The Ambiguity of Musical Expression Marks and the Challenges of Teaching and Learning Keyboard Instruments: The Nnamdi Azikiwe University Experience

  • Ikedimma Nwabufo Okeke


The relevance of musical expression marks —technical words, symbols, phrases, and their abbreviations— in music is to guide the performer through a thorough interpretation and appreciation of the dynamics and subtleties of a piece of music. These marks, though fundamental to piano pedagogy, sometimes appear confusing to the enthusiastic piano student owing to the fact that some of the performance marks demand subjective expressions from the performer such as, ‘furiously’, ‘fiercely’ ‘with agitation’ ‘brightly’, tenderly, etc. Piano-keyboard education is still a ‘tender’ art in Nigerian higher institutions where most learners start at a relatively very late age (17-30 yrs) and so, it becomes burdensome and sometimes unproductive to encumber the undergraduate piano-keyboard student with a plethora of performance marks when he is still grappling with scales and arpeggios. This paper therefore suggests teaching keyboard basics and technique and employing fundamental musical expression marks/dynamics first for undergraduate piano teaching and learning in our institutions. Only when students have shown competences in the basic dynamic/expression marks such as, crescendo, accelerando, andante, moderato, allegro, larghetto etc, can the more complex and subjective ones be introduced in their keyboard repertoire.


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eISSN: 1595-1413