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."


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.