Saturday, November 17, 2018

My Favorite Type of Practice

Today's practice was broken into several short sessions.

This morning, I tackled scales and arpeggios: All major scales at 72, all harmonic minor scales at 40. I feel like I could go a good bit faster on both, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. As always, I'm playing four octaves with contrary motion.

Arpeggios are going well, I guess. I'm playing them the "old" way--or the "pre-Deborah" way. Deborah told me not to worry so much about connecting the notes, at least not to the point of twisting my hands this way and that. But now I'm back to the old, legato way ... which is fine. It's actually easier. Plus, I'm not doing contrary motion. It's just four octaves, repeated once, and that's it. I think it's good to do it this way for now. I'm definitely out of practice, and while I'm finding the arps "easy," I know there's always room for improvement.

At another short practice, I played through Hanon exercises 1-11. Then I did exercise 11 (my assignment for the week) as legato, staccato, and "swing." The focus there is on keeping my hand relaxed--which, even on these simple exercises, is a challenge for me.

And then ... and THEN! This afternoon I had my favorite kind of practice: A whole hour devoted to just a few measures! The focus tonight was the fugue, measures 30 to 35.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around those few measures. The biggest challenge for now is the accidentals. I'm in B-flat, but Bach keeps marking the B's and the E's as naturals, and then adding F-sharps and C-sharps, and it changes with each measure. The only measure of this group that doesn't have accidentals is measure 31, and it's by far the simplest.

I say that the accidentals are the biggest challenge for now because the true challenge is yet to come: making the three different voices distinctive. For the moment, I'm just trying to get the notes.

I worked on the measures individually, playing slowly, playing in rhythms, really listening for the voices, paying attention to what chord each set of notes was hinting at. Once I mastered a measure, I would play it with the others I'd practiced, and then move to the next one. Between the slow pace and all of the repeats, I managed to while away a whole hour on these six measures. I could have gone longer ... and, in fact, I did.

Tonight I returned to Henry to revisit what I'd practiced a few hours earlier. I ended up changing some of the fingering in measure 33. By the time I had to quit (an hour later), these measures were sounding pretty good. When I practice tomorrow, I'm going to work on transitioning from measure 35 to measures 36 and beyond ... which I have pretty well. And if that goes well, I'll work on going from measure 29 (and before) to 30. Just to make sure everything is about equal.

Then, and only then, will I move to new measures.

I am about 2/3 of the way through learning the notes. This is not an easy piece, even though it's considerably less complicated than I remember the C# major fugue being. And I think it's harder for me since I've been away from the piano for so long.

At the same time, if I have to think of a single adjective for this fugue, "hard" isn't it. Neither are "difficult" or "challenging" or "tough." The first word that comes to mind is "fun." And "adventure," even though that isn't an adjective. "Brain-massage" is another non-adjective that still seems a perfect description for this fugue, or any fugue.

I really love practicing Bach. I should get a few hours at Henry tomorrow. While I'll spend some of my time on Bach, the majority is going to go to Schubert, who has been sadly neglected for a couple of weeks now.

I'm so happy to have a few quality days with Henry.

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