Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Second lesson

When I have taken lessons in the past, I would go in every week feeling defeated: I hadn't practiced enough (however much it was, it was never enough). Every day in between lessons, I would wait to be inspired, and then I'd start missing days, and then a whole week would go by when I'd practiced for an hour or two over the whole week.

I have resisted starting lessons because I did not want to pay all that money and spend all that time and find myself in the same spot. One reason I felt okay about it this round is because I have built up the habit of practicing every day, without fail, unless I'm really sick or traveling and away from any piano. As Shinichi Suzuki used to say, "Only practice on the days you eat."

This habit has become so ingrained that this week after my first lesson went by without my feeling a  need to make any big changes in my routine. I just kept on with my usual, and I got to the end of the week feeling like I had actually done something. 

My first lesson ended with an agreement that I would concentrate on the Beethoven sonata but without a specific assignment. Being as self-directed as I am now, I took what we did talk about (the approach to the keys, filling out each note) and ran with it -- or at least walked briskly.
I thought a lot about the problem. I posted a question about it at Piano World (with mixed results). I pulled out this book, which I bought some years back:

I read it then, but this week was really the first time that I sat with it at the piano and tried some of the things Lhevinne suggested. He was apparently a wonderful pianist, and he taught at Juilliard for many years. He certainly expressed himself clearly and simply in this book (which appeared originally as a series of articles in Etude magazine in the 1920s). Much of the book is devoted to the issue of tone and how to use the fingers, wrists, arms, and body to influence tone. Everything in this book makes a lot of sense to me.

In addition to reading and thinking, I practiced -- the Beethoven as well as my current Bach prelude and fugue (WTC II/15 in G major) and the Brahms Op. 118 No. 3 -- and attempted to apply all of these new ideas. At my second lesson yesterday, then, we began with my playing through the entire first movement of the Beethoven. The teacher said she could hear the difference (I hope she was telling the truth!). Then we started at the beginning and went through slowly, phrase by phrase, discussing lots of details: phrasing, pedaling, voicing, dynamics, articulation. We made it through about two pages (which actually covers a lot -- both the first and second themes).

I will continue to work on incorporating more of this thoughtfulness into my playing and will see what comes of it. I mentioned to my teacher that I have a spot reserved on an Adult Music Student Forum recital in April that is what they are calling a "Sonata" recital -- for longer works -- so that would be a good place for the  Beethoven. She thought I would certainly be able to have it ready by then.

The teacher also suggested learning some shorter, easier pieces, which I think is a very good idea. I'll need to give it some thought. I'd like to explore some composers other than Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and Brahms -- which I've been sort of stuck on for the past couple of years.

Anyway, time to go practice!


The Slapdash Sewist said...

Sorry for the random comment, but in response to your question about my Kate Middleton dress, you can either have the bands hanging down when you put it on and pull them over your head, or you can loop them over the dress before putting it on. Knits make everything so easy! I edited the post to provide more info.

Harriet said...

Gosh, talk about hobbies colliding here. :)