shaped notes; Schubert's Waltz, opus 18 #6 : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Hello, I am a piano teacher with 40 students. I have been teaching for 8 years and love it...Recently, I have encountered two questions that I have thus far been unable to answer. One: What are shaped notes and how are they used?

Two: At what tempo is Schubert's Waltz opus 18, #6 to be played. I am unable to find a recording of it and haven't found a score with any tempo marks written in it yet. Thank you! Kim

-- Kim Bean (, September 25, 2001


Kim, Shaping is a simple concept, but learning to do it is best learned from a good teacher. Briefly, it is a special way of listening to everything you play to produce a vital and direction-oriented rhythm. When you play shapes, the notes between beats generate the beats, with the “best” listening given as you go from the last 2 notes before any beat to the actual beat. Basic shaping in 4/4 time with 4 quarters in each measure: the listening and rhythmic gesture of each measure begins with the second note of the measure and continues up to and includes the first beat of the next measure. You learn to listen to your playing while counting 2-3-4-1, rather than listening 1-2-3-4. Ideally the counts 2-3-4 are active in a way that they set-up your arrival at the count of 1 so that it feels inevitable. Counts 2-3-4 are the launching of a rhythmic progression that arrives at 1. Shaping is what a good drummer does instinctively. Notes between beats are much more energetic than the beats. In well-shaped music, you can omit the notes that occur on the beat, and yet the audience will still feel the beats strongly because the expectation has been prepared. Shaping produces horizontal music that is alive. Music that is not shaped tends to be vertical and unrhythmical. It is often characterized by accenting the first note and then letting energy drop off; often the last notes of the measure are swallowed, or are played without listening as if they are an unimportant after- thought, and then the next first beat is accented again without any relationship to the notes that have come immediately before it.

The explanation above only vaguely describes shaping. Spending time on shaping with a good teacher is really better than reading about it.

As for your Schubert Waltz tempo: Josef Hofmann was asked a similar question once, and he said something like: you are very fortunate to have an edition without tempo marks, and I wouldn't for the world interfere with your good luck. The correct speed for you depends on different factors, including your technique. Find the fastest notes in the piece and play them comfortably quickly as your technique permits. Adjust the speed of the rest of the notes accordingly. Consult your good taste as you experiment to find a tempo that you like. Good luck.

-- Alan (, September 27, 2001.

Thank you!

-- Kim Bean (, September 28, 2001.

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