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Introduction to a Few Elementary and Lower Intermediate Solos

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Ideas by Joan Cochran Sommers

In the most recent ATG Bulletin I promised to introduce some solos for all of us in the lower levels; so here they are:

1. Velocity Valse by J. Ferraro

This piece is in the key of C Major then jumps to the key of G Major. and uses the usual symbols for chords in the Left Hand. It is short, just two pages plus a D.C. back to the key of C and finally a very short Coda built on the C Major Arpeggio. This piece is really all about the Right Hand and building some fast 8th notes using all five fingers with fingering marked. But it gives us an opportunity to teach the three main chords in these two keys. I have not marked bellows because it depends on how fast we play the piece. If rather slow, then most players (especially young children) will go out two measures, then in two measures because of the phrasing; however, after learning the piece, perhaps memorizing it, too, and plus really working to build some fast fingers, one could go out 4 measures and then in 4 measures. It is easy to introduce the dominant 7th chords, too, maybe for the first time. Players of all ages will like this piece.

2. The Charming Princess by Roger Hyde is next.

There are several lower level solos written by Hyde which are terrific for introducing new tasks to accomplish and thereby truly make progress toward solving the more difficult pieces later on. I like this one for several reasons, one of which is because it is in full chord notation without symbols on every chord change. They are printed on the last of the 3 pages, however, as CM, G7, GM, and FM. I think it gives a teacher an opportunity to do some teaching about chords and I know from experience players can easily recognize these chords without indicating them within the solo.

There are some nice grace notes to introduce, probably for the first time, and they are easily playable. I have marked the bellows on my own copy and it shows that we often change our bellows in the middle of a measure instead of exactly on the bar line. There is a fermata to introduce as well as an easy glissando on thirds, again both for the first time probably. There are slurs, staccatos, mezzo staccatos, grace notes, several dynamic changes as well as tempo changes, thereby introducing players to many different words and learning what they mean. This is the ideal way to introduce such words to players and they will remember them because they are actually using them in a piece instead of just memorizing a list of words. As with all the Roger Hyde pieces, my experience in using them has always been very positive and the pieces are great for choice pieces in competitions, too, since they really do give a lot of tasks to show the adjudicator something to grade! Audiences also like these pieces on the many recitals we need to have our students involved in.

3. The Grasshopper’s Fiddle by Roger Hyde is next.

Isn’t that a wonderful title! It is only two pages and some of that is a repeat from the first page. I have definitely indicated bellows on this piece because I wanted my students and myself to use the exact same changes every time the piece was played. There is something to tackle and truly learn how to do almost immediately: in the 2nd measure one must slur the LH Bass into the next Bass (in the 3rd measure first count). Now that is not all that difficult when the LH is played separately from the RH, but there is a half note in the RH which is NOT slurred into the first quarter note of the 3rd measure. That is an opportunity for us to teach something very important and stick with it until it is easy to do. I can tell you that some of the problems of playing a piece like The Jolly Caballero or Dizzy Fingers correctly will be MUCH easier in the future if you solve the problem presented right in the 2nd measure going into the 3rd measure of this little piece. Don’t believe it is too difficult; it is not. Students of all ages can do this, just hang in there with them! You are building something very important for the future. You might let your students listen to the violin soloist tune up in the opening measures of the orchestral piece Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens. There are many recordings available on YouTube and The “K” Trio plays it on their IMAGES recording. This solo also uses Full Chord Notation in the Left Hand. GM, D7, DM, CM, G7, and FM are identified at the end of the piece on the 2nd page, so try not writing them in for you and your students. You will learn to recognize them easily and it does help us to learn about various cadences, too. The composer uses a three note RH glissando which is fun for everyone. This is a great piece for teaching some RH wrist action and some Bellows Attacks every time the LH plays C bass, G bass, C bass with the accents marked. Key of G Major.

There are three other pieces I would like to mention that are just a bit more difficult than those mentioned above; they are really fine teaching pieces and valuable for examinations and recitals as well. They are: Blacksmith’s Reverie by Roger Hyde, Gertrude’s Dream Waltz (Beethoven) Arr. by Galla-Rini and Spinning Song (Ellmenreich) Arr. by Galla-Rini. These are very worthwhile for so many reasons. One could also use a bit of Free Bass LH on the Spinning Song; it is easy regardless of system. All three pieces are just two pages in length and use the keys of C Major, a minor, F Major.

I believe all these solos might be available through Deffner Publications.

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