Monday, October 17, 2011

Still here

I'm still here, still practicing the piano; I just don't have much to say.

I had a pretty good lesson this weekend. We worked on the First Arabesque and touched on both musical and technical points. We also looked at the dreaded Beethoven Op. 2 No. 3. Conclusion: it's hard.

I'm hoping to be able to record both Arabesques at some point, but I'm certainly not satisfied with them yet.

I've been toying with the idea of getting a video recorder. On the one hand, I kind of like being in blissful ignorance about how dorky I possibly look when I play, but on the other hand, isn't it better to know the truth? Also, I've heard it is very helpful to see what you're doing physically from an objective point of view. The camera doesn't lie, so they say.

On the cello, I've been browsing through my rather large collection of music and pulling out pieces at random and playing through them, to see if anything piques my interest. There's stuff there that I didn't know I had and don't know why I have it. Did I actually buy all of it, or what? In addition to the standards (all the usual suspects -- Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Haydn, Elgar, etc.) are pieces by Klengel and Romberg, Boellman and Reger, Dohnanyi and PDQ Bach. It makes me appreciate the piano repertoire.

I had a conversation with someone a couple of weeks ago about why I was playing the piano so much rather than the cello, and I said one reason is the solo music for cello is limited; for most you need supporting players, who are not so easy to find. He said, "But there's Beethoven, Brahms . . . "

I: "But that's not solo."

He: "Oh. Right."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Impossible dream?

I'm starting to wonder if what I want in a piano teacher is just not possible.

I want someone who can provide both specific technical instruction as well as overall guidance (i.e., what should I work on? what pieces would be good? what sorts of goals are realistic?). And then I want someone who will take me seriously -- and by that I mean disregard any negative preconceptions they might have about a student who is 53 years old.

The first thing on my list is the easiest to find, it seems -- probably because it's the easiest to do. I know from my teaching days that you can get through a lot of lesson time focusing on minutiae.The student comes in, plays (or attempts to play) their piece du jour, and you proceed to pick it apart (why are you using that fingering? this would be better . . . there's a piano there, not a mezzo-forte . . . did you know you're playing the rhythm wrong there? . . . etc.). When I taught, I would then assign some specific things for the student to do in terms of practicing over the coming week; students who followed my advice would always come back playing the piece much better the next time (pats self on head here . . . ). Any teacher who can't do this just shouldn't be teaching.

The overall guidance thing requires the teacher to actually think about the student's individual situation and goals -- IOW, think outside the basic teaching box, at least a little bit. This seems harder to come by. Although sometimes you get this without the previous type of help, which is definitely worse than the other way around. However, I believe a big part of a teacher's job is helping the student choose appropriate repertoire and having a sort of big-picture plan.

And then, finding a lack of prejudice -- talk about impossible dreams. Maybe it really is asking too much. But somehow I feel that I can do so much more than they think I can.

So you may be thinking that I am disappointed with my new teacher, after the second lesson. I will say that he seems to be good at the first job. On the second, he has not shown much interest. He's very much into the benefits of Taubman retraining, which involves dropping all music for an indeterminate time and working only on relearning one's physical approach to the piano. I do find the Taubman principles interesting, though at the moment I guess am not up for the radical approach. He has said that's fine, that he is willing to do only a little of it while working on music (and he offered this during our initial phone conversation), but he obviously thinks that is not the best way to go about it.

My feeling, though I may be wrong about this, is that I am not doing everything wrong; I am not hurting or tied up in knots when I play. So wouldn't it be more organic to build on what is natural and instinctive, gradually changing the things that need changing?

Addressing the third point, the fact that he suggested the retraining may mean that he does take me seriously. Or is it just a one-size-fits-all prescription?

In any case, I'll just keep practicing. What else can I do?