Lightly Row 2 and London Bridge:
After learning Cuckoo, the students return to Lightly Row, this time learning a new left hand pattern. The pattern was termed “Alberti Bass” after Domenico Alberti, who used this pattern frequently in his works during the Classical Era and somewhat into the Romantic Era. (We will see this pattern again later in Mozart’s Sonata K 545 in Book 6!) Alberti Bass is a broken chord/arpeggiated accompaniment (5-1-3-1 finger pattern) that helps create a smooth, flowing, sustained sound.
After mastering the left hand independently, the student is ready to add back in the right hand that they have already learned during Lightly Row Unison. Hopefully, they have continued to practice Lightly Row Unison as students are expected to maintain their repertoire, not simply practice their newest piece. As we begin to put hands together, students will experience the familiar skill of having to maintain left hand legato while right hand plays repeated-note legato. (For those of you who may have missed the article on Cuckoo, please see previous explanation of how to teach this technique.)
Though the book lists the next song after Lightly Row 2 in the repertoire as “French Children’s Song,” I have found that moving directly to London Bridge and Mary Had a Little Lamb has been helpful. When students have mastered these two songs, I find they are more prepared to learn French Children’s Song. London Bridge also contains the Alberti bass pattern in the left hand, in a very similar manner, and children are excited to already know how to play it. It is exciting to hear children who may have been struggling say, “That’s easy! I know how to do that!” To which I usually quote my father, who used to say, “Everything is easy when you know how to do it!” I continue to encourage my students with this concept throughout the repertoire; to persevere through difficult material knowing that once they “know how to do it,” it is no longer difficult, but easy.
Most children are familiar with the tune of “London Bridge” as it is a common children’s song which makes the right hand even simpler for them to learn. If they happen to not know the tune, they will have learned it regardless from listening to the recording. Honing the student’s auditory skills, I help them to sound out the right hand melody before putting hands together. The trickiest part of London Bridge is the first four notes, because the rhythm is syncopated. Students will need to master the “together, left, right, together” movement of their hands. After that, the song is pretty straightforward, especially since students have already mastered Lightly Row 2, London Bridge will most likely be a breeze. Some students need a few more repetitions to master the last two measures because the right hand is playing half notes while the left plays quarter notes, but a little isolated drilling practice does the trick.
Tune in next time for Mary Had a Little Lamb, followed by French Children’s Song!