Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tonight's Practice

I didn't have a very long practice tonight. I'm a little disturbed about what a challenge it's been to speeding up my scales and arpeggios. I can play them perfectly up to a certain tempo, but if I try to go past that tempo, my hands just start slapping at the keys, not even trying to hit the right notes. It's as if they're saying, "I can't do this, so I'm not even going to try. So there. Blah."

I think I have some idea of the reason for this strange problem. I know the notes. I don't think it's an issue of not knowing what notes to play. I think part of the issue relates to the fact that I've been slowly, over the last year or two, adopting a new technique of relaxed hands and using my arms more and my fingers less. My hands don't seem to understand how to unite "relaxed" mode with "playing really fast" mode. My hands almost feel lazy.

I worked on the Suzuki Beethoven some. Not much to report there.

For the fugue, I reviewed my work from the last practice and began work on another measure. I really felt tired, though, and didn't feel like I was benefitting much from the practice. So, after I completed the measure, I moved on to the prelude and simply worked on emphasizing the leading voices. So much easier said than done.

Then I moved on to Liszt. Resisted the urge to just sit down and play it through, and instead worked on the final line of the piece, trying to make it sound more "shaped" and less ... like a bunch of randomly twinkling stars. I worked in rhythms and was surprised (once again) that I didn't know the line as well as I thought I did.

That's about it for tonight. The entire practice lasted about 50 minutes.

No Practice December 8

I spent the day in Charlotte for the Thunder Road Half-Marathon. Didn't get to practice piano, though I did play a bit on my birthmom's keyboard that afternoon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Practice 12/7/06

Only an hour or so of practice tonight. I've been feeling a little depressed and sluggish and wasn't in the mood for practicing.

I fell apart on scales and arps again. I ended up spending quite a bit of time on them, particularly the scales (Gb and eb). I tend to mess up in the same spot in the LH, no matter what scale I'm playing, regardless of whether I'm in major or minor. I worked through that LH spot, worked in rhythms, played it very slowly, etc., and then was able to play the scale perfectly at 88. I still feel a little "shaky" about it, though.

I played through the Suzuki Beethoven. Didn't really practice it.

Went straight to the fugue and learned four new measures. Yes, four! I saved the easiest least complex page for last, and it was nice to be able to learn four measures in just ten or so minutes.

I worked on tone quality and emphasizing the "leader" in the first page of the prelude. Played very slowly. I ended up picking the two "LH leader" passages apart, playing every other note, every two notes, etc. I don't feel like I have the control I need in my LH for the subtleties Bach is asking of it. So George and I worked on acquiring that control. One thing I did was to have my LH touch play a note, then touch the key (but not depress it) for the next note, then play the next note, etc. I don't want to do too much of that because I have an inkling it can cause hand injury. But the short exercises I did tonight really helped me to see what I need to do in order to rein the LH in as a whole.

I didn't have time for Liszt, so I just played it through once. He gets to be first tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lesson Report

During practice sessions, certain questions arise regarding fingering, dynamics, etc. Sometimes I write them down on a scrap of paper. Usually I bring them up at a lesson if I remember them. But I've started to write them down in the notebook where Deborah writes all of her notes at my lesson. I used to feel like this notebook was something almost sacred, something I didn't want to sully with my dumb questions, but that's changing. I'm feeling more and more like Deborah and I are a team, rather than Wise Teacher on the Holy Mountain and Lowly, Groveling, Ignorant Student.

Anyway, I write the questions on the page she'll be writing on at the next lesson so she can't miss them and I can't forget to ask them. That's how the lesson started today. Only one question was "Liszt: IT Dynamics?" And I couldn't remember, for the life of me, what "IT" was supposed to mean.

On to my lesson report!

Inversions sounded fine. I fell apart, however, on scales and arps (F/d scales and E/c# arps). I mean, I really fell apart. The piano sounded like an old-fashioned computer, making all kinds of blips and beeps and sounding nothing like the smooth scales and arps I play at home. I actually laughed at myself. I'm not used to making such, er, interesting, sounds on a piano.

It's all psychological. I know it's all psychological. My hands know what to do. They've done these scales and arps a million times. But something in me subtly starts thinking, "OK, it's going too well. Hope you don't mess up at the bottom of the scale in the LH ..." And, like clockwork, my LH turns into a mess of confused fingers.

I have some ideas about why I'm doing this, but I'm not sure how to articulate them. So I'll just think on them and write about them in a later post.

Beethoven (Suzuki) sounded fine. The pianist on the Suzuki CD plays the grace notes different from how Deborah wants me to play them (as melodic apoggiaturas). I keep forgetting and go back to playing the way the CD does because that's what I learned the piece from. And her only real comments were to make sure I play the grace notes/appoggiaturas the new way. She asked if I would play just the Beethoven for the next group class, for the benefit of one of her students. I said "OK." Even though I'll be chomping at the bit by then (the next group class is in late January) to play Liszt and Bach for everyone again.

I played through the Liszt. It took me a few measures to ease into it, and the result was that I played, oh, about three different tempi in the first four measures. Silly me. I was laughing at myself again. I really need to imagine the melody before I dive into playing the introduction, so I know from the start what my tempo is. I normally do this ... I think I was just anxious to get started.

She had lots of nice things to say about the Liszt, though the quasi Violoncello is still the weak link in the chain. My ending also needed a little bit of work. And the big advice for the whole piece was, "Move the line forward." I think that relates again to architecture. I'm pausing too much to savor the beauty of each room, forgetting that they're all part of the same house.

I played the Prelude through, but I started too fast. The result was a not-so-great play-through. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. Her big comment was that I'm not using my musical sensibilities to play it. I'm not totally there yet, I know. I'm closer than I've ever been, but I still have a ways to go. I'm not shaping it enough. It's a tricky piece to shape, with the "leader" moving from LH to RH. The piece kind of reminds me of someone playing with the treble/bass on a car radio, making the bass prominent, then turning the bass almost off to make the treble prominent. Very cool effect, and one I'm still working on.

Fugue: No time. We'll begin the next lesson with it.

A good lesson, overall.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Played With My Soul Tonight

Hm. That title can be taken two ways: either I gambled with the devil, or I had a very soulful practice tonight. You can guess which one it is.

Can't figure it out? Read on.

Scales, Arps, Inversions, Suzuki, blah, blah, blah: Good, good, good. Everything's good.

Liszt: Ahhhh. I normally save Franzi for last (read: the last 10 minutes of a 60+ minute practice session), so I worked on "Standchen" first tonight. Went back to the quasi Violoncello and focused (again) on the dynamics and articulation. Actually I played through it, s-l-o-w-l-y, a couple of times to make sure I wasn't missing any notes (in this section, I think because there is so much hand-crossing, I sometimes fail to strike the LH notes hard enough). Then I played isolated sections of the quasi Violoncello, again very s-l-o-w-l-y, really, really concentrating on the dynamics and articulation.

Then I listened to the Horowitz version from the Horowitz at Home CD and followed along with the music, taking close note of what the master did with the dynamics and articulation. This CD is one of my favorites, and I know I've listened to it at least a couple hundred times, but I listened to "Standchen" tonight like never before. Serious con-cen-tra-tion. Throughout the piece, I could feel my heartbeat/pulse and breathing change as they ebbed and flowed with the music.

Then I played. At first, just the quasi Violoncello sections. Several times. Focusing very intently on getting the articulation right. (Funny, if I pay attention--duh!--to the markings, my pedaling problem virtually disappears. This lack of paying attention to what's written ... I think it's particularly a problem for folks like me who tend to want to play everything by ear, and our way.)

Then I played the whole piece through, at a glacial tempo, really focusing, focusing, focusing on the dynamics and articulation, exaggerating the pianissimo and fortissimo sections, and also the crescendi and dicrescendi and everything else, stopping whenever I got anything the slightest bit wrong, and correcting it.

Wow. Time ceased. I felt like I was in the music, picking my way through the staff lines the way I'd hike a forest trail, looking, listening, breathing it all in, letting it become a part of me. Letting myself become a part of the music.

After that intense play-through, I drilled a few more sections briefly, then played the piece through at tempo.

Something magical happened: something that has happened before, but not often. I played Standchen with more feeling--yet more control--than I've ever played it. I felt so in control. I felt strong. Powerful. High. Joyful. Peaceful. And my hands got all warm and tingly and felt like they could play anything.

In order to keep my hands from the pitfalls of disillusionment, I soon moved on to Bach. :)

I did the same dynamics/articulation thing with the Prelude. Of course, any dynamic markings in the Bach are those of an editor, but this is the Alfred edition, which I mostly like. The louds and softs are constantly changing in this piece, and from the RH to the LH and back. It kind of reminds me of rolling hills.

Again, I was focused. Again, I felt like I was crawling inside the music.

I didn't try to play it fast. The recommended tempo is something like 84-92, and I can play it at about 52 right now, if I don't want to make (hardly) any mistakes. Tonight I didn't play it any faster than 40. I wasn't concerned with the natural fluidity that comes with speed tonight; I was concerned with the fluidity that comes from smooth transitions from loud to soft, from RH melody to LH melody.

It was 10:00 p.m. before I got to the Fugue. No time to practice it. So I played through it at a snail's pace, so slowly that it's almost a challenge to actually miss a note. I call this "laying down tracks." If I do a slow, (almost) note-perfect play-through at the end of my practice, my fingers somehow remember it the next day. And I plan to spend a good bit of time on the fugue tomorrow before my lesson.

All in all a wonderful, transforming practice of about two hours. I really, really hope my lesson doesn't get cancelled tomorrow! And I hope I'm able to play half as soulfully tomorrow as I did tonight!

Monday, December 04, 2006

December 4 Practice

Friends, I would not have practiced tonight if I hadn't promised myself to update this blog every day, whether I practice or not.

But I did practice! And I'm glad I did.

I actually practiced a total of about two hours, give or take a few minutes, today.

Scales sound good. Arps sound pretty good. D Major, of all keys, gave me trouble. Hm.

Inversions: I think I might be swinging too much. I've started leaning my weight into the keys. Not enough that it would be obvious to a non-pianist, but enough that I notice it.

Liszt: I actually practiced Liszt several times today. Worked on the "boring" quasi Violoncello part. I started paying more attention to the accent marks (pressure marks?) and slurs, and it wasn't so boring after that. It was challenging. But I have a host of questions for Deborah now.

Bach Prelude: Worked on page two. Drilled the poop out of it. Drilled the poop out of the transitions. I've been playing page two pretty well, but I get a nervous feeling whenever I get to it. I wanted to wear out that fuse, and made some progress toward that.

Bach Fugue: Added about six measures HT! Drilled and drilled and drilled. I didn't want to stop, but it's late. I now only have ONE PAGE left to learn HT. I won't have it before tomorrow's lesson, but I will by next week's--if I keep working at it the way I am!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Breakthrough

Good practice tonight. Scales and arps are sounding good, even at the faster speeds. I worked on both the prelude and the fugue tonight. For the prelude, I drilled a few measures on page two, and for the fugue, I reviewed those last three measures, then went to work on a HT measure elsewhere in the piece.

For the Liszt, I did a bit of drilling here and there, and they played the piece through a few times, thinking about the architecture. I think this creative visualization thing is working. Each time I play through it, it feels "bigger" somehow.

What I really want to write about for this entry, though, is a tiny breakthrough that I've been observing lately. It's been a long time coming, and I really noticed it yesterday when I was playing at church. It has to do with hand positions, finger curve, gestures, etc.

Ever since I started taking lessons from Deborah three years ago, she has been after me to relax my hands, to use more than just my fingers and wrists when I play. My playing was VERY "fingery," and my hands got tired easily because I let them tense up so much. My thumbs and pinkies, when not striking the keys, stuck out at funny angles, just because they were so tense.

Part of that was, I'm sure, because I *was* tense--I started taking piano at a very stressful time of my life (new job, new marriage, new state, new house, etc.). Part of it was that I hadn't played piano on a regular basis in over ten years. I'm sure my current less-stressful lifestyle, along with a much-increased familiarity with the piano, has helped. Liszt and Bach deserve some of the credit, too.

What's the big breakthrough? It's this: I finally seem to have adopted the "relaxed hand" mode that Deborah's been trying to get me to understand for three years. I can tell that my arms are in the driver's seat--not my wrists and fingers. And I'm not having to consciously think about it. It feels natural.

I don't know when this change took place. I'm sure it's happened over time--and glacially so. But I noticed it at church tody because my brain tends to dissociate itself from my hands sometimes when I'm playing there, and I watched my hands almost like I was watching someone else's hands play. And I could see a real difference. My hands looked more like Deborah's hands. Like a professional's hands. Smooth and gliding. Not tortured and stiff.

So ... small breakthrough. Big breakthrough. Take your pick.

'Tis the Season for Christmas Songs

It's that time of year again. This morning for church I practiced "Oh Come All Ye Faithful,"Emmanuel," and a few others. We're supposed to do "Go Tell It On the Mountain," but I don't have the music to it ... so I went through my old music and found a book of Christmas Carols for Level Four Piano, edited by David Carr Glover. I wrote down the chords, and voila! I now have the music.

I think Christmas carols are tricky, partly because we only play them for three weeks out of the year. So it's almost like I re-learn them every December, and I never feel like I quite have them down. I've always found "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" particularly difficult to play well, since the chords change with nearly every beat.

The bad thing is that everyone knows these pieces, so the pressure's on to play them exactly right--to give them what they're used to hearing.

The good thing is that people generally sing Christmas carols so loudly and with such gusto that they either won't notice or won't care if there's a missed note here and there.

I think my favorite carols to play are "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger." When I was in my 20s, I worked out a little conglomeration of "Away in a Manger" and the famous Brahms Lullaby. I knew nothing about counterpoint or harmony at the time, so it's not a very polished little composition. But I thought it was cool how the two shared a lot of chords and chord changes, and I had fun weaving them together.

OK. Time for a shower. Considering I have 2 hours of church, 5 hours of work and 2 hours of running today, it looks like this morning's Christmas practice is the only one I'll have today.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

12/02/06 Practice Report

Today's practice wasn't much of a practice. I had to work most of the day and am too tired tonight to practice. But I did sneak in about twenty minutes earlier today to play through those last three measures of the fugue. The notes are starting to feel more natural to my hands. I still have some work to do before they feel *completely* natural. The plan? Spend another 10 or 15 minutes (no more) on them, with the goal of memorizing them, and then move on to other measures.

No other practicing today. Tomorrow morning I hope to get an hour in before practicing the music for church.

Friday, December 01, 2006

12/01/06 Practice

I hope I'm not overdoing it. I practiced for about 110 minutes tonight. I'm so very tired, but I want to post a quick report while everything is still fresh in my mind.

The second-to last measure of the fugue is perhaps the most difficult complex single measure I've ever played. Deborah said to spend "about 10 minutes" learning each measure. Um, Deborah? This one took me thirty minutes. Okay, thirty-five.

If there's any one thing I've learned as a pianist, it's HUMILITY.

I spent the bulk of tonight's practice on the Fugue. The last line (final three measures) is a toughie complex bit of music, but I finally managed it. Each new set of rhythms was a challenge. I felt disoriented each time I started a new rhythm. Completely disoriented. Thinking, "What is this piece? Am I in the right fugue? Is this the music I thought was so familiar, once upon a time?"

Once I got that last line, I realized something: I now only have a page and a half left of the fugue. Once I learn that page and a half, I'll be able to play the whole thing, HT! After ONLY FIVE MONTHS! And maybe I'll be able to play it at tempo in JUST FIVE MORE MONTHS!

OK. So maybe I would have learned it faster if I'd practiced more diligently, instead of the fits and starts of the last few months. But still. This piece has been a bear very complex. A very friendly, fuzzy-wuzzy bear. Heh. Who am I kidding?

I worked on the Prelude for maybe 20 minutes. The final few measures are sounding quite good. I played through the whole thing VERY slowly, with the metronome. Then I drilled a bit of the second page. Then I realized I have this piece in my hands. There are only a couple of spots now where I pause a bit and have to think about what I'm playing. Know what this means, folks? This means I'm going to be able to start working on tempo before long! (I think!)

I played the Liszt several times throughout the day, always thinking in terms of architecture and wholeness. It's been interesting. In a good way, I mean. This weekend, I really want to drill the quasi Violoncello section. It's technically the easiest, but it's also the least interesting section to me ... which means I don't try as hard when I play it. The result? Not only do I sound bored, but I miss notes I shouldn't miss. Lovely. I need to work on that.

I didn't do scales or aps or inversions or Suzuki. Didn't think about it. As usual, JSB hogged my practice session. So I'll start with something else tomorrow.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

November 30 Practice

Friends, you won't believe this. I actually practiced for about 100 minutes tonight. All because I knew I'd decided, once again, to be accountable to this blog.

I'm tired, though, so this will be a short practice report.

Scales: D major and B minor at 88. The slight increase in speed has made for a bigger adjustment than you'd expect. Here's how each scale went the first time I played them:

Phase I: 2 octaves, parallel motion: Lovely.
Phase II: 2 octaves, (outward) contrary motion: Not bad a-tall. Until maybe the last five notes of the octave.
Phase III: 2 octaves, (inward) contrary motion: The first five notes (the same five that tripped me up in Phase II) are a problem.
Phase IV: 2 octaves, parallel motion: Lovely. Except for those same five notes.

Oh, and those five notes? They're a LH issue. Though they're probably a RH issue, too, since I can play the LH alone perfectly. If I add the RH and try to focus on the LH and let the RH just play, then the RH forgets what it's supposed to do.

Maddening. So I used the increasing "trill" exercises by Mark Westcott with the D-major. It helped. I spent extra time on the five notes at the bottom. I think part of the problem might be that I get nervous because my hands are so far apart at that point, and I can't really "get behind" either of them, so I choke a little bit.

I needed to do the same drilling with B minor, but I'd already spent a half-hour on scales, and had a lot left to do!

Inversions: Good. I listened.

Arps: Good. G major and E minor.

Suzuki (Beethoven Sonatina in G): I played through it. We didn't go over it at piano yesterday, so I'll continue practicing what I've learned, and learning the rest of the piece by ear.

Bach Prelude: I drilled the poop out of the last few measures. Practiced with the new fingering, and it was a challenge. My hands have gotten so used to the previous fingering; they didn't want to change fingering again. (My hands probably get really annoyed with my brain for constantly changing fingerings on them.) But I finally got it the new way and practiced in rhythms of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (the piece is in 6/8 time). Then I played through the entire piece at a super-slow pace, with the metronome, to train myself not to get faster and faster and faster as I play through the piece. It's one of those motoric, whirring preludes Bach is known for, and it's easy to get caught up in it and play too fast.

Bach Fugue: I worked on the last three measures. The antepenultimate measure was the one we focused on in my lesson yesterday. I went over it a few times, then moved on to the penultimate measure. It's a mean and nasty complex little measure. I slogged through it the way I was slogging through individual beats of individual measures when I first started learning this thing HT. I need to do some serious rhythm practice with those measures. No time tonight, though. Tonight I just focused on learning to feel at home with the HT notes.

Liszt: It was getting late, and I was getting tired, so I played through the Liszt a few times, thinking not so much about pedaling or fingering, but about architecture. Thinking about how the sections relate to each other--how they're part of the whole, and how they contribute to the whole. The word that keeps coming to mind is "texture," for some reason. I listened for texture, and how the texture of each section fit into the overall piece. I think the creative visualization helped, and I'm going to continue to do it.

My playing of the Liszt was good, too. There were times when I felt like I was pouring my whole body into the music. That has to be a good sign.

It was a good practice. Now, if I could just have about five more of those before next Wednesday. I'll do my best!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Piano Lesson Today

Today's 1.5-hour lesson included a lot of talking, but in a good way. I love my piano teacher. It was a great lesson, even though it was mostly talking.

Today's theme seemed to be "Trust Yourself." See, I have very little faith in my ability to play well. Have you ever thought you looked good in a certain outfit, then, when you saw pictures of yourself in it, thought, "Oh, horrors! Why did I ever think that turquoise jumpsuit looked good on me? My butt looks like Mars!"

OK, maybe you've never had that experience. But try to imagine. I've always been very critical of myself, not just in piano. When I don't play well, I know it. When I do play something well ... I know it. I can feel it. Or I think I can. And the other week in the group piano class, I thought I played the Prelude and the Liszt well. Not perfectly, of course, but beautifully.

Then ... later ... I wondered ... "What if I just thought I sounded good? What if I really sounded like crap? What if I got too involved in the pieces and my playing was nothing but a bunch of muddy, overly rubaticized (is that a word?) cacophony of notes?

Oh, my. What if everyone could tell it was bad except for me?

This actually happened once. Sort of. I played a piece for a group class back when I was about thirteen years old. I thought I played fine. I felt good about how I played. Then, at my next private lesson, Mrs. W. said something to the effect of, "I couldn't believe how badly you played. I was embarrassed for you." Then she proceeded to get on my case (which I'm sure I deserved) for not practicing.

Well, the cut was deep. The scar is still there. To this day, whenever I think I've played well, I later think, "I wonder if I actually played so badly that people were embarrassed for me."

It's crazy, and it's silly, and it makes no sense. But I had to ask Deborah today, "Did I really sound good at the group lesson? I thought I sounded good, but I don't know. So if I sounded awful, please tell me."

So she looked at me kind of funny and said I'd played beautifully--not perfectly, but beautifully. I still didn't totally believe her, so I told her about the Mrs. W. tongue-lashing of 1983. Poor Deborah must think I'm crazy. We work though "childhood piano issues" a couple of times a year. She doesn't exactly play therapist at those times, though she does have some good advice--much of it gleaned from her own experience.

So we talked through the "Mrs. W. issue" today, and she said she's going to start giving me more responsibility for interpreting and judging my playing. (Ack! No! I like having an all-wise, all-knowing teacher!)

On to the lesson report (as if this post isn't already long enough!) ...

Scales: Good, good, good. I played Ab-major and F minor at 88. I'd been doing 84 forever, so 88 was new. I did well on the Ab, but struggled a little with the F minor (which, along with F# minor, is probably the scale that gives me the most trouble these days). She told me to trust myself (doesn't Yoda say something like that?), to accept that I know this scale and that I can play it. So I did, and even though I felt a little uncertain while playing the F minor again, I did play it evenly, and without a single missed note. So that was good.

Inversions: I've gotten a little sloppy about making sure all notes hit evenly. I'm to start listening to the inversions more attentively when I play them, hearing every note of each chord, and how the sounds differ from one inversion to the next.

Arps: Pretty good. She left the usual comments: "Soft thumbs." "Soft hands." I tend to tense up if I'm at all uncertain about hitting the right notes (which is often the case in the black-key arps--though I've developed an comfy-old-armchair feeling for the white-key arps). She said I just need to trust that my hands will fly to the right notes. I tried it. I played lots of wrong notes, and I usually don't play any wrong notes. But you know what? The world didn't come to an end. So I'm to practice the attitude of trusting my hands, and they'll know where to go.

Fugue: I wanted her to watch me practice the last couple of measures because I'm uncertain about the fingering (there's a weird jump in the left hand in the second beat of the penultimate measure, and I was wondering if I might somehow avoid the weird jump). So I went into a 10-minute mini-practice session while she watched and listened.

About six minutes into it, I asked, "Am I playing this too legato?"

She said. "What do you think?" (argh!)

I said, "I think I am. The sixteenth notes need to be just a little shorter ... like this." (And I played it.) And, "When I play them less legato, they sound more like Bach should be played (duh!) and that unavoidable jump in the LH doesn't sound out-of-place anymore."

She said, "See? You didn't need me to tell you that. You already knew."

Trust your feelings, Luke.

Prelude: Before we even started work on the prelude, I said, "OK, I need help on the last two measures of this one too. My left hand doesn't feel powerful when I play this, and it needs to." Turns out it was a matter of fingering (of course!). We changed the fingering around, and I practiced it a few times with the new fingering, and voila! my LH felt more comfortable.

Liszt: I'm still confused about pedaling. Apparently, I was pedaling it like a pro, except for a few measures. So she said I need to make sure my pedaling is good throughout, and that one measure doesn't jarringly morph into the next. Of course, Little Miss NAPS* becomes obsessive and overly sensitive about pedaling and starts pedaling very poorly (this was a couple of weeks ago). Tonight, Deborah said to play through the Liszt, and pedal it the way I felt I should, and that she'd stop me when the pedaling wasn't working.

There were just a few places where it wasn't working. And we fixed those.

My other "issue" (it's not really an issue, but ...) with the Liszt is the idea of "architecture." Right now, each section for me is a lovely little room, and I get lost in wonderment at the details of each room. I don't feel a sense of all of the rooms being connected into a single whole-is-greater-than-its-parts mansion. And that comes through in my playing. It sounds beautiful, but it sounds ... like a story that has too much detail and goes on too long. So I think I might actually write about the Liszt as if it were a house, picturing it as a single structure that contains lots of cool rooms. For some reason, I think this "creative-visualization" approach is going to help me.

But, ah ... She said the last page in particular sounded great!! Which made me happy. I actually spent a good bit of time practicing the chromatic scale toward the end--making it smooth, fluttering the pedal, slightly speeding up as I go, etc., and making the F# of that final third "ding" like a little bell.

It was a good lesson, even though it involved more talk than playing this time. And I do need to learn to trust myself more. It's not like I'm a complete ignoramus when it comes to music.

Or ... am I? ;-)

*Neurotic Adult Piano Student

Oops, Accountability

I forgot to write about accountability in that last post. I'm supposed to be practicing right now, so I'll make this short.

I want to try to post here every day. If I fail to make time for piano, I'll write about it here. So, I'm going to be accountable to this blog, and to you, dear readers (all three of you!). I hate the idea of writing down something like, "I chose to watch "Law and Order" reruns rather than practice today." But if that's what happens, I'm going to write it down.

Now I'm going to go practice. Bach is a-calling!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Progress and Accountability

I've been practicing in fits and starts lately. I am so mad at myself. I don't know why I do this. I love piano and I love practicing, but for some stupid reason, I fail to make it a priority, day after day after day. Why?

I think part of it has to do with where I am in each piece. I'm slogging through every last one of them. I have all the notes, and learning them was no small task. But now it's time to work on the hard stuff: tone, dynamics, articulation, articulation, articulation, and gestures, gestures, gestures. Those last ones are the big challenges for me. Oh, and pedaling in the Liszt.

So, I've come a long way from the starting point, and I've thought I've seen glimpses of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. (I know. It's all light. It's the journey not the destination. But geez.) At this point, I just feel like I'm slogging. Trying to make my way through a swamp of notes and rests and pedaling and dynamics. Progress comes, but it's slow to come.

Here's what's really frustrating: progress would come a lot faster if I were to make piano more of a priority. Just tonight I sat down for 20 minutes and perfected two measures of the fugue by playing rhythms in 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s. And it only took 20 minutes. Then I spent 20 more minutes on two more measures. Forty minutes total, and I can play those four measures, holding all the right notes, staccato-ing all the right notes, doing everything the way I'm supposed to.

(Have you noticed ... even when you play Bach in weird rhythms with weird timings ... that the music still sounds miraculous?)

I think I need to do some soul-searching here. Or something like that. Most of my time lately has gone to writing, running, freelance jobs, "homemaking," and Hubster. To tell the truth, Hubster has been my biggest priority, and "homemaking" is part of that.

OK, I feel a sudden need to defend myself.

I put "homemaking" in quotes because I'm not much of a homemaker. "Homemaking," though, refers to home-care, everything from washing clothes to changing sheets to scrubbing toilets to vacuuming to cleaning out the litter box to raking leaves to grocery-shopping to making dinner to doing the dishes. Of course the Hubster helps, but he also has a very demanding job, and I don't. So this is the way things are for now, and it's something we've both agreed on, and it's something we're both happy with. So there.

But I will rue the day when scrubbin' becomes more important than Scriabin. Or, to apply it more to my repertoire, when baking becomes more important than Bach-ing.

I'm trying a new approach to things. Sometimes I can just practice "when I feel like it" and manage to get in an hour or two of practice time a day ... because I really feel like practicing that much. Other times, like now, when I'm slogging through the middle of a piece, practicing "when I feel like it" means not practicing all that much. This has got to change. It's time to impose a new schedule on my life.

I'm going to try this one:

5:45-6:45 a.m. -- Run
6:45-7:45 a.m. -- Clean some house, then shower
8:00-9:45 a.m. -- Practice piano
10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. -- Work on the novel (this is when I do my best writing)
1:00-4:00 p.m. -- Freelance work
4:00-6:00 p.m. -- Errands, including groceries
6:00-8:00 p.m. -- Make dinner, do dishes, clean kitchen
8:00-9:30 p.m. -- Hubster time!
9:30-10:15 p.m. -- Read, go to sleep

We'll see how this works. I know I don't have any eating time in there. It's there. I just didn't inlcude it. But this gives me an hour and forty-five minutes for practice. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Yes, I've Been Practicing

Yes, I've been practicing. I just haven't been posting. So here's a quick post, then I need to get to work on my novel critiques for class.

Lately I've been focusing on the Bach Prelude in C#-major. This is the "deceptively easy" piece. This is the piece that is "ridiculously easy" compared to its companion, the C#-major fugue.

Thing is, a lot of things are "ridiculously easy" compared to the C#-major fugue.

The Prelude is tricky. It's complex in places. It's miraculous. It's moving. It's Bach. 'Nuff said.

I can play it through, at a relatively slow tempo. I know this piece very well--I've marveled at the simplicity of the chords and progressions, I've memorized the fingering as well as I've ever memorized anything, and I've played individual measures and sections a million times.

If it were simply a matter of playing the notes, I would be 80% there, with "tempo" as my primary remaining goal.

Ah, but like the fugue, this piece requires ambidexterity (is that a word?). The hands keep switching roles, and they volley their louds and softs back and forth like two musicians trading solos in a jazz performance.

How hard can it be to switch dynamics from hand to hand? Not that hard ... if you're playing scales or something else that you've done so many times that it comes naturally.

So that's what I need to do with this piece. Keep playing it, emphasizing the dynamics, emphasizing the melody line, emphasizing what needs to be emphasized, so many times that the movements are natural. They have to be so natural that I don't have to think about them when playing the prelude at tempo, because there won't be time to think.

I've set a goal for myself to be able to play this piece (probably not at tempo, but with all of the dynamics in place) for the group piano class the Friday before Thanksgiving. So, if I can manage to start posting diligently to this blog again, I'll be doing quite a few updates on the prelude.

Other matters ... Arpeggios have started to sound good. I no longer feel like Luck is the reason I play them well. I'm starting to feel a sense of mastery. (Of course, that sense, as always, will vanish as soon as I move the metronome up a notch!)

Scales are sounding good, too. I'm enjoying them so much. I've been working really hard on using my arms, keeping my hands close to the keys, and not making my fingers do all the work.

The fugue is going well, I guess. I've spent the past week getting it back "up to snuff"--I can play the entire first 2/3 of the piece at a decent pace, but it doesn't sound polished. So I'm working on polishing (just a bit) before I take on the final third.

Liszt is sounding great. I love Liszt. This week I'm listening to recordings and thinking about how the pros manage to play it without sounding bored at the quasi Violoncello section.

Shostakovich and Haydn are on deck. They'll be there a while longer, but that's OK. I'm having too much fun with Bach and Liszt anyway.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Two Hours at the Center for Art and Music

The Center for Art and Music is a huge music store in Wintersville, Ohio (the Hubster's hometown, and my location for the next few days). On the main floor are an art studio, musical instruments for sale, gobs of sheet music and instructional materials, cheesy music-themed gifts that piano teachers get showered with every Christmas, and several "studio rooms" with baby grand piano, where lessons are taught in the afternoon.

On the bottom floor is the "Piano Showcase," a room with six or eight clavinovas, a dozen or so consoles and/or studios, and about eight baby grands. Yesterday the Hubster and I stopped by to ask if I could possibly "borrow" one of their pianos for practicing.

The woman seemed a little uncertain discouraging bemused at our request and said "Maybe, but you need to talk to our piano guy." Okay. So Piano Guy came out and was very nice and said, "Of course you can practice here. No one uses our teaching studios in the morning, so come early and you can play for as long as you want."

Yay!

So I went to the Center today and practiced my little heart out on a Baldwin grand for two and a quarter hours.

Bach: The fugue sounded good, particularly considering I haven't worked seriously on it for weeks. But I honestly think this was a fallow period. Why? Because I've only sat down to practice it a few times in the last few weeks, and I play it (almost) perfectly every time. With no practicing, I can still play those sections that I've learned HT. So I moved on to two more measures, worked on them, and ... all I can say is this: HT doesn't seem nearly as difficult as it did a month ago. It's coming along a lot more quickly. Instead of having to play a fourth of a measure twenty-five times before I get it, I'm only having to play a full measure a few times before I get it (by "get it," I mean being able to play it through without mistakes ... this step comes before the incessant drilling of passages).

I played through the Prelude, very slowly. I can play it note-perfect if I play it slowly. I think my future practices, as least for the next week or so, will include just one or two slow play-throughs of this piece. I think it'll be kind of like watering already-planted seeds in my brain.

Liszt: Oh, baby. Liszt is sounding good. I have all the notes, and now I'm working on movement and expression. It didn't sound so good on the Baldwin grand today because the bass was too muddy. For tomorrow's practice, I'll use another piano.

Shostakovich: Haven't started it yet. Maybe in a couple more weeks, now that Liszt is in the "polishing" phase.

More later ... I'm hoping to have time to write another practice update tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Will Practice. I Will Practice. I Will Practice.

I'm going to go practice right now. I really am. After I eat some lunch and before I go running.

Piano. Priority. Piano. Priority. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Shostakovich is Here!!

It arrived via UPS today! It's published by Sikorski Musikverlage in Hamburg, Germany, so everything is in German. Good thing music is a universal language!

Known as "Dance of the Dolls," "Dances of the Dolls," or "Seven Dolls' Dances," this suite is taken from orchestral arrangements of Shostakovich orchestral works. I don't know which works ... but I will know soon. Just give me some time to research them!

This is definitely an easier collection than anything I've played in a long time, and I am thrilled about that. I sight-read all 22 pages tonight (total of seven miniatures), and nothing in it seems too technically difficult. Ah ... but the interpretation is going to be the fun part! And I do mean fun.

You can hear excerpts from a few of the selections here.

Practiced about two hours yesterday and about three hours today (not including the leisurely Shostakovich sight-read). I'm really working on the relaxation techniques in Piano Practice, so my practices have been slow but, I think, ultimately, importantly, valuable.

Piano lesson tomorrow. Can't wait!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blog Sabbatical Over

I say that my blog sabbatical is over, but the truth is, I'm going to be computer-less and piano-less all weekend. I'm posting tonight and I hope to post tomorrow, but I won't be able to practice or post again until Monday. So I'll write a really long post now ... to make up for my dismal lack of posts recently, and to give my huge audience (ha) something to chew on for the next few days. :)

Enough of that. On to the combined lesson/practice report.

My lesson was yesterday. Deborah played me a Ginastera piece she is working on. She's exhilarated at how everything has unfolded regarding her upcoming concert in Asheville. The local NPR station is now sponsoring it as a benefit, and they're going to take care of a lot of the marketing. She's playing an all-Spanish program (composers from the Americas and Spain), with an emphasis on tango. Just a couple of days ago, the Asheville Citizen-Times ran an article on the growing popularity of tango ... so the local NPR station is excited about a tango piano concert/benefit. Anyway, she played a piece she's working on. It really helps me to watch her play every now and then. She's so graceful and relaxed ... a state and style that I would love to obtain and maintain effortlessly.

We had a "practice lesson" since I hadn't practiced in several days. I spent most of it re-familiarizing myself with the Liszt. It wasn't the greatest lesson in the world, but it was good. Why was it good? Because we're going to change directions (slightly) with the Suzuki/basic-skills aspect of my learning.

I told her that I don't have any problem playing by ear, and I get bored with Suzuki because it's basically a learn-by-ear CD. Once I learn it, she'll add articulation notes, and I'll learn to play it the way she says to. Like a third grader. I practice it for maybe ten minutes the day before piano, and play it at my lesson and it sounds fine. Then I go to the next piece. Boring.

My challenge, rather than the by-ear playing, is in playing and interpreting the symbols written on the page. For years I forgot to notice rests. For years my sight-reading was awful because I never learned to read time signatures. For years I learned a piece best when I could find a recording from it and learn from that, using the written music as a sort of supplement.

So we're going to work on improving my reading and interpretation skills. My sight-reading is pretty good, particularly if I'm sight-reading something for church--something that allows me to improvise and skip over the sticky parts. And I can sight-read simple classical pieces. But I don't know a lot about interpreting pieces according to their time period--where you might add a mordent in a Bach piece, or where it's OK to "play" with the tempo in a Mozart. So I'm going to get a facsimile autograph of the Anna Magdalena notebook, study Baroque style (to start with), and increase my knowledge and skills (and confidence) for interpreting music. I think that will be much more helpful to me than the Suzuki.

OK, on to my practice ...

I hadn't practiced for much of the week, thanks to a Labor-Day vacation and a sliced-up right hand (compliments of my cat). I was able to practice tonight, but I had to put a new Band-aid on my pinky halfway through the practice. It probably won't be completely healed until early next week. It's a pretty deep cut, and on the outside of my right pinky, just where it hits the keys.

I spent a total of 120 minutes on the piano tonight. They were some of the most focused 120 minutes I've ever spent at the piano, though a lot of it was "quiet time." I'm reading Passionate Practice by Margret Elson and am really focusing on getting into an "A/R" (alert/relaxed) state before I play, and maintaining it while I'm playing. Easier said than done. I worked on a simple Bach minuet, as directed in Passionate Practice. It amazes me how tense I get when my fingers come into contact with the keys. Almost like a sudden electric current buzzes through me. I used to think this was a positive thing--intensity!!--but now I'm seeing that, while anticipation and passion are important, the "tension of intensity" is not what I want to strive for.

I was more relaxed tonight when I played the Bach minuet. (I started working on it and A/R state several days ago). I managed to play it through without generating a billion butterflies in my stomach, and without tensing up my shoulders. I'm still not "there," but I'm getting closer. Next I followed Robert's suggestion and tried playing measures of a very familiar piece--the Bach sinfonia in g-minor--while maintaining an A/R state. I went one measure at a time, then two measures at a time ... again, I'm not "there" yet, but I can tell that my body is learning to relax while playing.

One observation: when I play using the music, my eyes get really dry and my contacts get scratchy. Very annoying and distracting when one is trying to play Bach. I end up rolling my eyes, grimacing, and periodically squint-blinking. A lovely image, I'm sure. But the reason my eyes get dry is because I don't blink. Or I forget to. The other night, I also noticed that I'm not breathing regularly when I play. Sometimes I quit breathing altogether.

Not blinking + not breathing does not equal an ideal physical state for playing piano. So I really focused on breathing, being relaxed, and blinking while playing tonight. Hard to do. Kind of like rubbing your belly, patting your head, and humming Stravinsky at the same time.

Anyway, I went through my scales and arps and they sounded fine. Skipped over Suzuki (yawn) and went straight to the Bach prelude. Focused very intently on staying in A/R while practicing. I just worked on the first 15 measures or so, but I drilled the heck out of them, particularly the transitions between RH and LH. This piece definitely seems easier than it really is. But after my monster drill session, I had the measures sounding clean ... and I was staying (mostly) relaxed. I kept having to stop whenever I felt my body tense up, then take a minute or two to settle myself back into A/R.

By the time I finished working on the prelude, it was after 10:00. I'm tired. Tomorrow, I'll focus on the fugue and Liszt. I really wish I had three or four hours a day for practicing!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday, August 21

I'm really tired tonight, so I'm just going to write a quick log for today's practice.

I only got to spend about 45 minutes at the piano tonight. I mostly worked on adding another couple of measures of the fugue. I did a lot of drilling, but it didn't seem like my mind was registering it. I was just really tired, possibly because I did a longer-than-usual run today (5 miles).

I'm rearranging my schedule tomorrow so that I practice the Liszt first, and during the day rather than at night after dinner. I hope to devote the after-dinner practice to JSB, and then have another practice on Wednesday before my afternoon lesson.

Time to get some sleep!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday, August 18

Practiced for about 80 minutes. The usual warm-ups, plus some of the fugue and a lot of the Liszt with no pedal and much exactitude.

It was a good practice. Went longer than I'd planned, which was nice because I won't be able to practice again until Monday at the earliest.

August 17: Piano Lesson

Good lesson today. Deborah and I usually chat up a storm before we get around to music, but that didn't happen today. We just dove right into the lesson.

Scales and arpeggios were fine. When we got to Suzuki, I told her I didn't want to do Suzuki anymore, that I felt that the time required wasn't equal to the benefit it was giving me. I knew she wouldn't be happy to hear that. But it's true--I hate taking valuable practice time to work on something that I believe is, honestly, not challenging enough. Particularly when I have a Liszt transcription and a fugue to work on.

She compromised. She said, "OK, maybe some of these pieces are too easy for you, but I want you to try the Beethoven sonatina at the end of the book." At two pages and with two movements, it's the longest piece in Suzuki Book II. So I guess I'll get started listening to that.

I played my twelve and a half measures of the Bach and she basically said to keep on doing what I'm doing, that it sounded very precise, intelligent, and musical, and that I seem to be doing a wonderful job practicing it. That was it. I must admit that I did play it pretty well.

I played through the Liszt, not very well, which shouldn't be a surprise since I slacked on it all week. After I played through it, I told her that I'd slacked on it, and that it just paled so much in comparison to the Bach. I felt really bad, saying that I was getting bored by a piece, particularly something as beautiful as the Liszt.

But she seemed to understand! She said that the Liszt bores me because the Bach is such an intellectual piece and the Liszt isn't a very intellectual piece at all. The Liszt is beautiful, of course, but it's not as interesting as the Bach on a theoretical level. In addition, it's not as difficult as the Bach.

"I just wish I could motivate myself to practice the Liszt with as much focus and tenacity as I give the Bach," I said.

"So do that," she replied.

"But ... I don't know how!"

"Practice it like the Bach," she said. "No pedal. Play everything very distinctly. Don't let yourself be lazy about the notes or the timing. Don't play it rubato. Pretend it's Bach."

Basically, I am to strip the Liszt down of all of its exterior beauty and look at the inner workings. I think that will help. I find that the rubato and pedal tend to make me lazy when I practice.

It was a good lesson. It was the most "piano-focused" lesson we've had in a while.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wednesday, August 16

I only managed about 30 minutes at the piano today, but I did work on the Liszt. I'm posting this on Thursday morning and my piano lesson is this afternoon, so I'll write more about my progress after my lesson.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, Part II

I was able to squeeze in 30 minutes of practice-time tonight, but I'm afraid I didn't make very efficient use of my time. Normally I'm Little Miss Efficiency when it comes to practicing, since I normally have so little time as it is.

I planned to work on the Liszt tonight. So, naturally, I walked into the Inner Sanctum, plopped the Bach fugue onto the piano, and began practicing.

There's something wrong with this picture, isn't there.

Folks, I am a fugue-aholic. The fugue is like a big, juicy zit, and I can't stop picking at it. OK, maybe that's not the best simile for it. Zits are gross, infected, pus-filled things. The fugue is transcendent. Divine. A work of genius.

Yep, the fugue went and got transcendent on me again tonight. I worked on the two "end pieces" of the section I've been working on HT for the last hundred years few weeks. Measures 14 and 15 were still good, but the measures at the end needed work. So I worked. Got the kinks out (again), then played it through, mm 14-26. It sounded good, but I did the panic-and-pause thing a couple of times in the last couple of measures.

Slow down, Waterfall. The fugue ain't goin' anywhere.

So I slowed down. Way down. Turned on the metronome so that each click was a sixteenth note. (40 being a quarter note was too fast for the pace I wanted.)

Ahh. There is something about playing a passage perfectly, even if it is at 30% tempo.

I turned off the metronome and played through the passage again, just as slowly. Ahh. That's when it got transcendent. Starting with measure 16 (Episode 2), the soprano sings the most delightful little melody, jumping up a sixth and holding the note while the alto and bass do their thing underneath. That little held high note ... ahh. Sweet. The next high held note is a little lower, and the next a little lower. It's this wonderful descending line that stands out from everything else. The notes are like little bells dinging. It's divine.

After practicing that, do you think I was capable of moving on to the Liszt?

Of course I was. But not very. I played through it once, thinking, "If I just put some time into this, I could have it. I would be ready to pronounce it 'good enough' and get to the 'maintenance' stage of the piece and start learning something new."

Yes, I'm that close. Yet my motivation to move forward is surprisingly low. Why? Do I love this piece so much that I don't want to get to the "maintenance" stage? I don't know. All I know is that, if I practice the Bach first, I will never get around to practicing the Liszt.

Tomorrow. Liszt. If there's time afterward, then Bach. But tomorrow's practice will be devoted to poor, neglected Franzi.

Tuesday, August 15

Spent 80 minutes practicing so far today, and I'm hoping I'll be able to grab another hour at the piano this evening.

Scales sound good. OK, so g# gave me some trouble, but I did a little bit of 9-8 and did a little bit of playing in rhythms, and voila! it sounded fine after that.

Arpeggios sound pretty good, too. I've always been better at scales than arpeggios ... maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be. As always, they sound good but not great to my ears.

Inversions are becoming much smoother. Triad inversions (plus the 4-note dominant seventh) are easy enough to play, but I've started playing the triads in octaves (4 notes). That makes it a little harder. The familiar focus has to shift. Sometimes the results aren't so great.

I can now play twelve and a half measures of the fugue! It doesn't sound like much, but it's a nice little chunk of music. I started with mm 25-26, then went back and worked on mm 14-15 (the two measures before the big section I've been working on for so long). Measures 25 and 26 were stubborn, but mm 14-15 didn't take long at all.

Measures 25-26: OK, here's what's going on. The RH is playing soprano and alto together. The soprano voice is bouncing along, jumping up sixths in a staccato. The alto is legato and is descending as the sixths descend. Meanwhile the LH bass is pattering out the counter-subject, which is very similar to but not exactly like something it plays a few measures earlier ... so there was the issue of remembering to play it the "new" way and not the "old" way.

Measures 14-15: Bach has mercy. Measures 14 and 15 came pretty easily. Here, the RH is doing the pattering while the LH plays a version of the subject. The alto is quiet for most of these measures, which, I'm sure, is part of why it wasn't too hard to get in my hands.

I practiced the Liszt for about 15 minutes but got tired of sitting (how's that for an excuse?). I did get to work on the first page and a half, which I have by memory. It sounds good; at this point, I'm just trying to play it smoothly and by memory. I'm sure Deborah will have many things to point out when I play it for her on Thursday. But to my ears, for now, my progress is sounding good.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday, August 13

First of all, my lack of posts doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of practice, though my summer-glut of monster practice-sessions seems to have tapered off a bit.

Thursday night, I went to a cocktail party and met Russian pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski. Friday around 1:00, my parents came over. My dad went off to play golf with the Hubster while my mom and I visited and made a cobbler. That evening, we all had dinner and dessert to celebrate my dad's birthday. (Though I later got a message from Konstantin's host asking if I wanted to hear Konstantin practice Friday afternoon ... argh! Too late!) I did get to practice for about an hour on Friday night, but most of it was devoted to the music I would be playing on Sunday morning at church (though I also did the usual scales, arps, and inversions, plus a couple of play-throughs of the Liszt).

Saturday wasn't a day for practicing. I made chocolate truffles for part of the day in preparation for the "Classics and Chocolate" concert that night. I also did some much-needed house-cleaning. I'd rather practice than clean house, and it shows ... I am MUCH better at piano than I am at housework!

After the Konstantin concert, I came home and played through my old sonata, the Mozart A minor (K. 310), which I hadn't touched since my freshman year of college. Konstantin played it as part of his concert, and I was chomping at the bit to get home and play! Alas, my unpracticed version didn't sound quite as good as his ... but he got me thinking about doing a Mozart sonata next instead of a Haydn.

OK, enough babbling. On to my practice session.

I practiced for about 75 minutes tonight. Did scales (E and c#), inversions, and arps (Ab and f#). Skipped Suzuki and went straight to Bach. Since I hadn't had an intense practice in several days, I reviewed what I'd already learned (mm 16-24.75), and boy was it sloppy! I played through those measures several times, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, paying close attention to my hands, the fingering, the chords, and playing it ... perfectly. (Funny how "perfection" isn't so hard when you play at 10 or 20% of the speed you normally use.)

Once I was satisfied, I forged ahead to new territory: the last beat of measure 24, plus the first three beats of measure 25.

Whew. The challenges never end. I worked on the final beat of measure 24, which, for some reason, gave me trouble. When I finally managed to coordinate my hands, I played it twenty times through (twenty being the magic number), and then the entire measure twenty times, and it sounded good. Then it was on to measure 25.

OK. This measure made me feel like my head was going to explode.

All three voices take part in most of this snippet. Probably the most challenging part for me was the second beat of measure 25. All three voices are playing: the soprano (RH) is restating the subject using sixteenth and eighth notes, the alto (RH) is harmonizing with descending half-notes and held quarter notes, and the bass (LH) is playing the counter-subject, which is made of sixteenth notes and has a "pattering" sound.

Well, at one point, the alto plays the B# above middle C (i.e., an octave above middle C), the soprano plays a B# an octave higher, and the bass plays a G# below middle C. Not that confusing. Only ...

The soprano note is a staccato eighth note. The alto note is a half note (i.e., it needs to be "held" for a couple of beats). The bass note, meanwhile, should be played as a kind of detached legato. Basically, this means I play three notes, each of varying lengths, simultaneously.

It's harder than it sounds, but it also, surprisingly, didn't take me as long to master as I thought it would.

Twenty is the magic number. I played the first three beats of measure 25 twenty times. Then mm 24 and 25 twenty times. Then the section from mm 19 to 25 a few times (not twenty). Then mm 16 through 25.

Woo hoo! Sixteen million hours of practice, and I can now play ten, count 'em, TEN measures HT! Moving right along, I am!

Tomorrow I'm going to review what I did tonight, but I'm also going to work more on the Liszt, since poor Franzi was neglected ... again.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fugin' is Fun

I practiced for about 60 minutes tonight. I'd had a glass of wine with my husband at dinner to celebrate the bonu$ he got today, so I was feeling a little woozy when I sat down tonight to practice. I didn't expect a very good practice because I wasn't feeling quite alert enough for a good practice.

Went through scales, arps, and inversions with my eyes closed. Literally. Just resting my eyes, I was. And the inversions sounded a lot better than usual. Usually, I'm scurrying to get the four fingers in the right place each inversion, and tonight I just played through them with a Zen-like calm. Weird. Wonderful, but weird.

I played through Suzuki a couple of times, then moved on to the fugue.

What a great practice. It started off rather slow, but it ended up ... transforming.

My goal for the night was the tail end of measure 24. This is shortly after the bass voice has rejoined the soprano and alto. It's tricky, with the bass holding a note while the alto plays, and then the alto immediately holding a note while the bass plays. Meanwhile the soprano plays a steady Bach-style legato. For the last two notes, the alto rests, and it's harder than you would think, to remember to pick up that alto finger and let the bass and soprano play the last two notes alone.

I had to play through that single beat about twenty times before the passage, with all its holding and resting, started to feel natural.

Of course, I had to REWRITE THE FINGERING in several places ... but I realized something important: the fingering-changes are an adjustment I've made for my hand size. Rather than struggle through an awkward fingering, somehow thinking I'm doing something "advanced" because it "feels difficult," I'm coming up with "easier" fingerings that work best for me. The challenge, then, isn't to hold my hand in weird positions and look strained; it's to hold or rest a note, to play it staccato or legato, using the fingering that feels most natural to my hand.

Duh. Why did it take me so long to figure that one out? No clue.

After playing the final beat of measure 24 twenty or so times, I played the entire measure twenty times. Then I played measures 23 and 24 together twenty times. Then the "section," starting with the second beat of measure 19--you guessed it, twenty times. Then I played through measures 17 through 24 a few times (not twenty--I was starting to get tired!). As with the Liszt, I finally feel like I'm starting to make music with this piece--even though I still have a long way to go.

Something else wonderful happened tonight, though.

OK. I know this piece very well. I can probably hum the soprano, alto, and bass voices each for you (but please, don't ask me to do that!). I have analyzed it, listened to it, played it on my iPod as I've fallen asleep at night. I've learned it voices separately and hands separately, and now I'm learning it hands together. This piece has become a part of me.

So it was strange and refreshing when I played the first beat of measure 23 tonight and was suddenly struck by the most profound-feeling sense of longing. The pathos of those few notes took me by surprise, and I can't begin to explain the yearning that welled up in me. Yearning for what, I don't know. But whenever I played those four notes, I felt ... homesick? nostalgic? sad? romantic? All of those things.

But I wasn't tempted to play it "romantically," with pedal or rubato or anything like that. It's perfect without all of that added stuff. But the longing ... it was something greater than the longing that Romantic pieces sometimes pull up.

Then, while I was playing mm 17-24, I got to the last beat of measure 17, and again ... the yearning. It was so ... delicious, yet so ... piercing. I played it again.

I know. It sounds like I could be writing about sex. Maybe it's akin to sex. Whatever it was, it was powerful.

What was it about these combinations of notes that stirred up such emotions in me? When I first learned these sections, I thought things like, "Oh, that's pretty," or "Hm, that's clever." But now they seemed ... miraculous. And I was struck by the most profound sense of honor, of privilege for having the opportunity, the skill, and the tenacity to be able to participate in the miraculous. To be a part of something that the genius Bach started over 300 years ago.

I know. I'm getting wordy and purple-prosey. I don't care. I'm not above being moved emotionally by music (if I were, I doubt that I'd have much use for music at all!), but I have been approaching the fugue as a series of tasks and challenges. If I could just be driven and dedicated enough, I would get it. I wasn't thinking about emotional impact ... if it came, it would certainly come later, after I had learned the entire piece as an organic whole.

Tonight, all of that work paid off, even if in just a small way, in just two short sections. For a couple of moments, the fugue ceased to be a series of mini-projects and became something transcendent. And I got to be a part of it. Me and George.

It was a good practice.

Tiny Practice

I sneaked into the Inner Sanctum for about twenty minutes this morning to play through Standchen a couple of times. Ahhh ... it is sounding good. If a person who knew nothing about piano were to listen to me, they would be impressed. It still needs a lot of work, but I've definitely moved up a rung with this piece in the last week or so.

No time for Bach ... I'm hoping to make time tonight.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Need Two Practice Sessions a Day

Wouldn't that be nice? Wouldn't it be nice if I had a million dollars, too? :)

I practiced for 120 minutes tonight. The time flew by. I started at 8:00, took a break from the Liszt at what I thought was 9:00, and realized that it was already 10:00. You know what they say about when you're having fun ...

Actually, it was a frustrating but ultimately productive practice. Scales and arps sound great. OK, the scales sound great and the arps sound pretty darn good but not great. I need to spend more time doing them in rhythms and focusing on what I'm doing. At a certain speed, it just seems like my fingers are landing where they may, and if I hit the right note it's because I'm lucky. I usually hit the right notes, but I don't feel confident about them. Hm.

Then it was on to the Liszt. Yes, friends, I resisted fugal temptation. I didn't even look at my WTC 1 book. I went straight to Ständchen. Tonight's focus was measures 5 through 26, and more specifically, measures 5 through 16.

Do you remember that scene in Amadeus when the kapellmeister rips out several pages of The Marriage of Figaro while Mozart stands helplessly by, looking shocked? Well, that's how I felt tonight. I erased and re-wrote so much of my previous work; my hands were the businesslike kapellmeister, my mind the hapless Wolfie.

I had to change the fingering again. And again. And again. Every time I found a better fingering, one that didn't stretch my left hand into weird positions, I would play it ... and discover an even better fingering. I'm working really hard to keep my hand soft and to arrange the fingering in a way that allows me to do that. I do not want to induce tingling!

I erased, and erased, and erased, and erased. I wore out my eraser. Really. I had to use a new pencil when it the eraser started to make that bone-chilling squeak of metal rubbing against paper. Yikes!

I re-wrote so much fingering that the paper now feels thin enough to tear. It didn't tear. I hope I won't have to change the fingering anymore. But if I do ... so be it. But I think I've come up with the best fingering for me for measures 5 through 16. I'll focus more on measures 17 through 26 the next time I practice Ständchen. If I had two practice sessions a day, that would be tomorrow, but a more realistic prediction is Thursday night or possibly even Friday. :(

Once I finally figured out the frustrating fingering, I practiced measures 5 through 10 and ended up playing that section ten times each. Then I did the same thing with measures 11 through 16. The good thing about all this repetition is that it helps me to memorize.

After practicing each mini-section, I played measures 1 through 16 through about fifteen more times. The notes were feeling very comfortable in my hands (all that fingering-frustration had a purpose after all!), and I was actually able to focus on dynamics, on making the melody sing out above all the other "stuff" that's going on. That was deeply satisfying. I really felt like I was making music.

I played through measures 17 through 26 once before my 10:00 "break." I forsee a few more fingering changes, but I think I did the brunt of necessary erasing and re-writing tonight. Oh, yeah ... I got so sick of erasing little numbers that I eventually erased my penciled-in scribblings for entire measures, inadvertently erasing my musical analysis notes. Pooh.

I'm too tired now to work on the fugue. I'll get to it tomorrow night. If I have time, I'll work on the prelude, too. It needs more attention than I've been giving it.

All in all, it was a good practice. It had its unpleasant moments, but I finished it up playing the first sixteen measures at level I'm happy with for now.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday, August 7

Yes, it has been a very long time since my last practice.

I worked for about 70 minutes tonight. Did the usual warmups--my, but those scales and arps sounded good! I flew through two sets of each, worked on Suzuki for about two minutes, and moved on to the fugue.

I kid you not. I played my six and a half measures from memory, perfectly, five times in a row. After five times I started to make little mistakes here and there ... but five times! I think I kept replaying it because I didn't believe my ears.

I worked on two and a half more measures tonight. I now have nine measures of the fugue. The material I worked on tonight wasn't quite as difficult because one of the voices steps out for a short while, and I'm only working with two voices instead of three. But even when the third voice comes back in, it's not too bad.

I played those nine measures through about fifteen times. They sounded OK the first time, pretty good by the tenth time, and great by the fifteenth time.

Then, since my husband is home for the first time since early June, I asked if he'd like to hear the Liszt. (That's code for, "Hey you. Listen to this. Now.") I played it through. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't any worse than what I'd played for Deborah last Wednesday. I was thrilled that I didn't seem to have "lost" anything in the days I haven't practiced. I'll spend more time actually practicing the Liszt tomorrow.

Why haven't I practiced? I had piano on Thursday afternoon, then left Friday morning for a (piano-less) retreat and didn't get home until Sunday evening. Then the Hubster came home shortly after that, and I wasn't about to practice piano when I had a Hubster at home for the first time in months. That was yesterday. So tonight's my first practice since Thursday.

It was a good practice, not very long, but productive and ego-boosting.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tuesday, August 1

I have no idea how long I practiced today. I had a rare leisurely day and managed to practice on and off all day ... I probably got about 150 minutes in, give or take a few minutes.

I didn't do Scales O' Day today. I just went through all of 'em, major and minor, four octaves, parallel and contrary motion--kind of like I used to do in college every day, minus the contrary motion. For arpeggios, I did a G major and Eb-minor. The arps sound great as long as I keep the metronome at 60. When I go above 60, the quarter-note contrary-motion arpeggios don't sound so good. I have to "warm them up" at 60 before I can play them well at 63.

This morning, I worked on the C#-major prelude for about a half-hour. I need to quit telling myself that piece is easy. It's not that easy. It's just easy when compared to the fugue.

I devoted the bulk of my today's practice time to Liszt (finally!). I can now play through the whole piece. I also spent quite a bit of time writing in the English translation of the song lyrics (Liszt's "Standchen" is a transcription of a Schubert song by the same title, and it means "Serenade" in English). Then I practiced, thinking about the lyrics while I played. Very interesting. I want to write more about that, but I don't have time at the moment.

I spent about a half hour on the fugue. My arms felt fine for the entire practice, but my right arm started to tingle again after working on the fugue for about 20 minutes. I switched to LH practice after that. This tingling-arm thing is really concerning me. I'm supposed to go to the doctor next week anyway, so I'll ask about it. I'll also ask my piano teacher about it at my lesson tomorrow. And maybe I should lay off of the fugue for a while.

Gotta run ... I'll write more on the Liszt later on!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday, July 31

I grabbed about 10 minutes early this afternoon to play through mm 20-22 of the fugue. It didn't sound great, but it didn't sound bad, either. That's good news.

This evening, I sat down for my real practice, which lasted about 80 minutes. The scales o' day were Gb-major and Eb-minor. I love Gb-major. I think it's my second-favorite scale, after Db-major. Eb-minor has given me problems in the past; that 3-1 crossover in the LH always gets me. I did 9-8 and used the C-major fingering and did rhythms. It sounded pretty good after all that, but truth is, I really didn't want to spend that much time on scales tonight. Oh well. I'm obsessive. What else can I say?

I know, I know, I know I was supposed to start with Liszt, but I yielded to temptation and started with Bach. The next few measures after measure 22 are a little easier because one of the voices drops out for a bit. I worked on those measures, and while I won't say they were easy, they were much more accessible HT from the start.

I moved on to the Liszt. I worked on learning the first half of the piece, from measures 1 to about measure 38. I already know the rest of it, and the first half is much easier than the second half. It's still tricky, but I'll have it before too much longer.

I did spend some time working on the voicing in several measures of the Liszt. There are quite a few spots where I'm playing thirds in my RH and the higher notes need to be louder than the lower notes. So I worked on making the higher notes sing while playing softer lower notes.

It wasn't a bad practice session, but I did finish it feeling a little deflated. Both of these pieces are "stretching" me, to use Deborah's word. Honestly, I really think the fugue is too hard for me. I told her that, and she basically said I shouldn't have such a negative attitude. I wonder if I'm really being negative, though. I don't feel negative about the piece, or my progress. I love it, and I love working on it. I just think it's a big step from where I was before, and I feel a little (a lot) overwhelmed by it. Sure, I can learn it, and I will, and I love it, but it's costing me blood, sweat, and tears (metaphorically speaking, mostly) to learn every single four-note beat. It's not like I want to be able to play it perfectly the first (or even the hundredth) time I look at it, but it's taken two weeks of hard practice just to get six measures. Granted, I can play those six measures quite well (and by memory) now, but I still feel like an ant trying to climb Kilimanjaro.

And the Liszt ... I felt bored with the Liszt tonight. Maybe I was just tired. But it seems like I've worked on it for such a long time and have gotten almost nowhere.

On top of that, my right forearm aches after Bach practice and my left forearm aches after Liszt practice. NOT good. I posted about this on the Piano World Piano Forums, and people are saying to see a doctor about carpal tunnel syndrome. I really hope it's not that.

My lesson last week was good, but one thing frustrated me: my piano teacher and I probably spent 25 minutes of the 60-minute lesson chatting. Granted, we're both going through some things and are friends as well as teacher and student, but we never really got to "dive in" to either of the pieces. A lot of the lesson time we did use for piano went to scales, inversions, arpeggios, and Suzuki. We probably had 15 or 20 minutes total for both the Bach and the Liszt.

I think both of us would have preferred to do more piano and less chatting, but it just didn't happen. I think we both need to agree to keep the chat time to a minimum in the future so we can make more time for piano.

I have two more practice sessions between now and Wednesday's lesson. My goals are to learn to play a few more measures of the fugue smoothly, and to play the Liszt in its entirety. I'll also work on the prelude, which has been on the back burner for the past couple of weeks. It's not exactly easy, but it's certainly easier than the fugue. Maybe I should work on it more; I feel like I need something a bit more manageable these days.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

More Bach Tonight

I put in another 60 minutes or so tonight. Started with the usual scales and arps. I know I don't need to start every single practice session with them, but I choose to do so. It gets me "in the mood," so to speak. Yep. Think of scales and arps as the appetizer, or a pre-dinner glass of wine.

I was supposed to practice Liszt tonight. The Bach was still open on the piano, though, so ... I decided to play measures 16-22 through once, just once, before moving on to the Liszt.

Well, what do you know? Did I practice earlier today? Didn't I? I thought I did. But you wouldn't have known it by listening to me. It was like I'd never even learned measures 20-22!

Back to the drawing board.

After all that drilling of measure 20 using the former fingering, my LH was confused about the new fingering. So I had to re-drill it all, as if I were drilling for the first time. I put my nose to the grindstone and my fingers to the keys. I was a woman on a mission. I was going to get measure 20, and play it smoothly and well, even if it meant spending an hour or more on it tonight.

It's still not perfect, but it's much better. It's just a very tricky section. The RH is playing a unison F-double-sharp (I think) that's supposed to be a staccato in the soprano and held note in the alto ... all at once! Also adding to the confusion is (again) the smallness of my hands. At one point, I have to play three notes of the alto melody by alternating my thumbs. All of this while, of course, the other parts of the hands are playing entirely different things.

Such is the joy of the fugue.

I spent all of that time (yes, all of that time) working on those danged measures 20-22. Oh, wait. I did play through the Liszt once at the end of practice. It's beautiful, but it pales in comparison to the fugue. (Now, if I were to practice the Liszt first and really get into it, then I'd probably say the fugue pales in comparison to the Liszt.)

Guess I'll start with Liszt tomorrow!

Playing Catch-up

Yes, I'm pathetic. I had a lesson last Wednesday, and it went quite well, but then I didn't practice piano again until today, Sunday, many days after my lesson.

I did practice some gospel stuff for church. Playing big chords and octave-scales as accompaniment can be lots of fun, and that's what I did at church this morning. This afternoon, it was back to Bach.

I practiced for about 90 minutes. Played scales and arpeggios for the first time since last Wednesday and ended up having to do the 9-8 for F major. F major, always the weird one among the white keys. Not much of a problem, though. I'm doing 9-8 whether I feel like I really need it or not because it really helps.

Then I moved on to Bach. Played mm 16-19 a few times to reacquaint myself with the fugue, then moved on to mm 20-22. Whew. Measure 20 is a butt-kicker. I drilled it many times (too many to count), and I still wasn't comfortable with the fingering, so I changed it. I hate having to change fingering after working so hard to establish a different one, but my hands' discomfort with the original fingering (after trying it in dozens of drills) was a message that I had the wrong fingering for me. So I changed it, drilled the new fingering about five times, and had no problem.

It's still a tricky measure, so I'll need to work on it some more later.

Measures 21 and 22 were easier to play HT than they were HS. These are the first two measures I've found in this fugue that are actually easier when played HT.

At my lesson on Wednesday, by the way, Deborah said that my snippet of the fugue sounded really good. I expressed some mock-frustration at how long this is going to take me to learn it (mock-frustration because I'm not really frustrated; just amusedly overwhelmed, if one can be that). She said not to worry about it, and that the way I'm learning it (memorizing while making sure the fingering is correct every time, as well as the holds, staccatos, etc) will necessarily take longer than just learning to play the notes.

I've saved tonight's practice for Liszt. It'll be tempting to go back to the Bach, though! The time flies right by when I'm working on that fugue.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Suzuki

My piano teacher is a Suzuki piano teacher. The Suzuki Piano Method was developed at Shinichi Suzuki's Talent Education Institute and is an extension of the Suzuki Method for violin. It's basically a pedagogical approach, generally for small children, in which the child learns to play music by ear before he or she ever learns to read a single note.

Now, I would probably have loved Suzuki, if I had found such a teacher at the age of four, when I already had a handful of learned-by-ear tunes in my "repertoire." And now, although I read music quite well, I still depend on my ear a great deal. I like to hear pieces before I ever learn them. I don't have to hear them, but I prefer to. Once it's in my head, it's easier for me to play. Makes sense, doesn't it?

In fact, and this is a little embarrassing, I was horrible at reading time signatures until about two years ago. I was fine if something was in 4/4, but 3/4, 6/8, 5/8, etc., just confused me. I couldn't sight-read very well because I had never really learned to read note values. In the past, whenever I needed to learn a piece, I would have the teacher play it or, when I began more advanced repertoire, find a recording of it. Any confusing problems with reading music ceased to be a problem once I could hear how it should be played. (Is that cheating?)

When I took up piano again, I also started playing some for church. The "praise team" (mostly guitarists who don't read music) handed me some music and said, "We don't know this one. Can you play through it so we can hear what it should sound like?" It was in 6/8 time. All I could do was shrug and say, "I can play the notes, but I can't play the timing."

Embarrassing, indeed. How I managed to make it through sixteen years of piano lessons and two semesters of music theory in college and never truly learn note values is beyond me. I think part of it was that I hated math and anything else that had to do with numbers. Timing, counting, values ... it reeked of mathematics.

After that incident, I found myself a music theory teacher and started at the beginning. Once he was clear that, yes, I sight-read beautifully as long as I didn't worry about note values, we went into the note values themselves.

It turned out that it was all very easy. I couldn't believe it. I had spent my life avoiding the "math" aspect of music, and it was hardly math at all.

All of this leads up to Suzuki. It really does.

When I started taking from my current piano teacher, she assigned a couple of Bach inventions and the Chopin Bb-minor nocturne (Op. 9, No. 1). A few weeks later, she asked if I would be willing to work through the Suzuki method. She wanted to see how it might help my technique, which was certainly rusty from years of not playing or having a teacher.

I gamely said, "Sure," and proceeded to Book One. Book One is actually a CD. I would listen to the simple little tunes and learn them by ear. It took me between 3 and 5 minutes for the RH-only pieces, maybe 10 minutes when both RH and LH were involved. Part of the difficulty is that the pianist on the CD plays the LH very softly, and my hearing isn't the greatest for very high and very soft sounds. (I'm deaf in one ear and part-deaf in the other and have trouble with certain volumes and frequencies.)

Still, I moved through Book One pretty quickly and started Book Two. These pieces are a little more complicated, but still not difficult--Bach minuets, Schumann's "The Happy Farmer," etc. I learn them quickly when I try, but I've dragged through this book because I have zero motivation to work on these pieces. I just find it very boring. Once I have the piece by ear, I'm allowed to use the book and work on dynamics. That part can actually be rather helpful. It's not a bad thing to work on technique using pieces that pose virtually no challenge in the way of difficulty.

Still, I'd rather work on technique using the prelude, the fugue, or the Liszt. Or, if I were to work on a lower-level piece, I'd pick one of the easier Chopin preludes or Bach inventions. Or, if I'm going to practice playing by ear, I'd rather get a jazz fake book, listen to Erroll Garner and Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk recordings, and learn to play what they're playing. I did quite a bit of that when I was in my twenties.

I just hate having to spend the time to learn these things by ear. I probably need sight-reading training more than I need ear-training. When working on Suzuki, I get the RH melody immediately. The LH takes longer because, again, it's so soft that I have trouble hearing it at all. I use my knowledge of theory more than my ear to figure it out. All in all, it takes me about 15 minutes to get the entire piece by ear, then another 15 minutes (the next day) to play through it so that it's smoothly memorized.

I shouldn't complain about it. After all, it's only 30 minutes a week. But still, I'd rather spend those thirty minutes doing something I enjoy more--either playing intermediate-level classical pieces, or imitating, by ear, the great jazz pianists. I've told my piano teacher this, but she believes that Suzuki has helped my technique immeasurably. True, my technique has improved, but I don't think Suzuki is the main reason. I think Bach inventions, scales, arpeggios, and practice have had more to do with it.

I suppose I could refuse to do the Suzuki anymore--after all, I am paying for the lessons and I'm not a child--but then I think, "What if she's right? What if Suzuki really is helping me?"

It's a dilemma.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday, July 24

I worked all day, and poor piano couldn't be the priority. George only got 60 minutes today.

First, I worked on Suzuki. I do not like Suzuki. I find it boring and not very helpful. My piano teacher, on the other hand, loves Suzuki and swears that it's improving my technique. So I'm doing Suzuki ... even though it bores me to tears. It's like bad medicine that I have to take a couple of times each week before my next piano lesson. It only takes about fifteen minutes each time, but those are the longest fifteen minutes of my entire practice session.

After an interminable fifteen minutes, I moved on to scales. First, I played last night's challenge: B harmonic minor in contrary motion, four octaves at 80 on the metronome. Perfect! Just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, I played it through a few more times. Perfect!

Tonight's official scales were E-flat major and C minor. Both normally pose little problem for me, but just for fun I did the 9-8 thing for both. I hit snags and fixed them. When I finally did the play-through with the metronome, they were ... perfect!

Arpeggios were G major and E minor. No prob.

I spent tonight's practice session on the deceptively easy Measures 38 through 49 of the Liszt. I went ahead and memorized them with the correct fingering. With all of that handwiching, it's tempting to throw the fingering out the window and just grab at what you can. Not a good idea, so I drilled the fingering into my brain for a good half hour or more.

Only one measure proved a challenge for me: Measure 46, playing on the C dominant 7th chord. The handwiching gets really hairy in that section, and I kept changing my mind about the ideal fingering. One fingering made more sense but strained my LH a bit. The other one required the LH to jump more, but didn't strain it. Jumping isn't too much of a problem, since I'm both pedaling and playing the LH chords as a slight staccato. But jumping is risky business when you're in the midst of a handwich. I'll have to ask Deborah at my piano lesson what fingering she recommends.

Too tired to tackle Bach tonight. Disheartening. I have to stop this alternating thing, where I work on one piece one day and the other piece the next. I retain everything better if I meet with it all once a day. I played through the fugue (the sections I've worked on HT) once and then called it a night.