Here's a rough video I made recently of Etude #4 from Andersen, Op. 21:
First, here's the etude as a free download.
Now, let's come up with something special to do in each section.
THEME: This can either be very captivating or very boring, depending on how much care you give to the music itself.
- Identify the beginning and end of each phrase (4 measures in this case).
- Assign a character, color, texture, mood, whatever works for you, for each phrase. Every single one must be at least a little different, whether it's a variation on a previous mood or a total departure.
- Experiment with how to produce these elements of your sound to support that assigned character: articulation (working within what's written), volume, color/quality, vibrato.
- Put an * over the most important note in each phrase--only one per phrase. Every other note must be moving towards or away from that note.
VAR. 1 (eighth notes): We're going to play with time here so it doesn't sound too stodgy.
- Practice strictly in time with the metronome on the quarter note (your chosen tempo).
Now, we're going to start giving and taking time--this must be balanced to avoid creating a steady ritard or accelerando where you don't want it. If you take time on a note in any given measure, you must give it back before the end of that measure!
- Move the metronome to the half-note beat. Practice so that you can consistently play it at a steady tempo in this way, always playing beats 1 & 3 precisely with the metronome.
- Now, choose one special note every two beats you wish to emphasize. Keeping the metronome on the half-note beat, you're going to stretch that special note as much as you dare while still aligning with the metronome click on beats 1 & 3.
- Adjust as you see fit to create a flexible, fluid line that's not too predictable but not out-of-balance.
VAR. 2 (triplets): More notes=more potential for mistakes! Let's make sure they all get their due:
- Play only downbeats (assuming a quarter note beat) by themselves, using the mirror.
- Now play only the second and third note of each triplet, still using the metronome to fill your silence on the downbeats. This will take more practice, both for rhythmical and note accuracy, but will yield perfect confidence on every note eventually.
- As you put all notes together, don't forget your phrase shapes (THEME) and your chosen stretch notes (VAR. 1)
VAR. 3 (sixteenth notes): as the number of notes per beats increases, we need to prioritize the moving notes which represent the actual melody. For each phrase,...
- First practice playing only the first two sixteenth notes on each beat (the notes that are slurred)
- Then add the filler (articulated) notes, playing them slightly lighter and quieter than the melody notes.
VAR. 4 (Modulation to E Major): Again, we want to outline the simple melody here, for our listeners and for ourselves, to avoid making this sound like a jumble of notes.
- Identify the simple tune (it will be slightly different than the original melody). As I look at the first phrase, I see it as the downbeats of 1, 3, and 4 (first measure), then only the downbeat of measure 2, then the downbeats of 1, 3, and 4 again (third measure), and in the fourth measure of this variation, downbeats of 1, 2, and 3. In other words, the notes, occurring on downbeats which are a noticeable leap (a 3rd or more) away from the notes around it.
- Practice slurring this simple melody many times, playing it lovingly, beautifully, and with great phrase shapes (see "THEME").
- Add the rest of the notes, choosing to make them "filler" as in Var. 3 or swirling notes which propel you forward, depending on their shape and trajectory. For instance, the ascending scale fragments at the ends of measures definitely move forward (swirling), while repeated notes in between the melody notes (as in measures 1 & 3 of this variation) are filler.
Return to the THEME (last line): how do you make this sound senza espressione, as directed? Experiment with a slightly unfocused sound, using little to no vibrato. But don't forget your special notes--every phrase must have a sense of direction, even if it's very subtle.