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Introduction to Baroque Keyboard Technique

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1 Introduction to Baroque Keyboard Technique
Brian Mathias, Instructor BYU Organ Workshop 2012

2 Sources Faulkner, Quentin. J. S. Bach’s Keyboard Technique. St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia, Ritchie, George and George Stauffer. Organ Technique: Modern and Early. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

3 Bach on Playing the Organ
“There is nothing so remarkable about it; one need only hit the right keys at the right time, and the instrument plays itself.”

4 Touch and Articulation
Definitions from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Touch – “A term used to refer to the manner of depressing and releasing the keys. Touch is produced by the motion of the finger, the speed and position of hand and the use or omission of arm weight.” Articulation – “The separation of successive notes from one another, singly or in groups, by a performer, and the manner in which this is done...The term articulation refers primarily to the degree to which a performer detaches individual notes from one another in practice (e.g. in staccato and legato).”

5 “Ordinary” Touch “Opposed to the legato as well as the staccato is the ordinary procedure, in which one releases the finger from the previous key an instant before one play the note following. This ordinary procedure, since it is always assumed, is never indicated.” - Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg “In the case of tones that are to be performed in the ordinary manner, that is, neither detached nor slurred, one lifts the finger from the keys a bit earlier than the duration of the note requires.” - Daniel Gottlob Türk

6 “Ordinary” Touch “Some persons play stickily, as if they had glue between their fingers. Their touch is lethargic; they hold notes too long. Others, in an attempt to correct this, play too short, as if the keys burned. Both are wrong. Midway between these extremes is best. Here again I speak in general; every kind of touch is good when used at the proper time.” - Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach

7 Articulation & Meter “The concept of articulation held universally among keyboard performers through the first years of the 18th century involved the grouping of notes not according to phrases, but according to their place in the metrical structure. Notes that occurred on the beat received greater regard and stress than those off the beat. In other words: Though the motive or phrase might be the determining factor in the compositional process (and might even sit astride two or more beats), the meter was the determining factor in articulation...

8 Articulation & Meter …In keyboard performance this grouping was not merely theoretical but was also translated into an aurally perceptible organization of the measure in such a way that notes on the beat were stressed by slightly more prominent articulations before their attack. Thus a bar line indicated not merely a theoretical metrical division but probably marked the location of the most prominent articulation in the measure, i. e., before the first and strongest beat.”

9 Fingering Principles Equal use of all fingers (including the thumb)
Frequent use of the same finger on two successive notes (particularly fingers 1 & 5) - Usually occurs on adjacent notes, but can occur on leaps as well Fingers 1 & 5 are typically avoided on sharps, except when they are the most convenient solution to the problem at hand Substitution is generally avoided (Exception: Can be performed on long notes and in cases of necessity)

10 Fingering Principles Some use of the thumb as a pivot
Much use of finger vaulting (2-3, 2-5, 3-4, 3-5, 5-3, 5-4) “When circumstances warrant, there appear some strikingly unusual fingerings which, when examined and tried, prove to be eminently sensible solutions to otherwise thorny problems”

11 Pedaling Principles Alternating toes
“In a technique that eschews substitution and seeks an articulate legato, the preference for the use of the toes in pedaling makes sense.” Between lower and higher notes In short scale passages in which one toe vaults the other (analogous to early scale fingerings) Use of the same toe on two successive notes (analogous to the use of the same finger on two successive notes on the manuals)

12 Pedaling Principles Heels
Pedalboard design made the use of heels difficult Some pedal parts in Bach’s music seem to require the use of the heel The presence of slurs in a pedal part may be an indication that heels are required

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