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Sonatine meets Halloween

October 22, 2014

‘Twas a late Friday night,

My student was weary,

his eyes glazing over

when faced with a query:


“How can we make these

practice steps stick?

Memorable images?

What is the trick?”


“Aha!” I exclaimed,

as his eyes twinkled a bit,

“Halloween practice steps…

That should do it!”

Technically, the title should read:  “Sonatina meets Halloween,” but that’s not nearly as fun.  Recently, my student was playing a Clementi Sonatina movement. The notes and rhythm were accurate (with the exception of some missing rests), but the balance and dynamics needed refinement. The practice steps listed below are likely well-known. The reader might be able to use them, as I did, in a new context. After the lesson was over, my student was able to easily recite each practice step he was going to do. His recall was… spooky!





The sudden dynamic changes so characteristic of the Classical style are challenging for young pianists (and some older, experienced ones, as well)!  I often ask the students to put hands in lap between each change, state the new dynamic, and play the next section with the dynamic indicated. This helps “reset” the brain. A Halloween variation is to put arms out in front, in “zombie fashion” between each dynamic change. This probably isn’t the best position for a student to be using, but it’s only for Halloween.




The left hand “ghosts” while the right hand plays as written. The student plays on the tops of the keys. What usually happens, is that the keys are depressed slightly, creating a very soft sound that balances with the right hand melody.



My student was holding through the rests. I asked him to snap his fingers (referencing the Addams Family theme song) during each rest, to make the rests more memorable for him.




Playing just the most “important” fingerings in a scale crossing can be helpful in solidifying fingering: 









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This site is created by the faculty of the New School for Music Study, a division of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

February 13, 2018

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