Turning Flax into Gold…into music.

The skill of changing flax to gold (or the lack of it) got a certain lady in a lot of trouble in the famous fairytale Rumpelstiltskin.

Coolera Dramatic Society open their 40th consecutive pantomime tonight in Sligo – and you’ve guessed it – this year it’s Rumpelstiltskin. In the pantomime version, the leading lady gets herself in trouble with the evil gnome when there is a mix-up about her ability to turn flax into gold. She manages to do it in a village word game, but in true pantomime style this is misunderstood by the king, who hears that a village girl can turn actual flax into real gold, and insists that he does it for her – with some (almost) tragic consequences….

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The word game itself (see pic above) reminds me of one I played as a child. Change one four-letter word into another by changing one letter at a time, but each change has to result in a real word.

I was reminded of this game during the week, when one of my piano students was learning to play a solo piano piece called Comptine d’Un Autre Été from the film Amélie.

There is a 4-chord left hand pattern that continues through the whole song, with different melodies playing out above it.

It begins with E minor (the notes E, G, B), then to G major with a D bass (D, G, B), then to B minor with a D bass (D, F#, B) and finally to D major (D, F#, A).

Moving from E minor to D major, changing one note at a time, but always creating a new chord with each change. Remind you of anything?

Knowing how to play chords in many positions (not just the root position) is a key skill for pianists and guitarists. It means that with minimal movement you can subtly change the harmony while accompanying a melody.

And in the minds of singers and lead instrument players, the difference between being accompanied by someone who can do this and someone who can’t…well you might say it’s as big as the difference between flax and gold.

 

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