How Long Do I Hold That Final Note? | Music Teacher Tip

July 25, 2014

Much of the guidance that I provide for kids in music lessons seems somehow to be tied to snack foods – cookies, cake and ice cream. This teacher tip is no exception. :0)
One of the challenges kids have in performing their pieces is knowing how long to hold that last note. Knowing how to balance the length of that note with the style and length of the piece is certainly a challenge for all of us. Our goal is to make the listener feel satisfied.
To communicate this to kids I give them this example:
Pretend that your mom has baked a delicious chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and has placed it on a plate in the refrigerator. Just before school you saw that there was one piece left – one delicious piece or mouth watering chocolate cake. You go to school, thinking about that piece of cake all day long. When you return home, you head to the fridge. On the plate remains only one small crumb of cake. Disappointed, you pick it up and place it in you mouth. So delicious, but not really what you wanted. It just didn’t satisfy.
With this story I let them know that that last note has a job to do. It needs to bring a sense of finality to the piece. It needs to satisfy. Certainly, harmonically it will do that no matter how long you play it. But that sense of finality needs do be expressed in the time too. A great way to help them decide what length to play that note would be to play the last eight bars several times, giving them several examples. To help them play it well in a performance situation, you might suggest counting in their head to a certain number (1,2,3,4 for example) before releasing the note.
final-note-music-teaching-tip

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