Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rite of Spring practice method

Here's a great method for learning the opening to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. It's great whether you're learning it for the first time or just brushing it up for an audition or performance.

Some preliminary comments:
  • The opening has no crescendo from the first C to the grace notes and B, but most people play one. Because there's no crescendo printed in the music, this gesture should be subtle and carefully measured. Think of the sound of the held C energizing and opening up until the B is inevitable. 
  • The beginning of the piece is not loud. I prefer to think of it as haunting and distant. Like a trip back in time. So no loud or abrupt sounds.
  • The progression from C - B - A forms the "skeleton" of the opening section in the first bassoon part. Tension should increase on the C through the B and then relax to the A. In spite of this being a famously modern piece, the opening phrases are really just old-fashioned, classical period arch phrases!!
  • Opening C -- my fingering:
x 1/2 o /xxoF
d           Bb

Using the high d key and covering just 1/2 or less of the second tone hole in the left hand allows for a quiet, controlled start that is in tune. You can grasp the reed more firmly and not go sharp because of the half hole. Remove the half hole immediately after starting. Some players combine this with a breath attack for an even softer start.

I've written this out by hand for my CIM students for years, never quite sure if they could read my poor handwriting! Now, thanks to my friend, Rich Shanklin, I've got a file of it and can just hand it out. 

You may find using a different order in each series is more helpful (series 1, exercises 1, 2, 4, 3, 5 and series 2, exercises 1, 3, 2, 4 for instance) but this is how I use it.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Besides the initial C, do you use "standard" fingerings only, or do you have some handy alternate ones? For instance, do you use whisper key on high G in the first bar?