Episode 35: 8 tips to play good endings

Episode 35: 8 tips to play good endings

Hester…! María…!
The CONSORT COUNSELLORS! In one of our first videos we gave you advice
on how to start a piece… …and today, in our 35th episode, we would like to give you
8 TIPS on how to END a piece! Because ending a piece is of major importance.
It is the last message that you leave behind on stage If this is a good message, you can confirm your quality, or even “save the piece”
when things didn’t go well during the performance. It can also go the other way around:
Imagine you’ve played a FANTASTIC performance, but in some way you have a disappointing final chord…
That would be a pity, wouldn’t it? So, let’s get started with those tips! When we are rehearsing, sometimes we neglect the endings a bit. At times it is difficult to bring up the concentration
to really play the piece until the end, or we are so disappointed by the final chord
that we just stop in the middle of it… Always end your piece with grace. No matter what happens before,
don’t give up before it is over! If you are in charge of coordinating the ending you need to make sure that you are
absolutely comfortable with this task, because for a moment you are going to be
the “conductor” of the ensemble. Your colleagues should be able to feel EXACTLY
when you are going to stop playing. The best way to show them is usually
to either ‘draw’ a circle or a line up and down with your instrument. You depart from one point,
and when you return to it, you stop playing. Avoid too many movements before ending the note… …and also avoid stopping the sound
before your movement is over. Even when your movement is quick,
it needs to be prepared beforehand so that people can follow. The quicker the ending, the smaller your gesture…
…but always prepared! Let all members of the ensemble practice giving the ending,
and not only the top-line player. When you play on bigger instruments,
it’s a little bit more difficult to draw your lines or circles, you probably have to add an additional movement
by one of the body parts, like your head, your arms or your hands. You may be wondering: why is it important
that all members of the ensemble are able to give a clear ending and that all members of the ensemble are able to understand everyone else? We are used to the player of the top line giving basically all the cues,
including the ending of the piece. But there may be many musical reasons not to choose for the top line,
but for a different member to give the ending of the piece. For example, when a lower voice has more movement than the others
just before the end, it’s more logical that they give the ending, because they can prepare the timing of the ending much better. Or, when a certain voice starts the next movement of the piece,
it makes more sense that they end the previous movement. The timing is then coming from one brain
so it feels much more natural on stage. There is also another reason why it’s really good
that all members of the ensemble are skilled in the art of giving cues… Sometimes, especially if you are playing one of the larger instruments,
you may run out of breath during the final chord a bit too early… It’s better to give an elegant cue for a slightly shorter chord
based on your air reserve, and that your colleagues understand you, rather than dropping out
or having to end in a not-too-elegant way… But remember: just for emergencies! An exercise to understand your colleagues and the music better and better is ending a piece without any cue. So, not showing the end at all and seeing
if we can understand each other so well that we still end magically all together. How do we reach this goal? To start with, we play everything exactly as it’s written, – no slowing down into the final chord – and when we get to the final chord,
we subdivide it in eighth notes (quavers), which means nine equal notes. Now we will play the final chord,
but without subdividing in eighth notes (quavers) just following them mentally. By doing this – playing the final chord without any cue –
we focus on the sound and the shape of the chord without having to look for a visual cue to end it.
Therefore we share it much better, as one, which is a really good thing! We continue with another step of the exercise. Even if you slow down into the ending,
you can keep thinking and playing subdivisions, and slow the subdivision down in a way
that feels logical to you and to your colleagues. Let’s try to play once more the same fragment.
We subdivide the last chord again, but now with ‘rallentando’. And now, we will close the note without the subdivision
and with the ‘rallentando’, and we listen to what feels logical for ourselves to end the note.
We can also do this back to back, or with eyes closed. If you manage that, congratulations! It’s actually very difficult.
Even more so if you have more than two players! But worth a shot. When you practised the final chord without anyone ‘conducting’ the end, you can still decide to reduce the risk on stage and give a tiny cue
for the ending of the piece. A tiny cue, instead of a big movement, can be magical
when you play a slow movement of a sonata… A tiny and discreet cue may be a good way of ending an Adagio, but for other pieces you may want to use a bigger and prouder movement. As usual with breathing and movement,
always connect them with the character of the piece. Once you have practised all of the previous tips, we have one last tip, as a cherry on the cake. Always decide upon one ‘goal’ within the final chord. Do you want to incrase the intensity until the end? Or do you go towards the third beat and then relax? Or would you like to start proud and disappear into the ending? Perhaps you are playing in a recorder ensemble which has a conductor. If this is the case, do not forget,
when you see that the end is coming, and you have an overview of your few final notes, to look away from the score and look at your conductor.
Try to feel with them, already in the last few bars, What exactly do they want? What’s the timing, what’s the length? Follow them! Talking about endings:
the last part of a piece is sometimes called FINALE, and Finale happens to be the name of an excellent series
of music notation programmes with which you can notate your own compositions and arrangements. I have always been a Finale user,
and what I find the best about it is that I can copy music very quickly, which is very useful for me because I prepare a lot of music for teaching and for my ensembles. There are also a lot of professional musicians who are fond of Sibelius. For example, Hester is a Sibelius user. I have to say that when you make a very good score in Sibelius,
it really looks fantastic! We are curious to know which notation software YOU use: Lilypond, MuseScore, Capella…? Do you have recommendations for other musicians?
Please, leave us a comment in the comment section. Before we go, just a tiny little reminder:
the QUIZ we presented last week is still on and we are waiting for your answers! Check Episode 34, in the end, for the three questions to answer and you can possibly win this excellent, spectacular
Consort Counsellors Coffee Mug… …and a Seldom Sene CD signed by all the members! Have a lovely week! See you soon! Bye!

You May Also Like

About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Thank you for another very interesting tutorial. I use Musescore 2 for printing scores, it's free. I also use Cakewalk for midi backing tracks for practise, it's also free now.

  2. Yet another excellent episode! I use Lilypond, with the Frescobaldi user interface. They are both free. I read music on an iPad Pro with ForScore. It’s great to be able to read a 10-page score without taking my hands off the recorder (turning pages with a foot pedal).

  3. All scores I want to play I enter in Musescore, because I can enlarge and print it, so I still can play from an actual sheet. For practicing at home I leave it on screen. I would not be able to play music anymore without a good notation program. Both Finale and Sibelius are very good, but they come at a price. Musescore is open source software (so free); it can't be bought by some company which will sell the assets and leave the users out in the cold.

    I really love the community of musescore as well, every question is almost answered at once.

  4. Lilypond is the best! Without interface; that costs some time to learn, of course, but the advantage is that you have a lot of freedom when it comes to formatting, and it's perfect for notating contemporary music because you can basically program anything.

  5. I have recently started using Dorico (made by previous Sibelius developers who were laid off when it was bought by Avid,) it's not a software with the same history as the other two, but it works very well for what it does, and when it does not do what I need, I use Sibelius. I am still on version 7.5 of Sibelius because I did not like the changes Avid was making to the structure of the program, financially. Lovely video, by the way!

  6. Thanks for the excellent video! I tend to use MuseScore most of the time, but for preparing printed examples in a book I prefer PMW, which is text-based, not GUI-based.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *