Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/czerny


In Czerny Op.740, Book I - No.1 there is an "sf" in some places. The LH plays a chord and the RH plays sixteenth notes (and we have "sf" written in the bar). How would you interpret the "sf" in those bars?
In No.1 there is another interesting thing. You have forte, then diminuendo and then piano. It seems to me that the diminuendo is a smooth connection between forte and piano. How do you look at this?

Dear Hank,

Thanks for this interesting question.

There is a great deal of confusion (even among experienced musicians) about the use of dynamic signs partly because classical composers used them in different ways. The sign "sf" is usually taken to mean sforzando (abbreviated as sf, sfz or fz)and in Italian, it means "forced". This implies that it is not a heavily accented chord but simply "pushed" forward. In the Czerny, I think it is safe to assume that the "sf" refers to the LH chord which is a C dominant 7th and quite significant because it takes into the key of F two bars later. I'd say that in performance, just "push" the chord so that it feels a bit stronger. A few bars later Czerny writes accent signs above the chords in the RH so clearly he felt that sf meant something different to accents.

Some bars later, there is an sf mark under a single eighth note. Composers are often notoriously inconsistent about how they add dynamic instructions. Later in the work (I have lost count of the bar numbers!) Czerny writes an fz marking. Nowadays we'd interpret an sf and an fz as virtually the same thing - just a different way of abbreviating the word sforzando. We also have to remember that music engravers sometimes made mistakes and making changes on an engraved metal plate was a time-consuming process. I feel sure that some minor errors were simply ignored by the publishers.

Your second point presumably refers to the passage towards the end of the piece. I agree with you on your interpretation. It also seems that the "dim" sign takes us down through p and pp until the last couple of bars when there is a dramatic crescendo and final ff chords. This is real music drama!

If you can play this piece well, your fingers are in a better state than mine! All good wishes with your musical studies.


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Dr Colin


I can answer questions from students of "classical" composing, arranging, notation problems and music theory, writing for instruments and voice and writing music for education. I can answer questions about orchestration but I do not cover questions about pop or rock music, pop song writing or electronic music.

I taught for many years in UK up to "A" level theory and composition. I have spent many years in music education, initially (like everyone else) as a teacher. Then I moved on to advisory work (teaching teachers!) and also lectured, giving many workshops for teachers in developing music education skills and techniques. For a time I worked as a teacher-lecturer at London University's Institute of Education and eventually worked full-time as a Music Education Adviser to schools in part of London, offering advice on music education and curriculum development.


I started composing music at the age 14 (it was mostly rubbish, since you asked) and now have a large number of compositions to credit as well as many publications, especially for instrumental music and choral music. I have also written several acclaimed works for large orchestra and choir. My work has been published particularly in the UK (under different names)(notably by Boosey & Hawkes, Novello, and Schott) but also in the USA and the Netherlands.

My music for elementary players (several publications) has been performed and broadcast worldwide. I am now retired from my previous job as Music Education Adviser. These days I spend most of my time composing and arranging. I am currently working on instrumental arrangements of world national anthems for my National Anthems website and also completing a suite of very easy piano solos and duets for elementary players. For many years I have used the music program "Finale" for all my music writing activities.

International Society for Music Education; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

"The Times" Educational Supplement; "Hi-Fi News and Record Review". For several years, I used to write for many of the state music education periodicals in the US and I also wrote several influential articles on instrumental music teaching for "Music Teacher" magazine in the UK. (UK).

PhD(Hons); MA(Hons); FLCM (compositon) ARCM, LMusTCL,(music diplomas)

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