Teaching: How to End a Piece (Interpretation 101)

There’s a belief that students must learn to move their fingers first. Only after the ability to play has been well established can the student begin work on musicality, musicianship, interpretation, and stage deportment. This is certainly true in some respects. Students do have to learn to move their hands a bit first. From their very first piece, however, basic issues of interpretation can be taught.

Teaching a student how to end a piece is easy: it just requires a bit of a ritard. A teacher should write both the full word, ritard, the abbreviation, rit., in the score. After an explanation of the word has been given, demonstrate the effect to the student. Ask them to play along with while you slow them down and finish the piece. Then have them try it on their own a few times experimenting with how much to slow down and where to place the rit.

This often becomes a sort of game to get it just right. (and the student will know when it is!)

Art of the Cut Off

In addition to the rit, the basics of stage deportment can be taught at this stage. Show the student how to mute the strings and finish the piece. I like to rest my right hand on the strings in a certain way.

Right Position to Finish a Piece

Then have the student do a brief moment of poise then relax.

All of these things are extremely easy to show even the youngest of students. Last Saturday an eleven year-old student of mine did all of this on his very first piece. Teaching interpretation and stage deportment should be done early. By the time they are ready to walk on stage for a public performance the habits from lessons will be well ingrained and second nature.

Posted on in Guitar Teaching


  • Majorshake

    I’m a fan of the way Dylla mutes his strings at the end of a piece. It looks almost as if he is about to pick up the piece over again. Gives me a little chill down my spine when I see him.