Musical Endings

Today I would like to talk about musical endings.

In his wonderful book Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself,  (I love the audiobook!) Alan Alda said,

Deep in our hearts we know that the best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart. Doorways, it seems, are where the truth is told.

The end of a song or piece is like a doorway. The truth of the music is revealed in the final measures with an outpouring of pure emotion moving us into silence or into the beginning of the next movement. Endings can be long or short, triumphant or tragic, lyrical or succinct, humorous or melancholic, stately or surprising, or can fade away into silence. Some are conclusive and others end with a question. As with beginnings and middles, it’s a good idea to put some thought and care into how we would like to end our piece.

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1) Practice your ending until you can let go of reading every note, and can move beyond the notes.

2) When you have worked your way to the final measures of a piece, think about your expression, or the emotion of the phrases. Write down a few words to describe the ending so that you can focus your mind on those emotions when you play it.

3) What tempos and dynamics will you use? Will you slow down at the end of a piece, or keep the tempo steady? Will your ending be piano or forte, or will it contain a mixture of dynamics?

4) If you are playing a popular song you can choose a wide variety of endings. You can improvise a little melody of your own. You can play some extra chords such as a minor ii7, V7, I. You can play some chord arpeggios such as the I – Major 7th. You can repeat the last few measures an octave higher, then end with a very low note.

5) Whatever type of music you are playing, make your ending count. Don’t let yourself rush through it like a horse back to the stables! Take the time to give your ending its due. What truth do you want to tell at this doorway? For Alan Alda, it was,

Oh, by the way, I love you

When you are ready,

1) Play your finished piece for someone you love and trust. Sharing your music with others is a great gift and gives your piece a sense of closure.

2) While you move on to new pieces, KEEP REVIEWING THE PIECES YOU KNOW AND LOVE.

3) If you haven’t played a piece for awhile, don’t get discouraged when you can’t play it perfectly the first time. Keep playing, and it will come back to you!

4) Write down a repertoire of about 10 pieces that you will keep in rotation. Play these pieces for yourself and/or others as often as you can.

Each time you review a piece, you will deepen your understanding of it. You will play it with increasing ease and expression over the weeks, months and years of review.

With love and music, Gaili

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A Pianists A-Z: A Piano Lover’s Reader. By Alfred Brendel                                                                       Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself. By Alan Alda