Learn a Fugue Without Skipping Important Steps!


In our last blog post, we made reference to the importance of patience when learning a fugue. We discussed how to learn the piece line by line, rather than rushing to memorize of all the notes as quickly as possible. This activity created by Joseph Ferretti furthers this and provides a wonderful step-by-step action plan for interested music teachers.

1) Begin with an assignment that sets the tone and plants important seeds.

You can create a task for the first week that involves learning the exposition, separate voices only.  Include a bit of inspiration, such as a link that inspires and illuminates: video of Glenn Gould’s “So You want to Write a Fugue,” written for actual voices:

Instructions can also include following through with those stylistic and important articulation decisions and established fingerings that you may have explored during the first lesson.  End with: “Go through the following steps each practice session.” (The checkboxes in CADENZA™ provide a visual structure, and can keep being refilled!)


2) In a checklist, provide the following instructions (number of voices varies with each fugue of course):

  • Learn the top voice in the exposition to rhythmic fluency, observing fingering and articulation along the way.
  • Learn the middle voice to this same fluency.
  • Fluently learn the bottom voice.  Plan on playing each voice well in your next lesson!


3) Using a recording and/or annotation device, added instructions to record voices can be given.

Teachers and colleagues can pinpoint comments in a highly specific way. And, in the early stages, or later review, students can play another voice with a recorded separate voice for an optimal listening experience during their practice.  (For support videos, visit this page.)


4) Facilitate a way for students to review the process after the final product is achieved.

The following post-performance questions could be asked and answered: This performance was on another and higher level.  Why did this process work so well? What could have still done better to create an even better finished product? What steps did I still seem to skip, if any?   How will I approach my next project based on this experience?


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