Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First lesson

Oh, it's so weird to be back in the student's seat. But going into this with scaled-back expectations and the willingness to be self-directive, I think it will help. Just for posterity, and in case it helps someone else, here's how the first lesson went:

1. Introductions, discussion about my background (always kind of complicated). I had gotten the idea of bringing in a copy of my cello resume and the list of pieces I've learned on the piano in the past six years, so that broke the ice a little bit. (The teacher and I discovered that we had played in the same chamber group, though not at the same time, and knew some of the same musicians.)

2. I started by playing the Bach D minor prelude I was working on recently -- and of course, rushed, crashed, and burned. The teacher, experienced with nervy adult students, took it in stride and began working with me on tone production -- pointing out that my wrist should be more flexible and that the left hand in this piece could be more expressive. I also played the fugue, and we briefly discussed what could improve it, though no revelations there.

3. We moved on to Beethoven -- my presentation here again marked by rushing, crashing, burning. Then I played some of Brahms Op. 118 No. 3, just to demonstrate my problems with it.

4. She seemed a bit overwhelmed by the amount of music I am working on, so we discussed what to focus on to start with. We decided on Beethoven for now. We spent the last 20 minutes or so of the lesson on issues around how I'm using my hands and wrists. I think this was REALLY good. It has sparked my awareness of what's involved in producing expressive tone on the piano -- something I have had little instruction on. I would liken it to being aware of intonation + use of the bow on the cello. That is, anyone can (a) plunk a finger down on a string and (b) drag a bow across the strings and get a sound, but there's a complex of muscles and bones that must arrange themselves in certain positions for the optimum and/or desired sound to come out. In the same way, anyone can push down a piano key and get a sound, but getting that sound at the exact time, length, and volume that is desired, while allowing the hammer to strike the strings and make them ring without deadening the sound, is any number of levels beyond that.

5. I left without really a specific "assignment," but what we talked about will probably give me a lot to work on as I continue with my self-imposed program. I spent an hour or so last night playing, trying to be aware of having a springy hand and wrist, listening to the tone.

The only really bad thing about this lesson was the piano. I don't mind that it was a Yamaha baby grand, but I do mind that it was horribly out of tune. Egads.


Bill said...

Ouch - that is surprising that the teacher would have an out of tune piano for teaching advanced students. Maybe she should take Gyro's cue (from PianoWorld) and get a Williams Digital.

Harriet said...

Care of the pianos is no doubt dictated by the school and its budget, unfortunately.