Techniques for Evoking the Right Mood

As students reach a certain level of mastery, it’s time for a teacher to begin introducing techniques that will enhance students’ artistry. Of these, perhaps the most important are methods for effectively capturing the mood called for in a given piece.

Joyce Prichard, director of music at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern, Pennsylvania, offers several suggestions for helping students evoke particular moods. In her opinion, a rich, Romantic sound calls for more bow. She recommends that students use the full weight of their bowing arm for the most effective sound: “I love to use the idea of leaning into the bow.” A Movement such as “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations is an excellent example of music calling for such a technique. For cheerful moods, Prichard says, “I always think of Baroque music.” Playing in the upper half of the bow is advisable for sunnier pieces.

Making students aware of the different string tones can help them decide where on the fingerboard they might choose to play specific notes. Working on mood can also help students see the artistry within the music; in this way, they will begin to develop their own style as interpreters.

This article has been adapted from an article of the same name by Cynthia Darling. See page 49 in your November 2008 issue of Teaching Music for the expanded article.

— Nicole Springer, November 5, 2008. © National Association for Music Education