3 Approaches To Developing Musicality At The Intermediate Level

Developing Musicality For Intermediate Piano Students

Developing musicality within intermediate piano students can be challenging. Especially as we navigate the balance between what is on the page, working towards student independence and guiding our students towards creating a unique interpretation.

Developing Musicality At Any Level

Over the years, I’ve moved from a teacher who tells to a teacher who demonstrates and asks. If you’ve ever had one too many students playing the same song in the same time period, these may have felt like eons. Even though it may have only been Christmas carol season in December.

Since I prefer variety, I jokingly tell my students my job is to teach myself out of a job. Rather than the dreading the millionth time teaching any song, I encourage my students to create subtle differences that tell me they thought about the music as they learnt it. We all appreciate it.

Way 1: Dynamics

Often I remind my students that there is a range for each dynamic level. At the elementary level, we don’t go too much beyond “Can it be heard?” and “What is the volume in relation to the other dynamics?”.

At the intermediate level, directions tend to be less overall. This is the time we are encouraged to help our students as they are developing their musicality at the intermediate level.

One way to do this is to experiment with the full range of each dynamic level! When is a piano marking more towards the quieter spectrum? And when is it closer to a mezzo piano?

For example, in The Grand Entrance the opportunity to really up the dramatic entrance through a lengthy crescendo. Depending on your student they may opt for a more intense crescendo … or a more regal, subdued ‘entrance’.

To see what this can look like in action, click the video below or here.

Way 2: Articulation

You might think an articulation is an articulation. A legato is a legato, right? Not necessarily. Legato is created through wrist and arm movement, the curvature of the fingers, and/or the use of specific types of pedalling.

When developing musicality at the intermediate level, it takes experimentation to get a nuanced sound. And, this is where you can really blow your student’s minds! By changing small physical factors (like those listed above), your student can fine tune the sound until they get just the right mood.

For example, in Waltz Under The Stars there is a whimsical section that needs a light legato touch. Helping your student experiment to create just the right whimsy means this piece can be unique from other waltzes.

To see what this can look like in action, click the video above or here.

Way 3: Voicing

At the elementary level, we tend to focus on which hand has the melody and lead voice. When developing musicality at the intermediate level, things get a bit trickier. The voicing could be within one hand or there may be more than one melody line option that changes the overall feel of a section.

In The Gnome’s Starlit Dance, there’s a 7th chord section that I love. It’s got unique textures with a smooth accompaniment pattern that provides this great counterpoint. I get my students to experiment with trying both the chords and accompaniment pattern as a lead melody. It also means that no matter how many of my students play this piece, I’m unlikely to get bored as each student will choose a slightly different approach!

To see what this can look like in action, click the video above or here.

Developing Musicality At the Intermediate Level

This is such a fantastic time in a students’ piano education! They have reached a point where it’s possible to have interesting conversations about what it means to be a musician and what musicality really means.

As a quick review, here are 3 ways to develop musicality at the intermediate piano level:

  • Dynamics: Explore the full range of what each can be … this is for each hand.
  • Articulation: Experiment with options to create that articulation for a nuanced sound.
  • Voicing: Doesn’t always have to be the typical melody line.

Which of these 3 tips for developing musicality in your intermediate piano students do you use the most?

For a bonus tip and to see each of the above tips in action, be sure to watch the video here. All the examples given are from the Scenes of Spring intermediate piano solo collection!

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