A piece for performance needs to be long enough for the audience to digest. There is such thing as a minimum and optimal length for the listener. Easy piano pieces are often deemed too short. One strategy for beginning piano students to play a piece long enough to satisfy the ear is to combine what they know into a medley.
How does one arrange a medley?
Here are my own guidelines.
- There should be a common theme or thread, which can be accompaniment, theme, mood, key, content or context.
- The transitions should be somewhat seamless. In other words, it shouldn’t appear as disconnected separate pieces. It shouldn’t seem like the performer only knows so much, stops or hesitates and tries to play something else and stops again.
- There should be a beginning and an ending, like any complete piece.
- There are many ways to arrange a medley, from loose to tight.
- Choose familiar parts of the pieces to merge in a medley.
Below is my medley on Bach’s Prelude in C from his famous Well-Tempered Clavier. There are plenty of free arrangements of his first prelude for different instruments on IMSLP. I started with the familiar tunes of St Francis of Assisi and Gounod’s Ave Maria, before regressing to love songs of Richard Marx, Air Supply, and Yazoo, and ending with Pachelbel’s Canon.
When my friend shared a video of his young son’s performance of JS Bach’s Prelude in C on a harpsichord in London, I was suddenly reminded of a medley I arranged in 2000. I wrote on my first website “analyticalQ presents” that a lot of melodies appeared when I played that prelude. The melodies (2-page PDF) simply floated on top of the repetitive broken chords. [Click on the sample score below to get the 8-page PDF.]