academy level (bachelor and master degree, also at Sibelius Academy).
Score reading, score playing and score analysis are basic and essential skills needed for any conductor (orchestral, wind band and choir conductor), as well as for composers, music theorists, sound engineers and other musicians working on ensemble music. The major goal in score reading, score playing and score analysis is to get to know, hear (imagine) and understand the piece.
Conductors through score reading and score playing create a sounding image of the score in there mind and through score analysis get closer to the composer’s intentions. Thanks to these they are able to form a valid interpretation and a vision of performance of the piece, which later, through conducting the ensemble, they transfer to the audience. All of the conductor’s work starts from the score, it’s reading, playing and analysis.
Composers through score reading and score playing get to know pieces of other composers, which allows them to take inspiration and learn from these, they can also hear their own pieces and own musical ideas, and learn to write piano reductions (for example of own operas). Through score analysis they can retrace the process of composition, from the starting idea, through it’s development, realisation to it’s finalisation, as well as learn about different systems of notation and study the practical issues of performance. This all to support the composer’s individual creative paths.
Mastering score reading, score playing and score analysis enables Music Theorists to get to know a wide range of repertoire for diverse ensembles and in different styles. Thanks to these skills they can lead their own further studies on ensemble music, describe music, formulate theories and conlusions, write reviews, publications, etc.
During teaching score reading and score playing I use scores, professional literature and my own script of materials, examples and exercises. The scores are chosen appropriately to the specialisation of the students. In my presentation I delivered a proposition list of repertoire for each of the specialisations designed for a 2-year study cycle, a list of professional literature and the own script.
While studying scores it is important to understand that musical recordings give already a concrete interpretation of the piece, not the piece itself, and also deliver a modified, through the process of recording, balance of instruments and voices. Therefore, score reading, score playing and score analysis are the only ways to really get to know the pieces.
In score playing we illustrate the music material on the piano through a synthesis, taking in account both vertical and horizontal dimensions of the music. The purpose of score playing is to develop musical imagination and the inner ear. Developing imagination happens through a three degree process: imagine + play + check (correct). Score playing is a process opposite to instrumentation, through it we arrive to the music material, the skeleton, of the piece. What needs to be included in the piano rendition is the harmony, base note and musical layers. Recognising musical layers, that is instruments playing the same or similar musical role, is very important for understanding of the musical structure.
A fundamental requirement for score playing, already starting with playing prima vista, is to play the score fluently, which means with pulse. This is achievable for all students of music on an academic level (e.g. also violinists), because score synthesis can be done on different levels of intensity while maintaining the same main rules. Only through fluent score playing the music can be heard, because music happens in time, and only this way we can hear it’s rhythmical dimension. It is important in score playing to always read the music, not for example mathematical calculations. Fluent playing is achieved by looking 1 or 2 bars ahead, imagining sound before playing it and maintaining a pulse. Through score playing developed are sight reading skills, which enable to get to know the music in an efficient and effective manner. In my teaching I use Nadia Boulanger’s 3 step method: 1st reading fluent and precise, 2nd in tempo, 3rd by heart. For conductors I add a 4th step of reading with inner imagination and expressing music by conducting gestures. Thanks to this approach score reading and score playing substantially develops also musical memory.
To read, play and analyze scores there is needed also a thorough knowledge of clefs and transpositions. As the first technical vehicle in score playing I teach reading in clefs – generally all clefs – in the method of a ladder/or stairs from the central point of the clef – G clef g one-line octave, F clef small octave, C clef c one-line octave. Transpositions can be read using two methods – clef substitution and interval (linear function). Clef substitution is especially effective in tonal music with key signatures matching the transposition relationship and music without many accidental signs, for example Horns in E flat in Beethoven’s symphony can be read in base clef, octave higher and with signs of E flat major. In situations where there are no key signatures for instruments in different transpositions or the music is a tonal, or highly chromatisised then it is usually better to use the interval method, for example 4 horns, each in different transposition and without key signatures in music of Hector Berlioz. The major point in score reading is to think in the sounding reality of the piece, not the written one.
In score analysis, besides harmony, instrumentation, structure, counterpoint, thematic and motivic work, I address such matters as musical notation, allusions and references, the composer’s aesthetic of performance and performance practices and traditions.
This has been a short presentation of my method of teaching score reading, score playing and score analysis, and I would be very happy to explain further it’s details.
by Maja Metelska-Räsänen
27th May 2018, Helsinki