Do you ever come across music that is very simple and easy looking but somehow turns out to be incredibly challenging? I do, and this sequence is based on one of those moments.
The monk chorale in the second movement of Ottorino Respighi‘s Pines of Rome looks easy on paper. Not fast, not many notes, not too much sound, easy key, etc. But whenever I play this by myself I run into a whole host of challenges.
I find this moment challenging because it is made of long phrases that sit right at the bottom of the staff, a register that demands a significant amount of air to sound beautiful. It only takes one suboptimal breath to make the next long note seem like it will never end. The triplet at the end of the bar often muddles up my internal pulse, causing me to breathe late after the held note that follows.
Challenges = Opportunities
These challenges increase as we descend, making this sequence the PERFECT way to “over-train” and feel very confident about this musical moment in the original key. Lower keys will require more air and perfect breathing. Let the obstacle teach you how to be optimal.
Strive for a pure, focused sound, with liquid smooth slur connections and even, grooving triplets. Use the first few notes to lock an 8th note subdivision into your mind so you can take a rhythmic breath at the end of the long note and reenter in time. Start each slur group with a clear, immediate attack.
Before you put a metronome on, try playing recording this lick to test your internal pulse. Can you really sustain the long notes, breathe, and re-enter in time? How far can you descend before you have to change your breathing plan? Let’s find out this week.
Excerpt begins at 3:18
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