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I have been playing the piano for years now, because I just love playing the piano. I have even taken some piano lessons to help improve my playing abilities. However, I was just playing around with some of my music today, and I am not really sure I am playing this piece correctly. It is Beethoven's Sonatina in G (WoO Anh.5 no. 1). I know how to play this piece. My question is how long do l hold the fermatas at the end of both sections?

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    Which Sonatina in G is it? Which composer? Which opus, if available? Since you say it has fermatas, can you provide a screenshot of the sheet music there?
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 6 '17 at 15:22
  • Not sure which opus. It is the Sonatina in G by Ludwig van Beethoven first two sections. Hope this is helpful.
    – Simple Sue
    Aug 6 '17 at 15:27
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Fermatas are put in so the player can use discretion. And they most likely won't be the same length each time. It'll depend on the player's mood at the time!

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The answer to the "how long do you hold a fermata" question is exactly as Tim describes it. You won't often find two performances of the same piece that hold one for the same amount of time. So, hold it as long as you feel like holding it.

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Like the other answers, I agree that fermatas in any piece, including this Beethoven sonatina, will have varying lengths. However, a fermata indicates that the note should be held for longer than its notated value. How much longer? You decide! (Though don't bore the listeners.)

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Although fermatas have no specific duration, they are not arbitrary. They need to maintain a relationship to the surrounding music. A useful rule of thumb (at least, as I was taught) is to hold the note half-again as long as the length of the note to which it corresponds. At minimum, this gives a useful starting point from which one can determine whether a longer or shorter hold feels best.

So, for example, the fermata at the end of the first movement, being on a whole note, would add an additional two beats. In practice, I find this to be just right for the piece -- six beats total, releasing the chord on the arrival of the seventh beat.

However, this rule of thumb doesn't work well in the second movement. As we're in 6/8 time, holding the quarter note for a total of three beats throws off the rhythm. In this case, since it's a dramatic moment -- a "wait for it" moment -- I hold for a total of 5 beats so that the following eighth note comes in as the third (i.e., sixth) beat.

There is an additional possibility for this fermata, which is that you can also add a ritardando -- either simultaneously with the fermata or leading into it. In both cases, count the fermata at the slower tempo. Depending how slow, counting 2 or 5 beats will work, such that the following eighth note will come in at the right moment according to your internal pulse.

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  • You could add something concerning fermatas sitting on bar lines, see this question.
    – guidot
    Jan 22 at 13:52
  • Counting beats during a fermata doesn't really make sense I would say, as a fermata is typically a moment where there is a break in the pulse or a rest in the flow or in the rhythm. You kind of feel the length of the note rather than counting the length. On a piano you stop playing but keep the note sustained, while on a bowed string instrument and on a wind instrument you keep creating or playing the note sometimes with a diminuendo other times with a continuous held dynamic like a continuous forte. Jan 22 at 15:02

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