Haughton - Stroll On
Alan Haughton (b. 1950) is a teacher and composer with a background in both classical and jazz piano.
He has written a great deal of music for young players, including the “Play Piano!” tutor book series which includes a version specifically aimed at teenagers.
Other piano music includes the two “Rhythm and Rag” books and the “Fun Club” series from which this piece is taken.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This is a relaxed, jazzy piece which will be enjoyed by pupils with a sense of “cool”.
Pupils with very small hands may find it awkward to manage the jumps of up to a seventh which are a feature of the melody, along with a couple of LH stretches of a seventh, and some octave jumps.
A good sense of rhythm and pulse will be needed as there are plenty of anticipated beats and syncopations.
Style & Tempo
This is very much a jazz-influenced piece. It is breezy and casual in effect although it needs to be played with some precision in order to achieve this successfully.
The title and the marking “Gentle swing” give clues to the tempo. Counting will be in crotchets, at a range between 80 and 95 bpm.
To get the student into the mood and style, and to find a tempo that they are comfortable with, try playing or whistling it as they walk about the room. They will find it quite difficult to march or dance convincingly to this music, but strolling along should be relatively easy!
Phrasing & Articulation
The first 4-bar phrase builds up from a series of short gestures which set the style. The effect is quite disjointed in the RH, held together by the “strolling” minims of the LH which should be kept legato.
The piece falls naturally into 4-bar phrases, which will happen without any effort from the student as long as they are played fluently. At the end is a humorous interruption which delays the final cadence by a couple of bars.
Tone & Texture
The texture is mainly two-part, with a few thirds in the RH. There are also some 4-note block chords marking the end of the middle section and the end of the piece. These will be played more heavily. The remainder of the piece is lightweight in tone.
Rests, introduced wittily in bars 1 and 2, are a feature of this piece and should be started exactly where they are marked. Over-holding previous notes will sound lazy and spoil the characteristic texture of the piece.
The RH moves around in wide skips and jumps which will help develop accuracy, agility and confidence. It is important to relax wherever possible, especially after repositioning the hand or whilst playing loudly.
Chords and thirds should be played so that all the notes sound exactly together.
The student needs to pick, and write in, fingering that they can stick to. Two dangers from inconsistent fingering in this piece are missing the jumps and running out of fingers.
The jumps are a feature of the music and need to be played confidently. As it twists and turns around the keys, the student needs to take a longer view of how the hand position will move and change. Fingering should prevent tension and awkwardness as much as possible.
In Bar 1 students who find it uncomfortable to stretch out the 5th finger may want to start on 3 instead, but this does take the hand out of alignment so students with large enough hands should consider using 4 and exercising the 4-5 gap as a technical issue.
In Bar 11 a player with small hands may wish to finger the upward jumps 1-5 whilst somebody with larger hands could play them 2-5, using the thumb on the previous note.
In bar 3, there is a pair of semiquavers in the first beat which sounds like an ornament, although not notated as one.
The student may get anxious about how to count these in the context of a swing feel, and there could be unnecessary complications in switching to counting straight quavers. As long as the semiquavers sound relaxed and just slot into the end of the beat, there is no need to count them out exactly.
In bar 24 there is a little run up to the first beat in both hands, which should be played insouciantly. It is the same movement as “drumming” the fingers on a tabletop – which indeed could be tried out with the student as an exercise.
There is no need to pedal any of this piece. However, pedal could be used sparingly to warm up crotchet chords (only) in bars 15, 16, 23 and 25. It should not in any way create a join to the next chord.
There is a useful amount of repetition of material in this piece, making it a total learning task of 16 bars (out of 26).
The swing rhythm is essential and needs to be clapped and counted before the notes are attempted. Most of the piece sounds as if it is in 12/8,
This piece lends itself to singing or whistling along, to get a feel for the way the melody flexes around a descending chromatic framework in the first 4 bars (A, G sharp, G, F sharp, F, E, F).
All the jumping around in this piece can lead to tension. Encourage the student to relax at every opportunity. In between relaxing, precision is needed!
Movements may need to be practised at bars 15-16, and 23-26 where both hands change position and fingers need to arrange themselves in chord shapes.
As this is such an enjoyable piece it is tempting to play it through lots of times rather than focusing on getting details right. Keeping a disciplined approach to practising will make an excellent performance possible.
Where the same material leads into different endings, there may be confusion about what happens next. The student should be guided through what the differences are and in what order they happen (Bars 3-4, 7-8, 22-23)
The thirds in bar 3, 7 etc may seem difficult at first. A simple exercise moving slowly back and forth between 3/5 and 2/4 on the relevant notes will help to strengthen the fingers and give the thirds precision.
Haughton - Stroll On Grade 3 Level -
A complete performance, showing poise and style.
An excellent performance will bring a smile to the face of the listener. There will be a relaxed, self-assured air with perhaps a hint of cheekiness. The rests will be a witty feature and dynamic contrasts will be well handled. The player's absolute technical control will be taken for granted.
A good performance will be technically secure and well paced – but not too fast. Rhythms will be well maintained, with a clear steady beat. The good-humoured mood will be nicely communicated. Dynamics will be observed and the general impression will be of a relaxed stroll around a few ideas on the keyboard.
A sound performance will move at a suitable tempo, perhaps on the slow side. The rhythm may not always be quite crisp, and the confident air of the performer may sometimes seem a bit shaky. Dynamics may be rather flat.