Allegro non tanto–notes from a beginning blogger

5 Sep

Allegro non tanto: Italian words used to describe the speed of a piece of music.

Fast, but not too fast.

I’m a piano teacher by profession, so I consider myself pretty much an expert when it comes to music, but I often find this tempo marking difficult to interpret. How fast is “fast, but not too fast”? It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

In our stressful, over-produced lives, we often go too fast for our own good. Now, going fast is not always a bad thing—oh, the tasks we accomplish when we speed through life! Our existence seems so much more exciting and dramatic when we race toward the finish line. What we fail to realize is that there is no finish line.

In our haste to get where we think we’re going, we miss out on so much on the way. Life flashes by when we’re always trying to reach that unidentified goal; but because of our ignorance, we truly believe that when we get there, we’ll finally encounter that state of bliss that has always been just out of our reach. I’ve been living my entire life in an “Allegro” state of mind, when all along I should have just added a little bit of “non tanto” to the mix.

I often tell my piano students that they must slow down when they practice. Most children will choose a tempo that is faster than they can handle at the moment; their notes will come out uneven and sloppy in their haste to master the piece. They will unintentionally create hesitations and pauses that disrupt the flow of their music. They rush the tempo because they want the music to sound the way they think it’s supposed to, before they’ve put in the time on the piece necessary to make it a polished performance.

After practicing so fast for so long, these disruptions are very difficult to get rid of.  In practicing the piano, I’ve found the only way clean up these problems is to start over and slow down. Go fast, but not too fast. Give yourself time to breathe; to feel the phrasing of the music, hear the nuances buried in the musical line. The reality is that a great piece of music is never finished. You can always make it better. Just like life.

Take your time—Allegro non tanto…

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3 Responses to “Allegro non tanto–notes from a beginning blogger”

  1. Julie Barnes September 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

    Hi Jessie, This is wonderful! Very funny and well written! You are an inspiration to all of us who have hidden passions that we don’t pursue. You go girl! When can we have lunch? Julie

  2. Emily Sommermann September 10, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Thank you for your words of advice. If I had heard them 20 years, or even 15, or even 10 years ago, would I have been able to “slow down a bit” as I wish now I would have? Life rushes by so fast, we are all still too busy. My kids have come, grown and gone in a blur; I ask my husband “what was it like when they were little?” I tell my students parents to enjoy these days, don’t over book the kids, give yourselves time to sit and read with your child, hold them tight on your laps while you can. I think I can understand “Allegro non tanto”; let’s see if it’s possible!

  3. Roy Donkin September 16, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    I’m glad to see you’re blogging Jessica and look forward to reading what you have to share.

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