I wonder how many piano teachers currently have a student learning the minuet? They are found everywhere in piano tutor books and elementary piano anthologies so the chances are fairly high I think.
In this blog I am exploring a few teaching ideas for a Classical minuet, using Reinagle’s Minuet in C as my example. It’s one of the pieces I use to demonstrate the features of the Classical style at almost any level from mid-Elementary upwards. Why not use it as a quick learn piece with an Intermediate or Advanced student who requires some more stylistic input? These suggestions are just starting points for teaching any minuet and can be adapted and used in other similar style pieces.
BALANCE & SYMMETRY
Balance and symmetry are two of the hallmarks of the classical style. But how can this be explained in simple terms to students? I quite often find that images work better than words. For example, see the balancing stones in the picture above.
Try some of these images for BALANCE | CLICK HERE
Or these for SYMMETRY | CLICK HERE
In the minuet balance and symmetry appear as:
- an equal number of bars per phrase (4+4+4+4)
- question and answer phrases
- imperfect and perfect cadences
- uniformity of rhythmic and melodic material
- simple use of harmony (I, IV, V, iib, vi)
SOUND & PLAYING STYLE
Like all Classical pieces the music calls for clarity of sound. This can be achieved through neat and precise fingerwork delivered from well-balanced arms and body.
The delivery will be light and buoyant, To achieve something of the Classical sparkle the hands will need to be carefully balanced. For example, in bars 5-6 the LH thumb will need to play middle C as lightly as possible, allowing the harmony note to shine out.
UNDERSTANDING THE MINUET
As we all know, a minuet has three beats in a bar. Dancing a minuet, however, gives us a different view as the dance is in groups of six. The pattern is:
- right step
- left close
- left step
- right step
- left step
- right close
I suggest you try it out yourself, humming a minuet as you do! You should be able to feel what a difference it makes to the forward movement and flow of the piece.
You can hear the piece and try some of these actions out in this short video below.
1.26 – balance and symmetry
2.30 – question and answer phrases
2.50 – Sally tells a joke!
6.48 – achieving the right sound
8.40 – demonstration of the minuet dance steps
10.20 – body percussion activity
And if you want to see a proper dancer performing a minuet here’s a link:
Thanks for reading this week’s blog.
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This blog post was written by Dr Sally Cathcart, co-founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers