Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday, July 23

I was only able to practice for about 50 minutes this evening. I'd planned to spend two or three hours at the piano, but ... well, you know how those things go.

Regardless, I had a very good practice session. The Scales o' Day were D major and B minor. D major is easy, so very easy. I played it through a few times, then moved on.

B minor is annoying, so very annoying. From the very moment I learned "B" and "B-flat" as a child, I have confused the two. This doesn't make sense. I never confuse "A" with "A-flat." I never confuse "F" with "F-sharp." Heck, I'm playing the C#-major fugue and have yet to confuse "G" with "F-double-sharp."

It is not a good habit to confuse "B" with "B-flat." Particularly when you're trying to play contrary-motion harmonic-minor scales.

The first run-through of the contrary-motion scale sounded fine. Had I played it at my lesson, my teacher would have written, "Very nice!" in my assignment book. But I knew better. That perfect scale had been the result of luck. So I played it again.

I hit a snag, and then another, and then I got very confused because I was (again) confusing "B" with "B-flat." Frustrating! (Not really, but relatively so.)

So I did the up-nine, down-eight exercise that Robert suggested. All the way through the scale. By the time I made it back to the "starting point," I'd quit hitting snags, and the B-to-Bb thing wasn't bothering me anymore. I turned on my metronome and played the 4-octave contrary-motion exercise five times in a row, without a single missed note.

That up-nine, down-eight thing is my new favorite scale exercise.

Next, I moved on to the fugue. Played through measures 16 through 19.5 a few times (OK, about ten times), just to make sure I remembered it, and then took on the next challenge: the rest of measure 19.

This is a little embarrassing. I spent 40 whole minutes (1) learning the second half of measure 19, and (2) integrating it into measures 16 through 19.5. Granted, I've become religious about playing new things a minimum of fifteen times before I move on. Ten doesn't do the trick for me. It has to be fifteen. And that takes time.

Measures 16 through 19 now sound lovely and smooth. I am, however, feeling a little overwhelmed at the huge mountain of this fugue that lies ahead of me. I'm going to be climbing this sucker for a long, long time. That's not a bad thing, but I do plan to take on a, er, less challenging piece once I'm finished with the Liszt (which I will most certainly finish learning before the fugue).

Speaking of Liszt, I replayed my work from yesterday and then called it a night. I'm tired. Tomorrow's practice shall (mostly) belong to Liszt.


Karen said...

Hi Waterfall,

I'm new to blogspot and actually signed up because I happened upon your blog while doing some random piano searches on google. I hope you don't mind, but I was so inspired by your idea that today I wrote the first post of my own practice blog.

Now, on to relevant comments... :)

I've really got to try that 9 up 8 down thing with scales. For so long I've done the same routine and I think I need some new ideas to challenge myself. When you practice minor scales do you strictly practice melodic? Or sometimes harmonic and natural as well?

I admire your ability to spend 40 minutes working on half of one measure. I think I lack that kind of concentration sometimes, but especially with Bach fugues, it really pays off. :)

Waterfall said...

Karen: Thanks for visiting. It's an honor to know that this blog has spawned another blog!

About scales, I just realized I had a typo in my post (it happens when I blog after 10 p.m.!). I practice harmonic only, parallel and contrary motion.

OK, I'm off to fix that typo ...

robert said...

Aha, Waterfall! I'm so very glad that the 9-8 method for scales works and you like it! But I can't take credit for it; I got from an old interview in Clavier with Mark Westcott. It also works, for me at least in the JSB 3 Part Inventions, in any longer fingery passages in a piece you're trying to get down. So if a passage in that there JSB fugue is just not working....

Karen -- pleased to meet you and glad that you're interested in the 9-8 method. I'm starting to feel like, er, The Pied Piper! I'm going to visit your blog, and you're very welcome at mine (Waterfall's blog links; I'm "The Opinionated Arpeggist").