Today’s sheet music is a famous tune by Mozart, Alla Turca (Turkish March) from his 11th symphony, third movement. It’s not an easy piece to play for beginners (doable though), but worth learning since it’s such a quintessential piano piece!
Sheet music for Alla Turca
Mozart: Alla Turca (Sonata #11 in A major)
“Alla Turca” is from Mozart’s 11th sonata in A major, and was probably composed in Vienna in 1783. For more about our main man Mozart, be sure to check out the video on the Life and Times of Mozart. You can also check out the video detailing his most famous works, the Music of Mozart.
Today’s sonata has three movements, of which Alla Turca is the third, popularly known as the ‘Turkish March’. At that place and time, the 18th century in Austria, Turkish music was very stylish for all kinds of political reasons (ie war), so Mozart was taking inspiration from contemporary styles when he wrote this one.
Learning points of Alla Turca
- Key signature: No sharps or flats, so it’s in one of two keys – either C major, or A minor. By taking a look at the first notes and opening chord, all outlining A minor, we can safely assume this is a minor-key piece.
- Time signature: It’s in 2/4, which is the time signature of marches. This just means there are two quarter beats per bar, so when we count this one, we only count up to 2 (easy!).
- Italian terms: Allegretto is our tempo marking, which simply means fast-ish. Not as fast as allegro, but don’t be slumping around either. That’s a very technical dictionary definition.
Other learning points in Alla Turca
The LH maintains a fairly steady 8th note rhythm for the whole song, so let’s start there. Remember when we’re counting 8th notes, we count 1 + 2 +. So it’s the right hand where things get interesting and we get those 16th notes. If you’re unsure about how to play or count 16th notes, definitely watch the previous video on 16th notes – how to count sixteenth notes.
Watch the sheet music carefully so you’re matching all the notes up properly – pay attention to that vertical stacking! It also helps to count out loud (1 e + a, 2 e + a, etc), even if it feels a bit silly. When you’re ready, give it a whirl with the metronome at a very slow tempo, to make sure your rhythm is accurate.
Another thing to notice about the left hand is the pattern of slurs and stacattos. Notice that first beat is always slurred into the second, followed by three staccatos. This pattern is constant throughout the whole song, and is crucial to driving the rhythm. Practice it separately from the right hand until it’s a very natural movement. The challenge comes when you have to play these staccatos in the left – and a slur in the right.
Unusual finger patterns
The last weird thing to point out in this tune is the finger patterns. Our main melody is in groups of 16th notes that require a thumb-under motion. Believe it or not, this action makes the piece EASIER to play, not harder. Without doing the thumb cross, you finish the pattern on finger 5, and then you have to kind of awkwardly hop to the next group of notes. With the thumb under motion though, it leaves you perfectly set up to begin the next sequence of notes on finger 4, so you’re less likely to make mistakes. This thumb under pattern is also much easier to play if you’re looking at your music, or not your hands – because you can feel the keys more comfortably.
This piece is definitely above and beyond the preparatory-level pieces we’ve been focusing on, but sometimes it’s nice to tackle a piece that’s a little more challenging – it might take longer to master, but the result is well worth it!