In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the fifth string, expression indicators and tuplets.
The Notes ‘A♯’ and ‘B♭’
‘A♯’ and ‘B♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘A♯’ or ‘B♭’, fret the first fret on the fifth string.
The Notes ‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’
‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘C♯’ or ‘D♭’, fret the fourth fret on the fifth string.
The Note ‘D’
You already learned to read this note as the open fourth string. However, this same pitch can be played as the fifth fret of the fifth string as well.
The following five words, or abbreviations, frequently appear in scores to make music more expressive. View the video for examples of the concepts presented in this unit.
The accelerando, or accel. for short, directs you to gradually increase tempo. If a line of dashes accompanies the command, increase tempo until you reach the end of the dashes. If the accel. appears alone, continue increasing tempo until you hit another indicator (usually a tempo).
The rallentando, or rall. for short, directs you to gradually decrease tempo.
The ritardando, or rit. for short, directs you to gradually decrease tempo. Debates abound regarding the subtle differences between rit. and rall.
The marking, a tempo, directs you to resume the original tempo or the tempo maintained prior to an accel., rall. or rit.
The rubato directs you to lengthen and shorten the duration of beats at your discretion. This indication affords ample space for personal expression. Rubato can be applied in various ways, which is why you may want to explore the topic further.
Degrees of Expression
The following adjectives modify other musical commands.
Poco means ‘a little’ in Italian. For example, poco accel. means to accelerate a little.
Molto means ‘very’ in Italian. For example, molto accel. means to accelerate a lot.
Tuplets are groups of rhythms equally subdivided across a specific duration in a way that is irregular in the context of the time signature. You already learned a tuplet. Remember the eighth-note triplet discussed in Unit 10?
The triplet is considered irregular because the three eighth notes of a triplet add up to one quarter note. Bear in mind that the regular rules of rhythm dictate that three eighth notes should equal a dotted half note. The number ‘3’ (placed either above or below the triplet) temporarily alters the rules from regular to irregular. According to irregular rules, each eighth note in the triplet equals one-third of a beat. All tuplets, like the triplet, have a number placed either above or below them to signal the shift from regular to irregular rules. Here are two more common tuplets.
The example above is in simple duple meter. In this meter, the quarter note gets the pulse. The second beat is a sixteenth note quintuplet, which indicates five equally spaced rhythms across the duration of a quarter note.
The example above is in compound duple meter. In this meter the dotted-quarter note gets the pulse. The second beat is an eighth note duplet, which indicates two equally spaced rhythms across the duration of a dotted-quarter note.
Expressive sight-reading is fun! Use your intuition to play with feeling and musicality, even if you are playing a piece for the first time.
A fluid pulse can enhance expressive playing. Indulge in the human tendency to create a pulse that waxes and wanes. It is tempting to think that excellent musicianship is achieved by playing with a metronome. However, in my experience, the most exhilarating (and excellent) musical experiences happen while playing with other musicians, not a metronome or a click.
The expression indicators introduced in this unit are often impossible to implement while playing with a click. If possible, I recommend that you sight-read this unit’s exercises with another musician. If it is not possible, then play with the pre-recorded tracks below but be aware that, in some cases, you will not be able to follow the expression markings.
Checklist for Sight-Reading
- Count the beats out loud (including the &).
- Keep going (even if you make a mistake).
- Maintain your best playing posture.
- Look at the score, not your hands.
- Play with the feel of the meter.
- Play patterns instead of individual notes (AKA chunk).
- Cultivate a calm demeanor.
- Have fun!
Let’s Play Rhythms
A sponge to wipe away the past; a rose to sweeten the present; a kiss to greet the future. —Arabian Proverb
Exercise 14.1: Audio
Exercise 14.2: Audio
Exercise 14.3: Audio
Exercise 14.4: Audio
Let’s Play Patterns
Mastery – the sense of purpose and expressive intent – does not improve, and may be invoked at the outset, and at every succeeding moment. In the meantime, the resources available to communicate it broaden and deepen. –Peter Yates
Exercise 14.5: Audio
Exercise 14.6: Audio
Let’s Play Duets
The path from pretty to beautiful passes through strange. —Peter Yates
from Chaconne Légère: Audio
Let’s Play Compositions
These compositions are under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
All performances combine the familiar and the strange, only in different orders and proportions. —Peter Yates
Obelisk No. 3: Audio
Keep Moving: Audio
The standard method of fingering applies to the next composition. The composer, Bahaa El Ansary, chose to represent string numbers with circled Arabic numerals.
Process II from The Art of Process: Audio
You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.