Friday, January 25, 2019

Lesson Report - Arps and Bach!

Yesterday was my piano lesson. I played through the arpeggios--all of 'em!--to warm up. After that, we moved on to Bach, starting with the Prelude.

I've been working on this thing for months, and I've had the notes down for some time now. It sounds pretty good to the untrained ear, and now I'm really in the fine-tuning phase, working to have everything perfectly balanced. The scales are sounding good, and those left-hand trouble spots are not causing nearly the trouble they did before. Oddly enough, my biggest problem now is the thirty-second notes in those first few measures.

My left hand eighth notes are light and graceful, but my right hand thirty-second notes are uneven--not so much rhythmically as ... tonally? The second note will be too loud, or the third will be too soft, or ... they just sound punchy rather than smooth.

One thing Carol said was to imaging this piece is being played by a single hand, and think of a single line of sound rather than "the left hand is playing this part" and "the right hand is playing that part." So I'm going to do some visualization of that at my next practice.

After spending some time on the prelude, we moved on to the fugue, which I'm playing at about ♪=63. And guess what! It sounds great! Carol was visibly happy with how I'd played it. I've put a lot of effort into making the eighth notes detached and the sixteenth notes not detached, and the effort is paying off!

We didn't get to Schubert or Chopin because there was no time. I'm going to spend more time on those two this week so we can focus on them next time around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Slowly and Diligently, and Bach

Once again, my failure to blog does not translate into a failure to practice. While I still have days where I don't play a single note, those days are few. Most days I'm managing to spend an hour or so at old Henry. On Sunday, I spent three. After that three-hour session, I decided that three hours of practice per day would be just about right.

Alas, I cannot beam myself back to 1989 or 2004, when I actually had that kind of time.

So I practice when I can.

I can now play all of my pieces—the prelude and fugue, the nocturne, and the impromptu—perfectly (at least when it comes to striking the right notes) ... at about half the tempo they're supposed to be.

For the next few weeks, it will be a process of diligently playing these pieces over and over again at a certain notch on the metronome ... and then moving up a notch. And playing them ad nauseam at that notch ... and then, moving up another notch. Until I can play it at my goal tempo.

It's going to be a slow but enjoyable process. Last night I practiced the prelude at something like ♪=84, playing it through eight or ten times, and then I moved it up to ♪=88 and played it half a dozen times at that tempo. I had to stop a few times to work on the left hand in measure 10, going more slowly and in rhythms, because my fourth finger kept misfiring near the end of the phrase:

The rest of the piece sounds machine-like in its evenness (I'm probably flattering myself here, but it does sound pretty even) ... all except those few notes ... some of the time. Sometimes they're perfect ... but not every time, which tells me that the "perfection" sound may just be luck. I want to know, every time I get to that part, that those notes are going to be even. I know I'll get there. It'll just take time.

There was one other part that was plaguing me in the same way, and I have gotten there:

This is the end of measure 8 and the beginning of measure 9. It's similar to the downward run in measure 10, but it's all white notes, whereas the left hand in measure 10 starts with a B-flat. Also, the LH fingering in measure 10 is 2-3-4-5, while the LH fingering here is 1-2-3-4. This particular four-note sequence has proven to be a challenge, with the fourth finger misfiring, and the 2-3-4 going to fast and falling out of step.

Alas! (Why do I feel so compelled to talk like a late 19th-century poet today?) It's no longer a problem. Lots of rhythms and slow practice (along with a daily regimen of Hanon exercises) have helped to eliminate that little problem. So I know that the measure 10 misfiring will someday be the stuff of history.

I'd planned to write about my other pieces here, but this blog post has already gone long, and it's time for me to start work. I just learned that my 11:00 meeting got canceled, so maybe I'll update the blog again then ... nah. I'll go practice!