On Making Music; The Story of The Princess and The Whole Note Test

(Serious title: On making music, featuring conversations during four lessons and a rehearsal)

The Princess and The Whole Note Test

Once upon a time, there was a Princess who lived in the Ice Cream Kingdom. The Princess wanted to pass the Whole Note Test, which had to be taken by anyone who wanted to become a true musician. However, she felt that she was still not good enough and she needed to seek wisdom from The Kings and The Queens. Therefore, she decided to travel to meet The Kings and The Queens, and wrote the conversations she had in lessons with Their Majesties in her pink diary. Firstly, she went to the castle of The Queen of Shades to learn how to pass the sight-reading test. 

The Queen of Shades gave The Princess an exercise to try. 

The Queen of Shades: “In sight reading test, you are not expected to play the piece perfectly. The most important thing is to treat the exercise as a piece of music, not just a bunch of notes and rhythm. If you make mistakes, do not stop, you have to keep going!”
Princess: “But I could not even get anything right.”
The Queen of Shades: “Can you please stop over exaggerating? Your mistakes were not significant. Let me put it into this, if you stop, you get the whole thing wrong, if you miss the notes and get the rhythm right, at least you get 50%”
Princess: (chuckled) “That makes sense.”
The Queen of Shades: “It is not only for the test, when you are learning a piece of music, the goal is not to get each rhythm and each note right, but try to focus on playing the whole piece and don’t be put off by small errors. Remember that you are making music.”
The Queen of Shades closed the book and handed it to the Princess. Then, the Princess moaned, “No wonder it was so hard!”

Apparently, The Queen of Shades gave the Princess an exercise from two grades above her level. She said goodbye to The Queen of Shades and continued her journey to meet her old friend, King of Moustache, who gave her piece X last time she saw him.

Princess: “I still can’t play it, it is too hard for me.”
King of Moustache: “Your statement has become invalid since I have heard it so many times before.”
Princess: “I thought I should play something easier if I want to get top marks for the Whole Note Test?”
King of Moustache: “Yes, but a test is just a test, and one has to know that there are more to think about.”
Princess: “That’s right.”
The King of Moustache asked the Princess to practice piece X and told her to come back in six days time. On the seventh days, the Princess came to King of Moustache with her fiddle in her bag, and played for the King.
The King of Moustache: “There are a couple of things to improve but it is very good, in terms of musicality. However, one has to work hard in order to play the fiddle well, but keep in mind, you are making music. Technique comes after musicality.”
The King of Moustache: “You can leave now, I trust you with the piece, it is my favorite piece to play in the encore of my concerts.”

The Princess’s eyes widened and my mouth dropped (although she knew that she should have not behaved this way). It means that the piece given by The King of Moustache is hard. She expressed her gratitude to the King and started her journey to The King of Riddles’ kingdom.

After a few days of walking, the Princess found the King of Riddles’ palace. She walked into the palace and suddenly she heard The King’s voice saying, “What am I hearing today, Princess?”

Princess: “I am here to present you my concert program for the Whole Note Test, Your Majesty.”
The King of Riddles: (Laughing loudly) “I am excited!”
The Princess started her program with the Waltz, finished with the Peasant Dances and looked at the King who was staring at her.
The King of Riddles: “Not bad at all, Princess. However, I just want to tell you that in the Whole Note Test, it is not about who plays the least wrong notes, who can play with the fastest speed, or who is able to bash the keyboard loudly… it is about how you shape the phrase, your understanding of the style and characteristics of the piece, and your musicality.”

The Princess felt that it was time for her to set off and go to The Fairy Godmother who will accompany her in the Test. She bade the King of Riddles farewell and walked into the forest.

Not long after she walked into the forest, she heard someone singing beautifully. She finally found the lady who was singing and introduced herself to her politely. The lady smiled warmly at her and said, “Greetings, young lady, I am The Queen of Aria.” The Princess took this chance to gain wisdom from The Queen by telling her that she was going to do the Whole Note Test.

The Queen of Aria: “Most of the time, you will be fine simply because you have practiced your part.”
Princess: “Yes, in an ideal world, that would happen.”
The Queen of Aria: “Sometimes you will make small mistakes, and if you do, from that point, you have to promise yourself to make it perfect until the end of the song and everyone will think, ‘Oh that was excellent! She did make mistakes and had a bit of memory lapse, but who cares?! She was making great music!”
Princess: “What if you make another mistake?”
The Queen of Aria: “Promise yourself to make it perfect for the rest of the song… for the second time.”
Princess: “Thank you for the wisdom, Your Majesty.”
The Queen of Aria: “I hope it will go well, sweetheart.”
 

The Princess walked for another day and she finally reached her last destination, The Fairy Godmother’s house. The Fairy Godmother was watering the flowers and as soon as she saw the Princess she said, "Do you have your fiddle with you? We shall start now."

The Fairy Godmother and The Princess played together.

The Fairy Godmother: “You will be fine for the Fiddle Test, of course you will, but I feel that you can give more than that. Do you play any Allegro Sonata for your Keyboard Test?”
Princess: “Yes.”
The Fairy Godmother: “I want you to play it for me. Do you know it by heart?”
Princess: “Yes, but you know, my right hand has been holding the bow so…”
The Fairy Godmother: “Just try your luck!”

Although she was hesitate to do it, The Princess sat on the keyboard stool and quickly launched into the opening of her Allegro Sonata. Right after she finished the first subject The Fairy Godmother said,

“Well, that was magnificent! Did you even realize what you did with the Allegro Sonata? I knew that you know how to play musically but you just did not have the confidence. I know that your keyboard skill is way above your fiddle skill but the Whole Note Test is not just about playing the right notes! Now take out your Melodie!”

The Princess walked away from the piano and took Melodie from the music stand.

The Fairy Godmother: “Sing it!”
Princess: “I cannot.”
The Fairy Godmother: “Yes, you can!”

The Fairy Godmother gave her the cue to the entry and the Princess started to sing the fiddle part.

The Fairy Godmother: “Yes, Princess, yes, yes, yes! That was it!,” said The Fairy Godmother as she jumped from the piano stool. “You just have to transfer everything to your fiddle playing. Do not pull back whenever you make mistakes and do not worry too much about the pitch and bowings! Remember, you are making music!”

The Princess thanked The Fairy Godmother and decided to start her journey to the Ice Cream Kingdom. On the next day, she arrived at her palace and rewarded herself three slices of Chocolate Cheesecake.

After the journey, the Princess had gotten so much wisdom from The Kings and The Queens to help her pass The Whole Note Test, even though she felt that she still has so much more to learn. The Princess decided to go to the practice chamber and to the library afterwards. However, instead of going straight to the practice chamber, she went to get two scoops of ice cream first.

Fine.