Practicing Beethoven’s 4th Symphony: The Grace Note. This video series (BDP#77-80) discusses performance techniques and practice methods for the sixteenth note passages in the fourth movement. By Terry B. Ewell. Bassoon Digital Professor # 79.

<music: 1st Sixteenth Note Passage in Beethoven's 4th Symphony, Last Movement>

<music: 1st Solo>

<music: 2nd Solo>

<music: Last Sixteenth Note Passage>

OK, let's talk about the big solo.

You have many decisions to make here as well. We have talked previously about the tonguing patterns that you needed to decide.

But now in the solo itself you need to decide how to play the grace note.

This is not as easy a decision as you may think.

Let's talk about three ways: at least the three ways I am able to figure out that you can play this piece. Most of my career--and this includes my time in Hong Kong, other times, and just practicing this excerpt--

I have played this the way we will call the "purist" method.

That is that I tongue every written sixteenth. I don't give the slurs in this except that I slur the grace note to its main note. I slur the D4 to the C4. The little grace note on the downbeat that is in the third measure of that solo.

I would do that by placing that grace note on the beat. I think that's probably the way the strings do it when they are playing tutti (together)
although you know at speed is really hard to hear. I'm pretty sure probably with their bowing technique and things like that they are not going to alter their bowing technique, they are going back and forth, ... so they are going to slip in the [grace] note.

<music> so it is going to be on the beat. <music>

It is going to be right there on the beat. So you are going to maintain the same tonguing pattern. That's the way I did it for many, many years.

I would do my mixed tonguing or combination tonguing through the whole pattern when I get to the grace note then I place the grace note on the beat and then the note following it, C4, as quickly as possible and then go on. It was successful for me, it worked many times.

But recently I heard about some different things, and I've been “out of the loop,” but there are many bassoonists--John Miller among others, Phillip Kolker, there are others that mention this way of adding a slur. Slurring to, not only the grace note to the sixteenth, but also slurring another sixteenth in that grouping. That is really intriguing. Well one way to do that is to keep the purist approach, that is, putting the grace note on the beat and then slurring the C4 and Bb3 together so you have all of these slurred. <music>

So you are slurring this all together. <music> I didn't do that well. <music>

So really you can think of the grace note and the C following it as two 32nds.

<music> Like that.

That's one way that I think a lot of people have used that has been effective.

However, one way I am enjoying--one way I am enjoying practicing, and which I did in the excerpt I played for you earlier [in the beginning of the video]--is placing the grace note before the beat.

This means then that I slur from the Bb3 up to the D4 and C4. I really like that. First off it has this jazzy feel to it, to the tonguing pattern. <music>

<music> The feel to the tonguing pattern is really nice.

<music> Then there is an interesting clarity I find with hooking those two notes right around the C natural.

And in addition we've this thematic thing going.

<music> The tonguing method that I use here preserves that intervallic figure by keeping it on the beat. We have <music> and then the next measure <music>

It is not obscured because then the grace note comes before it, emphasizing that figure. I really like that.

May be you are convinced or maybe you are not. Anyhow see what that you like the best.

Now in terms of practicing this is going to create a dilemma for you. You must choose one of these methods.

I suppose the advantage to the purist [method], tonguing everything and the second method of slurring the grace note the C and B together, is that the placement of the grace note is exactly the same in all the patterns.

So there's a reinforcement between those where you can practice those two together and then decide which one you will use.

If you use my method--the one I have just been using-- then you will need to break the pattern. The grace note will be before the beat. There is a different time issue for that.

Now let's talk about practicing the tonguing pattern with the extra slur. Now if you are practicing the purist way than you can practice the same tonguing method that I talked about earlier in the tutti section and you just keep increasing the metronome speed.

However, if you are doing the other tonguing pattern, I suggest you do some practice of that tonguing pattern by itself. For instance, I might do this.


I practice this with my combination timing on a single note so that I can work on just the tonguing.

<music> Just work on the tonguing like that.

I might practice it with multiple methods. That is not a bad idea. Practice it with the single tongue, staccatissimo.

Of course I am holding down the flick key.Choose other notes too when you practice that. Let's do legatissimo on a G.

Very legato single tonguing. You can practice your double tonguing as well. The hard thing I found when I get my multiple tonguing working, my
combination tonguing working, it is hard to stop it and restart it.

So in addition to practicing the whole tonguing pattern by itself, I will practice certain tonguing groups: for instance, the restart of the tonguing pattern where the B natural comes in.

<music> I start with the K consonant. <music>

<singing> You see it is that place then. You might try all your tonguing patterns. I then I also practice taking the beat before that and going through the slurred notes.

<music> I didn't do it well.

So I am practicing my timing pattern TKTT__KTT T.

00:08:49,866 --> 00:08:57,766
TKTT__KTT T TKTT__KTT T. So I am practicing that pattern over and over again.

Take small sections of this solo and work through them. I find that is a very helpful practice technique. Break it up into areas you are having difficulty practice little patterns and then loop them together. It is called "concatenation."

We are taking the sections and putting them together and then creating your way of practicing the solo.

I hope that is helpful.