Monday, November 19, 2018

Bach, Measure 27

Yesterday the plan was to work on Schubert, and I did ... but I spent another half-hour on Bach, specifically measure 28 of the fugue.


I had a hard time with this one. A couple of measures before, the F is sharped, and I kept wanting to play F#, particularly in the left hand. I finally ended up writing in a natural sign. I also couldn't figure out which fingering to use on that same F-natural. Four on F-natural, five on E-flat? Playing a black key with 1 or 5 is almost never a good idea, though it's occasionally necessary. Bach said to use 3, and I ended up going back to 3, even though it's a stretch from the 1 on D.

I also struggled to hear the individual voices at the end of the measure when the soprano comes back in. I don't like to use the word "struggle" because that implies that the process wasn't enjoyable, and it was totally enjoyable. It took some concentrated work, and I forgot time as I played the voices hands separately, played slowly, played in different rhythms, etc. I finally got the measure down and moved to the previous one and practiced (briefly) playing it with the two on either side.

I didn't practice as much as I wanted this weekend. While I spent several hours at the piano, they were somewhat distracted, with quite a few interruptions. Still, I'm thankful for what I can get. Today I have a piano "make-up" lesson because we're not having a lesson on Thursday (Thanksgiving).

Time to get to work!

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.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Piano Time on the Horizon!


OK, so maybe I'm not going to the beach, but I do see some quality piano time on the near horizon of my life!

It's Friday, and my family has no plans for the evening. That means I will (metaphorically) clock out at 5:30 or so, and then I descend up on Henry the Grand and spend a few hours practicing ... oh, I don't know ... Schubert, probably.

We do have a few things planned for tomorrow, but just a few. I'm hoping to spend a good chunk of the morning with Henry.

And then I have Sunday afternoon. A whole afternoon with Henry!

My husband and daughter are tossing around the idea of going to the beach for the first few days of the Thanksgiving holidays. I am gently encouraging them to go and have fun. Meanwhile, I'll stay home (since I don't have vacation until Thursday) and ...

PLAY THE PIANO! (when I'm not working, of course)

And write. And think. And walk. And read. And do all those things I never have time for.

Most important is piano. I am going to have time with my piano.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Just Like Starting Over


This morning I returned to Schubert for the first time in a couple of weeks.

You read that right. It's been about two weeks (maybe more?) since I last practiced Schubert.

There is something wrong with your life and your priorities when you don't have 30 minutes a day to spare for piano practice or voice practice. And there is definitely something wrong.

Not only have I not had time for piano, I haven't had time for writing, exercise, meditation/prayer, reading, listening to music, blogging, or even housework. It seems I go from work (where I'm always behind) to toting Anne places (where I'm always in a rush, and always late).

Take, for instance, right now. I'm sitting down at 7:40 (work doesn't start until 8:30). My calendar has my first three hours blocked off for non-priority stuff that I need to get out of the way before I start on the priority stuff. But I just checked the ticket queue, and guess what. I have a good hour's worth of client communications to do. Know what that means? Do it now or wait until work hours--which means bumping the priority project back another hour.

I can't get ahead. In fact, I'm not even keeping up. I feel like I'm falling a little (or a lot) more behind every single day.

But, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I did manage to re-visit Schubert for a few minutes this morning. It was 6:30 a.m. and my sleeping family probably didn't appreciate it, but it's the only time I'll have today. The rest of the day is work, then church, then choir, and I won't be back till almost 9 p.m.

I stumbled through pages of what I'd already learned. I hadn't played the new material enough to build muscle memory, so it felt a little bit like relearning. The closer I got to the end, the better I sounded. The final page didn't sound bad at all. But those earlier sections? Just like starting over. So I will have some work to do to get all of that back. Hopefully it will come easy once I've worked on it a bit. And then I can move on to learning the rest of the piece.

Scales sounded good, though. As did arpeggios. So that's good.

Still, I feel angry and depressed this morning. I never have a moment for myself unless, like this morning, I wake up after five hours of sleep to grab 15 or 20 minutes at the piano. I guess I should be grateful that I have a piano. I just wish I had more time for it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Update - Still Playing

How has it been almost two weeks since I've blogged here? It's not because I haven't been practicing ... though the practice sessions haven't been as often as I'd like. I am continuing to work on the usual pieces, though my main focus for this past week has been the getting the fugue into my fingers. I guess it's been "nothing to write home about"--just slow, steady learning of measure by measure, starting with the final measure and working my way backwards. I can now play the entire second page through quite smoothly, if slowly. My next lesson is tomorrow and I have a busy night tonight, so I don't imagine I'll get much further.

I'm also getting through my scales in less time, now that I've upped the majors to 72 and the minors to 40. Those minors are not quite so tough anymore. Even C# and G# aren't too bad. Playing them every single day for a couple of months has worked its magic! (If regular practice can be called "magic"!)

Schubert and Chopin have been on the back burner, more or less, as I focus on Bach. I'm hoping to give both of them some time over the next week, though this weekend isn't promising, as I'll be on the road all weekend, and then I have late nights away from home both Sunday and Monday night.

Despite an upcoming dry period, I'm hopeful for continued improvement. In fact, I'm thinking of taking a few more days off before the end of the year, just for piano practice.

And that's it, folks. My meager update for this two week period. I have a lesson tomorrow, so perhaps you'll see a lesson update soon!