On this page you can buy the 12 volumes of the Harpsichord Method by Frank Mento, intended for 10 years of harpsichord training. Two supplementary volumes are now available, dedicated to Basso Continuo and international contests.
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About Frank Mento
Frank Mento, born in the United States, holds degrees from the Dana School of Music (Youngstown State University), from the College-Conservatory of Music (University of Cincinnati) and from the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. He has done additional study with Huguette Dreyfus (harpsichord), Eiji Hashimoto (basso continuo), Daniel Roth and Raphaël Tambyeff (organ). He is Professor Emeritus of Harpsichord at the Conservatory of the 18th precinct in Paris and Organist Emeritus at Saint-Jean de Montmartre Church, also in Paris. He concertizes in Europe and North America.
To Huguette Dreyfus
This method is dedicated to Huguette Dreyfus, the best teacher I ever had. All those who have been able to consult Volume 1 surely must have noticed this dedication.
On May 16, 2016, this great lady of the harpsichord passed on, and this is why I wish to pay a tribute to her here.
It was Huguette Dreyfus who taught me how to understand the harpsichord, an instrument I wasn't at ease with. She showed me how to make it sing. With Huguette Dreyfus, everything was easy ; a simple gesture on her part was sufficient, and empathy was established between teacher and pupil.
I only have one regret, that is to not have known her earlier in my life.
One day we shall meet again.
My memories of Huguette Dreyfus, Harpsichord player (November 1928 - May 2016)
When I was still a student in Paris, I loved to play music by Rameau. Though his music was hardly featured in teaching or piano competition programs, I would play his pieces to take my mind off of things.
A few years later, I was listening absent-mindedly to the radio. The harpsichord player Huguette Dreyfus was talking about a piano recording of Rameau's music. She commented on what a great thing it was for pianists to play pieces originally intended for the harpsichord, and this surprised me. For a long time I had been under the impression that harpsichordists did not take well to pianists trying their hands at a harpsichord piece. This convinced me that if I were to perform Rameau for anybody, it would first and foremost have to be for her.
Many years later I sent her my piano recording of Rameau and Couperin. No response. In a very out-of-character manner for me, I plucked up my courage and phoned her directly. To my surprise (and also relief), she remembered my recording. "I have too much to say, and there's really no use in talking of crotchet notes and quavers on the phone. You just come to meet me in person next time you're in Paris!"
The first time I met her in person she gave me extensive notes and feedback on my entire recording - despite never having met, nor heard of, me before. What Huguette advised me was the basics of ornamentation. I had always thought of grace notes as just optional, additional decorative notes on the basic tune, never really paying much attention to them as there were far too many to play perfectly, note for note. But Huguette emphasised that ornaments were in fact the essence of music, encapsulating the playful spirit. She recommended I stop using edited versions of Couperin or Rameau and instead look for the original editions, in which the composers had detailed how they wanted their ornaments to be played.
Indeed, in his manuscripts, Couperin had written that he wished for his music to be played how he had envisioned it. As somebody who had bluffed her way through grace notes and played however she wanted, I felt that it was now time for me to reassess my relationship with Rameau and Couperin. Changing the way I thought and the way I played took a long time and much arduous work, but Huguette always provided great advice and guidance.
From then on, whenever we would meet, I would make sure to send her a recording of myself playing before the meeting. Her frankness was always much appreciated. "It's not perfect but you've definitely improved."
During the winter of 2015 I tried to phone her a few times but had no answer. The day I arrived in Paris I phoned her again, and miraculously she replied. She had just returned home after spending a good few months in hospital. This sort of thing happened many times since then, and even now, a year after her passing, I still expect to suddenly hear her voice again on the other end of the line after a prolonged of silence.
Here is an online harpsichord method for children and even all beginners! It was while teaching harpsichord in Education Action Zones (UK), or in Affirmative Action Areas (USA), that I noticed that a great effort still remained necessary to make the learning of this instrument accessible. The goal of this method is to favorize in a pleasant manner the learning and localization of the most commonly played notes, motor skills, as well as hand coordination and displacement by way of Basso Continuo, Diminutions, Articulations and Sight-reading. This project was born thanks to the pupils and their needs. It is the fruit of 12 years of planning and experimenting in real life situations. This approach parts from the standpoint that the beginning pupil has no previous musical knowledge.
I teach beginners having no previous musical knowledge by a method that englobes education by the eye, ear, muscle, and drawing. This is learning based on relative reading, singing, motor skills, and Three-Dimensional Geometry transfered to two dimensions.
It is a realistic and living approach. Pupils learn how to read music like a design or drawing.
A long time ago, in order to ornate and vary the music, musicians had a habit of inventing little melodies, which made the piece more joyous, expressive, and prettier. This tradition of ornamentation and improvization based on a melody died in the early 19th century as far as "classical" music is concerned. Now, only Jazz musicians and musicians of traditional musics practice it fluently.
To diminish means to replace a long note by many little notes in the same duration. You diminish the length of the notes, but you augment or increase their number. Diminutions are used in the performance of solo pieces, as well as in the realization of basso continuo in the music of the Renaissance and the early 17th century (Monteverdi, Schütz, Caccini, Sweelinck, Byrd, Bull, etc.). All the musicians (keyboardists, instrumentalists, singers) of this period knew how to add diminutions, and enjoyed doing so. Diminutions make the repertoire more interesting to listen to.
To know how to add diminutions is just as important as knowing how to add ornaments of the period 1680-1750 to the pieces by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Rameau.
Complementary free scores from well-known composers. Feel free to download and redistribute them!
Here, we are starting from nothing. It is the ABC's of music. The basics of learning and localizing notes are laid down, as well as the first steps in touch, hand coordination and displacement, motor skills, and articulation. This volume contains 79 pages.
This volume is a transitory phase. It contains less pages, but there is more to do. We reinforce the skills acquired in Volume 1, and prepare the pupil to play more important pieces. We introduce the English virginalists and their ornamentation. The pupil is going to play pieces where each hand plays several notes. We begin a study of Major scales in historical fingerings, introduce historical exercises, and the concept of notes inégales. We also begin a study of Basso Continuo and Diminutions. This volume contains 28 pages.
This volume discusses J.S. Bach's fingering. The pieces are considerably longer. We continue our study of Articulations. The German, French, Italian, and English Schools are represented here. This volume contains 88 pages.
We complete our study of Diminutions and start a study of Ornamention from the period 1680-1750 and how to incorporate it in the repertoire. We introduce the Dutch School and study exercises Bach might have known. This volume contains 54 pages.
We begin studying selections from the larger suites and continue our study of the English virginalists and unmeasured prelude. The polyphonic articulation exercises permit the pupil to acquire more independence. The pupil is offered the opportunity to improvize ornaments in a fantasia. Performance Practice notes are given when necessary. This volume contains 69 pages.
This volume prepares the pupil for the repertoire that will be studied in Volume 8, which is a summa of diverse styles and historical information. In Volume 7, we continue our study of selections from the larger suites, play selections from the Wegweiser, an organ method Bach might have known, and meet the acquaintance of Domenico Scarlatti. The Localizing Notes exercises we had in Volumes 1 to 6 serve as a preparation for Sight-reading, and here are the first exercises. This volume contains 42 pages.
In this volume, we treat more polyphony and counterpoint, study Early Italian Baroque fingerings, learn how to prepare an unmeasured prelude, approach Late Medieval repertoire, discuss the earliest fingerings, explain "musica ficta", approach the Spanish Renaissance, the English Virginalists, as well as the North German School, and learn an entire suite by Rameau. We continue our study of Ornamentation and Improvization, Sight-reading, and Basso Continuo. This volume contains 228 pages.
This volume treats more important works by François Couperin, Kuhnau, Sweelinck, Gibbons, Domenico Scarlatti, J.S. Bach, Frescobaldi, Froberger, Byrd, d'Anglebert, and we learn a suite by Handel. As for Basso Continuo, we study single suspensions and the seventh chord such as they are found in the context of selected works. This volume contains 153 pages.
In this volume which crowns this method, we discuss the English Virginalists, Sweelinck and the North German School, the Early Italian Baroque, French Classicism, and Figured Notation in Basso Continuo. We play major works by Byrd, Sweelinck, Scheidt, Frescobaldi, J.S. Bach, as well as a complete "ordre" by François Couperin and a complete suite by Rameau. This volume contains 238 pages.
In order to help you prepare for international harpsichord competitions, this supplementary volume contains pieces that have been used in the Jurow, Milan, Bologna, and Budapest International Competitions : works by Byrd, Frescobaldi, attr. Sweelinck, Froberger, Louis Couperin, François Couperin, Domenico Scarlatti, and J.S. Bach. At the same time, we take advantage of this booklet to continue our study of Technique, Sight-reading, and Basso Continuo of which the present material is a continuation of what was given in the ten volumes of the Online Harpsichord Method.
Of course, not everyone wants to participate in international competitions. Nevertheless, the repertoire presented here will enable you to measure your degree of progress, especially if you have followed the course of study in all the preceding volumes. It is also a way to deepen your musical culture, since these pieces are part of great harpsichordists’ libraries. This volume contains 226 pages.
Volume 12 deals exclusively with Basso Continuo, and parts from the standpoint that the pupil has already begun the second year of keyboard study, since basic hand coordination, motor skills, hand displacement, localization of the most commonly played notes, and rhythm must be assimilated before using the material in this volume.
If you have already learned and assimilated the material in the preceding eleven volumes of the Online Harpsichord Method, you may start with page 157, since the elements treated in the preceding pages of this volume are the same as in the harpsichord method.
We are publishing this volume entirely devoted to 18th century Basso Continuo, since it was impossible to cover the entire gamut of the subject in the harpsichord method, where there were so many other subjects to discuss. Thus, in this volume, you have all the material in one place.
This form of instrumental accompaniment used in the Baroque period is called, basso continuo (continuous bass), since it is continuously present throughout the piece. Usually, the bass part is played by a viola da gamba, a cello, a violone (an old form of double bass), or a bassoon, and the accompaniment (chords and ornamentations) is played by a harpsichord. In sacred music, the harpsichord can be replaced by the organ. This volume contains 287 pages.