[Tutorial] How to Play Arietta by Clementi (Prep B)
It’s tutorial time! In today’s episode, I’ll share some tips for playing Clementi’s Arietta, a Prep B-level piece.
As always, the sheet music is available to download for free here. Put it on your tablet or print it out, and follow along!
We’ve talked about Clementi before – in fact, we’ve done an entire video on Clementi’s backstory. He was a Classical-era composer, and most of you are probably familiar with his Sonatinas (if not by name, then by sound). His sonatinas are at an intermediate level, and I’ve done a tutorial on the easiest and most famous one on this channel.
Since most of his music starts at a Grade 3 level and up, I wanted to share one of his simpler pieces, somewhere around a Prep B/Grade 1 level. I’m currently wrapping up my Prep B-level course, and about to start a new round. This was one of the pieces I was thinking of including, but as is often the case, there are too many wonderful pieces to choose! So I’m sharing this one with you instead.
Basics of Clementi’s Aria
Let’s get the basics down first. We’ll figure out the key signature and tempo – and what is an Arietta, anyway?
Well, it’s a short Aria. So what’s an aria? A solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment. Many pop music could be considered the modern equivalent of operatic arias. So from the title, we know this is a melody-driven piece, and as such, we’ll want to bring that sound forward.
I’m going to play it through for you so you can get a feel for it, and then we’ll break it down further.
Some details for playing Clementi’s Aria
A lovely tune, and since it’s in the Classical style, it features a moving, relatively independent left hand (as opposed to chords). The nice thing about this, though, is that until the very end, the left hand doesn’t jump around too much. The right-hand melody also stays in a narrow range, which is typical of pieces that are meant to either be sung, or to imitate sung music.
Since it’s such a melody-driven piece, I like to encourage students to sing through this one. Learn the melody notes by ear before you even press the keys. Being able to hum the tune, the way you would do for any song on the radio, will be indispensable for learning the piece on the keyboard.
One technical aspect of this piece are the frequent 2-note slurs, which should be played with a drop-lift motion. This gives them a light and rhythmic sound (we’ve talked about 2-note slurs on this channel before).
Speaking of rhythmic sound, the 2/4 time signature in this one gives it an interesting flavor. Our pattern of strong-weak beats in 2/4 is STRONG-weak STRONG-weak, like a march or polka. We pull this off by focusing on our two-note slurs, and paying attention to the downbeats.
What’s the form of this one? Well, it looks to be ABA, with the second A version being different from the first. This means that the A sections are similar, but not identical. And then we’ve got this entirely different B section in the middle, featuring a broken left-hand pattern.
In order to play this pattern, you have to keep your left hand loose. Rock your hand side-to-side and try to press less with your fingers, generating more sound from your arm weight as you tilt your hand.
This is a piece I’d spend a few days learning to an even, slow tempo – and once I’m there, I would add the metronome to slowly and incrementally boost up the speed. For the average Prep B student, I’d expect this piece to take 2-3 weeks – the first week dedicated to getting a slow and even performance, and the next 1-2 weeks speeding it up.
Hope you enjoy this piece! If you want more tutorials and to learn alongside others, be sure to join one of my piano group classes, which run every six months or so. We’ve got a Prep B group starting shortly, which you can join the waitlist for. You can also join the waitlist for our complete beginner group, Prep A.
Take care and have fun,