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Simplifying the Score using Blocking

When we begin work on a new piece, we might feel bewildered by all the information on the page. The score is dense with notes, fingerings, pedallings and other instructions and it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Where do we begin? Starting from the beginning and attempting to process everything at once can often be frustrating and overwhelming, and we feel we are not getting to grips with the piece at all.

Making our own simplified versions of the score can be a very useful tool when starting on a new piece, and there are many ways to do it depending on the piece. Not only does it make the music easier to process and digest, it helps with memory too.

Blocking

Blocking is where we take a passage written in broken chord figuration and practise it as solid chords.

For example, let’s look at this Prelude by Bach (the C minor, from Book 1 of the 48)

The underlying harmonic progression gives a sense of how to shape the constant stream of semiquavers (16th notes). To discover the chorale (the harmonic framework), play the first two notes in each half bar together thus:

Simplified version of Bach's Prelude in C Minor

In this video, I illustrate a few different examples of blocking, starting with the Bach Prelude (above) and ending with the opening of the slow movement of Mozart’s Sonata in F, K.332.

Mozart Sonata in F K332

Further reading & resources

  • Practising the Piano multimedia eBook series – click here for more information
  • Skeleton Practice – click here to view my Online Academy series on using skeleton practice
  • Annotated Study Edition – click here to purchase my annotated study edition for the Bach Prelude & Fugue featured in this article
  • From the Ground Up – click here for more information on the From the Ground Up series on the Online Academy which provides reduced scores and outlines to help you learn pieces faster